Yay episode 15! This is Selenis 35, who we left on her way to the spaceport at the end of episode 13.
Seems like I'm always writing about Saturn's crazy ice-shooting moon Enceladus (the last time was back in October, for instance). That's partly because it *is* so crazy (shoots ice particles out into a ring around Saturn, is coated in up to 300 feet of snow, etc), and partly because the Cassini spacecraft is often cruising around there getting some amazing photos.
Now Cassini's broken out a new trick on Enceladus: capturing swaths of the moon's topography in extremely high detail with synthetic aperture radar. Here's an example of what they got:
Okay not that amazing to see in the video maybe, but this Synthetic Aperture Radar ("SAR") stuff is pretty nifty; I can't make heads or tales of the fairly technical Wikipedia page on it there, but it seems to involve getting really detailed image data back by bouncing radio waves off the surface, instead of just taking photos or something. Here's a killer image of the Venusian surface made using SAR data the Magellan spacecraft got in 1991 (the globe shape and color are simulated)--the radar imaging cut right through the incredibly thick cloud layer that completely covers the planet:
NASA posted an article a little while back about neat footage of the Earth taken with the International Space Station's new, Japanese "Super Sensitive High Definition TV" camera ("SS-HDTV"); the footage aired on Japan's NHK television station, and particularly cool clips taken by JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa showed up on YouTube--but since NASA published that article, which links to some of them, they've been switched to "Private" viewing. Wah! Rather a rude thing to do while NASA's trying to link to your video. :P And I'd been meaning to use them for today's blog article. ;_;
Well eh... Here's the only surviving sample of NHK-aired SS-HDTV footage I could find, and it's a rather unexciting live segment. Fortunately though some enterprising individuals have pieced together footage from stills (must have been a lot of 'em!) posted on NASA's site--like this rather spectacular compilation:
^ I especially like that shot at about 2:00, where dawn light (I guess?) is striking the ISS modules hanging down in the foreground, before the sun has risen over the rim of the planet, so there are still little galaxies of city lights zooming by down below--really beautiful and amazing, gosh!
Earlier in the year that same YouTuber put together this compilation of slower panning shots of the planet seen from the ISS, also in very high definition.
Executies only! No, wait, it...probably doesn't say that. Well okay it definitely doesn't, because as you can see in the photo of the original, there's definitely a "v" in there right at the edge of the paper. Plus the booking agent has hands! Who'd have guessed.
The excuse for doing this, according to the article, is that it could help with for instance muscular therapy after an injury. Fortunately though not all members of the scientific community have been assimilated as yet, as there are said to have been some who gave away their control-free status when they emitted "a nervous gasp" when the video was first shown at a conference. And really how much more proof do you need that the project is controlled by robotic puppetmasters when the project's human so-called "lead" researcher sums it up like so (partially paraphrased in the article): "The approach is safe and with some tweaks the stimulation could be made 'comfortable' for people. 'You get used to it,' he said."
Now, "Molsov" started out like a lot of the names I come up with, basically as a kind of sound I wanted for the name. But it turns out it could also almost mean stuff! For instance, "Mol" could stand for the Manned Orbital Laboratory, a manned training and reconnaissance space station the U.S. Air Force was looking into in the '60s, until they eventually decided it would cost to much and not be any more useful than much cheaper drones. Also for some reason it was going to look kind like a beer bottle, at least as imagined in this '67 concept drawing (that's a Gemini B re-entry capsule at the near end, separating from the station for a return to Earth):
The "sov" part of the "Molsov" name could come from the word "sovereign," which will apply to Molsov in a way which will be hinted at by the end of this little conversation; it could also stand for single occupant vehicle, whose almost-relevance you will see as early as Selenis' next sentence!
But mostly I just liked how it sounded. :P
Here's what Selenis looked like in pencil before I splashed ink all over her for today's page:
I kind of liked this version, even if her eyes are looking two different directions. ;D (Actually that's probably *why* I like it. :P Why settle for an image of a face having just one expression when it can actually have two?)
I saw a mention in a blog-ish article by Gary Church, Water and Bombs, that the Gemini 11 mission tested artificial gravity--so of course I had to go and look that up!
In 1966, Gemini 11 launched into Earth orbit and rendezvoused with the unmanned Agena Target Vehicle, simulating the rendezvous of a lunar module with a command module after a successful Moon landing. Then, using the Agena's thruster, the combined craft boosted to a high orbit of 850 miles (1,370 km), which is *still* the record for the highest Earth orbit--the maximum orbital altitude of the Space Shuttle, by comparison, was 600 miles (970 km).
Anyway to get to the point, at some point in their practice routine that covered four docking and undocking maneuvers, the astronauts tied a 100-foot (30 m) tether to the Agena
and then used the maneuvering thrusters on the two craft to spin them around each other, with their inertia (the so-called "centrifugal force") pulling the tether tight between them and causing the astronauts to feel an effect like gravity pulling them into the outward-facing hull of the Gemini capsule. Artificial gravity in spaaaaaaaace!
But with their short tether and relatively slow rotational velocity, they only generated the equivalent of 0.00015 g; under gravity of that magnitude, the average human adult would weigh something like 12 grams--about the weight of a lightweight writing pen at sea level, according to the internet.
