It took a month and more, but Birds in a Sluddle is finished. I gave up posting it bit by bit when my eye problems got so much worse, because nobody wants to read about that. But now I’ve got my new glasses and it’s rolled its way up nicely enough. Here’s the cover– you can see the whole thing at SPACE this weekend, and I will post it on Read a Comic! next week, complete with notes. The cover combines the two parts of the story– the library story with Iowa and Gideon, told in the conventional way with brushwork and fountain pens, and the “Little Maudie book” excerpts, with fine linework and typeset text.
I am quite pleased with P22 Parrish Roman’s performance in the role of the Little Maudie font.
Or you can at least replace 997 of them with this brush pen outpouring from last night– pure brushwork without a net.I didn’t know that was what my soul looked like, but it doesn’t surprise me much.
Here she is: the obscure monochrome fairy of Natural Media Inking, who comes in the night as you sit there stippling and listening to NPR and gives you the inspiration to finish your comic in time. You shall, she says. You shall, you shall.
(Gif presumably taken from an old silent film, and found on tumblr.)
Today brought an instant, intense fascination with the Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01, currently searching the South Indian Ocean for the black box from the missing Malaysian airliner. She’s a pretty thing, large and graceful with a shining white hull and superstructure. I did a bit of research to try to find out more about her, and I did learn that she is the largest of China’s maritime patrol fleet, with room for more than 200 passengers in a rescue situation and equipment for dealing with all kinds of maritime situations from interdiction and security (yes, a bit scary) to towing, firefighting and search and rescue. And I was charmed by this photograph from the China Daily website, showing her launch in 2012:Look closely and you will see several outstanding examples of the classic Communist Flower Arrangement– each of the ladies in the red dresses is holding one, and there is whomping great spherical one dangling from the bow. It used to be that flower arrangements like this, tightly packed, highly formal, and very red, used to be found in many parts of the world, but nowadays the art form is practiced primarily in China. When applied properly, as I think they are here, they can be very visually effective.
Fans of fonts will also enjoy the numerical part of the ship’s name, set in the very familiar Chinese Instruction Manual Roman.
I had been looking forward to Winter Soldier for a long time, went to see it on opening day, and was most relieved not to be disappointed. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is my number one fangirl guilty pleasure, but the degree of guilt I feel varies somewhat from film to film. Some entries, particularly the first Iron Man, are fine movies by any standard, while others, like The Avengers, are good fun with a few strong moments. (The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show is the entertainment equivalent of junk food.) Captain America, the First Avenger was definitely the other entry in the first category, but a lot of the charm of that film is in its nature as a period piece. How would Cap carry a movie set entirely in the modern world, and a rather grim version of that? (If you know anything about the Captain America canon, you know any movie that tells the story of the Winter Soldier is not going to be a lighthearted frolic.)
The answer is “very well”. Chris Evans is much better than he was in The Avengers. Maybe it is just a matter of Evans being a bit older or the part being better written, but his Cap-out-of-time is more nuanced here. He balances the hardheaded soldier with the the symbolic Sentinel of Liberty almost effortlessly and combines them into single quite believable character. And there is good collegial chemistry here with both Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. The Cap and Tasha relationship is the fun Marvel movie element in this story, and Mackie (who is an actor I really like) is set up to become an interesting new character.
There’s not much I can say about the plot without spoiling, but it doesn’t go too far to say that it turns on the moral ambiguity of S.H.I.E.L.D (a moral ambiguity that should be obvious to anyone who has ever encountered that agency in the movies or the comics) and it ends up reshuffling the plot deck in the MCU pretty thoroughly. The necessary Captain America exposition is handled rather cleverly, and keep your eye out for one very creative and amusing set piece that was also a nifty plot twist. Overall, Winter Soldier is more of a big budget action movie than a superhero movie, but that’s not a criticism. Think of it as an exploding helicopter movie in capital letters, and you have the idea: gunfights, martial arts, and car chases, all on a large scale, with some of the biggest exploding helicopters you’ve ever seen.
