I thought I would never get Page 8 done. It's almost a month late :-( Turns out that 1. quitting my job 2. starting a new job 3. being sick for a week 4. having a houseguest for another week who I really wanted to hang out with 5. prepping for a Warmachine tournament
...is not conducive to maintaining comic-drawing momentum. And drawing momentum, once lost, is hard to get back it turns out. I also had some kind of weird mental block about finalizing the dialogue in this page. Suffice to say that the page you see now has about zero words in common with the page I originally intended.
We talk about the difficulties of trying to tell the stories we want in Tisquantum and Yuki Hoshigawa, but also about pacing your updates, the fickle attention of the internet, self-doubt, keeping up motivation, and trying to find your audience, some of which is applicable to any creative endeavour. It's a somewhat more serious podcast than usual.
1:10 Sushu's journey from China comics to Tisquantum
3:05 Before starting my epic space opera, I'll do a short practice comic called Yuki Hoshigawa
4:40 Learn 2 plot
6:00 Overcoming my inner perfectionist
6:40 My whole software career was research
7:50 Finding the characters and themes in history
10:50 What was the real Tisquantum like?
12:00 Choice of 3rd person limited viewpoint
13:15 Overreliance on narration and framing devices
15:00 The good and bad of serialized fiction
15:50 Is there anybody out there?
17:25 Cultural respect / whether a story is yours to tell
20:45 Hot not to be a huge dick on the internet
22:40 Keeping up motivation through the valley of suck
23:55 The "hook". Branching out from known successes into uncertain territory.
25:40 Single-page product vs. sustained long-form product
28:15 Finding our audiences and working in unpopular/nonexistent genres
30:15 Pandering, superheroes and indie comics
32:30 The innovator's dilemma
34:15 Sushu's equivalent of epic space opera
34:50 The problem of pacing and update schedule
36:45 Printing a paper book
38:15 Depressing jokes
39:05 Controlling your muse
40:30 Community building is my biggest weakness
42:30 New years resolution: not sabotaging yourself
If you don't mind me asking, what songs were you listening to while making these comics?
An excuse to rave about music I listen to? Twist my arm, why don't you? ;-)
For drawing I favor music with an "immersive" quality, which is probably a quirk of my subjective perception rather than something in the music itself. Music that's familiar enough not to be distracting, but stimulating enough to keep the easily distractable parts of my brain satisfied so they don't start requesting I alt-tab over to Firefox and read Tumblr or whatever.
This means drawing music tends to come from the "intricate soundscape / cool mental imagery / implied storytelling through chord and tempo changes" school of music, rather than the "meaningful lyrics / emotional honesty / me and my guitar pouring my soul out on stage" school of music. That stuff is great too, but I don't want meaningful lyrics when I'm drawing -- the "interpret meaning" part of my brain needs to stay on the comic, so I want abstract, free-association, or foreign-langauge lyrics that can take on an impromptu / serendipitous meaning contingent to what I'm drawing.
Also, given the subject matter of this comic, music that reminds me of Japan is best, either because it's Japanese or because I listened to it a ton during my JET days and it's taken on that association for me. Music that reminds me of the University of Chicago (the time when I was working heavily on the early version of the story) also works.
The cluster of indie bands that Isaac introduced me to in UCJAS days:
Maybe some enka (a japanese music genre which can be compared to country/western or blues, in terms of cultural positioning)
(Holy shit before looking up this video i had no idea Fuyumi Sakamoto played taiko)
This sounds crazy, but Yuki got me into jazz. I was assigning musical tastes to all the characters (for some reason I thought this was important) and I decided it would be "lolrandom" for Yuki to love jazz, because it was something I had no interest in myself.
Then, purely for the sake of researching a joke, I started listening to a few jazz recordings, and got myself hooked.
Most of all, though, I listen lots and LOTS of progressive rock:
The earliest pages in my archives were all drawn in a Rush-fueled bender:
I may have slipped a few explicit prog-rock references into the comic itself:
(Wowwww my art and lettering sucked. Hope that's a sign that i'm getting better.)
You know, this just made me remember a fact I'd almost forgotten - the name of the "Archon" corporation in the comic comes from the lyrics of "Starfooted", a prog-rock concept album about Gnostic mythology by obscure indie band "Metaφor" (yes it's spelled with a phi) that I was super-into back in 2003. It was either amazing or amazingly terrible and I'm a little afraid to go back and listen to it and find out which.
Past Jono is kind of an embarrassing guy to have living in my brain.
This page was a difficult one. I threw away like four partially sketched layouts. They were all overcrowded because I was trying to squeeze too much into this page. Sushu suggested breaking it into two pages and I think they flow much better that way.
I'm trying to do more "visual storytelling" and not cover up all the pictures with walls of text like I usually do.
Also I'm experimenting with making the default background grey instead of white. Among other things, it gives me the option to draw attention to something by making it lighter than the background.
Bamboo is fun to draw! Much more fun than those darn office chairs. I am so sick of drawing office chairs.
Final observation: When I listen to certain music (this song for example) while drawing this comic, something amazing happens in my brain. It happens with favorite songs from the 2003-2004 era -- the time when I originally had the idea for this comic and wrote the first, amazingly terrible drafts. The combination triggers some kind of very strong sense memory and instantly transports me back to that time. I'm young again and can remember what it was like to have hope and optimism and energy. I can almost forget my regret over wasting a decade pursuing the wrong career path.
