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September 24th, 2014

The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard Part 5: An Unfinished Battle between Miizzz and Woj

Filed under: Web Comics — Tags:

Sparkplug Books is running a Kickstarter campaign to publish my graphic novel Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12. I’m doing a series of blog posts called The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard that show how the protagonist of Vortex has evolved over the years.

In early 2011 I started but never finished a new Miizzzard comic. I planned to draw the whole thing in Photoshop and then color it like my acrylic paintings. Particularly, I wanted to tell the story of a battle between the Miizzzard and the Wojrollox, as depicted in this 2010 painting:

The Wojrollox Chomps the Miizzzard; the Miizzzard Attacks with Frogheads and Laser Visions
The Wojrollox Chomps the Miizzzard; the Miizzzard Attacks with Frogheads and Laser Vision

Here are the first 11 pages of the story:

I drew all these “pencils” in less than an hour in January 2011. I was going to go back later and color them but I never did. I’m not sure why I didn’t keep going on this comic after I exhausted my initial wave of excitement. I think that all that coloring seemed too time consuming. In June 2011 I started Vortex on a whim. I revisited the idea of coloring a comic like my paintings for Skew (with a much more simple process) and recycled part of the plot for my comic for Future Shock #7.

September 23rd, 2014

The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard Part 4: One-Page Comics

Filed under: Web Comics — Tags:

Sparkplug Books is running a Kickstarter campaign to publish my graphic novel Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12. I’m doing a series of blog posts called The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard that show how the protagonist of Vortex has evolved over the years.

In 2009 and 2010 I switched from longer comics like Hyperbox to one-page comics because I was submitting to newsprint anthologies like Smoke Signal and Secret Prison. In 2009 I also got a Wacom tablet and MangaStudio and made the switch from ink drawing to pixel drawing. It’s saved me so much time that I spent scanning and fixing things in Photoshop! The main danger of digital drawing is the allure of endless undos.

Here are some one-page Miizzzard comics that were part of a larger series of loosely connected one- and two-page comics called ATTACKS:

The Floating Crystal Witch ATTACKS the Miizzzard of the Year 2978
First appearance of the Floating Crystal Witch and the current look of the Miizzzard. Originally published online by Reynard Seifert at hahaclever.com.

The Miizzzard of the Year 2978 ATTACKS the Floating Crystal Witch
The sequel to the previous comic. Originally published online by Jason Leivian at Arthur Mag.

The Miizzzard in ATTACK, colored by Josh Burggraf
The end of this first trilogy of comics about the Miizzzard and the Floating Crystal Witch. I drew this in black and white in 2010 to submit to Taffy Hips, but it was the wrong size. Josh Burggraf colored it for me as a Christmas surprise in 2012.

September 18th, 2014

Halfway through the Sparkplug Fall Books Kickstarter

Filed under: Artwork,Events

Hi y’all, we’re past the halfway point of the Sparkplug Fall Books Kickstarter to crowdfund the collected Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12!

First of all, a big Thank You to everyone who’s backed our project so far!!! At over $2,000, we’re almost a third of the way funded. If you’re unfamiliar with Kickstarter, we only see a cent when we meet or surpass our goal of $6,450 by October 3rd. Your help will make these books a reality – if you’d like to see a print Vortex collection or the end of Reich, please consider buying a reward or sharing our project on social media. We appreciate it!

Two of the rewards that we’re offering are my original art – a 9×12″ India ink drawing or a 2×3′ full-color acrylic painting. These rewards are for a new, custom work (I’ll take your requests for imagery) but I thought I’d post some examples of my previous work:

Hypermorph #103
Hypermorph #103 – 9×12″ India ink drawing.

The Rise of the Miizzzards
The Rise of the Miizzzards – 2.5×4′ acrylic painting.

If some original artwork interests you, we’re offering it at a discount through the Kickstarter – $75 for the 9×12″ India ink drawing and $250 for the 2×3′ acrylic painting.

