Verbal and Visual Ideas

When I began planning this story, I first had to decide where to actually start it and whose storyline I was going to highlight. Bernice Bobs Her Hair seems to start from the perspective of Warren who laments about his unrequited love of Marjorie and the humdrum of her cousin Bernice. I toyed with starting with that scene (as seen in the rough sketch on the left) and including the dancing scenes along with the rather mean ones of the men laughing at Bernice. However, I decided to nix that idea because I didn’t really want to tell it from Warren’s perspective. I also thought that the later scenes were more important to show than this one. Also, I couldn’t draw dancing people. For those reasons, I decided to start the story from Bernice’s perspective—in 3rd person—and the scene where she overhears her cousin and aunt talking about her.

After I decided where to start the story, I then had to decide more on how to draw the characters—apart from my beautiful scribble people as seen above. I wasn’t quite sure how to draw the style of the characters because all I really know about 1920’s style is flapper style, and its made clear in the book—through the characters horror of bobbed hair and their own comments of how women should present themselves—that they are not flappers. All images I could find of 1920s women had bobbed hair too. From there, I decided to look up women’s fashion in the 1910s and simplify it from there—and I mean really simplified. I’m no Picasso—actually, of all the artists he probably the one closest to what I’m capable of. I’m no Mary Cassat.

I attempted to draw some sort of hat, like the inspiration image above, but it quickly became clear to me that hats were weird and difficult to draw. So, I decided to go with a very loose version of the outfits.

After I did away with hats, I decided that my characters were going to be a little wanton for the times and have their hair down. One of the story’s central themes was hair so I really wanted to emphasize those long locks and the drastic change later between Bernice’s long hair and her bobbed haircut later.

As you can see from the image on the right, facial features and expressions were simplified both because of the size of the paper I was working with too small to put in much detail and because of Scott Mcleods advice to not make the characters too specific. My one worry with this was that I don’t have the skill to differentiate between the characters if their faces were too similar, but I tried to reply on face shape, hair colour and dress colour to do so.

When it came to choosing what medium to draw/colour my comic in, I was stuck with what was available to me which was: 1. mechanical pencils for the outline; 2. fine liner sharpies and black gel pens; and 3. pencil crayons. I would have liked to use more vibrant colours or paints for the theme and background which I will explain later.

I didn’t colour in the characters’ faces—except for a bit of blush on Bernice’s cheeks because other characters described her as having “high colour”.

When it came to backgrounds, I knew that I wouldn’t want to add any real images, even masked, but I also didn’t want to leave it white or fill it in with a single colour. This is where I might have bitten off more than I could chew… Taking inspiration from the colours and design on the right, I tried to apply the 20s Art Deco style background. Sometimes it worked, other times it id not.

I kept it really simple for the narrative and dialogue. I used a standard speech ballon for most of the dialogue—with the exception of sound effects like laughter or snoring— and put the narrative on the empty space on top. I also simplified the language just to get the point across without relying too heavily on it.

I had some debate on where and how to end the story. I wanted to highlight the play on Majorie ignorantly speculating on Bernice’s ethnicity in the beginning and end with Bernice cutting off Majorie’s braids but I was uneasy about the language. In the end, I decided to cut the dialogue and leave it more ambiguous.

You can find my comic here. Please ignore the shaky lines, manky bits where used too much white-out, how I never learned to colour within the lines and the lack of consistency in the art deco backdrop.

Glossary of Terms

Bleeding:  When the panel–usually depicting action–runs off the panel to the edge of the page so we can see beyond that snippet in time.

Closure: Observing the parts but perceiving the whole. When we are only given a snippet of something we recognize, we often unconsciously piece together the image. There is a common test that does this with a sentence with each word misspelled but our brains automatically understand what is being said.

Comics: Mcleod defines comics as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” However, he mentions that there is a lot missing from this definition as it leaves out many genres.

Gutter (The): The space between panels. This resembles physical space, time, perspective and motion throughout a comic and signals the transition to the next action or scene.

Icon:  any image used to represent a person, place, thing or idea.

Mask: When a character or object is done in a different stylistic effect than the background imagery. It’s often used to emphasize either the main character or something in the background.

Panel: An individual frame showing one action or idea of the comic.

Panel-to-Panel Transitions:

  • Moment-to-Moment: requires very little closure
  • Action-to-Action: single subject showing them/it in action from one panel to the next.
  • Subject-to-Subject: shift between one subject to another but stays within the scene.
  • Scene-to-Scene: transport us across distances of time and space.
  • Aspect-to-Aspect: “bypasses” time with a place, idea or mood
  • Non-Sequitur: no logical relationship between one panel the next

Pictures: Images designed to actually resemble their subjects. Meaning is fluid and variable.

Scripting: the narrative and dialogue of the comic — the story being told through words

Show and Tell:

  • Word Specific: when the narrative or dialogue moves the story along more than the imagery.
  • Picture Specific: when words just help the emphasize what the image is telling, often through the sound like the “mmm” to add to a kissing scene or a “zzz” to a sleeping scene.
  • Duo-Specific: when words and images have equal parts in telling the story.
  • Additive Combination: words or images elaborate on or amplify each other
  • Parallel Combination: words and pictures follow different courses without intersecting
  • Montage: words are integral parts of the picture
  • Interdependent: go hand in hand to represent an idea that neither could convey alone

Synaesthetic: the viewer can experience sensations in one part of the body produced by the stimulus in another as an image that can evoke an emotional or sensual response in the viewer.

Treachery of Images: is a painting by surrealist painter René Magritte. It presents the notion of iconography or that an image for something is not that something, but rather the representation of something.

Viewer-identification: or “Application through Simplification” which is the idea that readers identify with characters that aren’t too specific or detailed. Without defining features, readers are able to picture themselves as the character and find similarities. Mcleod also mentions the vanity we as the human race have as we want to see ourselves in everything.

Word Balloon: the most widely-used, complex ways artists attempt to depict sound and even the non-verbal. Usually dialogue, not narrative.