Villain or not? Stygere

Stygere has got the longest fuse of the Keres. His mother and sisters are quick to anger, he isn’t. Instead, he stays angry most particularly at them, for all the arguing. He’s a dangerous enemy, but doesn’t often show anger toward the heroes. In fact, they have a suspicion that he wants to join them against his mother and sisters. He’s left clues to their plans that have helped the heroes out of many deadly traps.

He’s an enigma to the heroes, but among the many things he won’t admit openly is that he does want to rebel against his mother and sisters. Unfortunately, the few times he’s tried, they nearly killed him for it. So, rather than risk life and limb against them, he secretly helps the heroes without their fully realizing it. He’s considered donning a masked identity to confuse both sides. Unfortunately, he figures they’d recognize his voice and he’d simply be in greater trouble.

A small mystery that might nag at the reader of Dream Angel #2 and #3, is how Kaida knew Larissa was in trouble with Ker and several Reprobates. The heroes figure he was simply flying overhead and saw something that looked out of place causing him to land and investigate. What the heroes wouldn’t know is Stygere planted a clue. One that would attract the Pegasus centaur without anyone knowing. He also left an anonymous clue with the local police. Which is connected to the heroes’ communications thanks to Larissa. This, Stygere knows, and put to good use. It’s common knowledge the heroes and police are working together to solve crimes within the city. So he figures anyone could have left the tip and he wouldn’t get blamed.

He doesn’t want to openly help the heroes, so he flies under the radar with subtle hints and clues to tip them off. His mother and sisters are left frustrated when the heroes escape, but he’s secretly pleased.

What do you think? Is Stygere an interesting character? Stygere makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which is available in the shop. Also available in the shop is his plush action figure.

Mentor and guide: Breezer

Breezer is a feroad. In Earthly terms, that’s a cross between a ferret and fire belly toad. He can also fly and talk.

breezer

Not long after Arora got the source of her power as Dream Angel, Breezer came into her life. This turned out to be a good thing for her, as he accompanied her on many of her earliest fights, guiding her and helping her understand her power.
She already had good fighting skill, she needed to understand the new power she’d been given and lucky for her, Breezer understands it almost completely.

Being a creature of air, earth and water makes him an excellent pet. As Arora, she’s able to treat him much as she would a dog. He’s got a collar, leash and tags. As Dream Angel, these things are removed so he doesn’t give away her secret.

When she met Ryu, Breezer and the large dragon didn’t quite get along immediately. They both have some understanding of her power, but couldn’t agree on several aspects of it, leading to disagreements. Of course, neither fully understands it anyway.

Yet, he remains among her most loyal and helpful friends. As he went out to battles with her less and less, she counted on him more and more to keep her father safe. Since Jake is a retired wrestling champion, he became the stay-at-home father that takes care of the house and Breezer would stay to take care of him.

Breezer’s comic book debut is Dream Angel #2 which can be found in the shop. It’s recommended you get Dream Angel #1 so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is his plush action figure who loves to be hugged! Will you give him a hug?

Using 3D to make comic books part 5

Using 3D to make comic books is a process that can be both rewarding and frustrating. Too often you’ll hear “3D isn’t art!” or similar. I’ve even heard “You should use Poser because Daz Studio is a crappy freebie!” Personally, I laugh and walk away from both.

To the “3D isn’t art” people, (if I were to bother arguing, which I don’t!) the question would be simple: what is it, then? Okay, I’m not putting pencil to paper, but even drawing in Photoshop isn’t putting pencil to paper. Does that make it not art, too? Movies are very much like 3D. I have to think like a director. Where do I want the lights, cameras, actors, props and even special effects? So, if 3D isn’t art, what are movies?

As for the “you should use Poser” bunch, I can simply say “to each his own.” I’ve played with Poser and frankly, didn’t like it much. I found the UI clunky and difficult to navigate, but that’s just me. I could easily say “Poser is expensive and has a crappy user interface, Daz is better because it’s a freebie!” To counter both, I could argue Blender is better or Zbrush. It’s merely a matter of personal preference there. For me, there’s features I like from many different programs that do different things. For example, there’s things I prefer doing in Gimp over Photoshop and vice versa.

