Blog: entries tagged with "comics"



Emma and Bruce


Meet Petra and her family.

Petra was a singer back in the ’70s and ’80s, but these days she works at a bed and breakfast near Niagara Falls. This weekend her kids are dropping by: quietly neurotic Emma and bratty, flamboyant Dayle, as well as Emma’s boyfriend Bruce. And she’s got a couple other guests who might be giant bugs from outer space.

I’ve had a bunch of stories simmering on the back burner for a long while, mostly in the science fiction-comedy vein. As I’ve alluded to in previous years, I’ve been flirting with presenting them different forms, mostly radio plays, online video, and comics. As they’ve percolated, I’ve discovered I don’t have the patience for prose – I’m all about the dialogue. I can draw well enough that I don’t cringe at my own work, but I’m too slow at it to do more than a couple pages. And video – let’s not even go there.

So it’s back to audio plays, delivered via podcast or download. I’ve always loved the form, and had the chance to produce some during my time in campus radio, but until recently I really didn’t have a clue how to use it to tell a story – or to tell a story in any medium, for that matter. And now, it’s all starting to come together at last: plots, background, character arcs, dialogue. The first three-episode story is plotted out and this week some friends came by for a read-through of the first two draft episodes. The thought of actually recording and producing them is a bit daunting at this stage, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.


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Drawing blanks

Drawing A Blank coverTo summarize the summer:

We released the first full-length Flickershow CD, entitled Drawing A Blank. Ten songs; I played bass, sang harmony, did arrangements and other odds and ends. We’re quite proud of it, and the CD release party was a blast. There’s a link to buy it online from our website, and it’s also available through that music store Apple runs. Things have been a bit quiet since the CD release, since Julian’s just got married (check out their awesome first dance on the YouTube) but there will be gigging in the new year, and with luck some out-of-town gigs in the spring.

All other music ventures have been on hold, meanwhile. I’m starting to plot my return to action, but it’s been nice to take a break for a few months and mess around with other things like writing and drawing (including the cover art for our CD) and catching up on comics.


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Music comics

Sordid City Blues previewOne of the comics I’ve been keeping up with online is Sordid City Blues. It stands out among the throngs of webcomics out there, with a cast of smartly written and charmingly drawn characters wrestling with issues of love, faith and art. The author, Charles Schneeflock Snow, is taking a few weeks off to work on other projects, and recently put out a call for guest artists to fill in for him on the web site. So I chipped in with a page, and went for the most obvious subject: Luther and his bandmates. (Luther’s the one in the blue hat - the central characters in SCB are colour-coded.) Here it is!

There are some references to earlier stories - particularly Chapter 43, which deals with the origin of the mural. The conversation about the bass is one I’ve had several times (the Fury LS-4 I play has an unusual headstock which tends to attract the attention of gear nerds) but also, Barkey does play a rather odd-looking bass.

(Like SCB? The first collection of stories is available in book form… help support independent artists!)

I’ve played around with comics before but never in a big way. And I’ve used Adobe Illustrator for years, but this is one of the few times I’ve actually been using it for hand-drawn illustration. Lessons learned: use layers. Lettering using a tablet is a pain in the ass. Background detail really helps a panel to spring to life (as was the case with the graffiti and cinder-block wall in the second panel). Also, it’s really freeing to write in a different voice for a while, and play with someone else’s characters. I did my best to capture a little of SCB’s look and its rhythms.

For quite some time I’ve been tossing around some story ideas, but I’ve never settled on a satisfying way of telling them. The format and characters keep shifting around on me - first it was a series of radio plays, then it was going to be podcasts, or maybe just short stories, and now I’m thinking of doing it in comic form. It may end up being a combination of all of the above. This has been a good chance to test the comics waters, and see if I’m really up to the task.

SketchSome of the characters I’m developing are musicians as well, which means that at some point there will be music played. Which brings up the fascinating question of how to represent music in a silent, static medium. Usually comic artists just resort to a sprinkling of eighth-notes and some lyrics. But what about taking a crazy graphical approach, one that breaks out of the usual rhythm of panels, the way a big number in a musical jumps out of the “real world” of theatrical/cinematic structure?

The example that springs to my mind at the moment is Hot Jazz by the ever-wacky Hunt Emerson. I don’t know a whole lot about comics history, so I’m sure there are others… Any suggestions? I should probably look into some Matt Howarth, for instance.

In the meantime I’ve been hunting through The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics (see here for images, mostly the ones by Alan Aldridge). I’ll have to have a look for What The Songs Look Like too, which does the same for Talking Heads… and I wish I had a copy of More Dark Than Shark, a collection of artworks created by Russell Mills inspired by Brian Eno’s early “rock” albums, now out of print and hard to find.

My next comic-related project, then, is going to be this: pick a few songs that really inspire some visuals, and do one or two pages for each one. Strong contenders for the first couple: Stereolab and the Pixies.

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Rerun: Five things

That “five things you might not have known about me” meme is going around the blogs lately, so what the heck - here are my answers, previously published elsewhere (except for #4).

1. When I was a kid, I drew quite a bit. My dad had a box of old, unused forms for tracking lab samples of plant material, which were my standard drawing paper for years. There were two sorts: white, legal-sized ones and heavy, green-tinted ones with a perforated section at the bottom (there was a serial number that you could stick in the bag with the smelly bits of collected leaves).

To me, the functional side of the paper was the blank side. And it seemed really weird to me that anyone would draw on anything else. I drew pictures of the house, the cats, and some incomprehensible comics - the detachable section at the bottom was roughly Sunday-comic sized - about talking mugs and bunnies that spent all their time falling into water and yelling at each other.

Purple2. A couple of years ago, I was Purple for Buddies in Bad Times’ Pride promo photos.

3. I talk to cats in made-up languages in addition to English. I sometimes use something like the peculiar dialect of “cat talk” spoken by everyone in my SO’s family, particularly when talking to Gomiya (her name is actually a form of address used when speaking to a cat; a more formal version is “Gohdemiya”). I think my personal cat dialect is also influenced by an old George Booth cartoon in the New Yorker called “Ip Gissa Gul” (“Ip Gets A Girl”) which was written in a made-up caveman language (I also find myself addressing dogs as “Huppy dod!” sometimes). Tarquin I talk to in something reminiscent of Inuktitut. I have no idea why.

4. My nickname in middle school was “Fish”, for reasons known only to the maybe three or four vaguely in-crowd kids who started calling me that. The only thing I can think of is that my last name has a similar rhythm to the word “mackerel”.

5. I owe a lot of my understanding of musical chords and chord progressions to a program I had for the Commodore 64 when I was in high school called Instant Music. The flip side of the disk had a whole bunch of example songs in different styles from rock history, all rendered in binky three-voice synthesis, and the book that came with it had a helpful rundown of chord types. The interface was horrible without a mouse, but I soldiered on anyway, even after my joystick died (I jammed its wires into an old calculator and used that as a controller instead).

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