Thursday, December 5, 2013

3 Takeaways from November

What was I thinking when I did some of this stuff? Well, almost as important is what do I think of it now, too.

Key takeaways
- multiple panels can aid comedic timing. Don't restrict yourself to only single-panel comics.
- give yourself the space for artistic expression. You need space to tell your story.
- hand lettering can give you the specific intonation in each word and letter, leading to a more specific reading of your text.

Here's the rough work before I went on to finalize them, and you can see it was still back when I was just folding a page into four squares and restricting the work to the size of a quarter page. I've moved on from this and think it's going to rememdy some of my observations on past "work."

Holy Erectile Dysfunction, Batman! I'm sorry Robin, this NEVER Happens.
Holy Guacamole was an indecisive spinoff of the silly things Robin used to say to Adam West's Batman. No particular gag was especially poignant when I was writing it, but it was easy to come up with a few different punchlines to hopefully make it worth the visit to read them?

No, it wasn't very timely, but I thinkthe artwork matched the original title sequence on the television show. The framing worked out well, too. The concept of finding a moment when these expressions would be a fitting pun for Robin to use was the basis --perhaps there was something more creative to be done? Now I'm second-guessing myself.

I really liked this joke, but it didn't get the response I thought it might. I guess so long as I'm happy with it - - validation is nice, too, though.

Ahead of Schedule is kind of based on a conversation I had with another couple at a wedding a few weeks ago. They have two kids, one about the same age as our first, and we were just commenting on how "busy" our kids are before they're even two. We figured they reached the Terrible Twos early -- though I believe the consensus was:
"If you think THIS is bad now, just wait another eight months and you'll be WISHING he was only 21 months old again."
I feel like I should comment on each joke, but I don't really have much to say about Work Those Gluts. I think the punchline "Soon you'll be able to rip a phonebook in half with your ASS" has great potential to be delivered with great effect, but I'm not sure it was captured here.

This might have been achieved with a few more panels building up to the punchline? I'm interested in doing fewer single-panel jokes - - telling a joke requires timing, and a single panel is very limiting, even if they're much quicker to produce.

Finally, Nice of You to Join Us is another example of a joke I personally enjoyed a lot, but may not have translated to the masses with much effect.

First of all, I think it was a lot of fun to conceive how Beard-o might cope without his beloved ducks. Obviously it would lead to substance abuse - - and that's how this whole story arc developed. Drinking toilet duck and having a stupid hallucination was a fun idea, and being able to draw King St. from a completely different prespective (a bird's-eye view) was intriguing as well. Plus, it set up nicely into the payoff at the end of the arc.

I'm still struggling to get the lettering and the word-balloons to look the way I think they should. By using larger panels when I'm creating the gags (though this is before I started doing that) I've got more space to write the letters by hand, rather than relying on the word processer to do the work for me. I think hand-drawn letters is more the style I'm going for - though don't expect that to happen for a few more weeks, as other items in my production schedule are coming up.

Anyhow, thanks for reading. If you've got any questions about how things are going / coming along, drop me a line.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Short Cuts and Execution

Sometimes I go through a stretch where you look back at what you've done, and you're not entirely proud of it ... and this pasta joke is one of them. Definitely an err in judgement.

While it's funny when it happens to someone else, it's hardly a well-written joke. And it wasn't especially well drawn, nor was it particularly well coloured, and no gag was written along with it to add any special value. So there's another lesson learned. Here's how it turned out.

Seems that lately there's been more "lessons learned" than things I'm proud of.... 

As for drinking toilet duck, this story arc just wrapped up on the main blog and I think it covered all the bases I wanted to cover. Towards the end of the arc, the artwork and framing really improved. At this point I was still simply drawing elements of a panel and them assembling them digitally - - whereas I think a cleaner panel is created when you do it all on the page. Adding extra elements might be "easier" digitally, but it looks like you took a shortcut. You can see how these elements came together in the final strip here.

