Sunday, September 28, 2014

I can't believe I ate the WHOLE thing.


Welcome to the latest update of "Saturday" the book, which is brought to you by Dent Brand Toothpaste, the super-whitening toothpaste for men.  If you're a gent, use Dent.*

*Keep away from pregnant women, regular women, and children.

It's not going to come as a surprise to anyone who reads these regularly that I'm still in the editing process and will be for...let's just say for a little while.  I'm actually working on page three.  It's the usual deal: updating the characters, sharpening up drawings here and there, typing the same phrase over and over again into my Selectric while my long-suffering wife actually does the winter maintenance of the Overlook hotel AND makes dinner every night.

Wait, never mind.  That's from "The Shining".

But I am working on page three.  This page is probably going to need the most editing of any of the pages.  Mostly because it's the very first page I drew in the book.  That would have been at least six years ago.  I've had quite a bit of drawing practice since then and while I think the story is still sound, the craftsmanship needs some gussying up.

Much like looking into the sky and seeing the light of a star who's flame has long since extinguished, looking at this page is like looking back through time.  I can just make out a younger, naive version of myself looking at the page and brimming with the enthusiasm of an infomercial host showing off the latest innovation in non-stick footware.  That version of me is thinking something profoundly stupid like, "At this rate, I'd bet I'll be finished with this book in a year or so!"


But I kept at it even after I realized I had bitten off...well, a lot.  Not more than I could chew, but here I am six or seven years later and I'm still chewing.  But I can see the bottom of the plate now.  I'm pretty much just mopping up the rest of the entree with a piece of bread at this point.  Once the plate is clean, all I have to do is find a publisher who's willing to..uh..actually, I'm not sure I know how to continue this metaphor and doing so might make everyone throw up in their mouths a little bit, so I'm going to stop.

Anyhoo, speaking of page three, here's one of the original panels:

And here's what the edited version looks like:

Not too shabby, eh?  Well, I think it's an improvement, anyway.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ermagherd: berks!


Welcome back to the "Saturday" update.  How have you been?  Good?  Terrible?  I hope you've been doing well.  I hope everything has been coming up Millhouse for you.  But if it hasn't, there's some good news: This week on the update, we're going to be taking a trip back into my childhood.  It was a pretty great place (except for the occasional pants-wetting or user-error injuries that happen in most childhoods and some adulthoods).  Might be fun.

At any rate, I'll try not to make it too navel-gazey.

Yesterday, for the first time, I had the book actually printed.  Don't get your hopes up; I'm still editing and won't be done with that process for a little while.  But I wanted to actually have the book fully printed and bound for that thing this weekend.  Each page was printed individually and then bound with a simple plastic coil bind.  It cost me 70 bucks, which isn't a terribly feasible price for large-scale purposes.


I got it home and I realized it was the first time "Saturday" has been in actual book form.  Before now, it's only been loose-leaf.  Usually in a stack of prints crammed into my portfolio.  And now it's a book.  It looks like a book.  Or something close to it, anyway.  And I had this moment of self-aggrandizement where I thought, "I did this.  It's been years of hard work and struggle.  It's also been years of the most fun, creative project I've ever worked on.  And here it is, finally.  I did it."

And then I caught myself in the middle of that thought.  Because as much as I like to think I did it by myself, I didn't.  It took a lot of support and a lot of encouragement.  Both things I'm lucky to still be receiving.  A lot of it was from my family.  My patient, patient family.  And from you.  I've already thanked you a million times, so if you're sick of it, skip down a sentence.  Thank you.

But I also owe a debt to the authors who inspired me when I was a kid.  I'll never be able to list all of them, but I'll give you a couple (probably over more than one post):

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" by Judi Barrett and Ronald Barrett (feel free to imagine me as a boisterous young kid introducing this book at the end of "Reading Rainbow").

I have no idea how many times I read this book.  A gabillion times.  The premise was pretty simple.  Food falls from the sky.  At first it's great, then it's not so good.  The food turns into a series of natural disasters and everyone has to evacuate.

Look at these illustrations:

These are so crazy.  Beautiful, yes.  They don't get much more beautiful than this.  But look a the detail.  You know how I'm always yakking about detail that's so rich you can look at it again and again?  The illustrations in this book are a perfect example of that.  And within each page is a multitude of little stories, each of which made me wonder: "What else is going on OFF the page?"  That's a fully developed world, and it's one I spent a lot of time in when I was a kid.

There are so many jokes crammed into this illustration.  The expression on the guy's face in the foreground is phenomenal.  The fact that the proper old woman lost her dentures in surprise.  The fact that she's eating a hot dog in the first place.

