Look What I Made

It was a pretty cool moment last week when I went to the post office last week and mailed my first round of pitches to different comic companies in an effort to find a publisher for the first Retros collection.  I am proud of what I sent, although I am keeping my expectations realistic.

I researched a ton of companies and identified twelve that might be a good fit.  It’s important to read submission guidelines carefully as each publisher is different with not only what they publish, but also what they want to see in a pitch.  There are some publishers who flat-out don’t publish superhero comics, so those are out, for example.  It won’t take long to send the book out to each of the publishers I identified since there are only a handful.  I remain optimistic, but I also know that there is a finite amount of avenue I can pursue in this.

So, what goes into a pitch?  What on earth am I sending to these publishers?  Each publisher is different, some want an author bio, some don’t.  Some want to see five pages of the story, some want to see ten.  One publisher wants to know how old I am.  I am not sure if they really care that I’m 41, but it might be a test in a way to see if I thoroughly read their guidelines.

For the most part, publishers want to know a few things:

-what the book is about

-who the intended audience is

Describing my work has never been easy for me, so it took a lot of revisions to concisely summarize The Retros.  Identifying the target audience has also been a challenge for me.  It’s easy to say that the book is for everyone, but no book is appealing to everyone.  It’s also easy to state the book is for kids since it’s bright, colorful, funny (I hope) and there isn’t any swearing in it, but the book doesn’t stray from issues of racism and has GLBTQ characters.  Hmm, this might be a good book for kids after all.  Diversity and representation is a big part of what I want The Retros to be and I know I want my kids to read about characters like that.

At any rate, it took a couple months to put this pitch together and I am pretty happy with what I am sending out.  I also have to thank my friends Zander, Antony and Ryan for their input, editing and advice while I worked on this.  I looked at a few other pitches other cartoonists posted online for guidance, and I thought I’d upload my pitch here.  Personally I think stuff like this is interesting and hopefully you will as well.

I created this pitch using Google Slides and then converted it into both a PDF format and a Powerpoint demonstration so I have multiple formats to send out.  Some publishers want a pitch mailed, some want a link, some want an email with an attachment, so I think I have my bases covered.  Google Slides makes it easy to edit this thing on the fly as some publishers want different things in a pitch and I can add in and take out pages as needed, depending on what the editor wants to see.

First up, the title page with my contact info (which I edited for this post).  These first pages summarize what the story and series is about, the intended audience and other, quick-to-the-point items.  I wanted to provide a lot of art in this pitch because I think it makes it more interesting to look at, but I also think the more someone sees of the book the more they will know what it’s about…for better or worse.1234

The next part of the pitch is showcasing the characters.  I highlight the five members of the team and some of the villains as well.

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Each publisher wants to see a different number of pages in the pitch.  Some want twenty, some only want five.  I mentioned Google Slides makes editing this part pretty easy as I can simply customize this section depending the publisher’s submission guidelines.  This next part contains the first twenty pages of the book.  I like sending in as many pages as I can as I think the more someone reads of the book the more they get what I am trying to do.  Five pages doesn’t cover enough of the series, I think.  This is another reason I have included so much art in the pitch.  If a publisher only wants five pages, I can sneak in a few more panels here and there to really show what the series and book is about.  13141516171820192122

Finally, we wrap things up with some info on what the end of the book is about, social media stuff and my contact info once more.

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So, that’s my pitch.  I am not sure if this is a successful pitch, however.  If a publisher picks it up, sure, then it’s successful.  But from another perspective, pitches are hard and I think these pages nail what the series is about, so in that sense it is successful.

I hope this was interesting to the non-comic people who read my blog, and helpful to other cartoonists who are trying to figure out this part of the process.

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Can’t Finish What You Started

When I finished the last page of the final Uptown Girl graphic novel in February, I was excited about doing multiple creative projects, as well as playing ‘The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild’.

I thought the same thing when I finished the last page of the monthly comic series almost ten years ago, though.  Projects take talent, passion, commitment and a dedication to follow through and finish.  Once Uptown Girl started as a graphic novel series, I realized that if I ever wanted to finish the books, as well as work full-time and be a father and husband, I really didn’t have time to do anything except work on the book.

