Have I just been screwing around for the last year or so? Have I produced anything since I finished Joe and Azat? I’ve drawn a lot of little narcissistic egomaniac comics about myself. I’ve drawn a fair amount of people with many eyeballs. I’ve drawn three comics for Boston Comics Roundtable’s Inbound and Outbound. But what about serious work? Have I done any of that? Joe and Azat was done last April! A full sixteen months ago.
It’s time to get serious.
The goal for the next book is to have a solid penciled, lettered and ink draft by Christmas. I’ve been told this is ambitious. Ambitious in this sense means, “There is no way you’re going to get that book done in the next four months.”
We shall see.
Anyway, for the next four months (at least) I’ll be documenting the process of putting the book together. No more narcissistic egomaniac comics. No more many eyed people.
Well, maybe some.
Hopefully, each week I’ll have something new to post about the book. Sketches, finished pages, notes and possibly some long winded excuses about why I have produced nothing (which could be the mundane: I was tired)(or the awesome: I fell in love)
This week: Beginnings
My working title for the next book is Vengeance. It’s set in the Old West and is about a faith healer/mystic wrongly executed for murder and how he gets revenge from beyond the grave. This is a left turn from Joe and Azat and Flower and Fade (something NBM, who published those two books, has mentioned with concern). However, at the moment I feel like I’ve had enough with slice of life comics and would like to play with some slice of fiction elements. Murder, revenge, animal magnetism, and possession are all fun stuff and they’re not a slice of my life.
The Project and Ideas Notebook
Almost all the comics I do start out in my Project and Ideas notebook.
I have had this notebook since I moved to Chicago in 2001. It’s been across the country a few times. It went to Turkmenistan with me. It visited Burma last Christmas (and it still hasn’t gotten filled up yet)(but there have been some pretty long periods of dormancy). Ideas come from all over the place. You see two people on the street having an argument, you hear a song that brings back a memory of walking with some girl who you desperately wanted to kiss, you read a book and decide you have to steal that idea, your friend tells you a story that blows your mind...
Basically, if I have an idea for a comic I write it down here. I don’t worry about plotting or revision or anything like that. I just write down whatever I think is necessary so that I will remember the idea. A lot of times I come back and look over something I have written and have no idea what I was talking about or what I thought was interesting about the idea.
I had the idea for Vengeance while I was in Turkmenistan. I wrote down quickly and then forgot about it until I was flipping through the book awhile back.
Once I decide to start work on an idea it moves from the Project and Ideas book to the work book. For this book I just sat down and wrote out the story in chronological order. This is a pretty messy process. I realize later in the story that I need another character and then I have to go back to the beginning of the story and figure out where they should be introduced. I realize a character is superfluous and have to go back and remove them from the beginning or merge them with another character.
I can’t say this is my usual process. Joe and Azat was completely different. With Joe and Azat I just started out drawing. I drew about two hundred pages of comics in sketchbooks without even thinking of an overarching narrative. Then I took the pieces that I had created, put them together, twisted them around, bent, pulled, pushed, poked, added and subtracted and then boiled everything down into the final plot.
Breaking It Down: Chapters
Having come up with the plot for Vengeance I broke it down into chapters. There will be eleven in total and each one will focus on one character in the story. The narration will be omniscient, but by focusing on one character at a time I will be able to withhold certain information until it’s narratively advantageous. It will also allow me to take some sideways steps while telling the story.
Breaking It Down: Pages and Panels
After breaking the book into chapters, I broke down this first chapter into panels and pages. This is really only a rough guide which is completely subject to change while I am drawing. The first chapter will be about five pages, and, hopefully, I will be able to put a finished version of it up next week.
During all this writing I have been doing some sketching of the main characters. The main goal of these sketches is just to get comfortable drawing the faces. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I am first drawing a character there isn’t much consistency in how they look (look at the noses on the three faces of Cole Palmer in the upper right hand corner). The only way to get past this is just to draw the characters over and over again until drawing their faces becomes something like signing my signature, something I won’t mess up. Cole Palmer and Chastity Brandt are the main characters of Vengeance. Henrietta Barks isn’t going to make it past chapter one.
Finished pages next week.
There is always the possibility of complete and utter failure, loss of interest, doubt, lethargy, hesitation, indecision, disgust, fear, loathing and distraction.