Friday Fixup: Paul Ridgon

Paul, kindly decided to take part in this, and set me a page. As ever, his original followed by my annotations:

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Ok, before we begin: 2000AD is my bread and butter, but I’m always concious that there’s a danger with things like this that I’m trying to hammer someone else into the shape of ME, and look – one of me, frankly, as my wife will tell you, is enough. So it’s a struggle to try and NOT do that (this is entirely on me, not anyone who contributes). Anyway, taking Paul’s page in isolation…

I think my first thought on this was… well, this isn’t a comic page – it’s four images of four locations that are entirely unrelated as far as I could tell. There was no continuity linking the panels together,  no chain, now clues for the readers that they’re four images that are related to each other. So that was my first task, figuring out what’s going on.

Panel 1: I do this trick occasionally, where you’ve got an establishing shot and everything is happening in that location, Paul’s original felt small, like a vista of a location. So I opened it up, by bleeding the entire location down the page and by opening up the top it feels bigger somehow – now at least, it’s clear that what follows is all happening in the city.

(I also added some spots of light below the panel, in the borders too) to show we’re moving deep into the bowels of the city as we read down the page.

 

Panel 2

I think we have two jobs with this panel, one establish that the Judge-Cadet (if you’re a 2000AD reader the fact they’re a cadet will be obvious from the white helmet) is near the bloke standing outside the building (a building I decided was a refuelling location) and that the cadet is holding a baton – without this it’s unclear where the baton on the last panel comes from. I also added, behind them, the figure of a Judge (cadets are normally accompanied by a senior Judge, and in the dredd world set stories that senior Judge is usually Dredd).

I have them passively watching, because that’s the sort of thing that would happen.

Panel 3

It’s too clean! I added MOAR SHADOW – we’ve established it’s a noirish strip in that first panel, so we’ve got to follow through, in the original it’s in danger of looking like a CGI rendered cut scene, so I’ve added shadow to help indicate this is an exterior location (without it it could well be part of an interior) and since it’s outside and probably low down in the city, we need dirt and grit and – inexplicably – sheets of a4 paper floating around. I’ve also added some furniture to the tops of the buildings, just to get away from the perfect square shape of everything. And, deep in the panel, a silhouette of the cadet. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Panel 4

As my 13 year old would say “OOF!” It’s not terribly clear in in the original whether this is a baton thrown to distract or one that’s impacted him and gone further in. So I had to make a choice. My choice – for the sake of impact – was to really get it more visceral and in your face, larger baton, in the foreground, and some blood pouring out and losing a tooth help to give it impact. (Also speed lines, and directional lines pointing to the action).

Everything, EVERYTHING, should be helping to enhance the storytelling; shadows, textures, everything. If they don’t deliberately push a reader towards reading what you want them to read then they’re sort of useless decoration. Also, and this is entirely on me, I’m not a big fan of the Clip Studio Paint hash brush it tends to show up in a lot of people’s work and just pushes any charm or personality or quirkiness of your work out of the way, moving to a homogenous bleh. But that’s me.

Anyhue, thanks for asking me to do this, take from it what you will, I think art is pretty solid, this is really about squeezing every millimetre of quality out of a piece of work but like most things is entirely subjective.

Friday Fixup

So for the past few weeks I’ve been doing this Friday Fixup thing. I needed a hashtag, #fridayfixup sounded good but it’s now painfully obvious to me that I really needed to call it something like #PJ-bodges-around-with-your-page-and-/maybe/-makes-it-stronger-but-maybe-not-your-call. But that didn’t scan. So here we are.

So if you’d like to take part simply reply to my tweet stream with the hashtag #fridayfixup with a single b&w unlettered page (why? cus it’s easier for me to fiddle with it if it contains no lettering and no colours, but I can work around it…) and I’ll pass my somewhat experienced eye over it and see if I can’t pump up the jam on the story telling. With the caveat that it’s entirely in the eye of the beholder this, I’m very much an action comic artist so if your page is calling for something poetic or emotive I may be well out of my depth.

Now … speaking of which… here’s a page by Nick Shingler...

And here’s my edits with annotations:

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Ok, I have a few thoughts, this is going for mood/theme/etc, one of my many-many weak areas, so caveat emptor.

