Suitcase Full of Blues

This morning I woke up and did a page count of the next Uptown Girl book to see how many more pages I had to go.  It’s a collection of short stories and comics, and I wasn’t sure how far along I am.  The goal is to make it 200 pages, the same length as 2012’s ‘Little Adventures’.  A smaller book than this year’s ‘A Long Forgotten Fairytale’ and 2016/2017’s ‘The Lazarus Heart’.  ‘The Lazarus Heart’ is going to be the big, and I am not 100% sure it will be out in 2015.  To be honest, ‘Fairytale’ took longer than I thought it would and it really got me behind.

At any rate, it turns I am about 60 pages short of the current book.  I had estimated I was around 40 pages to go, but I was way wrong.  At the rate I am going, I am thinking I’ll be done at the end of February.  I fully expect to have the book ready for the targeted release date of May 2015.  I was hoping to get started on ‘Lazarus’ in January, but that is not likely.

So, I need to kick it in gear.

I did get a page done today, thanks to Sophie hanging out with a friend and giving me some time to draw.  So, here it is.

suitcase full of blues

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Face in the Crowd

Fallcon was yesterday, the first comic convention in Minnesota without our esteemed leader, Nick Post.  His presence was missed but the folks who ran the show did an amazing job as always.  The conventions, I think, are in good hands.  Hats off to them and thanks to everyone who was involved.

I met a lot of people, signed a lot of books and caught up with some friends.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday.  I also did some drawing, of course.  I like conventions for a lot of reasons but one of my favorite things is getting my table set up and getting some drawing in before the craziness of the convention starts.  I was able to pencil a page for the new Uptown Girl book before the show started, and inked it throughout the day.  These days, penciling and inking a page in one day is a luxury.

And it’s a pretty funny page, if I do say so myself.

Conventions always give me a chance to draw things I normally don’t.  Yesterday I was asked to draw Harley Quinn from DC Comics.  I’ve never drawn her before but I really liked how she turned out:

harley quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conventions are also a great opportunity to do some people watching.  As people caught my eye, I did a quick drawing of them and I REALLY like how some of these turned out:

faces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first guy in the middle row is my pal Lance Ward.  He’s a great guy and a swell cartoonist.

Anyway, that’s all I have for today.  Oh, wait, one more thing.  I will be doing a signing/sketching event at River City Hobbies in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 25th.  So, if you feel like a road trip, come say hi.

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Riding into Battle with Her High Heels on

colorSo, I designed the look of Uptown Girl a long time ago, and like 99% of comic book and cartoon characters, she rarely wears something different.  Each morning she puts on her star shirt, her plaid skirt and boots.

A lot of people over the years have asked about her clothes.  The..ah, creepy guys who really want to talk about her clothes I ignore, but there are reasons I designed her look the way I did.

First off, the shirt.  When I first settled on her look, it was a very spontaneous thing.  I do a little more design work for a character these days and tend to put a little more thought into a look now.  But back then I finished off her look with a simple star on her shirt.  The characters are simple in design, and I couldn’t really make a complex design work on her.  The fewer lines the better.  I felt she needed something, so I scribbled a star on her.  She needed an emblem, I thought, like Superman.  Looking back, I think it was the best part of her design.  In fact, even the color of the star meant something.  I mentioned last week I was working on a children’s book about a couch at the time.  The color of the couch is the same color as the star.  It was an inside reference to my other project.

optic nerveHer skirt and boots are also nods to a comic that was a huge influence on me, ‘Optic Nerve’ by Adrian Tomine.  When I created Uptown Girl I was working at a comic book store and we had a poster for Tomine’s comic that I liked a lot.  I liked the look of the skirt and boots, so Uptown Girl borrowed the look of the girl on the poster.  Her skirt is not the Catholic schoolgirl uniform skirt that some people (like those creepy guys) think it is.  Nope, it’s a punk rock skirt.  In my mind, Uptown Girl was working a music critic covering the underground punk scene in Minneapolis.  A scene that I know nothing about.  As for the boots, Uptown Girl’s heels are a lot higher than the character on the poster.  As I drew the comic, I was putting Uptown Girl in a lot more dangerous adventures that covering the punk rock scene, and I knew that her heels were not very practical, but I was used to her look and still haven’t changed it.

