Last week I worked on Uptown Girl and The Retros. It is a little unusual to have two comics projects going at the same time. It feels a little like…dating, I suppose, drawing two different comics. Comics-wise, I’ve done almost nothing but Uptown Girl for over ten years. I’ve done two one-shots (one starring now Retros team member Fly-Girl, and the other based on my brother-in-law rock star called ‘Time Avenger’. Both of these one-shots were written by Brian Bastian, who also wrote the other comics project I did besides Uptown Girl in the last ten years, a 12 issue series called ‘Tommy Chicago’.
I’m not used to having two projects that have equal weight in terms of deadline and productivity. But I suppose Uptown Girl will always edge everything else out, even slightly. When I did have other comics projects going besides Uptown Girl I found myself getting a little burnt out, especially during most of that ten years I was on a monthly schedule for Uptown Girl. I’ve wanted to do a second comic for a little while now, once it was clear Uptown Girl wasn’t ever going to be a hit animated series or achieve Scott Pilgrim-like success. Make no question about it, I love Uptown Girl, I love comics, I love drawing, but man, the dream is to make a living off of my comics. I decided it was time to add another project onto the pile. Maybe something else could take off, perhaps? I’ve done as much as I can with Uptown Girl…I’ve talked to movie agents, animation studios, dozens of comic book publishers…even Cartoon Network but Uptown Girl is, and will forever be a labor of love that is read by a few dozen people. In it’s heyday there was more potential, and looking back there were things I should’ve done differently and would do another way if I could go back, but that’s not possible. I was younger then, I had more time, I was single and childless. Perhaps I was more optimistic? Naive? At any rate, it’s time to create something new, a new dream, but I had no interest in doing two comic books, I wanted to other projects if there were different from Uptown Girl, so I suppose that’s why I’ve dabbled in children’s books off and on over the last few years. A children’s book takes a lot of time commitment and since Uptown Girl came first in terms of creative projects I didn’t have time to work on one. Having a self-imposed deadline also is attractive to me as it really pushes productivity, which is helpful when life offers other distractions. Doing a monthly comic really helped with quantity but not quality. Releasing a new Uptown Girl graphic novel annually was ideal. I had a whole year to do a 250/300 page book which gave me time to make the book look as good as I possibly could, but it also gave me a deadline.
At any rate, The Retros is the perfect other comic. It’s very different from Uptown Girl since it’s a team book, more science fiction-y, and a four panel layout as opposed to Uptown Girl’s anything goes layout. Uptown Girl can get away with multiple pages in a row of Uptown Girl and Ruby chatting and walking through a mall, but the Retros is all about action and exposition while fighting a robot King Tut. Uptown Girl can work with a few panels in a row that look similar if the emphasis of the scene is what is being said, as opposed to what is happening. But with only four panels per page, I don’t have that luxury of space/time so it forces me to re-think a page or a scene. Each panel in The Retros has to count. Sometimes the Uptown Girl stories I like the best are her just doing every day stuff so I can take a more leisurely approach to a page but each panel in the Retros has to have exposition or explosions or action or something to move the story along. I am going to set myself a deadline/schedule for The Retros since it will be a webcomic (launching January 2016 I hope), and I am flirting with the idea of a daily comic (Monday through Friday schedule). It might be more than I can handle but I am over 75 pages of the series so far so I am pretty far ahead. It’s also a comic that I think could get a way with being daily in terms of content. Each page is part of a larger story and some pages are just a fight scene which is fine in terms of a 300 page book, but doesn’t really work when you have to wait 2-3 days to read what happens next.
Anyway, an example of the leisurely pace that Uptown Girl can do that the Retros can’t pops up in Uptown Girl ‘Big City Secrets’, she and Rocketman are discussing an exciting event that happened but Rocketman interrupts her:
Yep, right in the middle of moving the story along we have a conversation about tea. I love this page, I love this moment. It exemplifies the characters perfectly. It is a quintessential Uptown Girl moment. I can’t imagine this scene working in The Retros. This page really shows how different the two comics are which allows me to stay excited about both projects.
Anyway, accountability update. I know I’ve been quiet on the ol’ blog often, but I promise I am working. Uptown Girl-Imitation of Life is all proofread and corrected, I am finishing the back cover of the book today and should be at the printer by the end of the month. I am up to ten pages of the next Uptown Girl book, ‘The Lazarus Heart’ and all ten pages are scanned and cleaned up in Photoshop.