Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Showing...

No Posts This Weekend Ladies And Gents! I'll Be A Tad Busy


Art By Lorraine Imwold
That's right! I'm getting married Midsummer Day. Pictures to follow if amusing enough to warrant inclusion in this prestigious (snicker) blog.
Slainte! (Irish for cheers, or 'let's get drunk!' )

Mawwidge. Mawwidge is....naaaah Susan was way better than that ;) 
We did it!
Took 3 hours to get me looking like this....

Note: step dancing in a wedding dress IS HARD

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday June 14th: The Eternal Knights

Ladies And Gents, Boys And Girls!

Today, Today!

Come And See the Wonders Of

"Life's a bitch. And then you LIVE."
Artemis, main character of the strip Eternal Knights, has it hard. She's a heroine and protector. For eternity. Period. She doesn't get to retire, and she most certainly doesn't get to die.
And she's a little pissed. Maybe you've noticed.
This fascinating and far-reaching urban fantasy, created by Caley Tibbittz, can be found here 

The Rating

An unabashedly lewd and bloody jaunt through the urban underbelly of Faerieland. Great fun!

The Raves

I have to say, this is a comic I've been waiting eagerly to review. The first thing that impressed me about Eternal Knights was the use of atmosphere in the artwork. You can smell the concrete and hear the sirens in the distance in this gritty piece reminiscent of Watchmen or 80's Batman, with all the blood and grit. Even when it wanders to Avalon, this comic makes you think of concrete and city streets.
The art in this comic is truly GORGEOUS; clean, professional in its approach, but never losing the delightful stylistic nod to classic superhero comics.But the heroes and villains are of a different strain entirely.
The second thing that impressed me was the use of mythology. Here you'll see faeries, Oberon, vampires and a cast of other fables, but these ain't your granny's faeries. These guys are city slick, and they've got sharp edges. 
The dialogue's got edges too; bright and snappy, it's as sharp as a buzz saw and cuts right to the chase, without losing the wry amusement and one liners that makes good superhero stories such fun. It tells you backstory without any need for clumsy info dump, in short,knife sharp moments of thought and interaction.  The use of framing and point of view are constantly surprising, keeping you on the edge of your seat as a reader. And did I mention the costumes are awesome? Between the snazzy dressing, the sour, snappy superhuman heroine and the beautiful art, I was almost in love.

The Razzes

I say almost, because unfortunately, we could have used just a liiiiiittle more of that backstory. As in, I had at certain points, mostly in the second volume,  to go read the cast page in order to figure out what the hell was going on and who anyone was. That bodes ill, and cool art doesn't mean a lot if the page is so cluttered that your readers have to read it twice. I'd like to see the speech bubbles get a little more space to breathe, and just a tad more attention being paid to the boring introductory parts of the plot. Otherwise, you hand a page like this to a reader, they blanch and run away. 

The Revue

A really wonderful comic. Give it a read!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday June 13th: Parasite Universe

Roll Up!

 Ladies And Gents, Boys And Girls, Roll Up!

 See The Strange And Wonderful Creatures Of The Parasite Galaxy!

If the writers of Sailor Moon, Grimm and the X-Files got together to spitball ideas, they might just have come up with Parasite Galaxy. A crazy romp through space, time, dimensions and the school food court, it'll definitely make you laugh once or twice.
In short, this is the chronicle of the adventures of Hebiko, a sweet little chimera girl with a rather dark past. Walking a wobbly line between Anime goofiness, sci-fi, fantasy, action and parody (seriously, one of the villians is the Tempura Panda. The jokes are irresistible...), Parasite Galaxy proves its name aprops. Its universe takes in and uses ideas from any old place, to amusing results.
The creation of a team of five artists and writers, Parasite Galaxy can be found here

The Rating

You've got a ways to go, Parasite Galaxy. But just keep swimming!

The Raves

When a cartoon manages to blend magic and science, explore interior and exterior landscapes and still feel fairly lighthearted, you know it's got ambition. And its whimsically gross sense of humor keeps you snorting with laughter throughout, even during the important meta-plot moments.  A good example: the two main characters meet when Hebiko climbs into her new friend's burger, and he nearly gets chimera for lunch. Talk about having an issue with the school cafeteria!
Parasite Galaxy keeps things fun, short and sweet, with plenty of cute and lots of laughs.
Every once in a while it explores the bloodier side of anime style with flying limbs, blood and guts, but it never loses its rose colored glasses. The silly humor is one of the main reasons to keep reading. Need a sample? Read the page below.

