One Hundred Pages Later

I hit a weird little milestone last week that was totally on accident.

My two main projects, Uptown Girl-The Lazarus Heart and The Retros both hit 100 pages last week.

I was very happy to hit 100 pages in The Lazarus Heart.  After I finished drawing and inking the 10 page or so prologue, I decided to write and pencil the rest of the book before I started inking it.  The penciling at first was pretty tight but now it’s gotten much looser, almost to the point where the pages are just layouts.  I figured the book would be about 300 pages and if it turns out to be that long, then I am about a third done.  I’d like to be at 200 pages by the end of July and done with writing and layouts by October.  I think I am track.

The writing is going well.  Some stuff has happened and is going to open up some fun moments like Rocketman’s new roommate.  The roommate thing wasn’t really planned and just kind of happened.  I needed him to start hanging out with someone to help move the plot along but by having this person move in with Rocketman it solved another problem.  I love it when stuff like that happens.

For the most part, the book is going well.  My only snag so far is the bad guy.  I’m having a hard time with the bad guy’s motivation and logistics and reasoning.  I am hoping it becomes clearer as the story goes.  There will also likely be some additional rewrites and editing.

I thought about scanning in a recent page but the pencils are so light as it is that it wouldn’t be a very interesting picture.  I also thought about showing page 100 of the Retros but the page doesn’t make much sense out of context and is sort of spoiler-y, so here’s another page.

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This is Alie, our fearless leader in an epic fight with Volcanix, the main bad guy.

It’s pretty exciting to be this far ahead on the Retros.  I plan on updating Monday through Friday for the first year and then seeing how I’m doing after that.  I will be collecting the comic into book collections, but the problem is when do I do it.  I look at the Retros as a continuing series with story arcs numbering hundreds of pages.  I think the first story will be around 350 pages.  If I update five times a week, that’s 20 pages a month.  It will take almost a year a half until the story is completed.  The Retros launches in November and if I wait that long, the first collection won’t be out until spring 2017.  I don’t think I want to wait that long to publish it.  At the rate I’m going, I’ll probably be done with the 350 pages next summer.  The first printed book could be out in the fall of 2016.  If I do that, then the ending is out before the website catches up.

But that might not be a problem.  I don’t necessarily think the book audience will be the same audience as those who reads the Retros online.

I haven’t decided yet, but I think I will be publishing the books as they are finished and letting the website post as scheduled.  Any thoughts would be welcome, this is a new world for me.

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Cartoon Heroes

Okay, last week I said there would be a pretty big announcement about something.  And it’s true!

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A few months ago, I let the cat out of the bag about a new comic called The Retros.  Originally scheduled to launch in January 2016 with my friend Brian Bastian writing the series.  A couple changes since then, and it will now be a solo act by myself starting this November.  I’ve been really excited about the comic and can’t wait for people to read it.  It’s a little different than what I’ve been doing with Uptown Girl.  It’s looser, the character designs are a little more cartooney and the stories will be less grounded in reality.  I started a Twitter account in January where I’ve been posting daily pictures of pages in progress, character designs and stuff like that.  When I am working on something I am excited about, it’s hard for me to stop talking about it…especially when I can’t talk about something.

Anyway, the news is that in addition to the Retros launching as a webcomic, it will also be an animated webseries!

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The webseries will exist alongside the comic and will be short 3-5 minute episodes that will be posted on a regular schedule.  The schedule as well as when the series will debut is still being worked out.

The webseries will be animated by Brian Quarfoth, one of the animators who worked on the animation that was part of the Uptown Girl movie a few years ago.  Brian Q and I, along with Brian Bastian and another friend, Jerry did our best to make an animated Uptown Girl series a few years ago as well but didn’t really go anywhere, and for that, I take the blame.

But that is all behind us.  There was never any bad blood, just four guys who wanted to make a cartoon but had no idea what we were doing.  Since then, Brian Q has done a lot of animating and I’ve done a lot of cartooning and…well, calming down.

