April 25th, 2010

Bill Nye

I Wouldn't Belong To Any Club That Would Have Me As A Member

Why don't I like deviantART?  I know lots of people who hang out on deviantART.  Franchesco!, the professional comic book artist I'm friends with, has a deviantART page and has asked me why I don't have one.  The guys who own and run Hard Way Studios their own and have asked why I don't have one.  A couple of other industry pros have their own and asked why I don't have one.  If I'm killing time drawing while waiting in line for something, maybe 1 time out of 5, people will tell me they are on deviantART, do I have a page there?

I don't really consider deviantART to be that great a site.  There's a lot of backbiting and flame wars and butthurt and ego bruising and "ITZ MY STYLE!!11!   U KANT CRITIQUE MY STYLE!!11!" and other stuff that makes it seem more like high school than a community of artists.  If I was really looking to develop as an artist, I'd hang out on conceptart.org which has people who really know their shit.  Their critiques can be a bit brutal, but out of honesty.  They aren't looking to pick on anyone, they are just stating the unsoaped truth so you know where you need to improve.  It's a wake-up call there, but in a good way.  By signing up there, it is implied you want to get better and they will tell you how (throw your ego around, though, and they won't hesitate to pwn your ass).

deviantART does accomplish one thing.  On the days when I think I'm fooling myself about being an artist, that I have no business trying this, that I should just put away the pages and never set pen to paper again until the Second Coming, I think about the people on deviantART who get 100,000 page views.  I don't mean the ones that usually languish in obscurity until they draw fanart of popular series (Inuyasha, Sonic The Hedgehog, etc.) or pr0n, and get page views, meaning they are great artists, but no one really cares unless they are catering to their whims.  I'm talking about specific people who clearly cannot draw.  One person drew a furry "character" that was a stick figure with cat ears and two breasts, depicted as one circle with a dot in the center each and just under the armpits.  One viewer commented, "Wow!  It's a cat stuck in a dough sheeter!"

And then, there's people like the (now deleted) Chase The Hedgehog.  He got 100,000 page views for his Sonic fanart.  Here's a representative sample:

Nineteen years old when he drew this.  Nine.  Teen.   100,000 page views, folks.  Just ask him, he'll tell you aaaaaaaaall about it.

And then I look at my art, like this piece I call Polka Party:

...and I feel a lot better about myself....
Peter G

I'm Almost Ready To Already Declare This The Worst Wizard World Ever

I take a quick look at Wizard's site to see what has changed about the ChicagoCon.  At the top is an ad for WWPhiladelphia, happening in June.  Among the guests?

The Bruce.

Bruce Campbell, The Man Himself, is going to be at Philly.  No mention of Chicago.

If Bruce comes to Chicago, I will so totally geek out.  Hell, I be ready to give him copies of all my comics, even one of those copies of Morbid Myths that I have never parted with.  Just to spend a few moments in the presence of pure awesome.

So, I'm swearing about that, and holding out a sliver of hope.  What else?

Chicago is going to have a contingent of people from the TV show Smallville there.  Among them is Laura Vandervoort, who plays Supergirl.  You know, Helen Slater has a supporting role on Smallville, and she's been doing the convention circuit this year.  She also wrote a Supergirl story that appeared in issue #50 a couple of months ago (I know, it was probably script doctored within an inch of its life), but given her connections to Smallville, the fact that she played Supergirl, and having the current Supergirl actress there, I'm holding out hope that maybe she'll turn up in Chicago and I can get my DVD's signed.

I can't believe how skimpy the guest list is so far.  Usually, around March, the list of comic pros, celebrities, and has-beens is huge.  So far, there's only one washed up wrestler listed on the page for Chicago.  Usually, they have a dozen or more by now.  And it's not even Jerry "The King" Lawler, who draws comic books and has a far more legit reason to be at the con.

Instead, Michael Golden is going to be there as a special guest (I note they finally replaced the Power Girl image they attributed to Marvel with a Wonder Woman image without the Marvel branding).  Yippee.

Fan magnets.  They are wonderful things.  Deploy them carefully.
Moe Cowbell

Shooting Stars

Last night, the Swim Buddies got together for Rock Band.  I hadn't even picked up my drum sticks in a couple of weeks, due to prepping for C2E2 and just getting stuff caught up.

That was a mistake.

Played for about five hours last night, and my right arm is aching.  Aspirin is a miracle drug, and how!  Not taking that much time off again, even if I'm just doing paradiddles for a while during the week.

mornblade  had commented at our last session that a microphone stand would be fun.  I remembered I still had a boom mike stand from when I shot the Firewater! movie, so I pulled it out.  Works great, I tested it by doing some bad stand-up ("My mom's a horrible cook.  Our china pattern was a skull and crossbones.  We were the only family that said our prayers AFTER we ate").

Mornblade had an additional surprise.  He brought over a camera.  He likes to record his karaoke adventures, and wanted some of us jamming out to put on YouTube.  Considering there are no public access channels out here for us to appear on, this will have to do.  I had hoped to wire in a VCR to get the best image and sound, but it just wasn't working.  So he set up and started shooting.

His voice came through loud and clear, as well as some of our commentary.  One song was "Last Train To Clarksville."  Rock Band sometimes shows little bits of trivia about the songs or performers while it is loading the game data.  For that bit, it pointed out the Jimi Hendrix once opened for the Monkees and nearly got booed off the stage.  Mornblade's recording captured my unrepentant laughter.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Monkees.  I had their albums and watched their shows.  But Jimi Hendrix being booed by their fans?!?  What funhouse mirror universe did this take place in?!?

