Q1: How do you feel about comics with incredibly detailed visual or story elements?
Q2: What sorts of things do you find necessary to put the most detail into?
Establishing shots — that is, a wide shot of the scenery when the characters enter a new environment. That’s what both of these are:
(The first one following a fourth-wall-straining metajoke about “gosh, this scenery would take forever to draw.”)
After that I make a conscious effort to put the characters in front of a simple background — various walls, rows of bushes and trees, a cave, the sky. In a black-and-white comic you can get away with just leaving blank white space around the characters, but in Leif & Thorn there needs to at least be a specific flat color.
(But I’m A Cat Person falls between the two (in a…grey area *rimshot*). It’s somewhat easier to cheat because I can fill the background with whatever shade of grey fits the lighting and tone of the scene, without having to keep track of which exact wall they’re in front of.)
It doesn’t save 100% of the work. You still need to keep your panels visually engaging by doing long shots, different angles, and other things that demand some thought for the background. But it cuts it down a lot.
Q3: How do you balance complicated details with simpler, more accessible details?
Mostly the common advice of “keep the characters/point-of-focus detailed and the background simple, so the focus stands out.”
Make your characters’ everyday outfits relatively simple and quick to draw, then give them more elaborate and complex clothes on special occasions.
Same with rare and fancy objects versus common ones. There are complex magical contraptions with engravings and swirly bits, but the smartcrystals they’re always using to make calls or browse the Network are just plain rectangles.
Q4: Do you have any time-saving techniques or resources for handling fine details?
Make yourself some stock graphics!
I finally made a nice tiled pattern for the embroidery on the trim of the knights’ uniforms, so I don’t have to draw random little fiddly bits every time. It’s just black lines on a white background, so I put it on a separate layer and set it to Multiply, and then it blends naturally with whatever shading or color-adjusting happens underneath.
And I have transparent graphics for the detailed art-nouveau Embassy gates. They can be resized, skewed, and otherwise distorted to match whatever angle the panel calls for.
Q5: What are your favorite comics that have immense amounts of detail?
The ones recced above, plus Homestuck (a ridiculous variety of planets and dreamscapes), Buying Time (cyberpunk settings and equipment complete with cycling Flash animation), and Serenity Rose (spooky midwestern town and supernatural environments).
Readers, what are yours? (And/or, what’s your favorite high-detail Leif & Thorn scene?)
Today’s topic is cameos!
Used to do them all the time in And Shine Heaven Now. They have their own tag on the new Shine site.
Mostly in Leif & Thorn I’ll only do cameos from But I’m A Cat Person, and vice versa. But if there’s a big crowd scene, sometimes you want to make it interesting.
Q1: Have you ever used other comic creators’ characters as cameos in your comic? If not, would you?
Not characters from webcomics specifically (I don’t think). At least, not yet. Characters from other media, sure.
Speaking as a reader, they’re a really fun Easter egg to catch. Rereading Bruno the Bandit recently, I was all entertained to spot some cameos from Sluggy Freelance. In an intra-artist example, Sleepless Domain borrows some characters from the same author’s Kiwi Blitz to fill out magical-girl crowds.
Q2: How do you usually go about adding cameos – ask people, request cameos, or just add them as a fun surprise?
If it’s a quick background appearance, I don’t think you should ask. The goal is to show your appreciation for the other creator’s work, not get their approval for yours. (Copyright-wise, you’re fine here — look up the YoI cameos in the Steven Universe comics, or Sailor Moon characters in the background of My Little Pony issues, for examples.)
If it’s a long-term use of someone else’s character, then either it’s some kind of planned crossover/tie-in (in which case, both creators should be discussing it), or it’s a fancomic (in which case, do whatever you want! — just don’t sell it). Or it’s a mid-line case, like Phil Likes Tacos — an original comic, but with so many sci-fi and video-game cameos that the artist has consciously decided not to put it up for sale.
Q3: What are the upsides to using cameos of other people’s characters?
It gives you a break from drawing your own designs, lets you branch out a little.
It livens up boring crowd scenes.
It’s a small way of showing your appreciation for the other person’s work.
If you’re lucky, they see it and like you back and link their followers to your strip — but don’t make that your goal. There’s an episode of the Webcomics Weekly podcast where the artist of (iirc) PVP complained about how many “look, I gave your character a cameo!” emails he gets that are clearly just shilling for links. That’s just rude.
Q4: What are the downsides to using cameos of other people’s characters, if any?
