The Idea for LOOK

artieprime

In 2011 I drew a little robot in my sketchbook. There was no particular reason for it, I was just doodling and I felt like drawing a robot. I liked how it came out and decided to put a bit of a desert landscape behind it. I showed my wife this doodle of a sad robot wandering through the desert and made up a story for him on the spot. Something like “this is R-TY but he goes by Artie and the R stands for Recon because his only job is to recon this giant desert and he hangs out with a vulture because vultures live in deserts and yeah.”

It was silly, but I liked it, so I wrote it down. I wanted to learn more about Artie. How does he feel about this task he’s been assigned? Does he question it? What’s his friendship with this vulture like? What is the vulture’s name? What’s his deal? All of a sudden I had all of these questions and, just like Artie, I needed answers. I wrote all of these questions down and one by one I did my best to answer them. Pretty soon I had a plot outline for a full, long-form story. And it was pretty terrible! But I kept working on it. I kept writing and rewriting throughout the entire project, making drastic changes to the story as I was drawing it. Right up until I was drawing the last few pages, I was still tweaking the story. All in all, it took me roughly three years to write and draw the 136 pages of LOOK. Over that time I learned a lot about telling a story and I became a better cartoonist in the process. As my skills grew, so did the quality of the story I was telling. It ended up being a very real “learning on the job” scenario. Maybe that’s not for everyone, or for every project, but it’s what worked for me.

So, early on I had the premise and I had a basic outline of my story, but what was it really about? Sure, it’s about a little robot who’s unhappy with his current situation, but what else? What’s the point? Why am I telling this story? I was a bit stuck with what direction I wanted to take it. So I listened to that piece of advice given to any aspiring writer ever and I wrote what I knew. I drew from my own personal experiences and wrote about being in a midlife crisis. I wrote about coming to terms with the fact that maybe what you’re doing right now just isn’t working out. That maybe it’s just not what you’re good at. That maybe things need to change. I wrote about whether or not it’s even possible to find your passion, and if you’d recognize it if you did.

And I put it all into a story about a little robot and his vulture friend.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you again on Friday when we’ll be talking a bit more about where ideas come from.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

Massive Pwnage

box-mp

My first professional endeavor into the world of comic-making was Massive Pwnage. A nerd-culture comic that ran from 2007 to 2016, Massive Pwnage was about whatever I wanted it to be about. Sometimes that meant that it was about video games, and sometimes that meant it was about Magic the Gathering, Doctor Who, or Spider-Man. Though, if we’re all being honest with each other, it was mostly about video games. As a cool side-effect, comics I’ve done about certain games have been featured by the developers of those games on their websites and social media. A lot of the traffic to my site in the early years came from World of Warcraft and League of Legends, which is pretty amazing.

But let’s back up a bit. I started Massive Pwnage in 2007 because I wanted to learn how to draw. I had been reading a lot of webcomics at the time and I thought to myself “I can do that,” so I did. I was at the time in my life where I had just graduated from high school and I didn’t know what the next step was. Becoming an artist became my goal, and drawing a comic was the way I chose to achieve that goal. I had never intended to become a person who makes comics — I barely even read comics growing up — comics were just what I was really interested in at the time and were a lot of fun to draw.

2015-11-02

Not only did I have no intention of being a comic creator, I had not the tiniest interest in becoming a writer. I resisted that idea for years, telling myself “no, I draw. I don’t write, that’s not my thing. I draw.” But then one day, after about four or five years into my endeavor, I looked at the hundreds of comics I had written and thought to myself “I might be a writer.” It was quite the surprise!

Depending on the year, Massive Pwnage updated two or three times a week, which means that by the end of its nine year run, I had written and drawn over a thousand comics. And, it turns out, that was an amazing way to get good at making comics! Who knew that doing something almost every day for nearly a decade is a great way to accidentally getting good at it? What started as a way to motivate me into learning how to draw, Massive Pwnage became one of the most important things I’ve ever done with my life. It taught me everything I know about hard work, discipline, and professionalism. It opened doors that I never imagined could be opened and thanks to Massive Pwnage, I’ve learned that I’m a cartoonist.

