31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35
36 - 37 - 38 - 39 - 40

Chapter 31 - "Shit Yeah I Can Dance"

Chapter title comes from Jim Guthrie's "Who Needs What", off the 1999 album A Thousand Songs. [listen] [buy]
This is another song that's stuck with me as I worked on this story from the very beginning. I think it may have crept in pretty deep and influenced a few things...

Page 1:
- TJ, you're an awful litterbug. Don't do this.

Page 2:
- Guess I oughtta say that this segment isn't intended to be a promotion or a criticism of Waffle House; the place is just a 24-hour mainstay in the South, and given TJ's love of greasy breakfast food... (Also, I've got fond memories of late nights there, m'self.)

Page 7:
- This little bit's for all y'all who've been reading since 2007. :)

Page 9:
- His behaviour might seem a little out-there to some, but this guy is pretty closely based on a mixture of dudes I encountered during my high school and waitressing years. (As unpleasant customers go, belligerent drunks are actually fairly easy to deal with; it's belligerent sober dudes that get scary.)

Page 12:
- A Simpsons reference. Sideshow Bob - Apu. It's not totally necessary to get it (TJ doesn't.)

Page 14:
- If you thought I was going to make a whole graphic novel and not put in a single reference to Buttlord GT, you thought wrong.

Page 16:
- What a fun panel to draw.

Page 19:
- Yes, TJ is quoting James Taylor. Not the best tough-guy line.

Page 20:
- Oops, accidental Handsome Boy Modeling School reference :U

Chapter End:
- Kevin's phone is a Motorola Razr, which was still pretty popular at the time. (Smartphones hadn't really taken off yet in Spring 2008; the iPhone had debuted but was far from ubiquitous.) Anyway, on Page 17 you can see that he was holding the phone backwards, which is why the looks on his friends' (and Amal's) faces.

Chapter 32 - "Red and Purple, Red and Blue"

Chapter title comes from two songs: "Red and Purple" by The Dodos [listen], and "Heartbeats" by the Knife [listen] (Link goes to the Jose Gonzalez cover -- I couldn't find the softer, more pared down version by The Knife).

The guys are pretty close to the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Some things are based on parts of northern Washington County, MD, but the convenience store is modeled after one in Greencastle, PA. This is the first fictitious location in a while, I think. (The Waffle House exterior was based off a real one just outside Hagerstown.)

Page 14:
- 10-22="disregard" (general police 10-code); 0-800="assault" (local police code).

Chapter 33 - "88 Full Shades of Gray"

Chapter title is NOT a reference to 50 Shades of Gray, but to the song "Pants on Fire" by Buck 65. [listen] [buy] [artist website]

Page 1:
- The guys are in Paterson, New Jersey, or at least a space-warped version. Panel 1 is a jumble of buildings that are within 12 blocks of each other, but not arranged like that. The "Highland Hotel" doesn't exist; it's substituting for a Scottish Inn.

Page 4 [spoilers, highlight to read]:
- Took a little plot-related artistic liberty in the bottom panel-- you don't usually find slips like that in anything less than a brick. The little thing on the right side of the box is a pocket scale.

Page 6:
- I just really like this page, is all.

Chapter 34 - "Stay Where You Are"

Chapter title comes from Iran's song "Buddy" [listen], from the 2009 album Dissolver. [buy]

- Page 2:
And the award for "Scene That Was The Most Interesting To Research And Also Possibly Landed Me On An FBI Watchlist" goes to...

- I understand that TJ's lines in this scene may be impenetrable to folks without English as their first language; his dialogue is intentionally vague and laden with slang and twisted metaphors. In addition, there are a lot of callbacks to seemingly minor things as far as 300 pages ago. I'll try to link to a "plain English" version here soon.

Chapter 35 - "The Crusher of Language"

Chapters 35 and 36 both get their titles from the lyrics of Paul Simon's "The Cool, Cool River", from the 1990 album Rhythm of the Saints. [lyrics] [buy]

Not much to say about this chapter.

