Friday, October 31, 2008

A Precise Sequence of Events

This one was pretty late in my employment for the paper and I felt I had gotten the hang of this sequential storytelling thing enough to try to redraw one of my earliest comics. Sadly the first version I don't think I have anymore but it was largely unspectacular in comparison to this. This comic was heavily scripted when it was first made, a couple of years earlier than in this final version. I even know exactly what the record playing was supposed to be (Variations for Strings, Winds and Keyboards by Steve Reich) where this is taking place (Marousi, suburbs of Athens), that this is an African mask in panel 4, it is mid-day and the protagonist had for his solitary dinner meatballs. I think this sort of over-orchestrated background detail is the product of first-time performance anxiety. I had read somewhere how much reference material Alan Moore used to prepare for his pencilers and to what excruciating level of detail he would explain each panel to them that I somehow got it in my head that if I wanted to do comics, I had to do the same. Carelessly overlooking that I was in fact, both the writer and the artist for this strip and I didn't have to convey my intuition to anyone else.

Nowadays unless there's very specific reason to do otherwise, I really don't 'model' as extensively, at least for a single page's worth of material and I honestly don't think there's any loss of information or communication for it. I guess I learned an important lesson in balancing through making all these single pager comics. I wonder how it'll hold up if I ever do an oh, 150 page story (which would take me 5 years or something the way I work).

This is a very formalist comic, very self-aware of how it works. Probably the most of all my comics, actually. That is both to the benefit of having remade it once after making it first and because it was riding at the top of my active period as a working artist for the paper, so my eye was sharp so to say. Here's some things of interest for you lovers of comic art theory:

1. Panel 1: Note the isometric view used, conveying a mood of orderliness and cleanness. Perspective - especially harsh - is for emotional situations. When all in order, treat it like a little sim-hospital-city-whatever game. Everything taking as little space as it can, ideally represented. The fat lines with only parallel shading and not much 'ink dirt' further connote this but without going for an 'abstract reality' infomercial super-squeaky-clean look.

2. Panel 2, 3 : Cutting from establishing shot straight to abstract details of the house. However note that the details are not picked out of thin air. The glass features on the table in panel 1 and the record player is in secondary focus on panel 4. You can almost feel the pace of the camera as it focuses and de-focuses on details. By panel 5 you have an inner feeling of the place. Also note the establishing of vertical paneling without a clear distinction if you're supposed to read from bottom to top or top to bottom as it works either way.

3. Panels 5,6,7,8 : Parallel action. Even, tempered motion. Imagine the Steve Reich playing in the background. A private little choreography, everything in its place. Note the lack of printed sound-effect. Did you miss it, as the reader?

4. Panel 9: Repeat view. Same mindset. Everything is tranquil, sedate even.

5. Panel 10: Finally a 'classic' establishing shot. But you felt you knew the place from before by now, didn't you? This is almost now, a 'second visit', you are comfortable here now, this is a home away from home. Neat apartment and all.

6. Panels 11, 12, 13: Again read in either order, the man is about to open but fixes his top button on his shirt before opening, to be all perfect looking. Door opens, note absurdly small gap betwseen panel 13 and the first action panel, 14, to connote the briefness of time that passed from one to another. Nearly instantaneous.

7. Whole of the middle strip: Violence that escalates, fragmented inking style perspective shot to fit a murder, but juxtaposed to neat panel cuts, as if the mentality of the person experiencing this is still calm. Reprise of detail panels from strip 1, glass falls, record screeches to a halt, everything is ruined, or is it?

8. Panel 24 : Orgasmic elation. Note the lack of shading in this panel. First piece of actual sound is not a word, but a visceral sound. The first suggestion that something sexual occurred is here.

9. Panel 27: Humanist rendering for the inquiry as to the other persons' state of mind. This could be read as the equivalent of 'was it good for you too?'. There is shame here, there are mixed emotions, and mixed emotions need more rendering. Think of the moment before sexual climax, how single minded you are, how the only thing that matters is what is going on. And then think exactly after the climax how the atavistic emotion drains away and leaves you thinking a million of small different things that mix into a multifaceted emotion that can go every which way. Protagonist replies off-panel as this panel isn't about him at all in the end.

