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If I Could Only Clone Myself

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How do they do it?

Ok, maybe I’m just really slow, really lazy or just plain dumb...actually, I know I’m not any of those things, so HOW DO THEY DO IT?!?

I’m referring to the creators of these small press books that put out their stuff so much more often than I can.

And I’m not referring to those who have a whole staff of artists and writers who work together to put a book out, I’m talking about those people like Terry Moore, Craig Thompson and Carla Speed McNeil. How do they find the time to write, pencil, ink, letter, only to then send their comics to the printers and have their books out ALL THE TIME?

Am I jealous?

You bet you’re sweet bippy I am!

I have been feeling like a complete loser more and more because I can’t get enough time in my life to devote to one of the things I love doing the most: creating comics. Wizard World Philly was the 3rd show I attended without a new comic. Am I being too hard on myself? Some say yes, others who have much more to deal with than me—like kids, a full time job outside the home, ailing relatives and so on—tell me time management is the key and I have no excuse for not working on my comic on a daily basis. I tend to go back and forth on the issue. I do run my own business, which can be a 24 hour a day job. If I take a day off, I lose money as there’s no one there to do the job for me. I even got rid of my cable TV a year or so ago because I didn’t want to be distracted by the great shows that might be one. (I can hear you laughing out there as you and I both know that there isn’t much quality TV on anymore. I do miss the Simpsons though...)

I take it back, I must be slow. A slow artist, that is.

There are two kinds of artists in the world, those who draw like hurricanes, and those who draw like Heinz ketchup. (Am I the only one who just had a craving for fries?)

Do you know how long it actually takes me to put a comic book together?!?!

Let’s break it down for those who are in the I-don’t-create-them-I-just-read-them category of comic fandom:

Writing - I’m way ahead in this aspect. I have the Rummblestrips story written until issue #20 or more for quite some time now. I even considered putting the entire story into novel format and selling that instead of a comic because I’m so freakin’ slow. For now, I will stick with the comic format because even though I’m slow, I do love drawing sequential pages.
I do, however, still have to break down my writing into a page-by-page, panel-by-panel format. That takes me about a day per issue.

Layout - Layout is the first stage of getting your art down on boards. Using the breakdown I just created with my writing, I go through each page with a pencil and a ruler and make panels. Rummblestrips tends to be a panel-heavy book as I use a lot of facial expressions to get my ideas across, so on average there’s 7-10 panels per page. That takes me about a day to layout the entire book.

Penciling - Penciling takes the longest out of all the tasks. I take about a day to pencil an entire page, so if my book is 24 pages, it would take me 24 days. What I do first is very quick light penciling to get the general idea of what each page is going to look like. Then, getting to a softer pencil, I go over those preliminary drawings and finish up. Sometimes I can get one and a half done, so let’s say approximately 20 days.

Inking - I can ink about 2 pages a day, so add another 12 days to the total. For Rummblestrips #5 though, I am trying something a bit different: instead of inking, I’ve decided to fully render the book in pencil. The day totals that I mentioned above will stay the same as rendering takes about the same time per page that inking does.

Scanning - The part I hate the most. Scanning 24 pages into my computer and making them look a beautifully crispy black and white - 1 really boring day. My large format Mustek scanner collapsed on me last spring, so I’ve been forced to use my regular sized Canon scanner, which means I need to scan each page 3 times, the top, the bottom, then the middle and then match the three scans together in Photoshop so they look seamless. Oh, the joy of not being able to afford another A3 scanner.

Lettering - The second worst aspect of my comic. Lettering the whole book, which I do on Photoshop, can take forever, well, actually 1-2 days. I use a wonderful font called "Carr balloons" to create all the font balloons, which I have modified in Font Creator as some of the balloons had very thick borders or were just weird shapes that would never be used in a comic. Then, I actually type all the dialogue using a few different fonts - Rummblescript (my own writing, scanned and created in Font Creator), comic book, and sometimes Comic book Commando when I need a bit of BAM for my buck. The worst part about lettering is that I STILL miss spelling errors, even after proofreading several times. I suck at editing...

Coloring - The front and back covers need to be colored plus the lettering page needs to be put together and the information page on the inside front cover as well. I have a template from Rummblestrips #1 for the inside cover so that has saved a bit of time. I have a semi-template for the inside back cover as that page is always changing, but the headline is always the same. Since I’m very slow at coloring, I’m going to have this add up to 3 days of non-stop staring at Photoshop. I really love the coloring process, but it is very hard. I have a story written for a full-color one-shot for Rummblestrips but I’m afraid to even start it as I would take forever to color 24 pages.

General cleaning up of crap I missed before - 1 day. That included saving the files to the right size, cropping pages to the exact dimensions and fitting the pages together to the printers specifications. This is the day that you go through the entire book and make sure you’ve done everything right. You would not believe the amount of things I’ve found on this last day that I missed before. I am very blessed to have two people who will go through the book as well to see what I’ve done wrong: my husband and my friend Sandi. Once I’m sure that everything is the way it should be, I move the files onto a CD and send it out to the printer. For those who have never printed their own book, some quick advice. For whichever printer you are using, make sure you find out what formats they want your pages in AND try and do all the page-per-page layouts yourself. For example, one printer I used wanted my 24 page book to be in three separate 8-page files, because that’s how the files were printed out on their gigantic printing press. So instead of being charged more money because they had to do the work, I just did it myself. Saving money is a joy I don’t get to experience very often...

So, if we add all these days together, it takes me 40 days of non-stop comic work to get Rummblestrips done from beginning to end. Add another 10-15 days for the printer to get the book back to me and we have a turnaround of 50-55 days.
So, if I had no life, no job, no NOTHING, my book would be a bi-monthly.

That kinda makes me feel warm and fuzzy yet enraged and vindictive all at the same time.

Can someone send me a winning lottery ticket or possibly a check that WILL clear for 2 million dollars so I can live out my dream and publish Rummblestrips on a full-time basis?

Anyone? Please... I’ll be eternally grateful…

So, has typing this all down made me come up with a solution? Well, there are a few things I could do. I could hire an artist to take over my beloved Rummblestrips. My first choice would be Alan Davis. Alan, if you’re reading this... As soon as your contracts with Marvel and DC are up, call me. I’ll pay you whatever you want. Aren’t you tired of working for those big-wigs? Wouldn’t it be great to work with a gal whose stories are all about the characters and not about people’s paychecks? We could win an Eisner, just think about it!

Ok, back to reality.

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