Ninja Guy 2

It took forever to complete Ninja Guy 2 for 2 reasons. #1: My beautiful baby girl was born last October. Cue sleepless nights where every free moment to draw was quickly replaced with a desire for a quick nap. #2: Plot. I had to write a plot. Plots aren’t funny, and Ninja Guy has to be funny.

I’ll speak a little about story writing. The first issuNJSketch002e of
anything is fueled by intense inspiration. Worrying about where the story is going or if it will make sense comes secondary to joke telling. That’s how it was for the first 20 pages of Ninja Guy published as issue 1, “New Felt Friendships.” When I sat down to write that comic, I didn’t. I drew the final drawings without a reference notebook or any pre-story boarding to back me up.

Ninja Guy 2, “Welcome to Cincinnati” was just the opposite. I wrote the plot. Then I outlined the plot. Then I story boarded the plot. Then I re-story boarded the plot with sticky notes. 55 pages of story boarding to be exact, some of it I edited out, and some of it I left for the next issue.

I even did a little field work: On a trip to Cincinnati, I went up to the top of my hotel and took pictures for reference to draw my Cincinnati skyline.Cincinnati01a

But focusing on research and plot does not make for funny anything. Plus being sleep deprived makes your characters just say a bunch of cranky things. I ran myself into plot quick sand over and over again, and the book was going to be very dry if I didn’t do something. So I decided that I would give up on trying to finish the book in any hurry. I would work on it as inspiration came. So the jokes slowly surfaced in my brain as the months rolled by.

Girl with the Never Ending Pony Tail

The idea of where the story I’m telling would eventually end up came as I was finishing up the first issue, so I have had a basic idea of where I want the thing to go for awhile. And with the start of issue 2, I knew I was introducing one new character, Sky Alina. In fact, she was the first character I drew in my story boarding that I did. What I didn’t know was that I would also be introducing a second female character until I was well into drawing the final draft. In fact, the waiter scene was NJSketch001just meant to add some humor to what I felt was becoming a boring “recap” of the story so far. I found myself re-inventing a character I had initially drawn for Kelly Sue DeConnick’s unfinished “Ninja Princess Zombie Rockstar” crowd sourced comic (finish it someday, please Kelly?). As a result, I had to re-draw my final draft panels a couple of times as I quickly developed, scrapped, then re-developed the character’s clothing and hair style. The character is as of yet unnamed. I’ll just be referring to her as “The Girl with the Never Ending Pony Tail.”

For Sky Alina, I used my wife as a reference and inspiration (and why wouldn’t I? She’s a beautiful lady!). I also looked up black female hair styles and cocktail dresses from the 1920’s since I wanted a night club scene with her as the focus. The hair developed into a simpler style to go with the style of the comic.

NJSketch003A third character, Black Star, was developed for this issue, but I got to page 24 before getting a chance to introduce him. And I decided to stop the book at a breaking point, so he’ll be introduced in issue 3. However, he is briefly mentioned on page 19.

One of many deleted scenes. The “key” has nothing to do with the story.

My friend and co-creator of earlier renditions of Ninja Guy, Keith Douchant, has two boys that have been hugely encouraging to me to continue working on issue 2. In fact, I probably only continued to work on it because I didn’t want to leave them hanging. They even drew me some comics of how they thought the comic was going to turn out! I dedicated the second issue to them. When I asked them what I should draw for the front cover, they mentioned something about drawing Ninja Guy surfing. Since the cover of the first comic had nothing to do with the story at all, I thought that was a funny idea to continue drawing covers that have nothing to do with the story. But I ended up changing “surfing” to “water skiing” because water skiing isn’t as cool. I really am grateful for their encouragement and brain storming to help me get through this second issue.

