13 Qualms & Love

My longtime friend Molly Wheeler, pictured above on the left wielding a volley ball in 1962, was the visual inspiration for Toland's sister Melanie, and a lot of Molly's spirit and vocal inflections colored Melanie's speech as it wrote itself inside my head, with extra flavors contributed by filmmaker Ross McElwee's fascinating friend Charleen in McElwee's great documentary about southern mores, Sherman's March. Whenever possible I tried to find a photograph of a real, flesh-and-blood human being to use as the basis for any new character in Stuck Rubber Baby, the better to short-circuit (or at least inhibit) the unconscious importation of old stylistic habits from Wendel.
LETTER TO PATSY (August 12, 1991)

My personal terror at this moment involves this graphic novel I’m working on. In my last letter I think I told you it would take two years to draw. Unfortunately, I’m unable to draw as swiftly as I hoped I could. Extrapolating from my pace so far, it will actually take me two years and eight months to complete the book. But I’m only being paid for two years by the publisher. This means that in 1993 I will be required to draw for eight months with no income. I’m applying for some grants, but that’s a long shot. …

But at this point I’m irrevocably committed to this book. It’s now wedged thoroughly under my skin. I love it. I love the people in it and it contains scenes I find lyrical and scenes that make my eyes mist over. I’ve drawn four chapters (21 more are scripted but remain to be drawn). Occasionally I wake up in the morning and quietly wallow in sheer pleasure, knowing I’m gonna spend the upcoming day with these characters. There are scenes that I won’t get to draw for another year, but the prospect of someday seeing those scenes on paper already tickles me. Talk about deferred gratification!

I’m never satisfied with the quality of my drawing. If this book is judged on how well I draw it, my goose is cooked! My only hope is for drawings that can stimulate better drawings in the minds of my readers, so that the characters will seem real to them, not just imaginary ink figures that some cartoonist awkwardly put on paper.