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August 12th, 2014

9 Rules for my Comics

Filed under: Comics Criticism,Manifestos — Tags: — William Cardini @ 9:05 am

Skew is up to page 55 on Study Group and I’ve got a pretty good buffer built up. I set Skew up so that I could crank out the pages quickly in the limited studio time that I have now that I’m a father. One page per panel, three colors that mix for a total of seven colors plus white. I always try to make things easier for myself by creating rules and layouts for a project before I began.

Skew spoiler
Skew spoiler. You can see the layers that I reuse for every page.

I decided to generalize my comics-making rules, if any of y’all are curious:

  1. Don’t proscribe. These rules only apply to my current comics project. I’m not trying to delineate absolute or universal rules for anyone else’s comics practice (including my future self).
  2. Decide on the parameters of a comic before I begin (size, colors, number of panels).
  3. Start each page with the same grid, which can be modified (for example, two panels combined into one) but can’t be supplanted (an eight-panel page when all previous are six).

Vortex template
Vortex template. I keep the horizontal and vertical panel lines in separate layers so that I can easily delete them to combine panels.

  1. Draw on the computer. I want hard-edged bitmaps. I want to control whether each pixel is black or white. Plus, drawing on a computer is much faster because it cuts out scanning. The final comic is the art object, not the original page.
  2. Draw with an expressively wavy line and turn off any line-smoothing effects. Computers can draw perfect straight lines or smooth Wacom-drawn lines for me so I should zoom in on my human imperfections.
  3. Don’t dwell on the past. The trap of drawing on a computer is the infinite malleability. Once a page is finished, keep revisions to a minimum. This rule is the hardest for me to follow but I try to remember the words of Chögyam Trungpa: “First thought, best thought.”

One-page comic template
One-page comic template (originally developed for my Smoke Signal submissions). I drew vertical panel lines that split each row into thirds and a second set of that split each row into fourths.

  1. Don’t outline my plots. The story will come to me as a draw. To outline is to kill the idea by pinning it.
  2. Show what happens as clearly as possible. Keep narration to a minimum. Use as many panels as is necessary to show the beats of an action.
  3. Challenge my subconscious assumptions when designing characters. Even when I’m designing aliens, I unthinkingly default to light skinned and male. Rethink these assumptions.

September 24th, 2013


Filed under: Life,Manifestos — William Cardini @ 9:43 am

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve got an excellent excuse: I’m now the father of a beautiful, strong, and healthy baby girl!

Ruby Hensel

It’s hard to describe the swirling flood of emotions I’ve been immersed in in the months leading up to her birth and the weeks since, but I truly feel like my world has expanded immeasurably. I’m also more committed than ever to drawing comics and showing my daughter that our lives don’t have to just be day jobs, shopping sprees, and dreary broken dreams. I want to show her a world of joy, unbearable cuteness, and play. I want to show her a world where she can be whatever she imagines, whoever she is, a world where her choices aren’t constrained or predetermined by patriarchy. I hope that I can live up to my parenting ideals and that, when I fail to meet them, I don’t let that stop me from continuing to try. I hope that she knows I love her and that I’ll be there for her. <3 I’m going to post her when I can – this is my home on the Internet and I won’t abandon it – but if you want to see what I’m up to more regularly, follow my my Hypercastle Tumblr. Even if I won’t be completing another 128-page graphic novel anytime soon, I’m going to make a commitment to myself to draw in my sketchbook regularly.

July 31st, 2012

Do I Self-Fund, Crowd-Fund, or Submit to a Publisher?

This past Friday my particular corner of the comix internet blew up over this Comics Journal post where Dan Nadel heavily criticizes Kickstarter in general and the Secret Prison #7 Kickstarter in particular. I’ve been riveted to the ensuing shitstorm in comments threads, blog posts, and my Twitter feed. I feel compelled to post my thoughts here.

Click here to read the rest.

December 13th, 2011

A New Direction for my Comics

I’m by myself at the house drinking coffee in the early afternoon on a Saturday, trying to burn through some Google Reader items, getting ready to work on some comics, my mind is really buzzing, and I just need to list it all out somehow so I’m posting about it here.

Here’re my inputs:

Blaise Larmee
A representation of some panels from Blaise Larmee’s 2001.

Matt Seneca’s Weeklong Interview with Blaise Larmee – I’m reading this and trying to understand specifically what Larmee is saying. It’s difficult because he can be obtuse but he drops a lot of nuggets in there like “Cartoonists need to be willing to abandon comics.”

Ryan Lauderdale Mashup
A mashup of three different pieces by Ryan Lauderdale that look like abstract comics to me.

Ryan Lauderdale’s Show, Bed Bath and Beyond, at Nudashank – My friend Ryan is getting his MFA is Brooklyn right now and has a show up at the Nudashank art space in Baltimore. This week we talked about how important form, color, and spirituality are to our work, about reacting against postmodernism with a revived modernism (or something else), about color field painting, all these things that I’m into that I sometimes forget about when I sit down to draw comics.

Frank Santoro Geometry Exercise
A geometry exercise from Frank Santoro’s course. We had to figure out the geometry behind a page of Tintin.

Frank Santoro’s Comics Correspondence Course – I’m taking Frank Santoro’s course. It’s a lot of work but I’m learning a lot of things. His geometry stuff is really interesting – it’s the scaffolding of comics or it’s abstract comics when you look at it on its own. Frank’s pushing me to be more creative with my mark making, which is good for me.