So Mornblade got images of our avatars jamming out.  The vocalist in the virtual band is loosely modeled on Rhapsody from Sound Waves, something he had to explain, presumably so people wouldn't think he's weird for a female avatar with his singing voice.  The footage is interesting because, when you sing in Rock Band, there are points where you are supposed to hit the mike like a tamborine.  During those bits, Rhapsody will suddenly be holding a tamborine or a cowbell or some other hand percussion instrument.  Watching the footage, I still can't see where she produces them from.  Rhapsody is a manga character, so maybe, instead of hammerspace, she had musical instrument space instead.

And Mornblade does seem open to the idea of starting a wizard rock band with me.  Oh, this should be a gas....
Sound Waves

Sound Waves #5 Is Out!

My first two parter in the series.

I actually really like how I blocked the cover on this one.  Rhapsody has a bit of boldness and adventure to her.  So, when I started working on the cover, having Melody keeping a low profile while Rhapsody is a little more out there fit in my mind.

The story was cheap excuse to introduce Sherman.  One of the cliches of shoujo is that there is a love interest involved.  It's one cliche that's nearly impossible to avoid when you're as big a sucker for the stuff as I am.  But I needed to do it in a way that incorporated Sherman into things.  I didn't want him to be some separate element, I wanted him to integrate into Rhapsody's world, to know and appreciate having mermaids in her life, and factor into the stories once in a while.  I enjoy depicting him as a gentleman, making her a sandwich and watching out for her just because.

This was the first really radical departure in the general tone of the series.  It starts off with a mysterious atmosphere, and by the end, it employs an air of menace as Rhapsody tries to escape capture by the Professor.  The shift itself had me going back and forth about doing the story.  After all, I was already pushing my limits with #4, where an entire group of octopi die of old age.  I was concerned the series was moving away from its fundamental atmosphere of lightheartedness and optimism.

I ultimately went forward out of editorial honesty.  Rhapsody has an adventurous personality, but expecting her to never wind up in a situation bigger than herself, where she can't simply walk away, felt like cheating.  My hope with Sound Waves has always been to make something a step above the milquetoast series like Strawberry Shortcake and that, where threats are never truly a threat and the outside world stays outside.  Those kinds of series may be fine, but you don't get really wrapped up in the events because there are no real consequences, no real risks that things won't work out.  You simply wait for the time when the situation rights itself.  Rhapsody was created to be creative, smart, and hands on.  So occassionally throwing her into a tight situation (in this case, by her own actions) seemed the right thing to do.

That said, the Professor was a real tightrope.  I needed something relatively low stakes, but still high enough to ratchet up the tension.  Originally, the undersea habitat was going to be naval research.  But given all the security equipment such a structure would possess, the idea of Rhapsody sneaking in and generally avoiding detection just didn't work.  Then I remembered a couple of hotels in Florida that are underwater -- you go in by scuba gear or a minisub.  Perfect.  The Professor was a real problem, though.  Originally, he was just out to find out how Rhapsody got there, but I worried it made his pursuit of her seem psychotic or gave him a "creepy uncle", if you know what I mean, vibe that I wanted to avoid.  Eventually, I settled on him connecting Rhapsody to the mermaids.  Rhapsody wouldn't be in a life-or-death situation, she'd just be trying to protect her friends and her secrets from someone determined to get them.

More when #6 comes out and the story concludes.

I Am Woman, Here My Series Get Cancelled

A while ago, I wrote how Spider-Girl's series was being revived and how this was a good thing from the standpoint of female characters who were characters and not just fap material like Power Girl (issue #9 of the Power Girl series has her nude chasing a boy and playing peek-a-boob with groceries.  Once again, men don't get those kinds of situations).

Well, that didn't take long.

Marvel has changed its mind.  The Spider-Girl series has become a mini-series.  Four issues.  If the sales figures don't hit a certain mark, the series is gone at that point.  Something tells me the writing is on the wall -- the Spider-Girl stories that were done digitally are gone now.

And this is why I don't like trying new series.

Publishers have turned comics into a series of events to follow, not characters to get involved in.  That is, when the stories aren't being done apparently just to tweak longtime fans who don't like a current editorial direction (yes, I'm looking at One Moment In Time).

I'm not like your general comic fans.  I don't feel I am entitled to things just because I'm a fan.  The characters are not mine, and I have no control over anything.  But I'm still smarting from "Flash: Rebirth," which made Barry Allen the Scarlet Speedster again.  I loved Barry, don't get me wrong.  But when Mark Waid wrote his great stories for Wally West, Wally became my Flash.  And the relative ease with which they are pushing him aside just to put Barry back in the suit doesn't sit well with me.  He was the first kid sidekick to fulfill the promise and become the hero.  And he forever respected the legacy he upheld.

Pht.  Put Barry back in there any way you can.  And with the dopiest twist to the Speed Force mythos, as well.

Admittedly, there is always the risk of the creative teams messing up the characters.  I loved Peter David's run on X-Factor and thought Scott Lobdell blew it.  But there's a difference between those halcyon days and now.  Back then, those changes seemed to come from the creative teams.  They thought they had a good idea or a new direction for the series and ran with it.  It was done because they thought it was a good idea.  Now, you have books being controlled by the editor, basically assembling teams to make the books the editor would make if he was the writer, artist, colorist, etc.  There seems to be less sense to things now, and if a switch doesn't make sense but will sell more books, put it in motion.  They seem to revise Superman's origin every few years just to keep the dramatic plots coming.

I'm not even going to bother with the Spider-Girl mini.  Marvel clearly wants it gone, and they will not stop until it is.  Why should I get wrapped up in a series that might never be able to get involving because it will be gone tomorrow?  I quit watching network TV shows because of this.  I may have to quit reading some comic for the same reason.

Give me a reason to care.  Don't act like you are doing me some great favor in tossing me a few crumbs of good storytelling.