Monday, August 31, 2009

ZX page 12: Hyper Back-alley Brawler II CE, to be exact

The fires are out, the house escaped (barely) and the political fallout is well underway. The destruction was very extensive, but in purely ecological terms and in houses and livelihoods lost. What will this all mean and whether people will stop trying to figure that out once somebody explains it away for them (as per usual) one can only hope against but we'll just have to see.

But how about a comic, right? Here's some thoughts on the comic, on this comic blog.

That tree in panel 2 came out pretty much procedurally, if you'd believe it.

Anybody notice the Space Invader bandanna? ZX's not playing our side, if you know what I mean.

About clipping through stuff in videogames. I've been talking with Graham Lackey for a few years how somebody's got to make a live action short film full of 'early 3d' tropes and bugs like say, people talking without their mouths moving, or holding something with a hand that is just all the fingers glued together in a karate arm form and the item just glued on the open palm, or, of course, glitching out in geometry all over the place, noclipping. Dudes bunnyhopping to get somewhere faster, you know what I mean. Somebody will do this eventually, and I'll know it was our idea first!

ZX wears shorts out of courtesy.

Really not much theory to talk about this page, I think the technique is pretty straightforward if you've been attentive to how I use rendering to convey mood. It'll be interesting to see the whole comic from beginning to end, I'm starting to be hopeful of that day, since I'm on page 20 now and the comic'll be about 35-40 pages, so I'm past the point of no return now. Keep reading, keep commenting and keep trying.

Also, this summer I conquered Neapoli for the second time. It was a great time, I'm sure we'll go there again.



Sunday, August 23, 2009

Here's to the memories.

At the beginning of the ZX comic you might have noticed the location of the dam. It's based on a real place, one I've visited often, at Marathon. It's as much a character in the comic for me, as ZX or Stefanos or Mary. The photos above are of that place. It doesn't exist, as you see it, anymore. While the dam has nothing to fear of fire and will tell our silent tale long after we've made a mess of everything else, the evergreen around it is now gone.

So, here's to the memories. Here's also to this enduring memory of a Greece at constant organizational shambles, a Greece that never stands a chance as long as it doesn't take itself seriously. Here's to crooked smiles also, they always know what to say and how to pacify, how to make a gentle spectacle of this disaster that keeps on happening. You know what it means and now you don't have to make an effort to understand it anymore.

My house will probably survive the fires. Do not be alarmed if I do not post tomorrow, my family might be evacuated, but I'll be back, on one machine or another. We'll all keep talking here on the spectral internet, but please, look at the Marathon Dam above and raise an spectral glass with a spectral arm. If something insides you shifts just a tiny little bit, don't be alarmed, you're still human. You keep on being human no matter what they do to you.

From this far-away place that you might have only imagined, there are humans here also and with their burnt faces moist with tears, a salute.

- Helm


Monday, August 17, 2009

ZX page 11: Unfair

A routine is a comfortable mindspace. Divisions of time are even, the rote almost practiced, feels like it's been done before a million times.

I really like the last panel, I'd talk about negative space and gestalt effects in composition but I'm kinda apprehensive now that a reader told me in the comments my negative space doesn't work, heh.

Do you have such a routine, video-games on mute well after midnight, a bottle of wine, feeling like a child?

Things are going alright back on page 18, a bit slow really, this page took a week by itself and it's not completely done yet, but it'll have to be, today. Leaving for a couple of days in Thursday, don't be alarmed if some comments don't get validated until then.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Before there is anything

There is this.

How does it make you feel to see this, the bit before anything has happened, besides divisions of time and space?


Monday, August 10, 2009

ZX page 10: for you to live / you have to cut off your own head

That's how I play fighters too. Stick with what works, I can't keep up with the combos. Case and point: I still play Ruy on Street Fighter II CE.

The last batch of comments on the last page are heartwarming (sorry it took me so long to validate them, I was busy with summer activities!), and I do appreciate furthermore how some of you are paying close attention. Those that do will be rewarded by the narrative.

A few words about how this comic finally found its way to pages. I've been wanting to do this story (the core, the essence of the story) for a couple of years, yet every time I approached it I felt as if I wasn't ready. I did a *lot* of preliminary work, setting up pages, counting panels, all those things you're 'supposed' to do when you're making comics. This way, when it came time to draw the very first page, I felt exhausted already, intimidated by what lay ahead and discouraged by my own lack of skill. This is how I've evaded doing the one story that means the most to me.

So why am I making it now? Well... for a dream, I guess.

A couple of months back I had this dream where I was holding some pages, expertly inked, of an engaging narrative in my hands, they were my own, of course. I felt so happy, so content in my dream. I forgot this promptly after waking up of course. But some time later I got into this conversation with my friend, Vasilis Sakkos, where I was trying to explain how comic artists are 'sci-fi nerds at heart', and then I further qualified it: they are not - well, most of them - content with just having drawn a large volume of 'funnies', like I am not content with the series of single-page comics I have done in the past (which you've seen on this blog). They're only content when they have to their name, a long, engaging and internally consistent narrative. There is this enticement of world-building. I realised as I was saying these things to Vasilis that this is what I had to do next, the dream came back to me and I told him. The very next day I did the first (well, second) page of this comic, all in a feverish dash, full 12 hours of it.

The way this works for me is that I've pondered on this story so much over the years (though it's extremely different now, superficially, at the core it remains inalienable) that I don't have to plan ahead. I have this single A3 page on which I write the thoughts that come to me, and otherwise I work only on the chapter that I am at. I write the dialogue for it first, and then describe a bit of the scenes and that's where I STOP WORRYING about the future and draw the first page of the chapter. Then the second, then the third, then sometimes there's a fourth, and that's it. Page by page, little by little, I'm moving towards the completion of my goal and the fulfillment of this 'sci-fi nerdish fantasy' that fuels some of us to try to make a containable narrative consistent and alive.

Although you wouldn't know it from page 10 here, I am at almost the middle of the story (page 18 now). It's going to be 35ish pages, not longer, but that's how long it should be and that's great. I find myself getting better at this as I go, not worse (as I feared, heh) and although I have my little annoyances with drawing that make me want to go back and retouch a few panels here and there, it's largely contained (though I will probably permit these alterations once I'm done with the whole story). I have even started working on the cover of the book. I estimate about 3 more months of work and I'm done.

About this page in particular, as I mentioned before, the consciously careful will be rewarded, those that read faster will subconsciously gather the effect as well. Those of you that are gifted with patience for scrutiny, from here on end, please, do not spoil the rest with relevant observations. I don't think much of spoilers personally, I think that a good work stands on its own merit regardless of the 'plot twists'. In fact, in ancient Greece, before a drama started at the theater, there was a designated actor that would rise to the stage and summarize the action of everything relevant that had come before, and of what will come during the plot of the drama, so as the viewers could surrender their expectations and be allowed to be swept by the pathos. This is what we want, pathos, not just 'plot twists'. That being said, I realize others do not feel the same as I do and so, don't spoil it for them :)



Monday, August 3, 2009

ZX page 9: Motionless

Thumbs up, everything's okay.
Sleeping a lot is okay.
Videogames forever are okay.

Is Stephan okay?

The heatwave here in Greece is mounting. I am stuck halfway in page 17 and I can't seem to power through. Might have to give it a rest for a few days cuz working from 3 in the morning until 9 in the morning constantly is going to break my brain a bit. So, a bit of process lag, but you won't feel it. Every monday, there shall be page.