cartooning gig

The woman who publishes the new, free, local weekly, Ann Arbor Paper, asked me a few weeks ago if Id do a comic for her. I told her that I would, and then immediately set about not lifting a finger to follow though. I put it off until yesterday morning, just hours before she had to go to press with the first issue since their re-design. (They put one issue out last month and then decided to regroup and launch again this week, the week students start classes.) I was going to draw the comic on Friday night, but Linette and I had company staying with us, an expert on former U.S. President Franklin Pierce. We gave him a drinking tour of Ypsilanti. Being a professional, I called it quits early though (leaving him and Linette doing shots), and went home to work on my submission. I took a shower, sat down on the bed with my notebook, ready to get to work, and then promptly fell dead asleep.

I woke up at 6:30 AM in a panic and ran out of the house to buy coffee. Before leaving, I grabbed a pile of paper, a clipboard and one of the several boxes of junk that litter my office, hoping that something in it would trigger an idea for a series of comics.

Id given up coffee about six months ago, so I wasnt quite sure how it would effect me, but I needed some external force to motivate me get something done. I sat at a table by myself, chugged coffee, and just churned stuff out. Two hours later, as I was working diligently on a comic about the segmented flatworms that live inside the heart of John Ashcroft (picture the Honeymooners, only with parasites instead of people), I decided it was time to say, pencils down. I probably would have sat there for a few hours more, but I’d heard the voice of a person I know through work from across the room. By this point, my shirt was soaked with sweat and I was shaking like a crack baby. I was in no mood to put on my professional face. I gathered up my bits of junk, and all my sketches and ran to my car.

I got home, ate an orange and a waffle, and tried to make sense of all the stuff that Id drawn. I picked four ideas, Linette scanned them for me, and then I sent them off to the publisher. She and I exchanged a few emails and, ultimately, we came to an agreement. To make a long, boring story short and boring – Ill be doing eight comics over the course of the next two months. My comic will be called My Life In Ypsi, and it will be credited to Anonymous. (I dont want people I respect to think more poorly of me than they already do.)

I was trying to accomplish a lot of different stuff in this comic, and to do it all in one panel, which wasnt an easy task. For one, I wanted to ask the publisher whether or not Id be getting paid for my work. As I didnt want to ask her directly, I thought that Id do it in the comic. (One reason I didnt want to ask is that Im extremely fearful and I thought that she might laugh at me. The second reason is that since Linette and I cant afford to pay anyone for their submissions to Crimewave I feel like a hypocrite for asking to be paid for my work here, even though this paper has the potential to be a profitable publication.) I also wanted to somehow incorporate a reality television kind of element into it. And, of course, it would also have to be somewhat autobiographical, like almost everything that I do… I also wanted to make it extremely local to this area.

So, heres what I came up with. The comic is about me, a man in southeastern Michigan. In tomorrows paper, I say simply that I dont know if Im being paid for what Im doing, but that, if I am, I will spend whatever Im paid to buy drinks at a local bar. I will invite some people to join me, I will buy drinks and I will draw my comic once a week, probably on a Thursday or Friday evening. The comic will, I hope, develop into a little, one-panel, talk show. Each week, Ill drink with another person, or just drink alone and draw stuff that goes on around me. I will work only so long as the money Ive been paid lasts. (Its kind of a Catch-22 the more Im paid, the longer I work on the piece, but, at the same time, the more I drink. Its a very intricate balance of factors.)

After a few issues, I plan to introduce an email address where people can write to suggest bars, people to interview, etc. My hope is also to have people vote on whether or not certain people stay or go.

Anyway, those are a few of the ideas. Laura, the publisher, liked it and agreed to run it. I told her to count me in for 8 issues. After that, I thought that she and I both could assess whether or not we wanted to continue the project.

So, go out and pick up a copy. Its free. (For those of you not in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, I plan to run the pieces here eventually, after they run in the paper.)

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