What is the process involved in making  Nowhere Girl?

Generally when I've been asked this, it's confined to the art of Nowhere Girl, so I'll keep this answer to that alone (the writing largely consists of me, alone, in a padded room, banging my head against the walls and scribbling in my own blood on a splinter-filled wooden tablet).

I start the art as 8 & 1/2 x 11 sheets, drawn in blueline, non-photo pencil. Scribble scribble. Then, when I'm satisfied I draw the final pencils over the top of the bluelines.

More and more I'm finding I re-use the same backgrounds, or even the same shots of the characters, over multiple panels. Rather than drawing these again and again in each panel (and later rendering them multiple times), I tape a piece of tracing paper over the top of my paper, turn on my lightbox underneath so the existing linework shines through the tracing paper, and then I do lots of little panels, or the foregrounds, backgrounds, characters, hands over a keyboard, whatever, on separate sheets of tracing paper.

Then I scan the whole mess, white paper and tracing paper, into Photoshop as 300dpi black and white 50% threshold bitmaps (this ignores all the rough blueline pencils, only taking the finished pencils into the computer). The tracing paper I have to put a plain white sheet of paper on top of when scanning to achieve the desired effect, though this may just be my old scanner (it's pretty old now that I think of it). Anyway, scanning as a bitmap in this way kinda inks the artwork for me (there are inevitably small gaps left in some of the black linework that I have to touch up so I can select areas to color more easily later on. I use the pencil tool in Photoshops to do these touch ups).

Next I crop everything so each page will be the same size down to the pixel. At this point, the images are still flat, non-layered bitmaps. So, next I change the Mode of the image to greyscale, then RGB. I generally keep my Layers palette open, so next I just double-click on the Background layer, making it Layer 1. I then create a new layer, and drag it underneath layer 1 (renamed to "linework"). The new layer I name "colors". With the linework layer selected, I change the mode in the Layers palette to "Multiply". This has the effect of keeping the black linework opaque, but making the white areas transparent. I then can proceed to use the Magic Wand to select areas of the Linework layer, then select the Colors layer and fill those areas in with color. I generally try to fill in all or most of the page with flat base colors this way, as quickly as possible, before going back and rendering the different areas. For some pages I find it advantageous to have several, even lots, of "Colors" layers -- I might find it useful to lay down all the flat colors for Jamie's character on one layer and keep her separate from the background around her so I more easily come back and render her later without messing up the background or having to do lots of tiny selections with the Magic Wand.

I treat the smaller images I scanned from the tracing paper the same way except I don't need to crop these. I render them separately, then copy them into a new file, which I flatten, select all on the canvas, then copy it to the clipboard. Then I move back over to my main page artwork, select the area I need to paste into, and paste into it via the edit menu (it's very useful to memorize the keyboard shortcuts for all this, it will really speed you up, and believe me if you do it enough, you'll be dreaming in keyboard shortcuts and layers before long).

When rendering a character or an object (chair, car, background, etc), I use a few techniques. I select an area of flat color (like a t-shirt or someone's face and arms), and then I can use a gradient (opaque to transparent, usually) to add rendering, or I'll use the Lassoo tool to de-select part of the selection (say, the part I want to remain the color it is now), then change the value or something of the remaining selected areas, for instance I might dampen them down to create a shadow. It all really depends on what I have selected, what material it's made of (fabric, leather, skin, metal), the kinds of lighting that are present in the scene, the distance of the person or thing I'm rendering to that light-source, etc.

I work this way, adding new layers and merging layers when appropriate (each page is different), until the page is fully rendered. To do special effects like lighting that will paint over the black linework, I create new layers above the "Linework" layer, of appropriate opacity to the effect, and render the new light using Airbrush, or whatever's most appropriate.

When all this is done and I'm satisfied that if I render this anymore my eyes may fall out, I duplicate the file, flatten the layers in the duplicated file, and I'm ready to letter.

Before lettering, I create a layer above the finished artwork in the duplicated file. This will serve as a "mask" layer. I fill it entirely with white, then turn the opacity down (this helps me see better what I'm doing, while at the same time letting me still see the artwork so I can place the letters correctly). For the lettering, I use mostly a font called "Eraserdust" (if I remember where I got it, I'll post a link there). I generally copy/paste the text directly out of my script, then format it (left-aligned for narration, center-aligned for speech). When that's done, I create a layer underneath the text, this will be the balloon layer. I use the select tools to select either oval or rectangular shapes for the balloons themselves, using the lasso tool to add the portions of the balloongs arrowing out to the character speaking. Then fill the whole thing with white, then with the same selection still selected, Stroke (edit menu) the outside of the balloons with 3 or so pixels of black. Voila: Lettering! Not going to win any Oscars for it, but it works.

How often are new chapters posted?

New chapters of NG are posted at irregular intervals -- currently I am not producing new stories and am working on other projects. I hope to re-visit these characters some day. I miss them.

The comic is retired at this time.

What are the system requirements for this site?

I've tried my best to make this site cross-browser compatible, though my main focus has been Mozilla/Netscape 6.2+, and Internet Explorer 5.0+ (Win/Mac). I am told the site also works well in Safari for OS X.

This site is backwards-compatible with Netscape 4.x, but only for browsing the comics themselves. This site looks like crap in NN 4.x, because older browsers like that just don't support a lot of the CSS and some of the HTML 4.0 tags this site uses. Some features will not work and parts of the site will return error messages and be difficult to navigate. There may or may not be performance degradation using Netscape 4.x.

JavaScript is required for this website. Most browsers come with it already turned on, so you won't have to worry about it. If for any reason you've turned it off (say, to kill all those unholy, hell-spawned pop-up ads that many sites use JavaScript for), here is how you should be able to re-enable JavaScript.

