I hinted at this on my last post, but I’ve been working hard on getting a new comic ready to share. I haven’t posted any work online since they still called them “webcomics.” Either way, I’ve been tooling with this comic for the better part of ten years and I’ve finally cracked it.
During the first year at CCS, you have to make a 16 page mini-comic as your final project. You’re given something like, six weeks. That’s either plenty of time for you, or it’s not enough. For most students, it isn’t enough. For me? I’d been drawing 2 pages of webcomics a night for five years straight. I felt good. But the reason I went to CCS wasn’t to learn how to draw comics. I could do that by that point (and I certainly learned how to draw better while I was there also). The real reason was I wanted to get better at writing.
So I took my time. I worked hard on creating a story that would work. I knew that I was fast enough at drawing that I could spend some time with writing. It was about smugglers using the Lindbergh schools as cover. We had a review with our teacher (the most excellent Jason Lutes) about two weeks before the project was due. Sort of a “let’s make sure everyone seems on track” review. Jason reviewed my story. I felt great. I had worked hard on the details. Tried my best. And then Jason told me my story didn’t work at all. He sat me down and proceeded to tell me in detail how it fell apart. If you have had the honor of meeting the man, this is done with a grace and kindness the like of which you don’t much see in comics. I was dejected, but I saw how right he was. It was so obvious once he walked me through it. And he even gave me a way out! He gave me a solution, an ending to make the whole thing work.
I didn’t take it. Not out of pride or bitterness. Far from both. I felt like I could do better. I was mad at myself for being so…blind? Like I said when he pointed it out, it was obvious. I had deluded myself into thinking it worked. So I walked out of class dejected, had a beer or four at CJ’s, and thought through what to do next. What I came up with was so stupid but it worked. What if I adapted Bad Lieutenant as sixteen Sunday style strips? And I made it about a demon who was trying to do the right thing? It was one of those “holy shit” moments where it all kind of clicked and I was off to the races.
The next week was the final check in. Jason was worried about me but I told him I had it under control. And I did! I learned so much breaking down that story into 16 digestible bites. And then putting my own spin on it to create something new. I drew all 16 pages in a weekend. I couldn’t stop.
Something else happened along the way also: I was having a lot of fun drawing it. If you read back through this blog, you’ll see that I hate drawing. Or rather I hate how I draw. Most cartoonists do. But I unconsciously changed my style to be more fun and loose, and it all sort of…worked?! It was like jazz, where everything sings and if you try to explain it, it falls apart. But you as the artist, you know it when you hit that point. I’ve only been lucky enough to feel that a few times in my life, but it’s magic when it hits. This was one of those times.
I felt good turning it in. And it worked! Everyone loved it. That afternoon, most everyone left that class and hopped on the Vermonter to go to NYC for MoCCA. I had a handful of copies that I took with me. I traded with other cartoonists or handed them out to publishers or artists I loved. A few people caught up with me later to let me know how much they enjoyed it. A couple wanted to see me expand it.
That was Spring 2012. Now it is somehow Spring 2023. I’ve written 6 drafts and have finally got this story working to where I want it to be. I’ve learned a lot about storytelling in the last decade, even if I don’t have a lot to show for it. The most important thing I’ve learned is to get back on a schedule for sharing comics online. That has made me always accountable and always productive.
I’m pleased to announce that my new comic See You In Hell will be launching at the end of the month on Patreon. For only $2 a month, you will get access to the comic before anyone else can see it. I hope you will join us! I’ve been working hard on this comic over the last year and I’m excited to start sharing it with you.