Exchange of Keys

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You might be wondering why there weren’t any pages last week. That would be because I spent a lot of last work doing final approval and tweaks on the files for book 2 – the presses should be starting up soon, then I get to watch the books make their way from China to Seattle!

Interior Design

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Holy cow you do not want to know how long the backgrounds in Fantasy World took. And the worst part of it is that I’m going to be using a completely different camera angle on the conversation for the next few panels – I’ll have to do another complex background to use for that before I can cut and paste stuff.

Or I could have some blank space behind them talking, but honestly I only want to do that if it’s actually appropriate to the setting. Future Rita’s apartment is blank because she has very few physical possessions and relishes empty space, so I’m fine with having that vast expanse of white wall on the top side! (Plus it seems to fit her mood, of wanting to shut down.)

Anyway! The next page is written and has its rough layout, so it’s very likely that you’ll see it next Tuesday.

Warm Sporran

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Man I dunno about that page title. I’ve gotta fill it with something and I’m really just out of crypto jokes. So instead you get a Jethro Tull song that came up while I was posting this. I guess I could just do the page number (this is 120) but that’s really, really boring…

The dude having a quiet smoke in the left side of the lower right panel is Badou from Shirow Miwa’s “Dogs”, which I picked up at the library last week and am kinda quietly in love with. There’s some really solid cartooning going on in that book.

Anyway. This is the first page I’ve done since setting up a Patreon campaign, and thanks to the generosity of the folks who’ve pledged, my drink at the cartoonist meetup tonight will be paid for by this page. Huzzah! If you wanna help support this comic, and maybe give me a bit of a carrot to push myself to work more on it, then go check it out. Or you could keep enjoying it and maybe buy books when I print ‘em, whatever, I’ll keep drawing it anyway.

Slow Reversal of Entropy

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I think this will probably be the only page for this week; I don’t have any sketches for the next page. I might have a wild fit of productivity tomorrow and take it from “loosely laid out dialogue” to “final art” but I’m not gonna count on it. I did actually spend three solid hours working on this, which is like three times more than I’ve been able to make myself do for most of the past few months, so you never know. I think spring may finally be coming! (Edit: I had a wild fit of productivity tonight while hanging out at SICAGA and got the next page roughed, holy crap. Lots of complex backgrounds in that one though, so who knows how long it’ll take..)

Aaand I also spent some time throwing together a Patreon campaign. I had a few people ask if I had one; now I do. Basically it’s an ongoing Kickstarter that will pay me per-page, for those of you who’d like to support me that way instead of (or in addition to!) buying a copy of the book about once a year. You can find out more here.

(I’m still going back and forth with the printer on contracts, this is just taking crazy long this time. I will be so happy when I get book 2 in print.)

buffer overflow // restarting, please wait…

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That’s it for book 2. Thanks for reading, everyone.

I’ve been running slow on Rita due to cons and the Kickstarter; I think I’m going to take a break for a few weeks now that book 2 is done. I need to knock out a couple of proposals for shorts I’ve promised before the end of the year, and spend some time getting pretty much the entirety of the final third of the story plotted out. There are some tricky games I’ll be playing that mean I kinda have to have the whole thing at a fairly detailed level before I can start drawing it.

(Plus, to be honest, I’d like to have a couple weeks where I am not thinking about Rita – it’s been in the forefront of my mind for about a whole year, except when it’s been driven out by cons.)

Book 3 will begin somewhere around the new year; keep an eye on the comic’s twitter, facebookrss feed, or livejournal to know when it comes back, or keep an eye on my blog/twitter/lj/etc to know when it comes back, what else I’m up to, and possibly to know what kind of poop joke I feel like making today.

Completion

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Well so much for getting ahead of schedule, huh? The past couple weeks have been full of revamping the website for the upcoming Kickstarter, working on said Kickstarter, preparing for two cons at the end of this month, and taking a trip to visit my mother; updates will probably be sporadic for the next few pages.

I’m also thinking of taking a brief vacation from drawing pages once I get book 2 finished. I need to take some time to get the story organized for book 3 and work on some non-Rita things.

