My Life Would Suck Without You

I’ve been going to comic conventions as a guest for a long time now.  The first one I attended was Fallcon back in…2005?  I remember working on Uptown Girl #7 at the convention and met my pal Albert Nguyen there.  To my surprise I actually sold some comics that day.  Actually, that surprise doesn’t change much…I am still surprised when I sell comics.  At any rate, after my first convention I started to get emails from people who read the comic and wrote in to say they liked it.

My first fans.

But to be honest, I have never been comfortable calling anyone who buys, reads or likes my comic my fan.  I am not entirely sure why…maybe because I have a rampant ego (I really do) and wanted to keep it in check and if I started thinking that I had fans that I would start…I don’t know, buying into it and elevating myself above others.  I don’t think I’m wrong in worrying about this as I did let my ego get the best of me years ago.

But I suppose if I am being honest, I do have fans.  I compromise with saying that I personally don’t have fans, but Uptown Girl does.

At any rate, yesterday was Fallcon.  I can’t say it was a great convention year if I measure it by sales.  Having the next Uptown Girl book delayed certainly isn’t helping and I’ve been too busy with trying to wrap that up, keep up on The Retros and the rest of life to try to put out a new one-shot.  But if I look at the conventions in other ways, this was a great convention season.  I spent more time sketching in notebooks than selling books, more time talking to people abut comics than making money off of them.  I sent my days talking not to fans, but to friends.  I realized that the real reason I am not comfortable with the term is that I can’t call anyone my fan.  I think of you as my friend.  I have thought of you that way for a long time.  I’ve known many of you for years and years.  It was at my second convention when I met Susan and Mark.  That was ten years ago.  I’ve seen your kids grow up and go from stroller to cosplay.  You share with me the other sketches you’ve gotten from other artists at the convention.  We talk about our families, our lives, almost anything but comics.  But we do talk about comics, don’t we?  Everything from what is happening in Wonder Woman to what the next Retros story arc will be like and the epic-ness of the last Uptown Girl story. Spoiler: the epilogue of it will be titled “My Life Would Suck Without You”.

Cartooning is a lonely thing.  I am never entirely sure what people will enjoy or what’s working or which characters people like.  It’s really, really awesome to hear what you are saying about the comics I make.  What did you like?  What’s funny?  Was it surprising when (fill in the blank) happened?  Your reactions, opinions and feedback help tremendously.  When you worry about a character it tells me that  those characters are connecting with you…that they’re working for you.  When you asked for that drawing of Volcanix it made me realize that people actually liked/like him.  When you suggested the title for the upcoming Retros print collection it told me that yes, you do read the comic.  When you gave my friend an aspirin for their headache it felt like you two knew each other for years.

Part of me thought about skipping Fallcon (not really) this year because I knew I’d end up buying more than I sold.  And that’s exactly what happened.  But I wanted to go.  I wanted to see you.  And you were there.  It was awesome.  Like I said, drawing is lonely and I appreciate your friendship, your reading my comic and stopping by to visit.  It would have been a lonely day if you weren’t there.  Without you, I really don’t know if I’d still be doing comics.  I love drawing comics but I think if people weren’t reading my stuff, it’d be hard to keep at this.

And just to add some art into this wordy post, here’s a panel I inked at the convention for the upcoming Retros arc.


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Too Many Feelings at the Same Time


Let’s have a chat about feelings.

Emotions are all over Uptown Girl ‘The Lazarus Heart’.  The characters (and not just the main three) are all having feelings of betrayal, loss, jealousy, love, confusion, angry and sadness.  I probably missed a few, as well.

If you’ve been reading Uptown Girl for a while, you know that I put a lot of myself in the books.  The three main characters reflect parts of me.  Rocketman is the impulsive, never-thinking-things-out part of my personality, Ruby is the cynical, sarcastic side, and Uptown Girl is the more even keel, reasonable part of my life.  Often I wrestle with these sides throughout the day so it’s cathartic to work things out that I think about in my comics.  Doing this has helped me become very attached to my characters and I think my love and respect for them shows through in stories.  This attachment made it very difficult to make the decision to end the series but in the end, I think readers need to know the writer loves the characters too.  I fully understand why J.K. Rowling got very emotional when she killed off characters in the Harry Potter books.

As the book reaches the end, tensions are high, feelings are at their most intense and things are coming to a head before their ultimate resolution.  Some of the characters are acting selfishly, some are hurting others, and some, well some are just furious like our friend Ruby up there.