First things first: the original file looks to be a colour scan – there’s all sorts of colours going on in this image that aren’t meant to be there. I can understand greyscans, but colour is madness! You’ll want to scan it in greyscale, and if you’re me, you’d probably be happier scanning it in pure b&w. I converted the colour image to pure b&w for this edit, you can see how clean the blacks are and how pure the whites. Ok, now on to business…

Panel one, I thought long and hard about this, my instinct is to add caption borders – but it was clear Nick was going for something else, so I started thinking about ways to avoid caption borders. So panel on I ended up truncating the panel, now it felt truncated anyway the lack of border on the panel meant it was just eating up a big chunk of space and it felt empty, this way though it feels deliberate.

I also added a shadow of the tree. Without it there’s nothing linking the geography of the girl and the man until panel three and that doesn’t have the tree in it so it could be anywhere or anyone. I’m always trying to figure out ways to link one panel to the next – visual chain links, things I can point to and say “see panel 2 has this, so panel 1 has this little clue about it” confusing a reader about geography is only good when it’s the intent, if that’s NOT the intent then you’ve got to really nail down where people are in relation to each other and in relation to any large ‘hero’ object (hero object here means any prop or set element that is a fixture).

Panel 2

I removed all of the panel border and pushed the guys into silhoutte and cleaned it up less scratchy lines and then pushed the tree over to the right.

I think in compositions of paintings or photographs it’s OK to put a big important element dead centre of the frame, in comics, where lettering tends to be on the left it always feels weirdly unbalanced having them dead centre. Plus the reader has to travel from the caption text across the people to end with her in white-silhouette in front of the tree (a marvellous idea that felt a little wasted without that considered distance). I was a little tempted to add dappled shade over her in this panel :

 

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There’s something very Klimt about it, but in ultimetly, the text ends with “a vision all in white” and I felt like I had to hold true to that (though by having the dapples peter out from heavy shadow to pure white, it has a lovely mirror to the contents of the text… YMMV)

Panel 3:

So much dead space beside her face! I moved the text, to right beside her, I also cleaned up her face a little – the rule for drawing beautiful is: remove a line – does it still look good? remove another and keep going until it stops looking good.

Oh I erased his word balloon and forget to put text in to it, the balloon was butting up against the frame in an ugly way – don’t do that! Good lettering is incredibly important and can really really increase the perceived quality and value of the work. There’s loads of free resources online too for it.

People talk about writing being more important in comics, others that it’s the art. Here’s something that’ll blow your mind: it’s neither. It’s lettering.

Lettering on its own can make or break a comic.

And finally, I removed the scritchy scratchy greys in favour of a bolder solid black / white mix on the guys suit because that felt right.

Panel 4:

I split that caption up – it felt like it was two captions that were just bunched together. The gap now makes the experience of reading it a little better. I wasn’t terribly happy leaving her dead centre again but that mysterious (and I’m hoping, metaphysical) bull adds weight to the right side of the page, keeping the composition from feeling overbalanced by the lettering.

I also cleaned up the edges of the lettering box – I realise it’s borderless, but I still think a neat tidy invisible border is better than a messy one. Ugh. Just realised I should’ve deleted the panel border on the bottom of the panel, I think that’d really make it feel very open.

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And there we go, I’ve done what I’ve done, it is JUST my opinion, if you feel it’s improved stuff then awesome, I’m very happy. If you feel it’s made stuff worse, well, that’s even better because it means I’m just some eejit with an opinion and like all opinions you can happily ignore mine!

 

Research

UPDATED! Added a bit on Osprey books at the bottom of the post!

Here’s how I research a WWII book:

Read the script. Make a note of period (this is very important 1940? 1944?) and location (ditto).

Sometimes a writer will send you book references, ignore this. KIDDING! KIDDING! Buy all the reference you can afford. Though it’s worth noting, often writers will recommend books that they’ve used for reference so they tend to be less visual than you need. You will need more books.

I create a blank multi page document in Clip Studio – this will contain all my relevant reference.

I start with character sketches from the script, then start digging out uniforms those characters are wearing, making a note of any visual descriptions the writer has given me, and their rank/nationality (this is important for later when I’m drawing something and I forget they’re a Russian Sergeant or something).

Actually those notes are important for the next stage which is drawing their uniforms/insignia/rank badges etc. Dig into google, but make sure you’re noting WHEN any reference you find is from, sometimes in the early days of the war uniforms changed to make them cheaper to mass produce.

