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  Facebook! Twitter! Sleep! Sleep!Jul 31, 2010 9:30 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:I made a grayed-up version of this, but somehow it just wanted to be straight black and white, so there you have it!
 
Say did you know I'm hip to the crazy Internet stuff all the kids are into these days? Facebook and Twitter and...eh...things? It's true! At least, you can follow A* on Facebook and/or A* on Twitter.
 
I suppose I should put those links on the front page permanently like all the other webcomics do but I seem to have some sort of allergy to corporate logos, so they'll stay tucked away on the "about" page for the most part. But fear not! I'm constantly updating them with A*...updates! Ah-yep.
 
Okay and for being a good sport and reading this far, you get the bonus alternate caption version of today's page:
 
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Can you even believe that just happened!? (By the way, in the main version he's actually air-typing commands to his ship using little contact buttons on the inside of his suit's fingertips, not casting spells--but isn't it just the same thing really?) Continue having a nice weekend and stuff!
 
 
 
 
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  Got a public health risk? Nuke it!Jul 30, 2010 7:54 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:You know, it's kind of hard to draw a person with their face all distorted by loathing and not have them come out really hideous-looking. Hm. Oh well, I guess that's why they tell beauty pageant contestants to tone down the loathing and turn up the smiling.
 
I've polished off the two volumes of Jeff Hawke I got recently, and they were good fun, and gave me some excellent ideas for how to illustrate science fiction adventures. There's a quote on the back from Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen fame), calling the series a "mix of whimsy, hard science fiction, and stunning draftsmanship." But what with all kinds of wacky aliens, faster-than-light-travel, brain-altering ray-beams, and so forth, calling Jeff Hawke *hard* science fiction is probably not something its authors would have attempted themselves.
 
I'm mentioning this because as I read the last included story today, "A Test Case," which ran from '62-'63, I came across a rather cringe-worthy case of pseudo-scientific adventuring that...well I don't think it was researched very heavily, and gives some insight into early '60s attitudes toward nuclear weapons. Things had advanced a bit since the heavy nuke testing back in the '40s, but they were still way more cavalier about nuclear weapons and radiation than we are in these post-Cold War, post-Chernobyl, post-Three Mile Island days.
 
In the story, a British nuclear physicist, equipped with advanced alien technological know-how, destroys a UK nuclear power plant with the disintegration ray he made from a portable electric heater (whose construction treated us to a typical Jeff Hawke summary of alien technological know-how: "If I take a lead from the radio output at this stage, and get all the germanium crystals at a low-frequency resonance... Then use this reflector to concentrate the beam..."). The radioactive gas cloud from the wrecked plant is being blown toward a nearby town. Hawke and his buddy Mac scramble in a fighter jet, get permission from the government to use a nuclear weapon, and Hawke nukes the gas with a lovely mushroom cloud over the English countryside. "I don't get the theory of this!" exclaims Mac. Fortunately, Hawke assures us that nuclear 1 plus 1 equals zero: "It's simple, Mac--we've created an enormous thermal, which is drawing the gas cloud up into the stratosphere!"
 
'K. Well, even assuming that the nuclear blast would suck up most of the pre-existing radioactive gas into its thermal vortex, instead of just scattering it far and wide sideways across the countryside, sticking dangerous stuff into the stratosphere is *not* what you want to do, because then you turn a local problem into a worldwide problem. For instance, a nuclear-powered US military satellite that burned up on reentry after failing to achieve orbit in 1964 released radioactive plutonium-238--twice as much as had been released by all previous atmospheric nuclear testing combined!--into the stratosphere, resulting in a *global* three-fold increase in plutonium-238 fallout.
 
And then there's the little fact that you've now added a plentiful new dose of radiation into the mix from the bomb itself, and propelled a good amount of it up into the air so it will scatter down everywhere as fallout.
 
So yeah, way to go, Hawke! Ahem. Writer Willie Patterson's inspiration for the radiation cloud may have been the 1957 reactor fire at the Windscale nuclear plant in England, which released a radioactive cloud across the countryside, and is estimated to have led to over 200 cancer-related deaths in the area.
 
