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Monday, September 26, 2011

Comics are Dying and Its Easy to See Why

Have you seen the splash page of Batman and Catwoman doing the nasty from the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe?

I'm a fan of comic books. Always have been. Always will be.

The comics industry is facing two crises. The first is the continued fall of print products. Print anything, its just not selling as well as it used to. We've all seen what happened to Borders, Rocky Mountain Times, etc. Comics is not immune to this. In reaction there've been a number of missteps. In some cases, prices go up. In others, page counts go down. And still in others, digital copies of the comics are finally being released day and date, though still at full print price.

The second is the continued aging of the average comic book buyer. Comic books, particularly print comics, simply don't bring young readers in how they used to. The reasons are many and not really worth going into here, but the fact is the average comic buyer is getting older and older.

So in response to both of these problems, DC launches the New 52. Reboot almost every character, some reboots are major, others minor. Let's bring in new readers by releasing the comics in print and digitally! Throw out a lot of the incestuous continuity that hampers the comic buying experience. There's a reason Iron Man the movie can make half a billion dollars and there is nearly no uptick in comic sales: its too convoluted.

So DC reboots everything, modernizes the characters for a new audience.

Then Batman and Catwoman have a near pornographic sex scene in the reboot. This is the type of thing that sells to the older comic buyer, the recluse, the social outcast. The exact people that DC is trying to NOT market to. Yet they not only go back to the same old shit, they turn it up a notch and make it even more off putting for a non comic reader to get into.

This is what the mainstream comics industry has been doing to itself for years. They claim to be creating a "jumping on point" for casual consumers who may not buy comics. Then Batman and Catwoman fuck, right there on the page in a medium that is traditionally associated by said casual consumers with children.

Then again, perhaps this was planned all along to get people talking about DC comics. "Just get the name right!"

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Update - Outlines

How do you outline? The most success I've had in storytelling revolves around the following steps, and I was wondering if anyone hates this, goes against it, how they approach their storytelling.

Bear in mind, by "success", I mean the closest I've gotten to actually finishing up the project.

High concept + character arc for main character. I know where she is at the start and where she is at the end, with a concept of the other 90% of the story. By where I don't just mean physically or geographically, but also mentally and emotionally.

From here I break down, very high level, what each act in a traditional three act structure will contain. This is typically applied to film, but I've adapted it to comics, novels and games. I've actually completed games this way, with my main character being the "player".

Then I break the acts down into details of literally what happens in each act by chapter, issue, strip, level or whatever method of splitting your story up you are using. This part is literally as bare bones as, "Chapter 1 -  Character X leaves home for college. Meets a troll in the basement of the dorm building."

From here its time to actually build the content of the story, whether its prose or comic strips or missions in a game.

So, what's your approach? Do you fly by the seat of your pants as you conceptualize, or do you outline in an even more anal retentive manner than has been described?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dealing with Concept Fatigue

No matter how long I work on something at some point I always run into the following issue. Concept Fatigue.

Its different from writers block. I only encounter writers block on projects I'm still enthusiastic about. My usual bouts with writers block deal with figuring out what the best to get from the current place in my story, game, comic, etc. to the next place and simply not being able to figure it out.

No, concept fatigue is different...

The concept that I came up with, that popped into my head, that was inspired by sock puppets, whatever it is and however I came to find it, I will eventually grow tired of it. Usually I go quickly from being tired of the idea to simply hating the idea, the concept, or whatever work I have put into it.

Previously as a game developer the time to dwell on that was slight, as I had to get the product out or I would not have a way to feed my family. Now though, not being in a creative business, I am devoting free time to concepts. When I hit that stage of concept fatigue, with near certainty, the projects wither and die. There are a few that I have kept alive and kicking, but overall nothing seems to help.

How do you deal with concept fatigue? Is it just my brain telling me that the concept is not good enough?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Funny

Appropriate Product Placement In Your Story

Do you read PvP? I do. I have for years. I'm a huge fan. I own a few books, a few single issues. I listen to the Webcomics Weekly podcast Scott Kurtz puts on with Dave Kellet, Kris Straub and Brad Guigar. I have the book, "How to Make Webcomics". So full disclosure up front. I'm a fan of the work, and a fan of the creators themselves.

If you follow PvP, then you know what is currently going on in the story. If you don't, then here's a link to Kurtz's post, though I will summarize it myself. He's incorporated appropriate product placement into the strip's next story arc.

There will be naysayers who use this as an opportunity to throw out the phrase "sell out" and make themselves feel slightly artistically superior while they wallow in obscurity. I am not one of them. I applaud the decision, and the care that went into it.

You're used to product placement already, in all mediums of story telling. Film, television, radio, novels, comics and videogames. Its just a part of the existence of modern entertainment, you have to pay those bills to keep creating the stories.

So what is wrong with placing products in your story? Nothing. The characters in PvP already play games like Magic. Kurtz is making money off of this story, but the implicit belief that there is something wrong with that is, from my view, childish. There is something wrong with compromising characters or vision for product placement and/or advertising, but when it fits into those aforementioned elements we should all embrace any creators who find legitimate ways to fund their work with no compromise.

Have you given any thought to placing products or driving ad revenue to fund your projects?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Has Dragon Dictation Done for Me

Following up on my previous post about catching ideas, I installed Dragon Dictation on my iPhone. Its a solid little app, though I had no idea what it was and was not capable of.

Still one of the best dragon designs ever.

It can accurately take down concise notes with simple words. Going over three syllable words and it starts to choose words that you're not actually saying.

It has a length limit, which has presented an issue for myself during driving but isn't that big a deal.

Dragon is free, so you're getting quite a bit for your buck. I'm now using it to take down ideas for particular scenes, lines of dialog, and even the occasional joke. Time will tell if this makes me a better story teller, though so far I've caught a number of ideas with it that may have otherwise been lost to the ether.

How has your concept catching been? Any tips?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Catching Ideas

My current job requires I spend many hours per week driving. This means while I’m not really doing anything, I’m still one hundred percent occupied by what I’m doing and can't write, sketch, or otherwise jot down the ideas I do have. This is when my mind wanders and I start figuring out different ideas, or solving issues in some project that I’m working on.


I could record them audibly, certainly, but then I’d have to listen to them all over again. First world problem, but nonetheless something I really don’t want to do. Though I think I might resort to it in the short term.
I’m going to be trying out Dragon Dictation for iPhone. I'll let you know what I think of the app and how its working, especially when being used in a noisy truck.
How do you go about keeping and maintaining ideas? Especially when you don’t have many ways to do so?