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Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to.

Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to. published on No Comments on Talking about detail for #WebcomicChat…well, trying to.

Q1: How do you feel about comics with incredibly detailed visual or story elements?

Deeply envious. If I wanted to draw comics in a minimalist style, a la 1/0 or xkcd, I could pull it off. But lush, elaborate, detailed art? Even if I tried, there’s only so high a mark I can hit.

Check out these establishing shots from Devil’s Candy, or these eldritch city environments from Zebra Girl, or this surreal interlude from Floraverse.

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?)

The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos!

The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos! published on No Comments on The latest in #WebcomicChat — cameos!

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?

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.

The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat

The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat published on 5 Comments on The Moral Of The Story — for #WebcomicChat

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?

A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT! published on 2 Comments on A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

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.”

Continue reading A Small Orange vs. SiteGround: customer service FIGHT!

So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon.

So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon. published on 3 Comments on So Leif & Thorn was down for a while this afternoon.

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.

Original Character ask meme – Psychology edition~

Original Character ask meme – Psychology edition~ published on 5 Comments on Original Character ask meme – Psychology edition~

Comment with a number and any Leif & Thorn character(s), and get an answer! (May be redacted when spoilery.)

1: What’s your OC’s biggest insecurity and how would they react if someone pointed it out to them?

2: If your OC wants to buy a firearm, what it might be for?

3: Does your OC behave differently around different people, if so with whom and how?

4: Would your OC want to involve themselves in humanitarian work ? If yes, then for what? If not, then why not?

5: How would your OC generally react to someone being verbally abusive towards them for no apparent reason?

6: Does your OC have a realistic image of their own intelligence?

7: Does your OC have any irrational phobias?

8: How is/was your OC’s relationship with their parents?

9: Does your OC feel a pressure to achieve or are they content and calm with doing what they can at the moment?

10: Does your OC guard their emotions by being tough? If not how would they?

11: How would your OC react to hearing they’re adopted?

12: What is one of the most primary things your OC feels that is missing from their life?

13: What kind of situations does your OC avoid the most?

14: If your OC gets into a fight with their best friend, would they wait for their friend to make up with them, or would they try to make up with their friend?

15: Does your OC consider themselves a good person?

16: Is your OC good at giving others validation of their feelings and making them feel understood?

17: Does your OC suffer from any mental health issues?

18: What kind of intrapersonal values does your OC have? (values about their self, what makes them feel like a valid person)

19: What boosts your OC’s confidence the most?

20: Does your OC hurt others often unintentionally? If yes, how?

21: Does your OC hurt others often intentionally? If yes, how?

22: How does your OC usually show affection? Are they openly romantic or more restricted with their affectionate emotions?

23: Does your OC tend to hide something about their personality/essence when meeting new people? If yes, what?

24: How would your OC react if they got humiliated by someone in a group of people?

25: How would your OC process the grief caused by the death of a loved one?

26: What is the most intense thing your OC has been battling with?

27: Does your OC practise any kind of escapism? If yes, what kind?

28: How would your OC react if a bully stole their lunch money in high school?

29: How does your OC behave on the face of a conflict?

30: What makes your OC defensive quickest?

(Original on Tumblr.)

We’re listed on TopWebComics now

We’re listed on TopWebComics now published on 2 Comments on We’re listed on TopWebComics now

So you can go vote for Leif & Thorn. Y’know, if you feel like it. And you’re not busy or anything.

(Voting is once per comic per machine per day — that’s not a loophole or anything, it’s their stated rules. So if some time you’re feeling extra-fannish, you can vote on your computer and then vote again on your phone. Just FYI.)

WordPress plugin: I cannot praise Visual Editor Custom Buttons highly enough.

WordPress plugin: I cannot praise Visual Editor Custom Buttons highly enough. published on No Comments on WordPress plugin: I cannot praise Visual Editor Custom Buttons highly enough.

This plugin has changed my whole posting experience.

Quick background: Because Leif & Thorn has a multilingual cast, the different languages are indicated by different fonts in-strip, and different colors in the transcripts. The colors are put in by wrapping the dialogue in a bit of custom CSS styles. So far, so good.

The catch is, it was incredibly tedious to copy & paste the HTML. Beginning of every line needed a tag pasted in, end of every line needed a tag pasted in, any mid-line uses of a different language needed both tags pasted on either side…it was mind-numbing. I was always looking for reasons to avoid doing it. Say, if a strip was all Sønheim natives speaking Sønska, readers could probably sort out “everyone understands everything” without an extra layer of disambiguation…right?

And then. And then, Visual Editor Custom Buttons.

I went searching for a plugin like this a while back with no success, but a couple months ago the frustration built to a point where I had to do it again, and wham, there it was. Now when I post a new comic, the text editor looks like this:

Continue reading WordPress plugin: I cannot praise Visual Editor Custom Buttons highly enough.

