Saturday, November 27, 2010


Hey, Meat-Heads! While Eric really puts his mind to improving his swing, we're going to talk about...


RAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!! (It's amazing how many appropriate clips this movie provides!)

So, violence. Violence, more specifically ultra-violence, has been associated with the the living impaired ever since George Romero fired off the (head)shot heard round the world:

(Warning, not really suitable for work or kids)

This was essentially the beginning of the modern marriage of the undead monster and large caliber firearms, which have lived happily ever since. Along the way, the happy couple gave birth to buckets and buckets of gore glowing in all shades of red to the delight of audiences around the world. The Italians upped the ante with eyeball punctures and brain squishing, a bearded, hobbit-like man from New Zealand showed us the best use for a chest mounted lawn mower, and most recently, the Norwegians painted the mountains red with a snowmobile-mounted WWII-era machine gun. I can assure you all that Dead Meat follows right along in that fine tradition.

However, violence is tricky. I don't think I really need to state that I hate violence, which I do, but at the same time, artistically I do find it effective and actually quite aesthetically pleasing and cathartic in some cases. I think my perception and respect for violence has changed a lot in the past 10 years or so, and as that has changed, so has my approach to how I deal with it in the story. Make no mistake, Dead Meat is violent. It's very violent. It deals with violent people doing violent things to other people and undead alike. Initially, in the first drafts of the story, the violence was a lot lighter in tone, a little more carefree, but as it evolved, I realized that it needed a much harder edge. To tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed it to be clear that a. the world is a DANGEROUS one, and b. my main group of characters are just as dangerous and just as hard as the world they live in. I actually realized that my main group of characters' point of view toward the violence they commit IS actually pretty light and carefree--they kill people who get in the way of their goals as quickly as you'd kill a fly--and I realized that was a very important character trait.

Violence can be scary, violence can be funny, violence can be inappropriate, violence can be cathartic. As you go through your own stories, if they include violence, don't be afraid to really think about what purpose violence serves, and the approach with which you depict it.

With that in mind:

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

p.s. This is another multi-faceted topic, so I encourage discussion in the comments section!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Written Word!

Hello again, Meat-Heads!

It seems Eric here is writing me a nasty letter because it's been so long since I've posted, and I can't say I blame him!

So at this point in the chronicling of how Dead Meat has been shaping up, I've talked about over-thinking lots of things, lots of elements, and how this can get in your way when trying to get things on paper. Well, when it came to actually getting things on paper, i.e. writing my story, I didn't so much over-think it as much as have a ton of false starts. I've talked previously about how story elements changed, plots changed, characters changed, tone changed, etc, and I think it was this state of flux that prevented me from writing anything substantial up until the most recent incarnation of the story. To date, I think I've actually written and re-written what would become the first issue.....maybe 5 or 6 times over the past 10 years. Now I don't think that this is a bad thing, as if it wasn't for all those previous drafts I had done, I wouldn't have gotten to the stage I am now. I think, much like the evolution of art style, all the hacking away I did showed me what worked, what didn't, what I liked, and what needed to go.

I knew from the get go that I didn't want to do an outbreak story. As I said before, the very first incarnation of the story featured my characters as an extermination-type group, much like Ghostbusters. While this idea was sort of fun, I didn't get very far, and I felt like it wasn't very relatable. The next version was completely different, and focused on a young girl named Ashley and her brother Georgie, and was set up like a Wizard of Oz-type story where Ashley and Georgie were thrust into this horror-filled world after Ashley woke up from a coma. The idea here was to have the girl and her brother stand in for the reader who is thrust into a crazy, incredible situation. This concept felt a lot better, because I really liked the idea of having this group of extra-ordinary characters who are just larger than life compared to Ashley and Georgie who interact with them. However, I wrote myself into a corner because I realized that I had so much fun writing writing my characters that I kept trying to find a way to get rid of or ignore Ashley and Georgie, so I could focus on my guys.

This, along with the sheer number of characters I wanted to play with, led me to structure it in a new way, which is how it currently exists. Instead of dumping Ashley and Georgie, I broke the structure into multiple stories that would then criss-cross at certain points. This allowed me to introduce a lot of characters, and in the future would allow me to jump around with who I focus on without feeling like I'm flat out neglecting others.

I think this change in structure and approach has been really beneficial to the project as a whole, because once I determined a structure that felt good and somewhat natural, it really allowed the stories I wanted to tell to start flowing out easier. So at the end of the day, it's one thing to be over-obsessive about perfection, but it's another thing to know when something's not working, and to find a new way to approach. I think being able to recognize when something's not working, and being open to re-working it, is a really important attribute to develop as you develop your writing.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Welcome back, Meat-Heads--Looks like Eric has quite the decision to make before he starts his day!

