The race is over, nobody really won

So it’s no surprise the print run of Encoding Bushido’s second chapter came in ahead of Comixology. It was never a fair race since Comixology Submit processes the issue separately from anything I can speed up. KaBlam even waits a while if its queue of job ahead of yours is big enough.

So issue 2 is available in digital and print today.

Print vs. online race continues

So with a hiccup at the printer caused but some missing files has made the race to see who delivers Encoding Bushido #2 first more interesting.

I admit this is my mistake, the file which outputs the layouts for Comxology can’t have advertising in it. This is easy enough to configure since the output just cuts out the last two pages – but it also save the output settings. This was a rookie mistake – and I chalked it up to being on a pretty tight deadline at the day job.

But so what, the race isn’t over yet and I for one don’t care who wins.

Encoding Bushido 2 coming to print and Comixology

So issue 2 just went to both the printer and Comixology and it’s sort of a race to see who will actually complete first.

It’s not really an exciting, Top Gear across the mountains, Indy 500 sort of race – the print deadline is mostly guaranteed by the printer. The delivery is pretty reliable with their schedules and practices – they’ve finally got things down to a rigid set of procedures. I want to be able to say the same thing about Comixology but they are far more opaque a company than the printer I am using.

That has always bothered me about Comixology. It is still by far the least data rich of all the platforms I have ever used. And I have commented about this at length in other posts and blogs, so I am flogging it again, hoping someone is listening inside their offices.

But, in other news, it still doesn’t look like WonderCon 2019 is in my cards – I have a pretty hardcore work deadline that delivers that weekend and I’m sort of supervising the whole thing. I always hated supervisors who blew off deadlines and buggered off to wherever instead of seeing things through. My, my, how that would be a table turned if I started doing the same! But if I did it would still be “work” – just not for a client of my own. Still.

Pro Registration confirmed, WonderCon 2019

So I have my professional registration for Wondercon 2019 – just like the title says – and it’s the first time I have ever registered as such for any convention anywhere. Decades of comic cons later, even when I was working on things being featured AT comic cons, I would never register.

Why? Usually I was working on the next thing, show, project or whatever. Really, it’s that I just never liked driving all the back to San Diego, spending money on hotels etc. WonderCon in Anaheim is a different story. Nevermind Disneyland, Anaheim is just far enough away to feel like I’ve busted out of town, and close enough to get back home when I get sick of the tourists.

But Wondercon over that past few years is just a bit better sized than most cons like the bigger brother ComicCon San Diego. At a decent enough part of the year, temperatures are manageable enough for the cosplayers not to die of heat exposure and the organizational powers have more of their collective act together. They have to – some of the bigger – and louder – names in the business are coming to Anaheim these days. Can’t bite the hands that feed, yadda yadda.

Anyway, I was more hoping to get off the waiting list but I am told that showing up and snagging a table or two from a no show might work.

Wondercon 2019?

Well, looks like Wondercon has officially decided to NOT include me in the festivities – if you’re an independent comics creator, this can happen a LOT. You lose the popularity contest and shows that are more competitive say “Thank you, next.”

You can register, pre-register, sit on a waiting list for years and still not get in from time to time. It’s become a much more competitive show of late and since 2014 or so I think I’ve managed to get into the show floor on a 50% ratio.

That said, it’s still the show I do best at and the show I like the most.

But like many shows, the year to year organization is always tweaked somehow. Before the end of the 2018 show I took advantage of the ability to register before the show was over. However, one of the people I contacted this year said they threw out all of those registration forms and everyone needed to register again during the normal registration period. When I did so, the waiting list was … uh … waiting.

SO hopefully no one forgot to hit the paper shredder during that audit (the staff’s word, not mine) because that’s a lot of credit card information.

Anyway. I wish the organizers were more transparent about what that registration process was for in 2018 if not for actually registering. Looks like it was just an head count of interest for people registering for the next year. My friend called it population control. I get the idea of selecting the floor carefully to maximize publicity and sales and also to keep the show fresh. I don’t do a show unless I have new content – I was getting two books finished for this show.

