Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part One: And for the first time, for some reason, Shaenon surrendered control of the strip to an outside creator. She was probably two or three months ahead of schedule, so I assume that she just wanted to be part of the webcomics tradition of taking breaks and letting guest artists fill in.
In the six years since drawing this strip, my lettering’s improved (and I’ve learned how to use an Ames Lettering Guide), I’ve learned how to use Photoshop, and I’ve expanded my selection of drawing tools beyond “skinny pen” and “fat pen.”
All things considered, though, I still like the way I drew Mell in that third panel, so my first guest week isn’t nearly as painful for me to re-read as I’d feared. I’m a bit more concerned that my writing will be coherent as the week progresses.
Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part Two: Ugh.
The writing’s okay here (if a bit simple), but I’m pleased to say that even though I’m no longer the spry young guy in his mid-twenties who drew this strip, I can kick his butt artistically.
Young Me did a decent job with the layout of this strip, but he should have invested in some decent oval templates for drawing his word balloons, taken two minutes to ask Shaenon about the relative heights of these characters (Mell’s supposed to be several inches shorter than Dave, maybe even a foot shorter), and put some work into the characters’ body language.
For all the complaints that Shaenon levels at her earliest strips, she did a good job of making the characters very expressive and animated right from the start.
Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part Three: More dodgy artwork, although “Badass Dave” isn’t a complete wash.
And since Shaenon always sees fit to mention these things, he’s wearing one of my old t-shirts, a Maximum R&B shirt from The Who’s 1989 world tour (featuring art from a 1960s poster). I didn’t see The Who on tour in 1989, but I snagged the shirt from my older brothers and wore it often, well into the early 2000s (and I think I still have it in my closet someplace).
A good t-shirt is a joy forever, and can and should be worn until it completely disintegrates. Among the classic t-shirts still in my possession today:
*a black-and-white t-shirt featuring Jim Lee’s art from X-Men #1, purchased in early 1992 through a mail-order advertisement.
*a hand-drawn Nirvana t-shirt, based on a senior year art project in high school. I bought some fabric markers during the summer between freshman and sophomore year at college and made my own t-shirt designs. That was the summer of 1995.
*my mod bullseye t-shirt, purchased in London in 1997. Usually seen in my self-portraits and Shaenon’s renditions of me throughout the entirety of Narbonic.
*and the best one of all, a 1987 AFC Central Champions Cleveland Browns t-shirt. From the glory days of Bernie Kosar, Webster Slaughter, Kevin Mack and Ozzie Newsome comes one of my all-time favorite t-shirts. Twenty years later, it still fits, and it’s suitable for all occasions, too.
And back on the subject of the strip, I really can’t believe I used a semicolon in the second panel. A simple dash is much more comicky, and it would have read a lot better, too.
Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part Four: Badass Dave looks pretty decent in the first panel, and Helen has a pretty decent expression in the third, but I’m reasonably certain that I drew this one left-handed, drunk and with a low-on-ink ballpoint pen.
Why was Scott McCloud a villain in this story? I guess it’s because Shaenon and I both really enjoyed Understanding Comics, and I figured she’d find it funny, at least.
I actually drew multiple weird Scott McCloud comics at the time, including “Understanding the Macarena” (and boy, isn’t *that* a timeless reference?), and I think all of them were weird attempts to get Shaenon to like me better. Yet another reason to like Scott McCloud.
Back to Understanding Comics…I didn’t buy it immediately upon its release, but I eventually picked it up at a used bookstore (probably Poor Richard’s Bookstore) in Colorado Springs early in my junior year of college (fall of 1996) and instantly became a McCloud convert. I came *this* close to trying to do a humorous art history-themed graphic novel featuring myself as a narrator for my senior year thesis project, but figured it would have been ripping off Understanding Comics too much to even attempt.
Weirdly enough, we met the real Scott McCloud about a month after these strips ran, at the 2001 Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. I’m not sure if he ever read this week of strips or not. I’d probably want to read a comic strip about me if anyone ever drew one, though.
Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part Five: Getting better.
Dave looks okay in panel one, and the Scooby-Doo cameo in the last panel is kind of cute, but I wish I’d gone the extra mile on the Scott McCloud drawings and done a more precise imitation of his art style. It’s close enough that it looks right, but a few more tweaks and a different line weight would have made a huge difference.
The evil plan’s not too shabby, all things considered, and seems in character with what the protagonist of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics might do if he were a comic character with ongoing zany adventures.
Liberty Meadows is listed as one of the “Evil” comic strips because Shaenon really didn’t like it, and I was trying to score points with her. I’ve met Frank Cho since then, and he’s a nice guy. So’s Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey. The writer of Sally Forth has a pretty fun blog and displays a really sharp sense of humor there, and I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about the Ziggy guys, either.
Let’s just assume that any “Evil” that’s ascribed to those strips applies to something other than the quality of those comics or their creators and leave it at that.
Guest Commentary by Andrew Farago, Part Six: And now, we reach the conclusion of my first guest week.
All in all, it wasn’t such a bad set of strips, but I’m very pleased to know that I didn’t peak creatively back then, and that my best work is still to come. Check out The Chronicles of William Bazillion and see for yourself if I’ve gotten better since these early efforts.
The aforementioned Frank Cho used a similar Cathy gag in an early Liberty Meadows strip, setting her up as a bad blind date for one of the main characters in that comic. I think the similarities between my work and his end there, however.
The punchline to the week’s storyline seems Mad Magazine-y to me. Funny enough to work, but setting up a pretty easy target and the ending’s not quite as wacky or zany as it could have been.
The important thing about the guest week, though, is that Shaenon really liked it, and it probably made it easier for us to go out on our first date a month after these strips ran, which led to our marriage three years after that, all of which is more than worth any embarrassment I have to go through whenever my old stuff turns up in the Narbonic Director’s Cut.