Practice in Context: Proposal Feedback

July 6, 2011

Looks like I might have to rethink that former point I made about “doing less in the library” slightly

Having just received feedback on my recent proposal for the Practice in Context module there were some key criticisms of my plan for the next few months; in particular a strong point was made of me lacking much in the way of theoretical sources and journals,  something I can’t really argue with. While I’ve been doing a fair few write ups on films, books and comics in the cyberpunk vein – and more recently the detective/noir genre – its true that I’ve been making most of the connections and observations myself, rather than referring to published sources on the matter. Frankly, this is a dimension of my studies I’ve neglected far longer than I should have so it looks like I’ll be scouring library archives in the near future for relevant papers and publications on my subject matter – being better informed certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The other big criticism that was made besides this was my lack of a clear-cut question or goal to address in the module’s concluding academic essay. I’d outlined a vague intention to ‘build up a picture of the most successful approaches in the comic book industry’ without providing a firm statement of intent. The idea of having everything planned out in advance is one which doesn’t sit particularly well with me given the changeable nature of my schedule and possible approaches, many of the professionals I’ve contacted are yet to respond to my pleas for their time and I’m still not 100% exactly what I’ll be attending when.

Much as my plan of action remains tentative, so the question itself is liable to change but for sake of providing a fixed focus to begin working around I have devised the following guideline for myself:

‘Researching the context of my medium/chosen genre and identifying comparable conventions within them, which niches and publication/distribution routes would be most appropriate to my work?’

I realise that sounds a little clunky, but for now at least it gives me a better idea of the exact direction my research should be heading in. The best thing I can do for now is just to push forward and reinforce the ideas more considerately as they develop.

Practice in Context: I’m still alive!

July 2, 2011

As the title suggests, this quick post is mostly just to confirm I’m still going after my recent absence since I spent last week finalising my module proposal and planning how to tackle its new requirements.

With a more proactive and involved approach required to meet these demands, this module will see me doing less in the library and more in the way of trips/visits in order to connect with my chosen medium’s surrounding context. As such I’ve contacted a few key publishing figures for Q & A sessions and have my eye on several relevant events, however much remains uncertain at this point and subject to change.

I will definitely be making a start though with a visit to Oribital Comics this Monday and their tribute to Jack Kirby: A key figure in the development of the American comics scene from the 1930’s right through to his death in 1994. Expect a full write up on the exhibit and his work in the near future.

And yes, despite the massive hold up all being well I should have another page up very soon.

Practice in Context: Drunk Duck

June 19, 2011

Having been dangerously lethargic over the last couple of days I’m feeling a strong compulsion to move forward and start giving serious thought to how I’ll approach the forthcoming Practice in Context module. I need to begin picking out key texts on the operation of the industry and if possible arrange contact with professionals for advice. As stated in our brief I need to ‘locate’ my practice externally and while a longterm print copy of the graphic and its distribution is on the cards there is another option to consider.

Previous to the MA; drawing comics as a hobby I would often upload to the web comics site Drunk Duck  for criticism. Responses were mixed and I was unable to manage regular updates alongside my university studies, but it seemed preferable to the drawings and ideas festering in my desk draws. The site has had a few nasty technical issues in the past but the community is sizable and vibrant with the majority of comments being constructive rather than crass.

Since the start of this project I’d given thought to uploading my graphic on DD for additional criticism and viewers but held back with the intention of producing a reasonable backlog to facilitate frequent no pressure updates. Considering possible research sources for the module it struck me that opening the pages to a broader range of feedback could actually be quite fitting. It might be a stretch to call this professional practice but it’s certainly one way of externalizing my work and getting a fair measure of its strengths and weaknesses.

I’d like to run it all by my tutor first and I think I’ll be giving it a while longer before I actually do it – four pages is hardly an enormous buffer and the site’s about to see a formidable overhaul resurfacing as The Duck – however so far as I can tell there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be an appropriate route to take alongside more professional options.

