Finally Hit Me

Well, I think it’s finally sunk in.  Uptown Girl’s adventures are over.

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When I finished the last book in February, I felt the same way that I felt whenever I finished a book.  Relieved, happy, proud and a little worn out.  Finishing ‘The Lazarus Heart’ didn’t have the emotional oomph of the conclusion of the series on top of it.  I prepped the book for printing with getting it proofread and made the corrections, brought it to the printer and then picked up the proof.

Paging through the proof was when it hit me.  About two months passed between drawing the final page and seeing the proof in my hand.  It’s not uncommon for me to take a little time off after finishing a book but I always would return to the world I left.  But with this, there was no going back.  Then I got depressed.

I am keeping myself busy with other artwork and I will be announcing the next project in the next couple of weeks, but it is very melancholy to feel the elation of having another book finished mixed with knowing I am not going back.

I am also feeling a little bewildered and stunned that the book itself is finished when a few months ago I never thought it would be completed.

After I picked up the book from the printer I put a copy on the shelf next to the others and just looked at them for a while.  Not counting the monthly series, this was the result of years of work, countless panels, hundreds of pens, over a thousand pieces of bristol board and an ocean of ink.

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Thank you to everyone who patiently waited for this book.  I am excited for you to read it when it goes on sale in 2 weeks at MSP ComicCon.



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With A Little Help From My Friends

Although I finished the last page of Uptown Girl about six weeks ago, I don’t feel like it’s all over.  In the weeks since I’ve been prepping the book for printing.  This was a bit of a scramble as I needed to have the book back from the printer in early May in order for it to be ready for MSP ComicCon on May 20th and 21st.  The prep work is a group effort in reality.  I count on my friends for this.  I have been working with two really excellent proofreaders, Kristin and Antony, for the past few books and of course my friend Ben who has taken my drawings and turned them into beautiful covers.  I am very lucky to have such excellent friends with these talents.  They make my work better and I cannot possibly thank them enough.

After I finished the book, I sent the cover to Ben.  The cover took about five tries to get right.  It was hard to come up with an idea that really represented the feel of the book yet didn’t give away too much.  Normally I would post the earlier versions but I still think they are too spoilery.  I sent the cover to Ben and received the final version a week or so ago.  As usual, a expected, Ben did an amazing job.  Even after years of collaborating he never fails to make my jaw drop.  Gaze upon his work:


The idea here was to add stuff that would make people wonder what the heck is going on.  What’s with Rocketman’s helmet?  Who is that dashing photographer?  How does the mayor from the second book tie into this?  What is up with that fish?  What does the Walrus have to do with this story?  And why are all the main characters separated from each other..?

The final few pages of Uptown Girl – A Longforgotten Fairytale may provide some clues.

I love this cover and I am amazed at what Ben did with the original drawing:


While Ben worked his magic, I printed off the book and sent to Kristin and Antony.  This was nerve-wracking, to be honest.  I had worked on this story for over two years and now someone was going to have to read it.  Not only did I have the pressure of doing a good book, I also had the pressure of creating a satisfying end to 13 years of Uptown Girl’s adventures.  I was encouraged and relieved by Kristin’s initial feedback:

That was amazing! Thank you for taking us along for the ride. Love the ending so much.

Thank God.  The final scene and the conversation had there was really written about three years ago.  I was determined to use it and I as pleased that it was still appropriate for the story.

I soon received a fat packet in the mail with countless Post-It Notes pointing out typos, missing words and needed Oxford commas.  I got to work correcting these errors.  Any misspellings and grammatical errors are mine and mine alone as I may have missed a correction.  I printed off a second copy of the book with the corrections, double checked all the pages were in the right order and delivered it to the printer.  I should have the proof this week.  I’ll review this weekend and make revisions as needed and then approve the proof.  A week or so after the proof is approved, the final book will be ready.

I think when the book is placed on my shelf next to the others will be when I have that sense of finality.  There will be nothing more that needs to be done.  No typos to fix, no panels to redraw, no new stories to tell.