Life after Uptown Girl has been more drawing and less Nintendo than I had expected, but that’s fine.  I love drawing and I am energized and optimistic about what I am creating.  But the lack of structure that Uptown Girl books demanded affects my output and planning.  I thought it would freeing and exciting to not really know what I’d be drawing or working on a day to day basis.  And it was at first, but things have changed.

A few weeks ago, I sat down at my drawing table and realized I didn’t know what to work on.  In the Uptown Girl days, I always knew what I was doing that night and that week.  Usually my to-do list consisted of “pencil page 165 on Monday, ink it on Tuesday, scan/photoshop/letter on Wednesday, pencil page 166 on Thursday…” and soon page by page, drop by drop, the book was finished.  A journey of a thousand steps, if you will.

Sure, I always have The Retros to work on, but my schedule for the Retros webcomic is that I think about the next part of the story all week and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, fueled by a pot of coffee and music, write and pencil and ink and scan the next five pages.

But that particular day I didn’t know what to do.  I did my little daily painting and…well, didn’t know what else to do.  I have an idea for a new picture book, and unlike my earlier ideas, I think this one is really solid.  It has a solid start, middle and a really great ending.  I am having a ball with it.

However.

I had a realization the the other day as I was looking at the artwork for the Retros newspaper comic strip pitch.  I realized that I was doing the best work of my comics… well, let’s call it a career.  The work I am doing now is the result of fifteen years of drawing, erasing, inking, studying, reading comics, talking to other cartoonists, failing and trying again.  Cutting my teeth, if you will.  Here’s the art for the first strip:

strip 1

I then looked at the art I was doing for the picture book and although it’s not bad and not the final work, I haven’t put in the time that I have with my comics.  And it shows.  Doing a painting each day is a great start, but I’m not ready artistically to do such a project.  Trying to write and illustrate and then shop a picture book is a huge undertaking…especially when you haven’t established yourself in the creative world.  I need to step back from this project for now.  It requires a commitment that I just can’t work into my life right now as long as I am working full-time and working on The Retros.

I also realized that I am falling into what I had hoped to avoid.  I was drawing and researching publishers and working on my pitch to potential publishers, but not doing anything with it.  I have a really solid Retros pitch that I will use to shop the first collection of the webcomic to publishers, but it sits on my computer (well, Google docs) not doing anything.  To be honest, why I don’t print it off and throw it in the mail is beyond me.  I am not afraid of a rejection letter and the prospect of that is not turning me off.  I don’t feel it’s pointless at all.  It’s good stuff, the type of comic I would love to do for a long time and I am proud of it.

No.  My problem is that I love to draw and after spending 10 hours a day at work and 3 hours in traffic (I hate my commute), the last thing my brain has the ability to do is write a letter and do anything on a computer.  I just want to draw each night and that’s it.  I know I need to do non-creative work if I want to get published, but I just avoid it and ope it somehow gets done but…it doesn’t get done.

I talked to my wife yesterday about all this.  I told her I don’t know what project to work anymore.  I told her about a post I saw on ‘Humans of New York’ that kind of was a wake up call to me:

“My English is not good. Spoken English is very difficult. But I want to study at Columbia so I am trying to improve. I decided to come to America because of Forrest Gump. I’ve watched the movie five times. I like Forrest very much. Forrest is very simple. He picks one thing, and he keeps going. When I was young, I thought Forrest was stupid. But now I have a different view. I think people are too complicated. They complain about everything. Forrest never complains. Forrest chooses one thing and he keeps going. I watched the movie last month to encourage me. My life is hard because people don’t ever know what I’m saying. But I just think of Forrest. Forrest figured everything out because he just kept going.”

I realized that he touched on something that is the root of my problem.  A complete (and willing) lack of focus of my own doing.  I need to choose one thing, finish it, and then start something different.  Currently I am working on wrapping up the second arc of The Retros, researching publishers for the first Retros collection, my newspaper pitch, an unannounced Fly-Girl project (this doesn’t count as an announcement) and the now sort of…well, not abandoned, more like…set aside for now, picture book.  Some projects are creative, some are not.  It’s the creative projects that get my time, energy and attention.  Amy pointed out that I need to come up with a schedule ahead of time.  She said I spend too much time working at being a cartoonist and not enough time being a published cartoonist.

