I tried my hand at creating a diary comic with Procreate on the iPad Pro this morning. It was a good way to start the day. I’ve started doing roughs within the Procreate environment. I found I enjoyed working that way. So today, I thought I’d try to make a comic about all the work I’m doing right now. I even left several projects off my list in the second to last panel. There are some that I’m better off not devoting a lot of brain power to yet. Sometimes it’s better to let some stuff simmer on the back burner.
I try to do longer, focused posts every couple of weeks, about 2000 words. Since I’m crunched for time I decided to try this format. I’ve been wanting to see how the combination of using an iPad Pro with Procreate would be like to create a comic. This first try is a little rough. I’m going to create a panel template and a lettering guide template in Illustrator. I’ll save them as PNGs in Dropbox and import them into Procreate as guides for future pages. But all in all, I’d say this first attempt was successful.
First attempt at a Diary Comic with the iPad Pro and Procreate.
I used to do diary comics every week when I was in my first year at the Center for Cartoon Studies. They were assignments. I don’t like talking about myself. I find myself boring. I just work all the time. Not exactly riveting stuff. Maybe I’ll try this once a month? I can make something interesting monthly.
2016 has been kind of a crappy year so far. I’ve had friends struggle with losing jobs and losing their loved ones. I lost my grandfather at the end of January myself. He was diagnosed with cancer (his third) on December 31st, 2015. At 90, he decided to refuse treatment. He passed on January 28th. The loss is profound. He helped me learn about business. I set up a corporation for my comics and he taught me how to do accounting. Every year about this time we would close out my books for the year and prepare my corporate taxes. It’s weird that I’m not doing it with him right now. This was the first year I did it myself, and after a ten year apprenticeship, I think I did okay. Some day I’ll write more about him, but not today.
Something that brought me joy this morning was reading Carolyn Nowak’s Girl Town comic. Check out her blog for more diary comics. I did. Very funny. She may have unintentionally inspired this post.
It’s almost March, and the weather is starting to get nicer. Listen to some David Bowie. Watch an Alan Rickman movie. Get outside and get some sun on your face. Spring is coming.
Wrestling comics have always been sort of a mixed bag. Historically, they have been terrible. My theory is that “kayfabe” kept wrestling comics from being great stories. I know what you’re thinking (unless you are already a wrestling fan). What on earth is “kayfabe?” Let me give you a brief history of wrestling.
The origins of the term “kayfabe” will never be known for certain. Most experts believe the term started when professional wrestling toured with carnivals. Carny lingo infused into the business. “Kayfabe” means that the portrayal of the pre-determined matches are “real”. Kayfabe is also its own secret language of terms. It’s meant to keep outsiders, or “marks”, where they belong. On the outside. This is how business ran for years. We “believed” Hulk Hogan had a leg drop that would stun men into submission.
Peeking Behind The Curtain
A funny thing started to happen in the mid 1990s. Kayfabe finally started to drop, and fans got a peek behind the curtain. The first major incident occured at Madison Square Garden in May of 1996. Known as “The Curtain Call,” four wrestlers hugged each other after a match. Two of them were leaving to go to another promotion. Yet the problem was the audience saw each pair battle it out in the ring earlier in the night as sworn “enemies.” It was one of the first times that fans had proof that what they were watching wasn’t real.
Soon after in 2000, a popular documentary opened titled Beyond the Mat. It promised a behind the scenes look at professional wrestling. It gave us more than we bargained for. A large segment of the film focused on Jake “The Snake” Roberts. You get to see the beloved former WWE star battle drug addiction and wrestle on the road in bingo halls. His story went on to become the springboard for The Wrestler, released in 2009. With Mickey Rourke’s heartbreaking performance, the film blew “kayfabe” open for the masses.
Wrestlers Were Real Life Superheroes
“Kayfabe” means the illusion of wrestling was real. And that reality reflected itself in wrestling comics before 2000. With their superhuman physiques, wresters were gods come to life. Or superheroes. But most wrestling comics took wrestlers out of the ring. They became like their comic book counterparts. Heroes who fought crime or had outrageous adventures outside of the ring.
These books were horrible.
I’m not sure if “kayfabe” was a double-edged sword or not. Once the wrestlers were outside of the ring, it became so unbelievable as the premise for a comic book. They were unreadable. Most people would rather read Batman fight crime than a wrestler.
Enter the Reality Era of WWE
Between 2000 and now, wrestling became meta. You know it’s fake. The wrestlers know that you know it’s fake. And then that became the story. Elements of wrestler’s real lives started to make their way into the ring. This became known as the “Reality Era” in WWE. It kicked into high gear in 2011 with CM Punk’s infamous “Pipe Bomb” speech during an episode of RAW. While in front of live cameras, Punk sits down at the edge of the ramp after interrupting a match. And he gives the WWE universe both barrels. Punk was considered the best wrestler in the world. A reputation built from his years on the independent wrestling scene. He moved to WWE. But since he didn’t look like a typical wrestler, he was “buried.” He flamed the management of the company, all the way to the president, Vince McMahon. Then his microphone lost power and the show cut to commercial. Give it a watch when you can.
