State of a project: Main Character coming to life (part 1)

•September 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Like most writers, I hit a block on a plot twist in the middle of chapter 2.
Oh well. Lets switch gears, I say, and spend some time on the draftboard.

My protagonist has to be physically attractive, because I am using conventions found in pulp and action comics.

I am intermingling this setting with grittiness and realism, so I gave him a couple of traits that make him not as attractive, such as a hooked nose and lots of small scars everywhere. And body-hair. Take that hairless perfectly sculpted superheroes.

Now in all honesty, this is a character that was already born more than 15 years ago. Even back then I already had some character designs for him.

For example, this character design was done in the mid 90’s.

The Pony-tail is a dead giva-way.

This character is interpreting/impersonating a comic book hero. I paid homage to Will Eisner’s The Spirit and fashioned him simple, with the domino mask and usually with a suite and tie.  And getting his clothes torned off quite a bit.

I made many drafts and images of the character

And made a lot of concept art for him.

Now, almost 20 years later, the story holds, but the character goes over some slight changes.

 

Next phase on fleshing him out, now that I have a starting point, is an exercise in realism. I place him in the world I have concocted, and give him a background story, how he grew up, what has he seen and what has molded him.

He was orphaned very early. Not for dramatic effect of vengeance, ala Bruce Wayne, but because in his dystopian future, his parents couldn’t survive. Period.

So he grows up in orphanages. Thus he is street savvy, a bit cynical. But somewhere in his genetic makeup there exists a desire to do good. He doesn’t give it up completely…he just buries deep within his soul, because the world he has to live in is not kind to heroes or those of altruistic nature.

He grows up disenchanted, but with the buried sense that something has to change in his world. He joins a company that is experimenting with a marketing/pr stunt, where they genetically alter a bunch of volunteers in order to make them viable “superhero” characters.

My character is one of the 10% who survive the program and is supposed to make staged appearances as PR stunts for his company, as a masked comic book hero of yesteryear.

Since he is taking on the role of a popular superhero, so he is a man in character.  But he is also very cynic and jaded, so he will take to wearing the domino mask with a grain of salt. Way too often he will just pull it over his head, like a guy rising his eyeglasses.

After his gene therapy didn’t kill him and made him stronger, his metabolism is accelerated so he loves wearing those T-shirts called wife-beaters. His physique is athletic, but the wife-beater gives him a certain sleazy look. A little secret he will keep to himself is that he knows that accelerated metabolism will likely mean accelerated natural death, and he knows his life will be cut short. So, he is inclined to bouts of melancholy.

His company wants him to look heroic, but he will often end up beaten, bloodied, bruised, and with his clothes torn. His company also wants him clean shaven, and hairless, like a cartoon comic book character, those bodybuilder -types of man-child that don’t even show hair in their legs. But he will skip the waxing often. More so after certain event grants him leverage to act more freely than before.

So, I spent a few days (evening hours) honing down the face.

20140618130024258_Page_01

M.Sketch.02 M.Sketch.18

 

You can see the general gest. Hair slicked back naturally. A color that is not blond, but more like light brown. (Color not relevant, because the initial concept is black/white/halftones.)

I wanted him to look young, but then the concept of accelerated metabolism lined up with the idea of an older soul in a young body, so event though he is in his mid twenties, he may look a bit older, curt, jaded.

 

Continue reading ‘State of a project: Main Character coming to life (part 1)’

A comment on celebrity nude pictures and such

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

(Man, with that title, I wouldn’t be surprised if my blog generates a lot of “the wrong” type of traffic)

So, a couple of days ago, the web broke out with the news that a bunch of celebrities had their pictures hacked from devices and cloud storage and posted online

http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/01/technology/celebrity-nude-photos/index.html

And, because my day to day job deals with security and technology, here I am trying to read the sources employed, the methodology, and how it happened, and all the posts, blurbs, snippets keep hammering on the horror of having your nude pictures stolen.

