Shuffleupagus is the name of a cooperative art activity in which participants work together, through three stages, to create a nine-panel comic. The results are unpredictable, and can often be silly or absurd.
The game was created by Jesse Reklaw (with name suggested by Ed Stastny) around the year 2000, and has been employed at several SITO-sponsored art jams.
Materials and PreparationTo create a Shuffleupagus comic, you will need:
- A couple dozen blank index cards.
- Five people willing to draw.
- A communal set of drawing utensils.
- A sheet of paper large enough to accommodate a 3x3 grid of the cards.
- A glue stick or tape, to affix cards to paper.
Creating Characters and SettingsIf your group doesn't have a characters deck and a settings deck already made, you'll need to run through these steps once.
- Give two cards to each participant.
- Each will draw a "character" on one card and a "setting" on another card. Examples of characters: "zombie farmer", "woman walking her pet pickle", "cowboy tater-tot", "robot with long legs". Examples of settings: "drag race", "abstract space", "martini glass", "a stone stairway".
- It's good to draw these images rather than just write them down, because it will give a visual reference and continuity to the final comic. Drawing will also serve to loosen everyone up for the creation of comic panels in the following rounds.
- When finished, divide the cards into "character" and "setting" decks.
- Shuffle each deck.
Round 1: Draw Isolated PanelsThis round is about creating comic panels in isolation. What each participant creates here doesn't need to have anything to do with what others are creating. The character/setting combination, along with the gap-bridging in Round 2, will create the narrative continuity.
- Four people volunteer to draw. Give them each a blank index card.
- Choose one character and one setting at random from the decks.
- Each of the four creators in the first round draws the same randomly chosen character within the same randomly chosen scene. Orient the cards vertically. It's best if everyone uses the same type of pens/pencils. Each draws whatever situation they want to, the only requirement is that the scene contains the character and the setting.
- Once everyone's done, get five people ready for the next round. Add one blank index card to the four cards created during this stage and shuffle that stack.
- Distribute the cards in a circle around the table. Wherever the "blank" card ends up, that will mark the "beginning/end" of the comic.
- Put a blank index card between the rest of the cards.
Round 2: Bridge the GapsThe task for participants in this round is to create the "in-between" panels that bridge the gap between the panel on their right and left (if you're going clockwise). Be sure it is clear where the start/end panel is.
- Once oriented, each participant draws a comic panel event that links the "preceding" panel to the "following" panel in a narratively continuous way.
- For the person who has a blank card following their panel, they are drawing the finale to the comic.
- The person with a blank card preceding their panel is drawing the start of the comic. This can include a "title" or other such narrative initiator.
- Gather the results, be sure to number them on the back of the card in pencil.
- There should be nine comic panels total by the end of this round, all oriented vertically. Attach these panels in order, in a three-by-three grid, on a sheet of paper. Voila! Comic!
- If inspired, go back to Round 1 and do it again with a new character and setting.
Extra credit and variationsTry out your own variations and rules, experiment and figure out what works best for your group's desires and abilities.
- When working in a group of five inspired creators, try to make five full comics. This way, you can use everyone's characters and settings. You can then combine them together into a booklet and/or each participant can take one page home with them.
- With a group of more than five, you can have more than one comic going at a time.
- With a group of nine, you can have each panel created by a different person.
- In a group with just four, leave the "title panel" for last and create it collaboratively with the group after seeing the narrative that emerges in the comic.
- By omitting the start/end marker card near the end of Round 1, your group can create a comic in which the narrative loops from end to beginning. This variation would result in an eight-panel comic and need only four participants.