“Melrose Place”

In highschool and my first couple of years in college, I had only spent 30 minutes to make a comic strip. 30 minutes to do the paneling, penciling, writing, inking, and maybe some shading. I was very low-tech back then. This particular Common Ground strip, which I created my freshman year, took a WHOLE THREE HOURS!!!

Now, that I do almost everything on Adobe Photoshop, I spends hours upon hours making a a single strip. A decade ago, I could make two strips in eight hours. Now, I spend that same amount of time just making one. And I can take up to three days just making a single Sunday strip. Obviously, it is not sustainable working this slow, but as I’m not syndicated, so I’m not pressured to crank out mediocre strips like it was from some cartoon mill. Needless to say, I really like this Common Ground Strip as it was a turning point in the work habits as a cartoonist.

Also, I must state the obvious, that this strip was heavily influenced by the three Sunday Calvin & Hobbes strips in which Calvin plays house with Susie Derkins, that Bill Watterson drew the cartoon in a more realistic, dramatic style. Of course I didn’t succeed as Mr. Watterson did, but as least I tried something new. (1*)

(Common Ground. 1997)                                    —                                 (Something about Celeste. 2005)

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along with “Fantasia”, this comic strip is one of my oldest favorites. As you can see, I made the first one back when I was still in college. I spent four-six hours creating the Common Ground version, but I spent three days on the Something about Celeste because of the texturing and all the little details. I wanted to make the comic look not like it was merely drawn, but that it was chiseled from stone. However, I spent so much time on the small details that some of the easter eggs that I could clearly see on Adobe Photoshop would just disappear when I would shrink the resolution before publishing. For example, on the sarcophagus, seen in fine print, is written “Made in China”.

When I was a university student, I would go to a cinema that was walking distance from my dorm room. The Dolbie Cinema. It would show independent and artsy films that you couldn’t see at a mainstream cinemas. There were only four theatre rooms. Each one was custom made and decorated. One was decorated as a personal study with faux bookshelves. Another was decorated as a gothic castle with faux grey stones on the wall and gargoyles. My favorite was the room with the ancient Egyptian murals. Instantly, I knew I wanted to make a comic with this Egyptian motif. After I made the comic, the punchline was an afterthought. I don’t usually work like that. I create the art after I have the idea fully fleshed out in my head. But this was one of the few cases that I created the art and then later tried to think of a punchline to tidily wrap it up.

        (Common Ground. 1999)                                     (Soliciting Celeste. 2001)                             (Something about Celeste. 2005)

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“That’s Life: Part One”

This was one of the hardest strip to do despite that it doesn’t look too complicated. I had to splice the song’s lyrics and put them in the right panel to fit the choreography of Paige’s movement. Also the font and script size was a delicate balance to have most of the lyrics in the panel and not hinder the art, yet be legible at the same time. The Soliciting Celeste strip took me a day to draw but the Something about Celeste strip was made piecemeal over a span of several months. The hardest part was the fifth panel in which I had to draw Paige’s disappointment juxtaposed with Dave’s mirth while leaving room in the white space for the lyrics. I hated how Paige seemed to jump from the right of the desk to the left of the desk within the span of the 4th and 5th panel. And ultimately, that is the average day of the life of a cartoonist. It is not just writing funny punchlines or making silly pictures, but a cartoonist is like a film director. I have to take ‘camera’ angle and other vantage points, choreography, body language, and gestures of my actors (characters), and finally spacing and tempo into consideration. Well that’s my take on it, anyways.

                 (Soliciting Celeste. 2002)                                                           (Something about Celeste. 2006)

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“That’s Life: Part Two”

I like Frank Sinatra’s song so much, that I tried to make two comics from the lyrics. Unfortunately, the Soliciting Celeste version is unfunny and the art is subpar. That isn’t much else to discuss about that particular strip. The Something about Celeste is influenced by the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips that depict a whole day from morning to night or morning to the end of the school day. Each panel is a snapshot of that day. In Bill Watterson’s strips (he made four versions with this theme, I believe) in 4/5 of the strip Calvin is having a horrible day only for things to turn around in the penultimate panel or someone else to offer some hope in the ultimate panel (2** I provided some examples at the bottom of the page). I wanted to try my hand at such storytelling with the lyrics in the backdrop. It is okay for my first try, but I want to try again and make a better ‘whole day’ comic in the future.

(Soliciting Celeste. 2002)                                                                             (Something about Celeste. 2016)

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“Hypercolor T-shirt”

The original idea came from a college strip of mine, which wasn’t all that creative or funny. I took the kernel of the idea and reused it with Chris and Celeste as I thought they were better vehicles to tell this joke.

The background is from a photo of Fenway Park. In the Soliciting Celeste original, I had the comic, the giant Chris in the foreground and as the panel dividers, and the ballpark. But it was too visually ‘busy’. I decided to keep Chris and drop the background. But I didn’t like the plain background so I brought it back for the Something about Celeste strip. Too make it less busy, I used a plain teeshirt instead of Chris in the center panel to be an optical pause, yet whicht is not too distracting at the same time. Making a comic, for me at least, is more than just telling jokes. It is a visual exercise; it is a puzzle trying to see what fits and how the elements interact with each other.

 (i spy caroline. 2000)                          (Soliciting Celeste. 2002)                                    (Something about Celeste. 2006)

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*Calvin & Hobbes. All rights reserved. Don’t borrow without written or explicit permission (which I don’y have. Shhhh!)

1)* The examples of the “dramatic” Sunday strips. I use these to compare with my “Melrose Place”

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2)* The examples of each panel is a snapshot of a long day. I use these to compare with my “That’s Life:Part 2”

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**As you can see, Watterson did everything better than me. I still have a lot more to do before I catch up.