Characters in the Cold

Ren Jacket-Normal

Jtaya-normal

So far, I have two jacket designs down for the colder climate areas! The only problem is that we might not be able to make the battlers match the difference – though the travel avatars will.

What do you think of changing character clothing depending on the climate?

Not too Super

Tonight, I will be watching Man of Steel for the first time since it was out in theaters. While it was an honest disappointment to me the first time I saw it (didn’t like Clark, or really even Lois although I like Amy Adams, Jonathan Kent’s death was… laughable, it was too “artsy” and long in some parts, Clark’s reckless abandon), there were enough good points that I hope a second watch will improve it (the fight scenes, every Kryptonian that wasn’t Clark).

Basically, half the movie is Clark with this expression on his face.

What did you think about Man of Steel. What do you think about the casting, etc., going on for the sequel?

Funder Woman

wonderwoman

Like most female nerds, there are some characters I just love. Princess Leia. Sailor Moon. Wonder Woman. Just for fun, I took a moment to draw out how I’d design Wonder Woman’s costume – pretty classic, with a touch of Kingdom Come. I like the idea of her wearing armor – after all, invulnerable or not, she is a proud warrior. I also think throw-backs to her Greek roots make for fun design. I didn’t take the time to detail this draft very much, and if I were seriously drawing it, I’d have added a few more things, particularly on the skirt.

So that my little side-project wasn’t a total waste, as far as productivity for our game goes, and since her look works so well for our game, I made a few modifications to turn her into a resident of Genos. Basically just removing anything that would be trademarked to Wonder Woman.

Diana

Ta-daaaaaa!!! Not only is this shade of red used extensively in several of our human characters, but WW’s not known for shoulder-guards. I feel comfortable with this uhh… completely generic dark-haired anime woman warrior – especially considering there will probably be a lot of cameos by fictional characters.

You may notice, by the way, that I prefer my Princess Di a little buff. With that in mind, no; I’m not thrilled about the casting of Gal Gadot. I would have preferred an MMA fighter like Gina Carano, whom I feel is a very pretty woman who can also kick butt. I’m pretty tired of seeing waif-fu.

Pictured: A woman who does not need to suspend disbelief to kick ass.

Oh, Starbuck, that you would’ve been followed more after blazing the trail for realistically tough women.

What do you think? Twigs kicking ass… really?

Four Things Everyone Needs to be a Creator

Four Things Everyone Need to Become Creators

At certain points in my life, upon hearing a statement like that, I might think that “talent” would be at the top of my list – I’m not going to lie. And not because I’m so talented or anything; on the contrary, it’s my lack of talent that has made me feel this way, for example, when confronted with a piece of art forever beyond my capabilities. But more and more I’m learning: talent is not necessarily needed to be creative, and as you’ve probably noticed, not even to be commercially successful.

Yeah, you’ve noticed.

In fact, someone can actually create with little talent in the medium and still be good. No offense to John Porcellino, for example, but the indie-American comic Perfect Example is… well… a perfect example of that. His drawings aren’t particularly great – I don’t know if that’s intentional or not – but it’s effective in telling his story; and that’s something I can appreciate.

From my readings, watchings, listenings and attempts of creativity, these, in no particular order, are some of the traits that creators just need.

1.       Something to Say
It seems to me that creativity is synonymous with self-expression. That may seem really obvious… or that may be a statement that people take exception to. But at least for me, a person who loves to draw and write, all creative endeavors come about because I want to show the world, or at least my audience, something about myself.

Now Justin seems pretty content creating simply for the fun of it. He makes music, and not always to express emotion (often not, in fact), and The Lotus War really came about because he wanted to make a video game. Not because he wanted a statement about racism or war or anything. It is, however, at core, an expression of Justin’s fondness for video games. That is the statement he’s making with that (in addition to the rest that we decided to add in); he likes video games (and making music and computers and good stories and working with me, of course) and to the extent that he wants to participate in the creation of one.

And there’s nothing wrong with creating for the sake of creating; it’s fantastic to really just enjoy the act of creation. Lots of people start each and every project that way. Writers, musicians, visual artists… they start with the feeling of “I like sculpting” or “I liked writing” and then think “What can I write/sculpt/draw about?” I’m pretty sure Stephen King didn’t write Carrie because he was swept up in the idea of “bullies are not cool… how I can I use supernatural phenomenon to show that? Huh… and in what medium?” It was probably “I need to write. What should I write about?”

