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.




See You Next Weekend

I first attended what is now called MSP ComicCon back when it was a one day event called SpringCon and held at the Maplewood Community Center over ten years ago.  That first show was a lot of fun and I sold a few comics which was a much needed confidence boost in the early days of comic booking.  I also met Mark and Susan who invited me to my first in-store signing and I have been lucky enough to call them friends to this day.

But things change and evolve and the show has a new name, venue and has grown to a two day extravaganza.  I have been fortunate to have been invited back throughout the years and I am excited to be back at the show this upcoming weekend.

It’s hard not to think about those early days when I go to conventions.  I didn’t even have enough comics to collect in a trade, I was single and renting a room in my friend’s basement.  I am sure this show will also be a little wistful as the final Uptown Girl book goes on sale and I see people this weekend that have followed her stories for years.  There’s so many people I know because of her, so many friends made, so many adventures of my own that I have had because of her…

I’ll have the new book and the previous volumes on sale along with some original art. I’ve been painting a lot this year and I will have some of my recent efforts at my table this year.  If you would like me to set aside a painting or if you have a request, please email me: or message me on Facebook.

I’ll be tucked away in a corner this weekend, so if you’re looking for me, use this handy map.  If you’re not looking for me, then beware the green star.


See you soon!


Step Right Up

Next weekend is Micro-Con, Spring-Con MSP Comic-Con.  I’ve been a guest at this convention for a while, I think this will mark my 87th year at this show.

And I love the conventions the MCBA puts on.  I’ve been to a lot of conventions, but I am amazed at how big the MCBA shows are but still feel small.

This will also be the first spring convention in a few years where I won’t have a new Uptown Girl book.  I am still plugging away at it, I just scanned and lettered page 134 this morning.  And let me tell you, writing this book is killing me.  The one small grace is that I don’t have the pressure of the next Uptown Girl book this time.  I am pretty far behind on this book since ‘A Long Forgotten Fairytale’ took longer than I thought it would.  The challenges for this book are many.  When I write a story, I usually have a theme in mind.  Some stories are personal, some are funny, creepy, mysterious or action-y.  This book is trying to be all of them.  Balancing the right amount of all those elements is not easy…and I also have the task of creating a satisfying end to a series I’ve been doing since 2003.  I am looking forward to taking a long break from writing long, complicated stories for a while once this is all wrapped up.

This is different from The Retros, of course.  There is an overall story to The Retros but I break things down in terms of overall story, then scenes, then pages, then panels.  It helps to only have four panels per page to tell part of a larger story as I have to be more economical in what I draw and write and only do the important stuff.  I have to keep things moving but at the same time, I like moments like the final two panels in the page from May 6th because it’s a great character moment, it’s funny but doesn’t really move things anywhere:


Anyway, although I won’t have a new book this year, I will have three new Retros one-shots/mini-comics with covers colored by Retros animator Brian Quarfoth.  I haven’t made a mini-comic for a while so it was fun to do these.




All three will be available at the convention and I also reprinted all of the previous Uptown Girl books (the graphic novels, not the big, fat phonebooks from a while ago) so if you need a few books before the last Uptown Girl book comes out (spring 2017), this is your chance.

Anyway, I’ll step off my carnival barker box and I hope to see you at the convention.


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.

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….

Girls’ Room

I just finished a new Uptown Girl story titled “Girls’ Room” that will be available as a one shot at SpringCon in May.  Here’s the cover to it.

It’s weird, this is the first cover where I didn’t draw a single line.  All photoshop.

Running to Stand Still

If you like books, there’s probably a slim chance you’ll be able to successfully avoid me this weekend.

There’s two big events in the Twin Cities this weekend that I will be a part of.   First up is the Twin Cities Book Festival.

I’ll be there signing copies of “Cifiscape”, a collection of short stories by Minnesotan writers about what the Twin Cities will be like in the future.  I have a short Uptown Girl story in it called “Ill Communication”.

The book is published by Onyx Neon who will have a table at the book fair.  I THINK I’ll be there from 10am until 11am.  Come see me and find out.

After that, I will be heading over to FallCon, the second biggest comic convention in Minnesota.

More information here:

I won’t be at FallCon until around 2:30, but Brian Bastian will be there selling copies of ‘Uptown Girl’ and his new ‘Tommy Chicago’ trade paperback all day long.

Anyway,  a lot of running around but it’ll be a fun day.

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!

MIXed Up

I used to do a lot of comic conventions.  I used to go to Iowa, Chicago, San Francisco and stuff for conventions.  Now I stick closer to home when it comes to shows because it allows me to follow my number one rule: Never Leave Minnesota.  Anyway, the conventions (Springcon and Fallcon) around here are very well run and are a really good mix between the indie crowd and the superhero fans, but this Saturday will be the first independent cartoonists convention in Minnesota.  Ever.  For reals.

It’s called MIX and it stands for Minneapolis Indie Xpo and is taking place at the Soapbox Factory in Northeast Minneapolis.  It’s going to be really fun, a few of my favorite cartoonists are going to be like Aaron Reiner, John Porcellino and Jeremy Tinder.  A lot of the cartoonists from the Cartoonists Conspiracy are going to be there as well.  I’ll be sitting with Brian Bastian who will be selling the first trade paperback of “Tommy Chicago” which was illustrated by Danno. 

More information can be found here: