The King of Formats II

There is a thing called comicsgate. I mention it with some trepidation.

When it became obvious that Marvel and DC were more committed to their observance of the Death Cult’s religious shibboleths than even to profit, several groups of people began simultaneously making their own comic books. Some, I consider friends and allies to this day. Some, I wish well, but I would rather ignore them and be ignored by them in turn. Together, this merry band was branded comicsgate.

And then it fractured into pieces as the groups attacked one another. I have my own theory as to who is at fault, but I’ll not share it here. Obviously, my guys were 100% innocent and the other guys were 100% guilty. But I am not in the thick of Comicsgate; I am outside it.

See, I’m not a comic book sort of a dude. I never got ahold of comic books as a kid. While Comicsgate is either reminiscing about the glory days when we didn’t know Wolverine’s true identity, or even delving back farther, to the days when Batman wasn’t afraid of guns, my exposure to the comic art form was 100% newspaper comics.

I knew superhero comics were a thing. My mother loved the Chris Reeves superman movie. I spent hours pouring over a book about Spider man from the local library. I had caught bits of the Adam West TV series. But I don’t have nostalgia for the good old days when comic books were good because the only comic books I had access to where collections of BC, Peanuts, Wizard of Id, Garfield, and Calvin & Hobbes.

And, as I’ve related before, I also had access to books on how to make these newspaper funnies, and articles interviewing Jim Davis, Charles Schulz, Johnny Hart, and eventually, Bill Watterson.

All because five-year-old me miscommunicated and said I wanted to be a cartoonist rather than an animator.

And you know what? I want to be a cartoonist rather than an animator. I love the art of the newspaper comic strip. I think Scott Adams’ formula of 6-dimensional humor is a fantastic innovation in the understanding of the format.

Even though, you know… I’m not making much use of it.

Yep. I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned from the study of newspaper comic strips and applying them to story telling rather than joke telling. And that’s just how I intend to do things.

This is fine. There have always been newspaper comic strips that worked this way. Either mixed humor and storytelling, or else abandoned humor altogether and focused entirely on storytelling.

The newspapers are dying. The Newspaper comic strip is dying. The webcomic is its heir. But the webcomic changes some things.

Newspaper comics were filtered by syndicates and newspapers. Webcomics are unfiltered. The filtering process weeds out visionaries and prophets who defy convention and social norms, but it also weeds out dreck. So now, comics can exist that are better than what the papers would allow … but a lot of other comics exist that previously were denied existence because they were legitimately crap.

Webcomics can have color every day, not just Sundays! And yet I’m ignoring this and working purely in black and white ink. I’ve considered trying to come up with a setup where I use grayscale paper and black and white ink to create a tri-tone comic, or simply adding in a gray after I scan, but I’ve discarded these ideas.

Webcomics can have animation. Again, I’m ignoring this. I’m just making paper comics, but keeping the web in mind.

And that’s the aspect ratio for you. 16×9 doesn’t show up in a lot of newspapers. But it works nicely on Twitter, and if I stack the panels vertically, you can read it on your phone.

This kind of vertical formatting is the innovation of Webtoonz, and now Arktoons as well. Webcomics for a new era. Huzzah. I approve. Especially since, IMO, they will fit nicely in a pocket book printed by KDP.

I think the Newspaper format comic deserves to live. I think I’m going to take it under my wing and continue to produce things in this fashion. I think my 3x16x9 styling will neatly combine the needs of screens and books. But it has other advantages that recommend it to me.

The Format of ADHD

I can spend several months making an illustrated book. I’ve proven it several times over. And I’m definitely going to drag Awesome Moments across the finish line. I don’t know when, but it’s good for my kid to have.

But long projects are hard. If what I am told about ADHD is true, I don’t struggle with controlling my focus; rather, I literally cannot control my focus.

When I try to simplify comic making down enough to make it a rapid prototype, which was the original purpose of this strip, I lose interest. It’s too easy. When I try to do multiple drafts to maximize final quality, as is really ideal for the kids’ books, I lose interest. It’s too long.

If I have an excess of focus, enough to make a proper comic book or (alas) a children’s book, I can make my RPG engine, and that will be better both for me financially, for the culture at large, and of course, for great justice.

But I need enough of a challenge to care. It is not enough to make beans. There has to be craftsmanship.

