Really, John had a home-field advantage.

He’d worked with me before on Rip and Teri, and his brother, with whom he shared a house, had worked with me on both Fans and Penny and Aggie. So while he didn’t have any insider info about Guilded Age when composing this guest strip, he knew my sensibilities, which were close to Phil’s as far as tone was concerned. While the other guest strips’ goofiness was in keeping with the series we’d introduced, this somber, thoughtful page was more about where the series as a whole was going. Byron and Syr’Nj’s arc was a harbinger of our larger ambitions.

Obviously, it’s a first pass, and in the process of figuring them out, John rendered the two of them as he never would again. Even so, the amount of effort John was putting into making the characters’ model sheets his own (not to mention that background, whew) was enough by itself to get our attention. And I also knew he had the work-horse qualities needed to keep churning out pages until this thing was done. Home-field advantage, like I said.

We would hold a second round of auditions (which you’ll see in a little less than a week) to be sure, but this made John the front-runner. Tomorrow: Chapter 8 begins.