Monday, June 30, 2008

The Mirror

I thought it would be a cool idea to create a page that is the opposite of another. That’s what I did for pages 39 and 40, where I decided to reverse every panel; same setting different angle. I even reversed the dialog, not really on purpose; I was looking for a way to convey voiceovers through the telephones without having to fallback on the star-like word balloons. I decided to flip the colors and have no dialog arrows. But once I saw the two pages completed, I realized that it had fallen in place with the whole concept of the scene. A happy coincidence I say, buy hey, I’ll take it.

After forty pages of trying to keep every page interesting, you don’t want to repeat yourself. This pushes me to be more creative every time. It’s challenging and satisfying, and the book benefits from it. I have also become a bit looser with my lettering. It’s still a work in progress, but it has certainly improved. As I compare page 1 to page 40, I see that Metasearch has gone a long way in a very short period of time. Don’t worry; we still have a lot more road ahead of us. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing

Going through the old blog entries I found out that I’ve been remiss in talking about Gabriel. I did mention some factoids about him, but never got to talk in depth about the character. Aside from what I’ve already said in the “Even Flow” post, Gabriel DeNegro is the easiest character to write for me. He represents the New Age take on the supernatural. DeNegro is candid, easy going, gregarious, and enjoys the ironies of life; an attitude that stems from living between the physical and the metaphysical world. His place of birth is the city of Vigo, Spain in an area called Galicia. Once Celtic land, Galicia is known as “terra das meigas,” Galician for “land of the meigas.” Meigas are the traditional folk witches of Galicia. It’s a part of Spain rich with supernatural folktales and believes. This is in line with the concept that each member of Metasearch comes from a place Europe rich with occult lore.

Gabriel’s last name is somewhat uncomfortable for English speakers. Take the first to letters of his surname and you’ll understand why. I’ve been asked why didn’t I choose something different, but the genesis of his particular family name comes from a person I know, who had a much more compromising last name. As I writer, I fall in love with life little quirks, and use them to make my characters more real. Not everyone can be like Homer Simpson and choose to change their names to the more appealing “Max Power.”

DeNegro’s amazing ESP abilities not only forged his character, but his chosen profession as a holistic healer in the critical wing of a hospital. He was supposed to be originally a parapsychologist, but that honor went to Acantha so each character had a job becoming of their gifts and personalities. There you have it, the elusive, yet accessible Gabriel. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Engines of Creation

Page 38 is a great example of how to turn a seemingly boring scene into something rather interesting. In the seminal book “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” by Stan Lee and John Buscema, there is a comparison of a scenes done in two ways: One boring and one “the Marvel Way!” The first one is a pretty straightforward depiction of the story; the other has very dramatic angles and interesting body language. It’s the same setting, but with two very different approaches. As you might have noticed by now, Reverie is a not story driven by action, so I always make sure that every page looks artistically appealing.

Take this page for instance, it could have been a straight forward scene with six panels or so. However, I’ve been wanting to make a collage page for awhile, and I thought this was the perfect time to do so. What I like about composing a page this way is how it conveys the passage of time. It also involves the reader by immersing them in the documents Inspector McConnor is reading. I had some concerns about how it would come out with Metasearch’s faded look, but after all was said and done, the scene played out beautifully. Lettering was also a concern of mine, since there was so much text going on, but I try to integrate the narration into the art as much as I could and it worked pretty well too.

It is often the case with me that the pages with which I struggle the most, turn out to be some of my favorites. I’ll see you in that page.

Oddman Out

Monday, June 23, 2008

Out of Control

Now that you have met Anya, it’s time to talk a little bit about her. Anya carries half of the story’s load along with McConnor. She was originally part of the much larger Metasearch team I had envisioned, but as I kept polishing the concept, she ended up being a secondary character. Her look, personality and supernatural ability remains the same, but with a twist. Anya was supposed to be the team’s astral traveler, but in my research I found out that this is an ability that can be purportedly learned by anyone. Consequently I decided that Gabriel--the member of Metasearch with abilities that grant him greater cognitive sense--should be an astral traveler as well. This is due to the alleged fact that awareness plays a major role in controlling out of of body experiences.

