The Complete “Zombies Again!” – The New Horror/Comedy Comic By C. A. Brown

2016 Artwork The Complete Zombies Again

Well, in case you missed any of it, I thought that I’d collect all eleven pages (including the cover) of my new Halloween comic in one easy-to-read post.

This comic was an absolute blast to make and it’s probably my favourite narrative comic project so far this year. I planned the whole thing in about an hour and made it over the course of four days earlier this year. Seriously, this comic pretty much made itself!

If you want to see some traditional 4-6 panel full-colour webcomics featuring the characters from this comic, they can be read here, here, here, here, here and here. You can also see these characters in other B&W narrative comics here, here, here and here.

Anyway, here’s the entire comic. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had making it 🙂

You can see a larger version of each page by clicking on it. Plus, as usual, all pages of this comic are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Zombies Again! - Cover" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Cover” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again - Page 1" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again – Page 1” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 3" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 5" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 6" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 6” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 7" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 7” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 8" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 8” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 9" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 9” By C. A. Brown

"Zombies Again! - Page 10" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 10” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (31st October 2016)

Happy Halloween everyone 🙂 In case you missed any of the earlier pages of this comic, I’ll be posting a full retrospective of it later tonight. Anyway, have a ghoulishly great night 🙂

Anyway, this comic features the main characters from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series – you can see these characters in B&W narrative comics here, here, here and here.

These characters also appear in more traditional 4-6 panel full-colour webcomic mini series (of varying lengths) that can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - "Zombies Again! - Page 10" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – “Zombies Again! – Page 10” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – October 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles October

First of all, Happy Halloween everyone 🙂

Since it’s also the end of the month, I’ll post the usual list of links to my favourite ten articles about comics, art and/or writing that I’ve posted here over the past month. I’ll probably also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, many of this month’s articles were slightly rushed, due to the fact that I was busy with a couple of comics projects this month. Still, I quite like how many of the articles turned out.

Top Ten Articles – October 2016

– “Clever Artistic Trickery In Old Horror Comics- A Ramble
– “Four Things To Do If You’ve Missed The Heyday Of An Interesting Genre
– “Why Regular Webcomics Don’t Often Include Innovative Designs – A Ramble
– “Three Ways To Deal With Making Pessimistic Webcomic Updates
– “Can Knowing Less Make You More Inspired?
– “Four Ways To Find Creative Projects That “Almost Make Themselves
– “Three Advantages To Setting Your Zombie Story Or Comic In Britain
– “One Easy Way To Make Webcomic Story Arcs More Accessible To New Readers
– “Three Things To Consider When Deciding How Topical Your Webcomic Should Be
– “What Does Artistic And/Or Literary Inspiration Have In Common With Computer Game “Modding”?

Honourable Mentions:

– “Should Your Comic Characters Age In Real Time?
– “Why Are There So Many Webcomics About Computer and Video Games?

Review: “Halloween 2016 Google Doodle” (Casual Browser Game)

Edit: Thankfully, my fears about the game disappearing after Halloween turned out to be false, Google has archived it.

Edit: Thankfully, my fears about the game disappearing after Halloween turned out to be false, Google has archived it.

Well, I hadn’t planned to write a game review today but,when I looked at Google a while earlier, I decided to check out the Google Doodle – expecting it to be a funny animated movie or something like that.

However, it turned out to be an actual computer game… and one that is worthy of review, if only for posterity (since I don’t imagine that it’ll be available after Halloween). [Edit: (1/11/16): Luckily, I was wrong. The game has been archived here]

So, let’s take a quick look at the Halloween 2016 Google Doodle:

This is the introductory movie, but there's an actual game afterwards :)

This is the introductory movie, but there’s an actual game afterwards 🙂

The backstory of the game is fairly simple, you play as a magic cat whose spellbook has been stolen by ghosts. In order to get it back, you must banish wave after wave of ghosts (and five bosses) by casting spells with your wand. Yes, it’s basically a wave shooter – but with a really cool twist.

Yes, the game's controls actually reflect the main character's actions. THIS is good game design!

Yes, the game’s controls actually reflect the main character’s actions. THIS is good game design!

Yes, you actually have to draw with your mouse in order to cast spells. Seriously, it’ll make you feel like you’re in a “Harry Potter” movie!

In the first level, each ghost has a symbol above it’s head and you have to draw it before the ghost touches you. In later levels, ghosts will have groups of symbols that must be drawn in order.

This is a screenshot from an easy part of level one. I didn't take many, if any, other screenshots of the gameplay since it was just too fast-paced to do anything other than actually play!

This is a screenshot from an easy part of level one. I didn’t take many, if any, other screenshots of the gameplay since it was just too fast-paced to do anything other than actually play!

