Archive for Process

Writing Blog Tour: The Plot Congeals

Posted in Comics Pages, tbdathathotw with tags , , , , on 7 July, 14 by cantocomics

The lovely Sophie Goldstein tagged me in this Writing Blog Tour thing that’s been making the rounds among cartoonists I know. Longtime followers of this blog will have noticed I’ve not been using it much in the past couple of years, but it makes sense for me to do this here, I think. So, onwards:


1. What am I working on?

The last few months have been spent, to a large extent, on projects for Maple Key Comics. For the book’s second issue, I completed a 24-pager called “A Sickness Upon the Land,” which was a refreshing diversion from my work on The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World. I’m also working on the fourth chapter of Black Dog and a three-parter called “The Pestle,” the latter of which will be serialized in Maple Key Comics issues 4-6.
I guess I’m doing some freelance stuff too–book design and branding for a few different people.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a tricky question. Black Dog, I think, has similar elements to an indie comic like Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve (if I may be permitted to make that comparison), but with a generous dose of House of Leaves and some jokes and pop-cultural references thrown in. It’s talky.


“A Sickness,” on the other hand, is a horror/fantasy thing based on a fallacious medical concept that I read about in Roy Porter’s most excellent history Flesh in the Age of Reason. I know there’s a lot of #grimdark fantasy going around right now, what with the outlandish popularity of Game of Thrones and Mormon young adult novels in which vampires have to chew their babies out of their mothers’ wombs, but “A Sickness” is focused a lot on medicine, magic, and their intersection.


“The Pestle” has a similar focus, but is more of a morality play than the aforementioned. With “the Pestle” I’m trying to focus on some class issues, the omission of which from fantasy novels has long troubled me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Why indeed. I’ve always thought of my writing as being somewhat exploratory–I’m always trying to think my way through a problem or a concept when I’m writing. With The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World, it’s a personal problem–looking back at my romantic history and the periods where I thought I was unlovable due to some unforgivable and unresolvable defect.


With “A Sickness” it’s this old idea about the soul being something physical, a substance that can be withdrawn from the body. I wanted to do something with monsters and ghosts and things that are more fun to draw than people talking. “The Pestle” deals a lot with the town and surroundings of Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. Much of the area around Hanover is pretty severely economically depressed, whereas Hanover is very affluent. Through writing this fiction, I’m attempting to explore that while entertaining myself and my eventual readers.

4. How does your writing process work?

It tends to work in stages: First, I’ll read about or encounter an idea–recently, it’s been stuff about premodern medicine–that sticks in my mental craw. The idea rattles around back there, picking up other pieces of intellectual detritus–with “The Pestle,” it’s that thing about Hanover, some stuff about Solomon’s Lesser Key, and the Schola Medica Salernitana–until one day something clicks into place, and a plot begins to coalesce around this skeleton of ideas.
Then I start writing. I work full-script most of the time, so I write the whole thing out by hand before I start doing any real drawing. Then I type it up and make copious adjustments before going on to thumbnails, then thumbnails to page, all the while doing further rewrites and improvising lines here and there. I feel pretty good about myself when I can throw in an extra joke or revealing line while I’m penciling.

I’m  going to pass the torch to C.J. Joughin, Jesse H. Mead, and Kevin Uehlein for the next leg of the tour–Good luck guys! I’m looking forward to WINDOWS OPENING INTO YOUR MINDS.



Brocess: Behind the Scenes

Posted in As if you cared, Comics Pages with tags , , , , , , on 26 September, 10 by cantocomics

Like I said last time, I’m going to share how I do comics–or at least one method that I’ve worked out.

Of course, this is going to completely change depending on the project. I’ve found that it’s a lot more enjoyable for me to change aspects of my working method on the fly than to try to stick to a system.

Cos it’s when a system becomes rigid that it breaks down.

Anyway, I start off, as do most cartoonists, with thumbnails and scripting (developed in tandem in my case). They look sort of like this sometimes:

Then I let that sit for a while, usually setting it down somewhere, forgetting about it, doing long division in red pen on it, setting down a cup of coffee on it, etc. etc.

Then, after I relocate the thing after having lost it, I start the pencils. For the Tentacle Kid story I’m working on right now, I’m working pretty small–at about 9″x12″. I usually work a lot larger, but, uh…see above. I usually use a red pencil and/or a red ballpoint when I’m penciling, along with a mechanical pencil for finer details (or things that I’m having more trouble nailing down). Sometimes, the pencils look like this:

Then of course, inks. I recently purchased my first Windsor-Newton Series 7 brush, by which I think most brush-using cartoonists swear. So that’s what I’ve been mostly using for the linework on this project. It looks like this:

You’ll notice that the red’s not there anymore–that’s cos I dropped it out in PhotoShop.

Then comes toning. Before I started work on this story I rediscovered my love for Copic Markers–as Nomi Kane put it, “they’re like drawing with butter.” She is correct in this assessment.
I have to lightbox the pages in order to get the tones anywhere even close to correct, so before marker touches paper, the inked page has to be scanned, reduced in size so as to fit on letter-sized paper, touched up, upsampled, bitmapped, etc., etc.
So I throw the dang thing on the lightbox and spazz out with the Copics for a while, eventually producing something that looks sort of like this:

Astute readers will notice that this has been dot-screened in PhotoShop. I’ve never used actual screentones before, and I’m wary of them because they’re expensive and kind of hard to find. Also, I’m not real good with drawing on the computer, so I tend to avoid doing things like this digitally. This method developed as a result of my inadequacies! Yay!
Anyway, more ‘Shopping happens, and by around 3 or 4 am I end up with something that on a good day looks sort of like this:

Then, I write a blog post about it, which looks sort of like this: