Do the Evolution

I published ‘Uptown Girl’ each month as a mini comic for 6 years. Each year I also had several specials or bonus issues.  In short, I made a lot of comics and I didn’t always have time to slow down.   The early days were also fueled by sheer momentum and I just drew and drew and didn’t worry too much about how the comic looked. Looking back on those days I realized how much I was learning.

Ending the comic and focusing on graphic novels gave me a chance to slow down.  Instead of cranking out 15 pages a week, I’m lucky if I finish 5 pages a week.  I draw for about an hour each night and I really take my time.  I am not happy anymore with pages or panels that are simply “good enough”.  I will redraw panels and pages if I know I can do better.  Sometimes I’ll redo something based on the background, body language, or it just doesn’t look right.

For example, there’s a story on http://www.uptowngirlcomic.com titled “Waiting For Pizza”.  The first page looks like this:

I really like this page.  I like the shadows, the crosshatching, Rocketman vegging out playing video games, ordering pizza.  The original page was much more boring.  This is how the page was supposed to look:

Ugh.  So boring.  If I had bothered to finish it the page would be just panels of Rocketman talking.  And that word balloon in the third panel really bugged me.  I started to think about how to make the page look more interesting and I thought about what Rocketman was doing besides ordering pizza.  I decided he was probably just chilling out, playing video games and having another dateless evening.  So why not draw that?  I redid the page and I’m very happy I did.

Right now I am working on a story that I am referring to as my “anti-recycling” story.  It’s not really against recycling, but more about how “going green” is so…trendy.  And of course, trends don’t always stick around.  Anyway, the part of the story that I am writing and drawing now needs to have Uptown Girl and Ruby walk by Rocketman’s apartment.  So I originally drew them going for a stroll and find themselves near his place.  The page originally looked like this:

Of course, I would have finished the top panel instead of Uptown Girl talking to a bored ghost.  But there are a lot of problems with this page.  Ruby’s body language in the third panel, her left arm is too think in the fourth panel, and the background is as boring as it gets.  If I have a scene that takes place outside my backgrounds usually consist of fences, bushes and trees.  Boring.

The top panel was originally this:

The chain link fence has too heavy of a line weight, it doesn’t interact well with Uptown Girl and that tree is atrocious.  Once I started inking the tree I knew I’d scrap the panel.  In a final go for broke move I tried coloring the leaves all black to see if I could save the panel but no such luck.  But in a lot of ways, I am happy when I have to redraw a panel that I don’t love.

I know I could redraw the page and come up with something that looked good, even if it was boring to look at.  But that fell into the “good enough” thinking.  So I redrew the entire page and changed the setting and I think it turned out much better.  I still need to fix the lettering in Photoshop.

I still need to have them go to Rocketman’s but with changing the scene I thought of a new way to get them there.  Sometimes simply changing the background opens up new story possibilities that you wouldn’t have thought up otherwise.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Do the Evolution

  1. Great stuff, Bob! I agree, the second version of the Rocketman page was better….it establishes the whole situation in one graphic without having to go into any extra detail/dialogue. The detail looks great, as well as the wording. You said you use PhotoShop for that? If you’re not too busy, could you shoot me an e-mail and mention how you do that? I’ve been trying to figure that out myself.

    The other page looks great too! You are right, the chain-link fence in the fist idea does detract a bit, especially since it’s mostly “set dressing” for the story.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    • Hey Jon,
      I write the dialogue into the balloon so I have a reference for spacing and balloon size, then I scan it in and erase the written dialogue and just reletter it using photoshop. I had a hard time finding a font I liked but settled on one.
      I’m not a fan of using computer lettering as it’s hard to find a font that looks organic but I don’t think I had choice.

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