September 17th, 2014

The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard Part 3: Hyperbox

Filed under: Artwork,Print Comics — Tags: ,

Sparkplug Books is running a Kickstarter campaign to publish my graphic novel Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12. I’m doing a series of blog posts called The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard that show how the protagonist of Vortex has evolved over the years.

The look of the Miizzzard and my drawing style changed in 2007. I switched from a bamboo brush and India ink to Faber Castelli marker and brush pens. I also used the computer to color a lot more. Here are two full-color Miizzzard drawings from the fall of 2007:

The Miizzzard Returns
I think I wrote “The Miizzzard Returns” because I had recently moved back to Austin, but it could also be because I hadn’t drawn the Miizzz in a while.

The Miizzzard Rides the Lizzard
The Miizzzard is riding the Lizzard. Sometimes the Lizzard has a crystal head. And the Miizzz is smoking because I used to smoke a pack a day?! So glad I quit in March 2009.

In December 2007 I started my third mini-comic series, Hyperbox (the first two were Omni, with Lanneau White, and Trash). Hyperbox features my semi-autobiographical character Mark. In Hyperbox #1, Mark gets teleported to the Hyperverse and meets the Miizzzard. Here’s that issue minus the postlude that leads into the second issue:

Hyperbox 1 Cover

Hyperbox 1 Spread 1

Hyperbox 1 Spread 2

Hyperbox 1 Spread 3

Hyperbox 1 Spread 4

Hyperbox 1 Spread 5

Hyperbox 1 Spread 6

Hyperbox 1 Spread 7

Hyperbox 1 Spread 8

Hyperbox 1 Spread 9

The frog character was originally from the comics I did for the University of Texas student newspaper, The Daily Texan. My series was called Fists: Free for All. Most of those strips are incomprehensible. Subsequent issues of Hyperbox bring in the Lizzard, the Wojrollox, and the Space Yetis. I had a plan for the fourth and final issue but I never drew it. It would’ve brought the Miizzzard back into the story. Maybe one day…

September 16th, 2014

The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard Part 2: First Comic Appearance

Filed under: Artwork,Print Comics — Tags:

Sparkplug Books is running a Kickstarter campaign to publish my graphic novel Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12. I’m doing a series of blog posts called The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard that show how the protagonist of Vortex has evolved over the years.

When Lanneau White and I performed in January of 2007 and I debuted my Miizzzard persona, we gave out a mini comic called Omni. It contains what may be the first comic appearance of the Miizzzard. In this story, the Miizzz is born when Tarpman drowns Mark P. Hensel in a tarp (all drawn in india ink with a brush):

Omni Page 10.

Omni Page 11.

Omni Page 12.

Omni Page 13.

Omni Page 14.

Omni Page 15.

In that drawing of the Miizzzard on the last page, I’m just drawing myself in costume. Here’s a closeup of the Miizzzard mask I wove from a February 2007 video still:

Next post: Hyperbox #1!

September 11th, 2014

The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard Part 1: Origins

Filed under: Artwork — Tags:

Sparkplug Books is running a Kickstarter campaign to publish my graphic novel Vortex and Elijah Brubaker’s Reich #12. I’m doing a series of blog posts called The Hiizzztory of the Miizzzard that show how the protagonist of Vortex has evolved over the years.

I’ve been portraying the Miizzzard in various forms and media since at least January 2007. The oldest Miizzzard documentation that I can find now is these photos from a performance art piece that Lanneau White and I did that month. Here we are assembling a hyper gate:

The Miizzzard is on the left in the brown corduroy jacket and red, Karl Sapien (Lanneau’s persona) is on the right with the green skeleton mask.

The Miizzzard began as my performance art persona. I took a lot of performance art classes in college, mainly under Mike Smith, and then after school I continued to do performance and video art for a few years. Here’s one of the only videos I did then that I’m still into, with a text intro from July 2007:

The moon was low and large and distant in the sky. The inter-dimensional machineries churned to keep the Trans-Dimensional Hypercastle in place, and the haze produced fuzzed the moon, as if she were the ghostly final slice of a peach. The crystalline lattice of fluorescent blue light tubes slowly unfolded under the heavy-lidded lunar gaze. It seemed to be grasping at the whole of night.