I have to care.

Captain’s Log 21.6 | 21.A: Concept Singularity 2

I’ve got a bunch of ideas whirling about right now. They’re not organized, and I’m blogging them because it’s better to have them out than in. This is going to take into account many of my recent adventures.

For general blog readability, I’m tucking this beneath a fold, but the conclusion came to me the next day.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log 21.6 | 21.A: Concept Singularity 2”

Thanks, I hate it.

I’ve started doing a book about my ADHD. I dunno. Maybe it’ll be useful some day. I’m working in my Zoom & Enhance workflow.

Tonight, for grins and giggles, I did the page of me overlooking Anvor.

I have started working on the book because my mind is stuck on a continuous loop of how crap it is that I do not choose what to focus on or focus well enough to do anything. I am enjoying my new day job as much as one can. It’s a great fit. But I dislike having a day job. I have a list of almost 30 projects, and 5 or 6 of them would be guaranteed hits if I followed through on them.

I’m getting that frustration of wheel spinning again.

The ADHD book shouts out the big list of projects. After all, 90% of my problem is a million great ideas and zero follow through. And because of that, I keep getting reminded that more than one of them is financially quite viable. Aside from Anvor being… okay. Fine I guess. I would enjoy it… 8 Lives Left would kill, and so would Re-Tail.

The problem with being inspired to consider my problems is I get to wallow in my archetypical despair.

But perhaps now that I have an idea what I’m aiming at, I can get that fixed. Yech.

Who can deliver me from this body of death? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyway, tonight’s process has got me thinking about the painting I’ve been going on about for the last three posts. I was unsatisfied with how the cartoon painting of Anvor came out. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s not great.

I think this experiment is failing. Well. I think this experiment is succeeding, in that any experiment which teaches you something is a success, and this one is teaching me that I don’t like the results of my digital painting.

After being intensely dissatisfied with the painting of Anvor, I decided to do a quick, small, study, where I dug up a photo from the internet and painted my own version, using the sloppy zoom & enhance methodology. Only I convert it to Wren. I decided to go full thirst mode on this, because the point was I wasn’t having fun or enjoying the outcome and so let’s paint something I will find pleasant to look at. Behold, study in blue and orange:

Thanks, but I hate it.

I think it’s a decent enough picture for a quick, impressionistic study made solely 100% for fun. I will probably include it henceforth whenever I make a great gallery of Wren. But I think that impressionistic brush paintings are not going to be it for me, and this picture was the straw that killed it.

Well, these pictures:

I just like these pictures so much more:

At the end of the day, I am still a cartoonist, and content so to be.


Woke up this day to people bashing Shel Silverstein in a blog I follow. I endorse bashing Shel Silverstein. It is abundantly clear to me from his work that he hated little kids, and given that I, who enjoy writing for children, have to have a day job, it irritates me that a man who hated it made a career of it.

You know, making kids books is a good enough calling. It’s a freaking fantastic calling. It’s just about the best calling there could be. And yet, my mind is always on churn, looking for other things to do, or ways to complicate it, even though I make kids’ books just fine.

Aaannd..

I dunno what’s next. Focus on getting the ADHD sorted. Maybe try to find a short path to feeding my family as I get there.

Awesome Moments awaits.

Despite the extensive 3D work I’ve put into it, I think I want to ditch using 3D rotoscopes for consistency because they stiffen my drawings in the same way painting does. I dunno. I suppose still using them as reference, but not for tracing might work out allright.

More studies, more practice, more refinement are in order. But less of A, and more of B:

And I need rest and spiritual counsel and prayer.

But!

I feel like we took a detour that was needed to be sure of the road.

Captain’s Log 21·6 | 03·B

Here’s roughly the neighborhood of where we are:

The navigation is done via the A* project, which in turn, feeds commands to the virtual pad…

Which is *not* how I did it before. Before, I just made the character walk in the direction you clicked, oblivious to any obstacles, and then the virtual pad fed commands to the “click on the ground” components.

What this means is I can reuse my old code for clicking on objects and creating dialogue, etcetera, but I’m going to need to tweak it to play nice with the completely revamped navigation system.