It was all a “work.” None of it was real. Punk and McMahon worked together on the whole stunt.
This dynamic played out again with the retirement of Daniel Bryan last week. Bryan was the wrestler most able to take advantage of CM Punk’s trailblazing. He was another indy darling who came to the WWE and was “buried,” but fans loved him. They loved him so much that they were actually able to influence how the company booked him. Which is a bit insane if you think about it. The audience hijacked RAW and propelled Bryan into the main event of Wrestlemania 30. His story culminated with winning the WWE Championship. I watched his rise, week in and week out. It was an amazing time to be a fan.
Unfortunately, Daniel Bryan’s injuries piled up on his career. With tears in his eyes, he retired to a full arena on live television. And it was just so… real. David Shoemaker wrote an excellent piece about the night that is worth the read. If you want to know more about the history of wrestling, his book The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling is excellent.
Wrestling is fake. But it’s also very real. The matches are pre-determined, but the people wrestling are incredible atheletes. Athletes with no “off season.” Athletes that get hurt peforming almost nightly. They are always on the road without much of a break. And those stories, those are the ones that are fascinating.
Finding My Way Back To Wrestling
I fell out of love with wrestling the same way I did with Christmas when I discovered Santa Claus wasn’t real. With sudden disgust and resentment. I can’t remember exactly when I realized that wrestling was fake as a young boy. I seem to remember a botched spot involving Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff. I also remember figuring out the story beats in a match. “Oh, he always loses just like this at this point in the match… wait a second,” my 7 year old mind deduced. Just like in fiction, if the story structure becomes too obvious, it takes you out of the story.
I came back to wrestling more than 20 years later. I had ignored it for so long that my interest with it came just as immediate as I had lost it so long ago. I read an interview about a local Omaha wrestler, “Mad Dog” Vachon. He reflected on his life on the road and the hardships he faced. It captivated me. I couldn’t let it go. I started picking up wrestler’s autobiographies. Ric Flair’s To Be The Man. “Classy” Freddie Blassie’s Listen Up, You Pencil Neck Geeks! I scoured for every bit of information I could find. Because like it or not, a story was starting to form in my head.
Wrestlers of a particular era seemed to share certain traits. A lot of them died young. And they seemed to have terrible personal lives. Either they grew up in a bad household, or they themselves were not good people to live with. Many of them were hardcore partiers. Most of them lived with a decent amount of pain. All of them loved wrestling.
The Omaha Civic Auditorium
“Am I making a wrestling comic?”
I wanted to create a comic about a wrestler that wasn’t only about wrestling. It was about his family. It was about the little brother he was putting through medical school. It was about his dead father, who was also a wrestler. I wanted it to take place in 1990. And I wanted it to take place in Omaha, which has past roots in wrestling. I took down a lot of notes and made several outlines, but I couldn’t get it to quite work. Oh, also it was 500 pages. It was a sprawling family epic. And I was terrified to actually draw it. I didn’t want to put in 500 pages of work for a wrestling comic. You know, the type of comic that never finds an audience and will remain unseen.
Several years later, I was entering my second year at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I needed a thesis project to graduate. I decided if The Crippler’s Son was going to have a chance to see the world, this was its only one. At least it would have a purpose. It might not find an audience, but it would help me graduate.
The first thing I did was the most important. With the help of some amazing advisors, I whittled the story down to a brisk 50 pages. Five hundred pages was crippling me (pun intended). I did 10 thumbnail drafts during most of my second year to nail the story down right. Then I briskly created the art in a month. I detailed that process back in my post How to Draw a 50 Page Comic in One Month.
I’m happy with the results. The Crippler’s Son was released by Fantagraphics in November 2014. It exceeded my requirements. It not only helped me graduate, it helped me join the ranks of Fantagraphics, a publisher I have admired since my youth. As far as finding an audience, it’s done about what I expected. It was never going to be a smash hit. But the readers who do give it a chance are always impressed by it, and that’s enough for me.
More Wrestling Comics
I’ve started to notice a few more wrestling comics appearing on the stands. I have even thought about going back to the well and creating another one. If the WWE Network had existed even 5 years ago, The Crippler’s Son might have been extraordinarily different. There is just so much information available about the life of wrestling behind the scenes now. It all still fascinates me. I am a regular viewer of NXT, WWE’s development program which has become a brand unto itself. I watch independent promotions now online, looking for wrestlers with great stories and abilities.
