Saturday, June 23, 2012


I'm in the middle of a moral dilemna in regards to worldbuilding series, on their experiential value versus their ability to detract from reality, but worries like that tend to vanish when it coems to sitting down to shows like the Avatar franchise.

Worldbuilding is my favourite aspect of this, and it's the same reason I admire the design in BSG, Firefly and the Fifth Element. So much thinking has gone into it, and a world has literally been grown, albeit a conceptual one rather than a physical one.

Avatar: Legend of Aang was expansive, amd had a world nicely compartmentalised and carried out my favourite storytelling game of 'these are the rules, what can go wrong, what can be done' to great effect. The breakup of the books into Water, Earth and Fire seperated the story nicely, and though there was a bit of a lag in the middle, the show was lighthearted, colourful, clever, self referential and had characters with ACTUAL CHARACTER GROWTH. Mentioning that I think I've written about it here before, so I'll take it as read you know that I love that show and watch it on an almost monthly basis.

Korra had a tough sell. The world had grown up and industrialised, the famous characters had aged or died, and telling the same story twice wouldn't wow anyone.
I admit, I do love the sheer tenacity with which these problems were adressed. Industrialised city, well that seems like a pretty major plot point. Old and dead gives way for young and new, and having Aang's descendants as purely secondary characters is something I'm very happy with. If this were another show, with less faith in its world, Korra's team would have had a teenage Tenzen or one of his kids being much older to shout out the airbending end of things. They're THERE all right, but it picks it's moments well.

Not telling the same story twice. I didn't see this take coming. Aang's struggle was based on facing responsibility and earning redemption. Korra's not burdened with that, her attitude more akin to Toph's than her past life...and THAT'S her problem.

It's as if the show said 'OK, she's the opposite of Aang. What can happen, what can go wrong?'

A more evolved world, more evolved expectation, and a more evolved artstyle. LoA took a while finding it's feet visually, and the difference in drawing the characters could be seen artist to artist. Korra's a new beast, and it comes across as more refined and solidified. Best of all, it had the Clone Wars treatment.

With a surname like Lucas, it's hard to wander very in the world of film, comics and geekery without falling under the shadow of Big G. The prequels presented an opportunity to explore the potential of lightsabres, and what was quite cool in ep 1 (Darth Maul fight) turned to blooming ridiculous by episode 3. Was it episode 2 that had the jedi in the arena with padme and the boys being sacrificied? That wall to wall lightsabre fest broke my heart. It was the equivalent of seasoning your food with pepper the first time to add a nice taste following up with a plate filled with mostly pepper. It's not an improvement, just an upscaling.

Korra DIDN'T do this, and I was actually quite worried about this. LoA played with the possibilities of bending over it's 3 series and had done lots of things to the point where my brain would go off and wonder what else they could do. The limits are based on the strength and mental faculties of the bender in my deductions, and this is explored in the new show.
What they did do is find ways to elaborate the possibilities of the fights; mixing and matching bending forms, practical applications and also creating great visual spectacles. It would have been easy to have an army of benders filling the sky with walls of fire, earth, water and...well, air, but they have chosen their battles and absolutely delivered on the promise of bigger and _better_ bending.

All in all the series is more mature, and more teen-based than LoA, with Korra obviously having different things to wrestle with than 11 year old Aang. It's humour is more tongue in cheek, but I still think we may be treated with some silliness in the books to come. I'm not overly impressed with the pacing of the show, and while I understand why this was necessary it left me feeling a little uneasy. Possibly a little residual George RR Martin in my head, but it's nature of not being a standard journey fayre put me off a bit.
That uneasiness is good though. Putting it in a phrase, it could quite easily surmise the whole series 'Nothing is simple' or with horrifying facebook allegories 'It's complicated'

I like it. It's keeping me on my toes. Just watched the finale (if I haven't mentioned already) and I did not know what was coming next. 3 times. 3 TIMES I was suprised, and there's one or two things I think they threw in just for rampant discussion on the forums.

