Whether I’m writing or drawing I tend to take my characters for a walk to see how they interact with their environment. It’s the quickest way for me to get an idea of their personality. I’ll do little vignettes and see what they see and how they may act given the perception of who I think they might be.
Eventually with enough perseverance they’re telling me where they want to go.
It’s important to me to have backstory and a lot of side elements that won’t go in the final product, much like when preparing for an acting role. Everything informs the characters decisions of how they’ll act and react. Then the hard part really is getting the dialogue to sound natural and consistent with who they are.
So I don’t forget to mention it, Things Undone will be out in August at your favorite local comics shop…and the general public I believe by October/November. If you like what you see ask your favorite store to order it ahead of time.
Ask any artist about the evolution of an idea and hands down you will get a longer answer than expected. So I’ll apologize now for keeping you from your work. I for one have a tendency to let ideas gestate for years at a time taking shape on the subconscious back burner of my mind.
However that’s only partly true for my next graphic novel, Things Undone. The story came to me relatively quickly, mainly as a reaction to a comic gig I turned down (it was a poorly conceived zombie-story in case you were wondering). But the character I had in mind was living in my brain with nothing to do.
I wanted someone cool, someone I think people would react well too whatever the situation I put them in.
His first incarnation was a character called Beatnik Billy, a tough grade-schooler who was brought up on Kerouac and Lenny Bruce. Admittedly these were both authors I’ve never read…but if you’ve been around long enough you get who they are and how they impacted culture. Imagine that same force impacting PS 121? I did a few strips that amounted to one joke and a pastiche of 50s hepcat patter and it died on the vine.
A few years later I brought him out again, trying this time to make a brand for EXTREME sports. I was working for a t-shirt company at the time and was tasked with coming up with lines of shirts for various markets. The direction went a lot more EXTREME and I abandoned this design as well.
Then the story hit me one day while working on The Overman series. I wanted to start a project that I could really burn through quickly once I was finished. Something simpler in line weight, stylized and shape-driven. I was hungry to express myself through character rather than story. A storyboard gig that I had done recently had used a similar cartooning style and it was this atomic collision of ideas, hunger and line that pushed me in this direction.
NEXT TIME: I’ll show more development sketches from finding character to choosing an appropriate line.
It’s been awhile since my last graphic novel, North Country in 2005.
Almost 4 years to the day all this will be coming together again. Unlike North Country though, Things Undone is a dark comedy. The story at it’s core is about change, and how people have a hard time dealing with it.
In the next several weeks I’ll share a little bit about the process with you as well as some of the preproduction art.