10. Panel 28: Freud would be proud of me.

11. Last panel: Well I don't have to explain this, do I.

Anyway, there's a lot that could be said about what I am trying to achieve with this comic. I'll try to be brief because this is long to begin with. Think of how many things the modern human animal does in place of having sex, think of sports, or academia, or even argumentative discussion and how strongly it is tied with the need of insemination and/or dominance. The comment is on comfortable lives bubbling with a sickly undercurrent of primal atavism, the desires that the animal has cultivated for millenia and that the human in all his arrogance thinks that in 4,000 years of civilization he has now erased. Proven by war and atrocity time and time again false, humbled by his own secret desires, ridden in neuroses and constantly at odds with himself. The machine that looks inside its own gears and can from this only gather 'I am lost'. Think of the silly games we play to rationalize our desires and how we codify this playacting as if to appear intellectual when truly base. I will beat you up to fuck you, and this makes us special, but if I were to fuck you to fuck you, this makes us animals.

That movie (also book) 'Fight Club', much adored by idiots who misunderstood it and much maligned by haughty intellectuals that misunderstood it equally, touches upon similar themes. Note the orderly furniture and perfect, serene angles presenting them everywhere in my comic.

A final structuralist note: a comic is not an animation, or a movie, or a poem or a book, or most importantly a painting. But it borrows from all these things to create if I may be allowed a smarter form than any of the others mentioned, or to be clearer a form that allows for smart things far more invitingly than film with its linear time-frame burdens or a book with its inability to convey spatial dimension or with a painting that can only hint at a sequence of events. However from paintings I try to borrow a wonderful effect from the cubist school, where essentially they theorized that one cubist painting of something attempts to show an ideal space form of the subject, to show it 'from every angle at once' so to speak. I try to do the same with a sequence of events when I make pages like these. You can stand a bit back, stop looking at each panel in particular and look at the page on the whole and it's a kaleidoscope of the then, the now, and the after. If I learned anything at all from having to do single page comics for that period of time it was exactly this. People that have 300 pages to tell a story that could be said in 10 pages are misunderstanding the medium, I posit. Then again if you draw 300 pages everybody thinks you're cool and if you draw 10 you just appear lazy, right? An artists' job is the same as of a lumberjack's.

- Helm


Monday, October 27, 2008

Worse things than being late!

I did a 24hr comic this weekend, which is to say, it's not 24 pages but it's a full story done at the best of my ability in a span of 24 hours. It came out 5 pages. It'll be a while before it arrives on this blog but hey, I made it! Expect the next full page within the next couple of days.

You like to read a lot, don't you?



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Anger Management

Man, this comic. It's a bit overwrought and I feel the way I drew the dude's face is quite bad, but I like the idea and the format. Upside-down speech is a good visual cue for subconscious thought patterns. I also like how the line-work in the top and bottom row is delicate and thin and the violence panel is made with a big brush that chops up the space harshly between space and object. If only I had structured that face traditionally a bit better. You can't improvise everything.

This idea came to me when I was visiting Brussels with my dad. I was very sad at the time, to the point where I couldn't sleep at night, and I paced and paced the hotel room (again a hotel room), I did endless series of push-ups to tire myself out and I broke the washroom's basin by mistake. Actually the worst of all of that is when you lie in bed trying to sleep with one ear on the mattress and you play rhythmic patterns with your fingers and hear them reverberate through the mattress, booming at the empty silence.

So perhaps the ugliness suits it! I have rationalized a small win for me right there.

On the formal level: 1) same face on all panels, slightly worked over to avoid cut-and-paste effect, but effective emotionally. Stonewall face. 2) throat gurgling sound effect: it works. Don't always put actual letters in sound panels, it's very useful to upset the reader expectation sometimes. 3) I went with the throat punch for extra cruelty. Of course nobody aims there on purpose but man if it happens it's much worse than a face hit. 4) Story starts 'after the fact'. The reader is encouraged to fill in the blanks. The 'plot' doesn't matter here, what matters is the human situation. When you just have a single page's worth of space you need to cut the most inessential corners and retain the gist of it. This was good practise for me regardless of how many pages a next comic I do will be.

Also, I wanted to say: thank you if you forwarded the comic to any interested friends. I really appreciate it. Don't hesitate to drop me comments, though, I see lately they've been sparser. That's fine, I understand there isn't an infinite amount of things to be said about what turns out to be a pretty homogeneous body of work but still, any communication is welcome.

