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March 1, 2004

Webpage for the Groningen Comics Museum

While doing a project for the comics museum in Groningen, I've been somewhat embarrassed by the lack of a website for people involved to link to. Now, at least, there is a web page about the project by Libema, who are sponsoring and developing the venue.

Trip to Amsterdam

I took today off from my busy drawing schedule to go to Amsterdam for a meeting. I went to Lambiek's new warehouse to talk to the warm bodies of Stripster's editor Henk and the site's technician Aart, as well as Margreet and Bas, who run Comiclopedia. Both these sites will be extensively featured in a project I'm working on for the Comics Museum I mentioned earlier. My project is a digital exhibit about webcomics, and Stripster will be included as an example of the Dutch approach to putting comics online, which is mainly to build group sites. Comiclopedia will supply a lot of the biographical information about the featured artists, and will hopefully get a lot of new biographical info in return for its participation.
All that stuff has to be integrated and scripted, so despite it being a six-hour round trip by train (plus lots of walking) for a short meeting it was useful for me to show them what my plans were and ask them what they needed to make it work. Plus it was nice to see Amsterdam again... I keep telling myself I don't like Amsterdam much, but that is mainly a result of the mood I'm in when I arrive. This afternoon, it was quite a good place to be in.

After the meeting was concluded and some scurrilous gossip exchanged, I had some time to go shopping! First I browsed Lambiek's own warehouse in the Utrechtsedwarsstraat, then I went to the actual shop that is located near its original location in de Kerkstraat (which it had to leave and which Lambiek's owner is now selling). I was going to go to the Concerto music store in the Utrechtsestraat, quite near the warehouse, but it turned out the walk to the shop was a bit longer than I thought so I didn't go back for the happy vinyl-browsing I'd promised myself. At any rate I managed to spend quite a bit of money at Lambiek, and I felt some grumpy, tired, Amsterdam-hating vibes coming on, so I walked towards the train station, stopping only at the American Bookstore in de Kalverstraat, where I found and bought a Glen Cook novel for the first time in many years, and in Fame records store. Because you know, the day wouldn't be complete some record shopping.
One interesting thing about the American Bookstore was that it had quite a nice selection of manga. If I knew the first thing about what is and isn't good manga I'd have bought some there.Unfortunately Fame had gone downhill a bit since I last shopped there; the rock section was nowhere to be found, everything was overpriced despite there being a 'sale' going on, and the basement was full of generic movie DVDs.

As I left Fame, I was momentarily disoriented. This is normal for me, because I'm spatially disadvantaged, but it was extra embarrassing because I was at Dam Square, which is just about the most familiar location in the Netherlands and I'd been there several times before!

I'll blog some of the books I've bought after I've blogged the ones I've been reading.

March 3, 2004

Museum progress

Today I've been to the Comics Museum to pick up a computer to set up the digital exhibit on. Work on the Museum is now definitely progressing.

I caught a glimpse of the pillars in which the computers will be mounted! The artwork is looking really good; it should, for the work involved in the production of the files drove me nuts. I've taken some pictures which I'll upload and post as soon as I've located the cable that came with my camera.

I should learn to relax a little

Mars Gremmen posts a sketched comic on his weblog that Hello You have turned down. That sucks for him, and the story in question is every bit as great as the ones that have made it into the magazine so far.

However, I take great comfort in knowing that he is still submitting scripts for issue 8 (the April issue) of the magazine, whereas I'm all done with my work for issue 9. The moral of this is that I have even more slack in my deadlines than I thought I had.

Still, if I was as good as him, I'd probably have the confidence to just be late too.

March 5, 2004

Pictures of an exhibition (1)

Here are some pictures I took of the workstation columns for the comics museum:




The columns, still in their wrapping.




A partially-unwrapped half-column, with artwork by Adrian Ramos.






Another one with art by Jesse Hamm.
The printed area on each column is 120 centimeters tall!
The black and white art will look a lot tighter than the color art because I could vectorise it and enlarge the vectorized version. There's a bit of a trade-off though; up close, it no longer looks like the artist's original linework. On the other hand, the color art, which was simply scaled in Photoshop, looks pixelated up close. From normal viewing distances, both look fine - quite impressive, in fact.

March 8, 2004

Plans for the future

Despite being as swamped with work as I've ever been, I want to, indeed have to, look at the future a bit - and at the past.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my first webcomic. Back in November of 1994, I first put a Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story online, in Dutch and with terrible scan quality. Since October I've been working intermittently to translate the comic into English and make those old, crudely-drawn episodes presentable for the web. Back then, I had no idea what I was doing; now, I have at least a vague idea. "The Stone of Contention" will run either exclusively on Modern Tales while a contemporary ROCR story is running as well, or it will run on ROCR.net and Modern Tales while the regular ROCR takes a hiatus. I haven't decided yet. See a preview.

One series that will probably not run on ROCR.net is a collaborative series I'm planning with Geir Strøm and Daniel Østvold. This is a collection of stories that the three of us have been involved in since 1995, several of which I have published as minicomics. It's called "Chronicles of the Witch Queen" and will also not run on Modern Tales but instead on a new Webcomicsnation.com site. It will probably be subscription-based unless we change our minds. We will start by reissuing the early stories (which will allow us to build a buffer of no less than six months!) , followed by new material including a sequel to Courtly Manners. Of this sequel, seven pages are drawn.

Here's a preview, and Modern Tales subscribers can look at some sketches in the Book of all Things.

March 18, 2004

More Sketches.

Thumbnail For Modern Tales subscribers only, I've got some more sketches up in the Book of All Things. These show my layouts for pages from October/November, 2003, when my approach to layout changed a little bit.

There'll be some more sketches later this week. I hope that eventually I'll be able to have what I originally had in mind for the Book of All Things, which was a more or less complete overview of the preliminary work for the Rite of Serfdom storyline, without interruptions.

(I'm afraid the link goes to a whole archive chapter rather than only the new sketches. You will see some sketches you've seen before. Can't be helped, because this is the only way the archives can retain some consistency.)

Symbol for webcomics?

A request came in from the Comics Museum's graphic designer. She needs a symbol representing webcomics for a placard in the museum. Since she asked two days ago, I've been unable to think of any. Does such a thing exist or will I have to use some of my copious spare time and brainpower to create one?

Update: I thought I had found what I was looking for in Scott McCloud's symbol for Digital Comics (See Page 200 of Reinventing Comics) but the graphics people need something with more of a human touch in it. Hmmmm.

March 21, 2004

Stop linking to rocr.reinderdijkhuis.com

I have decided to phase out reinderdijkhuis.com as anything other than an experimental location. It has proven to be too much of a bother to keep track of the four different locations in which the comic appears, and of those four, the supposedly more reliable Keenprime host, the only one I pay for[*], has been the biggest headache. So I'm removing all links to it from my real home page, www.rocr.net, and rebuilding the cast section on xepher.net, a free host that has a much better track record. There may still be some broken links on the front page and inside the cast section, but at least when I fix those, they will stand a decent chance of staying fixed.

So, if you are linking to reinderdijkhuis.com, please change those links to rocr.xepher.net, rocr.net or to the ROCR space at Modern Tales. These will also be your backup addresses if one of the others fails.


[*]To their credit, the Keenprime people have been very good about not charging for the months in which one way or another it wasn't working. However, I didn't get a Keenprime account to deal with regular interruptions for free.

March 23, 2004

No ROCR comic on Wednesday

I will skip Wednesday's update because I'm too swamped with absolutely everything else. Friday's may be delayed, but it will appear.

I will make this past quarter's many missed updates up to you after my other commitments are fulfilled and I've caught up on a month's worth of sleep.

March 24, 2004

A slightly longer break from ROCR

I felt like crap for much of the day. After handing in work for Hello You yesterday, my body is now collecting a long-term loan with compound interest. I was half asleep while trying to do design/development work for the digital exhibit, and decided to give up on trying to get ROCR done in the evening. I won't be able to finish it tomorrow because I need to do more museum work first, so that means I'm postponing until Monday.

If the museum work is done by then, I may be able to devote a few days to ROCR exclusively - so I will try to catch up in the first week of April, unless Hello You asks me to do stuff for the summer special, in which case I'll take a few more days off from ROCR. In other words it could go either way next week.

