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Archive for ‘Technology’


How Do We Feel This Morning?

Want to draw comics for a living? Watch the video here three times in a row then come back.

How do we feel? Hmm?

Now…want to WRITE comics for a living? Watch. Any difference?

Seasoned vets can make fun of some of the oddball qualities of Clive and Daina Goodinson’s labor of love, but in its current incarnation, Pixton is pretty close to what a lot of young newbies have been asking for for years (I know, I get the emails!) and there’s clearly a lot of thoughtful design work going on under the hood.

Much like the Photo Comic software Comic Life, this appears to be a thoroughly user-centered venture. Users want it. Users will get it. And like Comic Life, I could see this continuing to find a place in classrooms, families, or around the water cooler.

The reaction of a lot of my cartooning peers may be a simple “GYAAAGH!” but this sort of thing never bothered me. The goal posts in the whole “only a human can do it” game are going to be moving a lot this century and I’m happy to dance around them with the rest of the creative community.


So Many Toys

Screwed around a bit with Harmony last night after work; a spare but fun online sketching tool that’s part of the ongoing Chrome Experiments series.

Ever since the sublime original KidPix, I’ve liked art tools that ditched the obvious analog metaphors (paintbucket, eyedropper, pencil), but kept the idea of limited control that makes traditional picture-making so unpredictable.

Drawing with tools like “fur” and “ribbon” are like taking a dog for a walk. You may have a route picked out, but there’s going to be a lot of sniffing and straining at the leash.

Check out the other Experiments if you haven’t already. Assuming your browser plays nice with modern javascript toys (a selling point for Chrome of course) there are some real gems in there. I especially like the really simple ones.


When Metaphors Touch Down

Long-time friend of the site, Greg Stephens suggested I check out this article by Tokyo-based Craig Mod which offers his take on different contents’ ability (or lack thereof) to migrate easily from device to device.

His whole presentation has an amusing vintage-Tufte meets RC-era me feeling, and some of the reasoning may be a bit fuzzy, but his ideas are fun, provocative, and worth a look—as are the many comments that follow.

Craig’s main point—that there are types of content that can’t be endlessly re-flowed and re-purposed because their formal presentation is integral to the work—is a huge issue for comics and the source of a lot of our growing pains to date.

For years, I’ve watched as we’ve tried out a dozen different metaphors for comics on the Web. Pages versus windows, flipping versus panning, “strip” versus “magazine” versus “book”… all the while assuming that the best metaphor(s) would simply win out in the end on an open network.

What worried me is that sooner or later, one or two of those metaphors were bound to migrate to dedicated reading devices, and when they did, the designers of those devices could simply choose which metaphor suited them and lock them in. For a really long time.

If such devices follow an app store model, such experimentation doesn’t have to stop dead in its tracks. Maybe. But there’s no question that “later” is becoming “sooner” is becoming “now” and if we don’t make some smart decisions during this stage of growth, comics could veer dangerously off course for years.


I’m Sure it Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

I wasn’t checking Twitter much yesterday, but Ivy (my wife, not the comic book character this time) pointed out @BGFCentral‘s knowing tweet:

Only men talking in the video, only male hands using the product in the video. Yup. Explains the name.

Can’t comment on the product yet—haven’t tried it—though various specs sound a bit underwhelming if it’s going to be displaying full-sized comics spreads. I guess we’ll see.

[Video via Heidi]


Dan Goldman’s Red Light Properties

Dan Goldman has a new comic up at Tor.com which loads one panel at a time. Works pretty smoothly.

What’s interesting for me (apart from the art and story, of course) is how seamless it felt on a fast connection where the panels dropped in right away, and how jarring it was on a slower connection when the whole page vanished between loads. Speed definitely improved the reading experience.

Since the early ’90s, I’ve struggled to look past glitches that had more to do with temporary technological limitations to the various new format ideas artists have been trying out. I’ve tried to look ahead to a time when all those problems would be solved—like, say, 2010. Ah well. Patience, patience…

Dan has an interesting interview about the project with Seth Kushner at Graphic NYC where he talks about the story and the process, with a nod to Yves Bigerel’s Digital Comics which helped inspire the format.