So it may start with a base of “I want to show my love of [insert medium here] to the world!” but eventually that desire will latch onto a theme, and that theme will shape the work.

2.       An Audience
So this is the point when people are going to say, “I have a whole bookshelf full of notebooks with poetry/drawings/My Little Ponies/Beast Wars fan-fiction that I’ve never shown anyone!” And to this I say: great, me too. In fact, for the longest time, I could not be in the same room when a person read/viewed my work. I couldn’t sit there and see their face because I’d analyze them in terror as they analyzed me on page. Also, I’d keep interrupting, “Have you gotten to that point yet? Because let me explain why I did this one thing…” so they’d have my verbal explanation rendering their feedback moot before they could ever give it to me.

Still, regardless of whether My Little Beast-Ponies’ War: A Romeo and Juliet Story has ever or will ever see the light of day, you cannot deny that it was written for someone – even if that someone is only you, as you sit in your room sketching ponies riding rainbows into combat against robo-organic entities.

The catch is, Firefly Meets Outlaw Star (oh, wait, that can’t happen; they’re the same thing. BURN!) probably will end up seeing the light of day… or at least the digital light of the internet. Even if you post it anonymously in a fan forum or have a little LiveJournal dedicated to odd mash-ups, you’re casting a net for an audience of your work because creativity thrives on a give-and-take/show-and-tell relationship.

3.       Time

Oh, and what time. And who has that time? Most work, if lucky, 40-hour-per-week, soul-sucking jobs that eat up our time and kill our creative instincts. No wonder artists need to be starving. It’s either starve and make or eat and don’t. Or at least it certainly feels that way. I mean, after an eight-hour day of working by compulsion, all we want to do is decompress and watch The X-Files re-runs. Hurrah. Even if you really, really enjoy playing clarinet or whatever, by the end of the day, you’re drained of creative energy. And that’s a sad state to be in. That’s the kind of state that makes me hate work. My job itself doesn’t do it; it’s the all-consuming energy that it takes.

But I find that carving out the time to do it helps. Just like most of us got home drained from school and then had to do homework on top of that, if we set a time and then sit down and make ourselves do it, we’ll find that it’s not that hard. And it’s a lot more enjoyable than homework to boot.

4.       Endurance (or, in lieu of that, a partner with endurance who will spur you on)
This is something that has historically eluded me. No matter how much I long to create, really, really at the core want to and respect people who do, I’m horrible at follow-through. Inspiration strikes and for a while, I’m really excited by the prospect of this new project… and then half way through, a new idea comes to mind and I get excited about that instead. And the cycle continues. Then a while later, I’ll try to pick up the first idea (which in itself had supplanted some other now-antiquated one) but my style or my “something to say” or my vision has changed so drastically that I feel compelled to start again… from the beginning. Scrap what I had and re-do it all. Not exhilarating work.

Even now, with The Lotus War, this lack of “stick-to-it-ness” has afflicted me. Justin and I already have ideas for two more games – one of which was my idea for a comic that’s large and exciting to me, so I’m really motivated to do that. Not to mention, little side comics I’d like to do of a personal nature. It’s getting difficult to keep trucking along drawing character portraits – especially since now all the major players are done. I don’t have a clear picture of what else I want to say.

Two saving graces are keeping me going: the multi-faceted nature of video game making (I can do portraits or make battlers or work on the origins comic or map or…) and Justin – who is very good at project-oriented work. He’s the little nudge that keeps me trucking.

A Word on Habibi

Habibi by Craig Thompson is a stunning work that exhibits his talents in much the same manner as its predecessor, Blankets. Both are long (approaching 600 pages) and dense, but he has a truly poetic style that makes even intensely awkward/uncomfortable scenes (like his um… spilt man-juice in Blankets or childbirth in Habibi) a little more bearable. Still, story-wise I felt that Habibi fell a little flat.

The premise of Habibi focuses on a girl, Dodola, sold as a child bride, then later as a slave – who at the age of nine saves a three-year-old fellow slave and their attempts to survive in the desert.

Up until that point, Thompson had me. The near-mythological narrative coupled with the fantastic aesthetic held me captive. But as one bad decision by the main characters lead to another; as they are subjected to more and more forms of brutality in a modern world; as the uncomfortable situations amplify, I was eventually turned off of my initial infatuation. While I still really enjoyed the book and would rate it at 8/10, it did not live up to the hopes I had at the outset.

