Since Starbunny, Inc. takes place in the fictional world of Hoppiton, I didn’t expect how much real world reference would end up going into the art process! I’ve taken tons of photos and pulled from various reference from all over the galaxy!
Here’s a step-by-step look at one of the busiest panels so far…
I wrote page 37 (like all the others) as thumbnails, with loose drawings hinting at backgrounds, but leaving the specifics for later.
Before I began penciling, I did a scouting trip to the travel section of my local CVS. I took photos from several angles to see which would work best.
I penciled and inked the main character (using a Windsor Newton brush and Speedball India ink), indicating where the background would go. I really wanted to capture the specific feel of the travel section, so I decided to try and finish the panel in the digital stage.
I pasted my inked drawing over the photo, and basically traced the rest of the background. I had to strategically remove certain details as things got too cluttered or hard to read. I began to envision Blue starring in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style story!
This is the first time I’ve ever drawn a background digitally before, so I had some concerns about whether or not I’d need to go back and hand-draw all the items! I was worried that the organic nature of the figure and the mechanical nature of background lines might be too much of a contrast. But after noodling with it for a while, I realized the color would help bring the two closer together.
The final inks were sent to Alexandra Graudins, who has been helping with the color flatting on Starbunny, Inc. She always does a great job, and on this page her attention to detail was especially appreciated!
I played around with different color schemes, to avoid the department store looking too similar to Manny’s Appliance Hut, which was already established as having warm reds, oranges, and beiges. Since this was a silent page, I didn’t have to worry about the type or word balloons. At this point, I was pretty much ready to convert the file to a jpeg and post it on the site to share with you!
You can see the final panel in its sequence HERE!
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why bunnies are the protagonists of Starbunny, Inc., so I figured I should also write a post about their co-stars!
The most immediate inspiration is video games, which should come as no surprise to any one who has read Astronaut Academy. The iconography, level designs, textures, and general vibe produced by 8-bit and 16-bit video games are permanently imprinted in my heart, and filter into pretty much all the comics and creative work I’ve produced. Whether as characters, power-ups or just recurring background details, the image of a star, especially one with a face on it, has always been really compelling to me.
Visually, the stars in my comic look the most like the ones that appear in Super Mario Bros., which I started playing in 1986 when I was nine years old. But the stars in Starbunny, Inc. (who don’t offer invincibility so much as constructive criticism) have an inspiration that goes even further back into my childhood.
I first discovered the Care Bears in kindergarten (which for me would’ve been about 1982). They were a big phenomenon at the time, and with all the merchandise produced, the stuff that most resonated with me were the notebooks, folders, and metal lunchboxes that my classmates were bringing to school. Much like the Nestle Quik tin canisters, I would stare at the images on these various Care Bears products for hours! My favorite scenes were hand-painted, with visible brush strokes featuring those colorful little bears just kicking back in the clouds, sliding on rainbows and making friends with anthropomorphized stars. Eventually I’d learn from commercials that their cloud home was called Care-A-Lot, and how the bears monitored the feelings of children with a Caring Meter, but at the time, my imagination was content to work out its own logistics, accepting these heart-warming visuals on face value. My main takeaway was that bears who lived in the sky, and smiling stars who hung out during the daytime, made me happy.
I’m glad to say that as I revisit these early images from childhood, they still make me happy. Yes, I know they can be overly saccharine, and I should see through the marketing calculations that created such images. But commercialism aside, I still think there’s something cool about something that is so unapologetically cute! I can’t speak for the later incarnations of the Care Bears or Super Mario Bros., or any similar franchise, but something about their original iconography still gets to me. It gives me a shot of optimistic feeling, and I can only I hope that a similar bit of magic comes through when people read Starbunny, Inc.
Have you been having a fun summer? I had a great time at Comic-Con and traveling the California coast, but I’m equally excited to be back at work on Starbunny, Inc.
Chapter 2 literally starts a new chapter in Blue’s life! It’s his first time working outside the Hoppowitz Family Milkshake corporation. Is he ready for the on-your-feet world of retail? It’s also the first time in Blue’s life that he hasn’t had a guiding star at his side! Will that be a good thing or a bad?
Keep reading to find out! Comic page updates will be every Wednesday and Friday, with additional blog posts along the way.
Thanks to long time cartooning colleague, Andre Richard for this fun drawing of Blue and Star! Andre knows a thing or two about drawing bunnies, from his long running series Jeepers, which is an alumni of Girlamatic, the website that serialized Astronaut Elementary (my first webcomic). He is also the creator of Chateau Wonderful, Horse & Cat and a ton of other great comics you can read on his website.
During our brief hiatus, super-friends Laura Given and Jerzy Drozd were inspired to share their love of Starbunny by creating a #bluespotting hashtag all over the internet! Their family and friends helped out, making cute drawings of Blue and placing them near ice-cream-centric locations.
I discovered this while driving up the California coast (post Comic-Con roadtrip), and decided to get in on the fun.
But it doesn’t have to end there! I’d love to see YOUR art and creativity added to the mix. Just upload a photo somewhere online (Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, Facebook…) and be sure to include the #bluespotting or #starbunny hastags!
I recieved this hilarious piece of fan art by cartoonist Elbert Or! You should check out his wonderful comics & more of his artwork HERE!
Thanks for reading so far!
