- A pun on Lonely Planet, a popular travel guide to exploring new destinations.
- A reference to a panel of people discussing a topic, in this case, comics.
- A reference to my intention of exploring the limits of single panel comic hybrids next.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
My comic, www.lukesurl.com, has been running for a little over eight months now, with 124 updates to date. I'm mostly doing single panals or short strips, roughly in the vein of SMBC or xkcd. I received a review from Jackson at webcomicweek a couple of months ago (http://webcomicweek.blogspot.com/2009/01/review-luke-surl.html) and found it very useful, I was wondering if you would be able to offer your perspective on the comic.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
A problem of character
But there is a hitch. Mr Lee’s most celebrated creations appeared at a time when comic books were widely read. The heroes were honed over many years by other writers and artists. As a result a great many people of diverse ages are familiar with them and will happily spend $10 to sit in a cool cinema and renew their acquaintance. Blockbuster audiences are built not of enthusiastic fans—there are never enough—but of people who are vaguely aware of a character or a story and want to see what a studio does with it.
These days it is extremely difficult to propel new characters or stories into broad public consciousness, and therefore hard to mobilise a mass audience for films based on them. Take Alan Moore, a revered writer of comic books. His works have inspired five ambitious films (the most recent is “Watchmen”), none of them hugely successful. And what goes for comic books also goes for television shows, computer games and other fodder for summer blockbusters. As audiences fragment, there is simply less mass content to throw into the Hollywood recycling machine... (read more)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"Eh... How is this different from what you usually do, Ping?"
That's probably what you're thinking. I should probably rephrase that better: Maybe my use of "web comic" is a bad choice. A digital comic is probably closer to the truth.
Hm... a Comp-mic? Pixelmic? Comixel? *cue groans*
Fine. For now... online comic.
In any case, I'm thinking about comics that are made solely to be showcased on a computer screen, and would not be able to be printed out without losing some or all of its impact.
Keep in mind that I am NOT talking about distribution methods. I'm not talking about a comic that happens to reach its readership through a website. Or the clandestine sort that gets forwarded around in office emails, or transferred through flash keys or even bit-torrented.
I'm talking about comics that break tradition by exclusively using digital technology as a format.
The recently reviewed Hero and the hovertext in place of speech bubbles being an example of a deviation. Of course, Hero was still strongly traditional in some other ways, and there were limitations to the hovertext approach. But it was still a refreshingly new way of doing things.
And there's then-pioneering background animations in Aargon Zark. Of course everyone knows Scott McCloud's infinite canvas.
But honestly up to now, a lot of experiments in digital comicism so far tend to feel... gimmicky. Even the best of them suffer from Marmite syndrome, they either are love or hated, and most of the time are only tolerated for being a novelty.
However, novelty is NOT what I am interested in. What I've been searching for is a stable, universal something that improves upon the old tried and tested way of presenting panels and speech bubbles in sequential order.
At the end of the day, what we associate as the fundamental parts of a comic are still methods that were designed and optimised to be presented on paper. When comics shifted to the web, the same mentality remained.
Back to the topic... I used to get annoyed whenever someone brought up Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud, mainly because of the stigma it gave online comics that we were just a bunch of geeks trying out gimmicky stuff with the comic format that would never work long term (though it wasn't his fault we were seen that way, really).
Ok, so now it still annoys me a little, but I understand a little bit of what Scott saw in the potential of the web now, although what he covered was but barely scratching the surface, and some of his ideas weren't exactly the most practical things ever.
But the point is in the experimenting. You don't experiment without failing. Fact. You don't find out new things if you don't try.
Talk to others. Try stuff. Fail. Explore, See other people's ideas, try something else. Fail. Research more.
This is what this blog is supposed to be about after all. Exploration of the online comic, not just exploration of online comics.
Heck I did my own experiments with the format myself, though by any standards what I tried was pretty conservative. And to be honest even I didn't think it worked that well.
But most of the experimental stuff we've seen in the last ten years or so art just that... experiments. Prototypes. When they fail, maybe we shouldn't just dismiss them as gimmicks, but give them a bit more thought on what when wrong, and what we could have done to make the new format and presentation better.
Or destroy it.
Or supersede it.
Maybe it's the right way to go.
But hey... I can live with that.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Today's postcard is notable in that this is the first Postcard I've been asked to do not by the creator of a comic, but an ardent reader of it instead.
As you probably have guessed, I'm emailing about a webcomic: Hero, by Hwei Lin Lim. I know that you are extremely busy and probably have a request list the length of an astronomical unit, but on the off chance that you have a bit of time...
If you haven't read it yet, well, I can recommend it at least as a personal favorite -- the art is beautiful, the story dreamishly meandering but well-told and meaningful. There's about 200 pages in the archive, and the narration/dialogue is done through hovertext, which I think is very liberating for both the visual and textual aspects. And if you have read it before, then I would be very interested in what you have to say about it, again given that you have the time.
And uh, I got some metaphorical weird looks last time I made this clear, but just so you know, I'm not Hwei -- I'm just a really, really invested fan. If that's a problem, then just say so and I'll disappear like a well-bleached stain. Thanks for taking the time to read this email!