Well, if you’re rude about it, the creator you admire is going to feel annoyed rather than appreciated.
And if you overuse the cameos, it limits your ability to sell the comic. (Only a downside if you were hoping to sell the comic in the first place. If you’re just here for the fun of the hobby, it’s all good.)
Some people are probably going to answer this with “it limits your creativity and gets in the way of developing your own characters,” but, listen, if making comics with 100% other people’s characters is fun and entertaining for you, go for it. Four King Hell and Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi are pure fancomic, and they’re delightful. Have fun.
Q5: Share a page where you have used cameo characters!
This L&T strip has gay skaters on the left, Magic Tavern podcasters on the right:
Read the whole storyline to pick out others! Including the Leverage crew, apparently stealing a Summerfest.
For today’s discussion on @webcomicchat.
Q1: How do you define the “moral of the story”?
A practical lesson it teaches. Can be a deliberate anvil-dropping, but any well-written and complex story will have natural morals, in the sense of “if you, too, behave like this, you’ll face these consequences.”
e.g. a moral of The Lord of the Rings (and by extension DM of The Rings) might be “don’t underestimate your gardener.”
Q2: Are a story’s morals and its themes the same thing? Why or why not?
A moral should be an outgrowth of a theme, but a theme doesn’t necessarily lead to a moral.
e.g. if one of the morals of Sleepless Domain is “reaching out to your friends can help you deal with a traumatic loss,” that comes from the way it handles the broader themes of loss/grief and friendship.
Contrast something like Catball & Clown Girl, which arguably has themes of friendship (and hatred, and cat-ness), but I don’t know that you can draw any useful lessons from it. It’s just cute.
Skipping around because this one’s related:
Q4: Do a story’s thematic elements need to reflect any of its morals? How so?
…how would you get a moral that doesn’t involve any of the thematic elements? That’s like asking if the answer to a riddle needs to reflect the setup.
I guess you can read this as “do the characters need to behave in accordance with the moral,” in which case, no. You can have a story that centers on Bad People Doing Bad Things (consider String Theory, or Bruno The Bandit), and interpret the moral as “hey, don’t be like that guy.”
Q5: Tell us about your favorite stories with a central moral to share!
Ehh. Anything with a “central moral” is likely too anvilicious to be a “favorite story.”
Good storytelling and character development needs to be at the center of the writing. Morals are just an outgrowth, an aftereffect, of that focus.
Q3: What are some examples of stories (including your own) you see with morals imparted in them?
I think the most obvious moral of Leif & Thorn are “communication is important, even (especially!) when it’s hard work.” Maybe with a side of “be kind to people, because you never know what they’ve gone through.”
…Readers, any other nominations?
Well, if you’ve been watching any of the sporadic blog/tumblr posts over the past few days, you know I’ve been working on migrating my site. A lot of the reason it took so long is because I had to keep shuttling between two different incarnations of tech support.
I’m writing it up for anyone who could use a case study of the customer service at these two companies. Or anyone who just wants to read juicy details of data migration.
The project: Moving a grand total of 3.7 GB of data, including 3 separate WordPress installations, tied to 2 different domain names plus multiple subdomains.
Original host: A Small Orange. I got an account there in the halcyon days of 2007, when it was just a scrappy startup with chart-topping reviews. Bought out in 2012 by the notorious EIG, but the original staff was kept on and the reviews stayed high…until some kind of shakeup in 2015, followed by the reviews going off a cliff.
New host: SiteGround. I followed a rec to research this small still-independent Bulgarian company, founded in 2004 but having a growth spurt recently. Their reputation is solid, they get praise for customer support, and it’s deeply encouraging to hear phrases like “strong feature set – especially if you are more technically biased” and “it’s apparent that they invest a lot in their employees.”
With an error message that said something about “account suspended,” which was immediately suspicious, because my web host hadn’t sent me any kind of “we are suspending your account” email. (But I’m A Cat Person is on the same host, and had the same issue.)
Well, it turned out it wasn’t a hack. Turns out A Small Orange can just…accidentally put that error on your site now.
I got into a chat with tech support, where the agent was able to fix it. They explained the glitch as “the permission of the website was not set.” What permission? Not clear (although maybe that was an EFL issue). How and why did it come un-set between this morning and this afternoon? No way to tell. Will this happen again? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Last unexpected downtime was less than a month ago.
Long story short, anyone reading this who has a website and is loving the quality of the hosting, please send me a rec. I don’t need anything fancy, just 5 gigs of space where I can install a few WordPress installations and run them in peace.