Sunday, August 30, 2015

Extra background info and story tidbits!

Edit: The above link has all the good stuff, but I'll add prominent front-page links to the guest stars of the Weekend at Bernie's story here, if you want to follow them back to the source material.

Seley and Fox are from the comic, Curtailed.
Mat is the avatar of the creator of Badly Drawn Kitties.

Those comics may contain swear words and adults discussing being adults. For you teens out there, that mostly means "OH GOD I'M OLD AND EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE!" or "I'm acting like a crazy kid because who's gonna punish me NOW?" As all three of these have real-people behind the "characters," the versions in Precocious are Precocized, so treat them as just an homage - a Precociousverse character inspired by the real ones.

The post below on the main Precocious page has lots of neat info about the origins of the Weekend of Bernie's story, how the Curtailed crossover managed to work its way into it, and how Miri's character was enhanced/inspired by knowing Kat Feet's daughter, the real-life version of her. but there are more little snippets of background info to share. Rather than make a big, bloated news page, I'm putting a link right here to go read more tidbits! Read that to find out where Bruno the staff member came from, and see all the little call backs to earlier stories.

(Edit: And I'm keeping track of which commenters are clearly not paying attention... I know most folks rarely check the front page, so those who do should post a link to the information as a reminder whenever someone asks a question I've already answered.)

I've decided to treat this little experiment like a Patreon test drive, in which blogs with story insights would be posted. I'm trying to find new stuff to share every day for this one, as long as I have someone to say. Maybe they're interesting notes, maybe they're not, but it's a view into how the comics come together. This is a story that was brewing in the back of my head for years and years, and between the two posts you get a look at all the neat flavors it's picked up from the experiences I've had since its inception!


Update 10/18: Adding notes to cover the "I Survived the Weekend" epilogue week, and adding the bonus comic to the entry. Putting a small thank you up, which I may expand upon later. We're dore, or almost done, with this giant post! 

INTRO: Rather than make the initial reference post for my Weekend and Bernie's inspirations any longer, I'm splitting off my extra commentary and tidbits to this post! (And I'm just linking to it from the main page, since it's so long.) This is the kind of stuff I'd be blogging about should I ever set up a Patreon.*  The base-level supporters would get weekly blogs of background info and special tidbits and secrets, and I really hate that I'm too sick to set it up, much less regularly supply the extra work, because this story is PERFECT for it. I have so many more tidbits to share than will even appear here. Anyway, consider this post a Patreon test drive. I hope you enjoy the insights!

For newer readers: Weekend of Bernie's is my epic summertime (and beyond, since I started it late) continuity-loving story, so it's FULL of references. I cover a lot here and in the initial post, but there's so much I won't hit it all. To get a callback refresher, it's either time to do a big archive dive (which is fun!) or hope other readers will provide links to all the callbacks to prior Precocious stories in the comments section for each comic. Anyway, most readers probably aren't reading news posts and are missing out, so heroic vets should be linking directly to the this and the other explanation post whenever needed.

While I would love a reference section on each comic to make things easier to track, if only for tagging characters and locations, you'd be surprised at how non-free a free-for-you website is on *my* end. Weekend of Bernie's doesn't require you to know the origin of every character or offhand reference, but reading my notes does let you see how much I crammed into this big story! (Stories like this are my treat to myself. I'll go back to smaller stuff for a after this story to balance things out - though if I get bigger Halloween idea than is currently planned, I doubt people would protest a few weeks of that.)


(October 18) THANK YOU FOR PLAYING ALONG! - Thanks to everyone for taking the journey with me - and apologies to newer readers who got plunged into an indulgent call-back fest. Way back when I began Precocious, I had a goal of doing one big story a year - ideally for a summer span, when I felt readers spend less time online, meaning they vould return to a lot of yummy content to consume at once! The very first Precocious story, Gender Wars was the first planned summer epic. Other summer epics are Party Crashers and The Inferior Lake. (As you can tell by its title, The Fall Festival was my epic that couldn't be in the summer.)

(October 12-18) I SURVIVED THE WEEKEND: Going day by day for this week of, uh, closure.

Monday - Because I delayed the start of the Bernie story four weeks, I debating cutting the week of light followups that normally follows a major story. In the end, though, I couldn't resist. Some threads had dropped and I *know* what wasn't shown was funny - and since the whole story was ALREADY indulgent, why deny my self-satisfaction now?  This was the comic that I REALLY didn't want to lose. First, we never got to close out what happened at Linkletter Board Game Night, and a few Bette-centric scripts also got cut from the scene. Those were mostly redundant, and won't be missed, but the ENDING of Bette's visit amused me too much for me to keep it to myself. And she IS wearing Deirdre's "standard" outfit, if you didn't know.

Tuesday - Here's another thread that I felt needed a follow-up - especially since Bernie promised she'd follow it up in-comic. Ivy might have been wary of the Bernie train, and potentially wanting to write a "warts and all" piece, but editor approval has a way of building excitement and goodwill. If you don't remember, Ivy's falling victim to the Miri brainwashing effect, and dispensing the justice that Autumn tried to avoid by going into hiding.

Wednesday - I was debating on which Piccadilly thread to follow up with. I chose Dionne's bitterness at being replaced as Do-Dah's spokesgirl. The alternate take would have been involving Tatiana Cross (his employee) testing to see if his weird crush on Bernie will overpower his anger at Bernie's long-term setup to give him a bad nickname.

Thursday - This script wasn't planned. It popped into my head when thinking about Pickles' assertion that Bernie's footage didn't have enough incriminating stuff. Since some of the footage was from HIS people, maybe there was a secret to keep the Ets safe? What's fun here is the bridge-burning (Berning?) at play, with paranoia of any act of "kindness" from Bernie or the darlings. Even if the device is totally legit, Autumn's planted enough doubt that no one will ever use it. (They don't know Chloe's move was to get access to Jacob's phone's pics and video, so they might be scared to even test it - it might be a tiny EMP!)

Friday - Of course we had to go back to the bar! I've had fun letting my past twisting the Precociousverse version of the Curtailed crew into a kinda reversal of personalities. Another Precociousverse version of someone else's character there is the comic personal of Mat from Badly Drawn Kitties. He's not much of a drinker, so I gave him a big, fruity, sugary thing. And Ms. Monster apparently STILL hasn't gone home yet.

