Typical pencil stage. This is an unpublished panel from the transitional period post-LFS and pre-Cool Jerk (hence the hand-lettered dialogue).

Typical pencil stage. This is an unpublished panel from the transitional period post-LFS and pre-Cool Jerk (hence the hand-lettered dialogue).


How do I do it? Well, ideas come from here or there, sometimes in the shower, on the way to work or in conversation with friends. I try to jot down notes in my Palm/Palm Treo/iPhone or sketchbook(s) as soon as possible so I don’t forget them.

Next, I work up the idea. Sometimes it can be contained to a single gag, sometimes it needs to be told over several strips. I sketch out rough (read: primitive) thumbnails in a sketchbook and when I feel halfway confident with the gag I go to the Macintosh.

Using Aldus/Macromedia FreeHand I created a library of pre-made panels (four-panel strips, three-panel strips, Sunday-style pages, etc.). Since I can’t stand to letter by hand, I created a font — Hornopolis — to emulate my oh-so-legible printing (NOTE: many newspaper strips use fonts nowadays, but in 1992 it was pretty much just Cool Jerk and… uh, “Tumbleweeds”).

Once the dialogue is set up the way I want it, I print the whole shebang out of a laser printer (I use Hammermill Laser Plus paper because it’s brighter than plain bond and it has a subtle coating so ink won’t bleed). I then use a fine-point Sharpie to sketch out the artwork on a blank sheet of paper. Once I’m happy with the composition, I put the printed panels/dialogue over the Sharpie sketch (on a lightbox) and pencil the strip directly onto the printed panels.

Here’s where I get really anal. Over the past 20+ years I developed and perfected an “ink cocktail” for my strip. I use Koh-i-noor Rapidograph India ink, about two parts Rapidraw, two parts Ultradraw and one part Acetate. This mixture allows for smooth ink flow with excellent black coverage and a moderate drying time (important because a quick drying time wreaks havoc with the brush).

I use only one type of brush for the finished inkwork: Robert Simmons 000 E85 round Expression watercolor brush. I used to use the Robert Simmons 000 Aquatip but they stopped producing those in the early 1990s.

I also use Sakura Pigma Micron pens for fine linework and Pelikan Graphic White for any white-ink effects, error correction and touch-ups; accept no substitutes.

That’s pretty much it. I used to use Zipatone for shaded areas but found that it’s not really needed.

UPDATE: I posted a step-by-step to my blog here. Has lots of images of a Cool Jerk in process.

Secret identities

I guess Armpit is the lead character, but I find Puppy closer to my personality. Armpit was originally loosely based on Cory… but now he’s actually more like an amalgam of several people I know. Same with Puppy. Some characters I don’t have any real attachment to, like Maggot and Manuel. But others, like Goremonger and Manhattan, are easy to characterize.

Back to history

Cool Jerk is proudly powered by WordPress with ComicPress
All content copyright Paul Horn/Cool Jerk Intl. Site design by Hase Design and Paul Horn.