What you may not know about me is that once upon a time I drew comic books. I know I know. Stop. See, it’s always like that. I’ll be sitting there at a table full of laughter and friends and warmth and we’re talking about funny jobs that we had and someone will say “I made tacos” and someone will say “I was a Green Beret” and someone will say “I used to teach dogs to cry on command for tv” and then it gets to me and I say “I drew some graphic novels” and just like that, ptooie, the conversation goes cold and the evening is done.
It doesn’t matter that it’s not, you know, Batman and Robin kind of stuff that I made — not that there’s anything wrong with that — or weirdo porno comics. Comics is enough.
Things are changing, however. The world is getting used to the idea of comics as a real artform and rather than it being a genre, it’s a medium, like poetry or the novel or the essay. It’s another way to say what it is you gotta say.
So, therefore, I’m coming out of the comics closet today and posting a subsection of my books section, and there I’m showing off that which I wrote and drew from 1991 to about 1999. Currently what’s up there are both published graphic novels as well as photocopied minis. I’ll be putting up the smaller works over the next few weeks, like those two-page pieces that appeared in anthologies and magazines. I also expect to post some process entries, complete with sketches, photo reference and other goodies.
You can find links to the comics section on the sidebar of the books-section pages. As this website redesign progresses, I’ll be putting lots of little linkages in the sidebars to new sections and areas. Comics is the first.
Lastly I’d like to say that I don’t think I’m done with the comics thing yet. I have a few more stories in my head and my notebooks that I don’t think would work as picture books, and aren’t for kids. That’s a few year away still, but you read it here and you can hold me to it.
A friend of mine who is editing a book on comics recently asked if I might contribute a couple of panels and sketchbook pages from my graphic novel Dear Julia, for consideration in his book. Happy to comply, I spent an hour or so going through these two sketchbooks that I filled with everything that became Dear Julia, from October 1993 to July 1997 (can it really be ten years?). I haven’t looked at this stuff since probably 1998, and in-between now and then I’ve become a dad twice, began and ended a marriage, moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia, had a career as a college professor, and entered the world of childrens book illustration. What I haven’t done in this time is much writing and much less writing and drawing for comics.
Looking at these sketches kind of kicked me, making me realize how much fun and crazy it is to be
involved engulfed in the lives of characters and events entirely of one’s own creation. That is, to write.
Anyway these sketchbook pages are about 8×7 inches so as you can see, the thumbnails are about the size of postage stamps. Typically my process was I’d write story and draw thumbs at the same time, then, using tracing paper and a tiny-nibbed rapidograph pen, then refine the thumbnail sketch. That would then get enlarged via photocopy to the size of the actual panel and get traced via lightbox to the illustration board with a light pencil (typically 2H for you nerds). This would sometimes be quite detailed or sometimes fairly loose. The drawing would then get redrawn in ink with a crowquill, then painted with black/grey watercolor. I still work basically the same way, though with a big fat brush now rather than a crowquill. My initial sketches are still the size of postage stamps no matter the size of the final work. I always figured my eyes or my back would give out working this way, but here I am at 39 still with 20/20 vision and strong as an ox.
You can read more about Dear Julia, here. Click on the appropriate link on the right. Hope you like.