It should be easyish. But I’m having trouble getting started. Maybe because it should be easyish. I may push it eventually, but I spent yesterday getting the pathfinding up, usually a day off, and I only have a couple of hours before I need to clean up and head to my day job for orientation. So I’m letting go of making more progress on the game today for the moment while I get some thoughts down.

Also, I drew this last night. So let it not be said I have not made progress:

Sometimes I consider making a picture book that is just that: pictures. No words. But that is neither here nor there.

Here and there

Captain’s Log 0210514.053, the End of an Era

A lot of stuff has come together in the last few days.

  1. As of yesterday, KDP has approved me for a hardcover test. I’m currently uploading and tweaking files for Awesome Moments as a hardcover, which is my preferred format for that book. That is today’s “work”, though I may do other things in tinker mode.
  2. I’m almost done with the first draft of the 3rd Jump the Shark book.
  3. My research on ADHD for my kids’ sake has peaked, and I have become resolved to seek treatment because there are several sensible life paths I can take, where only my symptoms stop me. I am not certain, but I am leaning towards ramping up Indie games.. e.g. choosing a game I wish to make, making a fraction of it, selling that, then adding another fraction, and so on.
  4. The conditions that allowed me to avoid a day job, or other form of gainful employment, are suddenly reaching an end. I have been given basically a year off by a combination of priorities and indecision. But that year is drawing to a close regardless of what I do.

In good news, the concept art for the new Jump book is getting rapidly more iconic.

I am not yet the creator I wish to be, but I am observably improving.

Anyway, once I get the hardcover “working”, my plan is to

A) Try out Thomas Brush’s 2D game toolkit.

B) Sort out my next step.

Captain’s Log 0210507.084

I’ve decided to storyboard a book in which Jump the Shark fights a giant robot on a volcano. Standard Kid’s Pulp formula faire, designed to be read to your kid in 7 minutes before bed, and yet be entertaining for all.

This is partly due to peer pressure…

Partly due to the fact that I’ve pursued my prototyping comic extensively for the last couple of weeks, and, stepping back, I’m not sure what I think of it. I think I’m investing too much effort for something I’m supposed to be able to take or leave on the cutting room floor, but not enough effort for something I’d like to sell.

For the last week or so, I’ve been assuming the comic is a resounding success that adequately pursues my goals while giving enough headway to my ADHD to avoid being confounded by it. But now I’m not sure. I want to trash or heavily revise two or three long-running storylines in the comic — and fair enough. It was designed so I could take it or leave it — but I’ve invested enough in the art that it’s a genuine emotional struggle.

Making a formula book is a good way to take a step back. It gives me the boost of adding another finished product to my lineup. It allows me to focus on all the lessons I’ve learned making books thus far, whereas more “serious” work, while incorporating those lessons, isn’t focused on them. It’s also a good dose of humility. I need to remind myself that my artistic pretensions are no substitute for skill, and what I want is not more important than what my audience wants.

And it’s an excuse to just have fun. The Jump the Shark books are me bullshitting for the sake of bullshitting for the entertainment of myself and my offspring. And, probably because they have that energy, people respond to them.

But frankly, there’s a part of me that thinks I should just make big ol’ children’s books. It’s the one win I ever get. I am inevitably drawn off that path, and yet whenever I step back on the path, things work out better. If I just stuck with it, I might see some proper success, too.

Anyway, I’m considering switching from a workflow of making these comics every day to a workflow of just building draft PDFs of children’s books. Maybe do a few pages of Jump the Shark, a few of Hat Trick, whatever strikes my fancy, all of them by the book and hewing to the formula (until such time as I have mastered the formula) and then produce whichever one is ready to go first.

In side news, I’ve been sculpting Crossover Arcade characters to fit in a toy voxel diorama world.

I really like this look. I want to use it for something some day. A book perhaps. But that’s… a lot more work between here and a finished product (although it will have the advantage that each finished book will make sequels exponentially easier due to asset reuse).

Captain’s Log 0210416.105: It Could Be a Bit More Awesome

Thanks to a retreat last weekend with my best friend, I realized that I’ve been focusing heavily on what is pragmatic in my constant quest for a golden workflow road.

No project is worth doing unless it’s full of awesome. Now, all of my projects have that potential, but I have not been specifically seeking that potential out. I’ve been looking for a way to do cheap and easy, instead of investing time.

