The over eager little brother: Keru

Keru FireKeeper is the always-eager-to-please younger brother of Virgo FireKeeper. Though he’s best known for getting into mischief, most times it’s harmless.keru

keruThis young cub brings all his effort to whatever he’s doing. Like any young boy, he also enjoys having unusual pets. Bitsy is his best friend, the problem is she’s a spider.

Between the two, they can get into a broad variety of trouble or get Dream Angel and her friends out of a broad variety of trouble. The mere sight of Bitsy causes quite an uproar among villains. Especially the vampire roaches. Since spiders naturally eat roaches, their instinct is to panic and look for a place to hide.

The Keres are none too fond of the young tiger and his pet as well. The sisters often let out a bloodcurdling screech attached to a scream of “KILL IT!” as they look for a place to get away from the spider.

In terms of mischief, Keru’s a master. Athalia’s the one who keeps him in check when his brother’s not around. A stern look from Torakatai usually sends him running back to Athalia or Virgo. He knows Torakatai is tough for punishments for the sake of keeping order among the tiger villagers.

Keru literally means “kick.” He likes to think it means he kicks butt. He’s still learning battle strategies and fighting techniques, but he’ll still fight off Reprobates. Usually, he stays close to his brother if he’s involved in a fight. Between Virgo and Athalia, he’s a moderately formidable fighter on his own.

Even Torakatai has helped train the young cub. Teaching techniques even his other two trainers don’t know. Virgo’s excellent with a staff, Athalia without a weapon. Torakatai is a master of many techniques and weapons.

What do you think? Is Keru an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #8, which can be found 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 his plush action figure.

Katrilina the cat!

Katrilina has quite the history with the Dream Angel series. Today’s focus isn’t on Katrilina herself, though, but on her special ability: the ability to physically change into any cat in the feline family. Most notably, a lioness, leopard, panther and tiger.The focus is Katrilina’s feline forms.

katrilina catsOf all the 38 species of cats of the feline family she can become, these four are her favorites for their varying abilities. Strength, endurance, stealth and cunning, to name a few. In nature, these cats are far from cute and cuddly and Katrilina uses those abilities with great effect. Of course, which cat she picks depends on the situation and sometimes even who she’s with.

She’ll go with the tiger if she’s around Virgo, for example. Her favorite for going after Reprobates is the Panther. The winged creatures don’t like the black streak chasing after them. Her lioness will ground most Harpies if they’re low enough and for some of the higher up opponents, she’ll use the leopard to climb a nearby tree or even building ledge to leap and attack.

The one important marking all of Katrilina’s feline and even her human form share is a pure white tail. Nobody is sure why exactly she always has the white tail, but it is a very distinguishing marking. While it might sometimes be troublesome, she really doesn’t mind it too much.

What do you think? Are these interesting cats? Katrilina’s feline forms make their debut appearance in Dream Angel #1, which can be found in the shop. Also found in the shop are the plush action figures of her leopard, lioness, panther and tiger forms.

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?

 

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

Challenge of 3D

3D is a challenge, there’s no doubt about that. All art is. Ask any artist and you’ll find very few who can say they didn’t spend a lot of time practicing to improve and the best ones are always looking for ways to improve further.

3D is no exception. Sure, the computer helps, but it can’t do the job itself. Sorry, we don’t have robots like the ones in I, Robot. So, no artistic computer. This means a person still has to create the scene.

True, sometimes it’s just fun to play around with a scene and see what happens. The result isn’t always good, though. Creating anything is a journey.

A playful mix of 2D and 3D. The result of a lot of practice!

The fun of creating does tend to be the journey. From posing nudes to paint hair and clothes to rendering HDRI and playing with a character using the HDRI as the background and light source. While the latter sounds easy, it’s not. There’s some pretty fussy settings involved and it’s taken many hours of practice – there’s a lot of that! – to get it right.

You’ll be agreeing with Anaplkete here a lot! There’s usually one little setting that can easily be overlooked that ruins a render.

