Books

Babysitting

Every so often you get the proverbial offer-you-can’t-refuse. For me, sometimes that’s work with a creator or for a project that I love. Sometimes it’s when somebody you respect needs help. Sometimes it’s a fun artistic challenge, and sometimes it’s a really cool opportunity to make contact with a new audience.

 pvp-staff

And sometimes it’s all of those things, because maestro Scott Kurtz needs somebody to write and draw a guest story for his wonderful flagship strip PvP while he heals up a sore back and gets ready to launch a big new project. So! For the next little stretch here I’m happily dropping (almost) everything to do just that.

pvp-marcy

I’ve been sweet on Scott’s work, and on PvP in particular, for years now – and especially since the story moved to Seattle, my old hometown. That means that I also get to depict some of my favorite landmarks from around the city. Tough gig!

So I’m having an absolute ball taking Scott’s lovely, silly, brash, sincere characters out for a spin. If you’re already a fan of PvP, I think you’ll probably enjoy this little story; if you’re new to the strip, well, you have some very fun archive-diving ahead of you! Either way, head over to site, check out the first strip from my run, and (hopefully) enjoy.

I’m taking the week away from Family Man to compensate for producing a weekday strip; I hope to be back next week! It’s a small price to pay for having such a ball.

In the meantime, if you peruse my store, you might notice that I have soft-launched two new books! I’ll make a big deal about it later, but if you missed your chance to get in on my Kickstarter project from 2012, you can now purchase your very own copies of Outfoxed and Danse Macabre. I still have a lot of orders to fulfill from backers, so expect a slightly longer turnaround than usual, but…they’re HERE!

Life & Death

Detail from Page 273 of Family Man.

That’s it for this scene in Family Man – I hope you all didn’t too much mind the brief detour. Next week we’ll see some protagonists again!

Happy Thanksgiving week to my fellow Americans; I recommend this unlikely vegetarian gravy recipe, which has beaten out meat gravies (even amongst committed carnivores) every year at the table since I started making it. It is terrible for you, and thank goodness for that.

Meanwhile, in book news! Last week I received some advance copies of the final books from the Kickstarter project. The rest are slowly steaming their way across the ocean, but here are some pictures in the meantime! The books will be on sale to the general public no later than the New Year.

 

 

 

What I Did During My Summer Vacation

Family Man is updating again!

This is the second of two new pages in two weeks. It’s good to be back!

I spent most of my summer putting together the three new books I’ll be selling this fall – all in different sizes, bindings, and colors. I did virtually all of the print design and set-up myself – an arduous though always educational task, composed of 10% fun design choices, 85% eyeball-nuking detail work and frantic technical fixes, and 5% waiting for InDesign to finish saving.

My proofs arrived from the printer this week (and they look amazing), so there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but all that work did cut into my usual creative time-budget and gave me a sore arm for a few weeks.

Nonetheless I managed to have a bit of fun on the side! Here’s a sampler of some of the pieces that I snuck onto my drawing table this summer. (Did I also mention that I got to play a Vulcan in a stage production of a Star Trek episode? No? That happened, too.)

Lotsa foxes! Drawn for the Hero Initiative charity auction.

For the Portland Mercury, one of three different proposed social media apps that I think we could all actually use. I interviewed a performance artist whose work focuses on the internet, and accompanied it with some graphics of my own invention. I’ve also gotten to write a few straight-up theater reviews, which has been hugely fun.

 

For Jon Morris’ super-fun Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe : REDUXE project! In which artists re-draw and re-design entries from the old Marvel encyclopedia. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rogue (of the X-Men); I turned her into a bit of a surly gutter punk, which is always my mental image of her. It was fun to do very simple flat colors under a fairly realistic drawing style, a combination I don’t often try.

I have more saved up, but I’ll give myself a few weeks to reacquaint myself with the drafting table before I unleash it all. I hope my fellow Northern hemisphere dwellers had a lovely summer!

To Boldly Go

It’s been a very busy month since the fundraising portion of the Dylan Meconis Library 2012 project closed on Kickstarter. We closed with a fantastic $36,444 from 808 backers.

Pre-press work for all three books is right on track! Setting up three books in three formats, printed and bound three different ways (make that four, if you count the Bite Me hardcover) is no small task, so I’ve been hard at work in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, prepping images and laying out pages (over 250 of them).

Exciting for all of the books is the arrival of the press dummies!

