Someone asked me a couple weeks ago what the next Retros story line is about. I thought about it for a moment and told him so far that it was about food.
I like food. I think about food a lot. I think a lot of my day is spent thinking about my next meal. I think more of our days are structured around food than we realize. Whether it’s organizing an errand day and building the day around going out to lunch or talking about which restaurant we’re going to this Saturday or what we’re having for dinner. I think my characters think the same way which is why I show Uptown Girl and her friends at restaurants a lot. I don’t think that’s going to change by the time we get to the year that The Retros takes place in, and with the election results, who knows if we’ll make it another few years, let alone making it to the year 2438.
Yeah, another blog post about the election.
But let’s get back to The Retros for a moment. The way I write and draw The Retros is a little different than how I write and draw Uptown Girl. Since the series post five times a week, I write to that schedule. On Sunday night I will write and pencil a week’s worth of strips. With each four panel page, I try to make sure that the first panel sort of summarizes the previous page, and the fourth panel is either funny or a cliffhanger. When I get to the fifth page, I either have resolved the scene or I have cranked up the action and end the page-and the week- on another cliffhanger.
When I write the strips for the week, I loosely plan for the next scene/week/whatever and who knows what happens between the Monday and Friday strip, but I do my best to get to setting up the next week’s worth of strips by the time I finish up the Friday strip. I love the way I work because I usually surprise myself by what happens in the middle of the week. I like working spontaneously and letting the ideas pop into my head. I let the scenes unfold naturally and I love seeing where it goes.
I work really far ahead, usually about 3-4 weeks in advance. A month or so ago, I was writing the pages that would eventually post the week of the election. The scenes involved Alie and Red walking the streets of the city eating from food trucks. Since Red is from the early 1990’s, she is not familiar with this wonderful thing.
I knew where I needed to do a few things for this particular week of strips. I needed to talk about what restaurants are like in the future and I needed the girls to bump into Mztik. When I was writing the strip that I knew it would post the day after the election, and I couldn’t help but think about the comment someone made that if Hillary Clinton was elected that there would be a taco truck on every corner. This would not be a bad thing. I was very happy with the serendipity that the timing worked out this way. Since I work so far ahead, I don’t bother referencing current events but I couldn’t resist the combination of a talk about taco trucks and the day after the election. When I went to write the last two panels of this strip, I wrote two different versions that I labeled “18” and “18 bad”. “18” was the Clinton win, the other was for hell freezing over.
Pleased with what appeared to be perfect timing, I finished the week’s worth of strips. And then I did the math and I realized I was a couple weeks off. “18” or “18 Bad” was actually scheduled to post two weeks before the election.
Counting is hard.
So I had several choices.
-I could just say screw it and let the strip run ahead of time
-I could change the dialogue so it wasn’t referencing the current events at all
-I could go back and add in two weeks of strips
I decided I couldn’t let this wonderful little coincidence pass so I went back and added two weeks of story. The first week that I added was the actual fight that Alie and Sputnik had off panel with a monster called Frankenwolfenstein.
Doing a straight up action scene would be simple enough as I didn’t need to make sure that it wouldn’t impact the story too much…there was no plot hole to fix or anything like that, I just needed to have a moment where Sputnik injuries his arm as I drew him in a sling earlier. My luck was still running as this new week of strips allowed me to touch on the friction between Lucky and the rest of the team. Lucky is still upset abut his friend Zoo retiring from the team and it gave me a chance to show him still reacting to this. PLUS it gave me a chance to draw Frankenwolfenstein.
The other scene was a little trickier, what else could be happening in the story that I hadn’t shown yet? The second week I needed to add was harder. I kept coming back to Lucky and what he was going through. He was angry and in his own way, very sad about his friend. I had him walking the streets of the city in the first week I had to add, so I decided to go back and see what he was doing. Although it took me a week or so to decide what to do and come up with an idea, when it came time to actually write and pencil the scene, it went very quickly.
I love moments that open up the Retros world and this new week was full of those moments. The Retros are a superhero team, but in a way, they are also celebrities and not unlike a beloved, hometown sports team. They are featured in everything from breaking news reports to gossip articles. I added in a street vendor selling bootleg merchandise and this opened up the world a bit and touched on the celebrity status of the team a bit and it also gave me a chance to write a pretty sad scene that surprised me.
The week also allowed me to introduce Mztik earlier than I had originally and add in a fun little team up against the greatest Retros villain of all time:
Abracapoodle is the stupidest character I’ve ever created and never would’ve existed without me having to go back and add another five pages of story.
In the end, these two new week’s of strips didn’t come off as filler, they opened up the world a little and gave me a chance to draw a poodle.
I schedule the next day’s Retros strip around 9pm and on November 8th I stayed up and watched the election results and was ready to upload either “18” or “18 Bad”. As the results came in, it was becoming clear that on November 9th, “18 Bad” was what I needed to upload. I scheduled the page and went to bed before the results were finalized.
I still pray they aren’t finalized.
I can’t say I have much more to say that smarter people are already saying in more poignant and coherent ways, but I am pretty…devastated about this. I am crushed so many people could vote for a candidate so unqualified and horrible. I am nervous about what the next supreme court could look like. The laws that could come out of this and the impact that they could over the next few…decades is pretty frightening. The last 8 years I have seen amazing strides in things from economic recovery, marriage equality to healthcare options. I’ve seen friends marry who they love and get treatment for medical conditions. I saw our country elect a black man…twice. I was starting to feel that maybe we’re on the right path. Going forward, not backwards, and twirling, twirling towards freedom. Maybe 2016 would be continuous of that. But now I am not sure what will happen. Every step of progress we’ve made could be undone.
Like I said, better people are posting about calls to action, the impact of the election and how things could play out. Right now I am thinking about the future, from everything from doing what I can do politically, as a father and as an artist. My wife and I are talking about what we can do from an activist role, thinking about how I will talk to my daughter about how the country elected someone who admits to grabbing women to channeling my frustrations into a future Retros story line. I have an idea for a story line that will be a few years from now (gotta finish the current food-themed story, then the Metroid-inspired story about internet chain letters and then touching on Alie’s backstory first) called ‘Death and the Maidens’ that now has a little bit of an edge that it didn’t have before. It’ll be a few years before I get to this story line and God only knows what the world will be like then.