Monday, June 18, 2012

Spending Time On Tumblr

I do love The Transmutation Effect, but due to the amount of drawing I'm (trying) to do, I'm doing most of my blogging action over on Tumblr at Taste The Steel. Do come for a visit, won't you?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Very Special #Comicpanels

the STORY behind the COVER
Originally uploaded by TedHobgood
For a while there in Speed Comics back in the 40s, they’d have wild covers with the major heroes featured in the magazine all collaborating in some big fight (usually against the “Japanazis”). Inside the comic, there’d be two pages of narrative—yeah! That you had to READ!—that would purportedly explain what was going on in the cover scene. This was entitled, plainly enough, “The STORY behind the COVER”. As you can see from the title, the text was readily peppered with CAPITAL WORDS in order to EMPHASIZE their point and bring more DRAMA to the boring, non-pictorial story.

For some reason, I was reading one of these and my eyes blurred and I started to read only the CAPITALIZED words. Strung together, they looked almost poetic to me. So now, in a very special edition of #comicpanels, from Speed issue #39, I present “the POEM behind the STORY behind the COVER”. All punctuation is from the original, except where there was none, in which case I introduced an ellipsis, as a rule. Enjoy.

* * *



* * *

I thank you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Legion of Justice Heroes

So a few months ago, my friend Sylvia invited people to come partake (in a few months, ie, last week) of a murder mystery party. Sylvia doesn't buy these in a box from a store; she writes them up from scratch, creating all the characters, their motivations, their interrelationships, EVERYTHING. I don't see how she does it.

Anyway, she had a fairy tale murder mystery party a year or two ago, and it was amazing, great food, great backstories, and people had an amazing time fleshing out their fairytale characters and acting like complete nutballs. (Aaron and Fiona as obnoxious-accented Hansel and Gretel were particular standouts.) I participated in that one, and was an old man whose mission was to get rid of a magic amulet before midnight. I palmed it off on Bryan Barnes, and he aged like 120 years in seconds (and then we had a hilarious slow-motion chase around the theater.)

ANYWAY anyway, a few months ago, Sylvia invited me to do the superhero thing, but I was feeling all "wah-wah, whine-whine" antisocial and obnoxious, so I politely declined (even though I had had a ball at the fairytale one).Turns out Aaron couldn't make it either (as he had to infiltrate some conservative sect and steal their liquor and down pillows or something...) so Sylvia cast him as the superheroes' sidekick (who I dubbed "The Amazing Wonder Keck") and asked me to film a simple scene of him being tortured; something for the heroes to fight for.

Well, you know me: always happy to help a friend out when I can, and if it involves video and campy superheroes, well, always happy to make it eighteen times more complex and giggle the whole time doing it. So I volunteered to do a kidnapping scene as well, and we brainstormed and created some visual gags, some taunting scenes, and the mandatory use of Burgess Meredith Penguin Gas. (which turns out to be fun & easy to do in After Effects!)

I also decided to attempt to make a Superfriends-style animated opening as well, and wanted a Legion of Doom group of villains. Somebody came up with a name that I vetoed, with me saying I wanted a "Man From U.N.C.L.E." style acronym. Aaron, being a smartass, said "why don't you just go with A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.?" Me, being a smartass, said "yeah, right, why don't YOU come up with a cool name that long, with those letters?" Aaron, being a genius comedy writer, came up with one in like four minutes, and it got included in the video (and I made us buttons!). I had fun coming up with all the villainous characters; they were supposed to be illustrated, but got axed due to time constraints. The heroes DID get illustrated; Sylvia sent me Facebook pix of the various folks involved, and I drew my best attempt at them, costumed as their hero. I would draw one person, show it to Jason, and he'd show me what could be improved to make it actually look human ("You got the boobs wrong AGAIN.") Pencils were scanned into Photoshop and cleaned up, then imported into Toon Boom Studio for inking and colouring. I had already designed all the logos for the heroes and the villains in Illustrator. I also had a great time writing the voiceover script for the animated opening, trying my best to channel Ted Knight.

