Monday, November 30, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Magno the Magnetic Man

Ace Comics was the banner under which pulp magazine publisher Aaron A. Wyn and his wife Rose Wyn produced comic books between 1940 and the end of 1956. Their most successful, and longest-running, superhero title was Super-Mystery Comics featuring Magno the Magnetic Man and his boy partner Davey, who appeared in 28 issues of the title's 48-issue run.

Magno is a playboy adventurer with the super powers of magnetism and invulnerability who fights crime and battles the Axis. He uses his magnetism to fly and to draw or repel metallic objects. Later, he gets a sidekick named Davey. He is never seen in a civilian identity or wearing anything expect his costume. The Clown was his archnemesis, but he also fought villains such as the Cobra. ~Public Domain Superheroes

[ Super Mystery Comics 01 v2 ]

[ Super Mystery Comics 01 v3 ]

- Enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Caine's Digital Toolbox 2

Back in the Summer, Caine gave us a nice rundown of some great Web Resources for Comic Creators that are available on the web. So, today we are posting a follow up to that popular article, going over more tools that every Digital Comic Book Publisher/Creator/Provider should think about keeping handy, put these links in your Favorites as you begin working on your next comic!

Love 'em? Hate 'em? Haven't given 'em much thought until just now? Motion Comics are just that, comics in cinematic motion which one could loosely label as "animation". They're tough to do well. You have to time them just right with the appropriate amount of images set on a timeline that matches the audio files. Lots of software, such as Adobe Image Ready, can be used to produce animation that looks quite good but now you don't have to... check out VoiceThread!

With VoiceThread, group conversations are collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world. All with no software to install. A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate pages and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too. Users can doodle while commenting, use multiple identities, and pick which comments are shown through moderation. VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies. ~VoiceThread

While producing "Motion Comics" is not VoiceThread's intended use, the tool seems tailor made to get it done.

Making a webcomic? Hosting a digital comic? Running an interactive fan forum? No one wants a plane Jane vanilla web site that looks like everything else thats all ready out there. Completely customizing your website however can require quite a bit of design training. Now with typekit customizing at least one portion of your site, the text, has been made easier.

Add a line of code to your pages and choose from hundreds of fonts. Simple, bulletproof, standards compliant, accessible, and totally legal. We're working with foundries to bring the best possible fonts for your website. Your fonts will be served from a robust network built with hundreds of servers worldwide. ~TypeKit

BlamBotBONUS - If you're into fonts, and you've not discovered BLAMBOT then you should check them out. They offer both paid and free fonts and are supported by an active forum. Many of their fonts are used by professional comic publishing companies and will give your lettering a slick look you won't get with your standard freeware fonts.

With you comic comes a publisher or publishing company. Whether you're a one man operation cranking out one comic a month, or a group of people who do a bit more you'll have a brand that requires some amount of management (if nothing else you'll want to spread the word about your comics on sites like twitter and facebook).

ListMonkeyListiMonkey allows you to monitor your brand and its products on twitter (focusing on twitter's new list feature).

Monitor Twitter Lists for keywords. Get free email alerts whenever a keyword appears in Twitter Lists of your choice. ~ListiMonkey

Doing everything you can to get your comics into the hands, or feed readers, or mobile devices of your fans? Always on the look out for ways to generate new fans? Why not translate your web comic or blog into other languages?

Google TranslateGoogle Translate tools offers some cool translation tools for both webmasters and the average internet user who wants to read webpages in different languages. The three tools offered by this service are Google’s website translator, translation bookmarklets and the translation feature in Google toolbar. The website translator lets you translate your site by creating a drop down translation widget. It generates a snippet of code that can be easily added to the site. ~MakeUseOf

I plugged a FlashBack Universe post into the translator as a test and here's what it gave me without any need for instructions at all.

FBU Translated

Think of all the untapped markets brimming with fans out there....

Have a happy Holiday,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Inspiration!

One question that often comes back is;

Where do you get your inspiration?

Once you become a professional... there is one thing you learn.... if you need to wait for inspiration... go find another job.

Once you start working on a project.... there is no room for waiting around for the Muses to come and visit you.

