Friday, April 28, 2006

On screen, Mr. Chekov

I'm sure anyone who's interested has already seen these, but I provide video links for posterity's sake: p
Shatner raps Julius Ceasar
Shatner at the 2005 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to George Lucas show.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Mother of all Superheroes

Speaking of the central dichotomies that power likeable characters, here's page 1 of a project I'm preparing to submit to comic publishers:

The Matriarch is a superhero who is also a single mother, and continuously finds herself torn between two sets of (often) mutually exclusive duties.

As Sherry’s charismatic but ethically wayward boss, Jawaharlal Jalil, says of an advertisement featuring a female fire-fighter: "When you go to the movies and Toby Maguire goes off and saves the day, the worst thing that happens is he blows off his model girlfriend. But replace Toby with, say, a single mother who has to choose between saving the world or neglecting her child -- it's repugnant. You'd lose half the audience."

Obviously there are other viewpoints to consider, and we get to exploring several of them in the first issue. I'm finding it to be a wonderful complexity that stems from a tension so simple and elegant it can be expressed in three panels, and doesn't really even need words:

In the top panel here we see Sherry (the Matriarch) waving to her son as he runs onto the soccer field; in the second panel, we see her sneaking away behind his back -- a fairly heinous act, really; and in the third, we see that she is in fact a superhero, which (for me at least) raises the possibility that she has other, presumably serious demands on her time.

Neither duty can really take precedence, not even when viewed with a specific lense, such as feminism provides (though specific kinds of feminism -- and, certainly, individual feminists -- may see one duty as clearly taking precedence over the other).

Click here for a look at the pencil pages and a bit more on the concept.

Elves and Dead Gods

No new episode of Elf-Help this week, as we take a break between chapters to catch up. Make sure to check back next Wednesday for the launch of the third and final chapter and the debut of new colorist Giuseppe Pica (here's a taste of what he's been doing on The Matriarch).

Elf-Help takes place in a world called the Pure Lands, along the Wizard Coast (as subtly revealed in episode 4); two day's journey from Trelland is the river Prescience, which traverses the continent, touching nearly every major metropolis before disappearing into the Anarchy, which lies beyond the Dragon's Teeth Mountains. At the mouth of this place of mystery, protecting the rest of the continent from the myriad dangers of the Anarchy, is Jengao, City of Towers, home to master thief Jack Nimble and his assassin partner, Phillipé (alias: the Platypus).

Jack and Phillipé are the stars of The Dead God's Trilogy, a story cycle currently in progress at the e-zine Flashing Swords. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about the wider world of which Elf-Help is a part, click here to read "The Dead God's Destiny" --

Avasa looked at the bracelet. It was a nice piece, but obviously not worth the risks they had taken to get it. “Then what’s in this for you?” she asked, voice rising in a way Jack found adorable.

Jack shrugged. “The usual. Eternal life, world domination. In that order.”

-- and here to read "The Dead God's Puppet-Show":

“What did you have in mind?” Phillipé asked cautiously. “For this caper specifically?” He put a rum ball to his lips and began sucking on it.

“We’re going after the cult of Monkey Testicles,” Jack said. Phillipé stopped sucking, moved the ball away from his mouth, and stared at it.

The third installment, "The Dead God's Punishment," should be up early next week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

true colors

If you're like me (ie. generally clueless), you probably don't really know the difference between RBG and CMYK coloring. Here's a concise post from DigitalWebbing by Pens&Pixels that clears things up:

The more simplistic of coloring style you use, the more reasons there are for CMYK. If you're leaning towards painted/high contrast/textured work, use RGB.

CMYK: This is how ink works. You start with white and add pigment. The advantage to CMYK is having precise control, while coloring, over the exact inks that will be printed. The disadvantage is that color to color blends are not natural the way they would occur in real life.

RGB: This is how light works. The translation to print colors may alter your exact swatches slightly, but blended color will appear more natural than in pure CMYK.

Here are a few examples of CMYK and RGB in action. The 1st Red to Blue and Green to Blue gradients were made in RGB. The bottom versions used the exact same colors in CMYK. Flat colors or very controlled blends in CMYK work great. Beyond that, RGB is the way to go.

(more) Lauper...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Egg Drop Soup

Thanks to the magic of Amazon's "inside the book" program, "Egg Drop Soup" is available to read online (you should still buy a copy, though, if only for the kick-ass Doug Drexler cover).

Click here for reviews and a little more info on the story.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Woman or Wonder?

