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Monthly Archives: February 2014

WCO#237: Redd

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In hero fiction, losing an appendage is never the end of the world. In fact, it is an opportunity for more adventure. A missing hand, for example, and be replaced by some sort of robot prothetics, like a claw that can crush through solid metal or a pop-up sword. As a child, who among us didn’t pretend to retract their hands into their long sweater sleeve, then pretend that what came out was a massive Gatling gun, poised to mow down the enemy forces that exist only in a child’s brutal imagination? PVC tubing or bendy straws may have been involved.

Hence, you have a host of super tough dudes who have amazing prosthetics. You’ve got Cable, a beefy mountain of a man who has one metal arm. Surprisingly, he doesn’t tip over or develop back pains. You’ve got Robocop, who’s sort of a jumble of replacement limbs, including a leg that awesomely contains a gun holster. Awesome robo-appendages can also be found on the ladies, such as Kimiko Ross from the webcomic Dresden Codak.

However, all those assume that the characters were born with functional arms and/or legs. What about characters who never had such a luxury? Maybe flippers hands or … perhaps … not even having arms at all? Where is the superhero for the handicapped… or rather, the handi-capable?

What’s that? Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a … plane that seems to be missing its wings! It’s Redd!

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Apartment 16

So writer’s block for a new article has struck me again, so I decided to share one of my projects that didn’t get off the ground because of all the down times my sites were having last year.

Most people have probably heard the horror stories of famous creators dismissing criticism, even if it’s well thought out and presented constructively, as just trolling or bashing. And with the internet, those types can just ban and delete as they wish. But what if someone like that had to live with someone who could not stop pointing out their flaws?

I’ve referred to the website That Guy With the Glasses in a couple of my past columns. I used to be a big fan of the man himself, Doug Walker, but around 2011 he stopped appealing to me. Nothing bad, it just was not my thing. In 2012 he brought an end to the website’s flagship title, The Nostalgia Critic, to move onto a show called Demo Reel, which was a comedy that parodied well known properties, while also following the lives of the studio making said parodies. I gave the pilot a chance, but it just did not grab me. A day or so after the first episode premièred, I was talking to a friend about the show. I told him I wasn’t going to be following the series and he started to get a little defensive, which he tended to do whenever he felt someone was attacking something he cared about. I might have been, actually, I could be a little over critical back then. So we go back and forth, arguing about the series, until he delivers his trump card: “Well how would you do it differently?” I was unfazed and told him that I would just take out the parody angle and make it a sitcom about an indie studio struggling to find their big break through original properties. We dropped the conversation, but the idea stuck with me for a while until it started morphing into something else.

 

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This was the first time I ever did set designs. It really helped me with keeping the backgrounds consistent.

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WCO #236: Camp Weedonwantcha

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I have a startling confession to make: I’m a pretty big fan of the probably cancelled NBC series Siberia. (I was also a fan of The Cape, so maybe I’m just attracted to failure.) Siberia starts off by fooling viewers into thinking that they’re watching a reality show. Contestants are dropped off via helicopter into the forbidding wilderness of northern Russia. Like all reality shows, they start things off with a silly challenge. Race to the cabins! The last two get eliminated! The trappings are familiar to anyone who’s watched TV in the last decade. There’s filmed confessionals to flesh out character personalities, alliances being formed, and mugging for the unseen cameramen.

Show’s true format and statement of intent reveals itself by the end of the first episode, though. One of the contestants is presumed dead. Brutally mutilated. It slowly dawns on the characters (and the viewers) that nothing on the show is as it seems. Slowly but surely, the safety net disappears. The characters arrived in Siberia with the assumption that, no matter what goes wrong, there’s a support team hiding just out of view to deal with the really serious stuff. Like food rations, medical care, or keeping away dangerous animals or people. Scary moments are initially brushed off as just being part of the show. The real horror creeps in when the characters suddenly realize that nobody is in control, and they are all at the mercy of whatever dark, unspoken mysteries lurk just beyond the campgrounds.

The same sense of primal eeriness permeates Katie Rice’s difficult to spell webcomic Camp Weedonwantcha. (“Weedonwantcha” is a play on words: it’s both a parody of camps that takes on Native American names and what Avengers director Joss Whedon says when he wants to pick up chicks.) The encroaching sense of desperation isn’t at the forefront, though. This is primarily a humorous comic about kids having adventures at camp. One that they seem to be unable to leave. And not because the crafts classes are super fun.

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Google is Your Friend

Earlier this week I was reminded of a big mistake I nearly made back in 2009 by almost trusting the wrong person. Thankfully I wised up in time, but I think it’s a good cautionary tale about the types of people you may come across if you’re trying to make a career out of comics. But just so everyone knows, I am not going to be naming any names. I don’t want to be responsible for El Santo’s site being taken down because of libel.

So some Living with Insanity fans may remember a relatively early strip in which the protagonists finally get their comic accepted by a publisher and then have to deal with an editor. I also did a blog post when it first went up, celebrating how I had finally managed to get my foot in the door at Image Comics, which is where the inspiration for that strip came from.

See, around the time I was looking for various work so I could get some experience and add to my portfolio, mostly as a colourist and letterer, but I also applied for writing jobs. One guy I did a lettering job for said he was happy with my work and would be sending the pages I gave him to some pros that he knew, in the hopes that I would get some paid work. This should have been a warning sign, because my lettering is fine by webcomic and indie standards, but absolute crap next to an actual pro. But back then I had a hard time telling the difference and thought nothing of it.