I spent the past year getting these books and prints ready and now it looks like I’ll just be publishing them online first without a public debut venue to coincide. I admit I liked the timing of Wondercon and a subsequent Comixology date. That staggered release schedule worked well.

So If I get into the show, it’ll be quite last minute notice since I contacted everyone I could, hassled them repeatedly and still nothing. The squeaky wheel in this case isn’t getting greased, as the saying goes.

Tracking the numbers

SO I built a spreadsheet to track progress of most of the aspects of Encoding Bushido – it’s a simple assignment of an integer value to discreet tasks with a definite deadline. Sounds all math-y right?

I know of project tracking software and apps that make such things supposedly easier but they do manage to complicate things easily for the sake of attracting whales – those large scale important projects lurking out in the wild that could transform their product into the b2b must have accessory.

All I needed was a telling and easy way to manage the following steps:

Those are the global steps – the spaces in between are not really worthy of a trackable number, but the broad strokes, when calculated give me a simple way to report progress in terms of percentages. It’s a simple way to mentally forge ahead without tons of database management or “fly by the seat of your pants” management.

The last field – Deadlines – is something I need to keep fluid, and I wasn’t ready to commit to any exact deadlines.  But the simple field calculates the number of days to a deadlines against the current date so updating those is a matter of entering a new date. Basically each deadline field is a countdown. But there are few fluid events in my professional future which aren’t quite settled yet, so as a gamble against that uncertainty I put out some feelers.

Updating the spreadsheet on weekends keeps me on track without going a bit mad at the sheer size of what I set out to do – I think I exceeded the level of complexity of any book I have ever done easily and I’ve never been more happy with the writing I’ve done lately. All that said, I feel like I am on track. And the numbers are encouraging.

From Foam to Digital to home

SO – I start a lot of blogs that way. But this is a first:

For the first time in twenty years of working in visual effects, and tons of rubber monster types of movies I get to KEEP one of the creatures I worked on.

Previously at Sundance and then the GO90 network, Snatchers is a teen comedy/horror series.

Technically the little rubber critter was ordered after we finished production on the second season of the show it belongs to but it was the first thing I built for this particular show.

The second season was a really big project for the company I work for in terms of scope and scale. Full digital creatures, combined digital AND practical creature shots and the prerequisite gore and mayhem for a horror comedy.

I think I personally touched more than 70 or so shots with digital creatures – full animation lighting and compositing of shots – or “soup to nuts” as some of the old timers like to put it.

The result I hope will be airing soon on an internet connection near you.

But for the meantime – the little package of foam, paint and wires turned into solid creature is on its way home.

I made a 3d print of the model I made and will likely set them on some honored spot near my desk.

 

 

The Incrementals

So, here’s a page from the latest book. It marks what I feel is a certain newfound comfort with Clip Studio Paint, having made the switch away from Gimp earlier this year:

There’s a lot going on there production-wise. I’ve been an open source advocate for a long time, and I have not disposed of Gimp in the workflow entirely. I still use it for various tasks – particularly anything that requires a higher bit depth since Clip Studio is still only and 8-bit application.

Changes in my workflow have been both by leaps and increments, but Gimp’s 2.0 launch left me wanting better hardware. On my current Surface Pro 4, with only the standard RAM and processor, Gimp 2.0 runs too slowly to be usable. I love all the new features, but I exceeded the maximum resolution at which my hardware and Gimp were able to handle very quickly.

Speaking of switching applications, Siggraph was this week – snooze. Just kidding. Plenty of software news floated around but nothing really ground breaking, just tons more VR related buzzwords and usability tweaks from – well – everyone. I’m playing this off as usual, because for the most part the real nuts and bolts of the artistry of everything at Siggraph is mostly old hat by now.  I think most people in CGI feel that most of the big problems of image creation have been solved and everything is just focused on “make it faster and easier” as well as more affordable.

In the meantime I’m having fun with my favorite app – Zbrush – which has been updated to include my favorite formerly free sculpting app – Sculptris. Sculptris was never really taken very seriously – but its ability to add resolution while sculpting made it a terrific solution for picky sculptors like me with slower hardware. Thanks, Pixologic.

