Well as you know *cough*, I'm constantly watching the latest happenings in the fashion world for ideas on Selenis' style and wardrobe. Um... Well anyway I came across a specimen I found relevant to that topic lately, namely the British punk/pop singer Toyah, who was apparently pretty big over...in the '80's. I'd never heard of her until two days ago, which may not mean much since for instance I hadn't even heard of Blondie until I was in college in Chicago in '95 or so. Anyway, the point is that Toyah had some pretty wild styles, for instance
and eh hm some sort of sci-fi-ish thing maybe
and even the nearly contemporary (she's still performing!)
which is actually a fairly Selenis-y outfit, aside maybe from the feathers and metal brassiere. Also possibly
although I'm not 100% sure that's her. Worth posting anyway, I think. :) (Much more '80's hair in this blog article I swiped that picture from.)
There's an A* store now! It's right up in the site's top menu, where the "Support A*" link used to be. Yep! Not too much in it yet, but it does have some brand-new T-shirts, and also a guide to A* art prints, should you be interested in those. I even made these fancy little category icons for it:
Man, smooth, right? :D =p I *was* kind of happy that the light caught the metallic ink I sign the prints with. But shiny stuff all by itself makes me happy, so I guess I'm easily pleased.
This has been made possible by my T-shirt prototype arriving in the mail today from spreadshirt.com, which is where the T-shirt part of the A* store is hosted. It's a nice sturdy shirt, and the little chest A* logo came out exactly how I'd wanted it, so super-duper. This first T-shirt design isn't very ostentatious--I like to think of it as stylishly understated--but that means you can pretty much wear it anywhere, and I suppose the only fashion worry you might have is being mistaken for someone showing off their A+ GPA or something, if a passing critic doesn't look very closely at the logo. =P
So hurrah! Now with that finally taken care of, hopefully I can in a good ol' two-page day tomorrow.
Oosh I think I drew about five different versions of page 25. ;P Doesn't seem like it should have been difficult, but... Bah.
Hey aside from the doodle I posted yesterday, I did other stuff over the weekend! Aside from my taxes, I mean (although it sure was a relief to get that taken care of, bleh!). And one of those was drawing the latest page of my Sunday fairy tale comic, The Princess and the Giant. Here's a clickable preview of the latest page there:
Only one page for you from this President's Day, but my excuse is slightly better than usual, and I've got an image-filled post! Which still doesn't make up for it but ah well.
If you look closely at today's page you may notice that the lines are somewhat smoother and more intricate than usual, and it's because a friend of mine gave me a 1080p monitor! Man! So now I can have the whole comic blown up at double size while I'm working on it, which really helps when drawing tiny stuff. It took me a lot of fiddling around with it today to get comfortable--I'm awfully finicky and fear change, you know--but I think this is gonna be really good for A*. :D And since I'm twice as zoomed in when working now, I've doubled my working resolution to 7648x3800 (8 times the size you see it here), and that'll mean prints and stuff are sharper, and also it makes the art more flexible, as I can re-use it at more sizes for banners and so forth.
For instance, here's Selenis strutting along from today's page, when seen at the zoom level I'd have been working at on my old 1280x1024 monitor:
and here's my screen (shrunk down from 1920x1080) while working on the page:
When I was storyboarding this episode, I decided that the name for the conveyance pictured here (seen a little more clearly in the previous episode) must be "polevator." Although now somehow that name sounds a little...off. >_< Let us never speak it again!
A friend of mine sent me the link to this video, 'cause see it's for a song called "Supermassive Gravity" (from the German group called "Massiv in Mensch"), and the visuals of this I think fan-made video are from Disney's "The Black Hole." Woo!
Speaking of "The Black Hole," it's actually kind of a fun movie, partly because sections of it are so darn cheesy now, including pretty much every scene with the robots, most of the scenes with the requisite mad scientist, and maybe half the scenes with Ernest Borgnine's hapless character. Many of the visuals from 1979 have held up surprisingly well, though, particularly the ones of the black hole (even if the hole itself is handled very unrealistically indeed!). And Anthony Perkins and Yvette Mimieux are in it, if sadly under-utilized. So I can't say it's quite worth watching on the whole, but the ending is something else altogether--one of the craziest, trippiest movie sequences I've ever seen. It was Disney's first non-G-rated movie, and man, they saved up a lot of their punches for that ending.
Oh, one sort of interesting thing about the photos Stardust sent back was that while NASA was expecting the photos to come in chronological order, showing a dramatic approach to the comet, for some reason they came in reverse order! Last I'd read, NASA still didn't have any idea how that had happened. But nobody was killed that we know of, so yay for rocket science!
