The question of “WHY MAKE FAN ART?” crossed my mind, as I was, not coincidentally, making fan art. I suppose this question is similar to WHY BUY COMIC MERCHANDISE? or WHY DO COSPLAY? and I suppose the answers are related. As for me, stemming from a combination of a New Year’s resolution to make more more more often, and the excitement of entering the table lottery for SPX 2014, I decided to fulfill a months-old promise to make fan art for one of my favorite webcomics, Scaredemy by Jack Slade. If you haven’t heard about or come across Scaredemy before, CLICK HERE now and then come back later to read this post.
This brilliantly executed comic takes the best of school-aged (and school located) themes and situations (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson et al), puts a “monster” twist on the genre, and presents it in a way that makes me wax nostalgic about my Disney Afternoon watching days of my youth. I think what makes this comic so good is that it is character-focused and I think has its roots in situations comedy TV shows (a.k.a. Sitcoms). What makes me say that? Well, Scaredemy is not a gag-a-day comic strip, but I don’t really consider it a longform comic either. Situations arise and then the situations are resolved over the course of a couple strips. This kind of “situation comedy” is what makes me like TV shows like Bob’s Burgers a million times more than Family Guy and any Simpsons episode past season 8 or so. I don’t appreciate endless sequences of non sequitur statements and cut-aways. And if you take beloved characters you grew up with and turn the comic or cartoon simply into a delivery system for social commentary or celebrity guest stars, I don’t see the point. For comics (either printed on paper or online), I have to like the characters, enjoy the humor, and appreciate the artistic merits.
So, the answer to my initial quesion WHY MAKE FAN ART? is a simple one: because you are a fan. This may sound like a simplistic answer, but I don’t think it is. Having been on social media for a couple of years now with Ink Puddle and my own comic The Devil & Mr. Gandhi, there is a lot of fan art exchange going on where creators will make and share and promote “guest” strips and featured fan art of other comic creators. This is an extremely supportive, friendly, and positive thing in my opinion. But, I suspect there is a lot of quid pro quo going on as well. I get a little uncomfortable when I see Twitter conversations where creators are asking another creator to do a guest strip. I myself was lucky enough to have a piece of art done by a Twitter friend who did the art as a kind of prize for having reached a certain amount of Twitter followers. It certainly wasn’t fan art, because the strip hadn’t even been started yet! Also, having been to SPX in 2013, I know that intermingled with the largely supportive vibe of that event, there was a lot of sometimes mean complaints lodged against comic creators who wanted to “trade” comics, meaning no money exchange, just a comic book exchanged for a comic book. Obviously, this is not always a fair trade between creators, and sometimes people are not the nicest about the inequality of the trade. Webcomics are different in that although time may be spent on the guest strip or fan art, it’s more about sharing exposure online, but I have to tell you that this has made me hesitate to offer my art to others or ask others to submit a guest strip or fan art to me. So, although I am not opposed to trading exposure and art and comic strips, for me to make fan art, I really have to be a fan of the strip or the creator. And for Jack Slade and his Scaredemy, it’s a no-brainer. I am a big time fan.
So, I wanted to make a piece of fan art myself for this strip, because I am a fan. Perhaps because I am quite hirsute myself, I gravitated towards Wolfric. First, I started off by reading through some strips to get a feel for the way the character is drawn. I literally sketched very quickly what I saw on my computer screen and wrote down some notes.
I love how Jack does his overlapping of body parts, clothing, etc. to make the characters more multi-dimensional. The school uniform is a great way to add “uniformity” to the strip and it connects the characters. I then figured out that I was making Wolfric fat, and getting the dimensions wrong, but had ideas on changes to make, which got me to the sketches below. This was where I figured out what I wanted Wolfric to be doing, which direction to face.
I definitely had to make him skinnier, and widen the distance between his eyes. When it came time to actually lay down some blue lines on bristol, I had to tighten some things up. I am still looking to make changes, though. Needed to add some angles to Wolfric’s hair, his ear, and make his arm less fat.
I am sure I will make some additional changes to this drawing before actually inking this. And I will update this post after I ink, scan, color, and finish this piece of fan art.
It is still a bit intimidating to me to think about offering up a guest strip or anything bigger than a piece of fan art. I definitely want to start exchanging fan art and guest strips with some of the awesome comic creators I have met through Twitter and other social media outlets, but I still feel like inspiration has to hit, and I have to be a true fan of the comic or creator for me to even start thinking about doing that. And I don’t want another creator to think that I would expect something in return. I enjoy commissioning pieces of art (paying with money) that involve my characters, regardless of whether the artist is a fan or not. I think for me answering the question of WHY MAKE FAN ART? in this blog post was a way for me to justify to myself why I haven’t done more fan art and submitted guest strips. And maybe my opinion on the topic and my willingness to get out of my safety zone when it comes to putting myself and my comic out there for more people to see will change this year, but it has been a topic that has weighed on my mind for some time now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and practice of “fan art” and “guest comic strips.” Leave a comment or tweet me at @inkpuddle.
Here is the progression and the final product of my Scaredemy fan art.