Four Talking Boxes 2125

I’ve been in some creative doldrums lately. I haven’t been able to get anything big done. I’ve gotten small stuff done but that somehow doesn’t seem satisfactory. It’s odd how there is certain stuff I consider basic that I always get done but since I always get it done I don’t consider it as accomplishing anything. If I add it all up it’s an accomplishment but it’s hard to see since it’s not big like a painting or a drawing.

The first thing I always get done is my webcomic posted on this very site. I’ve posted over 2100 of my “Four Talking Boxes” strips. That’s a lot. Way back on January first of 2010 when I posted the first strips it was cool to get them done. I worked hard to figure out how to do a comic strip I would have time for. It took two years of false starts before I came up with my method.

The first part of the method was that I made my own clip art of my six characters. That took two months or so. I drew six different versions of each of their heads plus six different versions of their bodies. I drew those versions all facing left and then turned them around so that they were facing right too. In the end I had 36 versions of each character to chose from.

The next part of the method is to write the strip. In the beginning I used to write it at night. Whenever I could. Sometimes one a night and sometimes three a night when I fell behind. Each week I’d get five strips done that I’d post three months from when they were finished. When I started out the strip in January of 2010 I was months ahead with finished strips and I’ve kept up with that pace.

A few years ago I switched to writing in the morning. After I shower and I’m getting ready for the day I write. I have a template with four boxes and eight balloons in it that I write in. It takes anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes to write a strip and after I’m done I have breakfast. It’s part of my routine now so getting it done almost doesn’t count with me as getting something done. Weird.

I used to put together five strips on Thursdays. It just ended up that way. I got them done on Thursdays for a long time. Now I get three of them done on Sundays and two more done on Mondays. Or maybe on Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe all five on Sunday. I’ve mixed it up lately.

Another thing I’ve gotten done lately is drawings in my ink book. Those are my basic drawings that generate a lot of my ideas. Eight or nine small ink drawings a page in a 5.5 x 8.5 inch sketchbook. I get eight or nine pages a month done at about an hour a page. I’m on ink book eighteen and have been doing this for seventeen years. That’s a long time and a lot of drawings. It’s an accomplishment but it doesn’t feel like one because I expect that of myself. It’s basic to me. Even if it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels I can get it done.

I have managed to make a few of my faux comic book covers in the last month but not a ton of them. Last year I got a ton of them done but I haven’t been anywhere near that pace so far this year. Being that I can do then in stages, pencils, inks, and colors, I can pull one out at any time and work on the stage I want to. I finished up coloring some a couple of weeks ago but haven’t grabbed any since. I have over fifty of them done in my “Dreams of Things” series and, once again, this is an accomplishment but it doesn’t feel like one. After I do them I put them away. If they’re not lying around it doesn’t seem like I did them.

One of the things I do to help myself feel my accomplishments is to pull things out of their drawers and folders and put them all on display for myself. It’s sort of like putting on a one man show for one man. I imagine it would be a lot cooler if more people could see it but such is life.

Another thing I’ve gotten done is my “Drifting and Dreaming” strip. Or at least I’m done a bunch of cartoon art cards for it. Those I also do in stages. First I get a blank 2.5×3.5 baseball card size piece of Bristol board and then I draw a border around it and a word balloon on top. Second I draw a face in ink. I get ten of those black and white drawings done. I can do one in five to ten minutes and knock one off here and there.

After I get ten of them done I put guide lines in the balloons for lettering and then I write them. First I write in pencil so that I get my spacing correct and then I letter them in ink. I usually do all ten of them at the same time. The next step is to color them. That’s as you might imagine. I use my markers and color in the lines. Lots of little shapes and lots of capping and uncapping.

The last thing I can think of that I get done all the time is this very blog. I’ve been writing it once a week for over twelve years. That’s a long time. For the first five years the length of the posts would vary but for the last seven it’s been at least a thousand words a week. I think that’s when I started writing in a program that counts the words. I haven’t missed a week and that’s quite an accomplishment. If only such accomplishments meant anything in the world at large. Oh well, I’ll have to motivate myself in my small world.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got six new comics.

  • Invincible – 144 (of 144)
  • Kill or Be Killed – 16
  • Lazarus X+66 – 6 (of 6)
  • Mage: The Hero Denied – 6 (of 15)
  • Skybourne – 5 (of 5)
  • Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses – 32
  • Check them all out here:

    The Super Bowl happened this past Sunday night. As a football fan I enjoy the big game in general but as a fan of the New York Giants I was not particularly interested in this one. The New England Patriots played the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots are perennial winners and I’m as tired of seeing the Patriots and Tom Brady win as anyone so I had no interest in cheering for them. The Eagles are a rival of the Giants I had no interest in cheering for them either. So though I enjoyed the game I was emotionally distant from it as I watched. That’s just the way the Super Bowl is sometimes.

