The piece of beautifully rendered art you see above was created by Katie Shanahan. I spent pretty much all of the ECCC weekend exhibiting and hanging out with her and her brother, Mr Steven “Shaggy” Shanahan, and it was a blast. The Shanahans siblings are so kind they put a Delilah Dirk cover on this ECCC exhibitor map, but totally left out any of their own comics. What?
Together they make the comics Shrub Monkeys and Silly Kingdom, and they are each well worth your time. Silly Kingdom 2 will, I believe, be ready for TCAF! Meanwhile, I can prove Shrub Monkeys is a big deal because it is mentioned in the dictionary.

The piece of beautifully rendered art you see above was created by Katie Shanahan. I spent pretty much all of the ECCC weekend exhibiting and hanging out with her and her brother, Mr Steven “Shaggy” Shanahan, and it was a blast. The Shanahans siblings are so kind they put a Delilah Dirk cover on this ECCC exhibitor map, but totally left out any of their own comics. What?

Together they make the comics Shrub Monkeys and Silly Kingdom, and they are each well worth your time. Silly Kingdom 2 will, I believe, be ready for TCAF! Meanwhile, I can prove Shrub Monkeys is a big deal because it is mentioned in the dictionary.

Thank you, Readers!

Emerald City Comic Con

Were you aware of it? I am exhibiting at good ol’ ECCC! You can find me at table 308, right next to the Dark Horse booth, sharing a table with Toronto’s most charming cartoonists, Katie and Steven Shanahan,

What do I have for you? SMILES. MANY SMILES. And dedicated copies of The Turkish Lieutenant, as well as travel poster prints. It’s the only place you need to go (as long as the only thing you want to buy is Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant).

A few Delilah Dirk 2 “character designs.” (Because really, they’re more costume design than anything.) I’m particularly proud of the old dude; the second image.
I spent most of December resolving character design needs. V.1 of the book is done and is in my editor’s elegant, well-manicured hands. While I’m waiting for feedback, I’ve been trying to lock down character and location designs. Must start working on actual pages soon.

Making Comics and The Feedback Loop

It’s an inherent problem that pops up when working on any long-term creative project. It’s true for movies, for video games, and in my case, it’s true for making a graphic novel. There’s a great discussion of it in this episode of the Giant Bombcast podcast; basically, as you are making Your Thing, you are having to make many very important decisions, and you will not know the outcome of those decisions for a very long time. If you are a comedian or a musician, it’s easy to know how people will respond to your work. If you’re up there on stage, based on the response from the live crowd of humans at your feet you can have immediate feedback as to whether or not the decisions you’re making are working out as intended. Presumably, if you are a comedian, people will laugh. Presumably, if you are a musician, people will fall to the floor as great heaving blobs of emotion. Music success!

I’m working on a graphic novel, Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England (or Delilah Dirk 2, or just DD2). I am making decisions right now about the story. I want the story to make people laugh and to make people fall to the floor as great heaving blobs of emotion. The problem is, it’s going to take at least a year for me to complete all the final artwork for the book, and then a whole bunch of additional time for the book to go through the publication process. Will that happen? Beats me. It’ll take two years to find out.

This is disadvantageous. I would prefer to know whether my story is being effective right now, not only so I can adjust it if it’s failing, but also so I can take those lessons and apply them to other projects.

Additionally, I’m trying to move through the production of this comic quickly and efficiently. I know there will likely be spots down the road where I will make revisions, but I’d rather do as much work as possible ahead of time. After this rough-pages stage, each page is going to be a lot more time-consuming to produce. I’d rather make fundamental story changes right now, while mistakes are cheap and quick to change, and where it’s easier to get an overall perspective on the story. The alternative is that I end up doing a bunch of expensive re-drawing of final art.

I want to cut through that two-year gap in the feedback loop, so I’m taking a couple extra weeks to make my rough page drawings clear and presentable. I’m making the text legible, cleaning up the borders, and where the drawing is not particularly readable, I’ll clarify the drawing. I’m not sure at what stage of the process real comics people do their lettering and balloon layout, but right now I want some feedback on the story and how the comic is reading, so I am cleaning up the whole thing now in order to present it to a few trusted readers. Maybe my editor if she’s lucky.

I could simply enlarge my rough drawings — blow ‘em up to 11 x 17” and start drawing the final art, but I’d much rather take the time to finish this intermediate step for all the benefits it provides.

Perhaps this page isn’t the best example. It already reads relatively clearly, except for the text, and I don’t usually take the cleaned-up rough to as clean a state as seen below (that Delilah panel is a real exception — drawings are usually much rougher than that). Nevertheless, you get the idea. I’m taking something borderline-illegible and making it 75% more presentable.

The border sets the proportion for the page, and is an “average”of the North American First Second page dimensions and of the French Akileos page dimensions that were established with Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Eventually these pages will all get printed out on paper in blue ink, and that’s what I’ll use as my rough to start completing the final line artwork.

More importantly, though, these pages will be combined into a PDF so that I can present the entire graphic novel to someone and they will be able to read it in a more-or-less complete fashion. Their reactions and feedback will be used to both improve the story and reduce the anxiety I have about groping blindly down a dark hallway of production, not sure whether the product I’m working on is going to hit its narrative target. I’ll be able to move forward secure in the knowledge that my comic is effectively crippling people with laughter and emotions.