You usually have some pretty tight deadlines that must be done “yesterday”.... so the last thing you can do is wait for some sort of inspiration.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

It may seem harsh, but it’s the truth.

Under a tight deadline, there is only one thing you can do.

You sit down at your desk/drawing table/computer and you get started, and you work, work, and work. You work until you are done... or until you hit your deadline.

As an artist, you have no choice... you must be able to sit down and be able to draw whatever the client needs on demand.

Sure some research will be needed, and some of that research might be more “inspiring” then some others. Or some projects might be more inspiring to work on then others. But in the end, you have to be able to sit down and just produce the work.

Sure sometimes you will be happy with the result, some other times you will not. But you cannot afford to wait around. You HAVE to get the work done.

John Romita JR has a great name for this. He calls it the “deadline style”.

Essentially, when you must pay the bills and the deadline for the project you are working on is just around the corner.... there is no two ways about it... you sit down at your work station and you produce the work.

There is no miracle or magic formula.
You sit down and do the work.

I know that I am somewhat repeating myself over and over.... but I often hear the same thing from aspiring creators.

Once in a while, when people find out that I draw for a living, aspiring artists will want to know how to become a professional artist, or aspiring writers will want me to draw their “great idea” of a project that they have come up with.

When I ask them to show me their portfolio or some script samples.... often the answer is the same...

“I have nothing to show, I am not really inspired right now.”

Usually, if I did not know it already, that confirms to me that what I am dealing with is an amateur... in the worst sense of the term. Depending on how well I know the person, I may just tell them that that was a very amateurish answer.

Too often, what that means is that they are just waiting for someone to take them by the hand and “help them” produce the actual work.

By “help them” what I really mean is doing the actual work for them.

Amateurs will sometimes get the germ of an idea, and stop there thinking that someone else can do the rest of the work.

They think that now that they did the hard part, they think that now that they have “created” the idea... they can let someone else put together their “brilliant idea”.

Coming up with the idea is just the tip of the iceberg. After that... the REAL work actually starts.

You sit down and you work.... work and work.

That is how you provoke inspiration.

By working.

Not by waiting around for the work to create itself out of thin air.... or by waiting for someone else to do the work for you.

Not that you cannot have a partner with whom you are creating the work. Heck Flashback universe was done from Jim and I collaborating with each other.

But what I am talking about is when someone just waits around for “divine providence” to do the work for them somehow.

It can take just a few minutes to come up with an idea. But putting that idea together (doing the research, writing various drafts of the script, designing the characters/props/locations) that can take weeks and weeks. Heck that can take months and months.

And sadly there is no time to just wait around.

I know that some will also use the white page syndrome as an excuse... but that is pretty much the same excuse as “I am not really inspired right now”.

Once as I tried to explain to someone that, you do not wait for inspiration, you provoke it. I was told by that person that she did not what to do like Van Gogh and cut off her hear in other to kick-start the creation process.

No need to go that far or to be that drastic.

A very simple trick... make a mark... any mark on your white page. A circle, an “X” or a triangle. Anything. And once you have done that... you have no more excuses. You are no longer facing a white page and can get to work.

The same thing for someone who is facing a blank Word document on the computer screen. Write something.


And then keep on writing. And once you have done so, you are no longer facing the blank Word document and you can go back and edit what you did write.

Now if you will forgive me, I will go back and edit what I wrote for this Blog. ;)

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mister Crimson Vs Ace

Mister Crimson Episode 46
In which we begin the climatic battle between Mister Crimson and Ace of Spades

Read it here .:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fawcett Universe

Interesting thing about blogs - people can comment on articles that are many months old as if they were just published, which can lead you to discover all sorts of things. This was the case with a post I had about Kid Eternity which recently elicited an interesting response from Cynthia Finnegan wherein she let me know about a connection between Kid Eternity and Captain Marvel Jr. that I was unaware of...

Actually, Freddy was a year older than the Kid, and ENB even tied in Junior's meeting Sherlock Holmes to the Kid!

Upon further research (which is this case was clicking some links) I discovered that Cynthia runs an awesome Golden Age site dedicated to Fawcett Comics called

Go check out her site as she has a lot of interesting stuff there!