These are unprinted-on but fully constructed versions of the assembled books in their actual materials (minus dust-jackets on the hardcovers). This allows me to check that the dimensions are correct, see how much each book will weigh (important for shipping!), and make any changes to pagecount or paper stock! Also it allows me to freak out because the books are totally going to be real.

Allow me to say: they look and feel amazing. The Bite Me paperback has three-inch french flaps (!!); the hardcover has a really stunning, soft cloth binding that will be foil-stamped. Outfoxed will be printed on beautiful toothy parchment-colored paper. AndDanse Macabre 2.0 is one of the cutest bitsy little hardcovers I’ve ever held.

Murray the skull agrees.

As for the actual content of the books…

Outfoxed

…is the easiest of the three projects, and has been basically print-ready for awhile now! All I’ve had to do is add a few incidental illustrations and adjust the technical settings of the book to fit the needs of my printer. I can’t wait to see the book in print, especially on that fantastic vanilla-toned paper!

Danse Macabre 2.0

…has been piles of fun. Finalizing the written content (both silly poems and some explanatory text), tweaking type design, adjusting my images to look less like they were scanned a few months ago and more like they were found under some flagstones in a German monastery, etc.

Here’s an wee bitty preview image of the final layout and design for one of the early spreads in the book, the CEO!

I’ve also applied for permission from the University of Heidelberg to license images from the original 1488 Totentanz, with some language help from my super-talented German-speaking colleague Sarah Burrini (check out her fantastic work in English at http://sarahburrini.com/en/). It won’t be cheap, but that money will support the incredible research institution that brought the Totentanz to a digital audience in the first place, and give me a chance to expose even more readers to some of the originals.

Bite Me!

is by far the most labor-intensive of the books! Here are all eleven pages of the newstory in Bite Me, patiently waiting in Adobe Bridge for to import them into the layout of the book – which I did just a few minutes later.

I’m also finishing up image quality touch-ups on the original book. This means everything from fixing flaws in the scans to removing smudges and cleaning up lettering or washed-out line work. Here’s a side-by-side example of some of this work in action! The top image is the original scan (which appeared in previous print editions) and the bottom is the new version of the image:

The changes may be subtle at a casual glance (cleaner/darker type and linework, less smudging, and you can finally see the lines of Lucien’s outfit) but these tweaks make a major difference over the course of 155 pages. Keeping the spontaneous, sometimes messy character of the original art but buffing it up to peak condition is something I haven’t had the time or money to really aim for in past printings. I’m confident that this is going to be the definitive edition.

Meanwhile, to give my hand a break from work-induced tendonitis, I’ve been moonlighting as Sarek’s aide in the Vulcan Diplomatic Corps at this year’s Trek in the Park. Sarek and Amanda are played by my lovely studiomates Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett. That’s me down way down on the left, wearing an EXTREMELY logical miniskirt and cloak combo.

Photo by Merrick Monroe

Live long and prosper, y’all.

 

A Rousing Success

(permalink to this week’s page)

Just a little transition page! Good timing for me to have a simpler page this week, since I am pretty dang tired out from all the last-minute excitement of the Kickstarter project. It was a huge success – 808 backers for a total of $36444 (over 240% of the original $15000 I asked for).

I’m  loopy with gratitude. It will take a good long while for those funds to translate from operating funds into any serious income, but being able to publish three books without major financial risk is quite a gift for a small businessperson like yours truly. And I’m excited for what it means for volume two of Family Man.

I’m grateful to Kickstarter for providing a clever, fun and intuitive platform. While I don’t think it’s the perfect system for every project, this has been a great experience for me and a wonderful way to play with longtime readers and attract some new ones, as well. And now I’m very much enjoying the newfound peace and quiet of my post-project inbox, and taking great pleasure in all the fiddly art and pre-press work that I have left before it turns into a whole bunch of books. 

All the progress I make on that front will be restricted to backers of the project from here until I start getting physical proofs, but before the project finished I did post a single rough version of the first page from the new Bite Me! short story that will be appearing in the anniversary-edition (PDF and print). Posted below for your perusal and enjoyment!

It’s been desperately fun to revisit these characters, and the process of putting the grey washes down digitally – while figuring out how to retain the very hand-done character of the original – delights me.

A number of people have written to me expressing dismay that they didn’t come across the project until after it had closed. Don’t worry! I’ll be selling copies of the books produced for quite some time, and they’ll go on sale to the general public towards the end of October; the extras (prints, patches, bookplates etc) are the only things exclusive to project backers. I’ll let you all know when the new books are available for purchase!

I’ll see you all next week – when we find out what Ariana is waking up to…