Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Digital, Thrillbent | 28 Comments

…and the continual search to balance both perfectly.

The second installment of INSUFFERABLE went up a half-hour ago at Thrillbent, and as I look over it, in the midst of marveling at the craftsmanship of Pete, Nolan and Troy, I’m reminded of all the stuff we didn’t know months ago when we produced it, and now I’m nervous.

Originally, my idea for the middle sequence–the hidden-traincar-ride back to Nocturnus’ HQ–was that it be all one long, four-screens-wide panorama panel, where as the reader scrolls across, those flashback/memory panels gradually drop into place. There were two things that I didn’t take into consideration that I do now.

One was technical–at that time, the software we’re using as a viewer didn’t have the capacity to scroll right and left. (I’ll get Lori to explain soon exactly what it is we use and how it works.) So much for the “infinite canvas” idea. We’re still trying to crack that, and I hope we do by installment five or else I’m gonna have to do some serious rewriting.  Pete tried at first to compensate by doing a layout showing the traincar gradually moving across the page at a static camera angle, but while it was closer to what I’d envisioned than what we have now, it was dull to look at. Pete and Nolan worked together to come up with what we have now, which is a nice compromise.

Second thing was…and this sounds so stupid in retrospect because it’s so elementary now but it wasn’t then…I forgot to ask Pete to draw the inset/flashback panels separate from the main art so we could gradually layer them in. Instead, Pete just drew them together with the subway background as one piece of art, not quite understanding what I was going for (because I failed to communicate–this is on me, not on him). Hard lesson learned. Now…NOW…when we do that “panels dropping gradually in” effect (which comes into play nicely in installment six), Pete draws the full screen and then goes back and does the inset panels separately so we can layer them in on the page-turns.

It’s a cool device. I wish we’d used it here, but again, that’s on me. We may re-do it if Pete and Nolan get a free day soon, but that’s an extra expense that I’m not sure is worth the time and expense. (Even though I’m paying both gentlemen in nylons and chocolate bars, they still need to be compensated fairly, and drawing/coloring an entire page and THEN on top of that adding inset panels is like drawing/coloring a page and a half, at least. And the production work is simple but time-consuming–I’ll do a blog post on that later this week.)

So I guess where I’m nervous is that this installment, even moreso than the previous one, uses hardly any of the “bells and whistles” digital affords, and instead it’s more an example of the craft of doling out as much information using as little real estate as possible. Is that enough, in and of itself, not to lose the audience? This is what I’m talking about, what keeps me up nights–the struggle of finding the right balance of story and technique. Think we found it with installment three, definitely with four. Let me know your thoughts.

28 Comments

  1. Solomon Mars
    May 9, 2012

    hm… I don’t know I liked the way it was delivered. without the panels dropping in.
    those frames had a nice arc to them over the present panels. and the colour worked well to explain.
    I’m not 100% convinced bells and whistles are that necessary if the art and story are strong. I would think they would get glossed over, or forgotten in time. like a big budget special effects film, that blew people away when it came out, but no one watches it on dvd over and over after it has left theaters. because while flashy, it didn’t have substance to last the long run. that’s not what this is and I can tell because you can tackle it with or without the bells and whistles.

    I can understand wanting to play in this sandbox a little and experiment with possible new ways to lay out the story visually, I find new ways to play around with panels and frames all the time.
    So I don’t want you to think I’m giving you a hard time about experimenting.
    I just want you to enjoy telling the story, and not let the bells and whistles become your driving force behind creating in this media outlet. C:

    Reply
  2. Matt Zimmerman
    May 9, 2012

    I know how welcome semi-unsolicited tech advice can be, but you might investigate a jQuery (which you’re already using) plug-in called jCycle. There is a implementation of that ( http://jquery.malsup.com/cycle/multi.html ) that would allow you to assign each panel a custom transition.

    So in the cases where you are building a page panel by panel you could leave it as is, but you’ve have the ability to scroll side/side or up/down if the situation called for it.

    Anyway, just a thought. Really enjoying Thrillbent so far.

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 9, 2012

      Will investigate. Thanks, Matt!

      Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 9, 2012

      And at least for now, there is no such thing as “unsolicited advice” here–it’s all about sharing ideas and craft and pointers and visions, and anyone who has something to say is encouraged to do so–so don’t be shy!

