Captain’s Log L9·52: Comic Relief

As I’ve gotten further into my inktober work, different pictures have taken over the cover of the October monthly. Here’s the current lineup:

(And hey! The September monthly is finally available for sale!)

Meanwhile I’ve begun work on a game. Work is slow because I’m doing two full ink drawings a day, which eats into the time I can work on the game at all. Here’s what two days of this have netted me:

Let’s pretend I have about 4 hours of brainpower in the tank per day. That’s one per comic, and one spent on Japanese, leaving me only one for the game. To be sure, I spent more than two hours on this program — but most of the stuff outside the two hours of “brainpower” were minor tweaks rather than getting somewhere and doing something. So, all told, not bad.

Normally, my rule with Bunny Trail Junction is it has on months and off months. In on months, I focus all my brainpower on the comic, and I expect to produce three to five episodes a day. This is what I was doing during my proof-of-concept in April.

If, say, I’m working on a video game, it’s an off month. In an off month I produce one comic a day. So in an on month I am rapidly gaining ground, and in off months, I am slowly losing ground. Simple enough.

I’m making a game, so September is an off month, right? Except I’m doing two drawings a day instead of one because I have to hustle through the Inktober prompts and get them all done before the Ides in patent violation of the spirit of the law. So, I’m trying to cobble together the bones of a game while working twice as hard on comics as I intend to do for the rest of the month once the Inktober prompts are finished.

By the 14th, my visit with the doctor, the prompts should be finished, and I should be back down to making a comic a day and spending the rest of my brain hours on the game. If I throw together a decent series of comics about the game, I can have November assembled within days of October and start to be truly ahead of the game. The game being Bunny Trail Junction obviously.

But one dark shadow has been lurking in the corners of my mind.

What about Awesome Moments? Awesome Moments is the most important thing on my to-do list, after all! Making comics about bunnies fighting goblins is nice, but this is leaving a record of my faith for my children!

When am I going to finish that?

Oddly enough, Awesome Moments got kicked into production by my work on the comics. This:

Became this…

…and this…

Perhaps it is time to unfurcate it, and roll Awesome Moments back into the comic.

I’ve toyed with the idea of setting Awesome Moments as the story of David Jones catechizing his kid.

It sidesteps a lot of the angst I have over it. As a convert from one faith tradition to another, I am painfully aware of the doctrinal differences between me and my Christian brethren. It doesn’t matter: Awesome Moments is my presentation of the faith to my children. I cannot, I must not, bend on any doctrine of note just because I love my brethren with whom I disagree.

So, you know, if you’re reading my Bible Story books to your kids, and you disagree with me, you’ll want to point out (incorrectly, of course) where I’m wrong. You should be doing this with all the childrens’ Bible Stories you’re using already. You don’t know what crazy cults have gotten their fingers into making those books!

Making the book “The Bible, as told to John Michael by his dad” makes this a lot less messy. You can say, “Look, David Jones is super cool, and we love his perspective, but he’s an imaginary character and sometimes he gets important stuff wrong.” Badah-bing, badah-boom.

(Of course, there’s no need, as obviously I am right about everything. But the option is now cleaner.)

Anyway, today I was avoiding work, as one does on the Lord’s Day, and pondering, and the thought came to give it a little test comic. And here we go:

If I decide I don’t like it, I don’t have to run it. But for some reason, this feels right. This feels like how I’m supposed to do this.

Intellectually, it’s not quite right. Bunny Trail Junction is supposed to be pure entertainment. I’m not trying to evangelize with my comics. There are Believers in them, and Christianity is true in them, but they are meant to be Christian stories in the same sense Lord of the Rings is a Christian story: that is, the work of a Christian craftsman plying a trade, not as a preacher, but as a man pursuing excellence in his particular craft.

But it feels right. And as I grow older, I get more mystical. My gut says aye. The ayes have it.

For now.

Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…

My well oiled machine of Bunny Trail Junction has thrown a cog: I submitted the September monthly for publishing back on August 13th and…

Reasons it could be delayed include copyright disputes, and I quoted a single Bible Verse at the beginning of the book without giving the appropriate copyright notice, so I think that’s what’s going on. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about it until Amazon takes it out of Limbo. After more than half a month, I begin to worry that it will never leave Limbo, and September will be the lost episode.