The one thing I can guarantee is that there will be an update on Monday, and I'll try to make it a nice one.

March 26, 2004

I'm head of the class, I'm popular...

A nice start to the working day: my comic Floor is currently leading in the popularity poll of Hello You! the magazine it's published in. Strangely, Mars Gremmen's excellent The Girl Is Mine is a distant third...

Makes me feel good, though. I'm always very insecure about my work so it's quite a boost to know it's appreciated.

March 31, 2004

ROCR progress update

Yesterday evening I drew and colored a ROCR update in just under 4 hours, no thanks to the studio computer having some sort of epileptic seizure. Strange how that never happens with my home system...
I need another hour and a bit for lettering, scaling and spit and polish, but I think I may run it as Friday's update instead of the one I posted on the blog the other day. That way those of you who are taking the background challenge will have a bit more time (and so will I)... and yes, I know there are some people taking the challenge. I think the original order of the updates works better in the context of the full sequence, but that will be easy to fix in the Modern Tales archives.

Meanwhile, over at Elf Life, Carson has announced an end to negativity, and an end to the crisis he's been in. Pity, really, because I really had a few choice words to say to the spoiled know-nothings who couldn't be bothered to find out the whole story and wouldn't know empathy if it smacked them in the face and then felt their pain fine, upstanding, principled webcartoonists populating the not-really-PvP-forums-anymore forums, but well, I'll just keep them to myself.
One thing needs to be pointed out, though. In a response to my earlier blog entry about the situation (which I can't find because there's something wrong with Carson's blog archiving), Carson (mildly) criticises me and others for handwringing over his actions. While I'm sure Carson did not in any way mean to lump me in with those webcartoonists who called him names over the decision to pressurize people into buying art, I want to point out for the rest of the world that any handwringing I did was over the fact that he *had* to do this, not over him actually doing it. The fact that all he got out of five years' hard work *and* moderate success was the threat of another eviction. This threat now seems to have been evaded, thanks largely to Amber Panyko of the Dan and Mab, who deserves large amounts of good karma coming her way.

So that's it! No more negativity! I'm looking forward to seeing the art I bought, and to getting back to normal.

April 3, 2004

ROCR schedule change

Just a quick heads-up: due to a combination of crunch time for the museum exhibit (and lemme tell ya, it's hair-raisin'), teaching work later in the month, and a family matter requiring me to travel to England over the Easter holiday weekend, Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will appear twice a week throughout the month, on Mondays and Fridays. I'll be hard-pressed to stick even to that schedule...

However, I'll try and make something special of these more sporadic updates.

April 4, 2004

Museum update

Sorry I haven't been as frequent in updating Waffle readers about the digital exhibit. So much of my time has been taken up these past weeks by actually putting it together, checking that all materials are complete, designing and building the pages, etc, etc, that I haven't had the energy at the end of a day to write about it.

However, it is now inching towards completion, and I hope to be able to deliver the first version to the museum on Tuesday or Wednesday. I also hope to shoot some more pictures then. Then in the final week before the museum opens (which will be April 21), I'll iron out the kinks and upload the final corrections.

April 7, 2004

At last, pictures of the columns

I've spent all day working on the exhibit, and there's good news and bad news, both resulting from the guy in charge of hardware cracking the whip. He called insisting that I install the bulk of the exhibit today. So I slaved away with the HTML until 6 PM, then slaved some more installing it on the museum's computers, which turned out to be a considerably greater hassle than just copying a bunch of files should be.
The good news, then, is: it's almost finished, and a first version is already installed.

The bad news is: there is a lot left to do, and unless I do it tomorrow, I may not be allowed to do it.
The to-do list includes:
1. fixing some faults that showed up in the exhibit once I'd copied it to a real system, ranging from missing images to the rather stupid oversight on my part that there wasn't an obvious way to get back to the exhibit's front page. Those are easy. I'll take a floppy with fixes to the museum tomorrow and fix those.
2. adding some materials from people, who, for whatever reasons, didn't get their material in on time. This is the most frustrating one for me because the people involved all did extra work for the exhibit. I'm not sure I even know how to break it to them that unless I have it in the mail tomorrow morning, I may not be able to use it before the museum opens. As always, I'll see what I can do *provided* that it doesn't lead to me canceling my trip to England, or showing up there empty handed and/or looking like a vagrant. Those possibilities are out of the question.
3. House style compliance. This may also not happen, but I don't find it that frustrating, simply because the house style was still under development while I was already putting stuff together, and I only got a CD of fonts last Friday, after emailing and phoning people repeatedly. Those fonts, of the Neutratext family, all turned out to be mac versions... When the museum gets its hands on some PC versions, it will be easy enough to change the CSS files so that everything is in Neutratext, and matches the museum's stationary.
4. Security. Turns out that the people from the hardware firm thought I knew about that, whereas I thought the museum's own computer people would do the necessary stuff to keep the exhibit vandalism proof. I'll phone around tomorrow to see who can do what, but I for one can only do the most obvious things.

Another bit of not-so-good news is that some of the prints on the columns were already showing damage from the wear and tear of raising them up! I hope the museum people find ways to cover these small tears and stains up a bit; otherwise we may find that the prints won't survive long.

Continue reading "At last, pictures of the columns" »

Exhibit addendum: question for Windows experts

One thing I didn't mention in my last blog entry was that there is still this huge configuration problem with the monitors. The photos in which I tried to show the monitor setup were all useless, but there are TV screens mounted above the regular monitors which are *supposed* to show the same thing as the regular monitors. However, they're doing nothing of the sort. Some show only a Windows desktop background with nothing on top, some seemingly arbitrarily show a secondary desktop, so that windows open on the TV screens but not on the monitors. In neither case can the mouse cursor be made visible on the TV screens.
The museum's computer workers haven't quite figured out what they're doing wrong, and I, not being nearly as good at that sort of stuff as people automatically assume I am, also don't know how to make it work properly. It's not my job, but I would find it embarrassing if it still wasn't working come opening day. So how do you make two different screens show the same picture in Windows XP professional? Something tells me that it shouldn't be that difficult, but apparently it is (note that I can't try things at home, this being a linux machine and all)...

April 8, 2004

And it's back to the museum again

I've been back to the museum to copy some more work to it. I ended up staying there a little longer than I anticipated, but I didn't mind because in daylight, with a fresher eye, the exhibit looks a lot better. I've fixed a few glaring errors in the exhibit itself, and spent some time trying to get those monitors working properly. They still aren't (Danny's suggestion in this morning's comments was followed up but I couldn't find the setting he referred to) but I now know who to ask - and if I can't reach that person, well, the monitors have to be configured through through NVidia Nview (surely someone reading this has worked with that?)

I mentioned damage to the prints covering the columns yesterday, but I'm glad to report that I saw rolled-up replacement prints in the room today. Also, there will be opportunities to install an updated version next week. Things are looking up!

By the way, I have new pictures, but infuriatingly, the linux system won't let me upload them from the digital camera even though I did exactly the same things I to get to them as yesterday. Computers? We're better off scratching pictures into the sand with sticks!

April 14, 2004

I have returned

I'm back from a trip to England, but won't be blogging much as I'm still overwhelmed by work. I've already put in the first hours of a two-week string of workshops and put in some more tweaks of the exhibit (now running in kiosk mode and with Stripster's massive collection included as the latest update) and will spend this evening working on next Friday's ROCR page and preparing for Friday's workshops in which I will be teaching adults. Whew!

April 15, 2004

Heads up

I'm offering only 50% chance that Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan update will be on time. Workshops and the museum continue to demand way too much of my time...

And it turns out that...

...like I warned in yesterday's blog entry, I can't get Friday's update done in time, at least not without either driving myself insane or showing up groggy and late at tomorrow's workshops. I hope that this will be the last canceled update for 2004 (having already missed more updates in the first 3 1/2 months of this year than in the 3 1/2 years before that put together, or so it seems), and I do expect things to get back to nearly normal next week, but for now, last Monday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan update will stay up until next Monday. I would rather that it didn't, for reasons that I will go into when I have more time and energy (sigh), but that's how it's gonna be.