Part of me does think about re-making The Crippler’s Son, to go after that 500 page monster I conceived. But I’m going to take a page out of wrestling: if you aren’t getting over, time to try something new. It’s time for some different stories. But you never know. Wrestling waited 20 years for me to come back to it. It’ll be there when I’m ready for another comic.
Note: links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you like what you read, consider supporting my writing by using my links. I get a cut, you get some entertainment.
I’m never going to buy another laptop again. The iPad Pro is the mobile computer I’ve been looking for my whole life. It’s changed my mobile creation kit in a big way. Back in August 2015, I wrote about the tools I use on the go. Since the iPad Pro replaces a good majority of them, I reassessed everything. I took tools out, and I added a few new ones.
The iPad Pro is my perfect mobile solution.
I purchased a new iPad Pro a few weeks ago once the Apple Pencil and Keyboard Case became available in my market. I never buy new technology without trying it first. As soon as I picked up the iPad Pro in my hands, I was reaching for my credit card. It’s light. Not as light as my iPad Air, but I can hold it with one hand comfortably. And it’s beautiful. Crisp colors on screen. Blazing fast. Amazing speakers. There are a slew of other resources out there that you can read about how great the Pro is. I recommend reading Federico Viticci’s excellent reviews (iPad Pro Review: A New Canvas and iPad Pro Accessories Review: Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard, Logitech CREATE Keyboard). Mr. Viticci uses an iPad Pro as his sole computer, so he knows what he’s talking about. Love his site.
So far the best thing for me is having more than 16gb of memory. I was constantly moving apps on and off my iPad Air. Now, I can reclaim it for what I use it most: reading and light computing. I read most of my news and 8 magazines on it, as well as comics. I deleted all the productivity apps and now my iPad Air is fun again. Reading on the Pro though, is amazing. I feel like George Jensen using it when I pull up the New York Times or the Economist.
Nerds will recognize my wallpaper.
The Keyboard Case is interesting. I’ve written several papers and articles on it already. It did take some getting used to since it uses the new MacBook keyboard technology. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but I now find it enjoyable. The low profile of the keys are sometimes an issue for me. My fingers will get lost on the keyboard more than a regular one. It’s not that noticeable though. When it’s all folded together, it makes carrying the Pro easy. And I like the spill proof material it’s made out of.
The Apple Pencil is just as amazing as everyone had speculated. It’s the first stylus I’ve ever enjoyed using. I’ve been doing illustrations in Procreate, which has been optimized for the Pro. Working in it is incredible. And if you need something professional done quick, the Pro/Pencil/Procreate combo is perfect. I haven’t tried drawing sequential comic art yet on it. But there are already a ton of YouTube tutorials out there for anyone to search through. I don’t think it’s going to replace my current analog process. It’s nice to know that if I needed to, I could create pages on it.
Another bonus is the Astropad app, which I tried on my iPad Air and found it just not powerful enough to use for real work. I haven’t had an opportunity to use it with the iPad Pro, but I’m assuming it will kick ass. Astropad turns your iPad into a mirrored screen of your computer. Launch Photoshop, and it shows up on your iPad. And now you can use the best stylus ever created with the most powerful graphics program.
This made me re-think not just my mobile setup, but my whole office. The MacBook Pro was the best solution for me for a long time. I needed portability and power. But it was never as powerful as a desktop machine, nor did it have the optimal screen real estate. Don’t get me started on the “portable” part of those machines either. The newer MacBook Pros are lighter, but they are still backbreakers. With the iPad Pro, I can now have the best of both worlds. When my current MacBook Pro dies, I’ll be replacing it with an iMac. The iPad Pro does most of what I need (I can even code on it with Panic’s excellent Coda), but it’s a full fledged graphics tablet also. When I sit down at my main workstation, I want power. And as amazing as MacBook Pros are, they are not as powerful as a desktop. I have an iMac at work, and I never have to quit programs to work in another.
Out with the old tools
As I wrote earlier, the iPad Pro eliminated some of my prior tools. Out came the sketchbook, portable Bluetooth keyboard, iPad Air and assorted pens. I replaced them with a new Moleskine notebook, a Fisher Space Pen, a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen (with Sailor Jentle Yama-dori black ink) and a TWSBI Diamond 580AL Blue Fountain Pen (with Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki blue ink). I stepped up my adult game. I got fucking fancy.
Note: I’m going to be linking a lot to the excellent Pen Addict blog. I found this site for their great Apple Pencil review and got hooked on the rest of their weird geeky pen passion. Awesome resource. They are sponsored by Jet Pens, which is where I buy most of my art supplies. So I was happy to throw them a couple bucks via affiliate links for their excellent writing.