Recommended screen resolution is 1024x768+. This site should work at 800x600 with location bars etc hidden on your browser. To get more viewing area on your monitor: if you are using Internet Explorer v4.0+ or Netscape v6.2+ or Mozilla 1.0+ on Windows, by pressing the 'F11' key (function 11, near the top of your keyboard), you can enter 'full-screen' mode, which auto-hides most of the navigation and the taskbar. To return from 'full-screen' mode, press the 'F11' key again. This should also work with comparable Netscape or Mozilla browsers on Linux (I just don't have a Linux box to test on right now).

The faster your internet connection, the faster Nowhere Girl loads, of course. Average pages are 100kb in size; if you are using a dial-up connection, downloading each page may take several seconds. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Where did you get the idea(s) for this story? Is it autobiographical?

Hmm.. next to the technical details I've answered above this is the question asked most. A lot of people who've written me want to know how much of Nowhere Girl, the story, is real and whether or not I, the author, am supposed to be Jamie. I've come to feel fairly disingenuine and guilty from this, so let me say for the record that while well-wishes and sentiments of that nature are appreciated, the story just isn't autobiographical, and I'm not Jamie (or Andrea, or Darcey, etc etc). There is of course some of me in all the characters. They're largely composites of people I've known since the late 1980s through the 1990s. These peoples' stories, interwoven together, formed the kernel of what Nowhere Girl is about for me. Their lives, taken in the context of each other, told me this story in a way, and the story is me trying to make sense of it all, and confront some of my own prejudices.

Some incidents really happened, most didn't. Some of it happened to me (the scene at the movie theatre in Hollywood, with the Star Trek protestors; no really!), most of it didn't. I feel it isn't always necessary for something to be literally true, for it to contain truths. I guess I am hoping to write a story that rings true to me, and if others also find that in it, so much the better.

Aw, who am I kidding. You caught me. I ripped it all off from Battlestar Galactica. It's plain as day, if you think about it.

How long is the story going to be?

As long as it needs to be. *PUNCH* Oww! Hey, that hurt! Okay, well, now that's I've got my pat, obnoxious-self, "answer" out of the way: It really will depend on how much or how little I divide up the story into chapters. The shorter the chapters, the more of them there'll be to tell the story, and vice-versa. Using part 1 as a model, I'd say about 10 or so of that length.

Is Nowhere Girl in print, or will it be? If so when, and if not, why not?

No, it's not currently in print. I will start working towards a printed edition when I have more of the story completed. The way I've done the art has kind of locked me into doing a color comic, a lot of the pages are assembled in Photoshop from smaller images. To produce a black and white version would be a lot of work at this point, I'd have to re-do a lot of pages, and all the lettering. Things would get shifted around, there are some panels which are almost completely computer-generated, so I'd wind up re-drawing those. Any way I cut it, it's going to be expensive to do. More on this in the future.

How can I support www.nowheregirl.com?

Thanks for asking, those reading this who've asked that! Well, linking to Nowhere Girl is always great and flattering as well. If you liked NG, telling friends about it. Maybe someday I'll put up one of those new-fangled PayPal or Amazon buttons. I'm just a luddite at heart.

If you'd like to link to NG, and would like to use a banner to do so, here are some you might choose from:

I'll eventually come up with more versions of these. Some day. It's on my "list".

Can I take a little piece of art from this site to use as a computer wallpaper, or for purposes of review?

If you'd like to do that, the answer is of course "yes", I couldn't stop you if you really wanted to, and I've really no interest in stopping anyone either. My only request is that if you do, please link back to my site, or use the materials only for your own personal use (like downloading the website and making a copy of it for yourself -- though I plan to make downloadable stand-alone versions of each chapter in the future, that doesn't help anyone right now does it?). Please don't sell Nowhere Girl, or dupe the website, host it somewhere else and say you made it, burn it to cd-rom and sell it, whatever, things like that.

Are you accepting submissions of art or stories?

You know, I loooove getting gift-art, but that's really it -- I'm not a publisher, I can't offer you any money, and I'm only supporting this one story on this website at this time. There's really not any point in sending me submissions, sorry! I'm just some schmuck with a website and apparently (looks around) no life.

No, no... you don't want to send anything to me: I'm not the publisher you're looking for (waves hand at you). I do however encourage you to host (or have hosted for you) your stuff online somewhere, it really is a great medium to reach people if you're looking to. Or, have it printed if you're more inclined, and send me a free copy! I love free comics! ;)

One last thing on this topic: please don't send me story ideas unless you clear it with me first, I can't read them unsolicited. Not because I'm a jerk... though I am a jerk, but because what if I'm already working on a story idea that is similar to yours? Then we're going to be stuck as to who actually came up with the idea first, and both potentially wind up looking like we're cheating off the others' homework. Do your comic or prose story and post it somewhere for all to see, then send me a link, if you like.

Will you translate the comic into languages other than english?

I want to, very much. That involves a lot of work, and it's more than I can do on my own. There are a couple of reasons why I'm not pursuing this right now.

First of all, when I create say, a french-language version of the existing web-site, including the first chapters of the story, I'm making a commitment to french-speaking readers that when the new chapter comes out in english, it'll also be available, either concurrently or soon thereafter, in french.

Furthermore, since I want to publish Nowhere Girl in print at some point, if I ask someone to translate it for me, how do I handle printing rights? Do they get a share of each copy sold? How do I get them their money, through PayPal? Are they set up for that? Do they take checks? What about royalties down the line? There are too many real-world business questions that are raised for me when talking about partnering with other people in this way to deal with right now. I'm not a business person. When I've got enough of the english-language version ready to print my first book, then I will start to talk to people about what's involved with seriously committing to multiple languages.

Is there a mailing list?

There is no mailing list.