Ruby gets angry in this book.  She is dealing with a lot in this book and something puts her over the edge.  The something is a very big thing, but her anger has been bottling up for a while and she just…rips into someone.  The character she is furious with just…backs down.  Truly sorry, the character is moved to tears and shows a vulnerable side to them we haven’t see in…well, ever.

It’s almost…painful to write my characters like this.  Every character means every word they say, for good and for bad.  Lately the book is taking a lot out of me and it’s been hard to go back each night and write more.  Two characters got into a fight a while ago and it was challenging to keep going and keep writing that scene.  These days I finish a page and I am emotionally exhausted.  I know it might sound kind of stupid but I think we’ve all emotionally connected to a fictional character and they become very real to us.  Getting emotionally connected to a character that you’ve created and that you write is all of those emotions plus more.

I look forward to wrapping up the book for many reasons.  One reason has to do with the normal stress or writing a book and hoping that you wrote a good story and that it makes sense with no plot holes.  The stress of drawing the book is also part of it.  I have…concerns that the book is not as well drawn as I hoped it would be, but since the book is very emotionally driven and filled with drama, I think the art might be all right after all.  But the main reason is that I am looking forward to resolving a lot of the issues the characters have with each other right now.  I look forward to writing the scenes where they can hug it out.

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Fast Forward

Yesterday I started coloring the last five pages of the first Retros story line.  The arc wrapped up in 240 pages and will be collected in a book to be published in 2017.  Thanks to my pal  Joe, the book has a name…The Retros: Fast Forward.  I have the last few pages to color and about 25 pages to letter and of course the cover, but the book is pretty much done.  I am about 20 pages ahead of schedule in terms of posting a new page each day, but I need to be working ahead in case of computer problems or just…life taking up time and not having a chance to draw when I need or want to.

I pushed myself the last week or so to get some more pages done as I noticed I was no longer as far ahead as I wanted to be, which means I had less time to work on Uptown Girl.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  I was able to plot out the last act of her book and tighten it up a little.  I still feel confident that it will be done by the end of the year or, if it comes to it, by my March 1st deadline.

It feels weird to have completed something that is not Uptown Girl.  I was worried that after wrapping up the first Retros book I wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to keep going but thankfully that is not the case.  I am excited to get going on the next story for these characters.

Whenever I finished an Uptown Girl book, I’d think about what I learned.  With ‘Big City Secrets’ I learned the importance of scanning the page as I finished drawing it to avoid having to scan over 250 pages all at once over the course of a few weeks.  Much better to pace it out over the creation of the book.  With ‘The Long Forgotten Fairytale’ I learned that I need to work with a paper size that is best for the artwork as opposed to working a smaller size just to work a little faster.

With ‘Fast Forward’ I learned a lot.

untitled-1From an artistic perspective, I learned that black on black coloring looks a little…wonky.  For example, Fly-Girl wears black, finger-less gloves.  When she gestures and her hands are in front of her, her hands are harder to see since she wears a black costume.  I like drawing hands that are expressive and this design kind of muddles that up.  Now that this arc is over, I decided to ditch the gloves.  Working as small as I do with each panel less than 3 inches wide or long, it is important to simplify.


untitled-5I learned to stick to my guns and make storytelling choices that go against my routine.  Over the 12 plus years of Uptown Girl, the status quo has remained comfortably stable.  My vision for the Retros was a rotating team, similar to the X-Men or the Justice League.  I envisioned characters quitting, getting fired of even dying.  In order to have a rotating team and to show people (especially myself) that no one is a Retro forever, I wanted to have a different team at the end of the first arc than there was at the beginning.  I knew who’d be gone pretty early in the story but…I really liked this character.  I liked them more than I did when I started drawing the book.  For a while the character’s fate was changed and saved and wouldn’t be going away.  But in the end, I decided that if I didn’t make the change now, I never would make status quo changes.  I had to do it to push myself out of that comfort zone.   I stuck to my original idea (which is usually the best idea) and made the change.  Will the character return like every character did in the X-Men or Justice League?  I suppose they could, there’s certainly a way.

untitled-2I learned to let the story and scene become alive and give into my instincts.  There were plenty of times when I would be drawing and writing an action scene and think about what the characters were doing and if I were in that situation I’d make a joke or comment on what as happening.  I would have the team take a moment to crack a joke, make fun of Sputnik or bicker with each other.  These moments were my favorite to write.  These scenes allow character development, shed a little light on their personalities and show a little about team dynamics.

untitled-3I learned that it’s okay to tell a non-linear story.  The readers are dropped into the Retros world.  The series didn’t start with how the team got together or why they did.  I know how they did, and I might tell the story someday but for the moment, we’re seeing what is happening now.  There’s a lot that happened before Fly-Girl joined the team and I like that the characters talk about stuff that happened before the series started or have questions that won’t be answered for a long time.


untitled-4I learned to take risks with the characters.  A big risk was drawing Zoo who is tricky to get right and different from any character I’ve drawn before.  It required a lot of penciling, erasing and starting over.  It wasn’t always easy but I love the big guy.  I love seeing the difference in size between him and Fly-Girl.  The risks are more than just visual.  The characters will have lives that are a little more complex than anything I’ve done with Uptown Girl.  They all have histories…personal, traumatic and romantic.  I am excited to push myself into new directions and try new things I haven’t done before.

