Worst. Page. Ever.

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Ivan Brunetti is currently on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches classes on comics, drawing, and design. Here he shares one of his newer assignments from his comic classes.


By Ivan Brunetti

This assignment works best as a long exercise during class, as opposed to homework. It also works best after the students have drawn at least one full page of comics, with a varied layout (ideally, this would have been the assignment they turned in that week). If so, they can use that comic as a starting point for this exercise.

Usually, we try to do the best we can, and we strive to make our comics page better. But are we really thinking about ALL of the things we can do to make it better? More often than not, when we are learning to construct comics, there are facets, aspects, and subtleties of the medium that we are not focusing on, ignoring, or simply unaware of.

It is probably easy for us to make a list of things that go into a "good" comic, but if we examine that list closely, it might be vague; often students will say a page is "well done" without being able to articulate any specific reason why that might be the case. The list will also likely be incomplete; is it really possible to make a complete list of "ingredients," and even if it is, are we ignoring the gestalt over the details? Also, it is highly probable that one student's ideas of '"the right way to do it" directly conflict or contradict another student's ideas. Something "good" on one's list may be "bad" on another's. And so we get into questions of taste, and artist's intentions.

Let us try approaching these issues from the opposite direction.

Have the students make a list of everything that can be done badly in a comic. Try to think of every possible aspect of comics. Usually students focus mostly on presentation, especially sloppiness. But is that all? Have the class discuss the finer points of panel transitions, compositions within panels and on the page as a whole, dialogue and word balloons, telling instead of showing, narrative flow, and anything else you/ they can come up with. The trick is to get as specific as possible.

Then, have the students take a story (preferably one page) that they have drawn, and instead of trying to make it better, have them redraw it and make it worse. In fact, have them try to make it the worst page ever. Have them do as many things "wrong" as possible, both in the writing and drawing.

Have them hand it in at the end of class, and then do a critique if there is time, or just do the critique the following week. It's always nice to compare the pages to the "good" ones they already have done, but not absolutely necessary.

Are there some "bad" pages that are actually kind of interesting, with some strange and maybe unique approaches? Could those aspects be used for good, if they were intentional? Often the students take similar approaches both in their "good" and "bad" pages because of ingrained habits they are not even aware of.

Was it even possible to make the "worst page ever"? Once you actually put thought and planning into something, how bad can it be? Many times, the students are able to consider the page as a "whole" and the individual parts of it being "of a piece" in a way that they couldn't see when they were focused only on technique or details.

Naturally, the insights gained from this exercise will differ from class to class; the trick is to get the students to think holistically, and to see how a page comes together into unified whole. And that any effect can be used well (or not well), which usually depends on the intention of the artist, and the control, thought, and planning they put into those effects. Finally, it is always nice to embrace the unexpected. Students may try things they'd be too "afraid" of doing otherwise. They may even "loosen up" and stumble upon some visual effects both in terms of technique and even psychology that they can use when they go back to drawing the very best pages they can.



Ivan Brunetti is an American cartoonist and author. Brunetti's best known comic work is collected in his Ignazt Award winning series Schizo. He is also the editor of the two volume set An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories (2006, 2008, Yale University Press.) He is currently on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches classes on comics, drawing, and design.

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This page contains a single entry by GaryC published on February 20, 2009 4:26 PM.

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