Anyway, if you’re actually reading this, you probably already got the comic, but if not, I’m selling it through Paypal, or you can contact me directly to trade your own self-published work for it. Just drop me a line. Oh, one more thing: Here’s a Spotify playlist of songs I listened to while working on Ninja Guy:


Earlier this year I thought it would be fun to attempt to get into a small press or comix convention, so I applied to both CAKE and the STLSPEXPO. I was put on a waiting list for CAKE, and then ultimately didn’t get in. So when the “waiting list” response came back for the later, I didn’t give it much more thought… until they wrote me back again and said, “We’ve had a cancellation, and so you’re in!”  What?!?  Now I had to scramble.  I had some new stuff (Ninja

Original Page 16
Original Page 16
New Page 16
New Page 16

Guy, Snow World), but enough to fill a whole table? I wasn’t sure. So I started ransacking my storage bin looking for half-way decent material from days of yor that I could still use. Vikings and Sea Monsters? Okay maybe that will work even though it wasn’t a comic.  Then I ran across this: Feldspar. Hmm… almost good enough! The comic was a collaboration between me and Melissa Marie in 2003. She sent me a bunch of poems and gave me free range to pick one and put it to pictures. My kind of project! So I tried my best to do one justice. Looking at it now 12 years later (wow!), I realized that the people and the cars were poorly executed. I hadn’t used models for either, and I should have.  So could I re-do 5 pages in 2 weeks? Sure I could!  I didn’t calculate the fact that I’d have to re-scan all of the pages… pages that were 11 x 17 on my 8.5 x 11 scanner, then photoshop (gimp) them all back together and then do all page layouts over again so they fit 2 copies to an 8.5 x 14 legal (that’s right, LEGAL) sheet of paper. So 2 nights before the festival, I stayed up the whole night with no sleep to get it done. So Saturday at the Expo, I yawned all day at my booth thanks to Feldspar 1.1!  I’m glad I did.  Now I feel I’ve given that comic the best that I can do for it.

The other change to the new version as you can see from these images are the fact that the text is not embedded in the drawings. I’ve kept the text outside the panels (for the most part) in the new version.

But probably the biggest change is that the main character that only really appears on the last page of the original version appears several times throughout this new version which gives the character more of a central role to the thoughts being expressed throughout. She and a friend replace the original boy and girl in the back seat nodding off on each other’s shoulder. Later, she looks in the rear-view mirror at the image of the woman holding the umbrella and then at herself (the reader). Then, of course, she gets out of the car at the end.

Original Page 6
Original Page 6
New Page 6
New Page 6

This main character is also modeled after my wife where I photographed her hands and used a photo of her eyes to capture that look in the car’s mirror). The book never had a solid “this is what you should get out of it” message, and it still doesn’t, but I thought it would be a good challenge to go against the natural tendancy to showcase my own identity in a story.

If interested in reading the full book, you can purchase it here.

A Brief History of Ninja Guy

Scan 3
Ninja Guy 1994
Scan 1
A panel by Lee Gilmore for “Always and Forever”

As far as I can tell, I began doodling Ninja Guy in my high school notebooks as early as 1994. In 1996, I began passing around a notebook full of blank comic book panels asking my classmates to contribute something to the on-going story. So the concept of improv theater in comic book form had its beginnings for me with Ninja Guy. The only rule for the Ninja Guy improv sessions was that no two people could contribute after one another, so the rotation of artists had to be at least 3 people before an individual could contribute again. That first comic from 1996 (titled Always and Forever) was 20 pages and written by 12 high school kids. This can be considered the First Ninja Guy who met his untimely fate by using all of his Ninja Powers in one final burst to renew the cosmos.

Micah and Ryan panel drawings for Mmmm… ‘sketti…

Then in college, I passed around another notebook full of blank panels, and a different Ninja Guy was born. This Ninja Guy titled Mmmm… ‘sketti… lasted 39 pages before getting blown up near his home in New Hampshire; however, he appeared to survive the atomic blast. This book was written by 7 people, the majority of it by Keith Douchant, and Ryan Buller, (who also contributed to the first one) and Christian Lawrence and myself.

Scan 6
Keith Douchant’s Ninja Guy
Scan 7
Christian Lawrence’s Ninja Guy

Then also in college, I started collaborating on a new idea with these three friends who all helped come up with the plot of a comic I would draw. This comic was about 70 or 80 pages long and, unlike NJ improv sessions, illustrated on high quality Bristol board. However, after completing it, I was ultimately dissatisfied with my drawing style and decided to pitch the whole thing. The basic idea for the story encapsulated the belief that “Super Heroes” were like football jocks and “Super Villains” were the nerdy loser crowd that usually got picked on by the former. It’s in this story that Ninja Guy meets the love of his life, Jenny.