Obviously, skipping any setting or background made this look rushed and incomplete. When I speak of "lessons learned," I guess what I'm hoping is that I won't repeat the same mistakes as in the past.

I've taken some steps to eliminate those "shortcuts," and I think it's paying off, but, of course, it means things are taking a bit more time, too.

Business Man @ Home is designed to be a whole lot simpler, though. One panel, one frame, one line of dialogue, minimal setting - - and I think it works as a motif, but ... I think people are losing their lust for the strip, though. In any case, I think the minimalist structure and the trope on "Crying Over Spilled Milk" worked well for this gag, and you can see how it turned out here.

Most of these strips were drawn back in October at some point, and I've since taken some corrections to give myself more space to build a panelled comic. I'm not just folding a sheet of paper into quarters and building a strip from there. I'm taking more time to use the space more effectively and add more detail to the images - - I think it's been working out, but we'll have to wait and see as those strips start appearing on the main site.

Something I've been looking to improve are the "brush strokes" in the comics. Frankly, none of these have the "swishing" strokes you find in clean, more professional-looking strips - - and I'm not sure I've got the correct hardware to create those lines. I MAY have to get nibs and actual ink and stuff, rather than the pigment liners I've been using.

If that happens, that'll be a whole different kettle of fish to unpack, set up, practice and keep out of the reach of my 2-year-old :S

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom! I hardly even proof-read these posts all the way down here!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

This Is It - Behind the Scenes

Some behind the scenes stuff for the "This Is It" scene - - as I've probably mentioned in every post, I had to rewrite quite a bit of the third act to add some "pay offs" and reveal what was necessary for things to make sense - - in any case, I've noticed now that I'm looking back over everything, that my inspiration for the names of each scene was definitely waning.

You can find the finished scene at this link: just click here! When I first started writing the story, too, I knew that the relic would "unlock" a device at the end, but hadn't really imagined what that device would be - - in my mind, I'd hoped it'd be this ingenious and convoluted device, but ... well, nothing to fantastic really came of it.

Though, perhaps this is fitting - - it's not like this was designed by a Mason or some brilliant engineer - - this was 1900 years ago, give or take, and in the middle of a war-torn nation.Perhaps this is more believable than some complicated Rube-Goldberg machine.

In this scene, I wanted to illustrate that once the relics returned into proximity to one another that their powers unlocked, like the earlier-mentioned magnetism experienced between the bones of Lazarus, and that they begin to react. I was aware that there may be confusion in this scene, where the relief carving of Christ on the Cross might appear like it was coming to life, whereas it was supposed to just look like it was being restored from the millenia of erosion (however much erosion occurs in a temple's sealed basement).

And then, of course, that's not the only reaction ...

Does it create just a weird laser, or do you think it means more? And if so what, but, if not, then ... it's still cool that you can shoot a laser out of a flag, or whatever that thing is, right!?

If  you've any questions, leave it in the comments section, or join up on the Facebook group and share your thoughts -- you can find contact info at the links (icons) below! Thanks for reading.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Drinkin bathroom cleaner, Jedis and Panzers for the holidays

Subhead: 4 Potshots at Mayor Ford

Photoshop is pretty excellent, and the software engineers who created that system are absolute geniuses, and these below strips required a bit more work with photo manipulation that the average gag I post.

Beginning on the upper-left-hand corner of the page, we see Beard-o with a bottle of Toilet Duck, which I required to complete a separate gag, but didn't have room on my earlier page to include. So I added him here, and then withdrew him with the cut and paste feature and it wound up looking like this.

Ultimately, I've decided to give myself more space to do the artwork going forward, because I feel there's a lot of room for improvement - - which is obvious, because I basically started doing these strips by investing as little time in them as possible. But, now that I've got the hang of them, I'd like to have a bit more pride in them. (A very little bit more pride -- these are still as embarrassing as a Rob Ford secret).

