Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to THINK you're getting work done without actually getting any work done

I love Google SketchUp. Seriously. Some purists might consider it a cheat, but I don't. I think it's using another tool to help the comic book artist. Our job is already one of the most difficult jobs there is in the storytelling world (we're the actors, the directors, the cinematographers, the editors, the set designers, the concept designers, the continuity person, etc...). Utilizing whatever tools you can to help is just smart business to me.

Anyway, I'm no 3D wiz, but I can stumble my way around SketchUp okay and I continue to learn how to be more efficient when making my models. Regardless, it's a time suck to be sure. My hope, however, is that by making models of locations that I'll come back to over and over, I save time in the long run. Oh, how I hope. Anyway, below are a few of the models I've put together for RECOVERY INCORPORATED.

This first batch is Mia's home, a penthouse loft on the upper east side of Manhattan. I built the building but cobbled together most of the other parts using all of the awesome models you can find on Google's 3D Warehouse. Mia's pad is a pretty cool place, indicative of the lifestyle she leads. It's large and open, accessible only through the regular elevator, the service elevator, and the stair well. Only her closest friends and family know the code to access the penthouse floor. The biggest part of the loft penthouse is devoted to her own in-home dojo, decked out with all the proper equipment. And to contrast that physical part of her life? A zen garden in her bedroom.

Next up is her office. She has the first two floors in a corner building off Broadway on the upper west side of Manhattan. The lobby, where her cousin Jackie works as her assistant, is lavish. It suggests to potential clients that she is good at her job, hence the ability to afford such a place. Up the stairs and to the right is her office, which is considerably more low key and sparse. It's nice but she doesn't spend an over abundance of time there. Still, it is up to date technologically. She may not be a techie but she's always on the cutting edge; it behooves her to be due to her line of work.

Last up for now is a simulation of the Mount Sinai Medical Center on 5th Ave. in Manhattan, where Mia's mother is in the hospital. I will eventually be able to use this model for other things, replacing the building but keeping the general street and traffic. This saves a ridiculous amount of time when it comes to pencilling and inking, believe me. Like I said above, it's offset by the amount of time it takes to build the model, so it's a wash at the moment, but once I get to use it on a few more occasions my time savings will creep into the positive.

And one more thing: so you can see how such a model winds up in the book, here's an inked page showing Mia at home and a page of my "pencils" showing Mia out front of Mt. Sinai.

Two posts in one day! How about that?

A Tale of Two Spielbergs

I have long believed that there are two Steven Spielbergs. There's the guy who can make films like Schindler's List and the guy who makes films like Jurassic Park II. One is a filmmaker who has an intimate understanding of story and character, who puts his all into his films and sacrifices nothing en route to making some of the most powerful films on the American landscape. The other one doesn't seem to care much at all about story or logic and is just having a romp at the moviegoer's expense, which brings us to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Not many people are fans of the most recent Indiana Jones film. I personally think it's got some fun moments but it is a stinker. I just read an article with some quotes from Steven Spielberg regarding the film. He told Empire Magazine this:

"I sympathise with people who didn't like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin.
"I didn't want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend. When he writes a story he believes in - even if I don't believe in it - I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it.
"I'll add my own touches, I'll bring my own cast in, I'll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that."
Jeez. He kind of throws George under the bus, doesn't he? Frankly, I think it's a load of crap. I feel compelled to express this because, as a storyteller, I'm a little surprised that Steven has so completely missed the point.

That MacGuffin would have worked just fine if the rest of the story had been told well. Aliens are somehow less believable than the Ark of the Covenant? Or the Holy Grail? Or the Shankara Stones? I don't think so.

So what made Indy IV so stinky? Well, here's another quote from the esteemed filmmaker regarding the nuclear explosion and the lead-lined refrigerator:

"Blame me. Don't blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying 'jump the shark'. They now say, 'nuked the fridge'. I'm proud of that. I'm glad I was able to bring that into popular culture."

Proud? It's hard to believe this is the same guy who made Saving Private RyanSchindler's List, and Amistad. I admit, I thought that scene was pretty funny, but I'm aware (at the same time) that it was completely ludicrous. When The Fonz jumped the shark on Happy Days it was an event that signified the show had crossed a line, a line you don't want to cross. It's a line that disengages the audience and causes eye-rolling. It became a saying to signify that your show or film no longer has any credibility. Why would anyone be proud to trump such an event? And yet I guess it shouldn't be a surprise; Spielberg has tried to trump it before. Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the mine car makes the leap across a huge chasm and lands, with everyone still on board, safely on the tracks on the other side? Ugh. The fridge and the nuke is much more egregious though. I can't believe I'm having to say that, but there it is.

