book 2 Kickstarter almost over!

The Kickstarter for book 2 of Rita is almost over; there’s slightly more than two days left. A mere $1500 shy of the $9k “spot gloss on the cover” stretch goal looks pretty achievable, given how the campaign’s been going overall!

So spread the word, tell your friends, maybe grab a copy if you haven’t yet. And thanks for all your support!

Current book 3/book 2 prepress status: still on vacation, guys, I just did Geek Girl Con this weekend to boot so I’m on double vacation today. I should be getting the files for book 2 together in the next week or two.

have some fan art!

Hey, it’s some fan art.


Thanks, Rachel! (Let me know if you want that link to point somewhere else.)

She also sent along a version with all of the different Ritas she drew to overlap:

aethergeology layers…which is something I’ve started doing for ads and suchlike several times, but have never actually followed through on. n.n


Meanwhile, the Kickstarter’s still running, but it’s almost over. Just nine days left to push towards spot gloss, and mmmaybe towards the secret goal of “drop the price on book 2” if I can get enough people buying a copy.


More Kickstarter tiers!

The Kickstarter climbed up to 70% of the goal ($4000 out of $6000) during its first week, then kinda flattened out. To help counteract this, I added a couple new tiers – one for both books and a t-shirt, one for dinner with me in my capacity as Guest of Honor at Rainfurrest 2014. (Oh yeah, if you’re only following this comic and no my blog/twitter, that was announced at the end of RF13 this weekend. The theme is CYBERPUNK.) I’ll also be trying to get a few more places linking to the comic or the Kickstarter this week.

Anyway, check ’em out, and whether or not you pledge, spread the word!

There will probably be a new page this week, one of the last two of this volume.

reviewer suggestions wanted

Here’s a thought I had on the way home from Rose City Comic-Con: I need to get Rita in front of the eyes of people who review SF. Not just SF comics; I think a lot of people who review prose SF would find this of interest, too – I suspect a large percentage of the people following this thing are the kind of people who actively enjoy being dropped in at the deep end and figuring things out as they go along, which is a skill you tend to pick up by reading lots of SF.

But I’m kind of out of that loop. The last time I was getting regular reviews of SF books was when I was subscribing to Analog, Asimov, and F&SF, and had a bookshelf full of the things. Mostly I think I just get occasional pointers to new stuff via BoingBoing, nowadays. I’m not reading any kind of active review columns any more.

So I’m turning to my readership: Where do you get your reviews of new SF these days?

(PS: The Kickstarter for book 2 should be launching Tuesday or Wednesday.)

other people’s media you may enjoy

This looks like an interesting game. I’ve backed it.

The setup reminds me a lot of Iain M. Banks’s short story ‘Descendant’ (in the ‘State of the Art’ collection). But the AI-rights angle is new to this piece – and it’s set in a pretty different environment, too.

I’m deliberately avoiding doing a story about the rights of AIs in ‘Decrypting Rita’; it’s a problem I think we’re going to need to be confronting soon, and one I have definitely taken sides on – but it’s not an issue I’m interested in grappling with. I’d rather just tell a story set in a world where that battle has been had, and my side won. (If you’re wondering, there ARE people in Rita1’s world who think AIs shouldn’t be treated as fully human, but they have about as much respect as a backwoods Louisiana bigot who misses the days of slave ownership. You won’t be seeing any of them in the story.)

I don’t want to tell a Struggle For AI Rights story, but I’m glad there are people who do. And I’m glad to be able to support them when it looks like they’re going to make an interesting one.

pardon my dust

Rita was recently critiqued on a comics board I’m on. In the various comments, a few themes emerged. One of them was “I want an archive page full of thumbnails!”. I didn’t quite do that, but I think I did something that better addresses the underlying problem of wanting to flip back and forth between pages a whole ton: I almost completely ditched the single-page model, in favor of full chapter views.

I’ve also switched out some of the underlying code – I moved from the ComicPress plugin to its successor, Comic Easel. I built a new theme, found a plugin to fill a hole in which Comic Easel was willing to generate, made a custom icon font for the arrows and did some CSS and PHP hackery to make it work just right.

Let me know what you think of the new look, especially if it seems broken on your browser – all I’ve tested on is the latest Mac versions of Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. I want to have a good reading experience for new visitors who come in via the Kickstarter!

