Ah, a long delayed update.
I am going to be posting a “state of the Strange” update soon. If you read this, just know I haven’t abandoned this comic and I appreciate you keeping up with me.
Hey there, my faithful 7 readers! I want to post this to let you know that after the next 3 pages, Transmitting Strange will be on official (i.e. intended) hiatus. The reason for this is what I’ve already expressed in prior posts (life balance, etc) but also because I need to rejigger some things about the comic itself.
I’m not a comic book artist. I like to draw and I’ve been enamoured with comics all my life. I loved Garfield and the Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes before Superman and Batman and Spider-Man crept into my life. Graphic storytelling is a deep love of mine. When I started avidly collecting comics 20 years ago, art took a turn into Liefeld-ville and MacFarlane-town, uber-macho and crazy saturated palates. Not my style, as I loved Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane and Neal Adams and Jon Bogdanove and Walter Simonson. Kind of old school artists.
I collected primarily DC comics at the time and quickly the comic stories became universe spanning tie-ins that wanted folks to buy all the issues of major titles just to keep up. When this happened, I was a barista at a coffee shop, paying a huge amount in rent and barely able to live. So I dropped comics altogether, though I still loved them.
And, as it happened, I went back to school got married and got a degree. I went into teaching and that was that for comics. It wasn’t until I read enough PvP, Penny Arcade, Savage Chickens and Wondermark that I realized that these guys started out with a website and an idea… an idea.
So back around the time I collected comics, I came up with this superhero. He was called Equinox, because he would bring balance to two universes. The central setting was this massive City built on top of the Sahara, spanning from one coast to the other. Equinox gets sucked into this universe, and then… and then?
I had pages of backstory, but I had a hard time getting it to go anywhere satisfying. So I shelved it. About 5 years later, I had this other idea of a war that pitted technology versus magic. Not necessarily a new idea, but I had visions of giant robots falling at the claws of summoned dragons and warrior monks going head to head with battle-suited soldiers. And the idea of the City came back as a setting, minus Equinox. I held onto some of the ideas I had originally but forged ahead with a newer approach. I even wrote some stuff in that universe. But then, I still wasn’t satisfied with where it went and I put it back on the shelf.
Then one day about 5 years after that, I had an epiphany.
There is an ancient Chinese legend about a boy god called Nezha (Nataku in Japanese). It’s a great tale and one not well known outside of China. And it hit me, I could transpose that story into my world. Keep all the magic vs. tech, crazy big City, and tell it through the experiences of a family! Awesome… And it sat, again, shelved in the library of my mind. I tried writing it out as part of NaNoWriMo (no outlines, just going for it) and that didn’t come out the way I wanted.
Which brings both these threads together. The birth of the webcomic.
I was so stoked. I had a platform to work on. I had never done this before. There was software to learn, techniques to master, and a story to tell… which I had the vaguest outline for.
In reality, this was more a “proof of concept” thing than an actual “READ MY STUFF PLEASE” thing. I had/have no idea that I am doing here and if anyone likes it. That’s ok, because I set out from the beginning to grow this and let it catch on slowly. I’ll push here and there, but not blasting things out because I’m learning.
One of the big things I have learned is that I need to plan better. Not just story, but also art and layout. I had an exchange with Luis Escobar about my comic. He’s worked on The Simpsons for a long time and gave me some good feedback. A lot of which confirmed my own feelings about the look and feel of the comic. But I also realized the slow build I was taking in my view of the thing I was also taking in the telling of the story. Things need to get moving.
So I had been kicking around the idea of a redesign for a while, and have decided to go ahead with it.
So what does that mean for Transmitting Strange? It’s on pause. The story will support this pause, and it will be paused for a while… while I figure this out. It’s actually growing in my mind and in the concepts and story to tell. It’s moving away from the retelling of the legend, though that’s where it started and it will have its own elements.
I have redesigned some things on purpose (spoiler: Mom is getting a whole new look, and so is Linno) and others will be stylistic. I will probably revert to black and white. Not because I don’t like color, but I need to work more on composition and backgrounds and the like.
So, my faithful readers, if you’re out there. Thanks for your patience. If you’ve stumbled across this, I hope you’re caught up. I hope you’ll come back when the curtain rises on the next installment.
No, not a new page yet, but there has been progress.
Yesterday I had the day off and I was able to ink about five more pages. FIVE PAGES. On top of some already inked stuff, I’m looking at about 7 to 8 more pages of comic goodness. All that’s left is to scan them, color them, and make words say stuff!
ERMAHGERD. I’m excited to see this part. Some action is coming up, a little drama… I showed my wife the pages and she said she wanted to know what’s next. Yes.
A month on and my comic languishes. There are many reasons for this, but I must say it has been discouraging for me to face up to it.
