sequential daze

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New York, New York

The first page of the latest Magellan chapter starts in New York and, since it's always good to kick off with an establishing shot, I thought I'd stick in a bit of actual skyline rather than some random building. Since I've never been to New York (let alone the United States) I did a little bit of hunting around for some reference shots - these days the Google Images search makes this a rather quick and painless process.

Of course, the search returned a number of skylines that were pre-2001 and therefore include the World Trade Centre. It got me thinking - Magellan is set in similar world to ours but its history started to diverge around the 1930s due to all those superheroic goings-ons. Would 9/11 have happened in the Magellan universe? Probably not. So should my depiction of the skyline include the twin towers? I sought some feedback from fellow Graphic Smashers and the Magellan forum.

Some suggested the towers could have been previously demolished by a super battle - which was plausible considering the number of structures routinely destroyed in comics like the X-Men, et al. The general consensus was that it would be fine as long as it wasn't done in poor taste - although Reinder suggested drawing four towers! I did like that idea but in the end I found an amazing panorama of the skyline - here is a tiny, tiny, tiny, teensy version of it...

The original file was huge! I chose to draw the area shaded red... and, even though it is only a small fraction of the total area, there was still an amazing amount of detail involved. It took forever to draw and colour - and I'm pretty happy with the final result although the angle to the ground is a bit out of whack in a couple of the buildings...

Remarkably I got positive responses from a couple of readers (one a fellow Smasher) who reside in New York. Apparently this is most likely a view from the Empire State Building. The scale of the city is actually a bit beyond my Sydney based brain's capacity to fully take it all in. I've certainly seen New York in plenty of movies and TV shows before but not quite like this. New York looks awesome and I will get there one day.

One thing I like about cartooning is that it gives me ample opportunity to learn new things, and not just about drawing but about places, people and cultures.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

When complexes collide...

The Ledger Awards "have been organised to acknowledge excellence in Australian comic art and publishing" - which probably makes them like the Eisners, Aussie style. Anyhow, Magellan has scored a nomination in the Jury Selection for 'Webcomic or Comic Strip of the Year' (which means 5 venerable cartoonists get to look at it and poke it with a stick and decide if it is worthy of that distinction). Surprisingly, I've also scored a nomination in the 'Talent Deserving Wider Recognition' category - which is a voter poll (that is, popularity contest) - this nomination cites me for both Magellan and Loxie & Zoot.

While I am over the moon about both of these nods I am also quaking in my boots. Of the two assessment methods I don't know which one fill me with greater dread. The problem is that I suffer from the standard artist inferiority complex... as soon as my work is really out there in the public domain (by which I mean, someone says - "Hey, everyone check this out - is this great or not?") I want to run away and stick my head in the sand. On the other hand, I also suffer from the standard artist superiority complex... of course my stuff is great and should win! Twice!!! (mwahahahah!) When the two complexes collide - look out! At least it isn't too long until a decision is made - the Awards will announced on January 26.

Here's the list and voting form. Voting appears to be open all but closes January 23 (Aussie time, we're a day ahead)... so, should you feel the inclination to cast a vote my way, that would be hugely neat! :D

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Surprised myself!

Worked on the "cover" art for Chapter 4 of Magellan today. Technically it's a bit silly to talk about covers for a webcomic... just what are the covering anyway? I never used to do them but the publishing system used by Graphic Smash places a large "Featured today" image on the home page randomised from the titles updating on any given day - and the image is certainly large enough to qualify as a cover in my mind, so that's what it is to me and judging by most of the art produced by the other Smashers (as we call ourselves) it is to them too.

Quite honestly, I suck pretty badly at cover art, or at least I really did when I started to do them. The way I see it, a comic book cover has to encapsulate the story contained within, up the ante, draw the reader in and not give anything away all at the same time. This chapter is titled 'Bad Karma' - a reference to Karma Joffe, a key character, fairly secondary up until now but pretty much centre-stage for this story. I thought I had a good idea for the cover, but once I sketched it up it wasn't all that good, neither was the second one I scratched out. Anyway, long story short, inspiration combined with desperation and I came up with something that was a total blast to draw and (IMHO) looks pretty excellent (at any rate, I'm very happy with it).

Black and white art, followed by colour art...


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Recreational activities...

Part of a guest-art page that I drew for Al Schroeder's webcomic - Mindmistress.

