For Whom the Bells (pp. 5-7)

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I finally finished this beast.

Here are just some thoughts on this piece:

I was trying to have a layout across the 7 pages that followed a certain pattern.  There’s a big “panel” that starts the page and occupies most of the page, and then a couple of smaller panels that finish off the basic idea of the page.  I didn’t want to make every page have exactly the same look, but I did want for it to have an overall pattern.  Although it wasn’t completely planned, you can see how the panels go from strict (p.1) to a little “broken up” (p. 2 and 3) to more staggered (p. 4) to almost without panels (p. 5) and back to regular (pps. 6 and 7).  I didn’t plan out the “arc” as a whole, but sort of dreamt it up as I drew page to page.   

This arc is also in the “mirror” aspect of the piece.  Obviously, this comic has a lot to do with self-image and how I see myself.  So mirrors, glasses, screens, and windows are in the piece—although, admittedly, this aspect was somewhat subconscious on my part.  I spent a lot of time looking at mirrors and pictures of myself.  Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about self-portraiture; but on the up side, this was much stronger than the self-portraits seen in That Terrible Pain.  You can also see the mirror aspect in the similarity between the 1st and last page.  I think that if I had known how long this story was going to be I would have planned it out better, and some of these aspects would have come across more strongly.  For example, I would have tried to make a little more use of the blacks to convey mood.

5) I like the panel-less aspect of this page, although it doesn’t work as well as I had hoped, partly because I was trying to cram a lot of different ideas on one page.  The warped image that appears through the glasses doesn’t quite work for me.  I liked the idea, but it just doesn’t look right.

6) I really liked this page in pencils.  Once I started laying down the blacks, it kind of didn’t look as good (a common problem).  In particular, I think that I would either have more darkness or a lot less.  Once I started putting shadows in, it just didn’t look right, which is why it looks like I’ve got a really hairy chest.  It’s supposed to be only a shadow.

7) The last page is a “negative” reflection of the first in that it not only mimics the layout, but it shows a darker figure on a white background.  This was deliberate.  I wanted a brighter page that symbolized that all was well, but to still have deep shadows—especially on the side of the head—in order to hint that maybe it wasn’t all good.  I like this page, but I really struggled with how to do the shadows.  I tried to make “softer” shadows by using thin lines, but I couldn’t quite make it work.  Overall, it came out okay, but whenever I look at it, it seems like I have raccoon eyes.

For Whom the Bells (pp. 3 & 4)

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In this month’s episode our hero finds the source of his ailment; but is knowledge enough?

I’m still not terribly happy with the layout of these pages.  I feel like it’s pretty slapped together, even though I did put some thought into it.  I tried to keep with the basic structure of the layout: one large panel over two smaller ones.  I couldn’t keep it up by page four, though.  I just wasn’t able to make it work.

I’m still struggling with the whole problem of “show me, don’t tell me.”  I don’t want to put too much information into narration captions, but I don’t think that the story warrants stretching out the plot.  It feels to me as if I’m jumping from panel to panel without any real smooth transition.  It feels like I’m saying: “here’s a picture,” “and now here’s another.”  It just isn’t flowing the way that I want it to flow.  Part of the problem was that I just jumped into the story without really plotting/sketching the whole thing out.  I have finally sat down and done some rough page layouts, but the whole thing feels stilted.

On the positive side, I am pretty happy with the black/white balance.  The basic compositional elements are there, even if I don’t think that they have come across as I intended.

I’ve found that the images that work best are the ones that I really sketch out first, using myself as a model.  A lot of times I just rush it, and do it from my head—which winds up looking warped or strange.  The “me” on the bottom of page four I think turned out pretty good.  I drew the upper image from a mirror, but it’s a difficult angle to pull off, and the face really looks misaligned (more so than it should).

Even though I like the amount of black, it’s pretty clear to me that my lack of backgrounds can really hinder my storytelling.  The hospital room on page two, while not great, I feel really helps to “place” the story.  Similarly, the party background on page four—while also not great—really helps to add some better depth to the scene that the two figures alone wouldn’t carry.  I’ve been looking more closely at comics, and it’s very clear to me which artists put some thought into backgrounds, and which ones seem to avoid them altogether.  Some of the mid-eighties spidey comics are terrible; there are not backgrounds to speak of, and they don’t even use blacks like me to cover it up!

I do like the big head on page three, although it didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped.  Generally speaking, I like my pencil sketches better, but when I try to ink them, they lose a lot of the qualities that made them interesting.  It’s a strange battle; I want to have high contrast in my images, but my sketches tend to rely on a lot of grey scale.  So I’m left trying to get a medium tone with ink, which leads me to lots of lines that don’t always work or shadows that are just a little too dark to be understood as shadows.  I’m still searching for the happy medium.

For Whom the Bells (pp. 1 & 2)

 

click to enlarge (2 images)

It’s hard to believe that it’s our first Anniversary of this whole ArmzRace shindig.  In many ways it’s kind of a mixed blessing.  On the positive side, I have 12+ new pages of comic art, which is pretty cool.  On the down side, it hardly seems like much output for a full year of my life.  I do feel like I’ve learned a lot.  To wit: I have much better control over a brush with inking my work—something I knew nothing about a year ago.  That’s not to say that I’ve mastered it by any means: I look at professional work, and I wonder how I could possibly get to that level of control.  But then I sit down to work, and I feel like some things come more easily than they did the first time around.  I also know that it is possible for me to be disciplined and to crank stuff out on a semi-regular basis.  I’ve also learned (or been reminded of) some things that are less than satisfying.  Like, it takes an inordinate amount of will to get started on these things.  I still don’t understand why it is such an uphill battle to get myself to sit down and just work, especially since once I start, I generally work fairly steadily until I get done.  The problem is that discipline is a difficult thing to maintain; it’s not like you get disciplined once and then it just sticks.  Somehow I seem to have gotten just enough discipline to meet my (modest) goals, but I’m still not persistent enough to have turned these actions into habits.  I will say that I am absolutely convinced that the time factor (i.e., putting out at least one page a month) is absolutely critical to my continuing this endeavor.  Real or imaginary, that deadline has often been the single factor that has gotten me off my ass to work.  Obviously, there are no consequences if I never draw another line.  Instead, it seems that imaginary guilt is my taskmaster.  Perhaps I’m a sick puppy, but I can’t knock my muse—even if she is just the manifestation of some deep-seated self-loathing.

In ritual celebration of this landmark, I thought that I might do another “Medical Mishaps” comic.  I had really intended to make this one similar in tone to the original cartoon about swallowing the quarter, but somehow it just didn’t come out that way.  It was different, I think, for several reasons.  I have been a bit depressed and stressed out lately for various reasons, and I think my frame of mind contributed to (or detracted from?) my tone in this comic.  Instead of light-hearted, it stops just short of serious.  Hopefully, that doesn’t make it too dull (or worse, uninteresting)—although it may be too soon to tell since this is only the first couple of pages.