Also, you cannot really see it, but the trees outside of the windows in the green world are totally based on the trees I saw while I was working on this page in New Orleans’s City Park. Morning Call opened up  a cafe in the old Casino building in the park and it’s the <em>best thing ever</em> to sit there drawing and eating beignets. Until the mosquitos come out, at least.

restore from backup

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Firstly: The text in this page is not glitched for story reasons. It’s glitched because I’m going to do a couple of “get your name in the story” Kickstarter rewards, and this is one of them. The text has been replaced now!

Secondly, I feel like this is a good place for a public service announcement. We’ve seen Rita-1 use multiple backups over the course of this story. What’s your backup strategy? Does it happen without any work on your part? Have you tested your backups by pulling a few files off of it?

My backup strategy is a one terabyte drive connected to the same USB hub as the tablet on my desk, and Backblaze. The local drive is managed by Apple’s Time Machine, of course. Whenever I’m at my desk, my machine is keeping multiple backups of every new version of my files, and whenever I’m connected to the net, it’s updating the copy on Backblaze’s servers.

The backup strategy that works best for you may be different. If you don’t have one, or you have one that’s such a pain you never do it, have a look at World Backup Day for some suggestions on how to implement both local and off-site backups.

Branch Table Reconstruction

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Sorry this one didn’t make it up last week, everyone. These three-world pages are just HARD TO DO.

This is, at long last, the FINAL PAGE of chapter X. There’s only chapter XI left to do, which should be shorter than this one was, and then it’s off to Kickstarter for book 2. And speaking of Kickstarter, here’s a couple cool comics that’re kickstarting books…

Yu+ME Dream, omnibus edition, and Spacetrawler book 3. Yu+ME involves layered dream realities, lesbian romance, and an amazing kaleidoscope of drawing styles; Spacetrawler is a comic space opera about slavery. Yu+ME is finished, Spacetrawler will be done when this third book goes out. And you can read ‘em both for free online, too: Yu+Me, Spacetrawler. Go check ‘em out and maybe buy the books!

And as I hit the magic hundred…

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This song totally sums up Rita1 and Carol1′s gestating relationship.

Also HOORAY, this is page ONE HUNDRED.

This page is a whole week later than it should be. Mostly because every time I’d look at it, it was scary and intimidating. And when I’d get a panel finished, there was still a huge amount of work left. Having ten panels on one page will do that to you.

I’ll be at Anthrocon this coming week, which will probably counteract the effects of going down to two Ritas per page for a couple of weeks – a cross-country flight plus the Biggest Furry Con There Is is probably going to leave me useless for anything more than playing video games for a half a week.

At any rate, if you’re going to be at Anthrocon, be sure to drop by my table!

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Les Augures printaniers

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Looks like I only managed one page this week. Not surprising, there were errands to run in the sun, the beginnings of a complete revamp of what I eat, and a much-needed visit from the ex-with-benefits after a couple weeks of that not coming together. At least I knocked off a couple of not-Rita art things that had been lingering for ages.

Also, if you are deep into the Tumblr thing and feel like being my unpaid promotion team, maybe you feel like reblogging some of the recent things I posted on the Ask Rita tumblr – I threw some big chunks of comic in there to see if I can get any new readers from what everyone says is the most hoppingest social media site nowadays.

Overture

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This one’s a day later than it should have been; I spent a lot of the time I would have liked to have been working on it this past Wednesday and Thursday on (a) stressing out over some Twitter drama and (b) recovering from my first try at running with minimalist shoes – that gave certain muscles and tendons that normally never get used a HUGE workout.

I also added some stuff to the previous page, so go have a look at that if you’re reading the pages as they come out – I decided I liked the rhythms better if both world 2 and 3 were overlapping the page boundary.

Also I would like to direct you to the Kickstarter my friend Ursula Husted is running for her new book, “The Lions of Valetta“. It’s about stray cats, art history, and the meaning of life, and it gets a big thumbs-up from me.

vrooom vrooom

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The spell circle dragon-Rita’s sitting in owes a ton to imagery from The Dark Crystal. I had the art book from the movie when I was young, and I think it shaped something subtle and important that runs beneath the surface in my art. There was gonna be some purple in it at one point but then I was all “wait no Barrett doesn’t have that access in the it’s-all-a-hackjob interpretation”. It is hard to write four narratives at once and try to make things work with at least three different interpretations of What’s Really Going On, but if you’re gonna write reality trouble stories, you kinda have to. Geez, writing stories with only one layer of reality is gonna feel so easy when I’m done with this.