But for the new project I am putting more thought into the characters look and design.  Meet Alie.

Ali PBAlie is a character for an upcoming project between Brian Bastian and myself.  Without Samus_Zero_Suitgiving too much away, Alie’s design is inspired by Samus Aran from the Metroid video game.  Samus has an outfit called the Zero Suit.  I like the simple design and wanted to do something like that.
When I think of the stories Alie will be a part of, I realized that heels just won’t work.  I’ve never run across rooftops in stilletos and can’t imagine how painful and difficult that would.  So, her look has been changed.  I am about 50 pages into the book that Brian and I are working on, and I don’t think there’s any pictures of her footwear, so I can avoid some inconsistencies there.  Trust me, I get emails when I do make a mistake like that.  At least someone is reading my books, I guess.

To be honest, I am kind of surprised that I decided to change it.  Sure, I know someone wearing heels on an adventure isn’t safe or practical, but I always viewed my comics as fiction and fantasy.  But recently I started to realize that I am a part of the problem.  Almost every single female comic character wears heels.  Almost every single female comic character was created by a male.  As a father of a six year old girl who loves comics and loves drawing with me, I started to notice a lot of things that I wasn’t paying attention to or hadn’t noticed before.  I realize changing footwear isn’t changing the world, but for me, a character changing shoes also means that I am changing as well.  Maybe it’s not too late for Uptown Girl to change her shoes, either.

 

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The Curious Sofa

I love my garage.

That might be a surprise to some, considering I am not known for being handy.  This morning I changed a light bulb and I feel like Bob freakin’ Villa.  I like my garage because of all the stuff I find in it.  The other day I found an enormous box of mix tapes I made a long time ago.  What on earth am I going to do with them?  I found a bunch of photos from the last two decades.  Was I ever that thin?  Was I ever that young?  Yes.  I was.

Among the many boxes of unsold Uptown Girl books and Christmas decorations is a lot of artwork.  Sketchbooks, mini-comics and pictures.  I found an old sketchbook that has a lot of concept drawings for Tommy Chicago, the first comic Brian Bastian and I ever worked on together.  It was terrifying to see how lousy I used to draw.  I mean, I’m not Bob freakin’ Ross, but I used to be a LOT worse.  I guess some Uptown Girl characters were originally meant for Tommy Chicago?  Weird.  Some day when I start running out of stuff to complain blog about I’ll post some of that stuff.

I did stumble across a big leather portfolio containing a major project I was working on before Uptown Girl took over my life.  Artwork I haven’t seen for close to ten years.  Over 15 years ago I decided I want to create picture books for children.  So I wrote one called ‘Daisy’s Couch’.  The first version was…terrible.  But inspired by a lot of European comics, like ‘Tintin’ and ‘Asterix” I decided to redraw the whole thing comic book style.  The decision to redraw it in this style came a few months after I started Uptown Girl.  The new ‘Daisy’s Couch was bright, vibrant and big.  It was so much fun to work on for a few reasons, but one reason is that it was so different than Uptown Girl’s small, black and white world.  I loved this time of my life.  I had time to put out a monthly comic and work on other projects.  True, I had no social life to speak of, but it was creatively fulfilling.

After a year or so of working on both projects, production started on the Uptown Girl movie.  Even though it was a small, independent movie, it took up a lot of my time.  The movie was in the more than capable hands of Ben Mudek, so that was a relief.  But I still went to the casting auditions, and a few of the shoots.  Once the movie was made, the promotion began.  I did a lot of interviews and it was a very busy and fun part of my life.  Between the premier and multiple showings around the Twin Cities and then the DVD release party, I had very little time for anything that wasn’t Uptown Girl related.  I took a few months off from the Daisy book.

When it was time to work on it again, my art style had improved quite a bit and it looked the book was made by two different people.  Looking at it now, I don’t think the change was as jarring as it seemed at the time, but I didn’t think I could continue with the book with such different art styles.  So, I vowed to return to the book and start it again.  That vow remains unfilled.