(Stuff I know is not done: the about page is still the same mess it was beforehand, blog archive needs space between posts, links to other comics are gone. I need to fix a thing under the hood though it’s not too high priority as I’ve always cached aggressively. I also suspect some tricks aren’t gonna work on every web designer’s favorite browser. Also I need to donate some bucks to the dude behind Comic Easel.)

This change is, of course, at the expense of the next page. It’s about half done, and not especially complex. I’m hoping to get it up Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday.

hello from Anthrocon

I’m at Anthrocon. This year’s theme is “The Fast and the Furryous”. The GOH brought his awesome restored Shelby Cobra, and a friend who was helping wrangle it dragged me off to be photographed on it.

Iiii think I may have an author photo for Rita now.


slowly slowly once again

Oh man I keep on pulling up page 100, being scared of the fact that it has ten panels on it, and getting about a half hour of work in on it before I go do something else. Why do super-dense pages like that scare me? Four panels are done, and four have parts of them done. I’ll try my damndest to get a big chunk of it done tomorrow, because I’m really tired of my schedule slipping again.

It’s a good thing that page 101 will shift back to just two realities instead of three.

Anyway, tonight I stayed up far too late doing some tweaks to the site. You’ll see a big “hi new reader, this is how to read this comic” banner pop up on your first visit with a particular browser. And I’ve also reactivated the archives – now you can read a whole chapter at once when you want to catch up! There’s links beneath the page for that.

I’m noticing that sometimes the chapter view will have a couple broken images for me; hopefully this doesn’t happen for everyone. And for some reason the last page of chapter 5 – with the big half-open purple eye floating in the void – doesn’t show up in the chapter view. …Ah, I fixed the “missing pages at the end of chapters”. It was only showing the first ten pages because of WordPress’ “reading” settings.

so much for being on schedule

So! It’s Thursday and you are not seeing a comic. You’re also not seeing a “sorry no comic” drawing because those are, IMHO, a really bad idea – they drain the energy one could use for pushing the next page forward to SOME degree, and ruin the flow when reading through the archives.

What happened? Well, I went to Furlandia this past weekend. Got Thursday’s page finished and uploaded on the train down, but I spent the train back home to Seattle just reading a book because I needed to unwind after spending a weekend selling, then a day and a half chilling in my friend’s very cat-inhabited apartment. Concrud plus allergies do not make for a happy brain.

Then Wednesday when I opened up Illustrator to work on the next page I realized I was at a point where I really needed to do some scripting. I ended up writing rough script (and panel flow diagrams, and some little panel thumbnails) out to page 102, which is to say to the end of this current chapter. And starting to organize my thoughts on the next chapter, which will probably be the last one of book 2 – and even starting to think about how to lead into book 3 elegantly. Which is to say “with lots of glitches”.

I should be able to get another page in the can this weekend, and then hopefully get back on track again! It’s a LOT easier to draw comics when you know what the heck’s supposed to happen on the page at hand.

Also, some things of interest: by request, you can now buy a big poster of the Vesta space station, and also by request, here is a desktop-sized copy of the previous page. I should really make a “desktop images” category at some point!

And ALSO here is a signal boost: want a copy of the latest volume of Girl Genius? And maybe some perks? Go here and do that Kickstarter thing. The Foglios are a huge influence on me; Rita would still probably exist without ‘Buck Godot‘ and ‘Girl Genius‘, but it would be a very different-looking beast.

brief update

Just a quickie post here. I’m working on getting some pages into the queue, you should be seeing Chapter X in a couple weeks.

I’m also up for “Best New Talent” in the Stumptown Comics Arts awards. The voting closes at noon on the 22nd, so if you want to vote, now would be a good time.


I finally got around to setting up some kind of store! If you missed out on the Kickstarter but want a copy of the book, now you can order one here. It’s US$25 plus shipping – $3-10 depending on where you live.

(Or if you’d rather buy it in person, I’ll be at Further Confusion next weekend. And Emerald City Comic Con, and Anthrocon, later in the year.)

The votes are in. Sorta.