Recreational Activities of the Smart & Brainy is a fairly light-hearted piece featuring Rochelle Kwan (a super-intelligent cadet at the Magellan Justice Academy) and the super-super intelligent superheroine known as Mindmistress. In it they get to relax and play a few games - brainy style!

Al had originally teamed the two up ages ago in this fantastic fan-art and I've been meaning to return the favour for ages.

The punch-line wasn't immediately evident when I first started to sketch this out... I wanted them to end up playing something that was "more fun than brainy" but I couldn't help but put a "brainy" twist on it. It was quick and easy to draw and lots o' fun.

BTW - Mindmistress is seen winning in 2 of 3 activities, I had to let Rochelle be seen to be winning in at least one thing!


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Just Think

The guest story for Shaenon Garrity's webcomic Narbonic is now online - Just Think. It was written by T. Campbell with art by myself and 3D art by Joe Zabel. Here's the first panel - a close up of Dave...

For some reason, it's one of my favorite pieces from the material I contributed. It's a bit daunting doing guest art at the best of times, but when it's for a webcomic with the degree of popularity and acclaim as Narbonic it sort of raises the stakes somewhat. I feel happy with what I contributed to the effort, although in retrospect maybe would have changed some of it. But then, don't I always feel that way about pretty much everything I do!? At any rate, I had fun drawing it and it is a bit of a superhero romp in the Narbonic universe.

From the outset the intention was to do a simple B&W art-style and that really helps to heighten the difference between the real world action which I drew and the surreal sensory deprived experience Helen Narbon has in the 'White Room' courtesy of Joe Zabel's sublime 3D art.

Reader response via the Narbonic forums seems generally positive - some people found Helen's crazier moments a little dark for their tastes although other seem to think T nailed her psychological state quite well.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Nothing like a deadline...

I work best with a deadline. Sure I can plan ahead and pace myself and work to a schedule but I find I really am deadline driven, even if it is self-imposed. Without a deadline I tend to think that I can do something else instead (and frequently, that's what I do!). Deadlines can be especially useful when I really feel like I don't want to do what I have to do.

Case in point - a project which has been on hiatus since November. It reached a point last year where I just couldn't bring myself to do another page - largely in part cos I was overloaded with too many other things but also in part cos I had lost the spark for it. That's nothing new for me, happens all the time and long time readers will know that too as I've pulled the plug on it on several occasions in the past. This time I decided on an actual advertised hiatus as opposed to total abandonment. Yet as the self-imposed date for resumption approached I found myself prevaricating bigtime.

I've had the last two and half weeks free from work and done pretty much nothing towards getting that show back on the road. Certainly there has been other things needing my attention and there have been other reasons that I couldn't - but there was a whole heap of time when I could, but didn't, do work on it. But the deadline approacheth and the closer it got the more I looked for something else to work on... until it was so close I couldn't ignore it any further.

Largely I was putting it off because I had felt so 'ack' about it when I went on hiatus, that feeling was still in my brain... it's an easily conditioned thing my brain. But yesterday I sat down, drafted 4 pages and then drew, lettered and coloured 2 whole pages. Not only did I draw some of my best stuff ever it was fun to do as well.

So, although I might have hoped to have the whole story finished by now, I've at least cracked my 'ack-ness' about it and it seems like a smoother sail as the story and series heads towards the finish line.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Little Hero and guest art galore

The concept of the 'Magellan ++' project is that I can hopefully find some other talented cartoonists who aren't too busy doing their own work to help me produce some extra Magellan stories - and there are a lot of extra stories in the Magellan universe! I do hope to pay them too - although since I'm not rolling in $$ it won't be very much. Anyway, I'll sort that out once I have something for someone to start work on - oh wait, I do! At least, half of something. Half of a Gifford Foss story in fact. Gifford is the little green goblin guy who is a cadet at the Magellan Academy - we saw him briefly as Nadine's partner in Chapter 2, but this story - Little Hero - is set in his home world.

The last day or so has been spent banging the story and script into shape and I'm very very happy with how it's turned out. I drew some character guides which I have passed on to the artist and I'm eager to post them here but I don't want to steal the artist's thunder. I imagine having a writer who is also a cartoon artist might be akin to having a patient who is also a doctor - they always want to interfere in the process, so I must resist the urge to get too ahead of myself. In fact I'm not going to say anything more on it for a while, besides I still have to write the other half of the script! Suffice to say, I'm excited and the artist is excited. To my surprise, I've actually managed to get a start on the Magellan ++ project!

