Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Airboy and The Heap

After last weeks post about Ibis, I got a couple of emails requesting other heroes I've overlooked in this feature. One of the most requested was Airboy.

Here's what wikipedia says about Airboy...

Airboy is a fictional aviator hero of an American comic book series initially published by Hillman Periodicals during the World War II-era time period that fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books. He was created by writer Charles Biro with scripter Dick Wood and artist Al Camy.

Airboy made Air Fighters Comics (renamed Airboy Comics with vol. 2, #11, Dec. 1945) a top seller through the 1940s. In the early issues, Biro wrote the scripts with Dave Wood and drew the covers, while Dan Barry and Fred Kida worked as main illustrators. The book contained backup stories about other aviators, including Skywolf, Iron Ace, the Black Angel, the Bald Eagle, the Flying Dutchman, the Flying Fool, and the prototypical comic book swamp monster, The Heap.

[ Airboy 04 ]

Each of these issues also contains stories featuring The Heap. For those of you unfamiliar with The Heap, he was the *original* swamp monster from the 40's who inspired both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing.

Again, from wikipedia's entry on the Heap...

The Heap is the name of three fictional, comic book muck-monsters, the original of which first appeared in Hillman Periodicals' Air Fighters #3 (Dec. 1942), during the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books. It was created by writer Harry Stein and artist Mort Leav, and revived in the 1980s by Eclipse Comics.

Similar but unrelated characters appeared in comics stories published by Skywald in the 1970s and Image Comics in the 1990s.

[ Airboy 05 ]


Friday, September 26, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch: TouchScreen Comics

AndroidWell, to some comic news sites, the big news this week was that a line of young adult graphic novels that never really sold very well were cancelled.

I, however, think the really big news that will have major implications on the comic industry was Google's presentation of the new T-1 Mobile G1 touch screen phone which uses Google's opensource Android operating system.

If you are not familiar with the Android phone, let me say it's sort of a iPhone for everyone who doesn't want to be locked into Apple software. It will have a nice big 320x480 touch screen interface like the iPhone.

Check out this video of the G1 touch...

WhyI think this is significant is because this is just the first salvo in what promises to be a very big war between cell phone companies as they try to outshine Apple's iPhone.

Now the G1 is not the only big name contender for the Apple touch screen crown, another, possibly MORE significant player is about to enter the arena next month, and that's BlackBerry...

currently they have scheduled their first (of many I'm sure) touch screen device in the BlackBerry Storm.

BlackBerry Storm

And while this picture might not impress you as much as the Apple iPhone's cool interface, the real advantages the Blackberry has are:

1. It's the mobile phone of choice at just about every major company.

2. It syncs seemlessly with Exchange.

So, the buy in on a corporate level for a product like this promises to be HUGE - if, and BIG if here, Blackberry doesn't screw up the touch screen interface. (A lot of Blackberry users actually prefer the teeny tiny keyboards on their phones.)

To placate those cool excecs with a heart of steel who want their keyboards to feel like keyboards, Blackberry is equipping the Storm with something called Haptic responses, so the touch screen will actually *feel* like you are typing on it. (This isone of those innovations that screams wait until version 2 btw...)

"Yes, yes..." I hear you say. "All very cool, but what does this have to do with Final Crisis and how it's ruining DC?"

Well, honestly, not much, because I sincerely doubt Final Crisis (in all it's confusing glory) will ever be read on such devices as the ones above, BUT I think the next wave of comics will be.

Check this out...

click this to be staggered by the number of MIDs currently availableI've mentioned a few such Mobile Internet Devices here before, but today, on UMPC Portal, they mention that by 2013 there will be over 200 million such devices in use in the world.

So in 2010, what are the odds that people will still be reading comics on paper (not a Green medium btw) versus reading content on their slick new touch screen phones?

TouchScreen Comics LogoThere are already quite a number of sites where you can get such content, ( Marvel is one of them ) and I actually plan to start creating content for this format soon as well.

