Commentary brick is under the strip bits this time.

Strip 163 – AND IT TURNED INTO INVERTED SPACE FLIERS

Seriously. Tried ’em the “right way” several times and nothing clicked. Not even once. It’s like the viz didn’t even try. If this were The Dualist or TV it would be Stuff On Black instead of Stuff On White, and it wouldn’t be an issue. The Rule Of Cool wins again.

Strip 164 – Whitehouse wears socks. Not the kind of thing one thinks about, but if I ever draw them again, I have color reference. Finally? Have I drawn socks in the comic before? I don’t remember.

He’s upside down – you know that just has to hurt.

In related news, this could be the last DCR strip to post to the DCR website. Emphasis on the could – I have yet to commit to a Final Decision on the matter and, as things are at a natural Pausing Point right now, will probably postpone the thinking a bit longer. Further bulletins as events warrant etc.

In the meantime… first batch of double-height strips to hit the DCR website. Ever!

The five paragraphs after these two came first – it just so happens that this is the best place to say this bit, as this bit has very little bearing on that bit. This was always a two page spread, with Whitehouse Previous top left and Whitehouse Present bottom right. Initially, it was a “falling” animatic, Jason twisting through space. Spacesuit, spacesuit, tie, THUD. There are thumbnails. Bunches. There’s even one that consists of two regular strips and a double-height blank followed by a double-height blank and two more regular strips, which would have – viewed side-by-side – constituted a “combat roll” of sorts.

That was the first, this is the second – After several iterations, not “feeling” any of it, this was arrived at. It works to a point. It could work better. It’s somewhat hamstrung by pre-established formatting “rules” regarding Whitehouse’s flashbacks, and it works in that context. The ‘artifact’ (more on that soon) clunkily transitioning into fliers works thematically (focal point for the character), would look great in an animation, and doesn’t….. quite work here. I’m fine with ‘almost’ – top left and bottom right are what matter and those are spot on. I’m fairly happy with those. Mission accomplished. One of the bits of DCR that’s existed In My Head since very near the project’s incept and it FINALLY EXISTS. There’s a lot of that coming up, actually – the story is finally oozing into scenes that exploded out of my brainmeats around the time I registered the DCR domain. Finally. That my imagination has been kneading existing work for several years in lieu of generating Exciting New Ideas, well… fuel for future ruminations, obviously. In the meantime, better to work towards accomplishing those bits of the Compost Heap that have deemed themselves worthy of survival. And now, the five paragraphs written before these two:

So much to say… and no urge to say it. Readied for upload hours ago, finally pushed out the four DCR strips (this page and the last) and the last page a few minutes ago. The time gap between that page (2.10, a left) and this one (2.11, a right) is realtime, and the delay is all about this part of the writeup refusing to be written in a timely fashion.

Sometimes, the piss and vinegar comes in gallons. Sometimes, it’s Hurricane Piss. Tonight I’m scrounging around with an eyedropper. I find this amusing, given just how important these two pages are to the story and the production of the story.

For one thing, two pages, four strips, each double the standard height. Four double-sized strips consecutively. Prior to this the story has had exactly one double-height strip, at the top of whitehouse -27- – and that was split into two strips on the DCR website. These have been deployed “actual size.” As with everything ATC, it’s intentional – and the fact that it happens here makes it even moreso.

From a strictly plot standpoint, these two pages mark the beginning of a storytelling gear-shift that started when Whitehouse and Sean parted company a few pages ago. Point of fact, the chapter to date and the next six pages are entirely gear-shift and ground work. It can be said – with some confidence – that from this flashback forward, every page of DCR matters. While the “examination of a Pittsburgh art school in the late 90s” angle this thing was initially founded on (read: grafted onto) continues, the other bits – the ATC bits – are now Front And Center and are going to stay that way until the credits roll. Marking that sort of a paradigm shift in layout instead of script is one of the strengths of the medium and something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.

That said, while layouts will remain largely “four-four” (four single-frame or multi-frame strips per page), after these two pages, four-four isn’t dictat. It isn’t a format restriction – it’s a comfort zone. Most of the layouts I’ve done to date – not just the next six pages, but bits and pieces of scenes to follow – stick to the 4/4 tempo – in part out of habit, in part out of ease, mainly to make the high information density manageable. 4/4 is a great medium of information exchange – QC proves this on a regular basis. Jerkcity, almost as often. Fact is, it’s easy to think in. Give me a pre-defined aspect ratio and my layouts wind up looking more like storyboards than, say… comics.

The crazy is starting to rub off on you.

