Archive for the ‘Comic Strips’ Category

Family Pants’ The Holiday Hedging Horror

January 9, 2011

What I did Over Christmas Break… and then some:
Why I finished a new Family Pants Christmas cartoon of mayhem of course!  Unfortunately, I missed Christmas, New Years’ and even Three Kings Day to unveil it!  So better late than never, I present Family Pants’ The Holiday Hedging Horror!

The Back Story or Who Needs Outsourcing in This Economy?
The “Holiday Hedging Horror” was written back in ’08 when the price of gas jumped through the roof.  I myself ran out of gas to finish the cartoon.

Plus I’ve been busy with my political cartoon, “Angie” about smaller government:

and a single panel gag cartoon called “Oxymoron” about… well strippers, nipples and silliness hoping to be the world’s first Twit-Toonist:

Panel cartoons and comic strips provide something to show for it with less than 1-2 hours of work.  Plus I could “work” on it while going for a walk or Christmas shopping as ideas that pop into your head only need a moment or two to jot down.

But with animation, you need to be shackled to your desk for non-stop work.  I thought there has to be a way to make cartoons faster.  Many productions achieve this by outsourcing labor.  Or “insourcing” by taking advantage of cheap slave labor we call “interns”.  In our current economy, and for some time now, economics, or the bottom line, has driven our industry over innovation or smarter thinking and planning. But it was innovation which grew America into a world power, not cheap labor!

So one day after rising gasoline prices yet again, I became motivated to finish this gag.  After watching some Gerald McBoing Boing and a great cartoon from Cartoon Brew called “Depth Study” by Terry Toons, I thought a simpler Family Pants design would ease my work load.

I was also motivated by Mondo Media’s Dick Figures and Doodie.com.  Their sloppy and loose style lent itself to be animated quickly yet actually very well.  And it’s “new”!  (So many art directors claim the “50’s” style is lost on kids who don’t know what era we’re referencing.  So what if it’s lost?  If it’s funny and in budget, great!  And if people who do know art appreciate it, all the better.  Why “bad” art is “in” I’ll never know.  Perhaps non-artists who produce cartoons feel less inadequate if the style is not far from their own limited ability?)

The original cartoon from 2008 was 80% done before I abandoned it.  Here is as far as I’ve gotten before abandonment.

Here’s a still of the new style again.  Rather than worry about making the line smooth, I kept the line rough.  And like Terry Toon’s  Tom Terrific, I didn’t even opaque the character, letting his lines bleed through other lines.  The innovation being better design… (hopefully anyway…)

In addition to the simpler style, I completely re-story boarded the cartoon using cuts to work around action, still telling the story but without animating everything.  The innovation being better thinking and planning the cartoon.  Here are the rough boards I worked off of.  Compare this to the original which has no cutting around action.


With thumbnails in hand, I roughed in the cartoon directly into Flash using a new Wacom tablet called the Bamboo Fun.  Here are a few stills.


I added my dialog tracks to the Flash time-line which I recorded using a Mini Disk recorder.  I can’t be sure, but I believe I hear some static on the recording.  Perhaps it’s that the equipment is old?  Or did I mess up the recording somehow?

I edited the audio tracks in the Flash time-line and animated to them, following the roughs.  Then I exported a SWF and imported it into Premiere.  In Premiere I added sound effects.  I could have edited audio in Flash’s time-line just as easy. Premiere is pretty versatile, but not faster to move around in than Flash.  It is however far more technically superior.  Flash audio editing is good for web stuff, but Premiere can generate audio as professional as you can imagine.

Flash’s Pain in the Butt Export
Since Flash 4, Adobe hasn’t figured out how to render out true QuickTimes from Flash.  Flash spits out a SWF, then “screen records” it into a QuickTime.  If your machine has balls, it could come out right.  However, unless you have a NORAD diesel machine, your record could skip frames or have artifacting.

The work around is to export a PNG sequence, then open the sequence in QuickTime Pro to render out a true QuickTime.  Even for a 2 minute cartoon, this could take a while.  As I’m the client here, I’m not bound to make nit-picky “tweaks”.  Imagine a horde of client changes?  Phew!

