I know good cartooning is supposed to be harder than realism, I’ve argued passionately that it’s true, and occasionally I believe it.
Today I believe it quite fervently, as I’m trying to work on a page of “Digger” and it’s hard.
See, the usual Digger page, I can whip out with great speed because I have that wombat memorized, and the megascribble style that goes into it has, after nearly 150 pages, become pretty established. And while I wouldn’t call it realism, it’s also not cartooned down to Disney style, it’s somewhere in the hinterland of my comfort zone.
Today, however, Ed the hyena–who may be more popular than Digger, people get all excited when Ed shows up–is recounting a legend from his tribe, and somehow I got the notion in my head to try to tell this story in a quasi-cave painting style, because Ed’s a cave painter.
It’s simple. There are maybe a dozen lines per figure. (Unlike everybody else in the Diggerverse, THEY get to have smatterings of gray as well as monochrome, but they’re semi-gods, which gets you some slack.) The sun is a spiral with rays. Grass is short straight lines. It’s so simple that I wouldn’t dare doing it until a hundred plus pages in, for fear people would think I didn’t know how to draw.*
There’s also one panel of the regular semi-realistic Digger. That one took me maybe a fifth the time that a single panel with a few dozen lines of the cave painty bits did. ‘Cos those dozen bloody lines have to be the RIGHT dozen bloody lines, and I erased and re-drew them a good twenty times apiece.
Honestly, I don’t know if it works. It may just look lazy or crude (and not in an intentional way.) I won’t know until the viewers get back to me, and maybe not even then, but I figure that comics are sort’ve like that–you experiment, and you hope you’ve built up enough cred with the readers to survive it.
The real toll of this, however, is not my wrist or my confidence in drawing simplicity or anything else. No, the real toll is having to write an entire creation myth in Ed-speak. My brain may never recover.
*I have a sneaking suspicion that this motivates many of us much more than we’d really like to admit.