I’m not ready to say a final goodbye quite yet.  I’m sure once the book is next to the others on the shelf I’ll blog a little retrospective and look back on the years but I’m not ready to do that quite yet.

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Where Do I Begin?

So I’ve been pretty quiet on here since I wrapped up Uptown Girl a few weeks ago.  There’s still some stuff that needs to be done, but the book is being proofread and the cover is wrapping up nicely.  I will bring the book to the printer hopefully this week and have it ready to go in time for MSP ComicCon in May.

I wrote how weird it was, and how weird I felt when I finished the book a few weeks back.  The first time I went to draw after completing the book was also weird.  I put my daughter to bed, went to my studio, sat down and…did nothing.  I didn’t want to jump into a big project, or an ongoing project for a few months and wanted to spend some time just…drawing, doing whatever and playing at my desk.  But that first night I sat there for about ten minutes just…staring at my desk.

What it comes down to is I didn’t have a plan about what to do once Uptown Girl was finished, and that was intentional.  But for the first time in over a dozen years, I didn’t have anything to work on.  Nothing that HAD to be done.  And it felt weird.  It was a little sad.  I felt a little lost.  Who am I now that I am not the Uptown Girl guy, as so many people have called me?

I knew that I would be embarking on new projects, new things to define who I am as a cartoonist and I was/am excited about that, but moving away from something that defined me for so long was…well, also weird, I suppose.  I suppose it’s not unlike a musician quitting a band to go solo.  It’s exciting, but you are also starting from the ground up, but with more experience than when you joined the band initially.

Am I the Retros guy now?  Mmm…not quite.  I’ve been doing the Retros for a almost a year and a half now and I can’t say if The Retros is as well known as Uptown Girl was after the same period of time.  But it’s not really possible to compare.  When Uptown Girl was around a year and a half old, this was before Twitter and Facebook and it was all in print.  I sold comics in stores and at conventions so it was easy to gauge her popularity, but The Retros is all online, so it’s hard to tell.  I suppose I could look at followers on social media as a measuring stick.  I currently have 119 followers on Twitter and 117 with Facebook.  Not exactly lighting the world on fire, but then again, I haven’t promoted The Retros as much as I had Uptown Girl back in the day.  I miss the optimism and enthusiasm that I had back then.  But I always planned on holding off on really promoting The Retros until Uptown Girl was done, lest I was consumed by it.

So now what?  What’s next?  Where do I start?  I’m kind of going through a lot right now, to be honest, and some of it is related to this rebirth of sorts as a cartoonist and deciding on a path, and some of it is general…well, I am not sure if it’s depression or what, but I’ve been feeling discouraged and hopeless on a few levels.  Nothing serious of course and it will pass, but I think I need a project to work on.  I know I am happy when I am working, especially when it’s something that has a definitive start and a definitive end.  I will always have The Retros but that is an ongoing project.  I am still painting everyday and building a portfolio to (hopefully) send to prospective publishers or art agents and this is also ongoing, in a sense.  It will take some time before I feel I have enough samples to show.  But I need something to start and something to finish.  You know, like a book.  I thought I’d be happy to not have anything to work on for a while and you know, playing a video game for a bit, but I’m happy when I am working.  I like projects, I like to start and finish things.

So, although they it is too early to announce formally, I am in the early stages of two projects.  Both very different, and both are collaborations.  I am a little exhausted when it comes to writing at the moment so I am pleased I am working with two talented writers.  Who knows what these projects will become, or if they will go anywhere, but I need to work on something.  Work makes me happy, especially when the work is so much like play.  I am excited about these projects and here’s a peek at what I am doing.  I am looking forward to talking about these in greater detail soon-ish, but for now, I am happy to show off this art.


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I like both of these pieces a lot, and I like working on two very different things right now.  I am excited to start the work on both of these projects in earnest.  Work makes me happy and I think it will help snap me out of this funk I’m in right now.

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Something Weird I Wrote Whilst Feeling Weird

After almost 13 years and almost 4000 pages, I have finished writing and drawing Uptown Girl.


