History Lesson

I started drawing what would become the first story arc/season of The Incredible Retros in 2014.  Fly-Girl was created by my friend Brian Bastian and myself around 2005, give or take, and some of the other characters were created around 2010.  Lucky and Alie were the first, and Zoo and Sputnik came later.  It took a while for the series to come together but finally launched on November 16, 2015.


Doodle that I did in a hotel room. I forgot that Lucky used to have an eye patch.

The series was originally done in what was dubbed “The Marvel Style”, referring to the style Marvel Comics used to use, starting in the 1960’s.  It was when when a writer (usually Stan Lee) would give the artist (usually Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) a general outline of a story, the artist would draw it and then the writer would fill in the dialogue once it was drawn.  To this day there is a lot of disagreement as to how much credit the writer and artist should get for writing, but I am not going to get into that.

30 color.jpgBrian came up with the outline, I drew it, scanned it, colored it in Photoshop and then he and I would get together and he would write the dialogue.  We learned a lot working this way.  Unfortunately, working in this method wasn’t sustainable.  Brian wrote most of the dialogue until around page 50 and handed the writing duties to me.  I always wonder how different (and better) the series would be if he stayed on.  Brian is a great writer and he’s hilarious.  The dialogue he wrote for Lucky’s flashback scene is still the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

Doing a comic that updates five days a week is a pretty intense schedule, considering I wok about fifty hours a week and still need to find time to see my family and to sleep.  I don’t have time to look back on my work but getting a book printed kind of forces me to do that.

I was amazed at how the series looked.  On almost every page I could see myself learning how to draw, and later, write The Retros.  Some of the word balloons are ridiculously large as I wanted to leave room for whatever Brian would write for the dialogue.  I should have fixed this in Photoshop but it usually looked kinda clunky when I would do that.  If I drew on a tablet it would have been a snap.

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Man, look at the size of those word balloons.  All that empty space taking up the panel. 

One of the biggest things I learned was streamlining the character designs.  Sputnik for example:

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Sputnik used to have little lines around his antennas but I thought they were unnecessary so I got rid of them. His display screen was also used a lot more.

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Alie’s uniform used to have a white zipper but I simplified it with just one line.

I take a lot of liberties with Fly-Girl’s costume.  For the record, her wings pop out of a backpack, not her actual back.

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But I kept forgetting to draw the backpack., but I assure you it’s there.  Streamlining her looks better.


I also ditched the fingerless gloves.  I like the way they look, but would become distracting if her hands were against a black background:

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Lucky pretty much remained the same, but eventually I settled how his hair looked.

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Lucky sporting the popular ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ look in panel three.

Of course, the drawing itself gets better as the series progresses.  I learned how to work with a four panel grid, I learned how to work with a square panel that is less than three by three inches.  I learned how to pace, how to balance humor and action.  It’d be hard to not learn something after 700 pages of comics.  Looking back becomes a sort of history lesson.

So, there are panels and pages that make me cringe a little, there are panels in the book that surprise me, there are parts that I completely forgot about, and pages that make me laugh (Brian wrote those).

But I am happy with the book.  I’m proud that it exists.  I am excited to do more books, I am excited to draw more, I am excited for what’s next.

For you Kickstarter backers, the book is printed and I am wrapping up your rewards.  I expect to have them mailed out by the end of the week.  For the fans who are attending MSP Comicon and requested you pick up your copy there, I’ll have your books ready for you.

Thank you for your support.  Thank you to everyone who backed the Kickstarter, who retweeted the project and joined in the celebration of hitting the goal.  Creating comics is lonely work and you wonder if anyone is reading or if anyone cares.  This was a wonderful way to find out that people do like this weird little comic.


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To Wish for Impossible Things

Well, it was close and it came down to the last few hours, but the Kickstarter to fund the first print collection of The Retros was successful!

I’m also pleased to confirm I will be a guest at MSP Comicon on May 19th and 20th.


So, what happens next?  I do the final check of the Retros book and should be able to approve the proof today.  If it all looks good, then the book goes into print tomorrow and I should have it in ten days.  I’ll get started on original art for the backers who contributed at that level.  If you backed at that level, please get in contact with me and let me know what you’d like (boblipski1@gmail.com).

It feels a little weird to have a new book out.  I’ve been self-publishing only Uptown Girl books for over ten years  To have a new book out of a new series feels a little weird, but very exciting to me.  The Retros were first conceived of almost ten years ago.  The team has changed a lot since the series finally launched and it took longer than I expected to have the first book out, especially since the third is almost finished.  I hope to have the second book out this fall, though.

I’m feeling very…up lately.  I felt pretty discouraged and hopeless last week but I directed that frustration into finding a literary agent for my picture book.  I bought a big book that is more or less a phone book for literary agents and got to work.  I went though the entire book, picked out agents that looked like a good fit and sent my book off to them.