 Secondly, I was struggling to come up with the right style of art for this piece.  I’m still searching for that area between cartoon and realism.  I want to base my art on the real world (i.e., I want things to be recognizable as real people, places, etc.), without completely resorting to a generic cartoon shorthand for everything.  I want enough realism to have some three-dimensionality in my artwork, but enough cartoonish-ness to have flexibility and pliability in my characters’ and objects features so that I can exaggerate a mood.  Maybe that’s too tall an order, but I’m still groping for it.

In any case, I spent some more time trying to come up with a self-caricature.  Self-portraits are a pretty difficult task, I think, because it is partly biased by one’s self image, and partly by years of seeing a mirror-image rather than a true image of oneself.  In any case, as will hopefully become clear over the next few pages, this story is largely about self-image; so in a way, it was important to spend a little time deciding how to portray myself.  I still think that I don’t quite have it, but I feel like I’m getting closer.

As to the tone of the piece, it may lighten up somewhat as my mood does, but there is also something appropriate about this piece not being too comedic, since it does represent a fairly serious event that took place—at least it seemed serious at the time.

While the artwork is still far from where I want it to be, I feel that I’m on the right track with the levels of black and white that I’m trying to achieve.  That is, I think I’m much closer to the balance that I want on a page.  However, I still overdo the number of lines that I put in any drawing.  I just never feel like I’ve communicated enough information, so I make line after line on the page, and after awhile, it’s too many.  Partly, that’s an attempt to find a shade between black and white.  Some artists pull it off pretty well; I’m still experimenting. 

Page 1: While there are still too many lines on my face, I generally like the way that the main panel came out.  The “pain” around my ear seems unclear, but I was afraid to put more lines or too much white.  Overall, I’m happy with the general plan of having one large panel with a few smaller panels.  However, I keep telling myself that I really need to go to the simple 6-panel grid before I try this fancy stuff.  My face is not terribly consistent in this page, but it seems more consistent that it usually is for me.  I’m really not happy with the third panel.

Page 2: The main frame really became too crowded.  I think that I could have put less stuff in it and still communicated the same feel.  The pillow, for example, gets lost; and the swirls around my head got too cutesy to be effectively communicative.  The amount of black feels right to me, but I really did a poor job of showing you the bed.  The second panel actually turned out somewhat like I intended it to, but in the finished page it seems a little out of place graphically.  Similarly, 3 and 4 are close to what I wanted, but I think they could be done more simply.

I think my biggest concern at this point is story movement.  A lot happens in just these two pages, and I’m not sure that I’ve done a very good job of transitioning from panel to panel.  Specifically, I want to say more so that the story is not too abrupt when the reader moves through the panels; but at the same time I don’t want to have a text-laden comic.  For example, in the transition from page 1 to 2, I go from mild interest in my condition to outright panic.  Is this too abrupt?  Do I need more time? More text?  It seems to me that this might be corrected by a simple text change: “it really started to freak me out” should become something like: “over the next few days, things got worse, and it really started to freak me out.”  I don’t know that the amount of information that I need to convey warrants a page in between or even a whole panel (because I don’t want to bore the reader with too many details), but I don’t want to be text heavy either.  I feel like I already tell too much rather than just show it.

On a related note, story movement may be abrupt because I have a tendency to do one-panel summaries rather than linger in a scene.  I go from pain to eating to looking in the mirror to sleeping to calling to doctor’s office all in a short space.  Is it even clear that I’ve gone to the doctor and he’s examining me in 2:3?

More next month.  I’ve already sketched out about half of p. 3.

A Sasquatch in the Suburbs (pp. 4 & 5)

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Concept Obviously, I’m still working on the whole “Sasquatch” thing; but part of the concept here was that I wanted to try out a two-page spread.

Setting it Up Basically, I just really draw people too funky if I draw them from memory rather than from life.  I have a tendency to elongate and exaggerate, and the parts don’t always fit on the way they should.  I was lamenting this shortcoming when I decided that the best way to overcome it was to get back into drawing from life as much as possible.  Well, I haven’t had a lot of time recently, but I did sit down in front of a large mirror and sketch up a couple of images of myself.  The one you see in this page is the one that I thought would work best.  I had also gone to a local park in order to look at trees and things.  Frankly, I think this page came out pretty good, even though there’s still a lot of work that I need to learn

Layout Once I placed the central figure, I kinda just tried to place other objects on the page in such a way as to try to create a balanced composition as well as a sense of depth.  Frankly, the sizes of the people and the look of the trees could be a lot better, and I’m not sure that you can even tell that it’s a shoe; but I do like the overall structure of the page.  The text is in a bad spot, because it’s difficult to tell what you should read first, but it is general enough that even if you read it out of order, I don’t think it hurts too much.

Inking Every time I work with the brush I feel like I get a little better.  I feel like these two pages are a big leap ahead of even the page that preceded it.  Some of that is because of (what I think is) a better layout, but also because I feel I have better control over the brush. 

I now have two sable brushes, and I feel that I need increasingly smaller ones in order to do the detail that I want to do; but the odd part is that sometimes I’m able to do the more detailed work with the larger brush.

Let me tell you, the sable brushes are about twice as expensive as the rest, but they really are markedly better.  I still have a hard time managing my point (keeping the bristles from splaying out, rather than coming to a point), because stray hairs don’t always obey.

Also, I think I’ve found that my ink tends to dry out in the brush and in the inkwell very quickly, so I recommend having ink open only for short periods or having a short dipwell.

The control I have over my lines is still pretty shaky.  I look at real artists and I can’t even believe how crisp and “straight” their lines are.  When I ink a line, it still comes out really wavy and shaky.  Maybe with time…

The good news is that this entire picture, except for the border lines and text is done with a brush.  Some of the ground cover is done with a brush that has mostly dried ink in it which gives it that mottled and grainy look.  I also used white ink in areas, although I still don’t think that the white ink is all that great.  It looks really good going on, but once it dries, it doesn’t seem to cover real well (some of the black bleeds through).  Maybe I just need to be more patient and use more “coats.”

Lettering Still not happy with the lettering.  I do think it was a good idea to lose the large capital letters, so the text looks a lot more even.  But if you look closely you’ll see that I screwed up the line spacing.  I think part of the reason that the lettering is “off” is because now I’m doing bigger letters (just when I was starting to get better at the normal size ones!).  Plus, once again I screwed up the text.  The original text did not use the word “idea” twice.  It’s a small thing, but it annoys me.  Because of these two mistakes, I thought about going back and re-doing the text on stick-paper, but I didn’t because I mostly like the pages overall, and it was getting late and I needed to move on to the next AR.

