I’ve been trying to push myself on the backgrounds, lately.
I wasn’t intending to write and record the entirety of Tom’s “Very Sorry Song”, but it just sort of… happened. In my best attempt at a masculine voice, even.
While this page obviously took a while to draw, surprisingly most of the time it took was spent in looking at the panel I’d marked out as “money shot of Vespa spaceport”, not in actually drawing it.
The main thing I was thinking of while drawing that panel was the Cygnus from “The Black Hole”, especially the way it was all lit up from within. Supposedly one of the main inspirations for it was Gothic cathedrals. (Skip to about 1:40 in this video to see it lit.) I wanted that sense of something massive, without it feeling dead and alone the way the Cygnus did.
Cons are upcoming! I’ll have some art in the show at Foolscap this weekend, plus some Tarot decks and other stuff in the print store. The weekend after that, I’ll be behind a table at Rainfurrest, selling art and decks. There’s a slim chance I’ll have copies of book 1 of Rita, but I’m not holding my breath.
Here’s the list of destinations Tom is picking from so you don’t have to hold your screen up to a mirror.
destination subjective time Straylight 3s Vesta 14s Czarina-Kluster 23s Funk Soul 372s Shaeffer’s Choice 2942s Höel 70042s Strangedown 78309s Eros Kluster 82409s Pasiphaë 146239s Sinope 146935s Amalthea 147001s Ganymede 147007s New Val Halen 147002s Callisto 147003s Shaeffer’s Choice 147014s The Moose Denied 147020s Europa Nature Preserve 147004s Himara 147271s Io 147692s Elara 147848s Leda 148234s New Amsterdam 183327s
Apparently Shaeffer chose both ways.
This is a mix of names I made up, orbital/asteroid habs from books that influenced me, and several of Jupiter’s moons – I guess Pallas is hanging out near the Jovian system at the time of this story. Which I suppose could give an enterprising nerd a guess as to the exact date this is happening, if I’d actually done any of those calculations myself. Which I did not.
And I don’t know about you, but I really do not want to visit a place called “Höel”. I think it was colonized by a bunch of Ren & Stimpy revivalists. shudder
Megaera’s French accent in her roar has turned into her screaming machine-translated French. This makes me giggle when I draw it. A lot.
This page took forever, what with designing and naming two more members of the Vespuline Hive, drawing Megaera twice, AND all those mirror-copies of Rita and Gary.
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the Vespulines have been coming since the very first page of this chapter.
This is in part because I went back and added them in the background of the previous page – but they’re the tiny little dots changing in the very first panels of this chapter. So many things to keep track of!
Further Confusion website: Done, barring one little tweak.
Feast Yer Eyes submission: Done.
Less projects hanging around means less time sitting around going OH GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO WORK ON NOW EVERYTHING IS HIGH PRIORITY. Plus the deadline-pushing of those two finished projects seems to have reminded me that yes, I can focus on drawing stuff for several hours in a row, which is only going to help the schedule for Rita!
Coincidence corner: This the 64th page of this graphic novel. As I was working on the last couple of panels, iTunes started playing the soundtrack to the Beatles movie “Yellow Submarine”. Which includes “When I’m 64”. I swear the mention of “lovely, Rita” in the flashback dialogue was wholly unintentional!
Also it greatly amuses me that Megaera’s roar has a bit of a French accent. The green world is sort of a tribute to French fantasy comics, after all. (And to Doctor Who but that’s another matter entirely.)
Future page status: blue world has rough scripts and even some thumbnails and incidental character designs for the next three pages, green world has rough scripts for one page and outlines for the next 3-4. Will there be another page this week? I hope so!
I decided to document a bit of my process for this one. I also did most of it out on the hill in Gasworks Park – I love having a laptop!
Click on the thumbnails for full-size, of course.
