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.

A couple of years ago I quit my day job for a few months, falsely believing I was going to move home, 1,500 miles away from where I lived at the time. It was a gift from God. I spent more time with my kid. I discovered that our copy of the 3 Pigs was pure left coast propaganda. I made the Adventures of Jump the Shark and Sera Mermaid just to see if I could.

This was not my first attempt to create something. As a child, I told stories about superheroes and fantasy characters of my own devising. In my high school years I made a shooter called Win Dozer and a novel entitled the Seal of Dragonwood which netted me a rejection letter from Baen that was more than just a form letter.

When dating my now-wife, I charmed her with the adventures of Wren Valen, then called the wanderer, now called the flying privateer. These were novellas or novelettes written according to a formula that I remixed from Shakespeare’s 5-act and Jim Butcher’s writing advice, which in turn was drawn from his teacher, Debbie Chester. The Wren stories were probably the first thing I produced of professional quality.

But something clicked which hadn’t clicked before with Jump the Shark. I feel like I had always been meant to produce stories for children, but I couldn’t get over myself and actually aim my stories at children before that moment. After all, I am a cartoonist. I draw cartoon characters. Always have.

Even as a grown man intending to write stories for grown men, caricatures and cartoon animals abounded.

But I’ve never, ever demeaned children’s books. Into my adulthood, I delighted in Narnia, the Hobbit, the Oz books, even Dr. Seuss. I just never thought about producing kids’ books. I assumed as I grew so would the target audience of the media I produced. And in a way it’s true. I have no desire to produce anything that I, a grown-ass man, wouldn’t enjoy reading, even as I write for five or ten year olds.

But my first love was animation.

I fell in love with animated cartoons from the moment I first laid eyes on one, and wanted to make them. So I told all my family members this. Except I didn’t know the word for “animator” because I was four. So I said, “I want to me a cartoonist.”

And my family, bless them, took me at my word and procured for me pencils, pens, paper, and books on the art of cartooning, from tutorials on how to produce a newspaper comic strip, to articles about cartoonists like Johnny Hart, Charles Schultz, and eventually, Bill Watterson.

Bill Watterson gave two reasons why he never allowed Calvin & Hobbes to be animated. One is that different media have different strengths and create different worlds. The world and characters of Calvin & Hobbes the film or TV series would have to be fundamentally different from the world of the strip.

The other was that “Animation is, by nature, a team sport, and I find the fewer people have input into my work, the happier I am.”

I am the same way. I have made video games on teams, and I can grudgingly admit they are better than the games I made by myself, but I still regard the utter lack of control I had over the product as not worth the trade.

I love the art form of the newspaper comic strip, though. And I studied it assiduously as a child, even though my materials for studying it were acquired due to a misunderstanding. I devised several strips over the course of my life, but none of them were quite right.

For one, the era of the newspaper comic strip is dying. The newspapers are dying, and even if they weren’t, it’s been over decades since I, an unapologetic White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male, have been acceptable to them. For pity’s sake, I dropped out of college specifically because I wouldn’t sign off on what is now being called Critical Race Theory in order to become a schoolteacher.

But I love the artform. The misunderstanding that dropped it in my lap was providential.

So I’ve engineered a format that displays well on Twitter, okay on Facebook, and would print well as a KDP 5×8 book. The 3 16×9 panel stack, with optional title panel. First with the intention of making a sprite comic. Then the intention of making a monochrome sprite comic. And then, with just drawing comics.

And then with drawing beans.

The impetus behind the comic was to create a low-effort product that I could crank out, and then if anything caught on, I could create a high-effort product using the comic as the testbed/bones of it. But the conclusion was if I made a project too low effort, I lost faith in it. The beans would not do. And the comic would have to be a real thing.

Right now, the comic as it exists on my hard drive is an anything-goes. After all, it was meant to be the everything prototyper. That’s why I prototyped it as, among other things, “ADHD Unleashed.”


Providence

You know, the Mouse is putting out its propaganda.

They’ve got a new show about bisexual teens being themselves in an occult playground called “The Owl House.” I’ve not seen it. Nor do I intend to give money to people who hate me and wish to groom my children.