April 16, 2004

Volunteers needed for kid-friendly website

One question that keeps coming up in the recent workshops I've been doing for kids aged 9-12 is "do you have a website?" At that point I tend to hem and haw and turn more than a bit weasely, because while I think that an intelligent kid who's into fantasy and read it with some parental guidance would not find the material in ROCR objectionable or harmful (I read much stranger stuff at that age), I still wouldn't want it to be the first thing made by me that a child saw.
So I need a kid-friendly website, featuring maybe a few Floor material, some info on workshops and space to put other things I might do in the future, aimed at young readers (particularly English-as-a-second-language learners). I have my hands full, so I'm calling for volunteers to design it!

What I'm looking for:

* Kid-friendly design, with particular attention to usability aimed at kids. (this is probably easier than designing usability for adults because kids are more patient about waiting for stuff to load, and are more likely to read instructions).
* Design need not be consistent with the style of my other sites.
* Standards-compliance prefered; not limited to a single browser or platform.
* Extensible - site needs to be able to accommodate future work
* Dutch and English versions of texts (supplied by me) on the same page (English dominant); English with glossaries in the style of Hello You to be used for comic pages.

I don't have a big budget and don't expect anything fancy; if no volunteers are forthcoming I might go with an inexpensive design agency, but first I'd like to see if any of my readers are interested in doing this for me. If so, contact reinder@despammed.com

April 18, 2004

On the way to recovery

After the spate of work on the comics museum project (speaking of which, there is a whole batch of new photographs on the studio computer which I hope to upload as soon as internet access from there is restored, but before the museum's opening day even if it isn't), the final pages for this school year's Hello You, the ROCR work and the trip to England which was as hectic as any of the above, I was pretty exhausted. Much more exhausted than I thought I was, testimony to which are the pile of forgotten bills on my desk, the odd errors in the ROCR comics just before the Sparknoodle sequence we're in now and my own inability to get out of bed if I don't absolutely have to go out and teach at a fixed time. I'm getting better now, but I still find myself having to take naps in the afternoon, which was unheard of this time last year.

Nevertheless, I will have an ROCR update on Wednesday. I'm not resuming the regular Mon/Wed/Fri schedule just yet, but I wanted to have this one out on Wednesday to make up for Friday's missed update. And there will be one on Friday the 23rd, before we go back to the reduced schedule for the rest of April.

Also, I've decided to cancel my plans to do a 24-hour comic on the 24th. If I can't get through a regular working day without a nap now, then it's unlikely that I'll be fit enough to do a 24-hour comic next week. Some other time.

April 21, 2004

Urgent call to contributors to the Digital exhibit

If you have submitted HTML pages instead of just graphics to the digital exhibit, and any of them have code in them causing links to jump out of the window or frame (including target=_top) please contact me now at reinder@despammed.com . They are causing the exhibit to break. I don't know why they didn't break the exhibit while I was testing it, but they are breaking it now that it has gone live. I will try to hunt down the instances I know about so that I can either destroy them or (in cases where they are really essential) make them safe, but I *know* I won't catch them all.

(And yes, I'd much rather be writing here about the opening ceremonies and how nice it all has turned out, and send some much needed personal communications to people about the various bigger and smaller things that went wrong during the process of building this but I can't because I have to fix this killer problem first, so that only the first 1000 or so visitors will see the broken exhibit.)
[Update: I think the reason I missed instances of this in material sent to me by Demian5 and Charley Parker is that they are easy, indeed almost automatic, to ignore when you have a full interface, with a keyboard, a mouse and a back button in the browser. In kiosk mode, with only a trackball for your input, you will notice them and be unable to get back to the exhibit's start page or even the previous page. Lesson learned.]

April 22, 2004

About the museum

Okay... so now I have a bit of time to write about the museum. My workshops for the week are over, and I've managed to put in an emergency update. Instead of writing one massive update, I'll jot down some of my observations as and when they pop up in my head.

The opening was interesting. Not that I saw much of the actual ceremony; the room chosen wasn't really suitable for mass gatherings. Not only did Jeroen and I not see the speakers, but we also didn't see the screens that were supposed to relay visuals of the speakers to us. Speakers included the Mayor of Groningen, the municipality's public works bigwig, and Bert Lips of Libema, who allegedly introduced cartoonist Henk Kuijpers as "Henk Knippers"! After the opening it was time to go and tour the place, and drink drinks. I hobnobbed with Barbara Stok, Ricky van Duuren, Jeroen, the Lamelos brothers, Gerrie Hondius, Erik Wielaert and some other guys from Gr'nn, Mark Retera, Gerben Valkema and many others who I'll doubtless remember again after posting this.
I also spoke to several of the museum's committee, including the famous collector, archivist and Toonder scholar Hans Matla. I saw Jan Kruis but didn't speak to him this time. I got to see and old Toonder animation with fantastic backgrounds and exchange rumors about Toonder's health (another bout of pneumonia prevented him from dropping by or even recording a video message) and that of Jean Dulieu whose section in the exhibit has revealed him to be a major cartooning innovator and one of the best living fantasy illustrators. I'll write some more about him later.

I drank some more drinks, then spotted those errors that got me in such a bad mood. But actually, on reflection, this problem was not nearly as embarrassing as I thought. There are many parts of the museum that have teething problems. The animatronic caroussel (which I managed to take a ride on when it was still working) has broken down more than once and needs troubleshooting. The signposting and climate control both stink. All computer stuff breaks down as a result of the climate control problems, and there is the smell wafting in from the MacDonalds next to the comics shop. They're working on all these things! So I'm not letting my computer niggles bother me too much. It's actually going to be very easy to put in more emergency updates, provided I come in after 4 PM. By that time today, it was quiet enough not to feel like some sort of stage performer while opening those columns and uploading files...

Enough for now. I'll post some more stuff later. There is a lot to say - I had a blast there yesterday, and will love the place as long as I learn not to let little annoyances get to me. In a week's time, most of these problems will be solved, and the good thing is that it doesn't have to me solving all of them!

Yup. I did forget a few...

Checking on my little room during opening day, as one does, I found Jean-Marc van Tol and the girls from Saiso in conversation (Jean-Marc was getting a Saiso minicomic signed) at one of the columns. It was nice to see Jean-Marc again, and to meet the Saisos for the first time. They'll probably be in the next edition of the digital exhibit, once they've done some more work online. There's something about these two that makes it perfectly natural for them to just corner the Gr'nn guys and tell them "We want to be in the next issue of Gr'nn", and get an "OK" back from them.
The Lamelos crew, by the way, should also be featured in the digital exhibit, and will be come the next update.

April 26, 2004

More teething problems at the museum

A visit to the Stripmuseum to check on the exhibit this morning highlighted two more teething problems. One is the lack of clear visible signposting of opening hours. The museum is closed on Mondays but it doesn't say so anywhere that I could see it. Not that people hadn't told me, but I dropped by anyway in the hope that I'd be able to get in through the back door for maintenance.
That brings me to the second niggle: although there is a formal system in place for telling who can get in for free to do work, it doesn't work too well yet. I have no badge, pass or security key so I depend on the goodwill of the museum's regular staff and whoever else happens to be in to get in.
So I'll do the check first thing tomorrow morning.

I do have a bit of time to finally thank people, and tie up some loose ends. In the process, many things didn't go as planned and so some people got accidentally snubbed - especially in the final weeks when my mood was dominated by the grim determination to get things finished in time no matter what.

What did go very easily was working with webcartoonists in America, Mexico, Canada and the UK. Apart from the ones who, for whatever reason, didn't answer my mail, getting the permissions was easy and everyone I asked to do some extra work was willing to do so. So here's a thank you to:

Continue reading "More teething problems at the museum" »

April 28, 2004

So who should go into the next update?

I still owe the Stripmuseum a maintenance update, removing some of the remaining framing errors from the pages, but I'm already looking at what to do next. Who do I want to include in a few months time?

First of all, I want to have another shot at it with those artists who didn't say no but didn't mail back to give me permission either. That means that I'll hassle Patrick Farley and Scott Kurtz again, as well as the two Dutch collectives Cutie and Nukomix. Out of these two, I might contact some individual artists as well. I love Ray Man's work on the web and in print, and I really dig Floor de Goede's stripblog.

