Archive for October, 2006

Out of the grind, plus call for guest list, items probably related

October 30th, 2006 by Reinder

I am dropping out of the Lazy Grind. Starting on Tuesday, October 31, ROCR.net will run guest comics, starting with the ones that were posted to the old Comicgenesis site in 2001 and never posted on the new site.

Why drop out? And why now, with a day*) to spare before the next deadline?

Simple: while I love drawing new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan pages, it's not sustainable for me to do so at the current schedule. When I came back to active production, I didn't count on the new pages taking me twice as long to draw as I used to need. And that's not counting the research I've been doing in preparation, or the many rewrites. I can't do it, and I'm dropping out of this marathon before I start puking and zigzagging all over the track.

I've started scheduling guest comics immediately, to make it impossible for me to change my mind. The guest comics will be posted daily, including weekends, and continue for about a month (I haven't made a full count yet). I'll try to re-buffer Feral while the guest comics run, but I'll have a lot on my plate in November, so I probably won't have enough buffer to resume at the old schedule. Thanks to the advanced archiving features in WillowCMS, though, I will be able to shuffle the guest comics around so people reading the story a year from now won't have their reading interrupted by a month-long run of guest comics.

I would like to finish off the guest month with some new guest comics, by the way. If you are an artist or writer, I invite you to submit guest art or comics by first contacting me at reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com so I can give you a deadline (count on having at least until November 25), and then sending in a comic when it's due. Easy, eh? I'm pretty open-minded about what I will allow on my website and have been mercilessly mocked in guest comics by other cartoonists before, as you will see as the re-runs progress, but I do reserve the right to refuse material that's hateful, too violent, obscene or simply appallingly bad. Not that I've used that right in the past few guest events. I've got one new guest comic penciled in already and two cartoonists who have contributed before have been making noises about sending in new ones.

Finally, I won't be disappearing while the guest comics run. I will be around to work on at least one fun project related to ROCR that should be easier to draw than Feral has been, and I'll also post sidecomics from time to time.

*)Actually, more than two days, as the Lazy Grind's rules allow you to post up to the end of the day of update itself. However, I don't want to do that - the comic has to be done and posted in the morning of the update day.

Guðrún ends today, for the second time

October 30th, 2006 by Reinder

The remastered edition of Guðrún ends over on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site today.

As far as I know, it's still very rare for any webcomic to be remastered, though reruns with commentary have occurred in a few places. Guðrún was the story with which I finally got serious about publishing Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan online six years ago. But that doesn't mean I immediately got it all right;the digital cleaning, lettering and resizing were done very clumsily and no high-res masters were kept from which I could re-do the work. So I eventually bit the bullet and re-scanned the whole thing from the original art. The new version looks a lot better, even though, in many ways, it's "rawer" - there is less tinkering with the analog art than there was the first time around, simply because it's no longer needed to make tiny scans presentable or preserve bandwidth.

I'll still need to replace the image files on the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan site. To do that, I'll go back to the master files, cut the pages in half and upload those half-pages at a width of 800 pixels instead of the 600(-ish; getting a consistent width was one thing I did wrong at the time) pixels wide images the site has now, so that the originally-intended presentation is left intact and any pages containing comments can be preserved. That's a bit of a chore, but I'll get around to it eventually.

Potentially the best thing about the project: I now have lettered master files that are suitable for print, if anyone's interested...

Alcydia ends today.

October 26th, 2006 by Reinder

Today, some ten years after Geir, Daniel and I first discussed the concept of having their characters and mine crossing over, Alcydia ends. If you haven't read it yet, why not go to the beginning of the story, sit back, relax and enjoy the devilish laughter rending the night over Iceland? Countess Alcydia orders you to!

Torchwood episode 1 and 2

October 25th, 2006 by Reinder

I've seen a lot of negative response over the past few days to the start of the BBC's most overhyped new series, Torchwood. I blame the hype, because I just saw the first episode and found it perfectly engaging. It looked good, the script worked, and I easily found myself rooting for Gwen Cooper to get to the bottom of this Torchwood mystery, to remember what she found out and to get that job that she was inevitably going to get.

That last bit was the one thing that didn't quite gel - Gwen got over the nasty tricks that Jack Harkness pulled on her, and the trauma of what she saw in the climax, a little too easily. But it's easy to forgive that - she was going to get that job otherwise there wouldn't be a series.

What I especially liked was how the breakdown of Torchwood's internal discipline was constantly woven into the story, a breakdown that turned out to be essential to solving the framing plot. Nice work. If Russell T. Davies wrote this, I'd like to see more of that in that other over-hyped series next season.

Now, on to episode 2...

Update (several hours later): Episode 2, on the other hand, started out being bollocks and got ... bollockser. Shag gas over Cardiff? The "You've lost what it means to be human" speech already? And gah! Fertility clinic! You can't get away with that sort of thing even if you have written 40 minutes worth of decent plot before it. I disengaged within 10 minutes, so at that point, it had little more than train wreck appeal going for it, but that final coincidence made it a particularly ugly train wreck. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if the girl had been saved by twue wuv, which I'm now being told was the case in the episode of The Outer Limits the writer of this tripe stole his plot from. So he gets points for improving on his source material, but his final score still ends up at minus several million.

