Shattered Visage

Production of ATC has halted at 16 years, three books, and 652 story pages. The comic is estimated to be 50% complete by page count and approximately 10% complete by total CG assets.

The views and interests of the author at 40 do not align with the views and interests of the author at 23. An attempt to address differences was made with the Mastering Pass in late 2016, at which time it was realized that the project was no longer an expression of the author’s outlook and could not be rebuilt as such without rearchitecting it from scratch.

The decision to end production was not taken lightly, nor was it made in haste. To continue, even without the aforementioned issues, would have necessitated a substantial investment in CG assets – requirements more in line with a film or open-world video game, infeasible for a comic produced by a single individual. In 2017 an extended period of time off was taken to heal and to get a fresh perspective, initially with the intent of figuring out how to continue the project. During that time it was discovered that life without ATC was much more enjoyable than life with ATC – so much so that work on the final version of the website, and this final blog post, were deferred for over a year. Work was scheduled for August of 2018 but thinking about the project at that time resulted in a nervous breakdown that took months to recover from. Wrapping up production is a major step in that recovery.

And for my next trick…

Transitional Voices is provisionally complete. According to the ATC Production Roadmap the next item on the to-do list is the “Science Pass” and “remastering” – a giant full-spectrum cleanup edit that will haul the comic cosmology kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

I’ll be starting on that soon. The idea is to steamroll through the material, make the required changes, and then make some PDFs. And probably CBZs since those are easier to make. If you support ATC on Patreon at a $10/month level you’ll hopefully have something to read – a lot of something – before the year is out. If you don’t, you’ll probably have to wait awhile to see the edits reflected on the site. While recent edits have been extensive this one’s going to be epic. The file structure will be overhauled, The Dualist and chapter one of TV will finally be configured for print, and some of the more willfully obtuse bits of the plot will (hopefully) be streamlined into something easier to relate to.

I’ll be doing a few graphics tweaks but for the most part that’s over with – all of the major graphical edits on my to-do list were done during and after the production of the final scene of Fire. I won’t be adding new pages. I will not be adding new scenes. I will be folding Observer Effect into Dead City Radio, moving Interstitial into Transitional Voices, renumbering everything to list correctly, and then overhauling the web site.

A large amount of the mental heavy lifting has been done – for the most part this is a vast pile of work that just needs to be plowed through. This phase should go relatively quickly when I get started on it. I say “relatively” as there’s no quick way to tweak and renumber almost 700 pages, and I say “when” as I’m still figuring out my post-Pittsburgh workflow. The incentive to get this leg of post-production done is the work that comes after – cleaning up assets and generating material for the restructured cast and lexicon sections. Shining ATC into product.

I’ve been searching for a conclusion for a couple of hours, but I’m coming up dry – it isn’t something I’ve thought about or rehearsed, unlike the massive list of post-production edits that are about to go down. I’d say “Courage” but Apple recently turned that word from an obtuse cultural reference into a worldwide punchline so I’ll sign off with something more appropriate.


Further bulletins as events warrant.

Send Me Your Money!

In early May I created a Patreon account. I’ve made it thirteen years without asking for help, and if I want ATC to keep going, well… I’m gonna need all the help I can get. I’m gonna need you to send me your money!

Apologies to Suicidal Tendencies – the song popped into my head while writing copy for Patreon and it seemed like a great opener for the related ATC blog post (this bit here), so I ran with it.

This post establishes the existence of the Patreon account and firms up the ATC production roadmap. The roadmap is planned to be the first blog post to the account once I take it live. I feel that it reads a lot like a pitch for a fixed amount of funding – a budget, if you will – and in some ways it is. While ATC was planned as a seven book thing and for a very long time was dreamed of as an ongoing series, I can’t see past the end of the current book. It has been in production since 2007. ATC is a trilogy until it’s done. I have to finish it; I can’t move on with my life until I do. I can not see or plan for what comes after it until I, myself, am after it. I am Ahab. Creative fatigue and financial stress have really put the zap on me. My costs are fixed. My freelance income is not. Freelance is a fickle beast – on the one hand pants are optional on the other the work commands and utterly exhausts the creative impulse. I am asking you to buy time. The more you pledge the more time I’ll have to spend on ATC instead of some hungrier thing. The faster this particular leg of the project is done the faster we’ll get to see what comes next.