As for Yoda, I think the final image of him turned out really nicely. I created each of the elements for this gag individually, then moved the layers around to balance them as best I could. This was basically a pun on "I sense in him much fear," and required someone to be as inebriated as Rob Ford to draw the ire of Yoda - - though I'd suspect Yoda wouldn't have been a proponent of even mild recreational drug use. I would imagine that would lead to the Dark Side, right?

So, you can see in the finished panel how much of Qui Gon Jinn and that other dude with the phallic forehead are now behind the keg and party favours. I also wanted to "clean this panel" up a bit more than in the past by including a more prominent border to help make it look a bit less amateur.

"A bit less amateur" could be my theme for November, ha ha. But seriously, that definitely wasn't the theme for October! Let me be sure to make THAT clear.

The final bit here is the "What if" gag that I think had a tremendous amount of potential, but failed in the execution. Obviously, if a joke's not ready, I should probably sit on it until I'm happy that it's going to be great. In this case, the question posited is a good one: What If We Celebrated Everything with as much Vigour as we do St. Patrick's Day? Well, given that not everyone celebrates St. Patty's Day like Rob Ford in a drunken stupor, it is a bit of a cliched element of Western Culture.

For whatever reason, Passover was stuck in my head, and to over-exaggerate the holiday as much as I could, all I could do was have the celebrators REALLY do what you'd normally do, which is eat REALLY bitter stuff, KVETCH even louder and make sure Elijah was clear on no uncertain terms that you had a seat at your table for him.  .... it just didn't wind up being very funny.

I think the Panzer tank to ensure you get a good deal on a flatscreen on Black Friday was probably not an exaggeration enough ...

Once again, I took the raw images and did what I could in "post production" to give it a clean and tidy panelling, which you can judge for yourself here. Despite not being really satisfied with the overall produciton, I think the colouring is coming along very nicely - - I've always been a sketcher, never really one to colour anything, so ... I'm glad that's developing.

If you've got any questions, I'm always happy to answer 'em, unless, like, their about smoking crack-cocaine ... I'm probably going to "Ford the Question," that is to say, I'll dodge and deny, as I'm sure you'll understand.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Boogers, Sorcery, Bidets and Shitty Diapers

My Jack-o-lanterns are from "The Shining" this year

If there were ever a series of gags worthy of my Definitely Classy banner, this was it.

Snot rockets (the horrible locker-room scene good men suffer through while someone on the ball diamond has to clear his nose, .... .uggh.  The joke wasn't hilarious, but it was something I had to get off my chest, I suppose.

Caveman Inventor is a personal favourite, and that was before it became one of my most successfully received strips. It went over so well I have wanted to revisit the characters and their world and see what I can do to explore their world a little more in depth. Cavemen have been a source of comic ideas for a long time, but ... perhaps there's something there I could devine from it that hasn't been seen before.

It's certainly appealing and I'd be very pleased to do more on it. I think there's a great source of humour to be found in juxtaposing high-end concepts and primitive neandrathals at once. I'll have to wait and see what comes out of it.

Vivace Bidet Pruzzo was another joke I was eager to get out of my notes - - however, it wasn't received as well as I feel it deserved. Shortly after I came up with this idea, there were commercials about ass wetnaps which were advertized on network television, although the only thing I can link to is something promoted on the Howard Stern show, called One Wipe Charlies.

MY idea is way more funny and I especially felt designing it like a Toilet Duck bottle was even better - - nobody agreed :(

"I Stink At Financing" is taken to another level in Business Man @ Home, too - - I guess this was just an extsrapolation of that concept, put into "At-Home Dad" terms. Nothing too hilarious, I agree.

