I met Josh when I was ten years-old. As an introverted only child, I don’t let many people in close because––as was told to me much later among an inordinate, happenstance gathering of only children in one place––for only children, your friends are your family. We became friends over video games and general absurdity. I introduced him to comic books and then our lives were enmeshed. Most importantly, it was because of him that I started to draw. I didn’t take it seriously for a few years, but eventually I did. As I’ve said before, either here or in interviews, whenever I start to feel comfortable with a medium, I begin to create original works. Surely, the stories that Josh and I created when we were young were not exactly original, but they were ours––our own worlds and personalities and expressions of what we cared about and loved and feared at the time, as immature as they were.

In those early days, we had grand fantasies about becoming superstar creators, especially when Image Comics became a thing because they made it––almost suddenly––okay to make your own characters and worlds, ones unconnected to established continuities. We bit into that ethos completely. We created characters and their stories and we loved the idea of working together. I wrote a lot of scripts back then and tried to draw pages and Josh drew pages, sometimes off of my scripts. There is even a page somewhere that Josh pencilled and I (poorly) inked. I think there is even a page around here that we both pencilled.

As we grew apart artistically, the idea of working together became more fantastical than the worlds we created together, in a sense. I tried to hook him in by writing adventurous short stories with the hopes he would illustrate them like Yoshitaka Amano did for the Vampire Hunter D series of novels, but that didn’t work out (though I got an awesome painting out the deal). Eventually, our creative relationship became one of mutual criticism––he became a confidante for stories and plots I was devising and he would send me works-in-progress of his paintings––and we would offer fair advice on each other’s works, though we both probably felt we neither had a foothold in each other’s worlds.

After knowing Josh for almost twenty-five years, I still can’t comprehend that we have finally worked together on a comic. It is a flawed series, for sure, but it happened and it’s out there for the world to see––something that seemed unfathomable only a few years ago. With the benefit of twenty-five years, however, for all of its flaws, “Save the Bones” has incredible strengths––it actually means something, it’s poetic (if a bit obtuse), and it tells a solid story of a character and her world. Though I take all the blame for its incongruities, it’s still amazing. I love how it reads; I love how it looks and I love that it’s weird and artistic and poetic and I wouldn’t change a thing. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that this came out of my head (though I’m not surprised it came out of Josh’s pen). To make a character come alive––a character we both created, in a different iteration, over a decade ago––in the context of a comic I’m writing has completely blindsided me, and I’m so incredibly proud of the work we have done. More than anything, I’m extremely proud of the work, dedication, and effort Josh put into the art. As I’ve said before––had he not agreed to do this, then this story would not have been told; it’s a simple fact. He dove into the story, however, and any question he asked was deep––regarding the story, the world, or the character; he wanted to know how this world turned.

In most ways, I hope you love “Save the Bones.” In some ways, I hope you hate it. I hope it confuses you and confounds you and makes you think. As obfuscating as it may seem, all of “Save the Bones”  is fully within the context of the Long John and it’s up to you to figure out how.

I’m proud to have made this comic with Josh. It’s a product a quarter-century in the making, but––more importantly––I’m proud of Josh as a friend, as an artist, and as the closest thing I could possibly call a brother. His drive and passion have fueled me for most of my life, even as we grew apart and found our own artistic pursuits. He inspires me and challenges me by being himself, and that’s something that you can’t always find in a friend or a collaborator. If I’ve learned anything from Josh it’s that the most important quality I can pursue as an artist is to be myself, no matter the cost.

Enough mushy stuff. Long John returns after the new year. Stay tuned for regular blog posts (better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed at the top right of the page).

Kickin' in it old school.

Josh and Dan kickin’ in it old school.

Josh’s Notes

This final page was supposed to be the money shot, so to speak. I didn’t see it that way. This was just another full page that I treated like the others. I didn’t see the point of making this a special page because every page was special in its own way. It was illustrated to get the subject matter across and I feel that this page did that.

Overall, working on a comic was kinda fun actually. Because I had the time to do the drawings, the timing just worked out.  All in all I prefer to do stranger images. If all I did was renderings of Hellrider Jackie’s “visions”, I would have been happy. This wasn’t the case, but the challenge was to pull off the task of showing Jackie’s vision sharing our same reality. I just hope this was worth looking at.

Original art by Josh Tobey

Original art by Josh Tobey