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Scenic Byways review

Told you I met some cool people at MoCCA.  The fine folks over at TL-dr wrote up a wonderful review of Scenic Byways today.  Have a look!

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five years burning down the road

Although it feels just like yesterday, I’ve been drawing Welcome to Falling Rock National Park for five years now.  Today is the last episode of the fifth season.2011-05-13-falling-rock-national-park

I took this week to explore the edges of Falling Rock National Park and beyond.  Faithful readers will remember another trip outside the confines of the park, when Pam, Ernesto and Carver drove a truck  to California’s beaches.  This time Ernesto and Carver are on foot and so only get to the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, before they’re chased away by Animal Control.

Due to gainful employment, this was a busy year for me.  I’m happy with what I achieved; I think I drew some funny drawings and wrote some funny words.  Scenic Byways continues to climb the charts on its way to publishing history.

The main difference this year, at least for me, was in the way I drew the strips.  I drew each panel in pencil on plain paper, then traced it in blue pencil onto Bristol board, then inked.  This improved the compositions and made the characters more consistent from panel to panel.  Next year I may even switch over to inking with a brush.  If a brush was good enough for Bill Watterson, I figure, what the heck.

Thanks for reading, everybody.  You, dear readers, make this whole slog worth it.  I may not be a rich man, monetarily speaking, but with readers like you I know I’ve got something special.

This summer will certainly bring more blog posts, so keep checking back in on me.  I also hope to finish my zombie book.  If you are a publisher, let me say how much I’ve always loved you.

A few stats:

August 16, 2010 was the first episode of season five.
May 13, 2011 was the last episode of season five.

921: Falling Rock strips I’ve drawn.  When I hit 1,000 I’m going to throw myself a huge party or something.

42: number on Ernesto’s baseball jersey.  Although Jackie Robinson’s number was retired from all of professional baseball, Ernesto is allowed to continue wearing that number under a grandfather clause.

29: number of rejection letters I’ve received from comic syndicates regarding Falling Rock.  This number will not grow as quickly in the future, since many of the syndicates have either merged or disappeared into the folds of the newspaper.

88 miles per hour: speed it takes to travel to either 1855, 1955, 1985 or 2015.

4.5 billion: age of our sun.  It is the sun that gives life to this planet, allowing me to draw Welcome to Falling Rock National Park.  I draw the sun as a spiral, in homage to the Native Americans who called the Southwest their home.

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Scenic Byways is now in the esteemed company of The Sound and The Fury, East of Eden, and The Bluest Eyescenic-byways-oprah

Oprah Winfrey yanked a copy of Scenic Byways out from a pile of memoirs by twenty-year-old first-time authors and chose to elevate it to the status of National Treasure.  Thanks, Oprah!

You can buy Scenic Byways here.  Unfortunately I’ve run out of O Book Club stickers, but I will sign your copy if you ask.

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falling rock book 5 HAS ARRIVED

It’s the best day of the year! Today I picked up 500 freshly-printed copies of Scenic Byways, the fifth collection of Falling Rock comics. You’ve seen the cover before, but here it is once more:front-cover-brown-paperback-cover-brown-paper

Here, for the first time ever, is a photo of the actual book itself.L1020817 L1020818
Like Welcome to Falling Rock National Park (the self-titled third book) and See America First, Scenic Byways was printed with care by the fine folks at Pinball Press using only the naturalest of materials.  Post-consumer recycled paper, recycled chipboard covers, and soy-based ink.  This book is not only black and white, it is green.

You don’t have to waste your precious time reading about Scenic Byways; you can purchase a copy and actually read it.  Right here!

Scenic Byways is the culmination of the 2010-2011 year, with 65 hand-picked comics that touch on all the hot button issues of today.  Yes, Falling Rock is not afraid of controversy, if by “controversy” you mean an owl who fancies himself an art critic or a lizard who wears the same ratty old baseball jersey every day.L1020819

If you happen to be in either New York or Portland, I will be at MoCCA on April 9-10 and Stumptown on April 16-17, selling Scenic Byways as well as the rest of the Falling Rock book collection.

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falling rock book 5: scenic byways

Now it is time to reveal the final covers of Falling Rock book five.  The title of this year’s collection is Scenic Byways.front-cover-brown-paper

Ernesto and Carver are going on a grand adventure.  Where are they headed?  You’ll have to buy the book to find out.  (HINT: It’s a twist ending.  They were dead the whole time.)
The back cover plays off the joke on the front cover. back-cover-brown-paperScenic Byways will be available by the beginning of April.  I’ll have copies when I’m at MoCCA on April 9-10 and Stumptown on April 16-17, and I’ll update my online order form as soon as they get back from the printer.

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book 5 covers continued

I knew that I wanted this year’s collection of Falling Rock comics to be a companion of sorts to last year’s:see-america-first-brown-paper-low

I was at a disadvantage this year because Ken Burns has not put out any new National Parks documentaries since my last book.  I could not steal any of Mr. Burns’ good ideas.  This thought put me into a severe depression only a glass of Scotch could cure.

In my last post, I decided to go a little less historical and a little more spacey.  Basically, this meant putting Ernesto and Carver in a rocket.  Here are two early sketches for the cover, which I drew at the size it would be printed:cover-sketch2 cover-sketch1

Although the detail was better for the latter sketch, which might indicate I was happier with it, I actually preferred the dynamic composition of the former sketch.  What’s a man to do?  I combined the best parts of both sketches!  I’m positive I was the first artist to conceive of this technique.cover-sketch3

This was the final sketch before I put brush to Bristol board paper.  Yeah, that’s right!  I used a brush to ink the cover!  But you’ll have to wait a little while longer to see the final cover.  I gotta save something for future posts.
You might also notice the title for book 5 will be Scenic Byways.  The best way to see America’s beautiful wilderness areas is by rocket.
Here are some sketches for the back cover:back-cover-sketch1 back-cover-sketch2 The sign reads “WILDLIFE REFUGE and ROCKET TESTING GROUND,” which is just a joke.  There are no rockets allowed in Falling Rock National Park.
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falling rock book 5 cover sketch

Falling Rock book 5 is currently in production!  As with all my Falling Rock comic collections except OWL, book 5 is being printed by the good people at Pinball Press right here in Portland.

The most challenging part of putting these collections together is coming up with a cover that will blow people’s minds.  After all, what’s the use of picking the very best comics I’ve drawn over the last year if they aren’t presented as essential reading?  Problem is, when I say to myself “think essential,” my mind becomes as blank as a brand new sheet of Bristol board (300 series pad, 2-for-1 sale at Columbia Art Supplies).

I made a series of sketches and asked my wife/art critic Isis for her opinion.  I’m not sure why, but Isis preferred this sketch (on the right):book5-original-cover-sketch

Didn’t she see that I clearly wrote “BAD IDEAS” at the top?  Oh well, let’s see if it works out.book5-cover-sketches

I made a few more sketches and then went to the NASA photo archives to see how real capsules look.  At least, capsules in the 1960’s. Because everything looked cooler in the 60’s.

More to come!