It feels as weird as I thought it would.

After I finished the penultimate scene a few weeks ago, I knew I would need an epilogue with some exposition, a short flashback and the final scene.  As I worked on those parts, my progress slowed down incredibly.  It’s not that I didn’t want to finish, I just…thought hard and heavy about the scenes and the dialogue and the tone.  It had to be perfect, of course.  Perfection is not something to necessarily shoot for, but getting something just right is.  Everything had to be just right.

Last week the characters I needed for the final scene were all where I needed them to be and the scene was going to take place where I envisioned over two years ago.  This scene would be short, more than two pages, but less than five.  It had to reflect on the adventure itself, a little tip of the hat to the end of the series, a little humor and optimism.  I decided a few days ago I would need three pages for this.  Each page had to do something a little different but still flow.  I knew on Friday that this was the weekend to finish.

Like I said earlier, I wasn’t putting off writing the final pages, I just needed to be sure of what I wanted to say.

I took Sophie swimming yesterday, we had lunch as a family, Amy took Ryan to work and while my daughter was drawing, I knew it was time.  I was as ready as I thought I could be.  I didn’t know exactly what the characters would say, but I knew they would tell me.  You see, it sounds weird, but when you’ve written your characters for a while, you never have to think about what they’ll say.  The words and dialogue just come.    I sat down in my dining room and 45 minutes later, I was finished.  Amy came home, asked what I was doing and I told her that it had finally happened, the final page was drawn.

At first it felt like simply finishing another book.  Amy and I took Sophie to Target and out to dinner, I scanned and lettered the final pages, read Sophie her bedtime stories and went into my studio and for the first time in over a decade, I didn’t have anything else to do for Uptown Girl.  No new page to pencil, no new story to begin.

There’s still stuff that needs to be done, of course.  Ben Mudek, the wizard behind the previous Uptown Girl book covers is working on this cover, I will print off a copy of the book and send it to my friends to proofread, and then it goes to the printer.  I imagine once the book is back from the printer and I have it on my shelf, then it will truly feel finished.

It felt…weird yesterday, a different kind of weird last night, a different kind of weird this morning and I imagine there will more moments of different weirdness for a while.

More reflections and weird thoughts to come over the next few months, I’m sure.





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I Don’t Want to be Funny Anymore

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:

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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.


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As the End Draws Near

‘Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart’ is about ten pages (or so) from wrapping up.  The conflict is over, life is returning to normal, rifts are being mended, dust is settling and their world is going to be funny again.

The end of Uptown Girl has never really hit me as I have been focusing on this individual story and on the pages I’ve been working on at the time.  I don’t get into a page thinking of the series as a whole, but rather what the current story needs.  It still hasn’t hit me and I don’t think it will until the first time I sit down at my table after finishing the book and realize that drawing her adventures are over and there’s nothing more to write for her.

I’ve never ended a series before so I don’t have any experience in terms of the right way to do it.  Some things end perfectly, some are disappointing and some can’t end any other way than they do.  I’ve completed a few books and many stories and I like how some end, and others I know I should have done differently.  I had a hard time wrapping up ‘The Long-Forgotten Fairy Tale’ and I knew early on it wasn’t going to be easy.  I never worried about it though.  I approach some things in life in a ‘we’ll figure it out when we get there’ attitude and I pass the the same line of thinking onto my characters.  For this story, I knew how the book would end from the start, but the middle has been all over the map.  Like ‘…Fairy Tale’, the characters get into a, well, let’s call it a jam, and real life needs to return.  When ‘…Fairy Tale’ ended, Uptown Girl, Ruby and Rocketman were stranded in the middle of nowhere and needed to return to Minneapolis.  I could have written and drawn them trudging back to their car through the forest I was really tired of drawing, but it didn’t add to the story and not only would it be boring to write and draw, it’d be boring to the reader.  Instead, I had the characters recap how they got back home through a conversation between Uptown Girl and her boss.  This is known as…


‘The Lazarus Heart’ isn’t much different.  There is a lot of resolution (and some suspension of belief, to be honest) that needs to happen and it could have been ten pages of conversation but it would take away all the emotional impact that the scene had.  I had gotten to the end of the story and I had known how the conflict would end, I knew how the final pages would go, but the little bridge between the resolution and the last pages was a little unclear.