Indeed, Wikipedia's List of military nuclear accidents is sobering reading, especially considering that this is only the stuff that militaries have had to own up about! For instance, a dozen or so nuclear bombs or torpedoes have been lost since the '50's, mostly by the US, and never recovered--in the '50s and '60s, nuke-laden bombers were flying and crashing all over the place. Jeesh. Then there's horrible stuff like the accident at the SL-1 reactor in Idaho in 1961, where a reactor went flash-critical, instantly vaporizing its coolant, and the resulting pressure wave blasted its roof off, impaling one operator to the ceiling with a nuclear control rod; his body--still pinned to the ceiling above the ruined reactor--wasn't found and recovered until six days later. :o
 
And finally, I'll expose you to Operation Emery, a series of underground nuclear tests from '70 to '71 in Nevada, during which six percent of one detonation's radioactive products unexpectedly vented to the surface through fissures, raining down on workers at the surface:
 
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It got into winter storms, falling as radioactive snow in five states, and was carried by three jet streams to Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean. Buuuut I'm sure it was all harmless way up there in the atmosphere like that, as Jeff Hawke explained to Mac. Whew.
 
 
 
 
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  Loads of LassosJul 29, 2010 5:14 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:A* Breakfast Cereal! Get some radiation in your bowl!
 
Hey you know A* is on deviantART, where you can comment and collect individual A* drawings and stuff. Anyway, recently I was pulled in as co-founder of an art group there called #Lasso-Tool, which now has quite a few nifty pieces of lasso-generated artwork in its gallery; we even scored a significant coup when superhero comic artist extraordinaire Adam Hughes contributed a piece showing his lasso tool coloring work, gosh! So if you want to see what other people besides me are doing with Photoshop's Lasso Tool these days, check it out!
 
 
 
 
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  Sometimes drawing goes smoothlyJul 28, 2010 6:03 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:One whole page today, goshhhhhh!
 
Yesterday's page 47 was I think maybe my best drawing of Selenis' face so far, and it went unusually smoothly, so I figured I'd show you a little animation of the general drawing process (with the Lasso Tool in Photoshop):
 
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Oh although it did skip the first few steps, which in this case was drawing an oval thing for the general head/helmet shape, then squiggling in the two eye shapes with a single lasso loop each. If a drawing looks good to me after that point I'll keep going, otherwise it's time to junk it and start over!
 
 
 
 
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  Getting driftedJul 27, 2010 7:54 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Speaking of things drifting away, NASA posted an article this past Friday about star HE 0437-5439, classified as a "blue straggler": it's a massive, hot blue star 200,000 miles from the center of our galaxy, and high above the galactic plane. It's so far away that it's actually closer to some of our tiny neighboring galaxies, and scientists had initially thought it had come from one of them, but now by comparing its position in current and 3-year-old Hubble photographs, they've been able to determine that it's moving away from the center of our galaxy. (To give you an idea of the scant evidence astronomers are used to working with: even in Hubble's high-resolution images, the star had moved only 4% of a single pixel!)
 
This raised some questions: namely, how did it acquire its unusually high rate of speed--1.6 million mph (2.5 million kph -- by way of reference, the speed of light is about 1 billion kph)--and how did a blue giant, which should only live for 20 million years, survive to what appears to be a 100 million year point in its voyage from the center of our galaxy?
 
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image by NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)
 
NASA's current theory is that it is the remnant of what was originally a triple star system--a binary and a large primary--that moved too close to our galaxy's central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*: the large primary star in the system got sucked into A*, and the binary was flung away at very high speed. Then at some point in their voyage, the stars in the perturbed binary merged to form the blue giant we see today.
 
Which all just goes to show that even triple star systems shouldn't mess with A*. By the way, I don't think the depiction of A* and the area around it in that diagram above is really supposed to be to-scale/realistic; its event horizon is way smaller than that relative to the rest of the galaxy, and anyway it's surrounded by loads and loads of dust and gas that would prevent you from seeing the hole--not that you can really see black holes anyway. I do find it interesting that in this picture they made the stuff around it red; I wonder if that's meant to reflect the idea that as things fall into the event horizon, the light they give off gets stretched out, getting ever redder and fainter, until it fades out entirely as they cross the event horizon.
 
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There's a new Princess and the Giant page up if you're interested in catching the latest from my weekly fairy tale comic. This one came out kind of weird--I seem to have been going through a Mannerist phase or something, ew--and also kept me up all night with the drawing of it, which has been the case more often than not lately; so I was stumbling around all sleep-deprived and sort of irritated with myself, when by some happy chance I found a Frank Frazetta picture book that I had bought some three years ago and immediately misplaced and forgot--it was still in its shrink wrap! So looking through that cheered me up; his work is so inspiring. And it reminded me that he spent his first nine years as a commercial artist working on comics! I'd love to see one of those collections of his Li'l Abner work from that period.
 
