Archive for the ‘Webcomi cs’ Category

Darkness and homeopathic bartendering

February 21st, 2012 by Reinder

Darkness by Boulet is probably the best 24-hour comic ever made. The writing and art are just too good to be true and even in its current imperfect translation (the comic was originally in French) it has some classic lines in it.

Speaking of which, the other day I read Daniel Davies' The Christmas Sermon for the second time, a year after I'd first read it. Back then, I went as far as to read it aloud to Aggie. It's still hilarious a year later.

Art from 1999: Display design, self-portraits and… Ezra Pound?

September 12th, 2009 by Reinder

The images below are all from a single sketchbook from 1999, and are all that remains of that sketchbook.
First, two self-portraits for a solo magazine called IK (me) that I put out in the late 1990s. It consisted mostly of autobiographical stories, some of which made it online.

Penciled self-portraits of me, myself and I. Yes, I too have done the pencil-biting self-portrait schtick.

Penciled self-portraits of me, myself and I. Yes, I too have done the pencil-biting self-portrait schtick.


Display art for a convention. I was winding down as the editor of another fanzine, <i>Impuls</i>, and one of the last issues was a special dedicated to the Devil. We got some good devil-related comics in including a very nice page by Erik Wielaart, and I wanted to make some displays for a convention. Then I crashed and burned on conventions, hard, and didn't go to any for years. Needless to say, this display never got made.

Display art for a convention. I was winding down as the editor of another fanzine, Impuls, and one of the last issues I worked on was a special dedicated to the Devil. We got some good devil-related comics in including a very nice page by Erik Wielaart, and I wanted to make some displays for a convention. Then I crashed and burned on conventions, hard, and didn't go to any for years. Needless to say, this display never got made.

That year, I was also considering creating a graphic novel about the life of the poet Ezra Pound, of whom I'd been reading a biography for some reason. I'd got fascinated by the complexity of his life and his obsessive, larger than life and ultimately very unpleasant personality. In my head, it morphed into an online graphic novel that would fully use the formal advantages that Internet as a medium has to offer, and so we can all agree that we dodged a bullet when I decided to abandon the project. Aaaanyway... while working on it, I tried a number of approaches to drawing the main character:

Semi-abstract or manga-influenced

Semi-abstract or manga-influenced


Realistic

Realistic


White House in Orbit-esque

White House in Orbit-esque


Something more like my default style of the time, so it'd be easier for me to draw

Something more like my default style of the time, so it'd be easier for me to draw


Before scanning these images, they go through a second round of selection. Sometimes there are images that I think are interesting the first time around (at least in the context of when they were drawn and why) but that don't look so interesting on a day's reflection. In this batch, there was an image that I felt I'd be really better off without: yet another attempt at redrawing the cover art for The Green Knight's Belt from 1992. Every few years, I get a wild hair to redraw that cover (the current version is from 2005)... I'll do it again sometime, but the last thing I need when I do that is a lackluster version from ten years ago to refer back to. So that one is gone, and good riddance.

Art from 1998: White House in Orbit sketches

September 11th, 2009 by Reinder

I've gone through my sketchbooks over the past week to pick what all I was going to keep and what was going to get thrown out. Pickings from the year 1998 have been slim: unless I find another sketchbook from that year that I haven't torn up yet, the images below are all that I want to keep at all.
All are early sketches for White House in Orbit and what's noticeable is how little character art I did. It was pretty much one or two drawings per character, no turnarounds, no height charts, not even many repeat drawings to hone and stylize the characters. Just one or two, and then I got on with drawing the actual comic. Things have changed a lot since then.

Agent X8.5 in a checked suit. I decided against that for the very obvious reason that they're a pain to draw

Agent X8.5 in a checked suit. I decided against that for the very obvious reason tht they're a pain to draw


Jane and X8.5. "Rocket Bandits" was already being written by the time I got around to working on "Orbital Germans"

Jane and X8.5. Rocket Bandits was already being written by the time I got around to working on Orbital Germans


President Perkins was inspired by an old cartoon of President Roosevelt that I saw in a book.

President Perkins was inspired by an old cartoon of President Roosevelt that I saw in a book.


