August 12, 2006
Color on page 11. Color's not quite done but I'm going on vacation for a few days and I wanted to put something up
before I left. Will update soon.
August 4, 2006
Color on page 12. This "dream job" that was going to give me lots of free time for working on the book
has in fact mostly prevented me from working on the book. I am currently working on a way to modify this situation.
June 3, 2006
Page 17 now has some color. I'm still not sure whether I want everything shaded, or if things should be left flat.
April 9, 2006
Minor gap between posts. It turned out that the split-shift job hasn't been the boon to Gordon
and the Stareater that I thought it might be. At any rate, work has finally resumed on the book.
I'm pencilling now, and scans should start appearing soon. During my winter hiatus, lots of new ideas
popped up. Most of the pre-vis pages are undergoing major changes. This could be it! The final push!
October 28, 2005
Recent weeks have been spent searching for employment. The good news is that I found a job teaching
English, and it starts on December 1. One interesting thing about this job is that it's a split-shift
gig, which means I'll be working in the very early morning and in the early evening. While this may be
bad for me physically, it is very, very good for Gordon and the Stareater -- I've discovered that elusive
lifestyle that gives you eight hours a day to work on a comic. Over the last month, I've
come up with all sorts of changes to make to the current story, and those should be popping up in
December. Gordon and the Stareater is not dead -- just on vacation. Check this space again in a month
September 30, 2005
New pages posted. The story gets pretty dark at this point. Will our hero survive? Who is
our hero, anyway?
September 22, 2005
Chuseok slowed things down a bit. Two new pre-vis added, dialogue revisions throughout.
September 15, 2005
Three more pre-vis pages added to site. Minor modifications to intro.
September 13, 2005
It seems like it was longer than a week ago that I committed to a policy of narrative
full disclosure in the first ten pages. Having re-read the intro several million times,
I have concluded that my story's foundation was a little over-built.
Which amounts to a reversal of philosophy -- I had earlier expressed concern that
without a full explanation of both the election and the concept of Tutoring, the story
might become an "alienating... puzzle." Well, those bits were unbearably wordy -- comparable
to an automobile owner's manual, which is a thing you only read because you have to.
So the intro has been trimmed (this is why pre-vis is so helpful). The introduction is a page
lighter, but another page has appeared in the middle of
the already-penciled middle section, so we're still stuck at 43 pages. The pre-visualization
of the later pages continues apace, if messily. 25 pages now exist in some form or other.
September 10, 2005
Three more final-pencil pages have been added to the site. Also, further dialogue revisions
have been made to the intro. I'm trying to soft-pedal the technical description of Tutoring
a little bit, to give the reader a chance to settle into things.
Startling discovery of the day: upon reviewing the completed script, it appears that
the first issue will be 43 pages long, rather than the 32 I had anticipated. It sure
is good nobody's livelihood depends on the timely completion of this thing. I'd feel really guilty.
September 9, 2005
Today I completed the script for the first issue. The next week will be spent
converting that into pre-vis pages, and then final pencils can resume in earnest.
I also added a new page to the middle of the
intro -- an establishing shot of the Galahad to show the reader where the first
two scenes take place.
Dialogue is my nemesis this month. I just never thought about the mechanics of it until now.
It's one of those things you think is easy until you try to do it convincingly
and fall flat on your face.
For example, what sorts of verbal tics or phrases do you use to make each character
unique, and how much idiosyncrasy is too much? How
do you balance exposition against conversational
realism? When does witty repartee´ alienate, rather
than entertain? When is the reader willing to absorb dense technical information,
if ever? Is it okay to use profanity, or is it distracting? If so,
do people of the future use the same profanity that we use? And how does a person
talk when they're (subjectively) ten thousand years old? Is it the "damn kids get
off my lawn" effect, multiplied by a hundred?
Does anybody know of any resources (books, web pages, Cracker Jack prizes) that could
help me figure out the answers to some of these questions?
One other thing I'm sort of obssessing about this week: panel arrangement. I have
thought several things about the way I arrange panels. First, I think I use too few per
page, and I worry that this is going to make my book way longer than it
needs to be. Second, I am often suspicious that there is an optimal configuration for every
page -- one that complements the action perfectly -- and I haven't gotten anywhere
near it. There are two warring precedents, both of which have merits. Jaime
Hernandez uses a highly-regularized system, and rarely breaks with it. Usually,
his pages are bilaterally symmetrical, there are equal numbers of panels on every row,
and equal-sized panels throughout a page (and even a whole story). Though he mixes things
up every now and then (usually for an intro panel), the larger panels almost always just
entail the removal of borders from his usual regularized grid. I have been looking
at his comics for at least a decade, and for some reason I never consciously recognized
this fact. That goes to show how good he is at varying the compositions of his panels,
despite the fact that they're identical. Often, he uses elements within the frame to
create secondary framing devices -- since his panels are usually very close to square (which
is supposed to be poison for composition), he creates elongated spaces by including
doorways, other architectural elements, and shadows to break up the space. It's pretty
awesome stuff. He has chosen to limit his panel "palette" and opted to challenge himself
on the interiors, allowing him to spend his precious ATP on things other than panel-stress.