That’s a damn good perspective.  And she’s right.

If I want to do this, I need to do the non-creative work.  I need to spend my evenings writing letters, printing the pitch package and mailing it.  This realization and perspective really energized me, to be honest.  No one is going to come to me, I need to go to them.  I have projects I believe in, I have projects I am excited about but I need to tell people about them.  I need to finish what I start.  Drawing the last page of a book is not the end of it.  I need to do the pitching too.  It’s part of the project.  Although the book is completed, its not finished.

So, my goal is to send out three Retros (the book collection, the newspaper strip submission is still in the Photoshop stage) submissions each week until I have exhausted all potential publishers (currently I have twelve that I am targeting) or have a publisher.

So, that’s that.

Smart lady, that Amy.

 

 

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Prob’ly Can’t Do No Better

All I do is draw comics, read comics and think about comics.

Well, it’s not all I do but it sure feels like it.  And all this drawing, reading and thinking is all done to hopefully create a life where all I do is draw comics.  You know, for money.

Money isn’t the only reason I do what I do but I’d sure like to be able to earn a living doing what I love.  I’m not ever going to ever quit trying to make this happen, I’ll never stop drawing comics even if I can’t make a career of it.  This is the hill I am going to do die on.

Except for the two weeks in first grade when I wanted to be a paleontologist, I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist.  When I discovered newspaper comic strips, specifically Peanuts and later Calvin and Hobbes, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

I took a detour for about…13 years as I drew Uptown Girl comic boks and later Uptown Girl  graphic novels, but when The Retros launched a year and a half ago, it was the proper start of my attempt to be a comic strip cartoonist.  Drawing Uptown Girl taught me how to draw, to write, to structure a panel, The Retros taught me about time, pacing, working in small and tight constraints and how to commit to a daily strip.

Trial by fire, I suppose.  I learned what I know by doing.

Over the last two months I’ve been working on developing The Retros into a daily comic strip with the goal of submitting it to a newspaper syndicate.  A start from scratch approach and doing what I really feel is the best work of my life, a true accumulation of everything I have learned in the decades I have been drawing.  Learning from every mistake and learning from everything that worked.  I learned the most from my mistakes.

I really feel excited.  I think this is it.  It may not get picked up but it if doesn’t, then I will hold my head high because I really feel this is the best I can do.  There have been times where I was depressed because I felt like I was already doing the best that I was capable of…and it was just…not good.  At all.

But this time is different.  This is the best I’ve ever done and the best I think I can do.  Not only that, this is exactly what I want a Retros comic strip to look like.

This past week I finished the 20 daily strips most syndicates require for a submission.  I’ll post them as soon as I get them scanned and lettered.  I am currently working on four Sunday strips…strips that are longer, bigger and require much more work.  I have finished 3 of the 4 and I have to say that I think they’re really good.

Originally I started working on the Sunday strips about two weeks ago.  Here’s my first attempt:

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After I did this, I sat back and realized I broke one of my personal rules for Sunday strip: Don’t do a Sunday strip that could be a daily strip.

Sure, this is longer than a daily strip, but the joke of the strip could really be condensed to 4 panels or so.  The rest of the strip is chatty dialogue and it just…fills space.  It doesn’t add to the comic, it doesn’t really do anything but take up paper.  Kills time, so to speak.

I got frustrated a bit because I got to thinking that I’ve wanted to be a comic strip artist for a very long time and here it is, my first Sunday pitch submission and it was…lazy.   I didn’t even bother inking it.

I decided to hold off on the Sunday strips until the dailies were done.  I spent a lot of time thinking about them, though.  What does a Sunday strip offer a daily doesn’t?  Space.  A ton of it.  I could draw BIG.  I could draw a lot of panels.  So I started to think about BIG.  I looked at a lot of Jack Kirby art.  What would be fun to draw?  I thought about that and used that as what to structure a Sunday strip around.  What’s big and fun to draw?  Dinosaurs.  What kind of dinosaur fits into The Retros?  A steampunk dinosaur.