It was/is a lot of work.  But I dove in feeling optimistic and excited.  I am proud of my book.  It’s not uncommon to get to this stage of attempting to get something published and feel the enthusiasm for the book just kind of fade way.  When you create something, it’s not unusual to start to see flaws and start second guessing it the more time you spend with it.  But for the most part, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I sent my book off with the energy and optimism that the submission process demands.  It’s not easy, it requires diligence, professionalism and dedication.  Rejection letters are going to come and you have to prepare for them.  Just set them aside.  If there is sincere criticism in the rejection, study it, and see if that criticism is right.  It might be.

I am prepared to be rejected by every literary agency in the country.  I hope it doesn’t come to that.  Right now my optimism and enthusiasm for the book doesn’t think that is likely.  But if that happens, then I take it to the next stage and start sending my book to publishers directly.

I’m going to get rejected a lot before I’m…not rejected , I guess.  Right now that reality of getting passed by doesn’t dampen my optimism a bit.  This all feels new and exciting.  It feels good to get the book out there instead of just staying on my hard drive.  There’s a Barenaked Ladies song with a lyric that goes “I’m so thrilled to finally be failing” and man, that just nails it.

I’ve sent stuff off before, my enthusiasm for the project faltered and I didn’t try as hard as I should have.  But that was a lifetime ago.  I feel like I’ve taken all my experiences and talent and expectations and work ethic and commitment and channeled them into the right way to get published.

So, here’s to the impossible!




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Be More Funny

Right off the bat I wish to apologize for the vague post a few weeks ago.  I hate it when people do that, but I did it and…well, I won’t do it again.

Here’s the story.  Most of last summer was spent working on adapting The Retros into a newspaper comic strip.  I had an absolute blast writing and drawing my pitch and honestly felt it was the best work I’ve ever done.  I did a little self-contained 20 part story with four standalone ‘Sunday’ strips.  It was good work, but the best thing I did in regards to the project was pretty much stop thinking about once I submitted it.   It would have been easy, and normal for me, to daydream about an editor really digging the strip and making it into a newspaper.  It’s true I did remain optimistic and hopeful every time I got notification of an email or checked the mailbox, but I also moved onto other creative projects.

After some time passed I felt discouraged but got over that.  I submitted it to a total of four syndicates, got a rejection letter from one, two didn’t respond and the fourth…well.  It was a rejection letter but it was the best rejection letter I’d ever received.

There is a lot of things going against ‘The Retros’ in terms of it getting published as a newspaper comic strip.  It’s a continuity strip, meaning that there’s an overall story broken into smaller, daily segments.  It’s a throwback to adventure comic strips from the 1940’s, but it’s also a humor strip.  It’s not a straight up gag strip that ends on a joke each day.  If you read the webcomic you’ll have an idea as to what I mean, but the comic strip’s pacing and timing is a little different than the current strip.

Here’s a sample from the pitch:


The storyline is about vampires who are trying to eliminate their weaknesses, such as garlic and light in an effort to become unstoppable.  There’s funny bits throughout the strip above, such as Lucky’s response in panel two, but the final panel doesn’t end on a big ha-ha moment like a typical comic.

There are also times when the strip ends on an exciting cliffhanger such as this sample:


I am very happy with these two strips, and to be honest, the entire package I submitted.  This is exactly the strip I’d like to do, despite it not fitting into the traditional gag-a-day comic strip mold.  The general consensus is one shouldn’t need to follow a strip, each day should be self-contained and standalone.

But yet so many comic strips have ongoing storylines.  I didn’t think ‘The Retros’ was that different in that sense.  Sure, The Retros stories had an action aspect but I tried to make each strip funny, even if the final panel didn’t end on a joke.

If I was going to get rejected (and I did), it was going to be for a comic strip I wanted to do.

But this rejection letter was different.  They liked the action and the art which was awesome to hear.  I had a blast drawing it and I can’t imagine drawing a comic strip any other way.  They wanted me to submit another batch of samples and recommended I make it funnier.

I got the email and scanned the message while I was on the phone.  It was obviously another rejection email and I closed the email and went back to my call.  It was only on my way home that I processed the email and realized what the message really was.

I was thrilled at this rejection.  I was excited that they wanted me to submit again.  I was relieved that they didn’t ask me to change the format or the characters (at least not yet).  Be more funny.  I could do that.  Or at the very least I could try.

And try I did.  I got to work on the second batch of strips right away.  I had thought of another storyline back in the fall that I would write if I was asked to submit another set of samples.  I got to work and wrote, rewrote, rewrote again and tried out lines and punchlines on my wife and friends.  “Is this funny?”  “Which line is better?” I was constantly asking.  I did thumbnail sketches, wrote a lot of notes and planned ahead.  It was hard and it was fun.


The first attempt at the first new daily strip.  I ended up redrawing this completely.


Thumbnail sketch for what ended up being the sixth strip in the pitch

The new storyline was about Red building a robot clown for school that becomes evil and The Retros have to take it down without damaging what is essentially her homework project.  I was constantly rewriting it to make it funner and tossed out a lot of bits in favor of funnier ones.

