There’s a Behind-The-Process blog-chain making the rounds, where someone – in this case, Josh Hechinger, whom I’ll be tabling with at WIZARD WORLD PHILLY starting next Thursday! (June 19-22, Table D14 in Artist Alley!) – prods you to talk about how and why you do what you do. I’ll be tackling the writing-side of things this week and the drawing-side next week.
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What are you working on?
At the moment, Nomad Tofu! NT Book 2 has proven to be a much bigger challenge than Book 1 in terms of story, and it’s taken a lot longer to plan things out to make sure we get to where we need to go in a satisfying way.
I’ve also been seriously contemplating and lightly working on a comic STRIP that would run every day for one year, but that’s a long, long ways off if it happens at all.
How does your work differ from others?
If we’re talking NT, nobody is doing deadpan adventure comics with a 90′s animation and Muppet influence.
If we’re talking me as a creator, I think it simply comes down to voice. Everyone brings different things to the table and filters it through their own experiences. I can’t even begin to sort out what that is for me.
How does your writing process work?
The best way to answer this is to start outward and work our way in. Here’s how I’ve done it, so far.
1.) Doodle a bunch of characters mindlessly. Find one that intrigues you and start to imagine what his or her deal is. Figure out that character’s primary attribute, or purpose.
2.) Come up with a definitive, VISUAL, beginning and end to the story you want to tell with that character. For example, I often say that NT’s world opened up to me when we introduced Aster. Even though that’s true, I had a very clear vision that Book 1 would start with Pub falling out of the sky and end with Pub flying away from a snow-covered mountain on a space-ship. I knew from the beginning that’s what I was working towards, and that the blanks would be filled in as Pub advanced to that destination.
3.) Now do the same thing in Step 2 with each Chapter (or issue, etc.). In addition, work out a small list of beats to hit that both progress the overall story and the character(s). This is done on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
4.) Once Step 3 is done you can start figuring out how to get from A to B, one page at a time. When I’m writing a page I can usually telegraph where the next page will go, but sometimes the gag or character changes things up. Those beginnings and endings usually stay pretty intact, though.
5.) The actual writing of pages has boiled down to two steps. First, I write out dialog and draw a small thumbnail that basically divides the dialog into separate panels. From there I can visually work out what’s happening in each panel that only I can probably decipher. Then, ideally, it sits for a week. From there it either gets another pass in the sketchbook – if it needs to be totally reworked – or I start setting up the page in Photoshop and tweak the dialog as it gets put in. From here the dialog is constantly being tweaked until the page is finished. Then onto the next page!
An example of a page (#191) that didn’t even make it through the first pass because I knew it wasn’t working.
Why do you write what you do?
I’ve found that creating in different mediums sparks different parts of your brain. Before I decided to make a real go with comics I spent a lot of energy writing music; particularly in high-school and college. It’s something that I miss, but I realized over time that music composition triggers incredibly sappy, mushy parts of my brain. I more-or-less gave it up in the interest of public health. There was a transition period between writing music and comics, and somewhere in there I realized that comics triggered ideas and emotions I wished my music would. I’ve since ran with that, and have fallen for the release comics-writing gives me. You may read a bit where Pub and Herb are being chased by a ghost, or being hung up for execution by dopey, fur-covered warriors; but all that stuff is me working through whatever I needed to work through. Breaking down ideas until they’re parodies of the initial thought. That’s essentially what I do.
You’re killin’ me, Smalls!