Planning Spontaneity

Sophie, my soon to be eight year old daughter woke me up at 5am because she was ready to go and do everything we have planned for the day.  She was raring to go.  After I got out of bed and woke up a little, I came back to find she fell back asleep…so here I am.  I’m raring to go.  Once I wake up, I can’t go back to bed.  So I started to think about comics because it’s pretty much all I think about.

The third week of The Incredible Retros starts up tomorrow.  I was looking at the pages I’ll post this week and then compare them to the pages I just penciled the other day.  Page 11 goes up tomorrow but I penciled page 145 on Thursday.  It’ll be about 7 months before page 145 is online.  I look back at everything that happens between page 11 and 145 and there’s so much going on.  I can’t wait to post them and I can’t wait to draw all the other stories I have planned.  I have some epic stuff coming up…in the next half decade.

55 blankI am 59 finished pages into Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart.  I should be up to 80 pages by the end of the year.  Working off the script and layouts I did earlier this year, I am at page 100 of the script.  The reason why I am not at a 1 script page to 1 finished page ratio is that when I did the layouts I worked on a smaller scale  and when I do the finished pages I have more room to put in panels.  Also, working on a smaller scale with the Retros has carried over to Uptown Girl and how I complete a page.  The finished pages have smaller panels than what I’ve done in the past.  I think there’s a (very, very, very) small chance the book could be done by the fall of 2016 but I’m not counting on it.  Right now I am pacing myself for 15 pages a month but starting in January I’ll bump it up to 20 a month.

I haven’t decided what I am going to do once Uptown Girl is wrapped up besides feel sad.  I might work on a Fly-Girl graphic novel, I might take a crack at this idea I had not too long ago, or I might just see what I feel like doing.  Too much of my life is planned too far ahead and I could do with a little more spontaneity.

Anyway, I better wrap this up.  Sophie just woke up (for real this time) and I need to get her ready to go so we can go and drop my son off at work, and then go to the Y, then to lunch, then to the movies and then to pick him up from work.  See?  Everything is planned.  Ask me what I’m doing in December.  I am doing all the things.


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First Week

I’ve been working on The Retros for a very long time.  Like…years.  The first drawing I did of the characters that would eventually become the team was done about 7 years ago.  Since then, the team has changed a lot in terms of the roster.  Even the characters on the team have changed a lot.  Lucky was originally named ‘Macho McAdams’, for example.  Fly-girl wasn’t always on the team, Alie wasn’t always the leader.

The first iteration of the team (that we see, anyway) won’t be the same team throughout the whole series.  The members will change, their roles will change and the dynamics will change.  I’m excited to bring in new members and change up the cast from time to time.  The Retros has a huge backstory that I will be exploring.  The team members also have their own individual histories, too.  Sputnik’s is probably the craziest.

Writing the Retros is also a little different than what I am used to.  Since the comic is done in a four panel comic strip form, I have to be more concise than what I’m used to on a page-to-page format, but I am also telling a larger story, too.  Each page has to tell a tiny part of a big story and each page has to keep the story moving.  Also, since only one page is posted at a time, I need to make sure the reader’s daily visit is a satisfying one.  There’s a lot of action in The Retros but I can’t do four days in a row with just a fight scene (unless there’s something else going on).

Ultimately, I think the strip will read better once it is collected, especially over the course of several years.  A major inspiration of The Retros is The X-Men.  I started reading X-Men in 8th grade which was the perfect time to read the comic.  This was in the Claremont era, arguably the most defining run of the series.  I loved seeing the huge cast of characters and the ever changing team line up.  I liked reading about the dynamics of the team…how they didn’t always liked each other but always fought for each other.  I took this concept and adapted it a little for The Retros.  In my mind, The Retros are a team, but they are more like co-workers.  They quibble on the battlefield and argue about who’s turn it is to clean the break room fridge.

Almost everything about The Retros is a new way to write comics from what I am used to, especially the characters themselves.  With Uptown Girl and her friends, there’s so much of ME in each of them, it makes her adventures easy to write since each of them is a part of myself.  Uptown Girl is the more down to earth part of me, Rocketman is the more impulsive, fun loving side of me, and Ruby is the sarcastic, cynical part of me.  With The Retros, each character is at the top of their game.  Rocketman is fun to write as he’s a little lazy and a little…not smart.  With The Retros we have a team of smart, skilled superheroes…but not without their quirks and neurosis.

