Bunny Trail Junction is a Machine

Today, I got the finishing touches on the September Monthly done and sent away to Amazon. Because part of it was trying to make a preview image for the Inktober Monthly, I ended up “finishing” the cover for October as well.

I’m not content with it. Piranha, in the foreground, has a funny looking head, and not funny looking in a way that I prefer. Perhaps I will do a new version tomorrow, and fix or replace the cover. Nevertheless, it is work well done for all its faults, and I may just move on with my life. For such is the mantra of Bunny Trail Junction.

Made this bit of art for the interior, though, of which I feel justly proud:

I’d like to take a moment to go on about how much of a machine Bunny Trail Junction is.

Every weekend, I upload a week or two of comics to the site. August is set. September is halfway done. It’ll be completely done tomorrow or Monday.

The September monthly is done. I’m just waiting for KDP to decide if they want to pick nits. There is already merchandise available on Teespring based on the September art.

October is going to be Inktober, which means I’m going to be busting my butt trying to get it ready in time when the Inktober prompt list drops. But I have enough strips already to run November.

I don’t want to run November based on just the strips I have. I want to have a wider selection, so it can be higher quality. But if I had to, I could. And by the time September is done, I should be good for November and December, which means I should be good to create the first Annual.

I have created a monster. It’s amazing.

I mean, yeah, it doesn’t make money. Not yet, maybe not ever. And it is not for me to say my work will stand the test of time.

But in 12 months, I will have 12 monthlies. My stories can blossom and grow on this comic, some into good fruit, some into bad.

I do need to figure out how to make a living.

I’m not worrying about it too hard right now. I’ve worried about it hard for darn near 20 years, and that hasn’t solved it for me.

I’ll feed this machine I’ve created until next month, when I see a doctor about my chronic underachievement, and depending on how that goes, I guess we’ll see.

But you know, there is something about this machine.

It’s a machine that should work despite my flaws. And it’s bigger and better than I thought my flaws could ever allow. And that’s why I’m so self-impressed.

Pride goeth before the fall. So ask again in a year, I suppose.

Captain’s Log L8·B1: Squirrel

I have tried being employed, and swallowing my arguments with my employer rather than walking out.

I have tried being unemployed.

I have tried being employed, but feeling quite content to walk out when things don’t suit me.

I dislike all of these states. But the first feels dishonest, and the other two at least feel honest.

It is possible, just possible, that there is a job out there in which I can be content. It is also possible that I need to learn, by the Grace of God, to be content in a suboptimal job.

But I think I had ought rather to try being self employed.

Previously I have stated that I think I would rather have a day job than have to choose my artistic projects on their profit merit. Now that day jobs require obeisance to the State Religion, I am less content with that conclusion.

I talked it over with my best friend. My real plan is to tinker until mid-September, and hope that I can be drugged into being a productive citizen. But my ultimate goal is to create a little media company that covers my family’s needs, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t act on that goal. And following a pragmatic plan that I have considered and ignored because I doubt I can hold to it with my ADHD, on the basis of “Well, I might get treated a month from now, and that might enable me to carry it through,” is every bit as sensible as getting a retail job for a month, and hoping my treatment allows me to hold down a real job.

That was where I ended my thoughts the day before yesterday. Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of journaling in the form of comic-making.

I hope never to run these comics on Bunny Trail Junction. Navel gazing is self-indulgent and poor entertainment. But the rules are I draw whatever I feel like at the time and hope God gives me something good. And the whole point of this blog is to permit me to be self-indulgent.

Well, here’s the comics.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·B1: Squirrel”

Captain’s Log L841

Bunny Trail Junction is excruciating. Today is the fourth. There are four episodes up. I have gotten 31 episodes uploaded. But nobody will see them all until the 31st. Unless they buy the paperback or subscribe to the subscribestar.

And this is necessary. I am trying to lay a solid foundation, and build up a six month backlog (I currently sit at an unacceptable “almost two month” backlog.) I want to gather fans one at a time, slowly, steadily. I want the rock solid growth that doesn’t vanish, not the flash-in-the-pan growth that is amazing one day and gone the next. This is how to do that.

But it’s agonizing to watch. I’m currently drawing comics that wont be seen until November. And nobody cares about the website yet. Nor should they. The story everybody cares about just started today. I’ve already posted all 14 episodes of that story on Twitter. There will be no new, unseen episodes until September 15th.

The middle of next month is the soonest I can expect interest to start picking up. But the plan, the plan I’m working, isn’t a failure until the comic has been running, unmarked and uncared for, for ten years.

