Local cartoonist creates a children’s book for the whole family

60 Ways to Leave Your Mother (Alone)
Local cartoonist Michael J. Buckley created the new children's book 60 Ways to Leave Your Mother (Alone).

From webcomic to children’s book, Michael J. Buckley has created an ode to childhood with 60 Ways to Leave Your Mother (Alone). The Kansas City-based cartoonist’s new book presents the imaginative adventures of three siblings as they “Make a Toad Happy-Tat”, “ Bee a Bug”, and “Have a Happie Meal”, among other vignettes.

Buckley spends his days doing design and web development for Hallmark, and created the book in his spare time. “The most rewarding part for me is that I stuck with it even when the process seemed not worth the effort, or boring, or difficult,” he said.

The book was inspired by Buckley’s family. “60 Ways was originally a list of things to do, written by my wife for our kids,” Buckley said. “I thought it would make a fun comic since it’s a theme any parent can sympathize with!”

While written from a childhood point-of-view with a kid-friendly approach, adult comics fans will appreciate Buckley’s lush illustrations – which were created using traditional techniques. “Because of carpal tunnel problems, I work in pen, brush and ink as much as I possibly can,” Buckley said. “So, my process is: sketches, inking, scan inks, print scanned image on watercolor paper, paint over the print, digitally composite inked linework with watercolors in Photoshop, then separate to CMYK. Pages are laid out in InDesign and output to PDF.”

60 Ways Interior
60 Ways to Leave Your Mother (Alone) is over-sized, hardbound, and full color. (Click to enlarge.)

Each story is built from comic strips in a traditional four panel grid, which Buckley originally published online as a webcomic. For the book, the cartoonist has assembled the strips four to a page resulting in a series of seamless comic book stories. Since Buckley had the book format in mind when he created the strips, there were only a few tweaks required to avoid the abrupt pacing changes or repetition that some strip collections suffer from.

“I work pretty large — most of my daily strips are 17” wide. Honestly, I just tried to copy how Milt Caniff worked!” Buckley said. “So when it came to making the book, everything was already at a decent resolution, which was nice. As far as book layout and pre-press stuff, I’ve done that for a number of years for Hallmark so I guess there wasn’t a big learning curve. The hardest part was altering pacing and dialogue to make sense for a two page spread. Sometimes it worked well, mostly it needed a lot of little changes.”

Buckley financed the project through an effort on the website Kickstarter. “I’m indebted to my Kickstarter backers for the financial and moral support,” he said. “Raising the money allowed me to splurge on the quality of the book: full color, large format, hardback sewn binding, local printing. I was fortunate to have a great mix of family, friends and — surprisingly — complete strangers contribute, and they have been very patient through the long process. Were I to do another Kickstarter book, I would make sure I was farther along in the production process before I launched. I still think Kickstarter is a good way to go — if you have a good product and a wide fan base. I learned a lot about what self-publishing is and is not.”

The books are available to purchase from a variety of local booksellers including Reading Reptile, Clint’s, Rainy Day, Poptopia, and the Nelson Atkins Museum store. They can also be ordered online from Buckley’s 60ways.com website.

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