I've already expressed my love for Sparkneedle and Jeepers on this blog, and I'd like to invite them for the next update as well. Sparkneedle because it's a fantasy comic without Tolkien/DnD influences in a format that can really only exist on the Web; Jeepers because, though it can and does exist in print, it's a great example of an eccentric comic that thrives on the Web because it can find its audience there.

I've already invited the Lamelos collective (local boys from Groningen!) and two of them have said yes. They do a lot of work in print but I like the way they present themselves as a group on their website.

I will also look at two other collectives (well, one true collective and a duo) although I still have some reservations about them. I am in the process of rooting through the Probeersel site to look for outstanding work by individuals, and am watching Saiso to see if they put more stuff online. I like the naive energy of their work, which is one property of webcomics and small press comics that is often overlooked.

Continue reading "So who should go into the next update?" »

April 29, 2004

What I want in the next update, addendum

Oh...
and Flick.

April 30, 2004

ROCR to resume normal schedule

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will resume its normal schedule starting on Monday, May the third. From then on, the comic will update three times a week again, on Monday's, Wednesdays and Fridays.

(By the way, this is the 100th entry in the blog!)

May 4, 2004

Outside-in, or inside-out.

Every once in a while, I come across a website or forum post that makes me wonder if I'm doing things the right way. Many fantasy writers make a point of more or less completely developing a fantasy world before starting on the stories themselves. They create species, a history, a technology and changes to the laws of nature before putting individual characters and plots in their world. Reading the post linked above, it's easy for me to see why: with all that background already done, it becomes easier to come up with new story ideas, and the world itself will seem consistent and real right from the start.
I, on the other hand, have always been an indisciplined writer. I've always made up the worlds of Clwyd-Rhan and the Gnomian Republic up as I went along, letting them emerge from the existing story material. I have kept some records, and even have some background material that is almost, nearly, not quite ready for publication as an appendix or guide to the most recent storyline, but that is only created after the fact. The advantage, I suppose, is that it makes the story a journey of discovery for me as well of the characters. Or that's what I tell myself along with that classic excuse "the real world made itself up as it went along too".
Still, I'm not so sure. I'm convinced that as a result of my scattershot approach, there are major inconsistencies waiting to be revealed by a keen-eyed reader, and that the story might not have spun out of control so much if I'd planned more in advance.
There are quite a few writers reading this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

May 10, 2004

The joys of having a background artist!

Preview of Friday's ROCR comic

Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic will look gorgeous! Yonaka has really outdone herself this time. She deserves to have as many people looking at her work as possible.

This particular background was hard work for her, but I don't think I could have done it at all. Not at this level.

I was wondering why...

... I never saw this image on the Modern Tales front page anymore.

bigpic3.png

I just looked at it on disk to look up the dimensions (because I'm making a new one), and it turned out that this one was 499 pixels wide. That couldn't possibly be right, but when I uploaded it to Modern Tales, the display software didn't check for the exact width so strictly. The latest version of the software does, and doesn't display the large image in the rotating large image slot if the size isn't exactly 500 * 200 pixels.

Suggestion to image software makers: when people scale an image to a specific size, they usually have a reason for scaling to that size and not another. Do not change it behind the user's back.

Suggestion to Joey of Modern Tales: it may be useful to warn people upon upload or database submission if an image is not exactly the right size, because the software used to make the images can't be relied on.

May 13, 2004

More on Friday's comic

I have put together a few webpages showing the process of creating the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page for Friday. Yonaka and I live on opposite sides of the Atlantic so it would have taken far too long to send the originals by mail, but apart from our use of our broadband connections to pass scanned art to and fro, it was all surprisingly low-tech and low-budget. Why use trickery when you have Yonaka's raw talent at your disposal?

Also, I've made a new promo graphic:

May 15, 2004

Lackluster visitor numbers

One of the aspects of doing a webcomic that I like the least (no, make that loathe with a passion) is the need to constantly mind the websites it appears on. Current status: rocr.keenprime.com (aka rocr.reinderdijkhuis.com) is dead, and unless and until I sit down for a few hours and get my file permissions in order, it won't be revived. Not sure if I can be bothered right now.
rocr.xepher.net is chugging along nicely but few people seem to know about it and it should be seen as strictly a mirror site and home for this blog.
rocr.net has been fairly stable lately, but visitor numbers are slowly slipping. I can think of two reasons (beyond the obvious confusion factor):
1. That damned stroboscopic green card ad that has been showing up in the host's ad system!
2. Keenspace's "no Hotlinking" measure which disallows display of the images to browsers when the referrer string isn't a Keenspace-hosted site. Because some Firewalls (Norton especially) strip the referrer string altogether), many people visiting the site for the first time see a broken site.
I understand the need on Keenspace's part to limit bandwidth theft and protect their ad revenues, but I really don't think this is the way to go about it. It causes the sites hosted by them to make a bad first impression to new readers, and it puts the onus of explaining the problem to readers (those that bother to stick around long enough to look for an explanation, and if you know anything about the habits of web users you'll know that that's a vanishingly small minority) on the site owners, many of whom don't understand the problem themselves. This is a serious problem: like I said, most users will not bother to look for an explanation, and from the point of view of those that will, it's not at all obvious where they should look.
Most users do not, and should not, know who hosts the website they're visiting. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that they will look beyond the site they're already on, or at best the forum or blog for the site they're already on, and make the mental connection that "the answer may be on the Keenspace forums" (which I think it is, but by now it has become pretty hard to find). I have answered queries about this in email, on IRC, on third-party forums that were completely unrelated to Keenspace and in person. I only have a vague idea (unless I can look it up) how to solve it. I can (and really, I should) devote real estate on the website to explain the problem, but really would you accept it if CNN.com said "if you can't see the images, dig into the bowels of your computer and make changes whose effect on your privacy you may not really understand"? You'd have to be pretty fanatically devoted to CNN over ABCNews.com to bother with that crap.
There is another solution which I oughtta implement, which is to create a replacement image that will show up in case of an image block (Keenspace's approach does allow for that), and use that to show the explanation. Still doesn't alter the fact that the host has imposed a solution that other parties have to pick up the slack for.

May 21, 2004

DFG! DFG!

Today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic was colored by reader Drooling Fan Girl. Yay for her! She's doing a fine job, staying close to the existing style but putting in her own little touches.
We'll see some more DFG-colored comics in a week or so. She's saving me a lot of work this way so I'm finally getting ahead.

May 25, 2004

Wait, wait, hurry, hurry, wait... hurry!

Just when I have nearly two weeks' worth of buffer for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, I get word from Hello You! that they don't much like my first Floor script for the next season, and by the way, the final deadline for the art is June 8! They tell me this after letting me wait a whole month for them to announce the magazine's new format.
So the next few days I'll have to come up with a better script which I'll have to start drawing immediately once approved. *If* I succeed, which is by no means certain, I will have no buffer by that time.

Oh to be like Howard Tayler and to be able to crank out a week's worth of comics in thirty minutes...

May 26, 2004

Looking better now...

I now have a script approved and because I'm still buffered, I will be able to start drawing it today. That means I should be able to meet my deadline and stay buffered. Things aren't so bad then:)

June 1, 2004

Life drawing!

I hadn't been to the VOIC's monthly life drawing class for some time, but today I really felt like going. It's exhausting but fun and educational... in fact a little too much so. There's always so much to observe, try out and learn that it can get a bit overwhelming.

Today I brought some newly-bought tools: a charcoal stick, some pastel crayons and some graphite pencils. I quickly settled on a routine of drawing most poses twice: once very quickly with the charcoal, to get the overall shape and test where I might have problems; then with a combination of the other tools, paying more attention to detail and shading. It sort of worked-I still suck at drawing from life but the average quality of observation improved a bit. I don't think I got the hang of using colored crayons yet though...

charcoal sketch

The drawing above was the one where the charcoal technique worked best. The lines are almost like writing (except that I tend to drag my hand over the paper while drawing - a bad habit that charcoal immediately punishes). I cleaned the scans up a bit, but otherwise everything is as it is in the sketchbook.