Here's a Question: DC has made 3 (or is it 4?) attempts to revive the Marvel Family for modern readers. I'm incline to say the 70's versions were probably the closest to the mark as they enlisted CC Beck to help with that version. The Jerry Ordway Power of Shazam version ran the longest and I've heard good things about it as well. (It came out at a time when I was working in a cafeteria, and had zero cash for comics...)

However, I tend to think that Captain Marvel is a little like the Quality Heroes in that as soon as you try to put him in a modern setting, you lose something. I don't know Kieth Giffen seem to have some fun with him in the Justice League. Still, my question is this: What is the best way to revamp a Golden Age hero? What do you keep and what do your revise?

Anyway, in keeping with the Fawcett theme, I present two awesome issues of Captain Marvel today.

Captain Marvel 43

[ Captain Marvel 43 ]

Captain Marvel 44

[ Captain Marvel 44 ]


- Jim

Friday, November 20, 2009

How do you protect your ideas?

Recently Marvel announced a project that I thought looked a little familiar. It's a new character written by Daniel Way called Hitman Monkey who will be appearing in Deadpool, and then as a Marvel Digital Comic.

Hitman Monkey

Because I thought it seemed awful similar to something the Action Age guys had already published last year... Exterminape


Now when I first saw Hitman Monkey, I thought the two ideas were similar, but didn't say much about it because I sometimes see connections and patterns that other people don't see. (It's a blessing and a curse...)

But this week over at Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston has a post about another person working on a project called King Monkey for Zuda. In the comments thread this is spun off in that post, another poster makes the same Exterminape/Hitman Monkey connection that I did. (Albeit, this poster doesn't exactly make a favorable comparison, but people on messageboards can be douchebags sometimes...)

Anyway, this brings me to the point of my post today.

Seeing the problem of people sort of stepping on each others ideas like this makes me wonder, exactly how do you protect your idea in this day and age?

In the old days, the best way to ensure a poor man's copyright was to send yourself a script in the mail and not open the letter - the idea being that a US Postmark would hold up in court as proof that you came up with an idea first. (With the given assumption that you will then use the concept or script in a working format and not just put it in your desk drawer. If you just send yourself ideas all day, but don't actually implement them, then the poor man's copyright is worthless.)

Now, I don't really think that Hitman Monkey is really going to tread the same ground as Exterminape, but what if it did? How would one take action if you felt your ideas were being usuped by a multi-billion dollar corporation? Does a blog timestamp stand up in court as proof of first concept? Maybe this whole idea of just throwing ideas onto the internet isn't the best course of action?

I have no clue, so please feel free to tell me what you think!

Have a great weekend,

- Jim

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

MAKE MINE EC! Comics in the Philippines

The PhilippinesEditors Note: Normally on Wednesdays, Pierre regales us with stories of growing up reading comics in Canada.

However, I thought it might be interesting to turn the globe a bit and get a different perspective, so today I'm presenting an article by Augusto P. Surtida, a comic book reader from the Philippines.

MAKE MINE EC! Memories of a comics aficionado from the Far East
by Augusto P. Surtida

Being a former colony of the United States, the Philippines imbibed its politics (liberal democracy), language (English), aspirations, trends, fashion, and pop culture.

Pop culture wa exemplified by Hollywood, sports, recording artists, books, paperbacks, magazines, Sunday funnies, and comic books.

The second world war disrupted all these. But when Douglas McArthur came back in 1945 to keep his promise (“I shall return”) and liberated the Philippines, the good times rolled on.

With the post-war boom, the foreign imports were back with a vengeance. As a baby boomer (born in 1947), I was also a sucker for foreign imports, particularly US print publications including comic books.

As a young child, I was already fascinated by the graphic medium called comics. I could already discern great artworks and drawings, which fueled my choice of comic books to buy and collect.

At first it was the Sunday funnies which were reprinted by local broadsheet newspapers. I always looked forward to weekends because of the comic strips: Tarzan (drawn by John Celardo), Lil Abner, Nancy, Johnny Hazard, Mandrake the Magician, Prince Valiant, The Lone Ranger, The Phantom, Terry and the Pirates, the Spirit, etc., were some of my regular fix during weekends.