The Servo-Maid. I'd have liked to do a robot revolt story some time.

The Servo-Maid. I'd have liked to do a robot revolt story some time.


Freiherr von Schwanzwald. I'd forgotten all about that name...

Freiherr von Schwanzwald. I'd forgotten all about that name...


Junker Von Schwulenbad. The Germans all had vaguely, or sometimes not so vaguely, insulting names, very few of which we actually ended up using in the comic

Junker Von Schwulenbad. The Germans all had vaguely, or sometimes not so vaguely, insulting names, very few of which we actually ended up using in the comic


X8.5, one more time

X8.5, one more time

Trust me, it will get better as I zoom through the years.

Two art blogs I like, plus two webcomics to check out

June 27th, 2009 by Reinder

Mythwood - The Art of Larry MacDougal and A Vintage Sky are both sketchblogs showing lots of fantasy art in neat storybook illustration style. I find them very inspirational.

Meanwhile, in her blog, Aggie linked to two comics that I need to check out: The Epic of Cuchulainn and Lovecraft is missing. I'll get around to reading'em one of these days - both are still new enough not to have inconveniently large archives.

Designing webcomics for a range of sight impairments

May 29th, 2009 by Reinder

I posted the following on a Comicgenesis forums thread about comics for the visually impaired about two weeks ago:

The assumption among most commenters here seems to be that people are either perfectly sighted or completely blind - a lazy assumption that Bruce Tognazzini, former interaction designer for Apple, has some things to say about: Inclusive Design, Part One, Inclusive Design, Part Two. Read those and throw the "all or nothing", "we can't give blind people the full experience so why give them anything at all?" or "let's tack on some features as an afterthought" mentality out of the window. Instead, design your comic and website from the ground up so that people with a range of impairments can use it.

Sight impairments:
Many people are near-sighted. Everyone in my family is. That is usually easily corrected and in any case the computer monitor is usually close.
About five percent of all males have some form of colorblindness. When was the last time you tested your site and comic in an online colorblindness simulator? (Ur....... two years ago, in my case)
My parents are in their late sixties and have aging, presbyopic eyes. They need large print on their monitor - does your website force small type, low-contrast type or white-on-black with seriphs? Give people a way to set their own type size easily. (I can see reading glasses in my near future myself.)
For more severe vision impairments, you could provide a magnifying glass feature. This can be implemented in DHTML/Java or you can point to a browser plugin that does this. This group will also benefit from screen-readable text hidden in the alt attribute or elsewhere on your site, as will very young readers, the completely blind or readers with severe dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Speaking of which, studies have shown that if you design with some consideration for the very young, the very old or people with learning disabilities, everybody else also benefits because completing tasks on a website becomes easier for everyone. Get ahead of everyone else by designing inclusively!

(Do I practice what I preach? Not fully, yet. I've only recently started thinking about these things again. But the next iteration of my website will have more of these considerations built in)

I'm reposting it here because there's one disability you can't design for and it's "I can write but I can't read" syndrome, which is very prevalent on the web in general and on large forums in particular. While several people including the original poster either got it or said that that was what they were thinking about all along, it took but a handful of follow-up posts for the thread to go back into the "but comics are a visual medium so designing for the blind is stupid, ha ha ha you are stupid/if you take away the visuals it's an audiobook not a comic, ha ha ha you are stupid" mentality. Instead of whining in the forum itself about how my contribution is being ignored, I've decided to repost it somewhere where smart people can read it (and whine a bit about how my contribution is being ignored. Well like I said in my last post, I have a cold and feel like I am entitled to a bit of whining today).

Related: Colorblind web page filter. I posted this link before back in 2005, and it still works. At the time, reader Branko Collin wrote in to say the GIMP had a colorblindness filter built in, but I've not been able to find it in my recent-ish versions of the program.

Return of the Son of the End of Free, Part II

May 17th, 2009 by Reinder

Over the years, I've become skeptical of paid content as a viable model for most of the content being published online, particularly for webcomics. In the previous part, I discussed what I believe are the reasons micropayments have historically failed and free content resurged in the mid-2000s.