Finally, I learned that I need to get the series in front of people.  I can’t let people discover The Retros by just word of mouth.  I saw the website traffic stats and is was pretty dismal.  I started to post pages on the Facebook page as well as Tapastic.  Once Uptown Girl wraps up I’ll be spending more time promoting The Retros in different ways.  I learned that I can’t do two different series at once.  Right now I am focusing on just writing and drawing Uptown Girl and The Retros.  Once Uptown Girl is done, I’ll start to reach out to different ways to promote The Retros.  I suppose I am feeling guilty for not spending as much time on Uptown Girl’s final book as it deserves and don’t want to spend any more time way from her as I have.

I hope to learn more as I continue to draw The Retros and anything else I create.  I appreciate anyone who is a fan of what I do and I thank you for your advice, enthusiasm and the book titles.






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A Whole New You

I am wrapping up the first Retros story line soon.  I just scanned in page 230 the other day and page 206 is getting posted tomorrow.  I wanted the first story line to wrap up at 240 pages and I think it’ll work out.  If I did my math right (which is entirely possible I didn’t) , the 240th page should post in mid-November, roughly a year after the series started.

I’ve been working on the Retros for a long time.  Like…8 years now.  The team (both creative and the series itself) has gone through a few changes, but I am amazed that I’ve stuck with it for so long and the first book is almost done.  I haven’t finished anything that wasn’t Uptown Girl in…well, over ten years.

Uptown Girl has been my primary creative project, and part of my life and pat of me for a long, long time.  As the series gets closer to ending, I am realizing how weird life will be when it ends, and how much Uptown Girl has been a part of my life for so long.  Over the years people would refer to me as ‘The Uptown Girl Guy’.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s good that people knew who she was.  I suppose soon I’ll be ‘The Retros Guy’.  There are worse things to be.  I’ll be a new me, I guess.  Uptown Girl was never the well known, popular series I had hoped it would be, but it was nice knowing that people were familiar with her.  I can only hope The Retros has the success she had.  In the end, sure, it would have been nice if Uptown Girl had been a little more famous but knowing that people read her adventures, care about her and are sad that the series is ending tells me that people do love her and can a cartoonist ask for more?

The Retros will be collected in book form, along with the one-shots I’ve done over the last year sometime next year.  The book, which doesn’t have a title yet (suggestions would be appreciated) will either be out in the spring or fall of 2017.  IF the last Uptown Girl isn’t done by the first of March, I’ll put out the Retros.  If Uptown Girl stays on track, then the Retros will get bumped to the fall.  I want the Uptown Girl book out in May and finishing by March 1st will give me time to have it proofread, edited and the cover completed.  Wrapping up after March 1st is pushing it.

Uptown Girl SHOULD stay on schedule.  I just finished page 182 last night, wrapping up an action scene that spanned over 20 pages.  Spoiler alert, a character died, making this the second death in the book.  I think I’ll be able to wrap up the bulk of the story this year and spend a few weeks next year on a few pages I need to go back and add in.  Barring any major setbacks and if I get the story done by March 1st, I fully expect the book be out in May of next year.

The good news is that I can see how I can wrap this book in about 40-50 pages.  The concern for a while was all about timing and how many pages I could complete by my deadline of March 1st but the story itself is all coming together.  Bad guys are going down, alliances are being formed, hatchets will soon be buried but there are broken hearts, betrayals and reunions still to come.  Here’s an edited page 182:


I can see how things will end and although the story itself is turning out differently than I had expected it, the epic-ness and the drama are holding up.  I wanted some big character moments for Uptown Girl, Ruby and Rocketman and they each are going through some big things.  I wanted to see what would happen if they had to face challenges and life events but not necessarily be able to go through them with help from others.  Usually in Uptown Girl stories one of the characters goes through something and the others are helping them but in this story everyone has something big happening and are pretty wrapped up in their own lives.  I suppose in a way, this is a story about not taking people in your life for granted.  It’s about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.

It’s about the power of friendship.

