11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15
16 - 17- 18 - 19 - 20

Chapter 11 - "The Obvious Child"

Title comes from Paul Simon's song of the same name, from the album Rhythm of the Saints.

Page 1:
- The "neon cowboy" in the first panel, known as Wendover Will, stands at the town center of Wendover, Nevada. (Let's just say the boys peeled a bit off I-80 for a bathroom break.)
- "Assessment": Amal's referring to the student evaluations at the end of UCB/UCSF's med program's spring session. Infinite thanks to J. G., the student services advisor, for all her help in this department.

Page 4:
- The song Amal cues up on the iPod is "The Soldiering Life", from the album Her Majesty The Decemberists.
- Amal's iPod is a fictional blend of the 2nd and 3rd gen 80GB models.

Page 7:
- Amal's lines here are inspired by Henry Rollins' essay "The Iron."


Page 8:
- The additional signs at the Utah border read "Host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games " and "Mountain Standard Time."

Chapter End:
- The sculpture that TJ giggles at is called "The Tree of Utah" or "Tree of Life", and was created by Karl Momen in the early 1980's. It stands alongside Interstate 80 in the Bonneville Salt Flats a little ways east of the Nevada/Utah border. Kind of reminds me of Katamari Damacy...
Also, TJ is ten years old.

Chapter 12 - "In A Town Called Amen"

Chapter title is from Jim White's "A Town Called Amen", from the album Transnormal Skiperoo. [buy]

Page 1:
- Buildings shown in panel 1 are part of the LDS Church campus in downtown Salt Lake City. I've made the mountains on the horizon loom larger for effect.
- The "Jade Panda" restaurant does not exist, but the street it is on does.

Page 4:
- I bet Amal has no clue who Jackie Wilson is.

Page 1: The woman in the sweatshirt is based off cartoonist Niki Foley's self-caricatures.
Page 2: The woman getting an egg roll at the buffet is jazzqueen@LJ. The bald man with the goatee, on the far right, is our friend Don.
Page 5: The couple in soccer uniforms at the top of Page 5 are our friends Mike Toole and Prairie Rose Clayton. That's me on the lower right, with the bun.

Chapter End (1):
- That is the exit one takes to go from Interstate 80 East to US Highway 40 East. (Drawn from photo reference.) The boys are taking the scenic route, it seems.

Chapter End (2):
- This is the oldest scripted bit to make it into the finished product - I think I wrote this gag back in October 2007.

Chapter 13 - "Like A Paper Tiger In The Sun"

Chapter title is from Beck's song "Paper Tiger", off the album Sea Change. [listen] [buy]

Page 1:
- The boys have stopped somewhere near Craig or Hanley, Colorado.
- The Red Elk Inn doesn't really exist, but the exterior is loosely based off of photos of a couple hotels I found in the area. The awful 1970's interior is all out of my imagination, though.

Page 3:
- I intentionally fudged here: Realistically, this scene should be taking place in the bathroom, but it simply wouldn't work, staging-wise.
- I unintentionally fudged here: Will Ferrell and Green Day did appear on SNL on the night of May 17, but that episode was broadcast on May 17... 2009. The boys are watching TV FROM THE FUTURE. (Seriously, though, I'll go in and fix this soon. Should be Steve Carell and Usher. Gah, and it went to print with this error, too.)

Page 5:
- This is probably a good point to tip my hat to two books: Life Outside: Sex, Drugs, Muscles and the Passages of Life by Michelangelo Signorile, and Drifting Toward Love: Growing Up Black, Brown, and Gay on the Streets of New York by Kai Wright, both of which helped shape small parts of this story here and there. The only direct influence from either, though, is TJ's "Stepford Dudes" line here, which is partially lifted from Life Outside.
- Amal's lines on page 6 were influenced a bit by Wright's foreword.

Chapter End:
- Like he said, Amal keeps his promises.

Chapter 14 - "Life, In A Nutshell"

Chapter title is from Barenaked Ladies' song of the same name, off the 1994 album Maybe You Should Drive. [listen] [buy]

Doing an entire chapter in pantomime was a challenge, but one I really enjoyed.

Page 3:

- Panel 2: This gas station does exist, wedged in where Hwy. 40 and Hwy. 34 meet. It's a Shell station (or was as of 2008); I've removed the logos.
- Panel 3: Beer nerds, this joke's for you.

Pages 4-17:
- The boys are taking US Highway 34 west to east through Rocky Mountain National Park. Inside the park borders, the name changes to Trail Ridge Road. Due to snow at higher altitudes, the road is only open for about half the year. It's probably just opened at the time this scene takes place (late May 2008).
- You may notice the trees are looking ragged - RMNP suffered a terrible pine beetle infestation in 2007. In fact, I probably left too much foliage on...

Page 5:
- Passing alongside Lake Granby, just southwest of the park border.

