“I’m still searching for that wonderful pen line that comes down — when you are drawing Linus standing there, and you start with the pen up near the back of his neck and you bring it down and bring it out, and the pen point fans out a little bit, and you come down here and draw the lines this way for the marks on his sweater and all of that. This is what it’s all about — to get feelings of depth and roundness, and the pen line is the best pen line you can make. That’s what it’s all about. If there’s somebody who is trying to be a cartoonist or thinks he is a cartoonist, and has not discovered the joy of making those perfect pen lines, I think he is robbing himself — or herself — of what it is all about. Because this is what it is! The time you make these wonderful pen lines and make them come alive.”
-Charles Schulz, 1994
I’ve been thinking that quote a lot lately. As I transition from Uptown Girl as my main comics project to The Retros, I am realizing there is a day, and it’s coming soon, that I will stop drawing Uptown Girl and her friends altogether. Right now I am lost in the beginning pages of her new adventure and the final pages seem very far off. I have hundreds of pages to go until the day when her story is over. It hasn’t hit me yet, and it probably won’t for a while. I’ve been drawing these guys for over a decade. Drawing them is second nature to me. In fact, unless it’s a tricky pose, I don’t even pencil them anymore, I just jump right to inking the main three.
As Uptown Girl and her adventures come to end, The Retros are starting their adventures and it’s a whole new cast of characters to draw. Drawing Alie, Fly-Girl, Lucky and Sputnik are all pretty easy, but Zoo is the problem…
Like Sparky said, I am also looking for that perfect line, or sequence of line to get Zoo right. Drawing him is intimidating and often humbling. I ran into a frustrating moment the other day when I drew him for an action sequence. Usually for the Retros I pencil and write three pages at once and ink in any sound effects at this time. I’ll return to the page a few days later to ink and I often forget what I wrote and needed to happen in the panel. Usually this isn’t an issue but sometimes I forget to add in a small but important detail, or something the characters are referring to that I neglect to add in.
For example, without spoiling anything too much, Zoo and Fly-Girl are conducting a raid on the bad guy hideout. Here’s the first attempt of Zoo barging into a room of robots:
Not a bad panel, I still haven’t gotten the hang of Zoo’s hand as you can see here. The problem is I wrote the RRRRRRIP because when I penciled the page I intended to have Zoo ripping off the head of the robot here. But when I inked it, I somehow missed the HUGE sound effect and just drew him barreling into the room.
Not a page that can be saved unless it’s Zoo’s pants that are ripping and although the Comics Code isn’t around to mandate this type of action, we still don’t want to see that.
At this point I thought about chucking this whole comics idea and just dedicate my life to my cubicle. Almost 15 years of drawing comics and I produce this?
But I somehow carried on. I quit for the night and gave it another go in the morning. I think it turned out okay.
Yep, “okay” is the nicest I am going to be to this panel and to myself. Zoo is a monster and very large and doesn’t always fit into the panel size I am working with. It’s not perfect but I think I am moving on from this scene.
I am hoping that as the years progress I can find my perfect groove when it comes to drawing Zoo and the new characters. I just need to keep the pen moving and I need to keep making mistakes and learning from them.