And I suppose that’s been the theme of Uptown Girl as a whole for the last thirteen years.


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First World Problems

Perspective is important.  It’s important when it comes to drawing of course, and it’s also important when it comes to life.  Last week, both art and life came colliding together.

I use Photoshop a lot.  I am usually fiddling with it in the morning before I go to wok as I letter a page of Uptown Girl, and at the end of the day I am usually editing and coloring a page for The Retros.  Over the last few years, Photoshop has become an important tool in my art.  Before I looked at it as a way to scan and possibly do some light editing on a piece of art, then it became the tool I use to letter a comic.  Soon it was how I blacked in the night sky and clean up panel borders.  Now I rely on it more than I thought I ever could.  It’s true I only use about 10% of what Photoshop offers, but what I use it for is essential to my projects.

Last week Photoshop stopped working.  Not being a computer guy myself, I am not entirely sure what happened.  Dan, my best friend/website builder/IT guy thinks the software become corrupted somehow and I should uninstall it and re-install it.  Tried that, it did not work.  After trying a few free programs online for a temporary solution and considering switching to other options such as Manga Studio, I bit the bullet and purchased Photoshop again.

At Dan’s suggestion, I looked on eBay and found an older version of it and avoided paying $89 for the latest upgrade.  Three days and thirty dollars later, a newer and better Photoshop was back on my PC and working like a dream.


In retrospect, this all seems very uneventful but in reality, I was very stressed out.  I wondered if my computer was on its way out (it’s five years old, it might be time for a laptop), or if I would have to learn a new software program and change the techniques I’ve been using for years or what I was going to do in terms of keeping up on lettering and editing comics so I can stay on schedule.

The reality is that I can afford a new laptop, I have friends who would be happy to sit down with me and show me how to do anything I needed to know about any artwork editing software I could buy, I could also drop by a friend’s house and use their Photoshop if I needed to touch up something before I had a long term solution.

This was very much a first world problem and I am embarrassed at how stressed out I was.  This was not a problem at any level.  I am far enough ahead on The Retros that the next few weeks of pages are already colored and lettered.  I had friends on Facebook recommending different programs and sending me links to different options to try.  I am very lucky to have the life that I have.

So, I am thankful for the lesson and the reminder that my problems aren’t problems.  I am lucky to have people in my life that can and did help.  Thanks to everyone who offered technical help and offered different solutions.  I will try to keep things in perspective the next time my world comes to end when I have a temporary set back.


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Flying Solo

As Uptown Girl nears the end, I can’t help but think about what my world will be like after I’ve drawn, inked, scanned and lettered the last page.  I can only imagine how weird it’s going to be to sit down at my desk and for the first time time in over 12 years, not work on an Uptown Girl story.  Sure, I’m excited about other projects, but I can’t even think about what an Uptown Girl-less world will be like.

As ‘The Lazarus Heart’ heads towards the end (up to page 169 as of this morning), it’s time to start the early stages of what I will do next.  In deciding what I wanted to, I felt like I had a lot of different options and it was exciting but instead of thinking of what I wanted to work on, I shifted my thought process to HOW I wanted to work.  I knew right away I did not want to do another series or even another graphic novel, especially a graphic novel that could turn into a series.  That seems to be an issue with me.  I can create a character and soon I have ideas for four different books for them and I want to do all of them.  That happened with The Retros, actually.  I have the next 5 years/storylines planned out and I am excited to do them.  And I will!  Once I think of what I want to do with a character/cast, I am determined to see it all the way through.

Actually, this is what happened with Uptown Girl.  After  I started the first Uptown Girl graphic novel, I thought about what kind of stories I wanted to do.  I eventually mapped out the next few books and the story for ‘The Lazarus Heart’ was always part of the plan.  I wasn’t going to think about what happened after ‘The Lazarus Heart’ until I was working on it as the planned books seemed like enough to do.  It just turned out to be a perfect place to walk away.  Perhaps if I decided what the next book would be all those years ago, I’d be continuing the series.  Of course, this is not to say that the Retros will end in five years.  There’s a lot I want to do with those guys.

Anyway, I decided on how I was going to work.  Besides not jumping into another huge project, I knew I wanted to collaborate with other talented, creative people.  I also wanted to not write anything too big and to focus on drawing.  I knew whatever I would do, it would be a logical and fun step towards making a living off my art (it’s a long shot but that’s okay).  I think I’ve all but set aside any plan to write and draw a children’s book for now.  I have a few ideas for them but I am not a writer.  The ideas I have for picture books seem too…weak and boring.  I know I can and do draw better than what I typically post online, so my strength is art and it’s probably a good idea to let someone else write and I can stick to the illustrations.