I knew the scene that I had to do write and draw next needed to accomplish a lot and I needed to do it right.  I had considered Uptown Girl and Mr. Mustard having another chat, but not only did I do that already in’…Fairy Tale’, it didn’t feel right.  I stared at the page I had drawn and wondered what was next.


I think of my characters as very real and I try to write them realistically in terms of what they might need.  Ruby gets put through the wringer in this tale.  It starts early and gets worse.  I asked myself that if I were Ruby, what would I need or want after this was all over?  Sometimes we tell ourselves we need a drink or we need a vacation or we need something else.  I realized what Ruby needed and I gave it to her…and luckily it gave me a new way to resolve the lingering plot threads and explain how things settled.  It’s also one of the more emotionally and very real moments of the entire Uptown Girl series.

It’s safe to say I’ve been busy with a lot of life things since I started this book and I worried that things like job hunting, finishing my degree, launching The Retros and life itself would take away from this adventure.  However, as the end draws near I feel the book and the series is coming together in a fitting, appropriate way.


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First Week

A week ago I said I wanted to teach myself how to paint.  The best way to learn something is to just jump right in.  Sometimes.  It’s not good advice if you want to learn how to fly a plane, for example.   I ordered some new brushes and some gouache paint and got to work.  Learning how to do something in the art world is thankfully the same thing as playing, in my opinion.  I learned by doing and you learn not only how the materials and paper work, but also how the artist works.  For my part, I learned (again) that I work too fast and I get impatient but that doesn’t always work against you when you use watercolors.  Sometimes you make interesting mistakes and the colors run together and the end result is different but sometimes better than you expected or planned.

I am excited to see how something turns out so I sometimes usually will paint something over or next to a color before it properly dries and the colors run together and although it can create an interesting result, it doesn’t always and the painting is ruined.

It was a humbling week, trying to learn something new but I never felt discouraged or anything.  I was excited to show off what I did, for good or for bad.

Anyway, I wanted to do a quick run through of some of the art I did this week.

The first painting of the year was a fox.  It was this fox:


It’s okay.  I decided I didn’t like the mouth and when I tried to fix it I made it worse (I’ve had relationships like that) and the whole thing was a mess.  Before I could even try fixing the mouth I smudged it and tried to cover it with a gray box and then it just uuurrrgh.  I wanted to give it another try and it turned out a little better but it’s just…a little too cute.  The colors are better on the first crack but the mouth is better.  The two were done with acrylic on smooth bristol board with crappy brushes. Paint and smooth bristol board does not work.


The next day was even a bigger mess as this was meant to be a kid leaning against a stegosaurus and I knew quickly this was not going to turn out well.  The idea was good, but this was not the right paint for this.  If I take another stab at this I’ll build layers of colors and use a different hue for the dinosaur.  I also worked too quickly on this and ended up sabotaging myself.  A disaster.  But that’s okay.


So I painted Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service.  This, as well as the dino-saster were both acrylic and although this looks okay, there used to be a bright pink mouth here but I wasn’t patient and when I when I went to touch up the black around it, the colors ran together and blended together.  More black paint was added and the mouth was gone completely.


Thankfully the next day my shipment from Amazon showed up and I got to play with my new paint.  The lessons I learned from the earlier paintings were applied and I slowed it down a little.  I waited until the orange was dried before adding the stripes to Hobbes here but the gouache dries faster and flatter than acrylic anyway.  This isn’t a great drawing but the colors are nice, bright and consistent.


Princess Peach was next and I was excited to try a few different shades of pink.  It’s fun to blend and make new colors and I played around with the dress and the hair and I like how this turned out but until I get better (or slow down) I might need to use a pen for the black lines instead of a brush.  The black has some uneven weight lines and kind of ruins it.  But the colors are very pretty.


