My Little Town

Late last year, I “announced” my next graphic novel series.  I have barely mentioned it here because I have barely worked on it.  I think about it all the time, but I honestly thought I would have more time to draw it than I have.  In addition to ‘The Retros’ webcomic, this year has been busy with trying to find an agent/publisher for ‘Bear and Rabbit’ and working on submission pitches for a Retros newspaper strip.

But the new series was always on my mind, especially when I was running errands or spending time in downtown White Bear Lake.

A little history:

In 2006 I started to date Amy.  At the time we started to date, I was living in Northeast Minneapolis.  When we met, I was living in Uptown.   When we decided to move in together, she wanted to stay in White Bear Lake as that is where her son Ryan was attending grade school.  I knew I’d miss living in the city, but I figured we could always move back sometime if we wanted to.

In March 2007 we found a little apartment across the street from Ryan’s school.  Not long after, we found out we’d be having a baby and Sophie was born in December of that year.  We were married in June of 2008 and our little family was complete.

And through all this, I found myself falling in love with where we live, particularly downtown White Bear Lake.  There are quite a few restaurants and shops we visit there.  We watch the annual parade in town each June, we meet up with friends, visit the library, go out for ice cream and just…enjoy where we live.  We own a townhouse and right our our front door is an amazing wooded area where we explore and hike and get lost on purpose.

We made friends, we joined the Y, we became active in Sophie’s school.  Long story short, we started to develop our roots.  I felt a connection to where we lived that I didn’t quite feel when I lived anywhere else.  I started to learn about the history of the area ranging from everything from the Native American history to the now closed amusement park not far from our home.  In my mind, I romanticized the history and mythology of the town.

Last year I was trying to think of what other projects I wanted to work on besides The Retros.  Amy suggested I write something around Sophie as I like telling stories about her.  I didn’t want to do a project about a cute kid and the shenanigans that kids do.  It felt a little cliched but I started to think about an idea from a few years ago about a girl who fought monsters in the woods.  I even drew a few scenes for it.

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The enthusiasm for the project was killed by other stuff that was happening in my life at the time but I always liked the idea.  The girl in the story was based on Sophie, however she was now a few years older and I didn’t feel the connection to the character that I did when I drew this orignally.

But Amy’s suggestion made me think about this idea again.  What if the girl was older?  What if the woods were the same woods right outside my front door?  Things started to gain traction.  But there was something missing.

As Sophie ages, I introduce her to more things.  Like most kids, she looks for characters she can relate to in the books, movies and video games we play.  Not surprisingly, she prefers her entertainment to star women.  She plays as Peach in ‘Super Smash Bros.’ and ‘Mario Kart’.  She prefers ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ to Harry Potter.  She showed zero interest in playing ‘The Legend of Zelda’ when she learned she had to play as a boy.

Now, I can’t make video games but I can write and draw.  “What if ‘The Legend of Zelda’ took place in White Bear Lake?  What if it took place now?  What if the merchants in the game had stores in downtown White Bear Lake instead of in caves?”

What if the story starred a girl?

Things just fell together at this point.  I found the missing piece.

I thought about what I wanted to incorporate into the story.  I thought about what locations and history in my town I wanted to include, whether it was the cemetery, the local bookstore or Sophie’s school.  I wrote down quite a few notes, did research, did many character sketches and my enthusiasm grew.  I couldn’t wait to get started.

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I started drawing what I thought would be the first book at the beginning of this year.  Soon I was pulled away from it by the other projects I mentioned earlier.  I got about 30 pages done before all creative work on it came screeching to a halt.

This depressed me.  I loved the project and I was reminded of it whenever I went into town.  Sophie was excited for it and told her friends.  Earlier this summer we went out for ice cream and ran into her friend Libby.  Libby’s first question to me was when the book was coming out.

Lack of progress on the book frustrated me.  Even after the newspaper pitches and the book submission projects were done, I wondered when I would have time to work on it. In addition to the time needed to make the book, I felt really intimidated by what I imagined was a six volume series.  By the time I’d be done with, Sophie would be in college.

It didn’t help my enthusiasm that I didn’t care for the last dozen or so pages I had completed for the book.  I introduced a main character that didn’t look right.  The model changed from page to page and I hated it.

We’ve spent a lot of time in town this summer and I resolved to find a way to work on this book in addition to the Retros.  I started to rethink the book and instead of doing a series I would do one big, 500 page story.  I redid the outline,  redesigned the new character and I committed myself to working on the book again in October and not work on anything else besides The Retros in 2019.

This cheered me up.  I am excited to get back into this little world.  I am excited to do one big fat book.

So, that’s what’s been going on with me.  What’s up with you?

-Bob

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