Friday, May 30, 2008

Peace of Mind

Lately I've been asked if I'm not worried about someone stealing my work now that it's online. I guess every artist faces that fear at one point or another. When I was younger I was so paranoid about someone profiting from my creativity that I ended up not showing my creations at all. No, not very smart indeed.

In reality there will always be people in this world trying to take advantage of someone else's work. Whether it is identity theft, pyramid scams, piracy, etc. That doesn't mean that we are without protection, nor should we stop living our lives and doing the things we enjoy. I take the time to actually copyright my work regardless of the law stating that everything is copyrighted once you create it. I’d rather put my trust on paper and have it archived in the Library of Congress. Still, I put a little "Beware of Dog" sign on my blog (see right column) as a reminder to the morally elastic.

Besides, if someone steals my work, all that’s going to happen is we go to court, where I'll bury them in evidence (aside from the copyright), i.e. concept art, original scripts, breakdowns, character concepts, original files, etc. In return for my trouble, I get money in damages, free publicity for the book and an insider’s view of court procedures that I can use as reference for future projects. Not too shabby.

Like the S.A.S. (Special Air Services) motto says: "Who Dares Wins." There is nothing worse than to live life in fear. I'll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Secret World

The theme of a world within a world has always fascinated me. Take a look at any hobby and you’ll find a subculture with its own publication, slang, heroes, idiosyncrasies, etc. Conspiracy theorists also make use of this “invisible world” idea to express that there is something operating alongside the world we know. Metasearch develops under a similar theory; the assumption that the supernatural is all around us and it’s largely ignored until our lives are touched by it.

We see traces of this idea in the psychic studies conducted by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Studies of Tibetan monk meditation by Harvard scholars, and the different uses of the occult during World War II. Of course these are just a few instances, but you get the general idea. I always thought of the members of Metasearch as people who would be approached by the CIA; they would probably work well in intelligence gathering due to the incredible level of their abilities. However, these are people living unassumingly among us, and are extremely judicious about their gifts. I once explained to a friend of mine that Metasearch would be the kind of organization a guy like Bill Gates will call if his house was haunted. A man of such resources would be able to hire real psychics amidst an ocean of charlatans. The chosen psychics would be the cream of the crop, and they would be discreet about handling the case.

Every society is comprised of a number of subcultures. Every occupation, religion, hobby, criminal group, etc. form a part of the multi-layered tapestry of our world. Whether they are fantastic or not, it’s an intriguing fact of the human psyche. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, May 26, 2008

All Around the World

Most comic book stories usually take place in the United States, and even more of them take place in New York City or in a fictional New-York-Like place. When I was in my teens reading comics, I used to wonder about what was happening in other parts of the world. We got to see what was going on in the U.S., Japan, and England, but what about the rest of the world? Were there no superheroes in Latin America? Africa? The Middle East? Sure, there were some characters that came from some of these countries: Storm and Black Panther came from Africa, The New Mutants Rictor and Sunspot were from Mexico and Brazil respectively, and Sabra is from Israel. However, these characters’ adventures usually take place on American soil, not in their homelands.

I always liked to see diversity in comics, but we rarely got to see what was going on in the rest of the world, and when we did, it was usually grossly misrepresented.
South America is an uncivilized, vast jungle with old, toothless people. The Middle East is an endless desert filled with archaic, bloodthirsty nomad tribes. Africa is nothing but a savage-infested, safari-looking place right out of a Robert Conrad tale. That has always bothered me even today, so one of the things I like to do as a writer is to explore the rest of the world in my stories. The U.S. and Japan are well represented as far as I know. My stories are about characters and places that we often don’t get to see.

