Wednesday, January 05, 2011


When I started making comics, I always worked in that Hugo Pratt method, working in order, from page one onward, going panel by panel until the thing was done. This evolved into an assembly line procedure during the making of the original THB series, where I'd pencil, letter, ink and finish 16 pages at a time, using those two rows of eight as if they were a gigantic comics tableau. This is the most effective method for producing comics I know of, resulting in my being able to finish seventy completely print ready pages in one month, my most productive month ever.
My interest level for given images fluctuates throughout a work period, say, a month and I find it easier to work on many pages at once. Also, as my schedule became more hectic, I had no choice but to work on more than one project at once. That way is like skipping rope. I woke up that morning after Jenn's party knowing I'd worn my time down to a little wire, until it was as if a command from above announced, "You will quit fooling around, you will chain yourself to your drawing board and finish the fucking thing!"
Despite that, I didn't have "it" that day. "It" is that precious quantity which lets you make artwork which is better than good and sometimes "it" allows for work which is truly inspired, but I learned from working on monthly deadlines for Kodansha and Dark Horse, you couldn't depend on "it". I was capricious and wispy, disappearing for periods of time, sometimes only half returning, or returning for only half as long as you want it. It's also a problem to create work on deadlines without "it". That is a killer. Too much of that kind of thing will beat you into a peculiar kind of self-loathing, hard to describe, but which makes your face in the mirror unbearable for yourself to look at. But you can get "it" to come and stay with you when you have great discipline and work hard without distractions. That is why I like working for three days straight.
Those first few pages of Escapo are pure "it", and that set a standard I had to follow, which meant to keep on working until "it" came back, which "it" always does eventually. When I'm most discouraged and begin thinking I have no talent at all, I recognize that as the lowest point of the process of making art and ride it out. Looking back on Kirby's work, or Toth's, they seemed to always had "it", even in their obvious mistakes and sloppy work. I get mad at myself, then, for the vain luxury of complaint. You have no excuse, I say, or something in me says. You live in a part of the world where you can do just about anything you want. Not everything but anything. No one is firing mortar shells at your block. There are no attack dogs, no mustard gases are ruining you. No one is poaching you for your tusks. You've got no excuse. So I try brewing coffee, then change the music on the CD player. Nothing helps. So I leave my place. I don't do laundry, which is dirty and shoved into a narrow crevice in my closet. I don't do my dishes, dirty and even dusty in my sink. I don't pay the bills, in their eternally replenishing stack by the mailslot. I don't put gas in my car, which is always on empty. Instead, then, as I do now, when the deadline stress is too great, i wait until I'm hungry, then, go eat Indian food.
That day, I called Scott and we went to this place called Taj Mahal to eat Chicken Tikka Masala, spicy, with Naan, no butter. Aloo Matar, and Raita. Mint chutney, too. Lamb Korma, or a sizzling Tandoori platter. Or spicy curry chicken. And Chai or a King Fisher, or a Flying Horse. No dessert. Not long after he and I started working together, we established this custom of eating a big Indian dinner as we were about to enter a serious deadline period. This ritual is intended to brace yo for the hard week ahead, and let you celebrate it, too.
After all, deadlines are a part of this lifestyle, take it or leave it. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. And if you sometimes take a week, or even two, off and do absolutely nothing, you only really steal from some other week yet to come, and regardless, every third of fourth week seems to be this sleepless, fitful, awful deadline time, with fifteen hour a day work weeks. And you must learn to love this. It's your lot, your wife, your price. You must learn to love this stress and learn to how to burn with it, not be burnt by it, otherwise it is a miserable servitude without much recompense.
This is your garden, now cultivate it.

Paul Pope, from THB Circus

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