Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #173 (March 3rd, 2007)


Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.


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Don't MISS James Turner's FIRST



(or something like that)

James Turner continues:

And speaking of awesome, I do hope to learn from your use of type, especially for sound effects. I have also been noticing that people in comics generally don't use the … (ellipses?) when they break up sentences into different word balloons, which is an innovation I'm interested in adopting.

It would certainly make an interesting article or roundtable to get different cartoonists' views of what constitutes good comic-book punctuation. I think what you're referring to here is the "stand-alone" ellipses at the bottom of a word balloon. I'm not sure where I got that from, but I'm pretty sure I didn't come up with it myself. It's intended to serve two functions, its traditional function from prose which is that there is a natural pause where it occurs more elaborate than the semi-colon would indicate and its comic-book function which basically establishes that the thought is continued, so it's intended as a little added "forward momentum" for the reader. Whether the reader actually registers that consciously or not or what percentage of readers register that consciously is another question, but that's the idea behind it: you see the ellipses occupying its own line at the bottom of the word balloon and that means that there's elaboration up ahead or a visual that runs contrary to the train of thought or something that further develops what you're reading. So, if the words you've just read didn't explain what was being discussed thoroughly, it causes you to "kick" a bit into the next word balloon. So you have two contrary functions: the prose mind registers it as a pause while the comic-book mind registers it as a narrative propellant.

I talked to Chester about the dilemma of rendering noses a month or so ago. All sorts of problems, as he said, that only cartoonists are aware of. Tintin, for example, has a sideways rendered nose even when facing frontally. It has always worked, I generally don't even notice it, but now that I'm working on a comic it's an issue, especially when I'm adding shadows to the face. How does a shadow work when falling over a sideways nose on a frontally facing face? An interesting question.

Yeah, I think that's more of a problem in the iconic end of cartooning where you're trying to distil faces and features into a series of simplified pen strokes or, in your case, computer lines. The closer you get it to looking accurate while stripping it down to its basics, the fewer things you can "add back in" without throwing off the entire look of the panel or page. Shadows are a particular problem if you're doing a night scene or a darkened room or something. If you just draw the iconic character and throw solid black in behind him, he's going to look self-illuminating like a light bulb. If you put hatching on the face it attracts too much attention to itself – the eye is drawn to where most of the lines are. If you use a solid black then you have to pick your meridian line and that raises a whole new bundle of questions. I've been drawing this guy's head as a pure oval but is that how the eye perceives it once the facial features are factored in? I used to have those problems in the first couple of years of Cerebus where I was trying to draw him as an animation cell, with no density or contour to his outline. If I'm drawing a shadow on the side of his head, at what point does the snout begin to "pull" the contour of the face to the front? How far does the shadow move in from the side of the face until a separate shadow appears on the snout and where does that shadow first appear?

As Chester says, problems only cartoonists are aware of.

We really should have terms for them. Like, when you brush in an area of solid black and then you go to ink an area next to it when you think it's dry, but it isn't dry, there's one or two little "wet spots" and you either smear them or you get them on the side of your inking hand. I mean we should have terms for those wet spots and the smear and the blobs on the side of our hands. Because we all do this isolation, we don't need to communicate it so we never came up with terminology.

Things plod along with Rex. Issue 7 has the most ambitious extras section I've ever done, complete with faux academic tone, while issue 8 is an action extravaganza. I've had to draw out most of the action poses and fight scenes in my sketchbook first and then scan them, otherwise there's no way I could do such complicated poses and sequences. I'm two thirds of the way through it now. Been taking me a hell of a long time. I don't think I'll have another all action issue for a little while after this.

Actually, thanks to the miracle of Luddite Time Distortion, I just got the copy of issue 7 that you sent me yesterday. You're doing pretty good with the sound effects in this one. I particularly liked the "Zaoosh" sound effect on whatever those flaming projectiles are on pages 3, 4 and 5. That's really all that's involved in doing good sound effects. You just have to translate the auditory into the visual. If that sound was a picture, what would it look like? And, of course, "Zaoosh" – how do you spell that? And you've also got the look of the projectiles right. Considering it's all done on computer, it's pretty amazing.

The comic continues to evolve. Right now I'm trying to add texture to it, make it more visually accessible to people, and explore a look that a mixture of film noir, Tamara de Lempicka, and 1920's posters. Film noir was dark for practical as well as aesthetic reasons: they had no budget and used darkness to cover it. I hope to use darkness in much the same manner. It will let me breeze through scenes shot entirely in silhouettes.

I see what you mean, having just finished reading issue 7 (getting paid to read funnybooks in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. What a great job) about the film noir. I thought it was interesting that you flinched away from using silhouettes. I had a comparable experience doing Cerebus where I was experimenting with harsh, unnatural lighting in the scene where Weisshaupt dies (page 504-506 of Church & State I), telling Gerhard, "Just do your regular backgrounds, don't try to follow the lighting that I'm doing" which he always found difficult because it seemed inconsistent. It was only much later that he was able to link it to movie lighting which often doesn't make any sense either. I did, like, three silhouettes on page 506 and then had Gerhard just put the library in behind them and I thought, "Wow, that really works well!" As an emotional effect, the spectrum of light sources and intensities really communicate the emotional roller coaster the two characters are on. But I don't think I used multiple silhouettes more than once or twice after that – Judeo-Christian work ethic. If it's that easy it can't be good. I thought the best shot was the upper right panel on page 9 of Circe where her face blends into the white background. You flirt with it in a few panels before that but this is really the panel where you just let the glasses and the mouth and the nose tell you where she is. It seems to me that white-on-white is a big part of the film noir look as well. Of course you don't fool me for a minute: you're doing the film noir approach just so you can watch 1950s movies all day and call it research.

The French tanks below are from Issue 8, and are engaged in fighting a rampaging umlaut. Beware the umlaut!

Son of a gun if that isn't what it is, right on the bottom of his letter. Very clever these computer fellows.

Tomorrow: No Dave's Prayer! But as a further concession to Jeff Tundis, I'll be reviewing the book he sent me through Amazon Canada, Jesus in India.

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