The rest of my time the last day or so has been spent doing some guest art for a cartoonist in need (more on that next week), finalising the other guest art project I've been working on with writer T Campbell (more on that on Sunday), and also wrapping up the current Magellan storyline. I've been busy, but having fun fun FUN! The problem is that I have to return to my full-time day job next week so that's going to put a major spanner in the works. A shame, since I've been having a blast for the last two weeks, especially this last week with all the festivities out of the way. The good news though is that I'll be taking all of February 2006 off from work... and unlike most sensible people, won't be going on any long vacation but will probably be spending most of that time in front of my drawing board and computer. Can't wait!

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

BTW... a good read...

While I'll mostly blab about stuff I'm doing, if I see something webcomicky (or otherwise) that I particularly like I might stick in a link to it...
Nothing Better by Tyler Page - the first two chapters plus current page are free, and then it shifts into subscription mode. Even if you're not the subscribing type (and sadly, it seems most aren't) at least check out the free chapters. Although at first it seemed like yet another American college comic it was still fresh and interesting. I liked the art and characterisation... yet more good stuff on Webcomicsnation.




Ha! No, I don't think the drawing is crap - it's just what Jo Millen is saying about her current predicament. Anyway, an excerpt from a page I've been working on. As you can see, the art is less detailed, larger areas of black and overall a little more simplified. That said, the whole page still took me several hours to complete. It was fun doing it too, something it wasn't back when I decided to put it on hiatus...

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The heat is off!

After melting thru a heatwave for the last few days (with a max of 44C/111F) the other day it's nice to have some cooler weather. It means I can actually sit at the drawing board and draw instead of sweating all over the page or use the computer without worrying that the circuits might fry. What I did find though was that I could sit in the bath, filled with cold water and still write... although I did drop my note book in the water! To give you an idea of how hot the day was, the pages of the pad dried in under 30 minutes.

Anyhoo, I've spent a much milder day working on a page of art and I'm happy with the style - it's B&W and much simpler. All that detailed art was straining my drawing hand, I think I was giving myself RSI in my thumb or something... another of the reasons why I decided to ease back on the production schedule and go on hiatus. I'll post an excerpt from the page tomorrow.

I was also working on the final details of a collaboration with my Graphic Smash editor - writer T Campbell. I can't recall if he's said anything about it in his blog, and since it's his baby I'm saying nothing more - except that I'm really excited about seeing this one online... more soon!

Thought my scanner had died today - turns out it was the transformer, so it only cost me $40 to replace instead of whatever scanners are going for these days... they're pretty cheap I know but I'd be loathe to throw out something that still works.

Finally... I neglected to mention a work related 'New Years Res' - and by work I mean my comics as much (if not more than) my day job - and that is: "To be excellent!" Should be interesting to see if I can stick to this one!

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Monday, January 02, 2006

That was a big sleep! Feeling better now!

So, a bit of time since my last entry! The move went well and for a brief moment the xmung caboose was running along nicely, until a wheel or two fell off and I realised how over the top busy I was. Hiatuses (hiatii?) were had all around, the stress factor has abated and I feel reasonably normal again.

I do want to continue with this blog (I got it, might as well use it!). What's more I want it to be a record (in brief not in detail) of anything particular that I might be working on at any given time, and updated at least once a week (haha!).


  • working to finish of the current chapter (#3 - Daze). Looks like it will go to 42 pages in total, a few more than I anticipated - but required to ensure I don't rush the ending. It's gonna be a shocker - maybe, not quite what everyone thinks either...
  • working on the next chapter (#4 - Fractures) - the story is plotted and the first 12 pages written... you'd think I'd have more of it done at this stage given that it's going to kick off in a few weeks!
  • "Magellan ++" is the new working title for my side-project in Magellan with short stories (up to 30 pages) spotlighting the various characters and history of this vast universe. Currently have numerous plot outlines but no scripts, which I'm really going to need soon if I want other people to be drawing them.
  • Site update - I've been totally slack in updating things like the Cast and Magellan History section of the site. Am slowly trying to rectify this. I have more accomplished offline awaiting an upload.

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