I was tagged to write one of these things by my talented friend Luke Healy. You can read most of Luke’s comics on his website and it’s totally worth spending some time checking it out.
1. What am I working on?
Currently I’m drawing a comic called How We Ride, which will be included in Dog City #3, an anthology that I co-edit. It’s 16 pages long and it’s about anthropomorphic dogs. My go-to description of it so far has been, “like a poem, but stupid.” Here are a couple character sketches:
I’ve also been doing a lot of what I call “practice drawing,” stuff I do to keep the pen moving. Observational sketches, short sequences of panels, doodles in my sketchbook, that sort of stuff. I might put some of this stuff online, or try to build something a bit sturdier out of it, but they’re mostly exercises, not really intended for any public.
I’ve got a couple slightly longer-term projects I’m working on as well, but none of them are really developed far enough that I can talk about yet.
2. How does my writing process work?
Every piece I work on is a bit different, and thus has different demands which necessitate different ways of working. To generalize a bit, though, I usually start with some small idea, either a plot point, a few images, or a mood or tone I’d like to set and build out from there. I like to work on short form pieces, and I usually stick fairly close to classical ideas of the short story. Namely, that there’s a unified intensity of affect, which is a big thing I strive for.
So I start with an idea and I tend to work it up in fragments, which I can later rearrange, edit, or redact. Sometimes that means doing a bunch of drawings on index cards, other times it means thumbnailing short scenes and stringing them together. I rarely write a full script of any kind, although I sometimes will start with a written prose monologue or series of prose monologues that I later break into comics form. I usually write way more words than can comfortably fit on a page of comics and have to edit severely. It’s probably not the most efficient way to do things.
Once I have a sufficient group of fragments, I’ll try to put them together in a loose thumbnail. I often work in layers and I try to use only very simple tools—mostly pencils, rapidograph pens, rulers, and copy paper. So often I’ll draw a page several times and the end result is a bit of a Frankenstein stitched together from several drafts. I should mention that I just finished a two year graduate program, and all of my work of the past few years has benefited a lot from great teachers and peers. Critiques keep me running back to the drawing board and a lot of the finished pages in my comics are the result of several drafts.
3. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Genre is a tough one. I think most of my work is in some way about the way that people experience, relate to, and interact with art and culture, so I guess that metafiction is the best fitting genre. A lot of the stuff that inspires me most is prose literature, and in general I haven’t seen a ton of comics I would describe as metafiction. Beyond that, I’d say that I try to bring my interests outside of comics to bear on my comics work and I hope that this makes my comics a little fresher.
4. Why do I write what I do?
Ultimately, I’m really just trying to make the comics that I want to read more of. There’s a ton of great work being done in comics right now, but whatever vague idea I’m stumbling towards in my work, I don’t see a lot of that. So I’m trying to make it.
Who’s up next?
I’m tagging Nik James, a friend of mine who does some really interesting genre riffs. You can read his current comic, Transfatal Express, at his tumblr. He’s flexing some Roy Crane muscles, but it still comes out fresh.
Last but not least is Christopher Green, who I traded books with at CAKE. I was particularly impressed with his comic Real Work, which had a tone reminiscent of Eddie Campbell and an easy way with surreal or fantastic elements that reminded me of Bob Dylan when he’s being funny. You can buy it here.