Today’s Art (25th May 2016)

Woo hoo! My old “Damania” webcomic returns with all new episodes for yet another mini series. You can catch up on the previous two mini series here and here.

And, yes, I felt like starting the new mini series with a cynical comic about censorship in American TV shows. Because, why not? Don’t get me wrong, I love US TV shows but some of them [the non-HBO shows anyway] are censored in hilariously inconsistent ways (eg: they can be as gruesome as they want to be, but god forbid that any character utters the word “bullshit” etc…).

And, yes, in case it isn’t noticeable, I digitally reduced the amount of blood in the third panel of this comic (compared to my original painting/comic). This was mainly because, with blood in artwork, less is often more. Not to mention that, over the past few years, I’ve had a bizarre reluctance to make my artwork too gruesome.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Damania Returns - American TV Censorship" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Returns – American TV Censorship” By C. A. Brown

Four Tips For Making A Comic In Just Two Days

2016 Artwork making comics quickly article sketch

Although this article is intended to help you make comics more quickly, I’m going to have to talk about “The Charity Case: A Harvey Delford Mystery” again for the simple fact that I made an eight page (including the cover) comic in just two days. As such, it’s taught me quite a bit about making comics quickly.

As a project it was exhausting, but fun. So, how did I do it? And, more importantly, how can you do something similar?

1) Plan it first: I know that I already mentioned this a couple of days ago, but one thing that really helped to speed this comic up was the fact that I planned the whole thing (or most of it anyway) out in advance before I started.

If you plan out your comic in advance, rather than making it up as you go along then all you have to focus on when actually making the comic is on drawing all of the art and copying the dialogue from your plans.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about what will be in the next panel because you can just look at your plan. Seriously, you’d be surprised at how much this can speed up making a comic.

2) Make it over a weekend and know your limits:
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s probably worth mentioning. If you make a comic in just two days, then you’re probably going to have to devote several hours a day to it at the very least. So, make it over a weekend or on two empty days.

Personally, I find it best to make “quick” projects in one continuous session (eg: two consecutive days). But if you find it easier to pick things up and put them down, then the two days you spend on your comic don’t have to be consecutive.

3) Make it in black & white: Yes, learning how to draw well using just black and white can take a bit of time to learn, but once you know how to do this well – then it will speed up your comic immensely, as well as making your comic look a lot cooler and more atmospheric too.

Making your comic in black & white speeds things up since the only thing you really have to pay attention to is the balance between light, dark and shaded areas on each page (rather than trying to work out a good colour scheme for each panel).

Plus, although you can use black paint to fill in large dark areas, making a comic in black & white means that you only have to draw, rather than draw and paint (or draw and colour with pencils). So, making your comic in black & white removes one time-consuming step from the creative process.

4) Backgrounds: One thing that can really slow a comic down is having to draw detailed backgrounds for each panel. So, try to get away with as little as possible when it comes to adding the backgrounds. In other words, the focus of your quick comic should be on the dialogue, characters and story rather than on the locations.

To give you an example, just take a look at this page from “The Charity Case”:

"The Charity Case - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

“The Charity Case – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, most of the panels just use a plain black background. The third panel contains a set of blinds in the background, to establish the fact that this scene takes place in an office – but, apart from that, I got away without having to include any real backgrounds in this page.

If you need to learn how to make minimalist background work well, then just take a look at a few classic syndicated newspaper comic strips like “Garfield” and “Dilbert” for plenty of examples of how to set the scene with little to no actual background detail. Since the creators of these syndicated comics had to make one strip per day, they didn’t have time to include detailed backgrounds. And, if you’re making a comic in two days, neither do you.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful:)

Review: “Prometheus” (Film)

2016 Artwork Prometheus Review sketch

Well, I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to see Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, but I finally got round to watching it and I thought that I’d share some of my thoughts about it.

As such, I should probably warn you that this review may contain some SPOILERS.

“Prometheus” is a prequel, of sorts, to Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien” movies. The film begins with a scene showing a muscular humanoid alien of some kind drinking poison and jumping into a waterfall, before the film cuts to the Isle Of Skye in the year 2089.

On the Isle Of Sky, a team of archaeologists, led by Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered prehistoric cave paintings that contain a drawing of a large man and a star chart of some kind. The large man is pointing at the star system and it doesn’t take long for Elizabeth to realise that the painting is an invitation of some kind.

Four years later, the Weyland Corporation (yes, that Weyland – of Weyland-Yutani fame, for all you “Alien” fans) spaceship Prometheus reaches the star system in question and the crew (including Elizabeth and Charlie) are awakened from hypersleep by the ship’s android…..

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it both is and isn’t an “Alien” movie. In terms of the visual and emotional tone of the film, it’s surprisingly close to the first “Alien” movie in many ways – but, it’s also it’s own thing too.

The story in this film is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s fascinating, it’s thrilling, it’s suspenseful, it’s intelligent, it’s philosophical and it’s scary. However, there are a few small flaws in the film’s otherwise excellent story. The first is that a couple of the film’s plot twists are at least slightly predictable (although a couple will still catch you by surprise) and the second is that the film leaves slightly too many unanswered questions in my opinion.

Anyway, one of the things that apparently made the first “Alien” movie so frightening when it was first released in the late 1970s was the fact that no-one knew what to expect from it. This film manages to recapture that feeling by, amongst many other things, mostly including significantly different creatures. Although that’s not to say that you might not see at least one or two things that you’ll recognise from the old films…..

