Saturday, November 29, 2008

Episode 22 - Yoga!


Allow me to introduce my good friend Patricia (also known as ‘Other Patty’)!  She puts up with an awful lot from me.  Of course, so do Mary and Patty…

The four of us form a gang we call “The Screeching Harpies.”  Remember, this is a posse, NOT a mommy’s group.  Yeah, we get the kids together to play, but our real purpose for meeting up is to plan the next Apocalypse.  So if you see a gang of forty-somethings (we’re not quite that old but we’re getting there), sitting in your local sushi restaurant, cackling evilly as they devour platter after platter of sushi, you know who you’re dealing with.

This week’s strip got done a little quicker than last week’s, thanks to the fact that I now know what to expect from Manga Studio Debut 4.  Since I bitched so much about the program last week, let me say something nice this week.  The program’s got some new nifty features, especially in the drawing tools.  The pen tool can now adjust its line width according to how close you’re zoomed into the picture (that’s a big help, believe me!), and I can save customized settings for the tools I use most often, which also helps a lot.  The pencil tool stinks – it draws a line so faint I can’t see it on screen – but that’s okay because I can set up a customized marker tool instead for roughing out the artwork.  And the text tool and word balloons are pretty nifty, so long as I save **every couple of seconds**.  Otherwise, working with text will crash the program so bad I have to restart my computer to get it to work again.

But that’s about it!  Over all, we’re doing good this week.  Now go practice some yoga.  Seriously. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Episode 21 - With Friends Like These...


…who needs enemas? But seriously, this one is for Sam and Terri Pray of Under The Moon press.  They were recently screwed out of buying a house because the local community voted to ‘not harbor producers of gay porn.’  Under The Moon produced one anthology of gay erotic romance, which automatically brands them as undesirable elements according to this particular pristine community, but hey, the hetero erotic romances were apparently okay.  It was just that one book of gay smut…

Anyway, this is the first cartoon produced with the brand spanking new Manga Studio Debut 4.0!  I was so excited when I got the notice earlier this week that the upgraded software was out, I went right ahead and bought it.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  Among the new features listed on Smith-Micro’s website were an improved text tool and WORD BALLOONS!  That’s right kiddies, for just $20 I could upgrade to a product that was going to solve the biggest problem I’d been having with producing the cartoons – getting the words onto the panels.

Except that it wasn’t exactly that easy.

First off, I bought the download version (with a back-up disk on its way to me).  When I installed and started up the program, it asked me to install the materials for MS Debut 4.  Materials are those nifty gray scale images that I use for backgrounds and fills.  I knew I had the materials – I’d seen them when I checked out the program folder after installation.  Problem was, I couldn’t figure out exactly which folder to point the materials installer to.  I tried the folder marked ‘Materials’ but that didn’t work because that would be too easy, apparently.  After an hour of trying to figure out how to get the materials and tones installed, I finally sent an e-mail to tech support.  To their credit, tech support answered within a couple of hours.  In the meantime, I searched around the Smith-Micro websites (there are two of them, and it took me a while to figure out which one had a FAQ on it for technical questions) and the Manga Studio website to get some answers.  What I discovered is that the good folks at Smith-Micro wrote up perfectly nice installation instructions… if you were installing from a disk.  But they left out a few details if you were installing from a downloaded version of the program.

Once I finally heard back from tech support, I was able to get the materials installed and I went straight to work.  The pen tool has some nifty new updates that make it ever better for inking cartoons, which is a huge plus.  However, the text tool crashed the program repeatedly, which led to yet another e-mail to tech support who replied that they couldn’t replicate my problem so obviously the fault was with my computer and not their program and I would have to un-install and re-install the program to fix things.  Joy.  That only took another hour or two of work time to accomplish.  And even after that, the text tool still kept crashing the program unless I saved after every use of said tool.  It’s annoying, and it bugs me because if I add more than two text objects to a page, that program is gonna go down like Moses in the fifth, and the only way to get it to come back up and cooperate is to shut down and restart the computer.

However, I can get the text tool to work, and once I figured out where Manga Studio kept the word balloons hidden (the user’s manual says they’re in the materials window – they’re not!!  They’re in the Beginner’s Assistant window), I was able to add my dialogue to my cartoon and finally output the finished work.

So this week’s image was all done in Manga Studio Debut 4, which is really how I prefer to do it, and it was done in the space of a single day (would have happened even quicker if not for technical difficulties…).  Drawing by hand is fine, but I really do prefer doing the whole thing digitally, and in just the one program.  The quality of the inking, the ease of adding tones, the supposed ease of adding text… If it weren’t for the fact that the text tool is buggy as hell and the fact that the user’s manual is unfortunately obscure on certain important aspects of the program (like installation and where to find those bloody word balloons!), I’d give Manga Studio Debut 4 a perfect 10.  As it is, the best I can rate them is a 6.5.  The program has great potential, but it’s also got some serious flaws.  Let’s hope Smith-Micro figures this out and does something to address the problem.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Episode 20 - Sudden Death


Oh my god, I think I just gave birth to twins.  Twin strips that is.

Please notice that while this week’s strip is THREE WEEKS LATE, it is also TWICE AS BIG.  And I got railroaded by a butt-load of work and the Princess’ kindergarten stuff.  For details on all of that, see my other blog here.

But at last this episode is done, and I can honestly say I still haven’t figured out how I want to draw this.  Manga Studio or Adobe Photoshop?  By hand or on the laptop?  All options have their advantages and disadvantages, and I’m seriously wishing that Smith-Micro would hurry it’s ass up and put out Manga Studio 4 so I could test it and see if the new version solves my current problems. But noooooooo! That would be asking a bit much I suppose. I’m only a heavy consumer of computer graphics programs after all.

So about the cartoon itself. This is something that has happened all too frequently to me.  I get a great idea while I’m out with the kids but when I finally make it home, ‘I got nothing,’ as Orziel would say.  I have learned to keep a notebook with me as often as possible, and I even have a handy little folding keyboard for my PDA, but none of those really gives me the freedom to write the moment the inspiration strikes.  Because I’ve always got to keep an eye on the kiddes, see? I look away for a few seconds and the next thing I know they’re tattooing someone else’s darling child with purple and green Sharpie markers.

But the writing does eventually get done and the inspiration is never completely gone.  It just goes into hiding.

The bastard.

To learn more about Orziel and his lovely boy-toy Jarresh, visit Mojocastle Press at and BUY A COPY OF MY BOOK, DAMMIT!

Going to bed now…