Things I meant to mention but kept forgetting

October 17th, 2006 by Reinder

Jeroen's 24-hour comic from October 7;
Jelena's 24-hour comic.
I haven't seen much of Erik Wielaert's 24-hour comic, which he's now shopping around to print publishers. I'll probably buy it when it comes out.

My old pal Sven van der Hart and his brother are opening a new Apple Store in Tilburg on Saturday, October 21. They didn't want to sponsor me, the bastards, but maybe if those of you living in or around Tilburg drop by on opening day and tell them Reinder sent you, they might change their minds. The brothers have a cute photo comic about themselves, by the way.

I have just finished Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan update, which means that I'm somewhat buffered again, and will have lasted six weeks in the Lazy Grind. I'm not sure how I'm going to get through week 7 - if I finish the next Gang of Four page by Friday, I should be able to get some more updates out, but that's a big if, considering how slowly work on the past few pages went. I don't quite know why they take me so long, but I have been eliminating distractions from my work space lately, which should help.
Next week's work is going to be complicated, involving a lot of new character design and environment design. The Rogues' homestead should be expanded and brought up to date so it fits the style in which the costumes are drawn. I was unhappy with the look of buildings in the scenes set in and around the Sheriff's office; buildings and interiors are a weak spot that I still need to work on.

I do believe I'm taking progressively more difficult hurdles while keeping ROCR on track. Initially, I had a bit of a lull in my workload, with nothing else demanding my attention other than Gang of Four. This month, work for the Comics Museum was added to my load; in November, it will be many hours of teaching in Drenthe, much of which will be for teenagers with special needs. That's going to take a lot of time in preparation and travel.

In December? Well, I hope I'll have another lull, but it's equally likely that the teaching engagements continue to trickle in. I'm already pre-booked for a series of introductory workshops at schools in Groningen in January as well, so keeping up the level of work to create three updates a week of a similar quality to the most recent ones will continue to be difficult.

Selling to SEOs part 2: ramifications

October 12th, 2006 by Reinder

The controversy over Ampersand's sale of his domain to a Search Engine Optimiser has re-erupted, leading Amp to post a comment-enabled version of his original post. In my earlier report, I focused on the spammy side of the issue. There's an interesting asymmetry here: from the point of view of an SEO, buying a domain for its pagerank is a lot more ethical than many of the other things they could do and so one should commend SEOs for doing it. From the point of the domain order, it's still smelly to say the least. Today, I learned that Google thinks so too: Maxspeak, for example, was delisted for similar practices in September.

But this new flare-up is all about the porn, the porn and the porn. And the lack of disclosure in advance to the community using the blog. But mostly the porn, the misogyny of the porn, the racism of the porn, the violence of the porn and the porniness of the porn. It's not readily visible for a human being investigating the SEO-owned pages on amptoons.com (you need to click the quasi-hidden "reviews" link on the home page and then scroll, but from a search engine's point of view, the site is devoting quite a bit of linkage to porn. This has naturally divided the overwhelmingly anti-porn, feminist audience of the blog, leading to accusations of Amp being a sellout or, possibly worse, only ever having been interested in riding the feminist waves for his own personal gain and status in the first place. A lot of posters feel that the blog was and is as good as it is because of the community underpinning it - and it has to be said that it is one of few blogs where the comments don't make me run away screaming - which raises the issue of how much a person like Ampersand can still claim a blog that is arguably a group effort. On the other hand, if the community had its way, Alas would not have been the inclusive place it is, and a counterargument could be that the group effort only works because Ampersand spends a lot of his time protecting the community both against trollish intrusions and against itself. Also, the community process is consistently initiated by Ampersand, in his own time and at his own expense.

I'm sure there are things that Amp could have done differently. I'm sure he now thinks that this deal wasn't a smart thing to do. But it's done, it's not going to be reversed soon, and from reading the responses of some of the folks who have pledged not to come to the site again, I can only recommend that they don't let the door hit them on the way out.

Alas, A Blog is one of few weblogs that have changed the way I look at the world, even, no, especially on issues about which I disagree with the stances taken. For example, I don't agree with Ampersand's stand on the science concerning obesity, but his writing has made me more aware of the problem of fat hate and how it manifests itself in the media. Likewise with the recent spate of postings on disability by guest blogger Blue, which for me were a starting point to explore disability rights issues more. From where I'm standing, Ampersand's karma can take a few knocks.

An overview of the flamewar can be found at Creative Destruction. My previous post on the sale is listed under "Posts critical of Barry" (which I suppose goes to show that more people read my posts than I think - gosh, maybe I should do some more substantive writing again, some time), but compaed to some of the other posts listed, my criticism is very mild and cautious.