Continue reading "Life drawing!" »

June 3, 2004

Cutting down on the Fearless Leader's bandwidth bill

Ken Silverstone's PNGOUT is a great utility for compressing PNG files. It has cut down the PNGs currently in my folder of finished ROCR pages (only about 75 of them because I prune the folder regularly) from 8.5 MB total to 8 MB. These files were already optimised by Paint Shop Pro 8's PNG exporter, which does quite a good job.

I'm now uploading them to Modern Tales' server, in the hope that the change will make a noticeable difference in the loading speed of the latest archives and the amount of bandwidth eaten up by those archives. According to Modern Tales' rules, bandwidth costs come entirely out of owner Joey Manley's pockets, and I'd like the system to be as profitable as possible for him so that he doesn't have to do work on the side.

If you have any problems with the new versions of the image files, let me know.

June 5, 2004

Structured procrastination

Since I came out of scramble mode a few weeks ago, I've had a lot more time, but have accomplished a lot less. This is because structured procrastination is no longer working now that I have so few things left to do. On the other hand, I do need a vacation, so maybe the best way to deal with this is to get away from it all for a week or so, after which the workload will have piled up again.
(Via Brad DeLong, via John Perry.

June 7, 2004

Writing the trial

I am now finally at the point in The Rite of Serfdom where Kel and Kangra go on trial. Unfortunately, this is also the point where my haphazard worldbuilding is biting me in the ass. Beyond creating the character of Kel and Kangra's lawyer, Isolde, I had not really expended a lot of thought on how the Gnomian Republic's court system would work. Would they have trial by jury, by ordeal, by a single judge or a panel of judges? Would the judges be tied to a district or canton, or would they be traveling assizors? Informally-chosen common law adjudicators drawn from the local community? How would a session in court be run? Would there be a strict separation of the defendants, witnesses and the public or would they all wait in the same benches before being called up? Would they take oaths at all, and if they did, would they swear on a holy book, a relic or some symbol of the nation? How would the recent unification of the country affect the legal system?

These questions are now unbelievably urgent. Considering that the country's detention center, the Dyrtforrabyggern is so unlike any prison in the human world that it is hardly recognisable as such, I couldn't follow that up by simply copying what I know of the Dutch, English or American legal system.

I will have to compensate for this laxity by writing the sequence very carefully and thoroughly in advance, cross-checking it with what I already know of the Gnomian Republic. The ideas are flowing, but I'm not going to draw it until I'm sure I've got it right. Not only that but the sequence should be interesting as a story chapter (i.e. not anticlimactic), and (if there is any higher being up there, please, putative higher being) brief.

I've already decided against jury trial, for strictly narrative reasons - I want to keep the number of new characters in this chapter to a minimum (please, putative higher being. I will be good). If that turns out implausible in the context of the rest of the sequence, I'll just have to make it plausible. I will have a panel of judges, one Gnomian, one Elvish, one Faerie. That makes sense in the light of the need for fair representation that would otherwise be filled by a jury (at least in theory). I'm still undecided on the procedural matters and whether there should be opening pleas (recapping what the characters are accused of, perhaps? Is that necessary) although I lean towards having all the characters involved sitting on the same benches while waiting to be questioned. In a modern court, witnesses would be separated so they wouldn't influence one another but that may not have been the case in earlier times.

In any case, I may run a bit late as a result of writing and re-writing this sequence. I'll cross that bridge when I bump into it.

June 8, 2004

I wish there were comments...

Since I last argued against a post on the Probeersel blog criticising the selection of works for the Webcomics exhibit at the Stripmuseum, author René has revisited the topic twice, the first time backtracking a bit (while expressing joy at getting noticed), the second time - after finally seeing the exhibit - commending the selection. Thanks René! I'm afraid I don't follow the work at Probeersel.com as much as I should, so it took me a while to notice.

Continue reading "I wish there were comments..." »

June 9, 2004

Writing the Trial, part 2

I am now getting to the meat of the trial scene, and it's turning into something like an American courtroom drama. Interesting. I've always liked courtroom and procedural dramas, so I'm gonna continue this line of writing and see where it might be going. However, I'm not so sure if courtroom drama works well if there isn't a jury in place.
Juries in courtroom dramas probably serve as proxies for the audience. They are the people the advocates of both sides in the conflict argue at, try to manipulate, ingratiate themselves with, and convince. Instead of talking to judges who are intimately familiar with the law, precedent and the criminal mind, courtroom drama lawyers address people who are regular schmucks (the issue of juries being composed, at least in part, of people who couldn't get out of jury duty is glossed over) just like you, the viewer. Even if the jurors aren't shown, the fact that they are there, and being spoken to, affects the drama.

It's probably no wonder that the Netherlands, which doesn't have jury trials, hasn't generated a lot of classic courtroom drama. The Judge Dee series may count; I haven't read it so I wouldn't know. But that one is set in an exotic locale, and in the distant past, and surely draws a lot of its appeal from that.

On the other hand, the movie Witness for the Prosecution, though set in a country that has jury trials, leaves the jury out of the picture entirely, and is still great and dramatic.

Continue reading "Writing the Trial, part 2" »

Writing the Trial, part 3

You've probably seen this in quite a few courtroom dramas:

The prosecution starts calling witnesses for cross-examination. The defense attorney sits through their testimonies with a smug expression on his/her/its (*)face, paying just enough attention to say "No questions, your honor" when it's his/her/its turn to grill the witnesses, or ask a few trivial, token questions. Only with the later crop of witnesses does the defense get involved.

I've always thought that this was a tension-building device. "What's that old fox up to?" the audience is expected to think. A seemingly self-destructive tactic early in the game, to set the stage on which the defense gets to display his brilliance later. But now that I'm writing something like that myself, I'm beginning to thing that it may have more to do with the deep structure of this kind of drama.
You can't have a defense without first having an attack. That's obvious. But what the attack is made of isn't always that interesting. The prosecution's case is initially based on obvious, immediate facts. Something has been stolen, someone has been murdered. There are clues pointing to this or that person. Possibly, the facts and the clues are known to the audience, because they've seen the crime happen, or they've seen the original investigation. In short, this part is booooring.
The defense's case-building is round 2. Here, new, less obvious facts are brought into the mix, and the existing facts are spun and re-interpreted. If the prosecution asks some probing questions, we get to see the new facts and the spin re-spun and re-re-interpreted, and that's where things get complicated and interesting.
But round one? Bah. Better get it over with as quickly as possible.

I may be way over-generalising with this, but I'm pretty sure it worked like that in the last courtroom drama I saw (the aforementioned Witness for the Prosecution as well as some others that I saw over the years, and I'm very sure indeed that this is what's making the prosecution's cross-examination so much harder for me to write than the defense's.

(*) I'm pretty sure there is some SF/courtroom fiction in which the defense attorney is an it. If not, it's time someone wrote it.

June 10, 2004

Writing the Trial, part 4

Getting there now. I've got the order in which witnesses appear, I've got a good sense of the space in which things will take place, I've got tactics for the prosecution to follow with each witness, and I've sent copies of the draft scripts to trusted writers for criticism. Tomorrow I'll start sketching out the first few pages, and drawing the first page of the trial. There are some gaps but they occur late in the sequence. I expect I'll be able to fill these in while also working on the first couple of pages.

I'm still developing it at a visual level. I just took half an hour to design a fitting Statue of Justice. I toyed with the idea of using the Lady Justice at the US Department of Justice in her un-burqa'ed glory, but abandoned that when I realised that, judging from the pictures I could find online, it's just not a great sculpture.

I did some very quick research into the origins of the iconography of Lady Justice (nothing deeper than just clicking on a few web links I had in front of me anyway), and then decided it might be more fun if I created my own iconography, unrelated to the Ancient Greek and Egyptian symbols that make up the image of justice in Euro-American culture. The Gnomian Lady Justice is a humanoid female brandishing a sieve and... one other attribute, and is accompanied by a cormorant. She is emphatically not blindfolded.

I won't show a jury, but the lawyers will argue and object as if there was one, because it's just too much fun that way. I'll just have to highlight the fallibility of the panel of judges instead.

June 11, 2004

Drawing the Trial

cormorant I'm having fun with this. Lady Justice and her bird will be in bronze. The bronze looked the most convincing on the bird's wings, for some reason.


