Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party

Yesterday was FallCon, the comic convention put on by the fine people at the Midwest Comic Book Association.  FallCon takes place each October and was the first comic convention I attended as a guest which was waaaaay back in 2002-ish.  I remember working on Uptown Girl #7 at my table.  I’ve attended each year since then.

Except for this year.

Now, before we go any further, please know I am not bitter or angry or anything.  The volunteers who run the convention have always treated me, and all of their guests, with warmth, excitement, and kindness.  I’ve always been happy, and honored, to be at their shows and I am grateful for every appearance I’ve had at their conventions.

I actually think it’s a good thing to shake up the guest list at these shows.  Since there is no cost to be a guest or to apply for a spot, it’s a fantastic opportunity for an artist to get their work out there.  I doubt I’d be making comics today if not for the fans and friends I’ve made at these conventions.

So, I went to the show as a fan and I had a lot of fun.  I bought comics, saw some friends and had a great time.  It was a little weird to be on the other side of the table, but seeing the shows from an attendee’s perspective gave me the opportunity to see how well these shows are run for the guests as well as the artists.

Of course, I didn’t always had this mature reaction to not being a guest.  It wasn’t anger or anything like that, it was…I don’t know…fear, maybe?  Would this be the first step towards becoming obsolete?  When I stopped writing and drawing Uptown Girl as a monthly comic book and moved into annual graphic novels, I was worried that without having that monthly output I would become a little…irrelevant.  I wanted to stay on the radar of the local comics scene and consistent output was an effective way to do that.

Of course, this sounds depressing and fatalistic and I have moved on from this, but if I am being honest this was what I went through.  And I got over it.  Promise.  I am very close to accepting that I will never get a book published or anything amazing like that, but deep down I’ve always felt that if I was lucky enough to write and draw and self-publish books and have a local convention where I can sell them, well, that’s more than I ever expected or deserved.

I tend to go to extremes within the heat of a moment and I started to wonder if my days at these conventions were over.  Of course, this is just one convention and I have no reason to think I won’t be a guest at the next one, but this is the life of a cartoonist, particularly one that is trying to grow their readership and fan base.  I am always thinking about my comics and everything that comes with it.  Where will my career take me?  Will the impossible happen and I make a living off of my art?  Will everything come to a screeching halt?  Is this the piece of art that somehow goes viral and catches the attention of someone who could open the door to an amazing opportunity?  Will my Twitter followers ever exceed 140?

I am grateful when my friends, family and fans comment, retweet and ‘like’ my art.  I am lucky to have people who subscribe and support my books.  Thank you.  I see the notifications and I smile when I see you sharing and promoting my stuff.  These small things are more helpful than you might think.

Some cartoonists worry about running out of ideas or breaking their hands or something along those lines.  I don’t really worry about those things.  I think about the small audience that I have.  The Retros aren’t making the splash I hoped they would, my Instragram page isn’t growing in terms of followers…I want people to read my work and it’s fun to get a new follower.  I don’t think that’s uncommon for a cartoonist to want.  Please note that I am not complaining or feeling sorry for myself or anything like that.  At the end of the day, I am creating comics and I love my work and that’s the important thing.  One of the things I try to do with this blog is to pull back the curtain a little on the reality of someone trying to make a career with their art.  Sometimes it’s exciting and stuff is happening, sometimes it’s a little introspective and discouraging.

Again, this sound more fatalistic than I feel.  A cartoonist creates their work ultimately for themselves but there’s always the hope that the work connects with others.  I like my stuff and it’s always fun when others do too.  Although I don’t have the followers and readers that I hoped to have after almost three years of The Retros, I think it might bother me if I had zero.  Please know that my self-esteem is not tied to the number of people who read and “like” my work online.  I don’t think I suck or anything.  I’m sure many people think that I do, and that’s okay, but my point is that I am happy with my work, I like how I draw…I like my stuff.  I do think about the fan base that I have, not only wondering what they think of the stuff I create, but also how to grow it.  I’ll be the first to admit that I can promote my work more, but to be honest I am not really sure how.  I know there are other conventions that are out of state that I could go to, but finances are a concern, especially these days.  A big, local convention such as FallCon is a godsend.

On the opposite side of things, not only do I think about how to grow my readership, but I also wonder why I’m not making a bigger impression than I am.  Is my work just not appealing?  Is it not universal enough?  Is it too weird?  Is it not clicking with a larger audience?   As the rejection emails come in for my picture book, the common response was that the work isn’t bad, but agents and editors just didn’t…connect with it.  I think the most important thing a cartoonist to do is create the work that they themselves want to do.  It’s more sincere and a reader can see the enthusiasm in the work.  Right now The Retros is exactly what I want to do and I think it shows.  I have a lot of fun creating it and I am always excited to work on it.  I used to think The Retros would have a little more universal appeal and friendlier to new readers but it’s turned into a sprawling epic that I think is almost inaccessible to new readers.  Maybe that’s it..?

