Line by Line

The Animorphs Reread Begins


Tags: Animorphs, morals and ethics, rereads and rewatches

Not long ago, I posted a (spoiler-laden) blog post about what I felt was wrong with the ending of the Animorphs series and with the (also spoiler-laden) open letter the author wrote defending the ending against complaints from disappointed fans.

That post had a little problem: It was based on memories of reading the series many years ago. Truth be told, I honestly don't remember how long ago it's been since I read the books. I know my last attempt, which had to be at least fifteen years ago, only made it as far as #6. So maybe my memories of the series itself are tied up in my memories of how I felt about it at the time. Maybe my current feelings are tied up with things I'm remembering incorrectly. Maybe I'll reach a different conclusion if I reread the series as an adult.

That's what we're here to find out.

Quick content warning: Violence, obviously. It's surprisingly tame in the first two books compared to, say #4 and #10, but it's there. More pressingly, when I cover the second book, there's going to be a mention of sexual violence. I'll point it out beforehand.

Also, here's your spoiler warning: From here on out, spoilers for the first two books. I'll try to keep spoilers for later books to a minimum in case any new readers want to read along with me.

Read the rest of this post in the blog.

Animorphs as Anti-war War Story


Tags: Animorphs, morals and ethics

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was a big fan of the Animorphs books written by K.A. Applegate and her uncredited co-author and husband Michael Grant (and several ghostwriters). The premise of the series is that five human teenagers, and their alien friend, have the ability to transform (“morph”) for two hours at a time into any animal whose DNA they can acquire by touching it. They use this ability to wage a secret guerrilla war against an invading army of alien brain-control slugs bent on enslaving humanity as they've already enslaved other alien species.

These days, the series is fondly remembered in Internet circles because of its brutally honest (and, honestly, brutal) depiction of violence. It's hailed as a critique of war and a cautionary tale about the horrors thereof.

For me, though, it fails at that purpose.

The issues are most apparent in the series finale and the several books leading up to it, so obviously I can't discuss this without spoilers. If you want to read the series yourself first, stop here. I wish you luck, since the books can be hard to find.

Before I continue, let me say up front that I haven't read the books in over fifteen years. My plan is to get my opinions out, and then see if they change after a re-read.

Read the rest of this post in the blog.

WIP Report: Necessity: Page 2 Progress with the Wrong Layout

Posted Posted

Tags: art, comics, Necessity comic, WIP report

I've been making pretty slow progress on the next page of the comic, and I've been fairly quiet about it because I don't want to spam everyone with incremental updates. But I just encountered a not-insignificant setback, so I think now's a good time for a progress report.

Back when I finished the thumbnails, you may recall, I said:

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.

So here's the problem: When I started working on the layout for page 2, I used the old thumbnail instead of the re-drawn one, and didn't notice until long after I'd started work on the pencils. In fact, the only reason I caught the error at all is that I was going back through my blog working on layout updates. I saw the part quoted above and realized that the page I was drawing did not begin with a medium shot of Viola. In the first row of panels, all you can see is her hand:

A panel of the squire charging at Viola, sword raised, and a panel of her catching the sword. Only her hand is seen in both panels, surrounded by a fire-like magic effect.

So I now have to replace those two panels with these three from the revised thumbnail:

Thumbnail panels: A medium shot of Viola with the nobleman behind her on the ground, the squire charging without Viola's hand visible, and Viola catching the sword at a different angle.

Losing panel 2 is no big deal, since I never really was quite happy with the magic effect and I'm pretty sure the blade is way out of proportion to her hand.

I'm a little sadder about panel 1, since it was the most complete panel so far. I was pretty proud of that hand, too. I'm hoping I can salvage part of the angry sword man, though obviously he needs some work too. I guess I'll find out, but the change has to be made either way. No point crying over spilled milk.

As a bonus, here's my first attempt at drawing his face in a later panel. It's not too bad, but the expression is completely wrong. Drawing expressions is hard.

