The Making of Success

Welcome to the blog. I hope you're enjoying reading Success!  Since the early 90s I have experimented with ways to merge drawings and music. I drew cartoon after cartoon with music integrated into the drawings, but the geometric lines of the staves and the organic lines of the cartoons always seemed at odds.

I was stumped until the summer of 1999, when I came across a copy of Erik Satie's Sports et Divertissements: a collection of short hand-calligraphed piano pieces paired with fashionable illustrations. Satie's funny instructions to the piano player worked together with his descriptive music to make the little pictures come alive. This was the closest example I'd seen of music fused with drawings. 

The music and an illustration from  Sports et Divertissiments

The music and an illustration from Sports et Divertissiments

An early experiment from 2004.

An early experiment from 2004.

But I wanted to go further. I was searching for a way to visually show that the music accompanied the action in a comic, like a film reel with a printed soundtrack. I did some early experiments, but nothing stuck.

Then one afternoon in 2010 I was walking out of a comic store in Strasbourg, when a page from my future comic leapt out into my imagination. I imagined a piano/vocal score, but with comic panels in between the staves, as if they had their own staff line. The action in the comic panels could align horizontally with the musical events, fusing music and action. During the dialog scenes, the comic could just look like a regular comic.

I was afraid at first that this format might look inconsistent until I watched some classic movie musicals. It occurred to me that the comic format I dreamed up mirrors the structure of a movie musical, where  the camera pans out and floats around in long cuts during the musical numbers, then shrinks down again and cuts to the dialog like a regular film during the dialog scenes.

When I got home to my little apartment in Germany I made this sketch: 

My first sketch for the  Success!  comic: the opening five bars of We Did It

My first sketch for the Success! comic: the opening five bars of We Did It

I drew this sketch on pen and paper, with the staff lines cut and pasted in. I love the way this looks, but the lettering is unreadable, and it was time consuming. This sketch alone took me about 5 hours. Cutting and pasting the music for the entire score, which is 145 pages long, scanning the drawings, then cleaning them up and adding color in Photoshop would have taken me forever.

So I went to Media Markt and I bought a BAMBOO tablet to do the drawing. That made things much faster. I could import the music from graphics files taken directly from the piano/vocal score, cut and paste them in, and then draw the cartoons around them, all directly into Photoshop. The result is nice and clean. Now the whole comic will only take me about 10 years to finish, instead of 20.

I plan to publish the comic in monthly installments. The next installment is due this summer. Until then...

Reclinerland HQ, where the magic happens.

Reclinerland HQ, where the magic happens.