Overall I’ve been working like a dog for the past 7 weeks on some damn project for work, even so, I feel like I managed to produce a pretty good page.  Yes, the kid looks too old and the lettering sucks and there’s a long way to go with the inks, but y’know, if I was to spend even a fraction of the time I spend at work on the things that I really enjoy, I know that I’d get a lot better at this.  Now, if only I could make money at it…

...And Then I Woke Up

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Date Launch #9a and #9b: September 1999

Concept Well, depending on your perspective, I was either too busy or too lazy to put in another page of “Sasquatch” this month.  Instead, I went and made a couple of dream comics.  These are based on actual dreams dreamt by yours truly.  I tend to have periods of crazy dreams and then periods of little (remembered) dreaming.  Usually, I have several wild dreams in a night, and I wake up after each one thinking that there’s no way that I could possibly forget the dream; but then I fall back asleep and have another funky dream, making me forget the former one.  So I’ve tried to get better about trying to write down something in the middle of the night so that I can at least remember some of it.

These represent a few of the ones that I was able to capture.  Granted, they aren’t the wackiest dreams that I’ve had, but they do show some of the quirkiness that goes on in my head.  You shouldn’t think that these are exact representations of the dream.  A lot was lost between sleep and wakening, and more between thought and capturing it on paper, and even more between scribble in the middle of the night and the actual finished comic.  Still, even though they are far from perfect, I thought it was a good experiment to try.

Layout a) I didn’t really think this one through very well.  I slapped the title panel on, and then kind of worked out that I could put three rows of panels on the page.  Based on the 2 dreams, nine panels seemed like a good number to work them into.

b) I took a little more care with this one, although it turned out very similar to the first one.

Putting it Together Some things were more successful than others on these two.  It was kind of hard to cram so much information into a short space and I was often more interested in talking to myself than to an audience.  There were lots of dream elements that I wanted to remember and these often were more important to me than telling a clear and concise story.  That is, I tried to capture my thoughts about the dream as much as a straight retelling of the dream.  In that sense, some things took on greater significance than I would have given them in a “normal” story; and other things were left less explained than they would have in a normal story.  I was mostly okay with that because, hey, these are dreams, and dreams are like that, some things make sense in a dream that would never make sense in the real world.  However, I do think it makes it harder for an outsider to appreciate the comic.

There were some other unsuccessful areas.  Of note, see the big book panel of the 2nd comic.  There’s a lot of unnecessary information in this panel.  For example, it’s pretty clear from the picture that the book is big, I don’t really need to add the note.  Also, it’s pretty clear that I’m flipping through it because of the additional pages, so the “flip, flip, flip” is probably unnecessary.  Finally, with a little extra attention to the artwork, a lot of the text is probably not needed, since you could probably tell that I was frantic…oh, well.  This is the kind of lesson that takes a while to learn: just how much information is necessary to get the point across?

Lettering a) except for the title, I actually think that the lettering looks halfway decent on this one.  Admittedly, some of the text is probably hard to understand, because the dream itself is funky.  I didn’t work out a very goodway of noting when the dream was dreamt.

b) for the most part, the lettering is satisfactory here as well.  Where it is less successful are in those places where the character is talking, or there are random notes floating around.  I have some of those notes floating around because I wanted to remember certain things about the dream.  In particular, it is always interesting to me what elements my subconscious chooses to include in the dream; so here I’ve noted stuff about my shirt, and a movie as an aid to remembering these details.  Admittedly, it doesn’t work so well from the perspective of someone who didn’t have the dream.

Inking a) started out using a water-based ink.  I think that I have determined that I will only use acrylic-based ones from now on.  I can have better control over what I’m doing and it just frankly looks better as an end product.  There s a lot less spread of the ink across the page, because the page will soak up the watery stuff in unpredictable ways.  Anyway that explains (some of) the blotchiness of the title frame.

I also used the white paint on this one, and it just didn’t work out very well, especially in reproduction.  I still need to find a white acrylic paint.

2) started using a smaller sable brush on this one.  They are nice.  Sable brushes and acrylic ink (so far) are the way to go.

Reproduction typical xerox bullshit

Tools  

  • Brushes: Windsor and Newton Sable #2 and #00—very nice.
  • Pens: Rapidograph, Pilot Precise V7 for lettering and straight lines
  • Magic Rub Eraser
  • Paper: 11 x 14 Bristol
  • 30-60-90 triangle
  • T-Square
  • Ridgeways Horse Hair Brush
  • Higgins Pen Cleaner: This is good for getting the ink out of your brushes
  • Black Acrylic Artist’s Ink: Use an acrylic ink.  It makes a huge difference.  Everything else I’ve tried is just way too watery.  The ink dries faster and more evenly, and it looks glossier.  Of course, it dries faster in your brush too, so you have to clean you brushes more often.
  • White UniPaint (fine line): for whites.  It don’t work so well, but it’s the best thing that I’ve found so far.  

Overall I think this was a good experiment, and I hope to continue it.  Where it is less successful are those areas where I give esoteric information—who’s mary? who cares if you wore that shirt?—so these are not as “reader friendly” as they could be, and while I think I should work harder to make all my stuff more intelligible to the audience, I also want to temper that with being able to do things that I want to do.  It’s a strange balance, because you want to follow your vision, but you also want to have people read your stuff.


What People are Saying About ...And Then I Woke Up

 

John Says:

