Sunday, June 26, 2016

Backstage Pass June: Daniel Sharp

Hey, Guys! We Got You A Pass!

Let's Go Backstage And Meet Daniel Sharp!

So Dan, tell us about yourself!

Rockwell had it right 
I'm a husband, father, and MD/PhD student (school forever!). In my "spare" time I write our comic, volunteer as the Scoutmaster for the Boy Scout troop my church sponsors. 

Main Project

 The Demon Archives, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story featuring powered armor and snarky AIs. 

Other Hobbies And Obsessions

 Alongside the classics of reading and video games, I guess, I recently discovered/decided that table top gaming (a la Dungeons and Dragons) is actually a rather enjoyable way to spend time with friends. So I run and play in a couple of games in person and even online with distant friends.

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

  So, first off, I am not an artist. Horribly rendered stick figures are my forte. I am a writer, and work WITH a talented artist, Sebastian Piriz ( to make our comic.
The mighty Seba
We got started when I took a creative writing class from Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson back in my last year of undergrad. My brother and I had been talking about this world/story, so I developed it into a novel. While working on that, I realized that my biggest weakness was in conveying the visual feel and setting of the story, and that it would be cool to have it as a graphic novel. So we ended up contacting and hiring Seba to draw it, and have been posting it online ever since.
The interesting Nick

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

This doesn't apply to me as much (Microsoft Word?), but I know that Seba uses Manga Studio and Photoshop for his inks and colors, respectively. We also make use of a site called Basecamp that allows us to coordinate effectively.

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

 I can't speak too much for Seba's visual process. Normally what we'll do is I'll plot out the chapter, giving it to him in chunks I think fit about a page. He is better at page and panel plotting than I, so normally he'll draw a quick sketch breaking it down visually. We'll talk about it, and he'll start doing inks while I finalize dialogue. Then he'll do the colors. It's a lot of back and forth.

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?

In terms of the story planning, I initially wrote a large chunk of the story as a novel. We've since passed that point, and while I know where the story is going and have major plot points plotted out, I'm letting the story and characters grow a bit organically, one chapter at a time, for the most part. It allows me to make adjustments as I see a page, or as a reader makes a comment that makes me rethink something, etc. Plus, Seba often has great ideas for the story and characters.

You explore both the future of technology and the twists and turns of human psychology with amazing skill; your understanding of the concepts is some of the best out there. How do you go about researching ideas you'd like to use in your work?

 A lot of it just started with my brother and me chatting and spitballing about what the future could conceivably be like. While there is a lot of "rule of cool" in our choices, most of it is honestly just me extrapolating off of existing tech and possibilities. I'm rather well educated (school forever!), especially in the ability to read scientific journals and whatnot, and enjoy just thinking about things. I also try to recognize my limitations and look for expert counsel on topics I am unfamiliar with. Some of this is through books, much of it is from connecting with individuals online (in topic-oriented communities like reddit, for example).

Do your ideas grow from your reading, or do you get ideas and then research them?

 A little of both? Sometimes it's "man wouldn't it be cool if Tenzin's suit could do X? Let's look for the science about that!" Sometimes it's "Huh, neat! Scientists made prototype/proof of concept for Y. Given 100 years and some sci-fi, that could totally be Z. Let's give Tenzin Z." On average, probably more of the first variety.

What are some of your most reliable research sources?

Because of my scientific education, I feel rather confident in my ability to weed thru Google and Wikipedia to find good data. Often that means finding some popular science article and then delving past it to the original source material. Similar to how I tell my friends and family to let ME put their symptoms into WebMD, because I am more able to filter out the junk and find the useful tidbits.

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

The most difficult part for me is just making time for everything. Researching, writing, managing the site, the community interaction, advertising, marketing, etc. So much stuff to do for my hobby in my "spare" time not working on my degrees or spent with my family.

How much of a buffer do you like to keep? 

 Personally, I prefer having almost a full chapter of buffer. But a lot of that is out of my hands. Seba is a full time freelance illustrator. We can't pay him enough to work on our stuff full time (plus he'd get bored, and has his own stuff), so sometimes it's hard to keep a buffer going. Lately we've been going week to week.

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

 Hmm, I'm not sure if I have any particular message I'm trying to get across. I'm mostly just trying to tell a fun story I came up with in what I imagine is a semi-plausible future. If people want to take away something, that's on them and how they engage with the story.

