Monday, December 29, 2008

Currency Gives A Second Chance

Well this is the last page from the newspaper comics, for real now! I will probably do my most recent 24hr comic nex--- wait wait! READER PARTICIPATION TIME:

Dear reader and human, would you rather I post next:

  • My most recent 24hr comic (5 pages) chronicling my dire highschool existence, failing at school, getting in a band, DENYING MY NATURE and throwing up

  • My very first 'serious' comic (2 pages) completely incomprehensible to anyone that isn't me, made in two feverish nights that I still somehow feel begrudingly nice about

  • An illustrated recounting of a dream (5 pages) where I meet my id/superego meld and I am very distraught with the secrets he tells me

Please write in and let me know. In lack of votes I will default to posting horrible doodles nobody cares about as punishment! (not really.)

About the comic itself, it's one of the few color comics I've done, and completely in photoshop for that matter. There's a bit of a blunder with one caption (see if you can guess which) that misleads the eye instead of helping it along to the next desired panel and I certainly rushed the last panel (deadline). I think the idea is humourous still, even if I do say so myself. This blog is constantly about me saying so myself and I'm sorry, but it ain't like anybody else will ever write my biography, so... you know.



Friday, December 26, 2008

What's in the bag?

I'm sorry. Prosopagnosia and Karistos. Some things Just don't translate any better than that.

This comic came to be due to a happy accident, as Bob Ross would say. I didn't have time to ink and color it, and the color page was a mandatory one for the newspaper so this is just pencils and photoshop color. I don't generally like to color my comics, nor do I particularly enjoy painting on the whole, so I went for an impressionistic, mostly limited hue palette that I felt suited the goings on in the comic. I'm not sure how well this conveys what I was going for, I don't think I ever got any feedback for it so I guess this is the time to check for real!

I am especially fond of how - again by accident - the bottom row left three panels seem as if they're cut out of a different page and collaged together on top of a very red canson paper or something. It suits them because that is the only moment of emotional elation in the comic.

As to Prosopagnosia, the illness. I'm afraid I've taken some liberties with how it actually works, as there really doesn't seem to be a time when you 'remember someone more'. However as a parallel to an interpersonal relationship, I think it works. At the point of when I was making this comic (somewhere between Deep Inside The Earth and Anger Managment) I was really not very emotionally or psychologically sound and a lot of my personal frustrations carried on to the pages. Therefore I am really not convinced anyone would be able to gather neither the extremity of my personal condition at the time (which even if they could, the merit of such a thing would be debatable) nor to extapolarate from it something closer to their own experiences. However given how Deep Inside The Earth has resonated with a lot of you readers and humans I can only hope this might as well. If not, sorry for wasting your time.

On the formalist level, look at that non sequitur shot at the lampposts between the two pieces of conversation. Just a simple empty beat, but try to imagine the comic without it, would be worse, wouldn't it? Just run-on sentences. Also this is one of at least 3-4 comics I've done which feature a motorway or railway, suspended bridges and that sort of stuff, I really like drawing them because they're man-made and they usually cut incisions over otherwise natural terrain, but unlike other human constructions, nobody really lingers there, nobody walks around on them, they're just places in between that people pass through with their cars or trains. On a metaphysical map level, they're blank spots. Human stories happening in blank spots pleases me.

If I were to draw this today, I'd ink it, though. It would probably be less of an effective comic (whatever the effect is, I'm covering my ass here) but it would nag my Inking Sense less, at least. We all have our obsessions.

But what could be in that bag.



Monday, December 22, 2008

See the rotting corpse, it walks again!

I return from my Polish vacation. It was wonderful, probably some of the best time I've had abroad. Here's an overdone photo of me inside the Eye of Algond.

Click for manly size.

Regular comic posting will occur in the next couple of days, let me just gather my brain-bits. Until then, here's some drawings and an impromptu tutorial comic I did while in Poland:

This is actually Geometry Girl just with a different hair style and color. She's been released apparently, so she's doing better. Still playing chess alone though, contemplating the 8x8 grid... You can't ask for miracles. Inspired by Scotch, who played chess on his own during the Polish vacation.

Then here's the abrupt tutorial comic I did for Davy. This is he below:

He's a wonderful human being. I woke up one of the mornings and went to the common area to find that he had drawn his female character (who doesn't feature in his meat machines comics) a few times and had written 'I can't draw breasts :(' below them. My heart wept, hence impromptu trail comic!

