Category Archives: Webcomics
One unfortunate problem with choosing writing as a preferred method of communication is that it is a slow process. If you have an idea that you’re really excited about and ready to share with the world right now you still have to sit down and write for an hour or two, or even for days, depending on the scope of the subject. By the time you actually arrive at the point you’ve been eager to get to it can be days or weeks later. By then your enthusiasm may have understandably waned.
I was very excited to go into a series on the argument from reason, but it’s taken me weeks to get as far through it as I have and I’m only halfway done. At this point it’s difficult for me to summon the motivation to continue further. It seems that I may require some time to rest from that subject so that I can build up intellectual steam for the second half.
To that end this blog post will have nothing to do with the argument from reason, and will instead focus on a topic that my mind is still engaged with.
It has occurred to me lately that most of the things I would really like to do for a living are not very feasible. I would love to write for a living, but very few people make enough money writing to live off of or to support a family with. Of course I’ve understood that for a very long time: one of the first pieces of advice an aspiring writer typically receives is that you should never quit your day job. Still, I did hold some hope for perhaps becoming a columnist or freelance writer and that I could potentially make a living at that. Since then I’ve realized that, with the advent of the internet and the ability for anyone with a connection to become their own self publisher, the amount of amateur and freelance writers has exploded while at the same time the demand for such writers has decreased. Trying to make living as a writer in the internet age is like trying to make a living at picking fruit in Dust Bowl era California: it’s just not going to work out very well. Unless I manage to write a book that becomes the next Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (at which point I can celebrate by building a mansion in the woods and an early retirement) I’m going to have to hang on to my day job.
With writing out my next preferred profession was filmmaking. And though I’m still terribly interested in filmmaking (and would like to make a documentary or two someday) I’ve come to realize that it is not a viable day job either. Once again I have the internet to blame (along with the march of technological progress that has made high quality video recording equipment available to the public). There are now more people attempting to make a living off filmmaking and video production than ever before, at a time when the amount of money people are willing to pay for such entertainment has remained generally constant. There are aspiring directors, editors, screenwriters, and the like all over the world, and there are less jobs working for the big studies then there used to be. Hollywood is doubling down on a small number of huge blockbuster movies and there are less opportunities for an up and coming director to make a name for themselves. Steven Speilberg has bemoaned that even he can’t get funding for more personal and artistic projects. If Speilberg doesn’t think there’s a future in movies then what chance do I have? At this point I’d have better luck dedicating myself to becoming fabulously wealthy and then funding my own film projects than trying to work my way into and then up the ladder of the studio system.
I considered creating a webcomic that could grow into something that could provide a stable, or even lucrative, income. It’s happened for many other people, and I’ve always been fascinated by comics as a storytelling medium. I’m still considering it: but it is just as pointless to put your hopes in a webcomic becoming massively successful as it is to put your hopes into writing. Perhaps it will take off, perhaps it won’t, but in the meantime you’ve got bills to pay and a family to support. In other words: don’t quit your day job.
All this negative, yet purely practical and realistic, thinking has led me to ask myself: why do I want to write? Why do I want to make movies? Why do I want to make webcomics? And the answers I find are complicated. I love telling stories. I love sharing ideas. I love books. I love movies. I love comics. I would find great enjoyment in making my own. Still, why does it matter whether or not I can make a living at it? Essentially it doesn’t: it would just be really, really awesome if I could just create all day and be paid for it. But then the question is, who am I creating this for? Why am I creating it? For the money? For myself? For others?
Probably a little bit of all of those and a few other things besides, if we’re being honest. Things like my desire to be someone important, my desire to create something that the world will embrace and say “Here is a great creator!” So we have pride in there, and ambition. And then there is the irreplaceability of the creative professions: any competent person with the right education can be an accountant; but only Gary Paulson could write Hatchet. There are millions (billions, really, if I’m being honest) of people who could do my current job just as well as I do, if not better. But only C.S. Lewis could write The Chronicles of Narnia. Deep down I do not want to be replaceable. So that desire comes into it as well.
But lately I’ve been wondering…do I need the approval of the world to do so? Do I need to be a professional to create something unique?
Well no. But just because something is unique doesn’t mean it’s good. I made a lot of unique things out of popsicles and macaroni when I was in kindergarten but that doesn’t mean that any of them were important, or useful, or beautiful, or interesting. It’s all well and good to say that you should write for yourself: but the fact is that if I was writing this blog post for myself instead of for public viewing then it certainly wouldn’t be this long or this detailed and it would be riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes.
It’s a vexing problem. One I haven’t found the solution to yet.
At least I feel that I’m closer to an answer then I have been.
You may have noticed that there where no posts last week. That was deliberate on my part. I had been working on some writing projects of my own, and I felt that I needed to devote all my creative time and energy towards getting one of them in particular finished. Well I did finish it. So I’m back.