We stay in the Nintendo world and move from the Mushroom Kingdom to Hyrule for Link here.  This is probably the best painting so far.  The colors are good and I think the black outlines are better than Peach.  I gave to my son who hung it in his room.  That was pretty cool.  1-6-link

After a week of playing around and learning the paint and getting comfortable and confident with the brushes, I wanted to try something a little different.  The below painting is a mess and it’s beautiful.   I wouldn’t change a brushstroke.  Well, except maybe the feet but whatever.


So that was the first week.  Thanks for all the likes and kind words on Facebook.  I am happy with the progress and I’m having fun with this.

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What I Really Learned in College

graphic_ink_the_dc_comics_art_of_darwyn_cooke_hardcover_rawSo we begin another year.  I like that there is a New Years day.  I like that there is a cut off from one period of time from another.  I like the idea of being able to, in a sense, start over.  Or starting or stopping something.  2016 was a rough year for a lot of reasons and I have to say that besides he-who-must-not-be-named getting elected, the worst thing about 2016 was losing Darwyn Cooke.

2016 was supposed to be the year that I finished Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart.  And I didn’t.  I started penciling this book in February 2015 and I never thought that almost two years later I’d still be working on it.  There’s a good reason for it, though.  I simply didn’t have time.  In December 2015 I found out I was getting laid off in the spring of 2016.  I knew I’d need another job because I wasn’t sure if Cartoon Network would contact me before then to develop The Retros into an animated series.  They still haven’t.  At any rate,  there were a few things I needed to do.  I had to buy a suit for interviews, I had to update my resume and I had to finish college.  After high school, I was about halfway towards an associate degree before I, well, let’s be honest, dropped out.  I had gotten by without a degree for a long time but I’d be applying for jobs and I knew at a minimum I’d need some sort of degree.  I started part time online classes again in January of 2016 and worked very hard to complete my degree just a few weeks ago.


I was stunned at how much I spent doing homework  and studying.  I had no idea it would take up that much of my day, weekend and life.  Almost every night I was doing homework or working on assignments.  I barely drew in 2016 and that was really depressing for me.  I kept up on The Retros but in the last half of the year hardly any work was done on Uptown Girl.  But I learned a lot by going to college.  Not only did I learn about permutations and event horizons, I learned how to work.  I pushed myself to write a paper better than I would have in the past.  I learned how to research, I learned how to pace myself…I learned how to fail, learn from that and then improve.  I threw myself into my studies and when it was all over, I felt like I was rejoining my life after being away from it for a year.

So, now what?  In some ways I felt I was going to be a better artist after going through this.  Earlier this year I wrote about my job search and how I did a lot of research and learned how to write cover letters, send emails and interview.  I knew that when it was time to start shopping a project to a publisher or whatever I’d benefit from that experience.    What college taught me was how to work, work and work some more to get something right.  If I pencil a panel and I don’t like it or I know I can do better, just start over.  Try again.  Try ten times if I need to.  Spend 45 minutes if I must to ink something the right way.  Of course, most cartoonists know this, but I was impatient.  I’d settle too quickly and would want to keep moving forward.  There’s something to be said about not spending too much on something but that is not a problem I have.  Yesterday I spent an hour and a half penciling and inking three pages of The Retros and later that afternoon I spent the same amount of time redoing those same pages.  The pages are better now.  I’ve written before how often I knew something was good enough and moved on and I’ve also written about how I wasn’t going to settle for that but it was obvious I didn’t mean it.  Or forgot.  Or chose to forget.

Last year I did Inktober and drew a lot of things I normally wouldn’t draw and really pushed myself to try new things.  I had a blast and after over a decade of over 90% of my creative output was Uptown Girl I was really energized to do more illustration and cartooning that wasn’t comics.  With Uptown Girl wrapping up, I will have more time to do stuff like this.  I have a few projects that I’ll be doing but I’ll also just be drawing a lot more and posting different stuff too.  I’m going to teach myself how to paint, I’m going to do more small, colorful drawings, similar to the art I do for my daughter’s lunch note each day.

