Part 1: Creating a Comic Character from Scratch

Part 1: Creating a Comic Character from Scratch


By Karl Dixon
Read Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Pic me-1Cartooning is by no means an exact science, but very much hit or miss; I can never tell if I’ve invented another Snoopy, or a Titanic that will sink ingloriously without trace.

The only constant in this inconsistent world of mine, is that I keep creating. If an idea comes to me and I think it might stand a chance,  I go with it and hope for the best.

The main difference between normal people and cartoonists is their brains. Normal human brains are divided into three sections: the hindbrain, the midbrain and the forebrain; the last one involves the cerebral cortex.

But a cartoonist’s brain has two more sections: The pink fluffy bit which creates all the stuff that political correctness loves. This is the part that creates what most cartoonists look at, laugh out loud about, and then discard as too much fun to be publishable.

Then there is the dark section of a cartoonist’s brain. Whereas most of my ideas may come directly from the pink fluffy side of my cerebral cortex, this one flew right out of the dark matter which resides on the wrong side of my brain tracks. And when I tell you this character’s name is Captain Alzheimer, and the comic I’m creating it for is Viz a traditional comic but one whose humor crosses the borders of the anarchic with aplomb–then you can consider yourself fairly warned as to its insensitive nature.

So without further ado, I would like to take you through the whole thought process of a character, from scratch until the final character is dispatched to the editor of its chosen market.

Today’s post will start with the rough pencil outlines of Captain Alzheimer and the idea behind the strip.

1. This is the first ever sketch of Captain Altimeter. I didn’t like it, as it is too complicated. He has one slipper on one foot, a boot on the other, and too many warts; you can’t really tell what the significance of his shorts are, the towel on his back is a little confusing (it might be a tablecloth or settee throw). The idea was to have a confused superhero, not a confused looking one:

Captain Alzheimer 1

2. Next came the more geriatric-looking Captain Alzheimer. But once again, there is a problem. Mainly in the fact that he isn’t durable enough to draw from all angles.

And the confused costume problem is still there. Anyway, he doesn’t look confused– just dazed and stupid. As well as lacking in empathy, an essential trait to a comic character:

Captain Alzheimer 2


3. I then settled on a more rounded character with the look of pomposity that all superheroes seem to have. While he is still too complicated costume-wise, I do like the capital A wobbling on the top of his mask as he moves:

Captain Alzheimer 3


Finally,  I hit upon the right mix. But first I had to create his reason for being. Captain Alzheimer suffers from memory loss, so logic would dictate that he knows he has to change out of his civilian clothes, but he can’t remember what he did with his superhero outfit. He has his mask but nothing else, so I had the idea of him improvising; what I came up with was to have him stripped to his thermals, with a tea towel for a cape, and his wife’s marigolds for gloves. The final bit was to replace the letters of his name on his chest with the word “Errr….” – an instant signifier as to his mental state.

Below is the finished, cleaned-up drawing of Captain Alzheimer. All good super heroes have catch phrases, and this one had to have one that befitted him. Spider Man has a phrase that I changed to suit Captain Alzheimer. Spider Man’s is “With great power comes great responsibility,” but Captain Alzheimer’s differs only slightly:

Captain Alzheimer fin copy

The next post will address the durability of Captain Alzheimer, as I produce the first character sheet of him in action from all angles. I’ll also be creating his supporting cast and their personalities and their relevance to his world.

7 Responses

    1. Well thank you very much. More will follow and thank you to the Woven Press for bringing my little corner of the internet to your attention

    1. Thankyou for your kind comments. I’ve looked at your site and you have some beautiful pieces of art there; I recommend anyone take a look

  1. […] My first post dealt with my comic character Captain Alzheimer from a rough sketch to fully fleshed-out character. For this post,  I’ll be drawing Captain Alzheimer in a variety of poses. I do this purely to see how versatile he can be, how he looks from different angles and performs with different emotions. Below is a typical example of one of my character sheets. Some cartoonists use these sheets as reference, some use them for warming up. I personally don’t do either as I’ve never felt the need to warm up–I just like to get straight to it, and once I’m into drawing the character, I tend to throw these pages away. […]

  2. […] know the subject matter may not be to every one’s taste, but like I said in the first post, this character was created for a specific market. A market that relies on an off-color humor […]

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