Script: 1st Draft Complete

April 26, 2011

Forgive the lack of updates over the past week or so, while I haven’t been posting I have kept myself busy…

With the intention being to start planning and drawing pages next month, I decided to prioritize and focus on completing the script I’d formerly been piecing together alongside my concepts and research. As important as all other aspects of the project are, without a script none of it would count for much. Perhaps referring to it as ‘1st Draft’ is a little misleading since I reworked a lot of the material before I wrapping it up. In many ways this might be considered script version 1.5 given the number of rewrites the earlier sections have seen, though being completely honest a few of the later scenes and their dialogue could still use a little more polish before I take it into production.

What I am confident of though is that structurally speaking the script is sound, following a satisfying arc of developments up to the climax and conclusion. It’s still got a few problems but the story feels like it’s firmly in place now with the issues being in the surface details rather than its thematic DNA so to speak.

As you can likely see with the sample above the format is relatively loose compared to a typical film script but this didn’t strike me as an issue. While I have written more rigidly organised scripts in the past, since this is primarily for myself with a comic in mind instead of a film I felt like something closer to prose would be more fitting, while generally being easier to write.

My biggest worry right now is the length, as running around 83 pages it’s somewhat bigger than I’d planned; it’s all well and good planning to write a 50-60 page script, but once you find a flow it’s difficult to suddenly put the brakes on. That’s not to say I believe it’s unmanageable with over a year set aside for production, but it will require discipline on my part. I’m taking a risk, but I’d rather that than playing it safe with a more modest script I’m dissatisfied with.

It’s also worth baring in mind that much of the content is description (something I’m often guilty of overdoing) while should my schedule go awry there’s a fair amount of content I could afford to cut away without impacting the larger story much. It remains shorter than your typical feature film at least and changes are pretty much guaranteed when it comes to the drawing.

For now I’m focusing on refining a second draft for next week to make sure it’s as solid as possible when I start the actual pages. At the very least I’ve organised my ideas into something coherent now, bringing me significantly closer to realising this thing :)

Font and the Evils of Trialware

April 18, 2011

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my artwork, writing and general research up to date however until I a month ago I’d given very little thought to one other integral aspect of the project: typography.

In the past I’ve gotten by using free fonts such as A.C.M.E. Secret Agent and Digital Strip from, which were all well and good for smaller efforts. Now however, it strikes me that it would be a shame to slap on ready-made text when I’m putting so much work into all other areas of the graphic. Indeed, in the professional world of comics where people are hired specifically for lettering I doubt any of them would be caught dead using something grabbed off the internet. So it was that I set about trying to create my own font.

This task proved more difficult than it initially seemed. I began by raiding Google in the hope of finding freeware suitable for converting hand written lettering to a digital font. Settling on Fontographer I figured the trial version might be good enough for what I had in mind. Not so. Rather than giving you a restricted period to try all the features, or removing some of the more advanced options the trialware version watermarks half of the font created making it more or less useless in itself. Trying again, I tested FontCreator, Fontforge and Typelight all with similar (or worse) results.

I can’t exactly complain, the internet has pretty much conditioned most of us to expect free content (legally or otherwise) and while it’s my knee jerk reaction to feel outrage in situations like this it’s ultimately only fair when I’m being a cheap skate. All the same, I can neither afford nor justify a price tag of over £100 for something I’ll only use a handful of times.

As a result of these issues I’ve arrived at this stop gap solution: rather than having my font mapped to key bindings, I’ve scanned in a basic set of characters and – having refined them a little in Corel  – collected them in a bitmap (below) to cut and paste as required:

Yes, pretty crude I know but it’s no worse than what letterers would have done before computers  at least. Even if I don’t find an alternative it’s hardly a back-breaking method, just a minor inconvenience. In terms of the style it vaguely resembles my own scrawl with a slightly beefed up look to give it more impact; I intentionally kept it rough and ready looking in line with typical comic text and to prevent it from appearing cold and overly formal though.

I also created a basic mock panel (below) to give a sense of how it looks in action:

Ignoring the rushed art, colours and bubble – sorry I realise they could have been better – the font works pretty well though it should perhaps be a touch slimmer. Either way, expect tweaking in preparation for production; its got some way to go maybe but at least I won’t be resorting to comic sans anytime soon…