The live action stuff was filmed over at Casa Keck (after kicking Fitz out, for secrecy reasons). It was insanely hot that day, so filming exteriors whilst wearing longsleeve black "Goon" shirts was less than pleasant for me and Miss Toth, but we had a blast. Got in some good visual gags and some blooper material. Moving inside, we set up my new chromakey screen and suspension stands from Digital Juice (which were AWESOME--I wanna do more chromakey work now!) We filmed the restaurant scene in front of Kit's colelction of Multiple Man sketches, which made it look like a sort of superhero Sardi's, which I thought was funny. We also managed to include our fabled Old Bay Seasoning (in-joke.) After we finally beat Aaron until he learned the actual name of the superhero group name, and after I learned how to fake out to the camera so you could read my shirt, we had that scene in the bag. I had found some great cotton batting that looked like oversized comedy rope to tie Wonder Keck up with, so that looked funny. Aaron got into character quickly, and adlibbed most of his stuff. I took several takes to ramp up my own energy and get into the part (the early takes on the blooper real are painfully low-key.)

Breaking all the equipment down and heading home, it took a week or two to find the time to log all the footage and get it roughly edited, then another solid week to add the music, supers, graphics, and special effects (did I mention the Penguin Gas?) Matching the virtual table movement to the zooming and panning of the camera was difficult, so it looks a little rough--but darn good enough for a one-shot party, I'd say! The important thing was the comedy. Sylvia did a bang-up job of making a ludicrously large plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and Aaron made an annoyingly hilarious pesky sidekick.

Finally it was party day! We headed over to Sylvia's gaming friends Will and Allison's house (they were very awesome, with a cool place, and I need to hang with them more.) Kit arrived about the same time we did, and everybody else managed to arrive by twenty minutes later (by which time, Kit had not yet entered the house. Everyone else was scared to go out and find out why, so I was delegated to go check up on him. If you know Kit well, you wouldn't be worried--he was just putting together a rather complex outfit.)

Everybody seemed to really enjoy themselves. The videos played quite well through the XBox 360, and seemed to add to the mood (screaming during the Troubalert klaxon has now become an ongoing bit). Kit's character, Vector, had size-changing powers, so Kit creatively (and amusingly) replicated that by having a series of different-sized action figures to represent him. Fiona made for a hilarious FDR Lass: "We have our four freedoms: Freedom of speech, freedom from fear,...and the other two freedoms." The guy playing DYRE (think Incredible Hulk) was fabulous. At first, I thought he was an utter buffoon and a shallow actor, as his Hulk-ish character was pretty simple. But then he reverted to his "Bruce Banner" identity (by putting on a suit and tie) and revealed his brilliance (both his character's brilliance and his own brilliance at playing the character!) The plot ended up going in directions we couldn't have imagined, with an explosive ending. Sylvia did an amazing job giving everybody fun characters to play with interesting motivations, and creating a world for them to live in. (And she invented an awesome supervillain off the top of her head: The Great Molesto.)

Oh, and I have to mention that Will infused his own liqueurs, which is awesome, and he was kind enough to let me try his basil liqueur, which was satisfyingly evil-looking with it's cloudy swirls of dark green--it tasted amazing.

So here's the stuff:

Videos are here (now including bloopers from the filming!)
(it's a playlist, so you can either watch them individually or let them all play through.)

Stills from the video production are here.

Pix from the party itself do be here.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Fave iPad Apps, Part Three - Miscellaneous

Highlights of other apps.

