Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I might go with this logo color, though.

Also I am a bit worried about Gamut warnings on CMYK printout now. The whole yellow-to-blue gradient behind ZX's head shows as outside the range. On some test printouts I did it looks fine but I wonder when it'll go to the proper print machine itself...


Monday, May 24, 2010

ZX Cover 3: Colored

I just finished this like, 2 minutes ago so excuse any major art-blindness, I'll catch errors later on.

But I'd love to hear the reader opinion on it.


Monday, May 17, 2010

ZX Cover 2: Inked

This took more time than any other page of the comic, predictably.

And I'm still not done, I have to color it!

Nothing much under the jump.

Well, here's a color/texture primer because you're nosy.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A reader comment.

Same named reader left the following comment at the end of the ZX comic.

I think I would have said that [the revelation of ZX not being real ruined the comic for me] because I was enjoying the juxtaposition of reality and ridiculous at the time. The story from the beginning was something I was relating to. Perhaps this comes from my own conviction that we live in an invented reality anyway. I know I have several different lives running at once, dependent on which viewpoint I wish to take at the time. This is essentially what stereotyping and caricature are, that is, a selective viewpoint of certain points of reality, and probably what all story telling is also.

The revelation of ZX as form of emotional self management took my ability to relate away. Not because I have no loss to deal with, but because Stephan is forced to face his realities, and I am reasonably sure that like most people, I will usually take the easy way out and choose to never notice the reality exists. Because once that point is passed, it cannot be retrieved.

I find myself feeling hollow at the end of this story. Something so conclusive is very difficult to feel optimistic about. However this reaction is probably all about 'not wanting to look directly inside a wound.', therefore the point is essentially achieved? Besides, a story that leaves me feeling less than happy is a story that will stay with me for longer. Satisfaction is easy to forget, discontent rankles longer.

I don't know if this comment knows how much I enjoyed engaging with this story, because I really did. It's the whimsy and human weakness intermingled with the tragedy that get me hooked. Like Shakespeare who could never stop making jokes even when all his characters died in the end. Life just isn't made to be take seriously because so many things go wrong that what can but acknowledge the ridiculous? Even when you are in love you are always going to be thinking about how your pants are itchy or the dishes need washing.

Anyway, I'll be buying this when I can, and reading it several times over.

Besides my sincerest thanks for it, a wordy reply follows the jump.

Eliza, while I was reading your comment I became increasingly lightheaded.

Your initial read of the ZX robot as a 'magical realist' entity is how I had used him in past stories. I too see no reason to offer explanations for why a robot would intermingle with human beings in the abstract: whatever serves the point of the story, namely an expose of humanity and a degree of pathos, would do.

It is apt you stopped relating when you did. I made a point when making this to try to create increasing distance for the reader and the characters. I did not want them to live vicariously through the storyline as escapism wasn't my goal (and actually if I were to let them 'escape' into such a harrowing place then that'd be pretty sadistic of me). Well, I was a bit cruel. At the beginning I set something of a 'false hook' to lure the reader in what appears to be a 'boy meets girl' scenario, and I gradually pulled the carpet underneath it. I am glad that your inability to relate didn't keep you for reading the rest of it and that it was effective nonetheless for you.

The concept of alienation is not a new one (Bertolt Brecht) but it is one that's hardly employed in most comics (though definite examples like Chris Ware's and Dan Clowes' work shine). I might be misinterpreting it but it serves me right even through misinterpretation: I want readers (myself foremost) to read this and accept certain things. To stand intellectually against them as much - if not more - as they stand emotionally for the characters. The idea is not to 'like' Stephan or Mary in this story (in fact I added a lot that I personally find uncomfortable, that make me like the characters less and even feel embarrassed about them), it is to accept their existence and their situation as a reality. Not a conception of their existence that might suit the reader, like how we look at our friends and family (ever notice how sometimes we'd rather not hear the problems of our friends and family because we'd rather pretend they *have* no problems?). The only power of the terms 'reality' and 'existence' comes from this acceptance after all. If you can shut off a reality five minutes after experiencing it (like with most Hollywood films, for example) then you haven't accepted anything, it was just tourism.