I've already started investigating developing comics for Touchscreen devices, and I've registered to distribute them.

I may start with a few public domain comics to test with, but I definitely plan on creating original content for this format.

Does this mean I'll stop producing Flashback Universe comics? Most likely not - I'm still a huge believer in the cbr format (and the idea that internet tablets are just around the corner.) I may experiment with a way to create content that can be used in both formats. I have some very definite ideas about what will make a successful TouchScreen comic. I don't think you can just hack up an existing web comic into 320 x 480 slices and think that's gonna do that job.

Bottom line: The time is right to experiment with this new format and introduce what seems to be a quicky growing audience to new experiences. :)

I'll keep you posted as this develops.

PCDW Points for the G1: 20,000

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 5 - Storyboards

storyboard from Classic Johnny Quest dot com A storyboard is a visual representation of the script. In animation, it allows us to visualize an animated project in order to plan certain steps (for example the timing, or the animation).

The storyboard artist is given a copy of the script and a copy of all the rough designs (characters/props/locations).

From there he will illustrate the script scene by scene not unlike how a comic book is done. Although, unlike a comic book, the storyboard is not a final piece of artwork.

It is only information that is used by the later steps of an animation production. So it can be rough.... heck it SHOULD be rough. I have seen many artists waste too much time making a clean version of the board that they barely could devote any time to plan and properly stage their scenes.

The storyboard artist will have to pay close attention to things like the staging/composition of a scene. Better a rough board with good staging then a clean board with poor staging.

Once the storyboard artist is done drawing the board.... like the design steps, it has to go through the approval process. So everyone (directors/producers/broadcasters/etc) will want to give their comments on the board.

Once that is done, there is a department that finalizes the storyboard based on the comments of the various directors/producers/broadcasters/etc. That is where essentially all the final decisions concerning the storyboards, and the episode itself, will be taken.

It is the deciders ;) (what I am currently doing on Arthur).

Essentially we take the teams comments and decide which comments we follow to change and improve the storyboard... and which to ignore.

We move the dialogues around from scene to scene as needed.

We fix some of the poses for various reasons (one day, I must have fixed Arthur's head about 200 times..... I was getting sick of redrawing Arthur's head by the end of the day).

Sometimes, there are so many revisions that it feels like we are redrawing the whole board.

It happens.

Also we look closely at the continuity. Sometimes a change that is made to one scene will affect a truckload of scenes following it. So we must change those as well.

It will also allow us to see if some designs are missing. When we do, we let the designers know what is missing to make sure that they will add the missing designs to the model pack. Or if they need to adapt some of the designs because they might have been changed in the board.

Normally, the designers should know when some designs are missing or were changed from when they analyse the storyboard, but we tell them anyway in case they may have missed something.

It happens.

Better safe then sorry.

Once the corrections are done, we have the FINAL version of the storyboard.

Essentially, it is the road map that everyone in the production will follow to reach their objectives.

The designers will use it to finalize their designs.

The director/sheet directors will use it to work out the timing.

The layout & posing team will use it to do draw the backgrounds and do some key poses of any element that will move in a scene.

And the animators and their assistants will use it to plan the animation step and keep track of the continuity of an episode.

So... many people will need the storyboard to do their job.

It is essentially an illustrated version of the script. It becomes the director's "directions" to the whole crew working on the project.

Everyone will try to follow the directives of the board in order to do their job.

Next time.... at last...... we will cover the "layout & posing" step. ;)

More soon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Ibis The Invincible

Can't believe I've not mentioned Ibis the Invincible yet here on Free Comics Monday. See that panel on the left? That comes from Justice League of America: Crisis on Earth S, where I first discovered the character. It was the annual teamup of the JLA and JSA, only this time their adventures took them to Earth S, home of all the Fawcett characters (Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher, Bulletman, etc...)

