The Stringer – Making of (2)

Hello everyone!

Let’s show a new “making of” for a page of “The Stringer”. As I said in a previous entry, I start by doing a fast schematic scketch directly on the margins of the script sent by Ted.

As you can see, there were initially only 4 panels, but I added three more in order to feel more confortable and give the reader all the information. Lucky me, Ted is a very detailed writer, but also very flexible and open to change if it makes my life easier. So you can see the final 7-panels structure under the text.

Ok, first drawing on the new panel structure:

For the central panel background, supposedly showing a street in Amsterdam, I mixed two photos from a trip I made some time ago. It’s actually not Amsterdam, or even Holland, but Ghent and (I think) Bruges, in Belgium.

And voilà, a beautiful fake view of Amsterdam!

Now let’s move to the inking, adding some extra details: the beard for the first character, the 500-Euro banknotes and the bank statement:

Then I add the plain colors:

Some shadows, the only text balloon, and it’s done! Ready to receive one of those wads of cash in payment for all the hard work! 😁

I hope you liked it! More interesting stuff to come!!

The Stringer on wheels

Hello!

I always loved drawing cars, motorcycles and anything with wheels.

My sister-in-law Helena keeps some of my first drawings that I made (aged 3-4 years) in the letters my older brother sent her when they were still sweethearts . Those drawings were invariably of cars, crazy racing stories, influenced by the cartoons “Wacky Races” and “Mach GoGoGo” (she jealously guards those letters in the absurd hope that someday they will have some value, poor little thing!).

Therefore, for someone like me it is a pleasure to illustrate a story written by Ted Rall, in which his characters are always running from one side to the other using all kinds of means of transportation, which he often describes in detail.

If we add that the story takes place in different countries and at different times, as in “The Stringer”, the pleasure of researching, documenting and drawing the appropriate vehicles, borders on lust for me, a maniac of documentation and accuracy.

So, let’s take a look at what we can find in “The Stringer” (in order of appearance in the book):

In the cover, I draw a Land Rover Defender with a lot of life behind it and certainly more than one interesting story to tell. Choosing this model is poetic license, because the quintessential all-terrain vehicle of the Middle East foreign reporters is the Toyota, as we will see later. But I find the Land Rover more beautiful, and it is a kind of tribute to its end of production after 67 years of faithful service.

Let’s go into the story: back in the early 70’s, Mark’s father drives a beautiful, massive, stylish Pontiac Grand Prix.

I would like to think it was the 455 cu in (7.5 L) rated at 310 HP, but I don’t see Mark senior as the wheel-burning type, more of a quiet cruiser. It must have been a pleasure to drive that liner with the V8 purring like a cat.

Fast forward in time: it’s the late 70s – early 80s. Mark enters the paradise of citizens allowed to drive. His girlfriend Patricia drives a white Camaro Z28 with red stripes to break hearts of everyone she comes across (at least mine, if I had crossed paths with her at that time). Mark, meanwhile, rides a fabulous badass Chevy Nova SS.

Anecdote: the Nova was Ted Rall’s first car, as you can see in this photo from his youth, in which Ted tries to convert a sports coupe into a station wagon.

Young Ted is under the boat…

Second anecdote: my first car was my father’s Simca 1200, a French shell rated at astounding 52 hp. It’s certainly not the same…

In that same colour!!

Patricia’s Camaro did not have a very good life; here it is a few years later, showing its scars, limping through heavy traffic on the freeway.

Ok, cut to the 21st century. In the middle East countries, modern Toyota Hilux from news agencies and NGOs and old Soviet UAZ trucks coexist seamlessly.

The Hilux was also, unfortunately, the preferred car of ISIS, to the point that in 2015 the U.S. government opened an investigation (with the collaboration of Toyota) to discover the origin of the hundreds of Hilux that ISIS used for its movements and attacks. Different explanations: jumps to dealerships in countries in conflict, “disappearances” of shipments in Australian ports, unscrupulous intermediaries…

Further north, bus travel in the former Soviet republics is a catalog of jalopies with millions of kilometers on their backs. Here we can see a LIAZ on a road in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan.

Roads where you can have the most unexpected encounters: for example, a MAZ 537, a prodigious monster from the heyday of Soviet military engineering, towing an old nuclear missile on its way to dismantling.