- Helm


Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Broken Chain is but Circles that Met

Not one follows the other, but yet?...

Though the form of this comic seems a bit obtuse I believe once it has registered, its meaning should be self-evident, so I will not try to make the latter any plainer. I will however note the formalist effect in hopes that someone who has missed it may get at least that answer in this text: the comic can be read continuously clockwise or counter-clockwise and the meaning remains intact and is known to all humans.

This was kind of a difficult page to make and to some degree I feel it as a failure. On one hand I wanted there to be humans in the panels but not faces of humans, and then there's the basement panel where we see a person with dramatic lighting on his face, where someone with ill intent would mock him for being all 'emo-goth depressed' which really wasn't a context I wanted to indulge. On the other hand, I wanted the narrative to be completely seamless going round and round and it turns out that's more difficult to achieve than just to consider. The translation to English hurts it just a bit but too.

The four places in the four panels are ones I've been to and I believe I've had similar thoughts to the ones in the comic there as well. Especially the hotel room in panel one, it will be make a reprise appearance in a future comic. Hotels are really depressing.

It was in fact, in a hotel room that I first tried making my first comic (and perhaps funnily - though privately - that moment is referenced in my very first comic for comic school. We'll get to that). The two pages I inked are now lost but I have a clear recollection of what it was about and what it was inspired from. I was about 16 and my father had taken me to Pyrgos, in Ilia (original home of the olympic games to give you dirty savages some frame of reference) from where our family holds, for some vacations. He went out one night and I was really lonely inside the hotel room. I suppose it's telling of my disposition that instead of perhaps wondering around the public sections of the hotel (including a swimming pool) to make some travel acquaintances, I instead chose to hole up in the room and read my Battle Angel Alita comics. Ah, Yukito Kishiro was an amazing influence on me not so much in how I were to go on to draw like, but in the patience of his work. The craft that it took before one were to call a page finished. Whereas I have since deviated a lot from my 'ideal meticulous' style (probably to psychologically freeing effect!) the form is still there and the superego will not be happy until I have achieved similar robustness one day.

So, the comic I had started then was the perfect capture of my 16 year old psyche. It was a dude and a lady, dressed in futuristic jumpsuits, going into a garage and taking this Akira-esque superbike and then hitting the road in some silent, cyclopean metropolis threaded together with suspended motorways. Low shots from the pillars to the roads, high shots of the bike on an endless travel. Pure escapism. I drew it with my dad's 0.1 and 0.8 rapidographs!

I remember being excited seeing 'something I made' still be there after I had conceived it. Perhaps an instant addiction occurred. I looked at it a lot - though I didn't show my father. I was secretly ashamed of my comic because of perhaps, the naivety of it? or the sexuality inherent in artistic creation (for what is it than a birth of sorts)? Perhaps I just thought it wasn't drawn well enough to show.

I kept the comic in a drawer for some time. Now I don't think it's in there anymore, I think at some more volatile time between 16 and 18, I might have thrown it away. Perhaps it's still there, I don't really want to search my deep drawers that much. I believe I learned a very important lesson making that comic: that when you think you can't do something, if you go ahead and do it, the end result might be better than you expected. I sadly forgot that lesson and didn't make any more comics for a while, but once I went to comic school I had to get over my 'conceptual pessimism' really fast.

- Helm


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Hello. I'm going to track the thought-process behind the drawing of a panel for a yet-inexistent comic. This panel:

(click on all images in this post for proper sized versions)

I am working completely digitally here. My brain is digital too. I am made of nothing but cables and microchips.

The very first thing that has to be considered when one sits to pencil a page of comics is what it's going to be about. As this isn't a page and is in fact, a wordless panel, I need to let you know what I am going for emotionally and in terms of storytelling beforehand so you can tell if I succeed or fail. I stress that though the rest of this comic is only in my head right now, I drew this thinking as if it existed and I know what page goes before it and what comes after it. I stress this because drawing pretty pictures is meaningless in a comic if they don't emote something, and they don't do it in sequence. Leave the single-image-life's-work-masterpiece stuff to the painters, guys. Of course I may say that because I have a short attention span and could never put 40 hours in a single image like they do.