Thanks to everyone who read the first week of their adventures!  This week the action gets kicked up a notch.



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Sunday (The Day Before my Birthday)

There is a calm I haven’t come to yet
I spent half my life figuring what comes next

-Michael Stipe

You cannot walk with the holy if you’re just a halfway decent man
I don’t pretend that I’m a mastermind with a genius marketing plan
I’m trying to tap into some wisdom
Even a little drop will do
I want to rid my heart of envy
And cleanse my soul of rage before I’m through

-Paul Simon

So, tomorrow I turn 40.  I had no idea how I would feel the day before my 40th before and I am surprised by how okay I am with it.  I feel like I’m ready for it, I feel I am in a good place mentally, creatively and physically right now, much more than I was earlier this year.  I feel like I’ve come a long way in all three of those things.  Think of it as my Triforce.

I think the mental part was the hardest in all of this.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and beating myself up a lot about not having certain things accomplished in my life yet.  For a while I thought the pressure was good.  I thought it was helping me work harder and keep me focused on my art and my goals but it was…not benefiting me.  I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t sit still, I was never calm.  I’d look at what other cartoonists were doing and what they had accomplished and it made me feel like I was behind, a failure and that I’d never get there.  This was hard when I’d look at cartoonists who were my age like Craig Thompson who had achieved worldwide acclaim with his excellent book ‘Blankets’, published when he was 28.  I was just getting started in comics when I was 28.  It’s even harder when I look at guys like Pendleton Ward who created ‘Adventure Time’ and debuted on Cartoon Network when he was 28.

Huh.  If 27 is a bad age for musicians, maybe 28 is a good age for cartoonists.

At any rate, in the back of my head I kept telling myself that Jack Kirby created The Fantastic Four when he was 44.  I do cheerfully ignore the fact that Kirby had more comic accomplishments by the time he was 25 then most of us will ever have over the course of an entire lifetime.  I am not comparing myself to the King, I just tell myself that just because I’m 40 it doesn’t mean my most creative days are behind me.

Your mental attitude shapes your creative life.  Like I said, I used to think putting pressure on myself helped drive me, but I realized it’s the creativity that keeps me drawing.  Creating new characters, thinking of new stories is what helps keeps me going.  Earlier this week I thought of a character that I created about 15 years ago, predating Uptown Girl.  I thought of a way to bring her back and include her in The Retros comic.  She’s a perfect fit for a storyline that is years off.  I keep notes and story outlines and I have the next 5 or 6 years of stories planned out and I can’t wait to draw them.  I think know the pressure I was putting on myself to achieve certain milestones was creating a lot of anger, frustration and rage in myself.  It certainly didn’t help my self-esteem.  I feel I have come out through the other side and feel I can focus on creating and letting things fall where they may as opposed to hating myself for not being what I want to be yet.  I can’t be calm, I cannot be at peace if I am constantly thinking about what happens next.

With The Retros launching TOMORROW, I’ve worked to keep my expectations realistic.  Part of me used to think “I’ve been doing comics for over ten years and this is my first new project since Uptown Girl and The Retros will be an amazing success and will get ten million page views and I’ll have a movie deal by Thanksgiving” but of course I know that I need to work hard, have fun, keep my head down and not think about what might come next.  The Retros is super fun to draw and to write and I think will surprise a lot of people.  If you like Uptown Girl then I think you’ll like this.  It’s not a departure from my work in terms of the potential audience, it’s still funny, the characters love and hate each other and have fun adventures.  It’s still an all ages comic.

A year ago I realized I’d turn 40 on a Monday and that kind of sucks.  So I decided to give myself two birthday presents.  I am not the type of person that feels I deserve presents, in fact I feel very conflicted about getting them, but I’ve no problem giving myself a gift if I think it’s good for me.  My creative gift to myself is a new comic.  It’s not a coincidence The Retros starts on my 40th birthday.  I want to wake up tomorrow excited for something and not many people are excited about turning 40 on a Monday.

The other present is the third part of my Triforce.  My physical self.  A year ago I wondered what it would be like to wake up on a Monday and go to work and turn 40 all in one day.  I would then wonder what it would be like to do all that and be hungover because I knew I would be.