Today, as an experiment, I tried printing out a double-size template and drawing the comic with a pocket brush. I am not displeased with the results. Here’s a comparison of the test comic and an earlier comic in the format I’ve been using:

And in a final progress report, I may or may not have abandoned my day job rather than submit to a mask mandate.

I am by no means certain and dogmatic in my position. I don’t think masking up is a terrible umbrage, not to be borne. I think it may even be sensible. But I also increasingly think that the only hope of preserving the culture and values I love is to respond to even paltry requests for concession with defiance. The elites are not acting in good faith, and should be treated as such.

Anyway, I’m not fully convinced of my own position. My workplace forced me to make a call before I had sufficiently considered it. I have made the best call I can. God help me.

Captain’s Log L7R1: Platformer

I have the August Bunny Trail Junction.

My theories about using green/red ramps for screens, and then printing in grayscale have been vindicated.

But for the sake of making a Wren RPG, I changed up my pixel art style to something more like a 2D Brawler.

Which drew on my cartoony hand-drawn style, and turned about and influenced it in return.

Now, I’ve been explaining my RPG notion in comic form, and have half a mind to put those episodes in the September BTJ..

But while the pixel art uses my Rainbow Rose color palette, which is intended for print, it wasn’t specifically designed with black and white printing in mind like the Rainboy Palette. So I had to get a sneak peak at how it would turn out in print. Fortunately, each monthly should preview the next monthly. And so..

It’s fine. It’s not great. Specifically targeting black and white would be a wiser choice. But it’s fine. Good enough to print.

But I’ve been going back and forth. When I get treatment, should I work on my RPG engine…

Or focus my energy on Dronefu?

Those are the financially viable ideas, right? I’ve made series of comics explaining both ideas that will likely one day run on BTJ.

The RPG is viable because when Alpha Dream died it left a huge void in the JRPG community. Maybe not big enough to feed Nintendo, but certainly big enough to feed me. Dronefu is viable because it’s basically Megaman X, only moreso. And HD drawings. Nobody wants another pixel art platformer, but HD platformers are still in it to win it, right?

But I got to thinking. Hat Trick is the thing that is turning heads right now. Any game I end up making will probably be heavily influenced by what parts of BTJ people are talking about. And I could make a pixel art Megaman X-style game with Merlin from Hat Trick. I’ve toyed with it before.

It came to a head this week because I crashed my bike and bruised up my hands. I’ve been unable to manage the fine motor functions of drawing for most of a week. It’s been frustrating.

Though I’ve pulled some pretty panels out of my recovery all the same.

And I thought about making Hat Trick comics using pixel art.

It felt wrong, so I didn’t do it.

I like how the Rainboy Palette comics turned out, so making pixel art strips for BTJ in general doesn’t feel wrong at all. But the notion of doing portions of Hat Trick in pixel for some reason causes my spirit to rebel.

So I tried an experiment. I took my Wren RPG sprites, downgraded them to Rainboy palettes, and dropped them in the bus stop scene.

It doesn’t look terrible. It looks okay. I can make comics this way.

And maybe games?

And maybe games. Maybe the combination of the Bunny Trail Junction webcomic, and making low-res pixel art platformers will work out for me. Can be turned into a career.

I think it can.

I just… love how much more expressive and stylized these larger sprites are. Even though they are 5x as much work as the smaller sprites, easily.

So, I tried popping myself and Jump the Shark into the retro diner. I had to scale up the door because it was obviously too small, but I didn’t really need to fix anything else.

It’s too small. But it’s not terribly too small. It’ll do until I get in the mood to make another. And… yeah. I’m thinking I’ll try making a platformer using these graphics. Maybe using Godot, but maybe just picking up my old Unity platformer. Because after all, it already has a shader meant for these palettes, and lighting effects ready to go. I could just fork it…

I’d want to scale up the world, or else scale back to the 16×24 sprites instead of the larger more detailed sprites. I dunno man. I kinda love both.

There’s a certain irony that the platformer already exists with Candy. Way back in the day, when I did a Ludum Dare with a programmer who is now my friend, I conceived in my head a platformer staring Merlin. But I swapped in Candy the Witch because if my partner turned out to be dodgy, I wanted a character I wouldn’t be too upset over losing to be in the game. And Hat Trick is fairly dear to me.

I do have Merlin in both sprite scales.

Well. Anyway. The comic is launching in roughly four days. Everything is primed and ready to go. I’ve got the first week loaded, the first month planned, the first two months drawn…

Onward!