As you already know, I love this kind of stuff.  Dreams, artwork from friends, artwork from friends about dreams...   I got a royally major kick out of this one.  It's one of my fave's.   Trying to be critical, let's see what I can pick on.   The logo could be, I don't know, heavier.  I personally wouldn't have selected balloon letters, but then they seem to go OK with this strip, so maybe I'm a loser and you should ignore me.   The strangeness around the logo is OK, but not really dream-related symbols there, so it's just kind of--I don't know--nutty.  The waking Chris is kinda funny.  Nice tits, btw.  Certain elements are a little off...the girls hair kind of turns into the border of the thought bubble.  Took me awhile to figure that out.  I don't clearly understand the demon face thingy.  I mistook the airplane in the gorilla's hand for a banana at first.  This could work to your advantage, actually, if you ran with it, but might be a bit much just for a logo.   The two hick brothers are cool...nice characterization and not Chris' typical people kind of drawings.  I don't understand what the guy means by he "lost the rent".  Do you?  Was this weird dream logic that you were reciting (which is how I took it), or were you making a joke here that I don't get?   The monkey eating the banana...well...was this actually how he appeared in the dream, or were you just trying to play-up the zany aspect?  Don't get me wrong, he's fine...but I'm just curious about this.  How many of these images are accurate to the dream and how many did you have to take artistic license with to pull this off?  More about this later as the panels progress...  Also, I'm again wondering about the line that the monkey is saying.  Fabricated for effect, or true to the dream?   I have no comment about the car.   As for the rest, (the aquarium, etc) well, that's the part that I loved...  The Shatner/Nimoy thing is a riot.  Did I tell you about the Shatner dream that I had in which he was touring and you would see him at convenience stores and such, and the attraction was that you had absolutely no idea what he would do?  He would just ransack the place, or insult everybody, or whatever, and people paid and travelled to see it.  I talked to him after the show, asked him why he was doing it, to which he responded, "because my career is pretty much over".   Anyways, I swear that at LEAST one of those women is Laura.  I vote for the one that was devoured by the fish.  You've already told me that's not the case.  Are you absolutely certain?   I reeeeally want to get a better look at that aquarium.  Maybe you should take that as a positive in that I'm interested enough to want to see more.   The panel where you are talking with the girl is intriguing.  Again, is this actual dialogue?  The way that dialogue is included in these short bits is effective and goes a long way towards giving it that dreamlike quality.  For example, in the first strip, if you had no dialogue, only narration, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting.  By contrast, had you included a long conversation in the middle of the second strip, well, I'd have to see it before I could judge, but the quick statement-response is kinda cool.   Where she's putting on the fish head thingy is a nicely done panel.   My only gripe/thing that nags me (I have now been able to identify) was the absence of background in almost every panel.  I realize that you were going for simple here, but it gives a flatness.  Granted, you weren't dreaming about Jack Kirby's Captain America, but still...just black or cross hatching might have helped.   This message is kind of ruining the fun for me.  Having to look at this in a critical way kind of blows.  The simpleness actually works in your favor here regarding dreams coupled with humor.  If you labor it too much, it probably wouldn't carry either effectively.  You would probably be best served ignoring critiques on this particular "genre", but hopefully there was anything of interest said that you might have wanted to know.

...And Then I Woke Up #2

John Says:

This one has much more black than ATIWUI and, although heavier, seems more nocturnal I guess, so easier to read as a dream maybe?  The logo is maybe better...progression from bubble letters to smokey bubble letters heh heh

I didn't like the waking Chris as well...the first one was cuter (more cute?)...and the right arm almost appears as though you're wearing a long sleeve shirt for some reason.   Well, I've seen this and some of the others numerous times, and I always just read through them.  Upon closer, more critical examination, I find the first panel hard to read as to what's happening there.  Are you looking into mirrors here?  If so, again, I'm curious about the actual visuals here.  Was this a way to portray the idea, or an actual visual from the dream?   Panel two reads well, and the bed gives a better understanding of the mirror than if it were just you there (spacial references again, they do wonders...).  Was this bed in the dream too, or did you just need something ornamental to use as a reference point?  Oops, just looked again and the right arm (left in mirror) doesn't match right.  Looking critically at these things ruins 'em for me : )  Not really, but I like them just fine without having to point out stuff like that.  I'll try not to dwell on 'em too much and focus on the whole.   So...anyways, it occurs to me that...although I like how you're exploring possibilities in terms of border arrangements, logos, etc, the lines didn't need to extend off of either edge of the page here.  The wavy bedding above the top three panels would have done just fine without those last two little lines.  In this case, your thought bubbles could've led right to panel one : )  That would've been cool, but it's neat that you find a way to incorporate the date upon which you dreamed the particular dream.   So...you fixed your hair and I find it quite disturbing, but that's the point, so I'd chalk that one up to a success.   Wish I knew Corby...I'd probably get a kick out of your rendition.  The she-males are pretty humorous when one understands what your thesis was all about...   The page flipping worked well...nice to see you get action/movement in a panel.  That's a whole other challenge in a static picture... and you made the right choices about the amount of detail to include in the middle series of panels...dark/light/dark...reads well.  The important details are covered and it's consistent.  The whole strip reads that way.  No odd jumps from one panel to the next, nice and consistent, while jumping from black to white.  It's nice that you can work in scenes with white backgrounds, but the whole still reads as dark and atmospheric.  The stage really worked well in that last panel...   One gripe...not sure who is wondering, "What is he doing?".  Kinda works for the story in this brand new character pops up and asks the big question, but might've been neat if we knew who it was too, or if it's an audience member, where's the rest of the audience?  Seems more like someone in the cast.   This dream speaks volumes about you, whether you know it or not (and I'm sure that you do).  You probably wouldn't agree with my conclusions, but that doesn't matter because I'm right anyways.   Now, for your enjoyment, I'll read the Launch Pad.   Wow, OK.  Where to begin?  You were dogging yourself over the book page flipping, for starters.  I thought it was just right.  The flips added to it and were better left in than removed IMHO.  Making notes to reference things was cool and didn't really occur to me what you were doing 'til you explained it.  I think it's a pretty effective tool in this context.  Maybe if it were more consistent...like it could point out things that were specific to the dream, but not areas where you took artistic license (although I don't think that there was much of that in this second strip).  The redundancy of the description "huge book" didn't occur to me, but probably wouldn't have...you are much more "redundancy conscientious" than I.  Maybe even more of these notational references would've been cool.  They can point-out things that are elements of the dream, add to the whackiness, that you can't appreciate visually.  I'd never be able to tell that you're wearing your old shirt under your cloak there unless you pointed it out.  I had no problem with the references.  Admittedly, maybe you could've have worked out the reference to the big book into the narration in that scene, but otherwise, the notations helped reference the significance of things without having to explain, "and see this was that car that I drove past on Wednesday..."   It occurs to me that many of the images of people are obscure, but you have that one horrendous close-up, and this is very "dream-like".  The scene where you're looking out at the stage (panel 6) is very atmospheric and dream-like.  This strip had a nice blend of just enough information to seem like a dream.  Too much detail doesn't seem dreamlike...not enough information could seem too cartoony and not hold any weight.   "HMS Donothing" was interesting, but your talk of lettering made me realize that it might've been a little nicer if the lettering was in a different type of font than the commentary.   Your crotch was too bulbous in that last scene...or maybe that was accurate to the dream as well?  Heh heh heh, couldn't resist...   I'm thinking maybe a little something behind you in panel seven (cross hatch or whatever)...but I could be wrong about that due to the dynamic of light and dark throughout the strip...were it too dark, it might've blow the pacing.   The quick layouts allow you to hit the high points of the dream without having to flesh-out the more boring aspects in the dreams.  Each panel is like the punchline.  Nice job in this one of pacing and of wrapping it up with room to breathe in that last double-panel.  Must be a major bitch getting this stuff to fit nicely on one page.   I agree with your assessment of doing your thing vs. anyone actually wanting to hear about it.  I really enjoy Rare Bit Fiends, but I doubt many people can get anything out of it.  It's absolutely incoherent at times.  You basically read this stuff for awhile, then it's through.  There's no beginning, middle or end.  I found it humorous how his mind would translate stuff.  There were times, though, reading it when it just left me feeling kind of empty or wanting more.  I guess it's like telling your dream to someone.  It's never as great to them as it was to you, even if they care about such things.  It's a shame, though.  I have grown to love hearing about people's dreams, because they can really cover some ground that would never be realized otherwise.   That's all for now.  I'd say the second strip was more accomplished than the first, but loved them both.