The project I can’t speak too much about (at this stage of development whether it will go anywhere is difficult to predict) but the gist of it that, inspired by the holiday atmosphere, I got a neat little idea for a story about Halloween. Unfortunately by it’s very nature I knew it wouldn’t work as a short story, nor as a short film. It was a very visual idea; the only way I can see it working is with either cel animation (which is way beyond my abilities) or as a graphic novel (that is, a comic book). Fortunately I still have my artist friend who did the artwork for SLOPAN. He recently told me he was interested in working on a short comic book project, I told him about my idea, and he’s interested in doing the art for it. Last week I wrote the script and sent it off to him. From here it’s just a matter of concept art, storyboarding, sketching, inking, and coloring. That will take time, but time is something we have. If we get it done it won’t be released until next October: it is a Halloween story after all.
There I go. I said I couldn’t speak too much about the project, and I’ve gone and spoken a lot. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, there is still a lot that could go wrong and lead to the scrapping of the project as a whole. But at least you guys have an idea what I’m up to these days.
Long time readers will recall that I have a webcomic. I say “have” instead of “had” because the comic still technicially exists online. The comic hasn’t been updated in over a year. As far as any reader is concerned it’s effectively dead. It died before reaching it’s first plot point. Readers still don’t know who these characters are (other than their names), where they are, what they’re doing, or why they’re in the same comic. The comic stalled to a halt before it even got into gear.
So what happened? Well, it’s pretty simple. We only put out 11 pages, but each of those pages took a great deal of time and effort on the part of my artist friend. You can see for yourself that they’re pretty dang detailed, all drawn, inked, and lettered by hand. I’m not saying it’s the best artwork in the world, but hey, if the art looks this good at the start of the webcomic then it’s only going to go up from there. Just as an example, here is an archived strip, from its debut year, of PvP, an extremely successful webcomic that has been running continuously since 1998:
And here is strip from 2013:
As you can see the art has improved considerably. That’s the way webcomics work, and the fact that SLOPAN started out with such detailed visuals was a good sign, though I’ll be the first to admit that we have a lot to learn (particularly when it comes to panel transitions).
Unfortunately detailed artwork takes a long time to produce. The comic usually failed to update once a week, as promised. Eventually we both decided that my friend should build up a buffer of 10 or so comics, so that the site could keep updating even when sudden life events prevented my friend from drawing. Unfortunately sudden life events started piling up. A lot of stuff happened that I only half remember which it wouldn’t be right to tell you about anyway, but the long and short of it is that things got really crazy for us both. I had my senior year of college, getting married, etc, and my friend had his own stuff going on. We tabled it, and there it has remained for a full year.
So why bring it up now? Nostalgia mostly, as someone asked me recently what happened to it. Still I think you all deserve an update on why it hasn’t gone anywhere and whether it will in the future. I’ve talked to my friend and we both want to pick it up again. It’s just a matter of actually doing it. I’d get the ball rolling but I’m having a crises of faith right now. I’m not sure that SLOPAN is really all that good from a story point of view (which I can say because I’m writing the dang thing). I really like it, and my friend really likes it, but I don’t know why anyone else would want to read it. Also: pirates and ninjas? Really? Is it 2005? We missed that boat a long time ago. As a matter of fact, it was around 2005 that the story for SLOPAN was first conceived, though it was originally going to be a webseries. I’ve only turned it into a comic out of nostalgia and a desire to finally tell the story we spent so long working on. I’ve expanded it and rewritten it and added all kinds of little nerdy details that get me excited, but I don’t know if anyone else would really like it. I don’t think it would go anywhere.
Plus there’s the fact that my artist friend and I aren’t very good at comics right now. We’re still learning a lot about how to pace things, how to transition, how to develop characters, etc. I know that this story will come out rough. It’ll have to, as the only way to get better at anything is to do it. So not only am I worried that nobody really wants to hear this story, but I’m also worried that it will come out all wrong either way! You can see why I’m hesitant to start it up again.
Still, right now I’m leaning toward doing it anyway. Will people want to hear the story? Beats me. But I do want to tell it. Will the story come out the way I envision it? Almost certainly not. But that’s okay to. You know why? Because the next comic will come out better. I want to become a master storyteller. Now is as good a time as any to learn the craft of telling stories through comics.
Don’t expect updates anytime soon though. I’ll let you know.
Alright! The promised video is up. You can watch it right here, immediately below this sentence!
Here’s a quick summary of what I got out of the experience:
1. Man, I can’t believe I forgot this already but having a script is pretty dang important. I went scriptless on this one and I’m not very happy with the result. I had to cut out about half of the video I had because it was rambley, unimportant, or poorly worded. What’s worse is that I had several points I wanted to talk about that I just blanked on completely. Next time I need a script for sure. What’s frustrating is that I already learned this lesson years ago, when I worked on my first silly little video projects as a teenager. Oh well! Maybe now I’ll remember it for good.
2. Remember how sensitive camera mics can be. On board microphones are excellent at picking up all the little sounds you don’t want to hear. There are a couple places where you can hear muffled talking and plates clinking. All that came from the next room over, despite the door and wall in the way.
3. Focus on the camera. I keep drifting my gaze off to the right. Gotta stop doing that.
4. Making your own image is better than grabbing one off the internet. I wasted a lot of time looking for a silly “arter” picture for the video, and finally just made my own on paint. It works for this because the whole point is not being able to draw, so I was able to make it nice and sloppy and still get my joke across. Much more satisfying than picking something random off Google images.
