Police Lieutenant Larissa Arum

Larissa Arum is a tough one by nature, but still a loving mother. They say opposites attract and that is the case with Larissa and her husband Jake. She’s always straight and doesn’t crack jokes. If she does, it’s rare. Jake tells jokes all the time to lighten the mood and get people laughing. Most of all, he loves making Larissa laugh.

larissaHer daughter is more precious to her than even her own life at times. When she found out her daughter’s secret, she vowed to keep it and help her any way she could. She’s kept that vow in many ways. She started by getting Arora some small, lightweight communication equipment. So when she’s out flying around she can even help the police force by reporting problems.

Larissa often makes sure she’s first on the scene to help with crowd control. Also preventing fellow officers from shooting at the wrong target. She has a get-it-done attitude and there aren’t many who’d argue with her.

In practice fights, Jake and Larissa are an even match. Both are masters of self-defense and hand-to-hand fighting in various forms. Between the two, Arora is well trained in the defensive arts. Larissa stepped up her daughter’s training when she learned her secret. She explained to Jake that it was time she learned the more advanced techniques. Having mastered the ones Arora had been learning from Larissa all along. Jake accepted that and also stepped up his daughter’s training.

If there’s one thing Larissa hates, it’s repeat offenders. She’s stern with the first timers, but if she catches a repeat offender, they get a much tougher attitude. Nothing that could be “police brutality,” just enough to discourage another repeat offense. A good amount of the time, the repeat offender doesn’t repeat again after meeting her.

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

The deception of Kageki

Kageki is a bit of a mixed-up story. Without revealing too much, you find out she’s an ally of Nyxus. From her appearance alone, you learn she isn’t one to mess with. She’s a direct opposite of Teikou no Senshi.

kageki

Kageki is the result of a brainwashing spell and bad luck. Although she’s a fierce fighter, Nyxus forgot to check the spell for the means to break it. Of course, that leaves us to wonder if there is a means to break it.

There isn’t much to tell about Kageki. She’s fierce, she’s the result of a spell and she’s the result of bad luck. From there, telling more would spoil the story.

The idea for Kageki actually came from the Sailor Moon Live Action series. Near the middle of the series, Sailor Mercury is brainwashed by Kunzite and changed into Dark Mercury. It puzzled me to some degree why he didn’t pick on Jupiter, who’s far stronger, but in the end, Mercury proved an excellent villain that the rest of the girls just couldn’t and wouldn’t fight. I really shouldn’t tell how they manage to change her back, as Kageki has similar circumstances and it would spoil the story.

Similarly, Double Dragon shares a hero-turned-villain-back-to-hero story, so I have to say it’s a good concept to start from. My hero-turned-villain is closer to Dark Mercury, though. Kageki does put a bit of a different spin on the idea, making her a fascinating character.

What do you think? Is she an interesting character? I’d love to hear from you! She makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #8, which can be found in the shop. It’s recommended you get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is her plush action figure costume for Elizabeth Amphitrite.

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!

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!

Mercenary sense of humor: Lauren

laurenLauren is a mercenary, but what you don’t know about her is that she doesn’t always join the conflict for personal gain or money. Sometimes she’ll join the conflict just to laugh. As the conflicting parties wind up in a state of complete confusion as a result of something she said or did.

She doesn’t often admit it, but she doesn’t approve of what Nyxus and the Keres do. To keep her neutrality, she’ll betray both sides and laugh at them.

Ah, but all that’s common knowledge, you say. Well, here’s the uncommon knowledge: her outfit idea came from an ice skating outfit. Why do you need to know that? Well, it’s a nice bit of background trivia. It’s like asking why you’d need to know that a fly on a drawing table inspired Spider-man.

Lauren’s the mercenary with a heart and a conscience, as well. If she feels responsible for the destruction between hero and villain, she’ll find ways to help the victims. She and Teikou no Senshi are the ones found sifting through rubble, searching for victims in spite of a rocky relationship.

She’s also known to be a sort of referee between the heroes and villains. Though she has no power of her own, besides intelligence, she does sometimes get between battling pairs and break the fight up.

I could go on and on, so I’ll speed things up and summarize with a list:
Lauren:
1. is a mercenary
2. is intelligent
3. goes searching for victims
4. sometimes feels responsible for the victims
5. has no power of her own
6. loves a good joke
7. plays pranks on both hero and villain
8. doesn’t approve what the villains do
9. gets the job done
10. her outfit idea came from a skating outfit

Still pretty common knowledge, but then I didn’t promise anything you might not already know. Just stuff you need to know about her.

So, what do you think of Lauren? Is she an interesting character? Lauren makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #7, which is available in the shop. It’s a good idea to consider getting the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also available in the shop is her plush action figure.

Double-wielding jokester: Red Nite Soldier

red nite soldierLover-boy, double-wielding warrior, jokester – Red Nite Soldier is a surprise package villains don’t want to cross. He very efficiently wields his katana and if needed, his short sword.

He and Katrilina make a very formidable pair in battle. He’s even sometimes seen on her back when she’s one of her favorite large felines. Like a knight atop a black charger, spotted charger, brownish-gold charger or even striped charger, they’ve been known to turn the tide of a battle very quickly.

