Years ago, I would draw random things all the time. As Uptown Girl and her friends and her world started to form, I drew and doodled less unless I was designing characters for the comic. Drawing comics soon took over my doodling energy. It makes sense but just letting your mind tune out for a moment and letting your pencil just create is very fun and exciting and I missed it. I can’t tell you how many characters in Uptown Girl, and now the Retros exist because I started letting my mind and pencil wander.
When I do this, I start to wonder who the character is, what their personality is like, and sometimes why they look the way they do. If the character becomes a little more real they can often work their way into a bigger project. Rocketman, for example, was originally a scientist, believe it or not. ‘Uptown Girl’ was originally going to be about a weird mash up of ‘Optic Nerve’ by Adrian Tomine and ‘Tank Girl’ by Jamie Hewelett, two indie comics I really liked when I started to draw comics. Uptown Girl would have a normal life with a splash of slice of life (this was the part inspired by ‘Optic Nerve’) but with the occasional robot or whatever showing up to destroy or invade Minneapolis (obviously this was the ‘Tank Girl’ part). When I started to design the cast, Rocketman was going to be the scientist who would help Uptown Girl create…stuff that would help her fight aliens or whatnot. I started to draw Rocketman testing his equipment and there was a sketch of him on roller skates with a rocket strapped to his back…not a smart thing to do. By the time he showed up in the comic, he was still the type to put on skates with a rocket strapped to him but it was now because he was…well, not smart as opposed to him testing out new equipment.
Anyway, I am starting to doodle more. Two reasons are contributing to this. I draw with my 7 year old daughter a lot. Sophie and I will sit down and just draw characters, people and animals. Sometimes we draw little comics about them and talk about what the character is like. Doing this gets that creative itch going again. I realize I miss creating new characters and exploring different type of storytelling and styles. There are so many ways to tell a story. I doubt I will ever do a comic book again after Uptown Girl’s series is done, which is why I am doing The Retros in a comic strip format.
The other reason is that with ‘Uptown Girl’ wrapping up (almost to page 50 on the final book) I am started to explore new projects for once the book is completed. Not only with new characters but with different styles, art materials and format. Since most of my comics output has been in black and white and in the comic book panel format, I am starting to play with color and really just opening up the page. One format I am really digging lately is the Sunday comics format. I look at the Sunday strips from Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts and Mutts and I love how bright and colorful and huge these strips can get. I started to wonder what it would be like to do an entire book in this format.
A few months ago, I drew a picture for Sophie when she was at a sleepover. I missed her and I drew this:
I like the way this turned out. I love the color (Copic marker), I love the little details and I like the horizontal layout. There was a story…or the beginning of a story I had in mind when I did this. I thought about why the fairy was visiting the girl and what would happen next. The more I thought about this scene, the more the picture’s world opened up to me. As I let my mind wander, my thoughts drifted back to another character I had drawn about a year and a half ago named Cecilia.
Cecilia was inspired by all the walks Sophie and I take in the woods right outside my house. There’s a paved path, but also countless other trails we can explore there. There’s two small lakes, a billion trees and we often see deer, turkeys and other animals. The other day I saw a coyote and a fox running around the neighborhood. Sophie and I started to talk about the goblins who lived in the woods (they’re not real, I didn’t see those) and we would blame them for whenever a tree was knocked over. I wondered what it would be like if it was Sophie’s job to get rid of the nasty creatures in the forest. I drew up a couple pictures and showed Sophie the designs. I asked her if I should make a book about her and…she just shrugged and didn’t really saw much about it. I didn’t think too much about Cecilia after that until I did the fairy drawing.
I found a way to kind of mash up the two ideas….AND bring back an idea I had years ago about a troop of scouts who earned merit badges for fighting mummies and other creatures. Soon all three concepts became one and I started to think about this new…book? Series? Opera? and how what to do with it.
So I did something I rarely do, I did drawings for a fictional pitch. I sort of tasked myself with creating concept drawings and some text as if I was asked by Disney or Cartoon Network or a publisher to pitch a new book series or cartoon. I did some drawings, showed them to Sophie who gave me her approval for the characters and the story. She even named one of the characters. I played around with a cheap watercolor set and had a lot of fun.
I don’t want to reveal too much quite yet about the book because I am still working on the idea but if I do anything with this, it would likely be told in the Sunday comic format. Big, colorful pages that are fun to create and hopefully fun to look at it.
Here’s the concept art I did. I’m excited to hear what other people think.
I might start throwing new stuff out to you guys over the next year or so and see what you like and what you think I should work on after ‘Uptown Girl’ is wrapped up.