Story & Art by Carl Tsui

How to Make Comics After a New Baby

IMGP1812Time flies when you're starting a new job, having a new baby, and working on art projects all at once! Even with all the life changes in the last month I haven't been 100% idle, but it did make updating a blog low on the priorities. As the title of this entry clearly states, the biggest interruption to my already pokey comics making pace was the arrival of my son Brandon! He's adorable, but high maintenance like all babies.

One of the dilemmas I knew I would be facing months ago was how to get some semblance of comics time in while the wife and I went crazy with changings, feedings, doctor visits, and weird infrequent sleep hours. At first I thought it selfish to even consider such things, but then I decided that the best way I could take care of everyone was if I was happy with my life and one of the things that makes me happy is slaving away on comics. So one month in my new life adventure here's my top 3 ways of making comics while being a father to a newborn.

Keep Baby With You

As I write this Brandon is in his baby ring sling strapped to me and sound asleep. I get both hands free and he'll happily doze until he fills his pants or becomes hungry. I can usually create a good hour of quiet time this way and give mom a break at the same time. If I have to get up and move about it's all taken care of. Having the boy with me is by far and away the way I get the most time at the drawing board so far.

He even went with us to the Hellbound 2 party this way. Smile He survived "Awwww" barrages from costumed BCR folks and dad having a beer in a noisy environment. Gold!

Do A Little Everyday But Only What You Want

And by "a little" sometimes it's really just that. Sure it'd be nice to come home from work, finish chores, put baby down to sleep and then rip out a fully penciled page in an hour or so. Good luck with that. Everyday I wake up and at 7am I think about what it is I'd like to get done on the comic. Everyday at 9pm I'm thinking how good it would be to just watch a movie and then go to bed.

So for the short term, I've resolved to being happy with any progress. That's penciling or inking a single panel. It can also be just putting panel borders and gutters into a page, or finding references for the next scene, or reviewing the pacing of my plot (I don't have a script). Sometimes I just power up my paint package and learn a new technique.

I16 Gear Down

Yesterday I added landing gear to my I-16 fighter because I know I'd need a bunch parked in a future scene, but had deferred making them for the initial air combat sequences. Establishing and achieving micro-goals is important to making progress when you're frequently interrupted and have very short blocks of time. It's easy to become discouraged if your goal is too big because it can take weeks to work through.

Equally important is doing what you feel like doing at that moment when you're feeling like it's a chore to even sit down and pick up the stylus/pen/brush. If I've been inking a page and feel like penciling then I'll start a new page. If I'm feeling like looking at the page is depressing then I shift to modeling and get out of the page. If all of comics is annoying to me that night I'll think about some concepts for a logo or make a sound effect.

Read Some Comics

I count reading comics as "working" when I'm reading with some conscious detachment to the story and looking at the mechanics of what is happening in words and pictures. Usually this is a second read so I get to enjoy the comic as a pure reader first. At the very minimum if I'm substituting this for actually working on my comic I try to note the pacing of what has happened and some aspect of art I could improve on.

For example, I've been reading the new DCU 52 Aquaman (awesome) and Savage Hawkman (want it to be awesome). In the former there's the water and creature effects that you don't really notice until you go sit down and think "How should I be drawing a splash?". In Hawkman Philip Tan's doing some interesting paint style art work, but it's also a study on what goes wrong when there's too much reliance on color. I follow the book because I've always liked the idea of Hawkman and for its story faults I'm still interested in this off-beat art style.

Recently, I've been hearing some people who create comics say they haven't read a comic in ages. That strikes me as odd since seeing and reading a good comic usually gets my head back in the game when I wonder why I do what I do. The bonus is that a floppy comic is light, portable, if it gets knocked out of your hand or you need to just toss it aside in an instant it's all good. Paper comics definitely a win over digital comics when it comes to the baby environment.

How Much Do You Want It?

Baby or no baby, creating comics as in many non-trivial things we strive towards in life is about how much will you have to see a project through to completion. As I reflect on a month of adjusting to a new family member I realize that most of the challenges I had to producing work are still the same before Brandon. Sure there are some definite additional time demands I did not have, but in the end all the time in the world won't produce any work if I'm not motivated to do so. Coming up with ways to stay motivated in the face of a long task is the heart of the matter. Something I've always struggled with in comics and will need to continue to develop strategies for.


Here's the finished page from last month. I'm not digging the red in the inset circle now that I've had a time to let it sit. Takes some drama away from the last panel. Looks like a perfect thing to adjust one night when all I have the energy for is to to fidget towards progress.

Sunday, November 6, 2011 - 11:54 AM (Eastern Standard Time)