Chapter 36 - "The Mother's Restless Son"

My inking style suddenly changed around Page 3. Hmm.

- Page 3:
It would have taken an entire separate panel for the change of expression needed to show it, so just take my word that Amal is imitating his dad's voice here.
"Manam intha neeku chesina..." is something like "After all we've done for you..." in Telugu. Many thanks to Shivani Ishwar for the translation. (The full sentence is "Manam intha neeku chesina, itla etla manatho untavu?")
An alternate version (which was previously in place), was "tere liye kya kuch nahi kiya", lit., "what have we not done for you" in Hindi; however, Hindi isn't spoken around Amal's home nearly as much.
Either way, he's expecting his parents to berate him for his admittedly selfish behavior.

- Chapter End
There's a first time for everything.

Chapter 37 - "Riding Into The Fog Below"

Chapter title is a combo of two songs: "Riding for the Feeling" by Bill Callahan (aka Smog), and "Gospel" (5.1MB MP3) by Aussie indie folk-pop band The Treetops.
Callahan's acclaimed album Apocalypse came out in 2011, making this chapter title anachronistic, but the song fit the first half of the scene too beautifully to deny.
There's very little about The Treetops on the web, and their website is gone, but the Gospel EP is still available via Amazon here.

Page 1:
- Traveling north-east on I-95, passing the Long Wharf area of New Haven, Connecticut.
- The song on the car stereo is The Decemberists' "California One / Youth and Beauty Brigade".

Page 2:
- Sort of rolling the sound around on his tongue, there. Again, there's a first time for everything.

Page 4:
- I think this might actually be the most intimate moment in the comic.

Page 5:
- Names on the billboard are not those of real lawyers.

Page 8:
- TJ's referring to the Sesame Street TV special "Don't Eat The Pictures". I like to imagine that his mom or grandma taped it or found it on VHS somewhere in the late 80's or early 90s, and TJ just wore the thing out.
I guess TJ's familiarity with the Muppets but not the Simpsons tells a little bit about TV habits in his childhood home...?

Pages 9-11:
- Dr. Teeth - Fozzie Bear - Bert. I liked including Amal's little unconscious gesture here; truth is, he has to do maintenance to keep from having a unibrow, and he's a little self-conscious about it. (Yep, scrawny, thirteen year old Amal with a unibrow and headgear. You're welcome.)

Page 15:
- Artistic license-- the state line sign isn't nearly that big in real life.

Chapter End:
- TJ's getting excited about The Big Blue Bug (formerly New England Pest Control). It's right there on I-95 as you're heading into Providence.

Chapter 38 - "Is Your Bed Made, Is Your Sweater On"

Chapter title is from the chorus of Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa". Between this and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (Chapter 9, "Bona Fide Hustler"), I think we've nailed down the "inescapable songs of Spring 2008" thing here. Except for that one Spoon song with the rolling bassline, but eh.
I was going to have this song playing inside Sangeeta's apartment, but opted for showing band posters instead.

Page 1:
- This particular building doesn't really exist; like Kavi's parents' house, it's cobbled together from photos of houses in the area. (In this case, Lloyd Avenue, Bowen Street, and Williams Street in particular.) Interior is loosely based off a friend's place I visited in 1999.

Page 7:
- Stuff on the bathroom door:
"POLICE BOX": I figure Ari and Sangeeta like to watch Doctor Who together. (This takes place midway through the Tenth Doctor's run.)
"This loo is for loonies!" "AND SARA": There's another roommate, Sara, who has a private room at the end of the hall, beyond the bathroom. (Ari and Sangeeta's room is on the other side of the apartment, past the living area.) Sara doesn't appear in the comic, but she is home at the time of this scene, just holed up in a private ball of anxiety. (It's... kind of a long story.)

Page 8:
- Roughly:
Sangeeta: "What's the deal with you and TJ?"
Amal: "I... I dunno. It's c-complicated."
...but really, all that matters is she switched languages to ask him a question about TJ, and he balked at answering.
Thanks to Shivani Ishwar for the translation!