That said, there are definitely some themes I guess that we're trying to hit. Things like what it means to be a person, bodily autonomy, dealing with stress/depression/PTSD, thinking about a potential cybernetic future (iBrain, anyone?), etc. Readers are welcome to take away whatever conclusion and implication they want, I'm just presenting a story with themes and events I like. I often try to actually present multiple sides to these themes, as well.

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

 Can't stop now! If nothing else, I need to finish the current story, and have it all printed up on my shelf someday :)

Rock On, Dan and your awesome team. We look forward to the next big bang in your story!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

PrideCon Weekend! Lessons Learned

Pride And Con In One Denver Weekend
What Is This Madness?!
Whatever It Is, We Like It!

So, some thoughts:
Denver ComicCon was, as always, a wonderful event. This year I had so many friends running tables and was elated to see them doing well. I saw so many people enjoying themselves!
My favorite nerdy podcast, Beyond The Trope, is strutting their stuff at the Podcast Corner. Emily, part of the group, poses here as the grown up Hazel (of Saga, a must read comic) with her wanted poster.

The wonderful Sarah Menzel is there at Booth 400, rocking it.
 The beautiful Moko Press table of Robin Childs looked lovely as ever at booth C042.

 My friend Karen Lechenberg is selling her geektastic prints for her company, The Mona Chewy,  at booth H309.
 Native Realities Press  is there and keeping it real at booth AA23. Karl Christian Krumpholz is an oasis of snarky calm at booth AV066. Sherry D. Ficklin, J. James McFarland, Dylan Edwards and Vivian Caethe are all there, and She Paints With Blood is beautiful at Booth 204.
 I could go on, but I'm starting to sound like an advertisement. So, moving along! 

Myself, I took it easy this year. In years past I've powered through all three days of events and spent the following week EXHAUSTED. This year, I did a one day event, and at times even that felt overwhelming. In fact, when I first hit the merchant's floor, I almost turned around and walked back out.
Instead of running as my anxiety suggested, I went to a panel. I sat and listened to a wonderful discussion on self publishing, and I remembered that I like people! Especially the off beat ones. And I remembered that it's okay to have moments of fear. What's not permitted is surrendering to them.

I also remembered, in this time when the world seems so dark, that connecting with others helps us cope with our problems. I suffer from two issues that cause social problems; anxiety and hyperinsulinemia, which is an insulin issue that can result in me acting quite odd as my body runs out of glucose.
I cope with these issues by finding a quiet corner or space until the problem passes. It's amazing who you'll meet in the quiet corners. While my blood sugar straightened out, I sat and chatted with a couple of ladies who've been together thirty years and just got married. They gave me chocolate covered peanuts, which I accepted with grateful, shaking hands.  I commiserated with a mother and daughter who both suffer petit mal seizures that leave them in the same kind of situations I end up in when our bodies act up on us. I talked with an exchange student who was feeling overwhelmed by having so much going on around him, just like me. We talked, we joked about our issues and we laughed, and we realized that we weren't all that strange, and not nearly as alone as we had thought. Later, a sweet man walked me up from Pride to my apartment. We talked about Con, Pride and his wonderful costume; a rainbow American Flag with 49 holes in it covered by crochet mandalas. Each mandala had the number of strings denoting the age of someone who died in Orlando. He told me 'I went and gave my parents a hug before I came to Pride tonight, you know? Just in case.' The words nearly made me cry.

Some years I take copious notes in panel about a wide variety of comic craft subjects: social media, dialogue, pacing, layout and style.But this year, I was learning other lessons.

  • Our differences do not divide us. Our egos do.
  • Having a weakness does not make you weak person. It makes you a person who is resourceful in your way of living; you are faced with challenges and you learn to overcome them. You are a resource. Not a liability.
  • Treating your own needs as less important is really, really not helping. If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's okay to sit down. If you're feeling run down, getting guilty about skipping a day of Con is dumb. Pay attention to your body, and you'll have a lot more fun.
    (this includes your stomach. Pack water and a decent lunch. Con food is expensive and, often, it's crap)
  • We must take care of one another. We do better together. All of us.
  • People need stories. We need to tell our stories, and we need to listen to the stories of others. We are made more human by sharing our stories. If you have a story that will help someone else in this world, that will uplift or affirm someone else, then you have a sacred duty to tell it.

