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Strip 857, Volume 5, Page 100


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< Piro >

The two frames i added to monday's comic.

"of wobbly rails"

Sunday - May 14, 2006

[Piro] - 14:05:00 - [link here]

Before i get started, i wanted to point out that we have a selection of new stuff in the MegaGear store that you might want to check out. We have four new t-shirt designs, Zombie (which turned out to be a pretty cool shirt), Live In Your World Die in Mine, the l33t Ninja t-shirt ( a black design printed on a black shirt - yeah, its kind of a fun design :P) and a new girl's shirt, Goshiku. We also have some nice new chain mail bracelets inspired by Pirogoeth and the Engames stories. These are hand-made from steel and rubber rings in a bracelet that is flexible and can fit most sized wrists (tho it might be a little small for people with really big arms). I had one made out of grey and black rings a while ago and i've enjoyed it enough that we decided to bring them to our store. We also had some made with all black rings (the N1nj4 Bracelet) and purple and black rings (the Miho bracelet) If any of that sounds interesting, please head on over to the MegaGear store and check out our new offerings. As always, purchases made in the MegaGear store help support Megatokyo, and your support is very much appreciated.

Last week's comic output wasn't too bad, at least compared to what it has been for the past two months. Of course, It's hard to get back on track when you were never very solidly on track to begin with. :) Monday's comic was a prime example of me being off my game. It really felt unfinished, so much so that i went back and added two frames to make it work better. It looks much better now.

These Endgames comics have been fun for me to produce and i've been enjoying doing them, but i just have this nagging sense that everything i've been doing recently is not meeting up to my potential. The individual comics, the story arcs in this chapter aren't bad, but there is an overall order that i feel is lacking. There's order there, it's just not as refined as it should be... not as refined as i am capable of doing.

In other words, i'm doing ok, but i do feel like i could be doing better. It's easy to point towards the workload for Book 4 and the convention trips i've taken as reasons for some of these problems, but that's part of what bothers me. Stuff like this should not derail me as much as it does.

I think i'd be far less susceptible to derailing if i had a more reliable workflow. I know what you're thinking - jeeze, four books worth of material and 800 comics and he still hasn't figured out his workflow? It's actually a real problem. It's sort of like each comic requires a different path and each and every time i do one i am not sure if i'll manage to find that path. Some paths are easy, right there in front of you. Others tend to feel like you are trailblazing through a dense rainforest in a hurricane with two broken legs. There are no tried and true "systems" that i use to get from idea to finished comic. Sometimes i have everything mapped out and know exactly what i want each frame to look like. Sometimes i write scripts, sometimes i have scribbles and sketches. Sometimes i have a loose collection of dialogue, sometimes i write out the action and describe the frames. Sometimes i have nothing more than a vague idea in my head as i sit down to draw. The worst is when I have no idea and end up relying on the characters to tell me what happens next as i draw them. It sounds neat, but its really a painful way to produce comics. The better comics and sequences i've done have been the ones i've planned successfully.

I suppose its the age old problem of "it's stuck in my head and i can't get it out!!" If only there was an easy way to do this. Ball peen hammers don't work, nor does wishful thinking. Lots of people have discovered solid paths and methodologies that help them build paths between what's in their heads and what ends up being their creative work. What works for one person doesn't always work for someone else. It's something we have to figure out for ourselves. Years and years of struggling with sketchbooks and text editors and outlining programs and flowcharting and index cards and post it notes and tarot cards... i've never really found a system that WORKS. A system that actually helps me me assemble ideas and coordinate thoughts, remember details, take note of interesting concepts, and in the end produce a stream of well thought out and planned comics. It's like an old car that you hope is gonna make it one more season. A car that you have to pray will start each and every morning, or hope that it won't conk out in heavy traffic, or worse yet catch on fire while cruising down the highway.

I won't say that every system i've used hasn't worked a little. The mismash of Omni Outliner files and Text files and scribbles on dev sheets and index cards all help to some degree, It's just that there is no system, no framework i have that WORKS well enough that it really helps me climb that wall of broken rock that leads to finished comics. Way too often it's more like free climbing :P

When all else fails, the comics do at least come together when i start drawing. That's great, but that's now you produce REALLY good comics and stories. Prep and planning and thinking things out in an organized fashion leads to deeper more resonant, polished works. That's why MT disappoints me sometimes - i know i can do better.