Using 3D to make comic books has many challenges. The learning curve, the harsh (and sometimes stupid-sounding) critics and a whole lot of other things. Is it easier than putting pencil to paper the traditional way? No. You might not have to worry about proportion and shading, but you will have to worry about camera angle and lighting, which can be just as hard to figure out. Just like traditional comic book art, using 3D to make comic books is far from being easy. It might make a few things easier, but other things easily make it harder.

True, having a complete library of ready-to-go characters makes them easier, but that’s only one small piece of the puzzle. The comic book would be awful boring with an empty scene that only has a dressed character in a T pose and no lighting or cameras, right? Just because the characters and a few other things might be ready-to-go, doesn’t make it ready-to-render out of the box.

Take Blue Nite Soldier in the render above for example. That took about two hours to setup. The background and lighting were covered by an HDRI and yes, that makes things a little easier, but he originally popped out so brightly that it looked like he was a paper cut-out simply pasted on the background instead of a character in the scene. Even his sword blended into the background. Safe to say, there was a long list of problems that made the scene look awful.

For him to look like he belonged (mind you, this scene was simply for practice) he needed a counterpart that already looked like he belonged. Sorry, Zelda fans, but I’m not posting the renders that include him, but I will say he helped our boy Blue Nite Soldier look better. Link happens to be similar enough to Blue Nite Soldier that a pose that looked good for one, looked good for the other. He also already looked like he belonged in the scene, so using him for reference to tweak Blue’s appearance worked nicely.

Now, I’m well aware that Blue’s cape has the “stiff” complaint as a possibility, but hear me out on this: for practice, dynamic cloth isn’t really worth the trouble. Even on a faster computer, it takes time to drape and get the wind forces just right. Where a morphing “stiff” cape lets me focus on practicing the pose and camera setup instead while still looking reasonably decent. I call it his practice cape. If I want to practice with his dynamic cape, I’d be doing that, but I wasn’t in this case. True, it’s possible for me to use either one in the books. If he’s in the background doing something, he’s more likely to have the morphing cape, but if he’s in the foreground doing something, the dynamic cape would look much better. For him, it’s a situational piece of his outfit.

Looking once again at that scene, there are a couple flaws: he’s got a bit of poke-through on his leg and his right hand (the one not holding the sword) blends in with the background so it’s harder to see. So, as you can see, it’s not a perfect scene. Were I to move his right arm a little and adjust his pants (or shoes), it would be potentially an excellent book cover or poster. He’s photo-realistic with a cool pose, interesting camera angle and good background.

Is using 3D to make comic books hard? Absolutely. Especially since learning to use the programs can be the hardest step of all! Finding the right program for your preferences alone can be a major challenge. I’ve tried a good variety and usually find myself coming right back to Daz Studio. That doesn’t stop me from learning about others and maybe find a niche where they can help my workflow. Carrara’s a great example of that.

Carrara’s best described as Daz’s “big sister” program, though it seems to have been abandoned. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of tutorials for using it (that I’ve been able to find) but I’ve found it a wonderful niche in my workflow: creating HDRI renders. What would take Daz potentially days, Carrara does in about 20 minutes. Even better, they share the 3D library that houses all the scenes and props. True, Carrara doesn’t always like loading these things the way Daz does, but a little tweaking goes a long way and the result is worth some argument. There’s plenty still to learn about Carrara and more often than not, I find myself fumbling along in the dark through trial and error. Yet, things like this:

Allow for both fun and practice. Sometimes, also for special effects in the books, as well.

As difficult as using 3D to make comic books is, it’s not really any harder or easier than traditional media. It might make some things easier only to make others harder, so saying it’s easy isn’t true at all. That simple video clip of the blocks falling? It’s a blooper. It wasn’t supposed to do that until something hit them. The scene above that’s a kitchen? That’s a straight-out-of-the-box setup except for my making the lights into light-emitting surfaces and even that took a good amount of time to get just right.