I used to drink a lot.  I didn’t think it was a lot but looking back, it was.  I drank a lot and I drank often.  It started slow, as it usually does.  It started with a glass of wine on the weekends, then a glass a night, then almost a bottle of wine a night, every night.  This went on for almost ten years.  At first a glass (or three) was a great way to unwind after a long day.  I’d draw, read, whatever and have a drink.  It was a slippery slope.  I’d try to cut back and it would last a few days but I’d always be right back to where I was.  I didn’t like doing this.  I didn’t like how I felt.  I was worried about myself.  As I got older, having this much wine this often was really taking a toll on me.  It got harder to bounce back each morning.

I was gaining weight and feeling very depressed about myself.    I belong to the Y and work out 4 times a week but I was still gaining weight.  I could justify it all I wanted to…I was getting older, my metabolism was slowing down, this was normal.  But earlier this year I took Sophie swimming at the Y and hopped on the scale and was 218 pounds.  I had gained about 20 pounds in 6 months.  Not good.  I felt frustrated, I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to take her to the pool.  This is when I knew I had to make a change.

So I stopped drinking during the week.  I stopped the next day.  I also stopped eating potato chips.  Those were the only two dietary habits I changed and I started to see a difference right away.  Without drinking I slept better, had more energy during the day and had longer, more effective work outs.  I liked how I felt, I liked how I looked.  I felt I had overcome a difficult obstacle.  I felt like I was pulling myself back from the abyss.  I didn’t need to have a drink each night.  In the last two months or so, I cut back on wine on the weekends as well.  I don’t know if I will ever stop drinking completely but I feel for the first time in ten years I could.  Not drinking has made so many positive changes in my life.  Mentally I am more present, I enjoy…everything more.  I sleep better, and I feel better and I look better.  This morning I weigh 170 pounds.  I lost 48 pounds in 6 months and I’ve maintained it since.  I know some people were concerned about the pretty dramatic weight loss but in honestly I only made those two dietary changes to my life.  I haven’t lost any more weight since July and I’m not trying to.  I’m okay, I promise.

Tomorrow I wake up to a new world.  I know that sounds grandiose and a little dramatic, but I feel like it’s a new day, a new start.  I’ve changed a lot this year, mentally, physically and creatively but I needed to, and I’ve needed to for a long time…I just did it all really fast.  Looking over my blog and the entries in the last few years I see a lot of frustration over not having achieved what I wanted to achieve yet.  I think I’ve moved on from that and my vacation last month helped with this new perspective.  Tomorrow is also launch day for the Retros.  I am so excited for this.  I’ve been working on this comic for a very long time and has gone through so many versions and changes and I am so psyched to get rolling on this.  I look at what I’ve done with Uptown Girl over the last 12 years and how many stories I’ve told and characters introduced and I am excited to see what happens to Alie, Lucky, Fly-Girl, Zoo and Sputnik as well as the other dozens of new faces you’ll meet over the coming years.  I feel that everything I’ve learned from cartooning, whether it’s from reading comics, listening to other cartoonists and drawing itself is all coming together.

I feel I am leaving one part of my life behind and another one starts tomorrow.  I am so excited for tomorrow you guys.

Alie, why don’t you wrap things up?


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New Blood

Years ago, I would draw random things all the time.  As Uptown Girl and her friends and her world started to form, I drew and doodled less unless I was designing characters for the comic.  Drawing comics soon took over my doodling energy.  It makes sense but just letting your mind tune out for a moment and letting your pencil just create is very fun and exciting and I missed it.  I can’t tell you how many characters in Uptown Girl, and now the Retros exist because I started letting my mind and pencil wander.

When I do this, I start to wonder who the character is, what their personality is like, and sometimes why they look the way they do.  If the character becomes a little more real they can often work their way into a bigger project.  Rocketman, for example, was originally a scientist, believe it or not.  ‘Uptown Girl’ was originally going to be about a weird mash up of ‘Optic Nerve’ by Adrian Tomine and ‘Tank Girl’ by Jamie Hewelett, two indie comics I really liked when I started to draw comics.  Uptown Girl would have a normal life with a splash of slice of life (this was the part inspired by ‘Optic Nerve’) but with the occasional robot or whatever showing up to destroy or invade Minneapolis (obviously this was the ‘Tank Girl’ part).  When I started to design the cast, Rocketman was going to be the scientist who would help Uptown Girl create…stuff that would help her fight aliens or whatnot.  I started to draw Rocketman testing his equipment and there was a sketch of him on roller skates with a rocket strapped to his back…not a smart thing to do.  By the time he showed up in the comic, he was still the type to put on skates with a rocket strapped to him but it was now because he was…well, not smart as opposed to him testing out new equipment.  