The Owl House (2020) | Download from Rapidgator or 1Fichier

It’s what people call the “Calarts” or “Beanmouth” style, but it’s not a super lazy or sloppy expression of the style. It actually has a beauty to it.

Beanmouth is abominable in places. Thundercats Roar is intrinsically a celebration of ugliness, a ritual desecration of a once-loved franchise. But the trend is a legitimate branch of western animation, and it can be done beautifully.

After all, the style I’m converging on started out as a throwback further up the stream, to old cartoons and comics, and it’s not entirely unlike beanmouth itself.

I would probably enjoy it but for the knowledge that it’s a poison apple. And what do my friends and internet family put out?

Science fiction and fantasy novels. Aimed mostly at grownups. Maybe a little YA.

Why do I have to be the kids’ book guy? Stand by myself against these production values, this cultural magnitude? It’s basically just me. And I’m dicking around with video games I’ll likely never finish instead of cranking out the kids’ books.

But I can do that. I’m okay at it. And I get better with each book.

It’s a good mission. It’s a mission I love. To be an entertainer for kids in pictures and plots, without the poisoned quill.

I have partially finished and finished drafts of books and comic books. And I’m thinking to myself, maybe I can go back to Bunny Trail Junction and make it into something.

Maybe this:

…was the format all along.

I am opposed to divination, but I do believe in Providence. It is a fool’s errand to look around me and try to decide from my circumstances what God’s Super Special Will for my life is. God’s Will shall be done. I pray in the Lord’s prayer that I aid it willingly rather than unwilllingly, not that it will manifest itself to my mortal mind.

But Providence is real. The Lord directs the paths of His own for the good of the Kingdom. 30-odd years ago, when I failed to communicate my desire to be an animator, and was set instead on the path of the cartoonist, that was not for nothing.

Arkhaven

Arkhaven has launched its webtoons-like site.

It’s made me want to fix up Hat Trick and produce it for the site.

But you know what?

My widescreen tower format suits it just fine. And Arktoons publishes a comic or two that looks like in a past life it would have been a newspaper strip. Perhaps I am being prepared for such a time as this.

Perhaps I can fuse John Michael Jones and Stardogs into a comic about a family of interdimensional palladins trouble shooting in different worlds. Or just produce Bunny Trail Junction. Or make Jump the Shark and Hat Trick and Wren Valen and all these comics into different days in the same format and launch five comics.

Perhaps this is the way. Perhaps my time has come.

I feel, as I have often felt before, like there is an excellent answer just beyond my fingertips.

You know, Re-Tail has the mass appeal to feed my family. If I could produce that, I could spend the rest of my time working on whatever.

But I don’t want to produce that. I want to produce the paladins to stand against the Owl House’s witches. And I feel like I’m being prepared for that. I feel like I’m on the cusp of figuring it out. The magic secret sauce that will cause everything to fall into place.

Neopatronage II: The Antimouse Equation

Peanut Butter

Author/Musician David V. Stewart has argued on YouTube that we are exiting the Corporate Era of art, a distinct era like the Baroque or Romantic eras, where art is marked by being owned, funded, and distributed by corporations. As this model collapses, Brian Niemeier argues we slip into a new model of artistic existence: neo-patronage. I noted the synergy in these concepts some time ago. It’s of personal interest to me because I would like to be paid to make cool stuff.

Basically, the idea is that art is returning to a patronage model where eccentric millionaires keep stables of intellectuals for the purpose of making neat stuff. Since most eccentric millionaires are Death Cultists these days, crowdfunding can enable collections of upper middle-class men to support their own stables of artists.

This is the first ingredient; the peanut butter. Now for the bananas.

Continue reading “Neopatronage II: The Antimouse Equation”

What if

Cache Miss, the story about game sprites swapping between living in a ghost town and re-enacting stories…

Was also Piqha, the cast of colorful shelled bird-man gremlins and…

Was also Stardogs/Starlancer, my answer to the Berenstain Bears and Star Trek?

What if the handheld game console on which the sprites lived was a spaceship. Or more accurately, a ship designed to navigate the Dream, where stories have substance. And a piqha family uses that ship to rescue story characters who are being jettisoned by a mind virus that is ravaging the fictional worlds of the Dream.

It’s Wreck it Ralph meets Kingdom Hearts. Except politically too on the nose.

