In my last post, I mentioned how I’m posting less here and devoting most of my energy to all the comic work I’m doing. Yesterday, writer Kevin Church (whom you may remember I’ve worked with before on Lydia) wrote a longer and better explanation about his lack of blog content, citing most of the same reasons. He also dropped this in at the end:
There’s other things that I’m working on. As a teaser, I’ll say Max Riffner and I have been dancing around a thing ever since Lydia wrapped up, each of us waiting for the other to make the first move that codifies it and brings the hammer of the fiction gods down upon us. It’s different, bigger, and more ambitious than anything either of us have done before, but already there’s a spark that we’re hovering over, cupping our hands around and fanning from time to time.
We’ve been talking about this new project quite a bit. It’s everything he says: different, bigger and more ambitious. When we get to a point where we can start talking about it more, we will. For now, I’ll say I’m busy cranking out comics and very excited about the future.
I ran into an old friend recently who asked “where have you been?! You don’t update your website anymore! And don’t get me started on Facebook!”
I’ve been busy creating comics; that’s it. If you want to see where most of my energy is going, look no further than Drunk Elephant Comics. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and instead of talking about it here ad nauseum, I thought I’d start creating something.
Part of it is age also. Over the last 4 years (when I was regularly posting here), I’ve become more private (hence the lack of Facebook activity, also). I’m still very active on Twitter, however. I’ve been thinking about doing more of that sort of posting here — sharing links and quick one-offs.
Anyway – to the people that still look for my posts here, I’m still around and I’m okay. Promise. As long as Drunk Elephant Comics is still going, then so am I.
In July of 2008, I finally felt like getting back into cartooning again, and had settled on trying my hand at an online comic strip. There are many self-imposed obstacles that I see cartoonists put in their path to creating anything (that way they never have to put work out in the public eye), and I am no stranger to those delusions. Here are some of my stumbling blocks and how I got around them:
I have seen a lot of cartoonists do millions of character designs and never do one single panel. I read once that Erik Larsen designs the characters on the page as he draws them, so I started doing that. The one drawback to this is consistency; I’ve drawn my characters wrong before once or twice. But more than likely, no one will notice, and this is easily solved by creating one master sheet in between updates. I did a master sheet for Lydia before I started at Kevin Church’s request, and I have to admit that has helped. When I was getting started on Drunk Elephant Comics, I skipped it so it wouldn’t slow me down.
Comic Strip versus Graphic Novel
It’s no secret that I like telling complete stories. I like movies over television shows, for example.1 But crafting another longform graphic novel just filled me with dread, not only because of the work involved, but because of the fact that longform isn’t that popular online. So I decided to do something completely different and try my hand at a humorous webcomic strip. I doubted my ability at comedy, so I did 4 test strips and sent them to a close group of friends and peers. Obviously since we are closing in at strip #100 on Drunk Elephant, they said I should keep it up. And a strip update is a lot less daunting than a whole comic page as an artist.
I build websites for a living, so getting wrapped up in the design and CMS and development was an obvious stumbling block. I really did a good job of telling myself “what does the site matter if there is nothing to put on it?” The “comic” is the important part of “webcomic,” and the “web” is just the method of delivery. So my first few months of strips were done on Webcomics Nation. It’s dead easy to set up (it’s designed for cartoonists who are not technology savvy) and start posting immediately. It also has a large community of cartoonists that you are networked with just by being a member. Did I mention also that it’s free?
Many webcartoonists tell you to build a buffer of strips, in case you get sick or need a break. To start though, I threw the idea out the window. If I had told myself I needed a buffer, I’d start thinking about how it wasn’t quite ready yet, or I’d find some other way to stall. Those 4 test strips I did? I put them up immediately after I had my feedback. The rush of immediate publishing is so thrilling. It’s flying without a net. It reminds me of when I did a comic strip for my high school paper — waiting patiently for the first copies to come back after barely making a deadline. I still don’t have a buffer on either strip. I should probably start, but I’m addicted to deadlines and the rush. Literally, I have little to no idea what the next Drunk Elephant strip will be until the night before. This is probably not sustainable, but for now, it works.
After drawing an entire graphic novel with a Wacom tablet, I found it hard to get used to the visual disconnect with so much time off. By disconnect I mean, you have to train your eyes/brain to look at the screen and not your hand. It takes some getting used to (it actually made me sick if I did it too long when I was getting started). This is why the first few strips of Drunk Elephant might seem rough; I went back to using a pencil and brushed ink on bristol board. Simple tools, sure, but they make comics just as well as a fancy electronic tablet. I found that once I started drawing by hand again, I picked up the digital drawing again quite easily.
These were my basic faults that I knew I would have to overcome, and could easily get over with the right thinking. Hopefully putting this out there will help some other folks get over their blocks. If there are any cartoonists out there reading this, leave a comment regarding one of your blocks and how you overcame it? Might be an interesting tip in it for the rest of us!
1 I need to write more on this — I’ve been studying television and comic strips a great deal to move past this particular hump.
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