Friday, July 27, 2012

Planetoid Critique

Picked up the second issue of Planetoid this afternoon so today I feel like breaking from my usual 'second-person' writing structure to do a review of the series thus far.

Planetoid is set in the distant future when human corporate imperialism has expanded through out the stars.  The central character is Silas, former soldier turned smuggler who crash lands onto a dead factory planet populated by various tribes of humans struggling to survive amongst giant sadistic robots controlled by a central A.I..  Armed with a survival kit, a hyper-advanced PDA, and a pistol that does super-mega damage to anything he fires it at, Silas has to do whatever he can to survive and hopefully escape the Planetoid.

I have to say I'm fond of this series.  Thus far, me being a fan of industrial-horror-sci-fi like the Terminator and Aliens franchises and the movie Pitch Black, author/artist Ken Garing has done a fair job of keeping those parts of me appeased.  The line art is nice and gritty and is complemented by a rusty-metallic color palette, clearly defining Planetoid's visual language for me.  Doing all the writing, art, and lettering himself, he's sure not to over-render on the inks, instead using color to create the illusion of detail, but still conveying a satisfying amount of expressiveness in his characters ( something I usually require of any cartoonist I read ).  I'm curious to know if he does his line art traditionally with ink on paper or if he does everything digitally as he does the colors, letters and other effects.

The pacing is what I want from a comic like this.  The dialogue is usually only where necessary, with good chunks of the story being told with pure visuals to good effect. However there are places in both these first two issues where the exposition gets a bit heavy handed for my tastes.  In the first issue Silas goes through his "inventory" with his PDA.  Garing does this by illustrating each item with the PDA character naming them respectively.  It just felt out of place for me - like a video game ( though I can see how others might dig it ).  Later when the first human Silas meets tells him the Planetoid's history some of Garing's word/sentencing choices gave the exposition an unnatural feel.  The next issue this unnatural exposition felt worse with the second human Silas meets as she tells him her past.  I guess to me it just felt like he was trying to spoon feed me the info, which I don't care for in story telling unless it's done in a pretty specific and non-cliche way, and he was not hitting the mark for me there.

That leads me to my other major criticism: the second human Silas actually meets ( as opposed to just encounters ) is a slim, attractive female red-head.  It's really just a personal gripe, and I'm kind of torn too, as I have issues with the entertainment industry's standard of every major female character needing to be a hot chic - it's just not that believable for me - and especially now that every time I go into the comic book store over a third of the books feature a hot female red-head on the cover.  But I understand the appeal, especially for a comic book character, and particular in this book where red really stands out amongst the bulk of the appropriately drab color palette - it makes her more interesting and unique ( in the purview of Planetoid, in the comic book industry she's one of dozens of red-headed female leads ).

However, I do like the way Garing illustrates Onica ( the aforementioned red-head ).  She's a survivor living off of alien lizard meat in a harsh environment, so she's slim with taught muscles the way I imagine someone of her body type would be in those circumstances, ( that and she doesn't prance around in high-heeled boots like some fantasy super-model ).

Each issue thus far has been the standard 32-page magazine that most comics come as, however, unlike most monthly titles, these 32 pages are made up entirely of story and art, which is a lot considering that the cover price is still $2.99 when so many other books in the industry seem to be feeling the effects of central-bank induced monetary inflation and increasing their prices accordingly from $3.50 to $3.99 an issue.  I suppose it helps that the production of this comic is a one-man operation, but being that it's a color comic ( and more expensive to print, let alone time consuming to produce ) it's pretty nice of Ken Garing to pass on the savings to the reader. 

With all the pages filled up with story and art, there isn't any space for the artist's comments or letters from the readers ( there's some space on the inside cover but I suppose Garing and the Image folks would rather leave that for other things ), so it isn't apparent whether or not this is an ongoing series or a limited one.  If it's a limited series, I can see how Garing will be able to keep up with a 32 page monthly production schedule, as he probably has everything done and ready to go.  The Image website has preview summaries of the first four issues listed, with the fourth one giving no real indication whether or not it's the final chapter. 

