Yesterday I started coloring the last five pages of the first Retros story line. The arc wrapped up in 240 pages and will be collected in a book to be published in 2017. Thanks to my pal Joe, the book has a name…The Retros: Fast Forward. I have the last few pages to color and about 25 pages to letter and of course the cover, but the book is pretty much done. I am about 20 pages ahead of schedule in terms of posting a new page each day, but I need to be working ahead in case of computer problems or just…life taking up time and not having a chance to draw when I need or want to.
I pushed myself the last week or so to get some more pages done as I noticed I was no longer as far ahead as I wanted to be, which means I had less time to work on Uptown Girl. But that isn’t a bad thing. I was able to plot out the last act of her book and tighten it up a little. I still feel confident that it will be done by the end of the year or, if it comes to it, by my March 1st deadline.
It feels weird to have completed something that is not Uptown Girl. I was worried that after wrapping up the first Retros book I wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to keep going but thankfully that is not the case. I am excited to get going on the next story for these characters.
Whenever I finished an Uptown Girl book, I’d think about what I learned. With ‘Big City Secrets’ I learned the importance of scanning the page as I finished drawing it to avoid having to scan over 250 pages all at once over the course of a few weeks. Much better to pace it out over the creation of the book. With ‘The Long Forgotten Fairytale’ I learned that I need to work with a paper size that is best for the artwork as opposed to working a smaller size just to work a little faster.
With ‘Fast Forward’ I learned a lot.
From an artistic perspective, I learned that black on black coloring looks a little…wonky. For example, Fly-Girl wears black, finger-less gloves. When she gestures and her hands are in front of her, her hands are harder to see since she wears a black costume. I like drawing hands that are expressive and this design kind of muddles that up. Now that this arc is over, I decided to ditch the gloves. Working as small as I do with each panel less than 3 inches wide or long, it is important to simplify.
I learned to stick to my guns and make storytelling choices that go against my routine. Over the 12 plus years of Uptown Girl, the status quo has remained comfortably stable. My vision for the Retros was a rotating team, similar to the X-Men or the Justice League. I envisioned characters quitting, getting fired of even dying. In order to have a rotating team and to show people (especially myself) that no one is a Retro forever, I wanted to have a different team at the end of the first arc than there was at the beginning. I knew who’d be gone pretty early in the story but…I really liked this character. I liked them more than I did when I started drawing the book. For a while the character’s fate was changed and saved and wouldn’t be going away. But in the end, I decided that if I didn’t make the change now, I never would make status quo changes. I had to do it to push myself out of that comfort zone. I stuck to my original idea (which is usually the best idea) and made the change. Will the character return like every character did in the X-Men or Justice League? I suppose they could, there’s certainly a way.
I learned to let the story and scene become alive and give into my instincts. There were plenty of times when I would be drawing and writing an action scene and think about what the characters were doing and if I were in that situation I’d make a joke or comment on what as happening. I would have the team take a moment to crack a joke, make fun of Sputnik or bicker with each other. These moments were my favorite to write. These scenes allow character development, shed a little light on their personalities and show a little about team dynamics.
I learned that it’s okay to tell a non-linear story. The readers are dropped into the Retros world. The series didn’t start with how the team got together or why they did. I know how they did, and I might tell the story someday but for the moment, we’re seeing what is happening now. There’s a lot that happened before Fly-Girl joined the team and I like that the characters talk about stuff that happened before the series started or have questions that won’t be answered for a long time.
I learned to take risks with the characters. A big risk was drawing Zoo who is tricky to get right and different from any character I’ve drawn before. It required a lot of penciling, erasing and starting over. It wasn’t always easy but I love the big guy. I love seeing the difference in size between him and Fly-Girl. The risks are more than just visual. The characters will have lives that are a little more complex than anything I’ve done with Uptown Girl. They all have histories…personal, traumatic and romantic. I am excited to push myself into new directions and try new things I haven’t done before.
Finally, I learned that I need to get the series in front of people. I can’t let people discover The Retros by just word of mouth. I saw the website traffic stats and is was pretty dismal. I started to post pages on the Facebook page as well as Tapastic. Once Uptown Girl wraps up I’ll be spending more time promoting The Retros in different ways. I learned that I can’t do two different series at once. Right now I am focusing on just writing and drawing Uptown Girl and The Retros. Once Uptown Girl is done, I’ll start to reach out to different ways to promote The Retros. I suppose I am feeling guilty for not spending as much time on Uptown Girl’s final book as it deserves and don’t want to spend any more time way from her as I have.
I hope to learn more as I continue to draw The Retros and anything else I create. I appreciate anyone who is a fan of what I do and I thank you for your advice, enthusiasm and the book titles.