You can say that
England is not much of a stretch, and I agree. The reason I based Metasearch in London is because of the countries vast history with the paranormal and the country’s atmosphere. Also, it is a location I know, so I felt more comfortable depicting it rather than I place I don’t. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

Throughout most of their folkloric and literary history, Vampires were depicted as hideous reanimated corpses preying on the living. There was nothing sensual, glamorous, or romantic about these supernatural parasites. Vampires were nightmarish monsters that lurked in the shadows. That is of course, up until the Victorian Era when Bram Stocker published “Dracula” and the romantic vampire, charged with charm and sexuality, was born. When I wrote Reverie, I did it based on the idea of an extra-physical killer. A movie released around that time forced me to change my original idea, and through research, I found out about psychic vampires. Hence Reverie became a vampire story.

In the beginning I wasn’t thrilled about writing yet another vampire story, but the fact that I’ve never seen a story about a psychic vampire, and the idea that I could bring the fiend back to its roots, started to become appealing. The psychological implications of an amorphous entity entering a sleeping victim’s home, to feed on their helpless bodies as they watch in terror, brings the vampire back to the realm of nightmares from whence it was originally spawned. Elements associated with the vampire such as flying, invulnerability, shape-shifting, and night prowling are still present and perhaps even more plausible by the assailant’s lack of physicality. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fear of the Dark

It is said that comedy and horror are the hardest things to write. Metasearch is meant to be a thriller, not a horror story, but both genres tend to merge at certain points especially when dealing with the supernatural. Take a look at movies like “The Shinning,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Psycho,” “Jaws,” and “Seven.” What makes them stand out (and yes, there are many other examples) is the way they are set up. Nowadays many scary movies rely on old and cheap formulas: The loud bang of a sound or music, or extreme gore. I was never a fan of gore. Yes, you can make someone squirm by showing a rather macabre torture scene, but that’s not going to stop people from going to the beach or taking a shower. Even in video games, thanks to their immersive nature, you have some scary rides like “Resident Evil,” “Eternal Darkness, “Fatal Frame 2,” and “Silent Hill” that leave you feeling a little uncomfortable even after you’ve quit the game.

The challenge becomes even greater in comic books where you rely solely on images. Yes you can do something gory, or some cool monster, but how can one convey fear? I wrestled with that question myself as I wrote Reverie. When the reader finally sees the psychic vampire, does it really have an impact? If we put things in perspective I guess the answer is yes. If a person sees some sort of strange vapor floating on top of their bed and they can’t scream or move, they will be frightened, but can you really make that connection on the page? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

When you reach your “Jaws” moment, and by that I mean the anticipated reveal of your nemesis, you’re arriving at a pivotal moment in your story. It’s a sink or swim moment (no pun intended), in which an artist can be tempted to unleash some sort of extreme monstrous creation to convey a sense of danger. I opted for the subtle approach, relying on the story’s atmosphere and hoping that by now, my readers are already immersed in it. After all, Reverie was envisioned to be an “it can happen to you” type of story, that’s grounded in a plausible reality. I can only hope, in the nicest of ways, to make some sleep with their lights on after reading my tale. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Long and Winding Road

Page twenty two is the last of the “old” Metasearch pages. There is a two year gap between page twenty two and page twenty three. Time indeed flies. As I sat down to create new pages, all sorts of thoughts went through my head. I really didn’t know if I could still do it, or if the new pages would fit. I also had a great sense of excitement going back to my unfinished story, doing something I love, and playing with characters I care so much about. A lot of things have happened since I took a hiatus from the novel, so much so that it feels like another life altogether. Time, as usual, is in short supply, but so far I’ve managed to keep the updates as scheduled.

Evolution can’t be stopped, so the major hurdle is to make the new pages fit the old ones. It would be a real mood-breaker to go from one page to the next and find two different styles telling the same story. My task is to keep the same vibe, same style, same vision; but thanks to the time my craft has spent marinating, I think my art is more refined and I have a few more tricks up my sleeve.