Captain’s Log L7.C1: I got bunny-trail.com!

Bunny Trail Junction will be at bunny-trail.com. Which I got. Huzzah.

I’ve also put a brief note up on the subscribestar page. By the 15th, I aim to have everything but July’s comics uploaded there.

Also by July 15th, I should have the printed proofs of the PDF in hand.

Lads and lasses, it’s happening.

It’s only a webcomic. And a paltry, random one at that. But we’re gonna post EVERY DAY. We’re gonna have AWESOME STORIES. And it’s happening.

And I’m all in. I don’t commit these days, but I’m committing to this beast.

Captain’s log L7-71

I was assembling Bunny Trail Junction for August, and that necessitated making introductions to each of the lines of comics therein. Dronefu didn’t end up making the cut, but I didn’t know whether it would going in, so…

And indeed, platfomers have always been my interest. But, you know, metroidvanias in general and pixelart metroidvanias specifically are overdone.

Nobody’s done right by Megaman X yet, though.

I’m not switching projects. Or rather, I’m not reswitching projects. My commitment is to produce more than one Bunny Trail Junction comic per day, and one month’s worth each month. A video game has more interest for me — and more financial upside. But I’m not committing to anything bigger than the comic unless and until I’ve gotten my ADHD sorted out.

Or at least, that’s my decision for now.

That doesn’t stop me from toying with ideas. How could it? That’s literally my damage. So today, forced to call out by non-Covid-related covid symptoms, I tried tinkering with Dronefu a little. Ended up sculpting a character.

Dronefu is in a very real way a game that’s designed to be everything I could want in a game both to play and to make. But I can feel in my bones it’s not ready yet. Some element is missing that I haven’t found.

As for the comic, work proceeds apace. I need to draw five or six pictures to serve as endcaps, get far enough into the month to know what I’m doing for September, get a test print, and figure out the website. But I’ve got 3/4ths of the month left to do it in.

I think frankly, I’ve already bitten off a bit too much. But that just means I need to figure out where to streamline. I’ll take a look at it tonight.

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.

Bunny Trail Junction is back on the menu, boys

I’ve begun producing Hat Trick 1 as Bunny Trail Junction episodes.

And I’m about 70% decided that I should just produce Bunny Trail Junction proper, including all the random comics I’ve made already (more than a months worth) most of which I’m ditching as a false start, and start pimping my Subscribestar. I want to produce a title card for Hat Trick. But there you go.

One of the fascinating side-effects is that I patterned the Hat Trick sequel on a 2×3 grid, and Bunny Trail Junction is patterned on a 1×3 grid that becomes a 2×2 grid on Twitter with a title card. The upshot is, the first few pages have translated directly. Here’s the test 2-page spread that I finished last year, followed by the Bunny Trail Junction version:

Continue reading “Bunny Trail Junction is back on the menu, boys”

Captain’s Log 21·6 | 22·B: The King of Formats?

Yesterday in a big mess of brainstorming I circled around the idea of making a prototype comic. Again. You know, the same prototype comic I made back in April. But for real this time, you guys.

Last night, before work, I did concept drawings for the characters. It happened that I had a printout of my pixel art mockup for my Wren game in my clipboard

An older version of this picture

And so I tried to match styles. Which, in turn, the pixel art is an attempt to match styles with the hand drawn art I’ve been doing, so…

I was very pleased with the result, and so I carried my brainstorm across in my 16x9x3 format:

I think that this comic format and my tendency towards cartooning are so suited one to the other that that’s basically what I should do. Just go back to making comic strips of anything I feel like, and hoping that I can eventually harvest fully grown stories off the comic vine.

The art style works best, I think, if the characters are a little more lean and lanky than the pixel art equivalent, but I think drawing to pixel to drawing design pipelines are worth considering.

But here’s another thing. I can produce 2+ strips a day in this format, even when I’m not making Beans. Meanwhile, the average update schedule at, say, Arktoons is once a week.

So why not be random splody and make comics of everything? When I have enough Hat Trick, I’ll ask Arktoons if they want it, and easily keep up a once-per-week upload schedule. When I have enough Jump the Shark, I’ll ask Arktoons… etc, etc, etc.

And maybe Arktoons will turn me down. But I think this is the way forward. I think it always was, even though most of the comics I produced in April and May were false starts. The nice thing about false starts is I can make ’em, then turn around and make the proper starts. It’s all good.

Bunny Trail Junction AKA Magic Beenz is back on the menu. But I think not beenz. The beenz were an experiment, and the result was “It’s aesthetic, but not what I’m going for.”