Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Story Are You Telling?

I've been working hard on my story, Die, Baby, Die!, for almost a year now. I've gotten so invested that I feel as though I know the characters personally. I've enjoyed getting to know the characters (even the annoying ones) and how they've taken me into unexpected territory.

Working on a longer piece like this, I thought I knew exactly how it would all end up. But the story has gone through many, many different iterations. It started out as a straight up Demon Slasher story, with only one true main character, Chiyoko. I was going to be short, 90 pages, and to the point.

The further I got into my demon research, the more involved the story became. For months I wanted to show just how a demon could walk on earth among us. I spent months reading up on it and trying to fit it into my story. It wasn't until a few friends and close ones looked at it that I realized I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Time to give up my intricate demon possession and demon back story. Dammit.

Meanwhile I'd been working out the characters. Shinji, Hisashi, Chiyoko, Yumiko and Miyuki were the big ones for the first chapter. I couldn't wait to get started on Inspector Ieada, but he wasn't to show up until the second chapter. I've always enjoyed a large cast of characters who are involved in something big, who are completely different, but are forced to be together. I find that you get the most interesting dynamics that way. I always thought people who worked together was the way to go for that, but High School works too. I remember hanging out with many people who weren't my favorite around that time in my life.

The characters had started taking on qualities that I hadn't expected. That is when writing comics is the most fun and rewarding for me. They've all won a little spot in my heart for their inadequacies and quirky hang-ups. I remember hearing from a couple of friends who I showed my first draft to that I should cut a few of my characters, that they had no point in being there. I went very strongly the other direction and gave said characters larger parts and explored them more than ever. I'd gotten very attached to the little world I'd created and couldn't see compromising it for anything.

So, I finished the first chapter last month. It was very rewarding. There are a few pages and panels I want to touch up here and there, but it's mostly finished. I'd talked to a few people who read it and they had pointed out how their favorite character is Hisashi. I must admit that I didn't see that coming. I had wanted Chiyoko to be the favorite character from the get go. But then I had her saying and doing things that I hadn't planned, but fit her character like a glove. Thus making her flawed and less sympathetic, but more real. I'd heard from a few friends along the way, and am hearing it more that I've finished the first chapter: the main character of this story is Hisashi.

What? I'd always thought it was Chiyoko. Hisashi was a huge part, sure, but the story centered around Chiyoko. At least it had in my head. I'd always figured they were the two main characters, Chiyoko and Hisashi, but Chiyoko a little more main. It looks like I could have been wrong. Sometimes you get waaaay too attached to a story that it's hard to see things clearly. I like feeling that close to a story, I wouldn't want to tell Die, Baby, Die! any other way. But it was interesting to get that feedback about Hisashi, I'll be paying more attention to what I'm doing and how I'm telling the story and how it's sways the readers. I'm not going to change any plans that I've already laid down, but I am going to be more mindful of what scenes convey to the readers. I had gotten too submerged in my own world that I'd almost forgotten what it would look like for a reader who only gets to live there between the pages.

One Window

Here is the second round of thumbnails for a smaller piece I've been working on called One Window. In the classes I've had with Steve Bissette he showed us many of his short horror stories. I found it amazing that he could tell such short, yet horrific stories. One of my favorites, COTTONMOUTH, was told in only four pages! Every word and every line count. When I got to the end of COTTONMOUTH I had to set it down, say "what the hell?", then promptly pick it up and read it again. Anyway, here is what I came up with.

Gross, I know. The first draft of this was a bit more wordy, and repetative, so I tried to cut down on that. I think the pacing works well. I wanted the panel layout for the first three pages to be the same as the window panes that the character is looking out of. Trying to get the reader, for three pages, to be in that constant state of looking at the same sight. I only drew in the window panes in the first panel, but they would be drawn in every panel. These are only the thumbnails, and I wanted to convey what was happening in the outside scenes, because the window panes will not change from panel to panel.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Below is a portrait of me done by one of my classmates, David Yoder. You can link to his blog on the side bar and check out his work. David drew a portrait of everybody in our class and made trading cards out of them for his thesis. Oh yeah, the whole "bird's nest" thing. It goes like this: people in my class made fun of me because some days before class I didn't style style my hair as if I was about to go to a photo shoot.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Cave of the Silken Web

I was wandering around KMart in West Lebanon the other day and I found a Shaw Brothers movie that I had never heard of: The Cave of the Silken Web. I thought I was in for some excellent Kung Fu action, so I had to pick it up.