With your help there will be a next.

TV.4 Production Status Update: Fire rules!

Heh heh heh. Yeah. It rules.

When I produced the cover for Fire it was one of two ATC-related things standing in the way of new pages. The other thing was the script, and at the time it was easier to produce the cover. Around the time the cover went live the weather improved, and for the remainder of April Pittsburgh experienced a very brief spring, lurching from a frigid, sloppy winter into what seems to be a sweltering, soggy summer at high speed. During that time I wrote the script, laid it out. and got all forty pages of the chapter ready for production. There were a lot of steps involved in that process – steps that had previously been performed a page at a time, then a scene at a time. I think this is the first I’ve prepared an entire chapter for production in one go, and as of this writing almost the entire thing is ready for rendering.

20 Pounds of Corned Beef

February was a fabulously unproductive month for ATC. I spent just about all of January building assets for the next chapter of the comic, became even more burned out than usual, and wound up taking most of February off. Or rather I spent most of February’s “free” time in a Tale of Two Wastelands, which is an excellent way to play Fallout 3 on Windows 7. I spent the rest of February juggling half a dozen or so freelance opportunities and obligations, though fortunately they didn’t consume all of my time…

A secret report from within the Build.

January was a productive month. I’m not done with CG prep for the next chapter but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was at the beginning of the year. The rest of this entry is spoiler heavy and perhaps more importantly contains no screenshots. I’m through the vehicles and on to environments and I’d like the first appearance of those to be on the page as that’s what they’re designed for. That doesn’t prevent me from talking about what I’ve been modeling, though!

Valkyrie: This time it’s hiding in the most terrifying place of all.

I wrote everything after this paragraph, microwaved a burrito, and realized that the post had no title. I then spent more time than is probably healthy struggling to come up with one before checking the blog for guidance. The last post about Transitional Voices referenced Aliens in the title, and this is the next blog post about Transitional Voices and Alien 3 comes after Aliens so there’s the title.

Since my last blog post, development of Transitional Voices chapter four has lurched from Park into a gear somewhere between Drive and Neutral. I’m playing with a new development method for the chapter and while it looks very promising I’ve been focused on indulging my spaceship modeling habit to the exclusion of the script. The script at this point is developed enough that I’ve been able to revise the list of required 3d assets and I’ve been working on the more cognitively harmonious bits of that list instead of, say… the script itself.

Data structures, then and now. And a bit about the script for the next chapter.

For those of you wondering where todays comic update is or isn’t, take a look at the Changelog. I moved a seven page update earlier this week and as far as I’m concerned that counts as a content update. Visual continuity and all that. There have been quite a few edits since last week’s update and this past week being one of those weeks in which Work stubbornly refuses to exist I had no other pressures that I could meaningfully address so “todays” edits were moved as they were completed during the week.

Today’s update is classical and modern directory tree screenshots. Data organization erotica, if you will.

Poor Impulse Control: The Naomi Edit

While this weeks edit is going up a couple of days later than planned it is fortunately shorter and wasn’t subject to the sprawl that engulfed the Charger Edit. The Naomi Edit came in on time and on budget – I threw the back half of a work session at it and cleaned up the proposed panel as well as the shots that came to mind after the gun editing photoshopathon recalibrated my priorities for this editing pass.

The Charger Edit

I proposed a few edits in a recent blog post. What had been intended as a couple of tweaks and some tactical plot surgery got out of hand and spiraled into a surgical strike, with all of the collateral damage that that implies. Fortunately no civilians were killed and the only serious damage has been to my commission schedule.

Between Chapters: a Few Possible Edits to The Dualist.

