My third post today: Considering the Plan

The following section now breaks Hat Trick into two pieces in the November Monthly. It’s a little ad-hoc and hastily assembled due to precise constraints on how many comics I needed…

Some of these are Frankencomics, single comics assembled from panels of multiple different previous comics. I’m not 100% happy with them. They mostly make sense and say what I want to say in the space I was given. I may make some additional comics to try out different ways of saying what I mean to say more intentionally rather than reuse the old ones or use frankencomics.

I’ve got about a week to figure it out. No big deal. If Bunny Trail Junction isn’t perfect on its first outing, well, that’s how I learn the skills that will perfect it.

So let’s think about some stuff I’ve largely already covered on this blog:

Sadly, it’s late, and I’ll have to consider course corrections tomorrow, which is irritating because my aim was to reach a conclusion today. But describing the question is half the answer.

Sticker Stars

So here’s basically all the characters I had as tests of the new pixel art style, plus Octoboy and Piranha. I decided to meet in the middle on the linework: Jump and me have thinner lines than our previous outing. Octoboy and Piranha haven’t been updated to have thicker lines yet, but I’ll let it be for now. It stands out like a sore thumb to me, but it’s decent art for all that, and you wouldn’t notice it didn’t match without me telling you.

I’m utterly uninspired to work on any game at the moment, and have just been fine-tuning the process of producing stickers, which is what I’m calling the HD sprites. I do intend to start jamming on a game, though at this point I think I might start on the dot in September instead of starting now. That rules out Halloween, which averts certain temptations for me.

Well, some elements of Bunny Trail Junction have not functioned gracefully. So I’m off to go fix those bits. I’ll probably use my stickers to make some basic merch as well.

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”

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 0210510.123

I don’t know why I wander away from these simple formula children’s books. It’s hubris. Why do I think I’m better than this kind of work, especially given that every time I return to it, I up my game a serious amount?

Five or six more books of this sort, and I’ll actually be objectively good rather than just “Well, there is technically worse stuff available for sale at Walmart, and I did learn something, so I’m gonna call this a win.”

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).

Bunny Trail

First order of business: got myself a name and a logo for my prototyping comic.

This is not the June 2021 cover. It’s a test. A mockup. Because the actual covers will feature this background, but with appropriate characters frolicking about. But this is a significant step toward that, AND it tells me what I need to know in my design process. And I think it’s nice to look at.

Captain’s Log 0210430.111

On the last day of April, we are at 45 comics. Enough to have a backlog of a month, right? Well, technically, yes. I’d like to go another month before I pull the trigger so I can be more selective, but I’m very pleased with how I’m going.

My comic template has lines pre-scribed so I can divide the panels in half if I want. I tested that for the first time today.

It works well enough. Ideally, we’d export with that center strip transparent instead of white, but we’ll let it be for now.

At the moment, I have a pattern of 1 comic on my days off, and 2-5 on my days on. So far, it has balanced out so that on my days on, I scan in 4 comics, so that’s nice. The plan is to keep production ramped up for a month, then produce a book, a website, the subscription, etcetera.

The ultimate plan is to always do at least one strip a day to keep my backlog, but to work full time on projects like Awesome Moments, Last Legend, or what have you in one-month blocks, then switch to a month of going all out on the comic to keep the backlog up. The comic will always be available free online, and as cheap paperbacks, but those who want can subscribe to fund my undertakings, and then individual, higher quality projects will be prototyped in the comic, crowdfunded, and produced.

RE: ADHD Unleashed…

I have a few thoughts there, but we’ll come back to that after we get some chores handled.