This is the last page of the year. Christmas vacation would make making another one pretty tough, and I hope you’re too busy having fun in this time to look, anyway. This is actually a pretty natural place to break. I seem to get lucky with those.
This time last year, I had no idea I’d be 31 pages into a comic now. I wasn’t planning to do anything. I think the initial ideas began to form in January, and I didn’t draw anything ’til February. Now look at it. Thanks for taking the time to read Closed Galaxy! Come back in January for some all-out action. If I have done my math right, this story should wrap up in March. Then I have a shorter one planned, and then I have a longer one planned. Plenty of comics waiting to be drawn in the future…
So, your boy is going to be off work for Christmas and New Years for a mind blowing two solid weeks, and I’m just not sure if I can make a page in that time. Maaaaan, do I want to. I hate all these delays. Once a week is getting this stuff out too slow already. But I can only do so much when I’m not home, and I’m not gonna be home a lot. So, there will definitely be a page next Monday. After that? I really don’t know. I’m going to see if I can manage some kind of travel setup for working, but I can’t make any promises. We’ll have to see how it goes.
Because I will have been out of town for 5 days by then. Them’s the breaks. I’d hoped to avoid this by cranking out these conversation grid pages faster than usual, but of course, the day I started on the first one, the computer went to crap.
I feel that the last two pages have been terribly inconsistent, and I’m really unhappy about it. But my computer problems appear to finally, finally be over, so in theory, all the distraction, confusion, and switching back and forth between two computers should be over, and I can get back to making the best stuff I can. Hopefully.
Hey, have a happy Thanksgiving if that’s something you’re into. I’ll see you on 12/08.
Today is day 15 without my computer working. This has really been a bad time. Making this strip on my old desktop is no fun, and the amount of time I have to spend dealing with trying to get it to work again really eats into my comic-making time. Hoping something will get resolved this week.
Last Sunday, as I was getting ready to start inking this, my computer decided it had had enough. It’s only 9 months old, so this was as surprising as it was horrible. I lost a whole lot of time (and money) this week trying to diagnose its problems before being told by a professional that the motherboard was bad. 9 months. Thanks, ASUS. Anyway, as it happens, I still had my 4-year old previous desktop in the closet, and was able to produce a page on it. But man oh man, is it not easy. I did most of Comics From Space! on that machine, but that, I hope you’d agree, was a much simpler project, and the computer wasn’t showing its age yet. In addition to that, there’s just weird stuff, like Manga Studio brushes behaving differently on the different computers using the exact same settings and the exact same Wacom tablet. That is not helping. It’s been some week.
Anyway, between installing a new motherboard sometime this week (And formatting the harddrive and starting over… ugh…) and the fact that this poor computer isn’t too able to deal with my files, I’m much more likely to be late with next week’s page than usual. Just a heads up.
Simplification has been one of the Holy Grails of illustration since I started making comics. I feel compelled to draw every little thing all the time. I feel like I’m cheating if I don’t. I feel like you will know I’m a fraud if I don’t draw every leaf on a tree. Which is utter madness… but, upon realizing that’s insane, you have to try to figure out what you could do instead that still feels ok to you.
When I started Comics From Space, I was working in an intentionally simplified version of my natural cartooning style. I thought it would be quicker, I thought it would look better… I was wrong on both counts. Slowly but surely, the way I really draw crept into the strip, and it began to look better, and trying to remember the new rules I’d made up for myself actually made those early months take longer to draw. In comics especially, it seems like developing an instantly recognizable art style is the goal, but I am much more impressed with chameleons who can alter their line to suit a job, like Kyle Baker, or the astonishing Stuart Immonen, who seems just as comfortable with photorealism as with highly stylized cartooning. I sometimes wonder how they do it.
Anyway, the point is, I tried to simplify my line for a few reasons, and it didn’t work. And that was when 99% of everything was people in the same uniform walking down identical gray hallways. Now that I have detailed backgrounds and complex costumes, I feel more totally imaginary pressure than ever to render every little detail. It makes each page of this comic run right up to that Monday deadline. And I honestly don’t think most people would notice if the finished product relied more on gradients and color tools to give the backgrounds detail than my endless noodling. So, I’m trying to teach myself when to let go. I don’t want to alter things too obviously during this story for the sake of consistency, but I’m coming up with ways to make things more economical. This page has less background detail than has been the norm (Although as much because there’s 3 panels of close-ups as because of all the above babbling), but I think it’s still effective. It’s something I’ll probably be fine-tuning as we go. Or maybe I’ll revert to what comes natural. Who knows? It’s a process. Have a good week.