Saturday - A few scripts of Frida getting shunned for not being cute enough, compared to Miri, were written and discarded for being too mean. But that doesn't mean there isn't some psychological toll of Frida being pushed aside by other cute children.  So she first tries to imitate Miri, with that too-darling heart on the cheek - but almost no one can cute at that level. Maybe there's another person to imitate... (I don't plan on keeping Bernie-ized Frida, but maybe I should?)

Sunday - The Oven parents aren't known for being around much, so Bud's trick is far too easy to pull off. Perhaps the real challenge is testing the new vow to have one adult Oven around at all times. (Obviously, they violated that agreement at the first opportunity, so shame on them!)

Bonus Comic:  By adding Thursday's comic, I had one extra script, which means I get to post a bonus vote incentive after a long and painful gap. (I'm barely healthy enough to work, much less do bonus stuff.)  This turned into something much bigger than intended, as I tripled the gags I had planned, doubled the size, and played around with hand lettering and toned coloring. Since the vote incentive will one day rotate out, I'm putting the comic right here for you. (Though I encourage you to vote on TWC anyway, because it does bring in new readers, which is vital for my comic's health.) Click the comic to see a bigger version, if you need to:

When doing "The Bachelor" stories for Mike, I used my apartment in Savannah as inspiration for Mike's apartment - in which the circuit breaker box IS in the master bedroom. But the Savannah apartment was a cheap hole in the wall (perfect for me, because you can't get a better-located spot for so cheap) and Mike's decently paid for whatever he does, so assume his spot is much better - including a bathroom attached to the master bedroom, and second bedroom (that he almost certainly isn't wasn't using as a guest bedroom).

(October 8-10) THE MISSING WEEK(S): What IS Bernie hiding? (Even if she's NOT lying, which is always a dangerous assumption to make, with the list of past business moves we KNOW of, one potentially working is truly scary.) Also, is there no specific scene of Sky saying her goodbyes/good riddance? And where did Miri get a butterfly wand thingy? Sorry, those answers aren't coming here, but you'll get them eventually when I craft a certain sequence of strips I've teasingly skipped over. (The reason I gave Miri a prop out of nowhere is because that's my motivator. Now I HAVE to draw the scene, if only to have her pick it up from somewhere as they pack the Berniemobile. Until I do, it's a weird thing that appeared without justification, and shame on me!) Gotta leave 'em wanting more!

Off the top of my head, I can count three significant sequences that got cut from this story - plus the side-story that was meant to introduce The Winchester pub. One's being rewritten as a general Precocious story. The others are for the future. They give a deeper look into Bernie's inner workings, which couldn't be shown off as a central focus this time, as this is a tale of the family wrecking ball. While she did get lots of her villain origin story in, Bernie is a far more complex character than a lot of people might want her to be. (Not that her worst actions can ever be justified. Explained, maybe, but dirty tricks are still dirty tricks.)

(October 7) AWTOM: 1) Considering Autumn's house is in the front of the Sapphire Lake neighborhood, and Tiffany's is in the back corner, Autumn is yelling with impressive volume. 2) Did Miri actually make that card? 3) The rose bushes were specifically planted with the idea that even Autumn wouldn't enter them, so I guess it's a good hiding place in that regard. 4) With Autumn's obsessive nature, would she really WANT closure? Maybe this is a "gift" to her? After spending a day embedded in roses, she probably needs something fun to obsess over.

(October 6) SPEAKING OF NOT GOOD...: I guess that title makes more sense if you read this post like Twitter, as that title is reacting to the item below it. Anyway, I try to keep my main kids away from technology - partly for the handy "It keeps them active and out in the world, and makes things a little more timeless" factor, and partly because I am always years late to technology and I'm rubbish at faking what I don't already know.

After the Precocious crew got locked underground in a Seinfeld situation - referring to the joke how many of that show's plots would be eliminated if everyone had cell phones - Jacob did get his smart phone. This also means he's not too savvy with it yet, and trying to do the cautious thing can only do so much when your "rival" knows the nuances of the "battleground." Whether Jacob changes his password or not - and whether his admin privileges are ACTUAL admin controls - Chloe has admin power (assuming she acts before Jacob changes passwords, and from her confidence we must assume she did) so she can slyly use admin controls to grant some benign test account access that Jacob would accept as default. It won't be until Jacob learns enough to set up that auto-upload program for himself that he's safe.

Granted, his naivete can easily work against Chloe here too: Jacob isn't used to snapping photos and videos whenever he wants. If he's anything like me, something fascinating will be nearing its end before he even remembers he has that option. But if he drops one useful video into the folder for Bernie's show, I guess it's worth the deceit. Maybe Suzette was right... it's important to get evil practice in, and Jacob IS an easy target (man).

(October 4-5) SUZETTE IS FUN: I could write a big ol' essay on... well, so many different aspects of Suzette. She's a really fascinating character, and the reaction she gets is very telling about the person reacting. A smart and advanced 9-year-old is still a 9-year-old. Even when she gets it right, she has a habit of handing it in less-than-appropriate ways. (But what type of person would judge any cause by the actions of an overcompensating child's participation? *checks internet* Oh.) Chloe, as we've seen in this story, is the counterpoint to the Poppinstock children's insanity. Not that Chloe is "good" - but she's well-positioned to have some fun. She is her mother's daughter, after all - and with far more real-life experience at eight years old than even the achievers like Dionne (or Roddy) have with 25% more years on them.

(October 3) TOO MANY WORDS: Time for some cold, harsh Real Talk, folks. The end of this story is coming fast, and so I must accept that all those scenes that were cut must be lost or saved for book bonus material.  We don't get the background of the manifestos (yet). We don't get the [story I'll repurpose for use later]. We don't get to see what happened at the end of Linkletter Game Night, and what Ms. Monster did there. And we're not going to see any more post-filming interaction at Do-Dah's. (For now. I hope to integrate it into an aforementioned bonus story in the future.)

