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.

What’s a leading lady without her best friend? Here she is: Elizabeth!

Clever, quick-witted Ellie, short for Elizabeth, is a fun girl to be around. She might sometimes play a harmless prank, but always in fun so no feelings are hurt. Usually, her little pranks are in fun to get Arora laughing.

elizabeth amphitrite

The two girls are complete opposites, but get along perfectly. Arora tends to like spending a day at the mall mostly window shopping to unwind, Ellie would rather be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, but goes along with her best friend anyway. This isn’t to say they don’t switch off.

Generally, both girls would rather be at an easel than anywhere else. Both have artistic tendencies and find painting a very soothing activity. Both are peaceful girls, but neither wants to see or be bullied. Both will come to the defense of a bullying victim if they should see it happening. Being bullied doesn’t happen often and the bully more often takes to their heels and leaves in disgust.

Ellie also has a leaning toward science. She enjoys exploring old ruins and is sometimes found helping scientists at dig sites. While she enjoys finding interesting artifacts, she enjoys just as much sketching them or taking photos. Sometimes to take a break, she’ll do a painting of the dig site. More than once, the newspaper has bought these paintings when something significant is found.

Ellie’s name holds some meaning of its own. Amphitrite, if you follow the mythology carefully, is the wife of Poseidon, god of the seas. Since water has healing properties, she has healing power as Teikou no Senshi. This makes her both a perfect opponent for Nosos and Nosos’s primary target.

What do you think? Is she an interesting character? Her comic book debut is Dream Angel #1, found in the store. Also found in the shop is her plush action figure who loves hugs.

Are you of great virtue? Meet Kiryoku!

Kiryoku is a Kirin centaur. She’s half Chinese unicorn. Though there are different words and legends, the idea behind the creature remains the same: punish the wicked.

kiryokuKiryoku only appears to those of great virtue. Dream Angel has a strong sense of justice, and her friends also have many virtues. Though the Keres might see her, they cannot easily understand her.

Kiryoku’s another of the species Nyxus deemed “unnecessary” and marked for hunting. Dream Angel found her in one of the Keres’ traps. She was among the earliest allies and friends Dream Angel made.

The legend of the Kirin is from China, Japan and Korea. Kiryoku’s appearance comes from the Chinese and Korean legend, and Kirin is a Japanese word. The creature, has the head of a dragon, the antlers and body of a deer, the scales of a fish and the tail of an ox. I ended up with a mixture without the dragon parts and instead made it a centaur.

Kiryoku means energy. I’ve often depicted and described her as skilled with a sword, which blends neatly with her scaled body. This gives the impression that she’s unarmed. This falls neatly in line with the legendary creatures’ ‘punish the wicked’ nature.

Though she cares about her appearance, she’s not especially vain about it. She’ll get into the thick of the dirtiest battles and walk away with a satisfied look on her face when it’s over, even if she’s caked in mud.

To some, she might look helpless and even gentle, but being on the wrong side of her sword is quite dangerous. True to her name, she’s very energetic and very fast as well.

She’s not much for jokes, though she does enjoy them. In battle, she prefers being serious. When she met Jake, after a couple of his jokes, she couldn’t keep a straight face around him. Every time she sees him, she starts laughing. Not always loudly, but she would be found sniggering.

What do you think? Is Kiryoku an interesting character? Kiryoku makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #7, which can be found in the shop. It’s a good idea to get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is her plush action figure.

Wrestling champion Jake “Golden Chaos” Arum!

In this corner, weighing in at 145, the reigning middleweight champion: Jake “Golden Chaos” Arum! Okay, couldn’t resist having a little fun there, but he’s actually a retired middleweight champion. There’s a good reason why he retired, too: he came extremely close to being killed by the Keres during a match.

jake

The Keres had somehow learned of Larissa’s connection to Dream Angel and attacked the arena where he was in a wrestling match and she would be in the crowd. The intention was to kidnap the lieutenant to draw out Dream Angel. The attack got out of hand, Jake was seriously injured and Larissa kidnapped in the confusion. Dream Angel couldn’t reveal herself without revealing her secret identity, so the incident served as the catalyst for why Dream Angel fights so hard against the Keres.

Naturally, that’s the short version of what happened. Since Jake was so severely injured, it was recommended that he retire for his family’s sake. Despite this, he still makes brief appearances in the ring every now and then to surprise fans. Known only to a very small select few beforehand, the matches are quietly arranged so injuries are kept to a minimum especially for Jake.

Jake is where Dream Angel gets her fiery fighting nature. He hates sitting on the sidelines when he sees a fight going on, but one look from his wife and he stays out of it. Instead, he’ll tell a few jokes and maybe heckle the bad guys before getting chased off for one reason or another.

He’s got a good many skills he passed on to his daughter starting with being a black belt. Learning martial arts from her father has saved Dream Angel many times. It’s also saved Jake a good number of times when he got mixed up in her fights without understanding why.
What do you think? Is Jake an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which can be found in the shop. Also found in the shop is his plush action figure.

Signed books available right here?

I’ve considered it for a while, and I’d like to hear thoughts on having signed books available right here in the shop. I know people have reported having trouble with IndyPlanet’s checkout system or would rather get a signed copy from the artist, so I’m opening the idea for discussion.

To clarify, I’d have to markup the price of the books even though I can get them at cost, which is a little over $6, generally. Including shipping to me, that’s not bad. Now, think about it this way: to break even, I’d have to markup the books to about $12 on individual sales. To make a profit, we’re talking $18 – before my own shipping cost is added on. Fortunately, if I can order a bunch at a time, the cost is driven down for me.