 
 
 
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  Space heating and other hobbiesJul 24, 2010 11:04 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:One page and man, way too involved in the making!
 

I do like how Selenis came out in this, though--the hard, slender face and body type suits her I think. Also concentrated a bit more on adding some folds to her costume to give it a sense of being a suit, rather than just being a second skin. And of course you didn't see this coming at ALL but I made a banner version:
 
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Now if you caught this page just as it uploaded, you actually saw a completely different drawing of Vero:
 
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and it wasn't until after I thought I was all done that I realized I didn't like his pose--the head had got turned wrong from how I had had it--and rather liked it--in the original storyboard:
 
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So...I redrew him completely for what's hopefully the final version currently in place. :P Both of these started as a rough trace of the storyboard; I don't like to do that most of the time, but sometimes if I have a storyboard that just came out really neat in terms of layout, capturing that layout for the final version is impossible by any other means. Still, tracing can deaden things--you aren't generating new inspiration while you do it, ya see--so in the rare times I feel I have to do it, I try to keep it very general and loose. But that ended up steering me wrong in the first try, AND it was way, way late by the time I decided to redraw it, so the second attempt was a much tighter trace for the outline, and I guess it ended up working out okay. Pshaw. Dont' worry though, I still spent waaaay more time on that tiny little Selenis in the corner. ;)
 
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Heat in space is an interesting phenomenon, because although space itself, by and large, is very cold--just a few degrees above the coldest anything can possibly get--space is also empty, so heat that does occur doesn't have much place to go. This means that cooling, not heating, is the main concern for climate control in space suits and space ships, because they have to find some way to offset their accumulation of body and mechanical heat: any heat that does happen, such as radiating from a human, just stays around in the space station, otherwise, because there's no material in the vacuum to which the heat would transfer--unlike, as we are, in Earth's atmosphere, where heat can always transfer away into the air.
 
I figure the nuclear overload and detonation of Fizer's fighter probably kicked a good deal of heat energy into this fairly large, heavy metal asteroid. With no atmosphere to leak out into, the area around the blast site will take a while to cool down (on the other hand, with no atmosphere to carry it and no effective gravity to hold it, there's no real danger of radioactive fallout, at least; I think the asteroid surface would still have absorbed and be re-emitting pretty hefty amounts of hard radiation for a while, though, which is mostly what Vero was worried about when he wanted to wait a while before going out there).
 
The complex Vero and Selenis have broken into is pressurized--has an atmosphere, even though they haven't tried breathing it (Vero's hand and foot gas propulsion units suck it in and use it for their jets, though, so they don't have to waste their own reserves of pressurized gas)--and while some of that atmosphere is leaking out through unsealed cracks somewhere caused by the explosion, it's also absorbing some of the heat from the explosion that's sitting around in the asteroid.
 
Eh or such is my theory, it's not like I try learning the math for all this. :D This chart, which I linked once before, shows that at ground zero of a 1 megaton nuclear blast, which is very tiny by today's nuclear weapon standards, but might not be all that far off from what an overloading single-person fighter's reactor might have done (maybe I'd call it more like 5-10 MT just for fun? Oh I dunno), each square centimeter of ground, if it was water, would absorb 3500 calories of heat energy; a calorie is the energy required to heat a cubic centimeter (milliliter) of water by one degree Celsius. So, pretty toasty warm. Although a lot of the hottest ground-zero material would have been kicked out into space, I suppose.
 
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You know what else is hotting up is that "Death Boy" story in my other daily comic, "Sketchy," which started a couple weeks ago here and, if you caught my last link about it last week, continued at the beginning of this week starting here. Power of a very different kind is about to be unleashed there, whee!
 
 
 
 
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  This is how bad-asses fly topsideJul 23, 2010 7:04 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Topside! >_> I dunno, it sounded good. :P
 
And is that a dangerous way for Selenis to fly with her arm jet, or what? But it looks bad-ass, and that's what matters... Because she really wants to impress Vero, yeah, that's it. Ahem.
 
Speaking of her impressing, the universe told me to make two more banner variants of that page 38 image of her:
 
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I think the whitish one on the right is probably more eye-catching, but the black background one is easier on the eyes. Hm.
 
