dcr3_script_page_02Brandon James is a filthy rich asshole, and he behaves accordingly. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy every-fucking-thing else. He’s got people to Deal With the people that money can’t buy.

Personality-wise, he’s a little Steve Jobs, a little Larry Ellison, quite a bit Howard Hughes, with a bit of John Gotti for seasoning. At this point in the story (and his career), the more extreme aspects of his personality are just starting to emerge. While buying a law office to hush up an incident may come across as some form of commentary on the current state of American politics and world stature, well… just you wait. If you’ve read The Dualist, you know the events mentioned on this page (buying a law office due to the sudden need for More Lawyers, allusions to murder-for-hire of witnesses who won’t play ball) are just a drop in the bucket. If James stands as a commentary on anything, it’s the extremes to which an individual with immense drive, near-infinite resources and no moral compass will go if {im}properly motivated.

His ambitions are pretty damned lofty. Mine are more down-home. Me, I just wanna do this thing. I’d love to do this thing without having to juggle anything else. Speaking of-

Three days between pages? Back in the day that was a fairly decent production pace, even with fully pre-canned environments. In this case, the environment for these three panels and a chunk of the next page was built from a quarter-cylinder while waiting on work-related renders. As usual I wound up modeling a lot more than I’ve used so far, and I still have some more CG work to do for the next page. What I have bagged will do me for one and a half panels, give or take.

The coming week promises to be crazy – working with Jason, working with Mike, hopefully making some progress on the comic I’m working on with my friend Ben, document spelunking through ten years of notebooks, and – hopefully! – another page. Though next weekend seems more realistic.

The chapter as a whole has a per-page panel count that’s a lot lower than the last two chapters – possibly lower than some of the color comics, though the dialogue density is roughly the same. This could translate into faster production – fewer shots means fewer rendering passes, fewer shots means less line art, fewer panels means less shading. All in all it looks like the work will balance out – less heavy lifting in terms of shots, but more scene-specific CG and when the chapter hits the midpoint, a lot of photoshop work.

World note – umpty years into production and finally, a visual example of Rhodhe – though you can only see it on the full-sized page, and then with a magnifying glass or at 100% on screen. Since linguistics isn’t my hobby it’s pure language-looking gibberish, to be totally honest – odds are it’ll never be a font, and will only be used in cases like this, in which the material displayed is intentionally illegible.

Now more noticeable than the previous page – James shaved somewhere between the incident on Helios Orbital and the start of this meeting. This wasn’t in the script (and consequently won’t be addressed in dialogue, unlike Yang’s optics), though it fits the situation and happened for a couple of artistic reasons – First, when I nail James’ goatee I nail it, and when I fail it, I really fail it – great examples of both can be found here. Shaving the goat makes him that much quicker to draw, that much harder to screw up in the shading process, and most importantly makes him look less like Thad. Given Aleph’s resemblance to Raven (and Val’s resemblance to Raven, and Xand’s resemblance to Raven, and Jesse’s resemblance to Raven), at the moment I’m all for anything that differentiates some of the “samier” cast further. I’ve written about my issues with non-distinctive humans blending together previously, and this is a good case example. Aleph will doubtless differentiate herself further over time. She looks nothing like her production sketches, and at this point I’m inclined to feel that’s a good thing.

If you’re a casual reader or the kind of person that browses through pages without reading (I do it myself, depending on whatever prompted me to pick up the comic in question), I’ll spoil the end of this scene and give you a bit of clarity now – Aleph (the dark-skinned girl with the horns) is Whitehouse’s previous incarnation. While he was shown as “superimposed” over Aleph in the previous flashback scene, he had no dialogue and was ultimately an observer. I’m doing this primarily for artistic and aesthetic reasons – and also to visually drive home the point that these “flashbacks” are becoming less hallucinogenic and more “full immersion.” As this is the only flashback event of the chapter, I wanted to give it as much “zing” as possible. For a year or two (possibly more) there were two flashbacks over the course of these events – the second was cut as the chapter entered the final stages of script development. It’s a good thing it was dropped, as the events it would have detailed have since been completely reworked as the foundation of another point in the story.