Anyhow, thanks for reading, and if you ever have any questions about the strips, just drop me a line.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Narrative and Character Development > behind the Temptation of Howard Bolam pt. 2

The Temptation of Howard Bolam was an interesting moment in the story to intentionally set our two protagonists against each other for a moment to explore how far they've developed since the beginning of their tale
Compare the rough pages with the finished pages at this link.
Casey is willing to stand up for his beliefs.
Of course we can remember Casey Miller being the timid, self-conscious scientist who was too conservative to let his imagination provide inspiration or motivation. Yet, when faced with higher stakes, for love, career and even for his life, he's had opportunities to confront his inhibitions and tackle obstacles head-on.

In the second half of this scene, he swallows his fear and jumps at the chance to not only stand up to Howard but also to the hulking Turk (who apparently has been hired as a security escort for the Sadducees).

And at the same time, Howard Bolam doesn't appear to have learned anything, he remains willing to sacrifice what he knows to be "the Christian thing to do," for personal gain and advantage. We know that this brings him shame and discomfort, but he's never felt that shame so much that he's ever resolved to discontinue taking advantages when they present themselves. 

There's an inner fury Casey releases, which continues to overcome unsuspecting antagonists.
I felt an extended action sequence to be overscored by the narrative exposition might be a balanced and enjoyable way to tell this part of the story. I probably should have used this method earlier and much more often! A lesson learned.

One of the initial mysteries I set up at the beginning of the story was, "Who was in the tomb beneath the church at Gobekli Tepe," if you can recall (here's some help, if you can't). While I was editing/rewriting the third act before publishing the pages, I realized I hadn't really answered that question, though I had fully intended to.

In any case, this answer was shoehorned back into the story, and probably isn't as rewarding a payoff as I had hoped. BUT it does satisfy some of the mythology I constructed in Lazarus's life story - - that one of his sisters, either Martha or Mary, had continued to spread the word of Christ and opened "ministries" outside of the Roman Empire to build the church.

And as the archaeological intepretation allows, great monuments and churches were built on top of the tombs of some of the most reverant leaders of the first church (like Lazarus's tomb beneath the chuch in Lanarka).

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Friday, October 4, 2013

It's all Fiction, but it Comes From Somewhere Real

Not so long, long ago in and not nearly as far as a galaxy far, far away:

Two summers ago my former place of employment rellocated to new office space and I no longer had to commute through King St. to get to work. It was a breakwater moment for the King St. Capers - -

It felt weird not seeing Mr. Minestrone every day, not seeing Beard-o, not seeing his Tim-Hortons-toting companion with the concert t-shirt and side-stepping all the cigarette butts laying all over the sidewalk. But, the new officespace was really great and most attractive were the big scenic windows at my workstation.

The sun pored through the glass warming everyone and everything. It was brilliant, in both the colloquial and literal sense of the word. And as much as the old characters I used to spot / detest every day on my way to work were in my past (though still only a few blocks away) I was unprepared for the new cast of characters that I'd be able to see, not only on my daily commute, but through the window while I was working. 

Crackhead is one of the guys.  

More after the break - - 

You can see I drew the crackhead-behind-the-tree element separate and then layered it in to the final product. I drew a second Crackhead to include in other iterations of the strip. Ultimately, I think the quality / fidelity of the final image suffered for it. It came out blurry and garbled. A lesson learned. Images need to be created much larger if they're going to be included in composite products.

Panels 3 & 4 feature in "Have to be on Crack" and "This Street Sucks," panel 2 is "Casual Fridays" (which was fun to make!) and Panel 1 is "Case of the Mondays".

- - continued

Crackhead is a bit of a conglomeration of many of the people down at street level in the busy dirt parking lot located across the street from a downtown Tim Hortons. There was a LOT of weird foot traffic. One guy looked like a cracked-up Bob Dylan, lots of folks with tatoos and baby buggies, and plenty more smokers just ... standing around doing whatever it is they enjoy doing while they smoke all the time.

However, with no need to return to King St., I sort of forgot what it was all about, lost the feel for actually walking down the road and just being pissed off at every step while people stepped out of the parking garage and flicked and tossed torched cigarettes to the pavement.