Let me bring up some points:

1) The internet is the wild wild west:

And that is how it is supposed to be. The internet is a series of protocols put together to ensure the perdurance of electronic communications and redundancy. It failed, because it is easy to break and terminate redundancy.

The internet is not for pussies, and is not for the timid. The internet is a meritocracy, where the more you know the better you are. The internet is not designed to keep you honest, nor to make you wiser, nor to make you happy.

If we (as a society) want that, then we have to invent something from scratch, like Internet 2.0, where identity is associated with registration, and there are some devices regulating traffic flow, etc….

But the existing internet is not for people to be safe. It is not for people to be secured. It is done solely with the purpose of transmitting. Transmitting whitepapers, documents, pictures and videos of cats, people humping sheep, human decapitations, copyrighted materials, manifests, pamphlets, and above all porn porn and more porn.

You are in charge, of learning your device and getting on the internet and being safe. There are some people out there who want to get into the internet and hack you or your device, and they live for it, either for profit of for thrills.

Any type of regulation is idiotic, and I am including anything such as the DCMA to whatever you want to include.

The internet (as it was designed) was not to be regulated.

2)   So… you got your naked pictures stolen… WTFC (WhoTheFuckCares)!

Seriously. You have a right to your privacy, and to your personal space and all of that. But from the moment that you take a recorded imprint of your persona, you are risking it being mismanaged and ending up in the wrong hands. It shouldn’t be like that, but then again, there shouldn’t be wars nor poverty, and they do exist, and those are issues much bigger and important than your naked ass.

True Story: Marilyn Monroe took some explicit pictures with a photographer when she was very young, to pay rent. Years later, she became a big star and the photos surface, and she went full truth with them: “I needed the money, and they were done in good taste. I have nothing to be ashamed of”.

But for crap’s sake! Throw a rock at the internet pond, and you will hit a stolen sex celeb tape, or stolen cell phone pics, or other stuff like that.

When you are in the public eye, people want to see your ass. I  am not talking from personal experience here, of course. Part of my everyday job is actually very involved in personal and cyber security, and I am exposed to so much human stupidity when it comes to social media that I am truly dumbfounded and end up questioning whether humanity, as a species has any right to exist at all.

Now, combine that degree of stupidity with strange expectation that equates nakedness with dirtiness, shamefulness, or nastiness. Improper behavior in general. Then you get people feeling that taking a naked selfie is something naughty… and having them stolen and seen is something shameful….

I am here to tell you, NO ONE SHOULD FREAKING CARE. And I am telling it to you from both angles. You shouldn’t care if any one sees you naked, and no one should care to see you naked.

This fallacy of us being prude about our bare image extends to so many aspects that it is hard to compile them in a single post.

But since you are reading, I will try, and so you won’t assume that I am writing them in any sort of order, I’ll use bullet points:

  • You are born naked, there is nothing wrong being naked. Period. I have nothing to add to this.
  • Some people are going to leer at you for being naked. Sure, and other will leer at your hair, other at your earlobes, other yet at your shoes. Get over it.
  • People are going to form a bad opinion about you based on your body image. Yes. Well. Screw them. Unless you made the conscious decision of paying your rent by showing off your body, then you shouldn’t care. You should never give a flying turd what others think of you. If you do, you are just being manipulated. Find a way of grow out of that.
  • The veil of turpitude that surrounds nakedness, and its usual association with sex, just promotes and reinforces the concept of keeping sex and nakedness secret and relegated to “naughty situations.” You are just feeding into ignorance, and letting the ignoramus win.
  • When you die, at one point you will be naked and in communion with the earth. Bringing the full circle to a close.

This is not to say you should go out running naked every Thursday night.  Depending on your geographical situation it could result in  a sunburn or frostbite. And the fact  that society seems to love hanging on to their old mores.

But I do advocate that you start putting your two cents into every conversation you have on the street or at work, or in family circles stating: If we were more exposed to this stuff we wouldn’t go around making it a scandal. THAT IS THE REAL SCANDAL!