Nice apps:
  • GarageBand - I have no idea why they sell this so cheap. If you want to make music quickly and easily, get this.
  • ChopDJ, Flare, Baby Scratch, TapDJ - scratching apps
  • iBooks, Stanza, GoodReader, ARCreader - all good PDF and eBook readers. GoodReader has great annotation tools if you want to make notes in your textbooks or whatever.
  • DocsToGo - Sort of Microsoft Office for the iPad. There's a few apps like this out there, and I finally chose this one after much debate. Love the way it syncs up with Dropbox and Google Docs.
  • IA Writer - a clear, uncluttered word processor that has additional keys on the keyboard for punctuation and navigation, so you can write faster and spend less time switching keyboards and trying to move the cursor.
  • Pages - Apple's word processor and basic desktop publishing program. Great to have if you need to quickly lay out a poster or brochure or something. Nice interface. Worth it.
  • Nebulous - Still evaluating this, but it looks like IA Writer with Dropbox integration. Well that's cool! Gotta look at this more.
  • Index Card - an index-cards-on-corkboard program. Good for organizing ideas.
  • Corkulous - Much like Index Card.
  • [Adult Swim] - Watch selected episodes, get info.
  • AppStart - Guide to how to take advantage of your iPad. ALL NEW IPAD OWNERS SHOULD GET THIS.
  • SimpleMind+ - Good, free mind mapping app.
  • Idea Sketch - another mind mapper.
  • Life - the famed magazine has a great app. Amazing photos.
  • PBS  - Good app from Public Television; you can watch some shows here.
  • Lego Photo - try it!
  • SoapBox - Access app for comedian David Mitchell's video podcast bits.
  • Planetary - very cool-looking solar-system-based interface for playing back your mp3s. Not what I'd actually USE to play mp3s, but it's cool.
And that's it for now! Enjoy!

My Fave iPad Apps, Part Two - GAMES

Okay, in this second part, I'll list off some of my favourite apps from the other pages of my iPad. No screenshots this time, as a lot of the apps are just sitting there waiting to be evaluated, or are only for extremely occasional use. I'll just hit the highlights here and share some gems.

We'll do games in this post.

Games I like:
  • Corpse Craft - Edward Gorey meets matching game meets tower defense
  • Angry Birds et al - everyone knows this
  • Karate Champ - early coin-op in full 8-bit action mode!
  • Splode - simple, poetic. Pop little balls that then fly apart and pop other balls; set up a chain reaction to make your target.
  • Stick Golf HD - miniature golf, of a sort. One of my favourite pick-up-and-play games.
  • iTraceur - a homemade parkour game. Very, very cool idea.
  • Mirror's Edge - also parkour-y, Canabalt-y. Very nice.
  • Canabalt - The original endless running game, and surprisingly captivating.
  • Mega Worm - You are a giant worm, a la Tremors. Destroy, eat, and KILL. (See also Death Worm.)
  • Monster Dash - Endless running, but you have a gun. And are killing vampires, werewolves, etc. Mindless and a hoot.
  • Bowmaster HD - Archery simulator. Surprisingly satisfying, and free fro the first bit.
  • Lego Harry Potter - A nice port of the console game.
  • Atari's Greatest Hits - good if you like old-school 2600 or arcade gaming.
  • Boggle - I got it free. Not sure if it's always free. Great pick-up-and-put-down game. PRobably my most frequently played game nowadays.
  • 7Words - Sort of crosswordy, where you answer the clues with syllable tiles. Love this one. Many levels for free.
  • 100 Rogues - Have only played this once, but I think I played it for two hours. If you know the classic Rogue game of computer gaming history long past, you know what this is. Random dungeons, random monsters, random treasure, lots of mindless adventuring fun!
  • Soundrop - More of a toy than a game. Set up platforms to bounce balls around and make music. Soothing and addicting.
  • Peggle - Peggle is AWESOME.
 Games that are promising, but I haven't really tried:
  • Underworlds - Diablo-y?
  • PoP:WW - Prince of Persia
  • WWE Legends - WRESTLING!
  • S. Guardian - Sort of Underworld-y, I think?
  • #sworcery - The celebrated 8-bit adventure game, with spooky atmosphere and music. Very promising.
  • Spirits - I got this for free. Sort of an ethereal Lemmings.

My Fave iPad Apps, Part One

So Kit just bought an iPad2 and was asking for app recommendations. I started to fire back a quick email, but it seemed to morph into a longer document that I thought might be of use to other folks, so I figured I’d turn it into a rare blog post. So here are my favourite iPad apps, as of 6/21/11, and how I use them. We'll go through them screen by screen, folder by folder.

 This is my main screen. For the dock, I've chosen my most-used programs:

  • App Store - for checking on what's popular and what needs to be updated
  • Safari - for general web browsing, but mostly for checking email, as I prefer GMail's mobile client over the Mail app, which I've relegated to the last page.
  • Informant HD - a calendar program superior to the iPad's native calendar, and which I have synced to Google Calendar.
  • Osfoora HD - my favourite Twitter client.
  • Reeder - an RSS/Google Reader client which I ADORE!