I believe Rupert Murdoch's plan to start charging for The Wall Street Journal online will also fail, but for a different, much simpler reason: this recession is much worse than the last one, and end users are keeping their wallets shut much more. Even if the problems with the infrastructure and the immediacy of micropayments are resolved and users finally start understanding the concept, they are going to pinch their pennies, hard, and refuse to pay for anything they can get for free elsewhere. Entertainment, which is much less fungible than news, will not be safe from this: if the money simply isn't there, people won't buy it and will instead go with the inferior good that they can afford. Or they will simply entertain themselves: the choice won't be between a paid Radiohead album and a free Hootie and the Blowfish album as Scott McCloud argued in the essay I quoted in Part I, but between a paid Radiohead album and a game of Monopoly with the family, a free knees-up at the Irish pub or an hour practicing Radiohead songs on the guitar.

However, there are two long-run scenarios in which I micropayments and subscriptions may win out. I hope these won't come to pass as neither of them will be pretty. They are The Big Content Squeeze of 2010 and the Google Power Grab Scenario. In both, Rupert Murdoch's assertion that the Internet will never be the same again will be correct.

The Big Content Squeeze of 2010
The recession continues through 2009 and into 2010 and it hits hard. Initially, this means more free content in the form of blogs as newly unemployed people turn to writing. However, it becomes harder to finance the content. Small-time bloggers move from their own hosted space to free bloghosts to save money. Then the free bloghosts stop being free and the blogs vanish.
Meanwhile, newspapers stop treating their free content as loss leaders, and start seeing them as the profit-eaters they really are. Some switch to micropayment solutions, which fail, before shutting own their sites. Others shut down at once. This robs the remaining bloggers of much of their material, because most news/politics/gossip/satire bloggers do not do original news gathering and are entirely parasitic on the so-called Mainstream Media (the idea that bloggers are "citizen journalists" is pure, unadulterated Bloggocks). The quality and interest level of those blogs drops and so do their revenues. Bit by bit, the entire Long Tail of all websites disappears. Comicspace loses its advertising revenues and its venture capital funding at the same time. Keenspot loses its advertising revenues. Both firms close their doors and only the most succesful comics hang on to their existence, on independent hosts and subsidized directly by their users. Eventually, the Short Head, the highest-quality, most popular websites, starts getting eaten as well. By that time, though, content is no longer abundantly available and is indeed getting quite scarce. People who want to read news or blogs or webcomics online have the choice between paying for them or not getting any at all. In this new landscape, micropayments are a viable model once the recession starts bottoming out. By time the recovery is finally under way, micropayments and the sites financed by them are entrenched, the infrastructure for content paid for by advertising is dead and gone and new, free content sites will not be immediately competitive because users will be loyal to the content they have already paid for.

This end result, of course, isn't all bad. The result of this Darwinian process will be a smaller number of sites that have high quality by a number of metrics. They won't waste the users' time, they will be well-made and worth paying for - for a time, at least. They will also have to stay strictly within the mainstream and within the boundaries of acceptable opinion and taste. There will not be a significant Long Tail of niche sites. As the successful media get entrenched, the lack of competition and the need to avoid giving offense may lead to blander, less interesting content - it will continue to very be good at a technical level but will it challenge the reader? And if it doesn't, where else will you go if you do want to be challenged?

The Google Power Grab
This scenario, on the other hand, is one whose outcome won't be good at all. In this one, Google develops a working micropayment system (currently, Google Checkout does not support true micropayments as defined back in 2000, but is suitable for larger payments. I don't know anyone who uses it, though), and sits down with News Corp and all the other big media outfits until they all sign up to use that system exclusively. Because Google already has your data, you probably already have an account with it and most people trust it far more than they should, it is in a position to make its system ubiquitous and immediate in one fell swoop, and it has the funding to ride out the rest of the recession. It can also give preferential treatment to sites covered under its micropayment system, making them show up first in searches and embedding micropayments code into its search links so these sites perform better than non-micropayment sites. People will still be reluctant to use them for as long as the recession lasts, but they will be pressured into accepting them earlier than if any other party supplies the micropayment service (because they will be shut out of the best search results if they don't) and once they get more money into their pockets again, they will start embracing them.