June 14, 2004

Cluster headaches and pessimism

A nasty cluster headache ganged up on me today and I got little work done. This may or may not affect Friday's update; there is still time to catch up. Still, it's unwelcome at a time when I'm doing some really difficult writing.


Just as I was about to write about this, a reader asked me why there was an Iframe with this blog on it in an old ROCR archive page at Modern Tales. The answer is simple: because the current Modern Tales system does not allow artists to add a blog (or anything else) to the template for any page, the only way to add a blog is to peg it manually to an episode, at or near update time. If you forget to remove it from the old episode, you get it in the middle of an archive. It's removed now.

Uhm, it's been in that archive location for about three months. I've said this before: I make mistakes. That is annoying but I can live with it. I'll even admit that I sometimes react crabbily when they're pointed out. That depends partly on my mood and partly on the nature of the correction. "You substituted 'different' for 'difficult' in your latest blog entry" is more likely to be accepted with gratitude than "typo in your blog". But even an unspecific heads-up is better than none at all, and if a large Iframe with text is interposed in a continuous archive for no apparent reason, and just sits there for three months like a big elephant in a small room without anyone saying "Hey, what's this? Why is it there?", then it gets unbelievably demotivating when it finally is pointed out. Right now, in my cluster-headache-induced mental haze, I'm wondering who even reads those archives and why I even bother to go on.

I don't ask much from my readers. I don't call on them to buy merchandise or donate anymore, not since I joined Modern Tales. I don't ask readers to shill for the comic on their websites, and I've even given up on expecting feedback on the forum.

But just every once in a while I need some sign that people care. It doesn't hurt my feelings when people point out a typo in the comic or take me to task for some other screwup on the website or in the archives - what hurts my feelings is that they don't ever do. Even when I unexpectedly stopped updating for weeks because I couldn't get into my ftp accounts, it took weeks for people to start asking me if I was still alive. I'm creating in a vacuum and I don't like it a bit.

I'll move the contact link on the front page up a bit so it's more visible. But I think I moved it down in the fairly recent past precisely because no one used it anyway.

June 15, 2004

Feeling better

My three-paracetamol headache is over, I'm well-rested, fully functional and enthusiastic about my work. Let's rock'n'roll.

Ignore the whinyness in that earlier post.

June 16, 2004

Writing the Trial, part, uh, 5, I think: Don't do what I did.

Contrary to what I wrote earlier, I'm not quite done mapping out the events that will take place at the Trial. The problem is this:
When I started work on The Rite of Serfdom, I estimated that I could tell the whole story, including the improvised bits I like to do, in 60 to 100 episodes. Within that framework, the trial would be merely the aftermath of the big important things that happened earlier in the story - to wit, the double quest. The way it actually turned out,though, is that the story is now edging towards the 250-mark, the two climaxes of the double quest came out at a 60-episode distance from one another, and there's already been quite a long ebb since the second of those climaxes. So the rhythm dictates that the Trial becomes a climactic event in its own right. And that means that it should become more dangerous than the two preceding high points, which, as the astute ROCR reader will remember, were when Jodoque got his head chopped off and when Ottar was killed in a magical battle (he got better). That's ... hard to follow.
I've been talking this over with Geir, who has bailed me out before, and we're working towards a solution.

(spoilers below the fold - scroll past the image to read on)

Continue reading "Writing the Trial, part, uh, 5, I think: Don't do what I did." »

June 17, 2004

Mental note: Pen nibs

I should replace my pen nibs more often. When I did so today, the difference in comfort level and control over the line width was noticeable. Problem is, I have about a quarter left of the 144 nibs that Sven van der Hart purchased from the manufacturer several years ago, and I fear running out and not finding a source for replacement. A year ago I googled for the brand and type, and didn't find any leads worth pursuing.

The pens are HIRO Leonardt 111 EF, and although it's theoretically possible to get them from local art stores, my experiences with them can best be summed up as 'pot luck'.

Obligatory comic link, but man does that scan look terrible. One to remaster sooner, rather than later.

June 18, 2004

Yello 'flu alert!

I seem to be coming down with a cold or 'flu. So far, I've only got the sore throat but it could get worse, and I've been stocking up on the 'flu survival materials (orange juice, licorice and soup) just in case.

I'm staying at home tonight. Monday's update is not in danger, but I'm not getting ahead and may need to skip Wednesday's to work on other, better-paid stuff. Also that longer article I promised about recent developments in webcomics may be delayed.

June 19, 2004

Another mental note

I really need to get a new font for ROCR when the current storyline is over. The Stripschrift font looks nice but I have to do so much manual correction that it's almost as time-consuming as lettering by hand.

I'm taking suggestions. No Blambot fonts, please, unless they come with a full collection of umlauts.

June 20, 2004

There is not now, and has never been, a webcomics community

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my lack of interest in the Cartoonist's Choice Awards:


It may have something to do with the way it creates bad blood in the "Webcomics Community" (as if there is such a thing) each year. There's always a lot of criticism and when I take part I always end up weighing in. Bleah.

I didn't make this clear at the time, but when I said "criticism" I meant "bad-tempered bitching about the way the events are run, the people running it, and, eventually, their mothers." I don't have time for that, but I always end up wasting mental energy on it. So this year, I've maintained a polite disinterest in the awards.

Of course, webcomics creators being what they are (and I make no claim to being any better, honestly), bitchfests spring up where they can, and so it was only a matter of time before I'd read this (from Joey Manley's blog: )

A bit of a pissing match has broken out lately over the role of webcomics criticism, specifically since the launch of The Webcomics Examiner. I see three factions in this war. There are likely more.
I've read the whole thing and followed some of the links. As usual, it's not so much the blog/journal/forum postings themselves as the endless strings of comments that follow them that make me roll my eyes. The question that comes to mind is: With all the Webcomics tutorials available online, isn't there a "How to hold your breath and count to ten" tutorial?

And again, I make no claim whatsoever to being better than that. There's a reason I need to stay out of this sort of thing.

June 21, 2004

Health update

Literally in the last hour, my sinuses started to clear up, my ears popped open, and the fog in my head started to lift somewhat. I'm still not feeling my best, but all I have to do now is wait for the bronchitis to come and go, and then I'll be right as rain.

I'll finish Wednesday's page tonight.

June 24, 2004

Quick health and work update

I'm still not fully recovered from the 'flu although I have more energy now than I've had in the past week. Also, I've got some deadlines coming for my magazine work. So I may not be too active on the blog. There'll probably be more quote-and-link entries, but don't expect any original content from me. Not even that long article on webcomics I promised.

In addition, I'm trying to learn to work with a vector graphics program. I don't have time for this but if I'm gonna let that stop me I'll never get started. That's also eating into blog time. Hopefully, it will allow me to work faster in the future - or do better work than the doodling that ROCR descends into far too often.

June 27, 2004

I'm busy!

Working on Wednesday's update; trying desperately to get ideas for the next Floor installment into my head and onto my sketchbook; practicing the guitar; trying to master Expression 3.whatever; turning other people's JPG comics into PNGs just to see if they get smaller; cleaning the kitchen; getting rid of the final traces of that bronchitis. Oh, and I really need to see a museum director about the state of his computers. So blogging will continue to be light for a few more days. When I say continue, I mean I mean it this time.

June 30, 2004

Anniversary!

July 1 marks the 4th anniversary of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan as an online comic. In previous years I've celebrated by putting up special festive artwork, but this year I, uh, forgot. Sorry. Still, it's nice to reach this advanced age! Most webcomics don't last nearly as long.

(And by the way, belated congratulations to Carson Fire of Elf Life and Jamie Robertson of Clan of the Cats who both reached their comics' fifth anniversaries recently. I really should have mentioned it here, because both artists have inspired me to give this online cartooning a serious try.)

July 2, 2004

Not a-bloody-gain!

That flu virus that took a bite out of me two weeks ago appears to have come back for seconds. My throat is all sore again. This is not making me smile.

As before, I'm trying to at least keep up an uninterrupted flow of ROCR pages, but with deadlines for Floor looming, I may not succeed.

July 10, 2004

Modern Tales sites down

At the time of writing (11.37 GMT) Modern Tales and it's affiliates seem to be down.
Do not panic: we'll do that for you.