The panel was part of three where Green Lantern's Alan Scott, Hal Jordan join up with Ibis to take down Mr. Atom. As a kid, I had read a lot about the Green Lantern's, so I knew their powers pretty well, but this was my first introduction to Ibis, and the caption in that box pretty much rocked my world - I was like, what is this IbisStick and how does it rank so high as a weapon?

After the Crisis on Earth S, I patiently waited to see an Ibis spinoff comic, cuz y'know - Dude's got one of the most power weapons in the universe - no way we won't be seeing him show back up soon!

Oh well.

At least you can enjoy his origin issue here today for free!

[ Ibis The Invincible 01 ]

Strangely, there aren't a lot of scanned issues of Ibis.

Most of them are from microfiche.

In keeping with the Fawcett theme, here is another issue of Bulletman (check out that one pre-Seduction of the Innocent panel with Bulletgirl getting choked - sort of incogruious when compared to the rest of the art - Seeing that, I almost expect to see the words Final Crisis Tie-In written somewhere on this cover...)

[ Bulletman 14 ]


Friday, September 19, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 4 - Design

Last time, we saw how the writer of an animated show has to go through several drafts of his script until we get the FINAL DRAFT.

Ideally, once the FINAL DRAFT is ready, the various design teams will get started.

Let's use the character designer to explain the design process, but the process is essentially the same for the location designer as well.

On some production, the character designer will also be doing the props. On other productions, you will have someone assigned/specialized only in doing prop designs.

Not sure why.

Either way, the designer will analyzes the script and make a list of everything that he will need to design.

The designer will make what we call "model sheets". He will start with making rough designs of every characters needed for the episode.

If it is an important character, the designer will do what we call a "5 view rotation" model sheet. It is essentially the character seen for almost every angle (front, 3/4 front, side, 3/4 back, and back).

Also for the main characters, it can happen that the character designer will make a model sheet of the rotation of the head only. It gives us a better feel of what the character's head/face looks like for when we need to draw a close-up or extreme close-up scene with the character.

And for not so important characters or some incidental characters, the designer may simply draw a 3/4 front and 3/4 back view model sheet.

In some cases when possible they may also make various poses showing the characters in action.... but too often the deadlines on a production are wayyyyy too tight to even allow that.

Once the rough designs are done, they will be sent for approval to the various people who want a say in the creative process (directors/producers/broadcasters/etc).

Usually you can expect the designs to come back with at least some revisions. Sometimes.... there are a lot of revisions for some reasons.

So once the revisions are done and approved, the rough designs and the script will be given to the storyboard artist to do his job.

Once the storyboard is finished, the designer will analyzes the storyboard (not unlike what he did with the script) and look out for possible changes in the designs or heck, he might have forgotten to design some characters. Or there always are elements that gets added (a door that is opened, or a character/prop that gets added at the last minute).

Or the storyboard artist may have made some changes to some of the designs so that the designer will have to adapt his design to match with what was done in the board.

Or heck, there may be some designs that were done that were not used in the board and are no longer necessary.

It happens.

Every artists pretty much collects stacks of such designs/drawings through their career. Although I for one am usually not shy about reusing such designs on future projects. Whenever a design gets rejected, I put it in my pile of "to use some day" drawings.

I don't waste anything. ;)

So once the designer is done analyzing the board, he makes a final list of all the designs that he needs for that show. Then he does the clean final version of those designs. Once again, the designs have to go through the approval process.

Also the character designer will do what is called a "lip sych" model sheet. It is essentially a model sheet indicating how to draw the character's mouth when he speaks.

Once all that is done, the final designs are given to the layout & posing team along with a copy of the final script and the final storyboard.

And next time..... no we will not discuss the "layout & posing" process yet. We will look at the storyboard step in an animated production. And after that we will look at the "layout & posing". ;)

More soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free Comics Wednesday: Phantom Lady

NOTE: Because we missed this with Monday, I'm posting the Free Comics today instead. - Jim

I've talked about how some of the Quality Heroes have fallen into Public Domain, but one of the best examples of a character falling into public domain and then getting published by many different companies is The Phantom Lady.