So, here are the pencils to next Sunday strip:

sunday 1

I love the cover that Kirby drew for Fantastic Four #1 and this is my homage to it.  After the pencils were done, I realized I was intimidated at the thought of inking something like this.  But that intimidation meant I was on the right path.

So I started to ink.  Here’s the page about halfway inked.

sunday 2

Yeah!  I was really loving how this was turning out.  Steampunk dinosaurs are not easy to draw, but they’re pretty fun.  My confidence was in high gear and I kept at it.

All in all, it took me about 4 hours to do this thing.  Here’s the final version:

sunday 3

Love how this turned out.  Probably the best comic art I’ve ever done.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  Well, nothing major.

The next day I started the second Sunday strip.  The thought was to create a continuous action scene built around the saying “this is why we can’t have nice things”.  Again, here are the pencils, in progress inking and finished inks:

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Both of these strips started with the inking of the action parts as they are the trickier panels.  If they didn’t work, I’d hate to start over.

I will post better versions eventually as these are just iPhone photos.  I think both of these strips so far captured a comic that couldn’t be done in a daily strip.

I started to think about the next two, and I decided that the first strip really shows the team as a whole and the second really put the spotlight on Alie and Red’s personality.  The next two would be built around showcasing Lucky, Zoo, and Sputnik.

So far I had a strip that was all about the big and one all about continuous action.  I thought a spy-type story that featured Lucky would be fun.  I wanted to do something different than the previous two strips and thought I would try to put in as many panels as I could to tell a story that really played up some fun back and forth dialogue.  Lucky is fun for that as he picks a fight and bickers with everyone.  I paired him with Sputnik because it’s fun to write the two of them together.

Again, pencils, in progress, and finished inks:

3 sunday 13 sunday 23 sunday 3There are 17 panels total in this comic.  Could have done 18 if I divided the first panel in two, but I’m happy with this.  I could have broken this into a few daily strips but I would have lost the momentum and the back and forth conversation.  I like the layout of the panels too.

I have one more Sunday strip left and it will feature Zoo in some way, maybe have it set in a forest to have a change of scenery as well.  Zoo in a forest makes sense.  I’ll work on it this week.  My goal is to have all the artwork scanned, lettered and cleaned up in Photoshop by the end of the month.  In August I’ll work on my pitch submission and start sending it out before August is over.  There are only a handful of syndicates to submit to, so this will not be a very long process.  I have faith in what I created,  however with so few syndicate options, I don’t have a lot of optimism when it comes to finding a home for The Retros in the funny pages.

At the very least, I will have tried, and I will have tried what I really believe in my heart is my best possible effort.

 

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All Killer, No Filler

A few weeks ago I announced I was working on a Retros comic strip with the ambition of getting it into newspapers.  I am well into the artwork part of the process, having inked the 15th of the daily 20 pages required for most syndicate submissions yesterday.  Some syndicates require samples of longer, fully colored Sunday strips, so once I am done with the last few daily strips I’ll jump into those.

One of the things I like about The Retros webcomic is the sometimes brutal restrictions of the format.  Trying to tell a portion of a story in four panels that are about 2 1/2 inches wide/long isn’t easy.  Four panels really demand concise pacing and storytelling, the square shape demands re-thinking layout and the size requires a lot of planning in terms of what to add and what to leave out.  Some cartoonists hate any sort of restrictions when it comes to creating but I really like them.  Most of the time.

Doing a newspaper strip also requires adhering to restrictions of a format.  I am working with a horizontal layout as opposed to squares, for example.  I think the biggest parameter I need to work with is creating a submission that walks the fine line of a strip I think an editor would like and a strip I would want to do.  Since I’ve been doing comics the only thing I focused on was having fun and not worrying what others thought.  I mean, I hoped that people who read what I was doing liked it, but I figured if I wasn’t having fun, it would show in the result and no one would like it.

But this is new territory for me.  I need to show that this concept can work in a newspaper comic format.  The strip is really a throwback to the popularity of adventure comic strips from the 30’s and 40’s where daily episodes told a bigger story, but I am working in more comedy elements since most current newspaper strips focus on jokes and gags.  I think I am doing a pretty job marrying these two genres and still staying true to the spirit of The Retros while doing a strip that I want to do.  I suppose I have the chops to do a gag-a-day strip about a family or a wacky animal but I just can’t see myself having a lot of fun doing something like that long term.