[Update by Reinder: It's almost 4 PM, CET, now, and the sites are still behaving badly. Talkaboutcomics.com returns a download prompt for a *.php file after a very long wait, and Modern Tales is also kinda sorta responding. I think the PHP engine at the server farm is down causing PHP programs to not be interpreted. But my opinion is not to be trusted.

Update 2 by Reinder: Joey Manley reports that whatever it is it is serious. He has two solutions for the problem, one quick and dirty one and one that is more structural but more time-consuming. In any case, he expects to be working on it all weekend]

Modern Tales Outage: Sod's law at work?

Let the record show that I made an effort to promote my work and something disastrous happened soon after. Usually Sod's Law works more in a tit for tat manner: I post a press release on a few high-profile sites and Keenspace, which hosts the ROCR home page, collapses under its own weight within hours. This time it took a bit longer; I can think of two reasons.

1) the site affected is Modern Tales, which is more stable (usually) than Keenspace, and
2) the promotional technique I was trying to use was more crafty than just posting a few press releases. I had just integrated the blog into the Modern Tales pages the dual goal of improving communication with my readers at Modern Tales and increasing the reach of the blog itself, which I would use, in the long run to promote ROCR elsewhere. It was a long-term sceme, so Sod's Law answered it with a slower-moving crisis.

If the Modern Tales server isn't up by Monday, I will leave the old pages up on ROCR.net for a little longer. Actually, that won't be too hard, since I comply with the rule in my contract about not keeping the pages available elsewhere by cleaning old stuff up periodically. All I need to do is to add a link to the previous comic on the front page so it's easy to find.

And on Sunday, I'll post a little preview of Monday's comic. That was part of my evil masterplan, and I'm not going to stop doing that just yet. Sod's Law can just go Cheney itself.

July 11, 2004

Outage update

Everything seems to be up and running again in the vast and evil Modern Tales empire. However, if any of you are reading the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives there, please report any missing images or seeming database mixups to reinder@despammed.com .

There won't be many problems but there could be some. Thanks.

July 12, 2004

Panels from my other comic

Floor and Mike hanging out

Floorseizoen4-panel1.png Two panels from the second installment of season 4 of Floor, my comic for Hello You. In the morning I will reduce the orignals on a photocopier, scan the copies (I prefer doing that over making partial scans and digitally splicing them together) the scans, digitally clean them, correct a few dozen errors in the inked art, reposition the figures in some panels, add digitally-drawn backgrounds to those same panels with PSP 8's vector tools and make 1-bit image files to send to the editors and the colorist. From the colorist they go back to the editorial team, where by then, the lay-out people should have a quick preview by me indicating where the text should be positioned. I am going to be more conscientious about supplying these previews this year, because the letter positioning is often done wrong. I know that this is a risk, and it's my name on the byline, so it's my responsibility if it happens.

Until then, though, the art is all mine, mine, mine. It'll be months before the kids see it. Actually, I'm itching to color these pictures myself just to see how it looks with my own palette instead of that of Marjorie van Doorn, the colorist.

July 15, 2004

I aten't dead

Sorry I haven't written much on the blog. I actually had quite a few things I wanted to write about, but they were all long, comparitively thoughtful things that I'd have needed to take time for, as opposed to just writing up a link with a quote and a comment. Instead of doing that, I decided to work as hard as I could on the comics, so I'd stay ahead and be in a position to take a quick break or two as soon as the weather improves. (It's moved to the soul-destroying drizzle stage, which I find the most depressing of all).

I have just uploaded the comics for next Monday and Wednesday, putting me (narrowly) three updates ahead. I have also been looking at Bitpass again. It's been almost a year since I abandoned my plan to make Courtly Manners available as a Bitpass feature, and while I still don't think it's worth the work to publish only that comic that way, I've been thinking about making more comics available as Bitpass comics. That way the work would become routine and the Bitpass section would be more attractive from the start. I'm undecided though. Like with many other business/publishing models, I don't think I have the reader base to pull it off succesfully. Maybe I should publish more material for free to attract readers before even thinking about adding more for-pay comics.

I have got my tax refund for 2003, and I may spend some of that on promotion. Even if I don't, I will start doing more work to promote ROCR in the very near future. It's long overdue.

July 16, 2004

Malmberg bought out

Adformatie reports that Finnish publishing giant Sanoma have bought out Malmberg, publishers of Hello You among others. Sanoma are not known for having equitable contracts with freelancers, so this may affect my ability to work for them after my fourth season drawing Floor (Malmberg's current contracts are pretty fair when it comes to intellectual property rights).

August 5, 2004

Loxie and Zoot guest comic

Kel, ready to paaaaaaahr-tay! I did a guest comic for Loxie and Zoot on the occasion of the comic's first anniversary on Keenspace (and the 7th anniversary of the comic's first appearance). The comic is running a Birthday Party storyline right now, in which characters from many webcomics show up to celebrate at the title characters' naturist resort.
I've known Stephen, the artist, online for some time, and I'm glad to see that having the comic on Keenspace has revitalised it and brought it many new readers! He has another comic, Magellan, on there as well now, which I recommend the Graphic Smash people to look into because the combination of superheroes and a European-inspired clear-line style is very appealing and the writing is really strong.

A personal note on the guest art: I hated it when I was drawing it, but I found that most of the problems I had with it went away when I put some flat colors, mostly cloned from one of Stephen's comics, on the art. Flat color has the effect of solidifying shape and can actually make less-than-stellar drawing look good. The more plastic, shaded color I've been using for the past few years, on the other hand, needs good drawing to work at all, which is why I'm often disappointed.

August 11, 2004

Working from home

Because it was too hot to work in the studio yesterday, I drew an ROCR page at home, and because it was raining today and I'm paranoid about taking my originals outside when it's raining, I did the coloring at home as well, on my linux machine, in the GIMP version 1.3.
In both cases, this resulted in less-than-average work done slowly. It's not the tools themselves as much as the need to get used to them again after working with the materials I have in the studio: a slanted table, my good inks, Paint Shop Pro.
I'll draw the line at doing the lettering at home. It'll take me too long to figure out how to make it look like it does in all the other pages. I'm FTP'ing the page to a server to pick it up at the studio and will work on it there.

Evening Update: Going to the studio would have been a good idea if it hadn't been stuffy as the tomb and hot as an oven in there. I'm talkin' instant headache. Even leaving the window, the door and the skylight open didn't help, because it was still over 25 C out there, with high humidity.

August 12, 2004

More new avatars

I showed Adam Friday's ROCR page, and he immediately turned the pictures of the Grimborgsman from the third and fourth panels into MSN avatars. So I encouraged him to share, and here they are:
grimsborgman icon grimsborgman icon 2

I do requests, by the way.

Elaborating a bit: I like it when people use my art in avatars. Feel free to cut them out of any ROCR page that you can view. I know people have done so in the past, because I occasionally see them on forums. It's good advertising for me, especially when people are asked where that picture comes from. Even if no-one asks and my name isn't mentioned in connection with the avatar, it increases the presense of my art style, which I think is still a good thing.
If you make an avatar, though, please send me a copy so I can post it on the blog and share it with others. Your input into the work will be acknowledged, and while the odds of you meeting someone in forum with the same avatar are pretty small, somebody else out there will be happy to use it.

August 16, 2004

New promo image for Modern Tales

Kel in distress
I liked this panel from the ROCR page for Monday, August 23 so much that I made it into a promo image. It's not the best graphic design I've done for these promos, but I'm not good at that (and don't enjoy it) anyway, and the picture is strong enough to carry the graphic on its own.
And just for once, I had space to put my name in!

Writer's block

I'm completely blocked when it comes to writing Floor or anything else for that matter. It doesn't show in ROCR because I have both the momentum (or inertia) of a long story that I know inside out and a huge amount of already-written dialogue for this particular sequence. I can develop ROCR on the basis of that.
But the moment I start trying to turn my attention to Floor, my brain turns to mush and insists on being distracted by anything that looks even remotely shiny. If nothing shiny is available, I find something dull to distract me instead.
I'm already late for the editorial deadline for the script, and it's only the fact that the head editor's on holiday and has left a big gap in the schedule to deal with everyone else's holidays that I'm being spared from having editorial wrath rain down on me. I've called in reinforcements from a writer who's helped me out before, but I'm holding out against hope that I will break out of this.