Today's comic has five or six panels of information, and only four in which to work. Writing that results from that feels very clunky - like a superhero comic which has to tell a full story in a limited format when it's handle clumsily - but sometimes it's necessary. (Bernie shoehorning in the Pickles drop was intentional, as she'd been sitting on that bomb.) I'd prefer giving this moment more time to breathe, and maybe a followup for the exhale after that bit of insanity. (Since Piccadilly said he liked her crazy planning, Bernie likely convinced herself that her dirty trick is actually something charming and quirky.) In this case, I *didn't* flatten my comic, leaving the option open to tweak the text if I want. It's better to not look back, because overthinking the idea of refining past writing is better spent using what's learned for future sharpness. (So I do have reasons for flattening, even though the idea of doing, severely limiting editing potential, surely makes other creators cringe.)

As it stands, Bernie burning her business partner - before their transaction is even complete - DOES make a proper cap on this subplot. It's soooo Bernie. It's PEAK Bernie, which means if she wasn't already on her way out, they'd kick her out soon.

(October 1-2) DON'T MAKE HER ANGRY: Yup, that's a very-thinly-veiled Incredible Hulk reference. This series is fairly self-explanatory, but I want to point out Chloe's placement in the first comic was deliberate. She blocked Tatiana, who was only useful as part of the second gag, and covered Bernie's face, which gave me a timing beat where Bernie could remove her sunglasses. The evil eyes at the end don't work if she's wearing them! Plus, my choice in coloring means putting them atop her head would look weird. I wasn't writing an extra talk-y comic just to show Bernie removing her glasses, and a scene change is coming before I can, say, show them in her pocket, so that covered face is the vagueness I needed!

(Sept 30) CARYN CRUP: Hey, it's Dionne's mom! With Caryn being a diva like her daughter, and a stage mom surely living vicarious through her, the subtext here is more bitter than you might assume. Inside she's probably screaming about WE NEED TO PUSH HARDER AND CASH IN WHILE WE CAN!!! I bet that Logan's Run reference (it's right there in the title for you young ones to Google!) has been constantly bubbling near the surface of Caryn's thoughts ever since she learned about it. Once you reach a certain age, the crystal in your hand blinks and lets people know your time is up and it's time to die!

By the way, since I don't think it's specifically mentioned in the strip, have a reminder that Robert Crup is Dionne's stepdad. (I think you can figure out what her biological father looked like.) Caryn's first husband used her as a trophy, and eventually abandoned his family - so he's not a "fun" jerk, like Bernie, but a full-blown awful dude. I want to show happy family situations (even if they take a weird form) in my comic, so don't expect that butthead to come back. Dionne's never calling Robert her "stepdad" - just "dad." He earned it!

whyPhones: In the ancient days of simple black and white Precocious, when I had even less idea of how to draw anything, I drew iPhones as simple rectangles with camera holes. Smart phones weren't ubiquitous yet - I gave them to richer people to show they could afford these luxury phones - and I didn't get my own until I was almost two years into drawing the comic. I just kept drawing my simple phone rectangle over and over, and never really checked to see if the camera hole was in the correct place. At this point, I'm just rolling with it as a Precociousverse quirk - but I did ref the latest iPhone for Dionne, even if the size is probably off.

(Sept 29) EVERYONE IS ON BOXES: That title is a cartooning joke, I guess. Laying out a panel is way more difficult than you might think, in any format - because angles and dialog balloons can push characters out of position. It may not be as noticeable to non-pros, but I always cringe when I know I've drawn a panel where someone must be either standing on a box or in a hole - as it's what's needed to fit them in. I get away with it more because a 3" strip panel can only do so much, and my characters are never on-model anyway, so who knows what their actual heights are!? Anyway, since the commercial needs to show some happy faces, I GOT TO DELIBERATELY HAVE THEM STAND ON PLATFORMS, MAKING LAYING OUT THE PANEL EASIER! *high fives self*

(Sept 28) LET IT GOOOOOOO: It's taken over the world by now, so I don't think I really need to point out that Do-Dah's is trying to capitalize on Disney's movie Frozen for their commercial. As for the props on the table, initially I had another person from Piccadilly Talent in the scene scooping a cone for Miri, but felt I couldn't cover up the backdrop any more. Tatiana has become the representative to indicate his staff is around (I mean, SOMEONE is off-panel, holding the boom mic) since she's the most striking of the lot - and probably has seniority of those we saw in the bar. I never established her specific role, but it's on the production/engineering side. She was handling audio in the bar, after all. Without the extra employee, there's an unintentional vagueness over whether Bernie's cone is ice cream or mashed potatoes. Since the chocolate-dyed potato bin is open, and Bernie has vanilla on top of her cone, assume it's ice cream - but maybe she's about to go for a triple-scoop savory treat?

(Sept 27) MATH PROBLEMS: What I like about Gene's example is that it's NOT meant to a compliment. One in a thousand succeeds? Ok, but stuffing the ballot box with cheap entries in a contest (presumably) about merit is pointless, but you sure can cause a lot of headaches! Bernie *is* smart, but the Et family tree isn't known for mixing common sense in there. The reason she survives is because she's always trying something new, even when riding some other plan's success. No complacency! (Even during her housewife time, I bet she was HELL in running stuff like Tupperware parties.) You know, maybe if her parents had given her some GUIDANCE, she might be running a Fortune 500 company by now - thought that also implies she'd be jailed forever if the public ever found out how she got there. So I guess Bernie is Bernie, and the only thing containing her is access? (And she will protect her kids above all. She's not that much of a monster.)

(Sept 25-26) HOUSE FOR SALE: I just love torturing my readers by reminding them that not only are houses for sale in Sapphire Lake, but one is EMPTY and could be an easy target for squatters. Everyone has that one minor character they want to move to Sapphire Lake, and there's room for them (maybe room for ALL), but will I ever let that happen - or will I just keep reminding you of the empty house to make you mad?

(Sept 22-24) THE REALITY: Now that Bernie's plan is revealed, we get to take it back home and let the family process it. In this case, it's all fairly straightforward commentary on the logistics. Bernie knows her family is a strength, because they're all good TV, but she worries about using the Sapphire Lake resources too much and getting crowded out. And then we get to pull in Uncle Mike, who gets discussed here and there but probably hasn't been given the express attention he deserved for setting up the Et family craziness. Sky's comment on Mike is super-duper true, too. People who are tough to be around are SO MUCH BETTER when their wake of destruction (intentional or not) is presented as entertainment. There's also the problem if people confusing "entertainer" with "idol," which led to people something thinking the Kardashians are to be... respected? (In a non-reality angle, remember how the show 24 somehow got used as "evidence" that torturing suspects ALWAYS? And I gotta wonder how the glut of "misanthropic jerk male who is always right" shows influenced certain problematic online dudes.) Anyway, I'm sure Bernie is counting on that phenomenon - and Mike could benefit as well, should he pass the test.