This ended up being a pretty productive page. I felt like the black ink alone wasn't quite getting it done, so when I started laying ink wash over it I messed around with it more than I usually do, and I found some handy ways to manipulate it for more detailed modeling effects: for the nose, for instance, I was able to create light and dark areas out of what had been a more or less flat area of wash by going back in with more water, or strategically sponging some off with a paper towel. And I had found some weeks ago that although the white ink stuff I have can't really be used in or with washes normally, since it isn't waterproof and doesn't mix well, if I add it on "dry," then wet a finger and smudge it, it actually blends pretty well that way--so I used that technique for some highlights.
I'm going to be trying to keep my blog entries relatively brief for a while here, and that's because I need to make time to get some important (to me =p) things done around the site: gotta get the subscription mode done (haven't even really managed to get started on the cookie-based version, dar), and then enable buying the original A* page paintings. These are gonna be somewhat technically challenging for me so they'll probably take a while, grr.
Oh but before all that I still have to finish up the script for this episode. ;)
And you know it doesn't really help when I go and waste an hour or so taking screenshots of internetvideos for "research." Shhah!
Note to self (again): don't try white ink wash! It is hard to manage! Hum well it was interesting, anyway!
Okay if you were stumped by the "name that music video" screenshot from yesterday, the answer is *SPOILER SPOILER* here. Yep!
I made some banners for A* on Ink Outbreak, which apparently some people use to read comics? It's this top bar thingy that will take you to other "related" comics--sorta like StumbleUpon but specifically for webcomics, maybe, I dunno. Anyway they have their own custom banner sizes, maybe because they don't want people to just throw in their standard marketing banners or whatnot. A* was already on Ink Outbreak (I mean, it was appearing in their listing as a comic that updated), so I figured I might as well make some banners for 'em that are a little more representative of the comic than a big black rectangle...although actually that does kind of work for A*, probably better than most any other webcomic. Oh well here are the banners, whee:
This one was tough to scan! Even the 140 lb watercolor paper I'm using now rumpled up a little across the mostly wash-free middle (the character's body) with the top and bottom being all wet and washy, which ended up as a few faint, fuzzy dark bands across the scan (those areas being slightly elevated off the glass). I added extra weight on top of the scanner, which helped a little, but in the end I had to do some touching up with a spot Levels layer in Photoshop to get rid of the dark bands. Oh well at least I know how to do it now--it actually works pretty darn well.
Two riddles to puzzle you over the weekend!
First, yet another trip to YouTube ends in an unexpected face research session for A*. Can you identify the performer and maybe even the music video these three screenshots come from?
I didn't follow or really know anything about this artist back in the day, but darned if she didn't have some A*-appropriate makeup going on here, and the lighting is just the kind to bring out facial features. Also she's really good at making entertaining expressions while singing. :D Speaking of which, as I was screenshotting this I realized one reason why I find looking at faces in music videos particularly helpful: 'cause most of the time when you're drawing a detailed mouth in a comic like A*, it's when the mouth is saying something, and in music videos you generally get a really good look at mouths operating at full steam!
Second riddle! In two parts, actually.
When I thought I was all done painting today's page and was about to stick it in the scanner, I noticed I'd unwittingly modified a bit of Selenis' costume from the way it looked on previous pages--can you spot the difference?
And the second part of this second riddle! Can you find the *other* time I accidentally modified this same item of her costume--okay, it's her dress--in a different way?
Big-ish hint: this happened back in episode 13, and before it switched to hand-painted art. The answer is *not* that the little scarf thing around the back of her dress was missing after she left Andiran's hotel room--I did that on purpose (figure she tore it off because she was tired of it--and I was tired of drawing it :p).
I was initially annoyed with myself for this latest little visual continuity error, and I don't think it's a coincidence that these have started cropping up pretty much right after I ran out of thumbnails for each page, drawn in advance--I had them in all episodes prior to 13, and for 13 up through the last scene on the space station, but then I just found I didn't have the time to do an extra sketch (or often more) for each page. So I don't do them anymore!
It's sometimes scary sailing ahead without the thumbnails, and it definitely requires putting in a little more thought each day than I used to have to do--and if I was like a real pro I'd have them, ya know--but I also kind of like *not* having a guide to follow for each new page's final drawing. I've never been big on strict visual continuity, as you've probably noticed; in practice, faces and styles and so on change day by day based on how I feel about each page as I work on it--this happens pretty much entirely unconsciously and was another thing that irked me when I realized I was doing it, but, like these little unplanned visual prop changes that are coming in in the absence of thumbnails, I'm kinda learning to embrace it; I think in the end these free me up to evolve the comic visually to better final effect, and to focus more on making each page as good as it can be in its own right.
This latest inadvertent and unconscious costume change, for instance, neatly solves a part of her dress design that I now realize had been irritating me more and more since she left the hotel. The dress is going to stick around for a bit more in this episode, and if I was being a continuity stickler, I'd have to suffer through that irritating design all the way through--but I'm not, and my subconscious neatly came up with and implemented what is actually, for me, a nice bit of costume redesign. Does it make sense? Not really--although hey you could say she passed the two hours before her flight in altering her costume >_>--but it *does* make for a better image, and chances are you wouldn't have noticed the change anyway if I hadn't pointed it out (have you found it yet? :D).
So this is all well and good until I flub something major that actually introduces a hole in the plot. >_> ;) =o