The Other Side of the Tracks

My comics group northside comic artists is in the process of finalizing our third anthology. The theme this time is “The Other Side” (previous themes were “Identity” and “The Middle of the Night”). In prep for this one, as with the last two, I sat down and wrote out all the things that came to mind when I thought of the theme:

  • Break on through
  • The afterlife
  • The other side of the pillow (thanks Stuart Scott – RIP)
  • The other side of the tracks

As you may already know, “the other side of the tracks” is a euphemism from coming from the “bad” part of town, I liked that one, but didn’t want to go that literal. I ride a lot of public transit here in the city of Chicago, especially the elevated rail (aka the “El” or if you are a monster the “L”). So I thought that might make for good comic content that likely would not be too similar to what others might do with the theme (my bet was most people would do something about the afterlife).

In my experience, the above ground elevated stations (some trains go below and above ground at different points) are all basically in one of two configurations. The first is a central platform flanked by the trains where people waiting for different train, for example one going toward downtown and one going away from downtown, stand with their backs to each other while they wait. It’s probably the most efficient and least awkward of the two configurations. The Belmont station, where I seem to spend a lot of time waiting for trains is the other configuration – where people who are going in opposite directions stand on platforms on opposite sides of the track facing each other.

While waiting, I can’t help but watch the others on the other side of the platform and speculating on where they are headed. That was the inspiration for this one.  I try to use these short comics as ways to experiment with different styles and techniques. The first I did for identity was very photo realistic (read: took me forever to draw), the second was a cartoon, but featured a very intricate background bar scene. This time I wanted to do something involving humans again – I’m never drawing owls again… – but I didn’t want to go super realistic with them. Something more in a traditional comic book style. Also, I didn’t want to go too intense with “coloring” (all the stories have to be in grayscale for publication purposes) so I wanted to do like an ink wash. Which just turned into some digital ink washes using Kyle Webster’s Photoshop brushes.

I usually sketch stuff out on paper, scan in, redraw (sometimes), and then ink. This time around I wanted to try something different. Instead I did digital pencils, printed them onto bristol board, inked them physically, then scanned back in and modified on the computer. I know some artists do this so they have original “finished” pieces to sell. I don’t have any aspirations to sell my work, but I thought it would make for good kickstarter rewards to send for higher level backers. So I tried it.

Man, what a mistake. I don’t think I’ll be doing this again. It’s just a lot of extra headache. I’m sure if I gave it some time it would be a lot faster, also digital pencils probably are a lot faster than traditional ones, but i just did not like the results. I still had to do a lot of correction on the computer and the whole time I just kept thinking that I should have done the inking digitally from the start. Maybe next time, I will just try to do really finished polished pencils outside the computer and just try to “ink” them through good scanning and playing with the levels in photoshop.

I actually, if I’m being honest, really hate how this turned out. But I haven’t done a comic in a long time, and it feels like maybe I need to get some shitty pages out of me so I can get to the good ones. Anway, I hope you enjoy it.