Nevertheless I liked Anya and, with the little twist to her gift, I wrote her into “Reverie.” The alteration was that she couldn’t control her astral projections, and her uncomfortable extra-physical experiences were synthesized from the supposed repeated incidents of two people I know. This incorporeal meeting between the psychic vampire and Anya gave the story a whole new interesting dimension. Her occupation, a Doctor in Art History and Anthropology working for the
British Museum, was also part of her original concept. This is a set of skills I thought could come in handy in future stories.

As a plot catalyst, Inspector McConnor represents the skeptical, pragmatist side of the reader. On the other hand, Anya is the guide into the unknown. She is the fear, reluctance, and helplessness of someone unwillingly touched by preternatural forces. So hold on to your bodies, and let’s see where this hapless traveler of the unknown takes us. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, June 20, 2008

Death Letter

Writing is one of the most underestimated skills in the modern era. Of course we are still awed by poets, literary figures, playwrights, and although rapidly fading, we still hold a healthy measure of respect for journalism. Every once in a while we are dazzled by a well-written film or TV series, which invariably becomes massively popular or even a classic. Comic books are no different. I’ve been in comic book conventions where people brag about: “we desperately needed a writer for the series, so [whatever the name was] from marketing stepped up and wrote the story.” I’m paraphrasing an actual quote, but I sat there shocked at the fact that a guy who admittedly had no writing training was tapped to be the writer of a series. Training doesn’t equate talent, of course, but sadly this wasn’t the case. No wonder writers like Moore, Gaiman, Ennis, and Miller are so popular. Aside from their obvious talent, they have the slight advantage of being writers. Trained or not, they know how to tell a story with words.

The fact that a person can put words together in sentences doesn’t make them a writer. Most people in the 21st century can read and write, and word processor software has made the task even easier. So really, the ability to write doesn’t make you a writer. Perhaps the quintessential illustration of this idea comes from the Robert Altman film “The Player,” in which studio executives browse through the newspaper in search for story ideas, since the screenwriters were on strike. Personally, I think a writer is a person who has a way with words, i.e. Shakespeare and Cervantes to show the pinnacle of this skill. These are people that have such a command of their language that can convey timeless stories. I, for one, see myself as a storyteller, not a writer.

To the chagrin of most people who want to break into the comic business as writers, the doors are tightly closed. Like fictional spies, we search for the one chance we can find to “Machiavelli” our way into the impregnable fortress that is the publishing business amidst
an endless army of clone-writing, half-baked producing, rip-off adapting, unoriginal-typing, nonsensical-scribing people. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Keep Talking

Dialog is a tricky thing to pull off in comic books. Every word balloon has its own rules about how many words they should contain, because each one will inevitably cover some part of the art work. Speech should be concise and to the point; unlike a book or a script, where you can run wild with it. This is an often overlooked, but unique feature of the graphic novel that presents a challenge to the writer, and also points out the difference between working on manuscripts for different media.

My formal training is as a script writer for film. Screenplays have very definite rules that the writer should follow, even though they are used mostly as a guideline for cast and crew than an immutable bible. Movie scripts focus more on who, where, how, why, and when; with an emphasis in dialog. Camera angles, props, costumes, action scenes, and even the dialog can change as the manuscript travels through the different departments and talent in a production. The witty banter of Pulp Fiction would be hard to reproduce in a comic book, since space is always an issue. As much as the letterer blends the word balloons with the art, the fact remains that something will be obscured by the dialog.

