“i ain’t no punk fish!”

I did a portrait of classmate Daniel Fishel for our Thesis show postcard, who does some pretty nifty illustration and design himself. Fish has recently remade himself as a snazzy dressin’ lady-chaser, but he’s still a grungy straight-edge punk at heart, as evidenced by the speech bubble and weird, abstracted nose ring (which he doesn’t really wear anymore, but I couldn’t help myself).


building character

At the risk of destroying the story for some of you, I want to provide some insight into how the main character of A Walk in the Park came into being. The story of Charlie the Assistant Office Manager began as many great ideas do — with a late night beer-fueled discussion. It was just a normal night, watching the miracle of modern filmmaking that is The Tribe with some friends.

Zach and I were talking about how things like this gain so much steam, and then started talking about internet memes. We then developed a conspiracy theory about a businessman who lives in the woods and makes his money by creating memes. He lives in a cabin in the woods, but still wears a suit every day.

This somehow mutated in my brain  and then on paper (the memes disappeared) to form a story about an ordinary guy who meets someone different, and that ordinary guy became Charlie. After a couple of terrible sketches, I got a basic notion about him — a short, chunky, meek guy with big glasses, an awesome mustache, and not a lot of hair left.

I didn’t fully know how he should be drawn though, so I started looking for reference.

I couldn’t help but think of Stephen Root as Milton in OfficeSpace, but I didn’t want Charlie to become that character. I wanted him to be less awkward and pathetic, a little more fun and relatable. Also, there was another movie character in the back of my head who seemed closer to his character, but I couldn’t quite pin it down.

Finally, I realized that I was thinking of Bud Cort’s bond stooge character in The Life Aquatic. He had character, despite being framed as a boring clerk type.

I started drawing from reference at this point, and slowly Charlie took form. His development wasn’t done, however — he continued to change as I drew and redrew the page sketches.

The level of realness/cartooniness was something I had a bunch of different ideas about, but in the end I wound up using more iconic cartoon features to describe him. Big bespectacled bug eyes like Dr. Shima from Paprika made it easy to show Charlie’s various states of shock and awe.

And the blocky nose and swirly mustache just seemed to add to his character. I’m a huge Saul Steinberg fan so the doodley line quality, especially in the mustache has been fun. Having the mustache go over his mouth, of course, makes him seem more passive, more like a victim, and also more lovable, I think.

I wasn’t really thinking of Pelinore from Sword in the Stone here, but I’d be lying if I said that movie wasn’t often in the back of my head.

head too thin/tall…

not quite right, but the feeling is there. His features and proportions still shift a bit from page to page because… well, because I don’t mind it. But after these sketches he became the guy you see in the pages I’ve posted. More to come.


a finish?

I’m thinking… maybe… this is what a finished page looks like?

(Click the image to see a larger, more detailed version.)

Yeah, I did. I did spend hours inking the night sky with a nib. And I’ll do it again, because there are like 15 more night time pages.  If there were a switch on me that said “HARDCORE JESS MODE”, this would be the time to hit it.


“‘Gulp,’ said Harry. Yeah, gulp that one down.” – Wizard People, Dear Readers

A Walk in the Park: process post #1

All right. Here it comes. The first real post about my thesis. You may want to go get a change of pants. Or not. Yeah, probably not. That was kind of an arrogant assumption on my part. I apologize.

I have been working on this Thing since September and will be done by the end of April. I pondered and plotted and sketched for a few weeks. I wrote a bunch of beginnings of short stories, mostly about people being visited by some kind of otherworldly force or dealing with the strangeness of everyday life. Then, I took one story and sketched it out into a 44-page comic, tentatively titled A Walk in the Park. I have been planning, editing, penciling, and inking it since.

Some of these pencil sketches had such a nice feeling to them that I was hesitant to shift to ink. There are lots of great comics being done in pencil these days, without even counting CF. Blaise Larmee, who is definitely guilty of creating pretty pencil comics, posed me the question straight-out at the Brooklyn Comics Festival: “Why ink it?” and then he and Aidan Koch stared me down with those weary, I’ve-been-sitting-here-playing-nice-nice-for-seven-hours eyes for a good minute. It was an excellent moment. But right now I’m leaning towards inking the thing.

I’ve inked twelve or so pages so far and most of them aren’t working so well, but I think this one is. The eponymous park scenes are all borderless panels, so there needs to be a certain amount of shape and density to make them cohere. I really enjoy stuff by people like Jillian Tamaki and Wesley Allsbrook, whose linework has such a strong sense of movement that the whole thing feels alive.

And yes, there should be a question mark at the end of the squirrel’s line in the first panel. I swear I saw that before and didn’t just realize it as I was typing right now.

I also thought about doing a little colorization.

I like this type of palette, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. We shall see. I’ve also been experimenting with watercolor to make the double-page spreads pop. I’m not trying to be a full-color comic virtuoso like Farel Dalrymple, but I thought it was worth a try. This first one reminds me more of Brecht Evens though.

I think it’s best to have an open mind and keep your options open for as long as possible when making art. If you let your anxiety make your decisions for you, you’ll make stale work. If you don’t give yourself time to reflect, you’ll wind up making the same old thing over and over again.

So this is the first of what I hope to be a series of posts explaining a bit of my process in creating this comic. Let me know what you think.

a little web presence

Well, I buckled. After months of not having a full-on website, I decided to make one. But because I’m still trying to choose its final design and organization, I decided to build a preliminary version on cargo. Also, I’m lazy. Check it out: http://cargocollective.com/jworby

sand gets in your sketchbook

Dear Bloggy,

Can I call you Bloggy? I know I haven’t been good to you, but I swear I’ll make it up soon. I keep putting off making you bigger and better, but believe you me, it’s coming. In the meantime, here are a couple sketches I did on a beach somewhere in the tropics.


with little hearts on top,


my guess is he lost a bet


P.S. Expect a big post with lots more sketches from my REVENGE sketchbook, which will be touring the country without me as part of The Sketchbook Project.