Saturday, December 26, 2009

Going to Denmark

Back on the 4th of January.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Running down the memories, wrapped up in desire

I spent this morning listening to Secrecy and playing Solitare Mahjong. I don't know if the reader has spent time with any variation of this computer gaming staple, if they have they might agree it's pretty conductive as a backdrop for active thinking because it engages on a very shallow level, requires calculation of a couple moves ahead at best. It's no Go game, but it's not mind-numbing either like Peggle or whatever. Secrecy were a pretty emotional band (really worth a blog post in themselves) and although I'm familiar with the lyrics to both Raging Romance and Art In Motion, they're often vague enough that subconsciously my own emotional experience fills in the ambiguous space. Their singer in particular, does this half-step note ascending plead with his voice a lot that holds some teenage angst connotation for me.

So here I was in relative solitude, brain and heart activated, what could ever come bubbling in the conscious surface than my own woeful adolescence? Perhaps another factor that contributed was that I awoke this morning from the common recurring semi-nightmare of being back in high-school, going through finals (badly). Come to think of it that's probably the catalyst for what I came to think about and not the music+game combo. I probably put on Secrecy exactly because of the dream. Trying to sort out subconscious-to-conscious causal paths is complicated. Anyway, this is a post about a girl. Due warning that I'm going to be pretty honest below and if you have a heart it probably is going to remind you of your own teenage heartbreaks and do you really want to have a melancholy morning?

Fair enough.

I think I was fourteen or so, I was taking English after school. I was a bad student in school but very good in English due to an early fascination with heavy metal and adventure games. English held my interest long enough to learn, unlike most other subjects, basically. So in the English classroom was my only chance to academically gloat. I now realize most of my classmates disliked me for it though they were quiet about it. I can now see why, it's pretty embarrassing to see an awkward teenage introvert desperately grab his chance to show off, must have been pretty overbearing. A common post-facto realization I have about myself is that I'm overbearing.

So I was the classroom know-it-all for once in my life and this - I theorize in retrospect - had the uncommon side-effect of getting this girl to be interested in me.

We talked a lot before and after class, she was very enthusiastic about getting to know me to which I adapted surprisingly quickly (introvert kids do not necessarily lack a big ego). I wrote her *a lot* of heavy metal mixtapes because though CD burners existed back in ancient 1998 I didn't have one. She showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep on doing it. She was trying, I realize, to cut out a small space in her reality for me by adopting some of my music taste which should have tipped me off that she was interested in me for reasons other than my record collection. Were I more experienced in these matters I'd have caught up but hey give me a break, I was fourteen.

This went on for close to a year I think, perhaps more. In any case it was thereabout that a mutual acquaintance told me that she knew for a fact that our mutual friend wanted to be more than a friend to me. It rocked my world. Up to that point it hadn't entered my young mind that such a very attractive girl would be into me. The reader might remember how at an innocent age when they looked at beautiful people they didn't connect that with their nascent lust, that's how it was for me, I realized just how beautiful she was and how I'd like to get together with her in the space of the few seconds after being informed that she was interested in me.

The rest of this story demonstrates how whatever Gods that may be are cruel masters.

As it was explained to me much later the common friend that had informed me about her interest had also told her about it and she freaked out because she was into - or in a semi-relationship with - this other guy about whom all I remember was that he had a small motorbike and was a 'bad boy' so he had me at a startling disadvantage. She didn't want to risk ruining our friendship or whatever, I don't think I'll ever understand this rationale, I've had sex with all my close friends and it's always worked out great! Anyway, what happened was that as I was trying to make my gentle (some would say weak-ass) advances she shut me down in the severest way, which, dear readers and humans, is not found in the finality of a confrontation (wish I were so lucky) but instead in constant evasion. She left just enough room for us to keep on being friends but not enough for me to ask her out, it was a pretty confusing guessing game for young Helm and what was most confusing of all was this feeling of mounting anger inside me. I can since summon this feeling at any time I think about that situation and it's a hollow orb in my chest that pulls inwardly my sanguine humour leaving me exhausted but manic. Manic to DESTROY.

What I felt before that when considering my interpersonal prospects was a sort of resignation. I felt like an ugly child and even uglier teenager (thin, hairy, pretty awful acne too, and earlier than most of my friends!) so I had devised fortifications to shield me from disappointment: I didn't even try to get anywhere with girls. The anger was new and it had to do with how - I realize now - my emotions had been toyed with, being constantly offered something and then once I reached for it, pulling it away mockingly. At the time I couldn't internalize this anger, I got pretty passive-aggressive with her, to the point where I straight out stopped talking to her/avoided her. There were some lapses where we'd start talking again and I'd get passive-aggressive again, and the more psycho I got the more she became cold, though never decisively frostbitten, like the Sphinx she offered riddles and I always had to torment myself for the answers. It took me a long time to understand the mechanics of mutual attraction and the memories are pretty embarrassing, but what it comes down to is she - like most women I've discussed their relationships with - had mistaken emotional fortifications against the chance of a relationship as self-assuredness, and she was attracted to this guy that had his own world-view, his own tastes, his own desires and dreams and wasn't afraid of anything. This guy wasn't me, though. As my weaknesses unfolded in front of her she was gradually appalled. There was a quiet violence, a horrible manipulation to get what I wanted and for her to get what she wanted instead, whose truth crystallized in me only through masochistic later-life repetitions of this same situation. Hopefully I think I've broken out of that loop for the last few years.

You might think how a girl not having a relationship with me isn't such a big deal and how your own memories of actual relationships that failed must be way harsher. It's not that simple, it wasn't that we didn't have a relationship, we did. We just skipped from friendship and then courtship, straight to the painful breakup without the good stuff in between. No acceptance, no safety, no stability, just alternating scalding hot showers of promises and freezing dips into the pools of denial. Afterwards I learned that her best friend had, when she deferred to her on what to do about the choice between myself and 'bad boy', told her to adopt the avoidance routine so she could have both; Thanks a lot for a hellish summer, her friend.

Well at some point English class ended, I got my couple of Proficiencies and she didn't and had to stay on, hah! take that! . . . We lost touch and I went on to have my heart ruined by a string of other women, but the first one will always be special.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had segued from pre-teenage innocence straight to the emotional stability found in being accepted and loved during these years and although the anger was internalized (and used for good!) until it wasn't needed anymore, I don't think the deeper wound will ever go away. I'm still paranoid in any relationship (sexual or otherwise) that I've outstayed my welcome, that I'm being a burden. I do not trace all of it back to that situation when I was 14-15, but it certainly didn't help. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy also because when you think that way, you extrude doubt and fear when you should be all about self-assuredness and capacity. I ran into a pretty bad combo after this and it culminated with me giving up on sexuality and emotionality (or as Robot-Helm would have said *hrrhk* IN-STICT *kkrk*) on the whole for 3 years, but that's a completely different story.