I traveled 413 miles last Saturday, according to Google, to my new apartment and new job in breezy Chattanooga, TN. I’ve been busy trying to get my life in order all week. I’m still not really settled, but I think I’m in a position to get back to work now. Normally, I’d give myself another week to do the first page and try to build some kind of lead, but 2 weeks off is 2 weeks more than I would’ve liked, so I’m working without a net. Assuming I can make the deadline, tune in next week to start seeing how our gang is going to deal with what they’ve discovered out in the woods.
I’m a little sad about it because I feel like I’d really sharpened my game by that last page. That’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, Two weeks away from the tablet can’t be good for me. I was still trying to stay up on dailies as best I could, but those are fired off so quickly now, they’re hardly good practice. I’m afraid it’ll take me awhile to get back to the level I was at on page 21. Maybe it won’t, who knows? We’ll see.
I’ve not done a whole lot of writing, truth be told. Certainly not before CFS launched in 2009. Sometimes I wonder how other people create stories. I don’t imagine the process other people use to get there is as weird as mine. It’s like I don’t want to know too much about who the people in my stuff are beforehand. I let what I need them to do decide who they are. Both comic series I’ve done, I came up with a setting, a premise, and a plot before I ever came up with a character. For this, I made a list. I decided it’d be 4 female, 3 male. I randomly assigned them ages between 16 and 19. And I tossed off 1-line personalities and families. “17. Idealistic. Talks a lot. 2 siblings, 1 older, 1 younger.” That’s the entirety of my character creation process. Then I drew heads ’til I had 7 I liked. And then I started dropping them into my outline and letting their personalities, mode of speech and whatever be what I needed to serve the plot from scene to scene, seeing who fit the roles, and they became who they are. Some of them hadn’t even been named yet as I was writing their introductions. Totally ridiculous.
And now, having written 50-odd pages of script, I feel like I know exactly who they are. It sounds so pretentious to me, but they kinda created themselves. I just change my notes if a character doesn’t act like I arbitrarily decided they would. Most of the relationships within the core group as I now understand them are very different from the first scene I wrote for them (Long abandoned). It just kinda happened. It’s all alchemy. Surely other people are more prepared before they’re doing the actual writing.
Hi! You have been reading Closed Galaxy. Unlike the original Comics from Space!, this is a somewhat serious, ongoing story. I’ve never made anything like this before, and I’m kind of teaching myself as I go. It’s been really strange figuring out how to write for this, and I’m the first to admit I’m not the best comics colorist, but I’m learning. I think I’m improving with every page, and I’m having a good time. I hope you’ll stick with me for awhile.
Basically, this is me addressing… Ya know, things seem pretty bad out there in the world. It’s pretty easy to imagine a terrible, dystopian future from here. The kind of cliche, hopeless, gray reality that has been done to death in so many sci fi things. And my reaction to that seems to be trying to imagine a future where it all works out. Where humanity finally gets it together and stops trying to destroy each other and really starts to try to realize their potential. This strip will have conflict, these characters will face challenges and struggle, but… in a general sense, this is a future where we get it right. We solve disease, we solve social inequality, we solve the environment, we solve sustainable energy, we learn to actually like each other and live together, and we enter an era of prosperity. What would that be like? I’ve spent the last six months giving it a lot of thought. And, you know, also thinking about what happens when you drop a city onto a planet you didn’t really investigate first…
This is the tricky part. Writing, drawing, coloring and lettering comics all by yourself takes time. And when you’ve already got a full-time job, time is in short supply. The ultimate downfall of the original Comics From Space! was I felt that I had set a schedule and I had to maintain it. You came here expecting a comic Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I had to have one (If you were reading, that is, and lemme tell you, if you were, I love you). This lead to me sometimes posting comics I didn’t actually think were funny, or that I didn’t think were drawn very well, just to make my deadline. I want Closed Galaxy to be the best comic I can possibly produce, so I’m not going to set a schedule this time. In a perfect world, I’d put up a page a week. This isn’t a perfect world, as you may have noticed, so I’ll be putting up a page when I can. I’m a little ahead so I can guarantee a few timely updates, but after that I’m just doing my best. I hope you’ll be patient with me. So, let’s say comics should be posted on Mondays. If there’s not a new page Monday morning, I’m still in the lab. I’ll announce new posts on all the social media stuff listed in the side bar, so follow one of those if you’d like to stay in the loop.
I’m pretty serious about this. I’ve done tons of character sketches, clothing designs, vehicle designs and architecture. I’ve built a whole crude city in SketchUp, and have been slowly replacing that with detailed buildings as I need them. There’s a backstory, there’s rules and details for future society. The characters have secrets and pasts, families, and a big, mysterious world to learn about. I’m excited to get into it. I hope you like what I come up with.
Hey, thanks for reading all this. I’ll see you back here next week.