A sketch of an anthropomorphic lion face with a cartoonishly exasperated expression

So how's the rest of the page going? Well, I'm spinning my wheels trying to get a grass-dirt transition looking passable and I'm about halfway done with a figure in panel four (soon to be five) but there's not a single background that's done yet. Overall, I'd say I had penciled about 32% of what the page would have looked like based on the earlier thumbnail. With re-drawing the top row, I'm maybe 11 or 12% done with the final page, not counting the extra work of combining the two sheets of paper into a single page somehow.

Impeachment Follow-Up

Posted February 16, 2021

Tags: current events, politics

So the impeachment trial is over. That the result is completely expected doesn't make it any less disappointing. A 57-43 majority voted Guilty, but that wasn't enough to meet the two-thirds threshold needed to convict.

Before I get into that, I need to issue a correction. In my previous post, written before the trial ended, I wrote:

[Trump] made a phone call to Senator Tommy Tuberville to try to convince him to delay the certification. The call ended when the senators were evacuated. I can't find anything saying whether or not Tuberville expressly mentioned the storming or the evacuation, but Tuberville remembers saying, “they just took the vice president out.” According to Wikipedia's timeline of the assault, it was after this phone call, some eleven minutes after Pence was moved, that Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to” refuse to certify the results.

In fact, the then-current revision of Wikipedia's timeline didn't mention the phone call or Senator Tuberville (or senator Mike Lee, whose phone Trump actually called) at all. I got the eleven minutes figure from the time of Pence's evacuation, which I had assumed Tuberville told Trump about as it happened.

When I checked the timeline again, it had been updated to include the call, which in fact took place two minutes after the tweet: Pence was evacuated at 2:13, the tweet was eleven minutes later at 2:24, and the phone call was at 2:26.

This doesn't affect my conclusion about Trump, though:

Read the rest of this post in the blog.

Trump's Second Impeachment Matters

Posted February 12, 2021

Tags: current events, politics

Ex-president Donald Trump is the first president in United States history to be impeached twice, and the first to have his impeachment tried in the Senate after he's already left office. So why bother, if he's already out? There are several reasons people object to the second impeachment being tried at all, but I don't think any of them holds water.

Objection: He's already out of office, so it doesn't matter anymore.

Presidents are allowed two terms, and Trump has only served one. The terms aren't required to be consecutive, and running for a second term doesn't count as serving one. That means he still has one term left. There is precedent for this: Grover Cleveland lost re-election to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, but served a second term after defeating Harrison's own re-election campaign in 1892. Trump could do the same thing unless the Senate votes to bar him from running again.

More importantly, whether Trump tries to run again or not, it's only a matter of time before someone else picks up where he left off. We need to send a clear, decisive message that attempts to undermine our democracy in order to stay in power will not be tolerated. Not from Trump, not from anyone.

Read the rest of this post in the blog.

WIP Report: Necessity: Page 1 complete and game plan

Posted December 31, 2020

Tags: art, comics, Necessity comic, WIP report, writing

Well. Some year this has been, huh?

I'm sorry this post has taken so long. I finished the first page of the comic months ago and I've been wrestling with a longer postmortem, but I guess I don't have it in me so I'll keep this quick and maybe not bore you.

First, the comic has a name now: Necessity. I'm not thrilled with it but I'm glad I don't have to keep saying “Sorceress Comic” anymore.

Coloring started out fun but got tedious. I used just two layers: One for flat colors and one for shadows. I did all the flats first, then for each color, picked one or two shadow colors. I selected each shape with the magic wand tool, then moved to the shadow layer and used the pencil tool to shade it.

This wasn't a terrible setup. Since I can select two colors and swap between them, and use my tablet's stylus's eraser end, the shading work wasn't bad. The problem was all the switching back and forth between the flats and shadow layers, and between the magic wand and pencil tools. It ate up a lot of time and energy, and more than once I forgot to switch layers after selecting a new area so I had to do it over.

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Necessity: Comic page one posted

Posted October 18, 2020

Page one of the comic is now, finally, complete! I got excited and posted it to DeviantArt Friday night before I had everything ready to post it here.

