Comic Art

Standby

Standby

Life gets busy sometimes, and in the first half of 2011, I was as busy as ever. As such, I had to put Running on Empty on hold for a bit, as much as it pained me to do so. I threw this image together as a placeholder for the ROE homepage, giving fans the update on the comic, and telling them to hang on. Such a classic Running on Empty shot, featuring all the main characters, and Jake breaking that fourth wall so well.

Buy Me a Drink

Buy Me a Drink

In order to generate some form of revenue from my webcomic site, I considered devoting an entire page to begging for change. But rather than be too obvious about it, I thought it’d be clever to ask for the reader to buy me a drink instead. This was the graphic I created to accompany that message. I ultimately forwent the idea, and resigned the begging to a small callout at the top of every page. Someday, someone’s gonna click on that button. I’m sure of it.

East Coast/West Coast

East Coast/West Coast

I created this piece without any real intention of adding any text to it. It was basically just a method to illustrate my personal dilemma of choosing between two very different paths. Looking back on it now, it seems like a lose-lose situation. Abandon everything you know to live in a pseudo-paradise, or stick with what you know and live in eternal winter. A classic choice.

Omnipotence Phase 1: Empowerment

Omnipotence Phase 1: Empowerment

I have a quite a few opportunities in my day to retreat into my imagination, especially during my hour-long commute. A favorite go-to fantasy is considering what I’d do with the power to reshape reality. It began as a thought-experiment, to determine the true value of life, but ultimately became something more. I thought about translating the visuals of my imaginings into a series of comics, each one signifying a phase of omnipotence. This visual is the initial phase in that journey.

Socially Acceptable Music

Socially Acceptable Music

I created this comic to get across the point that certain music is acceptable to listen to in the company of another, and certain music is clearly not. For some reason, I liked the idea that Devin and Jake were listening to music on a stakeout of some kind, sitting in a run-down muscle car in a back-alley somewhere across the street from a nightclub. I must’ve watched too many episodes of Burn Notice.

Bad Man

Bad Man

Some of the fun of my webcomic is presenting ideas and characters symbolically. This was a stylized look at the Jake character, embracing his dark impulses and laughing about it. I originally intended this piece to be more realistic, but the rough pen strokes worked even better. I came very close to trashing this piece early on. I’m glad I worked through it, ‘cause now it’s one of my favorites.

All the (Facebook) Love in the World

All the (Facebook) Love in the World

Making light of the whole Facebook phenomenon presented me with an interesting opportunity to meld the styling of their website with my characters. Originally, I placed Dan and Devin face to face, but the back to back pose just seemed so much cooler.

White Trash Tattoo

White Trash Tattoo

The premiere of season four was nothing too special; just a nice quiet but dramatic shot of the two main characters having words. My intention with season four, in contrast to previous comics, was to further meld Illustrator with Photoshop, basically taking a vector base and amplifying it. And ultimately, that's what I love most about creating this comic. It allows me to experiment with my artwork, using technology to push things in new and interesting directions. How great is that?

Running on Empty Season Four

Running on Empty Season Four

The teaser for season four of my webcomic series was intentionally minimalistic, creating a mysterious aura around the comic's future. It's a nice dramatic shot that I never got tired of as I built the site around it. I've always had a fondness for film teaser posters, so here was my humble shot at one.

Giving Up

Giving Up

This comic was the season finale for season three, and holds the distinction of the only Running on Empty comic to feature all three main characters together. A very clear ending, even if those two words weren’t in the bottom right corner.

Picture It!

Picture It

It became clear to me when season three began that each of the characters would have to have a lucid identifier, since everyone would be seen in silhouette. Jake was the most obvious, with his affinity for smoking and fighting. All it took to recognize Jake was a cigarette butt and a bandage.

Love is Weakness

Love is Weakness

Mr. Dark, the eternally mysterious antagonist of Running on Empty, is pictured here in his natural environment, brooding in some dark room, looking at the world with bitter eyes.

Ragfist: Going Hilt Deep

Ragfist: Going Hilt Deep

This was the debut appearance of Ragfist, a character who serves to parody vigilante superheroes in the most obscene ways. Consider yourself lucky that you can’t see what he’s telling his young ward.

I Don't Have a Drinking Problem

I Don't Have a Drinking Problem

Here’s a very nice self-portrait, complete with my drink of choice and drunk bubbles.

Your Truest Reflection

Your Truest Reflection

I created this comic to emphasize the differences between Jake and myself, and to create a dramatic standoff between two characters that are so fundamentally similar.

I'll Keep That In Mind

I'll Keep That In Mind

I set this comic up as the ultimate comeback to any overly pretentious or incredibly inept observation. This became one of those perfect moments for my fictitious counterpart, where you really get a clear picture of the kind of guy he is.