101 Kinks: Send me a number and a ship and I’ll write a drabble

101 Kinks: Send me a number and a ship and I’ll write a drabble published on 1 Comment on 101 Kinks: Send me a number and a ship and I’ll write a drabble

(Original on Tumblr.)

Open to almost any set of Leif & Thorn characters — twosomes, threesomes, moresomes, flashbacks about deceased characters, futurefic about child characters, canon ships, crack ships, friend-ships. Won’t do incest, but anything else is fair game. Canon AU prompts welcome!

Continue reading 101 Kinks: Send me a number and a ship and I’ll write a drabble

Get To Know My Character question meme

Get To Know My Character question meme published on 10 Comments on Get To Know My Character question meme

(Original on Tumblr.)

Comment with a character, or several, and the numbers you want to hear from them!

01. What does your character’s name mean? Did you pick it for the symbolism, or did you just like the way it sounded?
02. What is one of your character’s biggest insecurities? Are they able to hide it easily or can others easily exploit this weakness?
03. What would be their favorite physical trait about themselves?
04. What are their favorite traits about their lover? (one psychological and one physical)
05. Are they sexually confident or more of the shy type?

06. Do they have any hobbies that their lover finds unusual, odd, or otherwise annoying?
07. Is there a catchphrase or sound that they tend to make a lot (likely without being aware of it)?
08. What is, perhaps, their biggest flaw? Are they aware of this or oblivious to it?
09. Do they have a favorite season? What about a favorite holiday?
10. Is your character more feminine or masculine?

11. What is something that would make your character fly into a rage?
12. Is there some particular talent, skill, or attribute that they simply could not give up?
13. What are your character’s sleeping habits? Heavy or light sleeper? Blanket stealer? One that always rolls onto the floor? Pushes their lover onto the floor? Sleep talker or walker?
14. Do they live alone or with family? How do they feel about their family/roommates?
15. Is there a certain person in this world that they cannot stand? The very mention of this person’s name makes them tremble with anger or fear.

16. Is your character the athletic type or more of a couch potato? What are some sports/games that they like?
17. Does your character have dreams of getting married and/or having children?
18. What kind of home would they want to live in? Where would they place this abode?
19. Would your character be the kind to get into fights? (physical or verbal) Would they be a good fighter or cave in rather easily?
20. Does your character like animals? What are some of their favorite animals? Would they want pets? What about mythological creatures?

21. What is one of your character’s biggest fears? How would they react when dealing with this fear?
22. What kind of tattoos, piercings, birthmarks, freckles, and other such unique physical features do they have?
23. What is your character like when it comes to school? What subjects are they good/bad at? Do they get in trouble a lot or are well behaved?
24. In their own words, how would your character describe what their lover is like?
25. Is there something traumatic from your character’s past that greatly affects them even to this day?

26. What is their lover like sexually? How do they feel about their lover’s quirks, needs, etc?
27. If your character was going to get arrested, what would be the most likely reason for it?
28. If your character became a celebrity, what would they be famous for?
29. What is one of the most courageous things your character has ever done for a loved one?
30. When it comes to the arts (music, film, theater, etc), what does your character like?

31. Would your character be the kind capable of killing? Would they enjoy killing or only use it when necessary or, perhaps, refuse to kill no matter what?
32. If your character’s lover offered to take them out on a dream date, what would they want to do?
33. If your character wanted to be alone, where would they go?
34. Does your character have favorite foods? (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, etc)
35. Is your character afraid of death? If they got to choose how to die, how would they want to go?

36. Does your character have any medical conditions? Are they serious or minor? Do they affect their day to day life?
37. What are some of your character’s pet peeves? What are some things that annoy them or disgust them?
38. What kind of weather does your character like? Cloudy skies, rainy days, sunshine, etc?
39. When people look at your character, is there some assumption they might make about them just by appearance? Is that assumption correct?
40. Does your OC have any guilty pleasures they enjoy? Hobbies, past times, music, etc that they wouldn’t want known by others?

41. Does your character’s family affect your character in any way?
42. Is there anything in your character’s past that they regret, haunts them, or they wish they could change?
43. Does your character have a switch that changes aspects of their personality whether they are around friends, family, etc. Is there someone who gets to see their true self?
44. Is there a particular event that would emotionally devastate your character?
45. Is your character the kind to hide their true emotions or do they wear their heart on their sleeve?

46. What is some random affectionate thing that your character always does to their lover?
47. Is your character outgoing? Would they be the leader of the friend group, or the quiet one that gets dragged along?
48. Is there anything in particular that would ignite your character’s jealousy? Or does your character not get envious?
49. What is something that your character has nightmares about? Are these frequent? Do they heavily affect your character’s mood?
50. If your character confessed love to their crush, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc, what would they say?

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