The Beautiful Ones


In 2009, for some reason, Editions Dargaud (my publisher for the Trish Trash project, as well as the French version of Life Sucks) decided to publish an anthology with Arte TV on the subject of… “Summer of the 80s”. The whys of this decision are unknown to me.

Whatever the reason, I took the opportunity to work with Ron Wimberly on a 5-pager, “The Beautiful Ones.” It takes place at First Avenue/7th St. Entry in Minneapolis in 1983.

Ron arrived for a residency at la Maison des Auteurs a few weeks ago, and it’s made me remember this comic, and to hope we do it again!


Waiting for Douglas Coupland


One of my more, ahem, opinion-infused “journalistic” comics—about the (non) appearance by Douglas Coupland at a Chicago bookstore. (more…)

Camille Paglia


Here’s the strip that started it all: “Camille Paglia” is a report on a talk that she gave at the University of Chicago in 1994, and was the first journalistic/researched nonfiction piece I ever did. (more…)


godzilla icon

A report on the 1995 Godzilla Con in suburban Chicago, first published in the NewCity (Chicago). Featuring Very Special Guest Alex Wald! (more…)

Using Scrivener to create fictional comics

It’s been ages since I started my supposed “series” of posts on how I write, but a few weeks ago during the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême, Alison Bechdel stopped by my studio, and geeking out with her over writing tools was enough of a kick in the pants to get back to things here.

Alison and I have a lot in common when if comes to our love of writing tech.

Alison and I have a lot in common when if comes to our love of writing tech.

Last year, I wrote a post about “visual scripting,” my InDesign drafting technique for comics scripts (based on ideas Alison initially came up with). Since then, I’ve only used it more intensively, and I love it. I totally stand by that post. The process makes envisioning the finished page while writing it so much more transparent.

That said, a huge portion of my writing process doesn’t happen on the comics page, and all that stuff, I do in Scrivener. Continue reading

Ancrages: exposition at la Maison des Auteurs

affiche_ancrages_40x60 light 
Every year, the Maison des Auteurs, where I’m in residence, holds a group exhibition of all the artists who have been in residence that year during the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée à Angoulême (aka FIBD). The opening is the traditional first fun event of the festival, on Thursday night.

I’ve got three original Trish Trash pages up this year, and Matt has several pages from his new story in le Journal Directeur. If you’re in town, come by to see us!

ancrages : l’exposition de la maison des auteurs
30 janvier au 2 février 2014
la maison des auteurs
accès 3 avenue de Cognac

Continue reading

Big new project in the works: Out on the wire: Ira Glass and radio’s new masters of story

out on the wire first pass new outlineI’ve been dropping hints about this regularly for the last year or so, but here’s the official word: I am at work on a major project on narrative techniques and ideas of the new generation of great American journalists/storytellers on the radio. Jumping off from Radio: an Illustrated Guide, a 32-page comic I did in collaboration with Ira Glass back in 1999 (and which you can still buy via TAL), I’ve been talking to radio people and thinking about radio and story pretty much nonstop since April of 2012.

More on Out on the Wire here. 

The book will be close to 200 pages, and will be out…probably in late 2015, I’m guessing, from Crown Books. I have a lot of comics to draw between now and then, so watch this space for updates on that estimate, or follow/subscribe in one form or another.

My occasional newsletter will have links to recent material, and I’ll probably start a radio-comics-specific sub-list at some point, which you can indicate interest in when you sign up.

Jessica Abel on Twitter

Facebook: this is my “personal” account, but I treat it as essentially public. If you follow me there, you’ll be able to find out when I start a FB page for this book.

and of course, here’s the old reliable RSS for this site.

Pros/cons, ups/downs, love/hate: Life in France after almost a year.

charente nov 2012
I’m not a Francophile. I like France, but I’ve never fantasized about living here. I don’t idolize French food, or the language, or fashion. I decided a few years ago (with Matt, of course) that it would be a good idea to try to live in France, because the comics industry is so strong here, because we have professional connections, because Matt speaks very good French, and because I really need to finally learn to do so too. There are other reasons we wanted to move, but they’re less specific to France: we want our kids to know multiple languages and to have an international perspective. We feel that living abroad, anywhere, is a really good idea for artists. We were trapped in an ongoing stress-fest life in Brooklyn, where we did (a lot) more comics-related work than on actual comics, and we needed to go somewhere cheaper and simpler (this factor does not really point one to France, of course). (More on our decision-making process here.)

So the last few days of August 2012 saw me and Matt and our two kids get on a plane with way too many suitcases and arrive in Angoulême, France.

People say to me, “oh, that just sounds so fan-TAS-tic” in this dreamy voice…you can tell that my story plays into their more-or-less developed fantasy of escape to a romantic other life, where things are simpler and slower and a hell of a lot prettier.  I have this conversation with friends and family over and over: Is it great? Are you happy? When are you coming back? Does socialism work??  Continue reading

Girls’ Comics: new-old work on the site


I’ve been slowly working at updating old versions of the pages on this site, and adding some new material. I hope to bring you some regular postings of old comics within a few months. Meanwhile, I’ve put together this narrative of a really productive accidental drawing/print/painting series I did in the 90s. This image, especially, is one I’ve used any number of times for various purposes, and if I dug deeply enough, I might even find that it’s some kind of a precursor to Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars.

More to come.

visual scripting: using InDesign to write scripts native to comics

This is the first of a series of posts I hope to make on methods of writing comics. I’ve gone through a long (and ongoing) process of development of my own process, and finally have arrived at a method I think is very worth sharing. I don’t plan to talk all that much about what goes into the actual story, just how to use tools and formats to get whatever ideas you have onto paper (or screen). A further note: if you are really interested in all this kind of stuff, I mean enough to get all the way through this post, you should definitely have my two textboks on comics, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics. They are the kind of thing you’d enjoy. 

Also, you might be interested in the second in this series: Using Scrivener to create fictional comics.

from page 1, tome 2 Trish Trash


Alison Bechdel is an not only a cartoonist, she’s an inventor. Between the Bechdel Test and the Bechdel Method, she’s more than earned her place in the comics pantheon, and her Guggenheim Fellowship.

what’s the Bechdel Method?

Back in 2009 or so, I was talking to Alison Bechdel about her writing process, and she told me about a new technique she’d developed that has since turned out to be absolutely transformational for my comics. And no, it wasn’t the part about photographing herself posing for every single one of her characters. It was the idea of using graphic design software to create a mutable, flexible script with the initial stages of visual storytelling built in. See the first couple of minutes of this video of Alison Bechdel walking you through her technique for glimpse of it. (As an aside: I’m proud to say I was able to simplify her life slightly by suggesting Adobe InDesign as opposed to Illustrator as a basic tool!) I wrote up Alison’s technique in detail in Mastering Comics. Since then, I’ve made a few refinements, and I’ve come up with a name for it, visual scripting.  Continue reading