Yes, it’s like a cross between “The Typing Of The Dead” and “Asteroids” and…. it’s awesome! Seriously, it’s more fun than it looks!

One of the things that elevates this game to the level of greatness is the fact that when you draw a symbol, if more than one ghosts have that symbol at the end of their line up, then it will affect them all. What this means is that you have to make split-second tactical decisions repeatedly.

You have to work out which order to draw the symbols in order to keep multiple ghosts away, and you often have to do all of this within 3-5 seconds. In many ways, the gameplay is more like an ultra-challenging level for the classic “Doom” games than a simple casual browser game. It’s a fast, combat-based puzzle and it is exhilerating.

The first four level bosses are fairly average. They’ll have a long line of symbols and, like in old platform games, you’ll have to knock them back 2-3 times before they’ll go down. Plus, like in classic FPS games, you’ll also be fending off the occasional low-level monster whilst fighting the boss too. However, if you lose any health points during a boss battle, then you can sometimes reclaim them by quickly drawing a heart with the mouse.

And, yes, there's an epic boss battle at the end too.

And, yes, there’s an epic boss battle at the end too.

The most notable boss is probably the final boss – not only is he gigantic, but the low-level ghosts that attack you between duels with the boss are also significantly smaller than usual, meaning that you’ll have to pay extra-close attention to the tiny symbols above their heads. You’ll feel amazing when you finally beat the game though – seriously, it’ll feel like the longest 10-15 minutes you’ve ever spent.

I'm not sure if this is a high score or not, but it was fun :) I was able to become an expert at a totally new style of gameplay within just 10-15 minutes. Now, THAT is good game design!!!

I’m not sure if this is a high score or not, but it was fun 🙂 I was able to become an expert at a totally new style of gameplay within just 10-15 minutes. Now, THAT is good game design!!!

In short, the gameplay is fast, intuitive and extremely well-designed. It’s that rare thing, a genuinely innovative modern game! It may look like a cute casual browser game, but the actual gameplay is closer to an old-school FPS game, mixed with a fighting game, mixed with an arcade dancing game, mixed with a QTE game, mixed with “The Typing Of The Dead”, mixed with a Nintendo Wii game and a few other things. And… it works! It really does.

Likewise, I really like the art style in this game too. It has a cute, low-budget 1960s cartoon kind of look to it and many of the ghosts are absolutely adorable too. The animations in this game are all suitably fluid and dramatic-looking too. The music is, of course, classic “spooky” Halloween music.

All in all, it’s really fun and it probably isn’t going to be online for too much longer. So, play it! Now!

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five. Happy Halloween everyone 🙂

Today’s Art (30th October 2016)

Chainsaws! Sensible firearm laws! Gluttonous zombies! It’s page nine of this year’s Halloween comic 🙂 Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion tomorrow 🙂

Anyway, this comic features the main characters from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series – you can see these characters in B&W narrative comics here, here, here and here.

These characters also appear in more traditional 4-6 panel full-colour webcomic mini series (of varying lengths) that can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Zombies Again! - Page 9" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Zombies Again! – Page 9” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “The Warlock’s Hearth” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Warlock's Hearth WAD review sketch

Well, it’s been a week or two since I last reviewed a “Doom II”/ “Final Doom” level, so I thought that I’d check out a level called “The Warlock’s Hearth“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this level. Although, I’m guessing that it’ll probably work on other modern source ports too (provided that they can play “.ogg” sound files).

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Warlock’s Hearth”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160428_162841

“The Warlock’s Hearth” is a large single-level WAD that contains new music and possibly new textures too (although I only noticed a new skybox texture). This level took me about an hour and a half to complete and I’d probably describe it’s difficulty level as mildly to moderately challenging.

Most of this challenge comes from the fact that there are occasional ammo (and health) shortages within several parts of the level. In fact, during one earlier part of the level, I ended up facing a mancubus with nothing more than my fists. Although, fortunately, since I’d run out of ammo whilst fighting said mancubus, it could be defeated with just one punch. But, this is just one example of the times when you might run out of ammo in this level. Even so, the ammo distribution in this level never really feels unfair.

In other parts of the level, the challenge comes from the standard tactic of including large numbers of mid-level monsters and the occasional high-level monster. Since you’ll often be fighting in wide open areas, many of these monsters can be dodged when it’s clear that you won’t be able to fight them all. In addition to this, I also counted three cyberdemons, one Spider Demon and six arch-viles in this level.

Because a "Doom II" level wouldn't REALLY be a "Doom II" level without these distinctive flames...

Because a “Doom II” level wouldn’t REALLY be a “Doom II” level without these distinctive flames…

In terms of the level design, “The Warlock’s Hearth” is fairly good. In addition to a good variety of locations (eg: a gothic castle, a techbase area, a large library, a green slime area etc…), the level is also surprisingly streamlined too.

