Friday, July 4, 2008

A Sleepyhead Tale: Exposed

From April 27, 1989, until March 6, 1992, I created a weekly comic strip entitled A Sleepyhead Tale, which ran in papers in San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, and Buffalo, later being collected into three paperback editions from Fantagraphics Books. Beginning as more-or-less direct retellings of my own dreams, featuring a cartoon version of myself as the narrator/protagonist, the strip soon evolved into an obtuse reality peopled by the long-nosed Sleepyhead, his best friend, Sig, his indeterminate girlfriend, Insomnia, and other reoccurring characters like Dr. Verge Tabou, The People’s Pig, Mister 5 x 5, Limbo the Wooden Clown, My Govt., and Big Ma Nature. The first fifteen months or so featured self-contained episodes, built around Sleepyhead’s increasingly inscrutable diatribes against society and government, six or seven panel cartoons ultimately so conceptually complex that I was stacking facing mirrors, accusing fingers pointing in every direction. The last ten months of its run featured a serialized novella entitled The Island of Dr. Moral.
The working process for these cartoons was quite an involved one, requiring many notes and thumbnails and multiple pencil drawings, before I was ready to apply the final pencil version to board, which was then inked with a brush. I have selected three of these to showcase here, “Mexican Car Death”, “Viva La Resolution”, and “Cowboy Surgery”, offering a phase-by-phase view of their creation, from earliest notes/script, to thumbnail, to inked art, to the final printed piece, in order to reveal something of my working mind, and the disciplines encountered in creating such cartoon art. I hope you might find it illuminating. For those interested in seeing more of the final strips, I have also created a slideshow presentation of some three dozen of my favorites from the first year.