Character Studies

28 01 2010

There are some nifty character studies up on my art blog, for a new comics project I’m writing with my brother, Jon.

Here’s a preview:
Paul inked.

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Comic writing vs screenplays

13 12 2008

A little early morning linking for your pleasure and my late-for-work.

Mark Waid, writer of um… comics, shares some thoughts on the differences between screenwriting and comic writing:

Screenwriter walks into my office. Famous, one of the two or three whose name is as instantly recognizable to movie fans in Iowa as it is to us Left Coasters. And he’s immediately on my good side because the first words out of his mouth are not “so I have this pitch for a supernatural western,” but, rather, “I know how to write for film but I don’t know how to write for comics, and I presume there’s a difference.”

The single most important difference between a screenplay and a comic book script is that a comic story is made up of frozen moments. Screen stills. Snapshots.

Read more thoughts over at Kung Fu Monkey.

I read an interesting blog on screenwriting written by John August, writer of Big Fish and a few other notable movies. He answers lots of interesting “how do I” questions and also writes about the industry. He was doing some good blogging on the writer’s strike at the beginning of 2008. Visit JohnAugust.com.





Silliness

12 11 2008

Do any of you who read Girl Genius by Phil Foglio notice its downward spiral? A few month ago, things were getting really heated and deep in the plot, but by this point it’s just devolved into silliness. It’s disappointing, because the last few weeks have been further and further from moving the story along or even building the characters.

It’s kind of like everyone’s reverted to their archetypal selves and they’re just doing bad standup. I really hope it picks up again soon. It’s really frustrating to watch your favorite comics lose what makes them interesting and unique.





The Invisible College

16 10 2008

The first issue of my self-published comic book is here! You can find it in the comics link under my little section of the site. I recently printed a stack of issues to hand out to friends and fellow comics-ers at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD, and the folks at Robot Martini have just posted a review of it in their blog. It’s the first time I’ve ever been reviewed for creative work in a public forum.





Top 10, Season 2 — Trying to be Alan Moore and failing

5 10 2008

I just read the first issue of “Top 10, Season 2.” How unfortunate.

Top 10 was an Alan Moore creation centering around a police department in a city populated by super-powered individuals. It ran for a short amount of time and was a whole lot of fun. I really recommend picking it up, even though it kind of ends in a cliff-hanger. It’ll remind you of Firefly, with this feeling of being over before its time.

Sadly, “Season 2” is really disappointing. They introduced a character whose main purpose was to act as an example from alternate reality of how police should act (i.e., wear a uniform and use standard armament). I think he is symbolic of the new writer who serves mainly to boring-ify the comic. The guy just doesn’t have a good handle on the world or the characters.

The art is disappointing too. Far from the crisp solid lines of an almost action-oriented (meta)superhero comic, the new style is stagnant, like out of focus still life or badly rotoscoped photos of people in poses.

I’m not happy when people take successful but short-lived ideas and try to squeeze more life and more importantly money out of them. Usually it’s like boiling the vegetables too long.





Zot!

25 07 2008

I’ve always been impressed by Scott McCloud (who hasn’t)! Even though I’m not really involved in comics right now, Understanding Comics was really influential through high school and college. I read everything he had on his website as well, including the beginning of Zot! I finally got to read the rest of it, because sitting on the kitchen table this morning was Zot! 1987-1991: The Complete Black and White Collection (with a significant amount of McCloud’s commentary).

In Zot!, a young teenager named Jenny, from our world meets Zachary, or Zot, a teenage superhero from an alternate, more perfect earth. I first encountered the comic on McCloud’s website, his web-exclusive mini-series. It struck me as fun, but not very deep. Without the print comics, you definitely miss a lot of Zot!‘s substance.

And Zot! has substance galore. It is an incredibly touching comic involving a lot of different themes. It explores utopianism versus challenging imperfections, love and sex, and some social issues including divorce homophobia, racism and poverty. The main characters are very human, and McCloud focuses heavily on the experiences of the supporting cast, especially toward the end of the series. Many of the issues explore difficult emotions and human conflicts. The last few are incredibly moving indeed, and address in insightful ways some themes I never expected to see when I first picked up the collection. I think it’s stood up well over the twenty years since it was first published.

One of the coolest things about this collection is McCloud’s commentary. After each issue, he writes a short piece about that particular comic, how it fit into his development as a writer and artist, and how relevant it was to the world around at the time. I skipped the commentary the first time through so I could read the story uninterrupted. Reading his thoughts adds a whole new layer of insight into the process. The comic alone, despite its age, and the commentary are very inspiring—I think that’s what good writing should be.

