Sunday, May 27, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 124: Tranny Towers, Ch. 26

Once more into the breach with the next chapter!
Another tearsheet scan. This one definitely needs to be rescanned from the original art. There are dropouts in the bar in the bottom left panel, and the big text in the center tier is actually 50% gray outlined in black.
Plot notes: this is the point where the Agnes Nixon axiom comes into play. The strip is fundamentally a soap opera, and Nixon, who created some of the best (including the sorely missed Ryan's Hope), once noted that soap opera plotting consists  of people doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons.
There's also some wish fulfillment here. This is how part of me wishes I would have behaved in a similar situation. Though it accomplishes nothing, telling off someone who's humiliated you in that singular way (not having the courage to let you know what's going on and making you find out the hard way) does have a bitter satisfaction, however Pyrrhic and short-lived the victory.
Simply put, it's one of those times when you REALLY want to tell someone off, though you know it will do no good at all, just for your own pride.
Swipe file notes: the title is properly credited to Howard Cruse, whose gentle wit inspires me. The masthead text is copied freehand from a book of Art Deco typefaces (a Dover book, I think). The line "dishonorable and gutless" comes from the powerful film Cutter's Way.
Next: Chapter 27, the street fight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 123: Tranny Towers, p.25

Posting a tad late, technically Monday.
Got in from MNCBA exhausted, slept on the couch for five hours after getting in (!), but our table raised close to $500 for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, not counting monies raised at the art auction. Yay volunteering! Yay free speech! More about this later this week.
Right now, it's time to post the next chapter of Tranny Towers.

Again scanned from a tearsheet. Some dropouts in this one, notably the lines on the pole.
Quirky little things to notice: Rick's last name is O'Shay, a nod to the classic Western comic strip by Stan Lynde. Tigger is on drums!
This was foreshadowed by the poster on the wall in the phone conversation chapter ("Duke Ellingtoon") which set the stage, so to speak, for Rick as a jazz man.
Brings to mind Marge's lines in the early Simpsons episode: "Lisa, stay away from that jazzman!" (then speaking to Bleeding Gums Murphy) "Nothing personal, I just have  deep fear of the unknown."
Back to the page.
The rendering of the bar doesn't stand up to scrutiny very well, but it's a plausible environment. Had real fun drawing the jazz combo and the design-y hipster poster on the phone pole. I didn't notice till after I saw it in print that I just plain forgot to put cars on the street!
The panel break intruding on the stage between the second and third tiers on the left is a little disconcerting once you notice it, but it scans fairly well.
As regards the narrative,  the climactic moment is the instant of pure dread in a doomed relationship, where you realize that the object of your desire not only does not reciprocate your affection, but offers it to another. In Dena's case, this pain is exacerbated by her competition being cisgendered, or as we used to say, a genetic female.
As the tag line indicates, the magazine skipped a week for Christmas.
Thanks for holding out a few extra hours, and we'll be back next week with the next chapter.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Original Art Sundays no. 122: Tranny Towers, p. 24

I'm going to finish posting these all before moving on to something else. Putting Tranny Towers to bed will feel good, and it will be nice to give my faithful readers (if such there be) some continuity after a long and shoddy period of irregular output.
The strips we're getting into now come after the book submitted for the Xeric Grant, so they have not been reprinted since their original appearance. Please note that we are currently in the final grant cycle for comics!
This is scanned from a tear-sheet in Lavender magazine, known at the time as Lavender Lifestyles. I've done some light cleanup and re-sized the scan. I will rescan from the original before going to press, but this scan provides an unexpected opportunity to discuss a related issue (see below).

This page sets up what turned out to be the final two story arcs, with Dena's love life as the first story, and Trina's relationship coming next.
I like the masthead quite a bit, and there's a fair amount of story for such an introspective page.
As always, still a bit of work to do here, but it will serve until we go to press, yes?
Logistics issues: the dual-column narrative is not as effective as I hoped. I'll add a white divider down the meridian pre-press. The text needs re-lettering, particularly on the crowded central panel of column two. My font of choice for this remains Clean Cut Kid, purchased last year during the font sale at Comicraft for cheap. I like their stuff, but even on sale, it's usually a tad rich for my blood.
The other issue I alluded to above relates to the original printing of these strips.
Here's a full page scan of the original tear-sheet. I've blurred out the ads, but left the neighboring strip, The Wet Ones, which I rather liked, intact.

This is actually a  bit of an improvement from past print runs. The early strips ran at 1/4 of a printed page, roughly 8 1/2" x 11", so the strip occupied a space of roughly 2 3/4"  x 4 3/4 ". Around this time, the magazine was giving a full page to Alison Bechel's Dykes to Watch Out For. Now, I love Alison's work, always have, but come on. The other strips are crammed in like this?
Around this time I began asking for increased space. About six strips later, they increased my allotted space, but reformatted the strip without my knowledge or consent. After finally getting to talk in person with the designer, we settled on a new format that ran for the balance of the strip. That format begins about eight strips from now.
For purposes of completeness, I will show the reformatted strips along with their originals when we get to them.
Next Sunday: Tranny Towers, chapter 25.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Original Art Sundays No. 121: A Private Myth, p. 24

I've been wrestling with this page for a month now.
Here's why. Take a look at the page rough.
Working up the rough, I was never happy with the first panel. I wanted the page to move through a lot of action very quickly, beginning with the moment to which this has been building.
I tried the slap from several angles and was happy with none. It just didn't work!
Her reaction was never quite powerful enough, there was no indication of the emotions of the aggressor. It was all too static.
But I didn't realize that.
I got hung up on getting the physical dynamics of the slap right.
I like looking to other artists and comic creators for suggestion and inspiration. It's an excuse to use my collection as a swipe file.
But there are very few slaps in comics, much to my surprise.
I looked at some 40s crime stuff, my copy of Romance Without Tears, and some superhero stuff. Lots of slugfests, even some planets being tossed about, but not slaps.
In frustration, I started re-reading Strangers in Paradise to take my mind off the problem.
And there it was.
But I still couldn't make it quite work.
That's when I  realized, as my Dad used to say, I was putting the ac-CENT on the wrong syl-LA-ble.
The crucial thing wasn't the technical accuracy of the slap, but the slap itself.
It's a big moment, and I had it crammed into a corner.
So worrying less about detail, I turned the Bristol over and drew the final.
Better. Not perfect, but better.
The energy comes through, and the poses and expressions are, if not spot on, plausible. As David Chelsea observed in his book on perspective in comic art, it gives a sense of where things are, physically and emotionally.
This was an emotionally difficult page, but since it's been almost two decades since I endured something similar, it was a tad easier this time than it was as a story element in an earlier Tranny Towers strip.
This is also the first full splash page I've used in this story. Since it's such a key moment, I think that's apropos.
My classes end Tuesday night, my final grades are due at the Records office next Monday. I have  a bit more time to work on my storytelling, though the deadline for the next volume of the Comic Encyclopedia looms large.
Long and short, new art next week.
And as I tell my students, thank you for your time and indulgence.