Yuichi Yokoyama Page from Color Engineering
A page from Yuichi Yokoyama’s book Color Engineering.

Yokoyama’s Color Engineering and an Interview with Yokoyama by Seneca – Man, Seneca has been on an interview roll lately! And they all get my brain boiling. He’s one of one of the best writers about comics because he focuses so much on the visual. Also his enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve posted about Yokoyama before – his work is a big inspiration for me. I think it’s interesting that both he and Larmee say in their interviews with Seneca that they don’t read anyone else’s comics. Personally I find it really important and invigorating to read all of the great comics that are being published these days but I do have to space it out a bit because if I read too many comics, the work that I make it influenced too strongly by them. So mostly I read sff books.

Screenshot from ____ by Terry Cavanagh
A screenshot from the indie video game ____ (A.K.A. Four-Letter Word) by Terry Cavanagh.

____ by distractionware – Reading Wiley Wiggin’s post about ____ and then seeing the screenshots made me really excited about this game, and just the idea of an incredibly abstract and difficult-to-play game in general. I don’t post about it very much on here but interactive art is something I’m really interested in and from the looks of it, this game gets me excited about it again.

My output from all of these inputs is still brewing. Hopefully it’ll bubble out over the next few months and years. Right now I’m just thinking, as Darryl Ayo reminded me in this Comix Cube post, that it’s important for me to look at my aesthetic interests outside of comics and bring those in. Break out a bit from the Fort Thunder influence that’s so evident in my work and find some mashup of color field painting, expressive mark making, net art, and sff that’s more my own.

February 8th, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup + Fort Thunder = Procedurally Generated Comics

It’s less than two weeks before my wedding, so of course I’ve become addicted to an ever-changing fantasy action RPG with a massive online community. I’m not talking about World of Warcraft – I’m talking about the free, cross-platform, and open-source roguelike Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup Title Screen
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup title screen

Click through to read more about roguelikes and how playing them is like reading a Fort Thunder comic

February 1st, 2011

Can We Think Inhuman Thoughts?

In the past two months I finished Tad WilliamsShadowmarch epic fantasy tetralogy and then burned through his other, earlier epic fantasy tetralogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn for the third or fourth time.

Michael Whelan's cover for Stone of Farewell, book two of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn fantasy series
Michael Whelan’s cover for Stone of Farewell, book two of Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn fantasy series

What I dig about Williams, besides his excellent (albiet sometimes slow-paced) prose and efforts to re-upholster standard fantasy tropes, is his attempts to depict truly inhuman beings and cultures in his stories. Science fiction and fantasy authors have always grappled with these kinds of depictions. Some question if it’s even possible for us human beings, with our mental biases, to truly imagine the thoughts and cultures of some other type of intelligence. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss several attempts, how they succeed or fail, and how this relates to my own artistic practice. Be warned, this essay is long.
Click here to read the rest

January 16th, 2009

Manifesto #3

Filed under: Inspiration,Manifestos — William Cardini @ 10:56 am

Conspiracy is the only theory,
science fiction the only truth!

via great dreams


January 6th, 2009


Filed under: Manifestos — William Cardini @ 1:02 am

Ever since I deinstalled my MASS show, I’ve been really struggling with what direction my art should go in. I’m interested in too many things, and I go in too many directions, making my artistic practice fractured and inconsistent. I never have time to fully develop any idea, or make anything other than derivative iterations of the same idea.

So this has been really stewing in my mind over these past few weeks, and I was trawling the internet today, hoping to stumble on something that could really give me some direction. And I found this:

Peripetics by ZEITGUISED from NotForPaper on Vimeo.

via Strange Harvest.

Its exactly what I want to be doing. Animations of strange inhuman objects. Although Zeitguised sets their fantasias in a digital gallery …

December 9th, 2008

Welcome Manifesto

Filed under: Manifestos — William Cardini @ 12:35 pm

NOTE:This post was written to introduce a new blog which has since been merged into this blog.

Some of you may know me as an interdimensional hyperbeing, others of you may know me as cartoonist William Cardini. This marks the debut of Mark P. Hensel, public intellectual blogger.

My intention with this blog is to demarcate, describe, and discuss an aesthetic that I’m interested in and a producer of: Folk Sci Fi

The impetus for this comes from two places:

My work as a part of the art collective/publishing company/noise band the Gold County Paper Mill, where the term “Folk Sci Fi” originates from, and a discussion that I had with my fellow blogger and good friend Ivan Lozano.

We were talking about whether or not science fiction is pop culture. I think that although pop culture has appropriated geek culture (and how and why that has happened is another blog entirely) to the point where the two are almost synonymous, geek culture is not everything that science fiction is.

Geek culture is Star Wars, its space opera, its fantasy and super heroes. There are themes in science fiction that go beyond these things and take the long view.

This sci fi is a vast inhuman consciousness floating in the emptiness between galaxies.

This sci fi is manufacturing visions of the wind-swept rocks of dead Mars, of the slow collapse of civilizations, of vast unknowable structures.

This sci fi is about sluggish transformations and the future of humanity.

It is trying to portray the inhuman.

Pop culture, by definition, cannot encompass these themes: its pop, its a bubble, its of the moment and totally humanistic.

What I’m trying to catalogue here, with this blog, is when pop culture, or folk, briefly touches these themes. That liminal zone is where folk sci fi dwells.

But this blog is an experiment, a public environment for me to explore my ideas. Feedback is encouraged. Welcome, let’s see how this goes! I’m planning on posting every Tuesday.