Sunday, April 21, 2019

Backstage Pass April 2019: Suzana Harcum-White and Owen White of Tripping Over You





Today, Today Dear Readers, Backstage We Have For You
The Redoutable Suzana Harcum-White and Owen White!




Sometime ago I reviewed the lovely comic Tripping Over You, and today, I'll sit down with the creators to hear all about the work. Come on backstage!

Main Project:





Tripping Over You (www.trippingoveryou.com), The Death of Caleb Perkins (www.deathofcaleb.com)

Other Hobbies, Guilty Pleasures and Obsessions:

Video games, music, coding, drawing and writing outside of comics, cooking

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

Suzana and I had feelings for each other a long time before we starting making the comic; we made countless characters who also had feelings for each other, and I feel like we were always hoping that the other person would take the hint about it! Milo and Liam were some of those characters we made for each other— I would draw her character, and she would draw mine, we'd send writing snippets back and forth, and we fell in love with the chance to gift each other little things from the heart that way. When we did eventually start dating and moved in together, we realized how much we missed that aspect of our relationship— we wanted to find a new hobby that we could enjoy together that also gave our characters a place to continue existing, that we could write and draw for each other through. Comics ended up being what we dove into full-time and eventually became something we could (very, very fortunately) build a career out of, but we really love the process in quite a few mediums.

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

We've switched full-time to Clip Studio Paint for our current chapter, and so far it's been an absolute pleasure to work with. Huge, huge relief— infinitely easier to create in. Prior to that we were using SAI and Photoshop, which we enjoyed until Clip blew everything out of the water.

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your work process flow from idea to finished page?

Ideas usually start with Suzana and I talking about things we'd love to include in the comic - sometimes out loud in conversation, sometimes as sketches in our sketchbooks. The overall plot points have already been mapped out in outline, but we'll occasionally discuss minor jokes or secondary plot ideas as we go. I'll sit down and write the entirety of a chapter at once, over the course of several days— first in script, then in thumbnails. I bring the thumbnails to Suzana, and she drafts sketched pages from the thumbnails - shifting things as necessary, re-ordering scenes, changing the visualization, etc. I then put word bubbles on so she knows where her art needs to move to for readability, and she then inks the sketch. I flat and do some shading, Suzana puts finishing touches on, and that's a typical day for us. Each page takes anywhere from 6-12 hours depending on a lot of factors.


What’s the most difficult part of your work?

It's very time consuming to finish, and takes up most of our free-time. Each page takes a long time, and each chapter then takes exponentially longer, so the story never quite moves as quickly as we'd like! The frustration of always wishing we could work faster/have infinite more time to work with is I'd say the most difficult part for us.





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?

We prefer to script. Sometimes we'll improv-slide a joke or two in here or there, but planning stuff out is the most fun part of the process, so we do a lot of it just for fun! (You can always plan so much faster than you can make!)





How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

We like to keep way more of a buffer than we actually do lmao. If we don't have a buffer we stream the page live the day before it goes up, though, which is also really fun.


What’s a question you’d like to answer once and for all about your art and/or that question you’re sick of getting asked?

I have no idea! We don't mind questions at all, even repeat questions we just understand come from that person never having seen us answer it before. The internet is so cool for how easily you can find stuff on it, but it's also true that there's SO much stuff on it that it's just impossible for anyone to have read everything you've ever said or that someone has said about you, so I don't think there'll ever be a "once and for all" when you really enjoy interacting with others online— and we're totally cool with that! It's fun!


If you could send a note back to yourself when you began working on your skillset, what would you say?

Look into Clip Studio literally the second it's made, don't put off switching to it. Also don't lift anything heavy over your tablet.


I know it's the dread question, but how many of the issues you explore on family dynamics and acceptance were drawn from personal experience and/or what you watched friends go through? Any of it?

Oh, nearly all of it. Most of it is exaggerated for comedy, and very occasionally it's stuff that friends of ours have gone through, but for sure like 95% of it is anecdotal. None of the characters are meant to be a 1:1 for us, though, or for our family members, but it's pretty impossible to leave yourself entirely out of anything you make, and there are very many snippets of things that have been said to us (or at us) embedded in this particular story.


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

Sometimes you're just gonna suck at something, whether it's a career, a hobby, or even just expressing yourself clearly to someone you love. It's okay, as long as it's not the end of you trying.


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

Pure, unadulterated self-indulgence. ♥ We are addicts.



Thanks ladies, and keep up the gorgeous work!




Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday Review April 20: Tripping Over You, Revised And Updated

Today

Fall Head Over Heels 



For 

Love isn't easy. Neither is college. It's hard to go through, and it's staggeringly hard to portray well. But the comic 'Tripping Over You' pulls it off with an A+ and with charm.
I have to admit, I'm biased. This is one of my favorite romance tales of all time. So apologies if I gush.
The creation of Suzana Harcum and Owen White, Tripping Over You can be found here.
The story centers around two young men as they navigate the complex steps of this dance we know as love. Milo Dunstan is a gorgeous, outgoing, witty and warmly outrageous class clown; impulsive is his middle name. The only thing he's ever been slow to act on is his love for Liam Shwartz, the quietly sardonic law student he's loved for years. And when he finally admits it, it involves alcohol, misunderstandings, and a black eye.
oooooops.....and it gets better from there.

The Rating

One of the best romance stories on the web. A must read.

The Raves

I still haven't pinned down how they do it, but this is the only 'school romance' tale I've ever read that works. And by works, I mean you're grinning as you read and archive bingeing so heavily that time loses all meaning.
I think one of the things that makes 'Tripping Over You' work so well is the tight, well-scripted writing style. A lot of the extraneous 'talking about our feelings' stuff that shows up in other school romances  is cut out here. There's no self-absorbed angstiness, though there's plenty of emotional conflict. There's no contrived struggle put in the way of the lovers to test them as you so often see in romance stories. Only their own perceptions, misunderstandings and emotions get in their way, but that's what makes this story all the more real, and all the more powerful.
 The social interactions are some of the most natural and funny I've ever read. 'Natural' is the keynote of the written dialogue as well; it reads so smoothly that you can hear it in your head. And every character is totally believable as a human being.

   Humor also plays a strong part in making this story strong.
The humor is wry, clever and 
at times verging on the sarcastic or the black,
but it's used to bring out the characters' 
humanity and breaks up scenes that could so easily
descend into painfully maudlin prose. In 'Tripping' 
humor leavens the emotional recipe and gives the reader
the breaks they need at exactly the right times. The dry wit of it also makes this one of the few romances that doesn't make you feel your IQ might be dropping as you read. It's nice to find a romance you don't start guiltily over when someone catches you reading it. Paired with wonderful writing and wit is lovely artwork that evolves along with the characters. There's a great sense of movement and pose in this piece, and a really wonderful use of lettering. And when the comic begins to use color, a whole new level of enjoyment comes in.
The great grasp of comic craft, reminiscent of  Craig Thomson in 


grasp and clarity and of Daniel Corsetto in style and skill, allows 'Tripping' to skillfully handle a wealth of really wrenching issues: self worth, social norms, sexisim, homophobia, family issues and expectations verses personal identity, to name a few. And because it's a tale told with intelligence, compassion and humor, the moments when it does deal with these subjects WORK. They come off in the creators' skillful hands as powerful rather than preachy. In fact, some of them are strong enough to leave you with tears shamelessly standing in your eyes and a lump in your throat. Under the humor, the sass and the fun, these characters are sincere: honest human beings going through real life events and overcoming real obstacles, some of the most challenging that a person can deal with. And as they deal with their problems, we, the readers, are helped to work through some of our own through them. Some of the scenes in this comic will move you, may even change you. And that's the highest praise I can give any piece of art.

The Razzes

I really made a blunder when I originally wrote this review. There are supplemental pages at the end of each chapter, detailing cute scenes which are supplemental but not integral to the plot. I'd assumed that TOY, like a few other comics, knocked these out quickly to keep a good buffer.
How wrong I was. These sweet little pages are actually the artwork of Owen. Knowing that I'm getting the stylistic work of two different artists in one chapter completely changed my outlook on the pieces!
This time it's the reviewer who's made the mistake, and not the comic. It all goes to show that really trying to get to know others and their lives is always worth the work.




The Revue

Among the best romances in the field. A definite must read.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Monthly Matinee April: Researching Your Comic Characters' Cultures

And Now, A Terrifying Sight!

Courtesy of PHD Comics

Research!

Yes dear readers, research. Want to write something in the future? The past? Another culture? That's going to take some research. The more misconceptions there are about a group or a topic, the more research you'll want to put in to get it right.
'But why do we need to do all this extra work?' I hear you grumble. 'I mean, it's just comics.'
Yes, gentle readers, it is comics. And comics are a powerful medium. Stories are all the more salient when told in images.

