"The Ghost of Fifth Street" Page 1

“The Ghost of Fifth Street” Page 1

I am trying to get things done but it’s not easy. Today I finally finished the first draft of the writing of my “Organics” comic. The story is called “The Ghost of Fifth Street”. This is not a comic I make in an ordinary way and I haven’t done one in a decade and a half so actually getting this far is an accomplishment for me. Most of the “Organics” stories I did back in the 1990s were eight to ten pages long but this one is forty two pages. That’s a lot more ambitious.

First off my “Organics” comics are a lot different than any other comic that I make. The way you make a comic is to write the story (or at least the plot of the story) and then draw the comic. That’s pretty standard. Generally you need to know what you are going to draw before you draw it. But not with “Organics”.

I developed this method of storytelling when I was younger and learning to draw using a Surrealist automatic drawing method. It helped me a lot because in applying it to comics I had to do a lot of drawings. Back in those days I would rule out some panel borders on an 11×17 inch piece of paper and then close my eyes and scribble on the paper. I’d move the paper around too and even scribble with my left hand to mix things up. Anything to make new and different lines. Then, like finding faces in clouds, I’d see what I could find in the scribbles and make a drawing from them. Only after I had eight pages or so done would I lay them all out on the floor, arrange and rearrange them, and see what story they told. Then I’d write that story.

My drawing was different in those days. Not as sophisticated or, at times, illustrative. I was looking for more mystery back then and to see if people could see the same things that I did. Most of the times they couldn’t. I learned the lesson of clarity from that. If I want people to see what I see then I really have to show them. It took me a while to learn that lesson though. Possibly by then I was bored of the “Organics” method I had come up with so I never really made anything exceptional with it. I remember going back a few years later to try and redraw some of my early “Organics” stories and make them more clear but I abandoned that. I had lost interest.

All these years later I was looking for some type of comic book project to work on. I didn’t know what though. Comic are exceptionally hard. They take a lot of time and drawing so if you’re not getting paid for it drawing comic can eat up your life. I needed something I could work on slowly and could break up into pieces. That’s when I thought of my old “Organics” way of doing things.

First off I’m way better at drawing than I was in the mid 90s. I’ve been drawing using a Surrealist automatic drawing method for twenty years now so it’s second nature to me. I even have a few different techniques rather than just the scribble on the page way. As a matter of fact I hadn’t done the scribble on the page way in ages. As a friend once said the scribbles are in my mind now.

The first way I have of making an “Organics” page is in pen. I made a template in Photoshop that has blue lines on it that divide up a page. I print those guides out on a piece of paper. I get two small side by side pages on a 9×12 inch piece of bristol board. Then I can easily divide the page up into panels with the blue lines as a guide and start drawing. I draw in ink with one of my sign pens. No plot or script as of yet just automatic drawing. I scan these pages into the computer, blow them up, and print them out in blue line on 11×17 inch paper. Then I draw right over top of them with pencil and ink until I have a finished page ready to scan in.

When I started this project I didn’t know how long it was going to be. I knew I wanted it to be longer than eight pages but since I had no story in mind I had no idea about the length. I think I originally wanted to go to about twenty pages. I don’t know when I decided to up that to forty but I did. As a consequence of that I wrote the story in pieces. After I had eight or ten pages done I decided to start writing the story. That way at least I’d know where it was going.

I wrote the story right over the artwork. I set it all up in Adobe Illustrator and even put down all the caption boxes and balloons first. They weren’t set in stone but I could easily see how much room I had to work with. I found the vertical format of a page in the horizontal format of the computer screen at bit awkward to works with. I had to pan and zoom a lot and I found that a lot more distracting than I would have imagined. But I got the first ten pages done and knew where the story was going. That was back in October of 2013 so this has taken a while.

I’ve squeezed in a page or two when I could and slowly built things up. The writing took nearly as long as the drawing at least in terms of me getting it done. I could draw a couple of pages in a couple of days but then it would take me weeks to get around to writing the next chunk of eight or ten. It was just a clumsy process. Now the first draft is done and I’ll have to read it all and get to work on improving it. That and the coloring. I want it in color but forty two pages is a lot. Comics take a long time.