The webseries is is still very much in the early days.  I’ve seen a lot of test footage and I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.  It looks amazing.  Now that the series has been announced, Brian Q and I will be posting screenshots and other fun stuff on the blog as well as the new Retros Facebook page.  Go Like it or Follow it or whatever.  I can wait.

This is all very exciting to Brian and I.  I really feel we’re building something really amazing and that we’re doing this the right way.  I am well over 100 pages of comics for the Retros.  I plan on updating daily, Monday through Friday, for the first year.  After that, we’ll see, it might go to three times a week.

Here’s more screen shots and character designs.  I do want to point out that although The Retros were created by me, Fly-Girl was co-created by Brian Bastian.  Thanks for reading and stay tuned.  I was going to say ‘stay tooned’ but…well, I didn’t.

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At War with Reality

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day.  Did you go?  You did?  Good!

Brian Bastian, his brother Dan Voltz and I were guests at Jimmy Jams yesterday.  It  was a lot of fun.  I’ve never been to Winona before and I really had a nice time.  I did a lot of drawings and met some really nice people.

It’s been a while since my last signing and I learned a little about my art style since then.  Well, maybe not learn anything, but rather embrace my strengths and stop drawing in a style I am not comfortable with.  At the last event, kids would ask for drawings of Optimus Prime, or Disney Princesses or Iron Man and I would do my best to draw a somewhat realistic version of them.  The drawings didn’t look good.  I decided that I am a cartoonist and realism doesn’t work for me (on a lot of levels).  I struggle with drawing realistically.  I always have.  I’m drawn (ha ha) to more stylistic cartoonists.  So, I decided I’d stick to what I do best and draw a lot simpler and play to my strengths a bit.  Doing that was the right choice, the drawings were better and I had a lot more fun.

Here’s some of what I did:

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It was a fun day and it went by too quickly.

Coming up in two weeks, MSP Comic Con.

Coming up in one week, big news so stay tooned tuned.

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Hey Kid, to the Back of the Line

It used to be whenever April rolled around, my busy year would start.  April was usually the month when the comic convention season would begin.  I would do a lot of summer drawing classes and was constantly on the go.  But since I took myself out of the grind a few years ago, I find myself doing less events than I used to do.  I foolishly thought I’d be able to jump back into the moderate fame (?) I had before I took my sort-of-sabbatical.

Just to clarify, I was not famous by any means, but I did occasional interviews in the paper, I was featured in a few comic websites and my comic sold pretty decently.  I wasn’t on my way, I was…on my way to being on my way.

I read a comic a few weeks ago where the cartoonist talked about being an indie comic artist.  She talked about how it took a while to get some recognition and success, almost like waiting in line, but if you step away from that line, you don’t get to come back to where you were.  You start over.  That’s where I am.  Having to start over is a little frustrating but it’s also giving me a chance to step back and think about this whole cartoonist thing with some perspective and experience.  I do wish I had moved to doing graphic novels with Uptown Girl before I did instead of doing a monthly comic for as long as I did.  I wish I had made Uptown Girl a webcomic.  I wish I had focused on quality instead of a monthly deadline.

But I digress.  Having a monthly printed comic really created a lot of momentum and energy and kept me motivated and excited.  It gave me a lot of opportunities to create lots of different stories.  Most importantly, I learned how to make comics.  And because of that, I’ve no regrets.

But having learned as much as I did, I can take those lessons and apply them to The Incredible Retros.  The Retros will launch as a webcomic with printed collections to follow.  Taking a cue from a lot of other cartoonists, I’ve set up a Twitter account where I’ve been posting daily sketches and work in progress.  The social media stuff is the biggest new world for me.  I am not a huge fan of it and I don’t really know what works in terms of promoting my work but I need to learn this stuff and I am sort of figuring it out.

Anyway, three quick things:

promoThe Retros will launch on Monday, November 16th, 2015.  A few weeks earlier than I had planned but I decided The Retros is a birthday present to myself.  I turn 40 that day and I’d like to give myself something to look forward to.