I’m not sure how this revelation (which I need to rediscover from time to time) is going to shape projects in the immediate future. Awesome Moments itself may resume being my focus on the other side of the Weekend. However, we shall see.

In the mean time, here’s a workflow for making HD animations using Spriter & Krita:

Step 1: create prototype graphics at half size. Be careful about form and posture, and sloppy about everything else. The initial version of a character, especially if I intend to use character maps, should have out-jutty things designed to ensure each part takes up as much space as it ever likely will.

Here’s the Solar Guard, created for that exact purpose:

Step 2: Export at 4X size (that is, 2x the intended size; 4x the ‘sketch’ size) and animate in Spriter. Here, I am intending to shrink the graphic in Unity. By going to 4X size, I can allow for an amount of zooming without losing detail.

Step 3: Open the generated graphics in Krita and save them as *.kra files. Double the size once more, draw final quality art on new layers, then export it to a new skin folder at half size as png.

Apply skin in Spriter and see how it looks.

I may abandon shading on characters, in line with old cartoons where the backdrops were carefully painted and shaded, but the characters had flat coloring except in extreme situations. But I am content with this workflow and this art style.

I think after I’m done with Awesome Moments and in between books, I’m going to work on making a hand drawn game with Piqha. Maybe it’ll be an RPG. Maybe a platformer. Maybe I’ll work on both and see what happens. Maybe I’ll backburner Awesome Moments until my heart is in it again.

We’ll see what happens. But I need to feed my kid and the farm aminals.

Captain’s Log 0210408.043

I am kind of sort of burned out.

Work on Awesome Moments is at present stalled out. I’ve received proofs, done some out-loud read-thru edits, which I need to translate back into the PDF, and…

This post is gonna be long and self-indulgent, so I’ll stick the fold right here, and less a progress report than me writing down thoughts on why progress is stalled in hopes that explaining the problems to random people on the internet will cause my mind to settle on a solution I actually like.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log 0210408.043”

Captain’s Log 0210326.071

Proof is in.

Blanket Octopus : pics

Oops. That’s not my proof. That’s a blanket octopus. The females fly through the sea with superhero capes. The males went undiscovered until very recently because they max out at an inch long.

Ahem.

Image
Image

Work on getting my paperwork squared away for the Kickstarter proceeds slowly. My first read through of the book as already identified multiple grievous errors.

And I feel this close to figuring out my ‘golden path’.

wait, what?

Captain’s log: 0210320.054

The PDF of the Awesome Moments draft is done and can be downloaded here. Right now, I’ve just posted it to my subscribestar on a public post (so you don’t have to offer me money to get it).

Awesome Moments 1, maybe all of Awesome Moments, was always meant to be freely available to anyone. I want money, yeah, but I want people to have easy access to my religion even more. I think ultimately, the PDF of the finished book is going to be available on gumroad or something.

Yesterday I slept through my alarm and, being between tasks on the Awesome Moments project, made some half-hearted stabs at setting up the Kickstarter. There’s going to be a hiccup in the process of getting that going: despite it being several months since moving states, I still don’t have a lot of paperwork sorted out. So I guess getting my paperwork sorted is now officially working on my book!

Proofs are in the mail.

I included 4 ‘blank’ pages at the end of the proof, in case I decide I need to insert more pages to make the book work. Any more than 4, and I have to remove pages to get pages. Ideally, they remain blank, and I can use them in future prints to advertise the later books in the series.

But my brother suggested that any blank pages at the back of the book be turned into coloring pages. “Kids are going to color in books either way. Might as well have an officially sanctioned place for ’em to do it,” he reasons.

Well, it’s not a terrible. idea. In fact, I would like to make coloring books. I have avoided doing so thus far simply because I’ve yet to dig out a POD service like unto KDP in ease of use, and because everything I’ve made doesn’t naturally fit that format without extra work.

I broached the idea of making storybooks and just not coloring them on twitter and someone suggested the obvious thing I was missing:

Duh.

I’m not sure if I’m going to take that tack with Awesome Moments 1, or wait until my next book. It’s a tiny bit of bonus work, but it may be worthwhile just so I can sell a version of the book for $4 instead of $12.

I always get hung up on the price of my products. I should charge top dollar and make it worth my while, but I’m podunk, born and bred, and I want my people to be able to buy my stuff.

Continue reading “Captain’s log: 0210320.054”