Slightly more impressive are recent photos from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, an Earth-orbiting satellite designed to study energy coming to Earth from the Sun. The SDO has only been up there for a year, and I already linked to some cool video it took of the Sun, but it scored a bit of a coup four days ago when it caught footage of the largest solar flare seen in four years; this "X2"-class flare (solar flares are measured on a scale going A, B, C, M, and X, each successive stage being an order of magnitude higher than the previous one, and in each stage, they're given a numeric value, so "X2" means it was twice as powerful as a baseline X flare, 20 times as powerful as an M flare, etc) was of the type powerful enough to cause radio blackouts and radiation storms here on Earth, but as it turns out, apparently all we got was maybe some enhanced auroral activity earlier today. Which is probably for the best.
and it's actually...not overwhelming, and it's also hashed together from a few sources, one getting the larger coronal burst around the Sun. Ehh. Well anyway I can at least show this still image from the SDO of the flare, which was so powerful that it overloaded the satellite's sensor, and the poor thing could only render it as pure white:
Sooo yeah that was a lot of slightly underwhelming news. Hm there was also some composite view of a distant nebula that they were excited about just the other day, which was pretty but also so boring I lost the URL. Still, NASA's at least got a lot of space stuff on the boil lately.
EDIT: Oh! I forgot that they do have a huge animated GIF of the solar flare (5.5 MB download), which is actually a much better view than the embedded video. Is this the comeback of animated GIFs, in large part the medium that inspired A* in the first place??? :o Anyway it's kind of neat, you can actually see the flaming tongue of the flare coming toward us; given that the Sun is nearly 1.4 million kilometers (865,000 miles) in diameter, and the tongue of flame seems to be large enough to go halfway across it--at least!--then if the perspective isn't fooling me...gosh that was a big lick of flame it shot in our direction!
Another sci-fi comic series you probably haven't read--and neither have I! Anyway I just came across the short-lived 1950-51 Youthful series, Captain Science, and thought it was worth mentioning for the sheer cheesy chutzpah of the covers.
See all 7 of them in their full super-saturated glory here.
I think it's safe to say that Captain Science was not at all related to Captain Hard Science! But he probably zapped more Space Pirates and got more Space Girls. Then again he only lasted seven issues, so... :o
Dang it, I draw too slow. Well, here are some other sci-fi comics I came across recently that seemed interesting, so you can use these to cover all this unexpected free comic reading time you just got! (:|)
Mannie Marine An animated webcomic! And a highly stylized black and white one at that! Don't see many of those about (at least, not since I stopped animating A* with episode 7--you can catch those from the A* site's top menu "episodes" link, incidentally (plug plug)). Each Mannie Marine episode is several minutes long, and tends to feature something to do with futuristic marines fighting zombies or something, with hints of a government cover-up and that sort of good stuff. The animation is limited but quite effective, and they even do their own really nice moody background music. Pretty violent.
Blue Milk Special A Star Wars parody, and I'm not really enough of a Star Wars fan to spend much time following that part of it, but I find the art surprisingly pleasing. It's done in a sort of half cartoonish style, but sparingly, so for instance noses usually aren't drawn, and I particularly like the use of borderless patches of flat color to compose the backgrounds.
The Accidental Space Spy A new story, still in progress, by Thorsby, who has created some of the most convoluted, crazy, and amusing tales you will ever read, all drawn in a deceptively crude, brightly colored "MS Paint with mouse" style. Often featuring bizarre cases of missing identity or plans gone awry (as well as some swearing and cartoonish gore), Thorsby's characters have to get themselves out of the craziest situations that just keep getting crazier and crazier--and the frantic action is contrasted brilliantly by the color-coded deadpan dialogue. I'm still reading his first story, "Hitmen for Destiny," which is 600+ *long* pages. Whew! That one's gonna keep me busy for a while.
I was delayed slightly in getting these pages done today because I broke my keyboard! I've had this thing for about ten years now I think, so somehow dropping it and breaking off the right mouse button (it's got mouse buttons around a central touchpad) made me sad ;_;, buuuut so far a little disassembly and a little superglue seem to have done the trick. Whew! Although in taking it apart and removing the touchpad button housing for the first time ever, I realized that I could just swap in the same housing part from my other keyboard of this type that I *think* I still have in storage somewhere (got that one about thirteen years ago, I think, and it still works except that a drinking water spill a decade or so ago rendered the ESC key inoperable ;_;). And then I realized that I don't use the button right next to the one that broke off (it's for "middle button"), and could remap that one to the right mouse button function if I needed to--so between that and the older keyboard, I could bust off two more mouse buttons and still be right as rain! Although hopefully it won't come to that for another few decades.