The second thing is a progress report on the next Uptown Girl book ‘The Lazarus Heart’.  I had started the book on February 1st and work was going slowly and had a few setbacks early on.  I was getting pretty frustrated and decided to change up the process a bit.  When Uptown Girl was a monthly comic, I would write/pencil the comic and then ink it.  I didn’t work from a full script, just an outline.  When Brian wrote the first Uptown Girl book, I’d pencil a page and then ink it, which was a little different than how I normally worked.  It helped me stay paced with finishing the book.  I kept that approach with the other big Uptown Girl book, ‘The Long Forgotten Fairytale’ except I wrote that one.  Again, I wasn’t working from a full script, just an outline.  Working that way led to some problems.  ‘The Lazarus Heart’ will probably the biggest book yet and I want to get the story right and keep the momentum up.  I decided to go back to my old method and write/pencil the book before inking it.  The story moves fast and this way I am able to keep the energy up and keep the story moving and focused.  I’m up to fifty pages penciled and it’s going really, really well.  I am really excited about the book and that makes me happy.  I want to love what I am working on, and I love this.  I’m surprised at some of the little moments and how some of the big moments are connecting or how they will.  It’s going great.  Ideally I’d like to have the whole thing penciled by the fall and star inking it by the end of the year.  I think it’s still on track for a 2017 release.

And finally Brian and I (along with come other comic people) will be at Jimmy Jams in Winona on Saturday, May 2nd for Free Comic Book Day.  We’ll have copies of a Fly-Girl mini-comic and I’m sure we’ll be very entertaining.  See you there!

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Changes

Okay, first of all, the new Uptown Girl book, Imitation of Life is done.  And I mean DONE.  There’s a box of the completed book in my garage.  They will go on sale on May 16th at SpringCon.

Imitation of Life is a collection of short stories with much variety, as demonstrated by my daughter Sophie, age 7:

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Some stories are funny…

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…some are sad…

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…others are exciting…

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…and some…might be kind of boring.

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I am very glad the book is done and it’s on my bookshelf.  I am working on the next one (The Lazarus Heart) and I imagine it will be even more taxing as the others.  This one if a big one.  I was pretty intimidated by the scope of The Lazarus Heart and was very happy when Brian Bastian, the writer of the first Uptown Girl graphic novel ‘Big City Mysteries’, said he’d write it.  But he withdrew from the project and I am scrambling a bit to write it.  I am not much of a writer and when I wrote ‘A Long Forgotten Fairytale’, the Uptown Girl book that came out last year I was running into plot holes and other challenges.  The book was close to 300 pages and I promised I’d never write anything that long myself…but here I am.

I decided to go another route this time and instead of working from an outline and writing/penciling/inking a page a day, I decided to write and pencil the whole thing before I started inking.  This change will help with the focus, energy and momentum.  It’s going well so far, I am close to 30 pages and at this pace I should hopefully be done with it by the fall.  Inking will probably take over a year and,  God willing, the book will be out in 2017.

The other change I made was bumping up the launch of The Retros, my new webcomic to November of this year.  It was scheduled for January 2016 but…I moved it up.  Yeah.

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Wrapped up in Books

imagesIt sometimes hits me how much of my life is consumed by books.  Whether it is a book I am reading (currently ‘The Devil in the White City’ by Erik Larson), the book(s) I am working on (Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart and The Retros v. 1), the books I want to work on or the books I’ve already finished, it seems that books are one of the most important things in my life.  Of course, there is also accumulating books, buying comic books or trying to figure out where I am going to put all these books.

Could be worse, I suppose.

3This past week I received the proof for Uptown Girl – Imitation of Life.  It looks great, the printer did an amazing job and looks better than I thought possible thanks to Ben’s brilliant cover work.  I haven’t had a chance to go through it and make sure it’s all in the right order but I’m getting to that this week.

