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Sunrise: The Complete Anthology

The complete anthology of Sunrise, my now-completed webcomic, is now available for purchase. Until February 16, the option of a signed and/or drawn-in copy is available. See this page for more details, or see below and after the fold for additional pictures and information. Click here to go ahead and order a copy for yourself.

Sunrise anthology, in isometric-esque view

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Sunrise Covers Breakdown

Sunrise covers

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.

On Location (Digitally)

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?

Nefertiti In Hangar, 1

Nefertiti In Hangar, 2

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:

Nefertiti In Hangar, rendered

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:

Nefertiti in Hangar, complete

Accurate perspective and realistic lighting, with no cursing or sobbing required. Computers, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s give them a big hand.

Sunrise, Setting

Issue 9 before being put into storage

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?

I do believe it's Pi Day!

That means three things:

  1. Realm chapter 1 is now available to be read online.
  2. The Zarks, which I invented while drawing on a half-hour car trip, are now nine years old.
  3. The area of a circle is equal to the radius squared times 3.14159265358979323846264 . That is the extent to which I memorized it when I was in my teens. Yes, I know what Toothpaste for Dinner says. I make no apologies for the actions of my teenage self.

Tomorrow a new issue of Sunrise will begin, in honor of the ides of March I guess.

Kaboom!

A big Kaboom in Sunrise

On the above recent Sunrise page, I struggled for a long time while trying to decide whether to use the cliched sound effect kaboom. This is supposed to be a serious moment, and kaboom conjures up superhero silliness just as much as biff and pow. At first I tried coming up with an original sound effect (I believe it said baWOOM up there for a while) but ultimately decided to go with kaboom, not despite its longstanding reputation, but because of it.

What I realized was that using an unexpected sound effect isĀ  a distraction. It calls attention to the sound effect itself, and draws the reader out of the story. Take a look at this sequence from Jason Lutes’s (highly recommended) Berlin: City of Smoke:

Jason Lutes's Berlin: City of Smoke

What transpired here should be fairly obvious: a man puts a gun to himself, and the big PAK seems to indicate that he fired it. The problem with PAK, though, is that it’s not a sound effect we typically associate with guns. When I read this book, I stared at these two panels for a long time, wondering if I was misreading them; if maybe PAK was supposed to indicate something different. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant, but not completely sure. Had it said BANG, I wouldn’t have skipped a beat.

Thus I decided to go with kaboom, even though it seems like a cliche. In a dramatic moment, I want my readers to be thinking explosion, not “baWOOM?”.

Sunrise: Three Years!

Well, it’s been another year. Sunrise officially began on February 12th, 2008, when this horrible-looking page was posted to the then-very-rough website I’d set up at the time. (The cover of Issue 1 appears to have been posted the day before, but was actually posted somewhat later, with the date adjusted to ensure correct position in the archive.) Now, some 230 pages later, it seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned from this little experiment.

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Re-learning Fluidity

My drawings are becoming tense again. At various times I’ve been able to loosen up and work more fluidly, but recently I’ve noticed that a certain stiffness is creeping in again, particularly in Sunrise. The drawings are taking a long time to make, requiring lots and lots of erasing, and ultimately coming off as fairly lazy and not particularly dynamic. This is partly due to the weakness of Sunrise as a very talky comic, but that is still not a complete excuse for the static feel it has had for most of its run. I’ve been forced to learn to loosen up again. It has been a revelation.

Typical stiff Sunrise artwork

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All Kinds of New Stuff

Lots of updates to the site.

First and foremost is Flashlight, the photo series formerly known as Glimpse. The entire series is online now, so do check it out. (I hope to make a “behind-the-scenes” post at a later time.)

Other updates include a photograph of a dirtpile, a photograph of a ventilator intake (Myst fans particularly ought to check this out), and the logo for The Sextons’ Guild.

Also note the new header, in which I experiment with the logo I designed recently (never before seen online).

Oh, and there’s a new page of Sunrise too. Read it >

Do I pass the Bechdel Test?

I recently learned of the Bechdel Test, a three-part test used on works of fiction to determine how well its female characters are developed and integrated. It was devised by none less than Alison Bechdel, author of the remarkable graphic memoir Fun Home (which you should read if you haven’t yet). There’s already an entire website devoted to evaluating movies with the test, but of course my immediate concern was how well my own works would fair under scrutiny.

The test is as follows: A work must have (1) two or more female characters (2) who talk to each other (3) about something besides a man. Sounds simple enough! Let’s see how I fare.

Sunrise. (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! There are a few examples, mostly from Issue 4, but some from other issues as well. Still, it couldn’t hurt to try harder, as I do notice that these examples are few and far between.

Realm (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Back to the drawing board for Realm. Luckily, I haven’t plotted out the entire book yet so there’s still plenty of time to revise.

Zirconius. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. This is not an entirely fair application of the test though, as the Zarks are basically genderless. Still, they are referred to with male pronouns so I suppose this still counts as a violation.

Let’s look at some recent short stories (not available online, unfortunately).

“Imagine the Violin.” (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Only one female character, and she’s going insane. Sigh.

“Constance.” (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! A story about two women who talk to each other, and only briefly about a man! As clear a pass as anyone could want.

“Real Space Experience.” (1) Yes. (2) No. Verdict: Fail. Quite a few female characters, but they never speak to each other. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in the story, but it’s still a violation.

Let’s look at a few other things.

Barnacle Bert in “Hands Up, Jellyfish!” Oh, no. You can’t be serious. Ah well, here goes: (1) No. Verdict: Fail. But– but–two of the jellyfish are female, and they’re talking! I think! No, wait, if they are talking they’re probably talking about Bert. Argh. Well, at least the anglerfish is female.

The Violinist. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Having a female protagonist is not enough to pass the test.

Remnants. Some of you may recall this novel from a few years ago, which was available online for a while. Let’s see how it fares: (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! Finally. Flawed as this book may be, my brief foray into it just now yielded three Bechdel-Test-worthy conversations. Yena, the female protagonist, talks to Mrs. Tamila (a grouchy customer), Rimel (an utter imbecile), and Morica (the villain). All loathsome characters, unfortunately.

Just to round out the number to an even ten, we’ll look at “Lander,” my astronaut story that probably a few of you have seen. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Sigh.

So, to summarize:

Works examined: 10

Works passing Bechdel Test: 3

Score: 3/10

Ouch.

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