Page 10:
- So the challenge I gave myself was to tell this entire segment without dialogue, and I accomplished that, but still -- in that third panel, Amal pointing upwards somehow feels like cheating.
- This bit was based on the experience Brett and I had when hiking Mt. Healy in Denali National Park. (We got 200 feet from the peak and were too woozy to go on. Meanwhile, a white-haired gentleman from Denver jogged right on past us.)

Page 11:
- This splash was referenced from dozens and dozens of photos, none of which could give me a truly clear view of how the mountains were positioned, so I wound up painting sort of an amalgamation. As for why I did it... I'm not really sure. Dramatic effect? No I just love painting huge skies
- In the print edition, there's a black and white 2-page spread in place of this image, with slightly different composition and proportions. I wound up looking to Ansel Adams' famous photographs for guidance on how to balance and distribute light and dark grays. Repainting this in grayscale was a hardcore crash course in value work!
- It's cold up there, but they're only out of the car for a short while...

Page 13:

- In late spring, bighorn sheep migrate down towards greener lands in the park - and often have to cross Hwy 34 in the process.

Pages 14-15:

- What's TJ saying about those sheep? Your guess is as good as mine.

Page 17:

- For all the hunting, I still haven't found a photo of the standard interior console of Amal's car. This is cobbled together from photos of various other models.

Pages 18-20:

- Setting is based on an actual restaurant in Loveland, CO called Widow McCoy's. The interior was remodeled in 2009, and I couldn't find any interior photos from before the remodel, so I went sort of vague with the environments here and just stuck to the basic room structure.
- Sign on Page 20: "No Debates" is in reference to the contentious recent 2008 presidential primary debates.

Page 21:

- Bottom panel ref'd from a couple dozen meteorological photos *and* from some photos we took on a recent trip out to Marfa, TX. Enormous thunderheads moving over flat land and infinite sky. It was pretty amazing. Obviously, I'd side with TJ's sentiment here... but only if I didn't have to drive through it.

Chapter 15 - "While You Were Sleeping"

Chapter title is from Elvis Perkins' song of the same name, from the album Ash Wednesday. [listen] [buy]
A lot of segments in this story were inspired by that album, which, in hindsight, is rather disrespectful (or at least incongruous) on my part. (I have a bad tendency to listen to music first, lyrics later.) Still, I believe that this particular song is about encouraging someone towards awareness of the fleeting nature of life, and towards actively living rather than blindly following a societally-approved pattern - "sleeping" their life away.
Not that any similarly profound lessons are anywhere to be found in this comic, but moving on...

Page 1:
- The motel depicted at the top is a mishmash of 2 or 3 places I found in the general area around McCook, NE.
- TJ's waterlogged "ppbbbtt" is one of my favorite faces in this whole comic.
- The exchange in panels 4 and 5 isn't foreshadowing; just sort of a continuity Post-It note. I drew Chapter 16 before I drew this one - including fudging the room layout - and figured it needed a nod rather than just going unmentioned.

Pages 2 and 3:
- I would just like to say that I completed these pages about a year before Back to the Future had its spate of internet-meme-dom, thankyouverymuch.
Note: Due to licensing costs, the script excerpt on this page and the excerpt on the chapter end page do not appear in the printed edition.

Pages 4 and 5:
- This little sequence of dialogue (the "canned ham", etc. thing) is lifted pretty much from life - and from two different groups of friends who've never met.
- Amal, you really shouldn't leave that pipe there while it's still hot - oh well, you aren't in any state to be making wise decisions. :|

Page 6:
- This is one of my favorite moments in the story. I don't really know why.

Pages 6-9:
- Along with the "dandelion/cactus" gag from Chapter 10, this was one of the bits that got storyboarded very early; I think December 2007. I'm surprised it's changed so little. (Though TJ's line was originally simply "do that again", which, after a couple years of character evolution, felt both overconfident and dull.

Page 12:
- And the "page I tore the most hair out over" award goes to... (I've got a Tumblr post about the process on this one, actually. It doesn't mention I redrew some panels over and over :I )

Page 14:
- TJ's "decoration" is called a frenum ladder. (Don't Google that at work.) If you're about to ask, "Wait, then how do you...?" the answer is "that's what it's for."

Page 15:
- YES, Amal should not keep going without a condom. However, he's drunk and high and full of hormones in that moment, and I'd rather keep both guys in character than turn this scene into a Public Service Announcement. Real people make rash and risky choices sometimes - hell, that's how this whole journey got started.
- Also, YES, it takes care, but you can use a condom over a frenum ladder.

Pages 16-17:
I lied; these are the pages I tore the most hair out over.

Chapter 16 - "Watch The Water Roll Down"

Chapter title from the song "Soft Serve" by Soul Coughing, also from Irresistible Bliss. [listen] [buy]

Day undone, day undone, day undone, watch the water roll down...