A Sasquatch in the Suburbs (pps. 2 and 3)

 

Launch #8: A Sasquatch in the Suburbs (pps. 2 and 3)

Concept: The concept here is not really any different than before—since it’s the same story.  The only thing to add is that I do want this to be a story that looks back at something that happened.  So the narrator is older now, and he supposedly knows better; but I don’t want it to be one of those “oh wasn’t I a silly kid” stories.  I do want it to have a specific mood, which I’m trying to pull off in both the language and the pictures.  The language is sober and mature, but forgiving of childhood silliness.  The art is an attempt to show the differences  between light and dark—the brightness of the hot sun and the stranger, darker world of the “woods.”  Obviously the art needs help (and so does the text), but hopefully if you know what I’m attempting, you’ll be able to offer more specific criticism as to what worked and what didn’t.

Layout: (p. 2) I wanted to do a cartoony view of the city and the suburbs, meaning that I wanted to give it the feeling of a realistic map, but to skew the perspective so that I could actually fit the large expanse of territory that I was trying to cover.  I thought that doing it that way would have a better feeling of place than having separate panels for each of the “scenes.”  It came out okay, but I think it would have been more successful if each piece had followed more or less the same perspective (for example, the airport should be tilted more to the right).  It also occurred to me too late that I should have had the three kids in the neighborhood, because that would have made a better segue from the first to the 3rd page.

(p. 3) This one was a more direct attempt to show the changeover from bright light to a more motled dark.  I’m not sure if it is even clear what is happening, but the three kids are walking to the woods, so the page is done in a frame-by-frame motion.  As they move closer to the woods, the panels get darker, because the sunlight becomes less and less as they move into the shadows of the trees.

Putting it Together: I sketched these out in my sketchbook.  Page 2 was actually part of page 1 originally.  I do think I made the right decision by pulling them apart, because it works better visually; but I wonder if a story this short deserves this many pages devoted to set up.  Page 3 was little more than four boxes that got progressively darker.  The original idea was to have the three kids be simply negative space; that is, they would be like the hole in the main picture.  But I decided that using that idea made it even more difficult to tell what was happening.  Besides, by showing the kids, I could more easily show how the light on them changes.

I don’t know what made me think that this would be a good story to do.  Trees are a pain in the ass to draw; and as you may have surmised, most of the story takes place in the woods.  So please forgive me—if you can’t tell what something is, it’s either a tree or a kid.

Lettering: On page 2 I continued the font style of having the first words of each “paragraph” have letters that were twice as large.  I kind of like it, although I don’t really think that it works.  You may be interested to know that the freeway on the left was one continuous line originally, but it turned out that I didn’t plan well enough for the amount of text (with the larger letters).  So I would up placing an opaque white sticker on the page over the line and doing the lettering on that.  I was worried that the line might show through, but it worked out okay.  I think I will at some point do lettering exclusively on the sticker paper and then transfer it to the page. 

The white letters at the bottom of page 2 were done with a silver paint marker.  It actually came out pretty well (and it’s a hell of a lot easier than using the scratch paper).  For some reason I haven’t been able to find a similar white paint marker—the ink in the ones that I have is too thin so the black shows through.

(p. 3) I was a little more careful with the lettering on this page, and (despite the fact that it isn’t well centered) I think it shows.

Inking: Both pages were almost exclusively done with a brush.  I used the Rapidograph and a ruler to get some of the straight lines (page border, roof tops, curbs, lightposts), and I also used it to create the stippling effect of the grass on p. 2.  I used the white paint pen occasionally to get some lighting effects: see the white outline on the tree bottoms/sides (p. 2), and some stippling (for some of the mottling) and random outlines on  trees to make them stand out better.  I also drew some of the one-point perspective lines in white to give the ground a flatter, dropping-away-toward-the-horizon look.

I put a lot of work into these two pages, and I think that I’m still learning a lot about using a brush.  Some tips: keep the brush moist; it’s easy for it to get clumpy and dry even when you’re using it.  That means that it won’t hold the ink.  So get it wet with water or clean it occasionally in the ink cleaner.  Next up, I try using Sable brushes, which I read are the best.  I don’t know what the ones I am using now are made out of.

This will sound stupid, but the part that I’m most pleased with is the inking just to the left of the airport runway.  That “feathered” look of the lines is really a pain to do.  It still ain’t great, but hopefully with practice…

I also made a big boo boo on this one.  I spilled ink on the upper left hand corner of p. 2. Be careful how you place and store your ink.  Usually I use a little tray that only holds about a tablespoon full of ink.  It’s nice, but you have to re-fill it a lot.  Of course, if you spill it, it isn’t so tragic.  I’ve taken to using a film canister with ink in it because it is easy to open and close, but still holds a lot of ink.  Of course, it can still spill.  Anyway, I was able to cover up most of the damage with lots of white out and white ink.  However, I don’t recommend white out because it doesn’t spread evenly and it tends to dry really hard and clumpy so it really makes a mess.

Reproduction: Nothing special about the reproduction except that the paper size that I’m using doesn’t really shrink to an 8.5 x 11 very closely.

Tools:

  • Brushes: #2 Loew-Cornell, #3 Royal-RG 
  • Pens: Rapidograph, Pilot Precise V7
  • Magic Rub Eraser 
  • Paper: 11 x 14 Bristol
  • 30-60-90 triangle T-Square
  • Ridgeways Horse Hair Brush 
  • Opti Fluid: white out
  • Black Acrylic Artist’s Ink 
  • Higgins Pen Cleaner: This is good for getting the ink out of your brushes
  • White UniPaint (fine line): for whites 

Overall: I feel like I’m learning a lot with this exercise, even though I’m not completely happy with the results.  Still, I like that I’m working on a longer piece.

Additionally, I experimented a little with the packaging of the pages.  I don’t know what the final format will be.

I also went back and touched up page 1.  I think I did more damage than help.  I may go back again next month to see if I can clean it up some more.

A Sasquatch in the Suburbs (p. 1)

  Concept I wrote the text to this story on a plane ride.  It was one of those narratives that just sort of “flowed” out of me.  Granted, it is largely based on a true story, but still, it came pretty easily.  I liked the text, and it could probably stand on it’s own, but it is fairly short.

I’ve been wanting to do a longer comic for a while.  This isn’t quite the story that wanted to do, but I think that it has potential to be decent.  I don’t think it’ll be as poignant as “That Terrible Pain,” but I hope that it does have a little more depth than most of my Cheap Shots.

