More Thumbnails

A few more thumbnails, showing pages in their earliest forms.

Two random pages from Chapter 1:

And the first two pages of Chapter 7:


From Thumbnail to Finished Page

I worked up each page of Nuclear High School through a series of thumbnail sketches. Here is the process for page 14 of Chapter 1.

First, a quick sketch to break down the panel configuration and rough balloon placement. Dialogue is finalized on the right.

Then, a somewhat more detailed sketch with the lettering roughed in.

The final illustration:

Finally, color is added and hand lettering is replaced with a computer font for greater legibility online.


Costume Sheets

Costume sheets I prepared for Chapter 6, part of the way I kept myself organized.


Red Leather

A color costume sketch for the red leather outfit Thistle wears to the Battle of the Bands in Chapter 6. The “blood spatter” pattern on her skirt became considerably simplified when I decided to use zip.


A Deadhead Photo Album

Some snapshots of Thistle McCobb and her friends.

Photos by Cliff Dwill


Black Catsuit

A color costume sketch (believe it or not) for Thistle in the opening scene of Chapter 6.


Hardcore Leather

A color costume sketch for Thistle in Chapter 5, showing the extent of Pandora’s influence on her wardrobe.


Winter Fashions

Nuclear High School covers a period of nine months, running through fall, winter, and spring of the main characters’ senior year in high school. For each season, I came up with a different overall fashion theme and designed costumes for the ancillary characters accordingly. Here are a couple of designs that show the major motifs of the winter fashions.



Thistle appears briefly in this costume design in Chapter 5.


Floor Plans

Drawing floor plans of the characters’ homes always helps me visualize a scene when I’m laying it out. It’s also a good way to generate ideas. Here are the floor plans for Leonard & Dan’s houses.


Derrida's Nightclub


Orange Catsuit

Here’s an early “promotional” image of Thistle McCobb in the outfit she wears to the nightclub Derrida’s in Chapter 4. She can be seen purchasing this catsuit at the mall in the previous chapter.


Thistle's Bedroom


School Plans

Floor plans for some key areas of Nuclear High School.


Thistle's Wardrobe

Some costume design sketches for Thistle in Chapter 3.


Aunt Lailani

A color costume sketch for Aunt Lailani’s third outfit, which she wears to travel home to San Francisco.


Pandora's Fashion Parade

Costume designs for Pandora’s rather limited wardrobe.


McCobb Guest Room

A sketch of the guest room at the McCobb house where Aunt Lailani stayed during her visit.


Fight Scene

An early sketch of the fight between Dan Wright and Bob Wilkins. The art is still in the experimental stage.


Thistle's Parents

Here’s an early color sketch of Thistle’s parents, when I was trying to finalize their look for Chapter 1. Her father ended up being rather shorter and a bit thicker, and her mother’s hairstyle a bit less severe. Despite being totally obnoxious and a bit creepy, I grew to kind of like them over the course of the story.

As another side-project, I did quite a bit of genealogical work for both sides of Thistle’s family. It was a great way to generate ideas and to really get inside Thistle’s head, to know who she is and where she comes from, and how her parents got to be such weirdos.


Thistle's Red Dress

A costume-design color sketch from Chapter 1.


The Real Nuclear High School

I built this reference model so I could draw the school consistently from a variety of angles. It came in very handy, and was a fun side-project.



Early character sketches of Thistle McCobb’s friends, affectionately nicknamed “the deadheads.” After some abortive previous attempts, the final look for Pandora Parr was established with this drawing. The others just sort of emerged fully-formed from my head.



Some early concept sketches of Thistle McCobb, Leonard Ashe, and Bob Wilkins. Though the details were being finalized, the style was still evolving.



In this early sketch, the distinctive style of Nuclear High School begins to crystalize. Leonard and Dan approach their final forms, and even the tenor of their relationship starts to emerge.

The story was “written” as much through sketching and drawing as by typing up notes or script pages. Copious amounts of preliminary material piled up before I ever ruled my first panel borders.


Early Days Yet

Some more early concept art, as I tried to develop a workable style for the project. The figure on the left evolved into Pandora Parr. It took time and experimentation to decide what level of stylization I wanted to work at. I knew I needed something comfortable for the long haul.


Thistle McCobb

Nuclear High School was a long time coming. I started working on the concept of the story in late 1991, and it gradually took shape over the next two years. It really began to coalesce with the creation of Thistle McCobb in this sketch from January 2, 1992. Though I would refine the design over time, I always tried to remain close to the original inspiration. While the character clearly has ties to the “goth girl” archetype, I felt that, as the story is set in some vague future time, she should be considered “post-goth.”

Like all the characters in the story, Thistle is an amalgam of aspects of people I’ve known over the years and elements of my own personality. As the story developed, she took on an increasingly central role and evolved into one of my favorite creations.


Nuclear High School

Some early concept art of the complex of buildings that make up Nuclear High School. This sketch evolved into the first panel of page one.



'Nuclear High School' is now online at Webcomics Nation.