Voluntary Work: Knock Knock Joke Comic Strips

The Brief
I recently had a chance to volunteer at a local youth club for young people, I decided to use the session as a way to experiment and create building blocks for my dissertation work. So I worked with the young people to create a comic strip, the challenge was to make a 3 panel comic strip with 2 characters telling a knock knock joke to one another. Now this sounds like an admittedly simple task, boy was I wrong.

Having written and drawn comic books in the past I thought this would be a cake walk for me personally, obviously it was going to be a challenge in that I was walking a group of young people through the process as well but I thought the strip itself was going to be easy. Just as we got started one of young people chirped up and said “But drawing two people just talking to each other is boring”, he was right a lot of us had just drawn 2 people stood talking, very little expression and very little differences in the poses.

The solution to this was to ask the young people draw a sheet of facial expressions that I called out, looking at each other for reference if needed, this was fun as we all spent time drawing and pulling faces at each other. Follpwing this exercise, I challenged the young people to draw stick men in poses that reflected different moods. Taking what we had learnt from these exercises we drew our 3 panels and illustrated the Knock Knock Joke using nothing but stick men with simple expressions. These stick men were then traced over adding more flesh and shape to the two characters, over the top of this drawing we drew over top a more finalised line drawing with black fineliners. To finish the image, we traced over the previous line work once more giving us chance to fix any problems and leaving use with a finished drawing with no messy under-drawing.

My Results
These are the 3 stages of my drawings for the knock knock joke brief. The drawings not my best but it was done alongside teaching a group of young people and helping them out so I don’t mind and overall I’m pleased.

Step 1: Drawing expression with stick men and simple faces


Step 2: Fleshing Out the Characters

Step 3: Finalised Image

Surprising Conclusions
Now despite this being the first of this type of comic strip I had attempted I was confident it was going to be easy, however I had overlooked a lot of things. So I was humbled a little and now have a few personal exercises I want to work on and know more about what I need to develop in the characters in the concept stage.

Facial Expressions: I want to spend some time drawing different types of cartoon faces in lots of different expressions covering a wide range of emotions. Then when the concept of the 2 characters is finalised produce a series of character sheets with the 2 main characters replicating as many of these facial expressions as I can.

Emotive Poses:  Again I want to spend time drawing a few sheets of stick men in different poses then move up to a series of more fleshed out poses all showing a different range of emotions. This to will be done using the finialised characters to make sure they can express these emotions to.

Talking with Hands: Now one of the points made was that 2 people talking to each other is boring to see, which is not entirely true. Seeing 2 very animated people talking to each other you see some very interesting hand gestures used to punctuate and express points. I think some research needs to be done on this and it should lead to more interesting stills of conversation when I come to start drawing the weekly web-comic.

Finally is a drawing I did as a demonstration to a young person showing that you don’t need to good at anatomy to have fun drawing comics. This is a nod back to previous work I had done with single images containing humour and satire.

Two Knights engaged in banter


History of Comic Strips: Origins

Research Overview
With this project being a Master project I think it is important that even though it is an artistic venture that it has a side of it that is academic in nature. So alongside the research into what makes the comics i have outlined work I feel it is important to look back at the History of the comics from humble beginnings to graphic novel golden age and the hay day of the Newspaper comic strip. This knowledge will arm me with more information about what has become the norm, what works, what didn’t and should overall lead to a better project.

Biblia Pauperum

Religious Beginnings
Some believe the predecessors to the comic strip lie in the medieval tapestries sequentially depicting scenes of epic battles or the stories of the times. Others believe they arose from what was started in the Middle Ages with the printing of Biblia Pauperum or ‘Paupers Bible’ (above). These were books telling the stories of the Bible via sequential images with little use of text for the uneducated and poor masses. It is also believed to have been the forerunner in the development of speech bubbles as the characters in these bibles spoke via scrolls emerging from the characters mouths. These were printed from as early as the 15th Century initially on velum but made more widely available and more printed with the advent of woodcut printing.