I’ve been told that daily adventure strips don’t sell.  I also know that the likelihood of actually selling this thing is a trillion to one.  Combine the two and my odds are astronomically incalculable.  But this is the strip I want to do and I’d rather get a rejection letter for a strip I love working on than a strip I’m kinda meh about it.

Working on the artwork is part of the process, the other part is the pitch itself.  I am terrible at describing my work but I know that I need to work on that.  I think I am close, though.  The summary of the The Retros is coming down to something like…having to save the world with your coworkers and ‘all killer, no filler’.  Having such limitations with the format is requiring me to cram as much storytelling and action into a daily strip.  I have some daily strips that have as many as six panels in them.  Again, this goes against what most strips have but it falls back into my ambition to do a strip I want to do, as opposed to what most strips look like.  The 20 pages are a single, self-contained story that I think shows what the strip would be.  I can’t believe how much happens in the finished 15 pages so far and I am almost intimidated by what needs to happen in the final 5 pages to wrap it up.  So far there’s a new villain named Tankface, two battles with vampires, shopping for groceries, an attack at a power plant, some science, typical Retros bickering and bantering and more.  Oh, and a missile.

Although this project requires more forethought and planning and wondering if an editor will like it or at least “get it”, I am having a blast with it.  I’ll post better pictures of the finished strips soon, once they are scanned and Photoshopped, but here’s some of the panels so far.

-Bob

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Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat and pick up books at MSP ComicCon last week.  I have known so many of you since Uptown Girl was in its infancy, long before even the first trade paperback came out…and here we are, at the end of her adventures, together.  Talking to so many people about the final book and the last 13 years (or so) is very bittersweet and rewarding at the same time.  Thank you for coming and for being there for so many stories.

I am also thankful to have gotten a few emails from those who have read the last book.  I am so glad people liked it.  In some ways it is a darker book.  Some unsettling things happen, a lot changes and…well, characters died.  I have never written a death before and it wasn’t easy.  How George R.R. Martin does it I’ll never know.

But what’s next?  It’s all about The Retros for a while.  Of course, the webcomic will continue, God willing, for a long time.  I have the next four to five years planned and the seeds for future story lines are all over the current arc, especially the five pages I did last weekend.  Things get weird and dark pretty soon.

I have three projects I am working on.  One I’ll chat about now, the other two at a later date.  One thing I will state is that the goal of these projects is publication.  Uptown Girl was a very personal work on many levels and I was always hesitant to shop the books to publishers.  Whether or not Uptown Girl was good enough to be published is another story, but that’s neither here or there.  I love The Retros, however it is not as personal of a comic that Uptown Girl was.  I’ve written before how Uptown Girl stories often mirrored my own life, whether it was falling in love with my wife and giving Ruby a boyfriend or the birth of my daughter and Jack and Diane having their own baby.  The Retros isn’t like that.  It’s action, satire, humor and to my surprise, social commentary on a few levels.  I think The Retros is ripe for other mediums that Uptown Girl wouldn’t work well in.

For example, comic strips.  I love comic strips and I was often asked why not try to adapt Uptown Girl to that format.  The truth is that it wouldn’t work.  If a story was a personal story, I needed the flexibility and space that a comic page would give me.  It wasn’t odd to have pages of Uptown Girl and Ruby wandering around a mall for a few pages talking about something that I was thinking about.  A four panel comic strip can’t do that.  Comic strips are supposed to be funny and/or tell part of a story in just a few panels.  I didn’t want to restrict Uptown Girl to a format like that.  However, almost two years of The Retros have taught me how to tell parts of a story (and hopefully be funny at the same time) in four panels.

So, my first project in my post-Uptown Girl world is a Retros comic strip.  More specifically I am working on a Retros comic strip that I will shop to newspaper syndicates with a goal of getting it into the funny pages.  This is a separate project from the current series, however.  I am writing and drawing a new, self-contained story that I will use to show editors what this comic strip would be like.  I have been reviewing submission guidelines for the major syndicates and most are looking for 20 “daily strips” and some ask for 2 – 4 “Sunday” strips.  The Sunday strips are usually a separate storyline from the daily strips since some newspapers purchase the daily strips and not the Sunday strips or vice-versa.