Sex and nakedness is not something you abhorrent, nor despicable. But alas if we think of it as such, there is something wrong with us. I view it as clipping my toenails. Nothing horrendous, but I shouldn’t do it in public for health reasons, and I should try to do it without bothering anyone. Much like religious belief systems.

So no, I wont be looking at, searching for, seeking out the pictures of those celebs naked. Why? Same asnwer I give when they ask me: “Have you seen the Kardashians (insert name of any celebrity here)?”
No. Why? Are they looking for me? No? Then why should I give a rat’s ass.?

 

Here is my favorite pic to go with this rant.

 

 

 

DON’T Become a bad Fiction-Writer (Comic Books)

•August 21, 2014 • 1 Comment

Since I started this blog I wrote a few articles about WHAT NOT to do and WHAT TO emulate when you are writing a comic (or a work of fiction in general).

If you don’t believe me check out Nuff Said Posting

I don’t think (and this is my personal opinion) that good fiction-writing is about being 100% original and giving echo to your own inner voice. Nor it means being popular and selling a gazzillion issues. Nor it means selling little but having awesome critics review your work with lots of kudos!

Of course you can define it in any of those terms, if you want. If you want to sell a lot, then you want to hone on you targeted audience. If you want to receive amazing reviews, learn to write like a pro, and don’t focus on sales.  If you want to hone on your inner voice, and be unique, be ready to not sell, to not get good reviews, and keep knocking on doors.

Yep, this is how all writers live and work…suuuure…

The most difficult trick anyone can performs is: Writing with their unique voice, selling a lot, and being popular. It is possible.

Let’s break it down into rules:

RULE #1   Watch TV Shows, not to be entertained, but to analyze their MANY failures in storytelling.

TV is a medium to be mass consumed. And the majority of TV shows are shit on a stick. This post is not about what are good show and which ones are bad.  If you want to learn about some good ones from the last 10 years, all I can recommend are Lost (innovative storytelling), 24 (some seasons, for its pacing and consistency), Shameless (learn how to write believable and likable real characters with distinct voices), Once Upon A Time (to learn how to adapt old tales with new twists), BattleStar Galactica (how to write believable dramatic Science Fiction).

But then you have the immense majority of shows. For example, SuperNatural in Season 1. You got a theme of demon hunters and supernatural happenstances heavily overshadowed by cheap and overused soap-opera topics.

Mind you, most shows during their first season suck. Usually because they don’t know what they want to be yet.

TV Shows are done (in their majority) to achieve massive audiences, and thus earn profits through advertisement. The business model is changing, and some Netflix and Hulu only produced shows are really amazing. But a TV show gets done by a writer bringing an idea to a producer, or sometimes a producer having an idea, and asking a writer to put it on paper.

Then 10,000 people have their input and re-write the concept until it (usually) is unrecognizable from the first concept.

RULE #2 Read everything and anything (and not just comics)

Do a quick experiment. How many of these terms you can talk about in certain depth?

  • Operation Paperclip
  • The children’s crusade
  • The beast of Gevaudan
  • Piri Reis Map
  • Los Tayos Cave
  • Lake Volstok Anomaly.

Seriously, if you consider yourself a good fiction-writer, you should know the story behind them like the back of your hand, because the ones I chose there are not that weird, obscure or unknown. And why is it you don’t know about them?  Because you haven’t read enough.
And the problem with that is that there is nothing new under the sun. And that wonderful story of vampires you thought about when you were 14… it turns out a famous writer wrote about it and better back in 1975. Or that mystery story you had in mind… someone wrote about it back in the 19th century.

After you have read a lot, you will understand better controversial issues, you will understand a bit more of history, and be able to voice characters better.

RULE #3 Things to Avoid after you master RULE #1: CLICHES

“Trust Me!!” You want your characters to resolve a confrontation quickly, because they already spent two pages arguing? Use the magic of “Trust me” or any of its variants “I need you to trust me on this!” or “You have to trust me!”   This is lazy, and is such a common device used in TV, that people even think is OK to use it in real live, and way too often in fiction. IT IS NOT. Is lazy and is bullshit.

