san diego!

San Diego came and went! It was my first time since 2004 (when Flight 1 came out) and it was pretty nuts. I'm sure everyone knows how nuts it is so I'm not even gonna go into it here. I had a great time and got to see some of my favorite people.

I mostly hung out at the well-ventilated First Second booth (photo above shamelessly stolen from Mark Siegel). The lovely Dave Roman was often to be found there signing his excellent new book Astronaut Elementary (see it blinding you in the foreground?). I did a few Anya signings but we sold out of books on Friday. So mostly I just said hi to the nice folks that stopped by. In the commotion I almost completely forgot to take pictures but here are some of the things I saw and did:

I grabbed lunch with the ravishing Hope Larson!

And breakfast with the delightful Lori Matsumoto and Patrick Farley!

And some garbage with the charming Pat Race!

The swell fellas at Fleet Street Scandal pushing the new Yuki 7 book, in which I have a drawing.

New bro Thien Pham and good ol' Gene Yang, who were there promoting their new book Level Up. Thien, Dave, Gene and I did a Teen Comics Workshop together on Saturday and had a great time helping a bunch of kids draw the adventures of Sara the Fast Fat Girl and Franq the Delinquent Demon Meathead.

At the First Second dinner on Saturday Thien explained his work ethic to us all over magically refilling wine glasses. Paul was not convinced.

By the end of the show I felt kind of like this doggie. Tired, but happy! Actually I was probably happier than that dog was. It was great talking to people who had read and enjoyed Anya's Ghost. I'm pumped up for the next show I go to (which appears to be NYCC in October) and excited to make more comics!

Books and cons

Anya's Ghost has sold through its first printing! Unfortunately that means it's been hard for people to find, for which I apologize. The good news is the second printing is due this month so Amazon should start sending out copies really soon. The hardcover is being reprinted too. In the meantime I've got 19 copies of the softcover that I'm selling signed, for people who can't make it to shows or need a book NOW NOW NOW. They're up now in my shop.

In other book news, Anya got its fifth starred review in the School Library Journal, which is awesome. The other four are in BCCB, Booklist, the Horn Book and Kirkus. The critical response has been incredibly positive and I am extremely grateful to everyone who's taken the time to post a review to their blog or recommended it on twitter. It makes my day every time I hear that somebody read it all in one sitting, or that someone's daughter stayed up all night reading it. The best, you guys. That is what you are.

San Diego Comic Con is coming up and I'm going to be braving the crowds Friday through Sunday! I've got a few signings and things so I thought I'd mention them here:

Friday July 22nd

  • 2:00pm signing at the First Second booth #1323

Saturday July 23rd

  • 12:30-1:30 Diversity in Young Adult Work Panel room TBA
  • 2:00 -3:00 signing in Autograph Area #AA2
  • 3:00pm signing at First Second booth #1323

Sunday July 24th

  • 10:00-11:00 Teen Comics Workshop with Dave Roman, Gene Yang and Thien Pham room TBA

Hope to see you there!


Anya's Ghost is my first book. Consequently everything I did was a bit trial and error. Maybe wasn't the most efficient way to get the job done, but it worked for me. I didn't work from a script. When I write the art and the dialogue come at the same time and one suggests the other; it's really hard for me just to come up with dialogue onto a blank computer page. I try to show more than tell with my comics and that seems to work best starting with thumbnails rather than attempting to get it across in a script.  I did work up an outline for the entire story and plotted it out very carefully, but I let each scene form itself in thumbnails with the dialogue being written as I drew. I'll run you through a process of some sample pages from writing to drawing to final color.

Here's all my stuff laid out and ready to go. The only thing missing is a jam jar of water. I got that later, I promise.

My thumbnails are pretty impenetrable. I drew them two per page in a moleskine. They're pretty tiny and as you can see I don't have the world's best handwriting. I tried to thumbnail a chunk of ten or twenty pages at a time and then translate them to bigger clearer rough drawings while I could still make out what the heck I was thinking.