This would mean I could do an unsigned book for about $6.50-$7 and a signed book for $7.50-8. A fair price, all things considered. Individual shipping to you via flat-rate (My preferred method because it’s insured!) comes out to $5.75. So, we’re talking $12.25-12-75 and $13.25-13.75 with shipping. Still pretty fair, all things considered.

Why would I reveal the prices? Well, I like letting people know what they’re paying for. I was taught early on “Honesty is the best policy” and I’ve stuck to that consistently for years. I’m being honest with you concerning the prices of these books, but for those who want printed copies and don’t want the hassle of IndyPlanet’s checkout system or want it signed by the artist, well, this would be a golden opportunity, don’t you think?

The other consideration I’ve put out before for discussion is doing a signed book and plush action figure combo pack for $25. I’ve had people agree that would be an extremely good deal, but I’m opening it for discussion again. I really do want as much input as possible on these ideas.

The ups and downs of HDRI

The ups and downs of HDRI might as well be a roller coaster. Permit me to share a story.

For the longest time, I thought I couldn’t use the fancy new render engine DAZ rolled out with 4.8: Iray. I longed to play with the photo realistic render engine, but having an AMD video card instead of the NVidia the specs called for, I thought I couldn’t.

Fast forward to just before Christmas 2016 and DAZ 4.9. I made a curious discovery about the list of installed stuff in the install manager: a public beta build of DAZ 4.9. So, I tracked it down among my programs and opened it. Played with it some and got curious about the render settings. What should my curiosity behold, but that NVidia Iray was available to play with!

So, I explored, dabbled and started tracking down tutorials. Fast forward again to about mid March 2017. After multiple not-so-good attempts at making my own HDRIs with Carrara. I still have trouble with the lighting in that one. I was exploring a favorite group for 3D artists on Facebook and stumbled across an image that could be rotated 360 degrees. To go with it, a youtube tutorial video on how the trick was done!

Well, again, I dabbled and played. Made a neat city 360 followed by a scene from Techwarrior #5 and put them on Facebook to a very receptive reaction. I realized I could convert that city 360 to an HDRI and use it as a background for renders. Well, you won’t catch me using 3Delight anymore! Scenes with an HDRI background render very quickly even on my older computer and they look amazing!

HDRIs are wonderful as both light and background, but – and this is the downside – they take a long time to render! Smaller size and resolution just won’t work with these bad boys. The ratio suggested in that tutorial was 2 to 1 with a size of about 4000 by 2000 pixels. Be ready for a long wait unless you’re able to despeckle and sharpen effectively in Photoshop. Here’s what I mean:

Not the greatest picture I’ll admit, but this one’s been at it 14 hours and it’s still pretty grainy.

Personally, I set the render time to 24 hours so it would have plenty of time to render as cleanly as possible. Know how many seconds that is? 86,400 seconds! Now, as I’ve pointed out on Facebook, once this is rendered, it can be used time and again as a background and light source without bogging down the scene I’m trying to render. So, when it comes down to brass tacks, the occasional 24 hour render like this isn’t too horrible, right?

The trick is a simple one, but only available in Iray. Setup a scene with lights but without characters if you want it to be a background HDRI – the one in that picture is a dungeon lit only by fire – and add a camera in the center of it. Go into the camera’s parameters and pick on the lens type. Set it to spherical. Then go into render settings and set the size ratio to 2 to 1 and the pixels to 4000 by 2000. For my 4-year-old laptop, there’s no acceleration from the video card, so I setup the render time at 24 hours or the 86,400 seconds I mentioned before. From there, hit render and walk away for the duration of the render.

It’ll take its time rendering considering the size and and how complicated the scene is, but when it’s done finally, it can be converted to an HDRI and used as a background/light source without being so slow with characters. So, it balances out, wouldn’t you say?

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.

Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from? Well, there’s a broad subject. To help explain this, let me share a story with you.

I must confess I’m quite a bit like Dad. I read Shogun in high school and fell in love with Japanese culture and history (the stuff that’s not taught in school!). I have a good respect for Edgar Allen Poe (read Telltale Heart in high school and more recently tracked down The Pit and the Pendulum on DVD) and more importantly, I’ve found a firm appreciation for Ray Bradbury. I grew up watching The Halloween Tree each year and more recently found The Ray Bradbury Theater on DVD (We tend to frequent the local library’s movie section and find all kinds of interesting stuff). I was a bit surprised when I saw the opening sequence for that show, because it showed I’m a lot like Bradbury himself. The room he works in is full of stuff he gets ideas from, and my room is certainly no less crowded than his.

Where he gets ideas from the objects around him, I often find myself getting ideas from cartoons, movies and various TV shows we have around the house. That’s not to say I don’t also get ideas from objects around me. Ideas come from anything and everything more often than not. For me, a great many of my ideas come from stuff made in the 1980’s or older.

Let me share another story now. I was 4, we were moving from San Francisco to a small bedroom community and a bigger house, but just before leaving the preschool I was in, there was a little “graduation” ceremony and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was so tired from the moving that I didn’t answer, so my preschool teacher Girtha said “She’s going to be a comedian!” Well, she’s not too far from the truth. There’s plenty of comedy to be found in my work. Dream Angel is intentionally lighthearted and humorous and even Techwarrior, which is a bit darker has its moments. Know where I find inspiration for the jokes? Classic comedians. Red Skelton, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello and a long list of others that were mostly dead before I was even born.

So, where do ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere. It’s about that simple. Of course, making the ideas work is an entirely different matter. It helps to keep a notebook and pen close at hand even when I have my tablet nearby. Often, it’s faster to simply write the idea down than wait for the tablet to turn on and get into the right app – by that time, the idea could dissipate like a cloud.

Chime in! Where do your ideas come from?

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.

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.