Boy, I was in a fighting mood with this page. Phew! I did kind of like what happened with the background, though, which was that I slapped on some ink wash that was way too dark, and wiped it off with a paper towel, which then left a sort of texture across it. It's also nice to have some really big black areas once in a while (although I was pretty happy with the more sketchy scrawly pages from yesterday, which I think must have been inspired by the work of this great old British comic artist I was looking at...I'll have to write up something about him when I actually get around to doing a halfway decent blog post instead of just mashing a bunch of keys before throwing myself into bed :P).
Getting close to done with the subscription mode thing, which I'm going to work on over the weekend here, although first I think I'll be PDF-ing up all the comics and putting them into a little store page for digital downloads--which then I'll launch simultaneously with subscription mode (in a week or two? maybe?) since part of subscription mode will be always having a free download link to the latest PDF collection of A* pages. Hm...gotta figure out if the downloads should be straight PDF files, or .zipped up--guess I'll just buy some from some other webcomic sites and see how they do 'em.
Oh yeah Monday I'll probably just have a single new page (and a late actually wee hours Tuesday morning type of thing...not that that's abnormal for my publishing schedule :P), since some friends of mine for some reason decided to put the sun-fearing webcomic artist in charge of a beach party. 8|
(I was dreading drawing this page, thinking just a bee would be a bore/chore to draw, but it was actually really fun! I should definitely draw more fuzzy arthropods, it's so much easier than, like, mostly hairless things with external flesh lumps. :D Oh and also I found scuffing the horsehair side of this big brush across the paper makes a *great* drybrush stroke--man I can see myself doing a lot of drybrush texture fills now; I'd never been able to get them big and consistent before, but the side of this brush is a whiz at 'em!)
Over the weekend I've been pounding away at getting digital comic downloads (or "e-books," if you must use that dreadful term! :o) ready to go out together with the impending subscriber mode, and after much wrestling with the silly PDF format and PayPal and so forth I think it's pretty close to ready. And if you follow me on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook, then you may already have been enjoying this free release of A* episode 14 as a high-definition digital download (.pdf, 2.31 MB) for the past 16 hours or so.
I *will* charge a tiny fee for the other episodes, of course, since they're much longer. Here's a peek at the revamped "episodes" page I'm working on that will incorporate the digital download stuff--they'll come per-episode and also in larger bundle packs that give you a chunk of 'em for a discounted price:
Whoops, I meant to get to writing up some stuff about bees and other stinging insects that I found while looking up bee reference photos for this sequence, but eh I got distracted by looking up old streaming movies. There are old Flash Gordon serials on archive.org and Netflix streaming! This bears further investigation, methinks. Also I saw that Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" is on Netflix streaming, so if you have that (I'm in my eh initial evaluation month thing, yeah I know I'm late on this :P), make sure you catch what is probably my favorite movie ever. Oh and "Starcrash" is on there! It's that cheesy 70's Star Wars rip-off that I talked about way back in November...so now I have no excuse not to watch it. :o
I got to wondering about stings, and ended up at the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, a sorta subjective scale of pain of different insect bites/stings compiled by painful personal experience of American entomologist Schmidt--he rates a honey bee sting about middle of the road, "like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin." Well of course we want to know what the most painful one is, and he considers that to be the venomous bite of the bullet ant, so-called because the pain of its bite is said to be as painful as a bullet shot. :o In Central America, where it lives, it is called (in the vernacular), the "24 hour ant," referring to the 24 hours of pain you're in for if one bites you. Yikes!
The one that really gets me, though, is #2 on Schmidt's index, the tarantula hawk. The female tarantula hawk, a two-inch-long black wasp with rust-colored wings, swoops down on a tarantula, paralyzes it with its excruciatingly painful sting, drags it
back to her nest, lays an egg on it, and then covers the entrance of the burrow. The wasp larva hatches and drills into the tarantula's abdomen where it proceeds to devour the still-living spider's juicy innards, "avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive."
The adult wasps eat nectar and sometimes get drunk from fermented fruit. :P
I'm kind of surprised that there are enough tarantulas around for another species to use them as their vehicle for childbirth! I suppose this is because I don't live in the tarantula part of the world. I always thought they were neat though when I'd see one in a display as a kid, except sometimes they'd look a little bald and ragged where they'd scraped off all their hairs to fling at enemies or prey or whatever they supposedly do with them. I assume tarantula hawks just laugh off such feeble countermeasures. :P
I came across a fan-made trailer for the movie version of 2001: A Space Odyssey--the trailer wasn't very good, but it had a clip in it that makes me wonder if my subconscious got the floating pen scene at the beginning of A* episode 3 (actually you can really only see it in the original animated version) from 2001; I don't remember that movie very well, and I don't remember this scene at all--not consciously, anyway, but:
And huzzah for Strauss' The Blue Danube playing in the background! I always liked that tune, ever since it was the docking music in the old space trading game "Elite." :)
I was poking around comixology.com, a site where I'd heard you can buy and read digital versions of current print comic books or something, and I noticed that they offer some of their collection for free. Not the cream of the crop, I suppose (most comic issues there seem to cost a couple bucks), but if you look through their most popular free digital comic books you might find something that interests you; for me it was Detective Comics #27, featuring a Batman story (or rather, a "The Bat-Man" story) from 1939! His costume's bat ears are really wide! Anyway I thought that was neat. You don't actually get to download the digital comics you "buy"--you have to read them online through comiXology's reader--but still it's a pretty slick operation, and I have to say I'm kind of floored that they have complete back-issue collections of comic series going all the way back to at least the Golden Age.