Of course, September is scheduled. And I have a new picture of my merch to put on the “Support Bunny Trail Junction” page:

It’s incomplete without the September Monthly, but I decided to add in all my kids books. Including Awesome Moments, even though it isn’t done and available for sale yet.

Which leads me to the question of what to do tomorrow.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…”

Captain’s Log L8·U1: Some things I aim to do

Right now I’m pushing ahead on getting Inktober drawings done. I’ve got 7 of the 31. I hope to finish the day at 8 or 9, and get 2 or 3 done tomorrow as well, then average 2 a day through September. To pull it off, though, I may need to scale them back. Do smaller pictures.

My other option is to do one or two a day, and do a comic a day in addition to that, to build up my backlog even further. And while Hat Trick and John Michael Jones are both calling out for work, I have another option as well. After all, I’ve been talking lately of which game I should make, if I were to try and make a go of making a business of making games…

Considered using one of my Unity builds..

And now I’m planning to switch to Godot. I want to reduce my reliance on Unity, and I want to reduce my reliance on Windows. I don’t trust either of those companies, least of all Microsoft.

And I’m thinking, let’s do it. Let’s build games that bring us inchwise closer and closer to Breath of the Gameboy.

So I’ve mocked up some Gameboy style graphics,

and I’m thinking make a short game where Arthur fights goblins in a graveyard over September and October, and then release it in November, just as Arthur starts fighting goblins in a graveyard on Bunny Trail Junction.

Then, next year, I can build up to and crowdfund 8 Lives Left.

Of course, my need is to make a living, and I still haven’t worked out a short term connection between my working on this and my paying my bills. I have a long term connection. January I’m planning to ring in the new year by going on a publicity blitz for Bunny Trail Junction. At that point I’ll have five months of comics, two to five months of backlog and, assuming I follow this plan, a video game. When I reach out to the internet at this point, I’ll have a lot of stuff to point them to, and a reason for them to tune in every day. Then if in, say, February or March, I run a crowdfund for 8 Lives Left, I’ll be able to build on that foundation.

I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, a seven comic arc going over the Hat Trick → 8 Lives Left → Breath of the Gameboy pipeline could ring in November, followed by the Hat Trick arc as it now sits, followed by some bestiary entries or something would make a decent November.

Explorations in Ink

I’m going to post three panels from Bunny Trail Junction, but they are ripped from three different episodes:

Except they’re not just three different episodes. They’re three different workflows.

In Panel 1, I printed out two comic templates on a sheet of 8.5×11 paper. Since BTJ monthlies are printed 5×8, and this is scaled to use almost all of the page up, whereas the monthlies have generous margins, this means the artwork is, say, 20% bigger than its final form.

I letter in the text with a Pigma Micron 05, except for bold text which gets my Tombow しっかりbrush pen. (And know, I don’t know what the heck “shikkari” means, I just know enough Japanese to sound it out and produce the correct letters with my keyboard). Large pools of black are filled in with the Pentel Pocket Brush. Hatching is done with a Pigma Micron 01, and corrections/stars/white outlines on black are done with white Sakura Gelly Roll 10.

This is how the hand-drawn episodes have largely been done.

However this month, I decided to try something new.

For Panel 2, I printed my template so that one template fills an entire 8.5×11 sheet. This means I’m working at well over twice the final size, as the Good Lord intended. The lettering was done with the Tombow しっかりbrush pen, with bold provided by the Tombow な(?)やか brush pen. In this case, I’m not actually sure I read the kana right. It’s something-ya-ka anyway. Maybe that first symbol is a kanji I have yet to learn (that would be most of them). The scene is then drawn with a blue pencil (like the first), but inked with the pentel pocket brush. I have a lot less control over the pocket brush than I do over the Tombows, so the result is less consistent, but it has a certain life to it that the Tombow art lacks. Again, I use my Gelly Roller for white bits and my Pigma Micron 01 for hatching. Which looks about the same, despite the fact that it should look noticeably thinner.

Panel 3 was a process I “Prototyped” yesterday. I noticed that some of my art looked from ink leeching into the paper around my brushstrokes and decided to try drawing the comic on Bristol Board, as if I were some sort of professional.

Other than that, the process is identical to 2. Well, not exactly. Since I can’t print my template onto the bristol board, I have to use a light table to project the template through. And if I’m going to project the template through, I can “pencil” on my computer and print the pencils out, which allows me to use all sorts of hacks like selecting, rotating, scaling, and smudging to more quickly assemble my scene.