While I was finishing this page, I spent some time reading a manga called “Ultra Heaven“, which touches on a lot of the same themes as Rita for its first two volumes. The third goes off in a very different direction from where I’m going, and I think ultimately kind of punctures everything the first two volumes set up – but it’s pretty interesting while it’s going. If you’re looking for another reality trouble comic to read while I slowly finish this one, this isn’t a bad choice at all. Although it is really quite lacking in cute robot babes. Thanks to the ever-awesome Brandon Graham for the link.

Okay now to set up the next page and then go get baked and play board games with some friends.

My Weekly Crime

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Tree ref courtesy of finishing this page while looking out the window on the train from Seattle to Portland.

The title of this page and the previous one is a reference to Rush’s song “Red Barchetta “. What’s your favorite song about COOL CARS WHAT GO FAST VROOM VROOM?

Also holy cow this is page #92. This is getting close to being the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

My uncle has a country place that no-one knows about…

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Monday, instead of finishing this page before Tuesday’s page went up, I went out running in the evening. I’m mmmaybe attempting the Couch-to-5k thing with the help of the Zombies, Run! app. Then when I got home I basically collapsed in front of Skyrim until midnight. My lizard-girl assassin is now receiving visions from the dessicated corpse that runs the Assassin’s Guild.

So I spent Tuesday working on this, and now I get to spend all Wednesday working to try and have something in the buffer again once this page goes live. A minor setback in Project Build A @#$% Buffer, but I’m not letting it get me down.

PS. You should basically be playing your favorite THIS FAST CAR IS WAY COOL song while reading this entire chapter.

ALSO! Elon Musk is talking to Google about putting their autodrive technology in Tesla’s cars! Bits of this story are set a looong while from now, but other bits are really only about a decade off. HELLO FUTURE.

P.E.T.R.O.L.

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Oh god this page took like six hours to draw and I did pretty much everything but the very vague rough and the close-up of Carol in one day. I’m kinda glad to get things moving but man that was a lot more solid work than I’ve been used to lately.

Still: by uploading this just before midnight on Wednesday, I get to continue to have one page in the buffer after the preceding page drops one minute after midnight on Thursday. PROJECT BUFFER CONTINUES.

…and then I fooled around with it on Thursday and Friday to tweak the dialogue a little and add the red triangles. Which are done by making huge pattern fills the size of the page with scribbles of a pressure-sensitive pattern brush, and applying them to the shapes – it’s a very sideways and Illustratory way to say “hey I want to paint in these twenty shapes”. Big thanks to Nick for helping me decide that yes, I do want to make an ambiguous statement in the language of color this story has going – I think we talked about it for like an hour.

Also, here is the reference self-shot I used for that panel of Carol plugging herself into the car.

Evernote Camera Roll 20130430 101716

The Other Woman

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Two things.

One: I’m playing with the name for the car. Originally I had it as “Mazzigatti”, but Nick was of the opinion that sounded too much like a parody of “Maserati”, which was not my intent – I just wanted an Italian name, because Italians + cars = impractical, gorgeous, fast things.

I went digging around for Italian cryptographers, and found Silvio Micali, one of the co-inventors of the zero-knowledge proof. Which is a thing I have vaguely heard of but honestly cannot be said to really understand.

Two: This past weekend, I went down to the Stumptown Comic Fest for an important rite of passage – losing my first award. This didn’t bum me out too much; I found myself contemplating some clear indicators as to why I didn’t do well in a popular vote for “best new talent”. But more importantly, the day after the awards, I said hi to Phil Foglio. Who, it turns out, has been eagerly following Rita since I gave him a flier at ECCC 2012 and loves pretty much everything about it except the frequency of updates.

I’d already been thinking that it’s really time to get my work habits and Rita’s schedule back in gear; having one of my top three or four living influences give me a kick in the ass over my schedule was a hell of a reinforcement of those thoughts.

So I’m trying to make some changes in my habits and my expectations for myself. No promises. But hopefully chapter 10 will spool out a LOT quicker than 9 did.

Various Affections

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This took a lot longer than I intended it to. I’d decided to pause for a few weeks after finishing the previous chapter, to deal with some other projects that had been sitting on the side entirely too long. But then I sprained my rib in aikido class, and spent a couple weeks mostly just sitting in the living room, playing Skyrim.