I've done a good job of tackling the drawing fears i've had over the years. I feel pretty confident that when i sit down to draw a comic these days i can do it. Don't laugh, but it's only recently that i've had any faith at all in this ability. Writing is another story. When it's flowing, things go great. When the characters refuse to talk to me, that can get scary. I never know which i'm going to be dealing with when i sit down to work on a comic.

That said i've really been doing a lot of work recently to try to kick start Chapter 8 and try to focus in on what's left of the Megatokyo story so i can do it well. Omni Outliner has worked well for some aspects of script writing, but i find that i miss the linear narrative approach to getting ideas on paper. I find myself not allowing myself to freely write, i get stuck on the numbers and the formatting, not the content. I haven't used them in a while, but i also sometimes use BBEdit and plain text files to write things out, a kind of linear thought process, a brain dump. The only problem with that is you end up with a jumble of words and lots of writing that can be hard to organize into useful bits that can lead finished comics down the road. Thought strings from me are amazingly messy and show a mind that bounces from idea to tangent in ways that would give a psychologist a headache. I'm playing with some text editors that have different tool sets that might give me some more flexibility to deal with the information that gets put down - tools that might help me manage things better. Right now i'm playing with Ulysses and the rather interesting ways that it works (tho i have to say the program looks worth it just for the full screen mode :) Time will tell if that works for me or not.

I'm getting more and more organized with other things in my life, and the last great barrier to get over is this one concerning writing. Sure, i have it all worked out in my head including all the little details and crazy mixed up tangle of threads that make up this stupid comic... but my head could use a little help.

Wow, that ramble went on longer than i thought it would. Been doing a lot of thinking today, and that's the trouble :P I did manage to treat myself to a trip to Borders to pick up some manga that i've been dying to get my hands on: Fruits Basket #13, Genshien #5, Rozen Maiden #1 and Karin... er.... "Chibi Vampire" #1.

Oh, speaking of "Chibi Vampire"... i've already said my peice about what an abomination the name is for this excellent manga series. That aside, I found myself a little puzzled by the book when i tried to read it. The cover was on the left side of the book, like it was a normal english language book or a Korean Manwah translation. I thought Karin was a japanese title? Uh, it is. Why is this book setup to run from Left to Right? Did they flip the damn thing too??

No, they didn't flip it. The cover is on the wrong side of the book.

Doesn't Tokyopop like, claim to have massively popularized the idea of unflipped translated manga? Proud of the fact that they have an entire generation who are willing to read stuff in the wrong direction? How the hell could they put the cover on backwards?

Well, i suppose with all of the other offerings they have these days, the Korean Manwah titles, the OEL .... er, wait, what are we supposed to call it now? World Manga? No, wait... GLOBAL manga, thats it. (i have no idea what i do anymore, it's getting too confusing. Labels suck.) they having trouble keeping it all straight.

Ok, sorry, i really shouldn't pick on them. Karin/Chibi Vampire is a great title. Blame my ire about this on my annoyance with the ass name, which can be easily ignored once you get into the story.

< Dom >


"Returning to the fold"

Tuesday - May 16, 2006

[Dom] - 21:00:00 - [link here]

So a few weeks ago, as I was doing my usual crazy amount of multitasking at home (if you've ever seen my desktop, I'm usually juggling four browser tabs in Firefox, skipping songs I don't feel like hearing in my playlist, running a game windowed, sometimes two games, and holding about three conversations while writing an article) my laptop crashed.

It'd been a long-established habit of my ol' Alienware to die horribly when the first heat of summer started to descend, so I shrugged, gave it a few hours to cool from its usual egg-frying temperatures, and fired it up again.

It crashed within five minutes.

Okay, so I watched some TV, played my Xbox 360 some, and went to sleep. I went to work, came home, and turned the ol' laptop on.

It froze in three minutes this time.

So I was computerless--relatively. And that led to an interesting series of events as I dealt with my primary gaming machine dying--I could still use my work laptop for staying in contact and surfing, but my primary online activities--gaming and more gaming--were cut off from me.

So what did I do? Well, I started to resurrect my old desktop, but in the meantime I did a lot of things. I got out more. I read a lot of manga that I had on my back burner, including the Houshin Engi reprints and a lot of baseball manga. I watched sports. I listened to old music that I've always told myself I would, like Earth Wind and Fire and the Jackson Five.