So here's my takeaway from the weekend: hold your head up, take the hand of your friend, your neighbor, your cousin in this great family of humanity, and keep walking. It's a long road, but I think we're going somewhere good.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Intermission Week Of June 12

Hey Lads And Ladies! Your Masters of Ceremonies Need To Do A Few Things Backstage

Back With More Revues Next Week!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Revue June 5th: Brain Teaser Comics

Ladies and Gentlemen...

...Let your imagination run free with...

Brain Teaser Comics by Bruce Otter reminds me of the Rick and Morty episodes where they channel surf through inter-dimensional television (NSFW), because the TV shows they come across are surreal, gory, and at times defy explanation. You might also think of Brain Teaser Comics like Far Side strips because those were also surreal and expressed with wit through 1-panel of art, but these days I'm more familiar with Rick and Morty than I am with The Far Side.


Surreal, gory, Lovecraftian.


Whatever they remind you of, these stand-alone comics are wildly imaginative, and Bruce was really good at coming up with different concoction of ideas every week while this comic was running.

You do have to think of it like hors d'oeuvres for the mind (hence "brain teasers"). They're almost like writing prompts, or at least prompts to guide your idle, daydreaming imagination.

I didn't think I'd go through all of the teasers, but I did because I liked the combination of writing, Lovecraftian themes, and the sometimes shocking and off-putting graphic violence that accompanied it all.

A few more examples of the weirdness you'll find in Brain Teaser Comics:

This one has to be my favorite.

I don't even want to know how that "messy breakup" went down.
Joseph, you married poorly.


The problem with Brain Teaser Comics though is that as a binge reader, it's like flipping through TV channels. After a while, I wonder why I'm doing it and I nod off. The comic doesn't further a plot nor is there any kind of shared continuity that follows through them, which is fine. I think it really means that this comic is better off read once a day -- you know, like if you had a comic-a-day calendar.

It seems like a work that's ideal for disseminating through social media. I don't know if Bruce ever considered it, but if not, even with the comic's run finished, maybe it could find some renewed life there.


If you're fine with a bit of shock and gore (or a fan of The Far Side or Rick and Morty) then feed your brain some of these surreal comics.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday Revue June 4: Rhapsodies

Here's Something To Rhapsodize About!

This Week, It's

Life's full of odd moments, and it's all showcased in Rhapsodies, a slice of life comic with a wryly eccentric cast of characters. The creation of W. P. Morse, Rhapsodies can be found here.

The Rating

Not a show stopper, but it doesn't fall off the stage.

The Raves

'Rhapsodies' definitely has its moments to make you grin. It catches little oddities in life and shines a light on them; the weird and the wonderful ways people interact, identify, group themselves and make connections.
The art's an effectively simplistic and effortless style occasionally enlivened with blending techniques or pattern fills, and suits the mood of the work nicely. All around, it's something I wouldn't mind picking up on a slow moment.

The Razzes

The problem is, that's about all I'd do. Unfortunately, there's an overall ennui to this comic.The basic response when reading is 'eh'.  Partly this is due to the format: tightly worded and image stuffed panels all in a row form to the casual glance an opaque and inaccessible grey block. I'd really recommend that the creator works on enlarging their work and allowing for more breathing space inside each panel and each word balloon. The characters' body language is often stiff as well, which really doesn't help the problem. I'd love to see more fluidity in the body; expression isn't limited to faces!

The other problem is, and I hate to say it, the content. There's just....well, nothing to get attached to. It's strangers going about their lives and dealing with their social problems. Reading this, I felt much the way I did as a child when my grandma's soap operas played in the background. I wasn't annoyed, but I was totally disengaged. There was nothing here to draw me in, nothing to attach to. It was somebody else's life, and I didn't need to be involved.
I can't say exactly how this could be fixed, but I can recommend this: less talk, more action. As a reader I really don't care about someone else's social life until I'm invested in THEM. Give me a reason to think of these characters as people. Make them interesting. Make them DO THINGS. Make them care about something, strive for something, fight for something! Otherwise it's just a conversation in another room.

The Revue

Good for killing time, but it's less than rapturous.