Monday, February 14, 2011


Bite-sized morsels which, today, won't even add up to a light meal . . .

* * *

Yesterday I saw a TV commercial that struck me as the strangest thing. It was advertising Valentine's Day apps for the iPhone (I think) that allow you to send greetings, animations, tunes, and I don't even know what-all to your sweetheart. Tell me if I'm off-base here, but I started yelling at my TV screen: "You have a phone in your hand! Call them up and tell them you love them yourself!"

I dunno. Sometimes I don't understand the 21st century.

* * *

My presence here and on Facebook has been light lately, and will probably continue that way for a while. It's for a good cause. I am putting as much time and energy as I can into doing "thumbnails" for Mystery Project X, which I hope will be my next graphic novel, and whenever I have 20 minutes to spare they go toward that.

Thumbnailing is an interesting process of basically sketching the entire book showing the placement of panels, figures and dialog to give a very rough idea how it might look. I'd post an example but at this point I'm not sure I could even show you a page without giving away more than I want to. Later, for sure. Anyway, thumbnailing is harder than it looks. The layout of panels and words determines how the story flows and pulls the reader's eye through the pages. It's like the foundation and framing of a house: no one will see it later but everything is shaped by it. You'd think dashing off a sketch would go quickly, and maybe it does for some people, but it can take me an hour just to figure out whether a bit of story requires four or five or six or seven or eight panels and how they ought to be arranged. Plus I'm trying some layouts that are modestly innovative (or at least unusual) yet must still be clear enough for readers to follow effortlessly. Plus I'm researching some "special effects" that of course turn out to be more complex than I expected. Plus I discovered I don't know how to draw chickens.

It's fun but it hurts my brain.

With luck, the work I'm putting in now will make my job simpler and faster later, and not be entirely in vain. As I've paraphrased before: if it were easy, everybody would do it.

* * *

I think I mentioned a while ago that I'd drawn a couple of sample pages for a friend putting together an anthology of short comics on a common theme so brilliant I can't believe no one's done it before. It's one of those ideas where I shouted "Yes, I'm in!" one sentence into the pitch. Last I heard, that project is still alive. I hope so. It'd be nice to have something in print in the relatively near future (even if Mystery Project X goes full steam ahead, I wouldn't expect it to drop before 2013) and an honor to be part of. The second I can tell you all about it, assuming it flies at all, you won't be able to shut me up.

* * *

Happy Valentine's Day! Do something nice for somebody. Remember, nothing says "I love you" more than pushing a button on an iPhone.


Jim O'Kane said...

Thumbnails are the greatest way to tackle mega-projects. I didn't realize that until I drew 88 little boxes on my whiteboard and "sketched" my thesis out. I'm trying that with chapters of the book now and it seems to be the best method for overcoming both writer's block and oops-this-won't-work-right-itis.

ronnie said...

It seems to me like people do everything EXCEPT make calls on an iPhone. It makes the tablets easier to understand - bigger screen and no annoying "phone".

Mike said...

I have a phone that I use only for a phone. The additional cost of using it as a tiny laptop is just not worth it to me, since I'm not often that far from a laptop.

However, what bothers me is that people use Facebook instead of blogs and email, and the trendies salute this as very hip. It's also very ephemeral. Conversations end not because everyone has had their say but because the entry has cycled down into the tarpit of new stuff, and god help you if, a week later, you try to remember what day someone said something would happen, or find that cool link they sent that you didn't have time for at the moment.

I still have a stack of letters my son sent when he was in the Navy, but some regret for all the now-gone conversations we had by insanely long-distance phone. But that was one, distinctive situation. Today, every conversation is ephemeral and, to that extent, kind of pointless.