Since Metasearch is a one-man-effort, it is easy for me to edit my own dialog to suit my panels, but I can’t deny the fact that I find myself doing that all too often, and I keep reminding to myself “this isn’t a screenplay.” Going through every stage of the creation of a graphic novel has been an immense learning experience. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, June 16, 2008

Food for Thought

The ability to know what a character thinks is native to the literary form. It’s one of the elements that make reading a unique experience. I deliberately chose to do without it for Metasearch to maintain a level of suspense. It’s my intention that the reader discovers the elements of the novel along with the characters. The exception to this rule is Inspector McConnor, who I wanted to be the only inner voice in “Reverie”; plus it adds to his film noir feel. McConnor, in a way, is the narrator; and like I’ve said before, he is the main channel through which the reader experiences the story.

It would have been easy to fill page 34 with internal dialog, but I’d rather keep the panels blank, so the reader can project their own thoughts in what I like to call the “quiet pages.” I see them as a blank canvas in which the reader can interact with the plot. They can follow the character and “write” their own internal dialog to the scene. This is the sort of interaction and submersion I strive to achieve. There’s no better scene than the one played out in the public’s mind. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just Because

Every now and then I find the rare chance to submit Reverie to a publisher. This little song and dance has gone on for several years now, and it has taken several incarnations. As you might have guessed, no one has answered my knocking on the door… yet, and I don’t lose hope. You can say I have an unwavering belief in my work. Curiously enough rejection is still hard to stomach. Human nature I guess. I can take professional rejection with no problem, but when it is related to my graphic novel, it hits a little close to my heart. What has changed is the recovering time: You read the rejection letter, you feel the kick in your gut, you bitch and complain, you have a couple of drinks, and the next morning, you move on as if nothing happened. Self-publishing on-line has a unique sense of solitude. You’re not handing out anything, you just post it and hopefully people will click and read.

Personally the payoff of all this comes from the people who take the time to email me about their regard for my work. When you really think about it, these people have no other motivation to do this other than their genuine enjoyment of what I do, and their gregarious choice to convey it to me. What good would a storyteller be without an audience gathered around the fire to hear his tales? I believe when art is done for yourself, it is self-expression; when you find an audience, it is communication; and when you make money out of it, it’s a career. I spend a lot of time in the “self-expression” stage, and to finally be able to communicate my vision to others has been very rewarding.

I want to thank all of you out there who have honored me with your emails and support. As sappy as it might sound, you have given me one more reason to keep on doing what I love. Now move closer to the fire so I can continue my tale… I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Long Hard Road Out of Hell

Metasearch’s art falls under the “Digital Art” category. It can also be called mixed media, since there are many elements that comprise each panel. Some people even call this style "experimental". In my opinion, all of these definitions are true. As Imentioned in previous blog entries, I wanted to develop a unique look for the book. Dealing with experimental, digital mixed media proved to be quite challenging, and in blogging, I just give a peek at the many hardships in creating this novel.

Page 31 has been by far the hardest. Painting hues and strokes had to match; different textures and color filters had to be created to give each apartment its own signature look and feel. References, perspectives, and action had to flow seamlessly to convey the action. Elements had to be retouched and blended together. If this was a page solely done in pencils or painting, it would just be a matter of creating each panel without having to deal with all these elements. Then we go on to page 32, which has to match page 23 in order to maintain art continuity.

As you can see, it is sometimes an imperfect method that yields interesting results and creates a distinctive appearance. Every panel is approached differently since each presents its own challenges, but that’s what keeps it interesting for me as an artist. Even the most mundane panel becomes an adventure. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, June 9, 2008

Always Near You/No Place to Hide

Aside from the world within a world concept in Metasearch, there’s also the concept of “nothing is what it seems.” Like a cadence, this concept is repeated through “Reverie” on different occasions; from the murders, to the team’s introduction, to page 30. What we initially think appears to be a normal scene, soon turns into something extraordinary. The trivial aspect of the interaction, i.e. a conversation in the park, makes the supernatural occurrence even more surreal.

One of the elements that I like about the story is the proximity of the paranormal to every day life. When I look into a crowd like in a mall or when I’m stuck in traffic, I can’t help but wonder how many stories are around me. One of these people might be a spy on their way to uncover a state secret, or driving to pay a ransom, or being deployed behind enemy lines in some black operation. After all, everybody is a world unto themselves. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Friday, June 6, 2008

These Things

Like I said before, “Reverie” is peppered with little inside jokes and small details that are a source of great joy for me as a creator. Some of these details help ground Metasearch into its own reality, and yet they’re not essential to the story. So I’ll share my joy with you by pointing out a few more of these easter eggs.