Is it easy? No. Can it be fun and seem easy? Sure. There’s plenty of basics that, once learned, can become like second nature and to a complete novice seem easy. Again, the same can be said of traditional media. An artist that’s been painting for, say, 5 years, looks like an expert to someone that’s been painting only a week. The person that’s been at it longer makes it look easy because they’ve been practicing for a much longer time. So, is 3D art? Yes. Can it seem easy to someone who hasn’t used it? Definitely.

It’s easy to be discouraged by haters and doubters. Just know this: when 3D catches on as an accepted media (and it will eventually catch on!) for comic books, remember who the haters and doubters were. Then watch them change their opinion in a hurry when they see how much better you’ve gotten despite their hate and doubt. The real takeaway here is simple: never stop practicing!

Using 3D to make comic books part 4

Using 3D to make comic books, as I’ve said, is quite the challenge. There’s a lot to take into consideration and I’ve only scratched the surface so far with these little postings. It’s definitely recommended you read parts 1, 2 and 3 before this one.

Okay, you’ve rendered awesome scenes, put them together in Comic Life and made them into a cool book. Now what? Well, this is actually the hardest part: getting it to sell. See, 3D is more widely used for porn comics, which makes it tougher to sell to other people. Add in the common complaints about it that I’ve read about and you’re going to find a lot of very harsh critics that won’t even give you a fair chance.

What are those common complaints? One is “stiff, lifeless figures.” Well, this one is harsh on rookies with the medium. Unless you are a fast learner especially with lights, cameras and textures, figures are going to look awkward while you’re learning. The same can be said of hand drawn characters, too though!

Ask for comments to learn from and ignore the ones that are blatant put-downs. You’ll probably be asked if you modeled the characters yourself. Odds are, you didn’t but don’t let that bother you! You’re still learning! So am I! So is anyone that can call themselves an artist. If they claim to be a master and don’t think there’s anything left to learn, they’re never going to grow as an artist and their work will go stale.

Another complaint is stiff clothes. On this one, I’m willing to agree, but only to a point. If you’re like me, your computer’s limits are where you have to draw the line. Realistic cloth simulation is possible and looks incredible, but uses an unbelievable amount of power from the computer!

Using 3D to make comic books part 3

STOP! Before you read part 3 of Using 3D to make comic books, you should read part 1 and part 2! If you’ve read them already, do feel free to continue reading!

Using 3D to make comics scenes rendered on my tablet while still out and about means I can pull the render into GIMP if I need to do post work, too. Literally, my work can go with me anywhere. Sure, the tablet can’t do everything the computer can, but it does a nice job of getting things started for the computer, which saves some time. Then I’m able to open the file in the computer and pick up where I left off while I was out.

Okay, that’s putting together the scene and making sure it’s a real eye pleaser, what about making it into a comic book? I wouldn’t doubt there’s other programs out there, but Manga Studio served me well for a long time before I discovered Comic Life. Now, you’ll notice all these programs have no links attached. I’m not affiliated with them, merely recommending them.

For my purposes, I wish I could combine the two into one program, but that seems quite unlikely. Manga Studio is indeed meant for hand-drawn comics and especially manga with a staggering array of tools and goodies for that purpose. I especially loved its layers palette, but it had its shortcomings for me, as well.

When I found Comic Life, I was struggling to create extended dialogue balloons in particular with Manga Studio. I didn’t have the expensive version of the program and couldn’t afford to get it anyway. I’d found a trial version of it and thought I might be able to setup my 3D scenes inside it, but found nothing for importing my own 3D models and accessories and its library limited to what it came with.

Comic Life offered the dialogue balloons I wanted and a nice assortment of other tools. It’s proven to be more intended for importing images and even fixing them in the program, which suited me far better as a 3D artist. I could just drag and drop my renders into the panel frames and if they needed fixing, I could do it right there without any headaches.

Using 3D to make comic books part 2

Using 3D to make comic books, for a beginner, DAZ Studio is a good one. It’s free, it’s not too difficult to handle until you start getting into the more advanced features, but for setting up and lighting a scene, it’s excellent for learning. Personally, I dove in with Poser 7.