Adversity shapes the psyche in positive ways also. I try to be sympathetic for anyone who is being deprived of what they'd like to have and especially of the bitterness and anger that prolonged denial creates. The only way for such a selfish animal like the human to allow other people's heartache to touch them is if their own heart is spacious. The world is cutting and carving little pieces out of it, the sooner one comes to terms with what they're left to work with, the better.


Monday, December 21, 2009

ZX page 28: Urban Folklore

I finished this literally 5 minutes ago, I wanted to be done with it yesterday but I went to a live show and couldn't get home in time to do the 12-5 o clock shift. Anyway, it's still Monday! It was a fun page to do, I tried various things, hope I pulled them off (like the 'inking commentary' on the last three panels).

I must say I'll be glad to never have to draw that vespa scooter for more than one or two panels ever again, though.

If any of you not-Greeks are wondering, the tree has lots of bubble gum pressed on it. I don't know if people do this in other countries, I'm hoping not. It's a peculiar bit of urban folklore in Athens, though. Bored commuters might explain it, or I don't know...

Oh by the way, next week there won't be a comic, or the week after, that's my Christmas vacations. Going to Denmark. I'll post something from now to Sunday (day I leave) to remind and also hopefully the post will have merit in itself.



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comic theory?

Hey I am Black Thing. I was wondering if anyone had any questions about comic theory, how comics are made, 'the process' as the say. I've often observed my human while he's making his comics instead of feeding me wonderful meats (I prefer smoked ham) so I thought I'd ask if the other humans that read this have any specific questions I can help with. If I help you, my human will have more time to do other things than talk to you, like perhaps, feed me more or subordinate his toes to my hunting mastery. I think I understand comics better than my human because I don't make them myself. Leave notes on this post and I'll make a list and hopefully return in the future while the human is sleeping.

Keep in mind that I'm not an expert, as you can see I can't even read superhero comics straight.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Blogger is making me grumpy.

Delicious reader "tsoureki" (Brioche in greek) commented on an old entry with the following:

"What is the functionality of adopting a fully deterministic point of view as far as free will is concerned? People usually act automatically but you make conscious effort not to act automatically. Of course you believe that this decision of yours is predefined but wouldn't you end up in the same behavior(s) you currently demonstrate in your life if you pretended that you act freely on some level? Also, how do you define chance?"

Blogger turns out, doesn't have built-in comment search, so I had to go through Google Custom Search and browse my own blog for the word "determinism" for 30 minutes before I could even fish out the comment. So now if you don't mind I'll take a whole blog post to reply to your query, tsoureki, just to justify all the time I spent looking for it.

(It's becoming increasingly apparent that I might have to switch from blogger at some point)

For other readers interested in this conversation, I urge to read the comment backlog in the Small Shames post linked in the foreword.

Well, tsoureki, to answer as straightforwardly as I can, there is no practical functionality for adopting any sort of a priori worldview like existentialism or determinism or whatever else because - half of the point is - you'll end up doing what your machine was made to do anyway. That is, interface with vast complex structures in order to survive, create, kill, and eventually die. It's very often that thinkers on the issue of Free Will convey this: it doesn't practically matter if you think your actions are predetermined or not, you're still doing what you're doing, right?

So on that level there is no function. On another level there is, though, it has to do with how I, as a semi-conscious being, look at my own mechanism and categorize the processes it's going through. From a free will point of view the focus is constantly on the rational, conscious, surface-thought part of the machine, the one we give a name to and say it's a human being. There is this feeling for Free Will thinkers that the subconscious is something like a dirty little secret, to be swept under the biochemical rug because nobody wants to face up to it. And one can see why, it's the part of the machine that makes us do all these illogical, impulsive and often really morally wrong things. So, a free will adopter will have effectively cut himself in half, given all the import on the part of himself he's proud of and vilified his other half, hidden it away and marginalized its importance. Urges are only there to be contained by the higher, rational being that is called "Nick" or "Jane".

From a deterministic point of view the machine is one single thing, consciousness and subconsciousness are reacquainted and a more holistic sense of self is introduced, one where you're allowed to face up to that you don't know why you do what you do and that you have desires that you cannot rationalize even. Determinism is then useful for psychological wellbeing. To be allowed to be a whole person again, to accept everything that's going on inside, to try to gently internalize the whole situation that is the "I", your fingernails as much as your brain, your volition as much as your intention.

So in your scenario above between the one that is acting automatically and fighting it and the other who is acting automatically and is aware of disparity between his conscious rationalizations and his subconscious volitions, the end actions will be automatic still. But ask yourself, which of the two stands a chance to be more psychologically equipped to deal with the fallout of awful actions?

Free Will vs Determinism isn't a debate that has to do with what we're going to do tomorrow. It's about how to come to terms with what we'll inevitably do tomorrow. It's about assessment of guilt, regret, crystallized memory of everything that has gone wrong. It's about giving up on these dysfunctional concepts of causality that lead us to constantly search for whom to blame. It's about a reassessment of core components of common language. It's about finding a way to let it go and just exist, like a cat on a bed licking its fur until it doesn't feel like it anymore or like a tree swaying in the wind without any 'because' at all.



ZX Page 27: Editing

Memories go left and right and curve into themselves, they go nowhere. Skipped beats, regrets, reminders, what to do next time around, what, something different? Headless rudder left to subterranean winds. But a smart machine inside remembers the most important rule, it'll will take everything and make it neat, linear. Make it make less sense, that's what it takes for it to make any sense at all. Hold the line, hold your breath, suffocate the sounds, clip clip clip it off on the hotel floor, draw a map and take us there.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Say yes to everything

art by me and Dave Stoner

Here's an interesting opinion piece by one Dave Eggers. I don't know who this man is or what he has contributed to the cultural landscape (probably because I'm Greek) but the piece stands on its own and it got me thinking. These thoughts I typed in on my computer and it is said that the reckless and brave may search for them below.

A noble adventurer you are!

So, the impression I get from this is that Dave Eggers is a happy man. He must have found a degree of contentment in the positive feedback loops that are built into his daily life. The phenomenon he describes (the mental trap of 'keeping it real' and being venomously disappointed in those that don't) I believe occurs first and hardest during one's puberty for the primary reason that that period is characterized the most by inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance between what one desires the world to be and what others pressure one to accept is.

I haven't met anyone that doesn't have some knee-jerk reaction against what they perceive as missteps from the true path in the lives and careers of their favorite artists. I believe that most of all this happens because that distant failure acts as a reminder of our own very proximal shortcomings in adhering to what usually is a strict moral code. A code not borne out of practicality but from a necessary interpretation of causality. This happens because that happened and that's bad. Our morality is based on simplifications and generalizations and that's not the space in which real human beings live.

