The Evolution of a Waves Comic

Showing the process from idea to sketch to finished comic.

As I wind down the first run of my weekly comic strip Waves to start working on long-form narrative comics, I thought it would be fun to share the process that a given strip went through. I’ll be showing the steps behind making Personal Pan.

The Initial Idea

I drew Personal Pan in September 2017. It’s the first comic that I didn’t draw digitally. It’s based around this silly saying my partner and I say to each other, “Any pizza’s a personal pan pizza if you’re hungry enough.” With that spark of an idea, I wrote out a rough script and potential taglines:

Panel 0: Federico’s Pizzeria shop establishing
Panel 1: a tool-y guy saying “I’ll take your largest pie. Every pizza is a personal pan pizza if try hard enough.”
Panel 2: a gigantic pizza gets rolled out
Panel 3: the guy is passed out with only a little bit of the pizza eaten

Tagline ideas:
– Training for the World Pizza Eating Contest
– Drive-Ins, Drive-Ins, and Drive-Ins
– Tune in at 8pm for my new show on Food Network: “I’ll Take Your Largest”
– The pilot for “Big Eats“ did not get picked up by any TV networks.

First Sketches

Here’s the initial sketch for the comic from my pocket sketchbook:

Initial sketch for my Personal Pan comic

I must have drawn this at dinner with my partner because I wrote down how much the meal cost, ha. Also, I think my handwriting has gotten better since then! The initial sketch isn’t too far from the finished version. It has some cursing in it, which I removed because I try to keep Waves comics cuss-free. There’s also the pizza chef, who I cut because they weren’t really needed.

Designing the Characters & More Sketches

I took that initial sketch in my pocket sketchbook and redrew it in my larger sketchbook to get a better sense of what the main character would look like and the setting:

Additional Personal Pan comic sketches

When I drew this comic, I didn’t really have a sense of what my style is. I still don’t, really. But you can see me trying out different character designs and styles of drawing people and the backgrounds.

By drawing the panels with some sort of fidelity, I got a better sense of what worked and what didn’t. I’ve also got some notes on what panels could be combined, what needed to be emphasized, and what needed to be fixed. I’m not quite sure why I drew the panels in the third version in a wacky order instead of using a new page.

Final Version

Here’s the finished version:

Waves - Personal Pan

Looking back on this comic a few months later, I still like it. It’s pretty dumb, but my sort of dumb. There are some blatant issues I see now. The final panel’s pizza crust extends past where it should. The black levels and general fills are not great. The lettering is bad. And the corners of the panels are sloppy. Finished, not perfect. It’s reassuring to look critically at the comic now and see what I did wrong.

In the comics I’ve drawn since this strip, my process has largely stayed the same. I write out the script, doodle the thumbnails, characters, and settings, and then I draw the finished version with pencil and then ink. I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing how my process evolves as I continue to learn and grow.

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: adventurer, video maker, writer

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