River Journey was the first small cartoon book (“mini-comic”) I ever created, and it’s also the first cartoon story I ever wrote in verse. I have no excuse for all this improvisation without a license. For that matter, I have no idea how poets even get a license; but whoever hands them out, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t give me one. On the other hand, maybe I’m better off sans permit. Without sanction or reputation as a versifier, I can’t very well lose respectability by doing it.
River Journey was originally published in 1989, during my long career as a print creative director. By 2001-2002, after additional years as a Web creative director, I decided to put some of my cartoon stories online. I’d become a better illustrator in the intervening years, so I did a fair amount of redrawing on this story, although not enough to bring it up to my current illustration level. Actually, it’s possible (given the tone of the verse) that the extremely spare drawing style of the original printed version was better than this semi-polished version. I’m not sure. In any event, I didn’t significantly revise the writing.
Each image in the Web version of River Journey was created using a hybrid technique. First, I made a traditional pen & ink drawing. This was scanned into digital form. The drawing was then further developed in a computer painting program, using a wireless electronic “pen” and drawing tablet rather than a mouse. The composition was refined, additional elements introduced, and gray tones and shading added. At every stage of the process, these images were created with Web viewing in mind.
When River Journey came out, none of the cartooning small-press/trade press had seen any of my work before. Nonetheless, it won an award from Comics F/X Magazine (as it turned out, I was to win that award four times in a row) and was written up elsewhere as well. By the way, the comments about the drawing style refer to the way the story looked years ago, not to the way you're seeing it here on this Web site. (Better now, I hope, since my drawing skills have improved since then.) Here are some of the reviews:
Mini of the Month!
Elegantly produced and scripted story of a man's river dream, simply illustrated. This holds up well under multiple readings, and shows the potential of the mini-comics form for certain concepts. Great job San!
– Comics F/X Magazine
A mini that's about halfway between comics and poetry. There's a text here illuminated by economically drawn pictures, dealing with a nasty little nightmare that's linked to the "real" world before and after sleep time. I found it to be charming.
– Factsheet Five
Quite clever. Dream interpretations, soul searching, expressive drawings, and even a bit of humor… Cross Woody Allen with Natalie d’Arbeloff, toss in a pinch of Jim Bricker and a dash of Frank Tashlin, and… you won’t have really come even close. Good try, though.
– Amazing Heroes Magazine
(referring to four stories by San)
Many readers sent notes in response to the original printed version of this story. You’re welcome to contact me about this Web version, or, for that matter, about anything else. And if I never hear from you… thank you for reading my stories.