So now it's here, too. You can find it on the Other Writing page, under the new Comics section. (As a bit of housekeeping, I also added links there to the two one-off comics that I posted to the art gallery a few years back.)

Now that the first page is out there, I really, really want to get the rest of it done and get the whole story told! I think by this point I've learned not to make promises I can't keep, though, so let's just say I'm working on it. I'll try to get a blog post out before too much longer with my updated game plan.

In the mean time, Go ahead and check out page one!

Alphonso Dunn and InkTober

Posted September 16, 2020

Tags: art, InkTober

September is upon us. October is now only half a month away. I'll set aside the whole pandemic-time question of how it can possibly be September already when it was just March only eighteen years ago. What matters is that the time is fast approaching when artists around the world will be picking up their pens and brushes and taking up the now-traditional InkTober challenge of thirty-one ink drawings, one for every day of October.

Since we're all going to have ink drawing on the brain, I think this would be a good time for everyone to check out the work of Alphonso Dunn. He's the author of Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide, and he has a YouTube channel full of tips and tutorials.

So far, the videos that have been the most useful to me are “Top 3 Cross Hatching Mistakes | Tips on how to avoid them,” “Pen and Ink Crosshatching | A simple introduction,” and “How to Avoid Overworking Your Drawings | 3 simple tips.” The main things that jumped out at me were the importance of pen control and of not rushing. You can certainly point to my InkTober drawings from 2016 and 2018 and find drawings that suffer from the exact pitfalls Dunn warns about.

Naturally, this inspired me to get out my trusty microns and a sheet of paper, and practice. I played a few more of Dunn's videos while I practiced creating even, consistent strokes and tried out some crosshatching techniques. Here's what I came up with:

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Black Lives Matter

Posted June 26, 2020

Tags: Black Lives Matter, current events, morals and ethics

There are a lot of things that happen that make you wonder, just how many more times does this have to happen before something is finally done about it? To name just a few: Mass shootings, sexual abuse cases, privacy violations, workplace safety violations, maltreatment of laborers in general, formation of monopolies, and companies and governments kowtowing to tyrants.

And then there's the example that's been in the news here in the US (and worldwide) for the last few weeks: Police brutality against black people, which has sparked worldwide protests.

I wish I could come to you with a strong thesis statement and a solid plan for what we need to do about this problem. But I don't have that. As a white guy with a sheltered upbringing surrounded by only people who look like me, and with little to no contact with the black community, I have to admit that if I did have that, the odds that it would be worth your attention are effectively zero.

But I can't just say nothing, either. Even if you don't believe that silence is complicity, you have to admit that it sure is helpful to those who try to pass off their hatred as representative of the “silent majority.” So I'm not going to be silent.

You want a thesis statement? Here it is: Black lives matter.

Whatever you think of the BLM movement, or of a particular member or spokesperson thereof, you have to admit that the cause is just and the statement is true: Black lives matter, no less than anyone else's.

All lives matter, and that means that instead of saying “All Lives Matter™” to people who have been told that a million times but consistently shown something else, we need to say “your lives matter”—and then act like it.

There's more to say about the ongoing protests, police behavior, proposed solutions, and everything else that's been going on these past weeks, but I don't want this main point to get lost in the shuffle, so for now I'm going to leave it at the one thing that most needs to be said, and believed, and lived:

Black lives matter.

WIP Report: Sorceress Comic: Page 1 inked

Posted May 25, 2020

Tags: art, comics, WIP report, writing

I finally made it past a huge milestone in the comic project: Page 1 is now completely drawn and inked! As it stands, I'm almost finished converting the lineart to pure black/white, which is more laborious than it has any right to be because my scanner is apparently garbage. Once that's done, I'll be able to start coloring.

I had planned to finish the whole comic and upload it all at once, but I think you've all waited more than long enough, so I'll post the first page as soon as it's ready.

In the mean time, here's a sneak peak at the raw scan of the lineart:

The raw scan of the fully inked first page, at old-school 72 dpi “Web” resolution.
An excerpted panel 3 at medium resolution. Click for high resolution (direct link to image)