AVOID “I can’t talk about it now”:  In cheap flicks and TV they need drama. And to make drama their characters have to be really flawed. And the inability to reach a consensus through dialog (which is the most common sense way of reaching an agreement) creates great drama. But it is lazy and unrealistic. And bullshit.

Another variation of this is “Why won’t you talk to me?  “It’s complicated.”

AVOID “We have to talk about your/my feelings”:  Usually, real life is not about psychoanalysis with your friends. Usually.

AVOID “You owe me as much”: You want to force a character to disclose information to another, so you resort to this old artifice

AVOID Forensics always misses something at the crime scene

AVOID Irish guys drink and sing old-timey songs: Careful with racial/gender/nationality stereotypes. Germans being all neo-nazis, middle-easterners being all terrorists, French all smoking and smelling bad… I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen action taken place in cities of Spain (like Barcelona or Madrid) and the artist using references of rural Mexico. Also, the Asian math geeks who can’t drive, or the rural white who only has one tooth and married his cousin.

AVOID Children behaving like morons:  Most TV/Hollywood writers not only do not have children, but even the ones that have them, avoid them and leave them with nannies. Thus they constantly use them (often) as a recourse for when they need someone to do something stupid to move the plot along.  I saw a 10 year old girl open the door to a clown in the middle of the night, a child play with matches sin a gas station, a kid provoke a multiple car accident from the back seat… Add in this category the Troubled Teen Daughter/Son

Children usually are freaking smart, (except a noted cases) and very creatives, thinking outside the box. But writers keep using them as artifices for stupidity.

AVOID assuming people are interested the same you are about the same things you are.  Recently I wrote a bad review about a comic called Evil Empire, because the writer (who I later found out was on a band) put too much emphasis on the character who was a singer. And singing and comic books… are a hard match. And he didn’t make them work because he assumed the readers would be into the music part of the comic as much as he was….

 AVOID TV CLICHES: Lets see… the nerd with the tape on glasses, the comic book collector that talks like he has a mouth full of spit and gum, the Chief of medical staff who is a sarcastic asshole, the judge who goes against the protagonist, just to create extra drama, the jock who is a muscle-bound ignoramus,

Now, these tips are things to avoid in order to NOT BE A BAD WRITER.

But in order to be a mildly successfully popular writer, you can’t completely avoid these conventions.

If you want to use them, you have to make them yours. You have to twist them and use them to your advantage. And if you are writing for an audience, always keep them in mind.

Comic Book History: From when Marvel had swagger….

•August 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Some years ago, about the same time I started this blog, I realized I didn’t have an inventory of my comic book collection.

Why I haven’t done that before? I’ve been moving around, almost every two years. Carried the boxes with me, never checked what was in them for a long time.

I now have a few large plastic bins, not the square cardboard boxes. The square cardboard boxes got wasted in the first floods.

But a few months after leaving New York, I sat down with a software database, and took the time to enter the majority of my stock onto the database.

I admit that my most priced items are some comics from the 70’s, but I am lazy about re-reading them.

That is… until Marvel brought out the Essentials collection.

Just a sample of the books in this collection.

 

I love this collection for multiple reasons:

1)  Continuity: You can finally read it all in one shot (likely in multiple sittings) and follow the adventures of a given characters during a long period of time.

2) They are in black and white: Sorry colorist, but with the distraction of color out of the way, the work of pencilers and inkers stands more on its own.

3) It’s a really affordable way of catching up on the ins and out of the Marvel universe. Almost like if you were there when the comic was released.

 

Continue reading ‘Comic Book History: From when Marvel had swagger….’

Comic Review: Evil Empire. Making us wish evil was truly this cheesy…

•August 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Evil Empire

Writer(s):  Max Bemis

Artist(s): Ransom Getty

 US Publisher:  Boom Studios

++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Plot:

A country is about to become an evil empire, so the authors want to show you how it happened (I think. I am in issue 3 and still not too clear on this one…)

Continue reading ‘Comic Review: Evil Empire. Making us wish evil was truly this cheesy…’

Focus on the Artist: Garth Ennis, the brilliant writer that desperately needs an editor.

