Monday, June 29, 2009

ZX page 4 : Doubletalk

Again, read the whole sequence from the beginning for proper pacing.

This is chapter 1, done. So far the chapters I've drawn are mostly 3-4 pages each, so it's a good point to recap.

At the discreet mention of several readers, I'll be trying to write more about these pages, even if they're fresh. I will not talk about the storyline directly as I think that can only be achieved when it's over and done, but I will talk about the formalist aspects of making these pages, again. A lot of readers seem to enjoy the talk about how comics work under the hood, and I do also. From the comments of the previous page:

Storytelling is the vital concern here, not for it to be drawn too flashy or for the sequences to be distracting with smart tricks. I spend most of the time thinking how the page flows and about timing. Comics are a brittle medium and when they're broken a lot of people don't realize they are, they just revert to experiencing them not as comics, but as a series of disjointed images. They don't realize why they aren't enjoying the narrative, even though they might think the drawings are good and the story itself is good. The gel that holds everything together in comics is the subjective perception of time and how the artist handles it. A comic first and foremost must have good tempo and sequential interest, the rest is secondary. Yes, even the 'great story' one might have had in mind and his great characters and great plot twists. All these come after.

I realize these are the things people that do not draw as well as others say to rationalize their faults as draftsmen... so be it. There's still truth in that. I never wanted to become a painter or an illustrator.

Also tangentially, I remember talking with a Greek comic artist of great repute (and deservedly so, I'd say) about 5 years ago when I was still an unknown in the Greek comics field and we were discussing this or that (I think it was Andrea Pazienza's work) and he said he hated it and put it as an ultimatum "you don't switch styles in the middle of the story/page". I remember how much I disagreed with that finality then but I couldn't exactly put it to words why (besides that I adore Pazienza's work, personally). His argumentation rested on that style-switching pulls the viewer out of the story and makes them remember they're reading a comic, which was bad, in his opinion.

Let's look at these pages now, years later, and note how often I switch rendering styles (almost from panel to panel, actually) and how little - if at all - it impairs the reader's engagement with the story.

There is an unexplored level in making comics in that area, between style and rendering and storytelling, that not a lot of comic artists have delved into. Most like to find their own style and keep to it for all their time as an artist, fearing both the challenges of communicating the charges of a style switch and possibly how unmarketable a comic is when it doesn't have a stable 'look'. Hopefully nowadays where people are making comics for various other reasons besides selling them to publishers, we'll see more experimentation with altering the viewer perception of the physical on a panel-by-panel basis.

Look at the first panel with the 'many lines form shapes' rendering, think of why I choose to involve the reader emotionally so much with a busy panel of outside a car, and how the next panel inside the car is mostly clear and clean, almost if as if awash with a comforting inner glow: inside the car they feel safe and comfortable, it's their familiar zone. Outside the darkness spreads with the night, a sea of possibilities slithers...

Third panel, 'quasi psycho' is punctuated by the steep darkness to the side of the Marathon Dam because a grim predition it might be.

Fourth panel, watch how words come between the co-protagonists, a light and a darkness faded with the uncertainty of grays. It is almost as if Stephan doesn't surely believe what he's saying there, isn't it? Smaller lettering, a smaller voice, for a small lie? Sideways glance into the wound. Check out how these long horisontal panels that touch the borders of the page seem to take forever, as compared to the short staccato panel where ZX made his statement. ZX is a direct robot.

Centerpiece panel of the girl, this is Stephan's memory viewer, look how the background (of the cafe interior) is skewed like a cubist painting. Isn't memory of places something like that? Do we remember places in perfect geometry, or do we cut and splice infinite times every second, different vantages, different details, trying to keep abreast the core of the memory. Which in this case is Mary.

Last panel is prefaced with a long vertical raster effect, to convey the time it takes for Stephan to reply. When asked difficult questions, Stephan takes some time to reply, but he always does. The terms might not be certain, but he's trying to commit to even them, by at least voicing them.

On other news, I am working on page 11. It goes well. I am a man with a purpose.

Please comment and discuss on the goings on as you desire.



Monday, June 22, 2009

ZX Page 3: Evolutionary Determinism

As per usual, read past pages leading up to the new for momentum.

As I post page 3, I have drawn up to page 8. It goes well. I will make a post about the process that I'm keeping to while I make my first seriously long-running comic, but it'll be some time from now.

Strangely I don't feel I have as much to say about these pages right now as I used to about my older pages, mainly because there hasn't passed enough time since the moment of creation and of presentation. These are hot out of the oven as it were, and I'm as excited as I am optimistic. Nervous too.

What is and what seems to be, disambiguation (perhaps) as the Mondays pass us by.



Monday, June 15, 2009

ZX Page 2 : A Friendly Robot Ear

Here we start to meet two thirds of the main cast a bit more up close and personal. It is useful to have the ability to produce holograms from the palms of your hands when trying to convey highly specific stereotypes. Perks of being a robot, I guess.

I generally suggest that every Monday when I post a new page, you read the last few pages again so you can keep the pacing of the comic in mind.

Feedback is greatly encouraged, as always.


Monday, June 8, 2009

ZX : Start Here.

This strip has a peculiar history. It was a test strip I did for a paper that wanted to hire me (which never called back, hah!) and it would be one in a series of human interest cartoons without any overt continuity.

Its origin is hilarious (well, to me at least). I was browsing Mangatraders and reading the synopses of the series. This has been a pass-time for two reasons. Besides finding new manga to read, I just tend to find the synopses really hilarious. This strip is an improvisation on the synopsis of Caramel Milk Tea, which I never plan to read.

"Nozomi, a high school student, did not believe in love at first sight. But it happens that she is in love with a cafe clerk. Immediately she declares love to him. But because he gives her the cold shoulder, she is disappointed in love. Now she begins to work part-time for the cafe where he is working."

It just cracks me up. Anyway, as you can see I've been mostly faithful to that script, though my Mary isn't a high-school student, more college age I think.

The interestingness about this strip happened after I drew it and showed it around, though. A few people liked it, some were kinda confused about what there was to like in it (which I suspect might be why I never heard back from the paper, heh) and a few were all 'well... what happens next?' which I really didn't expect but I suppose I should have, given how it's a synopsis of a manga that actually had a continuation after the opening premise. I took it just as a study in absurd determination but here's what happened next... as the days passed (and I waited to hear from the paper) I started to visualize my own continuation to the strip. After giving up on the paper, and due to a beneficial synchronous discussion about what I want to do in the future with comics with a close friend, Basilis Sakkos, I decided to actually draw 'what happens next'.

What happens next will not be a series of 3 or 4 panel strips each, they'll be full pages which is my preferred format. However it will be a long story (I estimate about 50 pages) and there will be left turns in both pacing and methods used to achieve what I want to do. I've effectively turned a simple quasi-funny comic strip into the launching pad for a story that is very important to me and which I had hesitated to commit to for the last 2-3 years, although I've been constantly thinking about it. I now have the means and I have the desire to see it through. I know that I do because I've already drawn the next 4 pages that come after this strip you see, within the timespan of two weeks.

So, readers and humans. Every Monday you can look forward to the posting of a new page. I intend to create two pages a week and post one a week. If I ever fall behind, I will never do so worse than one page a week, so you may rest assured that I will meet the relevant deadline. Given that I am shooting for (but might deviate from) a 48-50 page story, the next year on this blog will be populated with the story of ZX, I hope you look forward to it as much as I do.

P.S. I might get Johnny to do a pleasant redesign - mainly recoloring - of the blog soon. Don't be shocked when you come here and it looks nothing like it did before!