 
 
 
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  Too many grays, too few fingersJul 22, 2010 4:33 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Things are hotting up, as the British say so charmingly.
 
Seems like I've been doing a lot of experimenting with my grays this week; one thing I've wanted to get more comfortable with is using them on their own, without black behind them. This seems to work well for Selenis' hair, for instance; in page 43 I drew her hair outlines in black, but the drawing was much clearer when I converted them to gray. And before that on page 42 I'd learned a good lesson, because at first I had three pretty complicated gray layers in the interiors of the figures--I think I was insecure about using them without black backing them up, so I kept piling them on--but that got confusing to look at, too, so I added a fourth layer of gray in broad, simpler shapes, and that came out so well on its own that I was able to ditch the previous gray layers and just go with the one simple one.
 
Say I made another important art history discovery in my perusal of Sydney Jordan's Jeff Hawke: he uses this devious intergalactic criminal "Chalcedon" in a few stories, and he doesn't draw attention to it, but he gave the character a special physical characteristic, aside from his unusual face:
 
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Quick ma, how many fingers? As you can see on the left, Jordan drew Chalcedon with six fingers per hand; but apparently the artist they got to draw the covers for the two volumes in this recent compilation, Brian Bolland, didn't notice that, and oops his rendering of Chalcedon for the cover, on the right there, is a few fingers short. Strange that everyone missed that, and particularly Bolland, who even collaborated with Jordan as ghost-illustrator of an unpublished Jeff Hawke story in 1977. And although Bolland is okay, wouldn't it have been both cheaper and closer to the spirit of the collection to blow up some of the old, actual Jordan art for the cover?
 
Well, here's some more Jordan art, just a panel I particularly liked:
 
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Jordan, good as he is at drawing men, seems less comfortable rendering women, and tends to give them shoulders like linebackers, but I still love the composition, lighting, and abstract ring of dots around the airlock in that panel from the 1961-62 story "Counsel for the Defense."
 
 
 
 
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  They're two! They're new! They're comics!Jul 21, 2010 5:29 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Two whole pages, and aren't they a lovely couple? <3
 
Byeeeee the way, did you happen to check out the new page of my fairy tale comic "The Princess and the Giant" that went up over the weekend? Because if you didn't, here's a handy link/preview for your clicking pleasure:
 
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  A* Episode 10, Page 39Jul 20, 2010 8:02 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Well somebody set off a hand grenade or something and the cops shut down the beach, so I got to get home an hour or two early to start drawing a comic for today, which is good because while initially I had thought the next one was a close-up of Vero's helmet, which would be relatively quick to draw, when I was thinking about it earlier this afternoon I realized that I'd stuck the line that page was supposed to have, "Is she--," on *Friday's* comic, which in my script and storyboards had been planned to be silent. So there's no use for the Vero close-up page after all, which means I get to skip to the next page, which will take longer to draw because it has a girl in it. And just so I'm not rippin' you off, here's a suuuuper bonus of the skipped page's storyboard!
 
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Wowwwwww, check out that cube and Pac-Man ghost and stuff. :o|D
 
I was checking out the site on my brother's fancy-schmancy new Android phone thingy at the beach, and it actually works pretty well in that thing's browser. I was thinking that the prev/next text links were a little on the tiny side, but for one thing the browser lets you increase font size anyway, and for another, you can totally just click on each comic image to move to the next one, which is a feature of my own comic that I keep forgetting about. ;)
 
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Added 1 new A* page:Oh gray backgrounds, why do you keep tempting me? The combination of gray rear wall and gray foreground shadows proved really not well suited to quick execution with my drawing method. I gotta get this weird gray urge outta my head, rarrarararh.
 
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Late on Sunday I for some reason started messing around with that page from episode 9 on which a drawing of Selenis came out looking oddly like Marilyn Monroe, or anyway not really like Selenis does usually. I tried angling it a bit and making it into a banner
 
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but I dunno, it's a little rough and I think not quite the thing. Then I thought hey if I'm making like it's Monroe then why not Warhol it up a little, from which resulted this thing, a larger version of which you can get to in the episode 9 gallery by clicking on this smallish version:
 
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/shrug :P
 
 
 
 
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  Smoking mirrorsJul 17, 2010 9:09 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Yep just one big fat page; probably just have one late page Monday, too, since my friends want to try another "beach party" on that day (yes they party on Mondays :P). :o Going to have to see if I can avoid touching hot metal objects such as campfire holding thingies this time, because that didn't work out so well last time.
 
