Sunday, April 24, 2022

Finally, Tracey. Sort of.

Early Tracey from Strugglers
When I first moved from my obsession/homage hero series Arche-Lady, I took a stab at slice-of-life--very loosely inspired by some reality. I wrote, drew, and made copies of Strugglers and Cavalcade of Boys as one-shots (I think they were both ~ 64 pages?) to sell at conventions. It became clear pretty quickly that Strugglers needed a bit more work, while Cavalcade was snapped up with a demand for "more."
From there, Cavalcade morphed into a series, and much later, I completed and published Strugglers as the OGN you can buy today. In Strugglers, three recent college graduates, Tighe, Midge, and Tracy, grapple with finding their respective paths. My original intention was to follow it with spin-off stories featuring each of the three roommates in their own graphic novels.
If you take the Cavalcade one-shot, plus issue zero, plus the flashback sequence of issue six, you pretty much have Tighe's OGN, though it was never packaged that way. Together, it forms a post-Strugglers look as the character comes into his own personhood, into his late 20s.
In fits and starts I wrote and drew Midge's solo story in Baby Makes Three. Here, Midge is in her mid-30s having a baby with her husband, as they try to balance adult responsibility and life's passions. This project took so much longer than I hoped... but finally up on ComiXology as an OGN for you!
Tracey's Love is the Reason cameo
At the conclusion of Strugglers, Tracey wins a song contest, which kicks off her career as a singer/songwriter. That kind of made her a natural to work into other works in cameos. She appears briefly in Love is the Reason and Baby Makes Three. And there's a name drop in "Things Don't Always Suck."

In the back of my head, I knew what Tracey's story was going to be, but it was pushed back--I wasn't ready to write about her, or write the story I knew I'd write.
Until now!
As Tighe aged up with me when I wrote Cavalcade, and Midge aged up with me when I wrote Baby, Tracey too ages up with me now as I write Tracey in the 16th Minute as my grad school thesis project.
I'm advised not to talk about my project too much, so I'll avoid particulars for now! But I'm happy to tell you about the format: to start, I am writing the story as a screenplay for my thesis project. Why screenplay? Have I raised my sights to film? No. But I do have some solid reasons for this decision:
  1. Knowing of my comics career, my professors thought I'd lean into it for my thesis project and write and draw an OGN as my thesis project. Indeed, that was my intention when I first applied. I like to defy expectations, sometime.
  2. Perhaps most importantly, writing comics, I write to my strengths and weaknesses as an artist. So, my art would be guiding me... and I wanted to break free from that, and truly focus on writing the story.
  3. My thesis advisor has lots of Hollywood screenplays to his credit (I mean, actually turned into movies) and writing this under his tutelage won't hurt!
  4. Tracey's Baby Makes Three appearance.
    Dartmouth catalogues thesis projects in their library. So I'll be on record with a screenplay having gone through an academic review. This will formally speak to my ability to write for the screen. Many years ago, when Cavalcade was under consideration to become a TV show, I wasn't considered at all for writing duties, without any screenwriting to my credit. Not that Tracey will ever get filmed, but it's something.
  5. I can always re-write the story as an OGN and draw it. And, in some format, fulfill my original idea of the quartet of short graphic novels.

That's not much of a preview... but all you're getting for now. I've just finished my first draft, and it'll take a few more before I'm ready to talk details.

Someday, maybe you can download it via Dartmouth. Or you might read it as OGN. 

Let's see how it plays out!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

And now, 52 years later... (REVISED 4/17)

I've been razzed for considering "errands" to be an appropriate romantic date, and I'm still met with groans when I describe Saturday mornings as "highly productive." But, I have a lot to do still, and not much time left to do it!

When I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college, a palm reader told me I was "not quite psychic, but always trust your intuition." Yet, here and there, over the years, I've had three very strong "feelings," which I can only call premonitions. I admit not a single one has come true, yet I can't ignore the "feeling" I'd die between age 48-52. 

It's not likely I'll kick it in the next 364 days, and I can't guarantee on's estimate that I'm going in 14 years. But, I didn't need my most recent back injury (from opening a window) to remind me that we all not only have an expiration date, but a best used by date, too.

Anecdotally, I see family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors' abilities to do what they love to do, and want to do, nose-dive at 60. And since I've evaded any meaningful intimate entanglements, I'm left with things to do, places to see, and friends to visit. So, clock's ticking to get stuff done.

Grad school has been great to focus my attention on several creative projects that have lingered in the corners of my mind. There are recent posts about those, and I will soon write about my thesis project. And I'm seriously looking ahead to post-grad school projects. I have more to say in comic form; I want to add positively to the narratives that seem to be teetering back into dark territory for the LGBT community... but what to pursue next?

In the realm of places to see, aside from the fact that I'd like to travel pretty much anywhere, there aren't too many places left on my classic "5 places to see before I die" list. I'm down to Brasil--Bahia, Iguazu Falls, beyond; and the Atlantic provinces--Prince Edward Island, Halifax, beyond.

But largely at this stage of the game, I want to visit the good friends scattered further afield. That requires travel of course, but retracing footsteps rather than trailblazing, usually. So hopefully I'll make it to Alabama soon, and revisit Los Angeles, Saint Louis, and get back to France and Belgium.

