Tag Archives: 3D

Of “Here”, Chris Ware, and transcendence in the graphic novel.

There are numerous developments that have traversed my inbox this week, so it was a bit of a debate with myself as to whether I would blog about technology or a new graphic novel that is hit the streets this week. Moved by my artistic side, I decided to comment on a glowing review, by none other than Chris Ware, of the graphic novel Here. The “game-changing” graphic novel is the work of artist, illustrator and apparent bass player Richard McGuire.

According to Ware’s review which appeared in the guardian, the idea for the book originated with a short story in the pages of RAW in 1989.

“Across six black-and-white pages, it simply pictured the corner of a room from a fixed viewpoint, projecting a parade of moments, holidays, people, animals, biology, geology – everything, it seems, that defines and lends human life meaning – on to windows of space labelled by year (1971, 1957, 1999, 100,097BC). Birthdays, deaths, dinosaurs. In 36 panels, the universe.”

After putting down the magazine, Ware says, “It was the first time I had had my mind blown.” In other words, in those few short pages, in what was for all intents and purposes a comic, the author was able to transcend time and space by evoking the thought of the reader to probe deeper into their own existence. Ware continues,

“You could say it’s the space of the room, the arbitrary geometry imposed by a human mind on a space for reasons of shelter and as a background to this theatre of life. But you could also claim it is the reader, your consciousness where everything is pieced together and tries to find, and to understand, itself. This is a big step forward for graphic novels, but it is so much more than that. With those first six pages in 1989, McGuire introduced a new way of making a comic strip, but with this volume in 2014, he has introduced a new way of making a book.”

 

Here by Richard McGuire
Here by Richard McGuire

Wow, what a review, and by a legend no less! I will have to get it this book, but it also made me think—again—about the power of visual narrative and perhaps the power of art in general. I admit that at times i can get so wrapped up in moving my story forward and completing each panel with all the technical 3D gyrations and rendering passes, that I might forget about the potential power of the narrative itself. Ware and McGuire are visionaries in the field of comics and visual narrative. Ware breaks the boundaries of time and space continually in books like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, and most recently with Building Stories. He engages readers to stop not only to think but to touch and even to make. This takes the already multi-modal experience that is so unique to comics into new dimensions literally and conceptually.

I believe that the highest achievement of any literary form is to make you think about your world and your place in it—maybe even your purpose in life. Having your “mind blown” seems too lofty a goal, but as I creep toward the midway point in The Lightstream Chronicles, I think about the day when it may be in print, hardbound and laying open while nestled in the lap of a reader. As they turn the page, they pause, look across the silent room—and think.

Nice.

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Chapter 1 — First world’s HD graphic novel?

For those of you who thought this might never come to pass, I am pleased to announce that I have just sent out to my “10-most-trusted” friends the contents of a preliminary chapter 1 of  The Lightstream Chronicles. (If you weren’t on the list, it isn’t because i don’t trust you, but because these 10 are much closer to the project). I spent what might be considered a luxurious amount of time on the splash page; an aerial view of Hong Kong in 2159, but I think that week spent tweaking the cityscape proved worthwhile. I am pleased with the way it turned out. Chapter 1 consists of 42 pages (including the cover) or 21 spreads. Not that many when you think that the final book will consist of just over 100 spreads, but nevertheless, I see this as a definitive “proof of concept.” In fact, I can’t wait to get to the first page of chapter 2. I have invited my 10 to provide feedback. Then I will make the final, final tweaks and begin Phase 2.

On to Kickstarter

According to my current plan, which I am still praying about, Phase 2 is Kickstarter. With a proof-of-concept out of the way there is still an enormous amount of work to do to get a Kickstarter project off the ground. Some of the obvious: a dedicated website, a video, premiums for the contributors, a huge mailing list. I have started on the website while working on the other elements.

 The first HD graphic novel?

So, what about this “HD business” that I stuffed into the title tag? Well, this may indeed be my hook. While it could be hard to convince people, at this early phase, that this is book to invest in — because it is a great story — there is a definite difference in the way I have illustrated it. Everything is built and rendered in CG. Some of the CG purists will, no doubt, dismiss me for having used Poser® for my base characters, but I spent uncounted hours morphing and customizing the faces, bodies and textures to move well beyond the conventional “Poser look” (and , yes, there is such a thing). However, and just to be fair, I have seen many CG characters in some of the most renowned video games that look more like Poser characters than my cast does, So there!

 But what about HD?

OK, OK, I labored over chapter 1, and will do so through the rest of the book to infuse as much detail as possible, trying to eliminate all of the cliche CG stuff. Caveat: Now, let’s get this straight: CG is CG. The only example that i can think of where the CG was virtually transparent was Avatar, and according to Wiki, it, “…cost between $280 million and $310 million for production and … $150 million for promotion….The lead visual effects company was Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand, at one point employing 900 people to work on the film.”1  So, I am short-staffed. This is not an apology! I think you will thoroughly enjoy the characters, the environment, the settings and the ambiance of the book.

Plus… there is a huge difference in the fact that you can zoom-in 2, 3, even 4 times into each and every panel (if you are so inclined) to inspect, or hunt for more information. Personally, I think the experience is enhanced the more you lingeron the page and probe through the background data. It’s all part of the story.

It’s big (in Mb), but lots of opportunity for zoom and pan.
It will “work” on an iPad with a pdf viewer, but that’s like watching Prometheus on your iPhone. This is meant for the big screen, preferably an HD cinema display with  1920 x 1200 or larger.

Some have suggested that you take in the story at a normal graphic novel pace and then, perhaps, go back at the end of each chapter and scan it for more info. I like that idea.