Artist Terry Dodson talks about Wonder Woman over at newsarama, and touches briefly on the challenge of making someone who is a god/ideal/icon, and rendering them in sympathetically human terms. I think he and (writer) Allan Heinberg are on the right track:

NRAMA: In tackling Wonder Woman artistically, given her history, the tenets behind her creation (that she was created as much as a message as a fictional character), and who has adopted her over the years (she has a special place with feminists, etc), you could easily argue that Wonder Woman is much more than “just” a character or even a corporate symbol as Superman and Batman have become. How does that affect your work and process? It seems that, with Wonder Woman, you don’t just have to do right by your editor; it’s as if there’s a much larger, collective audience watching - that you have to do right by fans and by everything Wonder Woman has come to stand for…

TD: Yeah – there is that pressure. There are clearly certain expectations of what the character should be and look like, but that’s all fine. I like that. Again, since I’m not competing against other people’s versions of her at the same time, that helps out. There aren’t other versions out there, really, so there’s not that pressure. It’s a matter of making it appealing to myself and to Allan, who has a definite vision of the character, and has been a fan of hers forever as well. He and I have really agreed on what we want to see in terms of who she is and how she looks, and if I can please myself and please him, and get our clear vision of the character on the page, I think that’s a good goal that we’re meeting.

NRAMA: So what is it that you and Allan want to see? What elements have to be in there, and conversely, what elements have no place in a portrayal of Wonder Woman as far as the two of you are concerned?TD: The things I really went for were strength and beauty. Attractive. Powerful. Noble. Godlike. Yet, we want to show her being human too, because you can come across kind of cold with those other aspects played up. Something we’re trying to avoid is making her overtly sexy. We wanted her attractive, but not overtly sexy.

Somehting that I’ve worked out costume-wise in that regard is making her briefs not as brief, taking them away from the high-rise bikini to more of a brief. I’ve also made the part of her upper costume, which covers her chest, larger, and I’ve made the symbol across her chest bigger to cover up more over hear cleavage. All of those I did because she’s a noble person, but she is walking around in a very small outfit, so it has to be balanced. It’s just minor things, but I’d like to think that there’s a little more sense of her nobility coming through because of them.

Also, something else I want to on occasion is to put a cape on her. I think that’s a really good look for her. It gets clumsy when she’s fighting, but for public appearances, I think it really gives her a regal look. That and giving her more hair, because when the cape isn’t there, her hair can act like a cape. It won’t be a ridiculous length, but as a design element, to make sure it has some of the same effect that a cape has. It also covers her up a little bit. Those little things, I think, will help make a difference.

NRAMA: Speaking of the minor changes you’re making, while Wonder Woman has nobility and a regal nature, she’s also wearing, effectively, a bathing suit everywhere, which seems to come across as a contradiction. However, she has to wear it, given her status as a licensable property and corporate symbol. Do the two sides of that coin ever strike you when you’re drawing her, that is, “make her noble, regal, powerful, and a role model for girls and women, but put her in a bathing suit”?

TD: You do what you can. Basically, as you said, Wonder Woman is a corporate entity, so you can only make so many changes, and there are certain things that you’re tied to. So you adapt and work with what you can. A lot of it too, can be dealt with by poses and angles. It’s the way you chose to portray the character – even if she’s not wearing a lot of stuff, you can at least portray her in ways that are much more appealing to people. As an artist, you may be stuck with the outfit, but that doesn’t mean good taste doesn’t enter into the equation. There are ways to do it, and portray it in a way that conveys the positive aspects of the character without giving in to the…dark side.

You just have to remember who you’re drawing and what she’s all about, and come into it with a healthy respect for the character. It’s so easy to go cheesecake and overtly sexy – but you can draw beautiful and powerful without being overtly sexual...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

likeable characters

The thing I like most about characters in recurring works (TV series, comic series, book series, film series, etc.) -- ones that I enjoy, anyway -- is getting to spend time with them again and again. The action, adventure, and evolving plotlines can be a lot of fun, too -- but if I don't like the characters on some level (even if they're not all nice, like on The Shield), then I'm unlikely to check in again.

Take Invincible, for example -- a leisurely ramble (especially for a superhero book) even after the big reveal about his father galvanizes the plot. But Mark Greyson is fun to hang with even when he's not in the spandex:

Mark doesn't have a central flaw, either (he doesn't hate Mexicans, or get turned on by shellfish, or whatever ridiculous flaws are so aften foisted upon otherwise perfectly good characters) -- the conflict in Invincible is driven entirely by external threats (aliens, villains, monsters) and characters with different perspectives, wants, and needs butting heads over how to proceed.

Spider-Man was like this too, especially during the classic Lee/Ditko and Lee/Romita years on Amazing -- and has been like this again in Bendis and Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man.