Anyway. Here the story is that this scoundrel swordsman in this pulp fantasy harbor city has it conveyed to him that a dancer in an ill-reputed inn has lost 'a valuable piece of property' of vague definition and is will reward the man that recovers it. So he sets off to meet his to-be-employer and inquire as to what exactly this property is and more importantly, how much to get it back. This is the panel when the swordsman barges in on the dancer's private quarters, startling her somewhat. I want the human figure to convey both a small shock, some apprehension and the dawning realization that this is a man here for the job and not for some other purpose. I also want the woman to be a somewhat tired person, for other reasons.

So I fire up the Cintiq and put down 'blue pencils' in Manga Studio Ex 3 layer. I use a 1200 dpi a4 page format as a default. The way I work is like so: I make the main desktop screen have a full view of the piece I'm working on and zoom in with the Cintiq to work on detail. This way I can always check if what I'm doing works on the macro level without ever having to zoom out too much from the micro level. It's a relatively fast and precise method. Manga Studio has page-rotation and other handy things that make the Cintiq a joy to use, especially if one maps useful shortcuts to the sidepanel keystrokes. I usually only map 'UNDO' to one of them, but I'd map a whole lot more if Manga Studio and Cintiq didn't sometimes mess each other up and totally forget their respective settings. Just having to bind 'UNDO' a lot to the same key has wore me out, as far as extensive Cintiq customization goes.

That strong hori line is the line of sight of the barging swordsman with whom I want the viewer to relate for this event. Naturally there'd be a panel before this with his hand on the door or whatnot so the narration works, but imagine this for now. We can see from this that the swordsman (and the viewer) is standing upright entering into the room where this woman is sitting down. This creates an immediate effect of dominance over her which is useful if you want to set an emotional mood for an encounter.

I used to be pretty mad about drawing accessories in 'establishing shots' like this one in the past. I guess it was mostly an overcompensation for my skills as an artist. I'd put everything in that shot, but I now think just a few items of importance make a more balanced view and they do not clutter the flow of reading as much. The box with the candle on it plays a part in the story so it's useful and it's excusable that it's rendered as much as it is. The bit of table we see is good because it tells us the person in the room was recently eating, and therefore on private time. The hint of a mirror and bed in the background just flesh out a living space a bit more. Believe me, I could have made this to be much, much more busy if I wanted to show off, but showing off is for illustrators that only have ONE panel to tell a story. For example I'd texture the carpet with something like this which is just... not something a sane human being would attempt.

If you're wondering why the heavy rendering on the female form for such a preliminary sketch, it's because I suffer from this condition called can'tdrawomenitis and it pays to be more careful than with anything else in the scene. I didn't use reference for the pose and though this will hurt the quality of the physiology in the final piece, there is a return for it: a bit more individual style, a bit more 'wrong' that I am comfortable letting in there. If one uses photo reference too much all his drawings will tend to look like fashion models in 'perfect' poses. I heavily dislike 'perfect' poses because they're calculated and held for the photographer. But here I want an 'in-between' not a 'key-frame' (in animation terms) because simply the woman was interrupted. She's trying to put on her 'seductive allure' face but not quite there yet.

Here I've blocked out the lights much more and finalized the crop and the topology in the scene. Usually for an establishing shot one should use proper vanishing points and whatnot but this is such a 'close' shot that I feel I can fake it without too much SCIENCE. I don't want the place to look too sterile anyway. I've dressed (sadly) the girl, though barely so (happily) and worked on some preliminary texturing to know what I want to achieve with the final inks.

Now the exact way I go about texturing a part of an image usually is more impressionistic than anything else. Meaning I don't always try to texture a rug with a naturalistic ruggy texture or flesh with flesh-friendly crosshatching and whatever. I go for an emotional effect first. However here, because this is a process post and a process picture I tried to stand mid-way between impressionism and application. I'll discuss this more in the next few paragraphs.

Here for example I am mid-ink. Check out how much I've deviated from the underlayer in the construction of the girls' face. I don't usually do this, but it's me, drawing a woman. My disease, I hope you don't think worse of me.