Humans live in the ambiguity of constantly shifting and complex situations, where the true way is dim and even if one manages to follow it it doesn't always feel as good as one would expect it to be. That's where Dave Eggers lives but Dave Eggers is a happy man because he's successful, and I don't mean this in the strict financial sense, he is successful because he has made sense of his environment and function and has perhaps achieved a degree of inward pacification just through constant, busy reinforcement of positive routines. He can do a little bad (hang out with Puff Daddy) because he's doing a lot of good, is what he's working towards with listing his charity work. I get the impression that Dave Eggers is a huge workaholic also.

For those of us that haven't found our place yet, his words, while admirable, are more distant. His rationalization of how doing is living and not doing and complaining is poison rings true (as many "it's all MY fault" sentiments do) but is no less far away for it. Existential ennui leads to strings of smaller disappointments because second-guessing and dissecting small happenings and paralyzing/analyzing is what people without a work they enjoy and a social place in the world that respects them etc end up do for a living. Well get a job, Dave Eggers might say, say yes to all the things you say no he might continue. Some people don't get asked anything they could say no to, though.

People bitch because they're unhappy, is what I'm getting at, and while Eggers is taking a stand for his own sense of self-worth with the above text, victimizing the complainers doesn't help in understanding. He builds a straw-man, a very comfortable and common one in fact; the disaffected youth who's preoccupied with tearing down his idols and marginalizes a large part of that experience as 'poison'. He doesn't touch on what makes one like that at all. Is there perhaps a social system, a dynamic that creates disaffected youth, is perhaps the modern world not good for one's psyche? This aspect, the difficult aspect of the discussion isn't touched on, instead he explains how saying yes to meeting Puff Daddy is a good thing, otherwise he wouldnt've met Puff Daddy and he's a curious man. It's a sentiment we can all share, wouldn't we rather fulfill our curiosities instead of not? But is life this playground of curiosities to be fulfilled? Is it perhaps also a constant battle for (psychological besides physical) survival where if you misspent your time and effort you might have screwed up everything for good? Not everyone has risen above like Dave Eggers, I mean.

People are unhappy because the world is a suffocating place and not everybody will happen on the blessed circumstance where talent, ambition and luck converge to get a them their comfortable niche. I appreciate Dave Eggers' sentiment and his positivity and I'm glad that he's not successful and also disappointed anymore. if I ever get to where he is I hope I'll be saying similar things. But home is far away right now, and there's doubts and harsh judgments and self-loathing still that cannot be ameliorated with the suggested 'be positive!' mantras. Willpower will not make me a happier man, it is mostly, depressingly, luck that will. Until then I'll make what I make and complain about how this or that isn't true and has disappointed me sometimes, it's not poison in itself, it's a reflection of a world that disappoints. Sometimes when the world doesn't come knocking with beautiful, curious opportunities, the only way to keep sane is to knock on the world oneself.



Monday, December 7, 2009

ZX Page 26: Blink

This page took a long time but I've pretty happy with it. Happy with how the visual language bits I'm using communicate and happy with the overall page balance. As far as what's going on in the story, I guess tension is going to be mounting steadily from no on to the end. If you thought the first 15 pages or so of the comic were kinda light, well, now you'll see what they served as groundwork for.

Keep reading and also, keep talking.



Sunday, December 6, 2009

this expression

I don't know what it means.

Seriously, now.

Often I struggle with conveying emotions through faces in my own comics. I can tell you, it's probably the most difficult part of making a comic - about the human condition, at least. I'm sure it's easier to convey CONSTANT MURDEROUS RAGE if you are making some sort of fighting comic or whatever. Imagine that, a main character who is constantly drawn like this:

oh, wait.

Anyway, jokes aside, drawing faces conveying human emotions is pretty easy if you're doing primary emotions, more difficult if you're doing mixed emotions. People feel mixed emotions much more than they feel primary emotions. If you're making a comic about human situations, you'll have to come to terms with how to convey mixed emotions eventually. I'm struggling, for one.

A common crutch of the artist is to adopt a stylization of the human face early and consistently so that they don't have to draw very realistic facial emotions. A lot of manga artists do that, like the one above. Very concerned with stylization and 'coolness', they adopt common tropes of how to convey emotional information without actually referencing reality. Think of the manga sweat-drop on the side of the face, and then think how difficult it actually is to draw an embarrassed face realistically. First time you saw sweat-drop trope in an anime or manga you probably didn't realize what it was supposed to mean, but with repetition and context you grew to understand that visual language. Same with the top image, if you look at it from outside the cultural and aesthetic context it looks absolutely emotionally impenetrable, if anything it looks like she's having a stroke. The artist has tried to convey a mixed emotion by piling on lots of manga visual cues/cliches of primary emotions and the end result isn't just conflicted, it's brain damage. Reddened cheeks, sweat drops, 'tude eyebrows, oval mouth, tooth in the corner. A good reminder to always access the visual tropes one employs.

Oh, if you're curious the manga this is from, go on and read it there. I can't recommend it because I haven't read more than 21 pages of it and I probably won't, but the plot summary of it is hilarious enough to share. Some demon is trapped on the protagonist's balls and a little devil girl wants to make him ejaculate so the demon can be freed to destroy the world. He wants to get laid (naturally, men are base animals without any compunctions about fornicating with occult entities) but at the same time he doesn't want to destroy the world. Ontology and asceticism collide! Comedy (I guess) ensues.

Oh and since we're on the subject (we really are not) here's a photoshop of Nick's cat, Hitler, who serves as the inspiration of same-named cat in my comic:

Back tomorrow with a new page of comics.


Monday, November 30, 2009

ZX Page 25: Vector Renderer

That's pretty much it. From here on end I post on modays what I've made the week past. We are in real-time.



Monday, November 23, 2009

ZX Page 24: Forest fire

Not much to say here. Keeping on trucking, you do the same.



Monday, November 16, 2009

ZX Page 23: Afterbirth

Again, do not click on the image if you're at work. Unless you work somewhere awesome.

Worryingly the blog is catching up to where I am slowly. This is page 23, I am working on page 26. When I started making this I did two pages a week but the tiredness caught up with me eventually. I need more time to make the pages as good as I want them to be, so I settled on a rhythm of one page a week, and lately I've been having trouble fulfilling even that deadline (otherwise, mathematically, the blog would have never caught up with me). Perhaps I want the blog to catch up so there is a practical deadline of every Monday instead of just a theoretical one I am applying to myself.

