Friday, January 2, 2009

Postpartum Depression

After one day of the most depressing glory basking ever, I am back at work on strips and thinking about the future. It's been hard, since I'm still very much suffering from the letdown.

It's well documented that my deadly sin is pride, and one aspect of that is my desire to always appear perfect. Putting out anything except the best gives me the dagger-dancing-in-the-stomach feeling. It's why I gave up on cartooning so many times over my life. Obviously, I got over myself enough to put my strip, in all its rookie glory, out there for everyone to see - but I'm feeling some narcissistic aftershocks right now.

I have no idea if anything I've made is funny. Being so close to the craft, all I can see are the technical back stories to each strip. Pride can quickly turn to disappointment if I start to dwell. Rationally, I realize cartooning is a process with its own standard and logic. Only time, practice and research will bring improvement. Emotionally, the perfectionist in me screams every time a face doesn't convey the expression I need or the dialog is not arranged/written in a way to preserve the proper timing for a joke. I am way too close to the work, so I need someone unattached to give me proper feedback. Too bad only those obligated to read the strip have done so at this point. *Sigh*

Ahh, but that's why we have pilot episodes. They show potential, even when the craft is still shaky. I do believe I have the makings of something good, even if I'm a few life lessons short of producing such work. Re-reading the pilot, what can I change to improve myself?

The big thing for me is LETTING GO of the details. I want to show I have the entire world planned and mapped, but there's no reason to bog down strips with it. My goal was to use the inevitable clunkiness of the pilot to get across basic information so I never have to reference it again. Of course, when new strips deal with those specific elements I have to re-introduce them anyway. D'oh. I should focus on telling a good story and let the details be inferred. It's hard for me, since I am so detail-oriented. My characters, having been created by me, tend to speak in my voice. They are rambling bores!

Another weakness with writing caused by my personality is the tendency to write as if the works will be spoken. The dialog in a comic strip is READ, so the snappy timing that makes a strip funny in my head is lost in translation. Yes, there are little touches a cartoonist can add to indicate how dialog should be read, but I am so weak on penmenship that legibility is still my main focus.

Character-wise, I have a lot of changes that need to be made. Proportions are still wildly inconsistant, and I don't see that settling down for a long time. Only repitition will cure that. Until then, I am going to keep misjuding the height of my characters and be forced to stretch them so their feet don't appear in-panel. A lot of strips got ruined when I tried to expand or shrink characters to fit, making them look very rough and wrong.

Character details also need to be reevaluated. Roddy was the first, and most significant, change, but I can see many tweaks that need to be made. Both Tiffany and Suzette suffer for "too many quirks" syndrome, which can look awful if not handled correctly. I'm not sure what needs to be done to clean that mess up at this point. My handling of short-sleeve shirts is still abysmal, and every character sporting one suffers for it. As simple as it should be, managing the strips on Jacob's shirts thwarted me time and again. I should also begin thinking about the medium shading that appears on Bud, Tiffany, Suzette, Max, etc. By the end of the pilot, I learned to use tech pens of smaller width to make the lines, because the equal weight caused conflicts with outlines. Another approach might be in adopting standard shading swatches and dropping them in via Photoshop. As that requires spending some money, I'll put it off for now.

The task now is to sit back and DO THE STRIPS, even if I know they are somewhat weak. The best instruction for cartooning is experience. I can talk a great cartooning game with my knowledge of the medium, but that means nothing if I never develop my skill through execution.

My pride wants me to go into hiding again; to let a few more storylines build up before I start trying to get publicity. I can't do that. I just have to press forward and hope my archive shows progress and potential. I need people to care about me and about the strip. Without help from others, all the feedback I get is from my personal demons. Those guys are assholes. It's sad and needy to talk like this, but if I'm the only person emotionally invested in this project, that's a good sign that the project is a failure. At this point I'll take the moral support from those obligated to be kind to me. Something. Anything. I understand that my mom saying I'm cool does not make it so, but I could *so* use a placebo effect right now.

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