Here’s my character references from World of Tanks: Citadel…

citadel-sketches_001.png

Right at the early stages you’re trying to burn through and hold tight to as much reference as you can find, it’s easy to get confused and turned around by finding contradictory images/descriptions keep date and location in mind, if you find reference that has neither of those just hold it suspiciously. Then observation is key. Look at as many photos as you can, find a uniform reference book and let that guide you. War is heck. Drawing war is even hecker.

Next I start filling the book out with reference on locations/maps (if neccessary – google helps a lot) and if I have to blueprints, the website the-blueprints.com is great for this, and I frequently used it to help me figure out things, as this next page shows.

citadel-sketches_006_007.png

You can see here where I used a blueprint and colour coded where the crew should be, this helped me keep the entire thing from skewing all over the place in my head.

You might also note The Russian “Matilda” is wrong here (this is entirely on me) I transcribed it wrong, and like a fool kept referring back to it.

If I have any, I’ll also add 3d models to the Clip Studio Paint document, these are great for making sure I’m on point on drawing the tech, though I make sure I rough the vehicles up and add bumps and notches and damage to them so they don’t look like they’re factory fresh.

When you’re doing stuff like this, you’ll often come across contradictory information, and the question is, if the new information appears to be more accurate which one do you go with?

Well, the answer is: if you’ve committed to the earlier version already stick with it. You may well be wrong but at least you’ll be consistent. Plus the fog of war meant much of the equipment/gear was a mishmash of a variety of things, if anything you’re more likely to be in danger of getting things wrong if it’s TOO book accurate.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting back to the war. Not tanks this time, something far far bigger.

UPDATE OSPREY BOOKS

One of the books I use a lot is the Osprey books, I tend to buy them for the pictures. Sometimes I’ll start reading them, but really it’s the images I’m interested in, what this has led to is me vastly under utilising a great resource. The Elite series Osprey Royal Navy 1939-45 book, for example, is littered with illustrations and each illustrated page (or PLATE) has a letter beside it (A,B, etc) each image on the page is numbered (1,2,3) and beside the numbers there’s a little description, for example, Page A – figure 1 is described as “Captain, No 5 Dress”.

Because I frequently DON’T read the Osprey books (I might start, decide its text heavy and I need visual information, so I skip it for the illos) I’ve missed the fact these illustrations are HEAVILY and BRILLIANTLY annotated starting at the back of the book, in the section “THE PLATES” (there’s also a very useful BIBLIOGRAPHY that describes other books the author has used along with a brief description of how useful they were) Looking at the Plates section, the same illustration A1 – has three dense paragraphs of information that’s incredibly useful beginning with “Officers had 12 different orders of dress in 1939…” etc.

So, turns out, you miss stuff.

 

Dredd to Writes

That title is overburdened with puns, and I apologise for that.

So, I was in Enniskillen recently, and was chatting to the guys that put together the 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 – issue 3 out now Dredd fans!

I mentioned that I have an old script that I wrote a while ago, a 12 page Tale from the Black Museum (it’s a fun little idea I think) that I’d pitched to Tharg and he’d rejected it (for sundry reasons, only three them amounted to “this is terrible”). Actually, for funsies here’s the plot:

We open on Henry Dubble down in the black museum’s basement where he’s fishing out giant, Justice Dept 1 issued “Life Candles” (issued by the City to all citizens at birth in the event of one of MC1’s regularly scheduled disasters) and he starts telling the tale of the House Of Mega Wax. A run down waxwork whose business has been destroyed by the city’s new craze of competitive eating. A solitary fat tourist stumbles in, as they’re despairing over their bills. He dies, they panic and hit on the brain wave of converting his body into wax using the plot-convenent alien waxweavils who can eat anything and secrete wax which they use to make a Two Ton Tony Stubbs waxwork. This starts the business with a new plan: invite fatties, kill them, make unbelievable large waxworks attracting more fatties… and create the greatest House Of MegaWax ever seen. All is going great, when, on a visit from the Mega City Obese Orphanage and Family Free Fatties Association, they take the fattest orphan off to the side intending to do him in, but the plan is ruined when the fattie unzips and reveals he is, in fact, Judge Dredd and two other judges in a large fat suit. They fight, Dredd wins. Henry Dubble closes the story by revealing what happened to all that wax and the waxworks: they remain in constant use creating the Life Candles, nothing goes unused in Mega City 1.

