Greg Tjosvold and Sterling Martin bring a fun story featuring our mascot Alfie with Alfie’s Tail. Available now.
Check out these talented Panelsmiths below.
GREG TJOSVOLD: I’m Greg - that guy with the funny last name - and I’m ancient. Well maybe not in the Pyramids of Giza sense, but certainly older than most of my colleagues in The Panelsmiths. I live in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada with a very tolerant and loving wife. We’ve been married for 39 years. (See? I’m old.😁)
STERLING MARTIN: I’m Sterling, and in my older years, I’ve decided to spend a lot more time pursuing my passion for writing and drawing comics.
How long have you been creating comics?
GREG: I’m actually fairly new to comics - both writing and reading. My first book, the prologue for The Lump Sum Saga came out in the summer of 2021. TLSS started as a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project in my classroom about four years earlier. In the Grade 6/7 gifted class where I taught, we typically wrote a novel each year. This included “silent writing” time during NaNoWriMo days where I would write along with the students. One year, I decided that I would try to write a graphic novel. I think I was secretly thinking it would be easier. WOW, was I ever wrong!
STERLING: The first time I attempted to make a proper comic was in high school. It was about my friends and the car in which I would give them a ride to school. I used to keep a rubber Gumby sitting in the front windshield, and in the comic, Gumby was a Galacticus-type being living in space who would send us on adventures. (At least, that was the plan since it was never finished.)
Inspiration for the story? How long did you have the idea?
GREG: I’ve been working hard on my epic space saga for over five years now. So when we were asked to submit a short anthology piece, it was really outside my wheelhouse. I had to come up with something new to me. Fortunately, the inspiration for the story came via Instagram where I follow @whataboutbunny and other button-talking dogs. As someone who is writing about a first encounter scenario, the issue of communication between species fascinates me. The spoof element of the story was mostly my effort to try and make something fun for an artist to draw.
STERLING: As the artist, I was inspired by Greg’s writing. I loved the idea of spoofing famous action movies in the panels with our dog character, Alfie.
How did you find collaborators? What art style did you want to go for?
GREG: Sterling, Tom, and I have all been taking courses at Comics Experience together, so when they both offered to come on board for “Alfie’s Tail,” I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t really have an art style in mind but knew anything Sterling picked would work, both for the project and his timeframe. I couldn’t be happier with the direction he selected.
STERLING: Greg and I met in the Intro to Writing course at Comics Experience. I really liked Greg’s Lump Sum Saga stories and thought it would be fun to help him out with this Alfie short.
For style, I honestly wanted to keep things as simple as possible because I’ve really been crunched for time on this one. I made choices like making the backgrounds very simple and leaving rough pencil lines rather than spending time on cleaning them up with inks.
One of my early comic strips was about a chihuahua, so I used my experience drawing dogs in that comic to inspire Alfie’s character design. It seemed to suit the satiric quality of the writing well since it is a more silly than gritty realistic comic.
What’s your process for agreeing to and approaching a project? How long does it usually take for each project?
STERLING: This is the first time I have attempted drawing someone else’s writing, so this is a new experience for me! In the early phases, there were a few different drafts. I thought I was volunteering for something that was only two pages. However, after the editors worked on it, two pages turned into six! (Thanks, guys.) It was more work, but in the end, I had so much fun drawing, I’m glad we got more story out of it!
I did this off and on over a period of about three months. I am pretty slow partly because I am a perfectionist, but I’m also naturally just a slow poke. Some other artists probably could have done what I did in half the time. But I had to factor in a full-time job and other creative work I was doing, so some days it can be hard to find the energy.
Did anything about your story change during the process?
GREG: Ha, yes, kind of everything. I submitted a two-page vignette story that was more of an extended comic strip spoof than an action story. When the editors asked me to go back to the drawing board and expand on my vision, I was terrified that Sterling would bail on me given the increased amount of work. Thankfully, he did not, and I am super happy with the resulting comic.
Sterling also embellished and tweaked things once the script was in his hands and I love his choices. For example, on the opening page, you’ll notice that the wings on Alfie’s ship match his ears. That’s all Sterling. The method for the demise of the AI was also an artist’s decision and the story is better for it.
STERLING: I think the biggest change was expanding it from being a two-page vignette to a six-page action story. When I got the script, I realized there were a couple panels with guards behind Alfie where the action and the camera perspective seemed to be aimed the opposite direction. I could have added another frame or two, but instead I simplified by removing the guards and putting in gun turrets on the same wall as the ramp. When I showed it to Greg, he seemed to be fine with the change, so that’s how it stayed.
How many stories have you gotten published in other anthologies or as stand-alone comics?
GREG: I self-published the first chapter of The Lump Sum Saga last year via Kickstarter. I am currently working on the establishing arc of the story and intend to launch at least six more chapters in the next 24 months.
Alfie’s Tail was my first anthology submission.
STERLING: This is my first anthology! I self-published a book of comics called “Oranges Are Funny!”, but my one-shot comic, “The Airship”, will be my first comic published by an independent publishing company, CEX, in 2023!.
Who are your influences?
GREG: I am a product of the epic Saturday morning cartoons of the early 90’s (especially Batman: The Animated Series, TMNT, and Gargoyles) but as I examine the themes in my writing, it has become blatantly obvious that shows like The Avengers and Thunderbirds and the books of Jules Verne have influenced my writing. Once I started exploring comics, I became enamored with the work of Neil Gaiman, BKV (especially with Pia Guerra), and Jeff Lemire.
STERLING: I was hugely influenced by Bill Watterson, Berkeley Breathed, and Gary Larson as a kid. I also LOVED drawing Looney Tunes which is probably obvious in this comic. As a teen, I got pulled into comic books by Todd McFarlane drawing Spiderman and the Chris Claremont X-Men. In recent years, I’ve been studying a lot more comic art but I still feel I have a lot to learn. I’ve been really inspired by the great Alex Ross, of course, but I am also discovering some amazing Manga artists like Kamome Shirahama and Gou Tanabe. For writers, I think drawing for Neil Gaimen would be an amazing opportunity.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
GREG: As far as collaborators go, I have to say that I’ve found the perfect artist for “The Lump Sum Saga” in Sergi Domènech. He has been a dream to work with and totally understands my vision. I couldn’t do better. So for me, I’m thinking of this question in terms of variant cover artists I’d love to see do a cover for TLSS. At the top of my list are Joe Benitez, Mac Smith (of Scurry fame), Alex Ross, Trish Forstner, and Jen Bartel.
While his style is not really appropriate for TLSS, I’d bend over backwards to come up with a story if I knew Todd McFarlane would be doing the art. Make it a Nightcrawler story and I’m there in a heartbeat.
See you across the Cosmos!
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