You can see here why the time-honored practice of tinting the pencil layer blue is useful for inking. The blue shows below, but the ink registers to the eye clearly on top. Though a remnant of the 'the penciler pencils, the inker inks, the colorist colors' production chain American Mainstream comics method era, I am quite partial to it because it allows me to focus on what I want to do on every step. I mean, when I pencil - to paraphrase Dave Sim - I am a penciler. When I ink an inker and when I letter a letterer. I do not want to be thinking about pencil art judgment calls when I am inking, nor do I want to think of what I am going to change on the inks when I put the lettering down. Whereas overspecialization is for ants, thinking like a specialized craftsman when you do something as specific as inking helps.

You'll notice I'm shading the flesh with horizontal strokes. This is an emotional effect. I've found that parallel lines for shading people makes them appear mid-move. Also if the lines are close-knit (as are these) and especially if placed on the face, they give the character a sort of tired look. Vertical lines are the best for this effect, but I preferred horizontal lines here because they unbalance her more and they accentuate the light-source.

Also, for kicks, check out a surreal Platoist zen space midway version.

So let's look at the final piece for a minute:

Click here for computer shattering big version.

As you can see I try to create a pure binary bitmap copy for printing (binary bitmap means in computer lingo just black and white, 1, 0 per pixel, no shades of gray in between) which at this day and age isn't very needed because even the cheapest digital black and white prints you can get are grayscale. However I do this because a) it pleases me and b) when you have to print comic tone, it really still matters if you want to avoid moire patterns. I didn't use any comic tone here, though. I used ink pens and the airbrush for the noise patterns where applicable. I try to take special care to 'bridge' between the airbrush and the inkwork because I don't want my art to look like two different things pasted on top of each other. You tell me if it works or not.

As you can see I skewed the rotation on the goblet-holding arm to signify a bit more shock. I wanted to also put some tendon tension on the neck (as the body does this when you're surprised) but the lighting conditions didn't react favorably to it so I took it out.

So how different it is working digitally to real life penciling and inking? Once you get the hang of it, not very. The biggest - and sincerely most important difference - is that you have a very easy way to apply WHITE on BLACK, not just the usual reverse. This makes you work looser without fearing you'll place a line that will just destroy the piece (the benefits of undoing on computers taken into account) which is for all intents, a good thing. Secondarily, if you work at a large enough resolution (like m e and my crazy 1200 dpi) this also means you can zoom in at a crazy degree and do one-pixel detail work that is pretty impossible to do in real life, unless you work at a huge canvas and/or have the steady hands of surgeon. Speaking of this, you should know that most comic artists work in canvases two or three times bigger than the printed result. An a4 printed page's original is a3 at least most of the time. There's two reasons for this: one is that this way when you shrink down for printing, details become minute and errors cannot be seen anymore. Most artists like this effect (I like it too). The other is more psychological: the original for an artist must be BIG so you can hang it on a wall or sell it and it must look like a real piece of art. I don't get this psychological effect and I don't really think my originals are amazing pieces of art worth a million or anything. I have them all stacked on one shelf in my bookcase. When I am in lack of time for a project, I have been known to work at print res (meaning, an a4 page will be printed as a4) and I don't think my work loses anything for it.

But this is a problem in digital art for me, because I can zoom so much I never know when to stop detailing. This picture for example, is a bit overdone perhaps. A good thing to do is to decide internally before you start working at a picture at what the smallest pen size you're going to use will be. This is made with pens all the way down to 0.5 which is overkill for any print version for a 1200dpi image, heh. A good place to stop is 1.0 or even 2.0 if you're not doing an establishing shot panel. Remember: from one point and onwards, not even the sharpest eye can see the detail work you did nor will they even care to try.

So a few words about comic tone, which I use a lot sometimes, and not at all at others, heh. Manga Studio is great for it, it's one of the biggest selling points, I guess. As this piece doesn't have any applied I'll show you how I handle it over a drawing eric did:

And here's the tones I put on it:

Again this is quite overkill but I was trying to help eric with options for toning. Again though this might seem like a regular grayscale pic at 72dpi that internet images display, it is made out of pure binary bitmap black and white at the original res and will print perfectly without any gray tones and/or moire patterns.

A lot of people prefer flat tone that says 'comic book'. I really like rubbing out white from a flat tone to shape volume better, it's the funnest thing for me and I'd do it professionally for other people's tone if they hired me, heh. Though it's usually a big no-no to put one comic tone over another, I really couldn't care less. Pile it on, I say!

