Let’s Try This Again

So this is the first page of Uptown Girl-The Lazarus Heart:

1st draft

No wait, this is:

2nd attempt

Sure, they look pretty similar, but here’s the major difference:

side by sideYep, the first page is bigger.  I got four pages into the book and I realized something was…off.  I couldn’t figure it out and wasn’t really excited about working on it.  So I took a few days off and worked on The Retros for a bit.  Artistically the big difference between Uptown Girl and The Retros is the layout.  When I started The Retros, I knew I didn’t want to do two different comics in the same way.  Uptown Girl’s layout can be anything I want, big splash pages, three long vertical panels, nine panels on a page…but The Retros is a strict four panel page, like this:

3

Working this way forces me to think about layout and page design.  It teaches me about page economy, making the most out of a panel, and ultimately out of a page.  I try to have each page show a beginning, middle and end, in a way, similar to a daily comic strip.  I won’t have a conversation start on the third panel of a page and continue onto the next page.  Each page is meant to have a cliffhanger, I suppose.  It is an intentional design, to have each page stand alone in a way, but also a part of a larger story.  I am also working smaller.  This is also intentional so I can learn a new way to draw and again, it forces me to think about a panel layout more.  It’s a very frustrating but fun thing to try and work in several characters in a single panel, or convey a sense of scale for things in the background for example.  Also, The Retros has nothing but square shaped panels, so rectangle shaped panels are not an option.  Here’s a comparison between a typical Uptown Girl panel and a panel from The Retros:

side by side 2Not a big difference, but big enough.

I realized that after a few pages of Uptown Girl and then a few pages of The Retros that I wasn’t comfortable working big.  I got so used to working on a smaller scale over the last year or so with The Retros.  I decided to go back and redraw the Uptown Girl pages smaller.  I liked these new pages very much.

Long time readers of this blog will probably remember me getting 40 pages into a previous Uptown Girl book (The Long-Forgotten Fairytale) and then going back to redraw it on a smaller scale and then getting 80 pages into it…only to go back and continue to draw (and redraw) the book in the original size.  Yeah.  That sucked.  I don’t anticipate that happening this time.  Over the last two years I’ve learned a lot about cartooning which made me happy and surprised.  I didn’t realized I learned anything new until about a week ago.  Since ‘Fairytale’  I’ve gotten better working smaller…it really comes down to knowing what to leave out.
As of today I am up to 7 pages of ‘The Lazarus Heart’.  It’s going slowly but I expect to be back on track soon.

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Wasting Time on the Internet

I suck at the internet.

Well, I know how to use it, I don’t even use Internet Explorer unless I have to, but when it comes to gathering a following or an audience I am in pretty unfamiliar territory.

It seems I am always a few steps behind self promotion from where I should be.  When I started doing mini comics, my peers were doing perfect bound trades.  By the time I was doing trades, everyone was doing webcomics.  By the time I had a website, everyone was doing blogs.  Everyone was using Twitter by the time I started a blog.

Truth is, I’d rather draw than go online.  I also feel kind of awkward when it comes to promoting myself.  I don’t think I am good enough to be on the same internet as some of my heroes.  I have a blog (surprise, you’re reading it) and I set up a Twitter account to promote and draw attention to The Retros, but the followers and blog stats aren’t very impressive.  Normally I wouldn’t care, but it is a way to see if people like you or your work.  These days your Twitter followers are more important than ever.  It’s something that a prospective publisher will look at when it comes to deciding if they will publish your work.  It makes sense and I’m not criticizing the idea, but my 23 followers (who I love very much) will not convince Top Shelf or anyone to publish The Retros.

In a way I wish I didn’t have a Twitter account or a blog.  I can tell how many people like/follow me by looking at my stats.  Before I didn’t know if people liked my work, but now I do.  It’s like in the early days of caller ID.  15 years ago people had something called ‘landlines’ and having caller ID cost extra.  I could see who called while I was out.  If nobody called in the 10 hours I was gone, sometimes it stung.  Like ‘no one called, so everyone in the world hates me’.  But if I didn’t have caller ID, I could be all delusional and pretend I was the most popular person on the planet and my phone was ringing off the hook while I was gone.  Having caller ID settled that mystery once and for all.

I don’t really know how to use Twitter to gain followers.  Should I keep my account limited to just posting art?  Should I try to…I dunno, post funny thoughts and links?  How much of ME should be tweeting?  I suppose if people like someone, they might be willing to give their creative work a shot.

This doesn’t have much to do with comics, but in some ways this has everything to do with comics.  I’d love to make a living off my comics and be able to spend more time making them, but I need to be famous before that happens, I think.  I suppose I’ll just stick to making the best comics I can, and let my work speak for me and see what happens.

I mean, look at this page from the Retros.