The reason I'm going slower is because there's difficult things left to draw pretty much exclusively and also that the rest of the story is very concrete in my mind so there's not much improvisation left to do. I have to see it through, basically. I will, I am certain, but not without my subconscious rebelling on me here and there. There's about 15 pages left and every one of them is going to take a larger toll on my psyche than the opening pages where relations are established and generally 'light' things happen. I want to do this, I keep reminding myself, this is why I started this in the first place.

About the page in question I've had some close friends react with a degree of horror to this and when I asked 'what, haven't you seen more severe dreams than this?' they all said they have had in the past, yes. It seems the page touches on some taboo on "what is allowed" to be discussed about the human psyche in a comic. As Nick told me a while ago, we'll have to revise how we talk about our art-forms eventually, because games aren't very gameish anymore, film isn't shot on film and comics are anything but.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

that's interesting too

I've found often that people I discuss with are dismissive of philosophy because it seems to be tangential to their real-life concerns. They liken it to mental masturbation, but it is in philosophical - and more precisely epistemological - language that they could address some very real issues that would otherwise keep eating away at their psyche.

Human beings are fundamentally unsure. Unsure of the quality of knowledge available to them, from the topics of ontology and existence up to the results of a mundane assessments of everyday information. But most of all they are unsure about themselves, about their merits and qualities and most of all about their disadvantages. They need the external world to verify or debunk their often silent assumptions. The world is fuzzy and analogue and no truth seems to stick. The more complicated the system the less simplified truths stick and what happens when everything interfaces with everything?

People are fundamentally unsure of themselves because they can't really dependably know anything. The concept of 'objectivity' is a mental trap that has tormented many for thousands of years and on top of its bastardized existence there is staged an elaborate sociodynamic power-play that mirrors the battle for base survival in the wild. Given that the only certainty then, is the uncertainty of all, persuasion is the method through which pressure groups shape the available finite space.

Let's think about what human beings do with certainties like, 'puncturing the chest will kill the heart' or 'suffocation to kill the brain': they turn them into weapons. The way the strong hurt the weak with epistemological despondency - and they are strong as they are weak by making these realizations and having the resolve to put them into action - is by judgment. All judgments are fundamentally not true but that doesn't mean that they are seen by all as false; they are only as true as you can sell them to others. The more people that believe them (or profess to believe them, effectively), the more the one making declarations has established a world around them that operates on their own terms, has adopted their reality or a similar reality that allows for theirs.

Consider a social situation in which two people are engaged in dialogue or argument (as it much happens on the internet) and there is a crowd of mostly silent onlookers, like fauna in the wild. The party that offers judgment and makes the most compelling case for it gathers respect and support. The judgment can be anything, so it often is the judgment that most would appeal to the social dynamics of the specific group that is surveying the conflict. The methods for propping up that judgment are based on familiar empathic tropes, tell them what they want to hear in unexpected ways, surprise them with the truth they already knew, entertain them, intimidate them. Once they are convinced (and the opposition feels that they are out of favor with the silent majority) there is a victory for the strong. This is how the smart and the dumb and the learned and the uneducated all resolve their social conflicts, the words may change and the quality of dressing for the judgment may vary, but the intention is the same. Consider children fighting for the same toy, consider geopolitical summits and consider a lover's quarrel. At the end no Truth is unearthed, no wisdom is accumulated, but a violent game has been played and illuminates a long, similar road, until death counts the final score and laughs at the spectral reward. Persuasion is reality.

The unsure will lose because they cannot convince anyone of anything when they're unsure. Do not confuse with those subversively unsure, where they shape their calculated skepticism into a weapon that solipsistically destroys any counter-argument. In these battles the honest uncertain are terrified limbless targets and it is no wonder that they flee the field to the opinionated and strong. The few structure reality for the many. It is especially sadistic to consider the circumstances in which most personal judgments occur and what they mean in the terms discussed in this text. Imagine some uncertain fellow coming out with a personal experience and then the one discussing with them replying with (the fantastically non-sequitur, but so often employed) cruel knife of "you're weird/stupid/annoying/boring/pretentious". Imagine being in the shoes of the uncertain and being told by an external authority (the outside world!) a possible Truth about yourself. You have to find out if it's true for all around you and how true it is! Imagine how strangely flattering it is to be told anything about your own self from the external world, to be even noticed. Imagine sheepishly replying "oh, you think so?", inviting even further judgment on your unsure self just because you really need some external verification that you have qualities to begin with, that you are in fact, existent. The strong has persuaded you of what you are. Some grow addicted to external verification/vilification, they subconsciously shape what they feel and mean so as to provoke it.

This is perhaps how those equipped at judgment shape the world around them. I am cognizant to some of these processes and I have been on either end of them and as I'm slowly growing older (or perhaps safer, more content?) I am finding it less and less a game and a laugh, and a far-away, spectral reward. I'm a strong person in the sense discussed above, I have my weapons too, but I am also fundamentally unsure and I must keep reminding myself of this. Perhaps the conflict must be transcended, perhaps not engaging is best but there isn't always willpower (or opportunity) for this. So what to do when I have to level persuasion as a spear against the Other?

On a past text I said that I need to claim an ambiguous space to be alive (to effectively also shape the reality around me) so I write this addendum to remind myself that although this will always be a conflict with others that are trying for the same space, that although it will always be a violent resolution, I must not believe my own judgments further than I need to to survive. They are double-edged weapons and as they trap others in my own world, they might also trap myself in it, they will make ambiguity into hardened "Truth" and then I must abide by it, I must be 'consistent' (a neurosis if there ever was one) or lose my own identity. Courage to be always wrong and to let others know it then. There must be no ingrained Truth to what I try, there must be no lesson, only impression and expression.



Monday, November 9, 2009

ZX Page 22: Concrete Flow

Don't maximize the above image if you're at work.

Check out the mirrored panel formation. I do this a lot but it's not something that jumps out to the reader. I do it to suggest a constant but odd tempo to the scene, like 7/8 or 5/4. Dancing about the architecture of sequential timing. Also there's a shoe left there.

I finished page 25 yesterday. I've also written a continuation of the "that's interesting" text below, but I'll have to edit it a bit before I'm happy with it and I also don't have a header image for it! I'll either have to scan the archives, or draw a new judgmental dog to go with it, we'll see. Priority is still the comic.

If you have any thoughts you'd like to share with me about the comic, I'd read them in the comments below.



Monday, November 2, 2009

ZX Page 21: Shoes on the couch are forbidden

I don't generally suggest copy/pasting backgrounds to comic artists because it makes them look lazy and if the artist betrays the trust of the reader that they're trying to do the best they can at all times, then they usually lose them. The reader might not put the book down in disgust but on some level they're pushed out of the story and they start instead to inspect the artist in his cutting corners.