      Reply
  3. Don Garvey
    May 9, 2012

    When you mention having Pete draw the flashbacks separate from the main art, it makes me think about all of the many considerations that would be useful going in.

    For example, we feel like we need the option to print later, though in a digital format we intend to go with the more dynamic format you demonstrate here, and with AvX infinite.

    I think the trick comes in careful early planning on page “layouts”. For example, drawing a panel page width, completing the background, even if, when printed, there will be a panel beside it or inset over it. The logistics would be considerable at the start, but I imagine as time goes by and the language of planning screens, roughs, and final page layouts etc comes together, it will become routine and expected.

    Reply
  4. Michael Murphey
    May 9, 2012

    You guys might want to take a look at HYPE for Mac for utilizing the infinite canvas idea, but still having HTML 5 based web navigation. The application is easy to learn, and will seriously help you get the freedom you’re looking for on the “canvas” side of these books.

    Really digging the series so far!

    Reply
  5. scottstory
    May 9, 2012

    I enjoyed this episode, without doubt. But I would not have liked it as much with a side-to-side scrolling section.

    Essentially, I have never thought much of infinite canvas for a variety of reasons. It’s more a gimmick to me, and about as useful as a six-page fold out from Jim Lee. Sure, it’s kind of neat, but it gets more and more irritating with each re-reading.

    Insufferable as it stands is navigated quite easily with the arrow keys. If I had to suddenly stop and use my mouse to scroll right or left then it would throw me out of the the story.

    One thing you could have easily done is this: have a really wide panel that extends far outside bounds, and then have it pan across the frame automatically, or with a series of clicks.

    Well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Reply
    • Kyer
      May 9, 2012

      I like that idea too. Also, it was enjoyable as is. It was clear that the hero was remembering his past while the train car moved through the tunnel.

      The only thing I didn’t much care for was with the subway poster where the words were from arrows rather than a closer look at the poster itself. Not really off putting…just took me out of the story for a few seconds before my brain registered what the arrow panels were for.

      [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

      Reply
      • Adam_54
        May 10, 2012

        Congratulations on another great installment.

        If I had to nitpick, then I’d agree the subway poster did not work for me either, for both the reason mentioned above (those captions looked a bit amateurish also)and the focus pull effect looked a bit messy to me.

        When you used it in Nova it was perfect and really looked like a cinematic focus pull, manipulating depth of field.

        Here I could really tell it was just a blur effect that took me out of it.

        Sorry if I sound negative as I’m really not, I loved the installment.

        One thing I will take away from it is nothing to do with digital but a valuable lesson in story telling.

        The way you skillfully compressed so much back story into such a small installment without lots of exposition was fantastic and something I hope to learn from for my own scripts.

        Thanks and already looking forward to next weeks :)

        Reply
  6. jlmcvay
    May 9, 2012

    I come from a film special effects background, a discipline where it’s easy to get lost in the bells and whistles of the tools we have. What I’ve learned is this – if a technique tells us something more about the characters emotional state, fills out a plot point or clarifies the action then it’s not a bell or whistle. That’s you using the grammar of your medium.

    If the technique is there because everybody is doing it, it’s cool/hot or marketing requested it then it’s probably a bell/whistle and you don’t need it.
    Really, the only question is does it further the story or not?

    Reply
  7. Chris Garrett
    May 9, 2012

    I enjoyed it over all Mark, there are going to be bumps while you discover all of this, and I can’t wait to see HOW it’s made.

    I’ve attempted to create my comics in a similar fashion but the only tool at my use was Graphicly, and obviously what you’re doing is far beyond that.

    But that’s the great thing about digital, you can come back and edit it once the technology is there to catch up with your writing, which I’ve always enjoyed.

    Thrillbent helped inspire my wife and I to relaunch our comic book series after doing some heavy edits, it’s tough to look at something you spent so much time on and find ways to improve it but once you can remove yourself from it enough in the name of the project that’s when it’ll really succeed.

    I have a ton of faith that Thrillbent is going to be what digital comics should have been from the start and I’m beyond excited to see where they go once your satisfied with the layouts and hopefully one day accept submissions from other creator owned stories into Thrillbent…not that I’d have any interest in that…

    Reply
  8. Shawn Richison
    May 9, 2012

    I had a similar struggle, both with finding a suitable viewer (and I still don’t have something iPhone compatible, although I’m working on a workaround) and with re-formatting print style material to a digital version, while taking advantage of the timing and other effects that digital offers. This, while still definitely a work in progress, is what I came up with:

    http://sunsetlegendcomic.blogspot.ca/2011/10/coming-soon.html

    Reply
    • lori
      May 9, 2012

      That is some pretty stuff, Shawn!

