Marketing 101


click to enlarge 

Launch Date Launch #11: November 1999 (sorta)

Concept Oh God, this one REALLY sucks.  Look, no excuses, but between little time and little motivation, I thought I could whip this out pretty easily and still stay (modestly) on schedule.  I had this idea kicking around in the back of my head for a long time, and I always thought that I could use it if I needed a quickie. 

As it turns out, it took a lot longer than I thought it would; and I compounded my troubles by trying to do it fast.  Basically, I just created a lot more mistakes; and even though I find it hard to care about this particular comic, I couldn’t just leave a complete mess.

You’d think that I’d have learned my lesson about drawing maps.  Mark always rakes me over the coals for my ineptitude at cartography.  Oh well, once more into the breach!--or is it “beach?”  Just don’t ask me what happened to India; I’m going to pretend that Pakistan did away with that pesky country.

Layout Nothing special.  My original idea was to have the same image three times, with only the wording changing, but that was a little too boring.

Putting it Together As I mentioned, I put far more thought and work into this crappy comic than it deserved (and certainly more than it appears that I did).  My first thought was to find actual map images of the Soviet Union and find some way to photocopy them such that I would get a truer map feel.  Of course, I’m considering this on Dec. 3 (three days later than I’m supposed to have sent the damn thing).  I finally decided that there was no way in hell I’d have time to figure out how to do it right; and besides, if I drew the whole damn continent, I was sure to learn something--even if I did fuck it up. 

And I was right.  I now know my Eastern Hemisphere much better.  And quite frankly, as I’ve mentioned several times, I want my comics to be a learning experience for me (if not always my audience).  (Sidebar: this is probably a good way to teach geography, because asking someone to draw the land forces him to think about where everything is.)

I thought about drawing the panel once and then just making copies for the others.  I guess I decided that plan would take too long, because, as you can see, I decided to draw the damn thing three times (yes, I am an idiot).  And even though my maps suck raw eggs, I have to say that for freehand, it ain’t that awful.  I used several references, and each was at least a little (sometimes a lot) different.  I had Mercator(?) projections and true(?) projections.  I freely admit that I often chose the curve that looked the most interesting.  If this don’t look like the U.S.S.R., too bad.

Obviously, part of drawing the continent 3 times is that I was able to make the country smaller (or the scope of the panel wider), and in that way to show the Soviet Union becoming not only less threatening (because it’s shrinking), but also showing it becoming more a country among many.  It becomes more communal as it becomes less Communist.

I thought about ways of making the surrounding countries “respond” to the Soviet Union.  One idea was to put faces on the other countries: in the first panel the faces would look worried or suspicious or angry; in the second, more neutral; in the third, smiling and happy.  I kept playing and erasing these, finally settling on the basic approach.  I mean, come on, it’s a stupid joke; might as well keep it pretty straight-forward.

I also debated how best to denote the other counties.  One idea was to label them (see below).  Another was to “color” them individually: use vertical lines on one, and use horizontal lines on another.  That way they would stand out more.  Again, I decided that doing that might make the page too busy and detract from the Soviet Union itself, which is the whole joke.  So basically, I stuck with simple horizontal lines because it was, in the long run, not only simpler, but probably the best way to go anyway.  I did try to make the outlines of the other countries a little thicker than the horizontal lines in order to give them a little more weight (but not too much, because that would reveal my geographic deficiencies).

Finally, I wasn’t sure what was the best decision as far as the dates went.  I basically decided that keeping it fairly recent was good enough (no reason to go back to the 1950’s, for example); and in any case, it’s only in the last 15 years that the change has been greatest. 

I also had to get this Cheap Shot out before the end of the year so that I could get the “1999” in the last panel, since this is, after all, as much a shot at the former U.S.S.R as it is at that legendary artist, Prince.

Lettering Here again, I thought that I’d do something fancy like have mostly Cyrillic lettering in the first panel (or at least a faux Russian font with backward R’s and all) and have it become a more “happy” font by the third panel.  In this way, even the lettering would suggest that the Soviet Union was becoming friendlier.  To make a long story short, I wasted a lot of time looking for fonts only to decide that I wasn’t getting anywhere and (again) it’s a simple (stupid) joke, so I should just keep the image simple.

I also considered naming (or partially naming) the other countries; but that would just further point out how poor a job I’d done on the drawing and really clutter the page; and anyway who gives a shit about that side of the world?

What little hand lettering I do have I messed up.  I screwed up the “Marketing 101” because I was rushing.  And even my “cleaned up” version sucks.  Basically the title and the dates are done on sticky paper (labels) and then stuck to the page.

The “Cheap Shots Presents” is an old hand drawn title; and the (changing) names of the U.S.S.R are done in Microsoft Word fonts.  Both were on separate sheets of paper that I glued to the main page.

Inking Nothing new.  After I drew the thing in pencil, I traced all the countries with a Pilot pen, inked in the oceans with a brush, and did the horizontal lines with a rapidograph.  As straight-forward as this was, I rushed and so had to do a lot of touch up with white paint and some white out.  None of it was very effective.  If someone knows a good touch-up, let me know (although patience is the best tactic).

Reproduction Haven’t done it yet.  I’m gonna assume that there’s no real news here.


  • Brushes: Windsor and Newton Sable #2 and #00
  • Pens: Rapidograph, Pilot Precise V7 
  • Magic Rub Eraser
  • Paper: 11 x 14 Bristol
  • 30-60-90 triangle
  • T-Square
  • Ridgeways Horse Hair Brush
  • Black Acrylic Artist’s Ink  

Overall I promise to do better next time.