Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reviews and Mentions

The Comics Journal posted an online review that made my day/week/month...
(Full disclosure: Frank and I both worked for the Comics Journal at different times, in different capacities, back in the 90's.)

The Seattle Weekly mentions the book and the book launch party (Oct.8, in Seattle!):

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Bristol Sessions Chapter concluded

Today we conclude "The Storms Are on the Ocean," our chapter chronicling the Carter Family's audition and recording session for Victor, and their first meeting with Ralph Peer. 

Click here for a larger, more readable view.

Though the Carter Family did not meet Jimmie Rodgers at the Bristol Sessions, we couldn't resist giving him a cameo appearance here.

Look for the rest of the book, "Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song," wherever books are sold, starting October 1st!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Take a look inside our new Carter Family graphic novel!

"Don't Forget This Song" Preview from James Gill on Vimeo.

Here's a four-minute thumb-through of the just-published Carter Family graphic novel. Try before you buy! Thanks to our good buddy, James Gill, for shooting this video. (That's me doing the flipping.)

The Bristol Chapter continued

We created a fictional conversation between AP and Peer to try and convey the complicated nature of music contracts and copyright in the early years of the recording industry.

Here is a larger version...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Single Girl" Page Evolution

I think I first heard "Single Girl, Married Girl" on Harry Smith's landmark Anthology of American Folk Music.  I'd never heard a song like it, or a voice like Sara Carter's.  It planted the seeds of my interest in the Carter Family, and in my collaboration with Frank Young on the graphic novel.  So the page in which Sara and Maybelle record the song was very important to me. I think of it as the cornerstone of the book. 

Originally I had a vision of the moment as Sara and Maybelle performing in empty space, with no panel borders, as an expression of the haunting quality of the song...

The sequence went on for several panels and covered a good bit of the song. When Frank and I learned that the Carter Family's lyrics were largely not in the public domain, we had to change plans!  Frank came up with the large single panel you see at the bottom of the page:

It didn't feel quite right to me, for such a momentous moment.  I tried it as a closeup:

This wasn't working for me either. I wanted a 1930's comic strip look, but this panel felt more like a 1960's DC comic book. I stopped right in the middle of inking and decided I had to pull the view back. But I liked the idea of the words being words and word balloons at the same time, and I kept that concept...
I was very happy with this result!  But it took a little longer than most of the other pages in the book. 
One side note: Quilts were hung on the walls of the makeshift studio to muffle outside sounds. All the quilts I drew were researched for accuracy...

Single Girl, Married Girl

Today, as pages are posted from the Bristol Sessions chapter, we come across what is maybe my favorite page in the book: Sara and Maybelle recording "Single Girl, Married Girl."

Here's a larger version...

In a separate post, I will talk about the page and show the stages of its evolution.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reviews and mentions...

The Drawn Word wrote a nice review.

Flavorpill wrote a brief mention in anticipation of the book, as did Library Journal!

The Mudcat Cafe had a discussion in anticipation of the book...

My Research Trip

Ten years ago, in the fall of 2002, my father and I drove from Alexandria, VA, down to Bristol VA/TN (it's right on the border).  It was something like nine hours of driving, across the state of Virginia.  It proved to be one of the best road trips I've ever taken. 

We went to the Carter Family Fold, saw and heard a great concert, and I had Janette Carter autograph a copy of her memoir, "Living with Memories."  (Thanks John Maeder, for taking this photo.)

 Near the CFF, there was a small (but concentrated) Carter Family museum, housed in the building that was once A.P. Carter's store.  We also made it to the church where the Carters' worshipped, and where A.P., Sara, and many other family members are buried.  I wanted to make comics about the Carter Family, because I had wondered where this beautiful, heartfelt music had come from, and who had made it.  It was very exciting to be in the place where they lived and worked.  I took photos.

We also visited the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, whose museum was in the Bristol shopping mall at that time.  I'm excited to see that they are working on a Cultural Heritage Center.

Thanks, Dad, for taking me down to Maces Spring and Bristol!

Bristol Sessions: Baby Joe and Day Two

Here, Frank Young and I capture two aspects of the Carters' experience at Bristol that are a part of country music lore: Baby Joe interrupting the first session and being taken outside and fed ice cream, and then A.P.'s absence on the second day of recording.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Now Available...

The Carter Family graphic novel is now on sale at the Fantagraphics Bookstore in Seattle!  (photo by Janice Headley)
Coming soon to a store near you...

PS: In anticipation of your questions: the book is published by Abrams, not Fantagraphics, but Fantagraphics sometimes sells graphic novels by other publishers in their store.

PPS: Frank Young and David Lasky will be doing a book signing at said store with Noah Van Sciver on November 2!

Bristol Sessions: The Recording Begins

In their first recording session, the Carter Family recorded a handful of songs that would become classics.
Here is a larger view.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bristol Sessions: The Carter Family Auditions

Here is a larger, more readable version...