Poser’s good, but I found myself often having trouble using it despite having a book to guide me. Other programs offer more heavy-duty features for making props, clothing, hair and other things, but as they get fancier, they get more expensive.

A leading complaint against using 3D I’ve often mentioned is that 3D figures and clothes look stiff and lifeless. You’ll be confronted by this, so be ready for it. I’ve begun to counteract it by making things more dynamic. Dynamic meaning realistic simulation of cloth in particular.

The other half of that complaint likely has to do with the lighting of the actor and its textures. That would mean it’s wise to pay close attention to the lighting of the scene when you do renders.

Just like pencil and paper, you need to pay close attention to even the smallest details in your renders as these are actually more noticeable in 3D unless you use depth of field to blur out the boo-boos in the background. What about the boo-boos of the character?

Some don’t like to be posed certain ways and can even poke through their clothes despite fixes. Well, post work is useful if you just can’t get the 3D to behave the way you want it to. The GIMP is an excellent freebie image editor that’s lightweight and easy on the computer.

One thing that’s been extremely handy for me is the ability to render scenes even on my little 2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet. Taking my library on the go and setting up characters, or even scenes has been a heavy-duty time saver, but it just doesn’t have the power of the computer.

That means I need programs that aren’t resource intense. DAZ and GIMP are a spectacular combination for this. Unless I setup a heavily complicated scene, my little tablet can render it. If I do setup a heavily complicated scene, I can save it to render on the computer.

 

 

Using 3D to make comic books Part 1

Using 3D to make comic books is a challenge in many ways, but don’t let that discourage you. If you love 3D and love the idea of making comic books, nothing should deter you from it.

Let’s look at some harsh realities to be sure you’re determined to follow this path. First of all, the comic book market is cut throat. These fans in general are hard core about how comics are written and drawn. Plenty of them just aren’t ready to accept comics rendered using 3D software.

If you’re like me, your hand drawings aren’t bad, but just not up to industry standards for some reason or another. My shortcomings include proportion and shading along with perspective and foreshortening. My drawings are good, but not impressive in the comic book world, yet I love making them. The solution to my problem became using 3D software to make up the artistic difference. This led to a whole new set of problems, though.

While characters, props and sets are consistent and look good, new problems arose. These included lighting, camera angle and composition like in the two images above. How then, to solve this problem? Study, practice, constantly scrounge around for tutorials to learn as much as possible. That’s still pretty much fumbling along in the dark, isn’t it? I’ve found that a good many movies have special features on the DVDs and frequently include featurettes talking about how the movie was made.

Using 3D is similar enough to making a movie that these lessons have been extremely valuable to me. They discuss lighting, camera angles and movement, ways to setup a scene for dramatic actions and all sorts of other related things.
Okay, it doesn’t have to worry about sewing costumes or anything along those lines, but making props, making up the actors, dressing actors, setting up a scene, placing the lights and cameras for the best effect and things like that? Definitely!

So, will it someday be accepted by the comic book industry? Probably. I’ve got a couple how to draw comics books that already discuss using these programs for background elements. I’ve seen others on the market and at the local library that use it for the cover or a photograph, even. It’s a slow transition so far and for 3D artists, it’s not going to be easy. Still want to make your own comics using these programs?

 

Most dangerous of all: Nyxus

nyxusVillains like Nyxus are usually the ones you love to hate, right?

I doubt anyone likes Lex Luthor or the Joker in the same way they like Batman and Superman, right? The villain always gets a thorough pounding, too, don’t they? Even in the movies lately, they either get pummeled all the way to prison or killed off. An exception might be Megamind. If you think about it, the villain is usually the one that takes one whale of a beating and keeps coming back for more!

Nyxus has the whole Horde Prime/Hordak meets Hitler thing going on. Last I checked, pretty much everyone hates a dictator. She’s not just a dictator, she’s a tyrant. Anything she doesn’t like she destroys. Anyone who dares stand against her, she kills or at least makes it so nobody believes them.