Who is Mr. Dark? (Remix)

Who is Mr. Dark? (Remix)

This is a reiteration of a previous comic I did (see below), featuring the enigmatic Mr. Dark as a gatekeeper of sorts. The color motif is meant to reflect the Fixed LP by Nine Inch Nails.

The Wretched

The Wretched

Speaking of Nine Inch Nails, this image is inspired by the song of the same name, and serves to capture the mental state of a man who is rejected by his peers.

Munching Box

Munching Box

This is a serene scene that features a rare interaction between Jane and myself. Naturally, Jane is the necessary female character that serves to keep the boys in check. …Although, she doesn’t have a speaking part in this comic. Whoops.

Scrapper

Scrapper

This is what happens when I listen to Mötley Crüe: Kick-ass visuals with no specific script in mind. I figured that I always talk about Jake being a scrapper, so I might as well show it.

Chamber

Chamber

If you hadn’t noticed, Mr. Dark is a villain. Imagining the kind of stuff he does in his free time is what brought this piece to life. Creepy? Absolutely.

Technical Support

Technical Support

The idea of Jake being on the other end of a tech support phone call just amused the hell out of me. Here’s a guy who knows nothing about computers, and his advice is like a doctor telling you to put a band-aid on a broken leg. Notice the nod to Fight Club on his collar.

The Jake Alberts Show

The Jake Alberts Show

Some of my favorite visuals come from me imagining how Running on Empty would look in a theatrical trailer. Jake smiling sadistically at a studio audience just flickered through my head. Imagine the kind of offensive things he’d put into a TV show.

Industry Slang for Tampon

Jake's Fun Facts

The concept here is that the joke is written in graffiti on the wall behind Jake. I also just liked the idea of Jake doing his deepest thinking while taking a piss.

The Need for Speed

The Need for Speed

Do you feel the need? Devin Manning sure as hell does. I took the idea of his reflective aviator glasses to the next level with this piece, capturing the rush you get when you multiply the speed limit by two. Or three.

The Good Soldier

The Good Soldier

This piece was partially inspired by Year Zero, picturing a man who is trained to reject his humanity. As you might guess, the script was painfully morbid.

In the Process of Killing Myself

In the Process of Killing Myself

You don’t even need the words to get this punch line. This particular comic really typifies the general attitude of the Running on Empty series. Here’s what one fan said:

“Absolutely LOVE the webcomic! ...The adventures of Jake and the others do a perfect job at keeping the ‘fuck it’-attitude up. Keep up the good work!”

What Kind of a Man Are You?

What Kind of a Man Are You?

I’ve always thought that you can really tell a lot about a character by how they react to a gun to the face. Of course Jake would laugh. What kind of a man smiles in the face of death? Someone who’s been praying for it.

We Can't All Be Hot Bitches

We Can't All Be Hot Bitches

Here’s a nice shot I created of Jake talking to the audience. Naturally, he’s complaining about hot bitches.

External Combustion Engine

External Combustion Engine

This piece turned out a little differently than how I originally pictured it, but I’m still satisfied with the result. The great thing about dealing in vector graphics is the flexibility of the artwork. For the debris, I just had to take apart the vectorized Chevy Chevelle that I had created for a previous comic.

Blood Vessel

Blood Vessel

This is a concept I had envisioned a very long time ago, but only recently had the ability to create it. Here, a man’s blood vessels burst out of his skin and connect him with the massive chamber that surrounds him. Naturally, the script offered a symbolic analogy to this image.

It Ends Tonight

It Ends Tonight

There’s something very dramatic to me about a torrential downpour. Running on Empty has several plot twists woven into it (all my stories do), and I created this piece as a means to reveal at least one of those twists. Just imagine Dan whispering some earth-shattering secret. Very schway.

I Hate

I Hate

I originally wanted this piece to be a very dark photograph of myself, but I could get it to look quite right. I did, however, trace over my eyes, and translate those directly into Illustrator. Can you tell?

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

This is one of my favorite pieces from season three: Devin jumping a classic car in a Memphis Raines-type escape. In comics, the common method to represent a speeding car is to show it flying through the air. By my thinking, the higher the car, the faster it has to be traveling. Looks like Devin must be closing in on 200 MPH.

Ball-Cupping

Ball-Cupping

I’ve always had a fondness for taking something classy and dropping it down a few notches. Lewd conversation? Offensive remarks? It’s the least I can do.

Why Dan is a Pessimist

Why Dan is a Pessimist

An old photo of construction workers taking a lunch break while building the Empire State Building inspired this piece. My characters had consistently hung out at the Milford Skatepark in season two, so I thought a change of scenery was nice.

Hybrid Cars Are Gay

Hybrid Cars Are Gay

This father-son joke was my reflection on driving a Prius rental, and how emasculated it made me feel. Turns out the artwork would make a great Toyota ad. Go figure.

Strip Clubbing

Strip Clubbing

This piece is a nod to Sin City, with the reversed silhouettes. I’m very satisfied with how naturally this came together.