The quilts were hung on the walls to muffle and unwanted noise during recording.  I did research to insure that all the quilts are more or less accurate to the time and place.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

"The Storms Are on the Ocean" title page

Here is the next page in the chapter that will send the Carters to the Bristol Sessions...
Here's a larger version of the page...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beginning today: "The Storms Are on the Ocean" a full chapter online

Starting today, Frank and I will be posting one page a day from the longest chapter in the book, "The Storms Are on the Ocean," in which the Carter Family travels to Bristol (on the VA/TN border) to record their music for the first time. This is our way of counting down to early October and the release of the book. 

This chapter is dedicated to Dylan Williams, who died one year ago. I began drawing the chapter the day after returning from his funeral. My main thought was: 'Dylan would want me to keep on drawing.'

In this opening page, we see (my drawing of) the actual newspaper ad that was used to alert musicians in the Bristol area of the recording sessions that were being done by Victor.  These sessions would later be called "The Big Bang of Country Music." Click here for a much larger version of the page.

Reviews and Mentions

Initial reviews and mentions are beginning to appear for "Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song," and I wanted to start posting some links...

Librarian Craig Seasholes on Books 'n Bytes:!/2012/09/the-carter-family-dont-forget-this-song.html

Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray:

And, as mentioned earlier, The Comics Grinder jumped in with the first online review:

Also: It looks as if the book will reach England on October 30?

Look for it on or around October 1 in the US and Canada.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Signing in Bellingham, Oct 26!

Thank you, Weenie Campbell Group, for discussing the upcoming book:

And if you live in Bellingham, WA, mark October 26 on your Calendar...
Frank and I will be signing at Village Books!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Evolution of a "Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song" Page

Frank and I wanted to show you what went into creating an average page of our Carter Family graphic novel. I chose the page in which their producer and manager, Ralph Peer, along with his wife Anita, arrives on a visit to the Carters in Maces Spring, VA. 
The text here, is by Frank, unless I pipe in (with blue type)...

The process of creating comics is highly subjective. Some artists just put pen or pencil to paper and move forward, without a clear idea where they're going. Others out-do Alfred Hitchcock in the pre-planning stages, and create multiple images of each panel before they commit the final image to paper.

Add a writer to the mix, and their style of input also affects the creative outcome.

Every cartoonist or creative team has their own method. And a method of some kind is a must--especially when creating a long-form work. Our agent, Bob Mecoy, has called our graphic novel a "movie on paper," and some of the methodology of film-making did influence our approach.

Here is the origin of one page from our book, from rough script to thumbnails to pencil and ink to publication.

The script, at this point, is more of a guidepost of the marks we want to hit in each panel. There's no for-real dialogue--just detailed descriptions of each panel's event, mood and what each character is doing or feeling. Nothing is cast in stone here. In this case, the finished page is pretty close to the descriptions in the script.

The only piece of dialogue that stayed to the end is A.P.'s blessing for the meal, in the last panel of the page. That was a documented piece of real-life speech.

Next is the first rough thumbnail. This is a vital stage. Will the sequence work in comics form? Does the panel-to-panel flow make sense, and support the events and the characters? Frank did this first thumbnail. It won't win an art contest; it's only meant to serve the material.
(Note: The 'thumbnail' images are only about 3 inches tall. Just enough to get a sense of what will fit on the page, without getting bogged down in details.)

Next, David took this first rough thumbnail and revised it. Notice that he cuts out a panel and adds another. This was a good decision. His sketches are tighter than the first thumbnail, but still more suggestive than definitive.

(We wanted to highlight the fact that the Ralph Peer's Cadillac is large -- too large for the garage A.P. has built in anticipation of the visit. We've also added a panel to the presentation of the Orthophonic Credenza, an important gift from Peer to the Carters.)

In the next iteration, (a pencil rough drawn at print size) David tightens up the staging of the panels, the body language of each character, and gives a strong sense of the settings. Frank then enters the first draft of the dialogue.

Then, it's decided that a long-shot could be made more effective as a medium shot (in panel 5). At this point, the page is ready to commit to ink on paper.

(We showed the rough draft of our book to an artist who is very experienced with this kind of material, and he advised me to draw Ralph Peer's Cadillac Limo much larger. On this page I digitally enlarged the Cadillac in every panel, and made Peer higher in the driver's seat, in panel 3. We also decided to add more family members to the table in the last panel.)

As David inks the final version, he tightens up the compositions and figures. This piece of the story really and truly comes to life.

(I should note that we had to find reference photos for the Cadillac Limo and the Orthophonic Credenza. Extra time, but worth it for historical accuracy.)

Now it's ready for Frank to color. After that, the final dialogue is written. There are some small changes from the first draft of the dialogue and narration--mostly in reducing the amount of text.

As said, this page did not undergo a major change from start to finish--just a refinement of the narrative event that its eight panels capture.

(I hope what comes across is that a great amount of care went into making every page of this book. Frank and I gave this our all.)

If anyone would like to see larger versions of the images above, they are all available on