This is what looking inside the wound means to me, and it's unbearable but we have to survive it. To survive it we need to breathe inside the trauma, adapt. This is what art does, it enforces a reality in which certain (be them brave or destructive or irresponsible or ridiculous or hilarious or whatever else) effects can be attempted and their results be binding for a time. Art is a spell.

In this particular piece, we try desperately to think that things that cannot be, are. And that things that certainly are, can not possibly be. But in the end we have to look directly in the wound and steel ourselves for the answer we find. That's what this story is about and that's what all characters in it go through.

Stephan wants his friend though he's not there and Mary wants Stephan though he's not there and the reader wants their romantic comedy though it's not there. What's there is worse, the worst. And then, hopefully, it becomes better. Slowly.

Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting. Mail like this makes it worthwhile for me to publicize my work.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Riots and bombs and consequence and hope

I don't usually write directly political posts for various reasons but a few international readers, worried over the recent news of Greece, have asked me what's going on. Below is an attempt to explain. The text is in its original Greek first (because the matter is complex and I needed to write in my mother tongue to do it justice) and below it is a translated English version.

Ο λόγος που δεν γράφω πολιτικά κείμενα συχνά είναι συμπτωματικός της ρίζας του προβλήματος της γενιάς μου. Βλέπω τον πατέρα μου ο οποίος έζησε το Πολυτεχνείο (σαν πολλούς συνομήλικούς του) και έκτοτε τοξεύει την πολιτική, κοινωνική, πολιτισμική ελπίδα του ευθέως. Δεν μου φαίνεται μπερδεμένος, ούτε φοβισμένος. Ξέρει τι ξέρει. Η δική μου η γενιά δεν έζησε πολιτικές αναταραχές και συχνά αυτή η σχεδόν απλοϊκή ευθυβολία των προηγούμενων της φαίνεται γραφική, μπανάλ, πασέ, παράταιρο μιας άλλης εποχής.

Συνεπώς, ενώ η πολιτική μου συνείδηση είναι οξυμένη, τα - όποια - όπλα μου σκουριάζουν από μια αχρηστία που δεν οφείλεται τόσο στην ατολμία αλλά στην απογοήτευση. Μεγάλωσα σε μια κοινωνία γενικότερα παροπλισμένη, αποκαρδιωμένη. Ένας πατέρας με ελπίδα δεν είναι αρκετός μέσα της. Μάλιστα δημιουργεί και λίγη παράνοια η γνωστική δυσαρμονία μεταξύ του τι ακούς μέσα στο σπίτι σου και τι σου λέει ο έξω κόσμος. Μαθαίνεις να φυλάγεσαι. Οι πολιτικές μου θέσεις γίνανε σαν μικρά σολιψιστικά ερωτηματικά. Όχι μόνο η δικές μου.

Αν πριν από πέντε μόνο χρόνια μιλούσατε με τυχαίους Έλληνες νέους θα αντιμετωπίζατε μια τρομακτική πολιτική απογοήτευση την οποία και εγώ - και οι περισσότεροι - παραπλανιόμασταν ότι αναλύεται σε αμορφωσιά και αδιαφορία. Όμως ακόμα και όταν μίλαγα με τα χειρότερα κομματόσκυλα των φοιτητικών νεολαίων (που δεν είναι ούτε αμόρφωτα ούτε αδιάφορα καμιά φορά) η ρητορική τους μου ακουγόταν προκατασκευασμένη και ευνουχισμένη, απογοητευμένη. Λες και ήταν στο σπορ για το σπορ (είναι ωραία τα σπορ!), όχι για την κοινωνική αλλαγή. Οι διαφορές λεπτές αλλά στην παρατήρησή τους αρχίζει κανείς να βλέπει το μαχαίρι και όχι την πληγή: η απογοήτευση αυτή που χαρακτηρίζει την γενιά μου είναι προϊόν του της καταναλωτικού βίου. Ούτε ζήτημα παίδευσης είναι, ούτε ζήτημα έλλειψης κάποιου αφηρημένου "τσαγανού" που εξάλειψε δυσεξήγητα απότομα τα τελευταία είκοσι χρόνια.