I have, after months of thinking about it, decided on three projects that I will be taking on once Uptown Girl has walked off into the sunset.  Two of them are collaborations and I’ll be talking about those projects soon, but the third is a solo thing.  The solo project is a Fly-Girl comic strip.  Fly-Girl is the newest member of my webcomic, The Retros.  I know I said I didn’t want to write anything or start a new series but this is not going to be an ongoing thing, at least not to start.  Fly-Girl was created by my friend Brian Bastian and I about ten years ago.  In our minds, we always had her world established and her character and personality pretty much set.  Once we put her into the future and she joined The Retros, she left a lot of that behind.  I knew I wanted to do more with her, but as a member of a team, I know I can’t focus on her too much but I do want to write about her more.  The idea of the comic strip is to focus on her adventures before she was transported to the year 2438.  I can avoid any continuity issues and readers do not have to read both series to follow her adventures solo or as part of the team.  This is going to give me a chance to do stories about her in high school, crappy part-time jobs and all that.  A chance to tell stories about the girl behind the mask.  Stuff that doesn’t seem to fit in the action packed adventures of The Retros.


However, this is not going to be an on going series by any means.  Unless I get really, really lucky.  No, the plan for a post-Uptown Girl world is to work on stuff where I can submit to publishers and agents in an effort to make a living off my art.  What I plan on doing with Fly-Girl is to create a solid submission package to shop to different newspaper comic strip syndicates.  I’ve never been rejected by one of those before, so it’ll be a new thing for me.  Most syndicates want to see about 24-30 strips so get a feel for the art and the characters.  My plan is do enough daily strips and shop them to publishers.  If I get lucky and get picked up, then it will be an ongoing thing, but the way I see it, this is a project that will maybe take 2-3 months to create 24-30 really solid daily strips and spend the next months sending them out and waiting for rejection letters.

Despite expecting rejection letters, I am actually very excited and optimistic about this.  I feel that after over 200 Retros strips I’ve really nailed the timing a four panel strip requires.  Also working in a pretty small panel size has really pushed me to making the most of that space and laying out my art.  But my writing is where I feel the most confident.  I think I can do a really acceptable job of telling a larger story one four panel sequence at a time.  The Fly-Girl comic strip will be an adventure comic with a bigger focus on humor than The Retros.  I know The Retros is funny at times (at least I hope it is) but this will be even more so.

I am inspired by older adventure strips from the 30’s and 40’s, but also the Spider-Man comic strip that John Romita Sr. did in the late 70’s.  Of course, newspapers don’t seem to do a lot of adventure strips these days unless it’s something that has been running for decades like Mark Trail and Mary Worth so perhaps this isn’t the best idea to work on, but I am going to have a lot of fun with it and I am hoping that someone will give it a chance.

I will be blogging about the creation and progress of the strip once I start working on it.  I will be posting the pages as I finish them and if in the end I fail to get a publisher I will then print the strips so people can read them if they want.  I am excited about this and I have the storyline planned out already.  Here’s a really rough sketch of the first strip:


The guys robbing the bank are a nod to how the first Uptown Girl graphic novel started where The Walrus stops a bank heist.  I thought it was a fun little Easter egg.

Anyway, more to come on this and the other two projects soon.  For now, it’s on to page 170.

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Hollow Man

Cartoonists are not famous for their happiness.  I have a quote by Charles Schulz pinned above my drawing desk that reads “Cartooning will destroy you, it will break your heart.”  God only knows why I’ve had that staring at me for so many years, but still it remains.  I think many of us wrestle with the cycle of wanting to be better, trying to be better and not getting better and then getting a little better and then always trying to be better and not always able to be better and then getting depressed about not being better especially when we know we could be better but we’re not.  I think that pretty much sums up my inner voice for the last few years.

But I have been getting better.  Not necessarily as a cartoonist, but better as a person.  The last few months have been important as I feel I’ve gotten over a few things and moved on from others.  These revelations, if you want to call them that have made me a better person and helped me wrestle a lot of my inner demons and doubts and by default, make me a happier person and a better cartoonist.  I am not as frustrated when I draw anymore.  I am redrawing panels and pages less than ever.  With previous books I was losing a day or so of work every week because I’d rush through a page or end up redrawing it.  Not this book.  I feel more confident when I draw a page and it shows.

This blog is as much therapy for me as it is a way for me to let you all know what’s going on when when stuff is coming out.  So, thanks.