These are pencil only because I didn't take any inking implements along with me to this trip. I usually do, I am not sure why I decided against it this time! Let's close with this random creepy drawing:

Whom my friend Chrille informed me after he saw, that looks very much like the singer of old punk band Magazine of whom I really didn't know anything about until then! I checked them out and they're pretty awesome though, so thanks, subconsciousness!

Here's a condensed paragraph of Polish impressions if you're interested: Warsaw proud, Krakow friendly, Zakopane cold, beautiful women of debatable gender, longhairs are exotic, striking scenery, fortuitous snow, germ towel, long debates, communal laughter, absurd quotes going in a little absurd quote book, they played 1000bwk without me, warm showers with good water pressure, the chewing gum murderer... good times.

I guess this is it for now! Back with a few leftover comics from the newspaper era in a couple of days. Start visiting the blog again, humans!



Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I'm done with the Vavel comic for this years' expo! (the above image is a teaser for the artist catalog).

...and I'll be leaving for Poland to meet wonderful friends. Back at the twenty-second of December. There's no reason to check the blog at all between now and then! Leave! Shoo!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Memorybot Part 4: THE REVENGE

Here's the last page.

I'm proud of the visual communication here of the mindwipe, it's not exactly the easiest thing to convey without a stupid-ass panel reading "and this is how the robot got the relevant part of his brain erased". This isn't the golden age anymore, thankfully, we can trust the viewer to understand the action just by showing it, right? Right?

I guess it would have been easier if the screen read something silly like 'R U SURE U WATN FULL MEMORY WIPE Y / N ?' but nerds will be nerds and I had my nerd friend Ghormak write me some c64-like BASIC code that would theoretically clear some memory. Well... all the memory, really. Let's pretend ZX is running on 20 internal c64 chips in parallel and has different memories stored on different ones. Also the irony of a robot named ZX64 running on c64 processors. I will have none of it on the ongoing vendetta between Spectrum and Commodore users, both machines have their strengths. It's just a shame the c64 has many, many more of them. That's the final word on this, now, you hear?

I think this page works and I wouldn't really change much about it. This is also a byproduct of this art being closer to today than some of the other stuff I've posted so it's not that I've changed radically as an artist since.

Here's some more Ptoing slave comments on the coloring:

Page four was frustrating as I accidentally saved the resized .jpg into the photoshop file when I was almost done, and that would have been of course totally useless for print, so I had to start over. Still I am happy with the outcome especially the psychedelic colours in the middle panel as well as the three last ones, which in a way echo the colours of page three.

The only rationalization going on here is how I colored the last panel as well as the background in the last three panels, which I did in a way to guide the eyes as well as focus on where important stuff was. If you look at how ZX is shaded in the last panel and think a bit about it, it makes no sense whatsoever as far as realism goes, but at this point Helm has indoctrinated me with his "Screw Realism" credo, that my compulsions never stood a chance.

On a side note, the text of the pseudo code in the first panel is made with the C64 charset. I actually fired up WINVice (a C64 emulator) and typed the stuff in there and then printscreened it and adjusted it for the comic as needed. So many interesting facts, no?

Very notable is that Helm did not do any adjustments to the last two pages, he saw them and was happy. (The last 3 panels are a very good example of his inconsistencies. Note the eye positions of ZX)

In closing I have to say I really enjoyed colouring this comic and I am looking forward to colour more of Helm's comics in the future. Tho one thing I learned is that I never want to colour comics professionally unless I really have to.
Thank you for bearing with me and my ramblings. You are released now.

Hehe, c64 charset... nerds will be nerds.

An interesting point to note is that the comic has some internal symmetry. Page 1 ends with a 'hello' and an embrace, page 4 ends with a 'hello' and a handshake :(

Oh about handshakes, I guess I should say that whereas most people think them old-fashioned I am a firm believer in a firm handshake upon meeting someone. ZX takes from his artist in this amongst other superficial character traits (like being AWESOME ALL THE TIME).

Page 2 is all words words words and panels panels panels and page 3 is all about silence and few panels, that's a contrast bookended by symmetrical pages more or less (for instance page 1 and 4 all end on three vertical panels of close action, so on). I like playing up the forms of comics, I hope I don't constrict the actual happenings inside them with my such concerns.

