A few months ago, my artist Andre Siregar mentioned that he would like his comic book pages to be critiqued like this in the future to improve his craft. Up until page 12, there hadn’t been a need for me to be so critical of his art, I approved of his art overall and only suggested edits when an omission of a detail would disrupt the story. I felt I needed to weigh in heavily on this panel however. Here’s the panel description that I wrote:

Script for Sevara issue #0, page 12, panel 1.

Script for Sevara issue #0, page 12, panel 1.

I’ll admit, my panel description is short. Most of them are. I try to give my artist the greatest degree of flexibility to be creative. My early scripts described every camera angle, but I found that it prevented Andre from making great art. Andre’s job is to turn a group of panels into a single coherent beautiful page. A really great page needs panels that flow from one panel to the next, and the entire page needs to be a work of art that you can stand back from and admire in its entirely. So I’ve taken to leaving the camera angles up to him unless I’m really set on a certain perspective. Here’s the art that Andre sent back based on this slim description:
page12panel1artorig

If I were working for a big comic book company, I’d simply send in my script and that would be the end of it. An art director would take over. Luckily, this is creator owned, so I have guide the art in the direction I want it to go, and this wasn’t what I wanted from this panel for a lot of reasons. We aren’t under any major deadlines either, so I went back and gave Andre a serious critique, which I’ll share in a moment.

I do have some schooling in feminist theory and thought, which I’ll admit has been extremely helpful as I write a story about strong women trying to save the world. The first class I took was at Boston University with the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies. The most influential class was a graduate level course Geography at UW-Madison with Leila Harris. Without these classes I don’t think I would have had the analytical skills to look at how Sevara is being portrayed.

I’ve also done some great online reading about how women are portrayed in comics, which anyone interested in gender in media should take a look at. If you haven’t checked out The Hawkeye Initiative, you should! It’s both entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. It asks readers to imagine male characters posing the way female characters are typically posed, and its hilarious! Would Hawkeye ever pose the way Black Widow or any other female superhero poses? No way! But on The Hawkeye Initiative, he does. Check it out. The Avengers movie poster parody got a lot of attention not long ago.

Kevin Bolks Avengers parody

Kevin Bolks Avengers parody

There was a lot of great writing about a particular piece of comic book art featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The different perspectives on the image are worth a look, and just by reading the different articles you can see how complex the subject of women in comics is. The discussion starter with Ray Sonne’s detailed post at Eat Your Comics about the particular image. The debate raged, and Adam Joseph Drici’s lengthly post not only added some great insights, but solicited an alternate perspective from a professional feminist that takes the discussion further.

The image in question.

The image in question. Art by Sean Murphy.

So, after all this, what did I sent back to Andre? Here’s part of the email:

Panel 1 – In the previous panel we established that Sevara really wants to get the staff. This panel doesn’t really back that up. I don’t see the anger or rage or joy that I would expect to get from this part of the story. Sevara seems to be posing for the camera, like James Bond does in the opening shots of each movie where he steps right into the camera and freezes. I’m not sure why she would stop here to pose. The camera angle is very simple, a full body shot from the side, not very original. And we don’t know if she is moving or preparing to jump, she is just hanging there posing for us. If the sword is of key importance, I would emphasize it more http://www.impawards.com/2006/ultraviolet_xlg.html I also don’t think its clear to the readers where the sword came from. It is too big to fit inside the case, so readers will be confused. Is it is the two pieces of the case are going to be hanging around her, which will be clumsy. It would be better if they simply disappeared. The camera angle and pose is a big deal, especially since the camera angle is so good on the last two panels (really good!) Check out this link for a pose and angle: http://www.posemaniacs.com/archives/1467

My main concern with the image is that Sevara is posing for the male reader to observe her. It just doesn’t make any sense, as she’s in the middle of a battle against a relentless giant robot. To stop and pose for us is just playing to the readers fantasy. It also detracts from the story and the drama. I want Sevara to be a book that both men and women will love. I particularly want female readers to love Sevara for her strength and compassion. Sure, there’s a lot of skin in my book, but the amount of skin isn’t the issue. Character motivation is of primary importance. Why would Sevara stop here? Who is in control, Sevara, or the male gaze? Not unlike the TV show ‘The Wire’, where the show’s creators made it a point never to ‘fish’ with the camera. Alternatively, in the 1989 Batman, why does the Batwing stop right there in front of the moon? The camera is above the clouds, so no one in Gotham can see this cool shot, only the audience. I think Andre was happy to get my critique, and he went back and made edits. I feel luck to have the opportunity to work directly with Andre to bring the pages to life. If I worked for a major company, I’d have to say in how the art turned out!

