Chapter title comes from the Flaming Lips' song (from the Fight Test EP),
but the scene was inspired by Phil Alvin's version of "Starlight" (on the album County Fair 2000).
This segment was drawn in July-August 2008, shortly after I finished Chapter 2. Needless to say, after three years, the art's going through a LOT of retouching.
Pages 1 & 2:
- I've taken a few liberties with the environment in this chapter, the biggest one being that the moon should be up. I feel pretty safe in saying there are probably not a lot of folks who check webcomics against lunar calendars, though. Also, at the time I drew these pages, I still didn't have the exact location plotted out - turns out there should be more trees along the side of the highway. (Note to self: fix before this goes to print.)
- This scene's been written since late 2007, but I got the idea to do another color spread in 2010, after a visit to West Texas, and the McDonald Observatory in particular. Almost every night was like this.
- Sad to say, the print version of this page is a lot less impressive. (The same content fills 2/3 of the page, with the last two panels on Page 2 at the top.)
- If you'd like to use this page as wallpaper, I made a 1600x1200 version.
- RISD = the Rhode Island School of Design. Amal's assuming there'll be some thesis shows up around town.
- Amal's thinking of this scene in the film The Big Lebowski.
- This was sort of prompted by some folks assuming that TJ & Amal were pulling the car over to have sex. The notion didn't bother me, but it did give me this silly idea. (And I can never resist an opportunity to send a romantic scene crashing away into awkwardness.)
- This won't be in the print edition of the comic; it wouldn't format properly.
Chapter title is from "Big Mistake" by Tim Fite, off the 2008 album Fair Ain't Fair.
[listen / buy]
Timing is everything if you got nothin' but time
And a lie don't mean nothin' if nobody knows when you're lying...
- A little crossover: the guys in the truck are Tommy (quiet little dude) and Immer (big long-haired dude) from the urban fantasy story dharma*gun by Gabe Malloy.
- That's a real truck stop at a real intersection, but I couldn't find more than a couple of exterior reference photos of that location, so I was sort of winging it here. Also, brand and business names have been changed.
- Some folks have asked if TJ's annoyed or upset here -- he is, a little bit. You'll find out more later, but mainly he's irked at himself for making such a weak joke. Come on, TJ, step your game up.
- TJ's ring is heavy sterling silver, with a turquoise spiral shape on top.
- And yes, the second panel is a shout-out.
- No, the last panel isn't.
Chapter title is not from the Gershwin piece, but from the song named after it by folk rock group The Ottoman Empire, off the 1995 album Ottoman Gold (which, sadly,
appears to be out of print... and the band also appears to be defunct. Hmm.) You can listen to it here for now.
This is one of the earliest scenes I wrote - December 2007, I think. Maybe January 2008. The original strip was simple, lighthearted and a little sexy - pretty far from what it became.
- This is a real Goodwill store in downtown St. Louis - unfortunately, I could only find exterior photos, but Kory Bing generously provided a written description of the interior. Thanks! Hope I got it within the ballpark. I'm winging it with the placement of clothing racks and such.
- The song TJ's belting out is Sir Lancelot's "C'est Moi", from the 1960 Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot. You can hear it here. (TJ's singing probably has Robert Goulet rolling in his grave.)
Why does TJ know classic musicals? More backstory that doesn't come up in the comic - basically, he used to live with a couple who had an extensive, heavily-played LP collection.
- Amal's phone's "battery low/battery out" noise is closer to "BEEDLY-BLOOP" or "BIDDLY-BONK" in real life, but a goofy sound effect like that would have ruined the tone of the those panels. Why you gotta be like that, onomatopoeia.
- If the design on TJ's shirt looks familiar, it probably means you have great taste in comics. (There are quite a few references to other comics and webcomics in this scene, actually.) Also, TJ... please, don't ever wear horrible short shorts again. Just... don't.
Chapter title comes from the song "Optimist vs. The Silent Alarm", by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, off their 2009 album
Vs. Children. You can listen to it here.
I tried to only have references to music from May 2008 or before, but slipped up here. Oops.
- The boys are heading out of downtown St. Louis, then taking I-70 east to where it splits. Amal careens onto I-64 at the end, there, heading down to Kentucky. That's a lot of ground to cover in just a few minutes, so I used the middle panel on p. 251 to indicate a little more time passing.
- (Um, Amal, adrenaline seems to be just as bad as stress or alcohol when it comes to effects on your decision-making...)
- The guys are spending the night in Winchester, KY. The "Royal Crown Mo-Tel" doesn't exist; there's a Best Western in that location.
Chapter title taken from the lyrics of "Mama Wolf" by Devendra Banhart, off the album Cripple Crow.