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Discussion: rereading old webcomics?

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It turns out that I was super busy last week. My football team, the Seattle Seahawks had won the Super Bowl, something which was directly tied to a number of ancillary events. Super Bowl parties everywhere, freezing my toes off at the victory parade, etc.

And now there’s the Olympics, which I can zone out in front of for hours on end while an unknown athlete (to me, anyway) places gold in a sport I don’t follow. It’s hypnotizing. I’m usually not very patient, but I can mainline twelve or so speed-skating competitions in a row.

Between that, though, I’ve been reading an old webcomic. Namely, Problem Sleuth (reviewed here). It’s probably because I’ve been reviewing Homestuck lately, and I was curious to see if it held up. The last time I’d read it was in … 2010?!?!? (Good Lord, where did the time go?)

Despite being less polished (especially the inventory system, which I can see being more animated in the Homestuck era), I found myself enjoying it a lot. The story actually breezed by a lot more now that I knew when, exactly, the story would ramp up from adventure game parody to a world populated by parallel-dimension characters.

I also found myself increasingly amused by how much of Problem Sleuth paralleled Homestuck. (For example, I’d forgotten about the plugged-in windows that were portals to a world of imagination. And that the afterlife took place on very Homestuck-y lotus flowers.)

This was also the first time I’ve read a comic that I’d already finished. Perhaps it was that magical Olympic influence: the constant drum of something repetitive and familiar made me very receptive about rereading a webcomic I’d finished some time ago.

So here’s a question for y’all: have you ever felt the need to reread a webcomic you’d already finished? Perhaps to either see if it was as good as you remembered… or to gain a new perspective on the comic?

Know Thy History: Tintin

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When The Adventures of Tintin movie opened in America on 2011, the general public consensus around these parts was, “Whaaa—-? Who—?” I mean, I’d heard of TinTin… but that’s because I took French in high school, and knowledge of the charming boy reporter is pretty much taught in Week 2. Unless you think I’m joking about the American reaction to Tintin, Box Office Mojo reports on the numbers: despite having Steven Spielberg as director, it debuted at #5 and took in $9 Million on opening weekend. Domestically, it brought in $77 million overall. By comparison, the already much forgotten Meet The Robinsons debuted with $25 Million on opening weekend with a $97 million total take.

Fortunately, Spielberg could count on another audience: pretty much the rest of the world. Almost 80% of the profit came from non-American audiences, bringing the total take to $373 million. It’s pretty respectable. Personally, I thought the movie was fine. There were cool moments here and there — like the crash landing in the desert and the crazy chase scene through the crowded streets — but most of the movie I’ve already forgotten.

Still, this bodes well for Spielberg’s plans. He’d heard about Tintin when a review compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Georges Remi, a.k.a. Herge, was the creator of Tintin, and he was likewise a fan of Indiana Jones. The two had planned to meet in 1983 to do a Tintin movie together, but before the meeting date, Herge had passed away. (Herge’s widow, though, decided to give Spielberg the filming rights.) However, nothing seemed to work out. Spielberg was dissatisfied with the progress (working on the Indiana Jones sequels instead), and eventually the rights were passed from one owner to another. However, the Herge Foundation only trusted Spielberg to make a faithful adaptation. With fellow Tintin fan Peter Jackson on board, the movie finally came together. Spielberg had planned ahead for two movies, and a third may yet be on the way.

So what is it about Tintin that captured the imagination of two high-profile film directors?

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Random Quickies: Jean & Scott

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Since we all grew up in the 90’s, all of us will probably… wait. Some of you weren’t around in the 90’s?

Huh.

Well, feel free to sit this one out, then. I’ll have something more universal later this week. The ones who were around in the 90’s can stick around after the ellipsis.

OK since we all grew up in the 90’s, all of us will probably remember the Jim Lee/Chris Claremont version of the X-Men. It was the costumes and roster prominently featured in the cartoon, and one of the most unlikely sources of 90’s nostalgia. Max Wittert certainly remembers, and he illustrates the domestic troubles of Jean Grey and Scott Summers on his Tumblr-based webcomic Jean & Scott. Cyclops is uptight, which is pretty consistent with his established portrayal. Jean Grey, though, has been driven to terminal laziness due to the convenience of her powers. THRILL as Jean Grey struggles to hold her cream soda! CHILL as Cyclops wonders aloud why Jean has to use Cerebro and not a cellphone like most normal couples! I cannot wait for the episode when Jean finally meets Scott’s space-pirate dad.

Getting Started – Schedules

So after last week’s column, I’ve decided I should put my money where my mouth is (All five cents of it, hah) and actually put up some advice that people starting up a new comic could use. I should make it clear that while I have been doing this for a few years, I am not in any way a professional. This is just coming off of observations, experiences and a few things others have told me that I find work.

To me, the most important thing is working out whether you could do a webcomic or not. Many creators start up, unaware of how much work is actually required to go into these projects, and soon give up because they can’t meet the schedule so why bother? So today we’ll be talking about an easy, initial test to see whether you can do the work or not.

Now I should point out that I am writing this column under the impression you have the comic in mind. You have the basic premise, characters and genre/tone all figured out. If you don’t, you should probably work that out because it’ll be less of a headache than if you’re planning to just make everything up as you go along. Also, I’m assuming you are both writer and artist. However these tips will also work for collaboration.

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