So that's that as far as 'how does Helm draw with his Cintiq' goes. Would you like to see more Process posts? I could do one about a full page, with all the formal considerations that go in making a sequence of events flow, now that I've sorta covered the actual craftsmanship of drawing. Your voice will be my guide.



Sunday, October 12, 2008


This is pretty much my favorite page from the newspaper batch. I think! I don't have much to say about it directly. It was a lot of work to draw but I think the visuals serve to the textual flow here pretty well. I'm not much of a writer (or at least I don't feel like one) and, let me be candid here, I don't feel like much of an illustrator either. This is a reason I am a comic artist. My drawings might not be stellar or my writing sublime, but I'm an okay combinatorial artist between the two. That's what most comic creators have going for them, being reasonably decent at two different crafts.

Enough about me, how about that robot boy. Have you noticed what a sad image it is, a vacant playground? An even sadder one is a playground with just one child there, alone. Steel yourself for the cruelty that follows is immeasurable, child.

For the lovers of comic art theory, note the open background panel that pervades the whole picture and on which the comic finally culminates on. The whole page is a cubist painting in this way, different viewpoints at the same time. Not so much literal time passes as spatial dislocation, until the end panel pulls it all together with a final symbolist reference.

A word about the robot symbol. This is a variation of the popular DESTROY ALL HUMANS! Red Robot. I think it was popularized by Diesel Sweeties, I am just now searching on Wikipedia about it. When I adopted it there was no Wikipedia. Usually it's portrayed like an emotionless destructobot bent on total human devastation (besides Bob Ross, who gets to live) but when I looked at its big red face with huge yellow eyes I just see a little kid so there you go. I've drawn this red robot a million times, it's not a pop culture reference anymore. It is mine, but in the interest of disclosure, I thought I'd mention it.

On other news, process post soon. Ptoing helped me with this wonderful little banner for the blog:

which I've attached as my signature in the forums I frequent. I don't know what else to do, so I've reverted to 1930 marketing practices "USE BRIGHT COLORS TO CATCH THE ATTENTION OF THE VIEWER" heh.



Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Protected from Reality

This was made to express a pretty specific thing, and it was for me pretty interesting to see how it sorta went over a lot of people's head. It's exactly because it's not a high concept that I was puzzled about how some didn't seem to get it. As a test, keep in mind right now, after having read it (I hope you read the comics before the texts below them, if not there's something very... special about you) what you understood from it, and then let me know in the comments if it differed from my initial intention.

Which was: I kinda severely dislike people who claim to be 'realists'. In the name of that realism they tear down any attempt others make at embellishing their personal story with something spicier that their narrow version of 'reality'. 'Real' for them means 'empty'. Drama is forbidden, even the smallest pretension is to be ridiculed as harshly as possible, analysis is for fags, ambiguity is not an excuse for interpretation but quite the opposite, it doesn't even exist. Things are clear-cut. You know they type. The one to tell you stuff like "why are you wasting your time?" when you do things that might seem inconsequential but which you love anyway? Well yeah, that's her. There's many reasons why this sort of personality profile comes to exist and it wasn't so much the scope of the comic to investigate them as it was to mutter a passive-agressive "fuck off".

This story hasn't happened to me personally, but I have a lot of experience with that particular type of person so I didn't feel it out of bounds to do the story. As usual, I don't take a very strong stance because being heavy-handed about these things is kinda crass, but nonetheless I do believe the stories we invent about ourselves are true, they interface with truth and our lives become all the richer for it. This is a life-giving process, and don't let anyone tear it down. There isn't one safer way to view reality and regardless of the gravitas with which others will attempt to make you 'come to your senses' and view life through their eyes, they don't know anything you don't. The last action in this comic is a symbolic dissension to the most common and damaging human practice: that of counter-definition. Looking at what others do and doing the same or the exact opposite (it doesn't matter which). Of course there's a lurking pathology to overdoing it with the storytelling but again, that's a different comic for a different time and I'm glad I don't have to tag every entry in this blog with "psychopathology".