      What jquery viewer are you using?

      Reply
      • Shawn Richison
        May 10, 2012

        It’s called simple viewer – I was able to integrate it into blogger and dropbox with a little trial and error. Thanks for looking!

        Reply
  9. Will Parish
    May 9, 2012

    I have nothing to offer this conversation in regards to technical expertise. I’m coming at this as a fan. Still, a story comes to mind that may be relevant. In college I worked for a wedding photographer. I was really nothing but a glorified gopher but I did learn a couple things. Rule #1 was never show anybody your trash can. If it took you 50 shots to get that one perfect sunset (or whatever) shows them the sunset not the 49 failures setting in the garbage. Reading Insufferable #2, without the insight of your blog, I followed the emotional path and was sucked into Nocturnus’ crushing burden of regret and sorrow. There were no emotive beats that were missed. Now I also understand that the goal of this project is transparency and a deliberate drawing back of the curtain. I just want to encourage you to not get too caught up in the technical aspects and forget the inherent power of storytelling. You are deliberately showing your trash can and while feedback may be a positive benefit I think you may need reminded that in the end the audience just wants to see the sunset. Rule #2 When somebody does good work let them know it. You’ve done good.

    Reply
  10. Steve Broome
    May 9, 2012

    Great job on the site changes.

    Reply
  11. Karl Kesel
    May 10, 2012

    Another fine episode (I still can’t call them “issues”) of Insufferable.

    So Wednesday is New Comic Day at Thrillbent? Of course it is!

    I’m not a fan of the “infinite canvas” approach to web comics, so am happy it didn’t get used here. I agree with Scott Story— the sudden scrolling would have pulled me out of the story; and maybe some sort of click-to-pan-across wide panel would have accomplished what you wanted even better.

    First time I read this episode was on my iPod Touch, and I was surprised how easy it was to read! I had assumed lettering would be difficult to read, but it wasn’t. Only 2 things weren’t clear: I couldn’t read the mom’s last name on the tombstone (important, since it’s the last name of our main characters, too), and I didn’t realize the poster-captions had anything to do with the poster until I re-read the episode on my computer monitor. And I agree that the poster-captions didn’t quite work— since it took me a second to realize what they were, it pulled me out of the story.

    The only other thing: When Nocturnus puts the mask back on the Galahad dummy, I would have not shown it falling off until you clicked forward. It’s a big moment, symbolically at least, and I think holding it back would have made it even more powerful.

    As I’ve begun dabbling in this format myself, I’ve run into the same “problem” Mark mentioned, where you need to draw 2 separate sets of images so they ca be layered one over the other later. (Which isn’t really a problem since it’s one of the cool things the medium can do.) My question is one Mark brought up himself: how do you pay Pete equitably for that work? Is it just a flat per-screen-rate no matter how easy or difficult, or do you actually keep track of percentages (overlay images an extra 1/10th of a screen get an extra 10% in pay), or what?

    See you next Wednesday!

    Reply
    • Matt Zimmerman
      May 10, 2012

      I don’t think he’s talking about literally scrolling to the side, it’s more of a transition effect, within that fixed space. That could create motion consistent with how the story is being told, the way you navigated the comic wouldn’t ever change.

      There are a lot of possible ways transitions could enhance the story telling, you could use fades to create a slow motion or montage effect, a jump cut (like it is now) to show fast action, or side-to-side shifting to create a better sense of space, like if a character is fighting his/her way down a corridor.

      Reply
  12. Carlton Donaghe
    May 10, 2012

    Shawn Richison, when you created this site, I suppose you must have a fairly large monitor. I tried looking at your site on a smaller monitor, and quite a bit of the info gets cut off. Also, if you had a comic on there, I was not able to see it.

    Even though large monitors are cool, not everyone has them. Some folks have notebooks, or even those smaller things my students like to bring to class. I don’t know how this would work on an iPad device or similar. My immediate reaction was, “Oh. This comic isn’t intended for me.”