In the backer forms for the Rita kickstarter, I asked people who were getting a sketch what they wanted. A lot of people said “whatever”; a few people asked for my dragon self. Of those expressing a preference for a character from Decrypting Rita, here’s the statistics:

Rita1 (blue, robot): 5
Rita2 (red, human): 1
Rita3 (orange, dragon): 5
Rita4 (green, Timelord): 0

Barrett3 (orange, elf): 1

Also there was one vote for whatever, maybe either Rita1, or maybe Rita3 because they figure I’ll be drawing a lot of Rita1.

NOBODY LOVES MY GALIFREYAN FAN CHARA WAAAAAAHHH but about 1/4 of the people who didn’t specify A Particular Rita or something else entirely will probably get her!

It looks like all the drawings are going to be on the inside back cover. That and the inside front cover are the only places I could actually find any white space to draw in. So when you get your signed-and-drawn-in book, don’t be disappointed when the flyleaf just has a signature!


Books books books books booksbooksbooks books!



happy happy happy

All the gloss came out pretty much as planned, too! It’s not quite as intense as it was on the Silicon Dawn – different process, I guess. Hopefully I can bump it up some for the second volume, the second run of this, and the ultimate omnibus. But wait until you see the technical diagram of Rita in the back… magical.

Now to start signing and drawing in them where needed, and getting them into the mail along with those robot lady prints! If you missed out on the Kickstarter and want a copy, drop me a line. $25 plus $3 shipping via Paypal, $20 if you’re outside North America. Eventually I’ll get a store up to automate this.

Book and comic status update!

Rita: The next page is in progress. I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks dealing with cons, and trying to get various other things out of my way. And to get my schedule rearranged with less sitting around feeling dopey and more drawing.

I think the next page is about 1/3 done. I’m also thrashing out the script for the next few pages of the blue thread; the story’s changing gears and I want to make sure the transition is smooth.

The book: This morning, there was e-mail from my printer telling me they’re ready to ship, and if I could give them one last bit of data they needed in the next hour they could have it on the road today. Sadly I didn’t see this until about three hours after they sent it. So the books should be on their way Monday! Then I get to start signing and shipping them. And pulling together those prints I promised to go along with ’em, too.

I have made several mistakes during the production of this book. Unsurprising, given that it’s my first try – it’s not entirely my first book, but I don’t think “printed about 50 copies of Absinthe via Lulu” really counts. I may be making some more before all is said and done. But hopefully I’ll manage to avoid making most of them for the next collection of Rita, and for the short story anthology I’m putting together! I’m quite sure there will be exciting NEW mistakes for those projects…

pulling the trigger

If all goes well I’ll have a few copies of the book at APE. Which will be my first time there. Hopefully I’ll make some new fans!

a fragment elsewhere

So what with one thing and another (Foolscap this past weekend, Rainfurrest this coming weekend, unexpectedly hosting a guest for RF for a few days this weekend, going back and forth on the final proofs of the Rita book), I suspect the number of Rita pages that will happen this week is zero. I’m gonna try to get something out anyway but if it’s not ready it’s just not ready.

But! If you would like a dose of my narrative and visuals, you can get it with this guest strip I did for ‘The End’. All you really need to know is that the human in two panels is the same person as the bird alien in the rest of the strip, though I would certainly recommend catching up on the rest of the story as well!

I won’t have Rita books at Rainfurrest, but I’ll be there with a bunch of Tarot decks and the usual prints and table commissions. I’ll also be doing a couple of panels – there’s the whirlwind tour of Illustrator that I do at pretty much every con (2pm Friday), and a webcomics Q&A panel with me, Dana Simpson, and Thomas Dye (5pm Saturday). Plus you might see me SHAKING MY BOOTY LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW at the dances, if I can find one that’s sufficiently glitchy to make my bottom happy. My bottom is very picky sometimes. Wait that sounds… oh never mind.


So here’s something that might be interesting – a Youtube original series called “DR0NE”, about a military combat robot in trouble.

Although one thing bugged me about it very quickly: in the protagonist’s view of the combat scenes, there are target reticules over both friendlies and enemies. These reticules are almost absolutely identical for both sides; the friendly ones are, to my eyes, MORE visually interesting because they have “FRIENDLY” written by them, while the enemies just have anonymous reticules.

Moreover, there’s a lot of scenes where the enemies are against a bright sky – and the white reticule is almost completely invisible against it. This is just some terrible information design.