Regarding the script page – after the window reinforcements on the previous page turned out functional-but-sub-optimal, I decided to ditch the criss-cross support framework for this part of the complex. Which means each pane of the “glass” is a single sheet of transparent aluminum (or diamond) that’s a roughly 40×30 foot sheet curved to 30-45 degree angle.

While it would be tempting to go whole hog, setting this scene in an engorged post-future metropolis a la Blade Runner, well… I grew up in the country. I have a deep love for how that single man-made Thing can both blemish and complement the landscape. I find the hustle and bustle of the city to be a kind of blind technicolor noise, one I’ve long since filtered into a smudge of filler, punctuated by the occasional in-focus street sign or navigational landmark. My work as a whole, and Dead City Radio in particular, exemplifies this sort of Filtered Minimalism. That the portrayed Helios is starkly minimal yet just detailed enough to drive home the fact This Ain’t Earth should come as a surprise to no one. One day I’ll Get Busy – the course of the greater story demands it. Until then, it’s Visual Clutter When Visual Clutter Is Called For. Until then, minimalism is the mantra.

There are artists who’d draw every single notch on Aleph’s zippers, who’d draw this as a crowded concourse, who’d go pane-of-glass on the buildings in the far-back. They get paid by the page, and they got their paying gigs by devoting their artistic development to these sorts of details. While I professionally appreciate that kind of attention to detail, personally… much of it is lost in the aforementioned Filtering. Years on, this is still a gratis gig, kicked out when I have or can make (or can think to make) time for it. So long as that’s the case, the comic will always be a struggle to balance my physical inability to manipulate my drawing hand below a certain “resolution,” my OCD insistence on modeling everything down to the rivets and welding seams, and my desire for a clean project that carefully considers what’s drawn or shown the way a writer mulls what’s written or described.

Speaking of my drawing “resolution” – I seem to be slowly moving away from the traditional two-pass inking method that’s defined most of ATC production to date. I’m fine with that, at least over the last two pages – in the case of panels one and two, a second pass would have damaged the work, as the line art is small-for-my-drawing-hand and packed with detail. Aleph is two-pass in panel three, to good effect – artistically, she’s also a medium close-up as opposed to the medium of panel one and the long-shot of panel two. There was a time when I would have done two-pass inks over the line art in panel one, though during that time I would have used two sheets of bristol instead of one, and I would have been less considered in my initial inking. The second pass on the line art for panel three convinced me that a further expenditure on the art for panel one would have degraded the work, rather than improved it. Had I split across multiple bristol and drawn panel one at a higher “physical resolution,” I could likely have done a second pass in good conscience. As it stands, single-pass has scaled well and seems to complement the shading. Technically, a single considered pass seems to lengthen inking time, reduce mistakes, make “squiggle-spasms” (tremendously obvious EVERYWHERE viewing at 100% digital resolution) a bit more obvious, and ultimately makes pre-page cleanup a bit easier. As with most possible improvements, it remains to be seen if this will shake out, or if I’ll revert to two-pass for everything but long shots.

Fact is at full resolution my artwork seems to be getting progressively shakier as the project progresses. Could be health, could be diet, could be anxiety… fact is, a confident penciller, a confident inker… they handle loosely and fluidly. I am in no way a confident traditional artist, and I’ve never been – I tend to hold the pencil tight and the pen tighter. My willingness to back away from dual-pass inks on ‘medium’ shots, at least on this page, is proof of that – I knew from years of personal experience that while I would have achieved the desired result, second pass on the inks of panel one would have landed my left hand on the disabled list. As my right hand has been bitching a fit over the past few weeks thanks to an inordinate amount of time expended on the PC, well… the less ultimately-unnecessary strain, the better. The fact I’m left-handed and right-moused (or any input device that isn’t a tablet) does give me a solid advantage over strict-righties or strict-lefties when it comes to strain accumulated over the course of pencilling, inking, and mousing.* During The Dualist it was damned handy – these days, I’m less inclined to “rely” on the quirks of my handedness and more inclined to reduce overall strain wherever possible. “Wherever possible” is my Art Hand, fortunately – right now, despite pencilling and inking a full page, it feels fine. Back in the day, my left hand would be in a world of hurt during the writeup, and my commentary would be truncated accordingly. Now, it’s my right index finger that’s had it. It’s a small region of the keyboard, and a world of ouch when working with 3d or playing games – two things I haven’t done today. That it’s still got some ouch a day later is a concern, sure – it’s probably time to move my Good Mouse** to the PC, given how much I’ve been using it lately.

