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Happy Fifth Anniversary to Drop Dead Vince!

My name is Kelsey, and since today is a pretty special day to me here’s a little story about how I first made a comic about two undead teenagers.

Back in 2010 I was going to college at a tech college to learn about graphic design and I was living on my own in a dustbowl farming town. I was working on a webcomic called Johnny Angel Loves Elenore Rigby, about a rockabilly musician living in San Francisco who falls in love with a British girl who worked at a Gothic Lolita fashion store. I was pretty stressed out at the time because I was making a big mistake in making comics, which was starting with a massive 30 chapter epic instead of starting out with something more simple (note to everyone making comics: PLEASE start small). I had a lot of ideas and had the whole story in mind but unfortunately I didn’t plan enough of it ahead of time to start so I was pretty overwhelmed.

Around the same time I was doing research on some of the subcultures that would pop up in the comic’s story. One of Johnny’s friends was Max, named after “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, at the time I was into Brian O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim and it inspired one of the themes of this comic which was characters named after songs. Max was also a musician but he played Psychobilly music, which is a mash up of punk, rockabilly, surf, country, and garage rock and most of the common themes in this type of music were the 1950s, horror, monsters (those especially from “B” picture sci-fi and horror movies), death, and sex. While I was learning more about it I fell so in love with the culture and the music and some of the fashion and lifestyles inspired by it.

I came across some stickers from an online store designed by Vince Ray, an illustrator and musician who designed art for his own band as well as advertisements for Fender and Gretsch guitars, as well as album and promotional artwork for other musicians and bands like Brian Setzer (former Stray Cats front man) and Reverend Horton Heat. One of them was a skull with a pompadour-style Mohawk hairstyle (a “psycho wedge”, common among Psychobilly enthusiasts) holding a microphone, and another sticker was a Bettie Page-esque pinup girl in a skeleton costume with green skin.

At the time I was sketching up concepts for the characters and was thinking up of some mascots for Max’s fictional band the Wrekkin’ Krew (named after a well-known song by one of biggest and most influential bands of the scene, the Meteors), and doodled up some practice sketches experimenting with Vince Ray’s style. This led to “Boney Betty”, one of the earliest designs of Vince’s love interest and co-star Betty Baker. While sketching her out I was doodling some little skeletons flirting and ogling at her along the canvas, who later became his own character (and the titular character of the series, Vincent Ray Valiant, named after Vince Ray).

I wound up drawing these two more than the actual characters of JALER, and at the time my friend Halie suggested that I should try making a comic with these two. I was definitely inspired and really fell in love with these two and began to flesh them out more. Betty became a blonde and I gave her a sweeter personality, since I had an idea of what would happen if a perky cheerleader suddenly became one of the undead, and Vince became a former 1950s heartthrob who had died back in the 50s and still hadn’t gotten over the “good ol’ days”, even now as a skeleton. I wrote and sketched out a short one-shot comic for the two of them, about Vince first discovering Betty as a new “unplanned” addition to his cemetery and him trying to woo her as Betty tried to come to terms with her new “afterlife”. Soon a one shot grew to nine more story ideas, and I began making more characters the pair of them would run into along the way. I was having so much fun developing this world and with designing the cast for this series.

I launched Drop Dead Vince on Valentine’s Day, 2011. I celebrated that night by making myself a green cake with pink frosting and the signature pompadour skull from the logo decorated on it.

Vince and Betty are so special and precious to me and so is their story. At the time I really wanted to draw and showcase their adventures and hope that everyone around the world would fall in love with them just like I did while working on it. But this comic has had a rough five years. When the first chapter was starting I had finished school and had to move back home. I had a hard time trying to find work besides part-time seasonal work at department stores for Christmas time. While I had a few freelance projects that I got to work on I had some difficult clients that made work become frustrating, and it definitely wasn’t enough for me to live on. In-between all this I’ve had a hard time trying to update the comic, and since I was the only one drawing and writing it pages took longer than I had planned to draw and upload. I was also having some personal problems with my family, who pressured me about getting a job or going back to school to learn another trade outside of art. Eventually I went back to learn about becoming an optician, and now I’m working at a glasses retailer.

I honestly don’t know what the future for Vince and Betty is at the moment. Right now I’m hoping that once I get adjusted to my fulltime schedule and get enough saved up to move out on my own (and get a new computer) that I can go back to drawing the two of them again. But I promise that their stories will be told, I love these undead kids too much to let them just fade away.

So Happy Birthday to Vince and Betty. And thank you to everyone who stuck with me for five years, it means the world to me and I hope to see you again soon.

posted by sweetappletea @ February 14th, 2016, 5:23 pm  -  0 Comments

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