When I was little, there was always something unsettling about these illustrations that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Having drawn for several decades, I think I can put my finger squarely on its forehead now: There's almost no blue in any of these drawings.  Why?  Did the publisher say, "Look, it's been a lean year.  We can't actually afford blue right now. know...just leave it out.  No one will notice."?  I like to think it was on purpose.  Everything else in the book and the illustrations is so well-thought out, it's difficult to imagine this being unintentional.  And what's more, I like to think it was done to further the emotional tension of the book.  It seems like a fun premise.  Giant food falls from the sky.  But it's pretty dark.  The entire town has to abandon their homes.

I love that dark element.  I think a lot of children's books are too saccharine these days.  Kids aren't going to explode or turn into sociopaths if the books they read have a dark side.  It won't even traumatize them.  For a certain type of kid, it's just going to inspire them further.

It's hard to point to specific elements of "Saturday" and draw a direct line back to "Cloudy", but the influence is there.  It was one of my favorite books.  Still is.  And so I raise my glass to the Barretts for their spectacular book.

Hopefully a hot dog will fall in it.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

By the pricking of my thumbs...


Welcome back to the "Saturday" update, where the drawings are always on point and the commentary is all over the place.

Progress report:  I'm still working on editing the book.  It's coming along swimmingly.  Whatever that means.  I mean, I know "swimmingly" means "smoothly", but how on earth did that word come be used that way?  Seems like there are more appropriate synonyms for smoothly.  What's smooth?  Milkshakes...bowling balls...Ricardo Montalban.

"How's the editing going, Noah?"
"Oh, it's going Ricardo Montalbanly."

At any rate, the editing continues to go well.

In other news, it's fair season in this part of the country.  Late Summer and early Fall mean county fairs start to show up on the doorsteps of America, laden with manky stuffed animals, colorfully-tattooed employees and deep fried excellence.

I always look forward to wandering around the fair.  Rides with rusty hinges, chickens with hairdos, weird booths advertising god knows what, and food that shortens your life expectancy with every bite.  It makes me wonder why fairs, circuses and carnivals are so maligned in movies and books.  They always seem to be places where bad things happen to good people.

One of my favorite creepy movies to watch in October is "Something Wicked This Way Comes".  Jonathan Price (oddly assisted by Pam Greer) is the head of a carnival that comes to town one dark autumn night to prey on the unsuspecting townfolk and only Jason Robards can stop them.  Great movie, but also a perfect example of a pejorative depiction of carnivals.

Well, no more.  I aim to set it right, which is why there's a circus in "Saturday" that's more in keeping with my own experiences with fairs, carnivals and circuses (circusi?).  Ok, it doesn't have clowns because clowns are creepy and make me unhappy.  But there is a group of traveling performers who don't try to steal India's soul or anything.  In fact, they even help her out.  This is what their poster looks like:

The poster only appears once, in one panel for the briefest of moments:

So there you have it.  You heard it here first: Circuses, carnivals and fairs usually AREN'T filled with demons and murderers and people who want to feast on your everlasting soul like so many onion rings.

Maybe stay away from the food, though.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Was Continental Drift the prequel to Tokyo Drift?


Welcome to the latest update of "Saturday" the book, where everybody knows your name.  You see, making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.  Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.  Wouldn't you like to get away?  Well, good news: The "Saturday" update is a place where you can be distracted, mildly entertained, and references NEVER expire or go stale, regardless of age.

The editing process continues.  Slowly, but surely, it continues.  Patient.  Stoic.  Undeterred.  Like continental drift.  Or that one bead of honey on the lip of the jar from the last time you were spooning honey into your tea.  And now that bead is slowly making its way down the side of the jar toward the shelf, where it can finally fulfill its lifelong dream of creating a ring of sticky permanence that will attract all sorts of gross stuff that no amount of cleaning will defeat.

I guess what I'm saying is that I hope "Saturday" will have the same kind of permanence.  You'll try Goo Gone and 409 in vain, but eventually you'll just have to begrudgingly accept that it's there to stay and you'll justify its presence as "character".

I don't have anything particularly interesting to show from the most recent round of edits.  So, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, here's a sketch of India dressed as a Luche Libre Wrestler (a "Luchador"):

This isn't part of the story.  I just did it because I thought it would be fun.  And because India is the type of kid who would pretend to be in the Luche Libre.  You know: A weirdo.  But the endearing kind of weirdo.  Not the 'talks to herself in the canned cat food isle of the grocery store and smells like doritos' kind of weirdo.  More like the 'has an imaginary pet llama named Esther and wears galoshes with shorts' kind of weirdo.

What kind of weirdo are you?


(Get it?  "Cheers"?)