I still don’t quite have the “perfect” ending, but I have enough of one to service, and I’m hoping that inspiration will strike.

Layout: I bought larger paper, and I knew that I wanted to have fewer panels in order to give each panel more weight (which in this case meant to make them larger).  This would allow me to spend more time on the images, and allow more space for the text.  Plus, I could try interesting layouts.

Clearly, the perspective in the panel is strange.  It’s partly correct, but perfect perspective always eludes me and I have to fudge it.  I guess the best way to describe the look that I usually go for is moderate realism.  That is, I want things to look largely realistic, but not so realistic that it requires numerous grey tones or that it has no “cartoony” feel to it that elevates it into a “hyper-reality.”  I’m still trying to understand how to create depth and different shades of “grey” using only black and white.

Putting it Together: I sketched this page out very roughly in my sketchbook, but the sketch includes (what will now become) the first three pages.  So I changed my mind considerably from the original sketch.

I bought a book on inking which is short, but still gave me a lot of good tips.  I tried to employ some of them here—although I’m still learning/practicing so I’m not sure if you can see much improvement.  Nevertheless, I’m seeing a little more consistency in line weights—but I still need a lot of work with the brush.

Lettering: I’m not real happy with the lettering, but I think it looks okay, and fairly even, which isn’t always the case.  I think that I would probably do the sizing differently now, but I did want to start off the text with larger letters a la old texts (although I’m not trying for a medieval style, per se, I just like to have distinctive letters.

Which is probably why I really enjoy doing titles.  This title is not separate from the page.  I really wasn’t sure if I could pull off the big foot walking behind the letters, much less have part of him “in front” of the letters and part of him “behind.”  Still I think, it turned out okay.  The houses that make up “Suburbs” aren’t quite as clear as I would have liked, but they came out okay.  The other words “a” and “in the” didn’t quite line up correctly.

Inking: Straight lines were handled with a ruler and a rapidograph.  The rest was done with a brush.

I really screwed up with the grass.  I decided to ink it with grey ink.  This was simply a bad idea.  Photocopiers can’t handle grey tones.  As a result, it came out either too black or completely splotchy.  I may go back and try to correct this page.

Likewise, the inking at the top of the main panel is just bad.  I didn’t think through how I wanted I to look, so now it just looks stupid and confusing—something else I may try to clean up.

Reproduction: As I mentioned, this was especially bad.  I included a lighter and a darker copy so that you could choose which one was better

Tools:

  • Brushes Pens: Rapidograph, black marker
  • Magic Rub Eraser Paper: 11 x 14 Bristol
  • 30-60-90 triangle T-Square
  • Ridgeways Horse Hair Brush X-acto knife
  • Black Acrylic Artist’s Ink 

What People are saying:

Mark sez:

Only so much to comment on with just the beginning but despite the setbacks I look forward to the completion.

I liked the title and the BigFoot as part of it especially his footprint and how it connects the visual of the title area to the start of the writing.  “Suburbs” is also fun and I wouldn’t be so down about it. The “A” looked a little lost but I don’t think it matters. The visual of the kids I liked a lot, although the kid on bike had a bloated face and the standing guy (you?) had a really defined leg mussel that I thought was a bit much. I notice that you have your people really buff with tight clothing. It’s not necessarily a problem or a bad thing, just an observation. A left over of the corrupt days of superheroes? Or of drawing naked people? I can’t give any advice on this cause I can’t draw it at all but I think that you might want to think of clothes and people as separate items. I don’t know if that helps (maybe it’s a big mistake) or even makes sense.

Back to the scene: I really liked the layout of it and see where things (like shading the grass) didn’t work but I still feel that the overall visual really did wonders to capture the concept of board youth on a hot summer day in bumfuck land. And to me, that was very important as it set up the entire mood/plot.  The “I’m Even” seemed a bit big for the start of a second paragraph but that’s subjective.   I do think that while what you are trying to write is perfect, the way it is written sounds often inverted. Have Jo read it out loud to you and see what you both think. Maybe you’ll disagree, but I think a rewrite would make it sound smooth rather then a little confused.

That Terrible Pain

- - - - - - - -

click on images to enlarge

Concept: Okay, first off: I hope no one is too upset with how they were portrayed—visually or otherwise.  If it’s any consolation, the Chris character’s face changes from panel to panel, and he certainly doesn’t come off as any better than the Mark or John characters—isn’t it cool, we’re all now comic characters!

You’ll recall that I proposed the challenge for this month’s ArmzRace.  I said something like:

I think it'd be neat to do a comic based on a shared experience.  That way, we could get three different perspectives on the same event.  I realize that the 3 of us haven't spent a lot of time together, but we did have a few memorable moments.  In particular, the Kidney Stone adventure would make a reasonably dramatic story.

You should know, however, that even though the original idea was mine, I had no notion of what to do with it.  In fact, it wasn’t until I got the image of myself as an old man retelling the story that anything began to jell for me.

Originally, I wanted to make the story funny--after all, it was a pretty absurd event; but the more I worked on the damn thing, the more serious it became.  I still think there’s a real disjointed-ness to the story because of the struggle between the humorous and serious aspects; but overall, I’m reasonably pleased with how it came out.  I guess I sort of think of it as a Spooky Comic (that is, one of those cheesy horror titles of the 1950’s and 60’s).  Even more interesting were the questions that the story raised (more later).

Putting it Together: Not to make too many excuses, but I was in Atlanta most of the month that this baby was due, so I didn’t get to spend a whole lotta time on it at my desk.  I wound up taking a day or so longer than I was supposed to, but I felt that was permissible since I was mostly finished anyway.  So if the artwork looks rushed, well, it is; but I need to be serious about sticking to the deadline rule.  I think that the deadline, more than any other aspect of this ArmzRace exercise, is the most important part for me, because it forces me to do the job.  Sure, I could do a better job if I took more time, but for me there’s a big grey void between doing it “better” and never doing it at all.  Anyway, enough sermon; enough excuses.

This one came to me in sporadic images and text, and I jotted or sketched them down in my sketchbook in a pretty haphazard way.  Even though I started with the Old Chris, and I knew that the story would be basically chronological, I wasn’t sure what to include and what not to include.  I think that’s another failing of the story—trying to do too many different things (and I cut out several ideas!).

Layout: I knew that I wanted to try an actual “book”; but that presented several problems.  Number one: at a minimum, that meant four “pages” of work.  No problem, I thought, I have enough material for that.  But I knew I couldn’t really call it a “book” with only four pages—I’d have to go for eight.  I decided to take the challenge—after all, I had a lot of stuff sketched out (very rough), so the real problem was time (and endurance) rather than material.