    Reply
    • Shawn Richison
      May 10, 2012

      Hmmm, don’t know what to tell you, Carlton. I know the title banner does display fairly largely, but I’m hoping the scroll bars will help people get the idea to move down (I did try it out on a variety of browsers and systems, and it displayed fine on all the ones I tried…). In any event, your comments are noted and I’ll take them into consideration (perhaps putting the logo in the upper left hand corner and making it smaller so we can get to the comic more efficiently…). I do know that this is flash based, so if you are on an iOS handheld it probably won’t display (it doesn’t appear on my iPhone, so there you go) but I’m still trying to figure out a workaround.

      Sorry it didn’t work for you this time – maybe give it a try in another month, when I’ve had a chance to work out the kinks a bit (I haven’t technically launched yet, but wanted to share a bit with those who are interested in the converstation). Thanks for your insight!

      Btw – did you used to be on penciljack? I think we actually worked together before around 99 – 2000!

      Reply
  13. Sky
    May 10, 2012

    I never read much print comics, I’m a webcomic reader. So from that perspective, as one link in twenty others I read every two days or so, your strong points are:
    – better writing than most
    – better visuals than most
    – the feeling that you take the medium seriously and do experiments with it

    And the last point I think is what you mean by “bells and whistles”. I liked Installment 1 of Insufferable more than part 2, because it had more of that stuff going on. The camera effect in the beginning for example. Small stuff, but for me, its a very important point of why I like these comics so much this far.

    Reply
  14. Carlton Donaghe
    May 11, 2012

    Hey, Shawn– yeah, I was around when Penciljack first started (right after the original Wizard boards went down). Pardon me for asking, but did you change your last name, or am I confusing you with another Shawn?
    At any rate, it’s awesome to see that you’re still working with getting comics up online! Good luck, and I hope we bump into each other again, before another 12 years go by!

    Reply
  15. Arnie
    May 11, 2012

    Bumps, bruises. ups, downs. These all apart of learning, an i watched you grow over the decades to the writer you are now. When you started you were learning something new, just like now. I’m enjoying the process of what you turned out, but mostly watching you learn as you go. You see, when your with a “major publisher” we don’t get to see all your pitfalls, and that is part of the magic with digital comics, that belong to you, we get to “share” in your joys and frustrations.

    We all fall down, we al l have fears. The cool thing is watching you learn from it. By overcoming you fear, and getting back up. Thrillbent is a journey that i happy to be here to witness.

    Thank for speaking out. Thank you for taking the plunge. i wish more were like you…

    peace

    Reply
    • Darth Commenter
      May 11, 2012

      I have to agree with Arnie. I really didn’t get the sense of being part of the evolution until this blog. This is really cool.

      Reply
  16. Darth Commenter
    May 11, 2012

    Mark, Congratulations on this website. You’re awesome dude. I’m sending you my good vibrations.

    I would have liked your original idea for the flashback sequences. Sounds cool. I thought many of the pop up panels in the first installment weren’t so necessary, but fade in flashback panels would have been nice.

    I have to agree that the poster callouts in installment 2 were a bit weak.

    I’m a bit confused on the timing of the flashbacks? Is Galahad talking to his live mother or dead mother at the end?

    Also, I’ve added Thrillbent to my bookmarks for two reasons:
    1) This is a revolutionary experiment, and it’s tons of fun to watch it evolve.
    2) I’m getting to read a free comic written by Mark F’in Waid.

    Reply
  17. scottstory
    May 11, 2012

    Just for fun, I looked at Insufferable on my Droid (which is not a way I usually read comics). Clarity was great, of course, but I could not get the comic pages to reduce to fit them into one screen at the same time. The navigation buttons were somewhat unresponsive on here as well.

    This was looking at it through my browser, not any sort of dedicated reader. If anyone has sort of favorite reader, let me know please.

    Reply
  18. Robin Quinn
    May 11, 2012

    Thanks for another endeavor we can all learn from …
    Just a thought , have you seen ‘ The Wolf and The Medallion ‘ from the Banff Film
    Festival ? Take a look …
    You may likee …

    Reply
  19. Yen Yen Woo
    May 15, 2012

    Hi Mark, I like this way of reading it much more than the pan and scan of Guided View. Guided View feels like the panels are moving without any real reason except to move from panel. And the resolution of each panel in guided view is also pretty crappy.

    I do like the consistency of the frame with Insufferable and how great it looks. Possible for it to go full-screen? -Yen Yen

    Reply

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