Explosive Ker

Ker has a very volatile temper… literally. Getting her mad has very explosive results. She’s the youngest of the Keres, but no less dangerous than her older siblings and mother.

kerHer one weakness is that she’s incredibly vain. Put her in front of a mirror and she won’t move for hours; on the other hand, scratch her skin or get her dress dirty and you’d better start running away as fast as you possibly can.

Larissa was the first to discover she could push Ker’s buttons during one of her earliest encounters with the Keres sisters. Since they wanted her as a hostage, Ker couldn’t lose her temper and Larissa could keep making her madder and madder. Just after Dream Angel rescued her, she delivered one final insult that set Ker’s temper off the rest of the way and she exploded, making it impossible for the villains to pursue them.

She has an interesting design history. I must confess that I didn’t design her outfit, but a good friend of mine (who’s been involved off and on in these comic books) designed it. I’d designed the other four Keres with mildly sexy outfits – at the time, Stygere was a girl – but I was stuck on what Ker should look like. I asked for help designing her outfit and she came up with the outfit Ker now wears. It’s changed some from my friend’s design, but overall, it’s the same.

What do you think? Is she an interesting character? Ker makes her comic book debut in Dream Angel #2. It’s a good idea to consider getting the book that came before it, so the story makes sense! Also available in the shop is her plush action figure.

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.

One-of-a-kind vampire: Jerigel SwampFang

jerigelJerigel SwampFang’s origin is a complete mystery. Not even Nyxus knows how he came to be. In reality, his origin is as simple as a ten-stripe June beetle.

At the time I came up with Jerigel SwampFang, I was enjoying the Sera Muun Musical Last Drakul Jyokoku. It’s part of a trilogy centered around the vampire Dracula – as Sailor Moon encounters him.

I will formally admit I found both the actor and the character fascinating. I developed an interest in vampires and found that the mythology does not include insects. This I found funny because nature is full of insect vampires, starting with the mosquito and flea.

When I found the June beetle, I thought it was a beetle whose nickname is “Hell insect.” Well, what better for a vampire? They’re considered creatures from Hell and on top of it all, they’re undead. So, I read up on vampires, scrounged up every vampire movie I could find and studied up a bit.

Sure, there’s a good many ways to kill a vampire, but how do you kill an insect vampire? A wooden stake wouldn’t necessarily penetrate the exoskeleton, holy water and a cross is mostly superstition (look it up, if you don’t believe me). Fire only works when the vampire becomes ash and that takes time – how long do you really think an insect vampire would be contained? Probably not long enough, I think.

Superhuman strength comes with being a vampire, so it’s like containing Superman. A sock in a river? Bugs don’t wear socks, so why would he care? Sunlight is another that’s superstition.

Admittedly, I haven’t figured out how to kill the insect vampire, but his power is most intriguing. Aside from speaking in mirror speech – meaning you need a mirror to understand what he says in the comics – his third bite is what finalizes his control over his victim. On top of the control his third bite gives, it also transforms the unfortunate person into a cockroach leaving nothing of their humanity except their height.

What do you think? Is Jerigel an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angle #4. 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.

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.

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.

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?

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.