I honestly hope it is ongoing, as it's so far an overall cool series and I have yet to get tired of the "lone stranger in a strange land" storyline, but I'll be surprised and uber impressed if Garing can keep it up at 32 pages a month, though understanding if it drops down to the standard 22-pages we see in most modern monthlies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's been a while since you last blogged.  People say you should blog everyday for promotional purposes, and you get that, but you rarely have the time nor the inclination. Really you do this when you need the outlet, which is not exactly helpful in your career. 

Last night was the second Nemion show of the year, and first in Austin for 2012.  It was at Headhunters and you felt good throughout the entire show, but ironically afterwards you found out that the first three songs sounded like shit.  You knew you fucked up "Comfort" ( some how the piano patch changed mid-song into something completely inappropriate ) and some on "Flesheater", but you didn't realize at the time they were that bad. A lot of it was technical with the drum mix volume disrupting things, but you apparently sounded rushed as well.   The crowd was good over all, better than most, and there were several people who responded positively to the performance, but you still haven't really hit on what needs to be hit on to inspire people to support you materially.   The exception possibly being with the song "Puppets" - that song always has a strong response, but it's not even on the album Nemion just released.  Why is this you wonder.  What makes this track more interesting than the others? For one it's simpler. It's basically one part played in different ways throughout the song. Simpler songs are easier to get into, especially when they're unfamiliar to the listener.

Simplicity.  It's something you purposefully avoided when writing most of the songs on Flesheater.  It's only recently that you've started exploring minimalism in your arrangements.  Perhaps simplifying your stage rig further is in order.  You'd have to rewrite a lot of live versions of your songs, but the current level of complexity contributes to a lot of fuckups and sound issues, and it could free you up to enhance your performances.  Not to mention it might be easier on your back - maybe. But then there's so much sonically that you would not be able to do on stage.

The other bands of the night, Buzz n Bangs, Death Ray, and Arrowstrike kept their shit so simple.  Guitar/Drums, Guitar/Guitar/Drum Sequence, Guitar/Drums respectively.  And they were totally free to put on some badass performances.  Something else of note is the stage presence that a lot of them had. They're personalities were forceful and energetic.  You have yet to really reach that level of comfort with yourself.

Then there's the ever present question of earning substantive income doing this sort of thing.....

You're running out of juice for this post, but you ought to talk a bit about Enrod The Clockman before you bring it to a close.  You made your update schedule this past Sunday, but not with the next installment of the comic - for which you fell dramatically behind because of your recent move as well as going to a politcal convention and maybe some other things.  So instead you just posted some sketches and concept art as filler to share with your readers.

You're getting impatient again.  Impatient with growth of the comic.  You've put a lot of money into the album release so you're not willing to buy any advertising to promote the comic right now, so that's slowing it down, but you're also discouraged by Facebook's change in policies, especially when you feel like they do such a shitty job explaining to you the changes.  Needless to say, if you want people to see your page's posts on their walls, you have to pay FB extra to make sure they do.  The price of going public and they want their advertisers to pay for it.

You're thinking that you want to eventually try the conventional model for distributing your comic.  You're planning an ongoing series ( which you had been doing since the beginning ) and you're thinking that once you get the trilogy completed you'll put the website on temporary hiatus and see about getting the necessary first 3 issues in the can before you solicit a publisher.  At you're current rate that's about a year and half of work.  We'll see.  You have to remind yourself that you still need to put all you can into promoting Nemion and Flesheater, as you've only scratched the surface.  You need to continue to improve on syncing up Nemion and the Clockman so that they cross-market each other.

You should look into Anime cons again.  You're not going to any this year.  Artist alley tables have been selling out before you even think to register for them.  But next year, you have to try and make it down to Houston, specifically because you owe somebody down there a drawing.

That's all for now.   Go organize your recording studio and do some drawing.