Chapter 2 is going to start August 13th, and continue to update every Wednesday and Friday. Sorry for the brief hiatus during summer break! I’ll be posting some pinups and other fun stuff, so hopefully the time will fly by and we’ll back to the story in no time!
Here’s where to find me at the San Diego Comic Con!
Thursday July 24th
4pm: Kids’ Heroes, Capes and Journeys: Does One Size Fit All? Featuring Dave Roman & other awesome people. Room 29A
7pm: Dave Roman & Gene Yang presentation, live drawing & book signing
10775 Westview Parkway
San Diego, CA Sunday
10 am Kids Draw! Panel w/ Dave Roman & other awesome people! Room 30CDE
11:30am Dave Roman signing at Sails Pavilion, AA09
12pm Dave Roman signing at the :01 First Second booth #1323
1pm All-Ages panel featuring Dave Roman & many others! Room 24ABC
I hope you’ll indulge me, in this first in a series of blog posts about the sights, sounds and tastes that inspired Starbunny, Inc.
Long before I was lactose intolerant, I drank a lot of strawberry milk as a kid. My family would get the large tins of pink powder and mix it into milk. Ideally in clear glasses, so you could see the various shades of white and pink blend together. My favorite part was the gloopy concentration of sugar that would collect at the bottom of the glass. I’d stick my tongue in at the end, feverishly lapping up every last grainy drop of artificial sweetness. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. While drinking my glass of strawberry milk, I’d always take time to appreciate the packaging. This is something I did a lot as a kid, especially with cereal, toys and video games. On more than a few occasions I’d end up enjoying the box art on an action figure even more than the toy itself!
Those charming tin cans with rounded edges that Nestle Quik powered mix used to be sold in were nothing short of magical. They reminded me of personal banks, and sometimes the lid would be stuck on so tight I’d need a penny to pry it open. And of course, the main attraction of packaging was admiring the illustrations. In the 80s (and obviously earlier) the Quik mascot was a pink bunny wearing blue overalls, with a strawberry on his head! In one incarnation the strawberry was a photograph, pasted onto the cartoon art of the bunny, who was drinking out of a photo of a real straw placed in a real glass. I didn’t know what mixed media was yet (and clearly this would preface my future enjoyment of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) but I was transfixed by this fun combination.
I never drank the chocolate variety of Quik, but a bit of internet research shows that the brown bunny that appeared on alternate packaging never wore anything on his head, simply sporting a corporate letter N around his neck. At some point Nestle Quik became rebranded/abbreviated to Nesquick, and the brown bunny was promoted to mascot for both Chocolate and Strawberry (as well as Vanilla), and his pink colleague was let go. I guess it cost too much to have more than one bunny on payroll? As a kid with an aversion to chocolate (I’ll go into that in another blog post), this upset me greatly, but I should probably get back on topic.
So, yeah: countless hours drinking flavored milk, admiring the container, and thinking about this bunny with a strawberry on his head. Where did he come from? What did he do for a living? Was he a strawberry farmer? Did he have a factory where he processed strawberries into pink powder? Did he get rich selling the recipe? I also hazily remember an image of the Quik bunny hanging out near a river of milk… I can’t remember if I actually saw this image printed on the back of a tin, or if it just appeared in one of my daydreams. At any rate, many years later, I started developing a story for the Flight anthology called “The Great Bunny Migration” (which you can read in the archive section) that built off some of these daydreams I had about bunnies in the milk business. The ideas continued to expand in my brain, with bunnies making cameos in Astronaut Academy, and now Starbunny, Inc.
But strawberry milk is just one ingredient added to the inspiration blender. I’ll share more, in the coming weeks!
Starbunny, Inc. is far from autobiographical, but sadly, being lactose intolerant is something I have very much in common with the main character, Blue. When I first wrote the prequel “The Great Bunny Migration” for the Flight anthology, I was so young and carefree! I made a story about bunnies and milkshakes because I loved drawing cute things and eating and drinking ice cream! I grew up in a household that really appreciated their dairy products. I’d literally eat cereal for three meals a day and be happy. And there was no greater party than getting to eat pizza for dinner (or an order of mozzerella- and ricotta-stuffed shells), and a Coke float or strawberry milkshake for dessert.
Then, somewhere around 2008, my body turned on me! I ended up hospitalized for colitis, and was never able to look at my precious pizza or ice cream the same way again. I didn’t have to swear off cheese completely, but to this day I know I’m taking a big risk any time I let myself partake in the pleasure of milk-based treats. There are always consequences. Digestive pills like Lactaid only seem to delay the inevitable “blow out,” as we lovingly refer to it my household. I’ll refrain from going into too many more details, but much like the bunny in the last panel of page 15, I’m sure you get the idea.
The workaround has been adapting to non-dairy substitutes like soy and rice based milk. I’m so grateful to live in an age where these products are increasingly available. So I can still enjoy a bowl of rice krispies on a regular basis. And of course there are many delicious sorbets out there. But if I’m being honest, nothing can replace the childhood sense of wonder that comes from an old-timey ice cream parlor! The magic of small ice cream shops like Ample Hills Creamery and Mt. Dessert Island, that constantly create new flavors like Breakfast Cereal (with milk-sogged bits of Capt. Crunch in it)!! Why are these places trying to kill me?!
So yeah, Starbunny will explore some of my love/fear of ice cream in what will hopefully be a cute and funny way. And maybe together we can discover something equally delicious to help us cope in a world where milkshakes rule.