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.

Dumb but dangerous: Reprobates

reprobateReprobates are nightmarish creatures, but also quite stupid. In large groups, with an elite to direct them, they’re a lot like bulls: they’ll destroy anything in their path. Often, without regard to ally or enemy. Once they start destroying or even killing, the blood lust lasts a long time and is difficult to stop.

On an individual basis, they’re almost child-like for intelligence. Easy to distract and trick, easy to defeat. The trouble is they aren’t often found alone. More often than not, they’re in groups. They love the advantage of larger numbers.

Safety in numbers might sound like the theory these creatures operate under. What it is is that they’re social creatures. They hate being alone, so they always travel in groups. It’s an instinct, nothing more.

They aren’t smart, that’s certain, but they’re powerful swordsmen. They’re also incredible in flight. Fast, deadly and tough.

Some of these creatures have the ability of mimicry. It’s not a complete copy of what they’re mimicking, but still an effective gift for the few who have it. It’s rare that an elite has this gift, though legends tell of elites that have had it and used it with deadly efficiency.

daragon ironweaselAs individual personalities, a piece of paper has more depth, unless the Reprobate is an elite such as Daragon IronWeasel or Xalibe WildClaw. These creatures rely on instinct and group mindset for direction. Once set in a direction, they’re much like a wrecking ball. Nothing slows them down until they’re completely exhausted.

To our heroes, on an individual basis, they’re dumber than the dumbest dumb blondes. They often tell jokes to the effect, annoying the elites that might be in the area.

What do you think? Would you want to fight a Reprobate? Are Reprobates interesting characters?They make their comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which can be found in the shop. Also found in the shop are their plush action figures.

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.

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.

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.

Patient older brother: Virgo FireKeeper

virgoVirgo FireKeeper is a dedicated older brother. Dedicated to avenging his parents’ murders, that is. Of course, today’s question is where did this tiger man come from and what makes him so special in the Dream Angel universe?

I have a decent respect for a number of interesting subjects. Mythology, fantasy, the occult, religion, just to name a few. Astrology is another that’s come around in my various readings. The interest in that one can be traced to Sailor Moon. Not many know that I have a very firm love of Sailor Moon. Fewer know that I didn’t fully get involved in the series as a whole until high school – long after the manga and anime had come out initially.

Before discovering a strong love of Sailors Uranus and Neptune (the latter of whom I’m quite a bit like), I held a healthy respect for Sailor Mercury as I could readily relate to the bookish genius girl and her inability to effectively socialize with others. It’s fair to say I’m not a genius in the same sense as she is with her IQ of 300, but being bookish and unable to effectively socialize with others fits me quite well. What’s this got to do with the tiger man Virgo? Well, I’m getting to that, if you’ll bear with me a moment.

For those that might not know, the characters of the Sailor Moon universe are heavily based on Greek and Roman mythology, but also astrology. My relating to Sailor Mercury translates over to Virgo. According to astrology, Sailor Mercury’s sign is Virgo. See where he gets his name? The source of his character design comes from a strong love and respect of tigers mixed with a love of manga/anime cat-people.

In the real world, tigers are endangered, in the Dream Angel universe, tiger people are even closer to extinction. With his parents’ murders, Virgo finds his reason to fight against Nyxus and begins to fight for his species’ survival as well. Along the way, Dream Angel becomes a friend and valuable ally.

What do you think? Is Virgo an interesting character? Virgo makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #6, 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 his plush action figure.

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.

Warrior of mystery: Techwarrior

techwarriorTechwarrior is a warrior of mystery, but then, what ninja isn’t? History shows that real ninja were highly skilled specialized assassins. Well, Techwarrior might not keep the assassin aspect of his real-world counterparts, but he is a highly skilled warrior.

Not too much is known about his background except that he’s a strong anti-virus living inside computers to defend them from attack. As the books quickly establish, he’s a strong fighter. Along the way, he enjoys making little jokes to help lighten the mood as well.

An important counterpart to him is Sensei the dragon, who is his mentor and trainer. Very fast and extremely agile, this dragon provides a great deal of guidance when things go wrong for our hero. Luckily, he also knows when to stand back and let Techwarrior do what needs to be done, as well.

Techwarrior’s other important counterpart, could also be part love interest… maybe. Aishi Teru is almost as skilled as Techwarrior himself, but what she lacks in skill she makes up for in cleverness. Her key weakness is snakes, though. Being scared to death of snakes (to the point of jumping into Techwarrior’s arms!) makes her very vulnerable. Her reason for this fear is quite tragic, though.

As Techwarrior might explain it, his counterparts are his heart and soul. Take away even one and he’s terribly restless and uneasy. Injure one and the injuring party had better be extremely careful.

There’s a hint of magic in Techwarrior’s world, but most of it is technology. Most of it is very sleek and polished, as well.

What do you think? Is he pretty cool? His plush action figure (both of them) is available in the shop. You’ll also find he’s got 5 books and a 5 book collection in the shop as well.

Patient older brother: Virgo FireKeeper

virgoVirgo FireKeeper is a dedicated older brother. Dedicated to avenging his parents’ murders, that is. Of course, today’s question is where did this tiger man come from and what makes him so special in the Dream Angel universe?

I have a decent respect for a number of interesting subjects. Mythology, fantasy, the occult, religion, just to name a few. Astrology is another that’s come around in my various readings. The interest in that one can be traced to Sailor Moon. Not many know that I have a very firm love of Sailor Moon. Fewer know that I didn’t fully get involved in the series as a whole until high school – long after the manga and anime had come out initially.

Before discovering a strong love of Sailors Uranus and Neptune (the latter of whom I’m quite a bit like), I held a healthy respect for Sailor Mercury as I could readily relate to the bookish genius girl and her inability to effectively socialize with others. It’s fair to say I’m not a genius in the same sense as she is with her IQ of 300, but being bookish and unable to effectively socialize with others fits me quite well. What’s this got to do with the tiger man Virgo? Well, I’m getting to that, if you’ll bear with me a moment.

For those that might not know, the characters of the Sailor Moon universe are heavily based on Greek and Roman mythology, but also astrology. My relating to Sailor Mercury translates over to Virgo. According to astrology, Sailor Mercury’s sign is Virgo. See where he gets his name? The source of his character design comes from a strong love and respect of tigers mixed with a love of manga/anime cat-people.

In the real world, tigers are endangered, in the Dream Angel universe, tiger people are even closer to extinction. With his parents’ murders, Virgo finds his reason to fight against Nyxus and begins to fight for his species’ survival as well. Along the way, Dream Angel becomes a friend and valuable ally.

What do you think? Is Virgo an interesting character? Virgo makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #6, 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 his plush action figure.