•July 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been a fan of Garth Ennis since the days of Constantine and Preacher (read mid 1990’s)

I’ve even made a post regarding a review on The Boys series and I’ve made vocal my admiration for The Crossed as an example of modern horror, and how to rehash the modern zombie mythos. 

But in this world of comics I find two arenas clearly defined when it cames to this writer: Either you find unconditional fans, or strange detractors whose criticism of him come across as petty and maybe even jealous of his success.

At the end of the post I will add a short biography of Garth, for those who got to this page in search of biographical information.

Garth Ennis gets criticized for being very violent, for being foul mouthed, even for being misogynistic, and for being a hack.

What really really pissed me off is that no one criticizes him for the right reasons. Having little sense of timing/rhythm, and for being too long winded.

I don’t know if during his period in Preacher, Garth had editors, but the work turned out to be dynamic, with a flux that showed dynamism while giving in to interesting exposure. I am sure that the art of Steve Dillon had a lot to do with it.

But every backstory had a bit of flashiness to it. The scenes of people talking their asses off in a bar were kept to a minimum, considering the quantity of issues it took to complete the story, and his subsequent work.

Another flaw of Garth as comic writer: Mistaking his interesting moments in real life for something that may work well for comics.

You see, I too have had my share of interesting stories happening during a night out with “my mates”… I got stories that range from impromptu strippers being chased into my poker game by jealous boyfriends who happened to be undercover cops, to UFO sightings leaving a bar, to sad sob stories about a five year old panhandling in front of a disco to pay for his mother’s addiction…

Problem is, Garth, that what my work nicely in a novel, might be very very very difficult to make it work in a comic, and even more difficult to make it sustainable in a long-on-going series.

This is a nice sedgway into another problem Mr Ennis seems to have.

He either doesn’t want to be edited, or no one wants to bother editing him.  And holy mackrel!! does he need a content-editor! Not to censor his ideas, but to smack him over the head once in a while and say “You are really farting into your hands and smelling your own methane, friend. For the last 5 pages. You should say this, but condense it in 1″

I mean, we all got frustrated with our high-school creative writer teacher who told us to be more direct and say it with less words, and use more action-related verbs, etc… and we, in our teenage wisdom would mutter “She doesn’t understand what I am trying to do here. She doesn’t get me…” and guess what? WE WERE WRONG!

That teacher had read tons and tons of books that we hadn’t and thus was speaking from a position of experience and know-how that we didn’t have because a) were too young and hadn’t lived long enough or b) were too lazy to have read enough, or worst yet BOTH a) and b)

But by know, my friend, after having seen your work for more than 20 years in the comic industry, I would assume you would’ve outgrown that teenage angst of someone criticizing your work, and would’ve learned to welcome it.

I seriously think that someone in DC asked him while working on Preacher to “Cool it off with the bar scenes” and he did, resulting in a more dynamically paced narrative, but in The Boys, every other floppy has a static exposure of bar scenes. Again, I am sure Garth has a blast sharing a pint with his closest mates, and swapping stories, but I TOO REPEAT: WHAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN IN REAL LIFE DOES NOT ALWAYS TRANSLATE I GOOD COMIC BOOK WRITING.

Garth, how about this for homework: From now own, every-time you write about character/s sitting in a bar and talking, you have to pay every reader who buys the book the cost. (tong in cheek)

Here is a collection of Images from the first search page in Google Images (bar, gets exchanged with “sitting down and chatting”)

 

And I could go on and on…

And by no means am I a prude against drinking or bar-scenes on grounds of “But what about the children…” I’ve always said “Children’s are their parents responsibility.” and thank goodness there are a plethora of comics for young readers out there!

Is just that in the last 15 years of reading Garth’s comics, he abused the “Guys hanging out in a bar” concept, as I’ve shown above.
See, Garth? I am repeating my premise changing the words. That is like using a graphic medium, and having guys sitting in a bar, to tell stories. You don’t need a graphic novel for that, Garth. Seriously. A movie with flashbacks, or a novel is better suited.