But the on-the-noseness will abate as the concept sees development. As I work out the rules of the reality and the motivations of the characters.

I think this is it. I think I’ve solved my story equation.

Only problem is this thing. This thing ain’t no spaceship.

Let me fix that for ya.

Now that’s a spaceship!

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?

Rise and Fall of the Mouse?

Arkhaven has a three-part series on the rise and fall of Disney (or more accurately, the rises and falls).

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I don’t 100% agree with all the assumptions or conclusions of the writer. I find myself more in agreement with Sam Lively’s Trojan Mouse assessment, though I have caveats even about that. But both Lively’s book and the article series can serve to give you a rounded gloss of Disney’s history both in terms of animation production, and ideology. On matters of inference, ideology, and artistic integrity there is room for some debate; on matters of fact, both resources are quite good.

Anyway, I’m not here to push my own quibbles with the assessments. Merely to note them as resources.

Perhaps I will write up my own thoughts at some future point.

Art Under the Shadow of the Gun

I have nothing new to say. Only a new audience and a new occasion. This essay is nothing more than my ripping off of C.S. Lewis’s Learning in War Time.

I have maintained for the last decade or so that I expect my country, the United States of America, to fall apart in the early 2030s. This belief is not due to my own expertise, and I am ill suited to defend it. It is the considered opinion of historians and philosophers I trust.

Of late, however, men are starting to take my premise seriously. Except they expect the collapse much sooner. Next week, perhaps. The foundations are shaking. The public mood is turning. And being ill-suited to the task of defending my 203X date, I’ve heard a question floating around my circles:

What role has an artist in all this? Should he set down his brush and take up a gun? Or, if he holds his brush, should he seek to use his art to aid his friends and defeat his enemies? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while Rome burns by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

The Christian has a more serious question. For of course, wars and rumors of wars are nothing but birth-pains to us. Every man who dies on the battlefield will rise again to live in eternal glory or eternal torment. But nations and political groups are mayflies, creatures whose lifespans are measured in mere centuries.

Should the Christian artist throw aside his brush, then, and spend all his effort tending his own soul in a monastery or nunnery, or seeking to save the souls of others as an evangelist or priest? Or if he holds on to his brush, should he seek by his art to aid the angels and defeat the demons? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while souls burn by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

Clearly, whatever answer suffices for eternal matters must also be strong enough for trifling matters like a world superpower at war with itself.

And here we can cheat on our impromptu philosophy exam. We already know what the Apostles told us to do in the light of eternity: To use our gifts for the glory of God. To do whatever lies before us with all our strength, as if God and not some man had set us the task. To be content in our station, whether master or slave, though to cast off the chains of slavery whenever peaceful means to do so present themselves. To be good fathers and good sons, good soldiers and good grocers. And good artists.

Neither religion nor war can stop men from drawing pictures, composing poems, or singing songs. Art is more endemic to humanity than war. We are born in the image of a gardener king, not a warrior king. We are made in the image of a gardener God who is a warrior God — but only because a serpent invaded His garden.

Moreover, we find men who are seriously at war writing books, singing songs, and celebrating Christmas. Even when the bullets fly, we will not give up culture. That is who we are.

To set aside the brush for the gun, then, is a foolish proposal. Even if it is a good idea, we could not do it except in the extreme moment of the emergency itself. Once we have taken up the gun and marched off into combat, our hand will itch until it seizes upon a new brush, or pencil or pen, and we shall find ourselves painting in the trenches.

So much for the question of whether we ought to set our art itself aside. Now for the question of whether we ought to prioritize the muse or the mission.

Let us stop thinking for a moment of books and games, and start thinking of houses. Let us pretend we are stonemasons and carpenters. What we are asking is whether we ought to stop building houses, and instead build barracks and chapels.

The answer is situational. A carpenter hired by the army ought to build barracks as the army directs. A carpenter hired by the church ought to build chapels as the church directs. But a carpenter hired by neither ought to go on building houses, to the glory of God. The best, most beautiful houses he may, given his talents and constraints.

A cobbler serves God best not by putting little crosses on his shoes, but by making good shoes. And a storyteller serves God best not by putting little crosses in his stories, but by telling good stories.