I’ve committed to doing a drawing like this each day, whether it is with Copic marker, ink or even watercolor.  I’ll be posting these drawings to my long neglected Tumblr page as well as Facebook.  Today’s drawing is Superman and was inspired by art by Chris Jones.


I am excited to see what this year brings.  I am excited to draw and draw some more.  I am excited to finish The Lazarus Heart.  I did ten pages of the book last month and I think I am about 30 pages until it’s all over.  I should have no problem having it completed by the end of February and out in May.  I also plan on publishing the first Retros collection sometime this year.  This summer, I think.

Anyway, thank you for your patience while I finished college and kind of dropped off the planet for much of the year.  I’ll be better.  In a lot of ways.

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An Unexpected Journey

I had a different idea for this post that was going to be all about panels that suck but I decided to hold off a little bit because some of the panels that I wanted to feature are pretty spoiler-y and I decided to wait.  Not that I am in short supply of panels that suck, but I wanted to show the original version, explain why it sucked and then show the revised panel that doesn’t suck  as much, or at least sucks in a different way.

Instead we’ll talk about…


coverI’ve mentioned before how this is my favorite book and it is pure comfort reading.  I reread it about twice a year and I know it pretty well at this point  I can’t say that I like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ very much, or at all, but I love this book.  As I get closer to wrapping up the last Uptown Girl book, I am starting to get excited about doing more projects that are simply for fun and Inktober is one of them.  Inktober is a month long challenge in October for cartoonists to draw a new picture every day for a month and post it on social media.  At the end of September this year many of my cartoonist friends were gearing up for the challenge.  I was rereading ‘the Hobbit’ around this time and was reading the annotated version that not only had footnotes that touched on more of the mythology of Middle Earth but also explained things like Bilbo reading his morning letters (apparently in England mail was delivered twice a day at one point).  The book also showed art from the illustrated versions of this book from around the world.  I loved seeing the differences but really fell in love with Tove Jansson’s drawings.  Look how cool these are.


I think she captured the cartoony look of the characters that I always pictured them and the drawings themselves, regardless of the source material, are just beautiful.

At any rate, as I was reading this I started to think how fun it would be to draw some of my favorite scenes like Gandalf rescuing the dwarves from the trolls or Bilbo talking to Smaug.  I thought about how I would draw the characters and what they would look like.  The next day I was on the Stairmaster (I get a lot of ideas exercising) and decided Inktober was a perfect way to play with this idea.

Over the course of the month, I ended up drawing a different character from the novel.  It was fun and a challenge as the book doesn’t have that many characters in it.  In order to get through the whole month I ended up having to draw characters like Roac and the elf butler.  Actually, Roac ended up being one of my favorites.  I was also glad that there were so many dwarves but it wasn’t always easy to come up with a fun way to draw them.



















I put a lot of time into this challenge, more than I had planned . The appeal of Inktober for a lot of cartoonists is to draw something kind of quick and although these drawings aren’t too detailed, most of the drawings are the second or even third versions as I wasn’t happy with them the first time.  At first I was overthinking many of the drawings or not taking enough risks.  I wanted break away from my typical style and try new things.  It was hard.  The first time I drew Bilbo he was too…well, I would never describe my work as realistic but it wasn’t simple enough.  It was a bad drawing of someone that wouldn’t look too out of place in an Uptown Girl book in terms of how he was drawn.