However there are some advantages. First of all, the reader will read the page faster, focusing on what changes from panel to panel and disregarding what stays the same. This is what you do in real life when you talk to someone, you look at his mouth and body language and what's moving around him and you're interpreting this stuff as a priority. The rest you keep a subconscious secondary watch on, and if something changes, you take account of it also. So static backgrounds have the ability to 'ground' a scene and make the reader use his real-world faculties when reading. This might seem like a banal point to make but it really isn't. Often comics make the reader use completely surreal ways of interpreting movement, space and time (and that is one of their strengths) but sometimes all of that is too extravagant for what the creator needs. I don't want to use wild dolly shots and stuff here. I don't want the viewpoint to be non-standard (meaning, toad's view or eagle's view) I want us, the viewers, to be participatory in a voyeuristic sense. We are looking at the sofa, sitting girl eye-level. We are there and we are listening in on their conversation.

Another aspect that makes this page faster to read is the uniformity of the rendering style. You'll notice that there is a style drift in this chapter (when it's finished, at least) but it happens more on a page-by-page basis than on a panel by panel one. The reasons for this will be apparent later on.

There are visual clues in this chapter for the attentive reader that foreshadow... well, I don't really need to say this again,there's always visual clues in all the pages that foreshadow everything.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

that's interesting

A lot of the world around me is aggressively trying to assimilate me. Often people discuss whether the world is made up by evil-willed people that desire the worst for them. I've been giving this some thought and as far as I can tell that's a intellectually bankrupt simplification. Some people might desire bad things, there's also a lot of ambivalence by parties that do not know if they have any use for me yet and certainly there's those that desire good for me. But the overwhelming sense I get is that once I enter someone's consciousness, once I'm part of their external world, they need to find also an internal space for me and to explain me away and to put me in a use that complements their belief system. That use might lead to my good or bad, but it's on their terms. This leads to their feeling of safety. When I'm no longer an unaccountable quality, there's a function I serve and my actions make sense. People converge to like-minded groups for support and they oppose other-minded groups for want of a dialectic purpose, hand in hand one is beating and the other is caressing.

I've got my own support group of like-minded people around me, certainly. It seems that when I'm discussing with them and I don't pepper my replies with occasional variations of agreement, I am betraying the underlying spirit of our relationship, sometimes. Also, I feel there is a silent encouragement to disagree if only that this might lead, through clarification, to eventual agreement. Making sense of the world and being useful. The problem is that as I grow older I'm second-guessing my impulses to agree or disagree with stuff simply because I'm realizing more and more how little I actually understand what I'm being told in the first place.

For the last couple of years I've been catching myself shying away from idle agreement as means to encourage a conversation, instead I find myself saying "that's interesting" a lot instead. It's also vaguely encouraging ("you're not boring me, please go on") and regrettably a bit clinical and patronising, but I haven't found something better yet. I gave some thought to why I'm doing that and I've come to realize that I don't want the conversation to be ruled by that binary of approval and disapproval. In fact, what was once flattering is now worrying: I get supicious when my conversation partner seems to rush to agreements with what I'm saying. It makes me think that they're not really understanding, they're just hearing vaguely similar thoughts to their own played back to them, and they're essentially agreeing with themselves through a sock puppet. How can I agree with a superficial thought someone is presenting when it comes with a complex web of interconnectioned ideas that they haven't yet even touched upon? Two people agreeing doesn't mean they understand what either of them is saying, or for that matter what they themselves are saying and it certainly doesn't make what they're agreeing on any more of an enduring truth. It reinforces personal bonds and normalcy but it also dulls the spirit and it makes a thinker complacent.

Nor are people who rush to disagree with me any better. It's actually pretty sad, when I present an opinion (towards which my faith is most often limited) and somebody rushes to tell me that they disagree with me and that's that. As if their disagreement is some sort of major event. The implication is that since I'm upsetting their safety with my contrarian view, I should apologize and make amends.

So basically I don't want people I talk with to either agree or disagree with me. I want to exchange views and experiences and for words to lead to other words until we've gathered enough and we can take that with us and tend on it and whatever is useful can find a fluid place in our personal lexicon, one that doesn't deal with certainties and categorizations and cliches. Furthermore, I don't want to be pacified and put to a use. It is, I think, a matter of survival. I have to claim this ambiguous space where various qualifiers people stick on me do not overshadow my fundamental unpredictability, my humanity. It must be a shock to be alive, a constant barrage of strikes. A violence that cannot be rationalized and put to use.

I'm not doing a great job of it, but I'm going to try more to converse in a way that encourages honesty and risk. So I write it down here and I can remember the next time someone says something blindingly infuriating to me and I rush with my "I disagree and here's why"s or someone says something fascinatingly close to a thought I once had and I rush to congratulate them for being like me.


Monday, October 26, 2009

ZX Page 20: These points make up a path.

I finished page 24 last night, I'm officially more than halfway done. Making this comic has become part of my everyday routine and though I don't feel oppressed, I need to keep reminding my brain to get into creative mode when I sit to draw, not work mode.

Another interesting thing about having the comic on my mind a lot is that I find my awareness of how to draw and convey things is improving, not so much due to practice but because of constantly replaying 24 pages worth of artistic choices in my head all day long. I see simple, deceptively simple solutions to a lot of errors I've made in these pages and I kinda look forward to when I'm done with the other 20 and I can go back and retouch, get everything up to my current vision. The end result will be something to be proud of, I hope, condensed vision and also hopefully, a degree of pathos.

When this is done I'll have to think about what more I can do with this blog. I'm torn between strangely disparate options. Either I let the blog mostly rest and update very sporadically with whatever minor (or major?) comic-related pieces I do in the future, or I take the opposite approach and update every single day with creative results on all the fields I maintain an interest in: comics, music, pixel art, videogames, philosophy & science. I wonder which of the two approaches I'll find myself committing to, because I am an extreme person and the middle road of 'post once a week with whatever, meh' will not work for me.

I want to engage in dialogue about a wider scope of items than I am currently, with this blog. As I am in the middle of making a long comic, I don't have time to worry about this too much yet, but when it's done, I'll have to tackle this and hopefully you readers will help me make it into something with a wider focus but not diluted essence. The reason I'm thinking about this is because I do a lot of posting on various forums and blogs about a lot of things, and I put a lot of myself into them. I'd rather have all my thoughts collected here because - besides the obvious benefit of condensed retrospection - I enjoy, how to put it? I'd prefer not being a guest at someone else's house, when it comes to exclaiming opinions in the lengths I usually do. I am an explainer by nature, brevity eludes me, I find facetious one-liners to belong with internet crowds completely outside of my scope and I feel the need to build into even the simplest point I'm trying to make, a number of failsafes and preemptions towards what I feel are easy ways to be construed. So I often write and write and write and I break comment limits on other blogs and I always get this uneasy feeling that this is actually an *abuse* of their comment space, that this is not what is supposed to be going on there, that it's not actually promoting a dialogue to post a novel in the comments, even if I can't help myself but write it every time.