So I guess this leads me to propose two theories of information overlay design:

1. Important information should be more prominent than unimportant information. In the example here of a combat HUD, for instance, the reticules over enemies should be much more noticeable than those over friendlies, which can be achieved by color, shape, and amount of detail.

2. Your HUD should always be visible over the world. If you want it to be all white as in this example (which I would not recommend, color is an important cue) then find SOME way to make your information appear over bright things – maybe a black outline behind it, maybe having mission-critical stuff blink between black and white, SOMETHING.

I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing a lot, since I’m constantly superimposing bits of Rita1’s HUD on the world. I do things like big gaudy triangles with exclamation points hovering over the heads of hostiles to make it a pretty unambiguous communication to both the reader and to Rita that HERE IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING, I’ll hint at color changes here and there – admittedly I’m constrained in that a lot by the abstracted nature of the comic; if I was doing more representational color, you’d definitely be seeing bright reds and yellows as cues for DANGER!!! and CAUTION!!.

I’m not entirely sure this little piece is worth critiquing – but heck, seeing it made me codify a couple of the unconscious rules I’d been applying in the comic, so I guess that’s good!

It’s also worth noting that this HUD is MARGINALLY better than the Terminator’s; here’s a compilation of all those scenes from Terminator 2. Notice how pretty much ALL the text overlays are out on the periphery of the screen, drawing your attention away from what’s happening? Bad, bad, bad design, at least from the point of view of “would this work for an enhanced human”.

(Also there is the plot hole where the drone is clearly shown to be able to see through walls now and then, but is then surrounded. I guess its heat-sensing camera takes power it doesn’t have? Or the environment it’s in before that is really IR-opaque? I dunno, it bugs me that they spend several shots establishing quite firmly that it can see through walls, then have him ambushed.)


normal operations have been resumed

we thank you for your patience

as always, please keep your hands inside the car at all times and enjoy the ride

Oh man I am so glad to have things mostly back to normal. I spent the last two weeks mostly working on my damn site instead of Rita or other projects. Hopefully the changes I made will make it harder to hack and easier to maintain. It’s still not done but I feel like I can actually DRAW STUFF again now. I’m really sorry to have left it on a cliffhanger for a couple of weeks!


Bleah. I just spent the last couple hours cleaning up some malware. Thanks to Gilrain for the heads-up on it. Browsers will probably bitch about me serving malware for a few days longer until their los

I was going to spend a few hours tonight working on the next page but then this came up. Feh. Not that I’ve been making that “twice weekly” promise anyway, despite my best intentions – blame low energy plus increasingly complicated backgrounds after a Moebius binge – but it would’ve been nice to have this page done tonight, or close to done tonight. Sigh.

Questions and answers!

Here’s a few questions and answers from the Ask Rita tumblr. Got questions about any of the four worlds? Ask ’em there and the appropriate character (usually blue Rita) will answer! Eventually.

Do you ever adjust your processors to experience time at a faster or slower rate (relative to local time)? It would seem to relieve a lot of the tedium of interstellar travel.

What’s it like to switch between chassis? Is it as simple as uploading to it, or is there a whole rigmarole?

Are you a teapot, or are you a teasmade?

Which Beatle would make the best robot?

Why gender?

CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have won a FREE TRIP to Happy Fun Land Amusement Park! Happy Fun Land Amusement Park! You will love our rides, shows, food, souvineers, and reprogramming sessions! In order to verify your win, please run the attached verification program! The verification program must be run with root administrator privledges in order to verify your FREE TRIP! Attendance is mandatory. The Penguins will make the neccesary alterations to your chassis immediately.

What do you experience on sync loss?

Book covers are hard.

The general reaction to the weird-ass photographic cover I experimented with last week was “put down the crack pipe, Peggy”. Albiet much more politely. Im glad I decided to ASK people if “making it look like a novel” was a totally awesome idea or a stupid one; I was really unsure because I’m too close to it sometimes.

So I fooled around with the photo cover and the flier I’d made a little while ago and got this. Once I added the Panopticon, I knew I was done. I might fool around with new drawings specifically for the cover; I dunno.


A quick heads-up: I did some edits on the latest page. Go here and shift-reload to see them. They are minor but they are PRETTY IMPORTANT.

excuses, excuses, excuses

Here’s a comic I found that seems to be intending to go some of the places I explicitly decided to avoid going with Rita – it sounds like it’s going to play with the point in time where robots and uploads become seen as fully “human”.