As long as we’re being fatalistic and extreme (and perhaps a little depressing), I often wonder when I should call it a day.  When is it going to become clear that there’s no blood in that stone?  How many more agents and publishers will I submit my picture book to until I throw in the towel?  When does it become obvious that I need to stop beating a dead horse?   How many more similes can this paragraph take?  Nothing will stop me from drawing, but I imagine there will be a day where I stop making comics and turning my attention to illustrating.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not quitting anytime soon.  I have at least six more years of story lines planned for The Retros and I am about 50 pages in for the Norah Locke book and a long way to go on it.  Here’s one of the pages I finished this weekend:


Maybe I think too much.  Perhaps I look for significance in things that aren’t there.  But I am constantly thinking about everything that goes with being a cartoonist all the time, whether it is the creative work, the fans or the impossible dreams.

Hope to see you at the spring show.




I Hate Everything About You

So yesterday was the first day of MIX and I was talking to my friend, the honorable Steve Stwalley.  We were talking about frustrations in drawing comics.  I had mentioned that lately I hate every page that I draw.  I had brought a couple pages with me to the convention to ink and I showed him the one I was working on.  I wasn’t really happy with it, but since I use Photoshop for a good part of each page the artwork is really only half of the finished page.  I don’t know if I like a page or not until I’ve scanned it and played around with it for a bit.

So I thought that I’d find out with you if I liked one of the pages I inked yesterday.

So, first up, the original page:

As you can see, I don’t even ink the panel borders or write legibly in the balloons anymore.  Pretty lousy page so far, but I get to work on converting the art from grayscale, to bitmap and then back to grayscale. God do I hate this art.

So it’s looking a little better…now to add the panel borders.

So now it’s coming together a bit.  I don’t hate it.  I’m starting to see the potential in this page.

I then delete the scribble in the word balloons and start blackening in the appropriate parts.

I fix the poorly textured background in the second panel and it’s really pulling together.  I clean up some of the stray lines in the floor and I’m close to liking it.

If you look behind the girl with the cellphone on the left side of the page in the second panel, we see a movie poster for the upcoming film ‘The Walrus’.  I thought about calling it “The Walrus Begins” but decided (wisely) against it.  I didn’t want to keep the poster as it was, so I decided to change it.

I erased the art in the poster, and I see I forgot to fix the lettering in the space above the ticket counter.  I get working on both of these things.

The movie has now changed into a Julia Roberts-esque movie called “I Like Love”.  Ticket prices has also been added to reflect the charges for adult as well as children tickets.  I wish I was better with layers, etc because the poster is a little clunky but I can live with it.  I add the lettering in the balloons and I’m done.

So I’ve gone from hating it to being indifferent to liking it.  I wish I LOVED it but it’ll do.

This Is Halloween

So, tomorrow is Halloween.

Instead of popcorn balls and those weird, wax-like candy that comes in those orange and black wrappers, I am giving out a comic.

And here is:

Looking to avoid me for a while?  Then you’ll want to stir clear of MIX this weekend.  MIX is the Minneapolis Indie Xpo, the two day comic convention for indie comics and indie cartoonists.  I was there last year and I had a lot of fun.  I’ll have a few copies of ‘Big City Secrets’ (it’s time for a third printing) and I’ll be selling ‘Uptown Girl’ trade paperbacks for only $5.  Everything must go!

You’ll also have to avoid me on the internet as I did a short interview with Minnesota Reads.  You can read it here.

I recently did an interview along with Brian Bastian for Danno‘s new Lutefisk Sushi Podcast.  You can listen to it and download it here.  We talk about some incredibly interesting things like crappy action figures, Batman and I reveal the title of the third original graphic novel.

You Can Leave Your Hat On

This Friday I went to the opening reception for “Just Add Ink”, a book release party/art show celebrating a new comic cook book.  Cartoonists drew recipes and all their stories were collected in a cool new book.  My daughter Sophie and I got there a little before the show really got under way so I wasn’t able to say hi to the contributing artists like Danno, Kevin Cannon, Ryan Dow, Lance Ward and everyone else.

I usually participate in stuff like this, but I wasn’t able to this time.  Not because I can’t cook (I can’t), but because when the submissions for the book were due, I was busy wrapping up the printing for “Big City Secrets” and my finances were tights.  I did end up drawing a short piece titled “You Can Leave Your Hat”  in case I was able to contribute.

Here it is:


Close the Book

Finally.  It’s done.  It’s printed.  The world can move on.  Or at least I can.
Uptown Girl-Big City Secrets is printed and sitting in a box in my garage.  This book has been in the works for a long time now, it’s story started to come together in 2005 while the animated series was being developed.  The cartoon didn’t really go anywhere, but this story survived.