Update Amp was robbed. The SEO didn't keep his side of the bargain, which involved hosting amptoons.com on a dedicated server (scroll to bottom of post).

Cool runnings

October 8th, 2006 by Reinder

Despite arriving at the start with a whole range of body parts feeling sore or intractably painful, I finished the 4 Mijl van Groningen, my first, in what will probably turn out to be about 35 minutes. I'll know the exact time by this time tomorrow. I started a little too fast and it took me a little while to find the appropriate tempo for me - I'll need to work on that.

The most problematic of my injuries is probably my left knee, which started really playing up after 4 or so kilometers. However, I have learned that by concentrating strongly on technique, making sure I lift that leg probably and keeping a bit of tension in my foot, I can make the knee behave, and I don't think I was even significantly slowed down by it. Good.

I'll skip the next training or two to give all the sore bits time to recover. But once I get back, I'll want to do more events.

Update: 34:39.7. Not bad for a first time, I think.

24-hour comics at the Stripmuseum

October 7th, 2006 by Reinder

Today's 24-hour comic day and a group of cartoonists in Groningen will spend the day pounding away at their desks at the Stripmuseum Groningen. I'm not taking part, but studio-mates Jeroen and Jelena are. I'll be dropping by periodically to distract themlend moral support. They'll be posting their work hourly (roughly) at the Groningen 24-hour comic blog. Event starts at 11 AM, CET.

Interestingly, a bit of a rivalry has sprung up between the Groningen group and the 24-hour cartoonists at comic shop Lambiek in Amsterdam. It seems those stuck-up westerners don't like having their thunder stolen by the museum's parent company Libéma's mighty press machinery. Ha! We'll do better comics too! And have better-tasting pizza and stronger coffee! And if that's a problem to you we'll cut off your gas supply, so there!

Mid-event update (11 PM): The event is now halfway through. Jelena has posted two large updates, enough to see the shape the story is taking. Others have posted smaller updates. Some have posted none, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily catastrophically behind. I noticed during my visit to the museum that Erik Wielaert was mapping out his entire project for the day in rough sketches - a risky strategy but what with him being the demon draughtsman that he is, he just might pull it off. Sigrid de Jong is drawing on A3 originals which don't fit under the scanner.
As far as the others are concerned, I don't know.

Martin Wisse reads between the lines of my original post and guesses that the Groningen crowd is desperate to start a rivalry with the Amsterdam group. Well, not really - it was just me sensing an opportunity to trash-talk. Both groups get along just fine, and G. Wasco arguably belongs to both. However, I had heard that some of the Lambiek people were genuinely a bit miffed at the way the Stripmuseum's corporate propaganda machine got the Groningen event into the national media. Of course, that had nothing to do with the artists involved on either side.

Late night update (2:30 AM on Sunday): My official reason for not taking part in the 24-hour comic day is that I was planning to run the 4 Mijl van Groningen today. That is very much the lesser challenge, though, and to be honest it's quite clear to me that right now, I'm not up to the bigger one. Case in point: I left the studio at 1:30 AM today having finished the line art on exactly one not particularly complicated Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page. I spent 8 hours on that, so I guess if I had stuck it out for 24 hours I could have got 3 pages scanner-ready. Maybe 4; the page I worked on today had a few things in it that I didn't really know how to draw, so that slowed me down. But that's about it. I really respect anyone who can work at the pace of a 24-hour comic and come up with anything above the level of scribbles.

After work, I paid the Groningen crew another visit and I'm pleased to report they're doing quite well. Erik Wielaert had started inking (and the work I saw didn't disappoint! I hope some of it shows up on the event's blog before next morning); Jeroen had 17 pages done and was ahead a bit; Jelena was keeping up; and as far as I could see, so were all the others. I took some pictures with Jelena's camera, which I'm sure will be showing up somewhere soon enough.

One good thing they're doing is giving themselves time for little breaks. There's a temptation to just keep on pushing on, but the occasional opportunity to relax is essential. Jeroen, who has a part-time day job at the museum, gave the others a ride on the animatronic carrousel that essentially shows a 3-dimensional 8-minute commercial for the museum itself. They'll all claim to have enjoyed it ironically, I'm sure. Eight minutes is probably just the right length.

I plan to pay one more visit in the morning. They're getting a call from a radio show at six-ish, because there's nothing that late-night, early-morning radio show producers like better than to have someone at the other end of a phone line babbling incoherently. Also, by the end of the event, the RTL 4 camera crew that was there on Saturday morning will be back in the hope of shooting some credible zombie footage for their secret horror project. I don't know if I'll make it to the museum before 11 AM, but I'll try.

Vera Rocks

October 1st, 2006 by cmkaapjes

Having been a member of the Vera Artdivision for some five years now, I am a tad prejudiced; but over on Gigposters.com two posters by fellow Artdivision members made "Poster of the Week." A nice bit of recognition for our hard work.
Mara's poster
Mara Piccione's
weird but awesome Ghettoways poster. This week it's Reinder's ex-studiomate Sidsel Genee's turn in the spotlights. Kudos!