Say, in my other daily comic, Sketchy, I've rudely interrupted the main "story," as it were, with a little short story, sort of an old-fashioned sci-fi "what if" type of thing. "The Tale of Death Boy" began here this past week, and here's a tiny sample:
 
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Super dramatic, am I right?! :o
 
By the way, were you wondering what Selenis in today's A* page might look like rightside-up, or maybe the other way 'round, and didn't want to risk your fragile monitor or neck by rotating things? Well fear not, for the solution is upon you in the form of these little banners I just whipped up:
 
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Necks & monitors = saved! I'll admit that if I do have a character who's upside-down or sideways or something in a picture, I generally rotate the canvas in Photoshop and draw them rightside-up, then rotate it back--because it's pretty dang hard to draw people upside-down if you haven't practiced drawing them that way all along...which I haven't. :P Leonardo da Vinci probably could've done it just fine, though; darn him and his mirror writing.
 
 
 
 
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  Black pages, the Younger Holbein, and MoreJul 16, 2010 4:21 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 3 new A* pages:Ah, good ol' page 35. Yes, that is an all-black page (actually it's an army of crows fighting the panther rebellion at midnight deep in the jungle during a storm), betcha it'll be my all-time print best seller! =p
 
On a completely different topic that I just feel like sharing, check out this awesome painting by German painter Hans Holbein the Younger, his Portrait of Thomas More (<- click that for the source and a much larger version):
 
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Man, what a painting! This was in 1527, before More became Chancellor of England (1529) and started burning heretics and stuff (and eventually resigned and got himself executed in 1535 because he refused to go along with Henry VIII inventing his own religion)--still pretty intense. What's interesting too is that while Holbein did do plenty of portraits of royalty, his portraits of lower ranking officials--More was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at the time of his portrait--and private citizens are by and large much, much better; I think he must have felt a lot of constraints when painting kings and queens.
 
 
 
 
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  Abstract trials and errorsJul 15, 2010 3:57 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 3 new A* pages:Hey, a three-page day at last! :) I think it helped that they were largely abstract (drawing explosions takes less time than drawing people), but it's been so long since I did a predominately abstract A* page that each of the last two took me about three tries. And in my endless quest to entertain you, here are the rejects!
 
Page 33 rejects:
 
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First I tried hand-drawing the shakes, but they came out a little weak and dodgy. So I tried the ol' clone-and-offset-transparent-layer trick, and even uploaded that one, but then I decided it just felt too artificial. So for the final version I redrew the vibrations, but this time with more oomph.
 
Page 34 rejects:
 
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I'd planned to do pretty much just a character silhouette, representing Vero being tossed around in the dark by the shocks from the explosion, but then I thought maybe that was too plain, so I did a sort of negative highlight on the body (and then even a second, edge highlight around his outline, which I didn't include here for some reason). But that looked too much like he was getting irradiated, and the scene wasn't dark enough, either, so I took out that highlight and started laying in shadows over everything. Then I realized that I wanted him "descending into shadow," as it were, and I had the abstract light backwards for that, so I reversed it and mucked around with it some more for the final version.
 
All part of my little "comedy of errors" style of drawing. =p
 
 
 
 
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  The best view yet of Vero's feetJul 14, 2010 3:45 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Bring your iodine tablets, because tomorrow we might be going just a little nuclear.
 
Say, yesterday I was so excited about Krackle history that I forgot to put up a banner link to the new page I did for my fairy tale comic, "The Princess and the Giant," over the weekend. This one came out a little funny, but hey, that happens sometimes in comics:
 
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  Not so Kirby KrackleJul 13, 2010 7:18 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:An interesting coincidence as I ate my omelet this morning led me to an important comic history discovery!
 
So last night, in a sort of tired excited state, not knowing what to do with myself, I was clicking "Random article" on Wikipedia, and, as is probably inevitable, I ended up on Jack Kirby, whose 12-13 penciled pages per day max output made me feel very unproductive. Anyway, I noticed a mention of something called Kirby Krackle, and went to see what it was. Basically it's the black balls he'd throw around to make things like energy or space or whatnot, like so
 
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And Wikipedia linked to this big article with this comic pundit guy talking about how Kirby invented the "krackle" dots and all that, tracing it back through all his comics to establish that he first used it without doubt in 1966, and maybe he got it from the first astronomical picture of a quasar (which is, by the way, the energy given off by a feeding supermassive black hole, although they didn't know that at the time) in 1963.
 