Also it is rendered pretty much entirely in shades of blue and the ‘about’ page mentions some of the characters are queer, so, well, maybe I’m just biased what with doing a very blue comic about a kinda queer robot lady? Anyway, check out O Human Star. I can’t say too much about it since it’s just one chapter long so far, but I’ll be watching it to see where it goes.

Meanwhile, the Kickstarter went off pretty well. It ended up at about 250% of my original goal, only a few hundred bucks short of the threshold I set for getting spot gloss on the Panopticon. I’m going to run the numbers in the next couple days and decide if I’m going to throw in some of my own funds to make that happen, now that it’s so close. Thanks a ton to everyone who contributed!

I’m working on the next page of Rita; I suspect there’s only gonna be one page this week, due to me scrambling to finish off the art for Further Confusion 2013’s website (it should go live on the first; right now it’s their default skin), and for my contribution to “Feast Yer Eyes”, a free tabloid-sized anthology a friend in New Orleans does, whose deadline is the first. The next page of Rita’s about, ooh, 1/3 done. I really wish I could manage to work up a buffer but I think I’d require a time bubble to do so. Or at least better work habits. Le sigh.

Also, my art is going to be in Heavy Metal. Really. They’re doing a special SDCC issue this year, and this piece from 2005 will be one of three variant back covers. OMG I’M GONNA BE IN HEAVY METAL. KEVIN EASTMAN LEFT A GUSHING COMMENT ON MY DRAWING. SQUEEEE. *happy dance*

Book 1 Kickstarter!

Here we go! Now’s your chance to sit down with a nice cup of Beverage and “Decrypting Rita”. Pledge your money for a copy, spread the word to make it more likely to actually happen!

(New pages should be showing up next week; my buffer got totally destroyed by being sick.)

Logo puttering

So this morning I ran into this site full of comics critique and thinking. One bit that stuck with me in random reading is the idea that a good logo reads at 100 pixels wide – that’s the size your book’s gonna be in a thumbnail on a web store.

I like the current logo I have but it does not pass that test. So I booted up Illustrator and started playing around with different fonts.

Logos! Click for full-size.

Ultimately I came back to a variant of the original logo – it’s the same font; I really think the “sixties Saul Bass movie poster” kind of font tells you something about the kind of visuals you’ll find within. The high-tech tilted font was obviously a contender, but it was just too damn fiddly and really didn’t read well at small sizes. But that one lead me to the conflicting arrows motif, which I think really works with the story on multiple levels – it creates a sensation of horizontal motion, which both hints at the high-speed acrobatics of Rita-1 and prepares you for the weird narrative games I’m playing. And setting “Rita” into the arrow pointing the other way suggests complexity.

With a revised logo at hand, I of course had to see how it would work in context! So I knocked out a couple of cover thumbnails. With the first two, I tried putting it on the top, where a traditional comic would put it for maximum visibility on the rack. But it really felt wrong there, so I moved it to the middle, and tried a variant on the “chord” panel from the middle of chapter 4, then just went for head-and-shoulders crops of the various Ritae doing characteristic things.

I’ll probably play with it some more, and I suspect I’ll keep the original variant for the title page – but I think this dual-arrow version is much more powerful than just the text floating around with a couple arrows going through it.

script script script

Hmm. Not sure if I’m gonna have a page today; I got distracted yesterday drawing an obscene Adventure Time fan-comic. And today my brain seems to want to work on writing out story – I’ve got two successive infodumps of backstory coming up now, with Elf-Barrett narrating his version of what just happened in parallel.

I thought I’d share a bit of the process here with a quick grab of the current page, sprawling way way out into the next 2-3 pages. Sometimes I do this with little thumbnails of the page and particular panels, as seen in the bottom photo of a sketchbook; other times it’s the dialogue that leads, like on the right. I’ve actually got like three pages of dense writing in my sketchbook that that the blue conversation is being distilled down from, including timelines of two variant versions of the story R1 ends up telling!

I’m fairly confident I’ll find a way to make this interesting and exciting to look at. Probably Dragon Rita’s story will drift out of focus while some wild physical thing happens to Skylands Rita… or maybe Normal Rita will perform the dance number she’s been mentioning wanting to do! Maybe both.