Letters to Holly

Friday, May 18


The publisher seems fine with my schedule for getting him the minicomic next week. I laid it out in a horizontal format without doing much at all to alter the original comic. The original ran in vertical form, a little smaller than 8.5 x 11. The new format will be horizontal at 4.25 x 2.5, smaller than a dollar bill. But the comic fits just fine. I take two panels and make them a page, and take the next two panels, make them a page. Since the original comic was set up with two panels a tier, this creates no problem. Even when I have my two long page-wide panels, they aren't broken up in the layout. Unfortunately, this makes for a thin comic: 12 pages and four cover pages. But I can add eight more pages of related filler in the back for a nice 24-page comic, covers included. I've sent off the proposal and the new layout to the publisher for his comments. He hasn't seen the comic before, but I can't imagine he'd veto it.

Your Sis and I attended the annual school ceremony for recognition of students and teachers. This is, I think, the fifth consecutive year she's received an award from a student for her work. I'm not surprised. We ate finger food before the fairly short ceremony. I also got to see the student newspaper editor received a scholarship and congratulate her on her academic career. And then we were home for snacks and "Lost." This season ends next week, and we'll finish "Six Feet Under" before the end of June. We'll be exploding with free time just as summer vacation begins.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, May 17

It's All Gravy

I ran yesterday for about two miles. It was the farthest I've run since the Halloween race, and I'm sure I'll be able to get up to the 5k distance before the July event. Adjusting my work on the comic will help; I won't have to sacrifice running to slap together a comic for the mid-June deadline. I'm feeling the run today. The legs are tight and surly. I also tried running without my iPod, and it made a difference. While I was a bit distracted by my breathing, the time went by much quicker. I think I get stuck in songs, figuring out when they end and how far I should run before then. It's an extra timing pressure I don't need right now. It's a big relief in general. It was going to be impractical if not impossible to do with any level of quality. I realized this morning just how little I would be able to do had I remained in the Shakespeare production. I still want another shot at it though.

After the run I made fried chicken and improvised on gravy for the mashed potatoes. I mixed the left over grease with milk, flour, and chicken broth. Your Sister seemed to like it. Because I ran so well, I treated myself to a bottle of Coke. A small glass one, not a two-litter. I treat soda as a reward now, as opposed to my halcyon days of yore when I was practically breathing soda.

Pictures of the Day
Lucasfilm and Disney-MGM are teaming up for exclusive knick-knacks at their Orlando location this summer. To promote it, they have a series of posters of the Star Wars gang in airports.

Wednesday, May 16

Short Work

As the comic unfolds, I don't think it's possible to get it done before the HeroesCon, but I do want to finish it as best I can. I think I'll offer the publisher my dream comic from a few years back. Even though it ran in another title, I own it. And it's not bad for a story originally set to 4 pages. I may be able to rework it with small panel edits as a 16-pager. Maybe add some sketches to pad it to 20 pages and a cover. If not, the publisher still has two of my stories in as many anthologies to sell at this year's show.

I started the new panel layouts and realized that I limited myself to a confined area of the spaceship when, logically and thematically, we need to see more of it. So that will be the next tweak. And then I'll stop fidgeting with it and start drawing the damn thing.

The potatoes are growing at a potato's pace, unfortunately. We are just six episodes from finishing "Six Feet Under." Your Sis made stir-fry.

Moving Picture of the Day
I'm very curious to see this. I enjoyed the graphic novel and its sequel, and I believe we donated the books to the school library.

Tuesday, May 15

Comic Notes

As I expand the story -- and new facets emerge from the Divine Facet Factory -- I'm encountering a trouble that I wanted to avoid: the story is getting bloated. I've written myself away from the original tidy ending, and now I have a nicely layered tale with no conclusion. Not that it needs a bold note to end on; I'd like to have a significant bon mot to leave the reader, but now I can't sculpt one based on the last scene. Something has to change, and it needn't be the plot structure. The dialogue can even be rejiggered to work with the panel construction (although the panels will change as I add more pages).

I just need a way to avoid three things:
1) Cliched dialogue
2) Stiff dialogue
3) Predictable dialogue.

I feel the story is safe; the more I consider it, the more I like it. It's a perfect mini-comic structure. If it never continues past this one issue, the cheese stands alone. But I pride myself on turns of phrase and clear communication, and I can't stand the thought of writing the reader toward a blah exit.

