I am almost done with my strip, Zero Fighter. I learned a lot doing this strip. I learned the value of planning a story out ahead of time (which I didn’t do), I learned I should make model sheets for my characters and exactly what they’re going to be wearing at every stage of the story (which I also didn’t do), and I learned the value of just getting that brush all wet and slapping it down on the page (which I already knew and still enjoy the hell out of).
Because I went into it with the vaguest of plans, the story is disjointed and moves awkwardly. The pacing is all wrong in several parts, and I have the sneaking suspicion that there are important plot points that I abandoned halfway through and then forgot I abandoned and am still acting like they affect the story.
On the plus side, working with the roughest of outlines has allowed me to keep the story fresh and to approach it every week as a challenge, rather than a “okay, time to make the donuts” attitude. My initial concept for the story was, in part, based on my mindset in the time involved - the late 1970s, when I was an elementary school kid devouring UFO books and “In Search Of” and TV shows like Space Giants and Six Million Dollar Man, when a post-Watergate paranoia infested every aspect of popular culture. Things never got explained fully, stories never matched, there weren’t neat little explanations for everything, because life doesn’t work like that. I don’t think I’ve gotten anywhere close enough to those sort of thematic elements, but I have been trying to evoke the weird, dreamlike state of terrifying things happening in an inexplicable world.
Working from a rough outline also allowed me to throw in real-life events, to short-circuit story elements that didn’t work out, to just jettison entire subplots and cut to the chase, to introduce things simply because I wanted to draw them.
Which in a big way was why I started the strip in the first place; I’m lousy at drawing women and cars and buildings and machinery, and I needed the practice. For somebody who’s spent decades drawing stupid little comics I’m remarkably bad at the kind of boring storytelling put-people-in-room-and-have-them-talk sort of stuff that even the shittiest Charlton hack could bat out in his sleep. I’m still pretty bad at it, but at this stage I have at least begun to know what I don’t know.
Anyway, it’s almost done. If you’ve been reading the strip, I sincerely thank you, and apologize for how long it’s been taking.