Well, that's an interesting theory and all, and could be right, who knows, but the article's concluding quote is not right:
 
"People who have never heard of Jack Kirby use a form of Kirby Krackle. But until 1966, there was no such thing. And it was Kirby who found it."
 
How do I know this is incorrect? Because over breakfast today I was reading my Sydney Jordan's Jeff Hawke collection that just arrived, and, in the story "Overlord," printed in 1960, I noticed
 
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And it continued, all over that page.
 
Now, I don't know if Jordan was the first to use this graphic technique--odds are he wasn't--but obviously it was used to render exciting space scenes at least six years before Kirby started in with it.
 
 
 
 
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  A* nominated 2x in 2010 Smack Jeeves AwardsJul 10, 2010 6:01 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Smack Jeeves is I think the largest (and free) webcomic hosting site around currently; they've decided to hold votes for the best webcomics in a bunch of different categories this year, and imagine my surprise when I was notified today that A*--which I mirror over there but which certainly isn't one of the more popular comics on their service--has been nominated in not just one but two categories! :o Namely, Most Original Art Style >_> and Best Sci-Fi.
 
Man! Yay! So thanks, Smack Jeeves, and especially to the readers and admins who got me nominated and included. Smack Jeeves has a ton of comics, many of them quite well done, so you may wanna go check them out, and the 2010 nominees too; it looks like voting will go through the end of July. I'm just really stoked to be nominated--and twice! Goshhhhh. :D
 
Oh! And the funny thing about it is that the preview image they used for my Most Original Art Style nomination is the *old* version of my star-crossed 1000th page that I just edited and mentioned last night! :o So if you compare closely you'll notice the goggle eyes are slightly lower in that one now. I guess at least *somebody* liked it the old way... ;)
 
 
 
 
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  Hot rubber Friday nightsJul 10, 2010 5:49 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Yep, just one page again; I am getting really bad at Fridays lately, grr.
 
It's so hot here that even when working in the middle of the night, the rubbery pad cover on my Wacom drawing tablet is sticking to my palm and peeling up when I raise it. :o
 
 
 
 
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  Over 1000 A* comics!Jul 09, 2010 4:25 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Well darn only one page today! It sure is nice to get out of the gloomy "black system" outdoors and into some interior lighting again--haven't had this many lights to play with since Niels' place way back in episode 8. So hopefully today's lone page at least came out relatively nice looking.
 
I stealth edited episode 10 page 9--his eyes were too low, umgh--and after doing that somehow got the idea to count how many A* comics we're up to now, and hey, it's over 1000! 1017, to be exact; episode 10 page 9 was in fact the 1000th A* comic! Whee! (Funny how I've been finding things to celebrate after the fact lately. ;)
 
 
 
 
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  Sydney Jordan's Jeff HawkeJul 08, 2010 6:19 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Jeff Hawke is a sci-fi comic strip by Scottish illustrator Sydney Jordan that ran in the British tabloid The Daily Express from 1955 to 1974, all illustrated by Jordan, and for the most part written either by Jordan or William Patterson; Patterson wrote Jeff Hawke episodes on and off from 1956 through 1959, and seems to be credited with bringing a higher quality of storytelling to Hawke's adventures.
 
I had never heard of Hawke before reading an interview book with British superhero comic artist/writer Alan Davis in which, when discussing his influences, Davis mentions Jordan and Jeff Hawke, although he preferred Jordan's later strip, Lance McLane, which--aside from having a Scottish hero and being published in a Scottish newspaper--was apparently rather similar to Jeff Hawke, although when it failed to catch on, Jordan had McLane transform into Hawke. :o
 
But Jordan's art in the strip, if perhaps not always his writing, was fantastic. Here's a sample strip; not one of his most spectacular but it's the one Wikipedia uses and I'm not sure what others qualify under Fair Use, so eh:
 
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^ That's from the 1961 Patterson story "Counsel For The Defense."
 
Jordan is very good at depicting humans, drawn in a clear, strong-jawed 1950's style; his strips of men and women in plainclothes (as opposed to space suits) look thoroughly professional, and compare well against the some of the best comic illustrators of the day--which is to say, they're fairly bland-looking to the modern comic reader's eye.
 
