So this is the part where I geek out about how well this experiment of mine is going.
I jumped on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon so I could use the public shaming aspect as a motivator. Several of my improviser friends are writing actual novels, and did the customary public announcement:
“I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. Ask me about it constantly so I feel obligated to keep writing.”
So I did the same.
I’m ahead on blog posts, and I have several more that only need a few touch-ups before they’re ready to post. The scripts were being neglected, as I’d finished the easier of my two planned arcs, and wasn’t feeling up to the task of the second. I need to add more characters, and I was really struggling to come up with characters with any sort of depth.
The Hideout runs a show called The Free Fringe where groups submit really ridiculous format ideas, then get a thirty minute time slot to try them out in front of an audience. Sometimes it’s amazing and turns into a new troupe. Sometimes it crashes and burns. This is why the show is free.
Last night’s Fringe was a NaNoWriMo special where a group of writers came in, talked about their work a little, read a scene, then a group of improvisers from the Austin Secrets cast would pick up the story and play a few scenes to help work out what comes next. I tossed my scripts into the mix, just to see what would happen. Given that I couldn’t really read a scene, and it would be very hard to explain the comic quickly, I didn’t expect much.
I should really stop underestimating my improviser friends.
I gave them a very open scenario, and they jumped in enthusiastically. Two happened to perfectly fill the roles of two characters I’d partially written, and two more gave me really excellent new characters to build on.
I walked out of the show with four pretty solid characters in my head, then I stayed up late brainstorming with the Boy, filling out those characters, building their world, and plotting their arcs. I feel like I have a few years worth of material here, if I stick to my one-a-week schedule.
I’m actually itching to start drawing, so I’ll probably hit the 30-script mark early and get a jump start on my buffer.
My comic is coming back! Yay!
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.
So the climax of the nasty winter weather in my part of the universe hit Thursday night, and in the course of just a few hours, my Friday plans went from awesome!!!! to… uhh… nothing. Nothing at all, because an inch of very wet snow fell overnight and then it stayed below freezing all day, so nothing thawed, and central Texans do not know how to deal with frozen precipitation that actually sticks around past sunrise.
So what did I do with my new found spare time? Well obviously, I slept in. Then I spent the entire day in my pajamas and under a blanket-burrow on Boy’s couch, watching most of a season of Farscape and… creating.
What did I make?
I made… well… I made this:
It’s a hat, you see.
Where did I come up with such a monstrous idea?
…and upon reading this comic I instantly knew that I would have to make one of my very own. This is not so much about the fashion statement as the challenge.
It came out looking kind of piggy, and my decision not to stuff the horn has resulted in some vaguely obscene shapes when it bends. However, this is one of those rare projects where the dumber it looks, the better, so I’ve just been enjoying the freedom to be ridiculous.
Mechanically, I just tried to keep everything as simple as possible. I wasted a few hours trying to do something fancy with the main body of the hat and the ear flaps. Then I realized that that was stupid and went back to a very simple design. After that, everything else was treated as an independent unit, created and shaped separately and stitched on at the end. Looking at the final product, I am mightily proud of my monstrous creation.
The next obvious question is what to do with the thing now that it’s done.
Frankly, I have no idea.