Ugh. Sometimes you just suck. I had a drawing day like that yesterday, and it was INCREDIBLY frustrating. I was going to do a woe-is-me, everybody has bad days post yesterday while I wallowed in my distaste with my work, but I thought HEY! When I get over the block, why not talk about it here! So that's what I'm gonna do.

So I was working on this page from Dead Meat #2, and I got to the last panel, and it just was NOT coming together. After slamming my head against the board all day like so:

I realized that the reason it wasn't coming together was because I hadn't taken the time to think out the panel. I mean seriously, look at the breakdown I did for it:

There's a general idea of what's going on, but no thought was given to any of the background, any light sources--nothing other than rough composition and loose stick figures. I shot a couple reference photos, but not many, and tried to hack it together with what I had. This is where I was when I gave up:

It's.....ok? It's pretty boring, and it wasn't really getting across what I wanted. So, I went back to the drawing board the next day literally (BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA...ugh...), and worked out a new breakdown for the panel, which looked like this:

See here, the emphasis is a lot more on lighting and mood, and played to more of my strengths, which the other composition did not. I felt that this change was a much welcomed improvement, and I completed the panel and I think the end result is much stronger than the other would have been:

So what did I learn? Well, I didn't so much learn something, as much as have something I already knew reinforced. I always used to brush off doing my breakdowns as something I could do super quick and get to the work. HOWEVER, what might not be the obvious thing is that the breakdowns ARE the work. That's where all your thinking needs to be done, where you plan out what you're going to do. The breakdowns are baking the cake, and the actual drawing is the frosting. Or the breakdowns are the foundation, and the drawing is the...roof... Or...The breakdowns are the...body snatching...and the drawings are the lightning storm that brings your horrible creation to life? Hell, I don't know, you get the idea, leave me alone.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You got STYLE, kid!

Howdy, Meat-Heads!

Eric just got a brand-new suit, and doesn't he look sharp! With this in mind I want to talk a bit about style. I've been having style issues lately, in terms of how I do things, how I want to do things, and how it seems things should be done. Style can get pretty tricky. We all have an idea in our heads of how we want our work to look, and sometimes after a while you find that your tastes have changed. This can really wreak havoc on how you approach certain things.

As I said a while back, one of my main hangups when it came to actually starting Dead Meat was feeling that I wasn't up to snuff in drawing ability, and in a similar vein I felt stylistically I wasn't at a point where my work felt real. That might be a weird way to describe it, but I think you know what I'm talking about: some times your work just doesn't feel like it's real--like it's a cohesive, competent work--and then sometimes it does. It wasn't until the past couple years that I really got a handle on the way I draw, and the way I like my comics to look. Strangely enough, my current style is sort of an amalgam of a bunch of different avenues I tried out separately. Here's a guide of the visual evolution of the character of Foley from Dead Meat:
Figure 1: the earliest depiction of the character, obviously. Now, some people might actually like that style, but to me, it wasn't what I was looking for. It didn't feel real. It was unrefined, the anatomy is garbage, and the level of skill just wasn't up to my own demands.
Figure 2: This is the first evolution of my style. Up until then I never inked my own stuff, and I think you can see that here--the inking is pretty scratchy and not very intelligent. However, in terms of acting and body language, I think this is a huuuuge jump from Figure 1. I still didn't feel like it was what I wanted though.
Figure 3: This is where everything changed. Figure 3 is when I felt like I broke through the wall. I'm much more confident in my inking, and my discovery of all the ways you can use a white-out pen really rocketed my work forward. This is how I wanted my work to look. This is the first time it felt "real."
Figure 4: This is how it looks today, 10 years after I first started drawing the character. I've refined what I started in Figure 3, and I've also added some ink wash for effect that I think adds a cool look to everything. By the same token, I find myself drifting away from the white-out pen. I still use it a lot, but I'm a little more confident with it now, and don't feel the need to cover the entire page with white-out scratches.

Similarly, even though I'm happy with my current style, I find that it's still changing. The problem now is, I'm not totally sure where it's going, and I'm not sure if I like that. Working on this book has caused me to have to change the way I work a little, to increase my speed, and I get worried that the way my style changes from here on out will be because of time restrictions, and not because of me getting better, but at the same time I do feel that the more I do the better I get, so it's really tough to say.

I'll touch on some of the ways I've specifically changed my process in a future post, but for now, I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on style and change in your own style, regardless of your creative field, so feel free to discuss in the comment section!

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!