Back in October, I was contacted by one of my teachers, Luke Howard, at the Center for Cartoon Studies to see if I'd like to participate in The Secret Berlin Project. He wanted to celebrate the completion of Jason Lutes' epic comic, Berlin, which had taken 20 years to complete! Jason was another of my teachers at cartoon school and a fellow classmate (many, many, MANY years ago!) at Rhode Island School of Design.
I was honored and excited to be a part of this Secret Undertaking as Jason had been the teacher who had influenced me the most. He put so much extra attention into his class presentations and pushed us students to dig deep. He took time to meet with me and argue about school, family, publishers, or whatever I was obsessing over at the time. And, most importantly, he helped me cut and assemble the boxes that held my Thesis comics (Begin Again). ;-D
Major admiration aside, this project was really HARD!!
We were each assigned one random page from the first 6 issues of the comic. Our task was to recreate the page (not changing the text or intention)... in our own STYLE! Yowza! It's not easy to "redraw" the work of a master!
I agonized over it for a few days until my daughter, in her typical "mini-art-director" fashion, started to comment on what she thought were mistakes and bad design. "But what does that MEAN?!" and "the weird guy is just talking, he's not doing anything," and "it's the same picture of a weird guy from different directions..."
Here's the original page that I was assigned:
Huh. Yes, she was kind of on to something... What would Jason do? and more importantly, if I was to interpret the page in MY style, What would I do?
As we analyzed the page, I jokingly said, "that weird looking guy looks like my bride-of-Frankenstein Lilah Bean! But with five o'clock shadow and a cigarette!!"
And then we KNEW that we had a plan! Lilah (my mini-art-director and layout artist) sketched out the panels with her vision and interpretation of what the typed text really meant. I had the idea for the final panel, with the newspaper-reading-Lilah-Bean-editor-guy sitting on the pile of stones. I contacted my son who speaks a gajillion languages, and he told me how to write "pile of stones" in German, for the paper's masthead. I did all the inking, coloring and lettering.
Well... it's definitely recreated in my style.
It was agony to wait to see everyone else's pages - and to keep it all secret! But the original artworks were collected from 159 artists and bound into huge volumes housed in a handmade wooden box - and presented last week (at the graduation dinner) to Jason. I think he was pleased...
The complete hardcover collection of Berlin comes out this fall, but you can still get the individual issues on Amazon (and other places), as well as Jason Lutes' other graphic novels.