I think Matt’s biggest problem was there’s almost certainly a touch of old fashioned silliness about it.

The chaps at Sector 13 liked the idea, and said they could print it, but it would need to be split in half. Now, tbh, I’m not keen on splitting a stupid one off in half, it doesn’t have the weight (no pun intended) and I’ve worked on fanzines before and I know the time delay between issues can run to several months, killing any possibility of a story carrying momentum.

So I mulled it over on the drive up from Enniskillen and thought I could write up a different script that is shorter, and I came up with something that I thought would be fun. I wrote it up in a blitz and sent it off to a few readers who’ve come back with a collection of notes.

This, in itself, has been instructive – getting good notes from several sources has sort of had my head turning – it’s impossible to implement every note (and some of the core ones are actually contradictory) so I’ve got to figure out how to rewrite it while keeping my own voice in it.

It’s also taught me, next time, be more selective, one good reader at a time, maybe.

On the plus side, the notes I got were more additive than anything nothing critical of my writing so much as suggesting elements of the plot that could do with being altered one way or another (one key element in particular had notes suggesting I do thing A, and notes suggesting I do the mutally exclusive thing B)

Once done, I’ll send it to Matt. I’m not terribly convinced he’ll pick it up (I mean there are so many good dredd writers) but if he doesn’t I may end up writing / drawing it for myself since it’s got some fun visuals going on in it.

I still have to do Couch to 80k week 8, the proper writing week, but my aim all along was to write some comics and this is a proper comic script, so I’m happy about that.

Understanding Clip Studio Paint’s Cloud

If you’re not a comic artist, you may not know this, but Clip Studio Paint has become the best general bit of software for comics artists for drawing and managing projects. There’s still a lot of artists working within Photoshop, but CSP has a toolset designed for Comic Artists.

Six months ago, CSP finally released a version that works on the ipad pro and it is, in my opinion, the single best demonstration of what an ipad pro is capable of. CSP + iPad Pro + Apple Pencil = Everything you’ll need to draw digital comics.

Up until now though, CSP on ipad and CSP on desktop haven’t really connected, but now Clip Studio have introduced their cloud to allow you to work between desktop and ipad. For many artists (well, ok, for me) this is essential. I work on a 27″ cintiq at my studio, and I want to be able to pick up my 12.9″ ipad pro and walk out of the studio (don’t get excited, it’s literally a tiny room in my house) and work either in another room (the living room! Where my family are!) or head off on holiday with it. So I’ve been waiting for the CSP Cloud to arrive.

And it’s … well… it’s not great.

Firstly, I use the phrase Clip Studio Paint and Clip Studio interchangeably, but the software is actually split in two – CSP is for drawing and CS is for general management/connecting to the cloud (it’s actually not terribly clear why this should be the case, the CS part of CSP didn’t exist up until recently and on the ipad, much of what it does is redirect you to the CS website).

CS added cloud management. On dropbox and Apple’s Cloud there really is no need to manage, they handle all syncing of files in the background so when you sit down to work and go to open a file it’ll either download the most recent version or it’ll let you have the one that it’s stored locally, and upload that in the background. Dropbox seems to do this better than Apple’s Cloud, though neither system is perfect they never feel like you can’t trust them.

CS has went its own way with the cloud.

Now I have some sympathy for them, files in CSP can grow to massive sizes – I’m currently working on one project that’s 800Mb (20 pages of lineart, multilayers on each) so it’s hardly practical to download/upload that every few minutes (though, that said, CS multipage documents are actually directories with many individual files, so the updates are probably more like 10-20Mb)

But here’s how it works, firstly you tell CS if you want files to be synced to the cloud – you can pick existing files or new files. This selection is all done within CSP

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You can see in the image the little switch beside each file indicates if the file is to be stored in the cloud, and those where the switch is turned on have a little blue cloud icon which means “synchronise this file”. This is all from within Clip Studio (which you access from Clip Studio Paint on the desktop)

These files are located across my hard disk in directories of my choosing (as opposed to apple’s Cloud or Dropbox where you nominate a single directory and everything within it is synced to the cloud).