I doubt I will ever redraw this.  I have a lot of projects I want to work on in addition to Uptown Girl, and I don’t think I will ever have time to go back to it.  It’s too bad, I think there’s some fun stuff here and some funny parts, and of course it’s a lot of fun to work in color but these days being a dad and husband and working a full time job take up a lot of my time and energy.  I am lucky I am able to find time to still put out a new Uptown Girl book each year, but I do wish I had time for other things

Finding old artwork can be a lot of fun nostalgia-wise but it can also be humbling.  Did I really draw that poorly?  Did I really think *that* was a good picture?  Looking at artwork that I did last week can also be a difficult experience.  I look at my artwork and I wish I could draw better.  I look at other cartoonists and I wish I could draw better.  I would love to draw like Stan Sakai, Kath Lete, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Amanda Conner, Kevin Cannon or Colleen Coover.  But I can’t.  I can draw like Bob freakin’ Lipski and somehow I have to okay with that.

Anyway, here’s a few poorly taken photographs of the Daisy book.  I would have scanned them, but as I said these pages are huge, they’re comic book page size, so that makes them…what?  11 x 17?

4 5 6 photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

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What Lies Beneath

I am a pretty simple cartoonist.  A lot of artists draw on a tablet or right on a computer screen (sorcery!) but aside from touching things up and lettering in Photoshop, I stick with pencils, brushes, pens and paper.

And Whiteout.  I make a lot of mistakes.  Drawing is hard.

If you ever see my original artwork, there’s a really good chance it will have stuff glued to it.  If I make a mistake and I don’t want or need to redraw a panel or a page, I’ll simply glue paper over the offending image and redraw it.

I was working on a page for an upcoming project the other day and I needed to draw a super evil bad guy.  The intention was for him to look evil and kind of hunched over.  But I suck at drawing.  It was a terrible panel.

Here’s my “process” for when things go to hell:

photo 1

WHERE IS HIS NECK OH MY GOD

photo 2(1)

Some honest self critique

photo 3

Taking advantage of technology’s newest resources.

photo 4

It’s like the drawing of the guy with no neck never happened. Let’s hope we can all move on.

 

 

 

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Break It Down Again

This morning I finished inking page 3 of a story that will appear in the next Uptown Girl book.  The book was going to be called ‘Imitation of Life’ but now I am not so sure.  The story that was going to have that title was scrapped and won’t be in the book, so I might be coming up with a new title.

I’ve demonstrated before my approach for when it comes to drawing and inking and Photoshopping a page, but I thought I’d demonstrate how I write a page and break it down.  The way I write is…well, I’m used to how I write.  But it’s not the smartest way to write.  My style probably wouldn’t work for others.  I tend to come up with a plot and I write that down and then kind of go from there.  Once I have the beginning, the middle and the end worked out I can get started.  I don’t like writing full scripts, I prefer to be spontaneous and surprised by the dialogue when I create a comic.  Sometimes I get into trouble this way, but not often.

Anyway, spoilers, I guess.

One of the key parts of the story is that we find out that Rocketman is famous.  Not Robert Downey Jr. famous, more like…”That guy working at the gas station?  Wasn’t be part of Milli Vaniili?”  The story requires the reader and Uptown Girl finding this out at the same time.  So, in order for this to happened, I thought Rocketman needed to recognized while he was out and about.  So, I needed Rocketman to be outside.  now, sure, I could have Rocketman simply standing outside and have someone come up to and recognize him, but that seemed a little lazy.  So I thought Rocketman needs to be doing something Rocketman-ish which means he needs to be doing something kind of stupid and/or dangerous.  I thought something involving a pogo stick would be a good idea.  So, how does he get the pogo stick?  I decided he’d find while he was looking for something else.  But what?

As I mentioned, I needed Uptown Girl and the reader to find out about the sort of celebrity status at the same time, so I needed to get Uptown Girl over to Rocketman’s place…because…(and this was my thought process at the time) he borrowed something from her and….she went to his place to get it back.  He lost it and while he was trying to find, he stumbled across his old pogo stick.  So, in the story, she heads to his place to get her dictionary (there’s a reason) back.  And that is where we join the story.