Someone had asked that I post regular updates just so there would be a sense of knowing what was going to happen. I said I would, but I didn’t.
A month and a half later and the burden is weighing on me. I feel terrible about it really and I owe an explanation to whatever passers-by and audience I have left. If there were any.
First, some history.
I used to teach. I taught for 10 years at a private school and watched the internet grow into the force in our lives it has become today. I also watched as kids I knew would exploit it as much as they could to troll their friends, cheat on assignments, get some lulz. Ultimately, those lulz extended to teachers. It was not something I wanted to be a part of because I knew that as their educator my hands were tied if they did anything to me. It happened all too often in the classroom and in day to day disciplinary actions, I knew my online rep could be screwed up if I didn’t watch myself.
So I limited my exposure on the internet to what I could control to avoid any of that. Facebook was (and is) private. I didn’t try to post anything remotely findable by the little nose-miners I taught because I didn’t want them contacting me outside school. Google+ was private for a while.
When I left teaching last year, I had an idea to work on a webcomic as well as pursue writing. This, Transmitting Strange, is one of the things that came of it. Graciously hosted by a friend and set up as a gift, I began working on it, publishing updates weekly for a good part of 3 or 4 months.
I had no work during that time, though I was looking for freelancing gigs, and still was a bit shy about being up front with who I was as the author. I was more concerned with trying to tell a story, rather than engage folks with who I am. I didn’t want to give too much up of who I was and tried to make it all about the comic. I think that was okay at first, but now I’m at a point where I’ve got lost behind this and, in some ways, the comic has got lost, too…
Which brings me to this year. I had a job at a coffee shop and the early mornings were rough. I did my best to keep up with the weekly posts and that lasted until March.
So what happend in March? I got a freelance job writing. One job. It was through one of those bidding sites and I made $50 on about 15-20 hours of work. I thought it might be good to get myself out there, right? We all need to start somewhere, and I was desperate… Looking back, I see how big of a mistake selling myself out like that can be. There was too much work and stress in my home and too little pay-off.
Then my grandmother started losing her fight against cancer, right at the end of March. And the big waiting game started. We kept hearing she could pass at any time… mid-May she did. So there was travel and a funeral. From March until June those were emotionally draining times. Times when drawing and writing and publishing a comic in such an ephemeral form as the internet seemed so trite.
I got an internship soon after the funeral and quit coffee. Thankfully it’s been a paid internship, but I’m making way less than the full-time hours would make it appear. This means I work a full day, and come home, and during work I have little time for my personal projects. With other time commitments in life, the comic has taken a back seat. Like way in the back. Like it’s in the towed-behind-my-car-in-a-crate-drilled-with-air-holes-so-I-know-it-is-at-least-alive back.
So, I’m sorry crickets. I’m sorry spam-bots. I’m sorry my genuine readers who check the site (is that anyone?… ). I will do a better job. I need to do a better job. For my own sake and the sake of this thing I created and languishes with maybe a third done. I still have at least two-thirds to go.
And I already have another idea… but if I can’t finish this, that one will never see the light of day. And I can’t let that happen. Hang in there with me. I’ll make it happen.
I’m not a city planner, and have no designs on being one but the city-state of Linno is a setting of my story. I didn’t realize until now how many things influenced or have had an effect on my thinking until I began paying attention to things I enjoyed as a kid. The design and layout of Linno is one where a there is an office and university building surrounded by housing, laid out in a circular fashion, all connected by different types of public transportation.
Even though I mulled over the look and reasoning of this place for a while, I settled on a design I thought was futuristic enough.
I little realized that nearly the same idea had been presented to the American public 45 years ago on television by Walt Disney. It must have nestled it’s way into my head as I grew up a fan of all things Disney.
I came to this realization after I took a trip to the Disney Family Museum with my wife and kids a couple days ago. I’ve been a couple times before and wrote about my impressions of the experience on a blog. It wasn’t until this most recent trip I made a connection between the original concept he had for Epcot and my own ideas for Linno.
Epcot originally stood for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow and was Disney’s vision of the city of the future. Many of the things that EPCOT was to feature I also put into the design of Linno. EPCOT would have featured a high-rise building (a hotel) in the center of the metropolis. There would be a central shopping and entertainment district immediately surrounding the hotel and it would be completely covered in order to shield its residents from the elements as they walk from shop to shop. Farther away from the downtown area were the residential areas, reached by moving sidewalks, electric driverless cars, or monorails.
Really the only thing different between EPCOT’s design and my own (besides the cosmetic) is that Linno is entirely covered and that was done for solar power.
Apparently there are a lot of different ideas floating out there for “Cities of Tomorrow”. This is a good blog post on some of the more outlandish ones (including EPCOT).