Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Card 2012: Santa Claus, The Yeti And The Really Bad Decision

At long last, my 2012 Christmas card slash book is finished! Like every year, it was touch and go there for a while and I wasn't sure whether it would be done in time for Christmas. Every page took way longer to draw than I expected, I went on vacation in the middle of working on it, and my computer conveniently broke down when I was about 95% done. I think the Universe is trying to tell me something. Anyway, enjoy this year's card slash book!

 This layout was my first ever attempt at doing a double page spread. I was very excited about the prospect and worked really hard on the story so that this page would naturally line up at the center of the book.

 Here's the double page spread broken in half so you can better see the detail.

As always I started thinking and fretting about the 2012 Xmas card as soon as I finished the 2011 one. And as always I was working on it right down to the wire. I even started early this year, in October, but the Universe just didn't care.

I wasn't even sure I was going to do a card this year, in part due to the fact that I no longer had access to the awesome printer where I used to work-- the amazing high tech printer that could fold and staple the books automatically. That business folded last Christmas and the printer was sold to Philistines that can never properly appreciate its awesomeness as I did. So I knew if I made a card this year I'd have to *gasp* pay to have it printed. In the end I decided to go for it anyway and worry about that bridge when I came to it.

Originally this year's card was going to feature Coconut Monkey, a character I drew a few years back. I always thought he had potential and wanted to use him in something. I fiddled around with that notion for several months, but just couldn't seem to come up with a coherent plot.

Then suddenly around August a completely different idea popped into my head-- one in which Santa finds his reindeer are too old to pull his sleigh and replaces them with Yeti, with predictably disastrous results. I realized the Coconut Monkey plot was going nowhere, so why not shelve it and use the Santa/Yeti idea instead? So that's what I did.

Santa and his elves figured prominently in my 2010 Xmas card, so I wanted to distance myself from that story as much as possible this year. To that end, this version of Santa doesn't live in a traditional Swiss architecture toy workshop, but in a slick, high tech domed city. He and his elves have also dispensed with the usual Christmassy garb and wear more modern, color coded uniforms. And lastly, this Santa has dumped his portly mate and is now married to a younger, shapelier Mrs. Claus.

I had a general idea of the plot, but hadn't really nailed down all the specifics before I started drawing pages. That's a dangerous way to work, but I think it turned out OK in the end. Leaving things sort of open-ended allowed me to add story elements as they came to me. For example, New Mrs. Claus wasn't in the original outline. She popped into my head about a fourth of the way into the project. Bringing her into the story helped explain why Santa would make such a bone-headed decision about the Yeti (not to mention giving me an excuse to draw boobs!). The Domed City came in fairly late as well, as did the Yeti's secret ice ray powers that cover the world. So there's something to be said for making it up as you go along!

Like last year, I didn't draw the pages in order. This was intentional, as it's normal for you to get better at drawing your characters as time goes by. I didn't want the later pages to look better than the early ones, so by jumping around they all have a uniform mediocrity (heh).

The computer readouts in Santa's situation room were inspired by Tony Stark's head's up displays in the Iron Man movies. If you look closely they're not just random infographics, most of them actually mean something. It was fun coming up with the readouts, especially on the final page.

The pages of the Yeti running amok in the city were very difficult for me to draw. I bet I sketched out some of those pages at least fifty times. I'm still not completely happy with a couple of them. There comes a point though where you just have to stop working on a project or you'll be tinkering with it the rest of your life.

I need to rethink these books slash cards. Every year they seem to get a little more complicated and become more and more ambitious. For example:

• 2008 card: 4 pages (but only 2 contained artwork), 2 characters

• 2009 book: 12 pages, 2 characters 

• 2010 book: 16 pages, 5 characters
2011 book: 16 pages, 5 main characters plus several background characters

• 2012 book: 16 pages, 8 main characters plus numerous background characters

See? They just keep escalating and getting more complex each year. If I do a book next year I think it's gonna have ONE character in it, sitting and talking for 16 pages.


  1. Amazing as always Bob, or even better! happy xmas to you too.

  2. I LOVE IT!! Your artwork is fantastic and I love the story. New Mrs. Claus saying "like" and "tee Hee" crack me up!! Well done :)

  3. Juan: Thanks! Merry Xmas to you!

    Dawn: Thanks! I didn't add New Mrs. Claus until about a quarter of the way into the project. Even though she only appears on two pages, I think she's my favorite character.

  4. Nice! Your best one yet. I like the elf names, and the Yeti slack jaw faces.


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