Oh, by the way, that's Giakoumis again. I guess that's his latest pop-art relationship that doesn't lead anywhere? In any case, there is some self-injection going on here (as with the other Giakoumis comic) but it's not so much in the main character (whom I didn't even originally create, friend Greek comic artist Dustbin did) but with the backgrounds. That's my room, that is my cat and yes, these are my knives. My privacy, it is shattered.

On the artistic end, I enjoy this comic even today. I like the sharp lines and the mostly clean spaces. There is some distortion in the faces but not nearly as bad as some other stuff I've done (wait for the next one). Before you sit down to draw something representative of reality, you always think you don't have the skill for it and it'll come out looking wonky and unconvincing. It almost always turns out that if you sit and do it instead of worry about it, the end result will be held together by some 'x factor'. It's not that I draw reality well, it's that I trust my artistic intuition in that the end result will not bother the eye and will support the story. Though my ambition doesn't end there, that is the bare minimum a comic artist needs to be able to tell a story with his visual tools. To trust their hands to draw every part okay enough so it doesn't fall apart on the whole.

Every time I sit down to make a new page, I have to convince myself that I can do this all over again.

So, the next post will probably be a Digital Drawing & Inking process one. I have all the art ready, it'll be a huge text to write but eh, I do enjoy doing it. Hopefully you guys and girls will find it informative or in the very least, you'll like the belabored panel I drew for it.

I have a request to make also: if you know someone whom you think would enjoy the comics and texts on this blog, do let them know that it exists. This might seem like it should go without saying, but I know that whenever other artists reminded me of this, I usually thought of one or two people more I could let know of their art. The reason I ask for this is because I think I've pretty much exhausted my methods of getting the word out there for the blog (which were, pretty much, posting in the message boards I frequent about it and tagging my name in MSN. Pitiful, I know). I don't use myspace or facebook (I find them pretty perverse) and whereas I don't have as much of a problem with livejournal, I can't readily make a profile and socialize there for the purpose of plugging my own comic, just seems disingenuous. So, word of mouth seems like all I have going for me now. Let people know if you want and also if you think there's any other way to make the blog reach its audience I might not have thought of, let me know!



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Deep Inside the Earth

I'll start with the customary "how did this ever see print in a large newspaper without a long history and audience in comics?!" Now that the interrobang is out of the way, this is a comic made under peculiar circumstances. To not go too far into it, at the time my sense of priorities was somewhat unreal, I wasn't seeing the meaning in a lot of things, generally perspective was skewed. I took my time with it and I made certain it worked like I wanted it to work. It breaks various narrative rules to the point where it might be a bit unreadable as a comic, but at the time I didn't care about that. There is a case to be made about interesting art being created when the artist has a disregard for common wisdom about how his art form of choice works, but that goes only as far as you as a reader finds this particular comic to be interesting. Frankly I'd be surprised that people would see this and feel any impulse to read it.

There is a common concept in comics that if the words overpower the images, the reader skips text or skips page. The vice versa doesn't apply as such, but if a page has no text or very little text, most readers read it VERY FAST, which is a good communicational tool for the aware comic artist. Generally more than 30 words per panel (given a print size of about a4 or smaller and a regular typeface size) is a good limit, and if possible, that text should be broken up in favourable places in the panel, not infodumped on the top or whatever. This comic breaks this rule in a big way, ripping word from image at the seams, making this less a comic and more "prose with some pictures behind it". Or is it "pretty pictures with some inconsequential text on top"? In any case, I was aware of this and chose this particular harsh juxtaposition to serve this story when I made this in 2006. I do this a couple more times in the future in these series, with variable degrees of effect.

There were artistic concerns here. The whole page is mostly drawn with a pentel inkpen, I generally avoided my usual 0.1 marker scribbling. I didn't want the images to look packed with detail. In the visual arts there is a distinction between 'detail' and 'visual information'. The difference is that detail may carry information but it also may not, and just be there to pack up the image, to inspire awe to the viewer... the "oh wow, look how many little lines!" effect. I do this occasionally because awe is a useful tool for a comic artist if they can pull it off. But here I wanted the information to be there, but not so much detail. The trees read as trees, sand reads as sand, rock reads as rock. There isn't anything "playful" about this, it's a very unappealing page by design, artistically. There are no elaborate cloud patterns, no cute little creatures amongst the rocks and grass, nothing distinctively alive and relatable. The effect I was going for - and I really hope it comes through - is not of 'nature as the natural state of man' but a nature that is alien, distant and which has irrevocably sworn off the human. This theme of discontent is the one that is echoed in the text. What would you feel if you were to leave civilization behind only to find nature rejecting you harshly, not letting you in? You thought you were a natural being but you are spoiled by your years as a human being. The breeze doesn't seem soothing after a month sleeping on the ground, the trees do not mellow you with their shade but are forever there, quiet and together, against the one who absconded from his own. We think we are alone amongst the crowd but there are other, far more fundamental types of loneliness.

