Sunday, December 08, 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
Me: No. Especially not with you.
The Universe: You're no fun. No wonder no one likes you.
Me: That's not - you know what? I don't care.
Me: Besides, you have plenty of fun with me. Or more accurately, at my expense.
The Universe: C'maaaannnn! I'll let you win.
Me: No. Even when I win, I lose.
The Universe: But you're so good at this one! You're like a grandmaster or something.
Me: ...what game is it?
The Universe: "Will Jon Do The Exact Thing He Was Trying Not To Do?"
Me: I hate that game.
The Universe: Well, you're already playing it. And guess what? You won!
The Universe: And lost!
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
FREE ACCESS TO ALL THE PUSSIES IN YOUR CITY!
My immediate thought was, "But I'm allergic to cats, so really, the cost is irrelevant. Free or not, I have no use for such access."
I mean, seriously, that would be way too many cats for me. I can't even imagine how many there must be in Leesburg.
And how do they arrange that, anyway? Would I go to people's houses and demand the free access to their cats that I'm, apparently, entitled to? "I demand to see your cats!"
Or is it like a weekly thing, where like on Saturdays - Caturdays - they all bring their cats to a central location?
"This Saturday at the Dulles Convention Center: The Cats of Leesburg! Access is free!"
Is it remote access, like those panda cams I hear people talking about?
And is this some sort of requirement for cat ownership? "By adopting this cat, you agree to provide the residents of Leesburg with free access to said cat."
I guess I should have actually read the e-mail instead of just deleting it, but, lacking any interest in cats, deleting it was my first instinct.
Still, it was damned odd.
I wonder if I might have misunderstood the subject line somehow...
Monday, November 25, 2013
Oh, hey, this thing is still around.
Yes, I’ve been neglecting the place more than usual.
No, I don’t have a good reason for it.
Well, in theory I do, but in practice…
Given that it’s November, one might assume that I’ve been neglecting this blog because I’ve been busy working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month.
That’s not the case this year. For one thing, November kind of managed to sneak up on me, so I wasn’t at all prepared to dive into writing a novel, as I hadn’t spent any time coming up with an idea for one.
However, I did start out the month deciding that I would take the diligence that I normally apply to novel writing and apply it to another project entirely.
That hasn’t really yielded any results.
I suppose that one could say that writing a novel has never really yielded any results either, but at least by the end of the month I had something to show for my efforts.
With this other project? Not so much.
So what is this mysterious NaNoWriMo replacement, you didn’t ask, because you already got bored and have moved on to look at cat pictures or something?
Well, when I was working on the comic book birthday present for the (former) boss lady, in the interest of time – and laziness – there were some scenes that I cut from the final product, scenes that added to the narrative, but weren’t essential, and which would have required additional pages.
Additionally, in the pages that I did produce I introduced a character whose backstory is hinted at, but not told, and after it was all over I found myself thinking, “I kind of want to tell her story.”
And finally, the limited page count forced me to do a considerable amount of compression, which led to there being pages that were literally filled to overflowing with expository dialogue.
So with all of that in mind I thought, “I should expand this to tell the full story that I’d originally imagined, give the pages some breathing room, tell the backstories, eliminate some of the sillier, in-joke elements, and turn it into a proper comic book that’s available for all the world to see. Or more likely, ignore, but still, it’d be out there in some fashion.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing all month?
Well, kind of.
In adapting the story for a wider audience, one of the things I need to do is redesign the main character, the one based on the (former) boss lady.
The reasons for this are twofold:
I have a lot of pictures of her to use as references, but not enough to cover the full gamut of expressions and poses, and given that I’m not great at extrapolating things like expressions from a reference image, I need to come up with my own character design to eliminate the need for photo references.
As part of the joke in the birthday gift comic, there are several instances in which the main character appears nude, but some element – someone’s elbow, a word balloon, etc. – obscures it, a la “Austin Powers.” In the proper comic, those obstructions would be removed, and, given that there would be a wider audience (potentially), if I’m going to draw the main character nude without obstructions, I don’t feel comfortable having her look exactly like the (former) boss lady.