This past Crackhead story arc was a fun integration of how the two worlds might have interrupted one another had they ever converged. Don't get me wrong, there were a load of crackheads on King St., but they were more "down by the river" types than they were "out in front of the barber" types.

The guys in the parking lot between Tim Hortons and downtown - - those crackheads are the "out and about" types. They were on the go. In any case, it was fun bringing those elements together into the Capers, and especially as it all culminates in a big cameo appearance from another out-of-towner that Ontarians will definitely recognize.

And the Business Man @ Home bits are sort of a more modern extension of my work experience, too. While the drug-addled chaos from King St. remeained outside the office, inside the conversation and articles I was writing revolved continuously upon discussing improvements in the workplace, human resources, health and safety, and other business matters.

I suppose the creation of Business Man can be considered a result of the Culture Shock from spending your days in an environment where you're continuously researching and discussing those workplace issues, and then having all that crash into the unadulterated ego of a toddler, fulltime.

Ultimately, this is all a work of fiction, but it's derived from a very real place from no-so-long ago, and just around the corner.
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Behind The Temptation of Howard Bolam pt. 1

The Temptation
The Temptation of Howard Bolam is a scene that I'd been waiting a long time to publish. It was something I'd planned the "Set up" for years ago, back in the first act I Tend to Agree With Your Partner.

I wanted character to motivate changes in the story just as much as the adventure - - I feel like this was something that was bound to payoff down the line - - that Bolam would be tempted to throw Casey under the bus again to save himself.

(If you clicked on that link - - think about how far the story has come since back then when they were still working at the museum. It's pretty cool. PLUS, that was freaking December 2010 when that was published. This story has been going on for a while now!)

Ultimately, for the sake of pacing, I felt that 6 pages was too long for a scene to be. I felt that people would be impatient if it were too long, so I split it in two. This is the first time I've done this, and... well, perhaps you would have been fine with it if it were six pages long?

Let me know, I guess. In any case, I wanted the scene to be "finished" so I could say it was finished, because I feel people might wait for a few pages (or a scene) to accumulate before they check in on the site.

That was the impetus regarding publishing this in two parts, anyhow.

Check out the finished pages at The Temptation of Howard Bolam, pt. 1

The stick of straw in "The Turk's" mouth was just for fun in the rough draft, he felt like a grouchy rancher thwarting tresspassers when I drew him.
I raced through these pages while I was at my cottage back in the summer - - when I drafted out the rest of the story. You can see I was really racing through it, I didn't leave any details on the background at all.

I'm not sure if these are facts, but I suppose it's interesting "trivia" if you ever wanted to know. I liked the name because it reminded me of both The Passion of the Christ, and The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham (from Lost).

In my original draft, the final few pages were adapted into a series of scenes to accomodate pacing and narrative flow. This prevented it from being just a bunch of dialogue - - and I think the next scene illustrates a balance between action and diction.

Beyond "The Turk," I don't have a name for the big guy that's holding the gun, and I don't think I actually refer to him as "The Turk" in the story. So, his name is an unspoken secret between you and I. How do you like that!?

Drawing a guy holding a rifle is hard.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Business Man @ Home

Something I learned that derived from my expansion in the Twitterverse is something I'd noticed for a while, but never really took the time to investigate. Reddit.

I knew OF it, but didn't know what it meant to me, or any of these dumb strips -- but I did notice that on "publishing dates," people I follow on Twitter were very vocal about "Up voting" their work. It seemed like a certain coterie of them were heavily involved on the Reddit site, and I perked an ear to the idea.

Just this week I went to the site, set up an account, and searched around just a little. I posted about three items onto the page and before too long I had, believe this, like tripled my regular traffic.Which is definitely impressive - - plus, commenting and feedback seem to flow much more fluidly on Reddit than on a blog or website page.

So it's been an interesting journey to see how content reacts to being in a space where people specifically go to share and view and comment on webcomics.

