Who Was That Masked Hero With The Delightful Smile?

posted Jan 2, 2016, 5:17 PM by Jacob Evans   [ updated Jan 2, 2016, 7:18 PM ]

Hey folks, welcome back! Had a little trouble with the site's domain but it should be all sorted by now! Sorry 'bout that!
Our hero and a low-level goon share a lovely spinning-heel kick

Anyways, I finished up another sketch of our soon-to-be superhero over the holidays and thought I'd share it here. We've more or less decided on the character design from last time (with a tentative agreement on the name 'The Wraith') though my accomplice suggested adding a reversible mask with different images printed on it, in the interest of further muddying any eyewitnesses accounts after our hero strikes (likely one with eye-holes on both sides, so they can turn it around without removing it and risking their identity to unseen cameras). I thought that was a great idea, especially since one of the focusses of the story will be on piecing together the character's real identity, so any changing details and bit of mischief we can throw in will be fun.

I'm really digging this drawing style so far, I've been playing with GIMP on the tablet, and it's awesome, can't believe I didn't go for this earlier. I love using the various tools with the precision of the stylus, and painting white back in after the first round of sketching, slowly refining details, feels more like painting with two colors than regular drawing and erasing, if that makes any sense. Being able to cheat and use transform tools and distorts to fix my mistakes without redoing the work is probably building some terrible habits, but it really is lovely to be able to patch something at the last minute. And that smoke! So much fun to draw!

So far I've been working with only black and white with various levels of transparency over a white background, instead of solid colors (makes the sketching feel more natural it seems), with a few layers for whatever distorts and backups, one for the smoke, and then some simple geometric shapes under the dark-grey, gradient-ish layer in the back there, for things like crates or windows.

If I had more time, I'd jump at the chance to make a whole comic like this. Maybe I'll piece together a couple shorts once we've got more of the story/world/characters established.

Another Update, Another New Story

posted Dec 5, 2015, 10:10 AM by Jacob Evans

So it's been a busy few months, despite the lack of activity on, and briefly, the very existence of, this site. Up first, I just wanted to share a character design I sketched out for a superhero story another writer and I are working on. The design is far from final, and I don't want to say too much about the story concept itself, but I'm really looking forward to working on it!
Hi Lauren!

It's interesting starting in on a new genre. I've never done anything with superhero stuff before, and I find myself trying to bring bits and pieces over from my usual scifi/fantasy/cyberpunk settings as we go through the planning. My compatriot in this project is probably bringing their own stuff into it too though, and I'm starting to think that that will give us some cool thematic results.

This character design was geared towards one of the darker themes we were talking about, with an emphasis on hiding our hero's identity entirely (no spandex and half-masks here), and on being somewhat practical, with armor and a cloak-like thing that hopefully wouldn't snag on anything, or would tear easily if it did. The ski mask with a skull on it's not terribly original, but it fits the theme somewhat.

In other news, I finished the cyberpunk story and will put up the current draft, though I'm in the process of creating a new version of it (there was something of a tonal shift about halfway through, and I'm creating a new, longer version more closely aligned to the first half, with more of an emphasis on psychological horror and unravelling conspiracies, isolation, and being up against something so huge it doesn't even comprehend your attempts to attack it. Fun stuff.

I've also begun rewriting Activation from scratch -- I love the story idea and the characters, but the project itself is old and has gone through many changes, all of which left artifacts in newer versions: details, plot points, and character decisions that made sense in earlier drafts, but only got carried over because that's how I'd always done it. It felt a bit like walking through a house that's been converted into a restaurant or doctor's office or something. They can change the surface level stuff, even knock out walls here and there, but the underlying structures remain, and you can see them in every part of the thing. It always made those places feel less professional to me, and I can't shake that feeling here.

So I'm doing a full rebuild, making the setting more futuristic, better addressing how Garret and other survivors have managed to live in hiding so long, and generally trying to pare down the length of the introduction. The old version will remain on the site, I'll probably even post the rest of it, but my main focus is on creating a new version from scratch to share with you all.

Coredump Retrospective

posted Aug 1, 2015, 2:53 PM by Jacob Evans

So I've got a couple new pictures to share today – all of these are from Coredump, that cyberpunk/hacking ARG I mentioned I was helping with awhile back, back when it was still going strong. I'd been planning to save these until the game was up and running to preserve the sense of realism the ARG was built around, but it's sort of gone on hiatus now and I'm not sure it will come back, so I thought I'd post a couple of the bits and pieces I made, maybe with a tutorial to follow on how to get same two-tone, Xeroxed-style consistently in GIMP. So for now at least, here's three of them, they're all image manipulations hacked together out of random pictures and blue jeans adverts, with a whole slew of filters thrown on and a bit of drawing on top.