Sticks And Carrots Of Good Research

Let's start with the obvious: if you don't do your research, you look like an idiot. Witness DC's blunder in all its glory: 
 Superman/Wonderwoman Annual #2
No, DC. No, no, no. They do not speak Pakistinian in Pakistan. And finding that out takes a 10 minute Google search. 10 minutes' work, or 10 years' shame. Your choice.

And then there's the more insidious, sharper stick. Every time you perpetuate a falsehood, you perpetuate the ignorance and disrespect. Not cool.

Now, I may come off as a little self-important when I say these things. But here's the kind of carrot you can get when you do solid cultural research. This email was written to me concerning the steampunk comic I draw for, which revolves around a culture based on the Romani people.









It is worth it to put in the work and get details as right as you can, because when you do, you make sure somebody out there knows they're seen and valued.

But How?


So, how do we do solid research? How do we make sure we write diverse characters well? How do we ensure our history is well done?
Here's some tips.
  • Research, research, research. And I don’t just mean hitting the books! Odds are you have friends or ways to reach folks in the communities you’re writing about. Talk to them one-on-one, if they’re willing to help, and ask questions about how they experience life. What are the small things people wouldn’t expect? For example, I had to look into how anxiety manifests in different people (not just myself) to ensure that my characters with anxiety weren’t all cookie-cutter stereotypes of the disorder.



  • Vet your sources! Give preference to websites with .edu endings, which come from sites that aren't (generally) trying to sell you something. Check for references. If a site doesn't have them, don't use it. Stick to books written after the 70s unless it comes highly recommended: pre-1970s books often have out of date or erroneous information.
  • 1. Infoplease 
    From current events to reference-desk resources to features about history, this site puts a remarkable array of information within reach. Guides to the nations of the world, timelines of political, social, and cultural developments, special quantitative and qualitative features like “The World’s Most Corrupt Nations” and “Color Psychology,” and more cover just about anything you could think of.
  • 2. The Internet Public Library 
    Unlike the other reference centers on this list, the IPL is a portal to other Web sites, brimming with directories of links in topics like Arts & Humanities. (Dictionary of Symbolism? Check. Ask Philosophers? Right. Legendary Lighthouses? We got your legendary lighthouses right here.) If you need background information on either fiction or nonfiction projects, stop by for a visit — I just dare you to leave without a digressive click or ten.
  • 3. The Library of Congress 
    The online presence of the official repository of knowledge and lore of the United States is an indispensable resource not only for nonfiction writers seeking background information for topics but also for fiction authors seeking historical context for an existing project or inspiration for a new one.
  • 4. Merriam-Webster Online 
    The publishing world’s dictionary of record is at your fingertips online as well as in print, with a thesaurus and Spanish-English and medical compendia, to boot. The dictionary also includes refreshing can’t-we-all-just-get-along usage commentary. (That and which, as pronouns that introduce restrictive clauses, are interchangeable.) You’ll also find video tutorials on usage from dictionary staff, a Word of the Day feature, word games, and a variety of language-watch features.
  • 5. Refdesk
    Refdesk.com, like Infoplease, is a clearinghouse for online research, with links to headline news and timeless information alike. You can easily get lost in its Daily Diversions directory, which includes links not only to humor, games, and trivia sites but also to more respectable resources like DailyWritingTips.com (whoo!). If you have a question, chances are you can find the answer on this site.
  • 6. Snopes 
    How do you verify that this self-described “definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation” is what it claims to be? Go to the site and find out. The fine folks at Snopes.com will set you straight about any one of hundreds of posts — each with a prominent judgmental icon, and commentary to back it up — about that one thing you think you remember you heard about that one thing. (For example: Posh comes from an acronym for “port out, starboard home” — the ideal respective locations for accommodations on a luxury liner — right? Cue the buzzer. Bogus.) TruthOrFiction.com is a similar site.
  • 7. Wikipedia 
    This user-generated online encyclopedia got a lot of flak a few years ago for some inaccurate information posted by someone with a grudge, but that was an isolated incident. Also, many sources warn against using Wikipedia as a primary source for research. That said, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of the wealth of information available on the site — much of which is written by subject-matter experts in the field in question. Then click on one of the online sources linked in the footnotes, or take your search to one of the other sites in this list.
  • When you’re talking to people, first ensure they’re willing to help! Be respectful of their time, their boundaries, and any sensitive subjects. They’re doing you a favor and being a marginalized person is incredibly difficult, especially in our current socio-political climate. So make sure that you are a positive force, not a negative one. You’re doing this to write good representation and to help their community, not to stroke your own ego.
  • Get beta readers and sensitivity readers from the community you’re writing. Again, make sure you get people who have time and desire to help, and that you’re respectful. Sometimes you think you’ll have something down pat, but a sensitivity reader will point out something that didn’t even cross your mind as problematic or misrepresenting a group of people. It can be a shock, but take their comments gracefully and make the changes you need instead of arguing or defending poor writing choices.
  • Make sure your characters are well-rounded and well-written characters. Don’t make them caricatures or build their entire personality around being part of a diverse community. Being part of a marginalized group is not a personality trait. It affects our worldview, some of our habits and actions, and the ways we interact with others, but it isn’t the entirety of who we are.
So hit the books, do the work, and produce something you and those you portray can be proud of. It's worth it.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sunday Revue April 7: Dead By Wednesday