The level design can come across as mildly linear near the beginning of the level, since there are a couple of places where you are seemingly given a choice between two paths, only to find that they both either lead to the same place or have to be taken in a particular order.

In these parts, if you want to go back and explore the other path, you’ll often find your route back has been blocked by something. So, at first, it felt like the level was trying to channel you along a certain path.

However, the level becomes far more non-linear later on (and even includes a couple of totally optional areas that can be explored). Not only that, despite the size of the level, it’s usually very easy to work out where to go next.

It also includes at least one really cool secret area too.

It also includes at least one really cool secret area too.

One interesting quirk in this level is the fact that there’s a blue door but, seemingly, no key for it. However, this isn’t really a major issue for the simple reason that this door can easily be bypassed by jumping off of a spiral staircase.

 Unsurprisingly, there's also an arch-vile at the top of the staircase :)

Unsurprisingly, there’s also an arch-vile at the top of the staircase 🙂

But, despite this streamlined level design, the pace of the level never really feels particularly fast or frantic. Yes, there are intense battles where every second matters but, for the most part, you can go through this level at a relatively slow pace. This is also helped by some rather inventive design in a few areas of the level – such as a large bridge that is almost hidden in one corner of a large outdoor area.

This is really cool :)

This is really cool 🙂

In terms of the music, it’s a perfect fit with the level. The music is ominous ambient music that – for the most part- is gloomy enough to be atmospheric, but light and fast enough not to be depressing or frightening. But, near the end of the track, there are sounds of shocked shouts and ominous mumbling which add a small note of creepiness to the music.

All in all, this is a really fun level. It’s enjoyably challenging in parts and the design is fairly good. Although this level may be a little bit slow-paced in some parts, you’ll never really get lost or bored.

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

Today’s Art ( 29th October 2016 )

Violent videogames (again)! Level-headed politicians! The zombies can open doors! It’s page eight of this year’s Halloween comic 🙂 Stay tuned for page nine tomorrow 🙂

Anyway, this comic features the main characters from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series – you can see these characters in B&W narrative comics here, here, here and here.

These characters also appear in more traditional 4-6 panel full-colour webcomic mini series (of varying lengths) that can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Zombies Again! - Page 8" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Zombies Again! – Page 8” By C. A. Brown

Clever Artistic Trickery In Old Horror Comics- A Ramble

And, yes, I spent way too long making this little doodle.

And, yes, I spent way too long making this little doodle.

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve been going through yet another phase where I’m absolutely fascinated by vintage American horror comics from the 1940s and 50s. Anyway, one of the things that always astonishes me about old is that, although the art looks fairly detailed and “realistic” at first glance, the amount of detail in it is actually fairly low.

I was reminded of this the day before I wrote this article, when I made some pencil and ink studies of the art from several panels of old horror comics to see if I could learn anything from them. Although I won’t post the studies here for copyright reasons, the thing that surprised me was how the detail was distributed throughout the pictures.

In areas where I’d expected there to be lots of detail (eg: facial expressions), the artwork was relatively simple. And, in areas where I’d expected there to be less detail (eg: shading, creases in clothing), there was a lot more detail than I expected. Even so, the overall level of detail was still very much on the minimalist side.

Of course, there are a lot of obvious reasons for this. The first is that these old comics were published monthly or bi-monthly, so the artists didn’t have time to make all of their art super-detailed. The other reason is, of course, that the limitations of mass printing technology at the time meant that comics often couldn’t contain too much in the way of fine detail.

Then there’s also the fact that old horror comic artists were all using traditional art mediums. This is one of the main things that sets old comic books art apart from the much more realistic digitally-painted artwork that appears in more modern comic books. If you are using nothing but traditional mediums, there are fewer shortcuts and fewer ways to correct mistakes -so, every line matters a lot more in a traditional drawing.

Because of time and format limitations, comic artists had to use a lot of clever tricks in order to make their comics look more detailed than they actually are. Some of these are fairly obvious tricks, like keeping the level of background detail in most (but not all) of the panels to an absolute minimum. Since the audience’s attention is focused on the characters and the dialogue, the lack of complex background detail in many panels isn’t really that noticeable.

Likewise, by including a few panels that do have complex background details (eg: a “splash” panel on the first page etc…), the audience quickly learns what the backgrounds are supposed to look like. Because of this, their imaginations will quickly “fill in the gaps” when they see less detailed versions of the same backgrounds throughout the comic.

The same trick is sometimes used for facial details too (eg: there will be a close-up of a character’s face in one panel, but they will be more distant and/or undetailed in most of the other panels).

But, my studies of these old comics also taught me another clever trick. Earlier, I mentioned that facial details in old comics are often fairly minimalist (eg: the eyes are often drawn with a couple of lines and a dot, expressions are shown using just a few lines etc…).