Like anything, practice is the key. As the song in Barbie Princess Power says, “take a chance, mess it up! That’s okay we’re big enough to try it again!” For anyone looking to see what happens when you practice, that movie is a good choice. There’s plenty of messing up and practicing.

The real challenge of 3D is to practice constantly. Sometimes practicing is just simply having fun and sometimes it’s messing up to learn from the mistakes. Oh yes, don’t be afraid to tinker around with the out-of-the-box models. Not everyone is a skilled modeler!

Now, modeling has its own challenges and that’s something for an entirely different article. Anyone who thinks the out-of-the-box models can’t create art… well, that’s just silly.

So, is 3D a challenge? Absolutely. Is it art? Well, what else would it be called? It’s certainly not lazy and definitely takes a lot of time to learn, just like any other art form. The real challenge of 3D is to learn it. Like anything else, master the basics and it gets considerably more fun, but there’s always something new to learn!

Dangerous beauty: Anaplkete

Anaplkete is the fastest of the Keres sisters. Although she lacks super speed, she makes up with it using her weapons and their lightning speed.

Anaplkete

A skilled double-wielder of twin short glaives, she’s often found battling with Red Nite Soldier, who also double wields skillfully. Of the two, she’s considerably more experienced, which puts him at a disadvantage. Being fast on top of that makes the fight quite difficult for him. If he’s lucky enough to disarm her, she’ll certainly run the other way. The difficulty is disarming her.

Although she doesn’t flaunt her beauty, she does use it to her advantage at times. This tends to leave a trail of broken hearts and sometimes bodies in the wake of achieving her goals.

All four of the Keres sisters have varying levels of vanity with Ker being the most vain of all and the most dangerous as a result. Anaplkete qualifies as least vain, but that doesn’t mean she’ll get her hands dirty unless it’s absolutely necessary. Like her sisters, she’d rather let the reprobates do the dirty work.

Often accompanied by a large number of reprobates, she’s a strong opponent for our heroes. Like her sisters, even a cracked nail can lead to very, very dangerous levels of anger. Luckily, her speed is much like a cheetah. Fast for a time, but short-lived. It’s during that burst of speed that the fight for survival is most difficult, however.

Beautiful, fast and deadly. The best description around for Anaplkete. Her debut appearance in comic books is Dream Angel #1, found in the shop. Also in the shop is her charmingly adorable plush action figure who simply wants a hug. Will you give her a hug?

Tough leadership: Torakatai

torakataiTorakatai means “tough tiger” and as his name suggests, he’s a tough tiger. As if the scars wouldn’t give that away, right? He fought hard for the rank of village leader and has yet to find another to challenge him for the right. Victor of many battles, excellent leader and in top condition.

He was wary of Dream Angel when Virgo introduced her to the village and with good reason. He’d met Nyxus some years before and her promises of keeping the Sunless Mountains untouched proved false. Nyxus came in later destroying homes, entire species, ruining water supplies, and chasing off critical food supplies for many. He knew who to blame for the famine in his village, but was still careful when the strange orange clad winged girl was brought to him.

When he finally learned why she fights Nyxus, he began to consider helping, but his responsibility to the village didn’t give him much chance for thought. When Nyxus returned to the area to once again destroy and Dream Angel took a stand against her to help the village, he ordered his tiger warriors to back her up. Back her up they did, and very effectively as she had some fighting skill, that was clear to Torakatai, but she needed some more advanced training.

After that fight, not only did he accept her offer of friendship, but offer heavy-duty battle training. It was during this time that she found she could do different things with the feathers of her wings. Several of which have come in very handy.

Torakatai is also the one who introduced Ryu to Dream Angel during an especially bad crisis to which the tiger man had no solution. It was hoped that with Ryu’s magic a solution could be found. It was after some difficulty deciphering what the dragon had to say.

What do you think? Is Torakatai an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #22, which is available in the shop. Getting the books before it is highly recommended so the story makes sense. Also available in the shop is his plus action figure.