The first thing I do is make a new file from my template. The dark blue lines are panel border guides, the light blue ones are the text-safe area. I have a gutter down the middle of the text-safe area because when I go to print, each page becomes a spread, so I don’t want to put text across that by accident. The template also has my color palette in its swatches, and a bunch of word balloons on the dialogue layer outside of the page, so I can just say “I need a normal dialogue balloon”, “I need an encrypted dialogue balloon”, “I need some HUD text” or whatever and drag a copy into the image area.
If I’m not doing an action sequence, I start with the dialogue. I usually have a rough idea of what it should be, but I don’t bother finalizing it until I’m working on the page. Sometimes the panel layout is first; I even have thumbnails hanging around that are nothing but panel flow from one page to the next.
After I’ve got the dialogue down, I rough in the action. This page is a bit unusual in that I used a photograph of something I’d previously scrawled in my sketchbook in pen; 99% of the time, I rough stuff out in Illustrator. Sometimes I do it in lines, sometimes I do it in rough sloppy shapes.
Most of the time I work from front to back. The figure is almost always the most important part of the panel; I compose the lights and darks of the background around it. Also, hooray for pattern fills on Rita’s skirt – that’s the same pattern I was using on her gloves, for the first appearances of Skylands Rita.
The figures are pretty much done here. And the bottom panels are definitely done; I was able to knock the out really, really quickly by cutting and pasting stuff from the middle of chapter 5. I generally prefer to draw stuff fresh instead of cut and paste, but if I can copy over a complicated machine I will totally do it. (Also note that Gary’s last line has been edited a little. I felt the new phrasing gave him a little more of an English feel; the green storyline is kind of me doing a riff on the countless hours of Doctor Who I watched in my teens and twenties.)
There is a layer in this page called “I thought I was done drawing bookshelves when I finished chapter 1 of Absinthe”. It contains abstracted books, cut and paste from that comic.
“Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.” – Wally Wood
Also, Mattie’s shape is inspired by some of the work of master photomanipulator J. K. Potter, most specifically his portrait of Lydia Lunch.
This one took a while! Lots of finicky stuff. It would have taken less time if I hadn’t come up with silly titles for the books in the second panels of the lower tiers, but sometimes you just have to do these things.
I dunno if we’ll ever see Tom10 (Heckboy) or Tom12 (Steampunk Vampire) again. I had to draw the entirety of each Tom, so here’s that panel without the world-layer effects…
And also here is a shot of the library close enough to read it. If you can figure out what all of the titles are mutations of, then… you’re probably me.
ALSO here is a model sheet I finally threw together of Dragon Rita. I really need to make these for more of the characters, to be honest. I’m lazy.
As it turns out I think this one would have been a little late even if I HADN’T spent Wednesday doing dirty Adventure Time fan comics and going to see “John Carter Of Mars”. Having two characters start to tell stories in parallel, with a whole bunch of new designs on the page, made it pretty slow going.
And if you’re wondering, I would have cut and paste that drawing of Elf Barrett even if I wasn’t drawing seven other panels completely from scratch. Sometimes you just gotta do a hold!
Also I hope that it’s pretty obvious from the context that a “sundrop” race is one whose route takes it REALLY STUPIDLY CLOSE TO THE SUN.
I was really tempted to slack off and finish this Tuesday but, well, I got started on this one late because I spent a couple hours on the phone with one of my idols. And one thing I am continually amazed by when we talk about getting stuff done is HOW FAST HE IS.
So, you know, I let myself take some breaks and browse the web a bit, but I kept on thinking, man, Matt Howarth wouldn’t be doing this, he’d just be sittin’ there at his desk, chain-smoking and drawing up a storm. So I ended up making myself stay up late enough to finish this page.
There is a growing part of me that wants to go back and make the expressions of the earlier pages a bit wilder; I really feel like I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with all these characters as time goes on. But I’d rather press forwards and keep telling the story. Speaking of which, there should be EXPLANATIONS forthcoming for both of the on-stage Ritas next page!