The Fifties
As the fifties progressed, I turned my attention to comic books. There was a wide variety to choose from. Classics Illustrated, EC, DC, Atlas, Harvey, Dell, etc. They were sold in stores, newsstands, and kiosks on street corners that also sold US magazines: Life, Look, Saturday Evening post, Ladies Home Journal, Colliers, Argosy, Saga, National Geographic, etc. Classics Illustrated was the most expensive. They sold for 50 centavos (exchange rate then was 1 US dollar to 2 pesos).

My favorites, though were the EC publications with the titles Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, Frontline Combat, Two-fisted Tales, etc. I wasn’t much on the superhero genre although I read them, too. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Plastic Man, Shazam, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Fly, etc.

My interests were westerns, horror, sci-fi, adventure war stories, and the classics. Samples of these were Lash La Rue, Tom Mix, Rocky Lane, Roy Rogers, Kid Colt Outlaw, Two-Gun Kid, Wyatt Earp, Gunsmoke Western, Billy the Kid, Sheriff of Tombstone, Outlaws of the West, Combat Kelly, and Lorna the Jungle Girl.

Have Gun Will TravelAnd of course there were the TV and movie tie-ins of Dell comics which were: Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Lone Ranger, Cheyenne, Range Rider, Tales from Wells Fargo, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Tonto, Rawhide, Maverick, Gene Autry, Rifleman, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Texas John Slaughter, Elfego Vaca, Lawman, Sugarfoot, Jake Pearson and Tales of the Texas Rangers, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, Rex Allen, etc.

The other non-western titles from Dell were Tarzan, Turok, Son of Stone, Lassie, Sea Hunt, 77 Sunset Strip, Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, and Jungle Jim. From DC, I bought western titles like Hopalong Cassidy, Tomahawk, and Johnny Thunder. Thunder and Cassidy were illustrated by Gil Kane, one of my favorites then.

War titles from DC which I patronized were Our Army at War (Sgt. Rock), All American Men of War, Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat. I also bought the series Sea Devils from DC primarily because it was illustrated by another favorite who was Russ Heath and The Brave and Bold, featuring The Viking Prince, illustrated by Joe Kubert, also another favorite. From Atlas, I bought non-western titles like Tales to Astonish, Uncanny tales, and other similar titles.

I had almost all the titles in Classics Illustrated, including Junior Classics and their other series: The World Around Us. In addition, when EC publications morphed to Mad Comics, I continued to buy.

On to the Sixties
By this time, Atlas Publications became Marvel, but I didn’t buy those new superheroes by Stan Lee, simply because the artworks didn’t grab me. I resorted to borrowing or renting the new Marvel titles.

At DC, I bought a rare superhero title, Hawkman, because it was drawn by Joe Kubert. I continued to buy their war titles, particularly the new one by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert: Enemy Ace, using Manfred von Richtofen a.k.a. The Red Baron as template.

Other Kubert opus which I bought were Firehair, a western, but it didn’t last long. Over at Marvel, I bought Kull the Conqueror also simply it was drawn by John Severin.

CRAF PublicationsBy this time, my budget was strained because I was entering college and could not afford the imported titles that I used to like. Besides, some new local titles were worth considering. I am referring to the titles by CRAF Publications. CRAF was born out of the ashes of the defunct Ace Publications, which was closed down due to labor problems. Ace Publications was considered to be the premiere “komiks” publications of the Philippines then. It started in 1947 and ended in 1962. The best local artists and writers were working for Ace then.

CRAF churned out four titles every fortnight: Redondo Komix, Alcala Fight Komix, Fight Klasix, and Amado Lovers Komix. Two masters were incorporators of CRAF, Nestor Redondo and Alfredo Alcala, considered two of the best Filipino illustrators of all time. I collected all the CRAF titles because they featured the best illustrators in the land.

By this time Classics Illustrated had ceased operation, and Gold Key (formerly Dell comics) became rare and almost disappeared. The two competing publications were Marvel and DC because of its superheroes.

By this time also, I reined in my buying of imported comics because of budget difficulties.

The Seventies and Beyond
By the early seventies, I became very selective with my purchases since CRAF Publications folded up in the late sixties. I continued buying DC, however, my choices were extremely few like Enemy Ace, Tarzan of the Apes series by Joe Kubert, and the new western series, Jonah Hex, by John Albano and Tony Zuniga. Even after Zuniga left Jonah, I continued to patronize the Series. I also bought the other DC titles that were featuring works by Filipino artists: House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Swamp Thing, Rima the Jungle Girl, etc.