Beyond that, I wanted to try to develop a consistent, simple, and streamlined style for the art, and when I’m engaging in portraiture, the resulting image can be too heavily-influenced by the reference, which – as was the case with the birthday gift – results in inconsistent styles.
So that was the challenge: coming up with a simplified, consistent style, and designing a character who looks enough like the (former) boss lady for it to be clear that she was the inspiration, but doesn’t look exactly like her, and to develop, for the first time in all the years that I’ve been drawing, a consistent style.
That’s the keep word: try.
We remember what Yoda said about “try,” don’t we?
It hasn’t been going well. All attempts at a character redesign have either looked too much like her or not enough like her, and, of course, there’s no consistency to the style.
It doesn’t help that I’m not sure exactly what style I’m shooting for. On the one hand, I want something pretty simple and clean, but on the other, I don’t want it to look too cartoony.
So basically while I really like their styles, I don’t want to go for the full Bruce Timm or Darwyn Cooke route, thinking that maybe I’d try to compromise with something a little more like the style of Amanda Conner.
However, that doesn’t really suit the tone of the story, so I’ve found myself leaning more towards the style of Terry Dodson. After all, as I’ve mentioned many times before, when I look at people I can see the “styles” of various comic book artists. “He’s a Gil Kane,” I’ll say, or “She’s totally an Art Adams.” The (former) boss lady is a total Dodson.
But then I think about some of the other works that have influenced the idea behind the character and the story, such as Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and I think that the noir style of Phillips might be a good fit as well.
And then I think about Brubaker’s latest – the advanced ads for which, by the way, were part of what pushed me to go ahead and try to do the birthday comic in the first place, as it appeared to be tapping a similar vein – Velvet, and the amazing work of Steve Epting…
So, yeah. Even setting aside issues of talent and ability – which are significant issues – there’s the problem of just not being able to make up my mind. It doesn’t help that for some reason my own style – or what passes for it – has kind of atrophied over the years as I’ve spent so much time drawing what I see rather than what I imagine, and for some reason the elements of it that show up in my sketches don’t really survive the process of inking and coloring.
In any case, that’s what I’ve been doing. Or, you know, not doing, as Yoda would say.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
After spending a lot of time trying to think of something to draw, I finally decided on everyone’s favorite Cimmerian, Conan.
I also intended to use this drawing session as an opportunity to work on my inking, and the image that I had in mind was something that was kind of a hybrid of some of the classic Conan artists like Ruby Nebres and Alfredo Alcala, with a lot of hatching, with some elements of Art Adams and Mike Mignola thrown in for good measure.
It was my intention to do a black and white image, a la Savage Sword of Conan, although I considered adding in some gray tones as well.
The basic image, as far as the overall shape and some of the details, turned out okay, but once I started on the hatching it all fell apart because I suck at hatching. Of course, the point of the practice was to get better at it, but that wasn’t happening, and it continues to not happen.
Still, after having put so much work into it, I didn’t want to just scrap it, so I decided to make it into a painting. “After all,” I told myself, “hatching was originally done out of necessity, to make up for the shortcomings of the early printing process in comics. Who needs it? Not me!”
(It’s true that hatching is no longer really necessary, but despite that, I do still wish I was better at it. Or, you know, any good at all. At least with ink – or the digital version of it, at any rate. I’m okayish at it with pencil, whether analog or digital.)
Unfortunately, my attempt at painting it looked like crap, so I scrapped.
Today I decided to revisit it, with the help of some fancy new custom brushes I bought for Manga Studio.
So I drew it all over again, and it looked okay…then I decided to try my hand at hatching again.
The result was…well, here’s the result:
|Hatching is for chumps anyway.|
Because I wasn’t happy with it, I decided to try painting this one.
Here’s the result:
|Understanding anatomy is for chumps anyway.|
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Me: which is why it won't happen.
Me: life is fundamentally opposed to awesomeness.