And the worst part about Indy IV? The fridge and the nuke is only the tip of the shark jumping iceberg! How about the giant ants? Or the sword fight on the hood of a jeep? Or (and this is the best/worst one to me) Mutt swinging on vines faster than the speeding jeeps? And we're not even done!!! How about driving a jeep off a cliff only to land in a tree that ever so gently lowers them into the water!? Or said jeep going over not one but three massive waterfalls and all of our heroes staying in the jeep, safe and sound, after all three!? That's what made Indy IV suck.

Or how about the climax of the film, where our iconic hero just walks out of the giant hole as it fill up with water. And once they're out, they stand on top of a hill and watch as the aliens return home. That's how you end an Indiana Jones film!? By having the hero walk and stand!? 

And if all of that wasn't enough, how about the progression of events between Indy, his son, and Marion. There was so much potentially to explore between Indy and Mutt. It would have been much more interesting if the tension between them had continued to build until the climax of the film, or at least the third act break. Mutt sure wasn't very angry at his father for abandoning them. Even if that wasn't exactly the case (Indy didn't know that Marion was pregnant), it could still seem that way to Mutt, especially if his mother had never told him the truth. Indy also gives Mutt lots of good 'life' advice during the film only to completely reverse his thoughts once he finds out that Mutt is his son. Really? Just for a funny line? That undermines Indy as a character. 

I've heard people moan about the aliens, the MacGuffin of Indy IV, and have been able to more or less ignore it, but when I hear the director, a man who's dedicated his life to storytelling, lay the blame of Indy IV openly on that MacGuffin, I have to finally speak out. So there it is, on the record: the MacGuffin in Indy IV is just fine. If you still don't like it, that's fine, but don't say that's why Indy IV stank to high heaven, 'cause it's not.

Oh, and just to clarify, I know, in the end, that there are not two Steven Spielbergs. And how do I know? Because the two met on one film in particular. Minority Report. Spielberg captured some of his best and most exciting storytelling in this film, and yet it was also more or less devoid of internal logic (my term for a story's own set of rules). John Anderton, Tom Cruise's character, comes up on a redball (meaning he's going to commit murder) and yet he still has access to the police building later? He uses his old eyeball to get in. I've been fired before. The first thing they do is restrict your access to the building. They don't even wait for you to get out. His wife is also given Anderton's service pistol with his belongings, which she then uses to rescue her husband. Service weapons are issued, not owned. And then there's the entire logic behind the precogs. It doesn't make any sense. I'm not even going to try and explain why; it'll give me a headache. 

So who's up for seeing Warhorse? And how to feel now about the knowledge that Lucas is working on the story for an Indy V? After all, we've already "nuked the fridge".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0030

People liked the last one much more than expected so I thought I'd follow that up with a possible dud. If you don't see it as a dud, then bless you. :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0028

A new strip finally. I've been swamped with other work latey, hence the delay. I hope the wait was worth it. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0021

A Sunday strip on a Wednesday!

So here's the lowdown: In an effort to build up some material and a cushion for myself I'm only going to posts strips on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the time being. This will change eventually, once I've got a better cushion in place (say six month's worth). The strip, however, will continue to be drawn as though it were an everyday strip, so there will be six dailies for every one Sunday strip even though they're only going up three days a week. Are you confused? I know I am.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0020 Bonus strip!

I know, technically it's Sunday, but it's my strip so if I say it's a bonus Saturday strip, that's what it be! Nanny-na-na-nee-ha-ha! ;-P

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0018

The attitude is my wife's (well, mine too really) but the "event" happened to me, not her. Twice.

Balance is a big theme in my life and will be a constant in the strip. This one just happens to illustrate the idea very effectively IMHO.  :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0016

The comparative commute. I used to do the commute my wife does so I'm familiar with it; that's why I appreciate my non-commute so much nowadays. You never know how long it will last.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0015

Today and tomorrow's strips are two of the first ones I drew, around a year or so ago. I had so many different ideas for how to start the strip that it sort of paralyzed me for a while. I don't know if where I began the strip is the best solution but it's started and that's what counts. The next two week's worth of strips will be important in the long run because they kind of establish a "day in the life of" for Art and Abby. Things will change, of course, but this is a good starting point.

I now think starting with their wedding would have been the best place to start but that'll just have to be in a flashback now. Oh yes, there will be flashbacks. I might call them waybacks. Only time will tell.  :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Business As UnUsual 0014 - Now with more Color!