Page 2:
- Many thanks to maxineofarc for providing Amal's future-doctor handwriting. (My own handwriting is awful, but wouldn't fit Amal's personality.)

Page 7:
- I had to redraw a good chunk of this page shortly before finalizing it. Here's some blathering about it if you're curious.

Page 8:
- TJ is making sort of an oblique reference to the film Somewhere In Time. Not that that really matters, but anyway...

Chapter End:
- According to Rosalarian, they do exist. I'm not sure how to feel about that. :|

Chapter 17 - "May Day!"

Chapter title via Elvis Perkins, again. This one's terribly inappropriate, given the lyrics, but the melody just fits so well, IMO.

The dad there is sort of modeled on a friend who had just become a father himself when these pages were drawn.

Chapter 18 - "Baby Ate My Eightball"

Chapter title comes from Super Furry Animals' song of the same name, from the 2007 album Hey Venus! [buy]
I can't really explain the reason behind this choice of title, if there is one.

Page 5:
- I'm sure there's a complete audiobook set available, but the "Hogwarts Complete Collection" is a made-up item.

Pages 6 and 7:
- These two pages were rewritten and redrawn fairly extensively - they were originally completed in March 2009, but a couple months ago I decided to overhaul them in order to improve the art, dialogue, and characterization. You can see a side-by-side comparison on Tumblr.

Chapter 19 - "French Fries With Pepper"

This one's named after the song by Morphine, from the 1997 album Like Swimming. [listen] [buy]

Pages 1-13:
- I drew this chapter in October-December 2009. More extensive retouching.
- The lady behind the counter is Sherry, the owner/manager of the diner. I have an unnecessarily detailed background for her, just like for Rosalyn, the trucker from Chapter 9. Dunno why I do that, but eh, it's fun.
- I've had a few people ask when this story takes place; hopefully these pages will put that question to rest.

Page 4:
- TJ can not resist the siren powers of homemade pie. She knows. SHE KNOWS. (Actually, I just imagined her thinking something like, "this kid's kind of a loon, but at least he's entertaining.")

Page 5:
- I commissioned TJ's napkin-art from the amazing creatureKILLher. I think his drawing style would be a lot like hers.

Page 6:
- The engine tattoo TJ mentions is based on someone I met in a bar one night. Theirs also incorporated purple and yellow posies.

Page 7:
- "For someone I knew": more specifically, from a song that person used to sing. This person does not figure into the story at all other than the brief mention here.
- "For protection": The blue hamsa, or Hand of Fatima. There was a glass hamsa over the interior doorframe in Yusef's tattoo shop. The hamsa on TJ's arm is actually a bastardized version - the iris of the eye has been replaced with a capital "N", which it could be argued negates the protective aspect, but TJ doesn't know that; he was injecting his own personal meaning (albeit in a culturally insensitive, highly inappropriate way.) "N" is the first initial of someone who looked after TJ in his teenage years, and was probably the closest thing TJ had to a father.

Page 8:
- As for the blue spiral, you'll just have to wait and find out.

Chapter 20 - "The Beast"

Chapter title comes from a few sources - mostly the song "The Beast" by The King of France, but the happenings in these pages were partly inspired by the songs "Mr. Hurricane" by Beast, and "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth (which will figure in shortly).

Pages 1 and 2:
- The music on the stereo is "Drops in the River" by Fleet Foxes. It helps if you're familiar with the song, but all you really need to know is that it's soft and soothing. I've tried to convey that using swirling, gentle lines.
Note: These lyrics do not appear in the printed edition.

Page 3:
- Song is "Transatlanticism" by Death Cab For Cutie.

Page 4:
- Song is "Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux" by Destroyer. (Again, all that really matters here is these are soft songs, but...)
Note: These lyrics do not appear in the printed edition. I've replaced them with soft instrumental SFX, with Amal simply humming along.

Page 5:
- Song and sportscast are made up.

Page 6:
- Song in panels 1 and 2 is "The Angry American" by Toby Keith; song afterwards is "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth. I used to dislike this song, but working on this scene -- writing TJ in general, actually -- has changed my mind about it and a lot of other classic rock. I totally love it now. :)
Note: The "Angry American" lyrics do not appear in the printed edition. Some original lyrics with a similar jingoistic bent appear in their place.

Page 7:
- The bottom panel is inspired by a similar (albeit upside-down) one in David Lapham's graphic novel Stray Bullets.

Chapter End:
- Song is "Blister In The Sun" by the Violent Femmes. I think this song must be some sort of cultural meme that automatically seeped into the brains of most American kids born between 1975 and 1985.
- The boys are crossing from Kansas into Missouri on Highway 36 eastbound - they've just gone over the Pony Express bridge.