Anyway, I am starting to doodle more.  Two reasons are contributing to this.  I draw with my 7 year old daughter a lot.  Sophie and I will sit down and just draw characters, people and animals.  Sometimes we draw little comics about them and talk about what the character is like.  Doing this gets that creative itch going again.  I realize I miss creating new characters and exploring different type of storytelling and styles.  There are so many ways to tell a story.  I doubt I will ever do a comic book again after Uptown Girl’s series is done, which is why I am doing  The Retros in a comic strip format.

The other reason is that with ‘Uptown Girl’ wrapping up (almost to page 50 on the final book) I am started to explore new projects for once the book is completed.  Not only with new characters but with different styles, art materials and format.  Since most of my comics output has been in black and white and in the comic book panel format, I am starting to play with color and really just opening up the page.  One format I am really digging lately is the Sunday comics format.  I look at the Sunday strips from Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts and Mutts and I love how bright and colorful and huge these strips can get.  I started to wonder what it would be like to do an entire book in this format.

A few months ago, I drew a picture for Sophie when she was at a sleepover.  I missed her and I drew this:


first drawingI like the way this turned out.  I love the color (Copic marker), I love the little details and I like the horizontal layout.  There was a story…or the beginning of a story I had in mind when I did this.  I thought about why the fairy was visiting the girl and what would happen next.  The more I thought about this scene, the more the picture’s world opened up to me.  As I let my mind wander, my thoughts drifted back to another character I had drawn about a year and a half ago named Cecilia.

Cecilia was inspired by all the walks Sophie and I take in the woods right outside my house.  There’s a paved path, but also countless other trails we can explore there.  There’s two small lakes, a billion trees and we often see deer, turkeys and other animals.  The other day I saw a coyote and a fox running around the neighborhood.  Sophie and I started to talk about the goblins who lived in the woods (they’re not real, I didn’t see those) and we would blame them for whenever a tree was knocked over.  I wondered what it would be like if it was Sophie’s job to get rid of the nasty creatures in the forest.  I drew up a couple pictures and showed Sophie the designs.  I asked her if I should make a book about her and…she just shrugged and didn’t really saw much about it.  I didn’t think too much about Cecilia after that until I did the fairy drawing.

girl vs mummyI found a way to kind of mash up the two ideas….AND bring back an idea I had years ago about a troop of scouts who earned merit badges for fighting mummies and other creatures.  Soon all three concepts became one and I started to think about this new…book?  Series?  Opera? and how what to do with it.

So I did something I rarely do, I did drawings for a fictional pitch.  I sort of tasked myself with creating concept drawings and some text as if I was asked by Disney or Cartoon Network or a publisher to pitch a new book series or cartoon.  I did some drawings, showed them to Sophie who gave me her approval for the characters and the story.  She even named one of the characters.  I played around with a cheap watercolor set and had a lot of fun.

I don’t want to reveal too much quite yet about the book because I am still working on the idea but if I do anything with this, it would likely be told in the Sunday comic format.  Big, colorful pages that are fun to create and hopefully fun to look at it.

Here’s the concept art I did.  I’m excited to hear what other people think.

CeciliaCecilia with cat

Troll sightingVisitReganGoblin attack

I might start throwing new stuff out to you guys over the next year or so and see what you like and what you think I should work on after ‘Uptown Girl’ is wrapped up.

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It Is Well With My Soul

Two weeks ago I mentioned I was going on vacation and how I don’t vacation well.  Turns out I was wrong, I vacation just fine.

I’m sure normal people, you know, people who actually take vacations, know this but the trip was a great chance for me to put some things in perspective and take a step back.  I actually slowed down.  I drew more on vacation than I ever thought possible.  Normally unless I am rushing out the door to go to work, I am spending the morning editing artwork, working on my blog while I have the washing machine and dishwasher going.  I like to be productive and like I mentioned in my last post, there’s so much that needs to be done.   Stuff needs to get done but when I was on vacation I woke up at my normal time (I can’t sleep in to save my life) but the kids were still out cold and exhausted from Disney World and I realized there wasn’t much I could do.  Usually I am a wake up and go guy but with the kids still asleep there wasn’t much to do but draw.

deskI set up my stuff at the hotel room desk, turned on the lamp, poured a cup of the lousy hotel room coffee and got to work.  I finished about 15 pages of The Retros in the six days I was there.  That might not sound impressive but it’s the most productive I’ve been in years.  I had the best time just waking up and drawing.  Usually it’s the evening after Sophie goes to be when I get my drawing done but this was just the best way to begin the day.