The Curtain Lifts....
Annnnd What's This?
The MC Reappears Onstage!

That's right, gentlefolx. It's been quite the winter, but the Strip Show is BACK. And what a treat we have on stage today!

Dead by Wednesday, Volume 1


This is the life of Wednesday Daring: track space scum. Catch. Collect bounty. Spend reward. Repeat. Follow Daring on her adventures tracking down the galaxy's most notorious criminals, all with the help of her space slug, Andy, at her side. The creation of Kim and Sam Eggleston, Dead By Wednesday can be found at this link


The Rating

A Wild Space Ride!


The Raves


The joy of comics is that, with the right artist, you can lay out a world in a series of neat images. And this work has the right artist. It has the right writer too, and things get off to an...interesting start for our protagonist.
Welcome to Purgatory, and the life of Wednesday Dare. In a few clever panels, you have an entire world in mind, complete with multiple species, a history, the haves and the have nots. And Wednesday has a day to start...reluctantly.


With bounty-hunter grit and sexy wit, Wednesday is a great character.  She's got sass, and the skills to back it up.
And her friends aren't too shabby either.


The characters are laid out quickly and well, settling them into the multi-racial universe they inhabit deftly. And Wednesday's character is one that will stick in the mind. The art style is technically great and clever to boot, using backgrounds to good effect and adding in a few little easter eggs for the geeks in the audience. Color and shading are used to their fullest extent, and the species and ship designs are engaging without being distracting.

Sly, wry and full of quick wit, this comic is well written and well-versed in its genre. It gets us through setup and into action without missing a beat. But it still makes time for unexpected tenderness. That's a great thing to see in a comic.

With nice setup, nice action, and a nice payoff that has readers waiting for the next issue, this one has all the hallmarks of good comic writing.

The Razzes

I have two areas of objection, both minor, for this work.
1) I would have liked a little more story in the first issue, but it definitely got me hooked for a starter
2) while technically good, there's a sense of stiffness to the shoulders and arm gestures of a few characters. Male necks are also a bit stiff (no pun intended ;) ) I'd like to see more work on fluid lines to loosen that up.

The Revue



Raise a glass and read a copy.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saint Patrick's Day Special 2019: American Wakes and Immigrant Heroes

Reblogged from an article written in 2018

Psst, Put Down Your Green Beer And Listen Up!
Superman's An Immigrant!


Yep, you read that right. Superman is an immigrant, and so are a lot of your favorite comic creators. Try googling the word 'comics' and add any name on this prestigious list.

*Max Gaines
*Harry Donenfeld
*Martin Goodman
*John Goldwater
*Louis Silberkleit 
* Eisner 
*Kurtzman
*Lee
* Kirby
*Siegel
*Shuster
*Infantino
*Spiegelman 
*Los Bros Hernandez
* Prohias
* Perez 

You'll find that each and every name belongs to someone arriving or born to recent arrivals in America.
So why the list?
Because today is March 17, when we honor-no, not green beer-one of the greatest waves of immigration America has ever seen. In America, Saint Patrick's Day is a cultural touchstone for hundreds of thousands of Irish people and their millions of Irish-American descendents. Today we honor and remember the sacrifice they made and the struggle they endured to become part of the fabric of America. In memory of their struggle, today is a fitting day to reflect on how today's homeless and tempest-tost are treated as well.

Saint Patrick's Day is deeply personal to me. I come from a half-Irish family and speak the Irish language. I grew up without green beer, but with songs about American Wakes, pride and loss.
In the 1800s, an American Wake was a party thrown for a person leaving Ireland for the shores of New Zeland, Australia, or America. It was a wake for a living person, since their family and friends were sure never to see them again. They came seeking opportunity.
But what they often found was intense discrimination, and comic artists were part of the wrongs done against them.
Racisim against the Irish perfectly underlines the insanity that racism truly is: two people who look exactly the same to modern eyes were, in 1849 Brooklyn or anywhere in America, judged by very different standards. One was a true American, upstanding and worthy. The other was a dirty Irishman, and would never amount to anything.
Today, I wonder if we could tell their grandchildren apart. Probably not. 