So I want to pull all my writing somehow in a single place, so I am not a guest, so there is no abuse of a function and so I do not feel unwelcome. I don't know how well the diverse amount of stuff I'm into would cohere on the same blog but hey, there'll always be 'sorting by tag' if you've got absolutely no interest in pixel art, or video games, or heavy metal, or biodeterminism or whatever. However I hold this hope that in the end if someone is interested in my comics, they're not just 'interested in my comics'.

Anyway, I'll remember to return to this issue the months from now it will take to finish the comic (I am aiming for March the latest for absolutely everything to be finished and printed).

This is I think, blog post number 98. The blog has been up and running for 13 months. I forgot about the one year flip, so let's pretend hitting blog post 100 is more important. 100 posts in 400 days, 1 post per 4 days average, many comics, myriad thoughts, countless words. Keep reading...



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flashback is Back!!

A year ago I recorded a full playthrough of the old game Flashback, of which I'm fond of to this day. I had initially uploaded the videos to the host Vimeo but sadly they changed their policy a few months ago and deleted all derivative game related media. My friend Sylpher had a copy of the videos so they were salvaged and have now been uploaded to a new host, Viddler, which is decidedly more lax in its policy with videogame-related media (also has a neat full-screen mode). You can go see the whole playthrough over here.

Also, once the comic is finished I might work the above quick pencil drawing into a digital painting. I'm not much for fan-art and shit like that, but I love Flashback very much.

If I ever do another detailed playthrough, it'll probably be for another mega drive game, Shinobi 3.

Also hey, new header for the blog! In a ZX time a man-machine's gotta do what a man-machine's gotta do.

New pages every Monday, random stuff in between, as usual.



Monday, October 19, 2009

ZX Page 19: Interlude

A layer of ordered grain on top of an ink layer, and then addition and detraction of grain on a different layer on top with an airbrush. This one prints a lot darker than I see it on the screen, I suspect a gamma issue. Hopefully when I do the final prints for the book I'll be able to screen-correct.

Oh, things will be going a bit sideways.



Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Examination of Black &White

Below the jump is a spontaneous examination of the properties of black and white comics in contrast to 'comics with implied color' and of course a wonderful excuse to look at the work of José Antonio Muñoz

As a preface I must tell you I am no academic. In fact the subject at hand is the one that proved to me I could never be an academic. I was studying in a Greek school for comics and animation and I was on my third year and I had to write a paper on the attributes of black and white comics, the visual strength of the language, so on. The things I'll very briefly touch on on the below text. As you can see, I'm doing it now, for my own pleasure, but at the time I couldn't find it in me to sit down and write the text 'because the school said I had to'. So I quit that school on the final stretch. I'm not saying this with any pride, just to explain how the below impressions are reflexive and not validated by the academic heavy-lifting of say, writing a 10,000 word piece on it, with 5 pages of awesome footnotes at the end.

In fact, of all the reasons to write something like this, what it took is a comment on the wonderful gaming-and-more Rock, Paper, Shotgun website, about the new comic of Emma Vicelli, which you can read the opening of here. In the commentspace below, the user Dorian Cornelius Jasper said the following:

It’s a shame she’s hid her prettier line art among screentones. It’s always difficult to resist the urge to use tones as for general shading, especially when compared to the alternative of hatching–always a frightening prospect.

Though I find black and white comics, manga-influenced or not, do benefit from playing up their black-and-whiteness and saving the grays for special occasions. Or for scene-setting.

(Come to think of it, a certain Mr. the McKelvie was pretty good at screentones and stark blackywhiteness, both at the same time. Saw it in a comic, I did.)

To which I replied below:

"I do agree over-reliance to comic tone isn’t the greatest idea for a comic not made by a studio. The initial reason comic tone was so widely adopted by the Japanese industry is for fast production reasons. The head honcho would do some vague pencils, hand the page over to the inkers, then over to the comic tone dudes. This is how big Japanese manga studios do 20 pages of comics a week. The reason it’s handy is because the head honcho artist can just write “use screen tone here” inside a hastily covered shape and he knows how, more or less, the end result will look.

Of course 20% inks and 80% comic tone is the aesthetic manga readers have grown used to nowadays, so when it’s used by lone artists, it’s for this reason, that they simply find it aesthetically pleasing on its own. I sometimes do also, sadly not in the case of this – otherwise beautiful and interesting – webcomic.

I strongly agree with you black and white comics should play up their black and white-ness. Ideally (this is what I try to do for my own comics) a good black and white page would NOT benefit from color work. As in, if someone went in and colored it, he’d have problems with the ambiguity of texture and space that the black and white comic used to its own advantage."

And then I proceeded to link to images of José Muñoz, one of my favourite and most accomplished black and white comic artists.

Let's go over this from the top though, for the readers here not intimately familiar with this comic tone business and its artistic implications. Let's look at a few samples:

Here, every filled surface the viewer notes, the grayscale forms and the textures, are all comic tone. They're not real grays, they're made up of small, ordered black artifacts of various permutations (though usually halftone round) that when printed at fine enough resolution (usually 300 or 600 dots per inch) they look like variations of grey or even pre-made textural elements. These tones are cut in the desired shape from a transparent layer and placed in the desired location on the inked art.

Manga artists often go in on the applied tone and rub out areas, effectively moulding highlights on the forms (can be noted above on the bathing suit and the hair). For the purposes of explanation let's think of the above page before it was comic-toned. As I do not have an original, let's just pretend with Photoshop Levels,

(also mentally remove the deep etch jacket patterns)

As you can see, comic tone takes up a significantly large amount of the explanatory and volumetric duties of the illustrations. Without it sometimes it's difficult to tell what something is supposed to be, since the inking supplied is usually just an outline. The inkers employed are fully informed of what the comic-tone artist is going to do next. I submit that the initial premise and introduction of comic tone to the Japanese industry is a technical innovation to help printed comics appear closer to the colored ideal. As it has been often noted, color comics sell more than monochromatic comics, and monochromatic comics sell more that purely black and white comics. It must have something to do with the reptilian brain, if it's bright and shiny, pick it up, if it's black and white, let it lie (and to take it a step further, if it's using the full lightness spectrum, like comic tone lets you do reliably, then it's more interesting to look at than just black and white).

The innovation of comic tone was that it could make work printed out of a purely black and white printer look as if it supported shades of gray. It's a very telling thing also that when celebrated manga artists start a new book in a series, they often debut the first four or five pages of it in full color, as a buyer incentive. This isn't to say that these artists are only doing black and white for speed and because that's how their industry is set, a lot of them seem exceptionally well informed of the properties of clear black and white work. It does say a lot about buyer habits and assumptions when it comes to comics, though.