The other major reason why Garth needs to hire an editor is because I just read his web-comic Crossed “Wish you were here”, and I only muster to read half of it. Because now, Garth has exchanged a guy sitting in a bar and talking to friends for a guy sitting down and writing his diary.

Dude, you have stories to tell, but you have a problem getting them set up.

Is that easy, and that sad after so many years doing this.

Pretty decent fair for a Crossed Series, but Jeeez, does he go on rambling on and on about the inner thoughts and feelings!!I Call FLUFF! Fillers, I tell you! Fillers!!

That is why he desperately needs an editor. He has fallen for the sin of hubris, where he thinks that every line he writes is indispensable.
Please, Mr. Ennis, read this wonderful short article by Kwanza Why Image Comics and Creators Need to Stop Demonizing Editors Now

Does his degree of verbal diarrhea warrant me to stop buying/reading his stuff? No, but he has fallen into the category of those authors who I skim through their work, because they have turned into those writers that you have to work through their stuff to get to the good part. And even if the good parts are great, that makes them less than good.

Here is looking at you, Garth, in the hopes that you get an editor someday soon!!

Garth Ennis in all his humbleness.

Bio:
A Northern Irish comics writer, best known for the DC/Vertigo series Preacher, co-created with artist Steve Dillon. His work is characterised by extreme violence, black humour and profanity, but also by an interest in male friendship and an amused disdain for organised religion. Frequent artistic collaborators include Dillon, Glenn Fabry and John McCrea.

Date of Birth: January 16, 1970
Birthplace: Holywood, Northern Ireland

Continue reading ‘Focus on the Artist: Garth Ennis, the brilliant writer that desperately needs an editor.’

State of a Project: The City

•July 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

If you know a bit of comic book history you find it plagued by great artists that have their pet peeves, and one of the most common ones is how often they dislike drawing inanimate objects.

Ranging from the legendary John Buscema, to Bryan Hitch, and passing through The King “Kirby” himself, lots of artists have voiced their distaste for having to draw the backgrounds.

What separates the “greats” from the “not-so-great” is that the good illustrators rose up to the the challenge and learned to make the backgrounds part of the story. The little whinny pussies who can’t deal with backgrounds are usually infatuated with anatomy and dynamic poses, and fail to end up making a cohesive story in graphic format.

I mean, c’mon! Even John Buscema gravitated towards Conan just so he could avoid drawing buildings and cars and city landscapes.

In this project I am on, the city IS the story and sometimes it has a larger protagonism than the hero himself.  So, here I am working and working on making the sets, fleshing the surroundings, documenting styles for the buildings, and in general working my ass off to make this city come alive.

The story calls for the characters to walk into dreary alleys, to be ambushed into derelict streets, to hang out in rooftops, to develop shanty towns based on cultures and ethnicities, to see trash as a part of the landscape, etc and a very extensive etc.

I have scenes where the nuances of the building create ambiance, where street angles are used as part of the story, and the landscape has to contribute to story, accentuating diversity and the richness of a destitute melting-pot.

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Being a mediocre artists (and that is being kind) I am spending many nights drafting and sketching this environment.

I realize this is a huge departure from the majority of comics published in the us, where buildings are something superheroes use to fly over, to create vanishing points for the human figures.

 

I remember seeing some great shots on some Marvel titles that elicit awe and admiration through the years.

And that, my fellow artists, is a text book example of Vanishing Point reference.

And although those moments where present more often than not in the silver age of comics, some remains are still carried over today.
Although it must be said that even back then the emphasis was always placed on the heroics, the flashy costumes, and the bright colors, and the city, more often than not, got relegated to the function of a prop for the hero.

Check out how a master like John Byrne uses city landscape to make Captain America get a workout in the city.

Man, I love how resistant the flagpoles are in NYC… they can stand the thrusts of a 200+ lbs muscle man….

Continue reading ‘State of a Project: The City’

 
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