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Scrap that web comic?

2 Sep

It has been a long time since I posted something to read on this blog. At least, it feels like it. Since I started the web comic and, probably most of all, a personal goal to get into shape for a marathon by the end of this year, all my energy seems to go into that.

What bugs me the most about my web comic is that I’m so self-conscious. With that I mean I don’t just create something, but think heavily about what people are going to think about it. That may sound sensible, but it’s not. It’s keeping my creative ideas hostage.

This is exactly what I was afraid of. People told me: “If you want to do a web comic, just create one, don’t think too much about it.” Bad advice. For me at least. Now I’m stuck with that web comic.

I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s excellent book, titled “How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.” It’s not so much a recipe book, but more a book about how to approach the creative process of writing novels, with a focus on speculative fiction. He has some great advice on ripening ideas:

The first thing you should learn […] is that no two stories are developed in exactly the same way. However, in my experience one thing is constant: Good stories don’t come from trying to write a story the moment I think of the first idea. All but a handful of my stories have come from combining two completely unrelated ideas that have been following their own tracks through my imagination. And all the stories I was still proud of six months after writing them have come from ideas that ripened for many months—usually years—between the time I first thought of them and the time they were ready to put into a story.

“Great,” you say, “I pick up this book, hoping to learn how to write speculative fiction, and now this guy’s telling me that I have to wait months or years before writing stories about any new ideas I think of.”

That’s what I’m telling you: You’ll probably have to wait months or years before writing good versions of story ideas you come up with now. But you probably already have hundreds of story ideas that have been ripening inside you for many years. For some writers, one of the best ways to help an idea ripen is to try writing a draft of it, seeing what comes up when you actually try to make it into a story. As long as you recognize that the draft you write immediately after thinking of the ideas will almost certainly have to be thrown away and rewritten from the beginning, you’ll be fine.

That’s just dandy! I wished someone told me that earlier. Since I’ve only started this thinking about stories this year, and reading other people’s stories has been limited by no access to them other than buying online, I have little reading experience as well.

So what should I do, start all over or muddle through? I’m tempted to put it on indefinite hiatus until I’ve found a good way to express my ideas.

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Big Schtick – Sheepish

29 Aug

Big Schtick - Sheepish

Runners like to make fun while running. However, it’s a basic kind of fun without little refinement. Especially long distance running can be a bit boring at times and a joke to lighten the mood makes the boredom go away.

In need of character

24 Aug

Maybe you have noticed I started a web comic some weeks ago now, called “Big Schtick”. It’s a translation of the Dutch language web comic, called “Stok achter de Deur” and deals with the sport of running. In the first three episodes I (sort of) vented my ideas about running, but I guess this doesn’t scale. At some point those ideas will dry up or become boring. So I need some kind of continuity. I thought a character cast would work best.

Truth be told I had a joke, but I couldn’t get it to work with anonymous characters, like with the previous episodes. I thought I needed identifiable personalities. So making a virtue of a need, I decided to make them the cast for the comic itself.

The Jolly Bunch

Meet the Jolly Bunch. It’s a group of friends who like to run together, three guys and two gals. I haven’t solidified their characters, but here’s the general idea:

  • Jon, the little guy, is a prankster. He likes practical jokes, which make the others laugh and keep their spirits up, even if the run is a bit boring.
  • Pete is the seasoned runner. He has run many races and the others rely on his knowledge about running. He can outrun all of them, but he always comes back to join them.
  • Bob is the newcomer. He has a weight problem and his doctor told him to start running to lose weight. The others always make fun of him, but he’s still a valued member of the group.
  • Nat is the friendly, outgoing one. When pesky non-runners try to mock them, she always tries to let them see the runners’ side of the story, so they understand.
  • Sara is the youngest of the bunch. Her boyfriend doesn’t want her to run, but she does anyway. Maybe she loves running more than anything and her boyfriend can only play second fiddle. Nevertheless, she always is on her cell to tell (or text) she loves him.

All this is still in beta. A lot of things can still change and probably will.

Thanks for reading and if you have any advice for me (and I really need it right now!), or want to ask me anything, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Thinking of a new mini-comic

22 Apr

Pigguin s conquest of the world

I’m thinking of doing a mini-comic based on a guinea pig who wants to conquer the world. His human companion, Jon, is a cartoonist who loves superhero comics. This has inspired the guinea pig, called Pigguin, to become a super villain and conquer the world, in his secret identity of Dr. Incognito.