Scott: Seems like an unexplored law of thermodynamics or another branch of physics
Me: The Quantum Theory of Life's Fundamental Opposition to Awesomeness
Scott: lol, exactly
Me: "When you get down to very smallest levels of existence, you will find the suckyon, the most fundamental particle of matter. Suckyon exerts a strong oppositional force to the awesomuon, the building block of awesomeness."
Scott: Which is unfortunate for the awesomuon, as its half life is measured in only a few picoseconds.
Me: this phenomenon has been labelled "Shitty Action at a Distance."
Scott: Yes, as owing to the uncertainty principle, awesomuons cannot be observed at close distances.
Me: a lesser-known attribute of the "shrodinger's cat" thought experiment is that regardless of the outcome, things will turn out shitty, and the cat exists in a superposition in which it is both alive and dead and also terrible.
Scott: suckyons are just that powerful. The half-life of a suckyon, in contrast to an awesomuon is measured in decades, which explains the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Me: this demonstrates the principle that light is a particle and a wave and it also sucks.
Scott: One would think that the opposite would be true in the absence of light. But no, suckyons are plentiful regardless of the levels of light present.
Me: i wonder how well this will hold up to peer review?
Scott: I don't know, but we'll never get it published anyway. Just mentioning the suckyon is enough to draw it out in mass quantities.
Me: it's true. i'll have to pursue publication in the alternative press. i'm sure i could get it into some creationist science journal.
Me: or get us a show on the history channel
Scott: Hm, I'm trying to decide which of those is more likely.
Scott: They're probably about even.
Me: yeah. throw in "Aliens!" and it'll be THC. substitute "total depravity/fallen world" for suckyon, and the creationists will eat it up.
Scott: Yup, very true.
Me: ooh! i can tip it towards creationism! "The Irreducible Complexity of Suckiness."
Scott: Throw in one word about it being mentioned in Daniel and Revelation and we'd be gold in the PMD world.
Me: "As can clearly be seen by a careful reading of Daniel, Revelation, Leviticus, and the Left Behind series, the level of suckiness in the world cannot be explained by natural causes alone and must therefore require a shitty designer."
Scott: Yeah, I think you've got something there.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
So with the comic drawn and lettered, the fake letter page, bonus cover, and “ad” assembled, it was time to put it all together into one document and prepare it for printing.
Given that I used to make my living putting documents together and preparing them for printing, this should have been the easiest part.
Should have been.
Unfortunately, it had been a while. So much of a while, in fact, that I found that I could no longer do pagination – that is, figure out how to late out the pages for printing so that once the document was printed and bound they were in the correct order – in my head, and I was forced to actually grab paper, fold it and assemble it all as if it were the finished product, and write down the page numbers.
Even with that, I screwed up the page order in my first attempt at printing out a proof.
Once I had that figured out, though, it was a matter of deciding just how I was going to actually print the thing.
I’d found a company online that specializes in printing comic books, but they typically take up to twenty-eight days, and the fastest turnaround time they could offer was ten days – and that was only if I paid a 175% markup.
By the time I was actually ready to print, I had about nine days left before her birthday.
Still, the site was useful in that its FAQ gave me the specific dimensions I needed to reduce everything to and the trim and bleed settings I needed in order for my comic to have a final trimmed size that matched that of a standard modern comic book.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a stapler that would allow me to properly saddle-stich the comic if I printed it myself, and I have a high-quality large format printer, so I took a crack at printing it out myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find paper of a suitable quality to get the slick, professional look I was hoping for.
I wanted glossy paper, at least for the cover, but the only glossy paper I could find was glossy on one side and matte on the other. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but as it was photo paper, the matte side also had a watermark of the manufacturer’s name, and I’ve found – via mistakenly putting the paper into my printer incorrectly – that even setting aside the issue of the watermark, the matte side will not properly accept ink.
The other issue was that no matter how hard I tried the pages either printed crooked, or ended up crooked after I trimmed them with my crappy paper cutter.
Ultimately I decided to go with Staples.
I finished putting everything together in Adobe InDesign – which was an application I rarely used, as it was still new and unproven back then, in my desktop publishing days, so there was a bit of a learning curve to accompany my rustiness – and created a print-ready PDF, complete with printer’s marks to indicate bleed and trim. (This will be important in a bit.)