Here's a thumbnail of the specific page I'm inking in these photos. It was a revision drawn after most of the book was done.

I roughed out the drawing on my Wacom Cintiq and printed it out at the exact size of my scanner bed (I hate scanning things in pieces).

Here's the stuff I use.

These are my pens and brushes. I'm reeeally picky about those series 7 brushes - I order a bunch at a time online and maybe one of them will feel right. The rest are delegated to filling-in-blacks duty.

I don't like lightboxes so I ink on Canson translucent vellum. It's great - super smooth and just opaque enough to see through. The only downside is if you get a drop of water onto it it warps and is basically ruined. So try not to do that.  I know some people print out faint blue lines onto bristol board and ink over that, but this way you can just lift the page to see what the clean inks look like without trying to make it out through blue sketch lines. And it's way better than inking over original pencils, which would probably give me hives.

The first thing I do is get panel borders and word balloons inked. I use a multi-liner pen for the borders and ink the balloons with a brush. Lettering is added digitally later.

All inked! Time to spot (fill in) the blacks on the hair and eyes...

I use one of my rejected series 7 brushes for this. They hold a ton of ink.

Correction time. I use white acrylic, or sometimes a white gel pen if I'm lazy. Removing the white paper underneath you can see where I fixed things up. This won't be visible when I scan it (I scan as a bitmap).

Here's the inked and corrected page all ready to scan.

Here's a different pair of pages to demonstrate my computer process. You can see the thumbnail version of these two back up at the start. This is my first "pencil" pass, just getting the gestures down and making sure it's clear. I sketch everything digitally on my Cintiq - it's perfect for rough work because it's so easy to move things around, change the size of something, stuff that would take forever on paper. It's my #1 favorite drawing tool. I got through this rough-drawing part as quickly as possible to get the whole book in rough form to show my editor (since I sure can't expect anyone to read those thumbnails).

After the editor signed off on the book I went back through the whole thing and tightened the roughs up just enough so that I could ink them. The expressions are generally untouched but I tried to fill in more information about the backgrounds and other details so I wouldn't be stuck improvising too much while inking.

Here's the inked page with temp lettering...

...and the colored page with the final lettering in place. I had a custom font made by John Martz. I did all the colors in Adobe Photoshop in different values of purpley-blue for no other reason than I like purpley-blue and I think it feels right for the story. Anya's uniform is blue, her hair is black, and her skin is pale. You don't really need anything else.

So there you go! My time-consuming and probably not-so-efficient process. I might attempt writing a script for my next book but probably not - thumbnail-writing just comes easiest to me. I figure as long as you wind up with a book at the end it's all good!

Signing and reviews!

The signing at Floating World last night was so great. Thanks so much to Jason for setting it up and to everyone who came out and got a book! We ran out towards the end and apparently it's on backorder but hopefully Amazon and Diamond will start shipping out more soon. I'm so happy to hear that people are picking it up in their local bookstores and telling their friends about it. That is the best.

Here is a little roundup of some reviews online in case you need some extra motivation to get a copy.


Diamond Previews is a catalog that comic book stores get from which to order their books. And in the latest issue you can see Anya's Ghost, along with comic bros Dave Roman, Gene Yang and Thien Pham! If you like to buy your comics from comic book stores you should make sure and ask them to order Anya's Ghost for you, because there's no guarantee they'll get it on their own. The more people that ask for it the better! Ask for those other books too. Ask for a whole giant pile of comics. Because comics rule.

Also Anya's Ghost got a starred review in the 3/15 issue of Booklist, which is awesome.

And perhaps now is a good time to mention that I will have a table at StumptownApril 16th and 17th! I'm sharing with my excellent buddy Jen Wang, and will have some things for you to buy. If all goes well, there will be a postcard set from Draw this Dress, some prints, leftover knitting tshirts, copies of Anya's Ghost (to look at, not buy. Sorry!) and hopefully a brand new minicomic! I'll try and bake some cookies too. I am stoked. I haven't had a table at a convention in years.