Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Irons in the Fire

Nonplayer #2 has passed another milestone -- both linework and first-pass color are now in place, and I'm doing the polish pass now (adding shadows, gradients, highlights, and other atmospheric stuff). It's far enough along that I've been able to show it to a few compatriots, and the response so far has been a unanimous "it's better than the first one." Assuming they're not just telling me what I want to hear (and there are quite a few really mean people in the bunch, so I think I'm getting good data), all this toil may not have been in vain after all.

Building cathedrals over a span of centuries is all well and good, and I look forward to jumping right into bricklaying for #3. That said, I have been nurturing a second story in my spare (ha!) time, and it looks like all the pieces are in place to launch a new web comic around the end of the year. This one is going to be a lot faster than Nonplayer, chiefly because I'm not drawing it! I've found someone much better than myself to handle the art duties so that I can focus on improving my writing (with a tiny bit of concepting on the side). And this artist -- I can't wait for you to see his stuff. He's amazing.

I can't get into too much detail about the project because I'd like it to be a surprise, but I am at least as excited about it as I am about Nonplayer. It's got alien monsters in it. And muffins, lots of muffins.

Why a web comic? Partly out of curiosity. It's the 21st century and all, and I wonder whether this new story may appeal to readers who might not normally cross paths with a print comic. There are a lot of eyeballs on the internet, and I'd like to see if I'm able to grab a few of them. I like the idea of gathering the content at the end of each year and funding the printed collections through Kickstarter. I like that it feels like we're setting sail in our own little pirate ship, and there's nothing but uncharted water ahead.

More than anything, it feels great to have a second iron in the fire. I know that web comics are rarely a path to riches, but a second book means twice as many chances for me to finagle my way into a career as a full-time comic creator. I have a fantasy that this new comic will help me find more hours to work on Nonplayer, so that the bricklaying can happen at some other time than 3am (yes, I've moved my daily drawing time forward to 3am, which means that I now see dead people).

2014 is shaping up to be a lovely year -- full of robots, swords, monsters and muffins. Life is good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The last several months have been a blur of diaper changes and burping accidents -- it's weird how early parenthood compresses the flow of time. I last posted here in February? That is a hard pill to swallow.

Well, let's do a quick update.

I am still getting up at 4am every morning to work on Nonplayer #2. It may be more accurate to say that I am just not attempting to go back to sleep when baby Ian has his early-morning spaz-attack. I have so much respect for the HOVD parents now-- it is very, very difficult to maintain productivity when you've got both a kid and a day job vying for bandwidth.

I would be lying if I said that NP #2 was progressing quickly, but you probably already guessed that after waiting two years for it. That said, I am making steady progress and nearing a big milestone, and I hope that things will accelerate a bit after I cross that threshold. I have showed the unfinished book to a few people now, and the reaction seems pretty positive. Hopefully folks won't be too disappointed with the finished product.

As far as what happens after #2 comes out -- to be honest, I have no idea. It is not easy to find time to work on the book. When I think that I've got five more issues to go, and I multiply that number by the number of years I've spent on the current issue, it's hard not to despair. Faced with this yawning abyss, all I can do is focus on getting this issue done in the hopes that its arrival may trigger some miraculous reordering of my work situation. 

The mechanism by which this might occur is unknown to me. I suppose when the hardback European editions come out (collecting issues 1 and 2 in a single volume), it could catch on in France or something. There's at least a theoretical possibility that such an event could bring in enough money to cover a mortgage. Other miracles... well, there's always the Deus ex Hollywood. Maybe Steven Spielberg is browsing the racks at Golden Apple and has a eureka moment when he sees the comic. Bam, I'm in the money.

What else? A revival of the practice of art patronage? Perhaps there's some nerdy billionaire out there who wants to see the series completed so badly that he's willing to pay me a salary to work on it full time? Somebody show the comic to Bill and see if he's interested. I'm happy to commute across the lake to Bellevue if he wants me to work on site. 

Of course, there's always the vague promise of Kickstarter, but I'm still having trouble making the numbers add up there. Kickstarter would have been great if I'd attempted this book two decades ago, back when I could couch-surf for months at a time. But with a kid, in America? Only if your whole family has Wolverine-like healing abilities. At the first sign of a sniffle, you'll be out ten grand.

I'm open to any suggestions you guys may have. In the meantime, I'm keeping my head down, my stylus moving, and holding out hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We Pruned the Hedges of Many Small Villages

Man, this Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople thing is really taking off. There's some beautiful stuff being made by my horn-helmeted brethren and sisteren. Like this, by Gail Buschman:

And this by Zack Pangborn:

And this, by Chad Hindahl (who has excellent taste in paperweights):

Nonplayer #2 is chugging along at full chat now, and I look forward to someday being able to once again walk past my neighborhood comic shop with my head held high. Why, I might even briefly go inside!