There is a cross in every panel of page 1.

The cover of the book on page 4 was an old art school project.

The title is a play to Dion Fortune’s book dealing with the same subject. The “Metasearch” business card McConnor is holding in page 6 was actually the same business cards I used to promote the graphic novel at a comic book convention some years ago.

The “Witch’s Cauldron,” the pub in which the team meets the Inspector, is one of those imaginary places which I got to design as a recurrent place in the book. I’m particularly found of the sign. Also, the artwork on the walls of the pub (page 18 and 19) depict illustrations of witch hunts in England.

McConnor’s Brand of cigarettes, “Gypsy’s” (page 27), is another of my custom designs for the book.

Finally, on page 30, the design on the girl’s T-shirt is from a make-believe rock band I created and it depicts odd-i-t’s own mascot, Oddman. I hope you find these indulgences as amusing as I do. Keep your eyes peeled and I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

In the Still of the Night

Part of the Metasearch world is comprised of a supporting cast. Although recurring, these characters are not necessarily part of every case. Such is the situation of Inspector James McConnor who carries half of the load of representing the reader in the story. He is a jaded, veteran detective who has seen it all. McConnor is a pragmatic workaholic with a blue-collar approach; he likes to work the night shift and still gets his hands dirty instead of riding a desk. Although nearing retirement, the Inspector’s physique tells of a once-imposing rookie cop, who commanded respect. Both his body type and hair style were inspired by a person I knew.

Throughout “Reverie”, it is suggested that McConnor has some history with Metasearch, a past that’s yet to be revealed. The Inspector represents the logical mind; the part of our brain that rationalizes everything. He is a cop, and he lives in a world of analysis, evidence, and facts. Yet his life was touched by the unexplained at one point; in such a way that has shaken him to the very core of his beliefs. This makes McConnor live in a state of semi-denial; hence his reluctance to contact Metasearch. But, it also explains why he would consider them as an answer.

James was born out of the necessity for a story catalyst. However, he soon took a life of his own, and developed his voice. It didn’t take long to develop a soft spot for the big, old, cynic with the stone-like face. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out

Monday, June 2, 2008


As I get deeper into the world of web comics, I bump into the money issue every now and then. The issue is nothing but the old “principles vs. money” illusion that seems to have incorrectly come down to us from the French Bohemian movement of the late 1900s. I say incorrectly because French Bohemians were about an artistic, social, and political revolution against the mainstream culture of the time. They usually lacked money and placed their artistic expression above all else. These facts were romanticized and later translated to the general public as the “starving artist” image; the fantasy of a person who loathes money and prefers to live under a bridge sustained by nothing but their passion for art. I find it hard to believe that this unrealistic concept is still alive and well in the 21st century.

Art and entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive. They certainly cross paths more than once, but they also tend to be confused by most people. Art is a form of self expression that challenges society; it mirrors it, and its end result is not necessarily agreeable to the public. Entertainment, on the other hand, is escapism, enjoyment, and satisfactory to the public. Both are necessary, important, sometimes similar, but not the same. There is one indisputable factor they have in common: Money. You can grab your guitar and entertain friends at a party, and you can paint in your free time to express another side of you, but if you choose to make a creative endeavor a career, you need to pay the bills. The greatest artists in history were no exception; they were hired by kings, popes, the nobility, and the wealthiest families of their time.

If I could quit my day job in order to pursue a career doing comics, I would do it in a second. Who wouldn’t love to be making a living out of something they love to do? We spend a big chunk of our lives working, and to me there is nothing worse than to wake up every day to do something I'm forced to do. To be able to make money through self expression is an admirable feat, not something of which to be ashamed. I’ll see you in the page.

Oddman Out