The Comics Journal has published my article on artist Ibrahim Njoya, who lived and worked in Cameroon during the first half of the 20th Century. Historical context, formal analysis, and most of all, images of Njoya’s beautiful work, like this:
With my one-page, transitional chapter 6 out of the way, I can move on to the next sequence. I want to get away from the cinematic, storyboard approach that I’ve been getting more and more into, pulled by the inexorable attraction of the filmic model. In other words, get as much information into a single image as possible.
At the Boston Comics Roundtable meeting on Jan 10, I doodled these sketches. Looks like a single comics page, but ideas for two pages of Chapter 7:
I have been away from the project since the summer (it’s now January), for one or another reason. Getting back to something after a while always presents its challenges.
Luckily, I left off at the end of a chapter, so I can start somewhat fresh, and in this case “Chapter 6” is a transition… actually a single-page, single-image chapter, so not a bad way to ease back into the process (and to drawing in general).
Basically, it’s a graduation “photo,” to mark the end of her “youth” and into the next phase of the story. I looked at some circa 1900 graduation pictures for reference:
After the last chapter ballooned to 34 pages, I decided to compress my story-telling for a while. The next section is transitional, showing the character’s college career, as she knuckles down and studies hard. I knew that it would be showing her studying long and hard in the library, and I decided it to do it in only 3 images, a progression taking place over a few hours. I chose to draw the same scene 3 times, from the same vantage point, a bird’s eye view of the library, with the character far below, close to the center of the image. The changing positions of the characters, and the changing light, tells the story. I have some ideas how I will add tones/shading, sticking to my principle of changing techniques or materials in each chapter.
Some pencil sketches:
(A diary of the making of this chapter, which begins with the first day’s work at the bottom, and moves up)
March 13: summing up the last 6 months of work.
Yes, six months later, and I am still working on chapter 4. The slow pace partly because of interruptions and creative blocks, but also because this chapter turns out to be the longest so far, and I run into certain problems. And I’m still not finished with it!
So I’ll bring this up to date, starting with page 2, which I completed in late September. Pencils:
Inks (still just inkwashes, the line work remains pencil):
Page 3. I went through several versions of this, over the last couple weeks of October (MICE season. A pencil version that I abandoned. I don’t really remember what I didnt like about this. The placement of the figure, maybe?
Again, five months later and I’m not sure why I wasn’t satisfied with this. But, apparently, I wasn’t. The shape of the skirt is a little blobby, maybe that was it. Anyway, here’s the final version. Maybe I’ll end up using the previous one, I don’t know. I got options!
September 20: Page one, at last!
After the slow process of the last few chapters, I’ve resolved to be more spontaneous, and allow myself fewer “re-do’s.” Here’s the first page, drawn in one try, without any additional rough versions. I changed the composition from the rough I’d done for the mockup, from this:
To this, the pencils for the final page:
Before diving straight into the washes, I did a little digital experiment with tones, just to see how it might look, leaving the ground white and darkening the gate in the FG almost to black:
Good enough, so I did the same thing with washes. I made some other changes first. I added the professorial figure with the cane, on the right, to reinforce the academic setting. Then, digitally, I adjusted the lettering on the gate a little, because it felt out of perspective to me (by the way, that’s Latin for “knowledge is power.”) Final page:
Looking at it now, I think I might digitally darken the washes, and erase the pavement lines, to leave the ground a solid white shape with darker figures against it — more like the digital-tone version above. That’s more of the graphic look I’d like for this.
When I was in Barcelona in 2013, I bought two copies (dated 26 November 1908 & 7 December, 1910) of Cu-cut, the Catalan satirical magazine at a flea market. I didn’t realize until much later that the language was Catalan, as I mostly just looked at the cartoons. I won’t pretend to understand the early 20th century Catalan politics, except to conjecture that probably many of the issues linger to this day. For more on the journal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C2%A1Cu-Cut!
The journal was published between 1902 and 1912, and featured as a mascot this character, known as “The Catalan” (on the covers his hat, bow-tie and nose are bright red).
Cu-Cut, which is Catalan for “cuckoo,” was at the center of civil unrest in December 1905 when, after publishing a cover satirizing the military, its offices were attacked and trashed by some 200 army officers. The incident resulted in curtailment of freedom of the press and had a major impact on Catalan politics and on the power of the military in Spanish civil affairs. Continue reading →
Comics scholar Pedro Moura has posted an English-language summary of his 2014 Portuguese review of Comics: a Global History, 1968 to the Present. He describes the book as offering “an English-language map of worldwide comics’ production, and one which presents, as I wrote, ‘a smooth and broad sailing.’ Moura’s recap also includes a link to an interview he did with me and my co-author Alexander Danner.
My first new “Palindrama” in 8 years! Between 2007 and 2009 I did a weekly webcomic, “Palindramas: Palindromes, Cartoonified.” Each week I created a cartoon built around an original palindrome. The entire text of the cartoon might be a palindrome, or just the punchline or caption. Formats varied between strips, panel gags, and full comics-pages (or even multi-page stories), and even a couple of animated GIFs. You can see some of them here. After a while, my brain started to hurt from coming up with these things, so I retired Palindramas. But this year, seeking a submission for the anthology, “One Page Stinkers,” I decided to try my hand at palindrome comics again. I came up with two Palindramas, to fit the theme “heat wave.” You can see it in the latest issue of the anthology… or right here:
(This is a diary of the process of creating chapter 3, updated bottom-to-top. So, if you want to follow the whole thing beginning to end, start at the bottom and scroll up)
July 10-13: page 7
For once, this page worked out on the first try. Here are the finished inks, as the kiss commences:
July 5-6 (and peeking ahead to July 23): page 6
This is relatively straightforward compared to what came before, because it’s a “closer-up” view of the couple, meaning less background (phew!). The boy leans in for a kiss, puckering up.
My last rough in the mock-up was extremely close, but I decided to move back to a medium view, so as not to lose the body language. Started with a couple of sketches/roughs:
Then launch into a final version…
Not happy with this so I abandoned it. It felt to me a little like the direction of his “lunge” was wrong, like he was going to miss her. Also I had him too close, and I didn’t like the way his nose overlapped with her hair. So try again:
I decided also to not make the background shading a uniform gradation (referencing the lamplight from above-right, and getting darker as it moves to the lower right corner), but left light between their faces, so as not to mess up their contours, and let the “light” between them work emotionally.Continue reading →