ATC revisions are kind of a hobby. Hell, all of The Dualist and the first chapters of Dead City Radio and Transitional Voices have been rewritten twice. Three times for parts of The Dualist. Four, for a few scenes.

I’m not doing anything that big this time, I promise. In fact the point of this blog post is to lay out what I’m thinking of doing and why. If all goes to plan I’ll then follow this post up by performing the edits. There won’t be new story while I’m working on the script for Transitional Voices chapter four but there may well be new or at least revised art.

Here’s what’s under consideration:

TV.3 Asset Development Analysis (or, the pre-post production blog post)

The last page of TV.3, air -44-, ATC page 635 (story page 612) rolled off the assembly line around 0600 EST this morning. That makes for a total of seven pages in the buffer. On the current Sunday schedule that covers the rest of October and all of November, with the last page finished this morning having a projected post date of November 30. Air -42- will be posted on the 16th and is closest to ATC’s 20th birthday. I can never remember the exact date; I know it’s November 1994, somewhere in the middle. One of the “teen” days.

The comic is currently two pages into the last major production block of the chapter. I took advantage of a scheduling hole in late September and got the rest of the Daedalus shots rendered in a marathon work session. After that, pages 3.36 through 3.38 were done in one production block and 3.39 through 3.41 were created the week after. After finishing line art for the chapter I spent a fortnight on asset development, which is the point of this blog post. As I’ll be discussing material that will be technically spoilery for the next few weeks I’ll tuck the rest of this post below the fold.

Air Show Special: Wings Over… Westmoreland?!

The Pittsburgh Air Show has been good and cancelled for awhile now. In 2012 it wasn’t a thing; in 2013 it wasn’t a thing but I didn’t care because thanks to the commemorative air force I was taking a picture. Apparently it was un-cancelled this year, briefly – just long enough to list as maybe a thing on a couple of websites. Then it cancelled itself again and the Latrobe airport in 90-minutes-away Westmoreland county snapped up the headliner.

Back when I blogged a lot I got wordy about air shows, and those air shows were things to get wordy about – there were fleets of aircraft. Multiples. A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F-22s. Plural. DC-3s, C-5s, C-17s, C-130s. B-52s, B-17s. Prowlers. This year there were a total of three aircraft on static display, and they were covered with people the entire time I was present. Two things took the edge off the lack of statics and the sea of bipeds – the macro mode of my SD1400 and a bit of maintenance or throat-clearing on Blue Angel #6.

Henry Darger

17:13 < mdxi>
17:20 < solios> dammit I’m missing Metal Church at the Rex
17:20 < solios> wait, I’m ALSO missing South Side on a Friday night.
17:20 < solios> :D!
17:21 < mdxi> ‘In 1968, Darger became interested in tracing some of his frustrations back to his childhood and began writing The History of My Life. Spanning eight volumes, the book only spends 206 pages detailing Darger’s early life before veering off into 4,672 pages of fiction about a huge twister called “Sweetie Pie”, probably based on memories of a tornado he had witnessed in 1908.’
17:21 < solios> O.o
17:22 < mdxi> this dude makes robert jordan and GRRM look like chumps
17:22 < mdxi> that’s his SHORTEST book
17:22 < solios> jebus
17:26 < xeno> That’s solios in 20 years :P
17:27 * xeno has always thought ATC was solios’s Vivian Girls
17:27 < solios> ?
17:27 < xeno> (henry darger)++
17:27 < xeno> solios: you’re Henry Darger
17:27 < xeno> < solios> No YOU’RE henry darger AND SO’S YOUR MOM
17:28 < solios> heh
17:28 < solios> if anything ATC has a bit more in common with VALIS
17:28 < solios> though it’s taken so [expletive] long to get anywhere with it that most of the crazy has oozed out. Which is good for the plot but cuts down the page count considerably.
17:29 < ejp> when you’re arguing which flavor of obsessed crazy you have, it might be time to take a step back

That was a HOOT!

This post title was brought to you by Rocko’s Modern Life.