If you're wondering why all this bother when I could go get a modern keyboard, well, I think it's safe to say they don't make them quite like this anymore. I present you with the wonder of ergonomics that is the Acer "Future" keyboard (the name did not prove to be prescient, as the "Future" was quickly discontinued; in fact this second one was a refurbished one the Seattle-area Acer distributor somehow happened to still have in their warehouse after the model had already been cut):
So yeah it does look like what you're thinking it looks like. And that hole in the center with the rim of buttons around it is the touchpad! (The right-most of the two buttons below it (past the down-arrow button, I mean) was the one I busted off.) The numeric keypad is detachable, thankfully. So basically I just rest the main unit of this thing on my lap and type and twiddle on the touchpad and don't need a mouse (or a desk, for that matter). Pretty sweet. So if I continue to be clumsy and put my remaining keyboard and a half out of commission, my computing lifestyle is probably hosed. :o Must be careful!
The other (not so) cool feature of the "Future" (man I probably could have drawn this thing in the comic somewhere and you guys would have been like "WHOA look at the crazy keyboards they have in the future at the center of the galaxy," right? =pp) is that it connects by PS/2 AND serial ports; I managed to get a new computer with a serial port a few years back, but...they don't still make those now, do they? Anyway I just suspect that will be a problem. Fortunately my current computer runs Photoshop (4) just great, and the Internet, so heck I'll never need to upgrade to a new one ever, right? Right?? I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU FUTURE KEYBOARD!!!
I had storyboarded a line of speech here from Mother sort of narrating things, but just before uploading it I realized that it really *was* just narration, which I try to avoid so as to leave it to you to draw your own conclusions; it can also be kind of a tempting crutch when I'm not certain I'll be able to depict a particular action clearly enough. Hopefully though you can kind of tell what all that stuff appearing in the hallway might be.
And now to Science! A recent BBC article describes the discovery of six new exoplanets (that's the kind of silly term that's supposed to mean any planet outside our own solar system) in a single star system by NASA's Kepler space telescope. Kepler is very sensitive to minute changes in light from distant stars, and is designed to find distant planets by looking for the slight dimming of a star as a planet crosses in front of it; it can even detect the wobble of those planets caused by other neighboring planets! Pretty neat. Here's an old NASA painting sort of showing the scale of Kepler's search within our galaxy (hey there's A* in the background--well inside that big glowing galactic nucleus, anyway):
Anyway loads and loads of planets have been found around other stars in the past few years by this method, almost all of them most likely "hot Jupiters," ie Jupiter-size or larger gas giants orbiting close to their star: those are just the kind that cast the biggest shadows and are thus easiest to detect by Kepler's transit method. So finding more of those isn't really newsworthy anymore, but this case was slightly more interesting, because the six big gassy planets, around the star cleverly named Kepler-11, 2000 light years from Earth, are all really really close to their sun: five orbit closer to the star than Mercury does to our Sun, and the sixth is just a little farther out than that. Here's a swinky NASA artist's impression of what the inner part of the Kepler-11 system might look like:
So Kepler-11 sort of rewrites the rules in terms of how much planetary mass can form close to a star; existing theories of solar system formation had tended to assume that planets that big, that close to each other, would tear each other apart, and leave only maybe one or two surviving.
This is pretty exciting from a fiction writing point of view, since it opens up all kinds of possibilities for really crazy star systems! Hmmmm... :)
I apologize for only managing the one page today (at least Selenis finally got to complete her thought); I let myself get tempted by social networking yesterday, and ended up staying up all night trying to Facebook's "Like Button" widget installed and working to my satisfaction on A*'s comic and art gallery pages. And once I'd finally got it installed and working as well as it would work, I decided I hated it and removed it. :P So much time was wasted! I did improve the flexibility of a few of my scripts, as I was trying to jam the Like Button into the layout, and I now have a spot beneath the comics that's all ready for some additional widget to occupy, but it would have to be a darn fine widget indeed.
I also spent some time in another round of A* t-shirt design, and--after a bunch of attempts at sandwiching existing A* comic art onto various shirts--came to the conclusion that the only t-shirt design I'm at all comfortable with right now is a nice, minimalistic, small A* logo up in the corner design, like so:
with customizable colors, so if you wanted to go nuts for instance:
Anyway I have a prototype on its way to me now so I can make sure the materials and printing are good, and that I get the logo in the correct Star Trek communicator / polo lizard size and position (it might be a little too big right now?); once I get that worked out, unless I get some other hair-brained clothing scheme into my head (not unlikely I suppose), I'll finally get the t-shirt shop officially hooked up, with a "store" link replacing the "support A*" link on the A* top menu. Woo.