Endings are hard but I was lucky to have the final strip of the storyline worked out pretty far in advance with a pretty funny final panel.


It makes sense in the context of the story.

After I finished the new daily strips, I got to work on the Sunday samples.  Here’s the first one I did from pencils, to inking in process to final coloring.

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I didn’t color the Sunday strips in my first attempt but I thought I should go for broke in what will likely be my final chance at this.  I’m glad I did, I think it looks pretty sharp.

I sent my new samples to the syndicate that requested it, as well as the other syndicates who passed on the first set because why not?

I am very proud of this new set of samples.  I thought my first set of samples was my best work and I didn’t think I could do better than that.  But I think this batch of samples shows a consistency in terms of art, humor and style with the first set.

This unexpected request put my other projects on hold for a bit and now that this is over, I have returned to my “The Legend of Zelda But In White Bear Lake” graphic novel and trying to find a publisher for picture book.

I am optimistic and realistic about this second round.  I am trying not to get my hopes up but it’s kinda hard not to.  I’ll start feeling discouraged again soon enough though.


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Out of the Blue

It’s funny to think that just a few months ago I was a little…lost and unsure of what I would work on now that Uptown Girl’s graphic novel adventures had finished.

Right now I feel a little overwhelmed but luckier than ever with the projects I have going on.  Yes, The Retros is ongoing and will be for a long time, but I also started a new graphic novel series as well as a children’s book titled ‘Bear and Rabbit’.  I thought I fell into a happy little world with working on The Retros, the new series and trying to find a publisher for Bear.

But a little secret project presented itself that I had a hard time saying no to.  More on that in the coming weeks.  I wasn’t sure if I could squeeze in anything else, but I never want to pass up an opportunity.  But what has hit me out of the blue was something else I hadn’t expected.  I don’t want to talk about it yet, but it’s pretty amazing.  The longest shot in the history of long shots, but dammit, it’s a shot.

Sorry to be vague but rest assured there’s been a reason for lack of content here lately.

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At any rate, the bear book is done and you can read it online.  I do not intend on self-publishing this thing and since there’s a zillion to one chance of it finding a publisher I wanted people to read it.  So, please read it here!

The long shot project has put the publisher search for Bear and his rabbit pal on hold for a bit but I hope to start researching publishers and agents by the end of the month.

I am almost finished with the first Retros collection as well.  It’s being proofread by my friends Susan and Mark and the cover was colored and assembled and magicked by my friend Ben.  I am lucky to know such talented, generous people and luckier to call them friends.

Here’s the amazing cover!

front cover

The Retros-Fast Forward should be at the printer by the end of the month and ready to go for MSP ComicCon in May.  I would love to have the second collection out this fall, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on.  Soon.  🙂



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It’s Easy to Say No


I finished the artwork for the still untitled book about a bear at the end of December.  The plan was to clean up the artwork and letter the text in Photoshop and have it ready to submit to publishers by the end of January.  Ladies and gentlemen, that did not happen.

Here’s why: I didn’t like the artwork.  I had a nagging feeling the entire time I was working on the book that the art style I was using wasn’t the right way to go.  From the early days of the book, I found that the more simple the book was, the better I liked it.  I wrote three drafts of the book and it kept getting simpler and smaller and more direct.  As I worked on sketches for the book, the simpler the art was, the more I liked it.  Once I settled on focusing on the characters, dropped all backgrounds and kept the artwork simple and bright and only drawing what was necessary, the more I felt I was on the right track.

So, what’s the problem?  Didn’t I do that?  Well, yes.  Last year I had committed to learning how to paint and falling back in love with it.  It was good to stretch my creative muscle and do something besides comics.  As I started work on the book, it felt like the most obvious thing in the world to do was to paint the book.  So, I got to work.  I penciled the characters, painting it, and then used a brush pen to define the characters.  And…it was okay.


As I neared the end of the book, I started to wonder if I made the right choice.  I felt like I was simply coloring the book, as opposed to painting it.  The characters, such as bear in the picture above, looks splotchy and uneven.  I should have used different tones of the colors and defined the characters with paint and not relied on the black ink so much.  In short, the art was not taking advantage of the strengths that paint can offer.  This ultimately lies in the fact that I am not a good enough painter to paint a book.  I painted a little almost every day last year, but I have some ways to go.

Another problem is that I needed to scan in the art and clean it up in Photoshop.  I looked into how to scan in watercolor art online but to be honest, my scanner isn’t a very good scanner.  If I need to scan in black and white line work for The Retros, sure, it works just fine, but this is a different level.  My Photoshop skills aren’t that hot, either.  Once I scanned in the artwork and started to mess around, I realized I was kinda…well, screwed.  The scanned artwork looked terrible, and after fiddling around with it in Photoshop, it still looked awful.  There’s no way a publisher would like this.  I knew that my skills as a painter weren’t up to snuff and my limited abilities in Photoshop were not strong enough to compensate for that.  Getting a book published is almost impossible.  An editor will look at the story, the characters and the art and the art needs to spark interest right away.  My book’s art was not very good.  No editor would give it a chance.