    That distance made me ponder some of the aspects of the game that I might not usually ponder if I was caught up in the drama. Specifically the game got me thinking about how the NFL defines what a catch is. It sounds like a simple thing to define but in recent years a rules change and the advent of super slow motion high definition replays have changed things and made it so that no one knows if a catch is a catch until after the referees look at the replay and say so.

    There were two instances in the Super Bowl when it came into play that the referees had to decide via replay if a catch was a catch. Both of the replays went the way of the Eagles and the referees confirmed that the Eagles receivers caught the ball. But it looked to me, and to the announcers of the game, that the call could easily have gone the other way and have it be declared that there was no catch. As a matter of fact the announcers were expecting it to go the other way.

    It used to be that in order to make a catch the ball could not touch the ground. That makes sense. I like that rule. Any six year old knows that if you’re having a catch and the ball touches the ground that string of catches is over. You have to start again with one catch. The whole idea of a catch is to not let the ball touch the ground. But back in 2000 there was a playoff game where a Buccaneer’s wide receiver caught the ball but it scrapped the ground as he fell. On replay the referees declared it not a catch because of that. The Bucs and their fans were angry and thought the catch should count. They argued that the wide receiver had total control of the ball and it hitting the ground was incidental. The NFL must have agreed and changed the rule so that that the ball could touch the ground as long as the receiver maintains control of the ball. I never liked this new rule. I still think the ball should never touch the ground in order for it to be a catch. But that’s not the real problem.

    The problem with the catch rule as it’s continued to be interpreted over the years is that notion of the ball being under the control of the receiver doesn’t hold water. The full rule is that the receiver has to get two feet in bounds, control the ball with his hands or arms, and maintain control of the ball long enough to make a football move. Plus the receiver has to maintain control of the ball if he falls on the ground. That’s an awful lot of rules about control. The problem as I see it is that the NFL’s notion of control defies all other sports notions of control and sometimes also the laws of physics.

    First lets look at baseball. When a pitcher is doing really well and can throw the ball wherever he wants, in or out of the strike zone, they say he has great control. The ball ends up 90 feet away from the pitcher but it’s still seen as him controlling the ball. Why? Because the forces he enacts on the ball controls where the ball ends up. Unless some other force acts on the ball between when the pitcher throws it and when it hits the catcher’s mitt it’s considered to be a product of the pitcher’s control.

    In basketball when someone can run and dribble the ball really well he’s considered to be a great ball handler. He controls the ball really well. Dribbling a basketball consists of dropping the ball, letting it bounce up to your hand. And pressing down on the ball again so it goes back to the floor. You’re not even allowed to hold the ball in your hand. Unless some other force acts upon the ball as you’re dribbling your considered to have control of the ball.

    Jugglers are masters of controlling balls. Juggling consists of throwing at least three balls into the air with only two hands to manipulate them. In order for it to work at least one ball has to always be in the air. The juggler is considered to be in control of all three balls. Why? Because the balls have to follow the laws of physics. The juggler knows exactly when to throw and catch and exactly where the balls are and have to be. Even if the ball is in the air the juggler is still in control of it. But not in the NFL.

    The NFL, with it’s hi-def, super slo-mo cameras now looks for any ball movement as a player is making a catch. If they see ball movement they could consider the ball not under the player’s control. The problem is that ball movement doesn’t mean the ball isn’t under the player’s control. First of all the ball is always moving. Catching a ball is an action. All of the other parts of what makes up a catch are also actions. The player is running, getting his feet down in bounds, and moving his hands to catch a moving ball. Then suddenly the rules call for inaction to define a catch. The ball has to not move within the context of a player’s arms and hands. That defies logic.

    One play this year defines to me why the current interpretation of the rule drives people crazy. In a Jets’ game a player caught the ball. As he fell to the ground he, according to the NFL, lost control of the ball and failed to regain control before going out of bounds. What actually happened was that he caught the ball, his arms loosened for a moment, and then he tightened his grip again. With the hi-def, super slo-mo camera you could see the ball was “Loose” as it was between his arms but it was still between his arms. There was no place for it to go. Even though, for a fraction of a second, he wasn’t touching it he was still in control of it. The ball was a bird in a cage. We consider a bird in a cage under control even if it can still move around in the cage. Anything in a cage is considered under control but not in the NFL.