62

Is it the best page in the world?  Could someone else do it better?  Is it even the best page I’ll ever do?  No, yes and no.  But it’s the best I can do of a giant swamp monster lunging towards an evil time-traveling robot…guy.  Plus it was super fun to draw.  And comics that are super fun to draw are kind of important.

But if you feel like following me, I won’t stop you.

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The Lazarus Heart

How do the fingers of this thing entwine? Which foot falls first upon the trail?

It generates few visible blisters, so may even be mistaken for an unearned reward.

As Fred Astaire once wisely sang, you have to “Let Yourself Go.”

So how do you begin? When do you know when you’ve reached your destination? What do you cut and when do you run without painting over the picture?

A thing of beauty?

Who needs it?

But that’s the very mystery and fascination of it.

The trick is, as I know it, is to care like hell and not give a damn at the same time.

-Paul Simon

photo

So today’s the day I start Uptown Girl-The Lazarus Heart.  The last five years, and in some ways, the last 12 years have been leading up to this book.  Big stuff happens in this book, big stuff happens after this book.  Characters will return, new ones will appear and not everyone is making it out alive.

I’ve been working on this book in my head for a long time.  There’s been little clues here and there in the last few books that something big is happening, something behind the scenes.  They’ve been subtle on purpose so as not to take anything away from the other stories.  Some of the things that are going to happen I’ve wrestled with.  I’ve gone back and forth on a dozen things.  It got to the point where I realized that I didn’t want to write this book.  I couldn’t.  I’m not that good of a writer.  Thank goodness Brian is going to write it.  We sat down a few months ago and we went over an outline of what the book is going to be about.  Brian added some things, took some out and made it a better story.  He also went back and forth on a few things, specifically the death of a certain character.  At one point they lived, the next they died and to be honest, I am not sure what is going to happen to them.

I don’t plan on working on any other Uptown Girl related comics while I am working on this story.  Normally when working on a big story I’d take a break and work on shorter stories that would end up in future books.  Not this time.  I’m heading to my studio and keeping my head down and getting to work.

Of course, I’ll be working on the Retros here and there, and I think we’re launching it in January 2016.  So yeah.

Big plans.  Big, big plans.

 

 

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Positive Thinking

I am going to type a sentence I never thought I would type.  Here goes: Uptown Girl – Imitation of Life is finally finished.  I finished lettering the final story (titled ‘Positive Thinking’) for the upcoming Uptown Girl book this afternoon.  Well, I suppose ‘finished’ is a little strong.  It still needs to be proofread, the cover still needs to be colored and all that, but in terms of what is between the covers, I think we’re set.

I started this book in April 2012.  I worked on it off and on while I worked on ‘Long Forgotten Fairytale’ and I am really happy it’s done.  I plan on working on the Retros this week and start the next book on February 1st.  Normally I’d like a little longer break between books, but the last couple books took longer than I thought they would, and I think the next book will take a while, as well  I can assure you that it will take longer than a year, and I don’t expect it out until 2017.  It seems each book is taking more out of me and taking longer than I thought.

But regardless, Imitation of Life will be out this spring.  I hope you guys like it.

Anyway, here’s a quick peek (well, it might not be a quick peek if you look at it for a long time) of the cover.  Of course, this is before Ben Mudek works his magic with the lettering and coloring.  I can assure you he will use more exciting fonts.

UG 5 cover rough

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Smart in a Stupid Way

And here’s a comic:

smart in a stupid way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an okay comic, I don’t love it, I don’t hate it.  I think it was a funnier IDEA than how it was executed, but not bad.  I like the art, though!  A lot of Uptown Girl is just the characters talking, so I try to show the characters doing something while they talk, like Uptown Girl applying lipstick in panel three.  It’s more interesting for the reader and keeps me interested while I draw the comic.

This little gem will appear in this spring’s “Imitation of Life”.  to be honest, I wasn’t even going to include it in the book.  This isn’t the original version, here’s the first attempt:

draft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the idea for the comic and I knew the humor from the comic was dialogue driven, so I focused on that.  But I was lazy on the art.  It’s Uptown Girl and Ruby just standing around…the art is rushed and panel four is a little wonky.  I drew the comic, didn’t care for the art and stashed it away.  I didn’t think it was *that* good and didn’t plan on including it in a collection.  Normally I redraw stuff I don’t like the art for, but I didn’t think this was funny enough to redraw.

So it sat in my drawer for months.  It kind of bugged me that eventually that would be a finished comic that wasn’t going to make it into a book.  But a couple weeks ago I bit the bullet and redrew it.

