Thursday, December 17, 2015

Humans on the Bus

When I get frustrated with the bus and all its unpleasantness, its lateness, its overcrowding, odd smells, headphones at obnoxious levels, rude passengers, rude drivers, and all the rest, I try to remember that it is kind of amazing that bus rides function at all.

With any other animal, it wouldn't work. On my bus this morning, there were about sixty people, and it was a canned sardine experience. I was in physical contact with three or four people, none of whom were my friend. I smelled their smells. If you got chimpanzees packed in like that, it would be one mean scene. Throw in all the moving and abrupt stops, and they'd tear each other apart.

But we humans, we do okay. We may make some unnecessarily long sighs and give micro-glares at people who bump into us, but for the most part, we're chill. We keep it together.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Draw It Scan It Hate It Change it Draw It Draw It Draw Redraw It

When people have read the rough draft of my current comic, this page is unanimously picked out as a stinker. The panel layout is pretty jarring coming from the previous page, and it also just isn't that clear. The idea is that he's transforming and getting bigger. The cubes get bigger. His hand is closed; his hand is open. There's action lines around his feet.

But really, what is happening?

Back to the drawing board. First come up with some sort of transformative signifier and then figure out a layout. Some of the difficulties with the layout were that this involved a scene change from the previous page, which requires an establishing shot, the transformation had to be complete in this single page, in order to be consistent with the rest of the comic it needed to be based on a 5 panel by 7 panel grid, and there needs to be something in the background that could serve to show scale and his change in size in relation to it. I did not sit down knowing this, but figured it out as I went along.

New finished version:
The buildings in the upper panels establish a scale. There's also a lot of page area devoted to the background, which hopefully gives a sense of place. The upper panels are repeated exactly in the bottom panels (cut and pasted digitally, which does kind of feel like cheating to me). This repetition is intended to make it clear how much he has grown. His breaking of the panel borders at the bottom may reinforce his growth. It may also be stupid. I'm not sure yet. The transformation seems to work, but I think it will benefit from some color and will need a few tweaks here and there.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Neverending Drawing

Drawings like this satisfy my completist itches.

I'd like to know where completism comes from. What is this desire to possess all of something? Why this need to have every single Kinks album, Star Trek movie, or Kurt Vonnegut book? It makes me get things that I don't even really like. It's this little sleeping monster that's just waiting for me to make a mistake.

I can't buy a James Bond movie because if I buy one James Bond movie, I will feel obligated to buy all of the James Bond movies. I suppose I could compromise and simply buy all of the Bond films featuring the actor of the original Bond movie hypothetically purchased, but then I'd have a ton of Roger Moore Bond movies (because naturally my first hypothetical purchase would be the Man with the Golden Gun), and how can I hypothetically own a bunch of Roger Moore Bond movies and not hypothetically own a single Sean Connery Bond movie, which means I'll need to get Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are forever. However, in this hypothetical situation, I would own the first fifteen Bond films except On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and in all honesty, if I got You Only Live Twice (which has one of the worst lines ever in it), how could I justify not having On Her Majesty's Secret Service. And then it's just the two Timothy Dalton films...

It's just too slippery a slope.

With drawings like this, I can keep a little control.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Had It/Lost It 2

I had this idea way back. There was this pure vision. It was crystal clear and yet completely undefinable, but I could feel it in my bones. This ephemeral idea was the kind of comics that I wanted to create. It was pure and beautiful and intense.

Somewhere along the way I lost it. I was forced to bend. My first attempts at capturing this idea were rejected. It was too vague. I went a different direction. I conformed. What exactly it was I conformed to is a little unclear. Perhaps it was conforming to what I thought it was that people wanted. No, not to what people wanted, but to a form that people could accept. People accept things in patterns they're familiar with.

I've done three graphic novels, but I don't think graphic novels were ever my intention. My original intention was little pieces, little moments. I wanted to capture those moments that seem so barely there that you're not even sure they happened.

I got off the track.

And I want to go back, but not to those vague feelings and undefinable concepts. I want to get back to that intensity and purity. Back then, when I sat down at the drawing board I felt like I was on a mission. It was all or nothing, death or glory.

I'd like to get back there again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Had It/Lost It

My Spider-Man in 2010.

There seems to be this strange thing that happens in comics where an artist will actually appear to get worse as time goes by. There are artists whose art I've loved in the past, but when I see their most recent stuff, the only thing I can think is, "What happened?"

I'm talking purely about the art, not the story or content. The line work has lost something, and it's not just that it's not fresh to my eyes anymore, it's that it seems qualitatively worse. Where I was once pulled in, I am now pushed away. With some artists it may be deadlines that are forcing them to work faster than they would like, but a lot of the time it really just looks like the artist can't do it anymore.

My Spider-Man (and Gwen Stacey) in 2012.

It almost feels like watching an athlete lose their skills, but athletes' bodies just give out, and they are not physically able to do the things that they once could. With a comic artist, I wouldn't think that wasn't the case. Drawing isn't particularly physical demanding, and it would seem one could do it for a long time.

My Spider-Man in 2015.

So in my head, it would appear that it is something of a choice on the part of the artist. Do they look at their work and think it is much better than what they were producing before? Or is it just that they can't be bothered to put in the effort anymore? Or is there some undefinable "it" that they have lost?

Like in Trainspotting:

Sick Boy: It's certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life. 
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: What do you mean? 
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed... 
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Some of his solo stuff's not bad. 
Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just shite. 

Does this also hold true for comics?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Classic and Cliche

Ant-Man getting bigger.

Artistic styles and techniques getting boring and stale. They get overused. When I see one aspect of a work that I consider hackneyed, it makes me suspicious of the rest of the work, and a work greeted with suspicion is doomed. It may be a most amazing story, but if the way it's told feels out of date, it will simply go clunk.

I think it's natural then to try and avoid these cliches and techniques which have grown too familiar. If you can find your own way of solving the problem, it will be much better. The work will not feel like something out of yesteryear.

A failed attempt to show a character getting bigger while avoiding the
cliche of the many silhouettes increasing in scale one after another. 

However, the techniques and language you create must be effective; otherwise, it's simply a waste. Doing things in your own way, a new way, yet a way that is completely unintelligible succeeds in avoiding cliche, but also manages to avoid coherence. Different creators aspire to different levels of coherence, but I think very few actually hope to be misunderstood. There is always the hope that someone out there gets it. This is a message I put in a bottle and threw into the ocean not because I wanted it to disappear into the void but because I believe there is someone to receive it.

In looking for a new way of expressing something, one may come to realize the value of a cliche and understand why and how it got to be a cliche. It's a cliche because it works. In some cases there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

A pretty cool Ant-Man drawing.

It can take a while to figure out that a specific wheel doesn't need inventing. You can beat your head against a wall trying to find an alternate solution, but even if an alternate solution is found, it probably won't be as good as the cliche solution that has been staring right at you but that you've chosen to avoid eye contact with.