I didn’t get too far but I knew that this was wrong.  If the whole month was going to be this way there was no point in doing it.  I wanted to try something new and if I wasn’t going to break away from my typical style there was no reason doing this.  It would be just one more thing to distract me from my other projects.  The drawing also failed to capture the spirit of the character and the lightheartedness of the story.  So, I redrew

And I think I nailed it.  I am not saying it’s the best drawing in the world or anything but it captured how I think of the character and helped set the standard that I wanted to maintain for this little unplanned drawing adventure.

day-2-bardThe next day I drew Bard and again I ran into the same problem.  He looked like he belonged in the Uptown Girl book ‘The Long Forgotten Fairytale’.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I had drawn my share of characters like that already.  I wish I could find the first attempt but again, I was much happier when I broke from my normal drawing instincts and drew in a looser, simpler style.  I say simpler but this is still a pretty detailed drawing.  But I like it.  I thought that Bard and Bilbo were among the drawings I liked the most of all the art I’ve done in the last few years but not because they were amazing but because I was happy that was I able to draw a new style that I felt looked pretty good.  I was excited for the rest of the month.

The dwarves were fun and annoying at the same time but instead of just drawing 13 characters with beards I decided to draw different scenes from the book, whether it was hanging in a tree as they ran from the Wargs or eating or running in fear.

I liked Thorin because in a way I was taking him down a peg.  The entire book he’s described a fierce grim warrior but in reality he’s kind of a jerk.  Instead of portraying him in battle I decided to show him paying his harp.  Not that you can’t be a warrior and a harpist, of course.  Here’s the first attempt and the final version.  It’s not the best drawing of the month but it’s probably not how a lot of people think of him.




I had a ton of fun on this challenge and I am excited for next year.  It also got me excited about having more time once Uptown Girl comes to a close to do stuff like this.  You can see the rest of the month by poking around my Twitter feed.


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Careening in Full Speed

dThe way that I write is pretty unstructured and usually spontaneous.  Sometimes I wish I had the discipline to sit down and write out an entire scene or book with complete dialogue but that’s not how I roll.  I like to be surprised by what happens and my favorite moments are when all of a sudden a new scene, moment, plot point or even a whole new direction opens up and off I go.

This is exactly what is happening with The Retros right now.  I am about four weeks ahead of schedule and I am writing stuff that I am really happy with.  The scene requires some mystery, tension, uncertainty and love and I think I am really nailing it.  It’s turning out a little longer-and bigger-than I expected.  At first I thought this would be about ______ and then I thought of a way to add in _________ and then I decided this would be a perfect time to add in the first meeting between ________ and _________ and then touch on the origin of __________.  Everything was coming together.  Ideas are bouncing and careening off of each other at incredible speed.

Life is amazing, right?

aThe problem is that this little (well, getting bigger) story line is a pretty sharp turn from the main story and by the time I get back to the main story I am worried I will have lost some momentum, and the attention of the reader.  If I am reading a novel and then it flashes back to an earlier time in the character’s life I get pretty invested in those moments and when it jumps back to the ‘now’ part of the story, it takes me some time to remind myself what was happening.  I have that problem with some Stephen King books, but that’s not his fault.  This little turn off the main road was never planned.  I didn’t expect to tell this character’s backstory for a while but someone said something, someone reacted and if I read this scene from a reader’s perspective, I’d be annoyed that this bombshell was just left hanging.  So, I felt that I had to get into this a little.

bBut little is turning big, and that’s okay.  The thing I am thinking about is if I should rein myself in.  Right now I am 20 pages into this character’s backstory and I could easily double or triple it.  I am wondering if I should continue riding this momentum and keep telling this story or I should jump back to the main story and come back at a later time.  I have been doing comics for over ten years and for better or for worse and I have always just done what I wanted to do.  I wrote what I thought would be fun to draw, I taught myself how to draw cartooney instead of teaching myself how to draw realistic or stylish, I made books I thought would be fun to read.  This type of cartooning mindset likely didn’t do any favors in terms of my career.  Who knows?  Maybe if I did this instead of that I’d have a show on The Cartoon Network and have a million dollars but I am done wondering about the what-ifs and maybes.

cThe point is that I am having so much fun doing what I do and all the money and success in the world can’t make cartooning fun.

I suppose that following my instincts and letting the story tell itself is a big part of my cartooning career and has made my work fun, surprising and spontaneous.  I am lucky to be writing this backstory and having it unfold in my mind.  It’s effortless and almost a gift.

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