As a sort of an experiment, I guess (and also because I know so little about social networking) I’ve signed up for Twitter. I don’t know whether I’ll actually use it, but I guess we’re going to find out. My user name is @JohnWAllie (assuming you’re supposed to type that at-symbol?) if you want to follow me or whatever it is people do with Twitter. (As you can see, I’m quite vague on the exact function here.) Get off my lawn, pesky kids!
Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Myst, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com
As Myst approaches its twentieth anniversary, it’s a good time to take a look back and try to understand what it all meant. Writing now, seven years after the final installment was published, much of the fan base has gone silent, Cyan Worlds (the creators) have turned to simple iPhone games, and the series itself has become little more than a tiny blip in the history of video games. Its initial meteoric arrival is well-known, selling 6 million copies and contributing to the rise of the CD-ROM drive. Its safe, no-dying approach appealed to small-time gamers and its uniqueness to the more die-hard breed. Myst was an anomaly in the video-game scene of 1993, and its influence was felt across the field. Still, many of those 6 million players never actually finished the game, and as we have observed, the series has languished into relative oblivion today. As a longtime fan, I naturally think this fate was undeserved, but as a critic I can’t help but see some of the factors which brought it about. Over the next few months we’ll be taking a trip through the series, beginning with the first game and ending with the last (with three stopovers to look at the novels). Now, if you’d care to join me, I have just stumbled across a most intriguing book…
Perspective is always somewhat of a struggle for me, so I’m doing some experiments to see if I can come up with an elegant drawing style that might allow me to bypass the vanishing point entirely. These two drawings represent my first foray along these lines, so expect more as this develops. These are just based on some photographs I had on my hard drive; both depict the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association in Willimantic, CT. Fellow artists, please do weigh in on these.
I’ve been rereading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, one of my favorite books as a kid. Naturally I can’t top the original Jules Feiffer illustrations, but I thought I’d try drawing some anyway. Here’s my take on Tock the Watchdog, who I’ve decided is a Doberman. More illustrations to come, maybe.
Size of dot reflects character’s proximity to camera. Orange line indicates the character’s duration within the series. Characters who never appeared on a cover: Stephenson and Ritchie.
Color swatches show basic palette of cover art. Apparently the best way to imitate a Sunrise cover would be to use a lot of gray, a little sky blue, and desaturated colors.
Speed: 65 MPH. Following Distance: 3 ft. Observed October 13, 2011, CT-95 N.
Perspective is always a challenge. This is doubly true when working with scenes that don’t exist. Some of the first scenes in Sunrise Issue 10 take place in an enormous hangar containing an airship. What’s an artist to do in this situation? Well, why not build an airship hangar?
Not a real hangar, obviously… a couple hours in Blender and I’ve thrown together this lovely digital hangar which has already saved me endless frustration. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, this is a digital 3D model which the computer can render from any angle. Of course, the excitement doesn’t end with accurate perspective, because this is also a lit model! Take a gander:
My “people” are made of blocks, yes, but still, it’s nice to know where all the shadows fall.
With this in hand, I can go back to my paper and ultimately produce this:
Accurate perspective and realistic lighting, with no cursing or sobbing required. Computers, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s give them a big hand.
Quick, what’s the difference between Calvin and Hobbes and Star Wars? Naturally, the two have so little in common that the question hardly makes sense. The comparison which I’m trying to draw, though, is this: Bill Watterson ended his series early, when it was still in its prime, while George Lucas’s epic continues staggering along, soiling its legacy a little more with each installment. While I’d like to see more Calvin and Hobbes as much as the next guy, I have to admit that I’m glad Watterson ended it before it turned sour.
You can probably see where this is going. I am going to be ending Sunrise following the completion of Issue 10. This was not an easy decision for me to make, and I’ve given it a lot of thought. Sunrise has served me well. When I started it in 2008, the only long-format comics I’d drawn were my Zark stories. I hadn’t taken any figure drawing or illustration classes yet. I wasn’t yet reading graphic novels(!). Now, ten issues later, my artwork has improved dramatically and my writing has followed suit. (How strange to think that the most recent issue was more than twice as long as the first!) Sunrise has always been primarily a learning experience for me, and I’d like to think I’ve learned its lessons well. It’s time for me to graduate.
But why graduate now, when it’s only just becoming strong? Well, to be honest, I’m getting tired of it. The episodic format doesn’t interest me as it once did. I want to move toward working with long-form stories (e.g., graphic novels) and Sunrise does not lend itself to that. Secondly, I’m interested in moving away from genre fiction. While I do have some ideas for a sprawling space opera (and Realm of course) I think it might be fun to do something about the real world for a change. Finally, Sunrise has some inherent limitations that become more pronounced to me with every issue. It too often tends to have very long passages of dialogue, and in many cases there are no opportunities for interesting visuals. As I’ve said previously, Sunrise is based pretty closely on Star Trek, and Star Trek is not a comic. This kind of storytelling works much better on TV. In short, Sunrise is wearing thin, and I’m ready to try something new.
Which is, of course, what this really comes down to. While Sunrise is ending, I have numerous other projects, at least one of which will move up to take the spotlight that Sunrise is currently occupying. Realm is one possibility. I’m also planning a graphic novel which might be well-timed to start soon. And, dare I mention it, a silly science-fiction gag strip which I may run in the interim. Suffice it to say (and this cannot be stressed enough) I am not leaving webcomics. Sunrise or no, I will be making something, so do stop by and see what it is. Naturally there will be further announcements as the time grows near.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Issue 10 is going to be awesome. It’s got airships. It’s got action. It’s got drama. It’s got over 70 pages. It’s also the most Tintinesque issue yet, so some of you will appreciate that I’m sure. So don’t be glum. Buckle up and thanks for coming along for the ride.
Jonah Robinson, Raven, Albee… how can I ever forget them?