Spotlight

Bicycle Boy – The Adventures of a Cyborg that Keeps Getting Beat Up

Jackarais is a queer, Canadian comic artist who draws a lot and, other than that, is feeling very lost in life. He is the creator of Bicycle Boy.

Synopsis: Bicycle Boy is a post-apocalyptic adventure comic about a cyborg that keeps getting beat up. Poor Poet can’t remember anything before the day he woke up in the middle of the desert, surrounded by corpses. With no memories and no purpose, he searches for answers, and gets into plenty of trouble.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I went to Emily Carr University of Art and Design for a (very) short bit, but I couldn’t afford to keep going. It was still really neat and I learned some cool stuff. Most of my art knowledge was self taught or given to me by my friends.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
My comic is a post-apocalypse story, first and foremost! I dig that genre because it’ll usually have beautiful, sprawling ruins for the characters to explore. Post-apocalyptic fiction likes to dive into what kind of society will arise in the face of disaster, and I like to hear stories about people navigating that and coming together in the face of a crisis. Those two things have been interpreted in so many fascinating, creative ways and I just can’t get enough of it.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Adventure, sci-fi, mystery, something, something, gratuitous fight scenes.

What was your inspiration for the story?
Lots of things, but, the biggest one was Jak & Daxter. It’s a sci-fi video game series for the PS2 that came out when I was a kid. It left a big impression on me, and is the reason that I became a storyteller. The third game in the series, Jak 3, is the one that inspired me the most for the overall wasteland aesthetic. Other notable inspirations were Borderlands, I-Robot, Tekkonkinkreet, Unsounded, and No Country for Old Men.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Ashley Cope, the creator of the webcomic Unsounded, is a big one. I wanted my comic to have immersive environments and be beautiful and personal and intensely emotional like hers is. Otherwise, I’m not sure. I played a lot of video games and watched a lot of anime growing up; I’m sure they pushed me to have the art style I have today.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
I think it’s around 8-10 hours each.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I changed my process a lot over the years, but I’ve settled into a comfy mix of traditional and digital work now. I start by making a batch of page thumbnails, and then I sketch about five of them at a time on 11″x14″ bristol paper in blue pencil. Then I go over the sketches again and ink them with Fudenosuke brush pens and some random fine liners. They are inevitably slathered in whiteout because I get too excited and make a lot of mistakes. I scan them, clean up my errors in Paint Tool Sai, and render the text and borders in a separate program called GIMP. I combine the goodies in Sai and then spend a long, long time deliberating over what colors to use. If I want the page to look very special, I will paint it and render the shading/lighting, but these days I like to leave it at flats for simplicity’s sake. Then repeat the process, ad infinitum.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
My comic isn’t finished yet, and I often wonder how long it will take to get there…. The story has a lot of wiggle room if I want to change things, but it is planned from start to finish. My hope is that it will be somewhere between 600-800 pages upon completion.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I wrote the first draft of Bicycle Boy in November 2010 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a challenge to write a 50k-word novel in 30 days. That draft was dreadful, but it served as a rough inspiration for what I have now. I planned the comic for the next three years, got impatient, and started drawing it in August 2013.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
It was really hard to sort out the plot, at first. I also struggled a lot with pacing. Nowadays the struggle is more on how long it takes to draw. If I could, I would go back and tell myself to draw it in black and white. It’s just not worth it to make a color comic this long, with an art style this complex, by yourself. That’s what I think. Despite that, I’m still proud of how it’s turned out so far.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
The linework for sure! It’s the best part of any drawing! There’s something satisfying and relaxing about tracing a sketch and seeing it solidify like that.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
The colors are the most difficult part. I often steal them from photographs to make it easier on myself. I’m not sure why, but coming up with a color palette from scratch is really, really difficult for me. I’m flying through comic pages too fast to stop and learn how to do it properly, I think. But one day I’d like to learn.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Darla by a long shot. She is a manic, boisterous bandit who will happily dive headfirst into danger. She loves getting into fist fights so much that she doesn’t care if she loses, she just enjoys the battle. Placing her into any situation will liven it up considerably. That’s why I’m enjoying the current chapter so much! It has a lot of Darla-related shenanigans in it and my poor main characters are struggling to deal with her, haha.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Solle, I think. She is just a ball of anxiety and anger and it is tough to write for her. I also feel like I don’t know her as well as the rest of my cast, so, that makes it harder. Morris can be a challenge too, because I find him perplexing. Infuriating, even. He is just such an angry, difficult person. Getting into the mindset to write him feels weird.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Poet is an absolute delight. He’s needlessly complicated, and a pain, but I adore getting lost in the details, and he is so expressive with his whole body that it’s a joy to draw him every time.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Probably Poet or Machk. I keep careful tabs on their wounds and need to remember to draw them. It’s also generally difficult for me to render Machk’s face, facial hair + dreadlocks properly. Poet’s cybernetic parts are especially confusing from certain angles. His arms don’t bend in a natural way so if he lifts them higher than 45°, I need to stop and think about what they’ll look like very carefully.

Where can we find you?
The comic updates every Friday at http://bicycleboy.net. There’s lotsa neato sketches and behind-the-scenes stuff on my Patreon ( http://patreon.com/jackarais ), too.
I post updates at http://twitter.com/jackarais on Twitter and http://bicycleboyblog.tumblr.com on Tumblr. I love talking to and meeting new people, so don’t be afraid to say hi. :’)

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Naw, just that I’m grateful to get to draw and make stories in the first place. Even if I die a horrible death and don’t get to finish any of them, I’m glad I get to spend so much time drawing comics at all. It feels great to make something. And it’s even greater to get to be surrounded by so many people that make wonderful things, too.

Shout out to ShadowBestie for helping me format this interview <3