The Hell You Created

The Hell You Created

I created this one on impulse, thinking of someone trying to escape Hell. The trailer from Dark City inspired the green sky. Great movie.

Why D-Man Steals Cars

Why D-Man Steals Cars

One of the few pieces created mostly in Photoshop. Here, I created all the flare effects from scratch. Not bad.

The Thin Line Between Romantic and Creepy

Romantic and Creepy

Why show the characters when you can look at their shadows? This was me just playing around with new ways to represent old concepts.

End of the Line

End of the Line

I was rummaging through a bunch of old sketches and found an old thumbnail of a man confronted by an Apache helicopter. I scrapped it, because I didn’t have the patience to draw an entire helicopter. But now, with Photoshop and Illustrator at my fingertips, I said “I can create this in five minutes.” And I did.

Do You Remember When Life Didn't Suck?

Remember When Life Didn't Suck?

Here’s Jake and Devin reflecting on life as the year comes to a close. This piece began as an exercise to create realistic grass. I would later use that same artwork to create Jake’s stubble.

Who is Mr. Dark?

Who is Mr. Dark?

Mr. Dark, doing his dramatic pose at the end of the world. This is certainly the kind of imagery that would look good in a theatrical trailer. Check out the remix above.

I also created a high-res print of this piece, which is available through DeviantArt.

Believe in Angels

Believe in Angels

A nice dramatic entrance for the Guardian character. I used a Photoshop brush for the glow, but everything else is vector. The pose for the figure was adapted from one of my previous works, found here.

Don't Take Dating Advice From Girls

Dating Advice

How did the characters wind up overlooking some desert canyon? I dunno. I just thought it looked cool.

You Know My Name

You Know My Name

This is actually a picture of myself, but with the top half of the head out of frame, it might as well be Mr. Dark. Oh well.

Trevor: Life is a Gift

Trevor: Life is a Gift

Trevor is the one character done in a completely different style than everyone else. Just my attempt at making a more conventional webcomic character. This turned out to be his only appearance in season three.

God is God

God is God

Initially, I was going to create a creepy image of Mr. Dark looking at the audience from a distance, but the image changed into this. The character with the cane was slated to appear in season two, but his scene was cut. Who is he? I call him Mr. Light.

I Give You a Choice

I Give You a Choice

This was based on an original drawing I had done years previous, seen here. The gun is a Mark XIX Desert Eagle.

Where Do Babies Come From?

Where Do Babies Come From?

The first of the father-son jokes, this piece actually set the style of the entire third season. In fact, I created this as a prototype, to see how I could use silhouettes to tell a story.

Jake's Take on Miley Cyrus

Jake's Take on Miley Cyrus

I posted this strip on Miley’s sixteenth birthday, with Jake offering his very succinct analysis of the young Disney star. Fans ate it up.

The Mindless Clutter In My Path

The Mindless Clutter In My Path

The opening of a Creed song called “Bullets” inspired this piece. One of the few benefits of the seasons is that they offer a dramatic representation of human experiences, from death and despair to hope and rebirth.

Why Didn't Jake Take Over?

Why Didn't Jake Take Over?

This piece helped advance the plot forward, offering up an explanation for the lost time between seasons two and three. This initially had several panels, but I ditched that idea for the sake of space. As a result, I stopped doing multi-panel strips all together.

Dark Truths

Dark Truths

An angled shot of Mr. Dark, whispering something typically morose.

Inhuman

Inhuman

I created this one night as a test: Could I silhouette someone on a black background? The real victory here was the red glow of the cigarette tip. …Really made this more dramatic and mysterious than I thought it could be.

Long Forgotten

Long Forgotten

A nice shot of the UMass campus, this piece serves to separate past from present. The comic began at UMass, but had now grown beyond it.

What Weighs On You?

What Weighs On You?

I created this as yet another experiment in the new format. I figured I could feature a character thinking, and just fill in the script later. In this case, I never did.

Running on Empty Season Three

Running on Empty Season Three

In anticipation of Running on Empty’s third season, I posted three different teasers on the site’s main page. Each teaser featured one of the three core characters with a tag line that related to their personality.

For Jake, I established the easily recognizable motif of the ubiquitous cigarette and bandages that were evidence of his rowdy lifestyle. The tagline was suitably lewd.

Running on Empty Season Three

Running on Empty Season Three

Here’s Devin Manning AKA D-Man’s teaser ad, where his ever-present sunglasses and long hair identify him immediately. Naturally, his tagline related to cars.

Running on Empty Season Three

Running on Empty Season Three

Finally, Dan (AKA me) is featured, looking contemplative and mildly morose. Before I decided to make Mr. Dark such a big player in the series, I had intended to make my character identifiable by his suit to symbolize that he had recently landed a day job. Thankfully, my hairstyle is just as easily recognizable.