I’m so glad I finally brought Judy back! I have a special affection for Mike’s mother-in-law for some reason.
I started out knowing that Judy was going to be talking to Mike and ending with something along the lines of “I just wish it wasn’t you!” To get started, I doodled the last panel in gray (my “pencil” color) on one layer and then copied and pasted it into the other first two panels for layout purposes.
So once I had the “pencil” layer set (I use Manga Studio 5.0), I added a new transparent layer over the “pencil” layer. That’s my inking layer. Then I did my normal inking so each drawing is unique. I only want to use the pencil layer for layout purposes.
For some reason, the layout stage causes me incredible anxiety, so I do everything I can to make it go fast (including having the frames already laid out in a file I can use over and over). Once I have that done, then I can start tweaking, but I need to get rid of that blank page first!
I often start the inking process by lettering. That serves as my warm-up and for some reason works real well. I like the thin and thick of letters and find it strangely enjoyable.
Here’s what the “inks” stage looks like:
While doing the lettering and warming up, it also gives me the chance to refine the wording/pacing/timing of the gag. I often already have some notes I’ve made in a notebook, either a physical one or a digital one I keep online using Microsoft OneNote (which I have come to love dearly).
But sometimes, I only have a sketch or an idea for a look Mike or another character has and then I try to build a strip around that. If that kind of goes nowhere or stalls out, then I save the file in a folder on my computer so I can find it later when I’m cooking up a strip and I need ideas. I’ve had real good luck in revisiting ideas even years later to finally either just spit out a finished strip or further developing one and then putting it away if it stalls out again.
For this one, I went through a couple of different iterations on what I wanted them to say to each other. I considered Judy delivering a punch line such as “I just wish my daughter had married someone else,” but, geez, that’s a mouthful. The “I just wish you were someone else” was quick, had a beat and I could dance to it so I stuck with that one.
Other places where I considered changes: Mike basically has the same face the first two panels, and you all know by now how much I hate throwing away an opportunity for Mike to make a ridiculous face. I had him doing the slight eye-tweak in panel two, like he knew Judy was up to something, and I stuck with it, though I at one point had him saying, “You do?” and kind of looking Charlie Brown hopeful, like Violet had just led him to believe she’d send him a Valentine that year, but I liked the idea of Mike still having the “what’s she driving at here” look and I felt that it also set up his little confused look in the last panel.
I also debated having Mike give his bunched up uni-brow, beady-eyed, angry look, but I wanted him to reflect my own confusion a little bit, again, at Judy’s punch line. It strikes me as one of those, “that seems funny, but doesn’t seem to make sense if I think about it” lines, so I wanted him to reflect that in his look. A pure angry look, in my opinion, wrongly indicates that there’s no little oddity to what Judy is saying.
Anyway, once I have the inks done, I usually add two layers underneath the inks and above the white layer. I put background colors on one layer and character colors on the other. So then it looks like the finished product we all know and love, here:
This is another strip where I kind of had to trust my gut and crank it out even though I couldn’t really tell if it was “funny” or not. It’s another good example of the problem/benefit of _not_ working with a cushion: deadlines are the impetus to creativity! (I hope . . . )
See you Friday for the new strip!