Anyway, I have three and a half pages of a comic to ink and then I’ll be done with the new book.  I plan on sending it off to be proofread by the end of the week and start ‘Uptown Girl-The Lazarus Heart’ next month.  I’ll have a week or so of non-Uptown Girl art to work on, so I’ll probably work on The Retros for a bit.  If you’re one of the thousands dozens following me on twitter, I mentioned that The Retros will be collected into books in addition to being online.  I think each book will be around 300 pages.  I’m up to 59 pages so far, so I’m…well, I don’t know if I’m behind or ahead.  I think I’m both.

 

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Glory of the 80’s

Right now the new Uptown Girl book (Imitation of Life) is clocking in at 178 pages.  I have at least one more story to do, but my plan is once January 31st hits, I’ll finish whatever story I am working on and wrap it up.  I suspect the book will be around 190 pages.  A little less than ‘Little Adventures’, another short story collection, and I really wanted both books to be around 200 pages but since the last two books were pretty big, I think I can get over it.  The next Uptown Girl book will probably be the biggest one yet, and I need to get moving on that…and all the other projects I want to tackle.

‘Imitation of Life’ will be out in May of this year.  A few months out but there’s still stuff that needs to be done.  Proofreading, for example.  Once January 31st hits, I’ll send the book off for proofreading and work on other stuff while I am waiting for the book to be returned for corrections.  The other time consuming part of this is the cover.  Ben Mudek has designed and colored the first four graphic novel covers and I’m glad he’s doing this one.  Ben is pretty amazing and I can’t wait to see what he does with this book.  I finished the front cover yesterday and I need to do a little more research before I can wrap up the back cover.  The covers take a lot of time so I need some lead time for that.  Hopefully I can show of the final cover sometime in March.

I also worked on the credits/dedication pages this weekend.  These are the four pages at the front of the book that have all the legal stuff and thank-yous.  There is definitely a theme with these four pages that tie in pretty nicely with the front cover.  Take a look at the images that will accompany the text, I hope you like them, they were fun to do.

end pages 4 end pages 3 end pages 2 end pages 1

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Fitter, Happier

screamerThis is my beautiful daughter, Sophia Lorraine Lipski.  Ms. Lipski turned 7 about two weeks ago and despite photographic evidence, she is usually very shy and quiet around people.  She isn’t a fan of being put on the spot and being asked a question.  Last week during one of the many holiday dinners we went to, someone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Suddenly the chatter of the meal died and all eyes were on her.  She got very quiet and darted her eyes quickly toward me before (very quietly) saying “what daddy is”.  She didn’t mean that she wanted to be a guy stuck in a cubicle for 50 hours a week, she wants to be an artist.  It kind of threw me for a loop.  I assumed she didn’t see me as artist but as someone who left early in the morning and returned home 10 hours later looking tired and disheveled.  It’s nice when people see you as for what you want to be, sometimes.  It also surprised me because rarely is she so specific.  Usually when asked this question she kind of shrugs and says she doesn’t know.

drawingSo a few days later we brought her little easel and her ridiculous butterfly chair into my studio and spent the day drawing.  We always draw together, but it’s usually the two of us in the living room drawing and coloring.  If she wants to be an artist, then I am going to help her be an artist.  This works well with something I want to do more this year: drawing.  I draw every day, but….I know I could draw more.  There’s time in the day to do so.  Last year I set out to do two very specific goals.  The boring goal was there were things I wanted to accomplish at my day job.  The accomplishments I wanted hit required me basically not taking any time off.  I promised myself if I accomplished these job-things I would take all my earned vacation in 2015.  The other goal was I wanted to read more.  I set myself a goal of reading two books a month, not counting comics and graphic novels.  books  I read every night, but I wanted to read more books I haven’t read before.  I hit both of these goals.  As a Christmas present to myself, I took time off around the holidays.  I hadn’t taken that much time off since Sophie was born…and remember she just turned 7.  I was anxious at first taking that much time off, but I really enjoyed it.  I thought I’d be thinking about work too much to have fun, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.  I was…happy.  In addition to drawing more, I plan to work out more.  I want to be in better shape.  I’m not at the point where I wash myself with a rag on a stick, but I turn 40 this year and it’d be nice to be a little leaner.

So my goals this year are to be fitter, happier, and more productive.

Something else that I’ve been thinking about is how to promote The Retros.  Brian and I plan on launching it on January 1st, 2016.  And yes, that is a year off but we want to get really far ahead on it without sacrificing the time I want to dedicate to Uptown Girl.  I am not really good at self-promotion.  It tends to take me out of my comfort zone, but I launched a twitter account and I am updating it daily with artwork and character designs.  If you are on twitter, check it out.  https://twitter.com/Retros_comic

So, that’s it for this week.  Oh, as for Uptown Girl -Imitation of Life, it will be done this month.  I am going to redraw a 6 page story, and I have another 4 page story I want to do for it, and I need to letter 40 pages of a completed story, but it’s almost done.  Promise.

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