This is probably because everyone already knows what a face looks like, so the audience can easily “fill in the gaps”. However, this ‘unrealistic’ lack of complex detail is compensated for by including lots of subtle realistic details (eg: shading, shadows, creases in clothing etc..) that people expect to see without even realising it.

Yes, these extra details may look complex but I’m guessing that once you’ve fully learnt the “rules” for how to draw them (something I’m still learning), then adding realistic shadows, shading, creases etc… is probably second-nature. If you know how to do this, then it’s probably significantly easier, simpler and quicker than drawing detailed and realistic faces etc…

So, yes, old comics are often a lot less detailed than they might appear at first glance. Not only is this a demonstration of the kinds of clever artistic trickery that every comic-maker should learn, but it’s also one of the things that gives these comics their very distinctive “look”.

—————————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 28th October 2016)

Lawless looting! Flimsy glass doors! Firework shortages! It’s page seven of this year’s Halloween comic 🙂 Stay tuned for page eight tomorrow 🙂

Anyway, this comic features the main characters from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series – you can see these characters in B&W narrative comics here, here, here and here.

These characters also appear in more traditional 4-6 panel full-colour webcomic mini series (of varying lengths) that can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Zombies Again! - Page 7" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Zombies Again! – Page 7” By C. A. Brown

Why Was The Horror Genre So Moralistic? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Moralising in the horror genre

With Halloween drawing ever closer, I thought that I’d take a quick look at the horror genre again and how it has changed over time. I’ll also be talking about how moral rules are used to make horror fiction, comics, movies etc… both more and less frightening.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve become fascinated by old 1940s-50s American horror comics yet again after rediscovering this interesting archive site.

One ironic thing about this genre of comics is that, during the mid-1950s, they were pretty much banned (on both sides of the pond) because of fears that they would “corrupt the youth” or some similar nonsense. The monster-sized irony here is that they’re probably some of the most moralistic comics ever made.

These comics have a ridiculously strict moral code. Not only are literally all crimes always punished by death (or worse!), but even the slightest character flaw (eg: anger, greed, lust etc…) can quickly lead to horrific, and wildly disproportionate, consequences. In order to survive a 1950s American horror comic, you need to be a perfect paragon of virtue.

A similar trend can also be noticed in American slasher movies from the 1980s and 1990s too. Although I haven’t really seen that many of these films, it’s a well-known trope of the genre that the characters who survive these films usually tend to be the celibate, teetotal characters.

So, why did the horror genre used to include a lot of stern moralising?

The first reason probably has to do with it’s inspirations. Fear has been used by religions, politicians and other groups to get people to obey their rules for centuries. When these rules are sensible ones (eg: rules against murder, theft etc..) then this makes sense. But, often, the exact same scare tactics will be used for sillier or more illogical rules. Since these scare tactics were taken a lot more seriously in the old days, it’s likely that they had a strong influence on the horror genre.

The other reason is because one of the best ways to make people nervous is to set an unrealistically high moral standard and then to judge everyone against it. There probably isn’t a single person on the planet who hasn’t felt anger, jealousy, pleasure etc.. at some point in their lives. So, by telling stories about how these parts of human nature (which have all been experienced by your readers) lead to horrific consequences is a great way to frighten the audience.

Of course, these days, the horror genre is a lot less moralistic. There are a number of good practical reasons for this.

The most obvious dramatic reason is that too much morality makes horror stories, comics, movies etc… ridiculously predictable. After all, if a character doesn’t meet up to the moral standards established by the story, then the reader instantly knows that the character’s chances of survival are precisely zero. As such, too much moralising can remove all suspense and drama from a horror story.

The other reason is that perfect paragons of virtue aren’t usually very interesting or dramatic characters. Not only are paragons of virtue extremely predictable (if you know what rules they are following), but characters often tend to be at their most interesting when they display realistic character flaws. If the main characters are interesting and realistic people (as opposed to robotic paragons of virtue), then the audience is going to care more about what happens to them.

Plus, morality can be used in much more creative ways in modern horror stories, movies etc.. One way to do this is to make the story’s moral standards somewhat different to widely-accepted moral standards. A good example of this can be found in the “Final Destination” film series, where cheating or escaping death is framed as an immoral act that is always punished by unseen forces. By framing basic human instinct as immoral, these films are incredibly unsettling and unpredictable.

Sometimes, the disproportionate moral rules of old can be used as a source of horror in and of themselves. If a story’s moral rules are shown to be arbitrary and antiquated, then the fact that they can still affect characters in the modern day is certainly a disturbing one.

Likewise, a complete lack of moral rules can either be played for laughs, or used as an additional source of horror.

So, yes, morality is a surprisingly important part of the horror genre. It can be used in a variety of different ways to make a horror story, comic etc…more or less scary.

—————-

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