Archive for September, 2005

Timelines, continued

September 30th, 2005 by Reinder

Click to see the full timeline
Co-blogger and reader Adam Cuerden has started sending me his estimates of the timeline of the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan series, based on the episodes already online and the Green Knight's Belt storyline which I sent him a translated version of. I broke down and downloaded a copy of Bee Doc's Timeline and entered some of the dates into the crippled trial version, just to see what it could do for me. I added some outlying dates to get a feel of how complex this thing could become, starting with a date referenced in King's Drama (scheduled to go online in 2006) and ending with Fay juggling flaming torches as seen in a "from the future" panel in The Corby Tribe. I like what I see and may well decide to pay for the full version after all. The idea of tinkering with timelines has me in its grip.
See the full timeline so far in a new window. All dates are approximate, but we will try to narrow them down further.

Timelines

September 29th, 2005 by Reinder

Many years ago, I sent Geir a message including a timeline of the world of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan from the earliest time period refered to in the story (Conquest of something or other by Blodwynpiggi the Dentedheaded) to what was then the near future of that world. I have long since lost my copy of that message (Er... it may still be on my home computer if I composed it on that machine, but I'll be damned if I can find it anywhere) and in any case the timeline has become vastly more complicated since then.
A recent post on Websnark rekindled my interest in sorting out a definitive timeline for the comic. It'd be useful for a number of things - finding story opportunities, figuring out what year the story is currently set in, how long the King has been sick, how old some characters are, etc...
The software Eric Burns recommends, Bee Docs' Timeline may be as good as he says it is, and may be worth the $50. However, the terms under which the trial version is offered do not allow me to test it under real-world conditions. I accept time-limited trials (but time my downloads of such trial versions so that I can get a decent amount of actual productivity out of them before I decide whether or not to pony up) but not ones that won't allow me to do anything useful while trying. Setting up a timeline with up to ten events doesn't qualify as anything useful.
So I have to look for alternatives. Maybe there are some good Unix timeline programs out there that have been ported to Mac OSX (I very much want to keep this information on the iBook)? Maybe something I already have installed has good timeline functionality?
Or maybe someone out there has some server space I could set up a Wiki on? I don't know enough about Wikis yet to know whether they support timeline projects well, but I do know that I have readers who can figure out, based on textual evidence, what grades Ron Weasley got on his O.W.L.s and it would be great if I could harness that power somehow.
If you've got tips or can otherwise help out, please contact me through the forum or via email to reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com. Thanks!

The most awesome public intellectuals ever

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

Remember this? I went back to the post at Crooked Timber to make my final offer consisting of all of Ray Kurzweil's predictions, two ponies and the confident prediction that I'd be an even more awesome thinker in the future than I am now. What I should have tossed in the mix was the prediction that Fafnir and Giblets would win. In addition to predicting that the speed of thought will exceed the speed of speed, Fafnir offers:

In the Future, man will be able to predict the future so effortlessly he will know what he is going to predict before he predicts it. Most of his predictions will involve predicting the predictions he is about to predict. Occasionally he will attempt to predict if women will have sex with him; they will not.

which is game, set and match unless the Medium Lobster can come up with something better.

Terrible art or not…

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

You know? Unfettered By Talent is oddly compelling, in a Pokey the Penguin-like way.
(Nyer!)
Update: This is now a meme!

Buh, bye, Webstats4u

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

Webstats4u, the company that used to be known as Nedstat Basic and which has been providing basic user statistics for many Reinder Dijkhuis websites, has confirmed that it is using its Javascript to put pop-up and slide-under ads on the websites of their users. Their message tries to justify this by bringing up the cost of the service, but cost is irrelevant. I can just about accept the occasional pop-up slipping through Keenspace/ComicGenesis's net because they provide a vital hosting service and are generally very good about blocking pop-ups when they're spotted. For a counting service, "Free plus intractable pop-ups" is not the right price. Not knowing how many people visit my sites will be a bit of a drag, but there are alternative services out there. The Webstats4u counters will be removed at the earliest opportunity.

Whores!

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

Speaking of reputation, that series Poepoe I mentioned a few days ago now has got to where the artists suffer the backlash from InHolland's publicity campaign, which they weren't involved in but which allegedly looked like they were involved in it.

This series may well turn out to be a classic.

Pictures and Words reviewed

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

Pete Ashton reviews Pictures and Words by Roanne Bell and Mark Sinclair.