The first one here was an article for the in-game zine, introducing some useful tools and possible puzzles to the players. The game plays with some heavy punk/anti-corporate/surveillance type themes, so I tried to fit those in as I went. Most of the stock material from some kind of advertisement or news article with a few exceptions: the face was made from two different pictures of regular punk-looking folks, with some home-made mirrorshades one of the coredump guys created (they actually work) that I painted over to get the mirrored effect; the jacket is actually mine, with some spikes drawn on, except for the sleeve which came from an advertisement -- I think you get the idea. 

The second one was a response to a challenge of sorts -- the guy who ran the thing posted a link to the imaginary propaganda subreddit (cool stuff), and after looking through it awhile, I figured I wanted to try a sort of David and Goliath type thing. (Purely in-game of course, doesn't reflect my personal opinions, please don't sign me up for additional screening!)

I got lucky and found some good pictures for the big guy right off the bat -- legs, torso, shirt, shoulders, and the upraised shoe are all separate sources, I think -- otherwise I probably would have stopped there. The coredump warrior dude there was much more difficult. I had to draw him by hand and sort of piece lots of little cut-up parts over the sketch to get the pose right. The legs are six or so pieces cut from some skinny jeans advertisement, the jacket is similar, two or three coats total, maybe mine mixed in there, a sweatshirt hood and some biker spikes. The hand and phone are mine -- my old college phone -- and I think I used the same mohawk from the last picture.

The last one was going to be a sort of in-game puzzle for the back of the zine. I modelled it kind of joke after those puzzles you used to find in kids magazines and on restaurant placemats. 

Rev Tinfoil was what they nicknamed the crazy, rambling conspiracy nut voice I used to write the intro to the game for the first 'zine. I had a blast writing in that high-energy, nutjob style, and planned for him to be one of several ongoing 'characters' working on the zine. And when it came time to show a picture of him, I had this kind of grizzled, older hacker dude in my mind, kind of like a cross between Jeff Lebowski and Hobospy (you should probably just read everything on Chocolate Hammer, it's all good). I felt bad about using actual art in an image manip, but I couldn't think of a better representation of the character than Old Man Henderson, so I just went with it. (That's worth the read, too, by the way, especially if you have any interest in RPGs or Lovecraft or humor.)

So yeah, that's it for the more recent Coredump art. Tutorial probably incoming. I think the reason I decided to post this stuff is that I'm considering making something similar for my current project, a sort of Lovecraftian, cyberpunk shortstory novella thing, hacked together from all kinds of sources, that I'm tentatively calling Adblock... until I think of something better. It's nearly finished, just barely scrapes the inside word count for a novella (making it fairly unpublishable, as I understand it), and I'm real pleased with it so far. It should be ready some time this week or next.

And I mean it when I say it's hacked together. It almost feels more like a collage than a stand-alone short story to me... like, fifty percent Lovecraft (minus the big slimy aliens because I was trying to make it scary and center it around the bad science of our day rather than his), twenty percent Snowcrash, twenty percent Transmetropolitan, five percent Gaunt's Ghosts (of all things), thirty percent ideas and themes and scenes I ripped from some of my other projects, and twenty percent my burning hatred of commercials. It's also the first thing I actually planned with an outline, and managed to keep track of the logistics all the way through. It's weird and crowded and I have no idea if it works, but I'm real happy with it, and can't wait to show you folks.

So yeah, that's on the way, thanks for sticking around!

Wait, I'm not dead!

posted Jul 18, 2015, 4:30 PM by Jacob Evans

So it looks like I finally managed to make good on my promises of unreliability. Sorry about that. Between the comic groups, a couple new projects, and a bunch of life stuff, it's been a busy few weeks.

The comic book blind date contest is finally finished – I'd planned to post at least one of the finished comics here immediately, but we had to bring a different (quite good) letterer on at the last minute, and he had to make some changes to the script to get my overly-wordy ramblings to fit on the pictures. Some changes I really liked, some less so, but there was no time to go over them, so the comic got submitted as is.

I'll admit it wasn't my best writing to begin with, I was mostly focused on getting us drawable pages to work on and didn't even write most of the dialogue until I was sure our writer had completely dropped out, but, selfish being that I am, I want to hold off posting the comic here until I've reworked a couple of the scenes that bother me. Sorry. In the meanwhile, you can find the submitted version here, and my other group, which still needs a good bit of work, here. (In my defense, lots of the line art on that one came in at the last minute. It was still a great team to work with though.)