I’m satisfied with the way the new pages look. You can see a progression in the art, but the look still remains. There are many challenges as I work towards completing Reverie. Metasearch as a concept has seen many permutations throughout the years, and I have no idea where it will lead (if it actually leads anywhere). But the experience gained and the satisfaction of carrying a task to its completion can’t be taken away. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, May 16, 2008

Silent Lucidity

As I go through some of the Metasearch pages, I noticed quite a few instances in which I rely purely on story telling and not dialog to drive the story. I guess I can say there is a lot of silence in some of the pages, and that harkens back to the idea of letting the mood navigate rather than the words. When I see the works of some artists like Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Eddie Campbell, Stan Sakai, Juanjo Guarnido and Brian Hurtt, I always admire their ability to convey the story without the need for dialog. Of course there are more examples of good storytelling, but telling stories with pictures is tricky. Take “30 Days of Night” for example; I loved the story and Ben Templesmith’s art, but take the dialog out (and in some instances even with dialog) and you can’t tell what’s going on. I also love David Mack’s work; look at “Daredevil: Wake Up” without the words and all that is left is some very creative and beautiful art.

From script, to breakdown, to final art, it is easy to follow your own story since it is ingrained in your brain, but what about the reader? Readers will see your story for the first time with no other concept than the one you present. Is it clear to them? I always show my pages to other people before I letter them just to see if the sequence is clear. I also used to get defensive when some one couldn’t follow the story with just the pictures… not anymore. If someone can’t follow the plot then I didn’t do my work, and it’s back to the drawing board. Panels are remade or all together discarded, sequences changed, shots rethought, and sometimes pages rewritten. There is a lot of work that goes into a comic book, even in today’s computer age, which makes me admire the old school guys even more. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mystic Rhythms

A few blog entries ago, I mentioned the lack of a soundtrack in the medium. Yet, music is an integral part of my work. The most prevalent memory of my teens is me drawing at two in the morning on a school night with my stereo blasting some music. With very few exceptions, I always work with music playing in the background. Sometimes the music is just there, keeping me company; other times it becomes inspiration to what I write, draw, or paint. There are songs that have become so identifiable with my work, that I can’t hear them without remembering that particular art piece, or scene.

Bands like Portishead, Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, and Pink Floyd (for some Gabriel scenes) became a sort of a soundtrack to Metasearch as I was working on the script and some of the pages. I find it curious that I associate a silent art form with so much sound. Maybe it's the armchair filmmaker in me, or perhaps it's my frustrated need to convey a fully immersive experience to the readers. I for one believe that life would be so much more interesting if we had our own soundtrack; and no, I don’t mean whatever we listen to our in mp3 players while we walk around.

Maybe there are people that listen to music when they read comic books (or web comics). I’m not one of them, but I’m sure there has to be someone who likes to make the experience just a little bit more personal by adding their own touch. Music is the language of the soul and we like to hear its rhetoric. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, May 12, 2008

Theme for a Strange World

Although a work of fiction, Metasearch’s Reverie story was inspired by actual experiences of people I’ve known. It didn’t matter to me whether these events could be explained; what fascinated me was the experience itself. Sure, a scientist could say that all this is caused by something as simple as sleep paralysis, and I’m fine with that. But as a writer of fiction, the explanation to me is irrelevant. What matters is the perception of the experience by the individual, which makes for a great story element.

I have yet to meet a person, both believer and skeptic, that doesn’t have a strange event that happened in their life. These events are usually so personal that it triggers a mixture of reactions on the listener. If your mother tells you she had a conversation with your grandfather the night of his death anniversary, most people will likely go through a wide spectrum of thoughts from “Holy shit!” to “Nah! That was just a manifestation of her subconscious grieving for grandpa,” to “Why would my mother lie to me about such a thing?”

In the end you don’t really know what to believe. One thing is certain, your primal fear of the unknown and your evolved sense of logic will be at odds. Which one will come out on top depends purely in what the person chooses to accept as true. If you feel like sharing your own unusual experiences, please drop by the forum. I started a new discussion group about the topic and I’d love to hear what you have to say. Believe nothing, but keep and open mind. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, May 9, 2008

Words Don't Come Easy

If you are a regular Metasearch reader, you might have noticed that all the pages have been re-lettered. The change comes from both cosmetic and practical reasons. Metasearch is now a web comic instead of a print prospect, and as such, needs to be more legible. Plus, I have learned much about lettering since I first began it. It’s still an area I need to keep exploring. The time that I’ve spent reworking the graphic novel really made me see, once again, how much more substance there is to lettering.

