Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comic Retrospect: My Shining Knight

I'm going to take some time to be nostalgic and share some lessons learned from my first web comic venture, "My Shining Knight" (MSK).

This was not the first comic I started during that period of my life (age 16). There were many attempts at a comic. One of the first was trying to make an "A Bug's Life" manga based off one of my fanfictions. Please groan. I do. The art is actually pretty Dece. I took time to really ink in all the details. ...it was only ever 1 page long. :( *sigh*

The next comic was a blatant rip-off of Sailor Moon. (I intend to post that up some day. I just gotta be NOT lazy and scan it in). Again really good detail on backgrounds, inking and there's some color. It looks cool but oh lord the story...I only got like 16 pages in before I abandoned it.

There is a point to this really.

Most of the story or comics I dreamed up had a theme at that time. Boarding Schools (private schools), socially repressed female leads, French boyfriends. (I kid you not, I maybe had 2 or 3 comic ideas with one or more of these themes).
It was no accident that MSK found its origin in these themes because they all described me. I went to a private school, felt socially repressed, and wanted a boyfriend.

Cecilia and Brianna, the female leads for the story, are self-insertions of myself and my best friend. The school, it pretty much the school I went to in my first few years of high school. (I transferred out.) The uniforms...pretty much what we had to wear. No lie...those WERE the uniforms.

When I first wrote the story, it was actually pretty short. In the current state of the comic, chapter 4 would have been the last chapter. The original ending I had planned was this: After the boys returned home, Cecilia and Brianna travel to France and the rings they received transports them to the time where Sebastien and Antoine are originally from. They get a fairy tale ending (meaning get married almost immediately) and the bad guy Lucifer had become a priest. (Honestly, that last bit keeps me in stitches to this day because how he actually came out is HILARIOUSLY different.)

I don't quite remember WHAT inspired me to write more for the comic. Perhaps I was not satisfied with that ending or I thought it was too short or I felt influenced by comics that were writing so many chapters. But I did. I had to compromise that ending I had originally planned and make it a link into the "act 2" so to speak.

This second half is where it turns into the typical high fantasy, sword and sorcery type comic. I had to bullshit my way through so many plot holes that it became rediculous. I ended up drawing 12 chapters in all. As I aged with this comic, I was continually unsatisfied. I kept trying to rewrite the script of later chapters to some how save the story, but that did not work.

MSK I still consider an achievement in that I finished it to an ending that was slightly more satisfying than the fairy-tale I had before.
Improved art! Chapters 10-12 have some of my favorite artwork done.

Now that I'm more mature as a writer and artist, many flaws stand out. The characters are rather inconsistant, the villain is a weak excuse, the timing is weird, and off.

The biggest lesson learned of course is that TIME TRAVEL = FAIL!! Only one story has ever pulled it off and that's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (and Back to the Future). Time travel as an element becomes a crutch and should never, never ever be used! No! Never. It is a perfect formula for failure! If you get anything out of this take this with you. Do not try to write a "serious" story with time travel.

Another thing I learned was to write out the WHOLE story, edit, and feel happy about it before drawing. These are more lessons I learned after producing a few films and animations and realizing "HEY...pre-production = awesome!"
I find is best to outline and bare-bones things before writing dialog scripts (which change constantly).

Now, writing down the comic does not guarantee success...obviously. I wrote down MSK before drawing it. But I did not finish writing it before I started drawing.

MSK, not a failure but not quite a success. :)
Hey at least I was able to use the universe to self-publish and produce Lucius.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Comic Discussion: Can I be serious?

While preparing for yet another web-comic adventure I constantly keep an eye on others to see what they're doing, what works for them and if I could make it work for me.

My current comic work "7 Eldest" so far has taken a very "serious" tone, which is not like me at all. Well, perhaps not "serious" but more mature. And by mature I don't want you to jump right to the conclusion that I mean "porn". But you already did, didn't you? Ah wells.

The thing is that serious comics appeal to an audience that I don't think I know very well. I read serious/drama web-comics but there's always some sort of humor splashed in. Like the occasional EXTREME emotion or exaggeration. I suppose I best define what I think is expected of web-comics.

Web-comics are fast paced, funny, and kind of like newspaper comics...only better. Or they should be for the most part. Let's admit the more heavily trafficked web-comics are the ones that do the gag-a-day route...or video games. Yes.

Yet there are a couple of gems out there that are full out dramas that are very successful without resorting to the exaggeration.

My ideal that I think of is "The Dreamer" by Lora. It takes a style different than what I'm used to, a more "Western" style I would call it which doesn't use the animated or cartoony avenue at all with expressions. Yet, it appeals to its audience well enough.

Roza by Kelly Hamilton is another good example of something of a serious story but not resorting to "chibi" anime moments. She does somethings more along the lines of traditional animation.

So here I am about to embark into a genre that won't use "anime" moments, not intend to be humorous in any way, and still set out to be a good comic story.