Η φύση της κατανάλωσης είναι υπαρξιστικά κατευναστική επειδή η βασική ανάγκη του ζώου-ανθρώπου είναι η επιβίωση και η ασφάλεια. Ο καπιταλισμός πριμοδοτεί τις βασικές ανάγκες του ζώου και με μαεστρία τραβάει μια αιματηρή γραμμή αυθαίρετα και λέει "ως εδώ. Τρως καλά, διασκεδάζεις καλά, λες μαλακίες καλά. Τα κατάφερες. Μην ελπίζεις σε τίποτε άλλο." Από εκεί και πάνω κάνουν κουμάντο λέει, Εκατόχειρες τιτάνες, φτιαγμένοι από γρανίτη. Πάνω τους σκάνε οι "ταξικά κινητικοί" γιάπηδες και λοιποί μικροκαρχαρίες και λιώνουν σαν κουνούπια. Έπειτα είτε μένει κακαδάκι κωμικό για να το βλέπουν και φοβούνται οι μικρότεροι, είτε απορροφάται βαθιά μέσα στον γρανίτη το ρημαγμένο πνεύμα, ενισχύει τον εξουσιαστή.

Δεν κατηγορώ κανέναν για την φύση του καπιταλισμού ούτε για το πως με σχημάτισε. Σχημάτισε όλους μας ακόμα και αν μερικοί αρέσκονται σε διάφορες βολικές εκλογικεύσεις. Η έλλειψη πολίτικου σθένους στην γενιά μου προκύπτει επειδή αγόρασε όσα μπορούσε μέχρι την γραμμή του "ως εδώ". Ίσα-ίσα κάτω της γραμμής στέκεται κάποια αξιοπρέπεια τέλος πάντων, αλλά πάνω της κυματίζει η ελπίδα, μακριά. Τί κάνει ο έφηβος χωρίς ελπίδα αλλά με αξιοπρέπεια; Βρίσκει εσωτερικές λύσεις, ασκεί την εσωτερική ευαισθησία του, τολμά - κάπως - με τη φαντασία του. Όλη μου την ζωή γνωρίζω εφήβους 'άτομα', με καλλιτεχνίες και ενδιαφέροντα και βάθος, αλλά που το "ως εδώ" της κατανάλωσης ακρωτηριάζει την συνάθροιση, το συλλογικό αύριο, την ελπίδα.

Έτσι είμαι και εγώ. Συχνά σκέφτομαι τί μπορώ να προσφέρω και σαν 'άτομο' το μόνο που αντέχω είναι λίγη τέχνη. Γενναία ίσως και ειλικρινής σίγουρα αλλά "ως εδώ". Έχω και εγώ να δω τις τηλεοπτικές μου σειρές μετά, να παίξω τα βίντεο-γκέιμς μου και τέτοια.

Πριν κάποιον καιρό αστυνομικοί σκότωσαν έναν νεαρό. Υπήρξε έντονη κοινωνική αγανάκτηση, συγκρούσεις στους δρόμους, βανδαλισμοί και λοιπά. Τότε δεν μιλάγαμε ακόμα για οικονομική κρίση στην Ευρώπη. Οι πολιτικοαναλυτές διαχειριζόντουσαν την απρόσμενη οργή του πολίτη με χρωματιστά επίθετα, εξηγούσαν ότι εντάξει κακοί μπάτσοι συμβαίνουν αυτά αλλά: όχι βανδαλισμοί ρε παιδιά, όχι βια, όχι καταστροφή ιδιωτικής περιουσίας, όχι μανούλες. "Ως εδώ". Και εγώ περίπου συμφώνησα φοβισμένος και μετά είδα καμιά τηλεοπτική σειρά 'από της καλές, ε' ή άκουσα λίγη μουσικούλα και τα λοιπά. Κάπως σαν να αυνανίζεσαι με το κομμένο σου χέρι σφυρίζοντας αδιάφορα ένα πράγμα.