Closing thoughts on the comic's abstract: "Man, imagine how harsh digital, perfect memory would be if you were a heartachey robot" was the initial thought that came to me while I was taking a shower/touching myself. I stepped out and kept a single doodle note of ZX running a big cartoon magnet all over his forehead and saying "fuck you, bitch" and the idea stewed from there to something a bit more human, heh.

Whereas I don't think it mirrors anything real very completely, what with none of us being robots, it does have something to it if you ever have been in love and you acutely remember parts of that relationship. For a long time you think you'll never forget, that there won't pass a single day that you won't think about that person and nothing anybody else tells you makes you change your mind. Eventually you forget, but this comic is about tough choices and the very blurry line between bravery and cowardice in interpersonal relationships. There is also the sad suggestion of the deterministic repeat, of something having happened just to happen again and again, ourselves looking at ourselves making the very same mistakes, kicking and screaming and crying but still saying 'yes' at the right times and 'no' hardly if ever. I mean, who knows what happens after the last panel, here? Perhaps she never explains what just happened, perhaps she pretends she was 'fixing him' and they meet all over again all the time she's secretly hoping, yearning that things won't play out as they did last time. For all we know... this has happened many times before. Always the same pseudocode, always the same last words

I love you so much.



Friday, December 5, 2008

Memorybot Part 3

Here's page three. Not much to say about this so let's take the opportunity to listen to Ptoing about the coloring process!

Hello, ptoing here. I'll have to write some words about the colouring of Memorybot, seeing as how Helm said I would without me knowing. Since we are awesome friends he knew tho I would do it, so here we go.

Memorybot is the first (and so far only) comic I finished colouring and it was a very interesting experience. It's not like I am a huge defender of literal colour, as in everything gets the colour it would have in real life, but Helm pushed me when it came to using emotional colours. He constantly poked me about it and it was a very fruitful outcome for me which I learned a lot from. So here goes thanks to you Helm, cheers for poking my brain.

The most interesting thing was to come to a colouring style which worked and respected the lineart, without being too simple (Straight colourfills Helm could have done himself :P). When I was exploring at first I thought about and tried colouring all the lines, like the trees and clouds in the first panel of page one. This turned out to be extremely tedious as well as taking away power from the nice lineart, making things mushy.

So in this regard using it here and there for background elements was a good choice I think, clouds with black outlines would have looked odd - or at least I think so. Tho black outlines for clouds are fine in a strictly black and white comic as soon as you add colour I think it looks wrong in most cases.

I will go on about the 3 pages in a bit more detail now, who knows, perhaps someone will find it interesting. Page one was the hardest to colour for me, simply because it was the first and it also has the most touchups from Helm. He adjusted the colours in the last panel and also tweaked some other things. This was great learning for me and it is also notable to be said that this collab worked so well because of the mutual respect for each others work. I had no problem with Helm going over my colouring as he also had no problem with me editing some of his lineart, mainly for cleanups.

Helm did welcome my cleanups tho he thinks that in some cases I am too anal about stuff like this, and who knows, perhaps I am, I have some compulsions when it comes to art (especially digital art) and small details jump into my eye and cling onto my brain, I can't help it. A perfect example of this is the wandering poster on the first page. The green one which is just above ZX's head in the first panel - it moves down during the course of the page. Actually looking at it I just realised that the whole bench seems to be moving in the last 2 panels, if you look where it is in comparison to the wall behind it.

But enough of me rambling about how Helm does not care for consistencies like this a lot. It's his right, it's not like they have an impact on the storytelling. So as far as emotional colours go, page one does not have much going on, apart from the last 2 panels, which were partly (mainly) Helms work as far as colour adjustments go.

On page two things get a lot less literal, more emotional, with the first panel, the establishing shot, being coloured in the colours that actually represent the actual surfaces they are (does that sentence make sense?) Then especially from panel three onwards things get purely emotional. Here one very important thing to note is that not many of the decisions made were conscious, I just did what looked good to me and made sense to me in the context of the comic.

The cold blue on the robot to show the distancing from the girl, who in panel three is an odd cold pink, no clue why, but the colour somehow works for me as far as some rests of hope as well as anxiety about what is to come, what ZX is going to say to her. Then in the next panel her face is turned to sad blue tones, followed by their hands, which I coloured as if it was a statue made from stone. A gentle touch of lovers not to be made eternal, or something.