A Rake's Progress - 8: The Madhouse by William Hogarth

During the 18th Century a Painter by the name of William Hogarth created 8 paintings which sequentially told the story of Tom Rakewell. The images told the story of his gain of wealth as as the heir of merchant and his decline to madness as he squandered all of his money on luxurious living, gambling and prostitution ultimately ending in his incarceration in Fleet Prison a debtors prison. These began as a series of  painting and were later turned into engraving printed and distributed. This series of paintings and other project like it are consider by some to be the forerunner of comics, British Director and Film maker Alan Parker proclaimed these as the ancestors of the modern Storyboard. (Life: The Observer Magazine – A celebration of 500 years of British Art – 19th March 2000)

Father of the Modern Comic Strip
It is widely believed that the father of the modern comic book is Rodolphe Toepffer a Swiss author and caricaturist who illustrated stories like Histoire De M (1827) which was subsequently published in the U.S. under the new name ‘The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck’ (1842). Rolophe inspired many German and American Artists such as Wilhelm Busch, Rudolph Dirk and Joseph Pulitzer who went on to create the first Newspaper Comic Strips.

The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck - Rodolphe Toepffer

A final mention should be given to China who with the use of Block Printing experimented with the combination of images and text developing the Lianhuanhua, translated as “Linked Pictures” which date back as far as 1884 and were later used as political and propaganda tools. Lianhuanhua is considered as a predecessor to Manga.

An example of a Lianhuanhua

This will be continued in a later post entitled: History Of Comic Strips: Newspaper Comics.


Obviously for the pre-production module the focus was on discovering art-styles that I could use to create my web-comic in. While I still intend to carry on exploring the styles I found most interesting I need to spend time looking at current web-comics, are they successful, what makes them successful or unsuccessful, what do I like about them and what can I learn from them. This research should help me create a stronger end product.

Web-comic I intend to look at:
Penny Arcade
Three Panel Soul
Gun Show Comics
Double Fine Action Comics
Happy Funnies 


I’m posting here to draw a line here under the work done for the Pre-Production module and the work I am about to do in full production of my MA Dissertation. Anything hence forth done can and will submitted as part of it.

EDIT: I’ve done a little re-organising of the Blog, mainly renaming all the stuff to do with the Pre-Production module as such so that I or anyone reading doesn’t get confused.

Final Image – Ashley Wood Style

Below is the final image created in the artistic style of Ashley Wood. The shapes of the bears in this piece are the most different to the original concept drawing this was an attempt to emulate Ashley Woods interesting use of geometric shapes when creating characters. I don’t think it was successful as the legs don’t look strong enough to support the weight of the bears.

In terms of emulating the brush strokes of Ashley Wood I don’t think i was successful either  while the brush strokes are obvious in the painting they are not as prominent as Ashley Wood’s I think this will come with practice and confidence. With practice I wouldn’t get caught up the details but would be able to make confident large brush strokes.

Final Image - Ashley Wood style bears

Final Image - Ashley Wood style bears lines

Final Image – Mike Krahulik Style

Okay here is the final image done in the style of Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade. The top image is the final image, below is the traditional media line work and below further still is the concept page for generating ideas for the duo. While I am pleased with the line work the colouring leaves a lot to be desired but Mike Krahulik has a lot of practice on me.

Penny Arcade Style Bear Finalised

Penny Arcade Bears Traditional Ink Line Art

Penny Arcade Bear Concept Sheet

Final Image – Ben Templesmith

After spending time developing Ben Templesmith’s style with the sketches below I was confident going into this image. S far Ben Templesmith’s style has meshed best with my own and his confident line work and simple colouring has moved into all of my other modules and has been most adopted out of the 3 major artists I have researched. This is why I think the Ben Templesmith’s research has worked out the best.


The final image created was doomed from the get, I couldn’t get the line art to look the way I wanted it to and time restrictions meant I had to move forward regardless. The result is not as good as some of the sketches, the line art is messy and the colours don’t work well together at all.

Here it is warts and all the finished Ben Templesmith piece:

Ben Templesmith Style Final Image

Ben Templesmith Final Bear Lines