The amazing Fisher Space Pen
The Fisher Space Pen was built for astronauts. If it’s good enough for them, it’s amazing for me. This thing will write in water, grease, whatever. It’s small. And that’s why it was perfect for me. How often do you find yourself actually carrying a pen in your pocket anymore? How often do you need one? Even when you are signing for the check at a restaurant, do you want to use the pen they give you? In the height of cold and flu season? No thanks. The Fisher Space Pen goes right into my front right pocket every morning when I leave my home, and I never notice it. It’s perfect. And it looks great. Pretty inexpensive and refills are cheap. You can order them online or at any big box office retail store. Check out the Pen Addict review.
The Moleskine Notebook
In my original blog post for my mobile gear, I didn’t slam Moleskine per se. But I wasn’t exactly favorable for their products. They are standard designer/writer kit, especially if you want to be perceived as a designer/writer/really special snowflake. Also, I never liked their sketchbooks because they were a pain to get flat on a scanner. So I switched to spiral sketchbooks.
Now that I do most of my sketching on the iPad Pro, I didn’t need a sketchbook in my bag anymore. And I still believe in the physical act of writing notes on paper. It helps you remember information better. So I got a new Moleskine notebook. Because, let’s be honest, they make fantastic notebooks. It will take me a year to go through one of them. They look great. And now when I bring one to meetings, clients will realize that they are talking to a real creative person. Not one of those fake ones with a yellow legal pad.
The Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen
After I got the Fisher Space Pen, I started thinking a lot about the pens I use in general. In the office. At home. And you know what? I’m tired of crappy pens. Most of us use whatever the office has in stock. And they’re good enough. But try a Space Pen and you’ll have the same realization I did. I’m tired of cheap, disposable pens.
Enter the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s a fountain pen, which turns off a lot of people immediately. But I’m so used to using nibs for cartooning and lettering now that I thought “what the hell?” The Pilot Metropolitan is a cheap beginners fountain pen. If you aren’t sure about fountain pens in general, this is a beautiful pen to try. It writes so well. Seriously. It’s like going from a V4 engine to a V6. Or a Ford Fiesta to a Honda Accord. You get the picture. It comes with a refill cartridge, but I sprung for a fountain pen converter. The converter lets you draw ink into a chamber, so you can just buy a bottle of ink that will last you awhile. I decided to go with the black Sailor Jentle Yama-dori ink (to match the color of the pen). It writes well. The nib on the Metropolitan is fantastic for the price, and the ink is smooth. It’s an affordable setup. And when you whip out a fountain pen anywhere, people notice. Here are the Pen Addict reviews for the Pilot Metropolitan and Sailor Jentle ink.
Finally, the TWSBI Diamond 580AL Blue Fountain Pen
Or as I call it, Sex Pen
I enjoyed writing with a fountain pen so much that I decided to step my game up even higher. If the Pilot Metropolitan is a Honda Accord, the TWSBI Diamond 580AL is a Cadillac. It’s beautiful. It’s made of plastic and aluminum, and each part is replaceable. The Diamond has a piston charger built in. All you need to do is dip the nib in ink and twist the piston mechanism at the end of the pen. The ink flows into the chamber. Beautiful. It is an amazing pen. I am finding myself looking for reasons to write things down with this pen. I went with the Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki blue ink to match the blue aluminum highlights of the Diamond. The ink is sublime. Sometimes low key and sometimes it leaps off the page. And I just love blue ink, in general. There’s something about it that I adore. The combination of ink and pen is so satisfying to write with that yes, I’m going to relate it to sex. It just feels so good. It’s on par with how in love I am with the iPad Pro. It’s just… right. It actually relaxes me to take notes with the pen on the Moleskine. Check out what Pen Addict had to say about the TWSBI Diamond 580AL and the Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki ink.
You are obsessed with pens, Max. How much further will it go?
It can’t go any further. I actually own a Mont Blanc fountain pen. It was a present for being the best man in my uncle’s wedding. So, if the Pilot Metropolitan was an Accord, and the TWSBI Diamond 580AL was a Cadillac, the Mont Blanc is a Porshce. Or something else obscene and amazing. It has a gold nib. Which means it will never break down like a steel nib. And it can only be used by the owner, because the owner breaks it in to their unique writing style. But since I got it when I was a shithead 19 year old, I never understood how great it was. I mean, abstractly, yes. Swiss bankers in movies used Mont Blancs. But I didn’t appreciate good penmanship, or nice things, because… 19. I was happy with Hot Pockets in 1996. Not Mont Blancs. Or fountain pens. I intend on using it though, only at home, and only for special occasions.
Mobile as all get out
These are all the tools I’m currently using on the go. I hope you can find something of value in any of these. I will have a more in depth article on the iPad Pro and how it applies to comics soon. But for now, consider this a brief introduction.