I find myself having set opinions on which characters I like and fervently dislike, though I have to say I initially thought 'Bolin is Sokka, puhlease...' but he completely and totally won me over. Stocky guy with eyebrows? I shall root for you Bolin if only so one day I can dress up like you and act like an idiot. Never in my life have I been so tempted to cosplay.

I can't wait until the series is over, purely so I can buy it on DVD and watch it all in one sitting, like shows like this really need to. Also, to buy the art books. And THEN, HOPEFULLY, to one day work on the show or one very much like it in heart and intent as much as content.

Well, that's one moral dilemma solved.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain

I'm waiting on an issue of MacGyver to open up for a last minute check, and while I do I figured I might write up a bit on my process for colouring comics.

STEP 1- Read the script. OK, this usually isn't step 1. Usually I get the pages- digitally- and drool over them somewhat and THEN read over the script. Twice. Once on it's own, as a squee-filled fan who counts his lucky stars to be working on awesome books, and again with the pages in mind. I play it out as a film in my head, and think about how the colours play out in my brain. Not EVERY SINGLE PANEL, but the main beats.

STEP 2- MR FLATTER, I SUMMON YOU. I've been using a flatter for MacGyver, and this presents advantages and disadvantages. The selections are INFINITELY cleaner than I would do solo, particularly on loose work like Mr Sliney is wont to do from time to time :D So, I send my pages off to Ranvic and he works 'em up for me. The colours that come back are OFF THE WALL, but that's good for selections.

MEANWHILE, STEP 3- I take low res versions of the pages, and thumb out the main colour beats. This is where some of the more off the wall colours come out of. Sometimes.

STEP 4- The pages come back from the flatter, and I press F6, my magical lineprep button. This takes the document, convert the lineart into a transparent layer with alpha (cloned, so I still have the original), set to CMYK and with a plain white layer to obscure the original lineart. This makes colour holds as easy as any other part of the page with locked transparency, and no need to rely on multiply layers  and the strangeness that can have with inks. I still cringe at some of the earlier work I did before I learned about this and trapping your work when I had a multiply layer. Ugh. Great pages ruined.

STEP 5. Correct them flats. No toning this time around, just go on the hues. Like the exact opposite of starting a painting in greyscale, it forces you to make decisions of colours, and shows when things are blending too much , and forces you to push the bar somewhat. I find that if I play it safe with this approach, with completely local colour, I get quite frustrated and change things up dramatically. One such scene had been coloured, finshed and ready for exporting, when I hid the layer and thought 'what would I do if I didn't hold back?' and re-keyed the scene to be what is now my favourite in the book to date.

I try and do different things every book, and for the next project I do, I want to stop at this point. The style we're going for with Mac calls for full on tones and everything, but work like Will's doesn't need rendering- it's all there already. I see other colourists with flat tones and it sings, and to be honest, it's terrified me. I usually feel like I haven't done enough and need to earn my keep more. Pushing my palettes, and not holding back, I can rest easy on a book not rendering things. But for this book, I'm not done

STEP 6- Now's where the rendering comes in. Things like shadows, highlights, material transparency, translucency, reflections, bounce lights and all that jazz. The icing on the cake. The page COULD be sent off now, but I'm not done.

STEP 7- Line Holds. I said before I try to do something different with every book, and for Mac I'm pushing my use of line holds. It looks subtle onscreen, but Danger Academy showed me they really sing in print. SUBTLE PLUGGING IS SUBTLE.

STEP 8- and this is what I'm doing right now. Wait a day (if you can) and read the whole issue. Mistakes should pop if there are any, and any inconsistencies will be more noticeable than if you've done a horrible grind.

I know I haven't gone into WHY I pick certain palettes, but that'll be another blog post. The pages have all opened, and it's time for that last run over. I should finish with

STEP 9- Edits. Writers and artists both pour hours and love into a book, so if they see something they think is wrong, you listen. Thankfully pretty much all the folk I've worked with have known their trade well, so I don't think I've gotten an edit I didn't think 'd'oh!' for missing out on. Hopefully they'll be minimal, but either way the book'll be better for it, and that's the most important thing.

Peace :D