Here’s the first page, scanned, with no Photoshop magic:


I played around with it in Photoshop but ultimately felt that the artwork needed to have a better scan to work with.  Desperate, I took a photo of the art with an iPhone and tried fiddling with it that way:

new 1It looks…well, not bad, but you can’t even tell it was painted in the first place.  And if you can’t tell it was painted, then why paint it in the first place?  Again, the artwork is not taking advantage of what painting can do.

This was a new problem for me.  For the first time I felt that something I had written was better than something I had drawn.

I still believed in the story and was determined to finish the book.  I started to play around with simpler art and tried coloring with Photoshop, the way I color The Retros.

This felt…well, it felt like a turn in the right direction.  It was playing to my strengths and embracing the approach I had been using since the first few drafts of the book of simplifying.  Was this the right decision though?  What would an editor think?  When I was shopping The Retros as a newspaper strip I reached out to a few professional newspaper cartoonists I knew and asked for their advice.   I received some encouragement and advice and the best thing I was told was to not make it easy for an editor to say no.  I remembered that advice as I looked at the bear book and realized there was a lot of reasons for an editor to say no to this.  I’ve never been published before, the children’s book market is over saturated, and the artwork looked terrible.  I decided to play to my strengths and redo the book.

The creative process wasn’t that different, though.  I penciled the art, inked it with a brush pen, scanned it and colored it, just like I do with The Retros.  Here’s the new first page to compare to the artwork above:


After I did a few more pages, I realized that this was the way to go.  In order to keep sending a project out to hundreds of editors and agents you need to be confident and excited about it.  It needs to be the best thing you can create.  The previous painted version was not that.  Maybe in a few years painting a book might be the way to go, but not now.

Redoing the art also gave me a chance to rework a few things.  Here’s the first and second versions of one of the pages:

The bear is sill happy, the bunny is still singing but the banjo?  Man, that banjo sells it.

I am halfway through redoing the book and I should have it done and lettered by the end of the month.




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Square One

So, for better of for worse, the year is over.  Despite my hopes and efforts, ‘The Retros’ failed to find a publisher, whether as a comic strip or a book.  So that’s disappointing.  On the other hand, we have managed to get through the year without a nuclear war, although I suppose there’s still time.

I worked hard this year.  I finished and published the final ‘Uptown Girl’ book, finished the second year of ‘The Retros’, started the third year, did Inktober once again and started my children’s book.  So, that’s good.  I also submitted ‘The Retros’ to syndicates and publishers.  I always find time and energy to create, but writing letters and mailing book proposals out is not something I enjoy doing, so I am happy that I submitted as much as I did and to as many publishers as I could.

So, what’s next?  I wrote recently how my goal, in addition to the ongoing Retros, is to have one project to create and one project to submit to publishers going at all times.  This way I can have a balance of making art as well as getting my efforts in front of an editor or an agent.

I am happy to say that I have decided on what my projects for 2018, and beyond, will be.  In July my children’s book started to form and I started work on it in early November and I am finishing the last page today.  Once the art is done, I start the digital part of the project which will consist of Photoshopping out mistakes and putting the text on the page.  I expect this to take a month or so and begin submitting the book to agents in February.  Luckily, and dauntingly, there are hundreds of potential agents and publishers to shop this too.  It makes it intimidating to try to break into such a competitive world, but it’s nice there are so many options.   Sure, I say that now.

So, that’s the submitting project.  The creative project is…well, it’s a comic.  Specifically a graphic novel series.  Yeah.  Earlier this year I wrote about how I’d have to find a new project to work on since Uptown Girl was finished, and I stated that I couldn’t imagine doing another graphic novel, especially a series.  But…things have changed.

I am not ready to reveal the project yet, but basically the project can be summed up as “what if ‘The Legend of Zelda’ took place in White Bear Lake?”

It’s incredibly exciting to be at square one, or panel one, of a new project.  I’ve been taking notes, researching, sketching, writing down ideas, plot outlines and more over the last few months and the series is coming together.  Believe me, I did not want, or intend to start another graphic novel series ever again.  But…well, I can’t shut off an idea.  You can also blame my wife for planting the seed for this series.

I have started the first book in the series and has a tentative name of “The Underground Kingdom”.  I am about a dozen pages in and now that the art for children’s book is almost complete, I am able commit to this book even more and my goal is to have the first book done by the end of next year and out  in 2019.

Here’s page 11.

11  I hope you all had a good year and that next year is better.  Thank you for reading my blog and my comics.  I really appreciate every reader, fan, follower and friend I have.  Knowing people like what I create is a really wonderful and affirming thing.  Thank you.



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If Not For You

Yeah.  It’s been a while, sorry about that.

