As Uptown Girl nears the end, I can’t help but think about what my world will be like after I’ve drawn, inked, scanned and lettered the last page. I can only imagine how weird it’s going to be to sit down at my desk and for the first time time in over 12 years, not work on an Uptown Girl story. Sure, I’m excited about other projects, but I can’t even think about what an Uptown Girl-less world will be like.
As ‘The Lazarus Heart’ heads towards the end (up to page 169 as of this morning), it’s time to start the early stages of what I will do next. In deciding what I wanted to, I felt like I had a lot of different options and it was exciting but instead of thinking of what I wanted to work on, I shifted my thought process to HOW I wanted to work. I knew right away I did not want to do another series or even another graphic novel, especially a graphic novel that could turn into a series. That seems to be an issue with me. I can create a character and soon I have ideas for four different books for them and I want to do all of them. That happened with The Retros, actually. I have the next 5 years/storylines planned out and I am excited to do them. And I will! Once I think of what I want to do with a character/cast, I am determined to see it all the way through.
Actually, this is what happened with Uptown Girl. After I started the first Uptown Girl graphic novel, I thought about what kind of stories I wanted to do. I eventually mapped out the next few books and the story for ‘The Lazarus Heart’ was always part of the plan. I wasn’t going to think about what happened after ‘The Lazarus Heart’ until I was working on it as the planned books seemed like enough to do. It just turned out to be a perfect place to walk away. Perhaps if I decided what the next book would be all those years ago, I’d be continuing the series. Of course, this is not to say that the Retros will end in five years. There’s a lot I want to do with those guys.
Anyway, I decided on how I was going to work. Besides not jumping into another huge project, I knew I wanted to collaborate with other talented, creative people. I also wanted to not write anything too big and to focus on drawing. I knew whatever I would do, it would be a logical and fun step towards making a living off my art (it’s a long shot but that’s okay). I think I’ve all but set aside any plan to write and draw a children’s book for now. I have a few ideas for them but I am not a writer. The ideas I have for picture books seem too…weak and boring. I know I can and do draw better than what I typically post online, so my strength is art and it’s probably a good idea to let someone else write and I can stick to the illustrations.
I have, after months of thinking about it, decided on three projects that I will be taking on once Uptown Girl has walked off into the sunset. Two of them are collaborations and I’ll be talking about those projects soon, but the third is a solo thing. The solo project is a Fly-Girl comic strip. Fly-Girl is the newest member of my webcomic, The Retros. I know I said I didn’t want to write anything or start a new series but this is not going to be an ongoing thing, at least not to start. Fly-Girl was created by my friend Brian Bastian and I about ten years ago. In our minds, we always had her world established and her character and personality pretty much set. Once we put her into the future and she joined The Retros, she left a lot of that behind. I knew I wanted to do more with her, but as a member of a team, I know I can’t focus on her too much but I do want to write about her more. The idea of the comic strip is to focus on her adventures before she was transported to the year 2438. I can avoid any continuity issues and readers do not have to read both series to follow her adventures solo or as part of the team. This is going to give me a chance to do stories about her in high school, crappy part-time jobs and all that. A chance to tell stories about the girl behind the mask. Stuff that doesn’t seem to fit in the action packed adventures of The Retros.
However, this is not going to be an on going series by any means. Unless I get really, really lucky. No, the plan for a post-Uptown Girl world is to work on stuff where I can submit to publishers and agents in an effort to make a living off my art. What I plan on doing with Fly-Girl is to create a solid submission package to shop to different newspaper comic strip syndicates. I’ve never been rejected by one of those before, so it’ll be a new thing for me. Most syndicates want to see about 24-30 strips so get a feel for the art and the characters. My plan is do enough daily strips and shop them to publishers. If I get lucky and get picked up, then it will be an ongoing thing, but the way I see it, this is a project that will maybe take 2-3 months to create 24-30 really solid daily strips and spend the next months sending them out and waiting for rejection letters.
Despite expecting rejection letters, I am actually very excited and optimistic about this. I feel that after over 200 Retros strips I’ve really nailed the timing a four panel strip requires. Also working in a pretty small panel size has really pushed me to making the most of that space and laying out my art. But my writing is where I feel the most confident. I think I can do a really acceptable job of telling a larger story one four panel sequence at a time. The Fly-Girl comic strip will be an adventure comic with a bigger focus on humor than The Retros. I know The Retros is funny at times (at least I hope it is) but this will be even more so.
I am inspired by older adventure strips from the 30’s and 40’s, but also the Spider-Man comic strip that John Romita Sr. did in the late 70’s. Of course, newspapers don’t seem to do a lot of adventure strips these days unless it’s something that has been running for decades like Mark Trail and Mary Worth so perhaps this isn’t the best idea to work on, but I am going to have a lot of fun with it and I am hoping that someone will give it a chance.
I will be blogging about the creation and progress of the strip once I start working on it. I will be posting the pages as I finish them and if in the end I fail to get a publisher I will then print the strips so people can read them if they want. I am excited about this and I have the storyline planned out already. Here’s a really rough sketch of the first strip:
The guys robbing the bank are a nod to how the first Uptown Girl graphic novel started where The Walrus stops a bank heist. I thought it was a fun little Easter egg.
Anyway, more to come on this and the other two projects soon. For now, it’s on to page 170.