Helping things go even faster is my new trusty sidekick, intern Matt Harding! Matt's helping out with flatting right now, and I ask all of you to give him a warm welcome. It is my fervent hope that he not be driven to suicide by my noodliness, or that he is at least kind enough to postpone the deed until after we're finished.

Matt's currently a student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Here's a cool thing he made:

Kids these days, with their talent and their baggy pants.

On top of that, I'd like to direct you kind, sympathetic readers to a Kickstarter project being put together by Matt and his classmates. They've made a graphic novel called Ultrasylvania, and this will be the first time these students get to see their work in print. It ain't no charity thang -- the story is about a 19th century Europe that is divided between two kingdoms run by the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, respectively. Which is the long way of saying it's radsauce. See:

Art by Lloyd Hoshide

Art by Valerio Fabbretti

Do Matt a solid and help these guys squeak past their goal. There are three days left and they're almost over the line.

See you #HOVD-ers tomorrow morning. Baroo.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Week one of the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople was a smashing success. Every morning at 4, the Twittersphere rang with the yeolps of mighty Warriors of Pen and Stylus. I especially enjoyed reading the check-in posts of Vikings from other parts of the world (including at least one who, being from Scandinavia, may literally be a Viking). Special props to those who made it all the way through the first week. The first couple of days were a bit of a trial, but I was happy to see so many people make it over the hump, eventually to sing the praises of their new, more productive routine.

It's never too late to join our ranks. #HOVD on Twitter.

I'm not at my home computer right now, so I can't post any images from my week of drawing right now. I'll stick something here later when I get home. In the meantime, it would be lovely if my fellow Vikings could post links to the work they accomplished this week down in the comments. For my part, it was a record-breaking week that saw the completion of another page.

Woe betide our enemy, the Blank Page, for next week we will smite many more!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cracking the Code

I've had a breakthrough.

I've found a way to make serious progress on my book while holding down a full-time job. My stress levels have dropped dramatically, my productivity has soared, and I have more leisure time to share with my family and friends. Not only that, this technique should be sustainable even through fatherhood! It's nuts!

All I have to do, it turns out, is wake up at 4 a.m. every day!

This is not a joke, though I was half-joking when I first proposed the idea. Just the words "4 o'clock" -- they give you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. I think that's why more of us haven't attempted this. But here's the secret about 4 o'clock: it's not that hard!

The only tricky bit is getting to bed by 9. Not because you won't be sleepy (because you will if you're getting up at 4), but because nobody else in your life will be sleepy. This ties in with what I said last week about learning to say "no." The 9 p.m. bedtime might actually be a bit easier for folks with kids, since that's a pretty common bedtime for the young 'uns already.

So why is this new schedule such a game-changer? The biggest difference is that you're giving your freshest, most creative hours to your project, and you're doing it at a time when there are few distractions. If you postpone your project until the evening hours, it starts to feel like an unwelcome obligation. It's that thing that stands between you and a few minutes of relaxation. But when you've got four hours squared away before you even leave for work, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you've already made your dent for the day.

I've noticed I feel physically lighter since I made the change. When I get home, I may only have three hours before bedtime, but they're three free hours. I can linger over dinner, chat with my wife, read an actual book made out of paper.. it's awesome.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it seems that this schedule has increased my productivity at work, as well. It turns out that being happier means being a better employee. 

And there's one other bonus: the whole arrangement makes you look like a total badass. You have harnessed the dark power of "4 a.m." and made it yours. You have tamed it, and now it makes you dangerous. Look closely into the eyes of those with whom you share your new time of waking. That slight widening is a sign of fear.

I want to try an experiment. Let's start a thing called the 4 a.m. Club (first order of business, figure out a new name for the club -- the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople or something). Every morning, before I set to work, I'll give a little holler on Twitter to my fellow morning-folk (#HOVD?). Sort of like Robot Roll Call, but without robots. Then we can all set about our morning's work, safe in the knowledge that there are others out there fighting the good fight. And yes, the honor system is in place: if you live in another area code, you can give your shout out at local 4 a.m. and I'll do my best to believe that you're not a total fibber.

We could even set up a tumblr or sumpin' where the members of the Holy Order can share the work that they're doing. All of us folks with day jobs, actually making cool stuff. How energizing would that be? I promise that if we do something like this, I'll post a little something every week, too.

Really, guys. I highly recommend trying this out for a week. It sounded insane to me the first time I tried it (and the first couple of days were tough going), but now I'm just annoyed that I didn't think of it sooner.