Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Elephant No. 129: Comic-Book Panel

I have never in my life made a cartoon or comic book panel, so I think I may be foolish for taking this on. However, today a friend is opening the brand-new Comic Book Lounge & Gallery in Toronto, Canada, so I figured I'd try a comic-book panel for today's elephant.

Comic books have existed at least since the printing of The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck in an 1842 hardcover edition, although the term "comic book" was not used until 1897, when The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats was published. The first known full-colour comic book was 1901's The Blackberries, and the first monthly comic book was Comics Monthly, which debuted in 1922.

Cover for The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, 1842.

Comic strips themselves emerged in the United States in the early twentieth century. The basic form—speech balloons, image-heavy content, sound effects and, above all, humour—was standardized in Sunday "funnies", which later became daily strips. These strips were soon being collected and printed in cheap booklets known as "comic books".

The modern comic-book form, however, originates in the 1930s, during what has been dubbed the Golden Age of Comics. This is the era of the first Superman comic books, and the launch of comic books as a major industry.

Cover of the first issue of Superman, 1938.

Over the next several decades, comic books also stopped being primarily "comic". Instead, they began featuring sombre and dramatic content. Superheroes multiplied, died and were reborn; classic novels became comic books; ghost stories and horror made their debut, and multi-issue story arcs became common. Comic books have also developed beyond the newsprint booklets with glossy covers we all know and love, to book-oriented formats such as French bandes déssinées, Japanese manga and graphic novels.

The beloved bande dessinée characters Astérix and Obélix.

Today, comic books are big business, influencing everything from television shows such as The Big Bang Theory, to films such as the Batman and Spider-Man franchises, to costumes, videogames and online avatars. There are yearly comic-related conventions and festivals around the world, online and storefront shops, and even watches and jewellery. After all, who hasn't wanted to be a superhero or cartoon character at least once?

The history of comic books is obviously a vast subject that I can hardly hope to cover here. For more information, check out these Wikipedia pages on comics and comic books

For today's elephant, I wasn't really sure what I was doing. Over the years, I've read a lot of comic books, but I've never tried to draw one. I have friends who are very good at this sort of thing, but I was pretty sure it wasn't my forte. However, having done a few storyboards in the past, I was hoping it would more or less the same sort of thing, albeit with words. The words part scared me, to be honest.

The first thing I did was divide up the page into six individual panels using a ruler and black pen. I'm not great at precise measurements, but I think these are more or less the same size.

Next, I sketched out my ideas. As you can see, I had no idea what I was doing. Don't even bother trying to read it.

Using my idea page as of inspiration, I began sketching in the graphic portion. I still wasn't quite sure what the words would be. The pencil sketch didn't show up, and the scan I tried looked terrible, so here are the individual panels in order.

Don't worry—I know it's lame. It was an interesting exercise, however, and I certainly have new respect for anyone who draws individual cartoons, let alone a daily comic strip or an entire comic book or graphic novel. Clearly, that would be beyond me, but this was fun to do—and it was mostly for Joe, anyway.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Over the years, elephant superheroes have shown up in cartoons and comic books with varying degrees of success. This one makes me laugh:

Cartoon ©Dan Piraro, May 2010.

The most successful series is probably Elephantmen, featuring several animal hybrids, including the elephant hybrid, Ebenezer "Ebony" Hide. Genetically engineered to be weapons of mass destruction, all the animals were ultimately dismissed, finding their way instead into various law enforcement and political agencies.

I'm ashamed to say that I'd never seen this comic book before, but as soon as I can get to the Comic Book Lounge & Gallery, I'm going to pick up a few issues.

Cover of the first issue of Elephantmen, July 2006.
Artist: Jose Ladronn

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation 
Elephants Without Borders
Save the Elephants

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