In other news, I ran into a bit of doubt about Activation. Work-in-progress it may be, but after being away from writing for awhile, I'm feeling kind of skittish about some of it – mostly it just feels clunky and overwritten. Part of me is pulling for another rewrite, but I think I'm going to push to complete this section as a full draft before I do. Either way, there's probably an overhaul in the works. I'll try to post another section of it soon, though, it's all written for a good ways, I just want to go over it again before I pull the trigger.

Alright, so that's the bad news. The good news is that most of that life stuff is finished now, and the rest will be at the end of the month, so I should have a great deal more free time pretty quick. I've got a new short story I'm almost finished with on the way for you too. It's both my first shot at a real cyberpunk setting, and my first attempt at horror, so we'll see how that goes.

So yeah... if you're still here, thanks for sticking around, I'll have more for you soon!

Stories! Comics! Site Changes!

posted Jun 5, 2015, 6:45 PM by Jacob Evans

Good Evening! The comicbook collabs contest continues to steal all my free time (and it's making a decent run at my sleep time too!) but I managed to get Part 6 of Activation up in the story section. I also made a few changes around the site, so let me know if anything looks horribly broken all the sudden (as opposed to the normal level of janky-as-hell Rube-Goldberg-quality solutions propping the place up under the layers of duct tape, Bondo and paint).

The big thing you might notice is that if you go to Activation and hit 'Latest' your browser stops over momentarily on a page called 'Latest' with a little redirect progress bar. Don't worry, it's nothing dangerous, it's just that Google tends to frown on using anything dynamic on their sites without a gadget and this seemed like the easiest option. Basically, since all the links above and below the stories and comics are hard-coded, whenever I added a new one, I had to go through all the older ones and update the 'latest' link.

It was never a sustainable system, but I'd planned to have moved on to more dynamic pastures by now. It seems, however, that I'm going to stay parked right here for a while longer, so we get another lovely kludge added in the name of convenience. My other options, so far as I can think of them, were to find a gadget to do the buttons, which I can only imagine would look lovely, or create a 'latest' page and paste the content there. Ultimately, it was easier just to find a redirect gadget and place it there, so I could update it whenever I added a new page. Three link changes total: (the two next links for the previous page, and in the redirect app itself) rather than two per page for all the pages. Sorry it's ugly, we'll be out of here eventually.

In other news, the comics continue to look cool, so I've got a couple other pretty pictures for you guys:

Like I said before, it's an interesting line-art style to color, and the stuff I'm trying here is much more relaxed than my usual art style. As before, I'm keeping to a preplanned color scheme, blue for this guy, red for the lady in the previous post.

Art Teaser Placeholder Post

posted May 22, 2015, 9:08 AM by Jacob Evans   [ updated May 22, 2015, 9:28 AM ]

Hey folks, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m right out straight with these comic book teams, so there’s probably not going to be a text post tonight. Hopefully tomorrow.

So far, this has been a really cool contest thing. One group is super professional and organized, everyone preps for their job ahead of time and communicates really well. It’s super easy, but still generates work that cuts into my project time. The other group is a little more chaotic, but I think I’m more invested in it because I seem to have become our writer/teamwork wrangler (I swear if this was a mutiny it was the most passive one I’ve ever been a part of). I’ve got a setting, characters, and story I really want to bring to life there and I find myself spending a lot, and I mean a lot of time trying to get it right. They’re a fun and easygoing group to work with, so it’s pretty great.

So here’s a few quick samples to give you an idea as to what I’m working on. These two are from the first group, the story there is a sort of cyberpunk heist dealie, and the line artist hammered out some really cool files complete with shading, crosshatching, and even that dot pattern thing whose name I forget, so I went for a kind of softglow neon with some watercolor texture, sort of like Lovelyss (albeit probably not as good). Coloring under (and above) all that predone shading and texture is really interesting, and surprisingly easy, so I had quite a bit of fun trying new things. That group has some really cool ideas for using subtle color coding for our two star-crossed lovers, so that makes my job interesting, and weirdly significant, which I really appreciate.

It's basically exactly what I was looking for when I signed up as a colorist, someone gives me fancy premade files prepped with everything I might need, along with an idea as to what they want, and I just go ahead and slap some color on it. 

My other group stumbled a little at first when our writer suffered from a medical emergency, so I ended up sort of taking the reins and organizing things. He’d wanted to do something involving classicism and a riot, so I pitched a story involving a union dispute set in a standard-issue fantasy world with the timeline moved up to the early industrial age and we ended up doing that. It’s got a lot of cool early-American-industrial-revolution-mixed-with-magic/fantasy aesthetics, and some colorful side characters I’m really excited to share, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Truth be told, I didn't sign up as a writer because I don't normally do love stories (the closest you'll usually get from me is two violent, codependent survivalists against the world -- I don't know what to tell you, it's just not my thing at the moment) so the whole star-crossed lovers thing seemed out of my depth, but I kind of got around that by telling a story around them, with emphasis on the side characters and setting.