Earlier this year I pledged to do a non-comic piece of artwork every day.  And it was going fine for a while.  Uptown Girl was wrapping up and I knew this year would be about trying new things, thinking of new art projects and getting out of my comfort zone.  In doing this, I had hoped I would stumble upon my next project.   Of course, I’d still be doing The Retros, but I need to something in addition to that.

I was keeping up just fine on this goal until Inktober rolled around this year.  Up until October, I had been doing little paintings and I was beginning to burn out.  Inktober gave me an excuse to take a break from painting and focus on just drawing each day for a month.  Stepping away from the paint was a nice change of pace and it recharged my painting batteries again.

Once Inktober wrapped up, I pretty much stopped, or at least posting, the daily non-comic artwork.  Normally when I fall short of a goal I get a little discouraged, but I felt I had accomplished what I wanted to…meaning I had stumbled on my next non-Uptown Girl project.

While doing one of the daily paintings this summer, I drew a bear with a rabbit on its head.  I liked the drawing and wondered what their story was.  Writers talk about how some stories just…open up to them and that is exactly what happened here.  I wrote down a very loose story about these two characters and really felt I had something.  Over the next few months I did a of drawings of these two as I tried to get a feel for their personalities, their world and what this story would look like.

It was a lot of fun and they went through a lot of revisions as I tried to get them right.  Eventually I settled on the last bear here.  I liked the shape and the little fur flourishes.  I also liked it looked different than my normal style.

Over the last few months, the story stayed with me as I worked on simplifying it and stripping the story down to its essentials.  Some of the art here shows the bear at a meeting and wearing clothes.  At one point the story was going to take place in a sort of animal city, similar to a Richard Scarry story.    But the more I thought about it, the smaller the world became and focusing on the bear and rabbit as much as possible, at least art-wise, felt right.

I had planned on starting the book in earnest in January.  Starting a new project in the new year felt like a good idea, but as Inktober wrapped up and my painting energy returned, I decided to take advantage of that momentum and jump right into the book.  I wrote a second draft of the book and got to work.

As of this writing, I am about two dozen pages in, and a third draft of the prose is being created as the “voice” is reacting to the artwork, adding a little more life and humor to the story.  I am happy to say that I am four pages away from wrapping up the artwork and I should have it done by the end of the month.  Once the artwork is done, I’ll touch it up and add the text through Photoshop and ta-da, my first version will be done. The hard part is next as I try to find an agent or a publisher.  If I a lucky enough to make it to the next step of getting it published, I am sure I’ll need to do further revisions and likely redo the whole book.  And that’s fine.  Knowing I may need to redo the whole book is actually helpful here as I am not agonizing over every word or brushstroke.  Instead what I’ve done will easily present what I am going for here.

That’s not to say that it’s been all lollipops and rainbows.  Once I started the book for real I started to feel discouraged and intimidated.  I considered giving up and walking away, but the truth is that Sophie has been very excited about the book since I showed her the first drawing and she helped with a lot of ideas.  Her enthusiasm pushed me to completing this project.


So, this book is for her.  It would have been anyway, but I likely would have abandoned this project if not for her.

I am excited to have this completed and I am looking forward to submitting it to agents and publishers.  There are more options than comic publishers, but it’s also a more competitive, tougher market to get into, but that’s okay.  I have to try.

Today is Sophie’s tenth birthday, and I couldn’t be prouder to call her my daughter.  We draw together, we explore the woods by our house together, we watch cartoons and go to bookstores and ride bikes.  I love being a dad, I love being her dad.  She has shaped my life in uncountable ways.



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I’d Rather Make Mistakes Than Nothing At All

I may not be the best cartoonist on the planet, but I think I am consistent in publishing stuff.  I never missed a month when Uptown Girl was a monthly comic book, the graphic novels came out on a regular basis and The Retros is approaching their third anniversary and I haven’t missed a day yet.

I keep myself on a pretty regular drawing/creating schedule in order to stay on top and stay ahead of my projects.  I am about a month ahead of schedule on The Retros which is helpful in case something comes up.  It also gives me the luxury if I need to redraw something as I am not up against a super close deadline.

Keeping a regular drawing schedule and committing to it has been the key to staying on top of my projects.  Since The Retros is my biggest project right now and it needs to be updated five times a week, my schedule is built around that.  It used to be I’d write, pencil and ink five pages on the weekend, but my job requires working some Saturdays so it’s not always possible.  So, my Retros time has shifted a bit.  Luckily since my daughter, Sophie, started dance for the school year again, I have built in drawing time.

These days I do my Retros writing and penciling on Sunday night after Sophie goes to bed.  I use the phrase ‘penciling’ loosely as the pencils are very light.  I don’t write a script, rather I take the four panel template, write the dialogue and layout where the characters will be in order to ensure I have enough room for both words and characters.  Doing things this loosely helps making sure the pacing and timing works.