As for the rest of screen one, we have:

  • Settings - for....settings.
  • YouTube - which I actually don't use much; maybe my iPad is just old, but videos don't load very swiftly in this app.
  • Videos - which I have populated with tutorials, morgue material for projects I'm working on, finished video projects to show off, and the occasional wrestling PPV, movie, or tv show.
  • Photos - I have folders set up to store morgue files for current projects, favourite iPad wallpapers, and all the past #comicpanels and CageMatch identity screens. I also have a smart folder set up in iPhoto so that I always have the last two weeks' photos stored on the iPad.
  • iPod - I don't use it that often, but I do have a small selection of music to listen to while working--my Hero playlist, the Don soundtrack, and all the Atomic Platters tunes.
  • skipping the folders for now, we have Guardian Eyewitness, which presents amazing daily pictures from the news, courtesy of the Guardian newspaper. Very nice.
  • Dropbox - Get it now. If you don't have it already, won't you please use this link to get it? (If you do, I get more storage space!) I could (and probably should) devote an entire post to Dropbox, and why it's so useful in my daily work and INVALUABLE on the iPad. Basically, it syncs files dropped into a Dropbox folder on your pc or Mac with every other computer you own and your smartphone and iPad. So it's a great way to always have access to your important files, and a great way to get things on and off the iPad. A number of iPad apps can read and write to Dropbox, so you can transfer work back and forth, get it off the iPad to print it, get it on the iPad to edit it, etc. Get it now.
  • Simplenote - Another favourite app. Basically it's Dropbox, but just for text. Think of it as a notepad that you can edit on any machine and have changes updated everywhere, I use it for quick scripts, thoughts, props lists, anything I need to work on really quickly. If you're offline when you edit the note, it'll update automatically when you have wifi.
  • 2Do - ONE of my "to do list" apps of choice. Informant HD (above) actually does to do lists, but the format doesn't gel with me. 2Do rocks, with a great interface and online syncing.
  • Bookman - After much searching, this is my comic book reader of choice. Love it. There's a free version that's excellent; I bought the paid version to support the developer. Makes reading CBRs and CBZs easy, fun, and comic-like. (and helps me with #comicpanels!)
  • Manage...Lists - Another great to do list manager. I use this one for quick day-to-day lists, 2Do for overarching project planning. I'll frequently have a project in 2Do, then break it down in Manage Lists so as to not clutter up 2Do.
  • Evernote - I'm a recent convert to Evernote, which everybody else on the planet already uses. Basically, you use it to store just about anything, pictures, text, urls, what have you. Tag them, and then you can find them later. I've been emailing myself things to remember about Marvin Artists or video editing or animation or what have you,and then never look at them because they get lost in my email stacks. Now I throw it into Evernote, and I know I can find it later. Get the desktop client too, so you can quickly save scraps when you're working there.
  • Penultimate - I just got this on the advice of the Prolost blog, who uses it for storyboarding. It's basically a little notebook program, but the key features here are that you can rearrange the pages in a thumbnail view (essential for storyboarding) AND you can make your own custom template papers. So you could make music notation paper, graph paper, storyboarding squares, or what have you. I have it on the front page to remind myself to explore the possibilities--maybe a blank superhero body to sketch costumes on? Cartoon panels for thumbnailing?
On to the folders! Firstly, Art!
These are the various art programs I use and/or are trying out currently. I'll go through them quickly now, and will try to flesh out this section with more critical description later. There's a lot here.
  • ArtStudio - Amazing program. So cheap, you think it can't possibly be worth buying because something that cheap must suck. But it doesn't. It rocks like thunder, and the developer is CONSTANTLY making it better and adding tools and features. A must buy.
  • SketchBook Pro - Generally regarded as the best drawing app on the iPad. I like it better for some things, ArtStudio for others, but SketchBook is definitely a fabulous program.
  • LiveSketch HD - I actually just deleted this program. Basically just a cute sketchy thing, but not very useful.
  • Adobe Ideas - Why is this free??? Basically, it's a paint program that translates strokes into scalable vectors that can be exported and edited in Illustrator. I've done some awesome-looking things tracing photographs with this. No reason to not get it.
  • iDraw - One of the vector drawing programs I'm evaluating.
  • iDesign - One of the vector drawing programs I'm evaluating.
  • Sketchpad Lite - One of the vector drawing programs I'm evaluating.
  • Moxier Collage - I haven't done much with this, but it's a cool little program that lets you collage and arrange different photos together to make new art.
  • Strip Design - One of two apps on the iPad that let you make comics. Draw the panels for you, word balloons, sound effects, etc. You can import photos from the Photos app to place in the panels. Make fun photocomics OR use a drawing program to make your own art, export it to the Photos app, then pull it into Strip Design!
  • PS Express - A very stripped-down Photoshop. I use it to rotate and crop comics for #comicpanels. It's real quick and easy.
  • ToonPaint - an iPhone app, but very cool. "Toonizes" your photos.
  • Photopad - sorta like PS Express.
  • Inkpad - One of the vector drawing programs I'm evaluating.
  • Learn To Draw - haven't tried it yet, but it's by Walter Foster!
  • Sculpting Free - 3D sculpting on the iPad? What!?
  • Dottedit - another iPhone app; pixel sprite editor. Whee!