(New paragraph!) DCR being set in an artschool, a scene “told” with storyboards could be interesting – but at this point, I can see such a thing being more of a distraction than a device. Though the fourth chapter may have other ideas – we’ll see. Four is still 2011 at the earliest – the very earliest. Hell, I’m still writing three and I have yet to figure out how many pages two is actually going to be. All I know is that I really want two to be finished this year dammit – 2011 really needs to be New Business on all fronts. A couple of pages of DCR.2 were ground out before things went sideways in 2008 – therefore, finishing DCR.2 continues to fall under Old Business. At present, the only bit of Old Business. It’s easier to not work on a comic when you can’t figure out the best way to start a chapter than it is to resume work on a comic you’d lost contact with before you’d even played out the initial string.

For the longest time, DCR oscillated between “I’ll do this because ATC Main is taking too long to render AND I WANT TO MAKE COMIC” and “WHY am I doing this again?” – a conundrum that works and works well when you’re trying to work on two comics at the same time and don’t give a shit about readership or money or any of the non-comic-making possibilities that life has to offer. Now? Not the case. Now there’s one comic – this one, and barely that. Of late, DCR persists out of sheer inertia – inertia, and a deep, invisible urge to Get Back On Track, wherein “On Track” is “Cranking this thing out as fast possible, as quality as possible. Dammit.” When I started ATC, it had been A Thing that had been building up for years, almost a decade – it had to come out, dammit. Now, after a multitude of black eyes on the obstacle course…. “Should” doesn’t have the same kind of bite as “Must.” Different things, really. Fortunately, “Should” persists as the sole Productive Urge in the face of a life paralyzed and numbed by video games and alcohol. Doubt nags – if I can kick the smokes (again), kick the booze (again), minimize or redirect other equally unproductive life activities… will “Should” become “Must” again? Or was one “Must” enough?

I like the latter. It implies “get back on the stick, get rolling, get it over with” is a viable option. Waiting for Inspiration is like waiting for Gedot – making this thing no longer requires “inspiration.” It’s a matter of having to take a shit and realizing the bog roll is on the other side of a hundred pages of deep-fried industrial past life regression. Given the present state of being, shitting oneself blind is the instinctive, go-to option. Grabbing the microns and bristol and making a mad dash for the bog roll is a distant half-echo, an “I used to do that, didn’t I?” acknowledged and reinforced by no other. I’d prefer not to sleep in my own filth, thanks – and I’d prefer this phase of the story to be out of my head and not in it, even partially. Judge the complete entity on its own merits and realize that from the get-go it’s Part Of The Whole and that the five chapters are each themselves Part Of A Whole.

(oblig) Navelgazing

(still need to talk about – production direction, consolidating DCR and ATC – just laid the groundwork for that – motivation, timelines, etc. Break. Leave this in. Roll 1d12 on the Your Earth Logic table, save vs. ennui.)

The artist briefly wonders what sort of motivational issues artists with double-digit-or-greater readership and subsistance-or-better comic-related paychecks have, reaffirms that it’s a thing he needs to find out for himself, realizes he’s fucked tense all kinds of up, resolves to stop doing that. After DCR.2 or The Trailer or a significant milestone Of Some Sort.

The obvious thing to do is shift from DCR.2 to trailer now, DO IT, get it DONE, start marketing… and have pages that can be done with reasonably minimal effort on a Weekly Update basis. I’d love to update more often than that but it just doesn’t seem feasible at the moment. Point of fact, saying “weekly!” and HOLDING TO IT might be good for all of us. Me the artist, you the reader, god the mechanic. I’ve muttered about a Trailer here and there previously…. somewhere. IRC or out-the-mouth. Possibly both. Maybe here – I’d say “here” but my Mac Mini has an absolute bitch of a time doing two things at once and I figure using TextEdit to type this up is enough to ask of it at the moment. Fact is, I have one mostly storyboarded. Just need to cut the music down to a manageable length and do it. It’ll be more than the ‘typical’ webcomic trailer in that (a) I have quite a bit of video experience under my belt, (b) I have over 400 pages of Prior Work to draw on, and (c) it’s an opportunity to animate CG assets – which means stuff moves, and, as a secondary consideration, the on-paper Trailer would convey bits that haven’t actually been told yet. An ATC trailer will, to some extent, be more than the basic flash animation or slideshow that most webcomic trailers consist of.

Until I knuckle down and MOVE, it’s all ass-talking and theory, of course.

Fortunately at this point, there’s nothing NEW to model – only problems to figure out, music to edit, a few drawings to create, and a hell of a lot of grinding away in software-what-isn’t-photoshop.

Again, the gear-shift. This spread happens now and it happens this way – an outgrowth of ATC’s production being a reflection of my life, and the tumult-staring-at-possible-stability-and/or-betterment my life is staring at. Or could be staring at.