Esteban MarotoAt Marvel I also did the same thing, that of buying titles which featured Filipino artists such as Conan the Barbarian, and others. My attention, however, was focused now on the magazine format, black and white comics by publisher Jim Warren. I was amazed at the consistent high quality artwork and scripts being spewed by Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, and 1984. The “Spanish conquest” and “Filipino invasion” of warren magazines added to my interest. My favorite Spanish illustrators toiling for Warren were: Joe Ortiz, Esteban Maroto, Jose Gonzales, Luis Bermejo, and Auraleon. It was like an all-star list.

As if it weren’t enough, American illustrators added to the list like Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben, Frank Thorne, Wallace Wood, Russ Heath, John Severin, and Frank Frazetta. And to up the ante, Filipino masters Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Angel Laxamana, Fred Carillo, Jess Jodloman, etc. were also strutting their stuff. It was too good to be true. And then to provide competition to Warren Publications, Heavy Metal came out. It was the stateside version of the French Metal Hurlant. Moebius, Bilal Serpieri, and others were enough reason to buy the magazine. Both Warren and Heavy Metal were much more expensive than DC, Marvel, and others.

Heavy Metal, if memory serves me right, was sold at P45 – P50 pesos for a brand new copy, in legitimate bookstores and newsstands. They came cheaper if it was a used copy and came from the black market.

Warren magazines were not sold at legitimate outlets. They all came out used from the black market.

I often asked the peddlers at corner kiosks and magazine stands where they got their stuff. They told me they were either from Subic Bay in Olongapo, Zambales where the 7th Fleet of the US Navy was docked, or from Clark Air Base in Pampanga, where the US air force was cooling its heels after air strikes in Vietnam (this was the height of the Vietnam war).

The magazine peddlers got their merchandize from black market operators outside the bases. They collect all stuff thrown out by grunts of the US armed forces and sold them outside the bases. The items wound up in Manila and elsewhere.

Warren magazines sold for P25 – P35 pesos then, and depended on one’s haggling. Other than Heavy Metal, Warren, DC, and Marvel, Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, National Geographic, etc. were sold too; I even got the Pacific Stars and Stripes for free. It had an excellent comic strip section and sports pages.

But this didn’t last long. After the Vietnam war, Mount Pinatubo eruption, and the termination of the US bases agreement, the supply dried up. Warren magazines ceased existence in the early 80’s. My interest in Heavy Metal also became less when work of Moebius illustrators became few and far between.

During the 80’s, I practically stopped buying comics except for a few notable ones, like adaptation of Lone Wolf and Cub. My interest was on paperbacks by then: Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry, Mac Bolan, Death Merchant, and Casca were titles I bought.

By the 90’s, my collection was almost a trickle. I bought the Punisher series, Rivers of Blood because it was illustrated by Joe Kubert.

Indiana Jones, illustrated by Leo DuranonaBy the 2000’s I stopped buying entirely. Graphic novels are unaffordable at P500 pesos and above and now I have resorted to borrowing from aficionados.

But sometimes, if I get lucky, there have been a few purchases I remember at bargain bins featuring comic books by Image, Dark Horse, Topps, DC/Vertigo, and Marvel.

Among them were: 300 by Frank Miller, Sin City, also by Miller, Dracula, illustrated by Esteban Maroto, and Indiana Jones, illustrated by Leo Duranona.

Now, looking back, I realize that my generation were basically addicts for American culture during the halcyon days of the 50’s – 60’s which included pop culture and its many manifestations on trends, books, rock and roll, movies, fashion, etc. We were also partakers of the era when the US was at its height politically, economically, and culturally.

Augusto is a true-blue comics aficionado. He is retired and lives in Naga City, Camarines Sur in Southern Luzon, Philippines.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 45

Mister Crimson Episode 45
Wherein a familiar face returns

Read it here .:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PD Heroes In Web Comics

Today I want to spotlight two web comics that feature Public Domain Heroes.