Monday nights I do any rewriting I need to and tighten up the pencils and tweak the layout and gesturing as needed.  I find that taking the time to pencil as much as possible helps make the inking go quicker.  I also find I am penciling more the older I get.  I think I see the value in it more than I used to.

Sophie has dance Tuesday and Thursday nights, so while she dances, I ink while sitting in the other room.  I scan the five pages in over the weekend, and do the Photoshop magic and clean up on Sunday morning.  The coloring for the five pages happens throughout the following week.  Before I go to work, I’ll color for about 20 minutes each morning.  I don’t do the lettering until the weekend before the strips run.  For example, yesterday I lettered the pages that will run starting tomorrow, even though they were drawn and colored a month ago.

I scan, color and letter in separate steps instead of in one sitting.  Doing it this way allows me to review the page three times before I post which gives me a chance to make sure I don’t miss anything, such as something I missed while coloring or something that needs to be edited.

So, that’s the process.

A cartoonist tends to work in a bubble.  Feedback, such as comments after a page is posted, are wonderful.  It’s good to know if something I wrote was funny or if a scene is exciting or connecting with the person reading it.  It’s also helpful to know if something sucks or if readers hate a character.  But this bubble is not limited to the final product.  There’s also a bubble that surrounds the creation of a page as well.

The other night I was at dance and Abby, a friend of of mine who also has a daughter in dance, was watching me draw while we chatted and asked why on Earth I was drawing huge x’s through panels.  I draw an x through a panel when I don’t think I can fix the various mistakes through Photoshop and I decide to redo it from scratch.

Drawing around people gives me a perspective that I usually don’t think about very much these days.  Sophie and some of her friends will watch me draw for a few minutes before they get bored and run along to do something else before dance class begins.  I like to show her friends what I’m working on and then show them on my phone what a final page looks like once it is colored and lettered.  It usually is pretty surprising to them, to see the disaster of the original artwork get transformed into the final version.

I wanted to show what the artwork looks like before and after Photoshop is involved in the process.

Warning, I will be showing future pages (without final lettering), so if you want to avoid seeing what’s coming up, you may want to come back in a month or so as the pages I am going to show will post around mid-December.

And away we go!

When I draw The Retros, I usually draw two pages on a single sheet of 9×12 (smooth) bristol board.  It saves paper and there’s less scanning involved as I can can two pages at a time.  Since I do five pages a week, I will end up with three sheets to scan.  Normally.  If I need to redraw a page or two, there might be more.

At any rate, here are the first two pages I drew from last week:

1and 2

As you can see, the lettering is very roughed in.  It’s almost unreadable but it allows me to make sure the word bubble is large enough to accommodate the dialogue but not going to be too big for the characters in the panel.

A few things too point out:

It looks like the first page here is six panels long but two of those panels are redrawn.  The top two panels are the revised panels, and the originals are right below that.

The second and fourth panels of the first page are x’d out and have been redrawn above the original four.  Once the page is scanned I will rearrange the page and delete the x’d out panels.  Thank God for Photoshop.

I will also use Photoshop for things that need to be blacked, such as Sputnik’s monitor and Lucky’s hair and shirt.

The second page has instructions to myself that read “erase” and “fix skirt”.  Reminders for myself that I need to tweak a few things once I scan in the artwork.

The drawing of Lucky above the second page was intended to replace another drawing of him in a different page.  Let’s take a look.

3 and 4

This page is a mess.

The Lucky was intended to be in the final panel of the second page posted here, but it got the big x.  Just couldn’t get his hand gestures right.  I redrew him above the page as well as on the previous page but I decided to redraw the whole panel.

Alie is also x’d in the third panel because I needed to replace her but not the whole panel.  I screwed up on her left arm and hand, likely due to not penciling her as much as I probably needed to.  The top of these pages show various Alies that didn’t work, either because Sophie and her friends kept bumping the table (the hazards of drawing around nine year olds) or because I was having an off night.

Also notice the instructions of “thin arm” under panel two in the second page.  I also wrote “clean up” under the third panel before I decided to redraw Alie as opposed to editing her in Photoshop.

Finally, we have the fifth page that I did last week:


The page here has another x’d out panel and was redrawn because Alie and Red were roughly the same height and I normally have Alie as the taller of the two.  The revised panel isn’t much different, but there’s enough of a difference to me.  Most people probably wouldn’t notice or care, but it would bug me, especially because there’s a noticeable height difference in the third panel and I didn’t want to have that inconsistency between the two panels.

My note to myself reads “lower head” which normally would instruct me to use Photoshop to move her noggin, but then the word balloon would be lower and wouldn’t be large enough for the dialogue.

Finally, we have the redrawn panel from the previous page.

And yes, I know that almost every mistake here wouldn’t be an issue if I drew digitally, but I am not ready, financially or artistically, to make that leap.,

Looking at original artwork usually triggers feelings of accomplishment or depression, depending on how they turned out.  But mostly the original artwork represents more work ahead, specifically the clean up work that comes in Photoshop.  But mistakes don’t get me down the way they used to.  My self-esteem used to take a hit if I had a bad night or week of drawing.  But mistakes come with life and I do my best learn from them, whether they are artistic or life mistakes.