Over the past few months, I’ve written about the creation of the book, mostly in terms of the artwork.  I thought it’d be fun to show what happens once the art is done and I have to cram hundreds of pieces of paper into a paperback book.

This picture is the completed book, all 270-ish pages.

I scanned in the entire book to Photoshop to letter it and touch up and clean up the artwork.  Once that step was done (it took several months), I printed out a copy so I could look it over.  I printed it close to the size the book would actually be printed.

And just because I like to do things like this, here’s a comparison of the original art and the stack of printed pages.

Once I had the printed copy, I went through it page by page making sure the pages were in the right order.

I also went and touched up the artwork.  Sometimes I would see a part where I should have filled it in with ink, or a line that didn’t connect, or something didn’t scan properly.  This was the most time consuming part.

Once I was happy with the artwork, I sent it to the printed.  A few days later, the proof arrived.  The proof is what the book will look like when it’s printed.  It gives me one last chance to make sure the book is ready.

The proof isn’t bound, so I have to make sure the pages don’t get shuffled since I need to go through it to make sure it’s in the right order.

It’s a little weird to compare the printed book to the original artwork, but here it is.

The cover proof is the most exciting part to see.

Once I am sure it’s ready to go, I approve the proof and play the waiting game.

I picked up the book last Friday, and here it is!

I am really impressed with how this thing turned out.  The cover looks great thanks to Ben, Brian wrote a great story and I had a lot of fun drawing.  BookMobile did a fantastic job printing it.

One of the goals of the book was to make it look as different as possible from the previous Uptown Girl collections, which is why the spine is black instead white, and the cover is a full image, as opposed to a simple drawing against a bright white background.

The book is also smaller than the previous books, both in page count as well as the actual size as well.

Uptown Girl – Big City Secrets will be on sale this Saturday (May 21st) at SpringCon.  I hope to see you there.

Now, onto the next book….

Talent Show–updated!

A comic I did a few months ago is up for a major award.

Well, I don’t know if it’s a MAJOR award, but it’s still kind of cool.  And the award isn’t anything as incredible as that lamp, but it’s still pretty neat.

UPDATE:  Arts Alliance just posted the winners of the 2011 Arts in Harmony show.  Minneapolis cartoonists Britt Hammerberg is the winner of the Sequential Art category.  Britt is a great cartoonist and I hope her award is much better than a lamp!

Original Post Continues Below:


Arts Alliance is an art gallery in Elk River, MN.  Each year there’s a show titled ‘Arts in Harmony’ and they have different categories (photography, sculpture, etc) and this year they have a category for Sequential Art/comics.  There’s over 200 pieces in this year’s event.

The opening reception is on February 13th at 1pm.  There will snacks and the awards are…uh, awarded as well.  I’ll be there watching someone else win the award for Sequential Art but I’m looking forward to it.

More information can be found on their website.

Anyway, the comic I entered is titled ‘History Will Teach Us Nothing”.

I really like this comic and I thought it might be interesting to talk about where cartoonists get their ideas.

The quick answer is that I don’t know and they just pop in my head.

The real answer is much more complicated.  So bear with me.  Getting ideas is a combination of shutting off your brain and just…observing and letting imagination take over.  A lot of ideas are more ‘what if…’ scenarios.  A few years ago Rocketman built a catapult and it came from wondering ‘what if Rocketman built a catapult?’ and just starting from there.  It wasn’t the best of stories, but it’s a good example.

I think a lot of writers observe what is happening around them and think about the story possibilities.  Years ago, I saw a couple kids trying to get their toy airplane out of a tree.  I sat and watched them a while and thought about the many ways the situation would resolve itself.  Eventually that little event became the basis for a short comic I did with Rocketman throwing his shoe on the roof of a building.

Personalities of characters also come into play.  Luckily Uptown Girl and her friends are all pretty different from each other so I can usually make an idea work for one of them.  Rocketman throwing his shoe on the roof is possible, but Ruby is far too sensible to do that.

Anyway, this particular idea came to me on Thanksgiving.  I was driving home and my car got a flat tire.  It was very cold that night and I took advantage of the road side assistance I have with my car insurance.  It was a long wait so I sat in my cold trying to keep myself entertained.

I started to wonder what Transformers did if they got a flat tire.  “well,” I thought, “they probably just transform into a robot and walk home”.  That got me thinking of the horrible ‘Transformers’ movies that have come out in recent years.  I thought about how much I hated them and it’s not because they changed Megatron from this:

to this:

No, I hated them because they are just bad movies.  I don’t expect a lot from Michael Bay but these movies are terrible.

