Tag Archives: graphic novels

The Week Behind; The Week Ahead: Sept 18

Phew. There’s a whirlwind going on, y’all. We are in the last few days of a major Kickstarter campaign run by my publisher, Comicker Press, to bring five different graphic novels from digital into print. The first volume of Waking Life is among them, and at 2/3 funding with five days to go, I am figuratively on pins and needles!


(I say figuratively because, folks, I’m an English teacher, and I just spent the past few weeks of school reinforcing for my kids that figurative language isn’t literal. And I literally want to be the best role model possible for my students. )

Last week was the start of the whirlwind. My brother in comics– Tyler Ellis— and I spent the weekend of the 9th at Staple in Austin. It’s the best indie comics show in the southern U.S., and a real highlight of the year. Getting time to meet new faces and reconnect with previous acquaintances was a real treat.

But I moved straight from that into a full week of classes, vocab, and test prep– the first full week of school since we began, thanks to Hurricane Harvey. Having spent a lot more time together, my students taught me a few things in the process:

A) Never arm-wrestle a student whose biceps are larger than your head

B) Roblox is… a thing. Potentially bigger than Harambe was to last year’s group. There’s a reason everyone’s saying OOF a lot.

C) A single misspelling can end up being more profound than a hundred sincerely meant words.

I also decided to try my hand at fan art– i.e., the practice of drawing already-existing characters. Part of this is because I need to up my illustration game; part of it’s because I’d like to improve at digital drawing as well. I feel a lot of personally-induced pressure when working on Waking Life to make my pages look awesome, but that eliminates a little bit of the sense of play and discovery. I need an outlet for that, and I figured drawing characters I’ve enjoyed from other areas in a casual way creates that opportunity. To wit:


Tyrion and Bronn are one of my favorite unlikely buddy comedies duos of the moment

Geordi and Data: some of my favorite odd-couple bros in all of science fiction.

I also discovered the utility of Instagram’s Stories feature (thanks, Christin), so now I’m annoying people with mildly humorous videos several times a day. Being half as funny as you think you are is the job of a father, though, so I’m staying on brand. Also, it DID give me the opportunity to document a major mishap that happened last night:


Finally, I had a few rad opportunities to chat up media folks about Waking Life and our soon-to-finish campaign. The Baylor Lariat, where I did my first public cartooning work, was kind enough to offer me an interview, which should be dropping this week. Also, Tyler and I will be doing a live AMA with our Comicker crew tonight at 7:00 central— we’d love to have you drop in and ask a few Q’s, give a few comments, and talk shop.

More to come next week, so stay tuned. I’ll have a story about how the campaign finishes up, one way or another. Until then, here’s a taste of things to come:


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Filed under Comics, fan art, General Musings, Sketchbook, Teaching

Novel Graphics

Besides working at the day job and noodling around on odd comics, I’ve got a big side project in the pipeline– my first graphic novel!

I’m working with an author from Houston named Kirk Blackard on a story tentatively titled Makin It. It deals with a young man who grows up on the streets, makes some tough choices, and lands in juvie. Along the way, he meets Christ and learns (with a little help from a mentor) how to break the cycle of violence in his life.

(Just coming off a year teaching high school English, this subject hits close to home– I’d be lying if my time with the kids didn’t inform how I’m depicting the protagonist and his world.)

We’ve got a piece on the book with an interview and some page previews coming up in the next issue of BLEEP Magazine, and I’ll post the link soon. Until then, I figured I’d show you a peak at the process of how we take things from script to page.

The Making of a Page:

We start with Kirk’s script. He writes in a unique two-column format. One side contains the protagonist’s narration:

We all stayed with my grandmother.
She seemed like my mother and my mother seemed like a sister.

I called my grandmother “Mama Ruth” and my mother by her name, “Mary.”

Mama Ruth was gone a lot. She worked very hard for long hours. Drove the metro and school busses. Sometimes she worked as a maid.

The other column contains action descriptions for the page, usually matched with a piece of narration listed in the first column. What we needed to depict on this page included

Perhaps picture of two of them (Grandma and Mother)

Buses, actually doing work

Working grandmother—tired look

After Kirk sends me the script, I break it down in really loose pencils and send it back to him for revisions and suggestions.


In this case, we were pretty much in sync (and usually are– it’s been a good match!), so I started blackening in panel borders and putting ink on figures. That way it looks clean and scans well.


(The above is actually an experiment in inking on my iPad. I thought the lines were too pixelated, however, so I ultimately stayed with traditional pen and ink.)

Finally, after all the ink is finished, I scan the page and type the captions and dialogue in Photoshop. For this book, we used WildAndCrazy, which is a font you can get at Comicraft for pretty cheap.

And that does it!

At this point, the first chapter is finished and polished, and we’re shopping it around to different publishers and agents. We feel pretty optimistic that we’ll be able to get it to market, so be on the lookout for updates!


Filed under Comics, Sketchbook