So what we have is chapter 1. According to plan, chapter 1 will go to Kickstarter by summers end, then each subsequent chapter will be sent to Kickstarter contributors on a thumb drive for a total of 6 chapters. Ultimately a book will be printed — 220 + pages.

That’s the plan. Gimme feedback. If you are absolutely dying to see chapter 1 before it goes live, email me at scott@scottdenison.com and tell me why.

 

 

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)

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More graphic novel concept art

The Enforcer Synth is the latest supporting character in my graphic novel. Enforcers are part of the Elite Corps that report to Col. Lee Chen. They specialize in tactical enforcement and crowd control. A regular presence in the worst parts of the city, they spend much of their time policing “downtown” which is hundreds of floors below “top city” where the “respectable folks hang out. Downtown is old, decaying, a hot bed for techno-crime, and vice of every kind imaginable — and some unimaginable. It’s dirty and crowded; a cross between Vegas and the old Kowloon. This is the place for re-skinning parlors, black-market organs, implants and technology to elude the omnipresent surveillance of the New Asia Police. Not a place for the timid. You can get the whole synopsis on my site, and see a hi-res version on DevArt.

It’s a back to school week, so I’ll get to more updates this weekend.

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Grinding it out – Graphic Novel update

Today: 3D tutorials. Web comics. Future of clothing. World Future Society.

Have I mentioned how I hate to learn software? It’s a young man’s game. As I remember back to the early 90’s, I taught myself 3D with programs like Strata 3D and PowerAnimator. Somehow it was easier then — software more intuitive (and less robust) — or I was just a lot younger. Anyway, I find myself having to learn certain aspects of the various software programs that are in my stable, just to move from point A to point B. Clothing is a bear. I mean really. Getting clothing to look realistic can be a nightmare. I’m a full week behind on my character designs and clothing is a big part of the issue. Nevertheless, I am grinding on. I still plan to release my eight key characters in September along with the plot line for the book. This comes with the caveat that I can change my mind at any time.

I have also toyed with the idea of launching the story in weekly form online, but have since thought better of it. I’m afraid that launching my graphic novel online before it is finished will prohibit the kind of last minute tweaks and changes that help continuity and overall polish. For example, my first spread is a fairly ambitious project in and of itself, and I am trying to capture a number of sophisticated visual effects to set the state for the whole story. But as I continue to work daily, I actually find that I’m getting better at what I do. What my first spread looks like today could look infinitely better in a year, (when I hope to be finished) if I could go back with new chops and polish it up.

Speaking of clothing… I’ve also done a lot of thinking about what people will be wearing in 150 years. Putting on my futurist hat, my design speculation is that clothing will be more technologically active than today, and a body suit will be the standard for most. It will also be possible to create your wardrobe in your closet, a scarf, a jacket, whatever on your own 3D textile printer. But most of the time you will be wearing a tight fitting body suit that is constantly monitoring your internal chemistry as well as functioning as a mediator with the outside world to provide information and protection. If you are thinking that some people will not look so good in a tight fitting body suit, that should not be a problem, since we will be long past the medical advancements required to maintain perfect body weight and muscle tone late into your first century. So there.

That brings an interesting point and why I have to keep driving toward the finish line on this as fast as I possibly can. If I take too long on design, I run the danger of never finishing. A year is a long time. My whole story vision could change if I’m not careful and over the course of a year I run the risk of hating everything I’ve done thus far. This happens, so I’m going to have to watch out for it.

On an academic note. The World Future Society is calling for essays for next year’s WorldFuture 2012: Dream. Design. Develop. Deliver. Neatly, they’ve inserted design into the theme. What could be better than that for my design fiction essay. I will probably submit. I’d love to attend.

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The otherly graphic novel. Part 2.

A week or so ago I wrote about how comics are particularly different from just about any other medium. I tried to illustrate this by showing, in the words of Scott McCloud, that “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, (1993:8)” fine-tuning by the artists hand, and deliberate planning by the writer can use visuals carry the weight of paragraphs of exposition. Don’t get me wrong. Reading pages, paragraphs, or sentences of exposition are probably my favorite part of fiction, better in some cases that the evolving storyline. Why? Because, when it’s done well, you can see it in your incredibly opulent imagination. In comics, which we have come to agree in this blog is what a graphic novel is when it’s not being self-conscious, the burden lies heavily on the visual. In this respect, sequential art shares something with the movies. But as the prolific, acclaimed writer of comics Alan Moore says, a film moves at a predetermined pace, “…if I’m watching a film I’m trapped in the rigid framework dictated by the film’s running time. I must immerse myself in the flow of the film and hope I’ll pick up on enough of the constant flow of details to make coherent sense of the story at the end.” (2007:5). This brings to light the idea of time and how only comics, thus far, can address it in a wholly unique way. On the comics’ page as the panels flow from one image to the next, we can capture time, past present and future within the same viewspace. Ah, but with a DVD, I can go back and forth as well. Yes, but currently that is still a linear experience. I cannot see them all at the same time and because they are all in front of me on the comics’ page, I am getting a unique and particularly different experience.

Add to that the multi-modal braining that is required to interpret image and word along with the leap between panels (the gutter, the gap, the whitespace) the “closure” required to bridge what is happening from image to image is yet another example of the otherly nature of the art form. And this is by no means an exhaustive list of what separates the comics medium from the rest of narrative form — just another one.

McCloud, Scott. 1993. Understanding Comics. New York: Paradox Press.

Moore, Alan. 2007. Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics. Rantoul, IL: Avatar Press.

 

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