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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Relic Short Story: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Hi! I haven't forgotten Pretzel Lectern, I've just been working hard at updating Knight Guy as often as possible, which is an extension of this blog since it's a project. If you haven't looked at it yet, check it out!
Meanwhile, I've been nostalgically poring through old Wordperfect files on my Ark (that's the name of my external hard drive) and I found this rather funny gem of a story I wrote. The date on the file says 2/20/02 and is stamped as an assignment for my 7th-grade Geology class. I'm not sure what our assignment was, because this is laughably scientifically inaccurate. Enjoy!

Journey to the Center of the Earth

It was the late 1800s. Henry Mortar and his assistant James Peterson were packing up their things for the trip. They had been planning their trip for months now, and were almost surely going to be prepared for it. They packed everything they needed: Grappling hooks, pickaxes, spades, matches, food, water, buckets, dynamite, and lots of rope.
Henry had, all of his life, dreamed of a journey to the center of the earth. Other scientists said it could not be done. The Earth’s crust was too thick to drill through, and it would be too pressurized to get through the mantle at all.
Henry ignored their mockery and pressed toward the Day.
James had been his only supporter for the trip, so he decided to come along and back up Henry’s journey.
Finally the Day came.
Henry and James packed their last things—journals—and checked their packs three times to make sure nothing was missing.
Then they were off.
Henry drove to the large inactive volcano ten miles away and parked his automobile in the grass. Then the two got their climbing tools and trekked up the volcano.
The particular volcano they climbed was called Mt. Trangshi, but Henry and James had their own name for it. They called it Mt. Opportunity.
Years earlier, the volcano had erupted, covering Ottoburg with lava, but now the cone was silent. Luckily, the earlier eruption had left the top of The Opportunity open, just as Mortar wanted it to, as that was his secret: he was going to the center of the earth through a volcano.

Henry Mortar landed softly on the igneous rock in the heart of Mt. Opportunity. He helped pull the rope as James Peterson climbed down the inside. They had reached the first stop. They had a lot longer to go, however. A large platform of rock had plugged the bottom of the magma heart, so Mortar and Peterson would have to go to the edge and go rappelling down the slope. It would take days, but there would be holds for them . . .

Weeks later, Mortar and Peterson were out of food, and it was only a matter of time before they would starve to death. They had dug very far under each air pocket in the rock, over and over, and rappelled deeper until they had reached the next layer of hard rock. As they descended deeper and deeper in the darkness, Mortar heard a squelch under his foot. He lowered his light to the floor he had hit. It was olive-green, and it had the consistency of tar. The mantle! The partners had reached it, and Henry Mortar had been correct! If only the civilization they left behind had known . . . Had they known this, then they would’ve had hope to reach the Core. But it wasn’t in vain. Mortar and Peterson, weak from hunger, carved their initials in the rock on the wall. They hadn’t reached the Iron/Nickel core, but the Olivine Mantle was the closest they ever got.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spotlight: How I Draw Comics

I've been having a blast drawing my new webcomic, Knight Guy, and I even spent some time outlining the entire epic story from start to finish, which is something rare for me. I sincerely hope that my motivation for this awesome project will remain strong till I finish; I understand it'll take me years to complete it, but I'm okay with that.
The techniques I use to produce my comic strips are a bit different than other comic artists I see online. While most people use digital drawing tablets and vector drawing, I find those forms of technology (at least the lower-level ones I can afford) to be clumsy for my writing style, so I don't use them. As an example of how I like to do it, I found this raw file of a comic I finished last summer.

First, I start off inking the comic with a G-2 07mm black pen. I've dabbled in sketching, but especially for the fluid, simple drawings on Knight Guy, I usually don't bother. Besides, erasing the pencil can be tedious and messy anyway. And I can always Photoshop my errors.
I sometimes add notes to myself on the comic, but most dialog is easier to come up with when the comic is all colored. You can, surprisingly, see an instance of the Knight Guy, Corlis, himself in this comic sketch. That's because his proportions are so similar to a human's that I use him for figure-drawing. It's one of the reasons I wanted him to be the star of my grand project webcomic.
I scan my comic, put the panels in the order I need them in (obviously this can change though), and set up the outline layer. I make it have a Multiply blending mode, and fix up all of the problems I have. As you can see on the example above, the tree in the last panel was too skinny, I didn't want to work around the troll face, and I messed up on the main character's arm in the third panel. I also make a layer over everything that standardizes the panel size. Luckily for Knight Guy, I made a template that I can just print out, which saves me a lot of time.

After the errors are fixed, I start adding color layers. Sometimes I have a layer for each color, but usually I'm lazy and just do a different color layer for each character. I'm also getting better, so it's easier to mitigate errors that way. If you're a beginner at Photoshop, I would recommend making each color separate in case you need to modify it later.

 The coloring phase also includes adding glow and gradient effects. I often use gradients for settings in my comics, mostly to add depth and distance. As for the glow effects, which are placed on top of the outline layer, I really feel like these truly make the comic feel like more than just a 2D drawing. I guess that has to do with depth, but to me it's almost like it makes you not notice the outlines as much either.

Next comes the shading and highlighting, and then the lettering. I draw my shadows on with a new layer (sometimes two) in black, and then modify the opacity of the layer manually until it looks the way I want it to. The same goes for highlights, which I also sometimes have an extra highlight layer with the Overlay blending mode. On Knight Guy, I've chosen not to worry as much about shading, because it takes a really long time and comics (like Penny Arcade) look fine without excessive shading anyway. I've only used shading when it's important or makes it look cool, but I don't worry about every character having their own shading style.

Lettering is the easiest part, and sometimes the funnest. Thank goodness the legacy version of Photoshop has Layer options, because without the Stroke, Gradient Overlay, Outer Glow, etc. options, it becomes difficult fast. I write the words in a variety of comic book fonts I found online. There are some pretty fun ones out there. Sites like BlamBot.com even have separate sections for Sound FX fonts and dialog fonts. You can get creative with them, deciding how you want the text to get across what's happening in the frame. Lastly, if you're making word balloons, just make a new layer with a Stroke effect (the "inside" option is usually the best) and outline the words, filling the areas in with white. That way it's easy to connect them and make tails for them and everything.

That's how it's done! I've always enjoyed drawing comics, and I'm glad I have the resources now to branch out and make comics more detailed, artistic, and deep than ever!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Big Project: Knight Guy webcomic!

It's time to work on a project I've wanted to start for seven years: a Webcomic! I finally have all I need to get started: a decent scanner, Photoshop, and most importantly, a storyline. I've also discovered a comic book club at my university, which will help my drive to work on it even more.
"Knight Guy" is a comic about Corlis Cneet, a celery farmer who is unwittingly thrust into what annoys him most—adventure! Sound cliché? Maybe, but I'll make it work with my own twist on it. And plus, here on Pretzel Lectern you guys will be able to see behind-the-scenes stuff, such as a timelapse of me drawing a panel, or background information about the story. I'm still working on the layout of the site, but I have a bunch of comics already drawn and ready to be colored. I'll probably upload three or four just to get the series started, and then get a weekly upload going.

How will Corlis's adventure begin? Go to knightguy.the-comic.org to find out!