Sewer Art: Vigilant Vampires

Background: To give an introduction to the first part of this AR (which is to say that at this point I hope to be sending 2 comics to you), I am in a LARP, which stands for Live Action Roll Playing. You may not know (and definitely don’t care) what this is so I shall explain. No, to difficult, let me sum up. LARPing is where you take games like Cthulhu, Dungeon and Dragons, Vampire, etc. and you reshape it into a “smaller” form that can be acted out like a play, rather than around a table. You may have heard of such things from reports on the news, as it would seem that every teen that kills someone is 90% certain to be a Goth and/or a LARPer. This is a change from our days when the psychos would be metal heads and into D&D, but hey, times change, but I digress. A LARP is like a Renaissance fare (and as realistic) where people will dress the part and pretend to be actors for their characters (which are usually Vampires (as White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade is the most popular due to the Goth crossover appeal. I was suppose to do some work with White Wolf but Harry and the crew (the fat people from DC) cut me out of the contract after taking some of my ideas. But again I digress.)) and the “play” is improvised as the characters interact. There are plots involved but it changes as the actors “write” the script. If you are wondering how the dice rolling is done, it is by rock-papper-scicors modified by abilities/traits that the characters have. If you care enough to know more, let me know and I will give more detail but this is probably much more than you care to know right now anyway. The point is that I am in a Vampire LARP where I play the leader of the Nosferatu (ugly information gatherers who live in sewers and hang with rats) clan in NYC. My character is called T-Rex due to his deformed arms and reptilian head. There are various clans and stuff goes on blah, blah, blah but the point is that I’m having conflict with another group of vampires known as the Ventrue (the Donald Trumps of the undead). The players of the Ventrue are cheesy in that they came to the game with the sole intent to work as a unit and take over the “city”. I say it’s cheesy only because they designed characters that covered all bases and yet are 100% loyal to their leader. In the gaming world, we call this power gaming; in the real world, we call it having no life. Seeing that all the scheming I was doing was still falling short (I am one vs. their 8 but the bets are still on as to who’s deviousness is winning the game (the guys running the game figure the odds are 2 to 1 against me but that’s not bad considering)) I decided to throw my experience points towards turning T-Rex into a devastating fighting force. In this way, I can even out the odds by simply “removing” rivals the old fashion way. Now that you understand all this, the comic might make a little more sense.

Concept: The main guy running the LARP has a website that I have been pushing him to update. That led to him asking if people had ideas/art etc. to make the renovation worth his time. I know that I’m no artist but I also know that I want to do comics. I figured I might be able to do a comic for the LARP. Since T-Rex has deformed arms, I first thought I’d pretend that it was him drawing the comic and do a kind of stick figure, “T-Rex smash puny Ventrue” comic. As explained in the Background, I was having problems thinking of ways to counter the Ventrue threat to my clan. I realized that they could always “outbid” anything my clan was trying to manipulate so I decided to cut to the chase. Ventrues hate to get their hands dirty and realized that I was mis-focusing my efforts. I was riding the subway (this is where is spend far too much time and often do a lot of my thinking because I have nothing else to do on it) when I was realizing how much economic power the Ventrue controlled and that I couldn’t catch up. “If only I could just get rid of there leader,” I thought, and then realized “wait, I can kill the little bitch!” Soon I realized that this could be the topic of the comic I wanted and, having a little note pad with me, I started to write out what I had been thinking. It was pretty basic, I just set down the problem (the Ventrue control so much) and countered it with the solution (the Nosferatu can kill the Ventrue). It all came very fast, and was probable influenced by daily comics (in that the beginning of the comic always sets up for the twist/punch-line).

Layout: I knew I wanted the comic to be simple (2 guys talking) so it was just a matter of how many panels. When I wrote the 1st of the 2 drafts of monologue the number worked out nicely and just went for the 6 box format. I typed up the lettering to see how much room I would need and based the panels around that size that would still fit on a regular piece of paper.

Pencil: I didn’t think of this as a “real” comic at first and didn’t want to use my “special” paper. I had sketched out some drawings of the 2 characters after I didn’t like the look of the stick figure idea. I felt I had the general look and got to drawing. There were some problems, but I wasn’t totally displeased with the results. I used a regular #2 pencil for this as I was going for a non-artistic art look. For erasing I used either good old pinkie or Pentel’s Hi-Ploymer plastic eraser which is rather smooth. Even still, I had some mishaps as the paper bent while erasing excess lines.

Ink: I had a few problems here. I was using my .01 pen for the art and my .7 for the borders. The borders got screwed when I had to stop and start and the paper would suck up some of the ink upon initial contact or if I stopped for a length of time. It looked better when in pencil as I had this real sketchy quality to it that I can’t explain beyond that it looked like a sketch and it looked fun (as “good” is not the proper word).

Lettering: As mentioned, I did this first and on computer. I cut the words out with an xacto knife and used my glue stick to glue the words. I used a ruler to try to keep things straight but who knows how successful that was. Also, the glue got stuck at one point and bent the words, a real pain in the ass.

Reproduction: This was easy as it was the same size, but when I made a couple of copies the toner was low so it came out bad.

Extras: I wanted to have a comic that could be more than just an inside joke. I think that I have that to the degree of people that know Vampire. I feel that any of those people can read this and laugh without knowing such details like who the people involved are. Ideally it would be a universal joke but we can’t have everything.



Cej sez:

Suck on This 1) Proud to see that you’re continuing your series, and I look forward to continued exploits in this realm.  I’d recommend that you do continue and that we start to see some return characters (is that possible? or is everyone dying off?).  I realize that it’s probably too much to ask to see an actual “full length” story about this realm, but I would like to learn more about this realm, and I suspect that there is a lot more to tell that could take on a larger life than just these “one-off” jokes (which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with a joke…)

2) The art looks pretty loose, but it also seems pretty clear and straightforward.  I’m not quite sure how to express it, but it seems a lot less timid than some of the earlier stuff.  Maybe it’s because it looks like it was drawn quickly, but competently. It may be the heavier line weight or the heavier boarder.  I like it.

3) I like how well the “story” flows.  Although the way that the characters look is not 100% consistent, it is still very clear what is going on.  The action moves quickly, but smoothly because of good panel-to-panel transition.  It may be hard for you to tell, but this looks quite good.  The distinctive clothing also helps to clarify who’s who.

Bite Me

1) I’m not sure that an arrow is the best mode for showing action/direction, but it’s not bad.  I think it might help to make the end of the arrow wider than the point of the arrow (perspective kinda thing).

2) I don’t really “get” the joke.  I’m not sure if the punch line refers to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or if it’s a reference to something that I just don’t know about.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that you need to dumb it down for me or for anyone, but you might consider ways that you could give the reader more background info inside of the comic so that you could still tell the stories/jokes that you want, but still make this world more accessible to other readers.  Little things can go a long way—like having things in the background of the panel.  Just by having the Sheriff come out of the sewer, tells me that this is a different world.  (Still, I’m not sure if “Sheriff” is the guy’s name, his occupation, or just some shirt that he’s wearing.)

Now that your art is getting stronger (and it really is—compare this one to your first comic), I feel I can be more brutal.  As I mentioned in #2, some other stuff in the panels would go a long way toward “placing” these characters.  The street(?) and the manhole cover(?) in panel one help tremendously—give me some more clues in the other panels.  But panel one ain’t perfect: does Sheriff have legs or not?  We never see below his waist, so it’s hard to tell.