Whilst this film isn’t quite “jump out of your seat” frightening, it was certainly a lot creepier than I expected. Whether it’s seeing a lot more of the mysteriously creepy H.R.Giger-style locations that were only glimpsed briefly in the first “Alien” movie, or whether it’s one genuinely grimace-inducing scene that almost rivals the chestburster scene from the first “Alien” movie, this is definitely a horror movie.

However, unlike some of the later “Alien” films, it doesn’t just rely on gruesome deaths in order to scare the audience. Like the first “Alien” film, this film relies a lot on the fear of the unknown in order to build suspense and tension. Likewise, a lot of the horror in this film actually comes from the acting, the story itself and some of the characters too. In other words, this is sci-fi horror done right.

Seriously, this is what I loved about this film. Many modern sci-fi films and TV shows don’t really have a sense of curiosity and wonder to them. In most sci-fi films, space travel and alien creatures are just an ordinary fact of life. In, “Prometheus” on the other hand, they’re something new and unexpected that provokes both curiosity and fear. Don’t ask me how Ridley Scott managed to pull this off over three decades after “Alien” was released, but he did!

“Prometheus” is also an astonishingly good sci-fi movie too. Seriously, as both a fan of “Alien” and “Blade Runner”, it’s always great to see Ridley Scott’s distinctive take on the sci-fi genre. Like The Nostromo in the original film, the Prometheus itself actually looks like a place where people live and work. It’s reminiscient of the spaceships from the original “Alien” movies, whilst also having a slightly “Blade Runner”-style look to it too. Seriously, I love it when Ridley Scott makes sci-fi movies:)

Not only that, all of the futuristic technology used in the film isn’t just there for show. In other words, if you see a cool-looking gadget in the film, then someone is probably actually going to use it for something useful. This lack of obvious showing off for the sake of showing off really adds a lot to the suspenseful and “realistic” tone of the film.

Although there are a lot of CGI special effects in this film, they’re backed up by great writing and acting to the point where – unlike many modern blockbuster movies – you barely think of the special effects as “special effects”. They’re just part of the film. This is how to do special effects right.

Talking of the acting in this film, it is – for the most part- astonishingly good. Noomi Rapace does an excellent job in this film and she rivals Sigourney Weaver’s performance in the first “Alien”. Seriously, there are a lot of parallells between the two characters in some ways, and yet they are also totally and completely different characters at the same time.

The only problem with the acting in this film is perhaps the accents. It might just be me, but it felt a bit wierd to hear Idris Elba speaking with an American accent. Don’t get me wrong, he does this very well, but I don’t see why he couldn’t have just used his normal accent.

Likewise, Noomi Rapace’s English accent is a little bit wonky in some parts of the film (eg: it sounds slightly too formal in some scenes and it varies occasionally). The andrioid’s accent, on the other hand, is stunningly creepy – since he kind of effects the sort of received pronunciation accent that hasn’t been seen in films since the 1970s.

All in all, I went into this film with slightly low expectations. I expected it to be a watered-down substitute for a “proper” Alien movie. But, in terms of writing, acting, set design, characterisation, horror, sci-fi etc… It’s pretty much as good as the first “Alien” film was.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least five.

Setting Up A Spin-Off Comic Before You Make It – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Spin Off Comics article sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I was busy making a short comic called “The Charity Case: A Harvey Delford Mystery” at the time of writing these articles. This comic is a spin-off from my long-running occasional “Damania” webcomic series (you can see some more “Damania” comics here) and it looks a bit like this:

"The Charity Case - Page 3" By C. A. Brown

“The Charity Case – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

So, why did I get the idea to make a spin-off comic? Well, there were a couple of reasons for this which might also be useful to you if you ever want to make a spin-off comic. Ok, I’ll mostly be talking about my comic here – but I’ll try to include some general advice too.

The first reason is to do with character design. In my original “Damania” comics, Harvey was originally intended to be a “serious” character that would contrast with the anarchic and rebellious nature of the other three main characters. There’s also the fact that he was inspired by a lot of fictional detectives too, which meant that I could incorporate elements of the detective genre into the series too.

In other words, he ended up becoming one of the most interesting characters in the series. As such, I wanted to spend more time with him and I was curious about what his everyday life would look like.

So, one way to set up a spin-off comic before you actually make it is to create main characters that are interesting enough to make you wonder what it would look like if they got their own comic.

The second reason why I ended up making this spin-off was because of one comic that I made during a recent mini series of traditional “Damania” comics:

"Damania Resurgence - A Rogueish Plot" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – A Rogueish Plot” By C. A. Brown

The idea of a group of melodramatic villains with cool-sounding names (eg: “The Masked Rogue” etc..) was originally intended as a throwaway joke, but it intrigued me enough to make me want to explore the idea further. Although these extra characters only appeared briefly in my spin-off comic, they were one of the things that made me interested enough to make a spin-off comic.

So, if you want to set up a spin-off comic, then one way to do it is to introduce a few intriguing background details that hint at another story. If you make these interesting enough, then not only will your audience be curious- but you’ll probably also feel curious enough to want to make a spin off comic too.

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Sorry for such a short and rambling article, but I hope it was interesting.