Overcoming Artist’s Block and my New Comic

You haven’t heard a whole lot from me lately.  Why?  I really wasn’t doing a whole lot of comic related stuff worth writing about.  So rather than writing something about my thoughts on the new Ghostbusters movie or what video games I’ve been playing, I opted not to write anything.

Optimistically Cynical started to get more infrequent updates until it was just on hiatus.  I launched an unsuccessful Etsy store based on drawing pet portraits after some encouragement from friends and family.  I had some fun drawing monsters for no particular reason.  Then when I was sketching the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp I just didn’t really like the way it was turning out and lost the urge to finish it.  Or draw anything really.  And I had a lot of other monsters planned out.


You see, for me it is very easy to start things, but a lot harder to keep them going.  That applies to things like working out, reading books, playing long video games or drawing.  I’m just not great at long projects.  I need breaks and tend to lose focus after awhile.  Over time I’ve come to recognize this shortcoming, and hopefully acknowledgement can lead to self improvement some day.

A few months back, around the time I was drawing those monsters, I had a thought.  A thought for a new comic.  In truth, it’s a thought I’ve been kicking around for years, but suddenly I was hit with inspiration and ready to start forming the particulars to make it a reality.

As I’ve written before, I’ve told my son bedtime stories for years about a fictionalized sheriff Wild Bill taking on monsters in the old west.  They are fun stuff that he looks forward to hearing, and I have fun telling them (Ok, sometimes I’m not in the mood, especially when I’m tired and don’t have any ideas).  I’ve also always enjoyed old western movies and have a small collection of western comics (an under represented genre, in my humble opinion).  I really like the western aesthetic, and always wanted to work with it.

So what’s the new comic?  It’s called Paranormal Pinkerton!  Pretty snazzy name, eh?  Who doesn’t love alliteration in comics?  Stan Lee sure does.  What’s it about?  A supernatural detective in the old west.

It feels so good to work on a comic that can be so easily summed up in one sentence.  And everyone I’ve talked to about it has reacted very positively.  And not the polite, somewhat fake reaction I’ve grown accustomed to over years.  Genuine interest, and even excitement!  That feels good.  Even my wife enjoys looking at it while I draw and asks questions about the story, and usually she is bored to death by comic stuff.  So maybe I’m onto something.

Aside from the old western movies like High Noon, The Wild Bunch and The Searchers, and some more modern shows like Deadwood and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., I’m also taking inspiration from some of my favorite TV shows like The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, and my favorite comic book, Hellboy.

Drawing those monsters tapped into something for me.  A childlike interest in the strange and unknown.  I spent a lot of my childhood drawing monsters, reading spooky stories, watching scary movies, obsessing over Halloween, and generally being attracted to the darker side of things.  While I still retain some of that today, it was something I embraced less as an adult, and only really started growing again as my son started to show interest in the same kinds of things.

So I’m working on this comic that will encapsulate those interests and appeal to people who like those kinds of things.  As far as the tone, I think it will mostly be an action comedy, with some dashes of mystery and horror thrown in.  The tone will not be too serious, it is meant to be fun more than anything else.  And I definitely see the potential for it to be adapted to other forms of media in the future, which is what Alex suggested as soon as I told him the concept.  Speaking of which, it’s just me on this one, sans Alex.  He’s busy writing his internet articles these days, and we still have the 2nd Black Snow book to work on together.

So one Saturday morning after having this vague idea for some time I was suddenly hit with the drive to start hammering out the details.  And on that morning I came up with all the key concepts and even started writing the actual comic.  Unlike a lot of my work, I spent a lot of time researching this as well.  I wanted things to be fairly period accurate, and I really didn’t know a ton about the Pinkerton organization.  Here’s a shock, they still exist!

Then it came time to try and draw it.  And I was fairly nervous.  I really wanted this to turn out well.  So I did a lot of character studies in my notebooks.  And I mean a lot.  And tried a lot of different styles.  I think most artists enjoy a style that is very different from their own, and wish they could produce something more like that.  So that is where I started.  And it was not very good.  It just wasn’t me and I wasn’t comfortable doing it, and that showed in the results.  So I just kept trying.

It was discouraging, and I would take breaks to try and clear my mind.  Focus more on the writing until the first issue was completely written.  And then one day I finally knew exactly how I wanted it to look and was happy with the way it turned out, and it kind of came out of nowhere.  And the end result was not that dissimilar to what I had done with Black Snow.  You see, I really just had to embrace my natural art style that I’ve evolved over my lifetime of drawing.  And the funny thing is I’d be hard pressed to define it, and don’t even usually think of myself as having a style.  But it is there nonetheless.  I’ve developed enough body of work that I can look at it and see there are distinct things about it that define it as mine.

Now I’m working on Paranormal  Pinkerton issue zero, which will be a shorter kind of preview version of the comic.  It will be 12 pages, in full color, and my goal is to have it ready and printed for APE in October.  Currently I’ve finished 6 pages, and I’m very happy with the results.  And it’s already feeling better with each page I draw.

It’s also refreshingly different from anything else I’ve done, particularly Black Snow.  That was all about characters stuck in urban decay, and the absurdity of these strange people dealing with the mundane.  There usually wasn’t much movement to it, everything was very much based in the city, and I tended to focus on character medium and close ups instead of the environment when possible.  This comic has the dialogue dialed back, features a lot of movement and focuses on nature.  In a lot of ways it’s the antithesis of Black Snow.  But still very obviously done by the same person.  And sharp-eyed readers will even spot a joke that is lifted directly from Black Snow, though the context of the situation is different.

I’m really excited by the whole thing, and I’m already working ideas for the next issue.  Oh, and this is being done in the comic book format, in case that wasn’t clear.  Maybe eventually I can collect them into a larger book, like I did with the old Black Snow comic books.  I plan to make the future books somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 pages.

So I think things are well on their way to being ready for APE.  Speaking of conventions, I will be at the San Jose Heroes and Villains Fan Fest on August 27th.  I won’t have  a table or anything, I’ll just be going as an attendee.  This will be my first time going to one of these things as just a fan.  The tickets were a gift.  It’s my birthday this Friday, in case you wanted to get me something (hint, hint).  It should be fun, and the list of celebrity guests looks pretty cool.  So if you happen to see me there be sure to say hello.

I thought I’d end by showing you the first page of issue zero.  Let me know what you think.

Paranormal Pinkerton

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *