Monday, February 28, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_003

Starting over on this project. What I have written was not bad on its own terms, I thought. But it wasn't giving me the comic element hat this title calls for. Much of what I've written so far can be salvaged and re-used I think. But I need to shift the lead character to make this work properly.

But that's what starting in can do for you. It shows you the error of your ways.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_002

This title calls for a humorous approach. Gross humor, black humor most likely, but humor nontheless and for the first 16 pages, I wasn't quit getting it. Instead, I'm getting a tone of wistfulness. I like it. It may be what this story should be, but its not right for the title, quite.

I had pushed the script out to 16 pages, and today I trimmed it back to 14, shifted the one bit of black humor to the lead character, where it belongs. The story moves a bit faster now, which I like.

It will probably require more editing, but I'm at a point I could call the first chapter, so maybe its time to do a bit of drawing... character design and such. Or more outlining, perhaps a beat sheet. Its possible to plan too much and not really move forward on a project. I'm glad I've got this one underway. It gives me material to push back against.

BTW: If you think this sounds like a terribly undisciplined approach, I might agree with you. For now though, I am just unreeling a line into the water to see what kind of fish I catch.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Curse You, Mr. Buttons!

I've been thinking about doing a bunch of short, short stories to have on hand for various projects when they pop up. This one just popped up. A one page story for a small anthology called Horror Haikus. Its not easy to write a one page story, but the writer A D-G pulled it off nicely. Fun to do.

Now to scan it in and tone and letter it.

Mercy Blade

And the second of my two vampire hunter romance action adventure books. I liked this one better. More action. More plot. the lead character is not in and of herself more interesting then the last one... or the Anita Blake characters for that matter. The characters have pretty interchangeable personalities. They invariably have some extraordinary powers that make them lethal to the bad supernaturals, and useful to he powerful (but good)ones. Sexually, they are good girls, or good girl wannabes who find themselves drawn into a web of romantic and sexual intrigue. These are, at bottom, romances... but Faith Hunter delivers on the promise of action that the other two authors mentioned keep to a minimum.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Not Wrapped Tight_001

Many projects are in flux right now. The two that I was expecting to develop during the early part of 2011 seem to be stuck in writer land. I was developing a third project with a writer I've worked with before when I got pitched by another writer to do something for that same slot. I caused some conversation between me and the two writers and the publisher to figure out what was happening,and most likely I'll doing the first project as planned... but developments could change that again, I suppose.

So while all of this waiting on writers was happening, I decided to just write my own story. And this is the elevator pitch:

After 50 centuries, an Egyptian princess returns from the dead seeking her warrior husband. Pursued by a ravening hunger for human flesh, both aided and hindered by an assortment of supernatural beings, she crosses the modern world in search of romance.

Fourteen pages into the script at the moment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blood Heat

Google Blood Heat, and one comes up with a lot of books not to mention other usages of the term. This is the one I just read. A year or two back I sampled Laural K Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Slayer books. I found them to be about 70% conversations about relationships, 20% steamy explicit sex, and 10% action. I felt like I was reading in a thick soup. and after several of these, was ready for something more astringent.

Maria Lima's book tends to follow these tropes closely, except that the sex is not very explicit at all. The other tropes of this sort of dark urban fantasy, as the genre is called, all seemed to be in place. A feudal relationship between various clans of supernatural beings, vampires and werewolves being the most popular although other types of were creatures are assumed as well, establishes the basic culture, with vampires generally seen as being at the top of the hierarchy.

There is a strong(meaning a combat badass)female lead, who likes sex (often with multiple partners)a lot, is herself partnered with a bi-sexual Master of the City (a king vampire)who takes on the role of co-leader through this relationship, coupled with her own innate and potent set of magical skills.

I would point out that science fiction has a long tradition of galactic civilizations being conceived along feudal lines, Dune, anyone? And the ass-kicking female lead who can go mano a mano with with male antagonists is popular enough in superhero comic books. Both of these tropes contain dominance/submission themes that are popular in romance and pornography, and the pack structure of the werewolf clans overtly plays right into this.

As an aside, I wonder how many of these writers recognize that the wer term in werewolf is a cognate of the Latin vir, for man, as in virile. They tend to use it to mean animal shape-shifters, and it is convenient shorthand, but actually refers to the human component, rather than the beast, which their usage of the term suggests.

As a final note, I would add that most of these books are written by women, for women. ts a popular genre to judge by the shelf space and number of TV shows out there. next I'll be reading Faith Hunter's Mercy Blade as continue my research.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Classical Painting Atelier

Author Juliette Aristides even has a name that's made for this approach to painting instruction. Aristides is an advocate for a return to the atelier method of art instruction, wherein talented students work with a master painter, who passes on the secrets of the craft, and teaches painting, sculpture and drawing from life, developing in artists an acute eye for observation.

This of course is how it was done for centuries before the development of art instruction in universities. And it has very much the virtues of teaching and progressing in an organized, coherent fashion with new learning based on the old. University education can be very much a hop-scotch of learning, especially in an era of underfunding and overcrowding. Students have to get classes when they can.

While this approach can and has in he past led to academic straitjackets on what is acceptable in art, current methods can lead to a lack of craft and critical acumen. A balance, as always, is needed. Aristides' arguments that traditional subjects such as still life, portraiture and figure can be handled with an eye to the modern sensibility, and retain the power to evoke an emotional response is amply demonstrated through the choice of illustrations, which includes paintings by old masters with student work from her atelier.

This book is inspiring me to attempt painting again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Is Jake Ellis?

The following is posted verbatim from a thread I've started at Panel and


It seems to me that we don't talk enough about the good comics we've read. Mia culpa, I don't read a lot. When I was much, much younger, I marveled at the Jack Kirby's of the world who confessed that they didn't regularly read comics. Impossible! Granted, artists can better get away with this than writers who have plot threads to pick up (assuming you do WFH). But at 57, I get it. And no, I'm not going to try and explain it. That isn't the point of this thread.

The point is, I do pick up comics from time to time, and I do look for things that have some point of interest. One so rarely gets a complete story in a pamphlet comic, that its almost useless to purchase based on that. But I'm an artist, and I do get excited when I see art... and more particularly, storytelling that works for me.

So the rule for this thread is point to a comic you read that was worth a look see, and explain why. No pointing to comics created by any of the regulars here. We know Marv is an eminence gris and Jimmie is a prodigy. We recognize that Russell has more talent in his pinkie than Michalangleo put into God's index finger. JAQ is a legendary wit and Derek is Proust. Jason and PJ are the new Stan and Lee.

What else is out there that we can learn from?

So the other day I was thumbing through the funny books at Comics Relief in Berkeley, enhancing the value of mere comic by dog-earring the pages. The stuff from the Big two features some impressive drawing, and absolutely amazing coloring. The development of digital coloring has fueled a style of drawing that is very open and sparely rendered. I firmly believe that colorists should be getting a hell of a lot more credit. They are turning forms and establishing mood in ways that inkers used to do. But the visual storytelling is uniformly flabby.

Enter, Who Is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmundson and Tonci Zonjic. The immediate impression is Alex Toth in his marker pen, Torpedo, Bravo for Adventure. Very spare drawing, complemented by equally spare coloring. Not monotone, but coloring is is only moderately used for turning forms. The writing is elegant... just enough to carry the story and characterizations without bombast. better than Toth's writing by a margin.

But its in the visual storytelling where this book really stands out. Staging, camera angles, just the right details, compositional variety... all of these keep the story moving along at a sprightly pace. If you want to see what I consider to be an an engaging, involving way to tell stories, check this out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How NOT To...

Most of my posts have been about my comics work, self-promotion really. But I also try to comment about books I've read, and the dearth of posts on this subject reveals how little in the way of long form reading I've been doing this past year.

I got this book, How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe as a Christmas gift from C, and its one I had looked at previously and thought sounded promising. Clever title, and the central conceit of time travel as tense had promise. The author introduced several characters, or at least character concepts that appeared likely as sources of humor or insight.They provided neither.

The book reads at a brisk pace. Yet it took me several weeks to get 80% of the way through the book. Some of this I attribute to my own malaise about reading novels these days. I am spending a good deal my intellectual capital on short for reading... mostly on my computer.

But in truth, I did something I almost never do. I quit. I had maybe less than 50 pages of reading left to do, and I put the book down and said to myself, "No more."
I even flipped through to the end to see what happened, and evidently something did happen, but I couldn't bring myself to care about how it happened. I just couldn't care about the central character, and I was tired of waiting for some plot development.

I simply got worn out listening to the narrator whine about his relationship with his father. As with the last book I read, Big Machine either the author was not in control of his metaphors and themes or they were too deep for me.

Frankly, if a book can't engage me 20% of the way in, I should have an obligation to finish it. 80% seems like I gave it altogether too much credit. Going in, it seemed like a book I would like. Somebody liked it... they published it. C plans to read it. Perhaps it will suit her more than me. I hope so.