(Sept 21) THE REWRITE: That "rewrite" title works on two accounts! First, I got to give myself a little meta-commentary on the nature of this story. I meant for Weekend of Bernie's to be primarily a FOR-ME thing, so I indulged more than I should, but I'm still a cognizant creator, and I can't put in EVERYTHING I want. A lot got cut out to give me a narrative between the individual scenes. Some will be re-purposed later (maybe no longer as a Bernie/Darlings story), some will be held back in case Bernie comes around again (it took four years since her mention to get her to appear, so don't expect it soon), one is certain to be drawn later as a bonus when it's book time, and various scraps that get trimmed here and there are gone forever - because if they got trimmed, it was mostly to replace them with something better.

The second rewrite bit is about the comic itself. I was debating if Mr. Piccadilly's line about Bernie being refreshingly open about her horribleness could be written other ways, and made a couple versions of it. The one that ran was the ORIGINAL version, and that was because I simply forgot to make a decision between that and the new one before the comic updated. I'm not so sure the new version is better, however, so it's probably for the best. What I get in the original version is an extra layer of Piccadilly overlooking the Sapphire Kids and their prior torment of him, as he praises Bernie for something that sounds very Autumn-ish - which is fitting considering she's on video there. (The mouseover text points out how he's verbally slamming former commercial partner Bud, be it intentional or not, as he watches Tiffany eat sweets.) The reworked final line of his made the same point, but didn't have the Autumn parallel.

(Sept 19-20) BLUR EVERYTHING: When I do the clone & borrow thing with other people's characters, I always worry because it tends not to go well for them. I explained below (probably a few times) about how I tweaked them to fit roles in the story that would have happened with random designs instead, allowing these friends' character personalities to help shape the scenes, but any creator is always "CAREFUL! DON'T BREAK IT!" when seeing someone else tossing about their precious goodies. Whether Fox and Mandy (or Mat) really want my head after all this or not, I let them yell at me on the 19th, and kick me out on the 20th.

(Sept 18) BASIC CABLE WASTELAND: This comic pretty much sums it up. (And, yes, I was planting a seed there for this story.) Did you know I used to be super into reality TV? Like, I ran a website devoted to it! But this was the early days of competition shows. (I'm talking 2002 - an era considered primitive in this future of 2015, knowable only to those who lived in those ancient times.) It was when Survivor was more strategy and less stunts and dumbed-down editing. (Damn all you smart people for cutting the cord! You know what happens when Neilsen Ratings can most easily track the people too simple to watch TV on DVR/stream/etc? Network execs cater to THEM!) This was a time of Amazing Race and pre-Grodner Big Brother... AND THE MOLE! Oh, The Mole, you were too clever for America. But you did give Anderson Cooper a big boost, and that's pretty sweet. You also, in your Celebrity Mole dying throes, taught us Dennis Rodman may be an idiot, but he apparently has a photographic memory?  Anyway, the point is I CRINGE about most of this documentary-style reality TV being shortened to "reality TV" - even though the kind I cared about is long gone, if it ever existed at all. (That being said, Survivor is evil because their upcoming "second chance" season brought back SO MANY of my old favorites, that I'm suckered right back in again.)

As for the hugely-abused documentary-style programming, I know of it (how many shows about chefs, cakes, rich people being rich, and scummy people trying to rip others off do we need?) but it's mostly passed me by. (For that last parenthetical options, I think Bernie has an opinion.) Bernie's smart, though. She knows how cheap they are to make, even if they don't make a ratings splash, and she knows she can top most of the fake eccentrics that Bravo throws shows at. And Bravo's one of the higher-tier channels when it comes to garbage reality TV, too. Or, maybe, Bernie could intentionally aim low and try to conquer some afterthought channel, like E!, and rule it like some obscure third-world dictator. This is the dream. It may not succeed, but it is a good dream. Or a horrible dream. It's a dream. Leave it at that.

(Sept 17) PLAN THIEF: I talked below about how most parents JOKE about doing such things to get some peace and quiet - but Joseph Oven is a special kind of man.  (It's funny in fiction, but please don't parent like an Oven in real life.) And if you need a reminder of the Oven/Et family connection, Gene Et and Joseph Oven (formerly a Brungster, since I neglected to mention the surname Joe ditched to take Sydney's in the previous day's commentary) are cousins. I know the cousin thing was mentioned earlier in this story, but sometimes I have to link to old art and remind myself of the progress I've made. I may be slow, but I learn things!

(Sept 16) PARENT JOKES: I'm in my mid-30's. While I may single forever due to endless baggage and terrible personality, my peers are married, and some are making babies! (Chloe and Miriam were named to sound similar to my friend's twin girls, Zoe and Juliet - for more connection, remember Uncle Mike getting Sky's twins and Bernie's girls confused?) I love compliments about my work, of course, but there are some that really make me proud. I like it when products of a gifted school program recognize when the kids are acting realistic for pre-teen geniuses (usually while the *cough* ungifted kids in the comment section are baffled by those actions), and I internally high-five myself whenever someone assumes I *have* kids of my own, because the parent's reactions are very familiar. Stressed-parent dark humor is something I bet a lot of parents can easily recognize. (Note the end result wasn't, "We'll abandon the family and run off!" but, "See, eating a bunch of ice cream is RESPONSIBLE by comparison!"

I've already said this, but I'll repeat: Not every comic is for every reader. Precocious is meant to vary in tone and humor, because it's that variety that keeps it alive. Broad "kids are chaotic" humor is good for a light laugh. Long stories are rewarding to those who have stuck around. Some stories have touches of realism for those who recognize it. Other bits fully embrace this outlandish and surreal cartoon world I've created. I'm playing the long game here. It's perfectly OK for a story to not connect with you, because when you go through the archive you'll find so many that do. Even if the only person amused by a story is me, that's still fine (in small amounts), because if you don't have a motivated me making comics, you won't have a comic to read for very long. (By the way, complaining that I'm not making a story to suit YOUR needs is a great way to get shown the door, because youthful arrogance and entitlement rarely makes the commenting community a better place.)

