This picture is from two weeks ago when I did a Q&A/signing with many other fantastic local cartoonists at Barnes and Noble. My lovely daughter Sophie is standing next to a sign promoting the event. She is happy to have her picture taken because she is very excited about showing off her new shark tooth necklace.
To say the event was moderately attended would be generous. It was pretty dead. It was pretty humbling, to say the least. I was pretty nervous and conflicted about this signing, but still excited about it. A few months ago I blogged about ‘making a comeback’ on the local comics scene and thought this would be a good event to get back out there and see if people still…ah, liked me, I guess. I used to do events like this quite often and were usually pretty successful. Successful as in “people showed up”. I was interested to see if people would show up. They mostly didn’t. I sulked about the event for most of the weekend, sitting in the basement, wearing black clothes, listening to the Cure and writing in my journal about how no one understands me. My wife was pretty awesome when it came to talking me out of my mood. Here’s the thing: when someone tries to cheer you up you can listen to them and let them bring you out of your current mood or you can linger there. She said it was a pretty nice day, there wasn’t a lot of time to promote the event and considering the other talented people at the event (freaking Eisner-nominated Zander Cannon!) it was still a pretty sparsely attended signing. People weren’t specifically ignoring me, there were ignoring all of us. So that cheered me up, if that makes sense.
As a writer, you should write for yourself. Write what you want to write. And I agree with that. But I think you also need to keep your audience in mind. I can absolutely tell you that many stories were shaped the way they were with my readers in mind. When I sat down the day after the “event” I asked myself what kind of Uptown Girl story would I write if no one read it? I started at the blank page for a while thinking about that. At the time I was (and still am) working on a story called “Learning How to Smile”. I knew what the next scene would be and I started to write it in a little more…well, I don’t want to say darker but a little more honest. I wasn’t pulling any punches or softening it at all. Without giving too much away, Ruby is talking about something that is happening in her life. I could have easily written the scene without the emotional depth and detail that I did, but this felt….well, it felt right. It really captured the complexities and the conflicting emotions of Ruby’s situation. It still fits within the world of Uptown Girl, but it’s a little weird to write this scene when only a couple weeks ago I drew a comic with Uptown Girl getting chased by a dinosaur.
Anyway, as you can probably imagine, the story I am working on doesn’t have a lot of action in it, just a lot of talking, as seen in the picture above. Drawing a story that is built on dialogue is a challenge. It needs to be visually interesting to keep the reader’s attention, but careful not to be distracting. The story also needs to be interesting to draw. Too many pages like the above page get boring really fast.