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 :)



pan pan said...

trying to avoid being dogmatic, plot twists can be amusing or breathtaking or whatever, but the could be practically everything. so what?
i remember watching "the hours", the scene where the guy with the AIDS is sitting on his window. you know that he is gonna jump and kill himself, but when he does your heart sinks. i guess that is pathos. submitting to the inevittable and living the hell out of it. plot twists can be like "ha! got ya!" ..well, good for you who!

i m very glad you decided to make a bigger story, you will see that this is liberating, you ll want to make more. that is good, we want more stories from you,man!

(tsipouro speaking also says "hail sakkos")

rnd1 said...

In general I find you over-render things, there is too much detail, black isn't used properly, there are flat looking figures and faces, negative space not used well ... (actually half those terms I don't understand). But something about them is icky!!!!

The original one you submitted to the agency was a step up but not perfect. But this first panel is great! I'm not kissing your ass, it is genuinely appealing and interesting to look at. One crit maybe the girl's pose is somehow not fast enough.

But compare that to the last panel the girl is icky again. I don't understand why you don't draw like the first panel all the time. Maybe it is a European thing. But maybe you were trying to make things low key because its a computer game and there is less texture polygons and didn't realize that may be how you should draw all the time.

Chrille said...

Helm, I love your latest comic so far. It's moving, funny, looks fantastic (as always) plus I love the robot-like-guy. Let me know when you publish the book!

Helm said...

rnd1 thanks for the critique. Some things you say I can agree with and I struggle with them (especially flat faces etc) others, like detail, negative space and the like I have very set views on what they do and how they're supposed to be approached (at least in my art, I'm very open to how other people do things, but I don't tend to imitate them when it comes to the time to work on my own art) so I can't rightly follow.

There's more to a visual language than it being pleasing to follow/look at. Icky is good sometimes, I can't claim to be in constant control of these aspects, but they're on my mind.

ingeniuous said...

rnd1 lol Helm is satirising the conventions of anime in that panel! are you so closed-minded you actually think that is how he should draw all the time?! unfortunatley my friend is a bit like u. she said she couldn't tell that the ninja babe wore pants in the last panel and she thought there was a massive injury on her shin. Hello? Can't you remember that she wore pants from the first panel? What's wrong with a little ambiguity? That earned her another slap.

Helm said...

Who are you that is slapping your friend? Please don't.

Also, why is rnd1 close-minded? Just because he has different aesthetic standards than you? Civility, please!

ingeniuous said...

I'm sorry I thought liking myself and your art made me a moral person. I'll just stick to verbally abusing her then.