Probably my biggest issue is just the relationship between Dodola and Zam. It’s very strange to me that two people who regarded themselves (and indeed brought themselves up) as siblings or even mother/child would fall in love. The decision to sexualize such a relationship is not one that feels natural or organic. On the other hand, I do try to remind myself that Zam had not met any other women from the time he was three years old, until his separation from Dodola at the age of twelve. But it seems to suggest that love can morph between familial and amorous – for whether they are related by family lines or not, they are as much family as any other – which, as a sister and daughter, I find rather inconceivable (See: Westermarck Effect)

Another aspect that brings its rating down in my eyes is the portrayal of women. Dodola is subjected to sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. While she is the protagonist and so obviously is the intended recipient of sympathy (as well as Zam), the scenes of rape are depicted so elegantly and even erotically, that the message (if any) may be lost in translation. They must have been conceived in condemnation, but they are relished in. She is exotified and her naked image, like her body in the book, sold as a commodity. Thompson clearly loves the female body, and he draws it beautifully, but beyond a certain point, it begins to feel like mere fan service, diminishing the poetic tone of the work.

Now this is a minor point, but one that eats at me a bit: the book maintains that full-figured women are coveted in this desert culture. That is realistic, as in many societies – especially those scarce of food – this is the case. We are told this in direct contrast, though, to Dodola, who is both drawn as a Western ideal and coveted for it: slim, to the point of angular pelvic bones thrusting out from her hips with visible ribs. While told that voluptuous women are the ideal, we are shown that the waifish body types of Western super-models are irresistible. Moreover, virtually all males (including transvestite eunuchs save for one notable exception who is pointedly feminine) are robust, large men with rolls upon rolls of fat. Men are free of the same object-status; they are free to be fat or thin or dwarfish, though none are really handsome. Although Dodola’s body is shown to all, when she asks to see the scars of a eunuch, he does so in privacy from the reader, creating an arbitrary gender divide between whose body needs to be on display and whose can be kept private.

Lastly, the end was a sad read, despite containing some reality. While the story as a whole is a larger-than life near-myth, the characters are still rendered powerless. I was rooting for them to destroy the dam that led to the social divide between the world’s inhabitants. Rather, they opt to save one child (while simultaneously and rather ironically supporting the child slavery system) and flee. There is no great no revolt, no call to the simple man to fight back. Just hopeless abdication and flight.

Back to our own game, though, a question for me: if I feel so strongly about the objectification of women in this work, why is there obvious fan service (in the form of Taya, Arinnel, and the other cases of cleavage you’ll likely see in The Lotus War) present in our game? What’s the difference?

I supposed it’s partly the recognition of our respective roles: The Lotus War is a game solely for entertainment purposes. While I strive for an engaging story and an artful (if cartoony) aesthetic, we make no attempts to elevate this beyond what it so admittedly is. If there’s fan service, it’s because the game overall is a piece of fluff for fans. While it touches on themes such as war, cultural guilt and racism, it’s not intended to change anyone’s mind or make condemnations. It’s intended to engage an audience.

Habibi, on the other hand, does take itself seriously. It tackles large themes and hopes to make statements about them, but does so with half the grace of the art the book contains. And I feel that when making a statement about something as sensitive as sexual abuse – especially when enacted against a child – grace is one thing that cannot be in short supply.

“Barefoot Gen” – a manga amongst manga

I’m not in a position of authority to call Barefoot Gen the best manga (or series) ever written – I have read only a small selection of the vastly limited selection of manga available in mainstream American bookstores, to be perfectly honest. But today after reading the first two volumes, I certainly want to declare it the greatest manga ever written – by far the greatest manga I’ve ever read. In fact, manga is too limited in scope, as it really only applies to Japanese graphic tales. Barefoot Gen surpasses, to me, the recognized greats of the American medium, including the ones with similar themes such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus or Joe Sacco’s The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo. Admittedly, I have not yet read Persepolis, which from the description seems to be the most similar to in content and style to Gen – mixing humor and optimism with the stark contrast of the losses and tragedies war brings. However, considering that Gen came first, it earns points additional points solely for being this landmark work that really blazed the trail for exposing such harsh realities in comic form.