Since her intial appearance, she has appeared in titles by: Quality Comics, Fox Feature Syndicate & Star Publications, Ajax-Farrel Publications, Charlton Comics & I.W. Publications and DC Comics. Other than Tarzan, I'm not sure who else has appeared in comics from so many different companies. (Zorro maybe?)

From Wikipedia...

Phantom Lady is one of the first female superhero characters to debut in the 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books. Originally published by Quality Comics, the character was subsequently published by a series of now-defunct comic book companies, and is currently owned by DC Comics.

As published by Fox Feature Syndicate in the late 1940s, the busty and scantily-clad Phantom Lady is a notable and controversial example of "good girl art," a style of comic art depicting voluptuous female characters in provocative situations and pin-up poses that contributed to widespread criticism of the medium's effect on children. Phantom Lady was created by the Eisner & Iger studio, one of the first to produce comics on demand for publishers. The character's early adventures were drawn by Arthur Peddy.

The Fox version which premiered in Phantom Lady #13 (taking over the numbering of Wotalife Comics) is better known to contemporary comic fans than the Quality version because of the "good girl art" of Matt Baker. Baker altered her costume by changing the colors to red and blue, substantially revealing her cleavage, and adding a very short skirt.

[ Phantom Lady 13 ]

Fox published Phantom Lady only through issue 26 (Apr, 1949), though the character guest starred in All-Top Comics #8-17, also with art by Baker. Her rogue's gallery in these two Fox titles included the Avenging Skulls; the Fire Fiend; the Killer Clown; Kurtz, the Robbing Robot; the Subway Slayer; and Vulture.

[ Phantom Lady 16 ]


Monday, September 15, 2008

No Free Comics Today?

This is one of those Good News/Bad News dealios...

First the Bad News:
GoDaddy is moving my server (or moving it to a new Virtual Machine I suspect) and apparently, any new files I upload to the server won't be available for 24-72 hours...

From GoDaddy:

Thank you for contacting Online Support. Unfortunately as your website is being moved to a new server you will not be able to see newly added content until the migration has completed. I see your account is still pending the change. Please note migrations can take up to 72 hours to complete. lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to accommodate your needs anytime.

Now the Good News:

You can find a ton of great Public Domain comics at:

Go check out this site to get your weekly Free Comic fix!
- Jim

Thursday, September 11, 2008

PCDW: Plastic Logics eReader

Before we begin this installment of Paper Comic DeathWatch, I'd like to mention that Wednesday was the official one year anniversary of this blog. I want to thank everyone who follows the blog for the comments and linking to it. I also want to especially thank Pierre who's Wednesday columns have really been a nice addition.

Now, on the the DeathWatch...

Behold! The Kindle Killer!

Monday a company called Plastic Logic unveiled a revolutionary new eReader which not only looks to be a Kindle Killer but could be quite a boon for the business world as well. Check out this demo...

Specs From Engadget...

  • 8.5- x 11-inch touchscreen
  • 7-mm thin
  • micro-USB connect to a PC to charge the unit or get documents.
  • Documents can also be transferred over WiFi
  • Gesture control
  • Easy on-screen annotation of any supported media type such as Word docs, PowerPoint slides, or PDFs using a onscreen keyboard
No price yet - so at this stage it's hard to say just what effect this will have on print media. No color, so I don't see it cutting into the comics market anytime soon. Also no internet access like the Kindles, but I bet that's coming.

On the flipside - looking at the excitement this seems to be building, and thinking how it's wisely targeted Businesses with support of Word and PowerPoint, I don't think it's hard to see a color version getting to us eventually.

Special thanks to Caine for pointing this out to me!

PCDW Points: 2000

The Return of MicroPayments

It's been a long time (or at least the year 2000 seems like a long time) since Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics popularized the idea of using micropayments to pay for webcomics.

