What I most like about Chapter 2 is that it is a very different chapter from Chapter 1, which is how I want to continue making Long John. Of course, narrative cohesion is of utmost importance, but I want each chapter to have its own arc, its own feel, its own groove.

I’m not sure if this counts as ending on a cliffhanger, but if someone described this page as doing so, I wouldn’t disagree. We end on a meeting: welcome Juan John Velazquez, the third and final member of the Johns to appear in the comic. Looking back, I’m not sure how happy I am with the design of both Juan John and Jonny Mono. If anything, a bit of my implicit bias came through and landed them in pretty stereotypical clothing, which I’m not happy about. This is not an excuse, but when designing characters, I’m going for silhouette––I want them to look distinct and separate from each other so that they can be as easy to read as possible. Juan John is tall and sleek––like parallel lines. Juan John is a square, framed by his poncho. Long John is top-heavy and wide, almost like a blending of the other two Johns. Also, this is not an excuse, but the outfits are considered and deliberate––they’re practical. I really break down who these characters are and what they would have on them; in a sense, they play on the stereotypes (Long John, too, as the Eastwoodian, laconic tough guy; his design is as full of tropes as the other Johns) to do their work, but––as we’ll see in the next chapter––they are truly a team. How well that team holds together after two of them bushwhack the third, we’ll see that in Chapter 3.

But I like Juan John a lot. I like all the Johns, to be honest. There was a time while I was developing the comic where I thought about abandoning this idea and just doing an episodic adventure comic about the Johns. But that would have been too easy (not that it wouldn’t have its share of difficulty and trials, but it would have been the easy way out) and it wasn’t the story I really wanted to tell in the end. The only bit of behind the scenes I’ll offer up is that Juan John gets his last name after one of my most favorite painters, the baroque Spaniard, Diego Velázquez. This is my favorite painting of his:

Diego Velazquez, "The Waterseller of Seville," source: artuk.org

Diego Velazquez, “The Waterseller of Seville,” source: artuk.org

There will be more about him in Chapter 3’s notes, I can bet. For now, just look up his art and drool.

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Chapter 2, “Bird’s Eye,” is officially done with the posting of this page, and as sad as I am to see it conclude I am simultaneously so happy that it’s done. However, Chapter 2’s problems had nothing to do with Chapter 2. It was written. It was in my head. It wanted to come out. However, I underestimated how much life would get in the way of it.

Concept/Tone Sketch for Chapter 2. Not from the actual comic.

This was drawn in January 2015, back when the chapter had a different title.

The first page of Chapter 2 posted at the beginning of February, 2015. It went on a nigh-permanent hiatus in August of the same year and didn’t return until the middle of September in 2016, over a year later. What happened in that time was nothing short of life-changing setbacks and challenges, some of which I never want to go through again; others, I am eager to tackle again when the time is right. As a means of recording the trials and not meant as excuses, I’d like to recount everything that lead to Chapter 2 being a monster of an endeavor.

