Gary Process: Organization / Interview: Panel Bound

90% of all problems can be solved by staying organized.

I really believe that.  It’s worked for me in my professional (aka non-art) life for years, and slowly began seeping into my art-making process significantly when creating Gary.  This post is a peak into how I stay organized in my process.  Hopefully you can find something helpful within…

Gary, as many of you know, is based on real people & events.  Although none of the info in Gary should be seen as facts about any specific event, but I have used the factual information as a starting point for my exploration of the subject matter.  Once I started digging into the information out there, I quickly discovered that there is more to take in than I could possibly remember.  Of course, some things stuck in my head, but my goal is to form a complete & cohesive piece.  So, I started keeping some key areas in mind during research sessions:

People, Places, Events, Dates, Themes, Motifs, Scenes

These areas were a good start for figuring out the arch of the book & what to include.  As time goes on, I can further break down these areas into individual pages/drawings.  When I started researching the Green River Killer, I quickly saw that I needed to start using a tracking system.  Speaking of reference material, here are some of my sources:


Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer, Mark Prothero & Carlton Smith

Green River Serial Killer: Biography of an Unsuspecting Wife, Pennie Morehead

The Search for the Green River Killer, Carlton Smith & Tomas Guillen

Between Good & Evil, Roger L. Depue

Chasing the Devil: My 20 Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer,  David Reichert

Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer, Staff of County (actual court document)

Serial Killers: Issues Explored Through the Green River Murders, Tomas Guillen

River Man: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer, Robert Keppel


There are about 3-4 films about the Green River Killer.  Avoid them all as if your life depended on it.  Unless you count Riverman (its really more about Ted Bundy), which is worth watching for Cary Elwes’ performance.


My lovely lovely Excel.  Where would I be without it?  Excel is the most basic, easy, and infinitely adaptable tool for organizing your research.  Get it.  Learn it.  Use it.  (And for those of us with day jobs, it makes you look like a superstar just by having it open on your computer).  As I research, I put the info into an Excel workbook, giving different topics their own worksheet in the book. *

Trust me, for storing useful information/notes, Excel is 1 million times better than a notebook/sketchbook.  Paper is for DRAWING folks!  Once the info is in Excel, I can locate it easily & actually USE it for reference.  When I put notes in a sketchbook I cannot find them when needed, essentially rendering that research useless.

My Gary workbook is broken into tons of worksheets.  Each worksheet is dedicated to a different aspect of the information relevant to me.  And each worksheet has it’s own column & row structure.

Some of those worksheets turned out not to be as useful as I’d hoped.  ‘Pencils’ & ‘Ink’s tables are a good example.  The idea with those was to check-off things as I finished them.  This was a technique I brought over from the day job that didn’t really work well for my art making process.  They just stressed me out.  I tend to jump around in page order and go back and forth between inking & penciling.  Other sections, like the list of victims and the ‘comprehensive timeline’, were vital to staying organized.  These stored information to be used at a moments notice, rather than putting more pressure on the already slow process of drawing comics.

What you see in the preceeding images are just sections of the spreadsheet.  The victim details one in particular is very long  & in depth.  Fortunately, Excel allows for a LOT of sorting & searching options.  As I begin figuring out a scene, I could find the victim, the date they were murdered, details of their death, etc. very easily.  Gary visited many sites on multiple occasions & so if I chose to show a location, I could get more info about it simply by sorting by ‘location’.  Also, I always try to have a column for ‘random thoughts’. Often in researching books, I’m struck by an idea.  It could be a scene, an image, a piece of dialogue, a layout, etc.  I make sure to WRITE IT DOWN before my brain dumps the info!

Once the information was logged in the workbook, I was infinitely more productive.  I don’t get ‘stuck’ as often.  If I am stuck, I have all my thoughts & reference in this wonderful central location.  If I can’t figure out how to design a page, I go back to my workbook.  If I’m not sure what scene should follow the last, I go back to my workbook.  If I’m not sure how to represent a location, I go back to my workbook.  The Excel workbook also helps in my editing process, as I do not have a real ‘editor’.  When proof-reading, I reference the dates & details from the workbook to make sure I haven’t screwed something up.

Final thoughts:

Staying organized will keep you more productive, force you to use all the research you’ve done, & foster better ideas.


So, If you haven’t heard it yet, I had the chance to speak with the folks at Panel Bound about Gary and other stuff comic-related.  Check out the audio interview here:

My Interview

Thanks for the support everyone!  Stay tuned for more information next time about CUBE and SIMON prints coming soon for sale!

– Tyrell

* Some of the included workbook images were taken a couple months back (can’t show you all the new stuff yet!).  Also, this post is not endorsed by Microsoft in any way (hard to believe, I know).


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