This last weekend was the perfect weekend to spend at the Charles M. Schulz Museum (CSM). It rained most of the weekend and was no fun to be outdoors. I had planned to be at the museum anyway since I have been looking forward to the Masters class presented by Hilary Price (the creator of Rhymes with Orange) for a couple of months now. Rhymes with Orange is a syndicated single panel comic strip and I have read this comic for a while. If you are reading this blog you probably have noticed that I too do a single panel strip and I was looking forward to the class because the topic of discussion is coming up with a gag everyday which I too strive to do. I was hoping that Hilary would give insight into how she comes up with gags and she didn’t disappoint me.
I don’t remember the exact amount of people that were there, but it was about 10-12 people from a wide range of ages starting from college age on up. The class was held in the Education Room in the CSM. Hilary began by going around the room asking what peoples names were and what they wanted out of the class. Many there were hoping to get started in the world of comic strips and a small hand full where already in comic strips but wanting to push it to the next level. Hilary went on from there defining what a comic strip was and the basic construction of a gag cartoon. One thing that stuck out to me was she defined a comic strip as an “economical short story.” She continued on describing 3 major elements to the gag cartoon that one needs in order to tell this story. Which were: Characters, Setting, and Plot.
In order to get the characters, setting and plot, you need to do some writing.or brainstorming. And this is the meat and potatoes that I came to see. I’ve always done my brain storming and writing my own way but never really put down a formula or method to my madness. I was surprised how similar my process is with the one Hilary shared. One method Hilary shared with the class was something she had gotten from cartoonist John Hart (the creator of B.C.). It’s the “Justification Game.” Here’s how you play. You get a piece of paper and you draw two columns. On the left column you write 10 different jobs, characters, or animals. On the right column you write down 10 situations or props. Here is a list that the class came up with.
10. ??? (didn’t write this one down for some reason)
3. Waiting in line
4. Doggy Day Care
5. in jail
6. on an island
7. with a baseball bat
9. eating a waffle
10. in a library
Now that you have the two columns you take one from the left column and match it to one of the situations or props and you start to “justify” why a character would be in the situation. The best example in the class was “Why would a “baker” be “in jail?” One of the comments was “Assault and battery.” They don’t always fit this easily but this was a fun game. I like this game because there are only so many caveman jokes you can do so this game allows you to dive into many directions. You can mix and match or just keep taking it to many levels or degrees away from where you started.