The Razzes

Unfortunately, silly can only get you so far, and there's a fine line between innocent and clueless in characterization. Clueless isn't cute; it's irritating.

 In the story, the character of Hebiko is a little hard to believe: a creature trained from birth to be a weapon and is a highly trained and skillful fighter, while also having the persona of a fourteen year old doesn't mesh too well. Say what you will about the physiology of different species and the possibility of a different kind of maturation, but the writing doesn't gel, and at time the disconnect is painfully obvious. It breaks the thin thread suspending disbelief, and makes enjoying the story more work than it should have to be, despite the funny moments. Take this page, for example. When the creature in question is acting cute and mumbling about being sleepy like a little kid, it's really, really hard to understand why the other two characters are getting so worked up and shooting her. Basically, the emotional disconnect kills the moment.

Enjoying the story would also be easier if there were more effort put into the art. The penciller for the comic has a Deviantart page filled with gorgeous work, but by comparison, Parasite Galaxy appears jotted down. Poses are often stiff despite good anatomy, facial design is often oversimplified and  a lot of shortcuts have been taken on shading and backgrounds. Unfortunately, that's given Parasite Galaxy a lackadasical, amature-hour look that does the piece a disservice. If something's worth doing, creative team, it's worth doing right. I'd recommend putting out fewer pages and putting ALL your work and skill into the ones you do produce. 

The Revue

A fun jaunt through interstellar Crazytown. Give it a try!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Saturday June 6th: WYIHN

Ladies And Gentlemen! Hurry Hurry Hurry! Come See the Tale Of WYIHN!

In an interesting new take on the Prince and the Pauper tale, the white-bred suburbs darling and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks are thrown together, changing both lives. Wyihn is a tale driven by interpersonal challenges and internal struggles, a story about people in a very real sense.
The creation of a dreamer by the pen name of Bloomer, Wyihn can be found here.

The Rating

It's a beginner, but Wyihn stumbles along gamely.

The Raves

As a comic, Wyihn takes on a real challenge of exploring inter-cultural and interpersonal reactions. While it misses the mark, it's a noble goal to be going on with. And the art is quite lovely; a sweet, innocent style that puts me in mind of Mary Engelbreit. The art style is lovingly crafted, with attention to detail and a good grasp of many of the artistic aspects of comic art; texture, framing, visual narrative, anatomy, pose and the conveying of emotion. The style is rich and yet visually open and airy, lending a whimsical sense to the tale.
The style continues in the writing, with a gentle sense of humor and well-written dialogue, especially in family situations. The beginning of the comic really had me interested.

The Razzes

Unfortunately, the piece never did much with that early possibility. As I read, I found myself flipping between pages, thinking 'why am I reading this?' and then wondering why.
Finally, I pinned the reason for the emotional reaction down. None of the characters were holding my sympathy. To be frank, I had no reason to care about any of them.
Basically, Wyihn is Scalped done with pre-teen children in Suburbia. There's none of the violence, but there's all the moral ambiguity, self righteousness and lack of a hero. One of the heroes is, honestly, a whiny baby, and preachy on top of it. This makes him very hard to like. It's okay for a character to start that way, but they're supposed to grow through the story, and so far that isn't happening. At all.

To make a powerful character, you have to make one that has three things: a personality, a motivation, an emotional hook. You have to create a person, give them something to drive them, and then give readers a reason to identify with them. Get those three things, and people will read avidly. Now, that's nice to say your character has to be a nice person. 'Dexter's' emotional hook was the thrill of vigilante justice without consequences; the classic anti-hero. That can work. But many of the characters in this piece are missing either an emotional hook or a driving force, or both. And the personalities aren't always that interesting. Fix the writing, and I think this comic can go a long way.
To get better at character writing, do some research. Start reading about the craft of writing. Also, read a few books on psychology. Find out how people really act in given circumstances. I recommend the article 'How Do You Build A Strong Character' by Sophie Novak. And then, of course, there's people. Go to cafes and really watch people interact. Try it on the bus. Read a lot about other cultures and see how many masks human psychology can wear. Use what you learn to write people, not characters.