For some reason--oh, I'd come across a picture of his late-life muse, Amanda Lear, while image Googling some other singer that came up on Pandora--I also plunged a fair amount of time yesterday in reading several longarticles on Spanish surrealist extraordinaire, Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, aka Salvador Dalí, who was apparently quite a hoot
in ways that I don't know if anyone before or since has been. And I was thinking that maybe that level of sublime bizarreness just isn't possible anymore because the inevitable rounds of high-definition interviews every celebrity and near-celebrity goes through these days strip away every vestige of mystery and grandeur about anyone, so it isn't really possible to seem larger than life anymore, but then in looking up a quote I'd seen in that first article, I was reminded that he was indeed in high-profile TV interviews: on The Tonight Show, he apparently carried a leather rhinoceros with him, and wouldn't sit on anything else, and on 60 Minutes, he flummoxed Mike Wallace by referring to himself only in the third person, and with such statements as "Dalí is immortal and will not die." And here he is stumping Hollywood celebrities on "What's My Line":
So his surrealism did survive television, which is certainly impressive. He was also extremely prolific as an artist, and aside from his whole life being something of a performance piece, he also found time to make over 1000 paintings, not to mention hundreds of other things like sculptures and drawings and installations; there's a rather impressively complete online gallery of maybe most of them here that I'm going to have to find the time to go through at some point.
Okay, that sentence *will* be wrapped up in the next page, promise!
Today is the sort of random day of the week on which I tell you to go check out this past weekend's new Princess and the Giant page--that would be my Sunday fairy tale comic. You can get there by clicking this preview banner:
Hey, if you're like me and you find that listening to podcasts about making webcomics while you're making webcomics is a good idea (I find it reassuring somehow, I think), check out The Webcomics Company, a now-weekly podcast done by four (lately five) British webcomic authors, in which they discuss various topics related to making webcomics.
Well continuing the theme of space extremes from yesterday, I also recently came across what might be the oldest galaxy human science has found so far: UDFj-39546284, which *may* have been a galaxy of blue stars 13.2 billion years ago, just 480 million years after the Big Bang; I say "may" because it hasn't yet been spectroscopically confirmed, so it could be a galaxy of red stars much closer to Earth, if the interpretation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field data was incorrect. Anyway, here it is:
If it *is* that old, then according to the above-linked Wikipedia article, it's a bit of a surprise, since, comparing it with galaxies we can observe from several hundred million years later, it implies that star birth increased by a factor of ten during that time.
It's also a nice demonstration of red shift: a galaxy that old would *only* be visible in the Hubble survey if it was bright blue stars to begin with, because the huge redshift caused by the expansion of the universe since that time would have rendered any other visible wavelength invisible. To look much further back than that, you'd need a telescope that sees in infrared, like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, due to be launched toward a solar orbit in 2014 or 15.
This "supergiant" galaxy just over 1 billion light years from Earth is known by the unflattering name IC 1101, and is about 5.5 million light years across (the Milky Way stretches a mere 100,000 light years), containing an estimated 100 trillion stars (we've only got 0.25 trillion here). Great! It's also pretty boring looking in these blurry photos, but then these blobbish "lenticular" galaxies don't tend to have the pizazz of a nice spiral galaxy when seen from afar. But it's really big, so huzzah for IC 1101.
Hmmm I wonder how big a black hole it might have at its center? And would they have to invent a new name for one that size (assuming its relatively big), like "supermassivegiant" or something?
Ouch. Thus endeth episode 11! I hope you enjoyed this one, even if the ending may have left you scratching your head a bit; these things will get worked out eventually. I think.
The freaky-looking dude in these last two pages is indeed Proctor; it was kind of an interesting experiment for me to see what rendering him in a more realistic fashion--while still retaining some of his characteristic cartoonish features--would look like, and the answer is: weird. :o He and Mar were born back in the early episodes, when I was drawing A* for animation, and became pretty much stuck in very cartoony (and fun to draw!) shapes; on the other hand, especially since I stopped drawing A* for animation, I've been trying to get a more realistic look going, so they've been clashing a bit with, say, Selenis.
We'll be bidding Proctor and Mar goodbye for a while as the story takes Selenis away from Core Sys into a darker and dingier corner of the galactic core. You can't see that area yet in these storyboards I drew up for the beginning of episode 12 yesterday (they're in random order below), but can you guess how many Selenisses-- uh...Seleni are shown here?
How's that? Stick around for episode 12 to find out; it begins tomorrow!