Every scene in this chapter was an anvil hanging over my head. I could ignore its inevitable fall and deal with it when it hit, or I could prepare for the fall, try to catch it and keep it under my control. Previously, there were at least one scene per chapter that I knew was coming and had to push my way through. Again, that was every scene in chapter 3. The nice thing to that is that Chapter 3 was really fully formed by the time I got to it, without much room for guesswork. Having that solid plan going in did make its creation much easier, though no less challenging.

The “Long John coming down the mountain” scene was mostly a two-pronged struggle. One was technical; I’d have to draw convincing landscapes. The second was more rhetorical: I’d have to decide how much time to show Long John going down the mountain and whether to leave it without dialogue or with narration or off-panel dialogue or something.

Focusing on the second “prong,” I could have easily drawn six pages of Long John riding down the mountain. Who knows, maybe I’ll add more pages of that for future collections as I think the quiet time, the chance to reflect in the open air, to look at your own problems through the larger scope of the outside (realizing how small we all are)––all of that is some thing I wanted to convey, but I also needed to tell a story. As for the second part of this second prong, my inherent trend is to cover these pages with narration. But Long John hasn’t had any narration so far in the book, so why suddenly introduce it in the third chapter. Also, if part of the point is to let Long John breathe a bit, a perfect way to emphasize that is to let the reader breathe as well and just look at the pages.

Drawing this page referenced a photograph D. Bethel took while visiting Lassen National Park.

With regard to the first “prong,” my confidence over the years of drawing Long John grew with every single page so that I’m not particularly scared of drawing anything in particular. What worries me is something that has worried me since the first page of comics I ever drew––and is something I wrote about early in this comic’s run. Though I’ve strengthened in the realm of background/environmental drawing, I still get bogged down with doubt when I look at my layouts and ask, “Is this the best angle to show?” or “Is this dynamic enough?” or “Is this enough to show narrative progression and should I add more panels (the opposite has been argued, too)?”

Part of that problem-posing is legitimate, part of it is stalling because inking complex organic landscapes is hard for me still. Luckily, July 2017 happened.

Of all the pages I’ve been excited to post on the website, this page excites me the most for completely personal reasons. In July of 2017, I had the honor of being a guest at the first Sacramento Independent Exposition. With that event as leverage, I was able to get Josh Tobey down to Sacramento to exhibit with me at the show. While he was visiting I was lamenting the inking of this page (and the next one). I could draw landscapes fine, but rendering them convincingly––and, more importantly, interestingly––in ink was way out of my comfort zone.

To these complaints, Josh replied, “Man, that’s the fun stuff. I hate drawing and inking people doing things.”

“Really?” I asked, completely shocked at his distaste for my favorite things to draw and ink. Laughing at the seeming synergy of our artistic tastes, I threw out, as a joke, “Well, I should just have you ink these landscape panels and we’d both be happy.”

“Are they drawn?”

“What? Yeah. I mean, they’re loose, but they’re on the page,” I said.

Josh put his thumb to his chin, which he often does when seriously pondering. “I’ll do it.”

I laughed. He didn’t.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Hell, yes. Put pages in front of me and I’ll ink them.”

I’ve been doing this long enough to never let an opportunity go stale, so I ran upstairs and got the pages and, because of that, I have two pages of Chapter 3 inked by Josh Tobey and they’re gorgeous. There are even a few panels where we are both inking (a little on the figures in panel 1 and I inked LJ in panel 3).

As has been stated throughout this site, Josh and I artistically grew up together but we rarely collaborated on a single piece. Furthermore, the success of these pages got both of us excited to try drawing together more in the future, perhaps on an entirely new project. But it all started here with this page, to the point that this page is the only original art of mine that’s framed and hanging on my wall.

The original art for this page up on my wall, directly above my monitor.