The lines are, indeed, crisper on bristol board. There’s a reason it’s the industry standard. However, I still don’t have good control over the pocket brush. Moreover, because the ink doesn’t leech into the surrounding paper particles as much, it also dries much slower, and it is easy for someone sloppy — someone like me — to smear it with his hand.

At this moment, I have half a mind to go back to the Tombows for illustrating. Maybe use the bold/mystery meat tombow for outlining at this double scale, see how well it handles on Bristol Board. But I really want to keep that life that the pocket brush is giving me.

Here’s a test panel of John Michael Jones, illustrated in like manner to the above, but then colored with the Rainboy palette:

My plan, at this moment, is to take it up a level. Use an actual paintbrush and actual ink for Inktober. Then back off and try a few comics with the Tombows after I’ve finished that gauntlet.

Prompts drop tomorrow. Here’s hoping I hit the ground running.

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.

Been thinking about HD graphics, IDK.

Using the Rainboy palette in an HD game would be unusual. But it would have the advantage of being a unique look. Doubtless, folk would accuse me of making a Hollow Knight rip off if I made, e.g., an HD platformer using Rainboy colors. But the charge wouldn’t easily stick. Between the ink look and the 8-color palette, the game would have too much of a clear identity.

If the comic’s conceit is it happens inside a video game, ala Wreck it Ralph, HD sprites over pixelart backgrounds work well, but that kind of mixing and matching in an HD game would be odd. On the other hand, I could mix it up in the comic and keep the art consistent in the game.

Drawing with real ink would certainly be a thing, but it would be a ton of work to have the animation be consistent. If I draw it on the tablet, I can modify one frame to create a similar frame. Drawing as a vector file would be the slowest, but not only do I get infinite scaling out of the deal, I can color everything in the Rainbow Rose palette, and then convert easily to the Rainboy palette if I so desire. Of course, I can reasonably turn a Rainboy Palette game into a more colorful game with shaders — that’s what I do in the Candy Raid platformer prototype. But it’s easy to make well behaved palette shaders for pixel art. Less easy for HD.

Yeah, I overuse this gif. そすみ.

I am leaning towards Bunny Trail Junction living in a Dragon Egg / Rainboy world. HD art with a distinctive look wrinkles my JRPG Vs Platformer internal debate because the chief issue with a pixel art game is it harshly limits the marketability. The JRPG overcomes that by finding an underserved audience, but HD art overcomes that another way.

Well. I need to ponder for a while, then pick a direction. I certainly need to stop making these self-indulgent, “brainstorming and testing ideas counts toward my quota” serieses. At the same time, the September Hat Trick bit has pages and pages of “these two characters have a conversation” exposition. Such things are needed in stories, even in comics, though one ought to avoid or mitigate them as much as possible. Premade art with lush backgrounds would ease the pain of making such a segment.

I’m not going to use it for Hat Trick. The art shift would be too jarring. It doesn’t feel right. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel wrong to use it as a device for telling other stories.

I certainly won’t be ashamed of using Vidya-style graphics to make comics, even if it’s not pixel art. Not so long as you can buy Dog Man comics at Walmart.

Edit

Couple of things. Here’s how the print test went. Turns out, Amazon prints lighter than I do. Which makes sense. But the palette works either way.

Second, I tried making and then converting sprites for Octoboy and Piranha.

But there’s a wrinkle. I scaled all the sprites up to the same size in inches… but different DPI. I initially tried to draw Jump and myself at 600 DPI, as that’s what I print at. One inch per 16 Pixel Art sprite pixels. But the lines were too fine. I wanted them to be meatier. So I went with 300 DPI.

(Presumably, I can get the same effect by going to 600 and doubling the brush side, but never mind that, this was just a test).

I was fairly content with that. But then, due to sleep deprivation, when drawing the supers, I went ahead and scaled them to 600 DPI per my original plan, and didn’t notice that I was drawing finer lines until I was done.

It looks nice. The finer linework fits the characters better. But I want all my HD sprites to be consistent. So I either need to fineline myself and Jump, or broadbrush Octoboy and Piranha. Or, worse still, pick a relative brush size halfway between the two (as though I were working at 450 DPI) and redo all four!

I’m completely out of capacity to make further progress today. So I’m going to leave the question aside for now, and we’ll pick a path tomorrow. But at least the test furnishes me with the data I’ll need.

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.

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.”