Κάποιοι έξυπνοι θα σας πουν ότι το είχαν μυριστεί το πράγμα τότε γιατί οργίζεται ο λαός τόσο δυσανάλογα περί του εκείνου ζητήματος της δολοφονίας του νέου αλλά μην τους πιστεύετε (πολύ) ούτε αυτοί περίμεναν την οικονομική κρίση.

Γενικά αυτή είναι η θέση του "ως εδώ" ατομιστή αστού. Το σύστημα είναι κάτι σαν Άγνωστος Θεός. Την προηγούμενη εβδομάδα το μαντείο είπε "κάτι κακό συμβαίνει κάπου μακριά αλλά εσύ είσαι εντάξει. Άντε δες καμία καλή σειρούλα". Ίσως αυτή την εβδομάδα ο οιωνός είναι άλλος. Κεραυνός σχίζει το δέντρο στα δύο και η πυθία κουνάει πατροναρίστηκα το κεφάλι της αριστερά-δεξιά (και κέντρο). Καταρρέει λέει, η οικονομία σε διάφορες ευρωπαϊκές χώρες. Ακούγεται κάπως θολό, 'σαν λέξεις' το νέο. Γιατί; Επειδή έτσι ακούγονται όλα τα άλλα νέα 'του κόσμου'. Στενοχωριόμαστε λιγάκι στο άμπστράκτ και μετά ξαναγυρνάμε κάτω, στην γραμμή μας, εκεί κοντά στην αξιοπρέπειά μας η τηλεόραση μας και τα άλλα αγαθά μας.

Καθαρίζει η θολούρα όμως δια της επανάληψης. Όχι, όχι, σοβαρά, η οικονομία δεν πάει καλά. Θα πάει χειρότερα λέει. Στην αρχή όλοι προσπαθούσαν να το κάνουν γάργαρα και να επιστρέψουν στην καταναλωτική συνήθεια, η ειρωνεία ξεκάθαρη τόσο που ίσως η λέξη είναι παράταιρη, λες και πέφτει ο κεραυνός και σχίζει το μέτωπο αντί το δέντρο.

Κάποια στιγμή το νιώθει ο Έλληνας στο πορτοφόλι του αυτό το περί οικονομίας, λοιπόν. Τότε το Θέαμα δεν βοηθά επειδή το Θέαμα πληρώνεται (μεταξύ άλλων). Φοβάται ο Έλληνας, ρωτάει την πυθία. Του λέει "εσύ φταις που δεν το περίμενες ή ίσως όχι, τώρα θα το πληρώσεις. Μήλαρακι;" Μπερδεύεται ο φοβισμένος Έλληνας. Τα πράγματα χειροτερεύουν μέρα με την μέρα. Αρχίζει να οργίζεται ο μπερδεμένος φοβισμένος Έλληνας.

Εκεί στην γραμμή που από κάτω είναι η αξιοπρέπεια και από πάνω η Ελπίδα αρχίζουν κύματα, φουρτούνα. Και εγώ στην αρχή φοβήθηκα ("τ - τί, δεν θα έχουμε να φάμε;"), στην συνέχεια μπερδεύτηκα και μετά οργίστηκα. Οργίστηκα και όταν ένας αστυνομικός δολοφόνησε έναν νεαρό και άλλες φόρες (λίγες) παλιότερα. Αυτό που όμως αλλάζει είναι ότι τώρα η οργή φεύγει και μένει κάποια ελπίδα. Δεν είναι πολλή, δεν την έχω συνηθίσει ακόμα, δεν είχα λόγο άλλωστε, δεν το έχω ξαναζήσει.

