Be More Funny

Right off the bat I wish to apologize for the vague post a few weeks ago.  I hate it when people do that, but I did it and…well, I won’t do it again.

Here’s the story.  Most of last summer was spent working on adapting The Retros into a newspaper comic strip.  I had an absolute blast writing and drawing my pitch and honestly felt it was the best work I’ve ever done.  I did a little self-contained 20 part story with four standalone ‘Sunday’ strips.  It was good work, but the best thing I did in regards to the project was pretty much stop thinking about once I submitted it.   It would have been easy, and normal for me, to daydream about an editor really digging the strip and making it into a newspaper.  It’s true I did remain optimistic and hopeful every time I got notification of an email or checked the mailbox, but I also moved onto other creative projects.

After some time passed I felt discouraged but got over that.  I submitted it to a total of four syndicates, got a rejection letter from one, two didn’t respond and the fourth…well.  It was a rejection letter but it was the best rejection letter I’d ever received.

There is a lot of things going against ‘The Retros’ in terms of it getting published as a newspaper comic strip.  It’s a continuity strip, meaning that there’s an overall story broken into smaller, daily segments.  It’s a throwback to adventure comic strips from the 1940’s, but it’s also a humor strip.  It’s not a straight up gag strip that ends on a joke each day.  If you read the webcomic you’ll have an idea as to what I mean, but the comic strip’s pacing and timing is a little different than the current strip.

Here’s a sample from the pitch:

Retros007

The storyline is about vampires who are trying to eliminate their weaknesses, such as garlic and light in an effort to become unstoppable.  There’s funny bits throughout the strip above, such as Lucky’s response in panel two, but the final panel doesn’t end on a big ha-ha moment like a typical comic.

There are also times when the strip ends on an exciting cliffhanger such as this sample:

Retros018

I am very happy with these two strips, and to be honest, the entire package I submitted.  This is exactly the strip I’d like to do, despite it not fitting into the traditional gag-a-day comic strip mold.  The general consensus is one shouldn’t need to follow a strip, each day should be self-contained and standalone.

But yet so many comic strips have ongoing storylines.  I didn’t think ‘The Retros’ was that different in that sense.  Sure, The Retros stories had an action aspect but I tried to make each strip funny, even if the final panel didn’t end on a joke.

If I was going to get rejected (and I did), it was going to be for a comic strip I wanted to do.

But this rejection letter was different.  They liked the action and the art which was awesome to hear.  I had a blast drawing it and I can’t imagine drawing a comic strip any other way.  They wanted me to submit another batch of samples and recommended I make it funnier.

I got the email and scanned the message while I was on the phone.  It was obviously another rejection email and I closed the email and went back to my call.  It was only on my way home that I processed the email and realized what the message really was.

I was thrilled at this rejection.  I was excited that they wanted me to submit again.  I was relieved that they didn’t ask me to change the format or the characters (at least not yet).  Be more funny.  I could do that.  Or at the very least I could try.

And try I did.  I got to work on the second batch of strips right away.  I had thought of another storyline back in the fall that I would write if I was asked to submit another set of samples.  I got to work and wrote, rewrote, rewrote again and tried out lines and punchlines on my wife and friends.  “Is this funny?”  “Which line is better?” I was constantly asking.  I did thumbnail sketches, wrote a lot of notes and planned ahead.  It was hard and it was fun.

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The first attempt at the first new daily strip.  I ended up redrawing this completely.

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Thumbnail sketch for what ended up being the sixth strip in the pitch

The new storyline was about Red building a robot clown for school that becomes evil and The Retros have to take it down without damaging what is essentially her homework project.  I was constantly rewriting it to make it funner and tossed out a lot of bits in favor of funnier ones.

Endings are hard but I was lucky to have the final strip of the storyline worked out pretty far in advance with a pretty funny final panel.

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It makes sense in the context of the story.

After I finished the new daily strips, I got to work on the Sunday samples.  Here’s the first one I did from pencils, to inking in process to final coloring.

IMG_0919IMG_0920s2 s1 color

I didn’t color the Sunday strips in my first attempt but I thought I should go for broke in what will likely be my final chance at this.  I’m glad I did, I think it looks pretty sharp.

I sent my new samples to the syndicate that requested it, as well as the other syndicates who passed on the first set because why not?

I am very proud of this new set of samples.  I thought my first set of samples was my best work and I didn’t think I could do better than that.  But I think this batch of samples shows a consistency in terms of art, humor and style with the first set.

This unexpected request put my other projects on hold for a bit and now that this is over, I have returned to my “The Legend of Zelda But In White Bear Lake” graphic novel and trying to find a publisher for picture book.

I am optimistic and realistic about this second round.  I am trying not to get my hopes up but it’s kinda hard not to.  I’ll start feeling discouraged again soon enough though.

 

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