The Miizzzard walked up to it and began to play his Hyper-Crystal Mind-Organ…

I had a brief infatuation with weaving in late 2006 and early 2007, when I made the Miizzzard’s mask and other fabric scraps:

The name of the Miizzzard comes from Roy Wood’s Wizzard’s Brew album:

My first blog post in May 2007 was about the origins of the Miizzz:

The Miizzzard no longer exists. He died circa 400,000 B.C.E. while trying to discover the transformative secrets of the Space Yetis.

William Cardini space yeti drawing

His ghost haunts the digital realm and possesses various weavings and synthetic fabrics in the material world in an attempt to recreate Scriabin’s ‘Mysterium,’ a Gesamtkunstwerk that destroys this earth to give birth to another.

He is a figment, a warm bowl of minty fig meat topped with a spoonful of cold jellied plum.

I have also heard that, although he has lived out only twenty-three years, the path that he traces thru spacetime is discontinuous: he shook to Marie Curie’s radioactive boogaloo, procured pamphlets from Le Sony’r Ra in Chicago, was a starving outcast with Grettir Armundarson on Drang Isle and pissed blue thanks to Yves Klein. His last known location was drunk out of his mind at the Deep Eddy Cabaret, singing karaoke alongside the shade of Rrose Selavy.

All we can know for sure is that he’s a weird guy.

More hiizzztory next week!

September 4th, 2014

Preorder a Vortex Collection

Filed under: Print Comics — Tags: , ,

Yesterday Sparkplug Books launched a Kickstarter campaign for their fall books: Reich #12 and Vortex.

I’m super stoked about this! Vortex will collect all four mini comics in a definitive edition with a cover by my partner Glade Hensel:

Vortex cover preview by Glade Hensel
More preview images on my Tumblr. I’ll continue to post previews here and there throughout the campaign.

I started Vortex, my first graphic novel, on June 4th, 2011 and I’m looking forward to holding a copy in my pixel-stained hands. This summer I’ve poured over every page, fixing mistakes, editing some text, messing with the patterns, and redrawing pages. I’m really proud of the final book and, if you like psychedelic sf, I think you’ll dig it! Please support this campaign with a share or a preorder. I’d really appreciate it!

August 21st, 2014

Fool’s Assassin Review Followed by an Essay on Gender Fluidity in the Realm of the Elderlings

Filed under: SF Reviews — Tags: , ,

I just finished Robin Hobb’s latest book, Fool’s Assassin. I’m going to review it but I’ll warn you when I enter spoiler territory. This book begins a third trilogy starring her beloved duo, Fitz and the Fool. I’ve been a big fan of these two since I first read the Farseer trilogy in the late 90’s. Strangely, however, this will be the first time that I’ll have to wait to read the installments in a Robin Hobb trilogy. I didn’t started any of her previous series until they were complete. It’s going to be a difficult wait. Fortunately Robin Hobb has been steadily finishing about book a year for a couple decades now.

Royal Assassin cover by Michael Whelan
Michael Whelan’s cover for Royal Assassin, the second book starring Fitz.

The pacing of Fool’s Assassin accelerates exponentially. Years pass by at the beginning as we gradually get reintroduced to aging characters and meet new ones. There are a few surprises but 78% percent of the book is slow but powerful emotional arcs. By now, these characters are my old friends, so I enjoyed it immensely. Robin Hobb excels at using first person POV to make her readers deeply invested in the strong feelings of her characters. Incrementally getting to understand the hopes and fears of a middle-aged Fitz and his loved ones makes it all the more excruciating when long-simmering background plots violently flood their lives. The last three chapters of Fool’s Assassin devastated me. While cliffhangers are exciting and send me to forums and on rereads to speculate on what could happen next, they can be cheap thrills. After reading all of Robin Hobb’s published books, I think that endings are one of her weaknesses. The only one that truly satisfied me is the ending to the Tawny Man trilogy.

