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Well, guys, I did it. I actually beat a deadline.
In fact, I was basically done on Sunday the 20th, and just put in a few tweaks and finishing touches over the following few days. Since then, I've been making decent progress on panel 2. All in all, I'm feeling pretty good.
Panel 2 is a mid-shot of the nobleman and his escort, so I can no longer put off their designs. I'm not going back to getting bogged down in model sheets and concept art, though. I'm just going straight to drawing the characters on the page based on the work I've already done, doing any additional research and designing as I go.
As things stand, I basically have the escort/squire guy figured out. There are some details I still need to tighten up, but it's pretty much just a matter of drawing him now. The nobleman, though, is a work in progress. I more or less have the face figured out, but the costume is still completely up in the air.
I'm also becoming re-acquainted with my inability to draw two eyes the same shape, the same size, and pointed in the same direction. Gotta work on that.
Goal for February 2019: Finish pencils for page 1, panel 2.
2018 has passed, and with it, my soft deadline for the pencils on the first panel of the first page of my comic. And no, I didn't get that panel finished.
This time, though, there's a good reason! I actually accomplished more than I planned to. When I set the goal of finishing panel 1 by the end of December, it had slipped my mind that my process involved doing the layout sketches for a page digitally, then printing it out and drawing over it in pencil.
You see the problem: I had to do the layouts for the whole page before I could even start the pencils. I mean, I could just do the layout of the first panel, cut that panel out of the page, and then tape the whole thing back together when it's done, but that's unwieldy. Besides, I ended up having to make changes to the first panel based on how the later panels ended up, so it's better to have the whole layout done before pencils.
But I did get it finished, and have since made good progress on the panel 1 pencils, so I guess it's all good. Here's a sneak peak:
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Anti-Semitism has always been a problem, but it's currently a growing problem, both in general and in Catholic circles, and we need to cut it out.
I mean, that's obvious, right? It bothers me that this needs to be said, and I'm still not sure I even should say it. Am I just virtue signaling? “Hey, guys, I'm not part of the problem, go be mad at someone else”? I don't know. But I can't just keep silent and let bigots claim to speak for me.
That, more or less, is the crux of a recent post by Simcha Fisher, who has been suffering anti-Semitic trolling and even threats of violence for just about as long as she's been a Catholic blogger with a Jewish-sounding name.
I tend to avoid the corners of the Internet where this sort of thing tends to appear, but I've seen hints of it anyway: When Fisher lost her National Catholic Register writing gig over some kerfuffle allegedly about swearing on Facebook, I posted a comment on Mark Shea's blog suggesting that Fisher seek funding via Patreon. It didn't take long for someone to reply that she should have no trouble getting money from George Soros.
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Whoops, my hand slipped and I accidentally did another Inktober instead of working on my comic. Don't worry, I am working on that again (in case you missed my last post). But more on that later. For now, I want to talk about these goofy little ink drawings.
I didn't want to do what I did last time and put a description of each piece in the gallery description. Rather than clutter that page with descriptions and still have to pare everything down to a sentence or two, I figured I'd just make a separate post over here in the blog. There are some pieces I'm skipping because I don't have anything interesting to say about them, but you can see the complete assortment in the gallery.
I did much better this year than in 2016 with sticking with the challenge, even though my work schedule means I had less time in the evenings for actually working on the drawings. I'm proud to say that I didn't miss a single day this time. I'm less proud of how some of the drawings turned out, though; I feel like I got sloppy with a lot of them. But without further ado:
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As you've probably noticed, progress on the comic has stalled out.
Let me start with where things stand: I have completely given up on my timetable. I've barely accomplished anything since my last update in the summer, and there's no way to get all the remaining work done in less than two months. I'm not going to set a new timetable, because that would just be setting myself up to repeat the same failure again. However, make no mistake: I absolutely intend to finish the project. I'm just going to have to make some major adjustments in my approach.
So let me take a moment to explain what went wrong, and then I'll go over my new plan.