  • October 2014: I broke a cap off of my front tooth. However, it was a huge cap and actually broke part of the tooth with it. In January 2015, I had to have that front tooth extracted. Since I can’t be a teacher without a front tooth and a plate was not satisfactory, we began the process for an implant. Due to the fact that the injury that caused me to need a root canal and cap in that front tooth happened when I was a child, the cavity left behind was rather huge. Modern science is amazing, however, and they can effectively regrow bone. Since there was so much to regrow in my case, we had to let it take its time. I had the implant base installed in January 2016. All the while I wore what amounted to a retainer with a fake tooth on the front. As a teacher, it was tough because talking was very difficult and it caused fatigue quickly. By the end of the day, I was a slurring mess despite being stone-cold sober. Once everything healed up, they installed the new tooth in March 2016 and I could finally move on from not only the year-long process but from the event back when I was six or seven that started this whole thing.
  • May 2015: I was awarded by the English department the chance to be the coordinator of a program for which I am extremely passionate. I was part of the hiring, training, and scheduling process and it was a challenge like I had never really encountered before. I took it so seriously and was quite nervous the entire time that my anxiety went through the roof. Despite that, I am so incredibly proud of the tutors I trained and managed and really look back on that year as an incredibly victory professionally speaking. I’m especially happy that most of the tutors are moving on to bigger and better things, now. With hope, they found some form of motivation and education while under my tutelage.
  • June 2015: We got a dog. More specifically, we got a puppy. I have not had too much experience with dogs and even less with puppies and I was not prepared for it. I am a pretty even-keeled person. I had a severe temper when I was young, but––through martial arts, actually––I managed it, especially when I realized I was lashing out at my friends. Since then, nothing could really penetrate my patience (except competitive video games, to be honest), until we got this dog. I don’t do loud noises well, and Rusty’s constant biting and nipping wore me down and brought out a person I hadn’t thought existed anymore. It wasn’t violence––I never hurt anybody––but I was horrified at the person I could be. That, combined with the self-consciousness healing from the surgery, the stress and anxiety of my coordinatorship, and the pangs of doubt from the death of my students nearly broke me down completely. (NOTE: Rusty has grown and we are best buds now.)
See? Best buds.

See? Best buds.

  • October 2015: Within two weeks of each other, in unrelated events that involved no drugs nor alcohol, Jesus Soto and Kenny Nguyen––a first-year student and a third-year student, respectively––died in car accidents. Jesus was a student of mine and I was only informed by a friend of his that was in another section I taught. I took it to my department chair and, together, we put the gears in motion for the school to figure out what to do. I had to deal with the paper he had turned in, still sitting in a pile on my desk, and agonized over how to inform his classmates. It worked out, but his death was a cloud that floated at the ceiling for the rest of the semester, and even into the next semester when I had a brand new class in the same room. Kenny was a student I didn’t deal with directly. He was a part of the previously mentioned program I coordinated. I was told about his death by the school and, even after having dealt with this personally in one of my own classes, had to figure out how to tell the tutor in my program that worked with him directly. Due to the demands of school and life, I never really got a chance to process these losses until summer, and that was too long to wait. More than anything, these events were the largest hindrance to my productivity.

None of this was the comic’s fault, and I think I made the right choice––to come back to the comic when I could do my best work. Not that every page is a masterpiece, but when I finally sat down to draw these pages, I felt motivated. More importantly––and I don’t say this lightly––I had fun. I confidently say that drawing this comic this last summer, blazing through the remaining pages, acted as much as a therapist as it did a motivator. I’m so glad to present the end of Chapter 2 for you readers, and I thank you for your patience and kind response. Chapter 3 is pretty well blocked out––not enough to reveal the title quite yet––and I’m actually eager to get to it.

What’s nice is that I think I have the schedule to actually draw and work at the same time. Last year, I was teaching full-time both semesters in addition to my coordinator position, which was a pretty intensive and exhausting process. This year, I’m still teaching full-time, but I have a more manageable workload that is exactly what I needed after the whirlwind that was the 2015-2016 academic year.

I could run through a long list of people and detail why I should give them public thanks, but I’ve taken up so much space and time already; so, I’ll just make a list.

In quick succession, I’ll throw out the following names: Josh Tobey, Jason TudorAndrew Asplund, Ryan Boroson, Kyrun Silva, Ben Schwartz, Melissa Pagluica, Saint Phil Hofer (patron saint of webcomics), Susan Fanetti, Lauren Monardo-Gramprey, Shelley Blanton-Stroud, Catherine Fraga, Anita Scharf, Tom Geiger, Desirae Linder, Liz Geisser, David Hickman, and so many, many more. Please don’t be offended if I left a name out; if so, it was out of ignorance rather than intent. The continued support in any form was welcomed and very much appreciated.

The main person to thank publicly is Nicole, my wife. She is the best person.

So, until Sketch Fridays return or, at the very least, until Chapter 3, thanks for letting me share my world with you, and I can’t wait to show you more.