Earlier this week Ian from Top 100 Best Graphic Novels shot me an email with a couple of questions regarding ATC – my answers are included with an ATC synopsis in his year-end writeup, The Best Webcomics to Follow in 2014 (Part One). Go check it out! :)

In other, more local news – a new version of the website is live! It’s the third and definitely final release of 2013, and will hopefully last for at least a few weeks. I’d prefer it to last for all of 2014 but that’s, like, fifty years in internet time and if I think of a better way to do things you can bet I’ll jump on it. V12 is an iteration on V11 with a cleaner presentation and a pseudo-mobile version – I’m using a couple of mobble checks to feed mobile devices an augmented stylesheet and different ad locations. The mobile sheet isn’t business-card-sized and doesn’t use @media queries – it sticks the left sidebar to the top of the page and that’s pretty much it. I may extend it further if I ever get a tablet or a phone with a bigger/sharper screen. I’m digging the new look, and I’m digging the speed boost and performance gains I wound up getting by working through the initial display issues. The site’s looking good, and as usual it’s the best version ever!

Here’s the v12 build log. It’s a lot shorter than the v11 build log. That build log really whipped the llama’s ass.

An 18,000 square mile island on the edge of the world.

The title was going to be “Website launch & comic production timeline” or something equally dry.

The new version of the website is up, with only a bit of weirdness. All the practice on paid off, and the experience was mostly painless. There was some wonkiness with jetpack – I have no idea why the fix worked but it did and I hope that’s the end of it. Turning curl off to make SSL work strikes me as the modern equivalent of sacrificing a chicken the first tuesday after an eclipse but whatever, that’s mild compared to other voodoo lurking around under the hood. There’s some charset stupidity despite the database, tables, templates etc. all reporting UTF-8, so there may yet be some funky characters to batch edit. OTHERWISE…

New cover, if you hadn’t noticed – keystone for the new comic archive and the first non-canon group shot, with Raven sporting a Woo Hoo!-inspired dye job! :D


It’s that time of the year – and that time of the project life cycle. Comments have been shut off and all site components except for the blog have been archived – and that (this) is getting backed up as soon as I hit “Save” on this post.

ATC started life as a voodoo’d MT 3 blog. In 2008 hosting moved and the project moved from a badly implemented MT 3 site to a badly implemented MT 4 site spanning a number of subdomains, where it limped along for five years until it was rearchitected into a properly implemented MT 4 site earlier this year.

At some point within the next couple of months – roughly around the five year anniversary of the transition to MT 4 – 870 posts, 158 tags and parts of 8 pages will be migrating from a six-blog MT 4 install into a custom WP theme. Comic pages, covers, Universe entries and Cast members will all be custom post types. The relationship between Cast and Universe entries and Comic pages will be preserved, tag search will be seriously improved. Commenting will be easier for you to do and for me to filter. SEO will be possible. Facebook updates (and hopefully twitter updates) will be automated. I may muck around with some Subscription capability, though I want the site built and functional before I start digging around to see what that looks like. I’ll be able to add a page without having to rebuild a blog; I’ll be able to add to the Cast or the Universe without having to rebuild two (or more!) blogs.

For most of the past decade, MT was a good fit for ATC – but aside from ATC and the sites hosted on, I’ve never really been a Movable Type developer. When I transitioned from video to web in early 2010 it was in response to a call to learn WordPress – and over the past couple of years I’ve learned the shit out of it. I know enough about wordpress to turn a six-blog MT site into a single WP site, and I’ve learned enough about custom post types and custom meta boxes to make the page navigation voodoo work as a matter of design as opposed to a horrible, horrible hack.

In short, WordPress is more malleable, easier to work with and extend, and vastly more capable. The choice between upgrading the MT install or migrating to WP isn’t actually a choice – and it isn’t up for debate. I made the decision earlier this year, and now that TV.2 is complete it’s time to make the last of the backups and the first of the imports – I’ll be starting with domains to sort out the remaining design questions, and plan to start work on the new ATC website in late October or early November.