For those of you who have not read his book or heard of the term, micropayments are like when you pay $5.00 for 20 credits at a website that can be used to buy different items at that website. is a great example of a thriving micropayments website.

Well this week, Newsarama detailed how far micropayments have come since they were first envisioned...

From newsarama...

Micropayments have been one of the Internet's most-hyped and least-successful ideas — until now, as virtual world creators and video game companies are beginning to expect, and even depend on, players to buy virtual goods in little chunks.

Currently, micropayments are prevalent in the online/mmrpg world, but as people become more used to the idea, I can see them eventually being used to pay for installments of your favorite webcomic. Most likely as bite sizes chunks that you read on your phone or Mobile Internet Device.

PCDW Points: 500 <-- microsized point allotment.

That's all for this week (I'm still in Pittsburgh at a conference, so forgive the shorter post this week.)

- Jim

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pierre Speaks: How I Met Jim

Jim Meeting Pierre?
It was not easy.

Believe it or not, but finding Jim was a long and difficult process.

It all started many years ago (around 2002 I think).

I got connected to the NET and discovered various forums where I could post my artwork, or places like where there is a section for people looking for writer/artists/etc.

I was contacted by many people (no I won't name them). All of them offering a share on future profits..... meaning essentially working for free (will have to do a Blog specifically about working for free sometime).

Lady Danger

I was making good money in animation and was not to crazy about the idea of working for free.

But then I figured that it could be something I could do between animated projects (I think I was waiting to work on a new season of Arthur at the time) to get my name into print.


I figured if I at least could get some exposure out of it.... it could be worth it in the end.

First Ladies


I quickly learned that when someone cannot even pay you a modest page rate.... How are they going to afford to pay for printing?or for any advertising for the project?? How much exposure can you hope to get from such a project??

Young Dynamo


Also since the “publisher” has not paid you a single red cent yet, once you have finished penciling the story, if for some reason they change their minds, it cost them nothing to just say “Sorry, we decided to go in another direction artistically” and get someone else to draw the story.

Since your work ends up not being used, there is no future profit for you. Thus no money.

Not only do you not get any money, but you do not even get any exposure you were hoping for either. It happens.

Heck once I was told the “another direction” line after first being told that thanks to the pages I had drawn, they were able to get a deal to turn the project into a 4 issue mini-series with a bigger publisher.


At some point, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and give it up.

But then, I got the most wonderful surprises.

I got an e-mail from a legend in the industry (sorry won’t name him not to
embarrass him) who had seen my work in my online portfolio and that he really liked it.

The timing could not have been better.

So thanks to that e-mail (although others did e-mail me later on, but he was the first), I got the boost I needed to keep going. But something had to change.

So after doing many designs and many pages for free.... I decided that it was enough. No more "free” projects. From now on... no money, no candy..... or something like that. ;)



And that was when I was contacted by a crazy buckaroo named Jim.

At first, Jim wanted to do some parodies with some Marvel characters from the 70s... for his VsBats website I think.... that was about 3 years ago,,, so the details are a little fuzzy in my memory.

He asked me about some of my favorite Marvel characters from the 70s. I gave him a list of something like Captain America, the Avengers, the Defenders......... and Nova.

So Jim sent me a script and some references for a Cap/Nova parody.
Note from Jim: I ended up pulling the plug on this story when I was told what I was doing might not be viewed altogether as a parody, and that I might get sued. endNote.

We ended up never doing the Cap/Nova story, but when Jim decided to do a Saturn Knight story, he remembered that crazy Nova fan, and contacted me to collaborate on what became the Flashback Universe.

Saturn Knight Digital Comic

And the summer of 2007, after collaborating with him for about a year and a half, I finally got to meet Jim (and a few other cool guys) in the flesh at HeroesCon where we had the Flashback Universe booth.

And that.... is how I met Jim.

Until next time.