Being on vacation is calming and I was able to stop thinking about work.  Most people have no problem doing that but I have a hard time letting go.  I felt very happy and very peaceful while on the trip…not necessarily because I was on vacation but because I was drawing so much.  So yesterday I woke up, turned on the coffee maker and went right back upstairs to draw.  It was like being on vacation all over again except I had better coffee.

The trip was a reminder that I need to spend more time drawing and doing more things to make me happy.

And I am going to get right back to drawing as soon as I grab the clothes from the dryer.  Honest.

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Operation: Working Vacation

I don’t vacation well.  I don’t think I…deserve one.  I mean, I know I work hard, but there’s so much stuff that needs to be done.  There’s so many pages of the Retros to color, I have hundreds of pages in the new Uptown Girl book to draw…not to mention all the stuff that needs to be done around the house.

When I was a kid, I was the type that saved the marshmallows in a bowl of Lucky Charms for last.  I wanted to enjoy them, I want to earn those weird little shapes after all the hard work of eating only the oat pieces.

I have a hard time enjoying myself when there’s work to be done.  I talk a lot about how I haven’t achieved what I want to in life when it comes to my artwork which is why I keep working at it.  A vacation will come, time off will come when I can hold a book that someone else published in my hands.

Am I making sense?

But I need a vacation, my family deserves one even more.  I haven’t had a vacation since the summer of 2012 which was like forever ago.  So at 6:58am on Wednesday, we, along with my wife’s sister, are all going to Disneyworld.  I was a little nervous about the trip considering all the stuff I have going on but in all honesty I am really, really looking forward to it.  I am on track with the Uptown Girl book, I am bringing the storyboards for the first Retros cartoon with to ink (the storyboards will be published in a mini-comic next year) so I’ll have something to work on.  In some ways, the Retros project is a vacation in it of itself since this particular project doesn’t have a deadline to complete like the Uptown Girl book does.

I’ll not admit I deserve a vacation, but maybe I’ll admit I earned it.  It’ll be nice spending time with my family, they seem like nice people.

Sophie doesn’t know yet.  We plan on telling her the night before.  It’ll be interesting to try to get a 7 year old to fall asleep the night before we go to Disneyworld.  I have been leaving her clues, however…

I draw a little picture to put in her lunch every day.  Usually the drawings are something she likes, like her cat or a cartoon character.  I like doing these as they help stretch my creative muscles a little and get me out of comfort zone each day.  For the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been drawing only Disney/Pixar/Star Wars/Muppets characters.  It’s been a lot of fun and a challenge.  Disney characters have to be spot on or they look nothing like the real thing.  For some characters I would do my best to draw them as accurately as possible, for some I would put my own spin (re: Uptown Girlesque) on them, and for others I would go a little more stylized.   I wanted to show off some of my favorites this week.  I hope you enjoy them and I’ll see you when I get back.

TinkerbellRapunzel 2

Princess LeiaOlaf


flounder and sebastianBelle

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Keep the Line Moving

“I’m still searching for that wonderful pen line that comes down — when you are drawing Linus standing there, and you start with the pen up near the back of his neck and you bring it down and bring it out, and the pen point fans out a little bit, and you come down here and draw the lines this way for the marks on his sweater and all of that. This is what it’s all about — to get feelings of depth and roundness, and the pen line is the best pen line you can make. That’s what it’s all about. If there’s somebody who is trying to be a cartoonist or thinks he is a cartoonist, and has not discovered the joy of making those perfect pen lines, I think he is robbing himself — or herself — of what it is all about. Because this is what it is! The time you make these wonderful pen lines and make them come alive.”

-Charles Schulz, 1994

I’ve been thinking that quote a lot lately.  As I transition from Uptown Girl as my main comics project to The Retros, I am realizing there is a day, and it’s coming soon, that I will stop drawing Uptown Girl and her friends altogether.  Right now I am lost in the beginning pages of her new adventure and the final pages seem very far off.  I have hundreds of pages to go until the day when her story is over.  It hasn’t hit me yet, and it probably won’t for a while.  I’ve been drawing these guys for over a decade.  Drawing them is second nature to me.  In fact, unless it’s a tricky pose, I don’t even pencil them anymore, I just jump right to inking the main three.