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I'm officially behind schedule. There are several reasons for this, some of which may justly be called excuses or chalked up to poor time management on my part: There's the burnout I wrote about in the previous update, of course, as well as the mostly unrelated drawing I worked on to get over said burnout. There's the series of non-art-related projects I worked on for other people. There's also my work schedule, which has me spending a lot more time commuting than before, leaving me with little time or energy on workday evenings. Then, of course, there's my habit of getting bogged down in too many details.
First things first: I didn't get that other drawing finished, but I'm proud of what I have so far. I'll go ahead and share the WIP here:
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Lots of people attempt to refute, or at least deflect, criticism of hypersexualized female characters by pointing to all the equally exaggeratedly buff men. Feminists often respond by pointing out that these exaggerated male bodies are power fantasies for men, whereas the implausibly voluptuous female characters are sexual fantasies for… well, also for men.
Actually, let me address that bit briefly: A big part of the problem is the asymmetry of how the hypersexualized women aren't for the (dubious) benefit of the female audience in the same way that the hypermuscular men are for the male audience.
There's merit to the idea that both forms of objectification are primarily for men, but there's also merit to the idea that these exaggerated, unattainable male bodies are hurtful to the men they ostensibly benefit. This is an important issue with a lot to unpack, from the historical prevalence of misogyny over misandry, to the double-edged nature of sexism, to the various meanings of the phrase “male gaze.” I don't want to dismiss all this as unimportant, by any means, but it's also not the part I want to focus on in this post.
Rather, my focus is the rejection of the argument on the basis that the objectified female characters are a sexual fantasy while the objectified male characters are a power fantasy.
This seems like a good argument on the face of it, and I don't fully disagree. The objectified male characters are given attributes that are directly associated with power, with the ability to act on the world and the people in it. …
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The month of April has come and gone, and with it, my self-imposed deadline for finishing all my location designs. How did these designs turn out? The answer, a resounding "meh."
First of all, I'm not posting any of that design work here due to spoilers. That's not to say that the comic is going to have a ton of plot twists or anything like that, but I still think it'll be better to read it for the first time without knowing in advance what's ahead. Pretty much everything I did on the location front either spoils something or just isn't interesting enough to show.
Don't get me wrong: For those areas where the location matters somewhat, I managed to think everything through and come up with something plausible. But I realized that most of the things I was agonizing over were going to appear in no more than one or two panels, and that at the end of the day, this is only a seven-page story. It's not like I'm designing a recurring location for a series. Sure, I do have some vague ideas about what I'd like to do if I decide to make this an ongoing series (please don't hold your breath) but if that happens, I can always update the designs then.
So in that spirit, I made the choice that, while I wouldn't give up entirely on caring about set design and props, I was done worrying about them. As far as I got, plus one or two references I can easily look up, will suffice.
Consequently, I did not spend the majority of April designing sets and props. And it's a good thing, too, because the character designs are due at the end of this month, and it turns out I had no idea what my main characters actually look like.
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Thumbnailing is usually the easiest part of a project for me. I don't have to sweat the details and can focus on just getting ideas down on paper. Itís the most creative part of the process, and I havenít managed to ďcorrectĒ all the energy out of it yet.
So I actually got these pretty close to finished a couple weeks ago. I decided to wait awhile and look back over them with fresh eyes just to make sure I hadn't missed any big problems, and I'm glad I did! Once I stitched all my "final" thumbnails together and read through them as a single comic, it dawned on me that the reader doesn't get a good look at the sorceress—the ostensible main character—until halfway through the comic.
In a very early draft, I had intentionally not shown her face until even later, but I feel like that signals to readers that she's not the main character, except in the same sense as the title "characters" of movies like Twister, Volcano, and Jaws. I don't want anyone to feel cheated when it shifts to her POV. So I redrew the beginning of page 2 to give her a nice medium shot establishing what she looks like.
I also had to rework page 3 a little to improve its pacing. That probably doesn't mean anything to you since I'm pretty sure I haven't shown or mentioned anything from page three. Just trust me, it's an improvement.