I'm getting closer to the time at which I shall lock myself in the work room to slap this comic together. I talked to the publisher and discovered he'll print the thing for me. But I realistically may not get this out before the June convention. And that's OK ultimately. I'd rather have the story done right than done sloppily.

Picture of the Day
Your Sister loves this song.

News of the Day
Rat bastard Jerry Falwell died today. While he is known mostly for creating the Moral Majority into a massive lobbying entity, he fell to inexcusable notoriety by blaming 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, and gays. In doing so, he displayed the same pigheaded religious intolerance that made a worldwide impact on 9/11. And because of this, I hold no remorse for my glee that I shall never have to hear fresh idiocy from his mouth again. He was joined in this horseshit by Pat Robertson, and I hope Falwell is preparing a pair of asbestos pajamas for him as we speak.

Monday, May 14

Mother's Taters

We planted seed potatoes Saturday morning, our first try at growing food. We made two rows, planting about 40 pieces of quartered Kennebuc potatoes. We'll add fertilizer and mulch as they sprout. If they sprout. Really, all the hard work is done. we've prepared the ground for the food. Now we just inspect, water, and weed as necessary. A late lunch followed, and I began the page layouts for the comic.

I finished a full script draft Saturday morning, writing dialogue as the story unfolded in my head and breaking the exchanges down into manageable panels. I know the dimensions of the comic will be small (4 x 5.5 inches at most) so panels can only hold so much information. If you start a new scene, you need an establishing shot (and of course my first page breaks this rule as I'm starting with a dream sequence, and withholding that info adds to the mood). If you have a conversation, the amount of words per panel limits the amount of art in that same panel.

I've found it much easier to write and then draw, but I tend to see the scenes moving like a movie. I make mental snapshots of each crucial movement or phrase, and then I tailor those snapshots into a coherent panel sequence. But sometimes, the mind presents a full developed location, and I find myself trying to write within it.

An example looks like this. I already have the established location, but this bit of script doesn't say how the heads will be located in the frames or which will be the dominant image. That will be figured out in the layout process. But, again, sometimes, I know exactly how the panel should look, and I'll note the details so I don't forget. Artist Me will sometimes forget what Writer Me was talking about.

DR: Your rang?
CAP: Evening. Or afternoon. Whatever it is.
DR: It's evening.

PANEL, show more of Doc
CAP: How's Carter?
DR: I’ll run a scan on Carter once he wakes up and eats something.
CAP: You think he’s getting worse?

Carter asleep, strapped to the bed, with the machine in his room. Maybe an attendant with machine.
DR: I think he wants off this ship and away from us.
CAP: Smart man.

I need to figure out names for my characters, but nothing depends on that information right now. Too often, writers will come up with a snazzy name and gimmick and construct a flimsy plot around it. I'm working from the opposite direction. Some folks have names. Some don't. I'm writing a situation, not a narrative.

With the script done, I returned to the comic after lunch and started sketching the panels. I made a page template at half the size of the mini-comic dimensions. The rule of comic design is that if looks good small, it will look good big. Also, sketching small restricts the temptation to draw in detail. At this point, I'm just trying to ensure eye flow and composition. This grid works out to nine panels per page with sketch and note space beside the grid. There is no standard way to do this. This is how the templates fit in my sketch book. As I look at the script, I see how many panels could conceivably and legibly fit on one page, and how the panels can accentuate dramatic tension. As I draw each panel, I check it off the script. And if a panel flow changes how the dialogue will play out, I'll note that on my script printout.

See how the third panel is crossed out and next to it is a replacement panel. I changed the perspective to allow more information. Currently, my script hits 15 pages -- pretty short. I now have the luxury of adding pages to pad out the story. Some pages are a little tight with panels, and I can space those frames out to let the pages breathe. And that's where I am now.

Sunday, we visited my parents, fed them dinner, and strolled Lowe's to talk gardening. I'm thinking we'll try corn next. We know we'll get tomatoes from the compost bin. This was my Parent's first time seeing the new car and Your Sister's new haircut. They liked both a lot.

This morning I checked a local printer to see how much it would cost to produce 100 copies of the comic. The estimate hit $230. That's not practical. So I'll print the comics at home. That may not leave me enough time to make and print the comics for the June convention, but I can still send my publisher the finished product for shows later this year. Still, I'd like to sell a few copies at my nearby show.

Moving Picture of the Day
An old scene amended for current movie audiences.