2015-10-19.jpg

It was bittersweet when I ended it, but ultimately I wanted to focus on telling stories rather than daily gag comics. It’s what I think I’m good at. I mean, one of my stories is getting published as a full-length graphic novel! That’s gotta be a sign that I’m heading in the right direction, right?

Either way, I’ll see you on Wednesday when I’ll get back to talking about LOOK and where I got the idea for a story about a little robot who’s not happy with his lot in life. See you then!

Oh! And I definitely can’t end this write-up without mentioning my good friend Josh Rivas, who helped me a lot with the writing duties on Massive Pwnage, especially in the early years before I found my confidence as a writer. If you’re interested, you can check out a short sample of his upcoming graphic novel, Magical Universe, over here.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

Concept Art for LOOK

Here’s a ton of the sketches and preliminary artwork I made throughout the process of creating LOOK. There’s a lot of stuff here, including the very first drawings of the principle characters and an excess of little robots that sadly never made an appearance in the story itself. Enjoy!

Have a good weekend and see you on Monday when we’ll be talking about webcomics!

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

Meet the Author of LOOK

meet-the-artist

It’s weird talking about myself! I think I’ll have to do a separate post on my recent fascination with putting stars in all of my art sometime.

My kids like pickles, for some unknowable reason, which means that I have to on occasion interact with pickles in some manner. I cannot emphasize enough how not ideal this is.

I hope you’ve all been wanting to see a ton of concept art for LOOK because this Friday that wish will be granted! See you then!

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

Taking Breaks in the Narrative

I tend to write my stories in a way I’d describe as… let’s use the word “utilitarian.” Every page, every panel, every line of dialogue needs to push the story along. There’s no distractions, there’s no extra fluff, it’s clean and to the point.

As a result of this, while the story is concise and my message is clear, things might end up maybe going just a little too fast. If I’m not careful, the pacing tends to move a bit too quickly and can be almost exhausting to keep up with. To help with this, you need to take a break. Every good story has it’s ups and downs. High action scenes, bursting with conflict and the highest of stakes, are always punctuated by cool-down periods. Scenes where maybe we’re walking the plot forward, rather than full-out sprinting.

Here’s an example of one of the very, very few “filler” pages from LOOK.

taking-breaks

I call it a filler page because it does little to nothing to actually advance the story. But if you notice where it’s placed in the narrative, you’ll see that it’s sandwiched by a tense escape scene on one side and the sudden resurfacing of the antagonist on the other. It’s a bit of light-hearted fun intended to give everyone — the readers and characters themselves — a bit of a breather. I also really like that we get to see a bit of back and forth between these two, a little glimpse into how their friendship works.

Moments like these, where the action and drama of the narrative ease back a bit are essential to the overall rhythm of any story. It’s like a roller coaster. You can’t have that dramatic fall without the slow climb, or a joke about a self-conscious vulture.

Even if you’re a robot.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

What is LOOK about? Like, REALLY about?

look-cover

LOOK is about a few things. It’s about a robot, sure, but it’s also about friendship, loneliness, and wanting to feel that sense of belonging. More than any thing else, though it is primarily about a single question. A question our protagonist, Artie, asks himself before the story even starts: “Do I really want to be doing this forever?”

Here’s someone who’s only ever had one job and has been doing that job for countless years. Someone desperate to know if there is more to life than this. Someone who is unhappy with his lot in life and finally builds up the courage to do something about it.

It’s practically a story about a robot having a mid-life crisis.

But instead of buying a sports car and doing whatever else it is that people having a mid-life crisis do, Artie asks questions. He leaves behind the only life he’s ever known in search of truth, and when that truth offers no comfort, he moves on in search of something more.

And that’s what LOOK is really about. Finding the courage to change your life for the better, even if that scares you more than anything. Because, after all, you deserve to be happy.