[buy] This is one of a handful of albums I had in heavy rotation when I first started putting this story together - while working on
this scene in particular.
Pages 1 and 2:
- Amal's driving through Shenandoah National Forest in Virginia. It's late afternoon, close to sunset, which means about 18 hours have elapsed between the Chapter 24 break and the beginning of Chapter 25. Nothing terribly significant happened in that time, so I'll leave the boys' antics, hijinks, and/or shenanigans up to your imagination.
- The area the boys stop at is based loosely off the White Oak Canyon trail (I was using photo reference of both the White Oak and Hawksbill Peak trails), so the sign simply says "Canyon Trail". Logo on the left is that of the National Park Service (which also pops up in Chapter 14); logo on the right is for Shenandoah National Park. Many, many thanks to Abhi Chaudhuri and Jactrades at Livejournal for the photo reference and trail info!
Pages 3 and 4:
- For some reason, I really enjoy writing the moments when Amal's kind of a jerk. He's not being mean, just... thoughtless.
- This is around where I switched the size of the text from 10pt to 9pt. Hopefully it'll work with the artwork a little better this way.
- A lot of people have commented on the bottom panel's resemblance to a Calvin & Hobbes strip in the way it's laid out. The homage was unintentional, but I love Bill Watterson's art -- his landscapes in particular -- so hearing that made me pretty happy. :)
- Even though this segment was planned way back in 2007, when it came time to do the final pages, rewriting the script was... an experience. A lot's changed between then and now... not the least of which is my drawing. Click here to see a side-by-side comparison of the original and current panels.
- If you're interested, I've got some time-lapse videos of the panel art for this page:
Chapter 25 Page 9 Panel 1
Chapter 25 Page 9 Panels 2 & 3
Chapter title comes from the song "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor , off the 1970
album of the same name.
- A lot of the background trees are nonspecific "tree" shapes, but where you can see leaves in detail, they are mostly tulip poplars, sugar maples, and yellow birch. (The leaves at the top of page 3 are tulip poplars.)
- Chapter 26 is one of the older scenes, originally drafted up around November 2007. Click here and here to see the horrifically messy original roughs.
- Prints of this should be available soon. Many thanks to Julie Dillon, whose immensely helpful critique guided this image where it needed to go.
- I love painting and drawing landscapes and have fond memories of childhood trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains, so... yeah, I guess I got a little self-indulgent with the environments in these pages.
Chapter title comes from the Hidden Cameras' song of the same name, from the 2003 album
The Smell of Our Own. [listen] -
Pages 1 & 2:
- This segment isn't intended as any sort of political statement; all the news items that appear here are actual stories from May 23, 2008. Only the phrasing is mine.
A couple of folks have remarked that this bit reminds them of Simon & Garfunkel's "7 O'Clock News / Silent Night". I didn't put two and two together at first, and the resemblance isn't intentional, but I listened to PSR&T on vinyl a lot when I was a kid, so I'm sure the influence crept in from there. Kind of like the Calvin-and-Hobbes-ish layout from Chapter 25, I guess.
- TJ's knowledge of old musicals pops up again. Here, he's singing the famous number "Summertime" from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.
This bit was roughed out back in mid-2008; you can see the old sketches here. Almost immediately after finishing this first draft I decided to have TJ leave the hotel instead of falling asleep with Amal.
This was just a quick bunch of Photoshop doodles I did for kicks and posted on Tumblr. The response was so positive, though, that I decided to include them here. It's still canon, just a digression from the plot. These should be in the Volume 2 book as well, but might be in the back rather than in with the rest of the comic pages, as these drawings were all done at a low resolution.
This is the only segment not named for a song; the title comes from e.e. cummings' poem
"i like my body when it is with your".
- Not much to say about this chapter, except that it assumes readers are familiar with the game show "Wheel of Fortune". If you aren't, here's a bit explaining the "long-ass puzzle" TJ mentions on Page 3.
- The first part of this segment was originally written in late 2007 and drawn for the comic in late 2008 or early 2009. I redrew the entire thing from scratch in February-March 2012. Some of the old panels are here. (My old art's kind of embarrassing to look at, but at the same time, it's encouraging to see progress.)
Chapter title comes from the song "Starlings"
[listen], which is the first track on
album The Seldom Seen Kid. Out of all the music that inspired the comic,
this album probably had the biggest impact. Seldom Seen Kid
came out in the USA in March 2008, about 2 months before TJ and Amal takes place, and around the same time I decided to take the story out of
rough doodles and make it into an actual comic book.
I waited over four years to draw this scene. I hope I did justice to the vision in my head.
Chapter title comes from the Elbow's song "Mirrorball"
[listen], also found on
The Seldom Seen Kid.
Know that while you sleep, everything has changed.