Scan 2
From Ninja Fish: Sherry Buller, Ryan Buller, Micah then Sherry’s panels
a Ryan Buller splash page
a Ryan Buller splash page

This was followed by another improv comic that lasted 36 pages (Ninja Fish), and a brief 6 page comic (Badminton Europa 2004). Jenny remains a major character throughout this run, and the tone of the book is much less violent or crass (yet way more absurd). Also it should be noted that more female contributors helped with this book then in previous sessions including Sherry Buller who became a major contributor from this point forward.

Scan 4
From the NJ origin story: Ryan, Micah, Sherry, Ryan then Micah’s panels

The last improv comic lasted only 12 pages and remains incomplete. It appears to be about the origins of the second Ninja Guy.

There are at least 3 sidebar Ninja Guy comics that I created just for fun. None of them really contribute to the Ninja Guy legacy. They just appear to be special appearances by the second Ninja Guy that he probably did for charity or something. He also makes a brief appearance in the improv web comic, Pannin’ for Clumps.

While it is known what happened to the first Ninja Guy, the fate of the second Ninja Guy and his wife Jenny remains a mystery to this day.

The third (and newest) Ninja Guy appears for the first time in the 2014 Ninja Guy comic, chapter title New Felt Friendships. Get it today to learn more!

Making Ninja Guy 1

NinjaGuypanel01 NinjaGuypanel02 NinjaLogosWell, here it is. My first printed comic book since 2002! I’ve actually done a lot of comics since Feldspar, but none of them really made it to book format. They were either singular comic strips or web comics. Ninja Guy 1, “Felt Friendships” is the first actual comic book after a very long hiatus.

So why now? Well, a self-publishing comic book-making friend of mine that I used to trade with, Billy McKay, contacted me in August to say he was making comics again (Peculiar Paper People—Check it out!), and encouraged me to do the same. He put me in touch with his friend, D. Blake Werts, (Copy This!), and suddenly I was reading about the current whereabouts of all these folks who make their own comics that I used to correspond with. Fast-forward three months later and I’ve completed Ninja Guy. You could say that I caught the bug.

The process of creating Ninja Guy 1 wasn’t very clean or thought out. I didn’t sit down to map out the plot until I had already completed 13 pages. I kind of just jumped in. And even now, I only have a vague idea of where to take the next issue. This lack of planning resulted in a lot of re-do’s. The first 3 pages were completed on simple copy paper, and I ended up re-doing the first page (replacing Ninja Guy’s cigarette with a rope).

Eventually I realized I needed to get better paper, so I switched to a fine tooth surface 9×12 paper stock. I didn’t want the book to look “super slick” so I steered clear of smooth Bristol board like I’ve used in the past. Another new material I’m using are gray tone markers. In all, I’m using about 9 different types of pens. Ninja Guy, however, is filled in with a simple Bic ball point pen (it’s kind of a tradition).

For the logo, I asked my mother, Joyce Kruse, to create a font style in Old English. I wanted a sort of “scimitar” swoosh below the letters. She sent me 12 different fonts with a total of 18 variations. Ultimately I went with the one you see on the website with the motorcycle drawing. petro01 petro02This is probably the best thing about his whole comic book.

Of the three characters in this issue, only one is new: Petro Del Shanko. He is supposed to be either Hispanic or Eastern European. I can’t really decide which. His look is supposed to be a cross between Benicio del Toro and Jemaine Clement. In other words, there’s something really wrong with his mouth. The other character in the book, Ido, has been following Ninja Guy throughout all of his incarnations. My friend Keith Douchant invented Ido. He’s sort of the bastard child of the ego and the id. Every thing he says ends with the punctuation !?! to confuse the reader’s understanding of the intonation (is this a statement or a question!?!). This character got its start on post-it notes in the video arcade we used to work at in high school. You’d open the cash register and there would be Ido with a note telling you to balance the books carefully!?! Or he would be on the mop head in the janitor closet telling you to clean, not just the floors, but the mop head too!?! And on and on.

Ninja Guy, in the past, was usually a collaborative effort (more on that later), and so to honor that original idea, I asked my friends to contribute ideas for the book. The text for the first page was written by Keith Douchant and the second page by Ryan Buller. Neither of them knew what I was going to draw to go with their text. Other contributors included my wife, Aicha, Sherry Buller and Billy McKay. They each submitted ideas for failed Apples tech inventions (used as a plot point in the book).

I’ll follow this post up with a brief history of Ninja Guy (when I have more time). For now, I hope you enjoy the new issue of Ninja Guy!


