MegaGear MegaTokyo Visual Novel MegaGear
Strip 914, Volume 5, Page 148

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< Piro >

the full page

"full page, part 2"

Tuesday - October 3, 2006

[Piro] - 12:18:00 - [link here]

It's funny, but this 'change' in the way i create comics -- drawing the comic on a whole sheet rather than each frame on separate pieces of paper -- is about as big a change as when i switched from a four panel comic to the full page/variable layout comic back towards the end of Chapter 0. The only problem is, most of you probably can't really see what has changed. A least not yet.

Oddly enough, drawing all panels on a single sheet of paper was exactly how i did the first couple of Megatokyo comics. I was using a single sheet of 8.5x11 paper with four blank squares on it that i printed from Illustrator. After a few comics, i started drawing each box separately (2 per sheet) so i could draw more details into the frames. I've been doing the comic that way ever since. Even when i switched to a full page layout, i was still doing each frame separately, i just had to (vaguely) try to draw the frames to the right proportion so it would fit on the finished page..

The benefit of doing each frame separately is that it gives you a lot more flexibility in fiddling around with the layout in the final stages of putting the comic together. You can adjust the size of the frames as well as crop and scale each drawing as needed to fit the dialogue and overall layout needed to make the comic work. Need more space in a frame to make more of a sense of time? Adjust the widths of the frames to give more of a sense of space. The drawbacks to this approach is that layout is almost left out of the drawing process. I suppose I could more tightly plan a final layout in the first place, but the method doesn't lend itself to doing that easily. It enables me to be loose about it and not worry about layout until the drawings are done and i'm assembling things in Illustrator. Each drawing tends to stand on its own, and as such i sometimes inadvertently overdraw or underdraw frames. You'd be surprised how much stuff gets cut out sometimes. :)

I've tried many times to take a more progressive look at frame layout, not because i want to create dynamic, crazy, cutting edge page layouts - but because the method i've been using creates really static layouts with little variation. I have not experimented with the sense of time, projection of space, etc, that can be done with layout. My frame sequences tend to be very straight forward, and balancing them after everything is drawn can sometimes results in a lot of hair pulling. Yes, i'm aware of all the books and whatnot that talk about frame layout and comics and crap like that. I've found a some of them to be rather cloying and high-browed. For me, i prefer looking at comics themselves to deduce how i can use it, rather than try to apply ideas spelled out for me in how-to books from so called experts. So, with the same spirit of experimentation that will forever be my excuse as to why Megatokyo sucks as much as it does, I decided to give a full page approach a try to see how it works.

The biggest challenge for me when drawing the comic as a single page is having to be decisive about layout before i start drawing. I have a tendency to muddle around with layout and often don't have it really settled until several drawings are done. Also, i need to make sure that each drawing takes space for dialogue into account from the outset. I have enough experience at this point to do this, but i'm used to not thinking about it as i draw.

Monday's comic was, for the most part, a pretty successful experiment. Sure, the frame layout is really not that different, and i could have easily done in my old method, but it opens up the door to many other things i can do. One thing i found, and it surprised me, was how satisfying it was to see an entire page come together as you draw it. Usually, i set out the sheets i'm working on and try to visualize the final comic, but with this method you can actually see it. It sounds weird, but its actually nice to start drawing a frame next to the previous one, rather than grabbing a blank sheet of paper. Maybe i'm weird, but i had a better sense of momentum. Also, for this comic i was originally going to duplicate the last two frames and just change the expressions, but i was inspired to just draw the final frame as well so the page could be a complete page.

Assembly is still something i'm working on. This comic is kind of a transitionary comic - it was done in illustrator with some modifications to my normal way of working (to accommodate a single drawing rather than multiple cropped ones). In this new approach i'm trying to accommodate both print and web versions of the comic so i don't have to spend an entire month going back and fixing up old comics. THis alone is worth the doing things this way. :) I'm also want to experiment with doing all the assembly in Photoshop, to try to get the workflow on these streamlined as much as possible (i can do more with text and other things in photoshop than i can in illustrator, and keeping things to one file would be nice). That part of the comic process still needs work, and i'll be experimenting with that tonight as i finish up Wednesday's comic.

