Tag Archives: comic

King Cole’s American Salvage

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I didn’t notice the parallel between Slocum holding the galvanized pipe and Johnny holding the sledgehammer until after I drew it. Panel 6 should have been Johnny standing in the same attitude as Slocum in panel 2. In case you haven’t read the book, Johnny is not threatening his uncle with the sledgehammer; he’s just knocking the tire off an old Lincoln Town Car.

A really difficult comic for me, almost on the level of difficulty of “To You, as a Woman.” It’s just so sad. It didn’t help that, the day before I started working on it, The Man asked me to watch The Green Mile, which I had never seen (or read—I was an avid Stephen King fan as a young person, and the publication of the book coincided with the end of my love affair with his work) and it really crystallized the feeling of being overwhelmed by pain and suffering and man’s inhumanity to man. There’s not a lot of hope here: Slocum is clearly irredeemable, and Johnny’s path to responsibility is guilt-ridden and regrettable. Also, many people know that I spent 5 years taking care of a friend with a traumatic brain injury, so that pain is all too familiar. Plus, trying to draw the same character in a variety of poses always stresses me out.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

It took an entire week to create this comic, working in bits and pieces because the whole was too terrifying to contemplate, but I powered through and finished around 3 a.m. Sunday night. Then I uploaded it. I uploaded it 6 times. Every time I uploaded it, I saw a mistake and felt compelled to go back and fix it. The first 5 were kind of little: 2 of them were missing apostrophes, and 1 was that Slocum didn’t have an ear in panel 5. But the 6th time, the time I said, “OK, now it’s got to be right,” I noticed a mistake in the title. Among my writer friends, I’m considered a pretty excellent copyeditor, but somehow I had gotten through the entire process (I drew the title first) without noticing that “American” was misspelled. That’s when I gave up and went to sleep because it was almost 4 a.m. and if I’d overlooked that, who knows what I might have overlooked, and how would it be possible to discover it in any case?

The next story in the book is a lot more pleasant, although it also involves gross bodily injury of the sort that will likely affect the character for the rest of his life, but at least it doesn’t feature any psychopaths.

 

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Family Reunion

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I wasn’t sure if I was really going to draw that final panel, but I drew it.

As I recall, there are a couple of pieces of American Salvage that appear in Bonnie Jo’s second novel, Once upon a River, which is apparently being made in a movie even as we speak, and the events of “Family Reunion” are a big part of Once upon a River, which I guess means that in short order we’re going to have a feature film in which a teenage girl shoots off the tip of her rapist’s weapon.

I guess America is seriously ripe for this kind of honesty in cinema. If more rapists got their dicks shot off, maybe there would be fewer rapists in the world.

It’s really only a couple of pixels, but it did seem like a kind of far-out thing to draw. Then again, so are gutted deer and spit roast pigs. And this is the 4th comic in a row that features a gun.

In the story, Marylou finally recognizes the violence that was done to her through the metaphor of a gutted deer. The word “rape” doesn’t appear in the story, and there’s no particular recollection of the actual event, although she describes the details of the moments before and after. The pig makes a vile, but apt metaphor as well.

Selective mutism is a not completely uncommon response to trauma among children. There’s a certain degree of power in willful silence. The way Marylou experiences the world, jumping back and forth between current and past events, is also a result of trauma. In illustrating the story, I jumbled up the images, quotes, and captions, too. Everything is mixed up. But Marylou has a moment of clarity at last. It’s a satisfying ending, the kind of justice that we so rarely see in the real world.

The Burn

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It’s a true comedy of errors, but he really shouldn’t have run that red light. Never a good idea.

Whew! This is my favorite story in the book so I wanted to do it justice. Do you see how lovingly the seeping wound in panel 4 has been illustrated? That little white poof between the women in panel 6 is a cat if you zoom way in.

I ended up cutting out the first 5 pages of the story, which can be summarized as, “Jim is having a particularly frustrating Friday night.” That allowed me to start with what, in my opinion, is the linchpin moment of the story: when Jim sets himself on fire. Because women are confusing and he can’t get one and he’s so sure that having one is like having a direct line to god, which makes his inability to score that much more frustrating and emasculating.  It’s ridiculous. And then he sets himself on fire and it all comes out into the open. Everything about it makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

The use of water in the story is really nice too, as a counterpoint to fire and as a symbol of healing and compassion. There’s a lot to analyze here, if you want to write an English paper. I just used some of my favorite moments and motifs.

The Inventor, 1972

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I had the fog in panel 1 perfect, and then I accidentally deleted the layer, and just couldn’t make the fog look perfect again. But it’s supposed to be foggy in panel 1.

From the moment I took on this project, I wondered how I was going to draw the homemade scuba gear, which seemed like such a memorable symbol, but on rereading the story, I felt the homemade scuba gear was less important. The girl in the story believes Uncle Ricky was a real angel, but he was a kid who gave his friend a homemade tattoo and also made his own fireworks. He was no angel. Also, he tested his homemade scuba gear alone, at night. He wasn’t as smart as he thought.

