The Process Behind Oh Hell, Donna!

Happy February, Team!

I finally put all of the Oh Hell, Donna! pages into a binder, with Rob’s help.

(spring toys there to avoid this post being NSFW)

You may notice that the book is on the floor. This is because I couldn’t actually lift it up to put it on a shelf.

It’s big, and not even done.  There is still ONE MORE chapter of Donna for me to draw.

The one I just did was Volume 3, Chapter 4, and that still needs to be corrected, colored, background…ed, and so on before I can post it.

Right now, the website at has comic pages going into Volume 3 posted, but won’t get quite to where I currently am until the end of the year.

For those who don’t know what this comic is, it’s about a dead girl who has come up to the land of the living for a vacation.  However, she doesn’t get to spend much time relaxing before a universe-threatening cult shows up.

It’s an often NSFW tale that blends comedy, horror, and romance.  There’s themes of mental health, processing trauma, learning to love oneself, and there are a few gay characters.  This means the comic is either TOTALLY FOR YOU or extremely not.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

Knowing all that, I wanted to share some of the behind-the-scenes process of Oh Hell, Donna!

My first webcomic was Deddrie: The Cornsbrook Killer.  That went for about 13 years on and off online, and I’m currently collecting that all into a book.  I’m not quite through with the characters yet though, so my hope is to get a cartoon going eventually.  Deddrie will also be a character interaction in a game Rob and I are working on!

Donna is my second webcomic, and the first to have a real storyline.  It wasn’t intended to be this long, but little throw away jokes at the beginning of the book became plot points or simply characters I wanted to explore.

A good example is Mary, who was going to be there very briefly, MAYBE getting her own comic eventually, and now she’s a central point of this third and final volume.

I bring Mary up because I had a few pieces of older work that I wanted to bring back and make a part of this comic.  This meant tweaking some things to make the old art work in the new context, both for Mary and for Queenie.  Here’s a good example of how some pieces weren’t completely redone, but finished and altered for the sake of the story:

Donna, Zippy, and Todd were all characters I had come up with a very long time ago, even before Deddrie was a thing.  I had put them away in a filing cabinet I call my morgue, only to bring them back from the dead when the time was right.  Then this version of Donna spanned over so many years that Donna as we know her today looks a little different than she did even at the start of this book.

In fact, I first drew Donna meeting Todd in a poorly put together one page comic when I was a pre-teen.  As hard as that is to look at now, the premise and even some lines from that made up the first chapter of the comic as we know it today.

Donna has been good for me in terms of learning the ways around the medium, and finding ways to work around my wrist deformity.  To do a commission is one thing.  To do a 400+ page graphic novel is another.

So I do this by first coming up with a script, then dividing that script up into pages and panels, then doing my little scribbles on the side of the script until I’m happy with a thumbnail.  That thumbnail will become the general layout of the page.

After that is trying to draw straight lines with more than one ruler at a time.  I’m not going to show you that process specifically because it gets a little embarrassing.  Future comics aren’t planned to be so analog, so this should be the last time I’ll need to worry about gutters in this way.

The key is a T square.  Just letting you know.

Then I gently sketch where the characters are going to be, and do the words and word bubbles.  This is also a process that will be easier in future projects, as I had a font made out of my handwriting.  It is much more legible than my actual handwriting.

Next is inking, where I will screw up at least five times per panel, regardless of how detailed my pencil was.

Backgrounds are done separately for Donna.  It saves my arm a bit if I do it the way cartoons were done back in the day.  You’d have your one painted background for a scene, and then your characters would change on a separate plate on top of that.

Most of the Donna backgrounds are watercolor pencil.

Some are digital…

I even have a couple of outright photographs for key scenes!

Mostly though, the backgrounds are watercolor, and I started doing a widescreen canvas for it to make it a little easier to see more of a room per painting.

Finally, I edit everything together.  This means scanning the backgrounds and line art, (once Rob erases all the pencil for me) and correcting any WRONG parts of said line art before coloring the whole thing digitally.

And there you go!  How To Make A Donna.


Rock on,


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