New Style…

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Style change. For a story-within-a-story in the book, I’m changing styles, going to a looser, more cartoony style, which sort of fits tonally with the subject matter in the story. The other day on the subway I designed the characters in that style, and I share them with you here. It’s lots of fun to draw in this looser […] Click to continue reading this post

All Aboard…!

The other day, quite recently, I clicked “place your order” on… a toy New York MTA bus. I can’t pretend it was for the youngster of the house, it was for me. No, it is not a mid-life crisis (heh… I’m sure others might differ on this point), and I will happily declare that it is not out of nostalgia for my time in the city, especially back in the 90s.

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It’s for the book. I’ve an entire story set on a bus in Manhattan and I neglected to location scout a bus when I was last there. I figured I could work from tourist photos and so forth. Turns out that you don’t get many good tourist photos of MTA bus interiors, and not the angles I want. Then I discovered various online bus-loving subcultures that go through all the details of every model of NYC bus, with endless shots of the buses in different parts of the city… but still not many good interiors and no good overheads and so forth. (See Transittalk, for example – I now know way more about buses in New york than I ever thought I’d want to know.) Then I accidentally had an Amazon link show up in my […] Click to continue reading this post

But Does That Really Happen…?

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Sorry I’ve been quiet for a long stretch recently. I’ve been tied up with travel, physics research, numerous meetings of various sorts (from the standard bean-counting variety to the “here’s three awesome science-y things to put into your movie/TVshow” variety*), and other things, like helping my garden survive this heatwave.

I’ve lost some time on the book, but I’m back on it for a while, and have […] Click to continue reading this post

More Hands…

panel_sample_handsI realized the other day, while on the train constructing more hands, that in this book I’m saddled with drawing lots of hands – almost more than any other single thing. Why? Well, this is a set of ten separate conversations, and most of the conversations take place when the people involved are sitting together. They’re not moving around so much, not flying or fighting as in an adventure or hero comic (sorry if you’re hoping for that) – they’re relatively still. As you might have observed about people, when they are sitting, they mostly adopt the same one or two poses for long stretches. The changes from moment to moment are not so great, and then they mostly cycle from one position to […] Click to continue reading this post

QFT Book Review

9780199699322This month’s issue of Physics Today has a review that I wrote of the book “Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur”, by Tom Lancaster and Stephen J. Blundell. I took the opportunity to give a broader view (albeit brief, given the word limit) of the landscape of books on that subject and how it has changed a lot, in a way that I think reflects some excellent changes in formal theory brought about by (at least in part) research into the many topics pulled together under the broad umbrella of string theory. As you might know from reading here and elsewhere, I’ve long been pushing for the increased application of the ideas and techniques of string theory to other areas of physics, and it has become quite the thing these days, I’m happy to see. Such research has resulted in the blurring of the […] Click to continue reading this post

Yay, McCloud!

sketch_during_interview_10_april_2016_wide(Click sketch for larger view.) I was only able to make it to one scheduled event in the LA Times Festival of Books this year. (Family constraints.) Normally I go to a few at least, getting my tickets for the panels in advance and going along and listening to authors, writers, editors, and other book-related people having a discussion about some topic or other. If I’m honest, for about 80-85% of such panels or interviews I come away wondering why on earth I went because everyone said the standard things I thought they’d say. But that 10-15% can be great, and you never know where it’ll show up – which event, which writer, during which Q&A… So for that reason I come expecting to get good extra value from listening to the conversations around me in the line and in the audience, and of I course bring my sketchpad and try to see if there’s someone interesting to sketch while I listen.

As usual, for panels involving graphic books or comics, there’s almost always someone in the audience who is working on a sketch of some sort. People who appreciate that form often find value in sketching and often do it (or some sort of doodle) themselves as a pastime, and that’s a great thing. If I’m not the only one and if I’m sitting at the right angle, I often get the fun opportunity to sketch a sketcher, and that is what happened during the interview of Scott McCloud on […] Click to continue reading this post

Retreated

retreat_placeIt’s Spring break. For the greater part of the last week, I’ve been in hiding. I’m alone in a quiet town somewhere, getting a good long stretch of work done on the book project for the first time in a long time. For most of each day I’d sit at this tiny table, writing and doing rough layout sketches, glancing out of the window from time to time, listening to music on headphones during the long stretches of concentration*. Yes, and drinking tea and coffee. For lunch I’d […] Click to continue reading this post

That Serial Film Crime…

After all these years, I still have that little pain inside about what I think is one of the greatest missed opportunities (nay, crimes) in the history of film: that Guillermo del Toro did not get to direct the Hobbit due to all the delays in New Zealand over strikes (if I recall correctly), and so after two years of development he (and all his staff) packed up and moved on with their lives…. leaving Peter Jackson to take over the reins. That pain is right there next to those three jabbing pains inside that still feel a bit raw every time I get a reminder about how the films actually turned out overall. Just seeing a poster can set me off. (There are of course some nice set pieces in them here and there, but memory of them is rapidly erased by the overall wrong tone, silliness, and pandering to the need for pointless action sequences at the expense of common sense.) It’s old news now, but it still really hurts.

And it is nothing to do with the fact that […] Click to continue reading this post

Marginal Activity

The last couple of weeks have seen me fiddling with another important task for the book: rethinking the page dimensions. This gets me into things like crop points, safe areas, bleeds, and so forth. It is sort of crucial that I worry about this now and not later because for the kind of book I am working on, every single page is a unique self contained entity that must be designed individually, while at the same time each page still depends on all the other pages to be just right. So a change in page dimensions is a huge deal in the process. This is not like writing large blocks of prose in the form of chapters and paragraphs, where the page dimensions are less crucial since your words will just flow and re-flow automatically to adjust to the new shape of container (the page), newly spilling over to the next page if need be. Instead, graphic elements -the drawings- all must work together on a number of different levels on the page, their relative positioning being crucial, and any text that is present must also respect that layout… In fact, text is really just another graphic element on the page, and is not as malleable as it is in a prose book.

sample_exp_iv (Random sample from a story I’ve just completed the roughs for in the new dimensions. You can see the red guide lines I work to to make sure that the page comes out fine at the printer, the inner being the “safe area” beyond which you don’t put any crucial elements like text in case they are cut off. The outer is the line where the page should end. Some of my pages have “bleeds” which means the art will flow all the way past that outer line so that when cropped that part of the page is covered entirely with art instead of it stopping due to a panel border…)

I say all this because it is an issue close to my heart right now. Back when I did all the art for the prototype story (some years ago now), and right up to last year, I did not yet have a publisher for the book, so therefore of course no idea what the final page dimensions might be. Different publishers have different favourites, print capabilities, and so forth. So I made the best decision […] Click to continue reading this post

Dune Love…

goodnight_dune_julia_yuI ran across two excellent Dune-related items in the last fews weeks, and since it is the 50th Anniversary of Frank Herbert’s book “Dune”, I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is on the really excellent website called Pornokitsch, which I’m delighted to introduce you to if you’ve not encountered it before. (Don’t worry about the name – they chose it ironically.) Bookmark it and repeatedly return for more. This piece on Dune was about the David Lynch film, really (and not too much about the book), which is always great to discuss with people since it inspires intense love and hate in people… sometimes both in the same person. I find it a decidedly flawed film with so many delightful charming oddities that I can’t help but enjoy it. A number of regulars weigh in […] Click to continue reading this post