The re-drawn panel.

The re-drawn panel.

This is what Andre came back with. I think he totally got what I was saying. I love this new image, Sevara is strong, and the camera angle was chosen for maximum dramatic effect instead of to please the audience. If you like this post, take a look at our Kickstarter campaign http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/damianwampler/sevara-issue-0

Please leave your comments, share on Facebook, or tweet this post if you liked it!

Damian Wampler

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My friends and family all know that I’ve been running a Kickstarter campaign, you can see the results here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/damianwampler/sevara-issue-0

The outpouring of support has been tremendous, and we’ve gotten some great press. Here’s a roundup of how things are going so far. We got a great article by Comics Bastards.

comicbastards

We also have a nice interview (with video) on the Big Comic Page.
big comic page

And a great endorsement by The Daily Up, where we were selected as the Campaign of the Day!
dailyup

And we are thankful for this great little plug on Kicktops!
kicktops

And of course, I put our campaign on Kicktraq right away. You can track the progress easily here:
Sevara issue #0 -- Kicktraq Mini

And keep an eye out for an article in the Washington City paper by Mike Rhode.
rhode


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Could this be real? Found on Ebay, one of a kind E book reader made by Nintendo, with the books in cartridges. Left in someone’s estate sale, an early version of the Kindle.

the first Kindle!

the first Kindle!

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Online Poll @ FluidSurveys.com…

Survey Software by FluidSurveys


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Artists are from Mars, Writers are from Venus

The unhappy marriage of brains and brawn in a visual industry

The Martian: Artists are the superior talent in comic books. Comics are nothing without the art. The art is why people pick up the comic book, and the art is what keeps them interested. Without the art, you’d have no comic book. Artists should be paid more, should be given rights to the characters they draw, and get top billing on books. People remember the art from comics – the costumes, the vehicles, the villains, more than anything else.

It takes way less time to write a page of script than it does to draw a page of art. The writer can punch out a 20 pages script in a day, while it takes me that long just to draw one page. Writing takes no effort other than sitting at a keyboard, and it’s cheaper. I have a Mac, a Wacom tablet, and years of training. Writers don’t need any fancy pens or software, just a PC or a pen and paper! They should get paid less, they are the least important piece of the puzzle. When you read a script, you have no idea how the pages will grip you because there is no art – the art can sink a great story, or elevate an average one.

The Venusian: Writers create the stories that make comics happen. People may pick up one issue of a comic for the cover and interior art, but it is the story that makes them want to buy the next issue. Without the idea for the story, the characters, and the dialogue, there would be no comic book. The story drives the characters onward issue to issue, month to month, in the search for the core of what makes the character tick.

Artists take orders. They draw based on the instructions given to them by the writer. The spark of the imagination comes from the writer, not the artist. There are lots of talented artists out there – if writing was so easy, why don’t you make up your own story and script a few dozen issues? Then write a pitch and find a publisher!

Writing takes far more time and effort than drawing a page of art. The actual typing might not take much time, but the brainstorming and agony to come up with the story in the first place, usually based on probing painful personal experiences, can take years. The story is what makes money, gets remembered, and gets franchised and licensed, not the art.

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Did you see DC’s 3D animated covers? Pretty cool right? Here is one:

There are a bunch more on Comic Book Resources.

I’m trying to make my own motion cover for Sevara, here is a first try using pieces I had laying around.

sevara-animatedsmall2

See trailers and finished pages at Sevara Will Rise!

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Sevara Animated Cover

OK, so apparently the Batpod pops out of the front of the Tumbler, taking the front two wheels with it. This diagram shows how it’s done, but I was skeptical.
If you've seen Batman Begins or the Dark Knight, you know what I'm talking about!

OK, but how does it REEEELY fit in there? I had to find out, so I build a LEGO Tumbler with fully working ejectable Batpod. Maybe this isn’t the best Tumbler Batmobile on the internet, but it sure is the first to have a real pop-off Batpod that works the way it is supposed to.