(Sept 15) BY THE GENTLE TIFFLIGHT: Looks like Frida's room is being illuminated by a nightlight version of Tiffany's lamp. Or maybe it's a coincidence, because I learned a very similar lamp already exists! I feel like I should own this lamp for the Precocious tie-in - and it is on my Amazon wish list - but what could I do with it? Bedroom, once I install the work table? It's not like I'd be ashamed to have it. Due to chronic migraines, EVERY room in my house is mainly illuminated by nightlights (though they're mostly generic ones). As witnesses can verify, the overhead lights here are SO bright I fall to pieces as soon as they're turned on.

(Sept 14) DO-DAH'S: The local ice cream spot may not be known for its high quality, but it gets kids on TV!

(Sept 13) MR. PICCADILLY: Who could have ever thought the local acting talent scout would have been contacted by an acting mom? It's coming together, but what is the full plan here?

(Sept 12) TATIANA CROSS: Usually, when I put in tiny text, the plan is that it'll be unreadable on the web versions. It's either a bonus joke that only those who buy the books can see - or gibberish/squiggles to fill space where writing will be. Mandy had suggested the character be an Eastern European brunette cross fox (to tempt Fox, giving an ironic twist to him overlooking a character designed to get his attention), so the name is a direct summary of that. (Tatiana wasn't my first choice, but it's the one that fit on the card.) I was surprised the name was readable when I made the web-sized comic, but it does save me from too many people complaining about not being able to parse it. I'll restate this: If it's not readable, then it's either unimportant, a joke made for book-buyers or not meant for you to know it yet.

SHOTGUN: The shotgun under the bar is the usual image of enforcement with such an establishment, but I know Fox would be the conceal and carry permit guy. It's not just in-character for Fox, but it keeps Bud from firearms. Would he conceal and carry a shotgun? Probably not. Those are two different scenarios, but I left the "shotgun solution" line in because the idea of Fox whipping out a shotgun, like his pants are some bag of holding, is funny to me. (And, yes, I do know people have done conceal and carry with shotguns before.)

(Sept 11) CHARACTER FLAWS: Skipped the 10th because I have the same statement for both, and it's one that's surely on this page at least once already. I made sure Mandy and Fox knew what I was planning when I made their characters more vulnerable than they would be in real life. These aren't direct ports, just Precociousverse adaptations of characters inspired by friends. (Mat is mostly a borrowed shape on top of a character written for Precocious.) In order to give myself a story that was fun, and not just a glorified ego jerk for the bar owners, I took their strengths and added a bit of overconfidence, which then turned into an exploitable blind spot. Real Fox is so on the ball and able to assess a situation, Precociousverse Fox took his ability for granted and forgot to check on background characters too - and did not cope with that revelation well at all.  Seley, meanwhile, can do her role and try to shut down kids - but now we learn she let previously-unseen Tiffany hover around, encouraging certain behaviors. The result is the two pub owners were both deliberately led to be "out of character."

(Sept 9) A MANIFETSTO: The comic on the 8th had nothing I hadn't already covered, so let's take a look at what Bruno's reading! Here's another case where I put my notes in the comment thread for that day, so I'm copy/pasting (and rephrasing/editing, if needed) rather than do it again: The FULL origins and details behind the manifestos won't be covered in this story, because it's something that could be used later and it's not required info. It's not vital to the story, so the week I'd spend explaining them could be used on another subplot instead. I will say that there are many volumes written/printed - this is 2, and Soren had 4 - and the print quality level varies dramatically, from small-press run, to print-on-demand, to digital copy, to crazy-person-with-an-office-max-gift-card levels. Bernie did start the tradition (her pic is on both volumes we've seen, though Bruno's hand covered this one), but it's an Et thing after that, so authorship CAN vary for later volumes.

(Sept 7) THE REVEREND: Today's comic returns our walking distillery friend, Reverend McNulty. Irish pub? Character named after the guy from The Wire? How could I not? Also, poor Fox. His real-life superpowers are being distorted and made into a vulnerability in the Precociousverse, How unfair! This is how I treat people I like and appreciate.

(Why am I always so... alone?)

(Sept 6) BACKGROUND LADY: To save time, my sanity, my drawing hand AND to keep the visual hierarchy clear, my background characters are often loosely-drawn outline shadow things. I need at least one in there to imply more people are in the room. I use a few basic silhouettes for this to make it more readable - fox-eared canids, or floppy-eared canids (all Precocious-style, of course) and generic kitty ears, with hair that's either short or doesn't mess up the outline much, like ponytails for females. When it came time to elevate one, I decided to use the lady at the bar I'd drawn early on. (I put a male on the other end of the bar for options, but the lady was a better fit so he stayed away until I had another use for him, which you'll see... oh, it may be tomorrow!)  She began as a basic background form, so I turned to my guest stars (Mat, creator of Badly Drawn Kitties, and Mandy/Fox, creators of Curtailed) to help fill in design details. Mandy suggested I use a cross fox. 1) How did I not know cross foxes were a thing? 2)A character whose actions the character of Fox worries may be detrimental is a CROSS FOX. (*Miri voice* "Get it?") I am down with that bonus meaning!

(Sept 5) THE SUPERIOR LAKE : If you need a reminder of what Mat's referring to, here you go. This also calls back to Fox's previous interaction with them, when he had a good time at the Poppinstock Acaemy's Fall Festival. Oh, and in the realm of unintentional trauma, Fox refers to multiple Sapphire Lake kids being there, but doesn't give the number that are there. Mat's going to be on high alert, looking around for the kids he hasn't seen yet.

(Sept 4) ANOTHER CALLBACK : Hey, remember this! Continuity porn aside, what I like about Mat's theory of hiding in a place the kids have already ruined is the metahumor about the adventures in a time-locked daily strip. The kids are kids forever, but they must keep finding new things to play with to keep it fresh! Though, as this story shows, it's also a lot of fun to revisit past events sometimes. I really like this challenge of the daily strip comic format. You can't stray too far from the main themes, or the main characters, for too long - but it's the variety and evolution that keeps the comic going. Once this story winds down, I'll go back to one-week stories - and mix in some general humor that is far more accessible to a new reader. See, not ever Precocious story is meant for every Precocious reader - some aren't even meant for the MOST IMPORTANT reader (That's me. Why do it if I don't love it?) - but I certainly hope the overall impression something wonderful for everyone in the long run.