For the past two weeks I have been working on my 20 strips.  If nothing comes out of this, I will have a new Retros one-shot to print and sell at conventions, but make no mistake, the goal of this project is to get syndicated,  If anyone has any advice, suggestions or recommendations, please let me know.

In terms of the creative side of this project, I am having a blast.  It takes place outside of the continuity of the webcomic and features Alie, Lucky, Fly-Girl, Zoo and Sputnik.  Even though the team in the webcomic will change members, in my heart these five are the original and I love writing them together.  The story is about vampires and will include this little panel I drew years ago:

the heart of the sun

I am halfway through inking the fifth strip and I am having so much fun.  I thought I’d share some pencils and some finished and unfinished panels.  Let me know what you think!

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See You Next Weekend

I first attended what is now called MSP ComicCon back when it was a one day event called SpringCon and held at the Maplewood Community Center over ten years ago.  That first show was a lot of fun and I sold a few comics which was a much needed confidence boost in the early days of comic booking.  I also met Mark and Susan who invited me to my first in-store signing and I have been lucky enough to call them friends to this day.

But things change and evolve and the show has a new name, venue and has grown to a two day extravaganza.  I have been fortunate to have been invited back throughout the years and I am excited to be back at the show this upcoming weekend.

It’s hard not to think about those early days when I go to conventions.  I didn’t even have enough comics to collect in a trade, I was single and renting a room in my friend’s basement.  I am sure this show will also be a little wistful as the final Uptown Girl book goes on sale and I see people this weekend that have followed her stories for years.  There’s so many people I know because of her, so many friends made, so many adventures of my own that I have had because of her…

I’ll have the new book and the previous volumes on sale along with some original art. I’ve been painting a lot this year and I will have some of my recent efforts at my table this year.  If you would like me to set aside a painting or if you have a request, please email me: gravitybob@hotmail.com or message me on Facebook.

I’ll be tucked away in a corner this weekend, so if you’re looking for me, use this handy map.  If you’re not looking for me, then beware the green star.

map

See you soon!

Bob

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Finally Hit Me

Well, I think it’s finally sunk in.  Uptown Girl’s adventures are over.

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When I finished the last book in February, I felt the same way that I felt whenever I finished a book.  Relieved, happy, proud and a little worn out.  Finishing ‘The Lazarus Heart’ didn’t have the emotional oomph of the conclusion of the series on top of it.  I prepped the book for printing with getting it proofread and made the corrections, brought it to the printer and then picked up the proof.

Paging through the proof was when it hit me.  About two months passed between drawing the final page and seeing the proof in my hand.  It’s not uncommon for me to take a little time off after finishing a book but I always would return to the world I left.  But with this, there was no going back.  Then I got depressed.

I am keeping myself busy with other artwork and I will be announcing the next project in the next couple of weeks, but it is very melancholy to feel the elation of having another book finished mixed with knowing I am not going back.

I am also feeling a little bewildered and stunned that the book itself is finished when a few months ago I never thought it would be completed.

After I picked up the book from the printer I put a copy on the shelf next to the others and just looked at them for a while.  Not counting the monthly series, this was the result of years of work, countless panels, hundreds of pens, over a thousand pieces of bristol board and an ocean of ink.

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Thank you to everyone who patiently waited for this book.  I am excited for you to read it when it goes on sale in 2 weeks at MSP ComicCon.

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With A Little Help From My Friends

Although I finished the last page of Uptown Girl about six weeks ago, I don’t feel like it’s all over.  In the weeks since I’ve been prepping the book for printing.  This was a bit of a scramble as I needed to have the book back from the printer in early May in order for it to be ready for MSP ComicCon on May 20th and 21st.  The prep work is a group effort in reality.  I count on my friends for this.  I have been working with two really excellent proofreaders, Kristin and Antony, for the past few books and of course my friend Ben who has taken my drawings and turned them into beautiful covers.  I am very lucky to have such excellent friends with these talents.  They make my work better and I cannot possibly thank them enough.

