The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Creating Character

Character is a mystery. Someone said that the shallowest human being is infinitely more complex than even the best-written creation, so what's the use? I always scared myself off trying a comic strip because it seemed too difficult and incomprehensible. How could I build a water-tight character that'd walk off the page and respond in ways that'd surprise me? Then I'd see Walt Kelly do it with ease, and I'd want to punch him.

I think part of the trick is to start small and to work with opposites; Alice & Petey worked as foils because they were total opposites. I called them the Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object. Also, they liked each other, or at least tolerated each other; early on, they were more argumentative and it wasn't funny. Stand outside your own work when it seems to get too thick and it clogs up, y'know?

Petey Otterloop may have been my Magnum Opus in character design, as some would say, but he's really  a list of opposites with enough of me thrown in to make him hold together. He's the anti-Bart Simpson, the mirror image of cool. I even chose the name Petey because it 's got a finger-snappin', G-droppin' quality that's so alien... What can I say? irony's good for a laff.. 

No, where I think I got it right is in Petey's cohorts from Cartoon Camp; Loris Slothrop & especially Andre Chang (the connection to Andre the Giant didn't occur to me). Loris is kinda one-joke: she's fast and full of energy. But Andre has depth. They were designed out of necessity; Petey needed a milieu, he was surrounded by nothing but little kids and he needed somebody his own size to pick on him. I had to think-what would a friend of Petey's look like or be like? The same but the opposite. Large where Petey is small and loud where Petey'd be quiet.

I am absurdly proud of Andre. 


Mister Fweem said...

Feel like I'm at my grampa's knee. Spin us another'n, Grampa Thompson!

jsutliff said...

as you should be! As I've mentioned before, say, twenty to a zillion times, it's you writing and creativity that makes me want to punch you.

richardcthompson said...

All right, I will; I can gas on forever.

gilda92 said...

Thanks for these musings on André Chang. He is such a wild child he could be a "Wild Thing". Even your drawings of him are Sendakian. Would you agree?

richardcthompson said...

Yeah, he looks more Sendakian than Andre the Giantian.

David said...

Just wanted to say how happy it makes me to see you posting stuff again Richard! Your presence out here in the interwebs was greatly missed. Keep writing and we will keep reading!

David Wasting Paper

Unknown said...

Very Nice! Thanks!

dizzy citizen said...

Thank you for this look into the creative process. Love stuff like this. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Reading the last fifty pages of what shouldn't be The Complete Cul de Sac! Miss ya on Twitter. Hope all is well with you!