So I made a tiny mock up of the comic—2 leaves = four pages—and kinda sorta figured out how everything would fit.  I got most of it right on the first try, but I did have to come back with smaller pieces of paper and tape over my first draft in order to get everything to fit.  It was fun, and a real challenge, because not only does everything need to fit in a readable way, but I was also concerned about making each page work as a page.  What I mean by that is that I wanted to try to make some sort of statement or feeling on each page—make each page have an emotional impact.  Each page should kinda stand on it’s own, but still flow into the next one.  Clear as mud?  I won’t comment on how successful I actually was.

The bad news is that, in some ways I like the mock up better.  It’s a better size (proportional-wise) and some of the sketches (although very very rough) still have more punch to them than the final version.

Problem number two: since I knew that my time would be limited, I thought about putting this on smaller paper, but things just wouldn’t fit right, so I wound up using 4 of the big 11x14” sheets.  Each sheet represents one side of a leaf.  So basically, I’d be doing 4 times as much work as I had done on the first ArmzRace.  I thought I’d never finish.

Even though there are a lot of things I like about the layout, I think I probably still need to practice with the basic 6 to 9-panel grid before I try to get too fancy.

As to how the pages actually got drawn, hopefully the following illustration will be sufficient explanation.

***

Lettering: I thought I’d be clever and save some time by using MS Word to do most of my letting for me.  Big Mistake!  I should have listened to Mark.  The measurements were way off—this is obviously the ruler Gates measures his dick by.  Not only that, but my glue stick sucked (okay, I stole it from work, so the gods must be getting back at me); and after I had pasted some of them down, I realized that I put the wrong text on some parts.  Everything says basically what I wanted it to say, but I had several versions, and I wound up gluing the weaker ones in some places.  Overall, I would guess it wound up taking me longer than doing it by hand. Arggh!

Inking: I really wasn’t happy with the inks on this one.  Like last time, I used a Pilot Precise V7 Fine for small lines and an AP Chartpak Marker for most of the large blacks.  I used a Rapidograph in a couple of places for really thin lines.  Like I said, in some ways I liked my mock up better (which I did with a pen).  I don’t care what anyone says, a ballpoint is a great tool!

I think for a future challenge, we should mimic the 24hr comic and make ourselves do a comic from start to finish in 3 hours or so.  Sometimes the spontaneity is what makes it great.

Reproduction: Putting this thing together was a nightmare.  I’ll spare you the long version and just say that it helps to have a good copy machine, large margins, and a patient girlfriend.  Luckily, I had at least one of the three.

1. Not all copy machines are equal.  If you’re doing it yourself, I recommend trying several until you find one that reproduces at the right black-white tone and keeps the paper straight (lined up) as it photocopies.  I wasted a lot of time thinking that the machine I was on was a good representation of all copiers.  One of the reasons that the final version is so tiny is because of all the hoops I had to jump through to get everything to work right. 

2. For God’s sake, give yourself some decent margins.  I did something like ¼” around the page, but I would now recommend a MINIMUM of ½”.  Additionally, your center line should be about 1/8” thick, not a single black line.  The reason for this is, the more leeway you give yourself, the easier it will be to line things up; and when things don’t line up perfectly (and they probably won’t), the more room you have to play with, the less screwed up the pages will look.  (If I ever reprint this thing, I’ll probably slice it up in order to increase the margins.)

3. Last but not least, JoAnn helped me a lot in keeping me from driving a stake through my brain.  The whole process took probably 3 hours, and she was very helpful in lining things up and in coming up with ideas as to how to overcome obstacles.  If you plan to do this yourself, feel free to call me for suggestions.

Overall: I easily spent the whole of February playing with this one.  In actual hours I’d say it took me 3 to 4 full days to get it all together—not including all the wasted lettering time, and not including the original sketching and mock up, which probably took another 3 to 5 hours.  And none of this includes my “walking around and thinking about it” time nor my “thinking while I really should be working” time.

The More: Obviously, I suggested this one because I thought it’d be kinda neat, but part of the reason that I proposed this was because I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of subjective reality.  Even though we were all there, we each had a unique experience—and this was a neat way to bring it out.

It also raises some interesting points (for me):

1. How accurate is history? Especially if there are three different versions?

2. What is the nature of biography/autobiography?  How do you decide what is and isn’t important?  What do you leave in and what do you leave out?

3. Who is right?  The boy at the end of the story (the one in the memorable striped shirt) or the old man?

I think if I were to do this story again, I would either go the full cartoony route, or I would go the full serious/horror route.  In some ways, I decided too late that this should be almost an homage to Dante’s Inferno.  I know—you’re laughing, but the more I worked on it, the more I wanted it to be a kind of “decent into hell,” with the ER being like the realm of the damned, and the nurse being like Chairon (I think that’s the name of the guy who leads you across the river Styx).  Anyway, doing this comic really encouraged me to believe that I could do a fairly serious story.


What People are Saying

Mark sez: As to the latest comic, I’ll respond more to the NFTB to express how I reacted. By talking straight from the comic itself I feel that I will be overwhelmed by the pleasant shock of seeing a full mini. After I was complaining that I was having trouble sticking with the one pager you have jumped the gun by going beyond it. The end result was a story within a story that tackled intellectual questions while still being humorous. I was very impressed to the point of shock over your ability and long to see more. I wasn’t upset or anything from how I was portrayed. Even if it was negative, I, hope, that I could see it in the light of the situation. I was very pleased with the way I looked on p2 panel 3 perhaps because it looked the most cartoony and like the little pictures I make of myself. Also, I am mentioned and portrayed as a “take charge” guy when my feeling of helplessness over the situation was probably more than yours (after all, I’m 3000 miles from anything familiar). What was especially poignant to me was when we found the hospital but not the entrance (how retarded) and you were driving, I was running around, and John was hobbling. Even though I didn’t include it (I focused on making it comical and in part wanted something to play off yours and (I was hoping) John’s) it is what I remember most clearly. I disagree where you feel the comic is disjointed. I think that you nicely divide the story into Memory and Now, with the later focusing of the humor. I do think that if you want to have that 50’s feel to the intro you need to have the title’s typeface change into something cheesy. You felt a little down on your art but what I look for is the distinction of the ages of the characters and there are truly great visuals such as p. 4 panel 1, p. 5 pan. 3 and p.7 pan. 2. I’m glad you did this format first cause I leant a great deal from your notes, although I wish you could have said the same instead of foolishly putting faith in Gates. You bring up 3 questions in The More that I want to save for tape cause I think I can express my views better orally (one of my debilitating curses for my dreams of writing). I do think that this has the room to grow into a larger short (did you notice my love for these contradictory terms). Be carefully in your reading of this. I don’t want you to think that what I am saying means that this is good and something else is bad or that this is bad and others are good. That is not the case. I am simply stating that the topic and style of this particular issue invites itself to have add on’s. I don’t think that you have to be all one way or another (funny/serious), in fact I think that being able to cross the lines and merge concepts makes for a deeper story. I like this concept of Dante’s journey and I see many hints of it (PS Charon is the boatman. Close.). I never saw a reason for you to believe that you couldn’t do a serious story and was going to suggest that for a topic you do a story in general. By this I mean a non-bio piece with the well roundness that is demanded by “story” as opposed to anecdote.