Now you may want to tell a story that makes a theological point. Very good. C.S. Lewis wanted to do so, and the Narnia books are great art. But perhaps you want to leave all moralizing and philosophizing out of the story, except as the tale itself demands. Very good. Tolkien hated allegory so much so that he openly disdained Narnia, and Lord of the Rings is great art.

If you are a musician in the army, and the army wishes you to write a march, then by all means write a march. If you are your own man, and you wish to write a march, then by all means write a march. But if you wish to write, instead, a sea shanty, do that. You are not fiddling while Rome burns. You are making a mark on immortal souls, while the mortal things crumble.

I make it sound very grand. I am not inviting you to put on airs. What deeper mark is made on a soul than the marks a mother and a father make? And yet our culture casts these aside as unworthy pursuits. The pictures I draw are nothing, in the end, next to the diapers I have changed. The pictures were as much a product of my vanity as any gifts and callings God has given me. But a dirty diaper is a clear and unquestionable sign from Heaven that there is work to be done, and work of an unambiguous sort.

A dirty diaper very cleanly cuts through the weight of emotion around all this talk of fiddling while Rome burns. Whether bullets fly through the air, or indeed, souls hang in the balance, the thing has got to be done.

But whatever pictures I feel a need to draw, let me draw them with all my might, as unto God and not men.

Hymns and Hims

There’s a quote made the rounds of late. Something about singing hymns with the same gusto as marching songs and sea shanties — because that’s what they are.

Something like that.

Problem is most hymns are not fight songs and sea shanties. And for some, that’s fine. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is perfect as is. Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand needs no improvement. It is Well With My Soul would only be worsened if it were changed. Thy Strong Word is… well, it’s already a sea shanty.

Being a convert to the Lutheran tradition, however, I am confronted with a problem. Most of the hymns were clearly originally written in German. They don’t go well in English. The poetry of the translation is good enough, but the meter of the music was plainly meant for different words.

Sometimes a German Hymn does fine directly translated. Usually, if it is full of sturm and drang. The aforementioned Built on the Rock and Lutheran Theme Song A Mighty Fortress Is Our God are good examples.

On the flip side, nearly everyone who suggests changing up the music in the divine service is trying to sneak in a Baptist-style worship service long on blue jeans and guitars and emotional manipulation and short on anything that actually confesses the catholic faith. I have fended off a couple of attempts to recruit me for such campaigns, due to the fact I have a decent ear, and can thus sing slightly better than average.

I didn’t go to all the trouble of converting just to attend a second-rate version of the church I left.

Thing is, the church has been around since at least when Cain and Abel went to make sacrifices (I would say since Adam first heard God curse the serpent), and in those 6000+ years permeated every culture there is. We have no excuse for bad music. We ought be able to skim the best of tunes and the best of poetry off the top of that great cataract of culture. We ought to have a giant book chock full of verified bangers.

I lack the training to right this wrong. But there it is, and it pains me greatly.

Anyway, I’ll be listening to sea shanties for a while. Sea shanties are the anthem of the broken spirit discovering after the breaking that somehow it has won. That is a very Christian spirit, even if the shanties tend to be long on whores and rum. And I have added “Shanty Hymns” to the list of things I’m making, even though I’ve no skill for the task.

What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?

Breath of the Gameboy was at one point my dream game: a game that combines the open world and chemistry system sensibilities of Breath of the Wild with the tighter mechanics of Link’s Awakening.

Here’s a mockup someone did for Reddit.

Obviously, not 100% identical, and not using Nintendo’s precious properties or graphics. But a rough idea.

That’s a 10 year game or more, especially for one guy. So I pondered how to break it down into smaller pieces. The idea was, if I made each piece a game, that game could fund the next piece, and then the next, until the final product was finished.

My best plan was 8 Lives Left. It’s a good product plan. Just the combat system. You are a cat who has been murdered, and you decide to use your remaining 8 lives to get revenge. Like John Wick, only you are simultaneously John Wick and his dog.

These projects are not currently under development. I like them; I don’t like them enough to devote years of my life to them. I bring them up because a very sensible way to undertake a big project is to turn it into little projects. A great way to make a big game is to make part of that game into a small game.

So what’s the 8 Lives Left to my Licensed RPG?

Continue reading “What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?”