Note from Jim - todays post is late because I was traveling to Pittsburgh this morning. - js

Monday, September 8, 2008

Free Comics Monday: The Bouncer

One of the things I really like about the Golden Age heroes is that because the genre was still new, a wide range of characters were produced who, by today's standards, might be considered too silly or outlandish to get their own book. A good example of this is The Bouncer. His origins and powers are part Superman, part Wonder Woman with a little Plastic Man feel thrown in as well.

From Wikipedia...

The Bouncer was a fictional superhero that appeared in comic books published by Fox Feature Syndicate. Created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Louis Ferstadt, the Bouncer first appeared in The Bouncer (no number, September 1944). His final appearance was in The Bouncer #14 (January 1945). The Bouncer holds the distinction of being the first comic book character created by comics legend Kanigher.

The Bouncer had no secret identity, but was in reality a statue of the Greek mythological figure Antaeus (spelled Anteas in the comics). The statue had been sculpted by Adam Anteas, Jr., a descendant of the very same legendary figure. Like his Greek ancestor, Anteas Jr. gained power when in contact with the earth. Anteas Jr.'s power was that he bounced back whenever he struck the ground; the harder he hit, the higher he bounced. Unfortunately, just like his ancestor, he lost his power when out of contact with the ground.

[ The Bouncer 12 ]

More from Wikipedia...

...At first Anteas Jr. had no interest in superheroics, and generally wanted to be left alone with his statues. But whenever he was threatened, the spirit of his ancestor would animate the statue, and drag its creator off on an adventure. Eventually Anteas Jr. begain to seek out criminals, and fight them with the aid of the Bouncer.

The Bouncer was an inanimate statue until animated by the spirit of Anteas. During that time, the Bouncer had superhuman strength and ability to leap great distances. Adam Anteas Jr. has the ability to summon the Bouncer to his current location; when Adam does so, the Bouncer appears in a puff of smoke.

[ The Bouncer 14 ]


Friday, September 5, 2008

Paper Comic Deathwatch: Wonderdogs and Clickwheels

Today I have to turn the hands back the Paper Comic Deathwatch clock because one of the big players (Wowio) in the digital comics scene seems to be having a bit of a problem of late.

For those of you who didn't catch it, Heidi MacDonald ran this post from T Campbell detailing his problems with the new version of Wowio...

The most chilling part is this:

Q3’s payout is hardly relevant, because thanks to the changes made to the site in the last two months, our earnings have dropped 97.3%. I’m not going to fight over less than a hundred dollars. So all Wowio had to do was pay me for Q2 and I’d be out of their hair. Sadly, they couldn’t even manage that.

From all accounts, it sounds like digital comics have lost a good ally in the fight against paper comics. :(

PCDW Points: -20,000

On the Flipside: ClickWheel makes it's move!

I mentioned iVerse comics last week, and in that week, ClickWheel, another site devoted to making comics available to iPods and iPhones, has been featured quite a bit of late...

Here on newsarama:

> Clickwheel - Making up Ground in the Online Comics World

and here on The Beat:

> ELEPHANTMEN joins Clickwheel

Clickwheel LTD is proud to announce a new addition to its premium roster in ELEPHANTMEN. Written by industry mainstay, Richard Starkings with art by Moritat and Ladronn and published in print by Image comics, ELEPHANTMEN tells the story of the ‘Unhumans,’ The result of genetic engineering, the Unhumans have since served their wartime purpose and must now find new ways to survive in society. True to it’s Sci-Fi themes, ELEPHANTMEN and Starkings are eager to help Clickwheel push the boundaries of comics as we know them...

ELEPHANTMEN is available monthly at > One $1.99 purchase earns three formats: PDF, CBR and iPhone formatting. (Via the Clickwheel iPhone reader available free on the Apple App Store.)

PCDW Points: 20,000

Finally - Will Wonderdog is Kill Comics?

There has been quite a bit of discussion written recently about the current issue of Teen Titans where Wonderdog is introduced into the DC universe.

