I make myself laugh, and that’s okay, I think. It sounds really conceited but sometimes I’ll write a line or look back on something I wrote years ago and smile to myself. I think by nature I have a tendency to write things that are lighthearted or funny. I can write my characters say or do or experience serious stuff (such as in the next Uptown Girl book) but I can’t stay away from the funny for very long. I admire comics like Maus, Persepolis or even Blankets not only for their brutal honesty and beautiful artwork, but also because I just couldn’t write something so serious.
I am surprised The Retros is as funny as it is. I mean, it’s not the funniest thing on the planet, but I expected it to be more…I don’t know, well, less funny. More action, less humor, I suppose. But as the series has progressed, it just got a little funnier. I just couldn’t stop myself from breaking the tension of an action scene or a dramatic moment and adding in something silly. I suppose the idea of being a superhero is a little absurd, and superheroes are still human (well most of them). I can imagine them getting annoyed that they have to stop having lunch to go chase down a bad guy or making a mistake when they are trying to do the right thing. The Retros have destroyed at least one major city on accident. Part of being human is making mistakes and saying funny things so I like to attribute these characteristics to the team.
Over the last few weeks we have seen executive actions and walls being ordered and gun ownership safety measures being lessened. The world is changing and it’s scaring me. My Twitter feed is filled with activism, protests, and fear. Lately I just…don’t want to tweet about my comic. Things are too serious right now, there’s too much at stake. Last week I woke up early on Saturday and as is my routine, will drink coffee, listen to music and draw The Retros while my daughter draws next to me. But I just couldn’t get into it. After reading tweets and the news from the day before, I just couldn’t find it in me to be funny.
I draw The Retros weeks in advance. I am about five weeks ahead of schedule so what I post is over a month old and rarely is it a reflection as to what is happening in the real world, especially when you are doing a year long story arc. Last week as I was drinking my coffee and trying to write, I realized I just wanted to draw a jerk getting punched. I thought it might make me feel better. The problem with that is it would be tricky to make it fit within the story I was already doing. I also didn’t want to break the flow of what was already happening so if I really wanted to draw someone getting punched, it would have to fit within the context of the story. I came up with something and I think it shows a part of the world The Retros live in.
I established not too long ago that the leader of the team, Alie, is an alien, or at least not from Earth. These days there is a lot of xenophobia and I am pessimistically thinking that won’t change anytime soon. I thought it might not be unusual for Alie to be confronted by someone who isn’t comfortable with someone who wasn’t born in the same town as them.
The trick is coming up with a way to further the story, add to the world of the characters, write what you feel needs to be written, not alienating your audience, and…well, just to keep writing. Writer’s block is one thing, but feeling unmotivated and discouraged is also a tough thing. I think I came up with something that more or less takes all those obstacles and objectives. I think.
So, this is kind of a spoiler, but not really. As this point in the story, the team is aware of and investigating a weird, psychic energy that they are trying to determine the source of. Here’s the scene I did:
And that is that. I felt better after I did this scene and I did a couple more pages after these three. This morning I will tackle the next five pages in the story and then next weekend, the next five. And so on. Drawing does make me feel better, whether it is after a long week or when the world is ending.