I like the flexibility but I’m inclined to think Apple and Dropbox are right, nominate one directory and at a glance I know what’s on the cloud.

The syncing happens when you first open Clip Studio or if you request a file to sync.

Now, there’s also a CLOUD Tab which shows files that are in the cloud – It’s possible to have files in the cloud that are NOT on your local device. So, from the cloud tab you can request those files to download, they are then stored somewhere on the computer within Clip Studio’s file structure. This makes it hard to know if you’re backing up files (again, if they’d gone Dropbox/Apple method you’d know exactly where the file was and could back them up within breaking a sweat).

I store my local files in two locations: an archived / backed up Artwork folder, and a Dropbox folder called “Live Projects” where anything I’m working on can be held, and I know it’s on a cloud and accessible across devices. This requires zero effort on my part to make sure the files are all synced, they just… work.

cloud-download

Here’s the first bit of cloud insanity, this is the list of files on the cloud – you can see two options on each of these, one (the orange download button) means “Download and Overwrite” – ie, sod whatever the file is I have locally, just download the one that’s on the cloud (I mean, surely this should be ‘Sync’ files? what if you accidentally hit that and wipe out two days work? I’m getting the heebie jeebies thinking about it)

The second button (the blue cloud download – and god help you if you’re colour blind, would they look any different – not much I’ll wager) is “download  all as new” which, I think, means “I don’t think you have a local copy of this, so just download it”.

Why not just replace both buttons with a single “SYNC” button, it’s job? find out if there’s a more recent version locally or on the cloud, and download the cloud one or upload the local one. If there’s no local version just download it.

No need for two buttons.

Further, please give me some indication of what’s new on the files! Dates would be good! It would also be helpful to enlarge those thumbnails, or give me link that shows every single page within a document, then I can see at a glance if something is missing.

(Caveat: I think the cloud feature was rushed out, I’m not convinced a cloud feature is an easy feature to build – if it was Apple would’ve got it right first time, and apple didn’t and it’s full of smart people)

Previously, Clip Studio Paint worked with a company called Smith Micro – Smith’s job was largely about localisation and making sure the app was ready for an English speaking market. Now, it often meant the English language app was lagging behind the Japanese app for updates, but it did mean that the English within the app was understandable and made sense. Now, sadly, there’s a sense that the English is only marginally better than a google translate button. Ok, we’re not the largest market, but it really can make it difficult to disentangle meaning from some of the menu items, etc.

When you are syncing there’s a deeply useless syncing interface that tells you (unhelpfully) “DOWNLOADING!”

downloads-cloud

Ok, hand on heart, the title “Comic” is my fault – the ipad version tends to default to names like “Comic” “Comic-1” etc. and you tend to forget to change it. That said please tell me stuff… tell me how big the file is, tell me what percentage is updated, tell me how many pages it has (here? one page, but many of them have multi-pages? TELL ME!)

It’s missing a lot.

I wish I had something better to tell you, I think the cloud will get better, but it’s clearly the direction they’ve decided on. I’ve paid for an annual sub because – at £55 – it’s worth it to me to be able to up sticks and work somewhere else away from the studio and honestly, CSP is the best drawing tool I’ve ever used, hands down. I honestly hope they build out the interface more so I can use dropbox where I wont spend any time at all worring in case I’ve accidentally over written a newer file from the older cloud based one.

Free Comic Book Day 2000AD Regened

I love 2000ad, I’ve always loved 2000AD. While I’m pretty sure I was reading it from prog 1 in 1977 (age 7), my earliest distinct memories of the strip proper start around 1980 (age 10) and the Judge Child Saga, and building Justice-1 out of computer punch cards with my uncle.

In my memory that Punch Card justice-1 was a perfect replica of the space ship, including a Bike bay with tiny paper card based figures of Judges Dredd and Hershy ready to head off on their Lawmasters dispensing justice to the alien and weird.

Pretty sure it was bobbins though, but my point is: 2000AD runs deep.

Getting to draw Dredd was my single ambition for a long long time, though ambition is wrong, it felt like having an ambition to be the first man on the moon – yeah, sure, someone did it, but it could never be you.