I've tried to keep this likeability factor in mind while developing my own superhero, the Matriarch:

Sherry (the Matriarch) is built not on a central flaw, but rather on a basic tension: she has duties as a superhero as well as duties as a single mother, and these duties are not generally in harmony with one another. In a sense, the story of the Matriarch is how Sherry brings these duties into alignment (or, rather, how she resolves the contradiction by using her wits and resolve). I hope she comes across as likeable!

The Incredibles, I think, is fueled by a similar tension:

Mister Incredible is miserable in his office job not because of a flaw in his character, but because he isn't where he needs to be (ie. out saving lives and being a hero). Resolving the external conflict (saving the city from Syndrome), also resolves (or at least temporarily relieves) the internal problem.

I like to imagine that something like this is at work in my story Old School, about a (former?) hero now in his 80s called Ace, who is trying to live a quiet retirement. The tension is between this life he thinks he is supposed to live, and the life he was born to live -- the life of a hero.

Not that the flaw as characterization can never work: it just needs to fit naturally with the character and plot (see this post at The Blackwing Diaries for an example of a flaw that doesn't fit the character). I think the big badguy here is actually Aristotle, who developed the notion of the "tragic flaw" to explain tragic drama. The notion of the tragic flaw as applied to Shakespearean tragic heroes has become so common that I, anyway, was taught that this was the only way to understand the tragedies of Shakespeare.

Belatedly, I'm realizing that Aristotle was full of crap. Hamlet's fatal flaw is idecisiveness, end of story? -- of course it isn't. There are innumerable ways to interpret Hamlet's character and motivations, and forcing the play to fit the tragic flaw formula felt awkward to me even back in High School. (Since everyone my age or older was forced to see things this way, could this be one of the chief sources of the belief that every character must have a flaw to overcome?).

Anyway, I have one more of my current projects to talk about: Twilight Precinct. (This whole post is really just me assimilating the realization that characters don't necessarily have to possess a central flaw (thanks, Jenny!) and reevaluating my work in light of it -- sorry if it's all a bit self indulgent).

Twilight Precinct is a macho kind of superhero (or anti-hero) book, and I actually designed the main character of this one with a flaw. The difference between this flaw (my protagonist has trust issues and tries to do absolutely everything himself) and, say, the flaw Marty McFly suddenly develops in Back 2 the Future II -- is that the protagonist in Twilight Precinct will never outgrow his flaw. He really can't, since it's what makes him a badass badguy bashing machine.

So -- likeable characters is one of the main reasons I watch certain shows and read certain comics. The other big one (a topic for a future post, I think) is setting. And when these two things, character and setting, work in unison -- well, that's where the magic happens for me. :)

Elf-Help 24

Live now at komikwerks.
Huh? Amazon Kobold Lesbian What? Speak up!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

unlikable characters

Jenny over at The Blackwing Diaries makes an excellent point about what passes for character development in far too many stories (be they prose, comics, TV, or cinema): the overcoming of the pointless character flaw. Somewhere along the line this notion that characters need to overcome a shallow flaw by the end of the story crept in, and it almost never works. I remember as a young kid watching Back to the Future II in the theater, and finding it jarring when Marty McFly suddenly had a problem with someone suggesting he was "chicken" -- a straw-man flaw he overcame by the end of the final film.

Here's Jenny:

But the main problem was a very obvious and basic one: the character as presented in the story was unlikeable. He was selfish, rude--and selfishly rude, and a dozen other tiresome variations on selfish and rude. Apparently it was more important to the writers that we follow the adventures of a truly unpleasant character, supposedly identifying with him for 80 minutes, just so his story arc could have him redeemed at the end.

I don't know about you, but when I watch an animated film, especially one with rich potential for fun and high spirits and comedy, I don't want to be forced to either sit through a therapy session with a mediocre analyst, nor do I want to spend most of that time with a jerk. That doesn't mean that a character has to be perfect, or perfectly happy, or have no troubles. But there's been a trend in all types of film to insist that the character can't just face a conflict, he or she has to be terribly flawed and conflicted himself. It used to denote depth in a character. It's become a formula and it's an approach that needs to be handled with incredible finesse to work. Think that happens regularly?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cities of the Troglodytes

Here's a peek at something I'm cooking up with Dario Carrasco, Mike Brooks, Jim Reddington, and Esdras C. Mysterious and intriguing, I hope!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


A new section of blogs hosted by is up and running, and Elf-Help has a blog there. I may move these digs over there in the future.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Elf-Help 23

Just b&w for now, and with a word missing from the second last panel. Consider it a peek behind the scenes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Frank Espinosa's Rocketo -- probably the best new series in recent memory -- has a forum on the Image Comics message boards, and Frank has been making sketches, pencil pages, and unpublished art available: unpublished Rocketo pages, rough pencils for Rocketo #9 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Monday, April 10, 2006

ugly red pants

The fellow with the red pants here is Crush, an ex-wrestler turned d-list super-villain with an unhealthy obsession with the Matriarch. I described him as sort of an icky guy with a mullet in the script, and penciler Steven Yarbrough delivered. Now that I see him with these gross, red, likely-threadbare pants, he sickens me even more. redneck...