[...Pictures and Words] is an interesting book because it attempts to tackle the thorny issue of narrative head on yet still come at things from at Art perspective. To this end the focus is on emerging and cutting edge cartoonists with a smattering of non-comics artists whose work could be considered to be if not comics then narrative. The authors also give a good third of the book over to single-panel illustration, in other words gallery-friendly comics, which rather that be a cop out is actually quite revolutionary for this kind of criticism as they look at narrative flow within the illustration or across physically disconnected pieces.

and

It's always been the view of this aficionado that comics are everywhere, that almost everything can be viewed as a comic in some form of other. The landscape that surrounds us, man made or natural, is a tapestry of comic art and can be read sequentially as a narrative, from a countryside panorama to a collage of photographs on a teenager's wall. Everything is interconnected, discrete objects that when considered in connection to their neighbours taken on a deeper, richer meaning, a narrative told by the mind of the viewer as the gaps are filled by the imagination and we experience the world as poetry.

And yes, I accept I'm an extremist in this respect, but I think it's a valid point of view, that an understanding of how comics work can give a fresh and useful perspective on other forms of art. With Pictures and Words, Bell and Sinclair appear to be doing just this. It would be easy to show how comics work using "normal" comics (as Scott McCloud did over a decade ago in Understanding Comics) but to apply this understanding not just to emerging cartoonists but to the work of art school graduates is actually quite daring....

Read the rest.

Side-projects update

September 28th, 2005 by Reinder

It's been a while since I wrote anything about the two side-projects I have going on, Chronicles of the Witch Queen and The Lives of X!Gloop. Both projects chug along so smoothly that they don't attract a lot of my attention.
The Lives of X!Gloop now has nearly all the previously-published material online. The latest comic on the site is from 1990 or 1991 and was published in an amateur zine called Furore shortly before it changed its name to Impuls. There's two more weekends' worth of material before I get to the point where I have to decide about scanning in the unfinished, unpublished stories from 1992-1994. I may even have a shot at finishing them! So far, the comic hasn't attracted more than a few dozen readers, which is more than they got at the time. Doesn't bother me – it's not like I'm doing a lot of work on the site now.
Chronicles of the Witch Queen isn't getting a whole lot of readers either, and that does bother me a bit. The Double, the first story to make its online debut on the site is a week away from being finished; it will be followed by a remastered version of The Eye of the Underworld which has been online for years in a different location. The Double was made by my friends Geir and Daniel, and like the print edition from 1996 it was made ready for publication by me. I did a better job on the web version than on the print version, but both have got a lower readership than they deserve, and I do feel I've let my friends down twice in that respect. Compared to five years ago, it's a lot harder to get a webcomic noticed. Or maybe I'm less willing to play the "join in a dozen scattered online communities and plug" game than I was five years ago. It does look as if, like publishing zines, that sort of thing is something one should only do for a limited period of time in one's life before moving on to something else.
Anyway, The Double is really good, right? Go read it.

(more…)

Uderzo chez les Belges

September 27th, 2005 by Reinder

One cartoonist who probably could have his own skyscraper to run operations from is Albert Uderzo. With a new Asterix book on the way, the 78-year-old artist is showing up in one or two places:
Four-page report of Uderzo being fêted in Brussels for four days.

It's a safe bet that the new Asterix will again be criticized for weak writing. It's likely, if the cover art is any indication, that the art will also fall short of the standards of earlier books:
German Asterix 33 cover
And it's a dead cert that the first-edition print run of the new book will once again exceed that of the last. The report cites a run of 8 million copies in 27 countries — if I remember correctly, the last one started with 6 million.
Many people with an above-average interest in comics resent this. They argue that Uderzo is pissing on René Goscinny's memory, that Asterix is only interesting anymore to collectors who want to keep their series complete, and that Uderzo should stop or that buyers would get more enjoyment out of buying some other comic instead. I've made all these arguments in the past. I will not make them anymore.
Uderzo still enjoys making Asterix. The public still enjoys buying it. The writing is only weak in comparison to Goscinny's – it's actually still written at a high, professional standard (likewise the cover art. It's a bit boring and the composition is off, but I've seen worse in the shops, oh yes). The difference between the new book's initial print run and the last one's isn't made up out of people who bought the entire series and became completists in the last two years; it's probably made up out of people who borrowed the other books and want to buy this one because it's more convenient.
Also Asterix is a major force in comics publishing. It's sold in supermarkets as well as bookstores; in spite of this, it will be sold in comics stores in large enough numbers to turn the year around for one or two retailers who might be in trouble right now. Even if I still believed that Asterix should stop for artistic reasons, I couldn't ignore that. That € 80 million turnover will be keeping people employed.
So let's have this new album, Albert! I for one won't buy it, but I can't fault ya for having another go.