In the last panel ZX turns is shown as a harsh, abstract monolith to finalize his statement, and show it's severity. This is what I think Helm was trying here, and I think it works. The colouring here is held simple and the red, well, to add some dreadful atmosphere.

Helm did some minor adjustments on this page as well, nothing as major as on the first tho.

Onto page three, my personal favorite. It is a very intimate scene in my opinion - the closest the two get to each other. I really liked the stark contrast of the bottom bit and I felt the page needed just as stark colouring. There is really not much more to say here, I just did what my instinct told me to, zero rationalization here.

(to be concluded)

Thank you Ptoing, for being forced to comment on my blog. I will let your family & dog go unhurt now.

Ptoing wrote more about page 4 but I'll post that section along with his final thoughts next time, when Memorybot concludes. Here's the b&w pervert version for those of you that share my kinks.

I think this page is good. I rushed a few bits here and there on the big panel, but the end result holds up well enough and is pretty astounding in color. Ptoing is right on the money above where he says this is the closest they'd ever get. A sin against nature, such a wrong way to love, please take me apart, put me back together again.

-Helm & Ptoing

P.S. This page is signed ''07" so it was as I thought. I started this comic in the last days of 2006 and continued it in January.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Memorybot Part 2

I take advantage of page flip to change settings. Film can do this also but not as effectively. Recent films that trained viewers in fast scene changes but it still creates some dissonance unless the director is one of the really talented ones. You can mess this up in comics as well (for example if you change scenes on pageflip but you don't do an establishing shot in the first or second panel and just assume people get that we're not were we where before). As of late I've been considering infinite canvas comics a lot and I'm trying to think of ways to have the power of page change without having actual pages to do it with. Something will come to me. Anyway, I mean to say, the change of a page is a very useful tool for the comic artist. It invites the participation of the reader to carry the story along, at their own page. The characters aren't going nowhere until you're good and ready. That more relaxed idea of how art should be paced is in start contrast to music or cinema where the time is strict and linear and if you're not paying attention you just missed something. This is why I think comics are the best medium to tell stories where smart little details and subliminal characterization make a difference.

Let's also look at the black and white version.

The painting in the futurist cafe in the first panel is a reference to Complexification. (Click on start applet to see the art of the future). This isn't so much a pop culture reference (as I don't think Complexification is pop enough yet!) but more an actual world-building point, I really do believe such algorithmically generated pieces of art will be much more vital in the future than now. Also, if you care to check out the older ZX story with the dam and the depth computation, you'll note that they're also at a show where Substrate is featured. Their opinion there on the art differs from mine as the artist, heh.

When I was drawing the black and white version of this I was actively trying to restrain my propensity towards adding little scribbly mid-tone details with a fine marker because I was thinking 'let the coloring do it'. And it did, I'm really happy I didn't overload it more than I did, although Ptoing - whom I'll have explain his process of coloring in the next post - probably suffered around the little details even as it is. I don't have much experience in making artwork that relies on color because I don't really like color comics much, heh. At least not the more literal color type. We'll discuss this later.

The exchange of words here is very calculated (I'm sorry) on the part of ZX. This isn't because he is a robot so much as it is how we all try to be robots when we have to give these sort of justifications for our actions. We think that if we figure out the exact way to phrase the hurty thing we need to say, perhaps we'll control the outcome, contain the drama and minimize the hurt. It is the testament to my emotional inexperience that in this comic, the next page to this isn't that of an emotional outburst, of the vital drama needed to diffuse an awful feeling. Instead I make the girl passively 'understand'. Things don't usually work this way in real life, yet I do not think this is a point of insincerity for me as an artist here because at the time this mode of resolution I thought was the best one. I was still holding on to being a robot as best I could.

The 'how we differ' panel is one of the best I've ever drawn, I think. I look at it and I think I did alright, as a comic artist, even if that's all I ended up doing.

Note in the black and white version how the eye on the girl on the bottom left panel is off and how Ptoing fixed that for me in the colored version. I've since learned to draw eyes a bit better but they're still totally the biggest problem I have with faces, especially with girls. I am satisfied with her weary expression though.

Next page will come when I get Ptoing to write his piece about the colors, could be sooner rather than later, as it's a silent page and I don't have to translate anything.

On other news, Vavel page is 70% done. I've worked more on this single page that I've worked on 4-5 regular pages of comics. It's a monster. It also is right on the verge of being completely nonsensical. I hope I can keep it together.