Gen is a strong and cheerful protagonist, full of life and very vibrant. He’s by no means a perfect character – he’s rowdy, occasionally disobedient, hard-headed, and often bratty. But for all that, he’s plucky with a good heart. Even in his moments of weak and whiney selfishness, I can’t help but to pity him; he handles starvation better than any six-year-old I ever met – than any six-year-old I ever was. His family, too, is colorful and multi-dimensional: his father while having strong morals and teaching his children to treat others humanely is simultaneously able to lose his temper in a way that would get Child Protective Services called on him here in the modern US; his mother is hard-working and loyal, but has bouts of mania; and his siblings, too, are well-fleshed out, although his neighbors can become caricatures.

What I appreciated perhaps the most is that it doesn’t reach the true atrocity of Hiroshima during World War II – the dropping of the Atomic Bomb – until the very end of the first volume. Instead, it establishes the Nakaoka as a real family, sharing in their joys, their small triumphs, but also in their despair at being outcasts for speaking up regarding their anti-war beliefs. There were many misty moments during these scenes, but they served to make the coming heartbreak of the bombs even more poignant. If not for this initial character-building, I would not have bawled so unabashedly during those moments.

While the forward by Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) held slight criticism for Nakazawa because Gen portrays the main reason for the atomic bomb on Japanese stubbornness and the evils of the few men leading the empire, instead of distributing any to the Allied Nations – something he felt made American and British readers a little too comfortable with the decision to enact such an evil – I rather disagree with this position. Nakazawa assigns plenty of blame to anyone who felt justified in dropping such a harrowing weapon on innocent civilians. Not to mention that in the context of its originally intended audience, this decision made sense: it was for Japanese people by a Japanese person, not only to illustrate how whole communities could be swept up in a nationalistic fervor, but the penalties for such a fervor were devastating. He was urging all to never fall into such a trap – a trap wherein one abandons reason for conformity – ever again. Don’t get me wrong; it assigns plenty of blame to Japan too – afterall, Gen’s father is staunchly anti-war. But I feel it’s a realistic portrayal of the mixed feelings a young boy at the time would’ve experienced.

Though I mentioned that the context of its originally intended audience was important, I do feel that it’s a necessary read for particularly Americans, too. As an American, I particularly cued in on the theme that no matter who you are or how you view your purported enemy, they probably view you similarly – and not because of their own knowledge about you but because of sheer hearsay and the people that lead them. Just as Americans during WWII held Japanese in derision, comparing them to monkeys and calling them names like “Jap” and “Nip,” the Japanese were taught to view Americans as “devils” that probably “eat shit.” Similarly, just as Japanese were viewed as lower-class, almost negligible in America, they viewed their racial minorities (the Koreans and the Chinese, many of whom were shang-haied) as second-class citizens, really not even treated with the dignity that should be ascribed to any human. If we can remember, as Gen’s father sought to teach, that every human being is a person such as ourselves, if we can remember that the hateful stereotypes we hear of others are just as false as the ones they hold of us, perhaps there’s hope for humans yet.

It surpasses Maus particularly in that human element – bringing the characters to life apart from all the death present. Because this story is autobiographical, rather than one created through second-hand information, there’s a more personal depth. The losses are greater. The feelings more raw. The emotions less translated, less transcribed, more transcending.

Those are just a few reasons that I view this national treasure of Japan as one of the most important works a person may read. I’d urge anyone to read it and share – although it must be noted: despite being often listed in the children’s section of stores and libraries, this comic is rather graphic in its depictions of bomb victims with melting skin and infested with maggots. The tragedy experienced by Gen and his mother – the losses they suffered and the mode by which they were inflicted – are hard to bear, even in a mere reading. But if this work can speak to anyone about the evils of elitism, racism, nationalistic fervor, and the pointless deadliness of war, it is something that needs to be examined.

Based on a Friend

Gina-Normal

 

The hard thing about basing a character on a friend is making them recognizable as the person – but especially while doing anime, where many features are exaggerated or minimized.

Blonde Elf

elissa

 

How’s everyone doing? Still trying to chug these along. Anyone got some suggestions?

Look for the Creators Part II – Animefied Selfie

danielle

 

The nice thing about drawing yourself is being able to trim the fat and gloss the hair. You know… and all the other things that make a person look better. Hint: I don’t have abs like that in person.