Now, of course, I’ve kids on my own. I still read 2000AD and it’s grown up with me – content shifting from goofy childlike dream states to more sombre, serious, adult contemplative stories about mortality (and knob jokes) – like most, I lost touch with it in the early 90s, regained it and am off and on again reader depending on what’s in it and whether I have time. I tried to get my oldest son interested, but it was never his thing. My youngest on the other hand – well, he’s an avid reader, he loves to draw and we’ve subscribed him to the beano. But 2000AD. Well… 2000ad is a smidge too adult for him (a rather large smidge). But, free comic book day bought 2000AD regened.

Now, I’m on record as saying lots of time that I’d love 2000AD to go younger – things I’ve suggested in the past include: shifting the megazine to a younger readership (the meg was always supposed to be the adult version of 2000ad, allowing them both to have a distinct voice, well, let’s accept 2000AD readers will never change, but Meg readers can be broadened? right? that’s my theory) if not that then, you know, selecting reprint material that skews younger and bundling it in to a reprint comic that’s packaged in a way that you can give it away to nephews, neices, sons, daughters, etc or, and this is the real stretch, just launch a cool all ages comic, talk to the guys doing zarjaz and turn that in to a professional publication with kid friendly fare.

Anyway, none of those things are likely to happen, but that said, I was taken aback that, this year, 2000AD decided to to create a younger reader title for free comic book day – and it’s a fun little package. Presented by Jako-Jargo, Tharg’s nephew – it boasts a CADET Strip (great Neil Googe artwork), a Strontium Dog (basically Johnny Alpha gets his licence) an insane-only-from-the-mind-of-Henry-Flint Board Game called Chet Jetstream (a sort of choose-your-own-snakes-and-ladders) a neat little future shcok Humancraft (pretty sure this should be an ongoing series, somehow) and a DR and Quich hijack free comic book day (plus an insanely detailed Intestenauts advert).

Now, I’m glad I enjoyed this, but that’s hardly the point. The point is… what will a typical 9 year old make of it, and for that, I have to ask Thomas… and he says:

“I liked it. No wait. I loved it. It was my favourite thing at Free Comic Day. I like Cadet Dredd Or Humancraft Or DR & Quinch or Chet Jetstream or wait.. that’s all of them. All of them”

So, what next?

Well, he liked Cadet Dredd so I gave him my Dredd book 1 to read, he read the first story and enjoyed it (it’s a bit of a massive book though, so I’m rationing it). I also selected ONE future shock from the Big Book of Alan Moore future shocks (specifically the story about the werewolves in space). Tom loves Goosebumps and I knew he’d enjoyed the twist, and he really really did.

I have no idea what 2000AD’s plans are beyond this, whether this was a clever ploy to get adults to start shoving older material into their kids sweaty hands (after all, you can no buy a fantastic amount of 2000AD reprint material) or whether it’s some under the radar skunkworks test to see if there’s a market for the material.

In either case, it’s good and Tom and I got a lot out of it, I hope 2000AD see there’s a value in an ongoing book like this, Tom certainly loved the anthology format and even though he found a lot of it unfamiliar (he called it “Docter Quinch” before I corrected him) he’s a quick study.

Anyway, well done tharg and all your little editor droids. Here’s to what’s next.

Couch to 80k Week 7 Done and dusted

Let’s see. To recap day 4, a pause on writing and a little chat about building an ideal schedule, with a 10 minute window to write one out. These are the sorts of things I’m never sure I’m right or wrong – born partly out of the fact that there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do them, and partly because sometimes I’ll do something so quickly I’ll spend 8 minutes staring at it thinking “surely I’m wrong on this”.

So, a schedule of sorts, I think if you’re a long time reader of my blog, you’ll know I’m half obsessed with schedules. I mean, I never manage to stick to any of them, but I don’t half spend a long time thinking about them. So when Tim asked on day 4 about your perfect schedule it took one minute to write out my answer. And it’s this:

I mean, it’s not ambitious, I don’t think, and it’s pretty doable. Real life gets in the way, of course, and I get in my own way. But that would be as good a day as you could hope for. The Drawing in the schedule is my day job though, but I typically draw until 1am, so 12pm is a good stop point for me. And 2 pages of comic writing SHOULD be achievable within 3 hours (it’s wildly unambitious if anything) but doable.

Of course, I will never ever get to do it. But you know, live in hope.