0:00 - Road Trippin'
1:00 - Desolation of Smaug
2:00 - Jono Rant Mode Engaged!
3:20 - Bilbo is not an action hero
4:50 - Seafood import licensing
6:00 - Retcon into Silmarillion world
7:40 - Rant mode done. Sushu's turn.
10:00 - Necromancer > flaming eyeball
11:15 - "Sauron is Out & Proud"
14:15 - That barrel scene
15:00 - Heist movie
15:30 - Goblins vs Orcs. ("NEEERRRRRD!")
16:50 - Prequels and tension. Howl's moving castle
18:45 - Needs more Bilbo!
20:15 - Needs more singing!
21:05 - Why is Thorin such a dick
23:15 - Favorite character moments
24:15 - Stop trying to write romance!
25:20 - Thuriel
27:00 - "Elves are such nazis"
29:20 - A short, beardy sausage-fest
30:25 - Writing women in a medieval fantasy world
30:50 - Sushu's take on western fantasy
32:00 - Fantasy vs. fairy tales
34:20 - Fairy tale plot devices: the impossible task, the rule of 3s, the interdiction
37:45 - Post-Tolkein fantasy
40:30 - The Odyssey; questing across the map
41:30 - Journey to the West; eastern vs. western fantasy
44:50 - Rant about Wukong's portrayal in western media
45:45 - Middle-Earth vs its imitators
In this one we talk about card games, cooperative games, and common problems and solutions in game design. Mostly we talk about the games "Hanabi" and "Citadels".
3:45 Cooperative games, Arkham Horror, and the "Ask Mike" problem
5:30 Hanabi's clever use of information restrictions
6:45 you have to actually participate in solving the puzzle
7:15 Multiplayer solitaire. Pandemic
9:05 An AI made of cardboard, dice, and flowcharts
11:00 Castle Panic
12:20 Hanabi makes your brain hurt
13:10 Games that are more like work than fun
16:25 I'm not thinking about history when i play King of Siam
17:20 A game can be really well designed and balanced but still not 'fun'
19:20 Citadels.Making up stories based on card artwork.
24:15 Intrigue and backstabbing!
26:20 The Paper Rock Scissors problem
28:40 The "do you want to play or do you want to win?" problem
31:55 The carefully-chosen order of the roles
34:00 Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy
38:00 Combo decking in M:TG
40:45 What makes card games fun for the whole group?
42:25 Hidden information is kind of the point
My data recovery attempts failed, so I had to draw page 4 all over again. It kind of sapped my momentum because there's nothing fun about drawing the exact same page you've already drawn once. Anyway here it is.
A random tumblr link from Ben introduced me to my new favorite blog: FILM CRIT HULK, a film critic who blogs in the voice of the hulk, in ALL CAPS. If you look past the presentation, this Hulk is saying extremely intelligent things, SMASH-ing mindless cliches and bad, formulaic writing.
HOW MANY MOVIES, IN AN EFFORT TO SLAVISHLY STICK TO THE HERO JOURNEY MODEL THROW IN AN OBLIGATORY AND WHOLLY UNNECESSARY SCENE(S) WHERE THE CHARACTER DENIES ANSWERING THE CALL FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER?
REMEMBER, ONE OF THE DELIGHTFUL THINGS THAT NO ONE SEEMS TO REALIZE IS THAT IN STAR WARS, LUKE SKYWALKER REFUSES THE CALL FOR APPROXIMATELY 38 SECONDS OF TOTAL SCREEN TIME. SERIOUSLY.
That one includes the following definition of an "Act" which may be the single best one-sentence piece of writing advice I've ever read:
THE END OF AN ACT IS A POINT IN THE STORY WHERE A CHARACTER(S) MAKES A CHOICE AND CAN NO LONGER “GO BACK.”
And when Hulk blogs an epic takedown of Man Of Steel or Star Trek: Into Darkness, Hulk isn't just pointing out the same plot holes you've already noticed, but using those movies as an excuse to get deep into the mechanics of how characterization and plot twists work, or don't work, in movies.
In fact I just bought Hulk's screenwriting e-book, and it's already given me some good ideas for structuring the plot of Yuki.
I decided if there's one thing I want to do before I die, it's finishing this comic. It's been haunting me for ten years already.
I'm going to try to get on a regular Monday update schedule and keep it up for the whole year! Wish me luck.
I've moved to a fixed image size (comic-book-page sized, in fact) because I want to print this. Maybe print a small run of like a 32-page floppy for APE this year.
The comic is going to be more story-focused than it used to be. I always wanted it to be story-focused, but back then I had no clue how to write a story as opposed to "a bunch of stuff that happens".
Now I do.
Chapter 1 is intended to work as a starting point for new readers, without invalidating anything that came before.
Why did I put that spider plant in three panels. WHY. Darn thing takes forever to ink.
Speaking of inking, it's the most time-consuming part of producing a page. So far I've been very perfectionist about my inking, but I think I'm going to experiment with other inking styles (read: looser, messier styles).
This fits into my current theory about comic art, which is that being "good" in an artistic sense is not important as long as the art is aesthetically consistent, communicative, and appropriate to the tone of the comic. I mean, look at Kate Beaton: her art is absolutely perfect, who cares if she doesn't color inside the lines?
The comic is temporarily hosted at studioxia.com/yuki but its permanent home will be the yukihoshigawa.com domain.