Bit by bit, I am changing nearly every aspect of my workflow as a digital artist. The opportunity presented by different tools always leaves me asking “why not try it.” Whether it’s speed, experimentation, user experience, or old fashioned problem solving – I have tried different tools as the default asking the questions – does this help, hurt? Is this better or just different? Is this adding or subtracting from my process and results?

Incrementally.

All this heat is making me … busy

The company I work for has just finished another season of Snatchers, a comedy horror series which debuted at Sundance in 2017. It’s a goofy and sometimes slapstick mixture of monsters and gore that manages to be cheerful. It basically feels like I went back to my roots – creature features.

Season 2 coming soon to Go90.

I spent most of my middle career working on those schlock-y Saturday night spoofy movies on the Sci Fi Channel before it changed its name. That’s kept me pretty busy for the last few months, and from what I’ve seen of season 3 – well, that’s down the road a bit. But I can say from an animation point of view, it changes tone dramatically and in the service of the story. In other words, the change was motivated by something in the story, always a plus.

In other news, I had been working on a project with friend and fellow comics creator, Jamie Gambell. Just like me, we both work full time in jobs that REALLY don’t care about your free time, thus making that time tremendously valuable. Anyway, I am happy to report that almost three years after merely talking about it, we have actual pages. Suffice it to say that he pitched it to me as “Metabarrons … but British.” That was it, I was in.

A snippet of “High Imperialism” – from Jamie Gambell and myself. Click above to see his other work.

As always, I have been making progress on Encoding Bushido, having blocked out the cover. Making a cover on this series is an experiment in a long standing pet peeve I have with comics. I think too many comics disappear into a sea of noise in most comic stores – every mainstream comic tries to “SMASHBOOMPOW LOOK AT ME” – screaming at customers.

I get it. And more recently, cover designs have tried to leverage this with good graphic design and less art – negative space, less clutter. And that works .. sometimes. My biggest pet peeve is that many modern covers have absolutely NOTHING to do with what’s inside the book. And you can tell when someone did a cover last minute or too far ahead of time, or – my favorite – it seems like someone DELIBERATELY misleads you about what the issue ACTUALLY  contains.

I have taken an almost collage approach to my covers for Encoding Bushido – taking panels from the artwork I’ve finished and composing them into something which directly represents both the issue itself and some of those less cluttered approaches. I’m not going to say my covers will stand out against the sea of noise, but you will definitely see relevance.

I am basically treating the cover as another page in the story, taking my favorite moments and saying something about what you are about to see. So at the end of seven issues I hope the overall effect is close to telling the story on it’s own.

Revisions and Tempo

Finding a pace to finish everything on Encoding Bushido has been kind of mixed bag. I set up a decent schedule to work daily for at least 1-2 hours per night, nearly a full 8 on weekends and made one of those internet-guru sounding life-hack discoveries.

Some background work to fill out page 2.

I had optimized my work habits within that time frame so well, it was mentally difficult to work at any other time of day. Call it the power of habit, wait – that’s taken. Crap. Just kidding.

But it was a problem like any other in trying to finish a project while also working a full time job. Interesting first world problem to have, eh? Call it the Angelino Crisis – everyone here has a side hustle, as a matter of fact, maybe I should have called this blog the same but it sounds too much like a dance move.

When it comes to being prolific, I don’t make any hard claims. I don’t feel particularly prolific but I know I have produced more pages this year than at any other year before of comics work. So when added to the work I’ve been doing in visual effects it REALLY starts to sound like a lot. The producer on the last few shows I worked on said that the company finalled over 500 shots between the three shows we had been working on in the same time period. I touched probably a good third of those shots myself.

The numbers sound like ego puffery, but to be honest I just wanted them to get some perspective on the real goal – to finish Encoding Bushido before a certain deadline. Seven issues doesn’t sound as daunting when I’ve already started issue 3, mostly because the last few years have been single issue years for me. From 2014-17, I had only been able to final one full color issue of anything.

I wanted to change that having been seriously disappointed with the performance of Pages of Eight the last two shows I worked. I put an enormous amount of work into those issues, which really ended up as expensive practice for the latest book.

So, before the end of summer there are details to wrap up but issue 2 should be well into colors and issue 3 should have complete layouts.

Thanks for watching!