It’s entirely possible that they do have headquarters like that

September 26th, 2005 by Reinder

a glimpse at Foksuk headquarters From Poepoe. Click thumbnail for full-sized corporate comic policymaking.

Let me translate the dialogue for you:
Panel 1, Caption: Monday, April 22, 2002. Staff meeting of RGvT's executive management at their headquarters in the Fokke & Sukke Tower. On the agenda: InHolland's campaign request.
John Reid: Your reply to Janine was far too blunt, pal!
Jean-Marc van Tol: But John! All I said was "Thanks, but no thanks!"
Panel 2. Jean-Marc van Tol: I told Janine we only take on jobs like that anymore if they're either a lot of fun or very well-paid...
Panel 3. Bastiaan Geleijnse: ...whereupon you said that neither condition was met in this case and that she and her campaign could therefore go fuck themselves.
John Reid: That is a bit blunt, J.M.
Panel 4. Bastiaan Geleijse: They are still our one of our clients...
Jean-Marc van Tol: All right! I'll apologise for my rude answer and tell her we're simply too busy to take the job.
John Reid:: You are a gentleman.
The story will continue tomorrow...

Cartoonists are undervalued. The story Jean-Marc is telling is one in which a prominent educational institution offered the makers of Fokke & Sukke, then as now one of the major names in Dutch cartooning, a mere € 2000 for five cartoons which were to be featured in a multimedia campaign involving posters, postcards, magazines, billboards, you name it. Now, I'm used to working for a pittance, but even I would have had the good sense to negotiate that amount upwards (considering the use to which it was to be put and my earlier experiences working with schools). Fokke & Sukke are worth a lot more. The person making the offer knew this, and tried to soften the trio up by mentioning that it would be good publicity for them as well. (This episode) This argument is often used on beginning cartoonists; to assume that the succesful Foksuk collective would buy it is to insult their intelligence.
We are undervalued. And to a large extent, that's our own fault. We tend to be bad at business skills like administration or putting a value on our time, we tend to forget about things like price indexing come contract renegotiation time, we put up with standard contracts even after we're in a position to negotiate better ones. Myself, I'm very bad at negotiation — this year I managed to turn a situation in which I had leverage to ask for an increase from my biggest client into one where I was put on the spot to make decisions or else lose the job. I hope I won't make that mistake again.
Jean-Marc has been working for years to enable cartoonists to do better: to stop putting up with low bids, not work for clients who are cheap or who try to screw you over (and to recognise when this is the case). With this new story on his stripblog Poepoe, he's showing a concrete, real-world example of the actions of a bad client. And while he's at it, he tackles another cause of the undervaluation of cartoonists: our own portrayal of ourselves.
Of course, Fokke & Sukke isn't produced from a Trump-style tower. Maybe it is these days, but it wasn't back then. Yes, they were raking in the cash, but they were only using conventional rakes, not the combine harvester they have to use now. But consider how he could also have portrayed the trio discussing the matter: he could have pretended the meeting was set in some seedy dive, with each of the three creators hunched over a bottle, drinking away their sorrows and angsting over how they are being exploited. And that, I'm afraid, is how many of us would have portrayed ourselves. I've seen plenty of examples in the past that were Portraits of the Cartoonist as a Drunken Hack.
Clients see those portrayals as well, as do other cartoonists. It feeds into our self-image as a group, and it feeds into the outside world's image of us. It's refreshing to see another image instead: that of cartoonists as hard-headed bastards who know what their work is worth. Jean-Marc has been kind enough to show the corporate headquarters of other cartoonists in the first panel: [Barbara] Stok Palace, the [Maaike Hartjes] building, Dirk-Jan Flats, Heinz-the-Movie Studios and the Sigmund Institute.
OK... not really all that hard-hearted. JM still allows for the possibility of doing jobs just for fun, and his co-creators want him to be more tactful. But it's still a refreshing change. Take it further, Jean-Marc!