Friday, February 20, 2015

The Long Road Home...

There are two questions I get asked a lot these days. The first is "When are you going to do more Doctor Who?" and the second is "Was The October Girl canceled?".

The answer to the first question is an admittedly slightly glib "When someone asks me", and the answer to the second is a simple "No".

My answer to the first question usually leads to my practiced patter about how my last WHO projects at IDW included drawing all the Doctors current at the time and most of the companions who ever appeared on the show, as well as writing a 50th anniversary story for the BBC to put in a BluRay boxset. If those are the last WHO things I ever do, I'm pretty okay with that.

It's a rehearsed answer, but it's also true. I love Doctor Who and it's a huge piece of my creative DNA, but at a certain point you have to step aside and let all the other creators who share that DNA have a turn at the TARDIS console, too.

My answer to the second question almost always leads to a third question, "Why has it been so long since you put out an issue?". And that's a question I don't have a practiced answer for.

As you may or may not know, October Girl #3 is finally available on Comixology and October Girl #4 is already in the can and will be released on 3/25/15 while October Girl #5 will be wrapped up within the next week or so. That's three issues on the (digital) shelves in three months after two and a half years since the second issue came out.

Why two and a half years? It's a little complicated...

In the lead up to to the release of October Girl #3, I've done a little bit of comic book press - an interview with Between The Panels' William Goodman and a process piece for Tim O'Shea at Robot 6 - and I touched on some of the reasons in those, but only in passing.

The only honest answer to what happened is to say, "Life happened."

Before the interview with William I sat down to get my head out of the page I was drawing long enough to talk coherently about anything other than how hard it is to draw Mulder's hair (I'm the regular artist on The X-Files: Season 10, if you didn't know) and I realized that in the time between the first issue of October Girl and now, I've moved three times, met my wife, married my wife, drawn an awful lot of non-October Girl related projects, and even written a couple of projects.

So, yeah. Life got a little crazy. The often unspoken reality of being a freelancer is that you almost always have to take the work that gets offered to you no matter what, and I was suddenly being offered more work than ever before.

Unless you're a big name, no one is getting rich from making comics and when paying work comes your way, you do it, if only to keep a roof over your head. And I've been pretty lucky. Most of the work I get offered is something I'd want to do anyways. I mean, work with my buddy Ron Marz on a Zombie Western? Come on! How do you say no to that? Or more Doctor Who issues? Or a chance to write and draw a story for a comic book based on Jim Henson's The Storyteller?

The truth is, if there's a paycheck involved, you do it. And one of the reasons I was getting more work was also a big cause of the delay between issues. Somewhere between issue 2 and issue 3, I switched to working digitally.

It was a practical decision, in that there's a whole new generation of artists coming up and the only way mid-to-low level guys like me are going to be able to compete is to kick our art up a notch and give editors something new and different that they don't expect from us. Working digitally gave me a chance to take my art to a new level, and it worked.

I sent the first few digital pieces out the day I drew them (which was the same day my Cintiq arrived) and with a couple of hours, I had three new assignments. Working on a Cintiq made me rethink everything about how I drew and what came out the other end was something different and interesting enough that a few editors took notice. Which I'm sure my various landlords for those couple of years greatly appreciated.

But I'm sure you can see the problem. I wasn't drawing the way I used to draw anymore, and that meant either I had to draw October Girl by hand or I had to figure out how to make my digital art look more like my earlier, analog work. I talk about this a bit in both interviews, and in the Robot 6 piece I specifically get into the process of figuring out how to make the digital art work for October Girl, but it was a long and weird and not as easy as I tried to make it sound.

(I did try going back and forth from digital on my other projects and analog on October Girl, but it was not what I'd call a success. The mechanics are different enough that every time I switched I had to relearn how to draw the way I used to, which is not particularly helpful when you've got editors waiting on you. I know that sounds weird, but I suspect I'm not the only artist to have that experience. The tools are different and you have to remember how to make the tool do what you want.)

But the thing is, NOT finishing The October Girl was never an option, and when I had a stretch of bad health that turned out to be nothing serious, all I could think about was how much I wanted to tell the rest of the story, along with the two stories that intersect with it -- NIGHT FOLK and the Fade short stories. There was a scary night where my active imagination got full control of my head and I seriously wondered if I'd even wake up the next morning, and my main thought was, "If I die, I'm going to be really angry at myself for not finishing any of that."

In retrospect it was self-indulgent and self-pitying, but it gave me the extra push I needed to stay a few extra hours at the table after my other work was done to do a page of October Girl or plan out the next issue. It's still keeping there, even tonight as I write this.

It's been a long road back to The October Girl for me, but I was never really off the road. Maybe stalled from time to time, but always heading in the same direction. And now that some of the kinks have been worked out of the brand new engine, I'm looking forward to telling the rest of Autumn's story, and hopefully entertaining you in the process.

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