ATC production started on May 25th 2003 with what ultimately wound up as commitment -6-.
In observance of the holiday I’ve held off on posting the first four pages of DCR.5 until today, and put a rather significant amount of freelance work on hold in order to make the time required to generate and process the line art for this page yesterday in order to post a full quarter of the chapter to mark the anniversary.
Today ATC stands at thirteen complete chapters with one in progress, one complete book, one nearly complete book, and one book on hiatus. The work presently totals 519 pages (538 counting covers), averaging out to 57.667 pages a year or 1.1 pages a week… and it’s fifteen pages (and some editing) away from being 2/7 (approximately 28%) complete. All of this while maintaining some degree of a day job, and without selling ad space or otherwise commercializing the work.
It has become clear that if I want to get this thing progressed in a timely fashion I’ll need to do something about that. An action plan has been forming slowly over the course of the past year or so, and step one of that plan is finishing DCR. When DCR is complete you’ll be able to read 534 pages of story straight through, and the general pace and direction should make sense. While the typical one-shot comic issue could be equated to an Analog or Asimov’s short story, ATC has certain structural similarities to the Cryptonomicon. It’s a big multigenerational gordian knot intentionally structured to subvert or avoid as many of the Big Damned Tropes as possible, and near the end of its first decade of production the overall shape of the story is finally starting to become visible.
By the time ATC turns 10 I plan for DCR to be done and edited, The Dualist to be revised for continuity (ridiculously minor changes compared to The Second Edition), and Transitional Voices to be back in production. I also plan to be collecting rejection notices and – hopefully! – offers or acceptance letters or whatever the “we’d like to print your thing!” notice is called.
Confetti, party hats, etc. Noisemakers! Happy ninth! :D
2012 05 07, 15:43 – Panels one and two rendered Saturday, panel three rendered yesterday. The page still needs a few tweaks, and I need to finish up the Addicaine assets. Even though the characters will be tiny little silhouettes in panel four, I’d prefer they were accurate… and I’ll need ’em for the cover, so that’s on deck after this. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do next – at present my options are drawing the first four pages or completing the Addicaine CG reference assets.
2012 05 10, 06:04 – Assets and renders complete. Re-worked the layout for panel four. I may re-work it again but at the moment I think it’ll do the job – the new panel is a better lead-in to the next page than the initial thumbnail was… I think. We’ll see how I feel about it in a few days!
08:38 – REMINDER – think hard on re-rendering / revising panel three. Throw the butt flick in here and its disappearance in panel one of the next page is a non-issue.
12:55 – Panel ready!
2012 05 23, 22:16 – Oh yeah, there’s a reason there’s no sound effects. An object the size of a C-130 is coming in for a vertical landing. Harriers are friggin’ loud – I imagine a Harrier or F-35b the size of a C-130 (possibly larger) would be an absolute horror of noise. Even if it is transitioning between layers of reality.
2012 05 24, 23:06 – Ready to shade.
2012 05 25, 01:17 – Ninth anniversary of the commencement of ATC production. Will doubtless post/ruminate on that later – the plan is to do post 5.01 through 5.05 some time in the afternoon or evening after I’ve slept on 5.05 and made any necessary post-production tweaks. I haven’t taken a page from blank bristol to ready-to-post in a single sitting in quite awhile and consiquently I suspect I’ve overlooked something startlingly obvious.
While a close look at the background reveals a maddening amount of striation and cloud artifacting (aka “banding”), the page looks pretty good overall. The fact that shading was fairly trivial bodes well for the next set of pages – given the issues I’ve had working with the environment and character palettes in 8-bit grayscale I’m tempted to do the rest of the chapter using RGB page files with an HSL adjustment layer to “fake” the palette back to gray. It would be less of a technical fight with Photoshop, but possibly more of a time sink – something I really can’t afford at this point. The chapter may be 1/4 done, but I’m out of rendering buffer, my printer is out of ink, and money issues presently look more like a production-wrecking Abyss than the usual ongoing Irritation.
Given my continued irrational obsession with ATC, meaningful progress on DCR.5 is naturally a much higher priority than anything else. There’s presently fifteen pages left of DCR – five a month should see this thing done before the end of summer, assuming I can discharge existing obligations and successfully invoke/encounter a paying gig that I can complete or progress in a timely fashion.
I might have to get out of the house to make that happen!
2012 05 25, 14:51 – Minor adjustments to panel three. Ready to post, making for the shortest turnaround on pencils-to-posting of all of the pages in this production block. No doubt I forgot a nose or a foot or something, somewhere.
It’s barely visible at actual size – in panel four, Jason is making a Vulcan salute:
Peace and long life will not be the order of the day, as hinted at with pages 5.02 and 5.03 and with the chapter title.
Some comments regarding “block” development and mass posting of pages:
Over the last several months – notably for the majority of 2012 to date – ATC production and page posting has been done in blocks. Rather than frame a page, letter a page, render a page, pencil a page, ink a page, shade a page, tweak a page and post a page, I’ve moved to a model of framing and lettering an entire chapter, rendering entire scenes, and shepherding several pages through the penciling to tweaking process at once or over the course of several weeks before posting the entire block all at once. There was a time when one page at a time – all of the page, start-to-finish – made sense. Lately that method is unworkable – I’ve hit long stints where I can render but don’t have time to draw, rare breaks in the action where I have plenty of time to do just that, and have taken to spending a chunk of post-work pre-wind-down time tweaking pages and generally prodding them towards completion. This break from the old production model may frustrate readers who’ve become accustomed to the regular scheduled updates of comics produced by artists with regular scheduled lives – but that’s not how ATC works, at least lately. If a page is done it’s getting posted. If ten pages are done they’re getting posted. Block development allows me to work out the kinks in a scene – being able to see several pages on screen at once gives me a feel for changes I may need to make in one direction or another. Posting several pages at once feels awesome, and it localizes the hassle of flattening, webscaling, optimizing, and posting – putting all of the tedium of post-production posting operations into one place for several pages instead of stringing it out. I prefer to do things this way – it’s a habit I picked up while working on a Big Contract that went live earlier this week, and I intend to stick with it.
Nine months working with a client on a site that wasn’t live-to-the-world until recently. It’s taught me patience and pacing, and honed the Big Complex Project management skills I taught myself here. The rest of DCR.5 will be block posted over the course of the next few months. This initial block of pages allowed for production shakedown and lets me bury a couple of extremely complex and less than satisfying pages “below the fold.” The next block will be up in a few weeks – maybe sooner, probably later. I haven’t started renders yet and I haven’t decided just how big the block is going to be – there are twelve pages left of this scene and if I can grind them out in two or three (or four) blocks, I’ll be a happy camper.
Rendering on the next block of pages (in which Shit Is Real, Yo) starts today or this weekend. I won’t be able to draw (in the method dictated by production values) until I’ve tended to my printer’s ink shortage – that will involve money or phone calls and bus rides or walking, and I won’t make a decision on that until there’s enough pages in the render buffer to merit the expense or the effort. While pages are rendering I’ll be getting back up on freelance – I’m between contracts at the moment, and the next major career thing is the creation and/or revision of no less than four websites over the course of the summer. Fortunately there’s some content commonality between them, and fortunately they’re all exercises in the application of skills acquired over the past two years. Hopefully one or more of these projects will catch the right eye, leading to a contract (or contracts) that works out favorably both for my continued existence and for the ATC production schedule.
So. More pages at some point in June, if all goes to plan. Until then, enjoy block one of DCR.5!