But it’s not all transportation hardship for Mark. Sometimes he gets around in style, for example in this Mercedes S500, with which he visits a business partner at a former Soviet factory. His partner still drives around in an old UAZ van that we can see parked in the alley.

Mark’s other partners have more budget and move around in better vehicles. And nothing better for a picnic in the dunes than a huge, massive Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6. And if it´s two of them, much better!!

A Lincoln Navigator is not bad either, and is somewhat more discreet, although it requires certain security precautions depending on the country you are in.

But luxury goes out the window when you have to resort to public transport in northern Pakistan. Although the cheerful and extravagant decoration of its buses is quite a spectacle

Anyway, when things get serious nothing like an old and reliable Toyota Land Cruiser, the king of the tough off-roaders ex-aequo with the Land Rover.

A brief parenthesis to better-known places: a Fiat 500, Vespas… which city could it be?

Too bad the Dolce Vita does not last long. Back to the rough roads of northern Afghanistan, where the ditches are overflowing with reminders that the situation is complicated. The ubiquitous Toyota also dominates the cab market in the Middle East, in this case we see a Hiace minivan.

The bandits in these parts have changed the horses for motorcycles. In the foreground, we have a Kawasaki KLE 500 from the first half of the 1990s.

The second one could be a Honda from about the same era. In any case, tough as nails, virtually indestructible and with minimal maintenance, ideal for ISIS blitzkrieg actions.

And this is the end of the automotive review of “The Stringer”, I hope you liked it!

The Stringer: Making of

Hi again,

Since I was a reader in my childhood -One Million Years B.C.- I was curious about how the cartoonists worked. In the age before the Internet, it was hard for a small-town-boy to get this information. So, I searched here and there, digging into magazines and books.

Not too successfully, I must say. The first story I sent to a fanzine -two pages- was drawn in just one paper sheet. I mean, I draw page 1 in the front side, and page 2 in the reverse, just as I see them printed in the magazines.

Ok, enough about embarrassing moments. Just in case you’re curious about the creative process, here you’ve got how I make a page starting from the script sent by Ted Rall.

As you can see, my first sketch is on the same page of the script. Almost illegible. It is just a reference; the page is already in my head.

Then, let’s start with the real page (I work mainly digitally, trying to advance a bit faster than my usual slow pace): don´t forget to put the texts on a separate layer before drawing, you will save a lot of time and headaches.

Here I clean the preliminary drawing, without text:

Then inking, again on a separate layer:

Here is the ink layer after hiding the underlying scketch:

Then I add the plain color. The middle panels are in grayscale and with diffuse borders, we´re supposedly into Mark´s thoughts:

Then shadows…

… and ready for texts and balloons.

Ok, page finished. I send it to Ted (what patience you have!!) to try to look as if I am making some progress and to disguise the fact that there are still 120 more like this one to go. Yay!

“The Stringer” – How it all started.

“I have an idea for a new graphic novel (…). Any interest?”

And with these two simple questions, Ted put the poison back in me.

After publishing “The Year of Loving Dangerously” with Ted Rall in 2009, I fell in my usual state of “feeling-void-after-finishing-a-book”. “YOLD” had been a colossal effort -although a rewarding one- in terms of searching references and creating an appropriate graphic atmosphere. Being myself a maniac of documentation and historical coherence in the silliest details – a car seen in such and such a scene, a magazine cover, the inside of a subway car of NYC in 1984… – and with the level of detail with which Ted elaborates his scripts, the work was simply exhausting.

This “I have lost all my energies and skills” lasts usually for some months for me. But in this case, aggravated by personal trouble, it took around three years until, in February 2013, I received a message from Ted that rang a bell in my brain.

“I have an idea for a new graphic novel.

The book is about a washed up reporter/war correspondent who is largely out of work because newspapers and magazines are all going under and slashing their budgets and closing their foreign bureaus. (…) A wicked take on the state of the media, the collapse of the economy, the Internet, the nature of warfare, etc.

Any interest?”

Of course I was interested!!! So I climbed aboard, never imagining that I was embarking on a 6-year-152-pages-task.