  • Next we have "Research":
    • Wikipanion - There are lots of good Wikipedia clients on the iPad. This is one of them.
    • English - A dictionary.
    • IMDB - Quick way to access IMDB, nicely presented.
    • Dictonary - A dictionary.
    • Dictionary - A dictionary. (Why do I have so many dictionaries?)

    The iPad's great for quickly scanning the popular places to buy stuff.

    • eBay - It's eBay, but organized for fast access and less ad-crap.
    • Target - Very cute little app that lets you search the store or view the current circular. Try the shopping list feature!
    • - A good Amazon client.
    • WindowShop - A dangerous Amazon client, that lets you search and browse visually across categories by swiping north-south and east-west. You can discover new things this way.
    • CraigsEZPro - nice Craigslist client that lets you shop quickly and visually.
    "News and Weather"
    • BBC News - Headlines from the BBC
    • Fluent News - Aggregated headlines.
    • Weatherbug - fun weather app
    • Weather+ - a prettied-up weather app.
    • PWTorch - rasslin' news. A fair app at best.
    We'll move to page two of the iPad apps in a subsequent post!

      Thursday, April 21, 2011

      Bottom Five Worst Wrestling Finishers Ever

      Not sure what urged me to post this, but it just goes to show what weird things go through my mind as I walk down the hall at work. Kept thinking of #1 on the list, and started branching out. Anyway, these are the five that popped into my head. You may come up with a different list in your recollection. Enjoy.

      #5....The Commando Sandwich. A brief internet search fails to provide any information on The Commandos, but as memory serves, Bad Bad Leroy Brown left the Zambuie Express, leaving Ray Candy without a partner. So they teamed him up with some longhaired fat redneck, and renamed them The Commandos. (none of this may be accurate) Basically, the move has one big fat guy hold the opponent up, and another big fat guy runs into him. Brilliant! (I coulda sworn it was a finisher, but in the linked clip, it's just a penultimate setup move.)

      #4....The Ultimate Warrior's Warrior Splash. Less said about this the better. A charismatic but low-talent wrestler, with not that much body weight, doing a no-impact splash...which he frequently did to the BACK.

      #3....Kona Crush. Can't find a clip of it. Probably for the best. He'd put his hands on either side of a guy's head and push.

      #2....The Earthquake Splash. I love John Tenta...talented guy, great history. Got stuck with some dumb gimmicks. And this move has no impact. (But has a great pre-move war dance!)

      and #1....

      ...Tully Blanchard's Slingshot Suplex. Even when I was a kid I thought, "doesn't dropping him on the ropes add nothing to the impact?" Wouldn't believe it, no matter how many times David Crockett told me Tully was getting extra "spring" off the ropes. (That didn't stop me from trying to talk Shannon Moore into doing a similar move back in the Omega days...) Not sure why I was thinking about it today, but that's how my idle mind works.

      Anybody want to see a Top Five BEST Wrestling Finishers Ever?

