Wanted to spend the day drawing comics, and I probably should have been working on the John Muir Trail project, but had an vague idea for something else and decided to run it down and see where it went.
On Saturday evening, after a Kent Philharmonic Orchestra concert (with whom I play in the bass section), I had a chance encounter with a former client whom I hadn’t seen in probably 33 years (I’ve done work for his company more recently, but with other designers), and was flattered to discover that he is a reader of this blog, and he had asked about the status of the ‘John Muir’ book I was working on. It was a nice uplifting jolt to my self esteem, and I want to thank him for taking time out to say hi.
Back in the spring of 2018, I was contacted by the Art Director of First Second Books (a division of MacMillan), about the possibility of my illustrating a graphic novel adaptation of a book by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner called ‘What Unites Us’. I hadn’t worked for this publisher before, but apparently they had seen some of my previous work and thought I’d be a good fit for this project. I had very little experience with graphic novels or comics, but I had worked on a short Babe Ruth non-fiction comic (‘The Bambino’) for Capstone, and I’d done a few comics adaptations of memoirs for a friend’s website (‘Freaks of Nurture’), and samples from both are attached below.
I drew a few sample pages that summer in a style I thought might work. Early on, I had the idea of doing the entire book in red, white and blue (commenting on the current climate of divisiveness, with ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’, and the way the colors combine to form our flag), and the original sample pages reflected that concept. The sample pages went through an editing phase and were revised, and by the end of the year, I was offered a contract and advance to complete the project.
It was a daunting task. The original book that I was adapting was over 300 pages, and I’d never done anything of this scope before in my career. I was given a copy of the book, and then a highlighted pdf with vague suggestions of where the editors thought I might make cuts and simplify, but other than that, I dove into the pagination and thumbnail sketches the spring and summer of 2019 with a feeling not unlike terror. A few months after the editors received a copy of the layout I had created, I was given the go-ahead to start work on the finished product. I started work on the finished pages in June of 2019, and was done by November (with a month long break to hike the John Muir Trail in August).
The edits and revisions took place mostly in the early months of 2020, but then the pandemic hit, and the publication date was pushed back. I’m happy to announce that the book will finally be hitting the shelves and available for purchase on March 9 of this year, in only a few weeks’ time. Here’s a link to a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and also a preview link at the ComicsBeat website. Also, here’s a link to where you can purchase it on Amazon.
Very proud to be involved in this special project from First Second Comics. World Citizen Comics was launched this week with the publishing of ‘UNRIG: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy’ by Dan Newman and George O’Connor. Be sure and head over to their website for more information and updates on this essential series for these divisive times. According to Amazon, the title I was involved with, “What Unites Us” should hit the shelves in February of 2021.
Been a while since I’ve worked on the John Muir Trail project. Rather than work chronologically, I’ve decided to jump around on the story, so that I can use a few pages of this as a self promotional postcard this month. For those that are new here, I’ve been working on a graphic novel based on our summer trip last year, titled “How Not to Hike the John Muir Trail”. The above sequence takes place just prior to the halfway point of our adventure.
My son and I have been working on another comics project, sort of a ‘frontier western’ tale set on Mars. Here’s a sample of one of the pages that I worked up today. I had done some previous samples but wanted to start again with a bit more of a subdued color palette.