First discussions were about what style would match better the story. I am always experimenting with new things, changes of style, attempts at evolution. At that time I was trying out a style that was not as realistic as “The Year of Loving Dangerously”…

Mmmm… Not this time, sorry!

… nor as dark as “Bluesman”.

No-no…

I was looking for something more schematic, that synthesised reality in order to, without losing realism, give it a more “cartoonish” touch that would fit better with Ted’s satirical-cynical writing.

Much better!

Ok, so we have the style… What about the main character? How should Mark look? He was a guy in his late 40s/early 50s, a little rattled by life but still in the mood, a bit cynical but still confident in himself and his ability. Someone just like Robert Redford in “All the President’s Men” or maybe Nick Nolte in “Under Fire”.


But there was something that didn’t fit the “schematic” style I was looking for. Also, it was necessary to reflect the passage of time – decades – as we told Mark’s story. An obvious recourse would be to make the protagonist’s hair greyer, so he needed to be dark-haired.

So I switched to a most modern look, dark hair and gray temples. Got it!

Discussing with Ted a cast if “The Stringer” were a movie, I see Ben Affleck as Mark. Ted’s betting more on George Clooney, who’s not bad either.

Anyway, Ben or George: if you’re reading this, know that we’re counting on you for the role of a lifetime 🙂

Thank you for reading. More to come on the creative process of “The Stringer” in the next days.

NBM April 2021 Releases

Here are upcoming titles, now being solicited in comic stores through Diamond Previews for an April 2021 release.

 

NEW

THE STRINGER
By Ted Rall and Pablo Callejo

Suffering from budget cuts, layoffs and a growing suspicion that his search for the truth has become obsolete, veteran war correspondent Mark Scribner is about to throw in the towel on journalism when he discovers that his hard-earned knowledge can save his career and make him wealthy and famous. All he has to do is pivot to social media and -with a few cynical twists- abandon everything he cares about most.

A paean to when fact-based journalism mattered, The Stringer, set at an important turning point a few years ago, is a globe-trotting action-packed timely statement about how a society without a vibrant independent culture of reporting can degenerate into chaos and a warning of the dangers of sophisticated new technologies that enable the manufacture and modification of ‘truths’ with no basis in fact.

8 ½ x 11, 152pp, full color HC, $24.99; ISBN 978168112272452499; DIAMOND CODE: FEB21 1422
Pub Date: April 14th, 2021

PREVIEWS

 

AVAILABLE AGAIN

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
By Ted Rall and Pablo Callejo


It’s New York City in the 1980s and Ted Rall is in college. Everything is fine before his pranks, lack of focus and restlessness get him expelled. Unable to find a job and rejected by his parents, he considers suicide.

By happenstance he finds comfort in the arms of many women as he bed-hops around the five boroughs. It’s better than homelessness, but the psychic toll of selling himself and his affection was higher than he imagined.

Both acidly funny and brutally honest, Rall, a cartoonist both beloved and reviled for his edgy politics, pours out his guts in this remembrance of this most difficult chapter in his life. Revised paperback edition.

8 ½ x 11″, 128pp, full color TPB., $15.99; ISBN 978168112215151599; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211423

PREVIEWS

 

2024
By Ted Rall

Move forward two decades. See the world as the giant media moguls and software companies have become our new big brothers. They want the best for us. They know what’s best for us. And maybe we don’t always know so well.

Ted ‘I-need-more-enemies’ Rall updates 1984 in a scathing look at where we could be headed; and this is all Rall, no holes barred, no prisoners. His best and most chillingly funny work yet!

6×9, 96 pp., B&W, jacketed hardcover: $16.95; ISBN 156163279151695; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211424

 

SILK ROAD TO RUIN
By
Ted Rall

Part graphic novel travelog, part tongue-in-cheek travel guide, here are the adventures of caustic cartoonist Rall in the wild and wooly central Asian countries, a powder keg sitting on tomorrow’s oil…

Combines articles with comics chapters relating his experiences retracing the old legendary Silk Road starting with the sublime history of China and ending in the absurdity of the petty dictatorships of the “The ‘Stans” where Rall had the temerity -or was it blustery stupidity?- to go back, including once with a group of listeners to his radio show, on a dare.

