Finally, finally, I can safely post the sketches I collected at Webcomics Rampage. It only took three tries!
Seriously though, this was a banner year. Let me back up a little bit to explain.
(Warning: Thar be fan-girling ahead!)
In the beginning…
Three years ago, Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy here in Austin decided to put together their own mini-con just for web comics. They invited a bunch of artists to talk at panels, sell merch, sign pretty nearly anything that’s handed to them, and generally be the wacky, wonderful people that they are.
That year, three of the invited guests were creators of comics I was reading regularly – Scott Kurtz of PvP, Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue, and –gasp! faint!– Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content – as well as Randy Milholland of the infamous Something Positive, which Dear Roommie has been reading since before webcomics were cool.
These were the comics with which I papered my dorm room door. These were the guys that helped me procrastinate for hours that should have been spent doing schoolwork (sorry, Mom). These were the guys that put ideas in my head about one day doing my own comic.
I was particularly stoked to see Jeph. Someone turned me on to QC midway through college, and I’ve been reading it religiously ever since. It’s not just that the comic strikes just the right balance between ridiculous and relatable, but he’s really open about his process and inspiration, and has fearlessly let the internet at large watch as his art and character design evolved into really good, dynamic art from the glorified stick figures of his first strips. He has become a rock star in the webcomics community, and yet that first year, he still seemed to be surprised by the ridiculously long line at his signing table at the end of the panel. “What? People read my comic? How’d that happen?”
I had the bright idea of getting the artists to sign the few empty pages left in my trusty sketchbook.
Sadly, I ran out of pages before I ran out of sketches, so I had to ask Randy to… err… piggyback on someone else’s sketch page.
Now, I try to keep this blog in the realm of PG-13. While all involved found the resulting sketch pretty wildly entertaining and predictably juvenile, it is sadly not exactly blog-friendly – hence, the censor bars (…sorry, Mom).
Rampage II: The Rampaging
The next year, Dear Roommie tagged along to see her old buddy Randy (there was something about forums and a party… it’s generally best not to ask how she meets people). When we both pulled out our respective knit/crochet projects, he actually suggested I should make my comic about crafting, and my day was made.
I came prepared with pre-drawn sketch-starters featuring some of my own characters, and the artists all graciously played along. I even branched out and got sketches from two artists I wasn’t following yet; Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots, and David Willis of Shortpacked, et al.
Once again, the sketches were not exactly fit to print. In fairness, I completely brought it upon myself that time, but it was a whole lot of fun (sorry, Mom).
In fact, it was so much fun that I came home and immediately started following the whole lot of them on Twitter, then started shotgunning entire comics archives. I made it through Girls With Slingshots in three days. Then I started in on Something Positive and Willis’ insanely large body of work and… well, I’m not quite finished yet.
Now back to this year’s Rampage!
I came super-duper prepared. First, I decided it would be fun to let everybody deface the same sketch page together, so I bought a nice big drawing pad, added a few of my own doodles, then let them all at it.
All the fun character sketches are from Randy, Danielle, Jeph, Joel, and David. I had specific requests for Danielle and Randy, and as I expected, everyone else just piled on, playing off of the previous sketches.
That stunning nude holding a cute smiling thing up in the top right? That was the creation of Nicholas Gurewitch of Perry Bible Fellowship. PBF is one of The Boy’s favorite comics. It is terrifically clever and twisted and punny, and the art runs the gambit from minimalist cartoons to elaborate, whimsical watercolors.
Getting to meet him was really a treat. I’m not sure what I expected, but he’s just this super-chill geeky guy with longish hair and suspenders. I didn’t get over to ask for a sketch until right before the final panel, when everyone else was sitting at their tables, fighting off the post-dinner coma. But he was very enthusiastic, and just nonchalantly started drawing something free-hand with an insane brush pen. He was most of the way through sketching when he paused, looked up, and asked, “Is it ok that I’m drawing a naked woman? I don’t really know why I did that…” I managed to pick my jaw up off the table long enough to tell him that yes, it was absolutely fine – better than fine, even – damned impressive. Then he went back to shading while he and The Boy chatted about… honestly I can’t even remember what. There was some discussion of carrots and donkeys. Then Boy bought the print of the one with the awful, awful visual pun.
The panel was fun, the sketch-collecting was fun, merch-buying was fun, but the very best part was the success of the hats.
I started a Choo-Choo Bear hat for Dear Roommie’s birthday back in March. I finished it… last week. Since she was sadly unable to get out to Austin this weekend, I took the hat with me to get Randy’s blessing:
I am pleased to report that his beard did not eat the hat, and Rommie will be receiving it soon.
Remember the Magical Pink Unicorn Hat?
I made another one.
I gave it to Danielle.
She loved it. I got a hug and everything!
Then there was a question about gifts from fans, and she whipped out the hat again and said, “Have you SEEN this HAT?” and gave me a quick shout-out, and then I pretty much suffered a geek-gasm right on the spot.
I suspect I will be riding this comics-and-hats high for the rest of the week. I feel invigorated! I’m itching to get started on some more crafting projects, and I have ideas for the comic that I can’t wait to make happen.
I have a cousin who has managed to mold a lifelong hobby into a legitimate career. He has lived and breathed basketball, as far as I can tell, for his entire life, and now he’s a sports writer who follows all his favorite NBA teams, watches every game, and interviews the players and coaches for a living. (Obviously, lately he’s been following more legal shenanigans than actual games, but… that’s really not relevant to the post.)
It seemed only natural, when I learned he and his wife were expecting a little girl, to make something special and basketball-ish.
Possibly I was a little too literal?
In all seriousness, I actually put a good bit of thought into the design. I could have gone for the plain old beanie design, thrown some stripes on and called it a day.
“Hey, cuz! Check it out! Now your kid’s head is a basketball!”
But baby beanies are just so… common.
Furthermore, I wanted to add some element of fashion, because my tiny victim’s mother is a dance teacher who somehow even manages to add some style to her slouching-around-the-house clothes.
Clearly, I needed some kitsch. Something hip. Something that says, “I look at fashion trends at least once a year… y’know… when I’m bored.” Clearly, a newsboy cap was the way to go.
As an added bonus, I knew the smaller size of the hat would drastically reduce the problem I usually encounter with brimmed hats. Specifically, the brims tend to get… floppy. It’s a simple matter of physics, really. The kind of yarn I want to make a hat out of tends to be very flexible, and then the design of an adult-sized hat would call for a brim that is a good six to eight inches long, and more than an inch wide, at which point the flexibility of the yarn will cause the piece to droop. Since I am generally far too lazy to do something as involved as conjuring plastic inserts, I just very rarely make brimmed hats.
This is especially sad because I love brimmed hats.
As usual, any excuse will do, and I made a tiny brimmed hat with a tiny brim for my tiny new cousin!
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Improvised Charles Dickens? What could possibly go wrong?
I am somewhat relieved to say that rehearsals have not actually devolved into Dickensian Speech for Sport …yet.
I’ve had the privilege of lighting this show, and it has been one ridiculous and amazing Victorian-era tale after another. We’ve had a happy family of morticians, a secret society of lamplighters, and one ill-advised voyage to Australia. There are top hats and tragic deaths, fancy accents and small children who speak above their age and station, all served up with the usual spontaneity and mischief that come with improvised narrative.
We will round the halfway point of the run this weekend, and I can’t wait to see what the second month will bring.