The Revue

It's not one I'll read obsessively, but in a few years this creator has real promise. Keep on trucking Bloomer!

Friday, June 5, 2015

June Backstage Pass: Andy Purviance

Hey, C'mon Backstage! I Got Us A Pass!

This Month,

Meet Andy Purviance!

Let's Hear About Your Work, Andy!

I-Mummy-Vol2-Cover-front-websized.jpgMy main work is I, Mummy, the tale of an impulsive teenager turned mummy investigates her murder with the assistance of a cantankerous ghost. Links to the comic are:

Other Hobbies and Obsessions

Here’s a sampling of some recent distractions. I’m easily bored and constantly dabbling in new areas to pick up new tricks.

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

I’m a lifelong comic reader, particularly of unusual graphic novels. The first long-form comic I can recall was “Barefoot Gen” by Keiji Nakazawa. A horrific semi-autobiographical account of a kid who survived Hiroshima and an interesting peek into war time Japanese culture. I read that when I was ten. It probably scarred me for life.  

I spent a lot of my teen years in Nashville, TN and when I could make the trip to The Great Escape (the good comic shop) I’d spend hours digging through the old boxes and peeking behind the popular graphic novels on display looking for hidden treasure; those weird stories full of heart, not published by DC or Marvel. Like the old “Love & Rockets” series by brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and Hunt Emerson’s version of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

I didn’t discover the love of crafting longer stories until just recently, when I started “I, Mummy”.

How long have you been drawing comics?

In the traditional sense, of pictures with words, about three years. I’ve always loved drawing, but hadn’t kept up with practicing for about a decade.
I realized my drawing skills had atrophied, as you can see in some of the earlier work. Jumping into the deep end end of the pool by starting a comic was my genius plan to fix that.

Can you tell me about your typical day or drawing session? How does your working process flow?

Since I have a 9-5 office job, the comic gets done on weekends and over a few evenings. All the supplies I need fit in a bag, including the most important tool: an iPod shuffle and headphones to block out the world.

imagineCoffee2.jpgMy favorite place to work is a local coffee shop. The owners have created a wonderful artist and writer friendly atmosphere, and buying a mocha is my motivation and self-reward to get ‘er done. I’m far less productive at home.

Does your production process for a finished piece follow specific steps?

You bet, I realized early on I’d need to streamline how pages are made. I didn’t want to burn out. Being a video game industry veteran really helped here. The script for the current story is already finished, so each new comic page starts out as a printed page of text. I’ll divide up the dialog into panels, make edits and block out the page as thumbnails in the margins.

script page 64.jpg

After thumbnails I’ll start a new comic file in Photoshop using a previous page as a template. All I do on the computer at this point is set up the panel boxes and put in the text. This really helps me visualize how much space will be left for illustrations. I had trouble estimating this at the beginning because leaving large blank areas felt unnatural.

The outlines are sketched in blue pencil on marker paper then inked with sharpie and a brush pen. I like marker paper because when I can’t get a figure to look right I can always trace a reference. Oooh, yeah evil tracing is evil! I subscribe to the Wally Wood philosophy of, “Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.” I admire artists who can spend weeks on a single page, but that ain’t me.

The scanned line art is integrated into the digital page using some very VERY handy Photoshop batch actions constructed specifically for the comic. Again, it’s all about cutting down how long a page takes and these cut out most of the non-creative repetitive tasks, like turning the lineart into a smart objects, resizing and masking them with the panel layer.

The colors are pretty flat and boring, just like grandpa used to make. The dot screen texture and old comic paper effects are all done in Photoshop. As a final step I’ll also export both the full comic page for the main site and each panel individually for mobile readers on Tapastic.

What media do you work in to produce 'I, Mummy'?

I’ve fought the urge to go all digital.
Doing pen and ink on paper gives a line quality that can’t yet be simulated, but I really wish it had an undo. So, there are a lot of “off-model” faces and other oddities. On the other hand, doing it this way really helps you improve faster. The final product is all digital.