When I heard that Fool’s Assassin was coming out, I decided to completely read through the interconnected trilogies and quadrilogies of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings (RotE) mythos. These series focus on different protagonists and regions on the same fantasy continent, switching between first-person and limited third-person POV. Previously, I had only read the books starring Fitz and the Fool, but at the recommendation of friends, I decided to read the others as well, and I’m glad I did.

One uncommon aspect of the RotE is that some characters have fluid genders. Fantasy is all-too often a traditional genre that tells repetitive stories in iterative settings. Because the tropes are so well worn and the genre often relies on the authority of kings and other patriarchs, characters that don’t fall into predefined gender roles and threaten that masculine order are often seen as enemies. An example from one of fantasy’s headwaters, myth, is Loki. Loki is the brother of Thor but also shapeshifts into a mare and gives birth to an eight-legged horse. Ze presents as both a man and a woman. Like Loki’s sex, his allegiance to the Aesir is in flux – sometimes ze helps them but sometimes ze thwarts, deceives, and kills them.

Loki's Children by Willy Pogany
Some of Loki’s other children by Willy Pogany. Here’s a family tree for Loki that shows how he switches between mother and father.

I’m going to reveal some spoilers for Robin Hobb and Robert Jordan books from here on out, including Fool’s Assassin in my final paragraph. (more…)

August 12th, 2014

9 Rules for my Comics

Filed under: Comics Criticism,Manifestos

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.

May 15th, 2014

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Filed under: SF Reviews — Tags:

Ancillary Justice is an important sf book. The nominations and awards are justified.

I love how Leckie uses pronouns. The main character, One Esk, is from a human culture, the Radch empire, that doesn’t distinguish between genders, so she refers to everyone with feminine pronouns regardless of how they identify. This is a great effect. It makes me very aware of my internal assumptions. Like most white male Americans, when I imagine a character, I default to white and male unless it’s otherwise specified. But this book doesn’t allow it. In addition to the pronouns, there are a few mentions of skin tone – the majority of the Radch empire are people of color.

Although the pronouns are a world-building detail, One Esk’s genderless perspective never becomes central to the plot. This book handles gender in a radical way but it isn’t about gender like Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, to which Ancillary Justice has been contrasted. In most other respects, the Radch empire is your typical tyrannical, imperialistic space opera empire. I’m not sure if that’s a missed opportunity, or if it’s more progressive to depict a society without gender as otherwise the same as any other human society.

The other way that Leckie is innovative in her pronoun usage is that, although this book is written from One Esk’s first-person perspective, One Esk is part of a ship hive mind. Her consciousness is distributed among multiple bodies. In the present time of the story, we only see events from the view of one body, but in the alternating flashback chapters, we get sequences where the I telling us the story jumps from location to location. This POV becomes even more complex because One Esk is just one division of a larger ship consciousness, the Justice of Toren. Fortunately, Leckie handles these transitions smoothly. It’s the pleasant buzz of intentional psychedelia, not a confusing mess.

At first I was a bit disappointed with this book. I read Annalee Newitz’s review, where she compares Ancillary Justice to Iain M Banks’s Culture series. I don’t think that Ancillary Justice is quite at that level. For example, both Surface Detail and Ancillary Justice feature embodied ship consciousnesses as major actors. But Banks’s Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints feels less human and more alien to me than Leckie’s Justice of Toren One Esk. Maybe that’s part of Leckie’s point.

The motivations of characters are sometimes opaque. There were sections that I had to re-read, not because of the pronouns, but because I wasn’t sure why a character acted in a certain way. There was payoff when I made it to the end but the journey could’ve been smoother. The key is to this novel is to remember that One Esk is an unreliable narrator.

However, this is Leckie’s debut book. I can definitely see the potential for future books to match Banks’s achievement. We know we’re getting more glimpses of this galaxy since this is the first of a loose trilogy.

As far as comparing Ancillary Justice to the entire Wheel of Time series for this year’s Hugo Awards goes, that’s a tough vote for me. My emotional connection to the Wheel of Time is so strong from years of being a fan and anticipating future volumes that I can’t be objective about it. I can’t make up my mind.

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