I can defeat my inner demons and that’s all well and good but the thing that I can’t get more of is time.  I don’t do much besides work and draw and spend time with my family.  I rarely see movies or watch tv or play video games.  I don’t have that time-wasting thing that I do (except sleep) where I could be devoting that time to drawing, so I pretty much draw as much as I can.  When my family is out, I can sneak in some extra drawing time or some extra Photoshopping a Retros page time, but those moments are rare.  Not that my family won’t let me draw, but I like my family and I enjoy spending time with them and it’s hard to do that when Sophie suggests going swimming or riding bikes.  So, I wait to draw until she goes to bed.  However, I do wonder, from time to time, how much I could get done if I had the house to myself for a few days.

This past week, I found out.

Amy’s sister does contract work for a company in Colorado and travels there a few times a month.  She thought it’d be fun to drive out there sometime and asked Amy and Sophie to come with and make a road trip out of it.  Ryan passed on the trip.  I suppose when you’re 17 being in a car for hours and hours and hours on end isn’t very appealing.  They planned on stopping at Mount Rushmore and a few other places along the way and then spend a few days in Colorado and then head home.  It sounded like a lot of fun for Sophie and Amy deserved a vacation so off they went.  They left on a Friday and since Ryan spent most of the following week either at work or with friends, when I came home from work each day, I walked into an empty house.

Over the next 6 days, I went to work, to the Y, took the dog on a million walks, ate dinner, and drew.  And drew and drew.  I was able to start making some progress in catching up from falling behind on my 15 pages a month goal from June.  While I walked the dog or inked panels, I thought to myself that this is what it’d be like to be single.  And it SUCKED.  It was depressing.  I didn’t like this.  At all.  I missed my family.  I knew I would but I really, really missed them.

I knew that, years ago, I chose having a family over having a cartooning career.  Not that I can’t have one EVER, but I knew it’d be harder with kids.  I never looked back on that choice.  I fell in love hard with Amy and I couldn’t not love her even if I tried.  But what would life be like if I was still single?  I found out and it sucked and I felt empty and hollow.  Just as I need to draw to be who I am, I realized that the bigger part of me is being a husband and a dad.  Drawing will always be waiting for me, tucked into a little room on the top floor of my townhouse, but in a year or so, Ryan will be off to a college, Sophie will ask me less and less over time to go for a bike ride and I’ll still have my comics to draw.

When Amy and Sophie came home a few days ago, it was one of those rare days when Ryan wasn’t at work and the four of us were all home for dinner.  We ordered pizza and I looked around the table and was reminded of a quote from a Superman comic that Alan Moore wrote: “His weariness lifts.  The man has his family about him.  He is content.”

What does this have to do with cartooning?  Very little, but this has much to do with the cartoonist.

So, that’s that.

As I said, I drew a lot but not as much as I had thought or hoped.  I thought I’d get more than one page of Uptown Girl in each day, but I stuck with a page day and worked on The Retros at other times.  The Uptown Girl book is the first book where I wrote a rough draft and the scene I’m working on now, a HUGE action sequence that has been building for a while is really taking off.  The draft of this scene was a little more than a paragraph since it was mostly things like “Uptown Girl is chased by ______ and an exciting action scene follows where there is much destruction.  Uptown Girl fights back and is helped by ______ and the day is saved”.  The rough draft then continues with what happens next.  As I got started on this scene while Amy was gone, it was like all the drama in the story was just building and building and like a shaken bottle of soda, this scene is exploding with action.  There’s been a lot of talk, tears, shake ups, laughs and drama over the last 160 pages or so, but this is the first real action scene and I am having a ball drawing it.

Untitled-1Every few pages I’ll draw a character and think to myself that this is the last time I’ll ever draw this person.  Or I’ll be writing a scene and think of a funny joke or moment I could add that will add a few pages that I hadn’t planned (and get a little further behind than I already am) on but knowing that I’ll never have this opportunity again to have that scene, I usually end up adding it.  The point is that I am going all out on this book.  In this action scene, Uptown Girl calls for help as she is in over her head.  After she makes that call, I thought that she can either keep stalling and fleeing until this person shows up, OR that she should really call _______.  That person needs to be in this scene because not only this is the last time I will draw ___________, but this is the last time that ________ and _________ will ever be in the same panel.  So, Uptown Girl calls ___________.  And it’s a funny scene when she does.  It added two extra pages that I hadn’t expected.  When Uptown Girl hangs up, I thought about how this character gets to where the action is going down.  Sure, I could have them walk there off panel and that would be that but then I realized that it would be hilarious if _______ did….something and this character, in turn, needed to ask yet another character for a favor.  Knowing I’d NEVER have this opportunity again, and knowing that this was funny and a much needed humor break from all the character drama that had been happening so far, I knew I should add another funny moment.

