Comic Strip Process: Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson


Elizabeth and Eric spend much of their time touring the country in their band Pocket Vinyl. Elizabeth creates large fantastical oil paintings on stage while Eric sings and plays music. In 2019 they beat the world record for playing shows in all 50 states in the fastest time (45 days).

Elizabeth also writes & illustrates a twice-weekly autobiographical webcomic called The Touring Test, which focuses on the characters of Elizabeth & Eric, their two cats, and their experiences of being in a small touring band on the road.

Together, they wrote and illustrated a 300 page graphic novel about their world record breaking tour, titled How To Completely Lose Your Mind: A Graphic Novel Memoir of One Indie Band’s Attempt to Break a World Record. (It’s hilarious, you should check it out!)

What inspired you to make comic strips and why do you make them?

Elizabeth: I’ve always loved comics since I was very young, and since I could draw I wanted to start my own.  It’s always been a part of me.  Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and Get Fuzzy were my biggest loves as a kid.

Could you tell us how you approach creating a four-panel comic strip?

Eric: Although the drawing is completely Elizabeth, I sometimes help out with the comic writing process. She creates comics with as few as one panel and up to 10 or more, all depending on the joke we want to make.  We try to let the joke dictate the number of panels rather than fitting a joke into 4 panels.  A 3 panel comic tends to follow this flow:

Panel 1 – Opening/set up
Panel 2 – Developing the set up
Panel 3 – Punchline

But the extra panel in a 4 panel flow can really open things up and allow your characters to shine and/or give an extra punchline or beat.  Here’s an example:

Panel 1 – Opening/set up
Panels 2 and 3 – developing the set up/giving space for the characters to react and think
Panel 4 – Punchline

That’s the usual style, but you can also change it up to something like this:

Panel 1 – Opening/set up
Panel 2 – Develop
Panel 3 – Punchline
Panel 4 – Second punchline/twist

Or even:

Panel 1 – Opening/Set up
Panel 2 – Punchline
Panel 3 – Beat/space/second punchline
Panel 4 – Beat/third punchline


I could go on.  That fourth panel allows for so much more options.  And 5, 6, 7 panel and beyond comics can make the entire equation much more complicated.  But it all comes down to the joke and whether it fits.  Knowing how many panels a joke/story is boils down to instinct and practice.

What was the journey from making comic strips to a full graphic novel like?

Your graphic novel touches on the descent of one’s mental health. I’m curious, how does that mental journey and the mental journey of making a graphic novel compare? Or perhaps did that experience help give you the tools to face another large project?

Eric: When we did the world record tour, we knew pretty quickly that it would make a great full length graphic novel.  The style was already set since Elizabeth had been doing The Touring Test for so many years already, so deciding on the style was easy and obvious. We kind of viewed it as the online comic being the “TV show” and the graphic novel is the “movie of the series” kind of thing.  

Elizabeth: It was a marathon for sure.  After the script was finalized, I made all 300 pages in a year, which was a lot.  I was putting in 40 to 60 hour weeks the entire time.  I don’t think I’d do it again in such a short time, but I’m glad we did and I’m very proud of how it turned out.  

Eric: Going on the tour was much more challenging mentally than making the book, though both had their ups and downs.  Any big project brings along its own mental issues.  We often joke that a tour isn’t really a tour unless you have an existential crisis on it, and I think it’s the same with trying to make a graphic novel. 

But honestly, the hardest part of the entire process (mentally and emotionally) was just trying to get it published!

We had publishers buy the book, drop the book, have another one buy it then go out of business, get lots of promises that aren’t kept, miscommunication in various ways….we may make that entire process into another book in the future since there was so much drama involved.

What have you learned from creating comic strips and what advice would you give to other creatives making them?

Elizabeth: Giving yourself parameters to work within is very helpful.  Sometimes it can be paralyzing to think “OK time to make a comic!” since it’s so vague.  But if you tell yourself “Time to make a 4 panel comic!” or “Time to make a joke about Christmas!” or whatever, it can give you just a little focus and before you know it your creativity is rushing forward.

Also, I would recommend that if someone wants to start making comics, make sure you keep it fun for yourself.  Getting likes, comments, sales, etc. is great, and obviously can keep things going, but at the end of the day, the only thing that will keep you going is your love for the form.  If that’s not there, everything else will fall to the wayside.  Make sure what you’re doing keeps feeding your passion rather than consuming it.

Last one! Where can we find you and what you are working on?

Elizabeth: You can check out my comic “The Touring Test” on all socials at @thetouringtest or go to www.thetouringtest.com

We’re currently getting ready to start illustrating a new script we’ve been finalizing. We describe it as a sci-fi meet-cute with a theological slant!

For my band Pocket Vinyl, you can go to www.pocketvinyl.com or just type in “Pocket Vinyl” into any streaming app or google and we’ll come up.  We lucked out with a very easy to find band name.


And that wraps up our series of cartoonist interviews for this month! We hope all their stories help inspire you. Now, go make comics! 😀

Related Posts:

February Challenge: Make a Four Panel Comic
Stan Yan Interview
Young Huer Interview

About Jade Vaughan

I am a non-binary storyteller who dreams of one day owning a mango tree. I grew up as a military kid traveling the U.S. and Europe. We never stayed at one place more than three years but between all those moves Studio Ghibli films and magical girl anime were my constants. I love fantasy, magical realism, & slice of life with queer and whimsical characters. I want to work on projects that balance humor, hardships, and heart!

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