The idea started with the sketch of the cartoon hamster on the top left. After I made a side view, I remembered once saying in a chat on Ustream with Canadian cartoonist Jonathan Rector, while feeding his girlfriend’s guinea pig, that he should do a mini-comic about the little guy.

Since Jon is all wrapped up in work as an independent illustrator and his own mini-comic, about Jesop King, I decided to do this mini-comic about the guinea pig myself. Mind you, just about 30 minutes ago or so.

Sometimes things go faster than a speeding bullet.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post. Definitely check out Jonathan Rector’s website or follow him on Twitter (artbyjar).

“Eden”

19 Feb

"Eden"

Based on this tweet:

A grumpy cat walks and a jolly mouse hops into a bar. The cats ask: “What will it be? If you say CHEESE I will eat you!” #areyouamanoramouse

I know it’s rough, but that is the fun of it.

Pencilcast for January 26, 2011

26 Jan

While streaming live on Justin.tv I drew this teenage He-Man, in preparation of an upcoming mini-comic based on an episode of He-Man, but with teens instead of adults.

Teeny He-Man

This means He-Man has to be even younger than in this sketch.

Some thoughts on a mini-comics viewer

17 Jul

So now I have taken it upon myself to write a comics viewer as a web application, what are the considerations for a first version of such an application? I will try to document my thought process through this post. It is most likely more posts like this will appear in the near future. So, please stay tuned for that.

To start off, as a general rule of web application programming, versions should be released early and often, so the people who are going to use your application can provide feedback, make it fit their needs. It doesn’t have to be perfect or feature-rich at the outset. On the contrary, the simpler the better.

Then there are the architecture considerations, which include security. You want to be as flexible as possible where you host your content (so it’s easy to change hosts), but also prevent that bad guys find flaws in your app, and take advantage of those. The Web can be a scary place if you don’t take good care of your data and the program code using that data.

Now about the features, for which I really want your input, dear reader. What should I include in a first version at the minimum?

Here are some of my ideas.

  1. It should be easy for a less tech savvy comics creator to determine the content (basically, where the comic’s image files are located on the Web). For version 1, I’m thinking of a text file on a server, containing a list of Web links to the image files.
  2. Once the comic is loaded into viewer, the comics viewer should be able to work as a stand-alone application without network connection.
  3. The controls should be simple and obvious, and very much like a native application.
  4. It should have some fluidity to it, so the reader will enjoy the content as much as possible.

Of course, we all want as much features as we think we need, but consider that each feature will take both time, but, more importantly, energy to execute. That is why I opt for an app that has the fewest number of features, and still feel rich and worth while using.

I suppose this also implies that in future versions, the comics creator should be able to customize his or her app for a specific experience that makes sense for a particular comic. We don’t want a bunch of bells and whistles, but we don’t want it barebones either. Each feature has to be considered and make sense for the reading experience. I suppose that would require a separate application to produce a customized version of the comics viewer. However, all of this will not be included in version 1.

What we certainly don’t want is a generic comics browser that doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Such a browser is not worth using, hence not worth creating.

Also, I suggest for version 1 to limit ourselves in our designs to mini-comics suited for small screens, like the iPhone. The person reading a mini-comic should be able to finish it in a few minutes (the typical time people are waiting in line or are having a short break at work to re-energize). This means a vertical format (portrait orientation) is preferred and page spreads are discouraged. Preferably, readers are going to see one page at a time, and shouldn’t be required to zoom in and/or pan to be able to read the comic.

The constraints on format and layout may come over as a severe limitation, and you would be right there. However, I think independent comics creators should be able to adapt themselves to a new medium, what mobile devices actually are part of. The rules of print media have to be re-evaluated and adjusted. You can’t expect what works in print to work on a small size screen.

I personally see the mentioned constraints as a challenge. It is something where independent creators can distinguish themselves from large comic book publishing companies, who are still heavily invested in traditional comics on paper. Their digital comics are mere facsimiles of a print version, instead of being tailored towards the new mobile medium, with its short attention span of people on the go. If you need to sit down to have the “full experience”, you are missing the point of having a device in your pocket.

Those are some of my initial thoughts. Please provide some feedback, so I’m able to steer myself in the right direction. I can’t do this without you!