It's his intricately cross-hatched depictions of space and spacecraft that really make the series stand out visually. Jordan was an illustrator and RAF pilot--my source for that is the Italian fan site jeffhawke.com, which is also where Wikipedia got the strip above--and also had experience drawing airplanes (perhaps from his pre-RAF schooling at the Aeronautical Technical School in Reading?), which would serve him well in drawing the many flying machines that would take to the skies in the strip. Space ships and scenes really seem to have inspired Jordan, and in those environments even his humans take on stunningly shaded, dramatic dimensions.
 
The series as far as I know is virtually unknown in the United States, but judging by the fan sites and lists of published collections, it enjoyed large success in continental Europe, particularly Italy, where extensive Jeff Hawke collections appear to have been published over the succeeding decades. All we have in the States are two fairly small collections put together in 2008, covering approximately the publication years 1960 through 1962: Jeff Hawke: Overlord and Jeff Hawke: The Ambassadors. I've ordered both and am awaiting them eagerly; if you want an idea of what they might be like, I noticed a perhaps somewhat unscrupulous soul has ripped the entirety of Overlord as high-resolution online scans.
 
Jordan's a genius with black and white rendered in a realistic style, and I think these books are going to be even more helpful and inspirational for my drawing in A* than Paul Gulacy's excellent full-color work in the Six from Sirius graphic novel has been. I'm really looking forward to checking out the two books up close.
 
 
 
 
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  Famous perverts in scienceJul 08, 2010 3:07 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Super complicated pages today! =P I would'a done more but I have to get up relatively early for an errand tomorrow, yick.
 
I came across an interesting Winston Churchill quote yesterday that I thought sort of fit with A*, so I tried it:
 
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That's kept here in the episode 10 gallery. The quote is from a speech he made in 1940, specifically from right before his famous "their finest hour" bit. And he was talking about Nazis (and presumably their nutty theories about racial superiority so on?) rather than the dark mysteries of secretive space corporations, but hey.
 
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Noticed from some hits coming in that someone wrote a review of A* back in April of last year! My first review, whee! That's so long ago, all I had at the time were the first two episodes, as Flash movies. Still, they seem to have liked it, although the funny thing is, they really misinterpreted it; somehow they got the idea that it was about ships fighting on the event horizon of a large black hole, despite the fact that black holes aren't mentioned at all in those episodes! Huh. But they still liked it, so...maybe this means I need to write a storyline about two ships really improbably fighting on the edge of a black hole! >_>
 
Okay I have a real treat to post about but it's so treat-y that I'm gonna give it its own news post...
 
 
 
 
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  Goin' verticalJul 07, 2010 6:31 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Seeing as how that's Fizer's gun, you may be wondering where she got additional ammo for it. Well, you haven't seen the arsenal she's got in her ship, let me tell you! So yeah. She's just taken a perverse shine to Fizer's gun, apparently.
 
Trying to get in on the increasingly popular vertical advertising all the kids are doing, I took a shot at some A* "skyscraper" type banners:
 
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Hm. Well, we'll see how they do. There are more A* icons and banners than you could ever want on the icons page, which I tidied up a bit, so there are actually less now than there were, believe it or not.
 
 
 
 
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  Episode 7 custom soundtrack by starschwarJul 06, 2010 7:56 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
starschwar made a version of A* episode 7 with custom music and SFX tracks!
 

 
He even used a modified Matrix Online (the MMO I worked on in my previous gig) shotgun sound for the heavy gun fired by the Core Sys trooper in the concourse battle. :D
 
The link to his version is saved on the main episode 7 movie page for the future! (And you can get to the movies and trailers through the "episode list" link at the top of every page on the site^^^ :)
 
 
 
 
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  Nukes, lockpicks, scramjets, and attack sitesJul 06, 2010 7:43 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Yep it was a national holiday--or day off for a Sunday holiday, anyway--today (well, Monday) in the States but why take a holiday when you could be making webcomics, amirightorwhathahahaherr... So anyway we finally we catch back up to what was happening right at the end of episode 9! Darn this non-linearity!
 
Hey you can also check out the latest page of my Sunday fairy tale comic, "The Princess and the Giant," hot off the presses as it were, by clicking this spiffy preview banner:
 
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I came across a Time article on the NASA / US Military hypersonic research craft, the X-51A Waverider; after six years and $250 million, this unmanned drone with a scramjet engine completed its first independent flight in late May, flying for 200 seconds and reaching Mach 5. It was supposed to fly for 300 seconds, so I guess they've still got a lot of work to do. The speed record for this type of "air-eating" craft is "Mach 9.8 (12,144 km/h, 7,546 mph)," set by an earlier prototype, the X-43. (The "X," by the way, stands for "eXperimental.")
 
