Sunday, November 30, 2008

Memorybot Part 1

More ZX romantic adventures! Page 1 out of 4.

I made this for the 'Free Your Line' fanzine, for its third - and best, in my opinion - issue. It was done in very late 06, in fact around new years eve if memory serves. Ptoing was around, as were other friends, I was visiting Germany I think. God, how can my memory of things be so much like an old man's?

If you note something different about this comic, something vibrant and rich in hue, that's Ptoing's fault. He did the colors. I really like them, most people seem to too.

As I had 4 pages to tell a story that could possibly be told in a single page like those of the newspaper, and as a sort of cleansing from that sort of format, I took it very slow here, mostly establishing setting and mood, letting smaller things do the talking than my usual verbose narrator who is sadly a necessity if you want to tell a story with a lot of plot in very small space. Therefore the pacing is very deliberately slow. Note how I use the right wall in the first panel as space to place a story title and such, luxuries one doesn't usually enjoy in single-page format due to space. The eye traverses lazily through the opening shot, playfully diverted by the separate-perspective point cobblestone. A vague sense of futurist Europe somewhere (in fact half-way inspired by Stockholm and Thesaloniki). I never understood why the near future needs to be all SUPERPIPES AND FLYING CARS... well, the flying cars I can understand, what I don't see is why when the 'FUTURE' is here, everything old is to be immediately discarded. So I didn't. This comic might take place in the future sometime but I still left in streetlights and free press vending machines and the tired stones of an 'old city center'.

Furthermore, as before, I do not treat the abilities a robot very much like a robot... somewhat half-way. He has an internal clock... but he has to roll up his sleeve to know what time it is, heh. I like that middle space between magical realism and just flat out nonsensicalness. I'll get Ptoing at the end of the comic to talk about his color choices and such. Let's look at the black and white one as well:

First of all I made the mistake of inking this on hard bristol board (because that is what I took with me in Germany. I am really ghetto as far as tools and means go, as I've mentioned before). So all the lines I've put down are with generally bigger tipped markers than I enjoy just so I didn't get lots of break up. It turned out to befit the color a lot more than my usual more flimsy lines.

Note on panel 3 and 4 how I use guiding arrows to help the reader along. Most experimental comic artists would scoff at such'medium breaking immersion' tricks as naive but I kinda like comics going 'hi, we're comics! :D' a little sometimes, if they're kind about it. I could have used some other visual clue as to how to read such a panel configuration (usually with word balloons or the actual things in the panels being drawn in such a way as to visually flow up and then downwards) but I had to juggle a few other considerations that kept me from this. Namely, I wanted the fast motion. I wanted the first two panels to appear to take a considerable amount of time between them but then when he checks the time to see if his date is late (she is, by 8 minutes) I wanted the action to be abrupt. This works by keeping the art in the repeated panel pretty much the same (eye discards same information and just reads the different parts, much faster than the whole scene changing. Combine this effect with small panels and you can have a comic where the reader feels compelled to read 3 panels a second). So the pacing is sloooow and then an abrupt peak, and then again slow on the fifth panel (low shot always seems to take more time than eye-level because the reader has to visualize the pan that got the 'camera' that low, and how it'll also take some time to reposition. We think spatially, like ground animals) and the last two panels are again, fast after that bit of hesitation. These are pretty much cinematography tricks, but hey, comics are a smart medium and should take whatever becomes them from elsewhere without having delusions of being anything they're not. Vague line there but I'll pretend I'm safe from making 'movie comics' for now.

I'll post the next page in 3 days or so. Take the intermediate time to praise Ptoing for his wonderful coloring work.

- Helm


Solar said...

She was late? She could have been early.

I'm not up with the ZX history yet. Is a memorybot designed to remember important moments or creating memorable ones (or both)? It strikes me that either sort of memorybot would be a little neurotic, making sure he got to date early whilst checking his watch regularly despite having lots more time to wait.

I enjoyed the nod to the 'yus' comic. Any level of continuity and coincidence is a rewarding part of reading anyones work. Made me smile too.

Colour always adds more life to drawings. Perhaps I'm lazy but I find it so much easier to absorb comics in colour (particularly when it's done so well it's hard to imagine the art without it ptoing ;). When I think of the contrast between black and white film and their colour counterparts I don't think content is ever really suffered. I love some of the old B&W stuff, it has a charm for reasons I can't really put a finger on. But if asked I always liked opt for colour... it must be the extra information tied up the visual spectrum, it's like a cake without icing; the cake is still nice but well...