Instead I imported the SWF into Premiere to render from.  Technically, 20 guys could email me each 60 second SWFs for me to assemble end to end and render out a full blown HD quality QuickTime.  I’ve successfully done this using QuickTime Pro 4 and Flash 4 for Family Pants’ “Hole in ‘Da Roof!”.  But today, I need a far more expensive program to do the same thing.

At least with Premiere, you can do some real sound editing.

All in told, I think the 2 minute cartoon would have taken 3-4 days if I worked 8 hours/day right through.  (In addition to a busy holiday and 2 comic strips, I’ve also been sick!   I know… excuses, excuses…)


My Mom’s Nativity Set vs. Han Solo:
My Mom’s Nativity set set always had jungle animals in it.  I guess as the years went by, she added more animals to the mix she acquired along the way.  Many of them were in different product branding styles and proportions, perhaps from old toys.  Quite a strange mix to an outsider.  Long before “The Lion King”, my Mom said it was all the earth’s animals bowing down to Baby Jesus.  So when I drew Blanche’s Nativity set, of course I added an elephant, 2 giraffes and a lion without thinking.  When I was done, my wife asked, “What are they doing there?  Jesus was born in a manger!”  And then it dawned on me how silly it was.  I had to keep it.

Also, I remember getting yelled at not to play with the figures as my Han Solo action figure ran past Joseph and the sheep near the tree.  Han was of course on some adventure climbing a giant Christmas tree with lights and garland.  Perhaps on some tropical Wookie forest planet… that celebrated Christmas for some reason.  But the one thing you could never mess with was the Baby Jesus.  “Be careful of my Baby Jesus!” Ma would yell from the kitchen upon hearing some jingly thrashing about the tree and what sounded like a faint humming of the “Imperial March”.  Of course in the Family Pants universe, Frank would always unwittingly mess with Blanche’s Baby Jesus!


And one last bit of anatomical perfection…

Hope you enjoy!  At least until next year…

 

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The Washington Post Responds!

November 20, 2008

Unfortunately the latest Family Pants’ batch of comic strips have been turned down again!  But each rejection has been kinder.  It almost seems I was rejected because of faulty timing rather than smelling up the in-box of some editor.

Mrs. Lago of the Washington Post Writer’s Syndicate even gave me a short critique to be less illustrative as tiny comics are unforgiving to detail.  I guess I got too carried away with the detail.

Two left to go, King Features and United Media!

washingtonpost_reject

Even More Comics! Family Pants’ The Masked Moo-Moo Menace or The Recycling Reprobates!

November 20, 2008

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More Comic Strips!

November 20, 2008

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Comic strips!

November 20, 2008

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Creator’s Syndicate Responds!

May 17, 2008

And another NO!  Half way there…
Of the three rejects so far, I like Creator’s rejection the best.

What one looks like...

They even had nice hand written addressing on the envelope:

What one looks like...

Universal Press Syndicate Responds!

May 17, 2008

Yet another NO! But they have a nicer looking form letter…

What a rejection from Universal Press Syndicate looks like

4 more to go!

Tribune Media Syndicate Responds!

April 28, 2008

Unfortunately with a no!

There are 6 newspaper syndicates out there and Tribune Media is one of them.  The others are:

1) King Features, the oldest of the bunch
2) United Media, most famous syndicating Peanuts”
3) Universal Press, which syndicatedCalvin & Hobbes”
4) Washington Post Writers Group, currently syndicating Bloom County’s spin off, “Opus”
5) Creator’s Syndicate, who gained muscle when
Johnny Hart signed on.

I’ve mailed comic strip submissions to all of these since the mid 80’s and loads more who no longer exist.   For anyone who wondered what a rejection letter from a comic strip syndicate  looks like, here’s Tribune Media’s response to a recent Family Pants submission:
Tribue Media Rejection Letter

I wish it was a positive response, but at least rejection letters from comic strip syndicates puts you in good company.  “Peanuts” was rejected by every syndicate save one, back when there were a bunch more syndicates out there.  Jim Davis of “Garfield” said he could paper a wall with his rejection letters, and “Superman” was rejected so many times, the creators decided to ditch newspapers altogether and publish as one of them new-fangled comic books.

