A couple of these poses were drawn while I had The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross playing on the TV. A lot of the time I kept looking up at the screen and started crying to myself for how incredibly easy he made it look to paint these masterpieces, when I can’t do crap with the backgrounds in Maytia that I tried to make look like paintings. But also, hearing his free-flow commentary of painting additions on a whim, making happy accidents, and so forth… I think this influenced me to be more expressive with my drawing. I produced a few drawings that normally I wouldn’t like because they don’t match quite what I intended, but they had more character to them than what I normally draw.

I am a little conflicted about it. Since I didn’t draw every frame that way, they seem more inconsistent than they seem expressive. Since I have such a drafting-accurate background, they seem to conflict with their environment. But really, I just wonder if I should let myself go when I’m drawing. Not only is it more important to have fun while I’m drawing, but such experimentation could help me develop my own style that I want to carry with my work. But at the same time, I thought my style was to be more procedural and accurate, not free-flow and emotive.

…Actually there’s a lot of things I could comment on here, not just my linework. I tried a lot of new things and made a lot of refinements to what I have been doing. But I guess that’s just all part of the process.

But I do want to comment about this persona of Zak we see expressing his thoughts. When I first wrote this script many eons ago, I just pictured Zak thinking to himself in a very regular fashion. But there is quite a difference between thinking of a comic in your head and actually presenting it in visual form. As I got closer to this strip I realized that I could have Zak in his adult male form being personified here. Not only does it help remind the reader that Zak is indeed a man, but it also lets me draw his internal expression of panic, contrasted with the more composed face he is struggling to display.

And then when it finally came time for the rubber to hit the road and I started to put this together, I stumbled upon another issue. Exactly how does this look? I actually tried a few variations. Here is some of what I tried.

My original intent was to use regular thought bubbles for the persona, but it didn’t look right. The audience wasn’t going to have problems understanding that the male Zak wasn’t really there in the room, and it really felt like this was a thought of an imagination, as if the persona itself was thinking, not Zak himself thinking, and it greatly conflicted to have thought imagery with the gaping mouth of a man crying out in panic. But when I used a conventional speech bubble it looked too much like the persona was physically there in the room.

I also originally had the persona using a noticeable opacity, but this made him look like a ghost. On the other hand, being fully opaque made him look too real. I also tried having him fade out gradually from the chest down, but this quite simply never looked quite right; the fade was too sudden or we could see too much.

In the end I thought of this as if it were a show. If we were watching this on a set with live actors then the persona would be a separate actor, and he would actually speak like a regular character. So I decided that he would have a regular speech bubble, not a thought bubble, nor would there be a thought bubble directed to the female body; however that speech bubble would be partially transparent to avoid giving it the same weight as the rest of the dialogue. I decided to use a transparency that was just barely noticeable to give a subtle feel of conflicting with reality yet while establishing a presence. And while I could have gotten a fade-out effect to work if the persona had a full body, looking ahead it seems more important that the persona appears only as much as is necessary. (Hence, panel five he has but one arm and no legs.) This gives power for his appearance to change as needed without conflicting with established norms.