World’s Press News and Advertising
Review was an impressive title for a
not-quite-so impressive weekly trade
magazine. It served Fleet Street and
the advertising agents, was mostly
news and gossip and in 1968 was
merged into Campaign.

On December 21st 1951 they printed
a piece by Frank Hampson, who had
been asked to ‘say something about my
technique’. Hampson’s writing meandered
a bit but the content was revolutionary.
How may strip cartoons do you know
that have a ‘pictorial sub-plot’?

Here is a paraphrase of what Hampson
said. The words are not his, but the
message definitely is.

"I vary picture-frames to avoid monotony, and can incorporate long, medium and close-up shots, and views from above, below and at angles."
Image courtesy Terry Doyle


When I draw a strip cartoon I assume there will be two separate readings of any episode. The first is when the reader scans frames and dialogue to follow the plot. Dialogue should sound natural and flow smoothly, and everything designed so the story is clear, and quick and easy to understand. If there’s any chance of confusion I slow the tempo, and maybe insert extra frames. Nothing should stop an even ‘read’, likely to be over in, say, two minutes.

Later (or it could be as soon as the above is finished) the reader comes to the story a second time. Now he can study the pictorial sub plot, and enjoy looking for and finding details, inventions, concepts, ideas, artefacts and hardware, put there to add interest. These details, often tiny, also help make venue, characters and story more authentic.

I vary picture-frames to avoid monotony, and can incorporate long, medium and close-up shots, and views from above, below and at angles. It’s a bit like scenes in a film, which can cut from a long-distance, establishing shot, to a medium shot of the hero’s head and shoulders to a close-up of his hand reaching for the telephone. The secret is to balance these to create maximum picture-interest.

It means, however, the artist must be able to ‘see’ the scene in his mind’s eye before he starts to draw. When your scene is clear you can move your viewpoint round it, to as many angles as you need to tell the story. Visualise where your characters are. If you can’t ‘see’ the venue, when you change the viewpoint your backgrounds lack conviction. Common remedy: have no backgrounds at all.

Finally there is a parallel with writing. The well-known author and critic Sir Arthur Quiller Couch said: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’ I believe, most emphatically, that every picture should be drawn from life. But if a choice has to be made between including some particularly nice piece of drawing, and keeping the story clear, then the drawing should be sacrificed.