Old Friends

In 1982, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel attempted to record a new studio album.  They had done reunion concerts here and there but this would have been the first new album since they broke up in 1970.  The recording sessions did not go well and the project was never completed as intended.  The story goes that Simon erased Garfunkel’s contributions and released the album as a solo album titled ‘Hearts and Bones’.

Collaborations are difficult.  When there are two creative people working on something they are both passionate about, they tend to have ideas as to how things should go.  I don’t team up with others often, but I’ve always felt that I’ve done my strongest work with my friend Brian Bastian.  We’ve known each other for over 20 years and have done dozens of comics together.  We did about…20 issues of Uptown Girl, a few other one-shots, 12 issues of Tommy Chicago and he wrote the first Uptown Girl graphic novel.

We were both excited to work on The Retros together.  This was going to be a fun comic but for various reasons, Brian left the project.  We’re still great friends, but I think Brian just…wasn’t feeling it.  And that’s cool.  The Retros will still continue and I am still very excited to launch it this November.

The problem is what happens with what we’ve already created.  We had the “legal talk” which is a necessary but unpleasant conversation.  If The Retros ever got picked by Cartoon Network or whatever (yes, I’m dreaming here) Brian and I need to make sure that there will not be any hard feelings or legal action.  But Brian and I were friends first, before we ever did comics together, and will be after I turn 80 and I’ve given up on all this.  Neither of us wants to turn into Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Working with Brian was…well, it was a lot of fun.  Brian brings something to a project that I never would’ve thought of or would’ve done.  We worked in a style that is commonly referred to ‘The Marvel Method’.  For example, Brian would give me an outline that would go something like this:

Red is on a field trip at an art museum and a big angry guy starts smashing up the place.  Red ducks away from the group and changes into Fly-Girl  and fights him.

And so on.

I would draw the sequence and lay out the word balloons.  After a few dozen pages he would come over and he’d write the dialogue.  It was fun seeing what Brian would come with and seeing what he’d react to.  In another scene he wrote that Lucky was spying on some smugglers at a warehouse.  Here’s what I drew:


Now, if I was writing the dialogue, it’d be something kind of generic and cliched, but Brian really liked the third panel, especially the mustached guy and just ran with it.  Here’s what he wrote:


I think this page, and the pages that follow are hilarious.  Definitely want to keep these pages as they are.  It’s a sequence like this that really bums me out about not working with Brian on this.  The big story arcs and the big picture I can handle but it’s the little stuff like this I can never do.

Another thing Brian does is bring a certain…well, edge to what I do.  The first comic we ever did together (that actually was released) was Uptown Girl #9, which introduced Sulky Girl, who has gone on to become a favorite supporting cast member.  Sulky Girl is the anti-Uptown Girl, Brian’s response to the overly optimistic and good-natured spirit of the comic.  Sulky Girl is not a character I could’ve, or would’ve created.  Brian doesn’t really push the envelope but he pushes mine.  He brought The Retros from what I saw as a pretty hard PG world to a PG-13 world.

For example:

samplesample 2

Two panels that are hilarious and perfect for Lucky’s character.  Sure, they’re not super racy or anything, but neither panel is a panel I would’ve written.  The dilemma now is keeping these panels as they are.  I don’t want to pull a Paul Simon and erase what Brian contributed, but on the other hand, with me writing everything, the comic will settle back into a PG world.  These panels would stick out, like the way an F-bomb would stick out in a Disney movie.

So, I am not sure what I will do.  My guess is I will rewrite these lines, and if I do, I want to make sure his original, funnier lines had a chance to be seen.


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