Friday, July 23, 2010

The Origin of "Monsters Are Go!" & my Dad

"Monsters Are Go!" is an all ages comic story I've had kicking around in my head for a few years now. I've been pretty lax in doing much work on it because of my freelance work and a ton of other lame excuses. The fire to complete the first "Monsters Are Go!" book has been re-stoked hotter than it has ever been since the initial excitement of finishing the first draft. I have my Dad to thank for that.

In the Spring of 2006, my Dad got sick and was hospitalized. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a year or two earlier and was not reacting very favorably to his medication. Initially, his stay in the hospital didn't seem like it would be too serious . Everyone, including my Dad, thought he wouldn't be in for too long, the doctor would find a better medication, and everything would be cool. In fact, I talked to him on the phone and he seemed optimistic and in relatively good spirits.

I can't remember exactly when, only how I felt, that I got a call from my Dad's wife telling me it was important that I came to the hospital right away. What had originally been thought to be complications with the Parkinson's medication was actually a rare kidney disease that I can't spell and can barely pronounce. Over the course of the next couple months, my Dad was hooked up to a dialysis machine a million times and I was traveling from San Francisco, CA to Woodland, CA a lot. Some days my Dad was alright, but mostly, they were either bad or worse.

My Dad's doctor ended up calling a meeting with the family. I really wanted good news, but knew it would be the contrary. To sum up what she said, "We've done everything we can. Your Dad is dying." I think my Dad was being told at the same time because, when I returned to his room, the look on his face was the saddest and most fearful expression I have ever seen first hand. My heart ripped apart. Perhaps its needless to say, I was destroyed. I'll never forget the look in his eyes.

In between tears, my Dad wanted to hear everything that was going on with me. I told him that I was thinking about moving to Portland and about my new girlfriend Laura (Now, my wife). When I had run out of the important life stuff to tell him, I told him about "a dumb little story" that I was thinking about doing as a comic book. He wanted to hear the whole story. I mean, all of it. In detail. This wasn't too surprising. My Dad was usually pretty supportive and interested in the things that interested me. For Example, when I was a teenager, I became a punk rocker and started a band. So, my Dad sound proofed the garage and pretended the songs we wrote were awesome. But I digress...

There was a dry erase board, in my Dad's hospital room, that I used to illustrate the characters and some scenes from my "dumb little story" I was thinking about calling "Monsters Are Go!". On the same day we found out my Dad would be dead soon, my story made him smile and it got some genuine laughs out of him. At the end of the story, his eyes saddened again. He quietly said, " I wish I could see it."

That was the last time I saw him.

For some unrecognized reason, this morning as I sat down to work, this memory came in and clobbered me from out of nowhere. Damn, I miss him.

After the waterworks chilled out a bit, "Monsters Are Go!" became extremely important for me to finish. So... Dad. "Monsters Are Go!" is for you. And because... I wish I could see it too.


"Monsters Are Go!" has gotten derailed a few times since its inception. There were large gaps of time where I just couldn't seem to get to it because of wedding planning, getting married out of state, the honeymoon, freelance work, my need to generate income was causing me to work some extremely ungodly hours, and, honestly, a little fear. Also, I created a comic character named Monkey Mod. The response to this character initially over-shadowed any images or rumblings I ever made about "Monsters Are Go!". Therefore, it only made sense to direct my focus on Monkey Mod.

Despite everything, I haven't stopped thinking about "Monsters Are Go!". In fact, there have been a couple false starts, re-writes, and format changes. I still believe in this story, so I'm switching gears and putting Monkey Mod on hiatus until I finish a "Monsters Are Go!" book. 


Below is some of the art I have made for "Monsters Are Go!" over the past few years. I hope this will not only show the past work that I have done on this project that will never get used, but also show my progression as I wrap my head around this cartooning thing.

This is the piece of art that got the idea for this story rolling. Originally, it was just a rainy afternoon drawing. Later, I started to have ideas for this character, who is now called Gordon the Muck Monster, in my scripts.

This image was going to appear as on the title page of the first version of the book. The guitar chord that runs off the page was going to continue underneath the dedication and publishing/copyright information pages.

The guitar chord would eventually lead to this page, which is the page right before the first page of the story in the original version. Its making me cringe to look back at some of this stuff, as I think my skills have grown quite a bit.
Anyway, this is the first character design I settled on for the character called Miles the Mystery Ape.

This next image is from page 1 of the first version of the comic.

Page 2 of version 1. At the time I liked the characters here in this angry mob, but that is one boring page. Not dynamic at all. But hey, I did this page years ago. I think I fixed it in version 2 of this same scene thankfully.

Page 3 of version 1. There are a few things I see wrong with this image, but I still like certain aspects of it. For example, the look on Gordon's face and the telephone poles & wires behind him.

Page 4 of version 1. Oh man is right! Its hard to look back a few years at this stuff and see some of the bad choices made. On the upside, I am thankful that I see the progression I've made, as an illustrator, by looking at these old things.

Page 5 of version 1. This page was intended to be a full bleed page and kind of mimic Miles' introduction in a similar way that Gordon had.

Page 1 of version 2. I know the image says its page 9, but I was counting all the pages including dedication pages, etc. that were leading up to this. It is however the first page of the next version of the story. I obviously changed the format and had done another re-write at this point. I wanted to change the format to be released the same size as a 7" inch record since the story is basically about little monsters in a rock and roll band.

Page 2 of version 2.

Page 3 of version 2. Pages 1-3 of this second version are my retelling of the action in page 1 of version 1. After reviewing version 1, I didn't think that the storytelling was nearly clear enough & I added some silly dialogue to these newer pages to give Gordon some instant character development the first version lacked. Some of the dialogue I wrote for this version has made it to my latest draft.

Page 4 of version 2. Here I made the scene from page 2 of version 1 much more dynamic. After this page, I ran out of steam on this version. This page was created right before I had to start traveling back and forth from Oregon to California to deal with my wedding planning. I also got slammed with illustration work at the same time.

Right when I got back from my honeymoon, I made these images for some 1" buttons I was going to produce. I thought better of that idea when I reminded myself that I only had finished 4 pages of the 96 I had planned for the final book, and I had better just concentrate on that instead of merchandising right away. I guess I was a just excited and over zealous. My thought when it came to picking the color scheme for these characters was that of the colors of an ice crean shop.
From left to right, these are the faces of Gordon, Miles, and (for the first time outside of my sketchbook) Kalliope Kaiju.

At the very end of the December of 2008, I started to get frustrated with how long this project was taking to get off the ground. So, I began flirting with the idea of making "Monsters Are Go!" a children's picture book. I created this image not only to see what coloring style I might use for the comic, should I continue along that path, but more to see what a page of the picture book might look like.

This is the last "Monsters Are Go!" illustration I have produced to date. I had to hastily make this for the inclusion in an art book that the Emerald City Comic Con put together to benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital in April 2009.
This illustration also shows the first time I've drawn Kalliope's full body outside of my sketchbook.


So there you have it. The idea began in 2005, while I was just finishing up art school, and has been kicking around in my head ever since. I've been working on a new draft of the story and, so far, it is my favorite one. I'm currently working on a re-vamp of the character designs as well. Its probably obvious though, as I feel that I have become a better writer and illustrator over these past few years. I'll be posting all of my progress as soon as possible.

1 comment:

  1. Man, that brought a tear to my eyes. What a great reason to do this book. I wish you the best of luck in completing your tale and look forward to reading it myself.