I got adventurous and colored it. I'd like to color them all but there's just no time for that as long as I have other commitments. Maybe Sundays if I'm lucky.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Yet another Business As UnUsual strip

First of the Sunday strips. I debated for a long time whether or not to color the Sunday strips. I went with black and white because it's faster. Who knows, if it's ever successful enough to have a printed version I'll color them.

Another Business As Unusual again

WARNING:  mature themed content! Please prescreen in you have any ideas of letting your children read this strip. Thank you for your attention.

I started a Tumblr blog for Business As UnUsual, which you can find here.
I'll post another week's worth or so here on my main blog but after that these will only be posted on the Tumblr blog. I'm going to try and make a real go at this thing and the only way for me to be able to accurately track stats on the strip is if it's only viewable in one location. So please head over and follow along if you like it. 

Also, as this strip clearly demonstrates, the strip, while it may look like a typical, kid friendly strip, is not. Well, most of the time it is, but every once in awhile my screwy sense of humor needs to go mature places. So that's that.

Monday, August 01, 2011

A few more BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL strips

I figured I better put up a few more so you can at least get a vague hint as to what the strip will be like. Comments welcomed!

Business As UnUsual

Like most Americans, I grew up on some great comic strips. Peanuts, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes. I've always had a great love for well done strips but only thought about trying one out about a year or so ago (plus or minus six months). Once I put my mind to it I came up with my idea almost immediately. I started filling up a notebook with my ideas and worked up a few sample strips. I've got enough written ideas to go for about six months and can come up with more ideas very easily, especially since it's so close to my own life. I can't promise that I'll get these out with any regularity right now, but I'm curious to see what people think of my idea and its execution. So here they are to introduce themselves: Art and Abby Normal.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glade TRC3263827

Well here it is: the last ship I've had to design for INSURRECTION. Designing stuff has been one of the best parts about drawing the story. Concept designers have a great job, but I like mine better. Visual storytelling allows me to wear many different hats: director, actor, cinematographer, editor, concept designer, etc...

I made this in Google Sketchup. Anyone who uses the program will immediately notice how shoddy my work is. :-) I do okay with sketchup but what I'm learning is that the more you preplan, the easier your job will be once you're in the program. My problem is that I usually start working in sketchup with only a rough sketch or vague idea to go on, hence all the patchwork and makeshift techniques. Still, I don't worry too much since all the stuff I do there is only as a guide for my drawings.

I know this sounds like sucking up, but serious thanks to Google for creating this program! For comic book artists it is the best thing since sliced bread (and by sliced bread I mean Photoshop).

By the way, if anyone recognizes the number I used as the registration ID I'll be impressed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

First submission for PLANET PULP!

I was recently invited to join in on the fun over at PLANET PULP, which is way way cool because it's one of my favorite websites/blogs. They celebrate all the fun, silly stuff I grew up loving. So this month's subject matter is G.I. Joe. The first thought that came to me was... well, I don't want to spoil the strip, so read it and you'll know.  :-)  And then be sure to visit PLANET PULP and see all the other great stuff that's there to see. If you're like me, make sure you've got some free time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A few commissions

Just what the title says. I've got more to do but I have to get INSURRECTION off my plate first. For anyone who's actually reading it, I apologize for being so slow but I'm trying to do my best, especially with this giant climactic battle. Anyway, hopefully these will be found to your liking in the meantime.

I've got some really great things lined up for the near future, by the by. Can't wait to share as I'm really exciting about it all.

First up is Black Cat.

Next is Wolvie (as I call him). I've never really been able to draw a Wolverine that I'm happy with. This one is about as close as I've gotten. I won't give up though; someday I'll get him. I really like John Buscema's and Marc Silvestri's take on the character but I think Barry Windsor-Smith's take in Weapon X is my favorite version of ol' Logan.

Rogue, from the early nineties. With the big hair.

And the White Queen. This is some strange fantasy version of her; clearly not any existing version. I just sort of made it up as I went along. It's probably my favorite of the bunch though.

The commissions are all done 11x14 inches on 500 series Strathmore bristol board and inked with Japanese brush pens. The White Queen has a little bit of Photoshop silliness thrown on in the background.

While I'm at it, here are a couple of sketches I did. These are smaller, 5x7 inches. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a huge fan of the CLONE WARS animated television show. I actually like the show better than most of the films (not the first two - episodes IV and V, but the rest). It's so much fun and isn't bogged down by all the family history. Anyway, here's Asajj Ventress and Anakin. I would LOVE to draw a CLONE WARS comic book, so if anyone knows the editors at Dark Horse...

I can't stop! Since I'm posting these, here are a few more CLONE WARS sketches from my 2010 sketchbook:

I could draw this stuff all day. Okay, back to work...