It’s sort of a rule that in the Drawing of the Day Sketchbook World, a family group consists of (at minimum) an Adult, a Child and a Horrible Creature. In this drawing, the Adult role seems to be ably filled by a Teenager, and the Horrible Creature is not at horrible as usual. Perhaps what we have here is a babysitter taking the youngster to the park to play, accompanied by a family pet who also needs some exercise. I wonder whether he is an older brother or a helpful hireling– there doesn’t seem to be a family resemblance between the two, but in Sketchbook World that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Of course, this could also be a return visit to the whole “Igor as nanny” trope that crops up occasionally. Sketchbook World is a weird sort of place.
Regardless, this drawing proves that I need a lot more practice at drawing brains that actually look like brains. And that this particular Horrible Creature might be a good jumping off place for a design for the Spider Wolves from Welcome to Night Vale.
Is anything ever finished? Well, it darn well better be, if any comics are ever going to actually be published anywhere in the world, much less here in Kekionga. Here’s the probably finished cover you saw in a partially inked version earlier this week.
These things turn up in sloppy scans of images that are going to be cropped and pasted up. The most important change is to the dragon’s face– when I inked the original pencils he looked not just devilish or mischievous but positively evil, so I tweaked his eyebrows and mouth a bit so he doesn’t scare away any potential readers*. I also added an eraser to the dragon’s empty claw.
In Paintshop Pro I used the selection tool to move the word “by” to a more legible position in the lowest banner, and changed the brushwork lettering to white on black, which gives a final result that, for good or ill, looks like the composition I have in mind. I think I successfully avoided the temptation to clean up too much– I wanted the “home made Cooper Black” lettering in particular to keep its freshness. You’ll notice a few little changes, particularly to the capital A, but I tried to keep them to a minimum.
*If the dragon still scares you, please let me know. While the cover is probably finished, but it’s hardly set in stone.
If you know me, you know I have a deep loathing for all forms of pranks and practical jokes. So rest assured, you will not be subject to any kind of April Fool here. But in the spirit of the day, did you know that there is an alternate Kekionga out there?
One where Iowa wears her hair in a ponytail thrown over her shoulder, and Jack wears glasses and drives a vintage Cadillac convertible.
Where Jack works for Bud in a used bookstore called Bohdi Tree Books,
And Iowa is a superhero called the Red Rover– and the Professor is her canine sidekick.
(Bud wears a kilt in this universe. Go fig.) I will probably post the whole story of this comic here and on the webcomic site later this year– it’s a long and interesting one. But for now, let’s just say that I’m open to the idea of writing another story in this universe. Most Kekiongas are pretty nifty places.
Two concepts, really. One is the smartphone as a blogging platform, the other is spring. I had some hope of eventually getting a smartphone, but most of the way through this winter I was pretty sure we were never going to see the ground again. But here we go. I have a regular three mile walk through the neighborhood and this is the very last snowbank that blocks the sidewalk at any point on my route. It’s all that remains of a vast snow pile, built up by backhoe from the excess that was blocking neighborhood streets, a pile that once reached to the top of the cement block wall.
It will not be missed.
(from the Slightly Larger Tiny Internet, as found inside my Nexus 5)
Just for fun, here’s the cover of the second volume of Pretty Good Dragons in very rough conditions. Sane, normal cartoonists draw something like this in black on a white ground and then scan it and reverse the black and the white in the computer using any kind of image manipulation software. But I’ve never liked doing that, and this cover has both white on black and normal black on white elements, so I am doing pretty much everything in the inking stage. There is one major reversal I will be doing in the computer– it should be pretty obvious what it is.
Most of the white on black work is done, although I may add some little details in whiteout right at then end. (Yes, yes, you are not supposed to draw with whiteout but I do it all the time and it has not killed me yet.) Tomorrow I will do the black on white areas and try to solve a few little trivial problems. I will be sure to show you the finished image later in the week.
I scanned the image in color so you could see the pencil drawing in the black on white areas, and was shocked (as I always am) to see how my ink is about five or six different shades of black.