Η ελπίδα μου είναι λοιπόν, ότι τα πράγματα θα γίνουν χειρότερα. Όχι ότι δ-δεν θα έχουμε να φάμε, αλλά δεν θα έχουμε να καταναλώσουμε Θέαμα, παραπλάνηση, χαδάκια. Ότι τα σίγουρα, τα ντε φάκτο, τα α πριόρι, οι κανόνες ρε παιδί μου της ζωής θα είναι στον αέρα μαζί με όλα τα άλλα. Καλλίτερα έλλειψη σιγουριάς παρά σίγουρη καταπίεση.

Θα ήταν λυτρωτικό υπαρξιστικά για όλους όσους μας είπε ο πατέρας μας ότι "έχω ελπίδα, να έχεις και εσύ", να κινηθεί η ιστορική συγκυρία αποδεικτικά, έτσι για μια φορά. Ίσως τα πληρώσω αυτά τα λόγια κάποια στιγμή αλλά δεν πειράζει, αυτά που δεν χρωστώ να μην πληρώσω. Ίσως πάλι η οικονομία να ανακάμψει ακριβώς στο "ως εδώ" και βγει τζούφιος ο αναβρασμός, αλλά τα σημάδια λένε όχι. Πιο πολλή τρικυμία στα 26 χρόνια ζωής μου δεν θυμάμαι οπότε ας κοιτάξουμε πάνω από την θέση μας, από κάτω από την γραμμή τους.

Δεν ελπίζω σε πτώση του Καπιταλισμού. Έχω τοσοδούλα ελπίδα, ούτε από που να το πιάσει αυτό το βάρος δεν ξέρει. Θα επιστρέψουμε πάντα στο κυνήγι της άνεσης, είναι η φύση του ζώου τέτοια. Ελπίζω μόνο, πριν όλα ξαναγυρίσουν σε σχετική ευρυθμία (μέσα στα επόμενα πέντε, δέκα χρόνια) να προλάβουμε να φανταστούμε και ελπίσουμε για μας.

The reason I don't wax political often is symptomatic of the root of my generation's problem. I see my father, who lived through the Athens Polytechnic uprising (like many of his generation) and since aims his political, social and cultural hope straight, like an arrow. He does not seem neither confused nor scared. He knows what he knows. My generation has not experienced political turmoil of that level and often that almost naive straightforwardness of its elders seems outmoded, pase, the debris of a different era.

Concurrently, whereas my political consciousness is focused, my weapons are left to rust in a uselesness that has nothing to do with lack of willpower but everything to do with discouragement. I grew up in a society that has been generally disarmed. A father full of hope is not enough to counterpoint it. In fact, the cognitive dissonance between what one hears in their home and what the outside contradicts creates some paranoia. One learns to keep to themselves. My political beliefs became small solipsist question-marks. Mine weren't the only ones.

Just five years ago if you engaged random Greek youths, you'd notice a terrifying political disappointment which I - as most people - attributed to lack of pertinent education and foremost a lack of interest. But even when I debated with the most fervently entrenched slave-dogs of political organizations in Universities (whom are neither ill-educated nor suffer from lack of interest, often) their rhetoric sounded pre-fabricated and neutered. No heart. It was as if they were into the sport for the sake of it (sports are great!) and not for affecting actual social change. The differences are fine but in exploring them one starts to see the dagger instead of the wound: The disappointment that characterizes my generation is a product of commercialized living. It's neither about education nor about the lack of some abstract "grit" that has curiously dissipated in the last twenty years.

The nature of consumption is existentially soothing because the basic want of the human animal is survival and then safety. Capitalism pushes the base desires of the animal and then adeptly carves a bloody, arbitrate line and says "that's enough. You eat well, you enjoy yourself, you talk a lot of crap. You made it. Do not hope for anything else." From there on up others run the show. Titans with a hundred arms, made of granite. On them the "upwardly mobile" yuppies and other baby sharks, like futile mosquitoes crash. Afterwards, what's left is either a comical stain that serves as a warning for their lessers, or perhaps the crushed spirits are assimilated, augmenting the ruler.

