Now out in a beautiful hardcover edition from Oni Press, "Local" is the spiritual successor to Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's "Demo" series. This time, Wood joins with artist Ryan Kelly for 12 standalone stories set in 12 different towns. Megan Mc Keenan is the recurring character for each issue, though she's not always the focus. Megan darts around from town to town, often running away from her own problems. A dozen down-to-earth stories make for an interesting character progression, with well-researched art from Kelly adding the local flavor to everything “Local.”
With the project completed and a hardcover fresh on shelves, it's time to give “Local” a fresh look. For this installment of THE COMMENTARY TRACK, Wood and Kelly discuss in its entirety issue #6, set in Wood's home base of Brooklyn, New York. The creators discuss some of the problems with gathering photo reference, who the background actors are, and the appropriate music you should be listening to while reading this memorable chapter.
As always, there are SPOILERS in the following COMMENTARY TRACK, but as CBR is bringing you the entire issue, feel free to read the story first.
Brian Wood: I jumped right in here with both feet, as you can see, a sort of one-two punch thing that should leave the reader saying "oh no, that's not her." Anyone familiar with Megan up to this point can start sensing trouble ahead. Looking back on the script, I see that I had written in background for Ryan to draw, but he smartly went for no backgrounds at all, which works so much better.
Ryan Kelly: I felt really oppressed after the previous issue, "Local" #5, so I wanted to open with two big, wide open head shots, signaling a break from the old.
BW: Ten lines of text for Ryan, here, describing this apartment. I wish I lived here.
The NYM badge on Gloria (the dark-haired woman) is New York Methodist, the hospital located in Park Slope, and a few blocks from where I lived at the time.
RK: Brian did put in a lot of time describing this apartment for me. He even drew a map of it! Total O.C.D!
BW: Love the brownstones in the background, out the windows.
It's been mentioned to me several times, by locals, that the rent Megan is paying here is abnormally cheap for the standards of the neighborhood. Which is probably true, but a lot of the younger people who live around here, paying $2k a month, are obviously getting help from their parents. Megan tends bar and is on her own. So she would have had to hunt around for something sensible. Which just begs the question: why is Gloria charging so little?
RK: That's the Montana Trucker Hat from "Local #4: Two Brothers." Megan, for some reason only to be examined later in "Local" #11, picked up the hat from her ordeal in Missoula and kept it. We see it here sitting on her single chair and was to be the seed for my plot in "Local" #11. I really wanted to have her wear this bloodstained mesh cap throughout this entire story but, at the last moment, I felt it would be too distracting.
BW: I love all the body language here, especially that last panel.
RK: Megan writes this little note to Gloria and, for once, I didn't want to draw the lettering myself because I was afraid my handwriting wouldn't look like a girl wrote it. So, I chickened out and just left it blank. I thought Hope Larson wrote it, but now I think Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote it. Can anyone guess?
BW: This is Great Lakes, a neighborhood bar. I used to go here a lot. I swung by while writing this script to take reference photos but the guy behind the bar that day was a little freaked out. I left my card and explained why I needed to take pics, which I'm sure sounded stupid. I managed one shot, this one here in panel 2, and that's the only shot Ryan had of the interior of the bar for the entire issue.
RK: As Brian said, I only had one extremely dark, non-descript photo of this bar and I had to draw the inside of this bar in three scenes! In different angles! So, I’m just faking it most of the time and I don't know if I truly succeeded. Later on, I was visiting New York and Brian and I were walking down this street in Brooklyn and Brian points, "Oh, hey, there's that bar you drew." It's such a kick to see these locations I drew in "Local" with my own eyes. I would love to eventually visit all these places. The college campus in Norman, OK. The movie theater in Nova Scotia. Beer Land Bar in Austin, TX. That would be a fun trip!
BW: This place is called Perch, a hipster diner that had just opened. I've since eaten there and hated it. Oops.
RK: This page feels like New York the most for me. People in cafes and bars at all hours of the night.
BW: Another one of those (mostly) silent scenes that Ryan excels at.
RK: Brian would give me many pages likes this where the characters are acting, silently, by themselves. Brian is so good at scripting these passages of time where the character is by herself, almost acting outside of the structure of the storyline. That’s so cool. Comics today feel they need to pack in so much "talking" and action in 22 pages to provide the bang for the buck. Brian can pause and slow down and show these quiet moments.