It has happened again and again, too many times. In 1775 the Germans and Poles were seen as destructive influences. 
In the 1840s, the Irish were called 'filthy Catholic rats'. 
In the 1880s, the children of those immigrants turned on new settlers arriving from China. 
Today, the grandchildren of immigrants turn their rage on those from South America and the destroyed Middle East who come searching for what their own families came to find: 
a place to build a life.

So, you enjoy Saint Patrick's day? You want to honor your ancestors?

Here's an idea.
Stop putting others through what they had to endure.

If you remember the stories of your ancestors, it is your duty to help the world stop perpetuating the same suffering they endured on a new people and a new generation.
But if you are a comic reader or a comic artist, you already hold a powerful tool against the crime of dehumanizing newcomers. We can support comics like Barrier by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente.
 You can help make sure kids who can use it get Rosita Gets Scared for free.  You can pass around The Golden Door, a comic about diverse immigrant experiences. You can tag somebody and get them to read Bleeding Cool Comic's article, Immigrants Are Welcome Here.
You can read American Born Chinese and understand how deep you can internalize self-loathing if others make it clear you are not welcome. You can read Permanent Alien to understand how high you can rise in spite of it.
And you can remember. Today is not about green beer and bad accents. Today is about a people who lost everything and arrived here desperate. By a certian orange windbag's standards, they would not be allowed into the country today.
But the Irish built our Northern cities and formed the backbone of America's industrial generation. The Chinese immigrants built our railroads and made Alaska, San Francisco and so many other American places thrive. Every group that has come has enriched our country. And every group that comes tomorrow will enrich it further.

So don't say 'Kiss me, I'm Irish' today. Say this:

Go ndéana a mhaith daoibh, a chairde.Céad míle fáilte daoibh. 

Pronnouced: Go je-nah a wah dov, a hairde. Cayd milla faltcha dov

Translated: You are welcome here, my friends. A hundred thousand welcomes to you all.




Wednesday, February 6, 2019

On Streamlining And Sanity

The Key To Good Work Is Finding The Time To Do It



As comic artists, we all know the importance of taking time for our art. But what do you do when you love many arts?
It's a question I've had to ask many times. Currently, I have 2(or 3, depending on how you count) blogs. A book series for sale. A webcomic. And a business.
For many of us, our creations are like flesh and blood children. We love them. We work for their wellbeing. We take care of them.
But sometimes the kids wear mom/dad out. What to do?

Here's some ideas:

  • Write up a to-do list with solid deadlines (or semi-solid deadlines). Seeing the things that need work puts them in perspective. Many times, your tasks seem overwhelming partly because they're nebulous. Checking the tasks off one by one is a good morale boost.
  • Prioritize. Are you getting enough out of each thing you're working on? What is it bringing you? Really ask yourself what it's worth.
  • Streamline and Combine. I found myself that, many times, you will realize you're running redundant projects. Have a blog and a book series? A blog and a comic? Consider hosting one on the other unless you have a definite reason to avoid that. This is a plus for a number of reasons:
    • More content in one place=more viewers
    • Less pressure to keep up social media presence for multiple projects
    • More peace of mind for you!
  • Be Realistic. If you say you're going to get nine things done in a day and pull off four, you're going to feel down. Of course you are. So schedule yourself for doing four things. If you get more done, great! If not, you have time.
  • Schedule. Plan your schedule out, with realistic time slots. A) it helps keep things in perspective, and B) things don't fall through the cracks. I do mine months in advance!
  • Use A Post Scheduler For Social Media. I like Buffer, personally. Through the year I collect neat articles in a saved collection. On a weekend in January, I set up the social media for all my projects. My blogs are linked to their pages, so they feed directly into social media. This is such a weight off the creative mind!
  • Take Care Of Yourself. If you feel like crap, you're probably going to produce crap. Athletes train and rest between training. Do the same, mental athlete.
To that end, I'm taking my own advice. As of February 28, the Strip Show will no longer have its own social media presence. All its posts and content will appear in the social media of 'Parmeshen', my personal webcomic. If you'd like to keep up, the content will pop up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And, of course, right here. 
See you there!
-The MC

Tuesday, January 29, 2019