I made the top 4 of a Magic tournament, coming within two matches of qualifying for the Pro Tour.

But that's another story, and I don't want to think about how much my Nerd Quotient would have risen were I to travel cross-country for a professional Magic tournament.

The main story in this is how I returned to being an attendee at conventions.

See, I realized last month that my finances were stable for the first time in years, I told Fred "Hey, I think I'll be going to ACen." He didn't talk to me for a week after that, but I assumed that his fearful silence was approval, so I booked my flight to Chicago, and thought about what I'd do in Chi-town.

I decided that I'd try life as an attendee, just wandering around and trying to get a feel for conventions again--it's disconcerting to realize that the average age of these things is staying the same while you're getting older. But Fred liked the idea of surprising people at the MT panel with a hidden Dom attack, probably because it kept me out of his hair for as long as possible, and so I arranged to stay with friends and wander around with almost no obligations or constraints, just a wish to see the sights.

As an indication of how little planning went into this, I didn't even know where I was staying until a day or two before the convention, which thankfully only required a quick call over to "Subey" (apparently, Suberunker is too hard to say) and his friends. Many thanks go to the folks at Random Destination Studios for giving me a place to crash at the last minute, as well as being great folks in general.

Anyway, I flew out to Chicago after work on Friday, arriving Friday night--just in time to head into the hotel room filled with raucous music video editors, shoot the breeze with them, and fall asleep.

Saturday was when all the fun started. In a move based on my family's reactions when I don't have my glasses on, I put on a hat and took off my glasses. The result was that even my friends had to take a few moments to recognize me. I felt all proud of myself, like a master of disguise or Superman, and I wandered around the convention. My first stop was breakfast, but after that, I wandered around the dealer's room, where I caught up on some games and DVDs I needed to pick up and indulged in my latest obsession, figures.

Then, I got in line for the autographs at the MegaTokyo booth.

I've always been impressed by what Fred does at every con, even though I think that it's excessive and crazy--or maybe because it's crazy. It takes a special kind of person to take an entire weekend and do little other than sit, draw and talk to fans while signing your name. It's a peculiar madness that Fred has, that everyone who wants his art and name on a piece of paper should get it, and it's impressive.

Anyway, my Saturday morning in line, I talked to a bunch of fans and just hung out, and when Fred spotted me in line (he can recognize me with my glasses off, it's either long association or an instinctive fear) he chuckled to himself and kept at his work. I'm not sure if he chuckled because no one recognized me in line or because I look oddly like a raccoon when I don't have my glasses on, but hey, I got a laugh.

What I did after leaving the dealer's room is a blur, but I do remember falling asleep near the line for the MegaTokyo panel, then waking up and scrambling into line, where I did more hanging out and talking to fans.

Here, I met a mother-daughter pair who were very fun to talk to, and I learned that the daughter was missing prom for ACen and the MT panel, which she attributed either to dedication or the inability to find a date. Since one of these options is much more flattering to everyone involved, I salute you, Girl Who Missed Prom for MT.

Also in line, someone eyed me and said "Did you know that you look a lot like Dom?" But he didn't follow that up with the "Are you Dom?" chaser, so I didn't have to lie, for which I'm thankful--I may be a dues-paying member of the hyperbole club, but I don't like having to lie outright.

Random note: the last time someone asked me if I was Dom and I said no, that someone turned out to be Greg Dean. Who later invited me to his wedding. So I've given up on the policy, which led to one of my opponents at the Magic PTQ asking me "Didn't I see you on Jeopardy? Wait, are you Dom from MegaTokyo?" and me saying yes.

I honestly don't remember much about the panel, either, since at this point we're finding new and amusing ways to answer old questions (is there going to be an MT anime? Where is [character who hasn't popped up in a while]?). People seem to have had a good time, especially Fred's adorable infant niece (I have this avuncular weakness, which I don't mind because it gives me an excuse to write the word avuncular), so I'm pretty sure it ended up alright.

The rest of the con was more hanging out with the RDS folks, which means that ACen is one of the most fun conventions I've had in years--no running from press appointment to press appointment, no booth commitments, the freedom to go out and eat meals whenever I was hungry and not just when I wasn't busy--and I think my enthusiasm for the convention in general is back.

But not for the convention part itself, just for the people.


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