Really satisfying to watch him get beat up.

Lost Notes

Looks like Getting Lost, the pop culture anthology about the TV show Lost that I contributed to, is available for pre-order on

And... um... to fill out this post I'll just mention the official Lost Podcast at

Friday, April 07, 2006

If you're going to do the job...

Erik Larsen on pitching comics:

If you're going to do the job you really should learn how to do the job.

A lot of folks send in their pitches to Image comics. And that's terrific -- we're in the business of publishing comic books so if you have a great comic book project we certainly want to hear about it. But if you're drawing yours with crayon on lined schoolbook paper, you might want to rethink your career choice...

Check out the rest of his column at CBR.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Elf-Help 22 -- Beautiful but Disturbing

How does something like this happen?

First episode _ _ Previous episode

Back in business?

Looks like Twilight Precinct, my missing superhero project, might be back on track. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Josh Friedman on why we write

via hucksblog:


My ultimate words.

At the end of the day, why do we write? We write to remember, we write to be remembered, we write to discover who we are, or determine it for others. Our words will always outlive us, immortalizing us if not always powerful enough to make us immortal. Although if we choose our words well, there will always be a way back to life, a way to and fro through time. Someone will always feel us like it was yesterday, someone will smell our skin again, if we choose our words well.

If we choose our words well there need not always be a last. If we choose our words well there will always be a way to find us.

I have chosen my words. They are:

There are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Venus Needs Women!

Here's a bit from a story of mine called "The Rocket-Ship" that no one seems interested in buying:

A young boy with eyes like Ann’s father answered the door after three determined knocks. “We’ve been expecting you,” he said, taking her hand. “It’s almost over now. You’re in the water already.” He pulled her more quickly down the well-appointed hall. “Hurry.”

They moved through a set of double doors into a large, humid room. Heated pools flanked a thin sandbar leading to an open-walled hut where an old woman lay fanning herself on a pale blue sofa. Large shapes moved in the mist above the pools, splashing quietly in the water and mooing to each other like cows.

The boy started down the walkway, turning back when he realized Ann hadn’t followed. “It’s all right,” he said, taking her hand. “They’re Venusians. They don’t bite.” This last did little to reassure her, but Ann hadn’t come this far to turn back now. She forced a shaking foot onto the sandbar and moved haltingly forward.

“You have a very reassuring nature,” she told the boy. “What is your name?”

“John Potter,” he said, smiling proudly. “Named after my grandfather.”

The old woman on the island looked very frail, but a curious stubbornness smoldered in her intense blue stare. “Ann,” she said, standing with the help of a cane and offering so welcoming a smile that Ann stepped forward and embraced her.

“Remember how you felt when you first read the American philosopher, David Hume?” the woman asked. “If there is one thing I’ve learned in my long, extraordinary life, it’s that human beings have a naturally poor understanding of cause, effect, and identity.”

“But how could you know about my reading Hume?” Ann asked.

The old woman smiled and tapped her temple. “I have a very good memory.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

ON SPEC Spring 2006 Vol. 18 No. 1 #64

My fiction is making another appearance in ON SPEC, the Canadian magazine of the fantastic (ToC). My contribution this time is "The Girl with the Half-Moon Eyes," a near-future science fiction story. Here's the blurb:

Forget the refinery -­ you don't want to see how the machines extract plastics and petroleum from the plant. That isn't the story. You came here to see the bodies.

Earth Needs Women!


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mars Needs Women!

There was a lot of funny April Fool's news floating around yesterday. Here's one of my favorites, from All The Rage:

Following a bidding war between Dark Horse and IDW, an unexpected publisher has swooped in and picked up the Veronica Mars license. And the winner is… Avatar Press, a company best known for pornographic bad girl comics. Naturally, this has caused some concern among VM fans. However, an Avatar rep was quick to assuage their fears:

We at Avatar are huge fans of Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas, along with his cast and
crew have created one of the strongest female protagonists in years and have
consistently delivered sharply written stories. Stephen King, Joss Whedon and
Kevin Smith have all been outspoken with their praise for the show, as have a
number of TV critics. The series poses a high standard to live up to, but we
fully intend to be true to the source material just as we have been with Frank
Miller’s Robocop and Stargate SG-1: Daniel’s Song. Rest assured, Veronica is
good hands. She won’t do anything in the comics that she wouldn’t do on the
Having read that, here’s the first cover:
Kristen Bell stripping...