THE LOST ALT TEXT: At bedtime, I was writing myself a reminder for morning on a piece of "scrap" paper when I realized what it was... and all the awkwardness came flooding back.  In taking another look at those notes, I found that alt text and noted I let it slip away at every chance I had to use it. Now the time had passed and it was too late.

Some jokes get replaced as the plot evolves, and there's always one from an old draft that you want to save even though the story moved so far away from it. Also, even in a story as indulgent as this one, things do get cut for time. (The ending for this story could be one strip or one month of strips, depending on how deep I want to go.) If I like the lost bits I try to find a way to fold them into other scripts. Many times a comic's alt text is all the remains of an entire other script - but other times what starts as a casual alt text I made up on the spot (most alt text is like that - only thought of when it comes time to upload the comic) instead turns into a full comic update, so I guess it evens out!

You know what? Maybe I won't share that lost joke here. It was a failure as a small gag, and never landed right when I tried to use it, but it COULD be salvaged as the premise of a future series. It sounds like some weird failing upward thing, but the context of a premise is so important.

(Sept 3) ALMOST GOT HIM: The only trivia I have to share about September 3rd's comic is that Badly Drawn Kitties (comic not for kids), which is drawn by real-life Mat, is set in New Talia, so those are very small drawings of BDK's main characters on the beer bottle. BUT, since I intend to put a direct link at the top of the comment thread, let's spend the rest of our time contemplating themes needlessly so today's update has WORDS! (Dear everyone, you can read the rest of this entry for some joke telling insight, but better stuff is in the entries below.)

OK, so here's the thing about people: You can go up to many of them, ask them about what they like, reply "Oh yeah, you're such a typical ___ fan," and watch them FLAIL. People bristle, feeling a label reduces them to a stock item and not an individual. This is a cruel way to get people to attack something they love. "I like it but don't you dare label me as part of THAT fandom!" Variants of this thing clog the internet with hateful accusations, defensiveness and unneeded claims to individuality. (Also, why are we so willing to let any fandom be defined by the very worst in it, when THOSE PEOPLE are in all groups that have ever existed? If jerks want to use liking something as a weapon, shouldn't we try to reclaim that label and not give the jerks MORE power?) Anyway, please try not to be a jerk like that, or in other ways. The internet defaults to malicious, so the true online rebels and stand-outs are the ones with sincerity and empathy.

Yesterday, I predicted I'd get some of that blowback from the Mountain Dew joke. While I did not expect the "Is this real?" effect to be so strong - BTW, if you're a person who wants to complain about what I thought was an obvious joke NOT being an actual recipe to kill someone, you are INSANE and I am not letting you stay in my comments section - what I did expect was a handful of, "Liar! I drink Mountain Dew and I EAT VEGETABLES TOO!" people defending against the Dew-drinker stereotype. (I do applaud people for holding back on the "But Mountain Dew is ALREADY toxic!" gags. That's a bit tooooo easy.) As I said, I liked the joke, but I knew I was at risk by playing with stereotypes. (It's cheap humor when wielded bluntly.) Even though no sane person will say making fun of a soda is bigotry, there was a chance to unearth people don't like being boxed in no matter what! Things can get very cringe-worthy if people with low self-awareness lose it over stuff like soda pop, but that's less of a problem with small comics like Precocious, whose reader and commenting base is made of people who WANT to be there. (I don't get entitled folks thinking, "This is popular, so it'd better entertain me!" Yay internet solipsism!)

Anyway, that meandering mess about yet another self-destructive aspect of human psychology brings us to Miri, whose cuteness is so powerful she can wear down strong adults' defenses. When the theme is that MOST PEOPLE are affected, the "But I'M one who could overcome it!" thoughts start simmering in everyone's mind in a basic human rebellious response. As this story has progressed, I built a situation where all main adults involved are showing resistance, so EVERYONE is the unique exception. Well, that's boring, and SOMEONE had to crack - even if momentarily - and when it's the least-likely one it's much more fun!

(Sept 2) TOXIC MIXES: I posted this in the comments for September 1st's comic, but I'll repost it here: "You know how in Breaking Bad they use fake meth recipes so no one goes out and imitates? I am not putting in an actual 'severely harm/kill everyone in the room with chlorine gas' combination into the comic - even in an obvious 'this will kill you' context. It'd be a sly (and dark-humored) move, but nooooope." So, yes, I pulled that punch. Chalk it up to Mat blurting out two random deadly things without forming a master, kill-everyone plan due to his (highly understandable) surprise. BUT, I wasn't gonna let the idea of a deadly combo go without my own twist on it... (Mentally insert a link to the not-live-when-I-wrote-this comic here.) Many times you commenters catch me by surprise by going in weird and horrible directions, but this time I WAS AHEAD OF YOU! (Thematically, at least.) You just gotta realize a story unfolds one update at a time. If I don't address one obvious question right away, go with the assumption that it's a matter of time - not that I'm oblivious. Anyway, I'll go out by saying I fear the comments on 9/2's comic, but I liked the joke even if I risk the "actually..." and [the too-obvious joke] brigade.

EVOLVING DRAWING STYLE: Looking at my Inferior Lake artwork from a year ago for Mat references makes me cringe. It's a necessary evil, though, and one I consciously chose to take on way back when I first started. I knew I was trying to fast-forward learning how to draw comics, since I started the process in my late 20's. Instead of honing my skills through private practicing, which helps one improve faster, once I felt I had I worked up to a low level of competency, I decided to work out my drawing issues as I updated.  This means the process is slower, and all my experimenting with styles and techniques and proportions and whatnot are out there for all to see, success or failure. It can make me cringe as an artist, but the result I put someone new out there for everyone to read each day. That's far more important to me, and it does mean I learned to push through the rough stuff and accept imperfections, rather than let it derail me too severely. I can always experiment and improve, but improvement won't matter if no one's around to see that slow progress if there are no updates to read. (Advice for aspiring cartoonists: You learn comics best by MAKING COMICS. Draw MANY test comics, and it's totally cool to keep that early awkwardness to yourself. I made a not-to-be-seen Precocious story to learn, and that was redone into a great big bonus story for book one, which was VERY therapeutic for me.)

