Just wrapped up the 16th Nathan Pretzelberger strip, which will be the final one to run in The District this quarter. I've always found something inherently absurd about the idea of desiring a car as an end in itself rather than a means, as well as the popularity of SUVs and the masculine culture built around expensive cars. Recently, a "post sexxxy pix of cars" thread on SCAD's message board provided me with more than enough material for a strip, and sooo...
Doing these on a weekly basis is getting to be a bit of a strain, what with other homework / side work competing for my attention, so I'm hoping to "bust out" a "whole buttload" of them in whatever free time I have o'er summer break.
So far, the process I've used for creating these strips has been more in the interest of speed and consistency than creating a truly polished, finalized piece, because of the weekly deadline. As such, I don't bother drawing or inking them on bristol board, use felt tech pens for inking (when I'm not doing it digitally), and letter digitally rather than by hand. These all save time, but do result in a lower quality look--one of these days, I'm thinking of drawing all of the older strips over again (complete with hand-lettering and brushwork) and fixing up all of the visual problems, probably whenever I put out a large, comprehensive book collecting them.
When creating a Pretzelberger strip (after I've scripted out all of the dialogue and maybe done some thumbnails), I start with a 12 x 8, 300 - 600 resolution canvas in photoshop, upon which I use guidelines and the shape tool to create panel borders. Then, I put in the lettering. I've been using Comic Book from www.1001freefonts.com--though I'm not crazy about it, it's less awful than most of the other free "comic book" fonts online, and, as I've used it for the past 15 strips, I feel a bit obligated to it in the interest of visual consistency.
Next, I flatten all of the text layers and reduce the layer's opacity so that it barely shows up--this is so that after I print the page, draw on it, and scan it, the text won't show up. I want the text to be on the page before I draw so that I know how much image room I have to work with--as this comic is a bit on the ridiculously wordy side, cramped images are an ever present issue, so I try to reduce that as much as possible.
Next I'll print the image, fitted to 8.5 x 11, 95 lb paper, and draw the initial pencils, taking care to keep important visual stuff away from the text area.
This is the point where I would get out the tech pens and ink this naughty little biz-natch, but since I've recently gained access to a drawing tablet, I decided to try digital inking this go-round. Though I'm still getting used to drawing digitally and it shows, I think that method shows promise, and probably looks better overall.
I had to tweak a few things during the inking process, most notably flipping the first panel, which I think improves the visual flow. And uh, corrects for the fact that I drew his steering wheel on the wrong side. I also moved the image in the third panel up a little bit to keep Nathan's pudgy little fingers from getting lost behind his whithering insult to Chester.
I attended a presentation yesterday at the Sequential Department discussing the various "business models" possible for indy comics, mainly with an eye toward the web. It provided a lot of food for thought, and I've been pondering ways to attract more of an audience to the strip. Most of the *really* successful webcomics have a sort of built in audience based on whatever niche interest they pander to (which, in general, seem to be video game fans). I doubt that Pretzelberger has "niche appeal" to anybody but thin, twenty-something art school students interested in comics who are named Isaac Klunk; on the other hand, the feller that makes Achewood doesn't seem to have any targeted appeal other than people who like the funny, and last I heard, he's doing pretty well for himself. There's always hope.
It would probably help if I managed to create a REAL site for the strip, rather than just the current MySpace page. Hopefully I can get going on that sometime within the next year.