Of course the aesthetic qualities of comic tone grew into their own even in a deadline-restricted environment as the manga world, as artists experimented with their deployment. Personally I'd rather read a comic with heavy-duty comic tone today than heavy-duty photoshop coloring. There's something pleasing about the carved shapes of the tone and then the rubbed out highlights, and it's something I often do for my own work as well.

However it must be underlined that comic tone often rests in the uneasy between-space of the black and white, impressionist comic art world and the full-color illustrative comics world. When too much explanatory burden is placed on tones, instead of the primary tools of the black and white comics artist (namely, the white of their paper and the black of their ink) then it tends to look like... a color comic someone ran through a grayscale filter. A good test is this: squint your eyes: if you're looking at a gray middle blur of a page, there might be the case that too much comic tone has been used.

Instead, purely black and white comics fully embrace their status as such; Forms are often implied with smart applications of the gestalt principle and the quality of the surfaces, the active texture of the implied geometry is often left in an Ideal plane, for the reader to conjure and apply as they read. This aspect of black and white comics makes the more interactive than fully colored, illustrative ones, I submit. Friend and fellow artist Graham Lackey once said to me "often I think all the surfaces in black and white comics would be made out of a ceramic white substance" which I find very helpful sometimes when I work and I catch myself being obbsessed with conveying a realistic surface "don't bother," says Lackeyghost inside my head "it's all made out of egg shells anyway".

As I said in the initial comment that sparked this whole post, I submit that the black and white comics that arrive to an almost impressionist paradigm through usage of their fundamental building blocks can more easily recognized by a simple test: Would coloring them offer clarification of the forms? Would it increase visual interest or punctuate their design? Most often than not, it's not the case. A startling example is V for Vendetta, by David Lloyd and Alan Moore. It was initially made in black and white, and masterfully so:

and then for the collected book edition they went in and colored it, awfully:

But since we can, let's look at some of José Muñoz's work from his long-running series Alack Sinner for more examples of black and white done amazingly right:

This is early Alack Sinner, highly descriptive volumes, closed forms, could be colored with no increase or decrease in quality.

This is a bit later. The lines are fatter and more expressive. Broken forms leave more to the imagination. Realism slowly drops from the priorities of the artist. A plant is just a collection of abstract geometry, and a parking lot is a white, contrasting, empty form.

Here black and white no longer just dictate outlines and shapes, they also merge with the informational duties others assign to comic tone or cross-hatching or chiaroscuro: the suggest light, compositional focus and direction, flow and emotive cue. What is snow, what is skin, what is cloth, what is brick, they're all one thing, and the other is shadow, darkness.

Sides of books no longer need be explicitly mentioned, the artist trusts the viewer more, more is left to the imagination, yet strangely the scene seems still effectively set and unambiguous.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here because I have to work on my own comic. Page 23 is going to be finished tonight, and page 19 will be posted tomorrow, as usual. Thanks for reading.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Server switch, don't worry

All blog content should be up in the next 24 hours. Nothing below the jump.No, seriously.

Monday, October 12, 2009

ZX page 18: The Fissure of Consciousness

This page is kinda pressed for space, it could have been two pages and breathed a bit more but then the pace would lag somewhat. That's the sort of thing you'd save yourself from if you were to plan your comic much more ahead than when you sit to pencil it, but in the end I think the damage is minimal.

The panel with boxy car next to boxy kiosk and curiously unshaded ZX appeals to me. Other parts of this page, not as much.

Last row leftmost two panels, check out cloud of despondency behind Mary, then it dissipates somewhat. The connection is momentarily lost. Stephan, delivered in his safe environment after all that emotion, is rendered in the simpler forms of a child.


Monday, October 5, 2009

ZX Page 17: Hotspots

It's been a while since I made this page, but the main thing I remember about it is how much effort the middle scene took. One of those that I put a lot of work on systematically for 3 days and it never seems to progress before startlingly, you're done. Towards the end you can see my mind stopped making sane artistic choices, therefore that ladder (and ball) that are completely out of scale. Something to fix in the final pass. Or perhaps not, you know? Perhaps it's fine for the sanity loss to show in the art in the end.

Some friends I showed the page to, told me they had impulsive flikr mouse-hover-over-hotspot syndrome manifest, although I wasn't thinking of that when I made the page, but rather, adventure games (again) and their hotspots. Though their primary purpose is to just guide the eyes of the viewer to the path that the eyes of the protagonists took, from point of interest to point of interest, they also serve a secondary function that will be clearer in the next 10 pages or so.

The sequence of the bottom row panels works pretty well and I'm happy for that since after the sanity loss in the middle, mind doesn't want to pull the weight for the final panels since it's thing 'ALMOST THERE, GO GO GO!'.

  1. Bottom left panel, a small classical sculpture joke, Stephan is leaning on a tree stump for support. Yes I find that sort of thing funny.
  2. Middle bottom panel, 'what's she looking at?' motivates the viewpoint shift. This is a subtle trick to make the reader momentarily fill in Stephan's shoes. In the previous panel he's looking at her looking up, so he fulfills his curiosity - and the readers' - by looking at that direction as well. We are Stephan, then, for a second. I mention this explicitly because I generally am not a great fan of storytelling that rests primarily on vicarious connection to the protagonists, I'm more interested in a concept Bertolt Brecht called 'alienation'. If you've been wondering why you've been having trouble connecting with Stephan, it is because I'm not letting you.
  3. Last panel is a pretty startling render change, for an equally forceful mood change. The new moon lends strength, and we, the readers, are kissed, our hand is held, our chests warm with borrowed embers. Who can stand in the way of desire?

- Helm


Saturday, October 3, 2009


Negotiate the terms of surrender! Free-agent cat is here for your food!

Well this cat has been visiting my friend Nick a lot lately. It's really brave when it the glass door is closed:

But when you open it to pet it it just runs for the hills. When it was smaller it did a hilarious free jump from the edge of the balcony, in perfect freefall form, spread-eagled. Cats are terrific.

Its ears are very pointy, I say it's a vulcan cat treaty cat diplomat, here to negotiate a pact of solidarity with earth cats.

Tomorrow Greeks go to vote, or not vote. Perhaps we'll talk a bit about this later, but perhaps not.


Monday, September 28, 2009

ZX Page 16: Derive

Will we, really?

This is one of the pages that gave me a lot of trouble. Both the big portrait of Mary and the pseudo3d schema explanation of the derive premise. The first part was just due to my ineptness at drawing women, and since I've made it I have recieved several bits of correct criticism about the face and the arm that I'm going to put to good use once I'm done with the comic and move on to fixes and alterations before publication.