Medical Mishaps

 
Launch Date January 1999

Concept This one was a pain in the butt, no pun intended.  The concept came to me pretty quickly.  I’ve got a bunch of little anecdotal stories like this that I’ve considered making into strips; and when John said we should do something autobiographical and “revealing,” this one seemed like one that I could tell without being too humiliated or embarrassed.  I had considered other, more disturbing aspects of my life, but I decided that it was best to start into this ArmzRace endeavor a little slow.  No sense in scaring everyone off the first time out of the gate.

I tend to “see” my strips in my head, and I sort of “talk” through them until I get a good sense of how the language should sound.  As I get closer to at how it should read, I start adding pictures to it; but it’s safe to say that the words and images generally happen at the same time.

I then pulled out my trusty sketchbook and did a very rough sketch, breaking everything into the basic 9 panel structure.  It actually came out just about right the first time, and the finished product would probably be recognizable from the original draft (which isn’t always the case).

Layout Then I set about laying out the page on the big 11x14” sheet. 

If you’re using 11x14’ paper, here’s what I’ve found makes good dimensions for a 9 panel grid:

  • 4” x 3”  panels
  • ¼” gutters
  • ¾” title bar
  • 3/8” border.

I draw this using a ruler and a T-square.

Then I went in and sorta half sketched and half lettered everything in pencil.

Lettering For the lettering I experimented with Scratch Art.  It’s a heavy sheet of white paper that has been covered with some sort of scratchable black ink or wax.  When you scratch on the black it reveals the white underneath. 

That means that I wrote out all the text on this scratch paper in pencil and then went back and scratched the letters into the paper with a special little knife.  This took a long time, so be ready to be patient if you’re going to try it.  As you can probably tell, it wasn’t super successful, but it ain’t bad.  The biggest problem was in my knife: it had a pretty sharp point.  I think a flatter tool would have been a lot simpler and kept me from tearing the paper so much.

The wording for this strip actually started out differently (longer), but I kept pairing it down in order to fit all the words onto the paper and not drive myself insane—because it takes so long to scratch it in legibly.

For lettering, I sometimes use a lettering tool.  It’s a little plastic thing with holes that you can turn to get the dimensions that you want.  Basically, it helps you draw your guidelines a little more quickly, but a pencil and ruler work fine. 

Although you can’t tell, I actually like lettering, but I’m impatient.  You don’t have to do guide lines but they do help you to get everything lined up a little better.  I find that using a 3/8” space for letters and a 1/8” space for in between works well.  Then you just have to letter slowly.

Inking Then I went back and started “inking.”  Like I said, my pencils were pretty rough, so I touched them up a little before I started laying down the black.  For fine lines I used a thin tipped pen called a Pilot Precise V7 Fine.  The brand isn’t so important as is the kind of pen: not a ball point, not a marker, but a thin tipped pen that lets ink flow easily.

For the rest I used a fat black marker called an AP Chartpak Marker.  Again, it’s not so much the name brand as the type.  The obvious advantage of the fat marker is that you can lay down your black pretty quickly, especially when compared to working with ink and a brush.  You can get a nice, flat finish.  I recommend a marker that has a tapered head. That way you can make fat lines, but also get into pretty tight corners when you need to.  It just saves a lot of time to work with as few pens as possible.

Then I went back and erased any stray pencil lines after the ink dried.  Which is another advantage of markers: they dry pretty quickly, unlike ink.

The biggest problem with markers is the smell, but maybe for some people that’s a source of inspiration.

Lettering 2 I had cut out all the text boxes before inking and positioned them on the page, just to get a sense of how much room I had.  After inking, I put 3M Spray Mount Artist’s Adhesive on the back of each of the boxes and carefully glued them into place.  The biggest hassle was that the spray kinda gets everywhere.  I laid down a newspaper, and then flipped the pages between every couple of sprays.  You should be prepared with a wet cloth.  Luckily it dries pretty quickly.

Reproduction I photocopied these at Kinkos on a standard photocopying machine.  The medium darkness setting seemed to work fine; it helped to flatten out the blacks so that it’s harder to tell that the text boxes are actually raised off the page slightly.  However, it did leave some splotchy white dots.  You can go from 11 x 14” to 8.5 x 11” by using the 77% or 78% reduction option.  It just about fits perfectly on the smaller sheet.

Overall Overall, I’m pretty happy with this one.  It ain’t a masterpiece, but I got some experience with scratch board and I got to play with black and white a lot.

I really like artists like Peter Kuper, Richard Sala, and Drooker (?) who use a lot of black in their work and so I’m pleased with the contrast that I was able to achieve.  I just think it looks cool to have a mostly black page, and then have the whites make the picture, rather than the usual black on white.  It’s that whole negative image thing that I think I like.

It’d be hard to estimate how long it took to do this one, since I worked on it over the course of a week.  The lettering easily took the longest, but I made up a lot of time by using the markers to ink.


What People are Saying About Medical Mishaps

Mark sez:

I’ve talked a little about the first ArmzRace and while I could talk a little more about the fun I had with it, I think that in terms of constructive improvements, I have little to say except maybe to have the Cej character look more “child-like”. Of course, it sounds stupid for me to talk about improving your art when you can just look at mine but I think it is valuable to remember the age that the characters are to reflex. I found a large improvement in that with the second issue.


John Sez:

I like the evenness of the black and white on this one.  I also like that you used the more cartoonlike style and knew what your tone would be in advance.

You do not appear to be 11 years old in the first two panels, basically 'cause of the cleft and pronounced cheekbones.  Is that kid on the right bald?  Who was that?
 
I think panel two might have been more effective with a simple "(gulp) oops" and the startled expression.
 
The quarter scratching it's way down worked well.  All of the medical stuff worked well again.  You seem to have an affinity for it...
 
Panel 4:  look at the chest on this kid!  Also, might have been better if the walls kind of bulged around the boat rather than that little groove thing that's going on there.
 
Panel 5:  no way that's an 11 year old kid.  You have pecs, muscular arms.  You're the same size as the doctor, maybe bigger.
 
Panel 6 and 7 were funky but got the job done
 
Panel 8 was really nice, I thought.  Panel 9 was nice too.
 
Overall, the pacing is good and the visual description is good.  Would've helped greatly if you appeared younger, but really that's about it.  When you're using a more comical/cartoony style you can get away with more, so most everything here works fine despite my criticisms.
 
It occurred to me a day or two ago that if I wrote a review like this of a regular comic, it would probably read about the same.  Maybe some day I'll review a few pages of one and send it to you, but not today...