I do not blame anyone for the nature of capitalism, nor for how it has shaped me. It has shaped all of us, even if some like their comfortable rationalizations to spell otherwise. The lack of political mettle in my generation occurs because it has bought all it could up to "that's enough". Marginally below this line there is some sort of dignity to be captured, but above it flutters hope, distantly. And what's a youth without hope but with dignity to do? They find internal solutions, they exercise internal sentiments, they dare - somewhat - with their imagination. All my life I'm meeting solitary youths, with artistry and interests and depth, but where the "that's enough" of consumption has amputated concert, communality, hope.

That's how I am also. Often I think what I can offer as a solitary being and all I can muster is a little art. Brave perhaps and honest certainly but "that's enough". Then I have to watch my tv series, play my videogames, you know.

Some time ago, police men killed a youth. There was tremendous social uproar over it, riots and conflicts in the streets, vandalisms et al. Then we weren't talking about a European economic crisis yet. The political analysts were managing the startling social outrage with colorful adjectives. They explained that, alright, bad cops, that happens but please: no more vandalisms, no violence, no destruction of private property, no name-calling. "That's enough". And I sorta greed, scared and then I watched some good tv show or listened to some music, so on. Kinda like masturbating with your amputated arm, whistling inconspicuously all the while.

Some clever people will tell you they saw it coming back then, why the people were so inordinately outraged over the cop killers debacle but don't believe them (too much) they didn't see the economical crisis coming.

Generally, that's the position of the "that's enough" solitary-middle class. The system is something like an Unknown God. Past week the oracle decrees that "something bad is happening to lands far beyond but you're alright. Go watch some tv". Maybe this week the omens are different. Lightning strikes the oak asunder and the oracle moves her head patronizingly, left, right (and middle). The economy is collapsing, she says, in various European countries. The news sound kinda blurry, 'just words'. Why? Because that's how all the other 'world news' sound to us. We get a bit upset in the abstract and then we return below the line, thereby our dignity our television and our other goods.

The blurriness clears through repetition. No, no, seriously, the economy's bad. And it's going to get worse. At first everyone tried to play it off and return to their consumerist habits, the irony so startling that perhaps the word is meaningless, as if the lightning strikes and splits the brow apart instead of the tree.

At some point Greek guy starts feeling the economy thing in his wallet. Then Spectacle isn't helping as much because Spectacle needs to be paid for (amongst other things). Greek guy gets scared, resorts to the oracle. She says "it's your fault that you didn't expect it, perhaps not, now you will pay for it. Do you like apples?" Scared Greek guy becomes confused. Things get worse daily. Scared confused Greek guy becomes angry.

Therebelow the line, dignity, hope above, the waters dance. A storm's coming. At first I was scared do ("w-what, we won't have enough to feed ourselves?"), and then I got confused and then I got angry. I was angry back when a police officer murdered a youth and I've been angry before that a few times more. What is changing is that anger is clearing away slowly and what's left is a measure of hope. It's not much, I haven't gotten used to it, I haven't lived through it.

My hope then, is that things will get worse. Not in that we w-won't have enough to feed ourselves, but that we won't have enough to consume Spectacle, misdirection, sweet nothings. I hope that the certainties, the de factos, the a prioris, the rules of life will go up in the air along with everything else. Better to be uncertain than to be certain of oppression.

It would be healing, existentially, for all of us whose father said "I have hope and so should you" that the historical consequence operates as proof, even if it's just once. Perhaps I'll pay these words dearly in the future but that's alright, as long as I don't have to pay for what I don't owe. Then again perhaps the economy will bounce back exactly at the limit of "that's enough" and the momentum of this movement will fizzle out, but signs say no. In my 26 years of life, I don't remember a bigger storm, so let's look above our station, from beneath their line.

I don't hope for the fall of capitalism. My hope is tiny, it doesn't even know where to start with pulling up such weights. We will always return to the pursuit of comfort, that is the nature of the animal. I only hope that before everything goes back to relative normalcy (in the next five, ten years) we have the time to wonder and hope for ourselves.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'm 26 now

Highfive, Black Thing!!

So, I made it alive so far! I'll need another week for the cover though, please excuse. This is the tune for the festivities.