Well, what’s a hero without a villain to fight? Bored, right? Nyxus is Dream Angel’s villain and like Dream Angel herself, she has a bit of an interesting history.

A friend caught me doodling in the college cafeteria and asked me to draw comics for the school paper. I decided I needed to work on Dream Angel once again, but she needed a better villain. Well, my next class that day was a website class. I was already a couple weeks ahead having figured out the needed code and fiddled with a lot of it at home.

Also, the site I was building was for my characters, so it was fitting that I do some research for their background. Arora was to be the Dawn, so I needed her opposite and that turned out to be Night, although I wanted a God/Goddess of Twilight. Nyx is the Goddess of the Night. So, Nyxus was born from that.

So, what do you think of Nyxus? Is she an interesting character? She makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which can be found in the shop. Also found in the shop is her plush action figure.

Dangerous Daragon IronWeasel

Today the spotlight’s on Daragon IronWeasel. After Xalibe WildClaw’s repeated failures to destroy Dream Angel and her friends, the very ambitious Daragon replaced him as leader of the Reprobate elite.

daragon ironweasel

Upon his predecessor’s demotion, Daragon quickly proved himself worthy of his new post in Nyxus’s eyes by capturing Dream Angel, but thanks to her friends, it didn’t last and he felt the consequences. Since then, he’s been more determined than ever to prove his worth to her, but is often stopped by Xalibe, who wants to regain his post.

Daragon’s always looking for the fastest way to regain the favor he had initially after Xalibe’s demotion. He’s a devious, determined elite, but not as strong as he thinks he is. He’s not as strong with a sword as Xalibe and often slower in flight.

Physical strength makes up for his shortcomings, however. In a bare, hand-to-hand fight, he could bring down even Ryu. That is, unless he fought fair. Like most villains, he takes every advantage possible without exception. Every underhanded trick imaginable, he’ll use if he thinks it’ll help him take down his opponent.

Of course, his underhanded tricks only work if Xalibe isn’t in the middle of the fight trying to discredit his replacement. When he is lucky enough to not have Xalibe out to discredit him, he is quite the formidable opponent and fierce warrior. Of course, he’s only that lucky when Xalibe has someone to guard in the castle dungeons, which really isn’t too often.

In a wrestling match with Jake, Daragon would only have the upper hand a short time. Even retired, the wrestling champion is a force to be reckoned with and his wife is even tougher. Daragon learned the hard way to leave these two particular opponents alone. Their daughter, of course, he goes after no matter what.

Daragon makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #3, which can be found in the shop. It’s a good idea to get the books that come before so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is his plush action figure. As tough as he might sound, he’s really a big softie that’s good for cuddling!

Hero of the single blade: Blue Nite Soldier

Blue Nite Soldier is still quite a mystery, even to him. He knows a power allows him to transform, but doesn’t know if he has any special powers.

blue nite soldier

He wields a singular sword with great skill and courage. Even Ryu hasn’t been able to determine the source of his transformation power or why he has it.

A friend of Dream Angel’s since childhood, he discovered his own power and soon after saw her fighting alone. He joined the fight and to her surprise, helped her win. Quietly disappearing immediately after, he made a habit of helping her when he could until they both discovered their mutual secrets.

With the discovery of secrets came communications tools that helped him respond faster when she got into a fight. This helped more than once to turn the tables in her favor and chase away the attacking villains.

Being co-captain of the high school fencing/kendo team, he handles a blade well. His affection for Dream Angel both in and out of costume is evident to everyone but Arora and him. This creates often funny situations as their friends will set them up in romantic situations and disappear sometimes. Other times, they’ll suggest a double date and also sometimes disappear or at least be elsewhere, but still in sight.

Blue Nite Soldier’s comic book debut is Dream Angel #1, which can be found in the shop. Also found in the shop is the Blue Nite Soldier outfit for Hanaji Camridon and a magnetic soft sword for him to hold. The sword isn’t recommended for young children because of its size and potential choking hazard. For older children and collectors, it can be a great deal of fun. He loves hugs! Will you give him a hug?