To be honest, the clean up in Photoshop is my favorite part of the process.  I love taking artwork like this and turning it into something presentable.

Below are the final pages, before the lettering and coloring.  This is the result of about an hour or so of editing and erasing and cutting and pasting:

final 1 and 2final 3 and 4final 5


Not bad.

Starting tomorrow I’ll begin coloring these pages and in a few weeks I’ll letter them.

And tonight the process begins again.

But what am I doing the rest of the week?  Well, we’re out of time and I’ve rambled long enough.


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The New Age

220px-New_Gods_1971_1October is half-over and that means we are at the mid-point of Inktober, the month long, well, let’s call it a challenge, to create an original ink drawing each day throughout the month.  This is my second year participating and this time I am drawing characters that appeared for the first time in what is now known as ‘The Fourth World’ series by comics legend Jack Kirby.  Last year I did characters from ‘The Hobbit’ and I think I know what I might do next year.

When Kirby left Marvel Comics for DC in 1970, he envisioned a story that would have a beginning, middle and definitive end that would be spread across four different titles.  The original name for this epic was titled ‘The New Gods’ but that name ended up being used for 220px-Mister_miracle_(1971)_1the title of one of the books and the story line was dubbed ‘The Fourth World’ by fans.  Creating a comic with the intention of ending it was unheard of at the time.  That, coupled with the often bombastic storytelling and sometimes underwhelmed reaction from readers made DC really hesitant with this idea.  Over a course of a year and a half, the titles started to get cancelled, but not before DC stepping in with some editorial…suggestions.

Eventually Kirby was allowed to return to the 4th World to finish his story…but not really.  He was given a chance to wrap up the tale in a graphic novel but it proved to be impossible to wrap up such a sprawling story in only 48 foreverpeople1pages.  Since the original publication, ‘The 4th World’ has gone on to be recognized as pure Kirby, the chance (for a while, anyway) to create a comic his way.

I love reading this sage.  It’s…insane at times.  It moves along at a breakneck speed, storylines are dropped, characters are never seen again and the connection to the proper DC universe is often tenuous.  The dialogue is wordy and almost every single sentence ends with at last two exclamation marks.  I can totally see why it left a lot of readers and editors scratching their heads.  It went against expectations and didn’t fit the convention of a typical comic.  It was a new era of comics, but nobody knew it at the time.

But it’s pure, unleashed Kirby.  The energy and imagination just jumps off the page and continues to jimmyolsen133blow me away whenever I reread it.  It’s far from perfect, but I love the flaws, too.  Even if you’re not a Kirby fan, I think it’s pretty essential reading as even now it feels ahead of its time.

I am having a lot of fun with these characters.  Unlike last year when I tried to avoid drawing the characters too close to the Uptown Girl style, I am approaching these characters as what they would look like if they were in The Retros.

But I suppose this intention is kind of irrelevant as I have pretty much only one style.

But whatever.

The month started strong with ‘Mister Miracle’.  I am posting the drawings on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, and before Inktober I had about 120 followers and having a tweet re-tweeted or liked by more than two people was not very common.  But something…miraculous (sorry) happened on the first day.  Tom King, the writer of the current Mister Miracle series, stumbled across my drawing and retweeted it.  And over the course of an hour, I watched the drawing get retweeted and liked at a pace I’ve never seen before.  When the dust settled, that drawing was retweeted 30 times and liked 161 times.  I picked up a few followers and it felt…well, it was pretty incredible.  The next day (Barda) got 3 retweets and 9 likes and that was the end of that.  It was a fun ride while it lasted and gave me a much needed boost of encouragement.


I am looking forward to finishing up this challenge and moving onto my regular and new projects.  My recent freak-outs and spirals of frustration have dissipated and I think I know what I am working on come November 1st.








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Stay Positive

Like a nomad, I was all over the map last week.  I was still feeling discouraged about finding a publisher and a syndicate for my work, but I was also heartened by this whole thing as well.

I know that getting published takes years, and although I have making comics for almost fifteen years, I have to remind myself that I have been pitching to publishers for only a few months.  I tell myself there’s a long road ahead.  Which in it of itself is daunting, but that’s what it takes.

51n2oEIWNQL._SX495_BO1,204,203,200_Early in the week I read that the children’s book ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers was rejected by every publisher in the field for over six years before it found a home and sold over a million and a half copies.  This cheered me up for a bit, and then the negative part of me took over and I wondered if a book like that, a book that I’ve read to Sophie and really liked, took that long to find a publisher, what chance do I have?