Pages 9-15:
- Sangeeta and Amal switch from English to Telugu and back a few times during their conversation. Bracketed italics indicate Telugu; plain text indicates English.

Page 16:
- Sangeeta and Amal's dialogue is in Telugu script. Most readers probably won't be able to understand it, and that's intentional-- it indicates the change in point-of-view from Amal, within the conversation, to TJ, on the outside.
Translation (again, thanks to Shivani Ishwar):
Amal: Don't say stuff like that, you're my little sister! It's weird.
Sangeeta: So what you're saying is, I was right!
Amal: Wha-- Hey now, don't push me, I'm armed and dangerous!

Page 17:
- This building doesn't actually exist, but it's modeled on a place that does. I've added another floor and scooted it a block or two north. (Which is shown by the view out the window on Chapter 39 Page 1.)

Chapter End 1:
- I ran a trivia contest in June 2013, and the winner got to appear as the hotel clerk. Congrats to Belle Gee! (The sweet smile adds to the punch of the joke, I think. :) )

Chapter 39 - "In The Union Of Wine"

Title comes from The Hidden Cameras' song of the same name, from the album Mississauga Goddam.

Page 1:
- View from the window is out over Providence Harbor, from Allens Ave/US 1A.
- Late spring nights in Providence can still dip into the 40s. Amal doesn't mind a chill, but TJ isn't so fond of cold weather. (Oof, did he pick the wrong place.)

Page 3:
- ...And he never took it off ever again.
- When I first drafted this scene, and any time I drew that jacket, I imagined a hybrid bomber-blazer thing. However, when I finally went photoreference hunting, a simple, elegant motorcycle jacket jumped out and screamed "THIS IS AMAL" so... there you go. Amal doesn't own a motorcycle, of course, but who cares. Dude never claimed not to be a poseur.
- Amal tries to avoid leather for religious reasons, but isn't as strict about that as his diet. (The tops of his shoes are dark brown suede, but I think that's the only leather possession of his in the story.)

Page 6:
- Like the strip joint, this restaurant doesn't exist, but it's modeled on a real establishment. The real-world counterparts are, in fact, within comfortable walking distance of each other, but I scooted the fictional ones even closer together for story's sake.
- Dang do I love drawing tasty food.

Page 7:
- TJ returns to a life of crime with a little bribery. I imagine the host offered to take his jacket, but TJ insisted on keeping it close to him.
- Drinking a Bordeaux from Saint-Estèphe. That bottle of wine is probably around $200 in 2008. I don't think TJ let Amal look at the wine list.
- The pork loin with cauliflower-potato bavarois (and asparagus) appears on the previous page. Oh, oh, oh my, I had so much fun making this menu and drawing the food. Fumi Yoshinaga, what have you done to me.

Page 8:
- TJ's referring to a group foster home, not an orphanage.

Page 10:
I'm not sure if folks outside North America will get TJ's cheese jokes, but oh well. TJ is just old enough to remember actual "government cheese".

Pages 11-13:
- It's been a long time since I did an extended static layout like this. I hope it works.

Page 14:
- Panel 3: Glazed pork belly confit with apple, micro greens, cured olives, and poached egg.

Chapter 40 - "A Natural Part"

Title comes from the song "Natural" by Okay, off the album Huggable Dust.

Page 1:
- Song coming out of the strip club is "Hate Me Now" by Nas. I'll probably remove these lyrics for print; it probably works better with just the bass sound effects anyway.

Page 3:
- Amal's stupid face in that last panel may be my favorite thing in this chapter.

Page 16:
- Draft notes for panel 5 are, in all caps, "TJ-VISION: LIKE LOOKING INTO THE FUCKING SUN". I take comics seriously, folks.

Toughest chapter ever. Pretty sure each page had a panel or three re-drawn from scratch multiple times. Many thanks to Whitney A, Alison W, Neeka, Chiz, Christiana, and Pink for checking all these pages.