After I finished the book, I sent the cover to Ben.  The cover took about five tries to get right.  It was hard to come up with an idea that really represented the feel of the book yet didn’t give away too much.  Normally I would post the earlier versions but I still think they are too spoilery.  I sent the cover to Ben and received the final version a week or so ago.  As usual, a expected, Ben did an amazing job.  Even after years of collaborating he never fails to make my jaw drop.  Gaze upon his work:

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The idea here was to add stuff that would make people wonder what the heck is going on.  What’s with Rocketman’s helmet?  Who is that dashing photographer?  How does the mayor from the second book tie into this?  What is up with that fish?  What does the Walrus have to do with this story?  And why are all the main characters separated from each other..?

The final few pages of Uptown Girl – A Longforgotten Fairytale may provide some clues.

I love this cover and I am amazed at what Ben did with the original drawing:

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While Ben worked his magic, I printed off the book and sent to Kristin and Antony.  This was nerve-wracking, to be honest.  I had worked on this story for over two years and now someone was going to have to read it.  Not only did I have the pressure of doing a good book, I also had the pressure of creating a satisfying end to 13 years of Uptown Girl’s adventures.  I was encouraged and relieved by Kristin’s initial feedback:

That was amazing! Thank you for taking us along for the ride. Love the ending so much.

Thank God.  The final scene and the conversation had there was really written about three years ago.  I was determined to use it and I as pleased that it was still appropriate for the story.

I soon received a fat packet in the mail with countless Post-It Notes pointing out typos, missing words and needed Oxford commas.  I got to work correcting these errors.  Any misspellings and grammatical errors are mine and mine alone as I may have missed a correction.  I printed off a second copy of the book with the corrections, double checked all the pages were in the right order and delivered it to the printer.  I should have the proof this week.  I’ll review this weekend and make revisions as needed and then approve the proof.  A week or so after the proof is approved, the final book will be ready.

I think when the book is placed on my shelf next to the others will be when I have that sense of finality.  There will be nothing more that needs to be done.  No typos to fix, no panels to redraw, no new stories to tell.

I’m not ready to say a final goodbye quite yet.  I’m sure once the book is next to the others on the shelf I’ll blog a little retrospective and look back on the years but I’m not ready to do that quite yet.

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Where Do I Begin?

So I’ve been pretty quiet on here since I wrapped up Uptown Girl a few weeks ago.  There’s still some stuff that needs to be done, but the book is being proofread and the cover is wrapping up nicely.  I will bring the book to the printer hopefully this week and have it ready to go in time for MSP ComicCon in May.

I wrote how weird it was, and how weird I felt when I finished the book a few weeks back.  The first time I went to draw after completing the book was also weird.  I put my daughter to bed, went to my studio, sat down and…did nothing.  I didn’t want to jump into a big project, or an ongoing project for a few months and wanted to spend some time just…drawing, doing whatever and playing at my desk.  But that first night I sat there for about ten minutes just…staring at my desk.

What it comes down to is I didn’t have a plan about what to do once Uptown Girl was finished, and that was intentional.  But for the first time in over a dozen years, I didn’t have anything to work on.  Nothing that HAD to be done.  And it felt weird.  It was a little sad.  I felt a little lost.  Who am I now that I am not the Uptown Girl guy, as so many people have called me?

I knew that I would be embarking on new projects, new things to define who I am as a cartoonist and I was/am excited about that, but moving away from something that defined me for so long was…well, also weird, I suppose.  I suppose it’s not unlike a musician quitting a band to go solo.  It’s exciting, but you are also starting from the ground up, but with more experience than when you joined the band initially.

Am I the Retros guy now?  Mmm…not quite.  I’ve been doing the Retros for a almost a year and a half now and I can’t say if The Retros is as well known as Uptown Girl was after the same period of time.  But it’s not really possible to compare.  When Uptown Girl was around a year and a half old, this was before Twitter and Facebook and it was all in print.  I sold comics in stores and at conventions so it was easy to gauge her popularity, but The Retros is all online, so it’s hard to tell.  I suppose I could look at followers on social media as a measuring stick.  I currently have 119 followers on Twitter and 117 with Facebook.  Not exactly lighting the world on fire, but then again, I haven’t promoted The Retros as much as I had Uptown Girl back in the day.  I miss the optimism and enthusiasm that I had back then.  But I always planned on holding off on really promoting The Retros until Uptown Girl was done, lest I was consumed by it.

