Raina Telgemeier is a talented cartoonist, a nice person, and a friend--as good a friend as you can be with someone you sat next to at an awards show and run into once or twice a year, anyway (I don't want to presume too much). She's done graphic novel adaptations of the very popular "Baby-Sitters Club" books in addition to many other projects, and her art has a cleanness and sincerity I really respect. I like the work she and her husband Dave Roman do very much.
A few years ago, Raina started writing an autobiographical webcomic titled "Smile," about her teeth. She knocked out her front two at age 11 and went through years of dental reconstruction. It's a sweet little story of small moments and the humiliations and horrors of youth that stick with you and hurt much longer than they should.
Raina added regularly to "Smile" online over many months, and occasionally had friends draw guest strips in which they either commented on her dental drama or told their own. When I saw Raina at Comic-Con International last July, we talked about "Smile" and how surprisingly universal and popular it had turned out to be. Everyone has a tooth story. Me, too. So I asked Raina if I could do a guest strip for her sometime. Surely thinking I'd never follow through, she agreed.
I followed through a few weeks ago. My timing couldn't have been worse or better. Worse, because Raina had just stopped posting "Smile" comics and updating their website. Better, because the reason Raina stopped posting new work was that she'd just sold her story to Scholastic, the publishing giant that will no doubt put "Smile" into the hands of millions of kids and make her a star.
Anyway, Raina was kind enough to post my one-page guest strip anyway. Here it is. My tooth story.
In terms of cartooning, the only thing I want to point out is that this was the first time I'd tried drawing freehand panel borders with brush (as seen above). I wanted a loose, casual feel for my little wispy slip of a story, and ruled borders seemed too rigid and confining. These freehand borders are me trying to be Walt Kelly. And then failing.
With Raina (smiling beautifully) at Comic-Con 2007