>Heidi MacDonald's post on the topic gets a record number of comments on the Beat when she suggests:

...the Superfriends cartoon is a low point, not just in superhero history but the annals of animation

Meanwhile >Johanna Draper at Comics Worth Reading seems to agree with with a large portion of those of us who are turned off by the story...

I cannot believe how bad this issue is. You ever read a comic, flip to the credits, and say to yourself, “There’s no way he actually wrote that unless he was possessed!”? This is one of those issues.

For those of you who have not read the issue, here's my recap and take on the whole thing:
Wendy and Marvin (who are now sidekicks living in Titans Tower) find a dog who looks a lot like Wonderdog from the old Superfriends cartoon. Everyone thinks the dog is cute and would make a good mascot. Later that night while Wendy and Marvin are alone, the dog turns into a sort of Cerberus hellhound and kills Marvin. It then chases Wendy around for 4 or 5 pages before killing(?) her. (We don't actually see her die.)

Here's my problem with the story. If you are completely unaware of who Wonderdog, Wendy and Marvin are, then what you have is a cliched plot that has its roots in the Trojan Horse story and has since showed up in everything from Gremlins to >Far Out Space Nuts.

However, if what is supposed to redeem this story is the touchstones of the old Superfriends dynamics, then I sort of feel it's a poor use of those touchstones - or rather shortsighted.

If you are using characters that's you've introduced into a story because people have fond memories of those characters (or just memories in general) wouldn't it be wiser to use this as a springboard to fully flesh them out and make them interesting and viable characters today?

Just killing them outright feels exactly like what it is, a cheap gimmick used to goose sales or interest in the book that ultimately weakens the impact of said gimmick everytime it's used. I understand every *dark* story can't be MiracleBoy rampaging in London, but they should try to be better than this.

I normally spare you gentle readers from my rants against such things, instead unloading on my good friend, "Doc Comics."

Here's what the Doc had to say about my angst...

I see what your saying, though I think what your pointing out is just not great storytelling, which is common in comics and uncommented on by you mostly (as well as most other comic book fans)--witness your recent defense of Secret Invasion.

I think what really has people upset is that badness is visited upon these old characters. I agree you probably wouldn't have complained if it were done well, but to swallow heaping loads of other sales boosting gimmicks or cliched storylines only to choke on this one suggests there's an element that makes this one different, and I think that's it. I don't think your reaction would be as negative if these had been new/unknown characters.

Having said all that, I do think you are right in your analysis, I just view this as "Modern Comic Books Act Like Modern Comics"--film at 11. There's nothing newsworthy here beyond it being SUPERFRIENDS characters, and other than that, this event ain't that newsworthy (as Mary Marvel, Blue Beetle, Mad Hatter, Sue Dibney, and any number of other characters will tell you).

I have to agree with the Doc on this one - what is getting everyone riled up is no different than any of the other crap that's been shoveled our way the past couple of years, it's just been made worse because now the infection is spreading into the cartoons we love as well. :\

PCDW Points: 5,000

- Jim

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 3

Writing in Animation

They say that a movie is written 3 times. Once when the script is written. A second time when the film is shot. And a final time in the editing room.

It is not unlike that in animation.

I have seen some projects with a supervisor specifically for the writing team. On other projects, the writers deal directly with the director.

After the development stage is done, once the actual series starts, when writing an episode the writer will start with a first draft of the script. Then he will refine his script into a second draft, and a third draft until the script is finally approved for the FINAL DRAFT. By then the writer's involvement with the episode is pretty much done.

I have seen scripts go as far as a seventh draft before being approved as the final draft.
It happens.

Most shows follow what is called the "3 acts structure". Essentially with a TV show, you get the first act of a show, then commercials, then you get the second act of the show, then some more commercials, and then you get the final act. It is not a coincidence that you often get some sort of cliffhanger just before the commercial break. It is planned that way all the way from the writing stage.