Leonardo da Vinci said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Going through the back pages of Metasearch, I couldn’t agree more. A change here, a little editing there, it seems that there is always something that could be just a little bit better. I think an art piece is like a finger print that encapsulates who we are at that moment; a frozen sliver of time left behind as we continue evolving. Every now and then, when I look at some of my old work, it reminds me of what was happening in my world when I created it, almost like going through a time capsule… well, enough of this nostalgic babbling. I hope you enjoy the new lettering. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Guess Things Happen That Way

I’ve been asked how I approach writing. I usually start with a premise, then I start creating characters, and finally I develop a plot around it. Usually I keep an idea in my head for a very long time as I develop and research it. Then, when I think its solid enough, I put it down on script form. Since I don’t have to deal with a team of people to create my books, I write down the story like a screenplay. Even though I write down angles and shots, by the time I hit the breakdowns, things start to change as elements like pacing, composition, storytelling, etc start to become images. Needless to say, more changes follow from breakdowns to final art. Dialogs change very little from the script except for rhythmic, spacing, and other considerations for the overall story.

As for the plot, I usually get the beginning of the story right away, work on an ending, and then the middle pretty much writes itself. At this point, the characters are so alive in my head that their dialog feels like taking dictation. I take my time with every project, sometimes an astonishing amount of it, especially when I have to do research. There is a lot of work in the beginning, but once the world in which the story takes place is defined, everything else comes out very organically. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

PS: You might have noticed the change in lettering. I'm in the process of re-lettering the book, so soon all the pages will be updated.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

End It On This

Like many fans, I began to read comic books that were a monthly on-going series. I remember waiting in anticipation for the next month’s chapter of whatever superhero book with which I was enthralled. I often fantasized about doing my own monthly book and the storylines I would develop. As I grew older and I started looking at graphic novels, which have more open-ended stories, I began to discover a whole new world of wonderful, rich, complex tales. Open-ended books didn’t need to keep the protagonists alive, they didn’t need to end in a positive note, the main antagonists could be disposed of, and they didn’t have to worry about ending a story arc with a hook for the next one. There is no next one, and there doesn’t have to be.

Unlike my childhood stories, these days I only write open-ended stories. Not only do I feel more satisfied as a writer, but I find myself being more creative when I don’t have to worry about a follow-up. As for Metasearch, I specifically designed it as a series of open-ended graphic novels. If I have a great story to tell with these characters, all I have to do is write another case. I don’t have to worry about churning out stories month after month. The characters have their own lives outside the Metasearch context, and the cases they deal with are so extreme they just don’t happen everyday.

I guess when we like something, we want it to last forever. Maybe it is the instant gratification world we live in, or a reflection on or own mortality, who knows? I’d rather go for quality over quantity anytime. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Thursday, May 1, 2008

You Know it Ain’t Easy

Of all the scenes in Metasearch, this one was the toughest to write. I actually rewrote it three times from scratch. In this story, aside from the paranormal research, I had to really capture a spousal abuse therapy session. The first time I wrote the scene was more of a blue print of what I wanted to achieve, but I knew later on I would have to rewrite it based on my research. As a writer, I wondered if my first draft of the scene had hit the mark, or would it make a therapist cringe… and cringe they did.

Three drafts and two dinners later with a professional psychologist, the whole scene changed dramatically. Every single detail was taken in consideration: The objects around the office, the positioning of the characters, their body language, their clothes, and their dialogue. Looking back at Claire’s introduction, it was a lot of work for only four pages, but it was worth every bit of it. I had achieved the level of realism I was looking for.

I often compare the creative processes with sculpting. You have this huge chunk of rock i.e. research, plot, characters, ideas, etc. And you start chipping away until you get a nice polished sculpture. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out