Looking forward to the next instalments.

Helm said...

Memorybot remembers in spite of itself. You shall see what I mean soon enough. A theory on digital memory and why I wouldn't really like to be a robot (though being made out of metal would be nice sometimes).

She wasn't early because who agrees on a date at 14:10? That's insane!!!!! Also 1408 means something, everything means something although sometimes we don't bother to remind ourselves that they do.

I totally have this thing when I go to meet people that I arrive there early because I am neurotic and then when 'the time' is arrived I just fidget like hell until they show up, sometimes upset that they stood me up. I'm horrible at this, I even stopped wearing a watch (I don't even have a cellphone) to not be a victim to it as much.

continuity and coincidence: emphasis on coincidence. I really like self-reference when it's just an esoteric thing that rewards combining disparate threads of inspiration with a semblance of an overarching world view, but I do not like treating onself as some sort of pop culture reference, so I try not to. Again a blurry line here, I'll place myself on the righteous side and pretend I've adequately explained why.

Most people prefer comics with colors. I personally am very very partial to black and white work. I appreciate the ambiguity of lines on paper that seem to suggest shapes, planes, volumes, but not tyrannically so, the reader has to do their part pro-actively, interpreting what things might be. Color comics sometimes are too literal, too much like dreaded 'movie comics' for me.

Ethan said...

I really like the colours in the last two panels. They are like two photos taken with an old camera where the light changes slightly for some inexplicable reason. And the warmth of the embrace. Here the colour is adding something that would have been very difficult to show with lines alone.
The wrist watch and the robot arm are superb also.
I cannot figure out the 1408 reference. Perhaps it was meant for somebody else.

Helm said...

yes yes colors and emotional communication. Ptoing will explain about these things in a future post. I'm really glad it gets conveyed.

Thank you for the complements. Yes the 1408 is a reference to be lost on everyone but just a few people who'd probably never chance to read this comic anyway (and I wonder if they'd notice even if they did. It's just a number. You could put 0405 in a comic somewhere and I wouldn't immediately go 'OH THAT'S MY BIRTH DATE!' although I was born on may fourth). A personal language made out of small things like these is in any case, a thing I find gives otherwise clear stories a bit more spirit even if it just gets the artist more involved in things. When you invest something personal in something that might seem to 'not need it' you do it better because you're in it too!

Becky said...

I totally have this thing when I go to meet people that I arrive there early because I am neurotic and then when 'the time' is arrived I just fidget like hell until they show up, sometimes upset that they stood me up.

I'm like this too. This is also why I am always early for lectures, doctors appointments, trains etc, and always frustrated when they are late.

Trevor said...

I appreciate the ambiguity of lines on paper that seem to suggest shapes, planes, volumes, but not tyrannically so, the reader has to do their part pro-actively, interpreting what things might be.
Enough said on this topic, certainly.

Now what is so wrong with being a robot as you stated? Human, as you are now, you have emotion, desire, an image of a life or future you wish to live and live for. You could not live as a robot, doing only certain tasks and no more, enslaved to your duty, no.

But if you were a robot, you likely wouldn't think about it that way. It would all come down to 'instinct'. An unavoidable way of life, that is in no way questioned, and therefore only subconscious and not fully 'lived' as one might say, but never negative.

Helm said...

ZX is a self-aware robot so he's pretty much a human being... I write him in a middle state because it's just interesting, it brings up useful examples of behavior. I do not believe that humans are free to do anything 'not instinctual' as per your definition above, but I think it's pretty tragic that they are observing themselves being themselves with some sort of strange delusion that they can override their instinctual programming and still be happy. This hybris is a about the comic I'm making now, by the way :D

pan pan said...

much love for the colourist..
this is one of my favourite comics of yours, and the one that made me realise some things about storytelling..
also i think reading this one coincided with your critic on a comics of mine, so it helped make your thesis more solid.

upload the rest soon, it's a very beautiful story.

warcod said...

enjoying the orange tree street bleed. color shift to sepia top right panel, also. like finding interest builders in this work. the poster patches, the distant aqueduct ruins, bank like building exterior. strange yet comfortable relationships to my mind. yeah, the arrows are kind. i liked noticing the b/w version's panel underlap and alignments subtleties. to my imagination, it says little shifts are beautiful to the source and perhaps others.

thanks for your thoughts on pacing.