The movie was made in 1967 and was the Shaw Brothers third production. There was a bit of Kung Fu in the movie, but it was mostly a musical comedy. It followed the exploits of Xuanzang, a monk, and his "hapless adventures", one of whom is the Monkey King (which you may or may not have seen in that movie with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, The Forbidden Kingdom).

The Monkey King is a Chinese legend that goes way back. The portrayal in this movie was delightful, he stole the entire show. I think that Jet Li closely studied his performance before filming his scenes as the Monkey King in The Forbidden Kingdom.

The Monkey King aside, what really attracted me in this movie were the Spider Demon women who inhabited the Silken Cave. Here are a few of them pictured below...

The six arms were lost after the trippy intro, which was too bad but understandable. There were seven spider demon sisters who lived together. They were all trying to eat Xuanzang's flesh, because it would enable them to live forever. The spider demon ladies all claim to want to work together, but they are full of spite and trickery. Not only do they use these qualities against their enemies, but also against themselves, which makes things really interesting.

This movie got me excited about the idea of spider demon women, who were full of trickery and sensuality and spurred me to do a bit more research. There wasn't much that I could find on this topic, but what I did find I posted below.

This is a scan from the Usagi Yojimbo Kumo story line. It's collected in book 14: Usagi Yojimbo Demon Mask, which is a great collection where many mysteries abound. The scan is a bit blurry on the left edge because I didn't want to crack the spine of the book (sorry). In this story there is a spider demon woman, who is a torso of a woman with a spider body. It was a great story which introduces on of Sakai's great characters, Sasuke the demon hunter.

All this research got me jazzed to work on a character that might turn up somewhere down the line. A character with the six arms thing going on from The Cave of the Silken Web. I was going for a seductive character who might lead men on and then suck the blood out of them or something nasty like that. It's all just in the idea stage for now, but I like how it's shaping up.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


The end of one thing. The beginning of something else. Commencement!

That's right, my two years at the Center for Cartoon Studies are coming to a close this Saturday. It's hard to believe that three years ago I was showing up to CCS to show off my portfolio. I've learned so much since then, but I still have much more to learn.

Evan Dorkin, who created the comic book Milk and Cheese, among others, will be our commencement speaker. I've never met him myself, but he is the thesis advisor of my classmate, Jason Weeks, and from what Jason says he sounds like a firecracker. It should be a great speech.

This graduating class will be the largest that has graduated from the school yet. I believe there are 25 or 26 of us. Most of whom, you can link to on the side bar. I'll list them here, in marching order: Jen Vaughn, Bill Volk, Jason Weeks, Keny Widjaja, David Yoder, Max De Radigues, Josh Rosen, Katherine Roy, Phillip Sherwood-Berndt, Blair Sterrett, Tim Stout, Laura Terry, Ryland Ianelli, Kevin Kilgore, Modi Kwanza, Melissa Mendes, mo, Jose-Luis Olivares, Nick Patten, Matt Aucoin, Eric Baker, Mark Bilokur, Casey Bohn, Gary-Paul Bonesteel, Randall Drew, Holy Holly Foltz, and Lauren Hinds.

The ceremony will be open to the public. Afterwords, there is an art show in the CCS gallery, open all day. Come down and check it out after your done watching your Saturday Morning Cartoons.

It's been a crazy two years. I'd like to thank my professors, and all the visting artists, my classmates and my thesis advisor, Stan Sakai, for all of their time, inspiration, and the memories.

Now, let's go make some fucking comics!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Die, Baby, Die! Press Release

I'm sent this add around to let people know that the first chapter is finished. You can read it by scrolling down, or I added a new page, which you'll see at the right of the screen, called Die, Baby, Die!: You Ain't a Baby No More, Baby!

Die, Baby, Die! First Chapter: You Ain't a Baby No More, Baby!

Here it is, the first installment of Die, Baby, Die! It might see some minor changes when it goes to print, and I am planning on adding a backup horror story just for fun. Hope you enjoy!