Olivier Neptune: Chapter 1 Page 4

OlivierNeptune019 OlivierNeptune020 OlivierNeptune021Those giggling bullies are the worst!  It’s bad enough that they are bullies, but bullies that giggle?!  Oooo… just can’t stand them.  Updates are bi-weekly on Fridays now.  Will Olivier get his goggles back? Stay tuned in two weeks!


Olivier Neptune: Chapter 1 Page 3

OlivierNeptune0016OlivierNeptune0017OlivierNeptune0018Oh, I committed a swirly. Updates aren’t quite as regular, which means I’ve probably lost all 3 of my readers. But that’s okay!  This is a labor of love created for the REAL Olivier Neptune who will someday be old enough to read this.  For now, he’s got the command of my attention, and things like this comic have to simmer on the back-burner. This morning, I got up at 4AM, so I had time to finish today’s page.  Yeay!

Long live Death Bad Dirk!

Olivier Neptune: Chapter 1 Page 2

OlivierNeptune0011 OlivierNeptune0012 OlivierNeptune0013 OlivierNeptune0014 OlivierNeptune0015If I get 5 comments on today’s comic (from 5 different people), I will upload an actual recording of me singing and playing the Dinosaur Galaxy theme song. You know you want to hear that, right?

And for those of you who wanted to know, PCCC-C10 stands for Passenger Cosmo Carrier Craft – Class 10. Some people call it the “Cosmo Craft”, but they usually get made fun of.  Most of us just call it the Space Bus. Because that’s what it is.

Hey, look!  I’ve added an appendix, so you can learn about the people and stuff in Olivier’s universe. It will be updated from time to time since I don’t want to introduce characters before I introduce characters.

Oh! And I’ve decided to participate in the 30 Characters in 30 Days November challenge. A gimmicky thing, I know, but why not?  It will help me develop some things I need for this story. I’m not going to post every one of the characters I draw during this challenge, but I will occasionally throw something on my Space Detectives Tumblr.  So subscribe to that, if you must.

Olivier Neptune: Chapter 1 Page 1

OlivierNeptune0005 OlivierNeptune0006 OlivierNeptune0007 OlivierNeptune0008 OlivierNeptune0009OH the commotion on the space bus full of 3’rd – 5’th graders!  Can you imagine the cacophony of noise?  I sure can. Our friend, Olivier Neptune sits in the back of the final panel, almost unnoticeable if not for a giant asterisk and arrow over his head. Have you ever felt small in a loud crowd of kids like this?

Although this is the first chapter, it might make more sense if you read the prologue first.  Here it is.

Also, sometimes I make drawings that don’t work well for the comic. This panel was originally supposed to be part of this week’s comic, but I decided not to use it. For me, I wasn’t happy with the t-shirt design or the mask of the kid scaring the kid with his tongue sticking out, but I liked the tongue kid part of the drawing. Have you ever drawn something that you liked a little bit, but didn’t like all of it?

Olivier Neptune & the Space Detectives: Prologue

OlivierNeptune0001 OlivierNeptune0002 OlivierNeptune0003 OlivierNeptune0004So it begins. Olivier (pronounced “Oh-live-ee-yay” for all of us non-French speakers) and the Space Detectives is launched! I’ve been writing this story (mostly in-flight to somewhere) for my son who was just born a little over 3 weeks ago. My goal is to have several good stories finished by the time he’s ready to read comics. It is a science fiction tale, as you’ve probably guessed, with an old fashion banner. In addition to an English version, I’ll also be dual-updating in French!  So stay tuned for that.

The images don’t all work on my main page, but they work when you click on individual posts. I apparently have to buy a “premium” version of a plug-in I’m using, so I’ll get that fixed soon.

Yes, Paperwings Podcast, I realize I’ve got padding issues in my caption boxes, but hey, I’m hand-drawing boxes and typing text with the Gimp.  I’m curious if anyone else who hand-draws their balloons and boxes has a method for gauging how large they have to be for text they are planning on typing. I don’t want to use computer-rendered balloons and boxes because they look so out of place with the drawings. Computer-rendered boxes are equivalent to 80’s drum production quality, in my opinion, but some will also think that of computer-typed text vs. handwritten. But hey, can’t do it all.  My compromise is to at least hand-render the balloons and boxes. But how to gauge the size before entering text?! I’m not yet sure. I’ll keep you posted if I figure it out…