So I did.  And again, I added a couple more pages that I hadn’t expected, or “budgeted” for time-wise.  And the ensuing scene that will follow before I get back to the part of the story where I wrote in the draft will add even more pages to the book.  It will be worth it but I am starting to worry about if I am still on pace to this book done before my April 1st deadline.

Ultimately these setbacks are making this into a better book.  I apologize for the vagueness above but I want this book to surprise you.  Trust me, it will be worth it if you’ve been reading Uptown Girl for a while.

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If I Should Fall Behind

Not too long ago I had reached a milestone with drawing the final Uptown Girl book.  I had started penciling and inking it in August 2015 and set myself on a pace to finish 15 pages a month.  15 pages may not seem like a lot but I had to take into account my full time job, The Retros and being a dad so I needed to set a goal that wasn’t unrealistic.  I wasn’t sure I could commit to more than 15 because if I should fall behind and not hit that number each month, I’d either get discouraged or try to rush through a page and produce work that I wasn’t happy with which would also be discouraging.
At any rate, I was happy to hit the 150th page not long ago because 150 paqes is pretty significant and I was at about 2/3 of the way through the book.  But it also meant I was keeping the pace I set for myself.

Well, all that went out the window last month.  Between my job and family life and trying to stay up to date on The Retros, I fell behind.  Not that The Retros takes a higher priority, but The Retros is a series that updates 5 times a week and I need to stay on that schedule.  I am luckily pretty far ahead on it that I am not in danger of missing a deadline but I need to keep it up.  For example:

Page 165 was posted on Friday, July 2nd.

Pages 166-170 are lettered and are ready to be posted for the week.

I have finished coloring up to page 180 and I pace myself to color five pages a week.

I have scanned/Photoshopped up to page 195 and I will letter/color as the weeks progress.

I have penciled and inked up to page 214 and 215/216 should be inked today.

So, I am doing fine and not too concerned about falling behind on The Retros but the past month was nuts and I am not as far ahead as I normally am.  I think the first story arc will wrap up on page 240.  I am trying to make that happen because that would finish a year after the strip launched and I am trying to pace it so each collected book will be a year’s worth of action but…it might go longer than 240 pages.  It easily could.

But back to Uptown Girl.  I finished scanning/Photoshopping/lettering page 159 this morning.  I wanted to be at 165 pages by the end of June and that didn’t happen.  I should be able to get sort of caught up this month as July is looking less crazy than June was.  I knew June was going to be busy but I didn’t think I would get this far behind.  I am not beating myself up too badly though (because it does me no good).  I think it’s because the last few pages have been turning out really well.  So far the book is all about drama and mystery and setting things up.  Now the action has really started and all the energy and tension is just exploding into the action scene I’m drawing.  It’s a lot of fun.  The scene involves a character that is appearing in the series for the final time so I am just letting myself go nuts on the action.  No holds-barred fun.  I was going to post a panel but I think it might give something away so here’s Uptown Girl’s reaction to what’s going down.

OH CRAPI still think I can wrap this book up by the end of the year especially since I thought I needed to redraw the prologue but after looking at it again a few weeks ago I decided that the prologue looks good and I’m happy with it.  How did it go from something I needed to redo to something I am happy with?  Well, I drew the prologue about a year ago and decided to redraw it using a smaller size paper.  I didn’t like the first attempt but I liked the smaller version and thought I would draw the whole book on a smaller scale.  I decided against it and intended to go back and redraw the prologue for the third time.  But after looking at the second/smaller pages I decided to keep them and I am wrapping up the lettering this weekend.  I was very happy that I was able to salvage this scene as it saved me at least a month’s worth of work.  This kind of evened out the discouragement of falling a little behind in June in terms of page productivity.

So yeah.  I realized I probably could have finished another page in the time it took to write about it, but…well, there you have it.


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Let It Go

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve occasionally beat myself up for not getting serious about my art when I was younger.  The theme of wasting time and goofing off and not working hard enough has been a theme that has popped up more often than I probably realize.  I used to believe that this…well, self-hatred might be too strong of a term but let’s go with it, was fueling me and keeping me driven to do great comics now and to work hard and be the best cartoonist possible to maybe make up for lost time.  I’ve lamented that if I had taken this route twenty years ago, I might have a different life and maybe I’d have…oh, I don’t know, a book deal, a comic strip, a cartoon maybe.

I was thinking about this the other day and thought “well, that’s stupid.”  I realized that I don’t need to waste that mental energy hating on myself.  I am driven anyway.  I am committed to doing good comics regardless of whether or not I hating on myself.  I realized that this frustration doesn’t benefit me.  At all.  Not even a little.  So, I need to let it go.