So now what?  What’s next?  Where do I start?  I’m kind of going through a lot right now, to be honest, and some of it is related to this rebirth of sorts as a cartoonist and deciding on a path, and some of it is general…well, I am not sure if it’s depression or what, but I’ve been feeling discouraged and hopeless on a few levels.  Nothing serious of course and it will pass, but I think I need a project to work on.  I know I am happy when I am working, especially when it’s something that has a definitive start and a definitive end.  I will always have The Retros but that is an ongoing project.  I am still painting everyday and building a portfolio to (hopefully) send to prospective publishers or art agents and this is also ongoing, in a sense.  It will take some time before I feel I have enough samples to show.  But I need something to start and something to finish.  You know, like a book.  I thought I’d be happy to not have anything to work on for a while and you know, playing a video game for a bit, but I’m happy when I am working.  I like projects, I like to start and finish things.

So, although they it is too early to announce formally, I am in the early stages of two projects.  Both very different, and both are collaborations.  I am a little exhausted when it comes to writing at the moment so I am pleased I am working with two talented writers.  Who knows what these projects will become, or if they will go anywhere, but I need to work on something.  Work makes me happy, especially when the work is so much like play.  I am excited about these projects and here’s a peek at what I am doing.  I am looking forward to talking about these in greater detail soon-ish, but for now, I am happy to show off this art.

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I like both of these pieces a lot, and I like working on two very different things right now.  I am excited to start the work on both of these projects in earnest.  Work makes me happy and I think it will help snap me out of this funk I’m in right now.

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Something Weird I Wrote Whilst Feeling Weird

After almost 13 years and almost 4000 pages, I have finished writing and drawing Uptown Girl.

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It feels as weird as I thought it would.

After I finished the penultimate scene a few weeks ago, I knew I would need an epilogue with some exposition, a short flashback and the final scene.  As I worked on those parts, my progress slowed down incredibly.  It’s not that I didn’t want to finish, I just…thought hard and heavy about the scenes and the dialogue and the tone.  It had to be perfect, of course.  Perfection is not something to necessarily shoot for, but getting something just right is.  Everything had to be just right.

Last week the characters I needed for the final scene were all where I needed them to be and the scene was going to take place where I envisioned over two years ago.  This scene would be short, more than two pages, but less than five.  It had to reflect on the adventure itself, a little tip of the hat to the end of the series, a little humor and optimism.  I decided a few days ago I would need three pages for this.  Each page had to do something a little different but still flow.  I knew on Friday that this was the weekend to finish.

Like I said earlier, I wasn’t putting off writing the final pages, I just needed to be sure of what I wanted to say.

I took Sophie swimming yesterday, we had lunch as a family, Amy took Ryan to work and while my daughter was drawing, I knew it was time.  I was as ready as I thought I could be.  I didn’t know exactly what the characters would say, but I knew they would tell me.  You see, it sounds weird, but when you’ve written your characters for a while, you never have to think about what they’ll say.  The words and dialogue just come.    I sat down in my dining room and 45 minutes later, I was finished.  Amy came home, asked what I was doing and I told her that it had finally happened, the final page was drawn.

At first it felt like simply finishing another book.  Amy and I took Sophie to Target and out to dinner, I scanned and lettered the final pages, read Sophie her bedtime stories and went into my studio and for the first time in over a decade, I didn’t have anything else to do for Uptown Girl.  No new page to pencil, no new story to begin.

There’s still stuff that needs to be done, of course.  Ben Mudek, the wizard behind the previous Uptown Girl book covers is working on this cover, I will print off a copy of the book and send it to my friends to proofread, and then it goes to the printer.  I imagine once the book is back from the printer and I have it on my shelf, then it will truly feel finished.

It felt…weird yesterday, a different kind of weird last night, a different kind of weird this morning and I imagine there will more moments of different weirdness for a while.

More reflections and weird thoughts to come over the next few months, I’m sure.

 

 

 

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