Here are some of the rough "before" drafts of some of the recent Business Man @ Home strips:

On a related note, it's opened my eyes to the possibilities of sharing some of the more "Business related" strips I've had (specifically business man @ home) on the LinkedIN feed, as well. As far as the tracking is concerned, the first topic I posted received 20 views and the next about 11, so there's another bunch of eyeballs that weren't checking them out before, too.

Better Offer
The art of the sales pitch / negotiations. I wish I was in the "negotiating" phase with my toddler. He's not speaking or really listening yet, so you still have to just go with the flow and do whatever you can to satisfy is wants (which you'd do cheefully, except for when he "wants" to lift the cat up by her hair, or climb shelves or go for a 25-minute walk every hour, on the hour).

I'd imagine this'd be a wasted skill on a At-home dad, if they were a CBA pro.

Social Media Campaign
This is a nod to my old job where there was a recurring interest to get more involved in social media and creating campaigns with the content we were producing. Successful social media campaigns are often random, unexpected and fickle beings, and most of the time we were just eager to sharpen our skills to get another one going.

I just imagine that business man would miss the excitement of sharing new developments with followers, and would likely be eager to jump back into the online milieu. 

Hey, running a business is hard. You've got to scrape together everything you've got to turn a profit, and digging through couch cushions would be a great way to add a little coushioning to the balance sheet.

Climbing the Corporate Footstool
This was intended to be a "climbing the corporate ladder" gag, but ... I don't think it realized the concept's full potential. In any case, damned toddlers will climb ANYTHING!

As always, if you have any questions or comments on what's up with any of the Capers, Chickens, Business Men or Advice, drop me a line and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Thanks for reading. 

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Friday, September 13, 2013

What's up with Salty Advice?

A question people are probably wondering about: What's with the Salty Advice that you think has been so funny that you keep posting?

[You can find Salty Advice here: Salty Advice]
Mr. Minestrone's first stab at good advice.
Well, the origins of this go back to all the encouragement I was receiving from a friend who enjoyed the King St. Capers so much he insisted that there was more content more often starring Mr. Minestrone.

While he was having a particularly bad "migraine" at work one day, I succumbed to his pleading and created this spinoff from the Capers. Salty Advice gives a voice to the otherwise mute Mr. Minestrone, providing some insight into this psyche and professional attitude.

What would someone who doesn't give two shits about doing a good job, and is hellbent on having a cigarette and staring at you while you walk down the street, despite his age and personal hygiene, have to offer? I had to try and figure it out.

And if this asshole had any advice for you, what would it be?

"Salty Advice" comes from the "Take it with a pinch of salt," etymology -- it's one of my favourite "sayings," so to speak, because, as far as I understand it, it's a complete admission that the next thing you're going to say is complete bullshit.

In the good ol' days, there was no refrigeration (of course) so meat had a very limited shelf life. It'd last for a couple of days (imagine a family with an entire slaughtered cow, but no deep freezer). As the end of the week rolled along, that heifer started getting pretty rank, making it completely unpalatable.

They were dirt poor, so instead of pitching the whole thing to the buzzards, they just kept adding salt to the meat to mask the rancid, rotting maggot-motel while they kept eating (and giving themselves the bubonic plague).

So the idea has always been hilarious to me, that someone saying "take this with a pinch of salt" is really saying that their advice is about as good as a medieval, rotting slab of pork. That's just funny!

And Salty Advice definitely lives up to its namesake. There's nothing worth repeating going on here.

Unlike my other comics, I don't worry about loading up on Salty Advice: they don't require a tremendous amount of time to get the artwork uploaded or completed, so I've allowed myself to come up with them on the fly, rather than stocking up on them (for the record, I have Capers, Business Man and Spring Chickens complete into the early weeks of October, just so you know).

I hope you're enjoying them.

Of course, if you have any questions, please drop me a line and I'll share whatever the hell I was thinking when I put this stuff together. If you're enjoying it, please, continue to do so.

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