The other end of the panel-arrangement spectrum is occupied by Manga. Japanese comics are
so uninhibited that I can't think of a unifying rule to describe
the way their pages are laid out. Asymmetrical
panel borders, porous or gradated transitions, panels that run off the edge of the page, single panels
that contain several snapshots of a single action... When it works correctly (as practiced by someone
like Masamune Shirow), it unifies the page into a single, cohesive composition. It's amazing. Unfortunately,
Manga panel arrangement
is so far beyond my comprehension that I'm not even thinking about it right now. I know that
one day I'll divide two panels with a slightly diagonal line, and I'll feel completely liberated
by the experience. Today is not that day. For now, I'm trying to keep to a relatively
unambitious but hard-to-screw-up rectangular structure.
And then there's Chris Ware. Sigh. His panels are always rectangular, but you kind of get the sense
that the ghost of Mondrian is guiding his hand. I guess he's what I'm talking about when I opine about
the "perfect configuraion."
September 6, 2005
Today's drop-off should just about complete my additions to the
front end of the book. In the end, I ended up appending (prepending?)
ten new pages to the ten extant final-pencil drawings.
My original intention had been to immediately jump into the "action"
of the story without giving much explanation about the underlying concepts
(tutoring, the role of the PGPS, Conrad's dream life). I believe I
overestimated the reader's willingness to be out on a narrative limb for twenty
or thirty pages without really knowing what was going on. While this certainly
would have made the story more of a puzzle (and thus, possibly interesting to
people looking for a mystery), for most people it was alienating. The new intro also
gives a few of the characters some more depth, hopefully making the action
that has already been drawn more meaningful.
The past two weeks have seen my first experiments with an organized "pre-vis"
process. Before this, I had made quick breakdown sketches in a notebook and
developed them as far as possible before going straight to final pencils. Alas,
my eagerness to get right to business on drawing neat spaceships sort of put
the cart before the horse, and I hit a narrative wall. I was basically drawing the story without a finished
script in-hand. As fun as it was to "discover" the story as I went along, it was
also quite stressful, not to mention inefficient.
Over the next couple of weeks, I intend to completely pre-vis the first issue.
By creating the pre-vis in Photoshop, I can more fluidly modify layout and dialogue
as the larger story develops. When the time comes to bring in the final pencils, all
I'll have to do is drop them directly into the pre-vis pages, saving a lot of time
on the back end.
Though it may be difficult to perceive (and I doubt that anybody is following
this enterprise closely enough to check the site every day), daily changes do occur
here. In many cases, these changes are limited to minor dialogue cleanup, but images
do also change over time. Besides the pre-vis additions, page 16 has undergone
a complete dialogue overhaul, as well.
I am particularly curious if the intro, in its current incarnation, is comprehensible.
If you have any comments, or if anything seems particularly unclear, your input could
help to create a book that is less annoying to future generations.
August 30, 2005
You might be wondering why I'm posting unfinished pages to the web
for all to see and frown upon. Here I am, leaving myself
open to critiques that smarter writers avoid by
keeping the icky innards of their creative processes hidden from public view. The repeat visitor
to this site will note that most of my panels start out containing
a squiggle (representing a person, or a tree, or maybe a star cruiser,
but who really knows?) and occasionally placeholder text (usually
something really literary like "hey!" or "you are my nemesis!").
Why on Earth would I knowingly expose this mess to the censure of people
whom I actually wish, eventually, to impress? Might my readership love
me less if they view me as an incompetent? Yes, probably.
Well, there are two reasons I'm doing this, the first of which is slightly more true
than the second. Here's number one: I have trouble wringing
productivity out of myself in my new "bossless" state (wow, "bossless"
sounds so much better than "unemployed," doesn't it?). Even if nobody
ever visits this site, the ritual of posting my progress impels me to
make daily, noticeable gains. So this site is my boss now, and by extension,
so are you! I am sorry for taking such long snack breaks. I promise
it won't happen again.
I'm also posting pre-finished (and often, just post-begun) work on this
site because I think the process of making a comic from scratch
is an interesting one -- certainly for me, at any rate, and maybe
for you, too. This is my first comic ever, and I haven't read any sort
of instructional material on the subject since "How to Draw Comics
the Marvel Way," which I am ignoring, by and large. So I'll be making
some huge mistakes along the way, which could be entertaining for you.
Just to whet your apetite for the Keystone Kops-like blundering that's
in store: in the past week, I have added five new pages to the beginning
of my story, and I'll have to add more material to glue the new beginning
to the old beginning. Or how about this: one of the pages (I won't tell
you which) has had its dialogue so drastically rewritten that its basic
meaning has been almost reversed (and I didn't have to change the art
at all, which is a real testament to the subtlety with which I draw
There are three more fully-pencilled pages that are not included here. These
will be posted as soon as I can figure out how to say "how do I use the
self-service scanner" in Korean.