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. Opinions?

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 or so!

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.

-Nate

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 facial expressions).

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.

-Nate