The other thing I’m working on is a Retros minicomic one-shot featuring Fly-Girl for Free Comic Book Day.  I haven’t done a minicomic in like…five years so it’s weird to be back at Kinko’s gluesticking pages to paper and making hundreds of copies.

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Anyway, as for The Lazarus Heart, I just finished inking the prologue, which was about 20 pages.  The prologue was not a lot of fun to draw and it really challenged me.  I’m glad to be done with it and excited to work on the next part of the story.  Unfortunately Brian had to drop out of writing the book so I am going to be taking over.  I’ll be using bits and pieces of what he wrote.  This will slow down the book a bit but I don’t expect it to be delayed beyond what I already expected.

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Girl Who Could Fly

Early in my comics career I did a lot of events.  I did a lot of conventions, I gave a lot of lectures at libraries and colleges about comics, I did signings and taught comic classes.  It was a lot of fun.  I think my favorite thing was participating in Free Comic Book Day.  Most of the FCBD events I did were at Jimmy Jams Comics and Games.

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Here’s cartoonist David Tea and I in front of Mark’s store. This was in 2002, I think.

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An action shot of me doing nothing while cartoonist Albert Nguyen draws.

Brian and I did about four FCBD events at the now closed Rochester store.  I think the last one we did was in 2005?  Once the Rochester store closed FCBD was always kind of bittersweet.  I loved the event but really missed Mark and his store.  Thank goodness I’m still friends with Mark and his wife, Susan.

Jimmy Jams still has a location in Winona and the owner purchased another comic store in La Crosse, Wisconsin a little while back.  He invited Brian and his brother Dan and I to a signing last October.  It was a lot of fun.    I hadn’t done a lot of signings and lectures for a while…I took myself out of a lot of events after a few years and once my daughter was born.  I was burnt out and needed a break and wanted to focus on my comics.  This was a bad decision, in retrospect.  I was a fairly well know cartoonist in the Twin Cities thanks in part to my constant promoting and appearances.  I quickly slipped into obscurity and will likely never be as “famous” as I once was.  It was the right choice at the time but when I decided to get back into the game I realized that I was an unknown once again.  I made the realization that *I* will never be a famous cartoonist, but perhaps I could create something that is popular.  I used to have dreams of being a freelance artists and doing magazine covers for local publications or spot illustrations for the newspaper.  That’s not going to happen.  I wish I had time to promote myself as a freelancer and build a portfolio but I choose to spend my drawing time working on Uptown Girl and The Retros.

Anyway, at the October signing Mark asked if Brian, Dan and I wanted to do FCBD in 2015.  I haven’t done a FCBD in a very long time so I’m looking forward to it.  Usually at these events Brian and I would create something new to give away.  We thought it’d be fun to “remaster” a one-shot we did about ten years ago starring Fly-Girl of The Retros.

FlyGirl PBFly-Girl was the first character we can honestly say we created together.  Brian and I really liked her and had big plans for her but ended up creating only one comic with her in it.  As we started to work on the Retros we both felt there was something missing from it.  The early days of the Retros had a constantly changing cast of characters but the roster never seemed right.  Eventually one of us suggested adding Fly-Girl to the team and the other one of us said no.  Then a while later the other one of us suggested adding her again and presto, she was on the team.  Adding her to the team was really the moment we felt that the team was complete.  She was the final piece of the puzzle and really got us excited to work on the project.

I drew the one-shot about ten years ago and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.  I know I have a copy somewhere in the house but I haven’t a clue as to where.  Brian dug out his copy and I got to work.  The one-shot was drawn mini-comics style.  Splash pages, different layouts and varying panel sizes.  In order to be consistent with The Retros format (each page having a four panel grid layout) I decided to redraw it in that same layout.  Taking a 16 page comic and changing it to a 12 page, four panel layout wasn’t easy but I think it looks okay.

Here’s an exciting action sequence from the first comic compared to the new version:

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Yeah.  I like how this is turning out.

I’m looking forward to May 2nd!  And then MSP Comic-Con is two weeks later with the release of the next Uptown Girl book!  I’ll talk more about that next week.

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