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Creating Comics Tutorial - Props and Vehicles Props and Vehicles
Suggested Reading

Penciling


By Zorikh Lequidre

1. Props and Vehicles
Believe it or not, this is where some of the most popular artists blow it. "Sure, I know what a table/gun/car looks like. I don't need reference for this." BUZZZ! Wrong answer, thank you for playing. Some experienced artists have said that they had a "standard fake" car, until they realized that it looked like a '77 Plymouth, and it was now 1995! Some artists, a very few (Jack Kirby is one of the best at this), have a style of art that is so (for lack of a better word) brilliant that they can make up a prop or vehicle and it works. These are, again, geniuses. So what do the rest of us do?

Have you ever looked at a comic where there was a prop or a vehicle that you are familiar with and it's just drawn wrong? Doesn't it really distract from your enjoyment of the story? I could fill a phone book with pictures from comics of sports equipment, guns, cars, armor, aircraft, tanks, and other things that are just wrong. I'm not talking about cartoony distortions, I'm talking about how the artist just didn't know what he was drawing, and so he faked it.

How do you avoid this? You can make a list of every prop and vehicle in the story and do practice sketches of each of them before you start drawing the comic. This may be a little time consuming, though it will pay of in how the story looks in the end. You can do things to prepare yourself before you get the story, however.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! I don't meant to be so heavy-handed about it, but it makes all the difference in the world. If you can find out what something looks like before you draw it, then you can draw it right. If for some reason you are not supposed to draw it right, at least you know what you are not supposed to draw it like. The shape of an object may affect your decision on a layout. The way an object fits into a picture is very important to your layout. The way a character handles an object can be very important to the story. You may have to make a decision between accuracy and your idea for the picture.

Look around you. Draw anything you see. Build a file of reference materials. One artist said, for instance, any time there's a picture of an ambulance in a newspaper or a magazine; he cuts it out and puts it in a file. After a few years he purges the file because ambulances change. Then any time he needs to draw an ambulance, he can pull it out of his file.

Props and vehicles have anatomy, just like people and animals. They usually have insides, outsides, mass, and three dimensions. Machines (everything from a see-saw to a lamp to a space ship) have working parts and conform to physical laws. Guns have ammo, cars have engines, doors have hinges, and shoes have soles. If your work does not recognize this, your story suffers. If you have to make something up (say, you can't find a reference, or your prop comes from the future or another dimension), at least get to know the principles and properties of similar items. That way your design can be based on how much the story wants to be based on reality.

While for many stories It may be a daunting and time-consuming task to list every prop and vehicle in the plot or script and create a sketch sheet for it, remember that every single thing that you draw should look as good as every other thing you draw, and anything that should be there but is not will be conspicuous by its absence.

Simply having accurate (or at least deliberately created) characters, costumes, locations, props and vehicles will not mean you will have a great comic, but it will add quality to any comic you draw. No matter what else can be said about it, at least it can be said that it was accurately (or deliberately) drawn. So remember, the most important thing is how these elements contribute to the telling of the story.

Suggeated Reading:
Comics & Sequential Art cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-0-4 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-0-2; 154pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1985

Graphic Storytelling cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-3-9; Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-2-0; 164pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1995

How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips for Newspapers and Comic Books , Alan McKenzie; Format: Hardcover, 144pp.; ISBN 0-89134-214-1; Publisher: North Light Books, F & W Publications, Inc., Pub. Date: 1987

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art cover

Scott McCloud; Format: Hardcover, ISBN: 8-87816-244-3 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-87816-243-7; 215pp.; Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press Inc.; Pub. Date: 1993

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Back to:
Pg.1: Definition and History of Comics
Pg.2: Comics Today
Pg.3: Terms of the Trade
Writing: Story and Plot
Writing: Script
Sample Script
Penciling: Tools: Short Answers
Penciling: Tools: Furniture and Paper
Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers
Penciling: Tools: Straightedges and More
Penciling: Creating Characters
Penciling: Character Sheets
Penciling: Costumes
Penciling: Locations
Penciling: Props and Vehicles

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