I often entertain fantasies of leaving, going somewhere far away and leaving everything behind, everybody forgetting my name and who I was. I don't know how common this is. These moods hit me most when I am unhappy, which is reasonable if you think about it. This comic was made during a bout of sadness, and in a way it simulated my impulse to leave and go far away. It simulated it and it also simulated its probable outcome of marginalization, of alienation even in the animal state a natura. Is a sad man less sad when he is running away into some cheap primordial fantasy of vast plains and trees and nothingness? It is pitiful that one would choose to return to his human ways just to retain some semblance of sanity through communication and expression, even more pitiful that he would have nowhere to send his messages. Pitiful, and unambiguously human.

The human state of self-awareness is inherently pathological. There are ways a living mechanism can break and become evolutionary deadwood. They are the exact same ways through which a living mechanism lucks out on a new characteristic that advances it in the food-chain. Genetic mutation is an 'error' in this way, the results of this 'error' are painted as favorable or unfavorable strictly in the practical terms of whether the mutated creature seems to survive better or worse. Self-awareness for the human is an evolutionary variation that was in this sense, excellent in keeping humans alive and in control and thriving. However there exist pathologies that are special to the thinking, feeling being that are completely alien to your cat, or even more, to a cockroach. These pathologies will brand us evolutionary deadwood. These are existential concerns, or to say, they emerge from the human ability to discern between itself and its environment and to plot a theoretical end to his life by comparing to outward death. Your cat doesn't know it will die, nor does it know it is governed by chemical impulses nor does it really "know" anything, because it is not self-aware. Your computer doesn't "know" anything either in the exact same way. Every day we breed small, inward deaths inside us through the knowledge of the outward death, through comparison and contrast with otherness. Fantasy and reality in constant, brutal friction. The same tools that enable us to overcome are the ones that destroy us. This self-awareness creates an illusion that somehow the conscious, that small part of a very complicated, interfacing mechanism that is a human being, is 'in control', is holding the metaphysical rudder of the being and makes free choices, unaffected by each and every fiber of its mechanism. Pathology. This comic is yet another examination of this pathology in action. For what is more broken than the machine that has been given the ability to say 'I am broken'?



Thursday, October 2, 2008

Watercolor Yus

Heehee! Yus! This is sora a continuation of the other Gnawite comic, though probably the least effective of the two due to being wordy. I still like it though and perhaps more importantly at the time it was a good release to be able to do this instead of something 'heavier' (like what follows it!) The last panel is a bit of self-commentary because I was getting kinda tired at this point. This tiredness was to lead lead to... interesting things.

The Yus bird is strangely a bit of a small-scale social phenomenon in the circles I frequent. First of all whenever anyone sees a Yus comic (there were many before this, not done for the paper. Perhaps once I'm done with this batch of stuff I'll post all the random other comics I have done) they start compulsively saying 'Yus'. I've heard a lot of different pronunciations! So what about the Yus bird, it's a very simple - perhaps to a fault - character. He sleeps on a huge cactus, he has amazing powers of persuasion and he only has one expression (well, almost). I don't see any reason for him to be as widely loved as he is but then again, what do I know. I do draw him compulsively though.

Don't ask me what 'Yus' means, by the way. I do use it as a variation of 'yes' but it seems pretty open-ended to me, really. A person going by 'Jixby Phillips' uttered it about 6 years ago on a website called I-mockery and I adopted it and for some reason thought it should be said by a large green bird so there you go. It's kinda depressing in some ways how the easily the most recognizable thing I've made is what amounts to a grumpy pokemon.

The Gnawites have mad ping-pong skills.

Oh by the way, the new Process Post is slowly coming together. Still making the art. It's going to be a lot of text to write!