Although, I have worked on some series that do not follow the "3 acts structure".
The first show I have worked on called "The Busy world of Richard Scary" did not follow the "3 acts structure". It was made up of what we called an "A" show, and a "B" show. Arthur the show I am currently working on follows the same pattern.

Essentially, each half hour episode is made up of 2 stories.
In the case of "Scary", the "A" shows would happen in the setting of Busytown. And the "B" shows would happen in Busyworld. The "B" shows could happen anywhere in Busyworld in any time period. So we had shows like "The very first Valentine" happen in Roman times.

So once the Final Draft is approved, it is time to "write" the show a second time. Right?
Although in animation, the second time you "write" the show is in the storyboarding stage.
The storyboard is where you can visualise what the show will look like. You can also tweak it/rework it. Rework some scenes. Remove some scenes. Move dialogues to a different scene... and even sometimes add new dialogues.

A lot of work is done in the storyboard stage because the storyboard is what the layout & posing and animation will depend on (don't worry, I will do a Blog to explain what "layout & posing" is.... it is normal if you do not have a clue as to what it is.... I did not either before I worked in animation). They will follow the storyboard faithfully, so it must have as much of the information that they need as possible.

And then there is the editing where the show will get "written" a third time.
What that mean is that some scenes may get shortened a little, or simply taken out. Some dialogs may also be removed for various reasons.

And example is on the Bob Morane show. At some point Bob and his friends get surrounded by a score of EVIL bad guys. And Bob was supposed to say something like "Oh....shit". But when I saw the episode in English.... the scene ended with Bob and his friends surrounded by bad guys..... then the show went to the commercial without Bob saying his line.

Being the curious guy that I am, I went and ask the director.... "Why was the dialog missing??"

He told me that no matter how hard they tried and how many times they re-recorded the line of the guy saying "Oh... shit", it never sounded good. So he simply took out the dialog when editing the episode. It was pretty simple, the shot was a bird's eye view and we never saw Bob's lips.... so there was no way for people watching the show to know that a line of dialog was missing. But I knew. ;)

Sadly thanks to my experience in animation, I can see when some dialogues get changed/edited when I watch a TV show or movie. Or spot when a scene is missing thanks to the way it is edited.

An example of a scene missing is in Heavy Metal; 2000 (or FAKK 2).
When Julie crashes on the planet (I forget the name), we see her come out of her ship and she is fine. Then when we see her right after that, her suit is torn to pieces. The reason is that after she came out of the ship, she was attacked by some creature and that is how her suit was torn.

But the scene with the creature was taken out.

So you end up with one scene where her suit is fine, and the very next scene where her suit is torn for no apparent reason.

It happens.

The next Blog about animation will be about character design.

Until next time.

- Pierre

Monday, September 1, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Uncle Sam

Sorry I'm late today - I'm trying to squeeze too much Labor into my Labor Day. Anyway, today, I present two comics featuring heroes Quality comics.

Interesting thing about the Quality Heroes (Uncle Sam, The Ray, The Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, ect...) while DC owns the likenesses of the versions that were created in the 70's (and recently used in two mini- series) the characters are all in Public Domain.

From Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #23!

All you need to be able to write a public domain character is for that character to be IN the public domain,which is the case for all of the Freedom Fighters. The Freedom Fighters were all published by Quality Comics until it went out of business in the 1950s, and eventually sold all its rights to DC Comics. The thing is, during this period in time, Quality allowed the copyright to lapse on their characters.

The article goes on to say that while the characters in Public Domain, DC has certain rights because:

...the fact that they published a comic book titled The Ray and Black Condor would be a strong argument in DC's favor that they have a trademark on those characters.

So you *could* use them in a comic, but you would not be able to advertise the comic as The Ray or Black Condor, because it's going to cause *confusion in the marketplace* and that's really one of the fundamental points of copyright and trademark law. And you certainly wouldn't be able to get a movie deal with such characters because Hollywood is just terrified of things like this. :D

First up is Uncle Sam

[ National Comics 18 ]

And Dollman

[ Feature 85]



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