I haven’t started coloring yet because I’m sort of helping to prep the line art, (our line artist is awesome but he’s on three teams so he’s stretched pretty thin) so these ones’ll be in black and white for a little while. These are some I meddled with extensively, -- I drew the factory background/machines up there in pencil and inked it on the tablet, and I think I’ve finally got the hang of making my lines look halfway smooth and decent, at least compared to my early machines comics. Varying line thickness ect still eludes me for the moment, but any progress is progress, I suppose.

Anyways, that’s it for today, enjoy the arts and I’ll be sure to show off the comics themselves once they’re ready.

Wait! It's still Friday!

posted May 8, 2015, 8:58 PM by Jacob Evans

Alright, so that cut it close, but, despite my claims of unreliability, I've managed to maintain the update schedule for yet another week.

Sadly there is no art this week, though I am currently part of two teams over on /r/comicbookcollabs so you can probably expect to see some stuff from them soon. They ran an event they're calling the 'blind date,' where you throw you name in the hat along with the job you want to do, and they put you on a team of random people with varying skill levels. The goal? To create a short (six to eight pages) comic where "two starcrossed lovers fight their enemies, the odds, and something they don't expect." There's something like forty teams, and from what I've seen, it looks like there'll be quite a bit of variety in setting and plot. I signed up as a colorist, but got put on two teams by mistake, so I'm going to be a bit busy. I do however, have some concept art I sketched for one of them, so I might put up a couple of those later this week.

Right. Updates. Right. So this week I've got a slightly-longer-than-usual piece of Activation, where some major plot stuff happens so go ahead and check that out. I'll wait here.

And after that, we've got the Fortune, which was a short story I wrote for a prompt in a creative writing class a couple years back – our requirement was to tell a story backwards, and I'd been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to do a good reveal from end to beginning when this sort of came together (I think I tried three or four other sections before ending up with the four or five included here). I remember being surprised when people complimented/commented on the moral of the story, since I hadn't realized I'd written one. Though I can certainly see it now.

It's a bit more... bleak than most of the other stuff I write (including, I suppose, the comic where most of humanity is extinct and the remainder besieged by a horrible alien bent on killing and consuming them) but if you're inclined towards literary stuff, it might work for you. It won an award, so that's something.

It's update day!

posted Apr 24, 2015, 7:25 PM by Jacob Evans   [ updated Apr 24, 2015, 7:28 PM ]

Alright, so after this we're back on the regular update schedule.

Fallout NCR Poster
Not a lot of announcements this week, just some new content. So, without further ado... up first, we've got a new bit of artwork. It's not a painting -- I should point that out early. It started life as a reference image I threw together for a physical painting I was working on for my brother, though time constraints lead me to finishing the digital version and printing it as a poster instead. Sources for the various image components vary and are cited to the best of my ability (this was a long time ago) on the picture's page.
The full process is listed out there in case you're curious, but the short version is that it's edited in GIMP from various sources, recolored, scaled up to poster size and then painted over in Artrage to get that movie poster look. If anyone's curious, I'll see if I have the original size kicking around anywhere, but this might be it.

Up next, I've got the bi-monthly section of Activation, my main science fiction story. We're getting into the action and plot with this part so I'm pretty excited. Characters in the story are excited too, though whether or not that's a good thing, I'll leave to your discretion.

Hope you enjoy and all that, and, as always, thanks for reading!


Comments are functional! Also some more Activation!

posted Apr 17, 2015, 2:35 PM by Jacob Evans   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 2:46 PM ]

So here's some good news: I finally figured out how to get Disqus comments working on the site.

As I think I mentioned
Part 3
before, I was having a problem with the 'Gadget' someone created to allow Disqus code on Google sites (you may have noticed that CFTI is currently hosted on a Google site, doing everything it can to pretend to be a real website -- if so, congratulations on being so darned perceptive. You probably also figured out that it's because I'm cheap. In all seriousness though, I am planning to migrate once the thing gets a bit bigger, but it's an easy, fire-and-forget kind of low-maintenance solution at the moment).

Anyways, the long and short of things is that between the time I tested it and the time I revived the site, something changed and the gadget was no longer able to create new comment threads. It could display them, however, so once I found a way to manually create new threads, I was good to go. It's a little cumbersome but still better than the old spreadsheet comment system, especially long-term.