When I sat down to write and draw the page (again, I don’t have a full script) I knew I needed to have Uptown Girl start the page by knocking on his door and asking for her book back,.  Of course, nothing with Rocketman can be that simple.
Here’s the page:

3

So, let’s break this sucker down.

Rocketman has a history of opening his door and revealing what his life is like when the girls aren’t around.  Like here:

29

Uh, in case you haven’t read this story, he was playing video games in his underwear.  Rocketman’s apartment is a place where you’ll never know what you’ll find when he opens the door, like here:

bein' green 6

Anyway, for this new page I knew I couldn’t do either one of these gags again, so I thought it’d be funny if Rocketman was trying to keep something from getting out.  Why rabbits?  No idea.

3.

The rabbits thing though, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like writing a full script.  I was feeling a little strange when I drew this page and the rabbits likely came out of that mood.  The next sequence of panels need to have Uptown Girl ask about them.  She has to react to what she sees, and as the writer, I do too.

3

Now, as the writer, I have NO idea what is up with the rabbits.  I don’t think Rocketman does either, and he also informs us he doesn’t understand reproduction.  This begs the question of how long has he has these rabbits?  Although I prefer not writing a full script, this is when things can get a little frustrating.  Rocketman and an apartment full of rabbits is the kind of thing that can hijack a story.  Suddenly this story can go from the original idea to Rocketman opening a petting zoo.  Despite the bunnies, the story must go on.  And Uptown Girl helps me out with this.

3

I really like this page.  I feel it really captures the spirit of the comic.  We have the randomness of Rocketman, we have Uptown Girl keeping the story moving forward and hopefully the reader is entertained.  But most of all, I like this page because I was surprised by how this scene went.  Drawing comics can be very boring, so it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.

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Local Hero

nickHe was a big guy because he had a big heart.  He was larger than life and this past Friday I read he passed away.

If you read or create comics and live in Minnesota or come to visit for the excellent conventions the MCBA  runs you have seen Nick.

Nick was the brains behind so much of the local comics scene but he was also the heart.  He ran the conventions and he also help run the Source, a fantastic comic book store.  Seeing his wide grin was one of the reasons I liked visiting there.  I first met Nick a little over ten years ago when I did my first comic convention.  He made me feel welcome and important even though I only had six poorly drawn mini-comics.  But Nick treated me like a pro, he was excited I was there.  Over the years I was lucky to get to know him better.  When the Uptown Girl movie was finished, he arranged for Fallcon to host the premiere.  He invited the cast and crew to the convention and we held the screening in a huge room to fans and convention guests.  I remember looking out from the stage and seeing his big grin.  That was a good day.

He always went out of his way to make sure the convention guests were happy, were fed and were having a good time.  He was sincere and genuine and wanted the conventions to be a big party.  The man loved comics.  He believed they could bring people together.  He was right.  At the last convention he was a part of I wandered the floor looking at the big comic professionals, guys like me, comic book retailers from all over the country, video game players, cosplayers, LEGO enthusiasts, even a rescue shelter for greyhounds.  Over the years I met a lot of amazing people that I am still friends with.  I think it’s safe to say that without Nick I wouldn’t have gotten Uptown Girl into the hands of readers.  His store carried my books and you can find them on the shelves of the Source, right next to the Umbrella Academy.

Nick made me feel like what I was doing was important.  He made everyone feel that.  He created a community that is so strong that it will carry on without him…but it won’t be the same.  I took Sophie to the Source yesterday to buy some comics.  Normally the Source is robust and loud and charged with an amazing, geeky energy.  Not yesterday.  The store was packed but somber.  I saw people drying their eyes, embracing and comforting each other.  I saw people I’ve known for years because of Nick.

I hope Nick knew how important he was to so many people.  I wish he could have lived forever so he could see the community he united grow.  I could write forever about Nick and what he did.  I have many stories and memories and I am sure we all do.  Fallcon this year won’t be the same.  Not much will.

As far as I know, Nick wasn’t from Krypton or didn’t get bit by a radioactive spider but he was still our hero.

The service will be held on Tuesday, August 12th at:
Cornerstone Bible Church

735 10th St. E., Hastings, MN, 55033

 


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