Also I got my first rejection letter from a publisher for this project. IT’S A REAL THING NOW.
This is another page whose expressions made me laugh while drawing it. I really feel like doing this comic has taught me a lot about drawing human emotions! I owe a lot of that to Phil Foglio, and, to be honest, like him, I probably care a little less than I should about keeping faces on-model.
Originally the top tier had three completely different panels, but those will be appearing on the next page. I’ll lose some counterpoint that made me grin, but I really, really felt like I needed the brief pause after Blue Rita’s heartfelt scream.
I decided to make the Panopticon a little less subtle in this page. Please let me know if you can see it – monitors vary a lot!
And hooray for actually getting two pages out this week.
If you’re wondering where “gongoozling” for “operating a warp drive” comes from, well, my exes had this running joke about the “Postfurry Solar System” – a lightly-sketched sci-fi setting full of media-terrorist Martian tigers, politely communist blue Mooncats, glamazon bunnies on Venus, mind-controlling squid on Saturn, etc, etc. When I started going out with them, I of course needed a comic-opera space animal caricature or two as well, and thus were born the bipolar raccoons of Mercury and the cheerfully sideways robot spiders of the asteroid belt. They are generally considered kind of insane; they like to blow themselves up for fun now and then, and are pretty much the only users of the warp drive known as the “gongoozler”. Which… does things… …to your brain if you use it, and has a tendency to occasionally make you vanish entirely instead of going where you want to. Especially if you’re in a gravity well.
…Does “warping too deep in a gravity well is hazardous to your health” have a page on TVTropes by now? Why yes, yes it does. (Warning: TVTropes.)
Ye gods this page took forever to work out. It didn’t help that a lot of my “work on Rita” time this week was spent on putting together some packages of it to ship off to a few publishers – having the Tarot deck get international distribution really spoilt me on all the hassles of self-publishing, and I want to do more stuff that way!
Meanwhile in the “when can I be like Rita1” news, check out this video of Boston Dynamics’ new bipedal robot.
Any guesses as to which agency is going to cover a new window at McMillian’s? So many possibilities.
I had to do most of the bottom left panel twice due to Illustrator crashing on me. Sadface. Variable-width strokes are now on the list of Stuff To Save Before Blending.
“Sandbenders” is a William Gibson reference – in Idoru, they’re a company that takes commodity components and puts them in a really beautiful package, with a pretty OS. Hand-carved cases, semi-precious stones for the buttons.
I’m debating if I want to explain this anywhere in the story or not. Probably just having Carol refer to her Sandbenders on-camera again will be enough to say “this is the company that makes her computer”.
My old server glitched on me one too many times so I moved urnash.com over to the same place that hosts Absinthe. If you’re reading this then the DNS change has propagated!
Let me know if it’s working for you.
The title of this page comes from a cryptically-named room in “Jet Set Willy”, which in itself took the title from a line of dialogue in ‘The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’.
(I do not recommend actually trying to play Jet Set Willy unless you have armed yourself with an array of cheat codes – like most 8-bit action-adventure games, it’s punishingly difficult. That’s just what floated up from the back of my brain when I looked at the ‘title’ field of Comicpress’ upload screen.)
People who have suffered through my spotty update schedule in the past month or so will be glad to know that I currently have rough layouts and dialogue for the next SIX pages, with notes in my sketchbook for three more. This should hopefully make it easier for me to get back on some kind of schedule, even though my life’s been delightfully busy of late!
Oh! And also I feel I should mention that if you’re reading this comic via RSS feeds, you should come look at it in the actual website now and then – there are certain things that you really can’t see if this is getting shown on a bright background.
I had to draw the top tier twice because Illustrator crashed while I was undoing a Matrix-looking bullet-time shockwave trail on the bullet. Oh well. Note to self: save before playing with blends that involve distortion meshes. And after completing every panel for that matter.
Also hooray, two pages in one week again!