I'd also like to make a quick comment about the content of Monday's comic. As you know, i tend to be pretty clean with the language and content of Megatokyo. It's not hard for me, given the way my sensibilities work, so reading MT is no worse in content than watching Friends or a PG-13 movie. I rarely do fanservice for the sake of fanservice... in fact, technically, i never do fanservice. How can i claim that showing the two main girls working on a computer in their underwear isn't fanservice? Because it's part of the story. Fanservice is when you do a cut panel showing gratuitous undressing for no reason other than you want to. It is showing a upskirt shot and a peek at undergarments because you can.

I play with anime and manga cliches a lot in Megatokyo, and part of the challenge is to work with them in ways that comment on them and question them. I've been concerned about this particular comic for years (yes, years) because i have been balking at drawing Kimiko and Erika like this. In the end, i decided that it was the way the story worked, the way it flowed, and that if done with the right amount of tact it could work pretty well. I think it did - i tried to make this seem as natural as possible (well, the first three frames is a humorous thing is a setup i couldn't really get around if i wanted to :P). Of course, i'm hardly done with this arc, so we'll see where it goes.

If this comic offended your sensibilities, i am sorry. This is not fanservice for the sake of fanservice - i have neither gone to one extreme (having the scenes that are more about showing off female bits rather than the story) nor the other (ridiculously blocking everything with boxes and bottles and showing mostly their heads). I think it's a good compromise. These characters are human, and these are parts of the story that have been part of the plan for a long time. Not every take on anime/manga cliches i do works, but we'll see how this one pans out.

Finally, you may have noticed that Megatokyo is loading faster than it has been for a long time. After much drama and piroko-channeling on my part, we finally managed to move the Megatokyo site as it currently stands to the new server (without all the problems we had when we tried it last month). I won't say that the new version of the Megatokyo site will be done soon, but it is back in the works (i restarted the project last month). For now, the current version of the MT site is running smoothly on Mishio and poor Makoto is getting a much needed respite.

< Dom >

Oop ack!

"25 is the new 40"

Thursday - October 5, 2006

[Dom] - 00:00:00 - [link here]

I've been thinking about my life lately.

Those of you who know me know that "I've been thinking about my life" lingers somewhere on my list of phrases between "I need to clean the bathroom" and "I'm going in for my prostate exam today."

Given the fact that I have a morbid imagination, sitting around thinking about life never comes to any good. I inevitably depress myself, and the main effect of that is that I get unusually quiet. Being quiet at all is pretty damn unusual for me, honestly.

I've come this far through life by barreling through it like a blinded bull in mating season, and I think it's worked out well. Overall, I know that my problems are small and petty, and I'm well-adjusted enough that people feel comfortable discussing their lives with me, since I'm a good listener and won't try to butt in with my own problems. I just don't think my problems are worth talking about, since I know that given time and effort they'll work out without anyone ever needing to hear me whining.

But I turn 25 in three weeks, and the state things are in has me thinking hard about where I am, and where I hoped to be at this age when I was younger.

Strangely, what got me thinking about this was The Onion and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and how it relates to my career and this very rant space. (There was a college football factor, but that's a separate rant and will go up later)

You see, when I started writing earnestly, I was at GamePro, and I didn't just write jokes to make people laugh, but to make a point. The jokes told a story in and of themselves, pointed out little things that wouldn't necessarily have gotten expressed in narrative, and while I'm not deluding myself into believing that I was doing any sort of hard-hitting journalism, I like to think that people at least _remembered_ what I was talking about and learned something. The same applies to my Newtype USA writing, where I hope not just to entertain, but actually _tell my side of the story_ through inane analogies and strange little jokes.

But on the whole, and especially in this space, it seems like I'm writing jokes for jokes' sake, just to put smiles on people's faces for 15 minutes. The two works I mention, the ones I read and watch every week, they're comedy with an edge, with a point, and most importantly, with a conscience. I write comedy with a bemused smile and a series of non sequiturs that relate only to my life and how I just don't seem to be like other people.