Sure, it’s not a perfect story. There are confusing moments. Sometimes you have to ask how some characters got from point A to point B, or why some emotions seem a little over-the-top. You have to remember that the characters are teenagers, and it is a dramatization. Probably the most annoying part is that the collection starts at issue #11. While it’s supposed to be a new beginning, I think the first ten are important, though less moving.

I highly recommend Zot!, so go buy it. Also, go buy issues #1-10. I think they’re collected, too.

I’m excited to see what McCloud will do next. I know he’s working on some new graphic novel and also a ‘secret project.’ I wonder what forms they’ll take after all of the theory and exploration that went into the Understanding Comics series.





Comics We Read

23 07 2008

I generally read my comics on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, because that’s when they update. I like nice looking comics that have interesting stories (doesn’t everybody?) and most of them seem to be fantasy of one kind or another. Here they are in no particular order:

Girl Genius by Phil Foglio — Steampunk! Victorian Europe! Mad scientists! Airships! What’s not to like? I’ve been reading this “gaslamp fantasy” comic since it was coming out in print. That was way back in high school. The story is slow moving at three pages a day, but it keeps getting more awesome and more intense. It’s very funny as well. One of the best things about it is that the comic is at a climactic point, but there are so many loose ends that it’s definitely nowhere near ending.

Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell— This is one of my favorite comics ever. It’s a beautiful story that’s being told in a bunch of short episodes about a girl named Antimony and her human, robot, and magical friends. They live at a boarding school of sorts called Gunnerkrigg Court, less school and more sprawling industrial complex that borders a sprawling, wild forest. The chapters are all about Annie and her friends learning more about each other and the weird place that the Court is. One of the great things about Tom’s art is that it has been steadily improving, and the characters are getting really beautiful.

Order of the Stick by Richard Berlew — A witty gaming-joke comic that developed a more serious storyline. The main characters are really well written, and the story is compelling at the moment. The most frustrating thing about OotS is its unpredictable update pattern, and the fact that the storyline advances at a snail’s pace.

Goblins by Tarol Hunt (Thunt) — This comic is another one that started as a gaming joke. It’s near and dear to my heart. The characters are all fun and endearing, and their plight makes me root for them. They’re goblin adventurers in a traditional D&D world. Frustratingly, it updates infrequently and sporadically, and the story moves like molasses on a cold day. Part of it is because Thunt and his girlfriend draw and color incredibly complicated artwork for a comic that doesn’t support them, so it takes them a while. It’s not my favorite comic, but I have a soft spot for it.

FreakAngels by Warren Ellis, art by Paul Duffield — This is the new Ellis comic. I think I mentioned it on the blog previously. It’s a gritty, weird and bloody comic about these super-powered individuals in a post-apocalyptic flooded London. We’re just starting to get into the story. It updates once a week with six pages, which is enough to keep me happy.

xkcd by Randal Munroe — It’s hard to imagine that anyone who reads this blog hasn’t already seen xkcd. It’s the quintessential geek comic. Full of in-jokes, math, science, romance, and other geekery, there’s almost no way to explain all that it is. Soon I am going to start going to the geohashing meetups in my area.

Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz — Diaz wrote the famous Dungeons & Discourse comic, as well as “Enough is Enough: A Thinking Ape’s Critique of Trans-Simianism”. Dresden Codak is about trans-humanism or something. The comics are beautifully drawn and brilliantly written. There are some really deep moments. It updates once in a blue moon, but his sketch journal is nice to look at too.

Zebra Girl by Joe England — Zebra Girl is one of those comics I just stumbled across while looking for interesting comics to read. Starting at the beginning you find it’s a comic about normal people who stumbled into magic. It starts off as a funny comic with people spontaneously combusting and turning into demons. After that it takes a more serious turn. At this point it updates so infrequently that I often forget about it. Luckily there’s an e-mail list. The art is so good that it’s worth the wait.

Lackadaisy by Tracy Butler — This comic about cats running a speakeasy during the 1920’s is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. Purrfect. The problem is it updates like a glacier, approximately once every 10,000 years. Each page is to be savored and re-read over and over until the edges of your computer screen age and curl like dried paper.

Some comics that don’t require ongoing emotional investment:

Buttercup Festival by David Troupes — I don’t know how to describe this comic other than really beautiful, calm, and pensive.

Kate Beaton by Kate Beaton and Teaching Baby Paranoia by Bryant Johnson — these are history-oriented comics. I don’t read them religiously. Kate Beaton is really funny. She writes semi-autobiographically and mostly about various historical figures in absurd situations. Teaching Baby Paranoia takes weird historical oddities and explains them in comic format.

There are others, but I check them infrequently, or they’re defunct at this point. What am I missing? In what ways is my life is not complete. I’m always looking to add good comics to my list!