(Sept 1) ON MAT (MOSTLY THE REAL DUDE): Let's remind you about our dear friend (Precociousverse) Mat, who can't catch a break. Real-life Mat is Mat Sherer, creator of Badly Drawn Kitties (not for kids) and my perennial table buddy at Anthrocon. (I Precocized his avatar to drag him into my comic universe.) This year's AC at one point had me, Mat, and the Curtailed duo hanging at the table, which is a bunch of concentrated awesome (and me). Mat was originally intended to be in the bonus story (story for that is below) that introduced the bar, in a little cameo, but since that story got delayed along with the book 4 preorder due to my ill health (along with everything except Precocious updates) I let him come play at The Winchester to pull us to the next plot point!

ON MAT (THE PRECOCIUS CHARACTER): In the Precocious universe, the character of Mat is someone the kids could have been friends with... until bad things happened. Blaming the kids, mostly Bud, for costing him two jobs (though he may have been wrong about one), Mat got a new job. It didn't last for SOME REASON. (He has a habit of snapping on the job, doesn't he?) So now he's back, in another new job! And, hey, that place sounds familiar... (And, according to this guest strip by Ahmed Fahim, the kids know it well.)

LOCAL BUSINESSES TRIVIA: Oh, and looking up those links reminded me of something! The place that inspired "The Death Palace" (which became The Gingerbread House, next to Larrick's Toys) DID end up going out of business fairly recently. I should check back soon to see if it becomes a bakery! I had long since forgotten where the tombstone place was located when I drew that comic, but driving to my new place from a doctor's appointment happened to take me by it. I'd chosen random Winchester street names for it at the time, AND misspelled one in the process, so I went back and put in the correct road for it for a dumb little bit of personal continuity. (Though it's still not on the corner.) Fun trivia: Before the change, of the three Winchester streets I've put in Precocious, I misspelled two of them - one of which I MADE CERTAIN I had it right. I did all the research, pulled up the spelling reference, and my attention span managed to wander in the second it took to turn from the screen and letter. (It was hand-lettering, which meant spell check couldn't save me either.) Not the first time I did all the research and note-taking only to get it flat-out wrong once my pen hit the paper anyway. This is my brain, people. It's a miracle I get anything done ever. (In some doctor's office somewhere are the papers from when I was tested for ADHD - in which I was given a sheet of math questions, did them correctly in the margins, and somehow managed to write obviously wrong gibberish in the answer sections. Yeah. Yeah, it turns out I have a pretty severe case.)

(Aug 31 and before) THE PROBLEMATIC NAMES: I mentioned the name of the bar was Fox's idea. It's a Shaun of the Dead reference, and continues a taunting cameo tradition of troublesome names. You see, I live in a city called... Winchester! I also really try not to play up any animal stuff for this comic. They're just humans in cute veneer, and should be treated as humans. The closest I get to using animal terms is when I say "tail" because I don't want to write "ass" in the comic - which is also something humans say a bunch. So now I have a fox character named Fox, because that's his ACTUAL name. And let's not forget the good old Ginger brigade, stolen from/inspired by Ginger's Bread.  What's the character's last name? Paulsen. C'MON, YOU GUYS.

BRUNO, THE WINCHESTER EMPLOYEE: This bar requires more than two employees, so I offered my colorist, Jason McDonald, a chance to design a character. He wanted one based on his old family dog, Bruno, so Bruno is running around doing the heavy lifting whenever Seley or Fox get distracted! You should assume other staff members are there too. I mean, we KNOW there's a kitchen staff for nacho-making! I'm not giving away cameos willy nilly for this one, so a lot of locals and staff will remain unseen, or space-filler characters I made up, unless I feel like rewarding a specific person. Remember: This story was written for generic bar people at first, then adapted when the Curtailed crew allowed me to use them. I got to expand on the roles and wallow around in fun cross-comic joy because of it. (Not the most professional thing, really, but it's SO MUCH FUN and lets readers of each comic potentially find a new comic to read and love!)

ARRANGING SCENES IN COMICS (KINDA CHEATING!): Just like my "Last Supper Table" joke (side note: If you followed my Twitter ramblings a while back, you'd know that's my take on the 1970's game of Happiness - one I played a LOT as a child), you have to concede a bit of leeway when it comes to fitting the important characters in panel. The bar may be Saturday-evening busy, but it's hard to show conversations between two characters of disparate heights behind a bar that is also blocked by people. So I thank all those attending The Winchester during the night of this story for standing just off frame, or far enough back they can blend into the background.

FOX AND SELEY WERE RETURNING NO MATTER WHAT: Since Fox and Seley's original cameo came during the Fall Festival, and it helped spark a friendship with people far FAR above me on the coolness scale, I continued with those good vibes. The two visited the kids' bar to start, so now the kids visit THEIR bar. This was my favorite option for their return, after they let me make their cheap-ripoff copies Precociousverse people, but there were two other possibilities: One in a twist ending to a story that I won't specify here, and one in the story that I probably would have run if I decided to save Weekend of Bernie's for next year. I didn't want to launch into a grand story if my health was super shaky, so I ended up holding off for four weeks before taking the plunge. (Which means September has been sacrificed on the "Still Summer" altar AGAIN. Sorry, Autumn and Max, yet another chance at a dual birthday story is lost.)

THE BACKSTORY OF THE BAR: Technically, there's a third story that could have had the return of Seley and Fox, in that their pub was originally going to be introduced in a bonus story for book four's Kickstarter backers, just like the story "Gus" was for book three. (In a very vague way, this story could be a sequel to "Gus.") I ended up being too sick this year to produce book four, much less ANY of the bonus stories I'd planned, but I'm keeping it on my to-do list for when I *can* launch a Kickstarter. (For those who missed "Gus," either wait a few years for it to make it to print, or hope I finally get enough energy to launch that Patreon with a PDF of bonus, non-website content as a backer incentive.) I was also briefly tempted to do the bar discovery story as a Precocious arc, since this year, my Anthrocon table featured the Curtailed team - plus the now-revealed Mat of Badly Drawn Kitties - so it'd be good timing - but I knew I wasn't prepared to launch it when I'd need to.

THE EARLIER NOTES: Remember to check the initial post! That has the basic backstory, and includes the story of how my friendship with Kat Feete helped boost the character of Miri!