As Uptown Girl and her adventures come to end, The Retros are starting their adventures and it’s a whole new cast of characters to draw.  Drawing Alie, Fly-Girl, Lucky and Sputnik are all pretty easy, but Zoo is the problem…

Like Sparky said, I am also looking for that perfect line, or sequence of line to get Zoo right.  Drawing him is intimidating and often humbling.  I ran into a frustrating moment the other day when I drew him for an action sequence.  Usually for the Retros I pencil and write three pages at once and ink in any sound effects at this time.  I’ll return to the page a few days later to ink and I often forget what I wrote and needed to happen in the panel.  Usually this isn’t an issue but sometimes I forget to add in a small but important detail, or something the characters are referring to that I neglect to add in.

For example, without spoiling anything too much, Zoo and Fly-Girl are conducting a raid on the bad guy hideout.  Here’s the first attempt of Zoo barging into a room of robots:

z1Not a bad panel, I still haven’t gotten the hang of Zoo’s hand as you can see here.  The problem is I wrote the RRRRRRIP because when I penciled the page I intended to have Zoo ripping off the head of the robot here.  But when I inked it, I somehow missed the HUGE sound effect and just drew him barreling into the room.

Not a page that can be saved unless it’s Zoo’s pants that are ripping and although the Comics Code isn’t around to mandate this type of action, we still don’t want to see that.

z2So, I redrew it and it was a disaster.  Man, will you look at that?  His left arm is like…crazy huge and long and his right arm looks like a flipper.

At this point I thought about chucking this whole comics idea and just dedicate my life to my cubicle.  Almost 15 years of drawing comics and I produce this?

But I somehow carried on.  I quit for the night and gave it another go in the morning.  I think it turned out okay.

z4Yep, “okay” is the nicest I am going to be to this panel and to myself.  Zoo is a monster and very large and doesn’t always fit into the panel size I am working with.  It’s not perfect but I think I am moving on from this scene.

I am hoping that as the years progress I can find my perfect groove when it comes to drawing Zoo and the new characters.  I just need to keep the pen moving and I need to keep making mistakes and learning from them.

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Being a Geek

I guess there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out?  Did you hear about this?  I am not a big Star Wars fan, but I like the movies well enough.  I think there are quite a few things everyone needs to see and read, and the first Star Wars movie is one of them.  And not because I’m a ‘geek dad’.  Not necessarily a label I like (I’ll get to that in a moment) but seeing Star Wars, or The Wizard of Oz, or reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, listening to R.E.M.’s ‘Automatic for the People’ or ‘Little Earthquakes’ by Tori Amos, playing the original Super Mario Bros. and dipping french fries in ranch dressing are some things everyone needs to experience.  As a dad I try to show Sophie everything that is out there and let her decide what she is into.  From the start I introduced her to Superman and Alice in Wonderland to The Little Mermaid to Legos and everything else.  I’m not big into stuff that is “for boys” or “for girls”, I just let her figure out what she’s drawn to.  In her room she has dragon figurines, Barbies, Pokemon toys, a million stuffed animals and a drawing desk.  You know, stuff a kid would have.  As the song says “everything she owns I bought her”.

I think I’m doing an okay job, Sophie loves drawing and building and creating and exploring.  There’s not much she’s into “because she’s a girl”, you know?  Early on she was into glitter and unicorn and a lot of people thought that she was into that “because she’s a girl” but come on, what kid doesn’t like shiny things and mythical creatures?

11219083_10153716597334789_8800766148213391449_nAnyway, a couple weeks ago she asked a question about Star Wars and I asked her if she wanted to watch the movie.  She shrugged which is her way of saying “yes, I think so but I don’t want to say yes yet”.  We ended up watching it a few days later.  I explained some stuff along the way and brought her up to speed what Princess Leia was doing and what the droids were up to.  She watched the first half hour or so and then decided to draw.  Yep, she’s my daughter.  We kept the movie on while she drew a few characters and decided to be Princess Leia for Halloween.  It was a fun night and I think she liked the movie well enough, but she was more drawn (ha ha) to the characters.