Right up until today I'd planned to have this little robo-bee of Selenis' land on the back of the bioarchivist's neck, rather than in her ear; I noticed that a practice sketch I did of it (I was having some trouble getting it to come out :P) did make it look like the flight path terminated in her ear, and I told myself to watch that when trying the final version...and yet it still happened. I left it, figuring it was close enough to neck area that I could get away with showing it on the back of her neck later, but then a couple readers asked me if it went into her ear...and when I got to thinking about it, it does work better that way anyway, since she's supposed to be hearing Selenis talking to her through a tiny speaker on the bee. So in the ear it is!
Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:02 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2859
Oh yeah, the other neat thing about comiXology (from the cheapskate's point of view :D) is that it's very handy for getting a glance at a comic--being able to see what the art is like, particularly--because they include a detailed scan of the cover and three interior pages in each issue's preview.
Whew this was one of those evenings where I'm up all night working on the page, I think I've got it, and then it turns into mush, the sun came up hours ago, and I still need a page, so I rip through a ton of ink and paper trying to find something that works. I dunno if this worked out for the better or not, but it's what I got!
I'll be working away on wrapping up the digital downloads and subscriptions systems over the weekend; should just be a few more solid weekends of work to get those ready to go, I think. If you missed it earlier in the week, you can download the "e-book" version of A* episode 14 right here (.pdf, 2.31 MB) for free. That's just to get you hooked, of course. :D The other (much longer) episodes will cost a little something to download, and then I'll be able to make my getaway to Mexico, yay! >_> :D
NASA's big Curiosity rover just landed safely on Mars--and I'll admit their big sort of anti-PR campaign about the landing being "7 minutes of terror," and making signs showing bad track record of human missions to Mars (although the Soviet Union kind of brought the average down :P) did manage to make me a bit worried that their $2.5 billion science project might end up spread across a Martian mountain range or something--so easily manipulated am I!--but nope, apparently a pretty much perfect landing, and now...a few weeks of testing to make sure everything is working right. HUM. Then it begins its two-year trek up the 3-mile-high mountain--"Mount Sharp"--looming over its landing position
to look for the possibility of ancient Martians. NASA managed to get a glimpse of the parachute stage of the rover's descent to the surface from their Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was overhead:
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona (source)
(Later they also spotted a tiny dot that they think was the rover's ejected, falling heat shield in a distant, cropped part of this photo.)
The rover took a series of photos during its decent, some of which have been stitched together into a really grainy video of the landing. All of the rover's early images have been low-resolution things; supposedly some were compressed before sending due to the bandwidth limitation it has of getting info back to Earth, and higher-resolution versions will be trickling in later, especially once the rover breaks out its more powerful cameras--I read somewhere earlier today that it has...eh...I think it was something like a total of 22 cameras on it. Or was it 16? Oh wait, Wikipedia says it's 17. See if you can sort them all out from this NASA article/diagram!
I'm sure it's highly simplified from what the navigators are actually looking at, but it kinda shows how, since they've calculated the pull the planet's gravity will have on the craft very precisely, while getting there they just have to make sure it's aimed at the right "window" in space before the gravity hooks it and starts pulling it down. Or maybe I'm totally misinterpreting that. :P
And finally, this artist's concept of the rover using its laser for spectrometry (the laser is actually invisible, and just creates a tiny light flash on the target that's read by sensors, which can tell from the specific wavelengths of light released what elements were in the object struck)
looked awfully familiar. Hmmmm.... Oh yeah, it's because we saw it in 1986!
:o (And oh man, of course even that movie is in the works for a remake/reboot, according to that Wikipedia page. ;P Maybe they can get Curiosity to star!)
Boy the tip of my big Haboku X brush is really aced--that probably wasn't helping the struggles I was having with the last two close-ups of Selenis' face. I guess it lasted about 15 pages before starting to get ragged, which isn't great as far as brush longevity goes--I was getting at least 20 out of my dinky sable brushes, although those were a good deal more expensive. Hopefully the local art supply store keeps up a good stock of these Habokus, and at the same discount price! I dunno if I can even go back to smaller style brushes anyway, because it turns out that the nice thick handle of the Haboku (especially the X size) is great in terms of grip ergonomics--the occasional wrist soreness I would get after a day of drawing quietly vanished once I started using it. :D And I would get that and/or forearm aches if I wasn't *exactly* positioned with my elbow and wrist flat on the drawing table with other brushes, which was a real chore both for my back and because it's harder for me to draw when I'm hunkered down over the paper like that--I can't really see the whole composition as a single unit when I'm forced that close to it. But the Haboku X has been perfectly comfy to use from any angle and position!