(More to come! Remember, new updates go to the top of the notes.)

*Please, no "Why don't you just [do something that requires a massive time, energy and/or monetary investment]?" comments. I'm VERY ill, and this is all I can do at the moment. I don't intend to stay that way, but I must tread water for now. Now, I know I must apologize for cartoonist snark, since rational people might read it as rudeness - and not realize preemptive defensiveness is done for a reason. Being kind to a content provider may sound like common sense, but this is the internet. There's no filter to stop people from blurting things out without thinking. That's fine if you're doing a happy "Squee!" or "HA!" or something similar in comments, but people with no common sense and low situational awareness blurt out everything - and even nobody cartoonists like me see a LOT of it. (While complaints that boil down to "I want to even more!" can be taken as a poorly-formed compliment, it's still rude. Especially for someone putting out daily content. Double especially if  you're whining at someone who is fighting through various issues.)  It's the internet conundrum, Far too many clever, supportive people are too shy to speak up (I'm one of these, and haven't conquered that yet, so I understand), get scared away by cartoonists saying stuff like what's in this paragraph, or get driven away by not wanting to be associated with those oblivious blatherers. Boo. Let's have a revolution of rational kindness, entertaining enthusiasm and empathetic sincerity! Most crazies will probably never read this far, so you're surely passed the commenting test! Small-time comics are usually already safe spaces, but we can always make them more vibrant! And let's make other comment spaces better too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hey, I know you! (Story inspirations!)

Click the pic to revisit the Precocious/Curtailed crossover!

(UPDATE: Since this post is already too long, I added even MORE backstory and random tidbits to a second post. Click here to go read it!)

I like to make summers in Precocious a little bit epic. Figuring this is when people either take breaks from their computers, or have the time to invest more online reading effort, I use it as an opportunity to write longer stories with lots of callbacks and continuity nods. If you're not paying attention, or paying EXTRA attention to details from the archvies, you'll find a big, rich story waiting for you to consume all at once. I see it as a reward for long-term, dedicated readers, and indulgent fun for me! (I have enough long-term readers that I'm confident any needed callback/reference link will end up in the comments section eventually.)

Aunt Bernie's visit was a story I deliberately sat on for YEARS, until the timing was right AND I had the full story set in my mind. (Take a look at Uncle Mike's mis-remembered names of Sky's twins, from nearly four and a half years ago.) Every so often during these years, I'd get a Bernie idea and add it to my notes. As that foundation built up, so did inspirations. In this post, I'm covering the two big ones: Miri and the pub!

Two years ago, I walked into the Small Press Expo and met Kat Feete, fellow SpiderForest member and creator of Sunset Grill. (Comic not for kiddies.) I also got to meet her lovely family, including her IMPOSSIBLY CUTE daughter.  I told Kat about a character I was working on for a future story, who was so cute she drove Autumn mad, and Kat began to share stories of how her Kidlet was able to melt hearts and do "this can't be real" adorable things. At the next SPX, she had even more tales to share! Both the links above were directly adapted from real-life stories told to me by Kat. Now that the story has finally been unleashed, coming with Bernie was a cute little girl named Miriam, whose look is a direct Precocizing of the almighty Kidlet. You can find several more stories I want to steal on her Kidlet Roundup.

I had a problem with Bernie's story, that caused it to sit half-finished for so long. I was missing an element to make it worthy of the wait, and, since I intend to let Precocious go as long as I have stories to tell, I felt no pressure to rush it out before it was ready. Near the end of last year, I finally hit upon The Plan. Slowly but surely, Act II began to come together in my notes - and Act II eventually required a visit to a bar.

With me being an unlovable and broken shut-in, I only know two people who are socially adept enough to visit bars, and they happen to be the creators of a certain amazing comic! I'd written Mandy long ago about adopting Seley and Fox as expanded-universe characters in Precocious - Meaning, they're not *actually* the characters from their comic, but strong inspirations for Precociousverse evil twins who take the roles of what would have otherwise gone to one-off random characters. When I finally got to meet them in-person (naturally, at a bar!) I gave them the overview of the bar section from the Bernie story, allowing them to take those roles if they approved. (Makes sense, as The two visited the kids' bar when they appeared in the Fall Festival arc, so now the kids visit THEIR bar.) They gave me tips of what their bar would look like (the name was Fox's idea) and I tried to match things up where the story (and my crummy bar-drawing ability) allowed. I'm not sure how Nerd Night-y they'd actually go, but it's an important element for a side story that will likely be a stretch goal incentive for the next book preorder. Perhaps Precociousverse duplicate Fox and Seley are a little bit lamer than their source comic, counterparts, but, well, that's really a given - seeing as *I'm* writing for them instead of Fox: The Worlds Most Interesting Man.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

No news, so look at this kitten!

Since I'm still fighting the health stuff, my life is mostly about keeping pace and ensuring Precocious updates every day. (Thanks so much to Jason McDonald for helping with coloring to give me some pressure relief! I'm chipping away at the few remaining bits of owed work I took on before I kerploded thanks to him.) Very little time/energy is left to do much else, and that "else" is currently a massive house set-up maintenance project... and this surprise visitor. (You can click on most pics for larger versions.)

This cat is 50% tail. Photos can't do it justice.

The Paulsen family is full of super softies. If we see a kitten without a home we will try to help them. For example: One time I walked into my boss' office (back when I was doing website maintenance) and told him, "My mother saw a kitten behind Taco Bell. I have to go." He knew better than to try and stop me. (That's when we got Jerkcat, by the way.) When I pulled up to the new house late one night and saw a mother cat with kittens, no way I couldn't start feeding them and try to make their lives better.

I was feeding the strays, and then one walked inside! (Why wait for me to toss food when he could simply go up to the dish holding the chicken?) As you can see in those eyes above, both of us were very surprised and confused at this development.

He (well, we think it's a he) is starting to adjust to this fostering situation. Currently at kitty bi-polar state, starting half our interactions with a hiss/cry before conceding, "OK, I really want to be petted."

Giant ears. Big paws. Tail a mile long. Very lanky. Totally looks like a long coat coming in. This cat will grow up to be giant and MAJESTIC. (This photo courtesy of my mother.)

At peace (for now). He'll soon meet my other kitties, and then we'll see what happens.