These things have scramjet ("Supersonic Combustion RAMJET") engines, where somewhere around Mach 4.5, they can start combusting the atmospheric oxygen, moving at supersonic speeds through their engines, after combining it with their on-board hydrogen. The X-51 used only about 1 kg of hydrogen fuel in its flight to Mach 5, which is pretty decent fuel economy I guess, even for a slim little 7.9 meter craft. Oh yeah here's a fancy Air Force render of an X-51 model:
 
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image by USAF (source)
 
It's called "Waverider" because its sharp nose and winglet surfaces "ride" on the atmospheric shockwave it generates as it rips through the air, using it for lift. At the speeds they get up to in atmosphere, those leading metal parts can get hot enough to melt, so they're cooled with liquid circulating under the skin; in the X-51 it's been water, but there's talk of using the craft's own fuel to do it, on its way to the engine, so you don't have to waste space on additional coolant.
 
Well isn't that all nifty. The military of course wants to use the technology to drop missiles on people faster. ;P
 
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Relatively speaking, it was a crazy day in my little webcomic neck of the woods! One site I mirror A* on was ruled an "attack site" by Google, so Firefox doesn't want to go there... Guess I'll wait and see if they can clean up their act before posting more comics there! And a site that tracks updates to my and many other comics, WebcomicZ, had its domain registration expire, so it was down for a while with a nasty GoDaddy expiration page showing. My heart! What else... Oh yeah, I found and reported some bugs I encountered while putting comics up on another mirror site, Comic Fury, and also I PM'd a fellow webcomic author about some little bugs I found on their site... Hmm... And The Webcomic List's forum scared me when I hit 1000 posts on it. Phew.
 
Oh! And I fixed the proportions of Selenis' gun arm back on episode 10's page 13. It was a little too long, but at first I overdid things and made it a little too short, so then I had to readjust it again to just right. Crisis...averted.
 
And I have more stuff too! But I'll save it for the next day or two's blog posts I guess (Oh god this *is* a blog, isn't it? shameful, just shameful).
 
 
 
 
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  I draw slow! =PJul 03, 2010 4:29 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:"Wait"...for next week, when hopefully I don't have so many distractions and can get more comics done! =p
 
I suppose I'm also slowing down a bit because I want to raise the quality level of the artwork. For a while there I was holding steady at about 3-4 pages per day (usually the 4s would be Mon and Wed when I don't go to the gym and thus have more time to sit and draw :D), but now that I've gotten pickier about the final images it seems to be more like 2 a day. I think in theory I can maybe get out 3 a day on a full uninterrupted Monday or Wednesday if I'm not caught up doing something else. Gotta work on that. ;)
 
Hopefully you've noticed the artwork being a teensy weensy bit more developed of late, though! (Or at least might be persuaded to think you've noticed it, now that I've mentioned it. LOOK DEEPLY INTO MY EYES!~~) I guess my goal has been to bring it closer to the quality level of my one-page-per-week Princess and the Giant. Those pages though, which are a little less than twice the size of an A* page, have been taking me something along the lines of 8-12 hours each lately! 8o I know that seems ridiculous, I guess I've just got into this odd drawing method where I actually sorta try to avoid following a structured scheme that would speed things up--like creating figures from stick men or simple geometric forms, for instance; instead, I just sort of build up and shave down blobs of black and white until they start looking like I want them to. It's fun, but kind of slow, at least if I really want a polished-looking final result. Buuut hopefully it at least looks different than most any other art you'll find out there... I do like to be different. :)
 
 
 
 
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  Get your rear in gearJul 02, 2010 3:52 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Okay now when I look at page 18 I can only think that they're both gigging in a music video. Sexy dance poses, everyone! Work that door! Work it!
 
This is probably why I shouldn't post pages so late at night...
 
 
 
 
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  Shooting and a shout-outJul 01, 2010 3:24 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 2 new A* pages:Yay more shooting!
 
Thanks to the owner of this page (Charles Englert, maybe?) for adding my Princess and the Giant comic to their comic link list; I got a pretty good number of click-throughs from that simple list yesterday, so huzzah! And thanks to anyone else who links to one of my comics (I think I've covered them all in the past, but if I'm missing yours, let me know), it's the best way for them to grow.
 
 
 
 
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