BalkanMagazin :: How comics are made (6): Preparatory works and format

At the moment when the screenwriter and the cartoonist conceived and started the comic project, it is necessary to approach the visual elaboration of the protagonist, certain elements of the decor and individual objects.

“I think that the first drawings are the most important for creating the protagonist,” says Boro Pavlović, a Split comic master. The cartoonist will, first of all, do a whole study of the portraits of the protagonists, their facial expressions, ways of expressing feelings, their figures, movements and clothes. He will also find certain details in his face and dress, typical gestures or special equipment that will make the new hero unique and quickly recognizable at every opportunity.

Typology of personalities, gestures, attitudes, facial expressions

The necessity of every comic is that people differ not only in their roles, but also physically. At the same time, the physical appearance corresponds to a greater extent to the psychological profile, so it is necessary to study each protagonist well and give him the appropriate character.

The visual characterization of the protagonist is the basis of the preparatory works that precede the drawing of the comic (RM Gera, The Legend Landscapes)

We must not forget that most comics do not go into the psychological deepening of the characters and the creation of their elaborate biographies, but are satisfied with a system of iconic signs. In that way, morphological peculiarities, elaborated through facial expressions, gestures and clothing, summarize the most important character traits. The typology of personality, due to simplification and the obligation to present everything with graphic and external symbols, carries with it the dangers of entering into stereotypes.

Human gestures and attitudes are an expression of spiritual states, and in comics this paralanguage is of first-class importance. Movements and attitudes are reduced to functionality in the sense that basic human feelings will always be expressed by the same movements and attitudes. Bulging breasts mean victory or pride, relaxed shoulders and bowed head mean defeat or sorrow, stiffened body and clenched fists signify anger… Characters gesture according to their psychological profiles, which is less noticeable in realistic comics than in comics.


The face is the mirror of the soul and cartoonists pay great attention to facial expressions (Igor Kordej, The Wall)

The face is a mirror of the soul, so in comics it is necessary to pay special attention to facial expressions. When a calm face is suddenly distorted, thus indicating strong feelings that permeate a person, then the narration is suddenly dramatized. There are conventions that in comics, through facial expressions, suggest simple feelings in a simple way.

In the case of fantastic and science fiction comics, the author can elaborate on costumes, weapons, uniforms, habitats, machines, spaceships, etc. Preparatory works for historical comics are very complex, due to the entire research work that must be done on the existing documentation on the Internet, in libraries, museums and real objects in the field.

Comic book and board formats

After completing the preparatory work, the author decides on the format in which he will draw his comic. Very often, authors do not change the format they are used to working on too much, and that largely depends on their technique and abilities, and sometimes on the format of the album. Original boards are almost always 50 to 200 percent larger than the print format. Due to later reductions, it is necessary for the artist to think about the thickness of the line in the album, so that he does not overdo it in fineness, which can later make the printed material unreadable and inexpressive drawing.

The most common sizes of comic book albums are around A4 (30×21 cm). Pre-war French-Belgian comic albums were printed in a larger format – 28 x 42 cm. During the war, due to lack of paper, the format was reduced to A4. After the war, the format was retained, and the volume of the album was determined for commercial reasons on three printing plates, ie 48 pages, printed in offset technique. Hardcover, similar to children’s books, were adopted during the 1970s, due to easier packaging and arranging on self-service shelves. At the same time, comics became an interesting gift, and hard covers were necessary to avoid the look of a cheap product.


During the 1970s, French and Belgian comic book albums received hard covers for easier packaging and stacking on store shelves.

On the other side of the ocean, American norms, inherited from cheap novels, were and remain 24 to 32 pages of a smaller format on poorer paper. Japan, under the influence of the American industry, started publishing albums in the format of American “comics” or pocket books from 192 to 320 black and white pages on bad paper. Compared to the American and Japanese ones, European norms have remained very “luxurious”, because they give importance to the author, and not to the highest possible profit. However, globalization has changed the appearance of the market and put the only requirement for publishers – profit. The French comics industry obeyed and embarked on the path of easy and instantaneous consumption.

Drawing – the most visible part of the comic

Everything in nature can be schematized and reduced to five geometric images: circle, oval, square, rectangle and triangle. When placing the basic drawing, the use of these elements enables a quick and quite accurate arrangement of people, animals and objects in the frame. If the correct proportions and appropriate perspective are used, despite the simplification, the composition will be recognizable, and perhaps expressive.


The cartoonist must find certain details in the face, typical gestures, special clothing and equipment that will make the hero unique and quickly recognizable at every opportunity (Zoran Janjetov, Les technopères, T5)

It is also important to have good documentation made up of magazines, reviews, books, encyclopedias and photographs on the basis of which something can be drawn that is not available to the author in the area. Framing, angles, plans and the composition of the board make up the largest part of the job, in which the words of the screenwriter are transformed into images in a selected way. An ordinary artist will be satisfied with imitating nature, while a true artist will add his own feelings and thoughts, thus making the drawing more dramatic, expressive, personal and poetic. “If there is life in the line, it means that he works conscientiously and brings in a part of himself,” says Jean Giraud Moebius.

Of course, we should never forget that it is necessary to find a balance in every expression.

“My drawing is neither beautiful nor elegant, but it is very effective for storytelling. It is not the graphic realization that is important to me, but the graphic narration, which is the definition of the comic book itself,” says Jean-Claude Mezier. readability of the image and to keep congestion.

Reducing drawings

The reduced and minimalist drawing enables easier transmission of the message to the reader and better identification with the heroes. The French comic book author Enki Bilal testifies to the deliberate reduction:

“Reduction is partly unconscious, and partly the desire to concentrate on the most important and thus enable faster reading. The story is guided by a literary element, and the drawing complements the written part. This method is dictated by the content of the story. Usually, when I work, when I want something I tell, I look for what is in the greatest balance with the story. “

By completing the drawing in his imagination, the reader enters the narration more actively, and the protagonists become part of the reader. The shift from a realistic drawing to a simplified drawing allows the concept to stand out in front of the exterior. Of course, there is no obligation to do everything in the same way. It is possible to graphically schematize the protagonists, and make the decor realistic, thus obtaining a graphically rich background and characters with which it is easy to identify. Likewise, certain elements due to the need for narration can be simplified at one point and very realistic at another.


Graphism can be simple (Dušan Gačić, Dnevnik) or complex (Alem Ćurin, Mr. Klein’s Experiment), but it must be in balance with the narrative process.

“The longer I stay on one board, the more static it becomes. In the beginning, I tried to make the most beautiful drawing possible. Today I understand that narration is the most important. Drawing is just a tool,” says Gilali.

Defali, a young French cartoonist. Drawing always remains a tool, but the approach can be complex, as the Belgian comic master Bernard Iller testifies:

“For example, I draw a body before I put it on. What I’m interested in is to breathe energy into the graphic art. The drawing has to live.”

Source: Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by

*The article has been translated based on the content of Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!

*We just want readers to access information more quickly and easily with other multilingual content, instead of information only available in a certain language.

*We always respect the copyright of the content of the author and always include the original link of the source article.If the author disagrees, just leave the report below the article, the article will be edited or deleted at the request of the author. Thanks very much! Best regards!