Sunday, October 05, 2008

Norbert & Billy 12 and 13

Sorry for the layoff in updates. No really good excuses for it, just let myself get derailed. Always takes an extra bit of effort to get back on track.


Mr Goodson said...

Pretty good at channeling the Mayberry characters. Good to see this back. How many did you do?

Surly Bird said...

I ended up with 24 daily strips. The last five I drew in 1993 about a year after the initial 19 strips. My first stab at the daily strip was in the summer of 1992. After I got the first chunk of dailies done, I focused on graduating college, but not before doing a 10-page comic book story with two characters I created in high school. The goal was to launch a bi-monthly comic book with a buddy of mine, but the realities of college graduation and getting a job kind of killed that.

After graduation, I got a job as a writer at the little daily newspaper in the small town where I went to college. I covered such exciting things as the quorum court meetings about road paving budgets and did political cartoons and graphics for the weekly entertainment section as a freelancer. The editor eventually let me start a cartoon strip, but I didn't want to use "Norbet and Billy," so I started a new strip, "Percy," about a little kid living in a small Arkansas town in the late fifties who discovers the town is being invaded by aliens.

Eventually, through a really weird chain of events, Norbert and Billy show up. The Percy character and Norbert were almost identical. Readers were also pretty ho-hum about the strip. Most complained that it wasn't funny and they "didn't get it." So I scaled it down, removed Norbert's character and retooled the relationship Percy had with Billy. Billy became Percy's pet duck.

About this time, I decided to submit the Norbert and Billy strips to a syndicate, and I wanted to use some of the newspapers strips, so I created the final five daily strips in this series to try to shoehorn in some kind of continuity between the two. It didn't work and just made things completely confusing.

I also scaled the "Percy" strips from the six-panel Sunday-style strips to smaller, 3-panel strips. The six-panel strips allowed me more artistic possibilities, but where killing me because I was also coloring the strips using an ancient Macintosh with the first version of Photoshop. I had to do all my own color separations, too. And none of this was on the clock. I got paid a flat rate of 10 bucks a strip whether it was complicated or simple, black and white or color. So after about two months of working nearly around the clock, I kind of gave up.

Sorry for this long-winded history. I'd love to be able to take all of the work I've done from this period and some how straighten it all into some kind of cohesive whole. I have actually thought of publishing it as a LuLu book or maybe even a small-run indie comic. It would take a lot of work to hammer this thing into something that the uninitiated could get into, though, I'm afraid.

Jeff said...

Thanks for posting the history Ronnie, I was going to ask you the same question Ellis did but he beat me to it. So are you going to finish the strip with new material??

rickart said...

I think the great thing about Lulu is that you can put it together any way you like. Also, with sketchbooks becoming more popular at Cons, anything that is a compilation of actual stories seems like a bonus.

I would encourage you to put it all together into a whole package, perhaps with a brief explanation to start off each incarnation of the characters. I think people dig seeing the creative process at work and might enjoy seeing all your iterations on the characters.

Mr Goodson said...

definitely do the Lulu thing. I'm going to begin compiling a new pub myself. My students work is going to go into some sort of format. It will be full color. They can order it as a keepsake of the class if they have the money. It will probably cost in the 20 to 30 range because of color.

There is nothing like an actual book in your hand Ronnie. It tricks the brain into thinking you've arrived as a successful author. Then it's easy to visualize doing the real thing. I'll buy your Lulu book. Definitely do it.