I'm okay with that to a point--you write what you know, and I know my own little quirks and anxieties well enough to know what other people will find funny about them. And certainly, comedy as a method of self-examination is an established and often popular form - just look at Woody Allen movies, Everybody Hates Chris and certain Dave Barry strips.

But I think about if I'm doing enough with my voice, even in the most insignificant ways. I've kept my political opinions out of this column for years, for one because I know that my views on politics are wishy-washy and I'm horrible at backing up my opinions. But here I sit watching countless horrors inflicted by Americans on each other and the world out of fear, ignorance and anger while I just shake my head and wait for the political climate to change. Did my parents flee Communism so that I could sit on my hands in freedom and shake my head at the ridiculous lengths people will go through to appease their fears and keep themselves in power? I vote diligently and in ways I think are responsible, but what am I doing, really? Talking about how blackjack dealers named Blanka and Robert Garcia will take your money while conveniently ignoring how the government is afraid of my tiny tubes of TOILETRIES while soldiers are going out every day and dying in what has rapidly become a self-fulfilling prophecy of hate and unrest.

What am I DOING with myself? What SHOULD I be doing with myself? It's never too early to be asking yourself this question, and it seems like I haven't asked it in far too long.

Part of this goes back to my job, too. I'm not complaining about the job itself--the pay's fine, the co-workers are great and I have no right to complain about the 10-minute commute. But what am I doing here? My job here is not to entertain and inform, it's to make people more efficient and knowledgeable about software packages and services.

Was this why I abandoned computer science 6 years ago? To write about software and business process design from the other side? Can I really say that this is what I plan to be doing for the rest of my life? Can I say that this is what I want to be doing by this time next year?

Once, Newtype casually asked me how willing I would be to move to Texas were they to consider hiring me on, and while I know where I want to be (which is right here with everything and everyone I know), I told them that I'd move out there in a heartbeat because it's what I want to do. But I thought, deep down inside, that I'd be willing to settle for almost any writing/editing job that let me stay in the area, and it looks like I've done exactly that. Where does that leave me? Home, where I want to be.

What does that make me? That's a stickier question, and it's contributing to a lot of time spent staring at the ceiling. What am I doing, and how does that compare to what I should be doing?

What have I accomplished over the last year that I can be proud of, really? When I look back at 2006, will I look at it as the year that I became financially stable and paid off my debts? Is that what I'm wanting out of life? Will it be like a friend worried about when I said that I was working at SAP, and is it the year that I gave up on the succession of dreams I had been living previously and settled for stability?

Would I be willing to quit this job just to look for my old dream jobs in the publishing industry? Or would that be foolishness to leave a job after just 7 months in order to try and bust back into an industry that's going through its crash cycle soon? Would it be brave of me to wander back into the unknown, or would it be cowardly of me to back out of my current challenge and run back into a misty-eyed fantasy before I was done with what I want to do here? Would I be doing it just for the sake of change? Would I not be doing it just for fear of change?

I know that in many ways, these problems are insignificant, given that I'm still living what many people would only dream--I interviewed Nanase Aoi for Newtype, I signed autographs at San Diego Comic-Con and I made thousands upon thousands of people laugh, brightening their days just a little, which would be enough for anyone.

So I usually shut up about it and keep these kind of things to myself so that they don't bother other people. But sometimes I can't help but wonder, and that's when I slow down and try and figure out why.

There will be one more rant of me wondering what I'm doing at this stage of my life, and then I'll return to being the weirdo you're used to--it's just that sometimes, you can't help but sit down and dump your troubles into your keyboard.

However, if I'm reminding you guys too much of Fred, just tell me and I'll gladly bash myself silly with a nerf bat, throw myself into the bright green waters of the Dotonbori river and go fishing for Japanese novelties that have been thrown in there over the years. It's only fair.

PS: The voice of Doraemon is really good at Arkanoid. This makes me happy.

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