The first is Heroes-Inc, written and illustrated by Scott Austin. His story gives us an interesting modern updating of the characters that seems to retain the spirit of the characters very well. Check out this nice bit of teaser text:

In a world where the Allies of WWII lost the war and superheroes are believed to be nothing more than pulp fiction, the world is shocked by alarming reports of super villains emerging around the globe to terrorize and wreak havoc.

Archibald Masters, The American Crusader, now an old man, sets out on a mission to find the remaining Golden Age heroes and take DNA samples from them in order to create a new generation of heroes to serve and protect the country that is so dear to his heart.

The other one to check out is Out of Print, produced by Michael Parkinson. OOP is a parody web comic that uses a lot of familiar Public Domain Heroes in some pretty funny situations.

Out of Print uses characters from the golden age of comic books that are now in the public domain. In fact the strip itself is set around a support group for superheroes that find themselves in that very situation.

Of interest to me, and probably to no one else, is how both of these web comics have a bit on their site explaining why it's okay for the creators to use the characters they are using. I wonder if they (like me) get emails from people valiantly defending the non-existent character copyrights for huge multi-national corporations?

Here is a perfect example:

Dear Flashback Universe you should remove your comics if you don't want to be sued by IDW they are the only ones who are to be printing Black Terror and you will be sued by them if you do not take your comics downs. - Andros.

Why do people feel the need to try and convince me that I'm going to burn in Copyright-Hell because I've posted a public domain issue of the GA Daredevil? Are they Alex Ross fans gone bad or something? Do they think I'm somehow depriving Alex Ross or IDW or whoever of some necessary source of income? I have to ask because they rarely want to reply when I explain how Public Domain works.

Anyway, enough of that... have a great day!

- Jim

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tablet Rumor Rundown

Today Flashback Universe presents a unique slant on the illustrious; much rumored, and often hyped, (every digital techno nerd's fantasy come true) mobile hand held computing device. Called many things: iTablet, WebTablet, iPad, HandHeld, & even the wifi touchscreen multi media device, rumors of it's near existence saturating the Internet make it the next SMALL thing in the field of Internet usability.

iTabletThe iTablet:
"We are working to develop new products that contains technologies that our competition will not be able to match. I cannot discuss these new products, but we are very confident in our product pipeline.

Apple believes that the software is the key ingredient. We believe that we are many years ahead of the competition and we welcome any and all competition as long as they do not step on our Intellectual Property.
We plan to deliver state-of-the-art products that I cannot discuss today and are very excited about the products in our pipeline." ~ZDNet

With pictures, pattens, announcements, the lack of announcements, and even phony viral video footage all over the Internet for the last sixteen months the iTablet is definitely the largest & hottest tablet rumor all over the web. Seemingly developed as an extension to Apple's all ready successful mobile device department, the iTablet seeks to fill a niche most would label "needed". All who wait patiently, and some who don't, hope that they'll be able to do 85% of what a desktop will do but on the go while using the iTablet. This includes movies, music, COMICS, ebooks, content management, and even a camera has been mentioned.

Heat Factor: 10
It's HOT. You couldn't really avoid hearing about the iTablet even if you wanted to! People want it yesterday, some want to develop for it seeing $$$, and some are clambering Apple for it on an almost daily basis.

Vaporware Quotient: 1
It's NOT vaporware (to the best of our knowledge). There has been far too much information about it's hardware and other physical technology, including new pattens and many unnamed sources, for this hot item to fizzle into obscurity.

Kill Factor: 8
The general consensus across the Internet is that it will KILL all other tablets currently being developed right now. Sadly, this may include it's little brother the iPod for lots of people. It will also most likely be a huge contributor to the oncoming Paper Comic Apocalypse in 2012 (as predicted by the Mayans.)

The Courier:
"Courier is a real device, and we've heard that it's in the "late prototype" stage of development. It's not a tablet, it's a booklet. The dual 7-inch (or so) screens are multitouch, and designed for writing, flicking and drawing with a stylus, in addition to fingers. They're connected by a hinge that holds a single iPhone-esque home button. Statuses, like wireless signal and battery life, are displayed along the rim of one of the screens. On the back cover is a camera, and it might charge through an inductive pad, like the Palm Touchstone charging dock for Pre.