BW: I get asked two questions about this issue: have I lived with a roommate like Gloria, and, am I like Gloria? I answer yes to the first and no to the second, but maybe I am a little bit like Gloria? I am not a compulsive list maker and clean freak, but I bet I am no fun as a roommate. I am certainly the person hiding in their room most of the time. I've never understood the notion that roommates = friends in every instance.
BW: This has happened to me.
RK: I really wanted to draw Megan in a skirt for once.
BW: Table of junk in the hallway.
RK: There’s always a box of junk in the hallway.
BW: Music Matters! A great indie record shop. And to the right of panel 2, that is me and my wife. Ryan must have had an inking malfunction because I really don't have that much hair.
RK: I hadn't yet mastered the ability to draw an urban setting without it looking cluttered and messy. I would fix that in "The New York Four." I think Megan looks cute here.
BW: Who are all these guy friends Megan has?
RK: Walking out of the bakery with the bagel in the first panel is my high school buddy, Peter K. Nekola. He drew the pin-up art in the back of this issue. He teaches at Pratt and he's a fantastic painter.
BW: Gloria reads JANE? I had her pegged as more of a NYLON reader.
BW: Ryan probably spent more time on this page than any other in the book. I had no reference for this bathroom, and yet he nailed it somehow. He also wrote all those lists, as I recall.
"Gabe" there is comics writer Gabe Soria, a Great Lakes fixture.
RK: I hated scripting all those lists. I had to get into Gloria's head and it wasn't easy. But it was the only way to get the point across. The guy in the last page is a real person named Gabe, apparently.
BW: 7th Ave F train stop, and Dizzy's diner. A block from my old apartment and classic Park Slope landmarks.
RK: My absolute favorite page in the book. I'll never sell this page. I just love the way it looks. The people in the first panel are friends of mine.Â And in panel 4, on the truck -- "Quack To the Hand!" Look in almost every issue of “Local” and you'll see that.
BW: I'm writing a "Demo" story (art by Becky Cloonan, published next year by Vertigo) that will be eerily similar to this page. I clearly have not gotten the post-it note/OCD thing out of my system.
And I have never had a roommate this crazy.
BW: This issue is the one people typically point to when they call Megan a bitch (or advocate violence against her), and I can see why she is disliked here. She does get put in her place and horribly embarrassed, and I would bet my bank account that everyone reading this right now has a similar type story in their past. Rites of passage, I think. It's part of growing up into a normal human being.
RK: Drawing a bunch of people talking, side-by-side, at a bar, is one of the hardest things for a comic artist to draw. Any artist will attest to the truth of this. It's very difficult to not break the "180-rule" in the "side-by-side at a bar" situation.
BW: From the last panel of page 18 to this one is just great visual storytelling. I love how the bar patrons are turning away.
RK: This is the beginning of a very important sequence for me. I feel this final scene is the crux of the entire series. I almost blew it off, but then I realized how important it is. That is, to show Megan shifting from the clueless nomad to a more introspective and self-aware person that needs to carry the second half of the series.
BW: This was the first time in the series I used voiceover narration and I really waffled on whether I should or not. I felt a bit like I was tossing a wrench into the works, that it would jar readers out of the flow. Still not sure it was the best way to go, but I didn't feel like I had a better solution at the time.
I revisit it in different ways in subsequent issues, though.
RK: For this page's soundtrack music, I was using "There Is No There" by The Books, a New York band that mixes looped sounds with string instruments. The song is beautiful and really describes the whirlwind of circling thoughts that must be going through Megan's mind.
RK: I was really proud of these pages. No backgrounds, Just Megan and her thoughts.
RK: It's important to listen to the Talking Heads song, "Cities," for this page, which I did. I totally forgot to put in the "soundtrack." If this were a movie, we'd see each panel flash for 2 seconds as the start of the song slowly winds up, building up momentum, increasing volume, and then…
BW: The perfect Park Slope shot, the perfect moment. Complete with baby stroller, natch!
RK: Goodbye Megan!
Thanks to Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly for reliving this issue of “Local” with us at THE COMMENTARY TRACK. You can find more of Brian Wood's writing and cover artwork on "DMZ" and "Northlanders" every month from Vertigo. Kelley's art can be seen in his and Wood’s new MINX graphic novel, “The New York Four,” and at his blog, Funrama.
As always, if you have any titles or creators you'd like to see in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, or you're a creator with a book coming out that you'd like to talk about in detail, drop us a line. We're especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft, just for the variety.