Cats

This is the second Smith vs Smith comic to appear in the Camsoun College Nexus paper. 

Here is my Comics and Graphic Novels classmate Rashad Cash reading the latest issue of the Nexus.

It's really cool to see my comics in actual print. Totally different than seeing them on screen! If you are in Victoria, a new Nexus comes out every other Wednesday. 

Scottish Summer Weather

This comic concludes Emma and my summer in Scotland. Back in June, Emma and I said goodbye to Kuwait and moved in with her parents for two months. I've done a comic already about the Scottish weather this summer

I'm not comfortable with using colour in my comics yet, but I couldn't work out how to show a sunny day in grayscale. It jumps out, creating a strong contrast with the first two panels, but I'm not sure yet. Any feedback on the use of colour would be helpful! 

Luckily, today I start the Comics and Graphic Novels course at Camosun College so I'm hoping that I will gain confidence in using colour and in my drawing abilities overall. I'm so excited to finally start this course after 11 months of waiting! 

Originally, I planned to release this comic as two different strips. I was worried about being behind on comics as Emma and I were moving. Below you can see the original sketches. 

Originally, the second half was going to lampoon how everyone reacted to the heat, but the day we left Scotland was a really nice day (in stark contrast to the first day we arrived) and this way it serves as a conclusion to our summer. 

Below you can see an earlier version of the first half of the page. 

I shared it with some people and made some changes based on their suggestion. In the final version, the sky is lighter in the second panel, so my day is "brightened" by the ice cream. I also like how the "camera" starts in a full body shot in the first panel, "zooms" in to a medium shot, drawing more attention to the ice cream. In the third panel, the "camera" "zooms" in to a close up, continuing the camera movement, before pulling WAY back to a cityscape shot to see the plane taking off, leaving Scotland and closing this chapter. 

Emma and I actually had a great summer in Scotland and there were many other funny stories that happened. I am hoping to collect the last few comics and draw some new ones and release another mini comic (so stay tuned)! 

Hangover

When you've lived for years in a dry country, you sometimes overdo it when you have access to real alcohol. 

This comic, like "Summer Hike" started with a sketch in "The Blank" comic book. 

There's a lot more backstory in the first panel, referring to the night before with family friends who we never meet. One of my unofficial rules for "Smith vs. Smith" is that I want to keep the comic focused on Emma, myself and/or the cats and the relationships between the four of us. Part of the reason is to keep all these pages standalone (another "rule"). This is because most people admit to reading the comics from most recent to oldest, in "reverse" order when they first discover the site (which bugs me because that way the art gets worse as your read on). There are of course exceptions to both these "rules," but you get the idea. 

So, I eliminated the backstory, starting in the middle of the story. 

This is the inked page that I scanned for the comic. I wanted to repeat poses in the middle panel, so I left it blank originally, planning on copying and pasting figures from the first or last panel in Photoshop. You can also see that I only drew us sitting at the table. This was done for two reasons. One, it mimicked the agony of a hangover when you wish you could fast forward to when you are no longer hungover, or rewind to before the hangover, but you are stuck in the moment. It also allowed me to again mimic film language, with a slow push in of the "camera" as I slowly realize something is on Emma's mind. 

I played around with the sizes of the characters in each panel, perfecting the change in size until I was happy. 

I once again shared the comic with some friends and on a Facebook group. They pointed out that Emma didn't look hungover enough, so I redrew her completely in the first panel. Then I added the grays and shadows. 

(There's a reason the panels go from skinny to wide to skinny, and it has to do with the narration captions, but I want to see if anyone picks up on it...)

On a personal note, today Emma and I fly to Canada. We will soon be starting our back-to-school year, with Emma attending art school and myself enrolled in Canada's only Comics and Graphic Novels course. We are both unbelievably excited! I can't wait for these comics to get even better!

- Matt Smith!

Trust

For the last two weeks, I've been adding behind-the-scenes commentary to the weekly comic. Last week's comic ended up being a huge process, so I hoped this week's comic would be simple. It was not. 

Like last week's "A Summer Hike," this week's comic started as a quick page in a page of "The Blank." 

I wanted to work on my figure drawing and character poses, so I enlisted my sister-in-law and had her take photos of Emma and in similar poses to my sketch page. Then I digitally inked over the reference photos.

 

Film is my first love, and I always wish my comics were more cinematic. So I took the opportunity to use some film language along with the comic language. The comic ends on a reverse of the first panel. Where we started with Emma downstairs looking at me on the stairs and asking me to turn around and go back up, in the last few panels, I am on the ground, looking up at Emma on the stairs asking her to come back down. In film, when characters swap from left to right, it is called "crossing the line." In this case, the fifth panel is the turning point, when the balance of power shifts and the direction of the scene changes. I highlighted the crossing of the line by drawing us in white silhouette against a black panel. 

The page above has good poses, but the realistic proportions look incongruous with the rest of "Smith vs. Smith." Realistic heads are much smaller than I draw them. And we both look... much wider than I like. I have drawn entire pages completely digitally before, but I keep coming back to inking by hand, so I printed this version of the page, and hand drew over certain panels. 

The version of the page above is a Frankenstein's monster of hand drawings and digital. This is the version of the page I showed to a few friends and shared on a Facebook group. Overwhelmingly, people had issues with the last panel. Showing movement in static comics is a challenge, but showing subtle, slow movement is especially challenging. Based on some suggestions, I moved Emma further up the stairs and out of the frame. Angie Coe, a talented cartoonist from the Facebook group (she also does relationship comics so if you like my comics you should check her stuff out) actually drew me a quick sketch to suggest an alternate pose for the last panel. 

Art by Angie Coe. Used with permission.