It’s exotic adventure, satire and a fun way to find out more about a part of the world that looms in importance with its immense reserves of oil…

6×9, 304pp., B&W TPB, US $19.99; ISBN 978156163885751999; DIAMOND CODE: FEB21 1425

PREVIEWS

 

TO AFGHANISTAN AND BACK
By
Ted Rall

The World’s first “Instant Graphic Novel”! When U.S. bombs started raining on the Taliban, Rall didn’t just watch it on TV–he jumped on a plane straight to the war zone to get the real story for himself. But the only cartoonist to go to Afghanistan got more than he bargained for, way more than his previous gut-wrenching trip deep up the legendary Silk Road.

Within days of arriving, armed men were hunting down journalists to murder and rob them. Waving funnies didn’t help. From the gruesome spectacle of a Taliban prisoner blowing himself up with grenades to the hilarious image of mujahideen lining up for shaves and DVD porn a day after joining the Northern Alliance, you can count on Rall for a decidedly different take on this gritty war.

To Afghanistan and Back, features as its centerpiece a 50-page graphic novel travelogue of his experience as a cartoonist and war correspondent. It also includes Rall’s articles, cartoons and photos as filed from the front for the Village Voice and syndicated throughout America.

6×9, 112pp., B & W clothbound, US $15.95; ISBN 978156163325851595; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211426

PREVIEWS

 

BOB MARLEY IN COMICS
By Gaet’s and Sophie Blitman

In the middle of a depressing youth in a ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica, Robert Nesta Marley sees only one way out: music. And that music will be what Jamaica made of rock and pop locally that had hardly been heard anywhere else: reggae!

It is Marley who brings the unmistakable beat of reggae to the entire world. From small stages in Jamaica, his partners of the Wailers accompany him all the way to the most fabulous world tours and adulation. Beyond a rocketing musical career, the most famous rasta wants to shake things up and proclaim all over his humanitarian and egalitarian values.

The next volume in the sellout series featuring the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

7 ½ x10,176pp.,  full color HC: US $27.99: ISBN: 9781681122449652799; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211427

PREVIEWS

 

TAMBA, CHILD SOLDIER
By Marion Achard and Yan Degruel

“My name is Tamba Cisso. When I was eight years old, I lived in the village with my father, my mother and my sister. I went to school and had learned to read. I knew there was war in my country, but I didn’t know that children could wage it.”

Providing a testimonial to one of the most heart-wrenching and chilling developments in modern warfare, this graphic novel chronicles the realities of hundreds of thousands across the world, kidnapped and forced to commit atrocities.

8.5  x11”, 112pp., full color HC, $24.99 US/ $32.50 CAN; ISBN: 9781681122366524499; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211429

PREVIEWS

 

THE LOUVRE COLLECTION: THE RED MOTHER WITH CHILD
By Christian Lax

In Mali in Africa, a red Mother with Child, a 14th century African sculpture, is saved from the destructive madness of Islamists by Alou, a young honey hunter. In the company of other migrants, sisters and brothers of misfortune, Alou goes all out to reach Europe. His goal and his obsession: entrust the precious statuette to the Louvre Museum!

An epic adventure, touching upon the burning worldwide issue of refugees and immigration, in the ever-expanding Louvre collection commissioning graphic novels from leading world artists to spin tales around the famous museum.

9×12, 144pp, full color HC, $27.99 US / $36.50 CAN; ISBN: 978168112257152799; DIAMOND CODE: FEB211428

NBM Announces Upcoming 2021 Releases

NBM Graphic Novels is proud to announce the release schedule from Winter 2021 through Summer 2021, including brand new music biographies of Michael Jackson by Ceka & Various, Janis Joplin by Nicolas Finet & Christopher.

Other titles include The Stringer by Ted Rall & Pablo Callejo focusing on the life and career crossroads of a veteran war correspondent, and the culinary adventure, The Secrets of Chocolate: A Gourmand’s Trip Through a Top Chef’s Atelier by Franckie Alarcon.

In addition, we’ll have new non-fiction titles including Women Discoverers by Christelle & Marie Moinard focusing on 20 women who made valuable contributions to science and Canciones of Federico Garcia Lorca, focusing on one of Spain’s foremost cultural and literary figures by Tobias Tak.

Check out the complete listing HERE!

And coming later in 2021?  Dungeon Returns!