Last week I also heard from a syndicated newspaper cartoonist that I really admire, someone I met at a convention a few years ago at a convention that I’ve stayed in touch with.  I asked him if he’d take a look at my newspaper pitch for The Retros and he got back to me the other day.  He said some very nice things and also (gently) reiterated the reality that syndicates don’t really want what you would call a continuity strip, a strip that tells a bigger story over the course of a few weeks.  Most papers want a gag-a-day strip where the characters say something funny in three panels and that’s it for the day.  The kind words really made my day and the confirmation of the reality of what the syndicates want wasn’t that discouraging because I knew that even before I put ink to paper.  He suggested maybe scaling back the number of characters on the team and slowly introducing them over time.

CCC_wallace_promo3-328x450He also suggested I reach out to another syndicated cartoonist for some guidance.  The cartoonist he recommended was someone that I’ve liked for a while now, and in fact, his strip is the closest thing to what The Retros newspaper strip is…a funny adventure strip that tells a bigger story over the course of a few weeks.  When I discovered this strip, I was excited that a strip similar to what I waned to create found a home.  I reached out to the cartoonist and we had a great chat over Facebook about the world of syndicates and getting a newspaper spot.  We got to chatting about current strips we liked and we discussed ‘Wallace the Brace‘ by Will Henry.  It’s a wonderful strip that feels like a combination of ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ with a touch of ‘Cul de Sac’ thrown in.  I’ve read this strip online on gocomics, the online platform for Andrews McMeel, one of the newspaper syndicates I’ve submitted my strip to.  The cartoonist mentioned that this amazingly charming strip isn’t in papers and of course my thought was that if THAT strip isn’t in the papers, what chance do I have?

So that was a reality check that my week ended on.

Most of Saturday I was feeling a little lost and spent a lot of time thinking and wondering what my next step was.   Should I retool the strip and take a stab at maybe starting off with Alie recruiting the Retros one by one?  Should I create a completely different strip?  Should I retool the Retros graphic novel and redraw it?  Throughout the weekend I was swinging back and forth wildly with feeling encouraged and excited to feeling exhausted and hopeless.  It was a tiring day.

So where I am now?  I’ve submitted the strip as it exists now to two more syndicates, up to a total of three, with one more to pitch it to.  Although it’s likely pointless I still need to try.  Besides, I knew it was a long shot before I even created it.  I found six more publishers to send the graphic novel to which was cool as I thought I had exhausted the potential publishers out there.  I also decided to take a stab and trying to find an agent for the graphic novel because, hey, it can’t hurt to try.  I also started to think about how The Retros could work as a newspaper strip if I did indeed rework it with it featuring Alie and over time forming the team.

The strip reworking is becoming more appealing to me as it would give me a chance to draw a story that I really didn’t plan on doing in the webcomic, with the exception of flashbacks here and there.  At the very least, I could do twenty strips (the minimum a syndicate wants to see) of the beginning of how the team came together.  And hey, if it got syndicated I could tell the entire story over time.

I also plan on starting my children’s picture book in January and I am still sketching out character designs.  The book will likely take the whole year to develop, flesh out and paint.  But that’s okay.


I’ve got this weird sense of urgency that is telling me to work, pitch, draw, email, paint, and submit at a breakneck speed.  I need to rein this in.  I cannot rush through a project either creatively and I need to give a project a chance to find a publisher.  I am not feeling this urgency due to age.  I’m not dying, not that I know of, anyway.  I mean, Jack Kirby was 44 when the first issue of ‘The Fantastic Four’ was published.  Not that I am even on the same talent planet as Kirby but it is encouraging to remind myself that a cartoonist’s most creative point of their life isn’t always in one’s twenties.  No, this urgency is coming from me feeling that I am really doing my best work right now and I feel that I’ve never been more prepared artistically to make this happen.  What I need to do is slow down, create and paint and draw and write and not take on too many creative projects.  I think a balance of creating/writing/drawing one project and pitching one or two completed projects is the plan.  One project to keep me at my drawing table, the other(s) to keep me going back to the post office.

So, what do I do next?  I think between now and the end of the year I will work on submitting The Retros graphic novel to any new publishers I discover and research and pitch the project to agents, as well as that lone remaining newspaper syndicate.  I will also take a stab at reworking the strip project with Alie as the solo character for now as she recruits the others.  Twenty strips isn’t a lot of pages to tell a story where an alien superhero travels back in time to build a team of crimefighters, so we’ll see how it goes.

And of course, I’ll still work on the Retros webcomic.  That’s where all this started, after all.

The new newspaper strip project will take a few months to create, likely taking me to the end of the year which works out fine with my plan to start the real work on my picture book.

That’s the plan, anyway.  On one hand it looks like the puzzle pieces of what the heck should I do next are falling into place…only until the cat jumps up onto the table and swats the pieces onto the floor.


I will be a guest at Fallcon on Saturday, October 7th.  Come see me!

I will also be participating in Inktober for the second year in a row.  Last year I did daily drawings of characters from ‘The Hobbit’ and this year I’ll be doing daily drawings of characters from Jack Kirby’s 4th World epic.  I’m excited to get started.  I’ll be posting the pictures on my Twitter account.



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