His katana was a gift from Ryu and specially forged to give him extra protection. His short sword is a gift from Kiryoku and blessed with its own powerful virtues. It’s not known if he has any power, but his blades sure have a magic of their own.
Kendo champion and team co-captain in high school, he definitely has the skill to handle his blades. Fast, smart and quite dangerous.

Combined with his steed Daybright, he’s especially formidable. Add in Blue Nite Soldier and Firebright and you get a foursome that can plow through just about anything.

What do you think? Is he an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which is available in the shop. Also available in the shop is his outfit for Shin Tsurugi.

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 bounty hunter robot Hellbot

“Does Hellbot sometimes make you feel stupid?” Dream Angel’s heard this question a few times. Usually after a very narrow escape.

hellbot

Hellbot is a bounty hunting robot that anticipates 99 out of 100 strategies. Naturally, he’d make her feel stupid at times. Unfortunately, he’s always been able to anticipate her strategies and promptly thwarts them.

He’s got a history of his own outside the Dream Angel universe, too. Some time ago, I started a fan fiction comic. Mostly for fun, eventually for practice. It was a Sailor Moon fan fiction I called “Sailor Moon Super StarS.” To explain Hellbot’s presence and how he could defeat the Sailor girls so easily, I fixed it so the Sailor Starlights had encountered him previously.

Initially, his arms ended in double barrel weapons that could shoot out a number of things designed to capture his bounty. He doesn’t kill, but he can seriously wound. His initial appearance in the fan fiction was a splashy one, since he shot down Sailor Uranus and gave her a broken arm and a dislocated shoulder in the fall. That particular fan fiction has become a means for developing ideas and characters, which helped shape Hellbot’s personality by letting him play off personalities I know well.

Considering he’s an intergalactic bounty hunting robot, why does he have wings? Well, they’re mostly for show, about like Batman’s cape. They’re to strike fear into his victim. Generally, he retracts them into his body when he’s not working.

What do you think? Is he an interesting bounty hunter? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #13which can be found in the shop. It’s recommended you get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also available in the shop is his plush action figure.

Spotted beauty: Cristiane Jewel

Cristiane Jewel is a leopardess. She’s got quite a problem, however. She’s in love with a tiger.

cristiane jewel

She’s expected to marry a leopard, of course, but her love for Virgo FireKeeper is so strong it often gets them both in a lot of trouble.

Her intended mate is Kumo Hanahadashii, who’s deeply in love with her to the point of being blind to dangerous situations. It also leaves him terribly jealous of Virgo, whom she showers her affection on.

Virgo doesn’t want her affection in the slightest and would prefer she leave him alone. Of course, this causes friction with Kumo, who all but worships Cristiane, who doesn’t want his affection any more than Virgo wants hers. Virgo, instead is in love with Athalia, but hasn’t shown it openly because of Cristiane. Athalia knows of his affection and waits patiently in hope he can chase the overly affectionate leopardess away eventually.

Cristiane’s skilled with a quarter staff and will often jump into a fight if she thinks Virgo’s in trouble. This has more than once caused trouble for the heroes as they have struggled to compensate for her fighting even them off at times.

Everyone prefers she fight with them instead of against them, so they’ve decided to simply give her room when she shows up. The exception to that being Torakatai, Keru and Athalia. They understand why everyone else gives Cristiane room – they don’t want to get caught up in the quarrel.

The tigers on the other hand have managed to group up and chase the leopardess off more than once, sometimes with the help of the others. Keru in particular wishes she’d go away so his brother could marry Athalia, as it’s obvious to everyone how much he loves her.

Her comic book debut is Dream Angel #7, which can be found in the shop. It’s recommended to get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is her plush action figure that loves to be hugged. Will you give her a hug?

Stubborn grandmother: Mrs. Arum

mrs. arumMrs. Arum is a stubborn sort. When I wrote her part in the comics, I decided she’d be Jake’s mother. I took my time designing her. I shopped around some for her look. Plainly seen from her hair, Arora gets her appearance from her grandmother. The difference is Mrs. Arum keeps her hair in a French braid instead of a ponytail.

The idea behind her character is to be a balance of feminine and masculine and *minor spoiler here* since she’s a retired construction worker, wear appropriate attire. Clearly, from her blouse, she chooses to show her profession, but the lace collar shows also that she’s still female. She picked her wardrobe carefully so she wouldn’t be a distraction in the workplace, but would still retain her femininity.

Retaining her femininity with such a commonly masculine profession presented a problem for me when it came to designing her outfit. I finally settled on a fitted blouse with lace on the collar to be the primary feature. From there, it was a matter of the color and print of the blouse. I thought of using a flowered print, but Dad found the flannel with construction equipment that might as well have screamed her name.

According to the story, she doesn’t trust Dream Angel or her friends in the slightest and doesn’t want her “Jakie” to have anything to do with them either. Naturally, she doesn’t know who Dream Angel is: her granddaughter. This tends to cause unwanted friction when the heroes are struggling to keep her safe.
Even Jake has to take a more stern approach to getting his mother out of harm’s way, much to her displeasure. Luckily, when she realizes what’s going on, she does finally get out of harm’s way.

What do you think? Is she an interesting character? She makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #7, which is available in the shop. Getting the books that came before it is highly recommended so the story makes sense! Also available in the shop is her plush action figure.