So it could work! In the real Batpod, the guns are a bit problematic, they kind of appear out of nowhere, but I made it work in the LEGO version. I found out the long and hard way, but the fun way as well. That’s what happens when my wife leaves a 36 year old man home alone with no cable. But maybe this IS the best Tumbler Batmobile on the internet!

If you like this, check out my other creation, www.sevarawillrise.com

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Lego Batpod

Hopefully you’ve all seen my motion comic and trailer on Sevara’s website. I made these movies in Photoshop using the animation palette, and I learned what Photoshop can and can’t do. My next animation palette grumble for Photoshop CS6 – no ease and wizz that you have in after effects. In the animation below, the robot arm is at a standstill, then starts to move, then stops abruptly.

Ease and wizz would make natural motion automatically. What is ease and wizz? Basically, when doing animations, your objects or layers move from point A to point B. Ease and wizz allows them to move in a more natural and lifelike manner. As of now, Photoshop can move layers, but there are two speeds of motion – moving and not moving. There’s no other way to do it in Photoshop. I can do it manually, adding a new keyframe for every position so that the arm slowly starts then moves faster, then slows down before stopping, but that takes a dozen keyframes and looks unnatural.

The diamond on the left is the keyframe for MOVE. The one on the right is the keyframe for STOP.

That’s it. That’s all we get with Photoshop. STOP and GO. Aftereffects is lucky enough to have ease and wizz, which lets you move your objects in a non-linear motion, meaning that things can gradually start moving or slowly come to a halt. But in Photoshop we can only move objects or fade them in an out in a linear motion.

Not that Photoshop is a stranger to non-linear data. These are called curves, and we Photoshop junkies use them every day. Of course there is the curve layer, below, that is the staple of our photo editing.

Curves adjustment layer

But there are more curves hidden in Photoshop. Many of your layer styles have a contour option, which adds a curve (or non-linear effect) to that style. It has been part of Photoshop for quite some time, even though you might not known it was there.

And if you look at the layer style contours, there are all sorts of presets that you can use, or you can make your own contour and save it as a preset Cool! Photoshop has the mathematical muscle to do contour in pixels, and it can do ease and wizz in After Effects. If I were to add ease and wizz (motion contour) to the Photoshop CS7 animation palette, it might look something like this, with presets and custom contours.

If the Photoshop gods smile upon me, CS7 would have this!

That’s all for me today, join me next time as I look more at the animation palette, and how to make it better.

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In the past year, I made three complex animations for my comic book Sevara. You can find them all on the Sevara website, or this YouTube playlist.

Photoshop has some powerful tools, and combined with the animation palette, you can do some pretty cool stuff. Blend modes and masks with animation is quite awesome, to say the least. But…..

For this to be really effective, Photoshop CS7’s animation palette needs to have a few basic things.

First off, curved motion paths. As of right now, layers in photoshop CS6 can be animated in a bunch of fun ways. They can spin, grow, disappear, and even stretch (if you know what buttons to push). But the bottom line is that they can still only move in a straight line from point A to point B. I’m not sure why this would be, particularly since you can draw curves in Photoshop very easily with the pen tool.

It's not that hard...

What bugs me a thousand time more than the fact that Photoshop CS6 doesn’t have curved motion paths for animation, is that Microsoft Powerpoint DOES! And Powerpoint has had this for years. My Office 2008 can have objects fly in using a number of different curved paths.

As of now, CS6 is severely limited by not having curved motion paths. If you want to make an animated ball bounce around the canvas using CS6, you either have to do it frame by frame like in the old days (using the frame animation option), or add tons and tons of individual start and end points to make the object bounce realistically using the video timeline option. I believe that After Effects, another Adobe product, does have curved motion paths, right? So it can’t be that hard. Here it is on Adobe’s website:

Adobe, if you’re out there, please add curved motion paths to CS7. There’s more to Photoshop animation than just making text fade in and out, as you’ll see on the Sevara website. Then our objects will be able to do all sorts of cool stuff that they can already do in Powerpoint… without blend modes of course.

Join me next time when I go into more animation palette grumbles!

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Sevara pages 1-5, 7-8