Day 5 was a rewrite of the Day 2 climactic scene of my novel (remember, it’s all about writing a novel, even if I had intended to do just do this course to help me build up to writing a comic, I ended up having to come up with a novel – it’s not brimming with originality, if anything it’s basically the Masters of the Universe film or John Carter – normal schlubb finds himself the centre of a galaxy wide revolution and with the help of aliens, a princess and robots has to destroy the creature taking over the universe, then he goes back to his day job. The only unique point is, in the remix, the hero really leads the dullest life imaginable, and goes back to it a changed man).

Anyway, day 5, rewrite, that was fun, taking the final scene and giving it a different spin starting with the words “that’s not how I remember it…” (and, for your reading pleasure, or for you to completely ignore, that bit is at the end of this longish post)

Day 6 – today’s task was to write five scenes that are important key points in the novel. Remember, I’m not coming to this bootcamp with a novel fully formed, my main ideas are comics, so I’m making this on the fly, but even so, I was happy with some of the scenes.

Kind of mad I’ve been at this for 7 weeks (a little longer if you count some of the mid-week gaps therein).

Week 8 will be basically timed writing, taking this first steps and moving towards a full length novel with them. I’ll do that last week, though I’m not convinced I have a novel in me.

After that, as per various recommendations, I’ve bought Ursula LaGuinn’s “Steering the Craft” (such a great title) and will hope to spend a similair amount of time per day doing the exercises in that book.

Anyway, here’s the rewrite (forgive typos, dangling threads, changes of voice, etc, it’s a draft zero)


That’s not the way I remember it…

He came in, the Accountant. Weedy and desehevevilled. In his right hand he’d forged a sword out of some sort of iron rod that looked like he’d been adjusting a fire with. He really did look ridiculously out of place in the great majestic hall of Aucheron, above him, through the glass ceiling you could see the twin suns revolve around each other, vast streams of energy intermingle.

And in front of him…

Well, my Lord, you stood. Towering over him, senew, muscle and energy, crackling. Majestic in your strength. Armed with eight curved swords, ready to battle against the human to save the great palace, and everyone in it from whatever foul deeds his otherworldy nature would perform.

I saw you confront him, calling him the coward he is, challenging him to best you, in all your powerfull glory. But he could not, and I heard him admit as much. At least, he could not on his own.

I saw him call forth the cowards and traitors who had been, until now, rightfully banished to the edge of the world, they poured in, numbers the likes of which I have never seen. But you were undauted. What where they but as an insect to the tail of the Mighty Orayax.

To my shame, I witnessed the treachery of the Princess – A hex on her name – YOUR VERY DAUGHTER – channelling her energy through him, using your own power against you.

But you were, of course, too cunning for the human. He may hold dominion over the numbers of the sheet, but your power is of such vastness that it dwarves him and all how ally to him.

“This ends now” snivelled the coward, little realising the end was for him, not you.

It was my great honour to be in your presence when you redirected the power flowing from the Princess, to him and then to you. Using their own energy to take out the ragtag group of treacherous villains they had assembled.


And now, five scenes from today’s workshop.

1. Peter’s in the office. This is our first view of his life. It will be a montage scene, of an entire year. His world is small. He goes to work, watches the seasons pass. He sits at his desk. His eyes light up when Julie walks past, he goes home to a small empty flat and opens a tin of beans and decides to just eat it cold. Peter’s life is empty except for the scifi that he loves. A room full of toys. A bookcase full of scifi novels. A set of DVD of classic old british scifi.

2. A dimensional breach, an new world beckons, in the bathroom of Fleming, Fleming and Fullerton. Peter was in the loo, trousers by his ankles, when a princes, a robot and a beastman, beckon him, they need him, they need his help. He runs forward.

3. He’s on a precipace, to the left are the armies of the evil lord, to the right are the new friends that Peter has made. He has to make a choice, sacrafice himself to save his friends, or save himself. Peter chooses, and somehow makes it out alive. But from here he will never be the same.

4. The climax, Peter versus the great monster. Peter’s friends trust him, the princess trusts him, Peter has to win this battle. But he’s not strong enough. Until he is.

5. The return. Peter decides that he doesn’t want adventure, he doesn’t want airships or princesses, or robots or monsters. He goes back to Fleming, Fleming and Fullerton. But he’s changed. He won’t take any more nonsense, and he asks Julie out and ends with a promotion. But that’s not enough and soon he’ll start his own accountancy firm, a changed man.