Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of an episode of Teaching Baby Paranoia?
But here we are.
I'm going to go through a step-by-step process of how I do a week's comic along with scans of each of the steps. The first few pages are scans from my travel sketchbook and may be too illegible to read. That's probably for the best.
I begin each comic with a more or less stream-of-consciousness block of text, usually based upon some observation or something I read. (In this case, I drove past Smith College's equestrian fields and started thinking about equestrianism.) I don't edit as I write; instead I let the caffeine guide my hand, praying that it'll turn out more intelligible than the last. Once I've written a few paragraphs (about the maximum capacity of a week's comic,) I go back and start editing and altering the shape of the story to fit whatever needs I might have. (For example, I'd probably edit out any part of a story that required me to draw something difficult. I can't be having that!)
In this case, I changed the setting of the story from the Civil War to the Spanish American War. I wanted to use the Civil War for the reason that the New England Collegiate Equestrian League was founded so pushed back the setting a few decades.
You'll also notice that I crossed out "Steeplechase? No Fucking Way!" Presumably at one point, that was going to be the "punchline" of the comic, spoken by one of the characters. (If you can really call it a punchline.)
Below the text is something I doodled. I'm not sure if it followed or preceded the text...
Once I've written the skeleton of the comic, I start thumbnailing. I've more or less settled on a five-panel structure, with two quick panels stacked on top of each other. Generally those two smaller panels will house the punchline (or in some cases, if it's going to be a visual punchline, set it up). Remarkably, the thumnail for this comic looks very, very similar to the final pencils. Here you can see I've dropped "St. Ruggle's College," swapping it for the more generic multi-college conglomerate: "The New England Collegiate Equestrian League."
Once I've thumbnailed the strip, I start work on the actual artwork. I pencil on regular sheets of printer paper using a non-repro pencil (no real reason for doing so, I just like how they feel on paper) and scan those pencils into the computer. About a year ago, I switched from penciling and inking on one sheet of bristol paper to my current method. I found that when I penciled and inked on the same sheet of paper, the ink (I use Windsor and Newton ink with laquer in it) would bleed considerably. Now I can pencil haphazardly without fear that I'm ruining the paper and scan only the drawings I like. Once I've drawn all the artwork for the panels, I composite them into templates (with built-in lettering guides; I still do all my lettering by hand) I've built in Photoshop, converting them to CMYK images with all the artwork in a pale shade of pure cyan. They look like this:
When I'm more or less happy with how the blue-line artwork looks (one of the nice things about using the computer as an intermediary between penciling and inking is that I can fine tune the artwork until my heart's content,) I print them out on 100# cardstock for lettering and inking. I also print out an extra copy to do my final writing pass. The final writing pass seldomly resembles the first written sketch (generally a couple of days have passed by, during which I've edited and re-edited the text in my head). This is where I make the final adjustments to the script, fitting it to the space available.
Here's what the final writing pass looks like:
From there, I letter and ink the final comic. I use two sizes of disposable pens for the lettering (a Faber-Castell F pen for regular text and a Pigma Graphic 1 pen for bold-faced text) and a single brush for all the artwork (a Raphael 8404 #3 brush). In this case, I also used the Faber-Castell pen for small details (buttons, clouds of smoke...) that would have been slightly more difficult to do with the brush. I'm all about the simplicity.
Here's what the final artwork looks like (note, when I really scan my artwork, I scan it as "Black and White;" the pure cyan pencils and lettering guides aren't picked up by the scanner, saving me the trouble of erasing; for this demonstration, I'm showing you what the actual physical artwork looks like, blue lines and all):
Once the artwork is scanned, I clean up any little mistakes I've made, erase all the superfluous brushmarks (if you look closely, I erase all the little tails when two lines intersect) and add the panel and text-box borders. The final black and white artwork looks like this:
I color the comic using Photoshop paying mind to the mood I'm looking to convey (do I want the comic to feel cold and detached? do I want it to be autumnal? verdant? annoying?). In this comic, I also drew one of the character's word-balloons in color. (Mainly because I forgot to draw it when I inked the comic!) In certain comics, I'll add background details in color. This wasn't one of those.
Once colored, the comic looks like:
From there, usually only moments before I post the comic, I run around doing last minute research to write the footnotes. Hopefully I've chosen a subject that I know a bit about and that research is minimal. Sometimes it requires that I go to the library. Sometimes it requires that I make it all up.
And that, my friends (or enemies; that's cool too) is how I create an episode of Teaching Baby Paranoia. All told, it takes me about 8-10 hours to do a single comic. Just think, as of this writing, I've done 369 episodes of TBP. That's somewhere around 3500 hours I've spent doing this comic. That's nearly one half of an entire year (over the course of seven years)!
Now I'm sad...