      PS: Yes, I know, #1 should really be the Legdrop of Doom. My bad. (Great themesong though...BROTHER!!!)

      PPS: Not a finisher, but golly wonkers, the Garvin Stomp annoyed me.

      Wednesday, April 13, 2011

      Drawing Class

      Every time I finish a drawing in class, I get the same feeling you do late at night after you've been drinking far too much and you're leaning over the toilet saying, "Oh god...what was I thinking? I'll never drink again!!!"

      I want to draw so much, and it's just so frustrating to not be able to produce anything that looks like anything. It takes every bit of strength I have to resist the urge to scream and quit and go home and not try anymore. It feels childish, which I hate, but the process just frustrates me show, and I'm always disappointed that my drawings look so formless. I also fall into the trap of comparing my drawings to the other beginners, and truly see a wide gulf between them. (I know I shouldn't compare my stuff to others, but the ability differences are pretty stark.) I'm straining hard to force myself to keep trying, but boy, it's hard.

      Friday, April 01, 2011

      Starting My First Art Class

      Okay, so I guess I would call myself an artist; I try to do creative things. I've even made money from my art sometimes. But you know what? I've never taken a single art class. Now that has changed; I've always wanted to be able to draw freehand, but have never been able to really do anything I thought was worth looking at. So after procrastinating for years and years, I've finally signed up for a basic drawing class. Brantley is taking it with me, and if we get something out of it, we plan to continue taking classes. Anyhoo, here are my notes on the first class session, which took place Wednesday:

      * * *

      The teacher seems cool; he brought in some of his artwork. Very cool small watercolours and screenprints and stuff. He also has examples on his website.

      So what we did is hear about the teacher's background (lived in Florida, moved to Durham, went to NYC to be a big artist, did some shows, came back here). Then we got out our giganto newsprint pads and our charcoal or conte crayons, and proceeded to get messy. First we just futzed around and squiggled and drew swirls and shapes to loosen up and (in my case anyway) learn what the hell a conte crayon was. We were told to experiment with soft lines and hard lines, using the point and the side of the crayon, and even pressing so hard the crayon exploded (that was fun). Also used the kneadable eraser to blend and smear lines.

      Next, he just set a folding chair up in the center of the room and had us draw it, I guess to see how we did. We did a 30 sec version, a minute, etc. Mine were horrendous. Then we tried timed drawings of the teacher sitting there, but the assignment was to keep our eyes on him and draw on the paper without looking at it. I ended up with nothing that looked human, but had some happy accidents that looked interesting. I think part of this was to see what happened when you just let your hand go without worrying about what you've done "wrong", and also about those happy accidents (which is something my friend Jason always tells me is important in art, but has always driven me crazy.)

      Then we did some drawing from memory. He set up an object on a stool and we stared at it for two minutes, and then had two minutes to draw it from memory, to test our ability to judge an objects weight, lines, light/darkness, etc. I did okay on the sort of abstract bird sculpture, but couldn't remember diddly about the stage light that was next. It was interesting to see how my memory of things captured some details, but twisted them surrealistically in my head.

      Finally, we did a series of exercises where we were asked to draw something (like "something you're going to do this weekend") and then pass your drawing to the person on your left. You then took the page you just received from your neighbour, and drew another thing ("your bedroom from when you were growing up"). This exercise seemed designed to see how you placed things on a page in relationship to other things. I particularly liked when we were asked to draw "a verb", as then I wasn't obsessed with trying to make my drawing look like some specific real-world object, and could just let my hand and mind run free. (I drew "slam" in an abstract fashion.) At several times during the class, we put selected drawings on the wall and people commented on what they saw.

      We were also serenaded by a jazz band while we drew. (More accurately, there was a jazz band practicing in the nearby theater. They were playing mostly jazz standards, but also jumped into Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" at one point, which was hilarious.)

      Overall, pretty decent. The instructor said this is sort of the pattern of the way the class will work: we'll do some drawing exercises, examine them on the wall, he'll give us pointers, etc. I think it'll be a good start. I think lots of outside practice will help as well--just doing drawing over and over. I plan on starting to bring around a sketchbook with me.

      Next week we're supposed to bring in "an object that represents you". I think I'm going with my retro old-timey radio microphone.