[Edit: Last night uploaded an unfinished version of this post, since I forgot to save the final. Above is the final version.]


466 Pages at a Glance

Spoiler Alert!

Just for fun, here’s a distant screenshot of all 466 pages of my rough draft layouts for my upcoming graphic novel (working title The Sculptor). This is as close as I can bring you right now, but as work goes on in the coming months, I promise to show some actual art.

It’s a testament to the speed of today’s processors—well, 2007′s processors—that what you’re looking at actually exists in a single file and if zoomed in, the lettering is readable. To get a sense of the scale, each of those dark gray rectangles is a two-page spread chapter divider.

When heading into rewrites and restructuring, it’s always helped me to step back and look at “the big picture.” For all my previous projects, including the all-digital Making Comics, I had to depend on paper layouts to get that kind of topsight, but for this project it’s all pixels from start to finish.

Oh, and yes, I still plan to make it shorter during the next two months, even though I had to adjust the count upwards from the last blog post.


“…the emergence of a mind”

You can accuse him of hyperbole if you like, but I think James Gurney is exactly right. The fact that this sort of thing is happening all around us with increasing frequency is both fascinating and a little spooky.

There’s a sublime scene in the first Terminator movie where a hapless psychiatrist turns off a pager on the way out of a building just as Arnie’s cyborg from the future walks in. Most viewers see the link: how the tiny, primitive devices of today lead to something far more sophisticated (and in that context, sinister) in the future.

There are little fragments of AI in consumer devices that aren’t just incremental steps, they’re markedly different from what came before. They have the flavor of reasoning. Think of mobile apps for pulling songs out of the air, recognizing products from sight, or listening to and understanding our words, translating them.

These are the things in your pocket or just lying around the house right now. On the nightstand. On the kitchen table. They’re convenient and cool, but not much more for most people.

After all, it’s not like they’re walking or anything.

Right?


…and Speaking of Google

As long as I had the privilege of helping to announce the original launch, I’d be remiss in not passing along the news that Google Chrome is now in Beta for Linux and Mac users (among which are probably 75% of the cartoonists I know).

Give it a try and see what you think.


Two Videos

1. Seth Kushner’s 30 minute Act-I-Vate video courtesy of Newsarama.

2. Moebius drawing on a Cintiq at Angouleme 2009.

I like how the Act-i-Vate Collective has used technology on all fronts to get their message out from the beginning and Kushner’s cool docupromo thingey really kicks it up a notch.

It’s fascinating though, after seeing the barrage of ideas, words, and techniques flying out of NYC in every direction, to watch the aging Moebius silently, confidently, picking up his pen, putting it to the screen, and simply drawing.

(both via today’s Journalista)


Notes from Home

Back from Portland where I saw about a dozen cartoonists (comprising about 1% of the Portland cartooning hordes) and had a great time with the bright creative students at Reed College.

Just a couple of links as I settle back into the studio:

Shaenon Garrity offers an incisive review of our recent Zot! B & W omnibus collection.

And, as linked to by dozens of tweets and news stories, Lucy Knisley has an interesting take on a technological generation gap between her and some of her cartooning heroes.

The gap’s been around for years, of course, but Lucy’s thoughts are interesting since she namechecks some of the more open-minded—and in many ways, forward-looking—cartoonists out there, and she clearly feels a kinship with many of them, even as she embraces new tools they’re wary of.

This sort of inter-generational moat-digging has been around since before Will Eisner met Rube Goldberg, but Knisley’s yearning feels different to me from a lot of the fractious father-killing that usually grows out of such gaps. Compare Knisley’s reflections to the recent grudge-matches between web and newspaper cartoonists for example.

You can tell that Knisley wants more of her heroes to join her across the river, but there are plenty of burning bridges downstream. It’ll be interesting to see how many find a way to cross in the long run.