In my car on that cold night in November I thought about how despite the fact that I hated the first two movies I will still be there on opening day for ‘Transformers 3’.  Not only did I hate the first two movies (well, the first movie was okay) I also hate everything I have heard or seen of the next movie.  But I will still spend three hours of my time and 12 dollars seeing something that I know I will hate.

I started to laugh at myself for this “logic” and realized a lot of comic book fans are like this.  We hate and complain about everything but still financially support movies that we know we won’t like.  I thought this observation would be a great basis for a Rocketman comic.

We never learn.  History teaches us nothing.


Today was the release party for Britt Aamodt’s new book “Superheroes, Strip Artists and Talking Animals”.  The party featured an art gallery displaying original comic art from the book.  The event took place at Arts Alliance in Elk River.













My wife Amy and I took a little day trip and arrived about a half hour after the event started, which is strange for me as I am always an hour early for everything.  The art gallery was filled with people as well as contributing cartoonists signing copies of the book.






















Some of the cartoonists there were Ryan Dow, Steve Stwalley, Kevin Cannon, Danno, Dan Murphy, Dan Olson, Ken Avidor, Kirk Anderson and Andy Singer.  After a few minutes I pulled up a chair and starting signing books as well.






















After signing a few books I got up and chatted with a few people.  Here’s me talking with Ken Avidor as we admired some artwork by Doug Mahnke, one my favorite superhero comic book artists.








Oh hey!  It’s author Britt Aamodt!  Hi Britt!







Then Amy made me get in the picture too.








The art gallery featured art by the cartoonists at the event as well as a few others such as Bud Burgy, Will Dinski, and Jon Sloan.



























Here’s mine:








It was a fun afternoon and I hope there’s more signings to promote Britt’s awesome book.

Find the River

Britt Aamodt’s excellent book “Superheroes, Strip Artists, and Talking Animals” has been released to the public and will also be available this weekend at the Elk River Comic Art Show in, you guessed it, Elk River, MN.  The book features art work and interviews with Minnesota comic book artists and cartoonists.  I’m interviewed along with Brian Bastian, and there’s a new ‘Uptown Girl’ story in the book as well.

The art show has been exhibiting art from the book for the past few days but this weekend is the party.  Original art from the book will be displayed and some pieces will be available for purchase, as well.  I have a new ‘Uptown Girl’ comic strip on display at the show.

The party runs this Saturday from 2pm to 5pm.  More information available here:

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Happy Sunday all….

Instead of getting around to scanning hundreds of pages of art for the graphic novel, I decided to poke around my hard drive to see what was on there….

A year ago I participated in an art show titled “Big Funny” which featured comic strips by local cartoonists.  The strips were collected in a big newspaper and it’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.  I drew about a dozen strips, picked the three I liked best and submitted those.

The entire paper was originally going to be printed in color but in the end, only a few pages were.  I came across the color version of my submission recently:

This was a lot of fun to do, and I was a little disappointed the whole paper wasn’t in color because the last comic really benefits from the color.

I also stumbled upon this:

These are trading cards that were given away during FallCon a few years ago.  All guests were given five blank cards, we drew on them and sent them back.  They were given away to convention attendees.

Summer Turns to High

Yesterday was MIX, Minnesota’s first indie comic book convention, and man, was it fun.

It was also very hot.  Summer is still with us, despite my wishing it otherwise.

I got to the show early, around 8am or so.  I shared a table with Brian Bastian, who looks like he was still waking up.

I sat next to Paul Taylor, the cartoonists behind “Wapsi Square”.  I like Paul, he’s just a really nice guy.

And here’s Danno!

I didn’t have anything new to promote, so my set up was really boring.  I was selling ‘Uptown Girl’ trades and a few back issues.  The trades usually sell pretty good at conventions but the back issues barely move at all.  I don’t think I’ll be displaying them at future conventions anymore.

Anyway, the show started slow and really picked up as the day progressed.  It was really well run and it was in a really neat art gallery.  But it was hot.  I tried to draw but the heat and humidity made it kinda hard.  I brought along the story I’m currently working on but the humidity really affected the ink and my sweaty (gross) hand smudged the art.

I rarely buy anything at conventions these days but this time was a little different.  With so many cartoonists there that I liked I couldn’t help but buy some stuff.  The first thing I bought was a page of original art from Kevin Cannon’s book “Far Arden”.

I also bought the new book by Aaron Reiner called “The Unsinkable Walker Bean”.  His first book was “Spiral Bound” and is one of my favorite books.  Pick it up if you ever see it.  I met Aaron a few years ago at another convention so it was cool to see him again.  He did a sketch in his book.

I also met Jeremy Tinder who signed my copy of his book “Cry Yourself to Sleep”.

And I also met John Porcellino.  John was one of the first indie cartoonists I ever read.  His book “Perfect Example” really got me into indie comics and made me think I could do comics as well.

It was a really fun day.  Thanks to everyone who came and made the show a success!