How am I to refuse such a charming request?
The first thing that will strike anyone who reads this comic is the total absence of the usual text and narration bubbles. Instead Hero truly transcends from "comic" to "webcomic" by making use of hover text for the narration.
This is not the first time I've seen anyone experiment with the web format by making the reader interact with the comic (in fact every page of Dr. McNinja has bonus jokes hidden in the image text) .But this is the first one I've seen that actually seen that makes the hover text the focus of the delivery and succeeds because of its simplicity.
So the reading of Hero makes one feel more like they are reading an interactive picture-book, and oddly enough it makes one slow down to appreciate the beautifully watercolour-isque art and the enthralling, stylish story more.
Hero has a narrative style that is immensely distinct and endearing. Everything is narrated from the point of view of the protagonist, and by extension, every thing is described as a comparison based on the protagonist experiences.
For example the protagonist is so impressed with the memory of a wolf which is devoted to its human companion that he describes always having someone who will keep you company and wait for you as "having a wolf"
The odd speech bubble does make an appearance, but they are always pictorial "speech" bubbles.
I especially like how Hwei manages to sneak in bits of her local influences into his work. Subtle inside jokes like this one resonate with me :) (Yes yes, I did chuckle when I identified the cendol, sate and ang ku kuei!)
The story flow is interesting, although sometimes it feels like it jumps from one point to another, leaving the reader slightly bewildered at points.
In one chapter the format suddenly changed without warning, leaving me anxious that Hwei was abandoning her trademark speech hover thing only to have be relieved when she went back to it a chapter later. I'm still not clear on why she changed the format, my guess is that she was experimenting... but it did disrupt my reading for a bit.
All in all, Hero is something very special and unique out of the comics I have read, and in terms of webcomic finds, this is a motherlode of a Find! Finding comics like this totally makes writing blog worthwhile. I think I need to send Aoede a thank you email for this.
I actually did fine-art for my A-Levels, but I try not to talk about it too much lest I be mistaken for a "snotty fine artist". IMHO that fine art attainment is nothing if it doesn't help me improve my comics, and fortunately, something I learnt back then does actually help, even though I didn't figure out how to apply it until recently.
Because I'm lazy, I'm just going to repeat something I said in a discussion over at Bengo's blog about what I discovered about doing art black and white. It's mainly my observation, but:
The bottomline is: doing good black and white requires the artist understand very well the concept of positive and negative space, and how to use it.
So what is this positive and negative space anyway?
The easiest way to describe it is thus:
positive space = important parts of the picture that we want to focus on.
negative space = the parts that are not parts of the important parts.
A lot of people will mistake positive space as "white" and negative space as "black" or vice versa. This is NOT the case and it took me a while to break out of this kind of thinking as well. What I really needed to know is that it changes according to context. Take this example below:
In both cases, the lines and shapes that make up the mouse are the "positive spaces". The background, whether white or black is the negative... the key point is the positive space needs to be in a contrasting colour from the negative space.
So now that we've shattered that particular mental barrier, black and white art suddenly becomes easier to understand, because we know it's not about whether the object we are trying to depict IS black or white. It's about conveying the important information to the reader in the correct contrasting colour.
We're used to drawing black on white, so we naturally define our positive space lines and shapes by drawing in black. But if the background is supposed to be black, use white for the lines. It's that simple. Or if you want it put the other way, fill in the negative spaces with black, so that the white left over is the positive.
Sometimes the rules aren't so clear cut. When two objects that are black are drawn next to each other, what does one do? Colour the whole thing black with white lines in-between? Or keep them black? Or for the sake of visibility, we need to defy reality and pick one and turn it white to they they form a contrast?
For this there is no set answer. It comes back to what we want to communicate to the reader.
Let's look at this example of a shady-looking guy. For the sake of the setting we want his face shrouded in shadow and he wears dark glasses to boot.
If he's a regular member of the cast, maybe the sunglasses are his identifying feature. To make sure the reader is able to tell it is him, sometimes the artist is obliged to flip the colours to make it clear he has a pair of sunglasses on his eyes.
Like I said, it depends on what you want to convey.
Of course black and white art isn't just that simple, else anyone could just draw something and use and invert the colours to make it look cool.
So the few things I learned about black and white art:
1. It's not about picturing black as black and white as white.
2. The choice of whether you want to use black or white depends on what message you are trying to convey.
3. Having both large areas of black and white spaces provides a pleasing visual balance to an image.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
But I did drown in work when I came back.
In fact right now, I'm positively inundated with work which is being done in-between training sessions. It's seriously killing me. I need another diving trip already.
I'm putting finishing touches to the Black in Black Pinging Art entry, but in the meantime, allow me to distract you with diving comic stuff I did on my portable sketchpad (A very fancy name for two pieces of cardboard, ring binders and cheap printer paper I cobbled together)
All in all a good trip, the highlight of which was a pod of six wild dolphins showing up and swimming alongside the boat for a while. How can that NOT be awesome?!
Aaaand distraction over. Watch out for Back in Black maybe next week, and after that you'll be glad to hear I'll be getting on to another round of reviews again :) Happy webcomicking!