There’s a lot going on in “The Inventor, 1972,” and I had to cut a lot out, particularly the man’s fraught relationship with his father, and the fact that he is referred to as “the hunter” despite the fact that his hand injury leaves him unable to shoot, and the scene that depicts him trying to hunt as a younger man shows him failing to take the shot. I thought there was some ambiguity about the car accident. The man keeps saying that he didn’t see the girl, but then he thinks about how happy he was when he hit her because he thought she was a deer, and then he recalls how she looked emerging from the fog. So, did he hit her on purpose, mistaking her grace for that of a deer? Or was it all too fast to be anything other than an accident? How culpable is he? He sort of hopes that he will go to jail—his situation is so bad that jail would be an improvement, to his mind—but his guilt is mixed up with so many events that it’s hard to say how guilty he is now.

In the story, the girl sees the man’s hunting license pinned to his jacked when he approaches, but when I Googled “Michigan hunting license 1972,” all the hunting licenses from that era clearly read “display in middle of back.” Having never hunted at all, let alone in Michigan 2 years before I was born, I didn’t know what to make of that, so I just left the license out, since the girl can’t read it anyway. Also, it’s supposed to be the back of his hand that’s burned, and I ended up drawing the front of his hand burned.

At its heart, I think this story is about 2 people who don’t know each other at all, even though both of their lives have been indelibly affected by the death of another character and they’re clearly connected and could help each other. I’d like to think that the girl’s parents find out that he was the person who hit her with his El Camino, but also the one who went running for help, and that they would, naturally, recognize him from their own childhood, and that somehow he gets reintegrated into the family’s life and becomes a subsequently less broken person as a result. I think it’s meant to be redemptive.

This comic took almost an entire week to write and draw, but in my defense, I was at Tucson Comicon for 3 of those days, 4 if you count picking up my media badge and skulking around the load-in on Thursday. Usually I write the script before I start drawing, but I knew that panel 1 should just be this moment of the girl lying on the ground with the man kneeling in front of her, so I just started drawing and figured out the text as I went along. Maybe it would have been more coherent if I had worked it all out first.

World of Gas

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I envy people with this kind of energy, but not people with 3 teenage sons.

Back in 1999, I felt pretty much the same about Y2K. What a lot of fuss. I worked that night; New Year’s Eve is a good time to make money. But people can always find something to get riled up about. There are still dirty dishes to wash at the end of the day. If you can’t identify with that, you won’t understand this story. The last panel could have been Susan washing dishes, but I drew dirty dishes for “My Sister Is in Pain” and it’s gross. Dishes are a pain and I have to do them at least twice a day. I love the idea of all the machines stopping for a while and people just shutting up.

That Pur-Gas logo looks sweet.

Dragon Comics 168

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In The Man’s defense, while he did just have lunch a couple pages back in comic time, it’s been almost 4 months in real time. And he does love barbecue.

If a dragon eats a human, obviously, it’s not cannibalism.

Even though I got stung by a bee, again, and suffered what would be categorized as a “moderate” reaction (my entire forearm swelled up and it itches from my wrist almost to my shoulder) I made a comic. Hooray for me. It was weird typing these words I originally wrote months ago, especially today, as The Man is Away on Family Business and he might be back tomorrow or he might be gone for a couple days. I guess I go away without him a lot more often than he goes away without me, so that feels strange, too.

Otherwise all there is to say is that this background took way longer than I thought it would and I should have made the black stripes be rainbow stripes running perpendicular to the other rainbow stripes. It would have been at least 20% cooler. Live and learn.

 

Priorities

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His second-to-last word were, “I don’t want to be a statistic.”

This is something from my sketchbook, the only comic of a million ideas that I had while drawing “Close Encounters of the ∞ Kind” that I actually recorded. It never got worked up because I was busy and it was dark. But, man, we are living in some dark times. I had a whole screed that I intended to publish here about how dark those times are, for me personally and for the world at large, but suddenly I’m not feeling it. A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend asked, “People with invisible disabilities, what do you wish other people understood about living with your chronic illness?” and I wrote, “I am literally doing the best I can.”

I am literally doing the best I can.

In case anyone was wondering, I finished all the art for Close Encounters; it took me about 8 months all told, working an average of maybe 20 hours a week for most of it. Linda loved it. Although it was meant to be ambiguous and mind-bending, beta readers seemed to find it a bit too ambiguous and mind-bending, so I’m adding just a bit more text. But honestly, its intention is to be something that the reader has to work at and at this point in my life whether or not an individual gets my art has little impact on my artistic process.

What bums me out: the artwork is about 1000 times better than what usually ends up in my webcomics, and it still bears about as much resemblance to the pictures in my head as a 5-year-old’s crayon drawing does to a portrait of their family, and to get it that good required an entire month to draw a single page. Granted, I learned a lot in the process and if I had to do it again, it might take only 4 or 5 months, but that’s still too slow for the kind of comics I want to produce. You need at least a page a week. At 4 pages a week, these webcomics are as good as it gets right now. It’s a conundrum.

Hopefully, I can announce the next comic book on the horizon pretty soon.