The next day at work I was meeting with someone who pointed out the Superman Lego figure on my computer.  I keep little things at work to remind me of life on the outside and to help me remember the other things in my world besides paperwork and budgets.  I have dozens of pictures of the kids, little toys and some of my artwork scattered around.  Just as I am not super big on talking about work outside of work, I am likewise not super big talking about my personal life at work.  I remember trying to change the subject by saying “yeah, I like Superman, I’m a big geek, but let’s get back to…” whatever we were doing.  I later posted the above drawing Sophie did online and a few friends commented that I’m such a geek dad and that Sophie will grow up to be a geek.  Nothing malicious was intended at all, and I agree with them, but these two instances got me thinking why we as comic fans, cartoonists, movie goers and science fiction readers always qualify everything we like as being geeky or nerdy?

Why do I say that I’m a comic nerd?  Why can’t I just say that I read comic books?  Why does Sophie have to be a Star Wars geek?  Can’t she just like Star Wars?  I’m not big into labels or words that can quickly define who someone is anymore than I introduce things to Sophie that is “for girls” and steer her from things that are “for boys”.  I read comics and poetry, I watch cartoons and documentaries.  Labeling someone as a geek can really limit what people are really like.  I don’t really like the word anymore.  I used to wear it as a badge of honor and embracing it after years of high school and being ridiculed because of what I’m into.

Sorry about the…well, it’s really a rant, just something I’ve been thinking about.  Tune in next week for a chat about hipsters.

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Good Advices

Hey Ursula, can you give the young cartoonists out there some important advice when it comes to drawing?


Hey!  That’s great advice, thanks!

Today we’re going to talk about something kind of different, instead of me complaining about my artistic limitations and frustrations, let’s chat about something that I feel is one of my strengths: body language.  Body language and how a character stands really need to match up with what is being said and what the characters are feeling and I think this is something I am good at.  What are the characters saying without speaking?

I was inking a page from the upcoming Uptown Girl book and realized that I really liked the page I was working on.  Usually I don’t like what I am working on at the moment.  Most of the time I reserve my opinion on something until I’m done with scanning and working Photoshop magic on it.

The page takes place early on in the book and it’s a scene between our hero and her rival Suzie Lighting, a news reporter for Channel 8.

Here’s the page without the dialogue:


The page looks pretty good, I think.  What do you think?  Really?  Okay!  I’ll do that next time.  Anyway, let’s break this sucker down.




A lot of Uptown Girl stories consist of standing around and talking so I try to make the drawings interesting not only to look at it but to draw as well.  I rarely stop moving in real life and tend to gesture a lot when I talk so drawing the characters the same way comes pretty natural for me.

Tune in next week when I’m sure we’ll be back to me complaining that I’m not Alex Robinson or Bryan Lee O’Malley or Kevin Cannon.


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I Know What I Know

I am plugging away at Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart and just finished inking the 10th page yesterday.  I think that puts me at about…3% of the book being completed so I have quite a way to go.

Anyway, I penciled page 10 the other day and it took me two days to ink it until I was somewhat happy with it.  There’s a scene early on in the book with The Walrus throwing a bad guy into a window.  Here’s what the page looked like after I scanned it before I did Photoshop to it:


It looks pretty rough.  I kept working at it until I sort of gave up on it and decided to scan it and let Photoshop do the rest.  I make it sound like I don’t like this page, but I actually do.  I know I can do a better drawing of the Walrus hitting a guy into a window, I mean, there’s no background, there’s no scenery, there’s nothing here that really indicates what is really happening…but I like the energy of the page.  I like the drawing of The Walrus…it’s a dramatic scene and I like how it plays out.

I like looking at original art, and although I am not always happy with my own art, I like seeing pages I’ve done years ago and seeing little notes I wrote to myself in the margins, or seeing what was there before the wizardry of Photoshop took over.

Yesterday morning I scanned this page and got to work.  It took about an hour of putzing around with it until I liked it.  Doing a page like this is similar to cleaning up after a huge party.

So, there’s how it looks now:


So yeah.  That looks pretty sharp.  I like the crispness of the black, I like the panel layout, the way the cape breaks out of the page a little…

Like I said, I can do better when it comes to a scene where someone throws someone through a window, but it’s hard to recapture the energy that is in a first draft.  There have been many times when I liked a sketch better than the final piece, and this is like that.  Choosing energy over skill isn’t always an easy decision.

My Photoshop skills are rather lacking and I know maybe 10% of what I could do with Photoshop but I’d rather draw than fiddle with it.  I also want to avoid becoming too dependent on it.  I know what I need to know when it comes to what I need to do.

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