It also took a while because I dipped my toe into a new world: 3D modeling. I made a little reference maquette of the car in Silo!

I ended up getting it into Illustrator via an awkward process involving dropping a copy of the half-finished page into Silo, posing the model to match the loose sketches, then screengrabbing that and registering it with the image in Illustrator.

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And then I treated the car images like any other thing on my sketch layers, and drew what you see here. I can see one or two refinements to the process – mostly, make two screengrabs of the setup in Silo, one with the page, one without, and swap them in Illustrator once I think things are registered – but that’s really it. I may also end up doing separate reference shots for future pages, with more varied perspective on the car.

SYN? SYN-ACK. ACK.

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This is the last page of chapter IX! At last. It hasn’t been a long one, but it took forever to draw because of life getting in the way. Now to nail down a prop I’ll be using extensively in the next chapter.

There’s a cafe in Seattle called Trabant; I was sitting there when I drew the first panel, and borrowed its name and logotype for the high-end restaurant Carol took Rita out to. If you’re ever in the U District during winter I thoroughly recommend their “Freddy Quimby”, a yummy concoction of chai and apple cider.

Also! If you’re here because you met me at the Emerald City Comic-Con the other week, then hi! (and if you went to ECCC and came home with a very green 9 of Wands card with a galaxy on the back, that’s from my personal Tarot deck that I was using for display – I’d love to have it back.)

? parse error retry from start

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Holy shit it’s another page! Two in one week!

I got this finished Thursday night, so I get to post it for this week. I dunno if I’ll have another one on next Thursday what with ECCC but WHAT THE HELL.

(Also – I’ll be at ECCC! Booth 2503, hidden in a corner among tattooists and autograph sellers and stuff. Next year I gotta grab a booth earlier.)

A Difficult Rebirth

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Oh man I am so glad to be uploading this page. It sat half-done for what felt like forever, as I fought seasonal depression. Several times I contemplated just deleting the entire green tier and starting again on those because I kept on looking at them and not liking them.

I bought a huge sunlamp a couple weeks ago, and it’s been helping a lot. And ultimately I decided those upper panels were fine, just unfinished, so I finished them in about an hour and a half. There was another green panel sketch up there, and a couple more brief lines of dialogue, but they just didn’t need to be there.

edit: thanks to nick for TYPO PATROL

Title: 084

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Oh hey! It’s a page!

I’ve been sitting on this new look for Rita4 for what seems like forever, what with all the things getting in the way of actually drawing the comic lately. So it may be jumping the gun a little since she’s naked right now, but I figured I’d share my character/costume designs for her.

These are the first couple pages, where I started exploring. The idea that I wanted her to be dangerously young emerged early. And I figured I’d emphasize her smallness by giving her a tiny, exaggerated hat to contrast with the eminently practical hat her previous incarnation had been sporting. On the right is where it really started to become a Thing, with me settling on a little military-looking hat that made me think of General Jinjur, a character in the second Oz book. It’s not actually the hat that John R. Neil drew on her, but I like it more than his hat, so that’s what I stayed with.

With the hat and hair finalized, I started doodling outfits. In the end I decided to riff on Jinjur some more, and picked up a detail from the stories: her goal was to conquer Oz, and as a symbol of this, she wore a skirt colored like the four quadrants of the country. Whether or not I’ll actually show this in the comic is doubtful, what with the color restrictions involved.

Basically my goal is to play with the idea of “age”; Rita4 and her companions Tom4 and Gary4 are basically Timelords. As such they live a VERY long time with multiple regenerations – tied, in the case of Rita at least, to their hats. So Rita4 here is probably several hundred years old at this point, and yet is manifesting as a little girl. Who behaves in a very adult fashion. (Including bedroom shenanigans but trust me, those aren’t going to show up on-camera. At best there will be VERY elliptical hints that her sex life really hasn’t changed except for a few issues of basic biomechanics. Mostly you’ll just see her smoking cigarettes once she gets dressed and settles into her new persona.)

I need to go back and edit some dialogue at the beginning of Chapter VIII to establish that Rita was on her last hat and thus not expected to come back; I’d originally written it as her having one more hat left, and have since changed my mind. Good thing that chapter’s not in print yet, huh?

(Also here is a drawing of the previous hats of Rita4. I might color this for the bonus material of the second book.)