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

When I first started “I, Mummy” I thought everything would be fine if I just made it up as I went along. That was a disaster and luckily only took three pages to sink in. So, I researched the heck out of how to write a story that didn’t suck, wrote out the whole plot. Then revised it over and over until it didn’t suck as much. In hindsight I probably should have made short story comics for a few years, but it’s too late now.

I’ve never authored a longform story before, so this has been a real eye opener. Getting (and following) advice from experienced authors, both locally and online, has been a lifesaver. Getting (letting) people to read and give feedback on the script has been harder. Luckily, my wife is also an artist and gives good constructive criticism.

Compared to the working process of the few prose writers I know, doing a weekly online comic is a fantastic “trial by fire”.  
I get immediate feedback on what’s confusing, what people like, and how much foreshadowing to include. My small band of fans keep second-guessing what’s coming up, so I have to stay one step ahead with twists and surprises. And resist giving away spoilers.

How long have you been working on the plot of 'I, Mummy'?

This story, now in its second volume, has been ongoing for just over one and a half years. It started back in October of 2013 with this proof of concept image. That robo-barber will finally appear an upcoming page.


For 'I, Mummy' you use a LOT of Victoriana. What draws you to that particular period?

Honestly, I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I do enjoy the BBC, especially the comedy quiz show QI, various crime dramas, and police procedural series. Even though the comic has a very British sensibility, it actually takes place in the Pacific Northwest of America. In a fictional city built around Crater Lake, Oregon, the remains of an ancient volcano called Mount Mazama.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a big fan of the steampunk genre in general. The comic is a snarky reaction to it’s more superficial trappings, particularly the “gears on anything” trope. For me, there’s real beauty in the physicality of well crafted mechanical devices. Jane’s world is driven more by electricity than steam power anyway, so I guess it’s technically “galvanic-punk”.

How much research goes into your comic? What are some of your favorite resources and research methods?

I have binders full of women. Also, men. And vehicles. And architecture. Any images of interesting period fashions or machines that catch my eye I’ll save to a folder for possible reference. Here’s a long list of my go-to resources:

Victorian Stuff:

Writing Resources:
  • Character Arcs - I really applied this to Volume 2, and it’s made for a much stronger story. The basic premise is, “What’s the lie your protagonist won’t admit while dealing with the symptoms?”
  • Frankenstein - When I need to remind myself of the semantic density of popular Victorian fiction. Modern audiences won’t go for this.
  • Pixar’s 22 Tips for Storytelling - #4 is missing the last step. It should end with “Ever sense then ___.” And #5 is SO TRUE. If a scene isn’t working cut out stuff until it does.
  • Have someone read your script OUT LOUD to you, or run it through a text-to-speech tool. MS Word has TTS but you have to turn it on.

Comics & Drawing:

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

Not in any serious way that affected me, but I know how damaging that can be. My wife is an art teacher so I’ve seen how people can get the idea in their head that they can’t draw and never put in the time to learn the skills. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t believe in “talent”, just practice. Talented people seem to be obsessive life-long learners.

Now, making a living at art depends on what field you’re in. Unfortunately, the real money is always in management. I’ve been both an art director and project manager on a lot of bargain bin video games. In my experience you can either get hired to create other people’s ideas, or you get to tell artists what to do but not create anything yourself.

The best advice I can give is that a “professional artist” is one with a good reputation. I don’t mean “can draw well”, that’s a basic requirement. I mean people who make life easier for the rest of the team. Get things done on time or sooner, are excited about the project (even if you have to fake it), and fail fast. Fail fast means making mistakes early, when they can still be fixed without causing problems for other people. Project managers HATE surprises.

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

I don’t want to leave the few readers I have with an unfinished story. I’m sure you’ve seen webcomics that started strong but were left unfinished. I don’t want to be that guy. And, each page teaches me something, so I get a little better at making comics every day. It’s hard work and also a lot of fun.

I tweaked the current story in a way that will now require a third and final volume to wrap things up. The next volume will probably jump ahead 10 years.

What message do you hope your readers will come away with?

Monarchies are great and good, democracies and grave robbing are bad.