I’ll post the other 5 responses when I get them.  (Hopefully some good news…!)

Strip Website Launched!

April 1, 2008

stripsite.jpg

I finally finished the re-vamped Family Pants website. I hoped to finish it Jan. 1, but hey, April Fools Day is as good as any other day. (Actually, I can’t think of anything more fitting for Frank Mueller…)

It still has the same cartoon and animation links, which can be accessed through the “Everything Else” button, but now the focus of the site is on comic strips.

The site is just an empty SWF shell, which reads the date, then picks the correct strip to show. This way, I could just dump 50 strips into a folder and let the SWF update itself everyday. If you roll over the strip a menu pops up where you can select to see previous strips, start at the beginning of the story, or advance strips, but not past today’s date. For that, you gotta come back tomorrow! Eventually, when I get more stories finished, I’ll insert a button that can view the previous story in it’s entirety, so the site always has a complete story up there.

Details of my idea of what comic strips can be can be read in my previous posts, Plot Complexity vs Character Complexity, Comic Strips and Shrinkage, and Ensuing Complications in the Pants.

Hope you like it…

Comic Strips and Shrinkage….

March 27, 2008

PopeyePants
It’s that time again for another comic strip syndication submission! Family Pants started as a comic strip, then evolved into an animated short series (technically an animated comic strip) then eventually grew into a full blown DVD! Now, after the incredible amount of work of making the DVD, I’m back to my first love, comic strips.

This go around, I’m combining what I learned making longer animated content, the continuing story line, with the small venue of the comic strip.

Traditionally, comic strips were part of a long continuing story line. It promoted reader loyalty. for if you wanted to know what happened to Flash Gordon, you’d better buy and read the newspaper publishing him! Comics long ago had a depth and complexity to them that readers could sink their teeth into. Big glorious artwork and deep rich story lines… even for the ridiculously silly strips!

Working at King Features, I was lucky to raid their “morgue” files during my lunch hours and pour over Popeye strips from the thirties. I only knew Popeye from Famous Studios’ cartoons, which I admired for nice animation, but was bored stiff by the story lines. E. C. Segar’s work, which the cartoons were based on, was amazing! Funny, exciting and even adventurous! Even more amazing was the fact that this really old stuff, aside from the occasional politically incorrect gag, seemed so contemporary!

I’ve submitted Family Pants a few times to the syndicates but never as a continuity strip. This is my next experiment.

But what happened to comic strip continuity?

It seems to me that the comic strip pages shrunk, not only in size but also importance. Most people I know joke, “Does anyone even READ those things anymore?” upon hearing my love for comic strips. Why did they shrink anyway? It’s like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did they shrink, then lose importance? Were they losing popularity and shrunk by newspaper editors as a result?

Working at King Features, hearing things in the hallway, and just simply thinking about it, I’ve come up with two possibilities:

1) The most popular conspiracy theory is that newspaper editors looking for extra revenue, shrank the comics page to make room for extra space they could sell to advertisers. Why spend money on comics, when they could make money on ad space?

2) A less aggressive idea is that simply newspaper editors cannot cut any strip without a mountain of letters from readers. Think of it, you can’t have just “Garfield” and “Doonesbury”, without “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie”. You need ALL of them. The only way to get all of it in there is to half their size.

With less space to work, artists and writers cannot create engaging stories. There’s no room for detailed artwork or even interesting dialog. You’ll be lucky to have enough room for a one liner and stick figure artwork. With THAT kind of material, it’s no wonder people stopped reading comic strips. Not to mention the plethora of sexier media out there to paw at our attention.

So in a few weeks I’ll re-vamp my website at my attempt at a continuity strip, with lots of silly humorous stuff like man-nibbles, man fighting bears and general pandemonium.