Until recently, it was a skunkworks project deep inside Microsoft, only known to the few engineers and executives working on it—Microsoft's brightest, like Entertainment & Devices tech chief and user-experience wizard J. Allard, who's spearheading the project. Currently, Courier appears to be at a stage where Microsoft is developing the user experience and showing design concepts to outside agencies." ~Gizmodo

HF: 7
Well, if the commenters at Engadget are anything to go by, this concept video pretty much sold them on the device.

VQ: 7
Unfortunately, during his interview with Engadget, Steve Ballmer said he had never seen the video and claimed to have no knowledge of any plans of making such a device.

KF: 6
The ability to be able to read comics two pages at a time would be cool, as it would preserve the beloved two page splash, but the screens look tiny. Turning the device would give you a big one page viewing are, but that hinge strip in the middle sort of plays havoc with reading comics tall.

The Crunchpad:
"I’m tired of waiting – I want a dead simple and dirt cheap touch screen web tablet to surf the web. Nothing fancy like the Dell latitude XT, which costs $2,500. Just a Macbook Air-thin touch screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel. It doesn’t exist today, and as far as we can tell no one is creating one. So let’s design it, build a few and then open source the specs so anyone can create them.

Here’s the basic idea: The machine is as thin as possible, runs low end hardware and has a single button for powering it on and off, headphone jacks, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, and a microphone. It will have Wifi, maybe one USB port, a built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM, a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. Data input is primarily through an iPhone-like touch screen keyboard. It runs on linux and Firefox. It would be great to have it be built entirely on open source hardware, but including Skype for VOIP and video calls may be a nice touch, too." ~TechCrunch

While the above statement implies that the Crunchpad's development has been born out of necessity. The buzz surrounding it is really more indicative of a fanboy's dream machine come to life as the device has been spearheaded largely by a single individual not particularly known for hardware. Like the iTablet the Crunchpad has also permiated the internet over the last sixteen months with pictures, video, and plenty of speculation over it's intended use, it's intended market, and price point which seems to continue to climb.

HF: 7
It started out hot. The announcement of the Crunchpad were quickly followed with doubt and speculation, most of it surrounding the area of hardware production, many bloggers stating that it was MUCH harder than people thought.

VQ: 9
Unfortunately, with climbing potential costs, plenty of setbacks, missed target dates, and missed announcements its looking more and more like the Crunchpad may very well be Vaporware.

KF: 5
Wile originally presented as a hybrid webcomputer the Crunchpad is looking more and more like a fancy netbook built on an unfamiliar operating system, with flashy underpowered hardware that will get killed by some, if not most, of the other mobile handheld products out there unless the price point comes way down.

The ARCHOS 9 PC Tablet:
NOTE: This is not a prototype or a concept design. This is an actual device that can be purchased now.

ARCHOS once again is leading the way in innovation with the introduction of the Netbook of the future, the ARCHOS 9 PCtablet. The new ARCHOS 9 PCtablet combines the performance of a high end netbook with breathtaking aesthetics, excellent ergonomics and a tactile interface on a superb screen.

Pure lines, extreme thinness (0.67''), 800g and a stunning black finish, the ARCHOS 9 PCtablet pushes the boundaries of elegance and simplicity on a Netbook, fulfilling the expectations of the most mobile users. It provides all the power and comfort needed for daily usage.
With this ultra-light and thin PCtablet, you can watch you videos (including Full HD format), browse the web, “video chat”, or write your mails or documents.." ~ARCHOS

HF: 9
With a 9 inch screen, and HD Video capability, this looks like not only a great solution for reading comics, but for videos as well. The downside is, well, it looks like the screen only works in Landscape (wide) mode, which means you might have to do some wrangling of your comic viewer to read pages in tall mode. (A quick test by me proves that CDisplay can do this very easily.)

VF: 0
Like I mentioned above, Achros are the first ones out the gate with a full sized Tablet device that should be perfect for reading comics on it.

KF: ?
The price is about $550, and the bulkiness is just a little bigger than what one might want in a tablet device. However, the Archos 9 comes loaded with Windows 7, so it's basically a full blown netbook, which makes it more robust than a simple proprietary tablet device. This could make its way into the Corporate world in a big way, which would drive the price down.