So to celebrate, I'm putting up another section of Activation! I tried including it in the blog post but it made the place look untidy, (each section is about six pages of text) so for now at least, I'll keep posting links here.

One note on the the comments: one of the main reasons I'm setting them up -- part of the reason I'm reviving the website, really -- is because I'd love feedback on the various projects I'm putting up here. I really do want to hear what you think, especially in regards to Activation. But I also kind of hope to create a community here over time as well, and if we can manage that, I want to build it following the model Shamus Young set at Twenty Sided (one of my all time favourite websites). Of all the blogs, comics, and websites I frequent, Twenty Sided has always had the best, nicest, and most considerate community, even when discussing hard topics. Part of that is probably the kind of long-form, written content that makes up most of the site, and which probably scares away or disinterests the average troll, but another large part is his style of moderation, which forgoes formalized rules (and the accompanying rules lawyering) in favour of a general, discretion-based, 'Don't be a Dick' policy. It seems to work really well, makes moderation easy, and keeps the line fuzzy, so people think about what they're about to say rather than focusing on staying just this side of the letter of the law.

Personally, I welcome criticism of the projects I'm putting up -- like I said, that's why they're here -- and I really would love any feedback, suggestions, and identification of grammatical and continuity errors I've missed. If someone takes the time to read/look at the stuff I've made, I'm thrilled, and happy to have you here and to hear what you have to say. I really don't plan to be some tyrannical dictator here. But I have seen several webcomics build a very hostile community which always took something from the experience, and I really hope to avoid something like that happening here. So please try to be polite, especially to eachother (I'm the one who wants the criticism, after all) and, as always, welcome!

Machines and Activation

posted Apr 10, 2015, 3:47 PM by Jacob Evans   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 8:34 AM ]

Hey everybody!

I've got two updates for you this lovely evening: up first, the second half of Activation's first chapter -- say that three times fast (or send along better wording). I think I might start posting the full text in the blog post starting with the next chapter. Let me know how that looks in the comment system we'll hopefully have by then.

Up next, we've got a special, almost-double-length edition of the Machines (which I just realized I probably could have split into two parts. Ah well, it works better this way). These things take me a long time to make so hopefully this makes it worth it.

In fact, I think I said I was going to expound on my (current, broken) process and why, exactly it takes so long, so here's a short version:

(Note, I'm actually working on learning a bit of comicking and improving/streamlining this process, so this is really just posted so you can laugh at the meandering course the comics take through two mediums and three different art programs. If you do have any suggestions, I'm always happy to hear them though, though you'll have to use the site email at the moment.)

Step 1: Line Art
Draw everything in mechanical pencil on computer paper because you've forgotten everything from your portraits class. For bonus points, draw every panel on separate sheets and don't worry about layout or any of that stuff until later.

Step 2: Layout
Scan each sheet, import it into GIMP, clean up/darken the line art because the process of inking somehow mystifies you. Jam it all into the biggest file you can and organize it into something approaching layout. (This part takes time and sucks, I think I might start looking for a line artist/inker sometime soon because it's one of the main quality sticking-points, and the lack of layout planning probably damages the flow of action.)

Step 3: Pre-Coloring
For this one and probably some in the future, I added several textures from cgtextures, under the color layers. Piecing them together, and getting the light and perspective right took more time than I was expecting, but I'm pleased with the result, it's a little more scifi and a little less oil-painty.

Step 4: Coloring (AKA the best part)
I fking love coloring. I don't know why, it's just my favorite part of the whole process save perhaps for writing. My only formal art training, aside from that portraits class, was an oil-painting course, and that was tremendous fun, though coloring has the added bonus of providing nice lines to work in, so I can focus on light and color and not worry about the figures ect so much, so maybe that's why. For this step I import it into Artrage, as it's by and far the best painting program I've found to date. I do most of the color using the oil painting tool (scifi theme of the comic be damned) and the paint scraper, along with the airbrush, which is probably my new favorite at the moment. When the color's finally right, I export the flattened image and move on to the next step.

Step 5: Lettering (and layout, again)
For this step I've been using Manga Studio, since it seemed like the best way to create comic panels, speech bubbles/boxes, ect. Basically I cut the original comic with it's drawn-in-GIMP panels up and make a nicer layout, before adding all the dialogue, sound effects, and narrator boxes.

Step 6: Cleanup
At this point we've come full circle back to GIMP, where I do any touchup work and resize for the internet. And this whole, thrilling process only takes a couple months.

So yeah, that's the process at the moment, I'm working on improving it in the future, so we'll see how it goes. Hopefully we'll have some more of these up soon!

Good night, and as always, thanks for reading,


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