Acknowledging the World Outside for a hot second – the most recent iClone update has been… startling. My pants bellowing SKILL TRAINING COMPLETE! is a bit disconcerting, but quite useful – even though the extent of my EVE time over the past couple of months has been logging in long enough to plug a new missile skill into the queue. I may do more than just log on, update and leave after I post this – I dunno. It’s tempting to just let it ride until I can undock with some serious missile skills. However, I’ve worked Fallout 3 about as far as it can go without creating a mod keyed to my specific aesthetic sensibilities, and xeno insists that while I’ll doubtless really enjoy New Vegas, I should wait until it’s on sale again.

Website – I’d thought earlier (back when this post was a couple of paragraphs instead of Several Pages) about turning casual metadata back on. I figure that despite given how crazy the next week will probably be, I should be able to carve out enough time to do some Cast and other Universe updates – and reactivating metadata seems like a thing that should be done then, as opposed to now.

So. New page. Epic Metadata. Crazy life is crazy. Here’s to the first Sunday in months I’ve woken up and Done Work instead of woken up and Played Video Games until bed time.


* There seem to be two schools of hand-dominance. I've met fellow lefties who Mouse Left - that just Isn't How I Do It. I use a tablet with my left, as using a tablet is basically drawing or writing - an activity I do with my left hand. I mouse with my right for one simple reason - every computer I've ever used (except for the machines of dedicated lefties) has the mouse on the right. Since it was over there I learned to use it over there. Could be a quirk, could be a convenience. I can't mouse with my left, I can't trackball with my left, I can't tablet with my right. That's just how it is. Given the fact that I pencil and ink left and shade and CG right, the overall strain on the hands evens out. While I'm splitting the damage, I'm still tanking the damage. Unlike certain specific others I've met I recognize that this does not mean I'm ambidextrous. "non-tablet input device" and "the right side of the keyboard" are the only activities my right hand can claim dominance to... and my left sucks total ass at both of them.

** I’ve been using a shitty Viewsonic xeno left the last time he visited since the even-shittier shittiness that is the Apple Mighty Mouse gunked up and died on me. While I use a trackball for 95% of my OS X time, I have a sweeeeet Logitech mouse that I plug in when I’m rockin’ Silo. It fits like a glove and I love it like my sister and I really just need to plug it into the PC and hope my right index finger stops yelling at me… or yells at me less.


  • Brandon James founded Heirotus in order to put his doctorate-equivalents in Xenoarcheology and Anthropology to use without academic interference. After a crucial (and highly classified) discovery by Heirotus contractor Judas Lang, James branched the...

  • The previous incarnation of Jason Whitehouse, and a contemporary of Brandon James and Michael Yang around the time of the MBO-1 incident. A potent psychic and self-proclaimed “conditional past-life regressor,” Aleph used her unique...

  • An Army special forces verteran, Yang served as the Chief of Heirotus Corporate Security from shortly before the time of the first MBO-1 Encounter until his near-death in January, 1968. Some time after that...

Glossary Articles

  • Helios

    Colonized in the 16th century, Helios is a highly developed world and the corporate headquarters of Heirotus. Industrial output peaked well before Heirotus came along, though fresh investment and development by the company snapped the...