PLUG - This would make a great time to mention that Robot Comics has developed a Droid comic reader that can be used on the Achros 5 (their 5 inch Mobile Internet Device) as well as many of the new Android phones coming to the market right now.

These are far from the only tablet devices getting talked about on the internet but they are some of the most promising. (Actually, of late, there has been a new tablet device announced about once a week.) 2010 promises to be an interesting year for comics as these tablets make their way to the market place.

Have a great weekend!

- Caine

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Character Design in Animation

Worst Character Design Ever?As I was talking about the Superman Batman Public Enemies DVD with a colleague at work…. I realized that my next Blog HAD to be about character design.

I mentioned that Superman Batman had some of the worst character design I had seen in a while.

What did I mean by that??

They tried to copy the style of Ed McGuinness by trying to copy how muscle-bound the characters were. They tried to copy the surface without understanding what was underneath the surface, without understanding the structure behind how McGuinness’ characters are made.

Instead of trying to show every single muscle of the characters…. They could have instead kept the structures of McGuinness’ style and streamlined the exterior of the characters to make them easier to animate.

Too often when you look at an animated project…. The people behind the project don’t seem to have a clue as to how the animation process works.

We know from previous shows like Batman or Justice League that we are dealing with people who do understand the animation process.

So I have to scratch my head at how they could not see that what they had done made no sense for animation.

When we made the designs for the Bob Morane TV show around 96/97… we looked at how the Batman animated TV show had done a great job in streamlining their designs so that the animators would be able to do at least a decent job in animating them.

click to see full size

click to see full size

Other shows at the time like the X-Men or the Spider-man animated shows were great examples of what not to do so that it would be next to impossible to properly animate those shows.

For Batman, they’ve put together a style that would work for animation.

As opposed to X-Men where essentially, what they did was try to animate the Jim Lee designs from the comics.

Too often I have seen that in my career how some producer will insist for a certain look without seeming to have a clue as to what actually can work for animation.

When dealing with such producers… I have seen some designers who use what I call the “posing” technique.

Usually it means drawing the character in a strong pose to hide what is a weak design that does not really work.

To the untrained eye… such poses gives the illusion that the design actually works. But when you know better…. You can tell when someone is trying to get a producer who doesn’t know better to approve a design that does not really work.

A very simple way to spot such design is to simply take a design that was made using a strong dynamic pose, and reproduce the design with a standard neutral standing pose. That way the pose does not distract the eye, and you can judge the design on its own merit, on its own strength

You can tell that way if the design itself is strong enough or not.

Here are some examples of designs that that were made by a great guy called Jerry Hinds (who is drawing our Creature/Wildcard story) who used the posing technique.


Baby Yaga

To and old warhorse like me…. It took me about 3 seconds to see that those were strong designs…. But I made a neutral standing pose with them design to show how strong they remain with a straight pose.

Pierres Baba Yaga

Pierres Ultrax

Jerry did a AWESOME job with those designs.

Another example of a strong design is the character Gemini from the Image comic of the same name (a very fun comic…. Go buy a copy ;)). Even taking away the dynamic poses that the artist of the series uses…. The design remain strong.


I am sure that some of you guys have noticed how sometimes some characters look cool drawn by… let’s say Jim Lee…. But when someone else draws the very same character…. The whole thing falls apart.

That has been a big problem since… the Image Age I would say…. Or if you prefer… the early 90s.

In the long distant past…. The design work in comics usually was strong enough that no matter who was drawing the book/character… it would usually look fine.

Kyle RaynerBut at some point… the design work reached a point where when… again let’s say Jim Lee designed a character, it would look fine as drawn by Jim Lee…. But no one else could draw the darn thing and make it look good (for example… Omega Red… or even worse… Kyle Rayner with the “dog collar” Green Lantern design… damn that was a poor Green Lantern design).

Probably one of the reasons why since the early 90s… there are very few “new” characters that actually lasted… or that were able to sustain a series for very long.

If you create a “new” Blue Beetle… the design might look good when drawn by Jim Lee on the cover of Infinite Crisis…. But it falls apart/does not look as good when other artists try to draw him.

But now you know…. So maybe you too now will be “old warhorses” and will be able to spot poor design work in about 3 seconds. ;)

Until next time.


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