Even if you’re a robot.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

An Interview with the Author of LOOK

look

Jon Nielsen is a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist and has been drawing silly pictures and putting them on the internet for about a decade now. His first graphic novel, LOOK, is being released by NBM Publishing on April 1st, 2017. We managed to tear him away from his busy schedule for a bit for a short interview.

Jon Nielsen: Hello, Jon, good to see you. It’s been a while.
Jon Nielsen: It has, Jon! How’re the kids?
JN: Oh, you know. They’re good. Still alive. But let’s get started! Tell me about–
JN: What are we doing again? What is this?
JN: NBM asked us to do an interview, remember? About our book?
JN: Who?
JN: NBM. They’re publishing our first graphic novel.
JN: Oh dang, that’s right! They’re awesome! I seriously love them, and not just because I’m contractually obligated to say so.
JN: …right. So tell me a bit about yourself. How long have you been drawing? Did you always want to draw comics?
JN: I have, yeah! I’ve always loved comics, though strangely enough I didn’t read very many growing up. Newspaper comics, mostly. Garfield and Foxtrot.
JN: Calvin and Hobbes?
JN: No, actually! Our paper didn’t carry it, so I didn’t discover it until much, much later.
JN: Wow. That should be a crime. Someone should be in jail for that.
JN: I know, right? Anyway, I drew comics all the time as a little kid, but I didn’t start drawing seriously until about 2007, when I got into webcomics.
JN: Is that when you started Massive Pwnage?
JN: Right. Massive Pwnage was my nerd-culture comic strip about video games, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, anything I thought was interesting at the time. It ran from 2007 to early 2016 and, really, it was just a way to get myself to draw. I wanted to be an artist and having to keep a website updated with comics was a great motivator.
JN: And then you went one step further and wrote a book.
JN: That’s right! It just felt like the next logical thing to do.
JN: So tell me about LOOK.
JN: Well, it’s a book.
JN: Right. Covered that. Got it.
JN: Let me finish. It’s a book. And I wrote it. And drew it, too.
JN: All right, smartpants. Can you at least tell us what the book is about?
JN: Nah.
JN: Nah?
JN: You’re asking me all these questions that you already know the answer to, and it’s starting to get weird.
JN: Yeah. That’s what an INTERVIEW is. Come on, there’s only a few more questions. This is for the publisher.
JN: Nah.
JN: Seriously?
JN: I’m feeling some hostility from you and I think I’m done answering your questions.
JN: Fine, switch me. Here, sit here. Ask me the next question.
JN: All right, all right… let’s see. Is that when you started–
JN: No no, we did that one. There. Right there.
JN: What is LOOK about?
JN: That’s a great question, Jon, and I’m glad you asked it.
JN: Ugh.
JN: Is LOOK a story about a small robot, unhappy with his lot in life? Yes, yes it is. Is it about trying to find that one thing, that thing that everyone wants, that thing that gives life purpose? Yes, yes it is also that. It’s also about adventure, friendship, and some little bunnies living in the woods. It’s really a fantastic book, if I do say so myself.
JN: Not that you’re biased, or anything.
JN: No.
JN: Right. Can we switch back? I can’t listen to you anymore.
JN: No, this is fun! Ask me another.
JN: Fine. Where did the idea for LOOK come from?
JN: That’s a great question, Jon, and I’m glad you asked it.
JN: Nope, I’m done.
JN: But–
JN: I’m done! I’m plowing through the rest of these on my own and then I never want to see you again.
JN: But I–
JN: Midlife crisis, pizza, Doctor Who, 28, a child’s first laugh, and no, I haven’t.
JN: You can’t just– you need to read the questions too!
JN: Nope! I’m done! Goodbye forever.
JN: Can… can he do that? Um… thanks for joining us everybody! This has been a talk with Jon Nielsen, author of LOOK, coming to stores April 1st. Tune back in this Friday when Jon will tell us a bit more about LOOK and how it was created. If we can find him, that is.

 

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.