In this scenario, Google leverages its power to gain even more power, and unlike in the Big Squeeze scenario, the big media win without having to raise their game for even a moment. The landscape changes irrevocably, to the advantage of parties that are already entrenched.

I'm not happy with both scenarios. The first one seems more likely right now than the second, as I recently read an essay (on a Dutch newspaper's blog, no less - but I unfortunately didn't take note of where it was and can't find it anymore) in which the writer recommended that newspapers shut down their websites entirely so they'd stop competing with their paper editions. But I'll be glad if neither come to pass and consider not having a good, viable micropayments system on the web to be a small price to pay for that.

Some more fun fantasy comics

March 14th, 2009 by Reinder

I've been running a low-cost advertising campaign on Project Wonderful recently, and I'm finding some interesting comics in my referrals as a result:

North World is one that I'd seen before. I'm a sucker for styles like that - an effortless blend of American comic strip and European juvenalia. I also love the concept of sword and sorcery fantasy in a modern setting and with modern dress.

Heliothaumic, on the other hand, mixes contemporary and period settings freely. It has a cute style and looks interesting with a unique approach to figure drawing. I haven't archive-dived it yet, but will do when I've got a little more time.

Curvy is the weirdest of them all and the one that generated the most buzz in a short time. I briefly looked at it when it started, thought "this is interesting" and filed it away for future archive-diving. It appears to update frequently, so I'd better get a move on.

All three to be added to my Belfry account (how about creating public profiles, guys? After 12 years, it's about time you got around to doing that!) and my giant link list.

Two fun fantasy webcomics

February 1st, 2009 by Reinder

I discovered not one but two very promising fantasy webcomics today: The Meek, and Lumia's Kingdom.

The Meek has fantastic art and lovely colouring and reminds me a bit of Zander Cannon's The Replacement God. At only six pages into the story, it could go in a lot of different directions, but from the commentary, the creator has thought about the concept for a long time and has put a lot of work into character and concept art prior to starting on the comic proper. That is a good sign.

I instantly liked the title character of Lumia's Kingdom. Her attitude reminds me of Kel's in a lot of ways, including the bit of quick thinking in a crisis. The art is not as pretty as The Meek, but it's more than serviceable.

I'll be following both comics in the next few months, though I'll hold off on putting them on the front page list until I've seen more of their stories unfold.

[Adam] Ursula Vernon has been robbed

September 16th, 2008 by Adam Cuerden

Artist Ursula Vernon, of the webcomic Digger, The Little Creature stories, and one of my favourite DeviantArt accounts has been robbed.

Here's her livejournal post about it. She hasn't lost everything - she was about to move into her boyfriend's, and that saved her laptop and (I think) her computer, but she lost her scanner, her printer - all the electronic stuff needed to, you know, do her job as a freelance artist.

I'd encourage everyone to do what they can.  I'm also going to try and do some fanart for her, I'd encourage everyone else to do the same.
-Adam Cuerden

On pencil art and time savings

September 5th, 2008 by Reinder

Using uninked pencil art, like I've done on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan for the past three weeks and on American Gothic before that, saves me some time, but not as much as you would think. The time savings don't come from skipping the inking and colouring phases - all the effort that used to go into inking and colouring (keeping in mind that DFG has been doing the colour flats on my comics for almost two years now) now go into the final pencil line art and the grey pencil tones.

The time savings that I do get come from a) simplifying the process so there is no longer a separate Photoshop colouring stage after I get the colour flats back from DFG, and b) the elimination of wet media accidents, which I'm very prone to. The comic creation process still takes a whole afternoon even if I cut corners in drawing backgrounds - a page full of close-ups is easier for me to do than one with lots of scenery or action, so that's the sort of pages I've been drawing. I am very envious of Aggie's ability to just knock out an American Gothic page in a few hours.

Last long weekend (a local holiday), I didn't get two pages of Feral done so there's still no buffer. The buffer for Invasion is running out already. Next weekend, I may end up not having an afternoon of uninterrupted drawing time. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, and it's only three weeks into my resumption of art duties on Feral.