2019. “Frankie & Co.” mini-comic. pen & ink. printmaster created in Photoshop. 4.25″ x 5.5″
This mini-comic started with a simple prompt: write a story and create mini-comic that incorporated a superhero technical manual. The story developed in some unusual ways. The main character resolved into Frankie who wonders if she could ever be a hero. Sugar-Baby and Bealzebub started out as two supporting characters who then hijacked the story. Ultimately, even with Frankie’s obsession over the technical manual, the story is not about super-powers, but about friendship.
In writing this story, there were several challenges. Even as a satire, was it possible to write an original super hero story? Could the character of Frankie incorporate gender ambiguity without losing the central part of her story — saving the life of her friend? Could Sugar-Baby and Bealzebub be simultaneously anthropomorphic, freakish creatures and still be believable?
The story started with a drawing that was a play on “raining cats and dogs,” except that it’s raining frogs. However, these are no ordinary frogs. Sugar-Baby is stunned when she bounces off of Frankie’s umbrella. Frankie takes her home to recover and she ends up staying. Bealzebub, started out as a small roach. Frankie comes across him in her bathtub. She’s about to mash him, when he starts talking. Over time, the character of Bealzebub grew to fit the needs of the story—especially the climactic moment when Frankie administers the Heimlich manuever.
Here is a selection of drawings showing the development of the characters and pages of the mini-comic:
The fun part of this project was blending traditional and digital methods. Pencils to lettering and inking were done by hand. All the inking except for the lettering was done with dip pens and India ink. I did go back and forth about whether to do the lettering on the computer. Ultimately, I went with hand-lettering. It seemed more in keeping with the handmade genre of the mini-comic and worked better with the drawings. The final inked pages were then scanned into Photoshop for final clean-ups and to create the printmaster. I could have skipped this step. Traditionally, mini-comics are photocopied and printmasters are created from photocopied reductions of the original art. However, multiple photocopying degrades the tightness of the line drawings. Scanning into Photoshop and printing from that printmaster resulted in a cleaner and tighter product than a second-generation photocopy.
Additionally, working in Photoshop, I was able to manipulate the printmaster so the entire mini-comic could be printed out on three double-sided sheets of paper with no waste. This was a challenge as the cover and centerfold page each used half a sheet and the cover was a different color from the inside pages. For awhile, it looked like I’d be wasting the equivalent of a sheet of paper on each book. By doubling up and manipulating my work-and-turns I was able to use all the paper in the print run. Ultimately, I ended up running half the number of covers and centerfold pages, since those were doubled up. To insure an even trim, I left a wider gutter.
I did print out the printmaster and that was was photocopied on my multi-function laser-jet printer and assembled by me — in keeping with the mini-comic format.
Here are photographs of the project as it took over the dining room table during inking, the printmaster and the assembled mini-comic:
Update: Frankie and the gang continue to pop up. They became the focus of a one-page comic and a comic book cover in 2020 and were mentioned in Tom Motley’s “Quarantoons” blog posting at http://cartooniologist.blogspot.com/2020/05/quarantoons.html.