Altogether, I want to make the most of what's left. I can't tell if this is positive, or negative, or just realistic with a heavy dose of self-centered-ness.

(Technically I'm not 52 until 10:16 PM EDT but you get where I'm going)

Friday, April 8, 2022

Research + Personal Experience + Creative

Excerpt from "A Bad Start" with inks by Monica Gallagher and colors by Matt Beaugrand

In my class "Diasporas and Migrations" I was struck at two mentions of Saint Louis in Jacob Lawrence's series of paintings about the Great Migration. I'd known about the Great Migration, but has primarily associated it with New York and Chicago. I've been something of a history buff and I've lived in Saint Louis in the early 90s and again in the early 00s. My memory is hardly perfect, but still I was surprised that I had no serious connection with the migration and the Lou.

This pointed me to craft my term paper,  "Saint Louis and the Great Migration" which tracked migration, and the reaction of white people to it. Coupled with post-war anxiety, fear, and optimism, reaction on reaction on reaction created the climate of the city today, and the city as I first moved to it. In my preamble, I stated:

In the three months after finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked at a sandwich shop in downtown Saint Louis. Aside from the manager, who was often at the other locations of the small chain, I was the only white person on the team...

This was, of course, a huge driver of my motivation. As I researched the paper, I found so many simple oddities and complex problems built on the reaction on reaction on reaction, rooted in the Great Migration (and racism itself, of course).

After the course ended, I decided to write a series of vignettes in comic form, as an attempt to engage people who didn't want to talk about racism in the topic of racism. I discussed the project and my drafts with a classmate, who agreed to be my sensitivity reader. Especially important, because the stories aren't really about me per se. The me character plays a supporting role, as I tried to keep the story about the climate and the underpinnings and not about my personal journey.

For the first vignette, I was fortunate to also enlist the help of Monica Gallagher as inker, and Matt Beaugrand as colorist, both of whom supported what I was trying to do. The first vignette was published by the peer-review journal Clamantis and I have submitted the second vignette, just approved for the next upcoming issue. I've drafted a third vignette as well.

This is working as I'd hoped. Idea, research, personal perspective, creative narrative. It's the model I hope future projects can follow!    

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Working through creative blocks


"Reverb" wallpaper by Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers


 Whether creative or productive, if you're like me, you don't have time to waste on a block. Here's advice I've given and received over the years!

  1. Plan ahead Whether it's your day, your weekend, or your next six months, you should plan ahead. Your plans will always change of course, but knowing what's on your horizon helps. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed or stressed out because you have so much to do... but when you map it out and take things one step at a time, it's easier to see how you can get everything done, and on time.
  2. Productive procrastination Can't work on something that's due soon? Work on something else. If you've already done #1, can you work on something due in three months? Might not help today, but you'll be loving yourself in three months. Get other things done off your to do list? If nothing else, clean your bathroom. I've spent entire weekends ticking everything off a to do list, adding to the to do list, and ticking those things off. Arriving at Sunday night with literally nothing left to do but the thing I was avoiding... but nothing hanging over my head preventing me from moving ahead. In the space of project planning, jot down your ideas informally or formally. This means when you need a fleshed out idea for a class or a publisher, you may have two or three in the bank.
  3. Push push push In my screenwriting class, a classmate of mine who I'd been in another class beforehand with was frozen. He hated Final Draft software and couldn't move past his idea to scriptwriting. I encouraged him to just open up the software and just start writing anything. I'd seen him do the work before and reminded him he could. We talked through his ideas, and he had plenty to go on. Indecision or inaction can be debilitating and sometimes you need to "Push, push, push" (which is a line from one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, "Next Stop, Willoughby").
  4. Phone a friend Are you in school? In a writers group? Got friends from a convention? Get to know who you're sympatico with. Be there for those people when you can be, and don't be afraid to call them. Finding such people is work--because writing or school wise, you don't click with everyone or even all your friends. But a creative partner can be really helpful, especially to encourage you through your bad times.
  5. Get out of your head (or into it) Take a walk, go to a pub alone, stare off into space. I was meeting a friend recently for dinner. I was ten minutes early, and she was 40 minutes late. So I cracked open my sketchbook and started writing down ideas for a project I am developing. It was all there, but my daily routine, my job, and other projects were competing for my attention. But alone, without creative distraction or competition, I was able to work through several ideas really quickly.
  6. Try it your way Another friend of mine from screenwriting class, who I also knew to be a great writer, was also struggling. She had never written a script before, and couldn't get her head into it. I suggested she write it as a short story first. Soon after she started the short story version, she easily jumped over to Final Draft and started in writing the script. I sketch a lot to work through blocks, even when there is no visual element, like a radio/podcast play. As a visual artist, this always helps me get my head into a project.
  7. Step away Jose Villarubia once told me an important part of the creative process is stepping away from it. This may contradict the other advice, but sometimes it's the only thing that helps. Decompressing, recharging the way you do best, and accumulating new ideas by living in the world can always inspire and motivate.
  8. Take your own advice This can be the most difficult of all! My wheels have been spinning on my thesis project lately, but I've manage to employ #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 until the only other option was #3... based on #8. Follow that?

Good luck with your projects! I am always happy to hear other tips and tricks.