The new pose makes the action broader and therefore, clearer. I also liked Angie's suggestion that Emma's hand stays where it is, like an anchor. For the final version of the page, I kept my pose the same during the last two panels, only changing my expression. This forces the reader's eye to search for the differences between panels more, allowing the change in Emma's position to stand out more. 

This "simple" page took far more time than I would have expected. If you've made it this far, please leave a comment and let me know what you think and please share with anyone you think has ever been in a similar conversation! 

A Summer Hike in Scotland

It is shocking how much time and effort went into this page! First, I drew two quick versions in "The Blank," a gift from my friend Ed Moline. "The Blank" is a blank comic book that is becoming a helpful way to get my ideas down on paper. I like it more than typing out my comics like a script because for me, the writing and drawing process is so closely linked in cartooning.

The first version of this page, drawn in "The Blank." Looking back, I miss the progression of pants, coat zipper, hoodie in the first few panels. 

I re-ordered the panels. I like the idea of ending with a soggy sandwich, as if that is the worse thing to happen all day, but the panels needed to build to the "punchline" of the fog ruining our victorious photograph.

The second version of the page in "The Blank."

In the second version of the page, the first few panels are all close ups, intending to mimic "getting ready" movie montages and build interest until the reveal of me in my winter coat. This is an extension of something I've tried to do in comics like "Late Night Feeding" and "Manual Labour." I like how in this page there is no text until the reveal of me in my winter coat (something that was eventually lost because I just couldn't find a better place for the opening caption).

From here, I moved on to thumbnails. I just finished re-reading all 24 issues of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's FANTASTIC "Sleeper" series and their zig-zag panel layouts stuck with me (they also showed me how to draw rain on my sandwich). I am hesitant to use overly creative page layouts, preferring to stick to more basic pages, unless the story calls for it. However, I've also become obsessed with how a cartoonist can guide a reader's eye and I felt that a winding climb would be a good opportunity to experiment with a meandering page layout. I decided to try something different (after all, part of this webcomic is about experimentation). This decision would nearly be the death of me... 

Before I drew anything, I had Emma take some reference photographs with me. 

You can just barely see Thor, getting in the way as usual...

With these and other reference photos, I began to draw.

This is the first version of the page, closest to my thumbnails. I've included Emma much earlier in the story at this point. Originally, I was going to draw us walking up the hill in the upper left (just below the boot) and then walking down the hill after the panel of us at the peak. I didn't get that far when I realized the page wasn't working. I spent a few hours moving the panels and captions around. 

I was happier with this version (though disappointed that I couldn't push the layout as far as I originally envisioned). 

I stared at it, showed it to Emma and sent it to some friends. I had to admit the first caption had to come at the top of the page and the final caption felt like there was more to the story, making this page feel incomplete. I made the appropriate changes, thus creating the page you see above. 
Then, I decided to spend even MORE time with this (far too) in-depth behind-the-scenes post. Please let me know if you found this fascinating. If enough people dig the behind-the-scenes stuff, I'll keep writing more. If you've read this far to the bottom, thanks for reading and have a great week! 
Matt Smith!

matt@smithvssmith.com

Cats and Dog

The last few comics have been about Emma and my summer in Scotland, but this week I felt it was time to show what the cats have been up to. Usually, Neo and Thor spend their summer in a (shockingly expensive) cat hotel, but as Emma and I are moving to Canada, this summer they get to travel. We were worried about their first plane ride, but they handled their British Airways flight quite well (Emma and I had to settle for a KLM flight, but I'm glad the cats were comfy...). 

Our main concern with bringing the cats to Emma's parents' house was the family dog, Maisie. Neo is skittish, but Thor, the smallest pet in the house, is now in charge. The three of them seem to be getting along, which was a huge relief. 

This comic is a bit of a spiritual sequel to the wordless cat comics "Late Night Feeding" and "Thor's Yawn."


This week's comic took much longer than the normal weekly comics take. I really wanted to improve my animal drawing, and since it is a (mostly) silent panel, I wanted to draw the pets in some really animated and exaggerated poses. I originally intended to do more with the backgrounds, letting the pets run across the background through multiple panels, but I could only use two panels in each row because the action is so horizontal. I'm trying to use more black in my comics, but when one of your main characters is a black shaggy cockapoo, the pets got lost in the backgrounds. After staring at the comic for a while, I decided to go back and lighten the background to let the pets POP more. Let me know what you think of the experiments in the comments. And if this comic amused you at all, please share with your friends. Have a great week, 

Matt Smith!

Last Day in Kuwait

After packing everything up ahead of schedule, we had very little to do in the apartment aside from staring at the wall... Emma and I are both in Scotland for the new two months staying with her parents. Despite being on summer vacation, I'm determined to update the webcomic every Tuesday! I will be making comics soon about our summer! If you can't wait another full week to see some Smith vs Smith content, please follow me on Instagram @smithvssmithcomics

Packing

After several years teaching in Kuwait, Emma and I are moving on... We will be spending the summer in Scotland before relocating to Canada where Emma is attending art school and I will be studying comics and graphic novels at Camosun College

Comics will be posted on TUESDAYS now! If you are desperate for more comics before next Tuesday, be sure to follow @smithvssmithcomics on Instagram. You'll also get tons of exclusive content, like process videos for this comic! Follow us now! 

Trail

When I first started making comics, I never would have guessed how many comics about cats I would be writing... 

Speaking of cats, subscribers should have received my mini-comic "I'm Just Not a Cat Guy." I'd love to hear what you thought about it in the comments! If you haven't subscribed yet, be sure to do so and you can receive cool exclusives like future mini-comics! 

Are you following @smithvssmithcomics on Instagram? I post much more than just the weekly comic. Follow and tell your friends!