I’m not sure what my next video will be. I’m going to shoot for this Saturday, but no promises on this one.
Since I put up my last post on envy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. As I said envy is a terrible sin, and very caustic to the soul. However it does has a use if we’re willing to understand it, tame it, and put it to work. Envy lets us know when we feel that we lack something. It can be an alarm bell revealing hidden aches and disappointments that aren’t always clear. In other words, envy can be very helpful for introspection.
Once envy has tipped us off that we feel we lack something, the next question to ask is whether that something we lack is worth going after? Not all things that are envied should be sought, but that doesn’t mean that all things that are envied are bad. If I envy a man because of his wealth I probably should wonder why money matters so much to me, and how I can work to change my priorities. If, on the other hand, I envy a man because of his patience, insight, and strong morals then I should work to improve those own aspects of my life.
So I applied this process to myself. Why did I feel so envious of JesuOtaku of all people? What hidden sense of lack or failure did that envy reveal? It didn’t take long to find the answer. Deep down I feel like a failure for not doing more work with video. I have a great camera, great editing software, and some talent; yet I’ve done nothing to help that talent grow. Every now and then I’d try to think of a project to work on, but I’d soon forget it. Most of my ideas were beyond my reach; mainly because I don’t have actors, costumes, or props. So I was content to sit around knowing that I wanted to make videos but doing nothing. I let myself ignore my needs because trying to fulfill them is hard. Not hard as in difficult, but hard as in involving a lot of mental and physical effort. It was easier to act as if I didn’t really need make videos.
But then JesuOtaku reminded me of my dreams, and that hurt.
Well I’m going to do my best to fix that.
I’ve decided to give up on searching for some mythical “perfect” idea for a video. I’m just going to make videos. I’m going to shoot for one a week, starting next week. I’m setting the due date for Saturday. I’ll put a link to it on the blog here. However, I’m going to warn you. The video won’t be about writing, or apologetics, or most of the things I write about on the blog. As a matter of fact this first video is going to be about webcomics. I’m going to review a webcomic I enjoy. That’s all. It’ll just be me, sitting down in front of a not very interesting wall, talking about webcomics with a few still images drifting by. I don’t know if it will be interesting or even very good. But it’s something I can do. Besides, hasn’t that been what this blog is really all about? Baby steps. The man who takes his steps one inch at a time moves faster than the man who won’t take any steps at all.
So next Saturday we’ll see if I take that first little step.
I love webcomics.
Correction: I love comics. Comic books, comic strips, manga, “graphic novels”, I eat em’ up. But I’m also incredibly cheap. I’m not the kind of guy who goes down to the local comic book shop and picks up the latest issues about his favorite superheroes. I’m the guy who goes to the local comic book shop and sits on the floor in the back aisle reading whatever comic caught my eye on the way in.
So considering that I am
a) a comics fanatic and
webcomics was just up my alley. If you’re not familiar with them the concept isn’t too complicated: they’re comic strips and pages put up on a website at regular intervals that you can read for free. I first discovered them back in high school with PvP, which I had read about in a magazine. It was funny, and I enjoyed being able to blow through the archives at my own pace. I gobbled up years of content in just a few days, and was hungry for more. Now I have about eleven separate webcomics that I check in on regularly, and who knows how many more I’ll discover before I die.
I was impressed by how much the internet had changed things. Just twenty years ago if you had a great comic idea you wanted to share with the world you had only one option: get picked up by a syndicate or a big name publisher like Marvel or DC. If they didn’t want your comic then the best you could do is draw your comic on bits of paper and hand them out on a street corner. If you had plenty of extra cash lying around you could self-publish, but that doesn’t guarantee that anyone would buy. A few people like Jeff Smith managed to beat the system and succeed, but it was a million to one shot.
Today if you have a great idea for a comic all you have to do is make it. Write the script, draw the panels, and get yourself a website to showcase it on. That’s it. That’s all you need to make your work available to millions of people worldwide. Now whether or not they’ll want to read it or not is a different story, but that seemingly impassable moneywall that was distribution has been breached. You don’t need to be a millionaire to self-publish anymore. You just need to have an internet connection.
Now we come to me. I love webcomics and I want to write professionally someday. My art skills are subpar but one of my best friends is a talented artist that currently has no creative outlet for his work. The only thing stopping me from making my own webcomic was myself. It’s fun to think about creating a webcomic but actually getting off your duff and writing one is hard work.
But I did it. Last November I sat down and pounded out a script for a long form, comic book style webcomic. I contacted my artist friend and he was more than willing to draw it for me. Delays followed: technical difficulties, personal problems, etc. Months went by with no progress. But now all that is over. Our comic, S.L.O.P.A.N. is online and updating once a week. It’s not Shakespeare, I’ll tell you that much. But it’s mine. I have a webcomic. It may never be very popular or critically acclaimed, but it is something real that I have done.
So check the comic out if you can. I’ll probably post now and then about the comic, and go into more detail about the story behind it. For now just enjoy it, or ignore it, your choice.