    Lot’s of NFL fans and commentators have been complaining about the current interpretation of the rule. That’s because they say the rule doesn’t pass the “Eye test.” That’s when our eyes tell us that it’s a catch but the rules say it’s not. I say the rule doesn’t pass the eye test because we know from countless other sports that “Control” doesn’t need to be defined by being in constant contact with a ball. According to the NFL catch rules a juggler is not in control of the balls he’s juggling. The problem is that we all know he is. That’s what makes a juggler different than the rest of us.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • The Walking Dead – 176
  • The Savage Dragon – 231
  • Snotgirl – 9
  • Paper Girls – 20
  • The Wicked and the Divine 1923 A.D. – 1
  • Check them all out here:

    I haven’t done a cover analysis of a comic book cover in a while so I thought I do one again. I have a spot in my studio where I pile up comic books. Usually they’re ones I’ve recently bought. I put new comics in a magazine holder next to my chair, read them, and then move them a few feet away on top of my printer. There they sit for a couple of weeks until I read them a second time and then they get filled away for safekeeping. Also on top of my printer will be one old comic. A comic I pick out of my collection because I like the cover and want it to hang around for a little while so I can look at it. The comic book I just moved there today is “Creatures on the Loose” number twenty four starring Thonogor Warrior of Lost Lemuria. It has a July 1973 cover date. Forty five years old.

    When I looked at this cover this morning it looked to me like the inks were by Ernie Chan and the faces were by John Romita. I wasn’t sure if John Romita drew it as, during this period, he sometimes art corrected faces on comics that other people drew and inked. I looked it up on the Grand Comic Book Database (the entry) and sure enough they have John Romita listed as the penciller and Ernie Chan as the inker. They also have a credit for the cover lettering. It was done by Bullpenner Morrie Kuramoto. That’s good to know because lettering plays a big part in this cover.

    Let’s look at all the lettering. We get a logo (Thonogor), the comic’s title (Creatures on the Loose), a sub-title (Warrior of Lost Lemuria), a “Featuring”, and two pieces of hand drawn cover copy (Night-dark wings vs blood-red sword and Attack of the Lizard-Hawks). By the way that’s three compound words in two pieces of cover copy. That might be a record.

    I almost like the Thonogor logo. It’s kind of cool with its rock-like look but it also looks a little cartoony and unserious for such a serious looking cover. It’s not bad but seems like it should be the logo for a story about a caveman and not a sword and sorcery logo. Thonogor was a book that was trying to take advantage of Conan’s sword and sorcery popularity. I like the way the two pieces of more mechanical type, above and below the logo, frame the more wild letter forms of Thonogor. I think this makes me like the logo better. It grounds it and makes the logo a little more serious than it might be on its own.

    I’m a fan of 1970s Bronze Age cover copy. Cover copy, in general, fell out of fashion a long time ago but I still like it. I like titles, I like blurbs, and I like word balloons. This one has no word balloons but has one of each of the others. The one in the circle is the blurb. The cover copy is the part that’s hand lettered by Morrie Kuramoto. It’s just cool. It’s not perfectly mechanical like today’s computer type but it’s neat, precise, and nice looking.

    Over all in the color scheme the red logo over the yellow background really pops. The logo almost leaps off the page at us. The neutral gray background on the bottom of the cover also helps to move the central image forward in space. The green of the lizard-hawk is a little bit dense though. It flattens out the composition a bit but I’m not sure what color would be better. The bright yellow that helps the logo stand out so well is working against figure of the lizard-hawk. Sometimes it’s all a compromise and there is no path to perfection.

    The drawing itself is a lot of fun. We get a damsel in distress, a very Conan-looking sword wielding hero, a lizard-hawk, and a neat looking background monster. The orange haired woman, despite not having much to do, is in a nice twisting action pose. John Romita made her look interesting. That’s not something every artist can do with such little to work with. Thonogor himself is also in a good pose with legs and arms spread far apart and in action as he swings his mighty sword. The lizard hawk looks a little weird with his pink spikes but overall does a good job at being menacing. And for some reason I especially like the crocodile thing underneath them. My eye keeps being drawn to it.

    The main drawback of the cover is that weird metal boat they’re on. Is it flying? Is it floating? Is it falling? I have no idea. I’m not even sure what the exact shape of the boat is. Is it flat across the back and the woman is shoved over to one corner or does it come to a point in the back and she’s ll the way at the stern? I’m not sure. I think it had a flat back but it could be a teardrop shape. This lack of clarity confuses the composition.

    The Ernie Chan inks look good to me. His inks can overpower pencillers but I generally like them. He has an illustrative style with a lot of density to it. You can really see the density in the Lizard-hawk and he delineated Thonogor with a lot of weight, but kept the woman light. There levels of figure inking density on one cover. He didn’t do much with that boat though. It may have been a little doomed compositionally to begin with.

    Overall I find this one a solid Bronze Age cover. That’s the era of the 1970s when I was a kid and first discovered comics so there is a little bit of nostalgia mixed in it for me too but I’m not a huge nostalgia person. Everything is of it’s time and this cover is too. I’m happy it also happens to be a pretty cool piece from its time.