And I did.  It was easy.

I started to think about why I thought I wasted all these years.  I tried to think about just exactly what I was doing over the last two decades and what, exactly, I wasted.

Today I am forty.  Twenty years ago I was living in Alaska.  I moved back the year after.  It was an adventure.  I’ve had a lot of jobs and experiences that shaped me and my work, particularly Uptown Girl.  I drew a lot of pictures and taught myself how to draw by drawing a million horrible drawings.  I fell in love, had my heart broken and fell in love again.  I made a lot of friends.  I got married, had kids and bought a house.  I played video games, read books, got inspired to make comics after reading comics, got in shape, went to Asia and Europe and Iowa, started making comics, met fans who became my friends, submitted a cartoon to Cartoon Network, got rejected by Cartoon Network and dozens of book publishers.  Learned how to not make a children’s book, how not to make a comic book by making a hundred of them, how to make a comic book by making a hundred of them, how to make a graphic novel by making a hundred comic books and how to be a dad.

sophie painting

I did other stuff but that’s the bulk of it.  I think of all the drawing stuff I learned and how it has lead to what I do now and how that work and those lessons learned are paying off with the final Uptown Girl book and The Retros.  I think of the family stuff and being a dad and how that’s the most important part of my life.

I guess looking back it’s hard to think of the last twenty years as wasted time.  I am happy I can live and draw without beating myself up and really enjoy drawing without that voice getting to me.



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It Just Might be a One Shot Deal

Last week I penciled and inked page 150 of Uptown Girl-The Lazarus Heart.  It was a psychological milestone.  I started the first draft of the book in February 2015 and got started on the final draft in August 2015.  I set out to pace myself at 15 inked/scanned/lettered pages a month and I’m happy that I’ve stuck to that schedule.  I wanted to push that up to 20 pages but between The Retros and everything else going on, I decided that the quality would suffer if I pushed myself more.

Here’s an unlettered page 150 just to show some artwork.  I took out the wording to avoid spoilers.


At this point, I a pretty confident I am at 2/3 done with the story.  There are three segments I still need to go back and do (prologue, an action scene and an exposition scene) that need to be drawn and added in, but in terms of the main part of the book I am closer to the end than the beginning.

So, how is the book so far?  Heavy.  Looking back at the other books, each story seems to have a theme.  Humor, action, adventure, mystery,…this book is all about drama.  There’s a lot of dialogue and drama.  Stuff happens, people’s relationships change, shifts to the status quo and all that.  It still FEELS like an Uptown Girl book, though.  If you’re a fan, I assure you that you’ll finish the book and like it.  I’m proud of how it’s going.

Although it’s pretty epic, it doesn’t feel like the end.  I mean, it does, but right now I am so deep into the book as a book that I am not giving much consideration that it’s the LAST book.  Well, that’s not true.  I am ramping up the epicness of it but still remaining true to the characters and the spirit of the book but I also know that if there’s anything I want to explore or do with these characters (in terms of exploring their relationships and dynamics) that this is my chance and I am doing what I can.

That’s not to say I am throwing everything at the wall just to see what sticks.  There’s a lot of stories that I have about these characters that will likely never be told.  I didn’t want to walk away from these characters if I was out of ideas…I feel there’s so much more that can be done with Uptown Girl and her friends but we’ll leave those adventures to our imaginations.

I don’t look back too much but with this book I find myself flipping back and forth between the 150 pages I’ve done for consistency in character designs, couch patterns and things like that.  There is a new supporting cast member that we saw on the page I posted earlier in the post.  He first appears on page 27 and when I looked back the other day I realized his character design has changed quite a bit over the book so far.  Again, here’s an unlettered/spoiler-free page:


So, yeah.  He looks a LOT different.  I am thinking he looks different enough that I should go back and redo some of the earlier panels.

Anyway, that’s where things are with the book so far.  My plan is to keep plowing ahead with the story and once the story is done, go back and add in those three missing sequences and then the epilogue.
When will the book be done?  When the story is finished.  But seriously, I expect to have the book done by the end of the year and at a pace of 15 pages a month, that would be 75 more pages between now and the end of the year.  I think that will bring me very close to the end of the book.  If I need the extra time or pages, I can go a few months into next year but the book HAS to be at the printer by mid-April to be out in time for the release date of May 2017.  I hope I don’t go that close to the deadline but I’ll happily do it if the book needs it.  I have just one shot at doing the final Uptown Girl book and I want to make it as good as possible.


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