As for page five onward, I tried cutting most of the page like I mentioned in the previous update, and I like how it turned out. I have the pacing of rest of the comic figured out and itís flowing pretty well. Itís still pretty much following the one-story-beat-per-page rule. I'm now at seven pages total.
My goal with the pacing is to achieve the kind of feeling I get reading MAiZ, one of my favorite Webcomics. Each page leaves you eager for the next one, but still feels satisfying because thereís something happening on every page. I canít remember a MAiZ page that felt like padding or an artificial cliffhanger. My one-beat-per-page rule is my (admittedly somewhat artificial) way of approximating that feeling.
Beyond the thumbnails, I've made some progress on the sorceress' costume design. Still have to research period-appropriate shoes, though. I've also more or less finished the design of one of the bigger bits of set-dressing, which is also one of the few pieces of scenery I actually have to invent from whole cloth.
The next step is to get cracking on the rest of the location designs and set dressing stuff. It should be fairly simple, mundane stuff, but there will still be some work and research involved. After that, of course, costume designs. Then come the hard parts: Nailing down the compositions, and hammering everything into final drawings.
It's March now, and that means I'm more than halfway to my first deadline. So where do things stand?
Well, let's start with that first deadline itself: The thumbnails. The good news is that I have five pages pretty well nailed down. The layouts of some of them still need some work, but I've budgeted for that. That's what the separate layouts step is for.
The bad news is that I'm stuck on page 6. So far, every page has been a single story beat. Page one (of which I've already shown some draft thumbnails) shows the sorceress ambushing someone. Page two is a fight scene. Page three is a couple actions, but basically one story beat. Page four is another beat. Page five is a location change. Page six…?
It feels like mostly more connective tissue. Most or all of it would be devoted to moving the sorceress around the new location. But skipping it doesn't feel right, and without it, I'm not sure if things will line up right to get the last page looking the way I want. (I haven't nailed down how many pages will go in between yet, but I do have a fairly good idea of what the last page looks like.)
It just occurred to me as I was summarizing: Page five is more an establishing shot than a story beat. Nothing actually happens on that page other than the sorceress moving from one location to another. Perhaps that's the problem. I'm going to try trimming it down and combining pages 5 and 6, and see if I like that better. That might mean I can end the story on page 6. Or it may be page 7. I'll have to kill a darling, but maybe I can do a postmortem or something showcasing deleted content (or, if I get really ambitious, use it in a sequel).
As I said last time, this hasn't been all thumbnails all the time. I've also done a little bit of environment concept art. Sadly it was for that bit that I just decided to try to cut, so it probably won't be used.
On the bright side, I have put together a (more or less) proper model sheet for the main character. It's good enough to get the job done, anyway, despite some lingering anatomy issues. I had the bright idea to draw just half of the front-view, then mirror it in Krita/Photoshop/whatever. I hadn't noticed that the farther down I got from the head, the more the body sort of drifted away from the center line. It looked really weird after I mirrored it. I think I have it mostly fixed. Next time, I'll just do the front view all-digitally, so I can use Krita's mirroring tool from the start.
While working on that, I made some progress toward giving the sorceress an actual, recognizable face with plausible anatomy. A little reference turns out to go a long way!
The model sheet is currently a bit more, er, naked than I like to post, but I'll try to share it once I have a draft of the costume design. I've made a little progress on that front. The original design had a weird overlap in the front. This was my attempt to keep it from being a blatant Legend of Zelda knockoff, but doesn't really make sense either functionally or in terms of whether she could afford to waste fabric like that. So I'm working on a more traditional tunic design based (semi-loosely) on some pictures of actual medieval clothing. I'm also just going to lose those weird arm guard things. Given what we'll see in the comic, she doesn't really need them.
That pretty much wraps up what I've done so far. So where to from here?
I'll give you another report when I reach the first deadline, unless something cool and share-worthy happens in the meantime.