Longer than a Short Bus

It’s the right time for a “trailer,” it’s the right time for “market growth,” it’s the right time for figuring out what it takes to get paid to work on ATC and related instead of pinups and related. It’s doable, in theory. A bit of courage, a bit of nose-to-the-grindstone, a bit of prioritizing Things I’m Not Inclined Towards… there’s a strong possibility that doing all of this could result in ATC being told clearly, and with a degree of satisfaction.

The opposite of, say… the casting and direction of Moriarty in the modern otherwise-watchable Sherlock. While the previous sentence is referencing a terrible joke in dire need of a satisfying punchline, the trailer – as storyboarded – could be the reverse. It is the punchline. In theory, anyway. If you’ve read The Dualist and production DCR, you get some context. You get to see some story that hasn’t directly been told yet. You get some clarity. It works both ways, see. Watch it first for a who’s-who, watch it after you’ve read it for a “…. what WAS THAT?!” In theory it could drum up some interest… in practice, it should calm a few of the long-standing Strenuous Objectors. If it does, it will have been done without the Giant Throbbing Wads of Claremontian various people have been loudly demanding for the past six (seven? eight?) years.

In theory. On paper it’s a couple of minutes of “pretty good” and lots of work. In my head it’s three minutes of AWESOME!. It’ll be the first bit of video work I’ve done for myself since 2001. It’ll be the first bit of video work I’ve done for you, and the first time I’ve inflicted my computer animation skillz on an audience since The Miracle that was my 1999 demo tape. It’s tempting to say “I should have done this sooner,” but the fact is, the idea hit me – like a moldy cheese danish – roughly six weeks ago. I’ve been pretty damned busy in the interim, and right now I’m seriously weighing “pause comic make trailer” against “do comic and keep at it,” which is the natural answer to the post-trailer “now what?”

It’s a thing I can do. By which I mean it’s a thing I can produce that will exist as a complete whole, for you to experience. The Dualist fits that bill, with a higher buy-in – 300+ pages takes a bit longer to read than a three minute trailer would to watch.

Talking about the idea this excessively invokes it, to some extent. From a production standpoint, there are six more pages scripted, laid out, on deck, and ready (with an AMAZINGLY MINIMAL -in the historical context- modeling investment) to make. The rest of this chapter and half of the next are scripted. From a What Needs To Be Done standpoint, I need to push them back. I need to neglect DCR for a few weeks in favor of mistreating After Effects.

I need to get grumpy again – and I need to take it out on ATC.

‘Need’ is getting used a lot here – the implication is that the actual urge ain’t there, and that’s true. These days I’m lucky if I get An Urge A Day – and that Urge is typically flung towards either Work or trying to get Xeno into Borderlands or TF2. The other days, it’s expended in the water closet. Motivation left me for another man ’round about the summer of 2007, give or take – how that trickles down and plays out, what that’s attributed to, who’s responsible (ME or MY GENOME)… remains to be seen. Fact is, what’s left of my willpower is the only thing keeping ATC moving forward lately… and my willpower has its own needs. I say that like it’s the done thing but the fact is I feel it leaving me – oozing out of my boots like the bastard child of a Shoggoth and Three Rivers water. All that remains is the Love Of Numb and a sputtering flashlight, dry-hummped by memories of higher wattage.

It’s all there. Diet and discipline, research and willpower will solve it.

A few weeks ago, I set a schedule (“August = DCR, bizcard, trailer- START) – holding to it will do more for all of us than the ‘when I feel like it’ output of pages ever could.

Working a comic without a paycheck or a vocal readership is some seriously tough shit, yo – I know this from my work in other media- media in which Attention Is Paid, With Interest. With readership, with paycheck… well… this wouldn’t be what it is, would it? If production took less time, writing wouldn’t have matured accordingly, results would be more… fulfillment. I’d like to think this isn’t wish fulfillment – it’s ultimately, carefully, indirectly, concept conveyance.

Open your third nostril.

Too much to talk about, especially the banality of “THIS IS 2.11!!!” – fortunately, there’s more than enough other stuff to talk about… at least for now.

As always, you need IRC (and Facebook, and Twitter) for the Complete Picture… which – tune in, you’ll quickly realize I’m right! – you don’t actually want. At all. Really. Honest.

Things might be thinging. Stay tuned!

Cast

  • Jason Whitehouse

    The king of social engineering, the crown prince of noise, and a self-described “Post-American Electro-Snob.” Jason has a deep interest in industrial, electronic, ambient, metal and gothic music, and a well-researched interest in radio...

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