The second part was just due to how time-consuming the process was. I actually took a map of the streets of Paris from the internet, distorted it with perspective tool and steadily traced the city block shapes. That was the easy part, though, actually shading and doing the manual emboss on the edges was the difficult (read: boring) part. I have to say that sometimes I wonder if these expansive ideas I get before I start some pages, when realized, make a discernible difference for the reader at the end. I mean, could I have just slapped a vector map of Paris on there - or indeed, any map of any place - and called it a day and nobody would have complained? I wonder about self-impressed notions about what is 'cheap' and what isn't, sometimes.

On the whole, I'm fond on the page but I'll be fonder once I fix the things that need fixing on it, at the end of the journey. The blog is steadily - and scarily - catching up with me, by the way. This is page 16, and I'm on page 22... I hope it doesn't ever completely catch up and I have to draw the page that will go on monday, during the week before it, if for no other reason than how that'd mean I've slacked off for a month and a half somewhere in there...



Monday, September 21, 2009

ZX page 15: Cat Hitler

EDIT: ... but then again it's kinda sad to have a 'read more' link that leads to nothingness, so let's at least have a status report: I'm finishing up page 21. I've sat down and made the overview of the rest of the story. The comic is going to be about 44 pages. So page 22 is the absolute middle. I've gone back to the 'two pages a week, almost' method of working now that the summer is over. This means I'll be done with this in 3 * 4 * 2 = the end of January, which is on-schedule for how I expected things to go.

I also expect I won't keep my schedule of two pages a week ALL the time, and also after I'm done with the whole thing I'm going to take it from the top and do slight alterations and edits on all the pages: some bad font-work, some flat faces and other small things like that (this is where all the feedback you've given me in this blog will be the most useful) so let's say that by the beginning of March this will be done and ready to publish.

I'm going to try to publish it both in Greek and in English, this time, so god help me. At least if all goes well loyal readers and humans who just happen to be non-Greek heathen savages will have the chance to get the artifact version of the story.

I leave you with this concept, in light of the upcoming elections here in Greece: they who align themselves with an ideology completely fashion out of themselves a concept, an idea. And an idea is always something less than human.



Monday, September 14, 2009

ZX page 14: Self-sabotage

That dress is pretty revealing!

And that huge piece of jewelry pretty tacky if you'd see a combo like that in real life, but I think she gets away with it in a black and white comic. Plus, she looks pretty great in that first panel, so full of desire and hope.

He didn't even change clothes.

Rocky panels for a rocky start!



Monday, September 7, 2009

ZX page 13: Downtown Athens

This is a composite trace from a few photographs of down-town Athens, assembled in a way that suited my aims. I mean, the vantage that looks towards the Parthenon doesn't have these exact buildings below it, but these exact buildings are the ones I found most pleasing from my trip to Google Image.

Talking about Google Image, man what a useful thing for artists that need reference. Back before it most serious artists had tons of magazines stacked in a corner, fashion, IKEA catalogs and the like just to have a reference archive. That's probably gone, now, the ever-constant process of digitalization.

This page was really tortuous to draw because I kept feeling like I wasn't making any progress, right up close to when I was almost done with it. Can't explain it very well.



Monday, August 31, 2009

ZX page 12: Hyper Back-alley Brawler II CE, to be exact

The fires are out, the house escaped (barely) and the political fallout is well underway. The destruction was very extensive, but in purely ecological terms and in houses and livelihoods lost. What will this all mean and whether people will stop trying to figure that out once somebody explains it away for them (as per usual) one can only hope against but we'll just have to see.

But how about a comic, right? Here's some thoughts on the comic, on this comic blog.

That tree in panel 2 came out pretty much procedurally, if you'd believe it.

Anybody notice the Space Invader bandanna? ZX's not playing our side, if you know what I mean.

About clipping through stuff in videogames. I've been talking with Graham Lackey for a few years how somebody's got to make a live action short film full of 'early 3d' tropes and bugs like say, people talking without their mouths moving, or holding something with a hand that is just all the fingers glued together in a karate arm form and the item just glued on the open palm, or, of course, glitching out in geometry all over the place, noclipping. Dudes bunnyhopping to get somewhere faster, you know what I mean. Somebody will do this eventually, and I'll know it was our idea first!

ZX wears shorts out of courtesy.

Really not much theory to talk about this page, I think the technique is pretty straightforward if you've been attentive to how I use rendering to convey mood. It'll be interesting to see the whole comic from beginning to end, I'm starting to be hopeful of that day, since I'm on page 20 now and the comic'll be about 35-40 pages, so I'm past the point of no return now. Keep reading, keep commenting and keep trying.

Also, this summer I conquered Neapoli for the second time. It was a great time, I'm sure we'll go there again.



Sunday, August 23, 2009

Here's to the memories.

At the beginning of the ZX comic you might have noticed the location of the dam. It's based on a real place, one I've visited often, at Marathon. It's as much a character in the comic for me, as ZX or Stefanos or Mary. The photos above are of that place. It doesn't exist, as you see it, anymore. While the dam has nothing to fear of fire and will tell our silent tale long after we've made a mess of everything else, the evergreen around it is now gone.

So, here's to the memories. Here's also to this enduring memory of a Greece at constant organizational shambles, a Greece that never stands a chance as long as it doesn't take itself seriously. Here's to crooked smiles also, they always know what to say and how to pacify, how to make a gentle spectacle of this disaster that keeps on happening. You know what it means and now you don't have to make an effort to understand it anymore.

My house will probably survive the fires. Do not be alarmed if I do not post tomorrow, my family might be evacuated, but I'll be back, on one machine or another. We'll all keep talking here on the spectral internet, but please, look at the Marathon Dam above and raise an spectral glass with a spectral arm. If something insides you shifts just a tiny little bit, don't be alarmed, you're still human. You keep on being human no matter what they do to you.

From this far-away place that you might have only imagined, there are humans here also and with their burnt faces moist with tears, a salute.

- Helm


Monday, August 17, 2009

ZX page 11: Unfair

A routine is a comfortable mindspace. Divisions of time are even, the rote almost practiced, feels like it's been done before a million times.

I really like the last panel, I'd talk about negative space and gestalt effects in composition but I'm kinda apprehensive now that a reader told me in the comments my negative space doesn't work, heh.

Do you have such a routine, video-games on mute well after midnight, a bottle of wine, feeling like a child?

Things are going alright back on page 18, a bit slow really, this page took a week by itself and it's not completely done yet, but it'll have to be, today. Leaving for a couple of days in Thursday, don't be alarmed if some comments don't get validated until then.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Before there is anything

There is this.

How does it make you feel to see this, the bit before anything has happened, besides divisions of time and space?