I had dropped off the file after work, then sat at home eagerly awaiting their call to let me know that it was ready, a call that seemed increasingly unlikely to come as it got closer and closer to their closing time. So, with only about 45 minutes left until they closed, I headed back over and was pleased to find that it was ready (though I was annoyed that they hadn’t called me).
When I got home I texted Scott to let him know that Giddy Jon Was Giddy. He said, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” so I sent him a picture of myself holding my masterpiece and looking giddy. Not pictured: my dorky little “Jon is giddy” clap or my giggling.
I was not able to get glossy paper, unfortunately, but I did at least get a cardstock cover, and the interior pages were a decent stock.
I did notice that a couple of halftone pattern elements on the cover kind of faded into the background – having one shade of red over a different shade of red is a bit beyond their printer’s capabilities, apparently – but it wasn’t a big deal, and everything else looked great, so I let it slide.
I ordered a display case for the comic so that I could send her a signed and sealed copy to keep in addition to a copy to read.
When I got the case I was dismayed to find that comic didn’t actually fit in it properly, being about a quarter inch smaller all around. I tried one of the imperfect copies I had printed, and it fit properly, so I was confused. Then I remembered something that had happened when I printed out a proof earlier.
The trim marks fell slightly outside the printable area on a tabloid-sized piece of paper, and Adobe Acrobat automatically did a “shrink to fit” with the PDF, reducing the size of the image by 6%.
On a subsequent proof I unchecked that, and just used a ruler to guide my trimming on the sides that weren’t displaying the trim marks.
Even though I told them what the final dimensions should be at Staples, I didn’t think to tell them to uncheck “shrink to fit.”
I didn’t want to go through the expense of having it reprinted, though, so instead I printed out my own copy of the cover, on glossy paper, signed it, and put it in the display case in front of the copy of the comic.
With that done, I sent the final product off to the (Former) Boss Lady, and that’s where our story began.
Now that I managed to get the comic to her in time for her birthday, I have considered sending it off to that online company for printing just to see what the results are like, and to provide her with a proper signed copy, but I’m still mulling that one over.
So anyway, that’s that.
I did something that I didn’t think I could do, and I did it much more quickly than I would have ever thought possible even if I assumed I could do it at all, and the end result is actually…well, acceptable, certainly, at least from my perspective, and the coolest fucking thing ever from her perspective.
Generally I give my own opinion more weight than anyone else’s, but in this case, I’m going to have to agree with the (Former) Boss Lady.
What? It’s just because I respect her. I’m totally not being egotistical.
At this point, given that I’ve successfully created a comic book, what, if anything, does that mean for the future?
I don’t know, honestly. I can tell you that at one point working on it made me think that I should just give up on drawing entirely. Possibly after amputating my useless Frankenstein hands.
I’m frankly rather amazed that I didn’t completely burn out the “undo” button on my Cintiq.
Or throw my Cintiq out the window.
I mean, seriously, the window is right there…
In the end, though, I didn’t give up, and after the fact I discovered something that will be the basis for another post.
At some point I need to actually finish that page that Jamie requested years ago…
I’ve also been toying with the notion of making some changes to the basic story and the character designs of the comic, and expanding on it to create a webcomic, but even with this comic under my belt, that prospect still seems rather daunting, and experience has taught me that just because I did something once that doesn’t always mean I can do it again.
But we’ll see, I guess.
Anyway, thanks for indulging me in my self-indulgence.
I also want to give a special thanks to my friend Renee, who didn’t bat an eye when I sent her this message:
Two quick questions (I'll explain later):
1 What is your handwriting like? Is it legible and recognizably feminine?
2. Do you have a scanner?
Or at least as far as I can tell she didn’t bat an eye, and after I explained why – I needed some handwritten text for the comic – she quickly provided me exactly what I needed. So…thanks!
And, of course, I have to thank the (Former) Boss Lady for inspiring me to give this whole crazy thing a shot, and also for her general awesomeness.