Writers in the audience: What's your writer's block cure?

Salvaging the day

Colored Courtly Manners 2 panel
Just to feel like I've accomplished something today, I've colored in the first two episodes of the sequel to Courtly Manners, which have been lurking in a folder for a long, long time (here's where the blog starts coming in handy as a memory aide: I posted about this project before on March 8, 2004, and the art was months old then). The flat colors and simple gradients look nice too.

I can color a page of this comic in about an hour this way, and it only takes as long as that because the inking in the original art isn't too good. I must have been looking for a sort of line that I couldn't get, or maybe I was tired or in a hurry. I'm inking much better lately.

I think one contributing factor to the writer's block is that part of me is itching to do something new, not to be locked into one extremely long story and a magazine strip project that has also been going on for three years. Courtly Manners isn't it, but it's still a welcome break from the routine.

August 17, 2004

I forgot to draw in the butterflies and fluffy animals!

I colored three pages of Courtly Manners 2 today, bringing the total to 5. This takes me about 2 hours a page including cleanup, so I was a little too optimistic yestarday.
I'm now re-reading Geir's script for it. Here's his description of that first page I posted back in March:

P1.
Panel 1
Idyllic setting. Out in the forest, in a green clearing between the trees, where sun rays filer down between the branches, surrounded by fluttering butterflies, multicoloured birds and cute little fluffy animals.. Kel, rocking a napping Fay. (Well, actually Fay rests in a hammock held up and rocked by two animated tree-creatures while Kel leans back against the trunk of a tree, munching strawberries and reading her favourite book of errant knights and derring ladies. There must be SOME advantages to being a greenery-affinated faery witch!)
Text: None, but Kel’s expression says it all: “Ahhh…. Peace at last!”
Panel 2
Kel starts mightily a mighty POOF! explodes just in front of her nose. The tree-beings start too, snapping back and forth as if in storm.
Panel 3
Kel, quirking one eyebrow in surprise while the other is linear angered as she reads a golden scroll dripping sparkling star-dust all over the place.
In the background, Fay (we see only the hammock) lets out an enormous WAAAAH! The tree-beings now have reverted to be only trees.
Kel: “What the…”
Panel 4
Kel turns as Kra, enthusiastic as always, storms onto the scene. She is waving a rolled-up scroll, identical to the one Kel is holding. Background solid lettering WAAAAAAAAAH!
Kra: “Kel! Guess what I got in the poofst!”

Sorry, Geir, for not including any butterflies and cute bunnies. I,ehm, forgot. I'll put in some sheep later on if you want.

How should this be published? Not that I'll begin publishing it until it's at least halfway done and there's a good chance of me getting to the end in time, without interruptions. Right now, I'm leaning to publishing it as a free comic on Webcomicsnation, financed by either ads or donations. It has to be financed in some way otherwise I can't afford to put time into it (except one or two days every few months when I'm a bit depressed and suffering from writer's block), but I'd like it to be free so I can draw more of an audience. That part of my online work has suffered a bit in the past two years. Because WCN is free to me as a Modern Tales artist, I may be able to draw a modest profit from some sort of ad-based scheme, although I know it's a long shot.
In any case, I will have to start thinking about the business side long before I start publishing the work itself. It's boring but it has to be done.

September 4, 2004

Sparse blogging for a few more days

I won't have a lot to say in the next couple of days. I'm up to my ears in work, and the only thing that will keep me from it, the weekly cycling trip, will be a very long one. This will of course provide Adam and Jeroen with ample opportunity to play (except that Jeroen is also up to his ears in work as far as I know).

There's a real risk of Monday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan strip being delayed. But there will be three installments next week.

September 6, 2004

Doodlin'



Doodlin' is fun! I should do it more often, but since I graduated and have no more dull lectures to attend, I rarely do so. 't Is a good reason to illustrate the Driftig Agenda 2005. Although I don't get paid, I do get to doodle, plus a cool diary... Reinder helped me out: can you guess which ones are his and which mine?

September 27, 2004

Heads up: possible ROCR delays

The next Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic will almost certainly be delayed. There's nothing scripted or drawn, and a lot of other, more urgent stuff to do.
I will have some art up on the various locations on Wednesday, but if people are interested in doing a quickie guest comic... yes please!
The schedule may remain shaky for the next two weeks. After that, normal service should be resumed.

Heads up # 2: Disaster has struck

Trying to fix a problem with the Wacom tablet that occurred after installing XP Service Pack 2, I have succeeded in preventing the tablet from working altogether. I need the tablet to clean and color my scanned pages, and will not even consider doing that with a mouse. I have a tablet-enabled setup at home, but it is not as good, and taking my pages from the studio to my home to scan and process (and then back to the studio to letter unless I get Paint Shop Pro working on the linux machine) will slow down my workflow considerably, unless I drastically change the way I do my work (i.e. leave the studio and do all my work from home again).
I have pledged to do this storyline in color from beginning to end. If I'm unable to color, I will have to put the comic on hiatus until the problem is solved, and this hiatus is effective immediately.
The original problem: the tablet worked only with one user at the time, which is unacceptable on a system with two heavy tablet users.
Actions undertaken: I started out re-installing the driver from the original CD. This resulted in the tablet failing to work altogether. Upgrading to a newer driver from the Wacom website had no effect. The little light at the top of the tablet is on, but the device itself does not appear to be home.
Have any of you had this problem on a Windows box before? What would you recommend I do?

Update: Never mind. I have rolled back Service Pack 2.

October 6, 2004

Promo art

GrimborgArt1-color-final.jpg

Continue reading "Promo art" »

October 12, 2004

Taking a little breather

I've decided to take a day off from work to recuperate from the stress of the past few weeks. I'll do some reading and clean my house a bit.
Wednesday's ROCR comic will be rescheduled for Friday when I will do a double comic to catch up. That way the story doesn't get slowed down any further.
In place of the regular comic I'll run a guest page by Timmerryn, who, as it happens, is also taking over drawing work on Dangerous and Fluffy starting today!
Friday's double will be a goody, I promise! That is, if I don't get another comment spam storm on the blog - I've had two already this morning.

Minor Update: I have a book and a record to review for you, plus I have tinkered with the chapter division of the ROCR archives at Modern Tales splitting the Trial Sequence in two. I have made some minor fixes to the ROCR cast pages - things that people pointed out to me almost a year ago. I somehow found the time to draw some more cast portraits and think about the characters' histories a bit more. These new portraits aren't inked or colored, but I'll get around to that tomorrow-ish, so they'll start showing up soon enough. Come to think of it, I may set them up as a blog so they'll be easier to build. Movable Type can do a lot more than I've been doing with it so far.
Finally, I've spent some time thinking about the Trial Sequence and what I'd do differently if I were starting it now. In all, this day off has probably helped get the creative juices flowing again.

October 13, 2004

No double ROCR on Friday

Yesterday I promised that Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic would be a double to catch up on today's missed update. That's not going to happen, I'm afraid. I'm a bit under the weather (for some reason, this always happens when I allow myself to relax a bit after a period of strenuous work) and there are too many interruptions in my schedule - including getting a 'flu shot, yay.
To be able to run a double episode, I'd need to have two pages ready to scan and color by 5 PM today. By 3 PM, it was clear that that wasn't feasible; I'd only had one page penciled. So I decided to work on that other thing I mentioned yesterday: turning the cast pages into a Movable Type template. That's working fairly well except that my CSS coding abilities are extremely rusty. CSS positioning gives me special trouble. This test page has the two graphics on top aligned correctly in Opera, nearly correctly in Internet Explorer, and not at all in Firefox/Mozilla. In fact, the only things that work in Firefox are the things that have been in all my stylesheets for years and years. I need a refresher course! This is how it's supposed to look. That page is done with tables though, which I want to avoid because I want to get with the times.
As for ROCR: regular update on Friday, and I'll shoot for a double update on the Friday after that.

October 30, 2004

50,000 is the magic number

(warning: Long, rambling, work-related post, which is intended at least partly as a memo to self.)

Four years ago, when I moved the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives over to Keenspace's servers and got the rocr.net domain name, Keenspace still had a deal with the cartoonists hosted there that if a cartoonist had more than 50,000 pageviews in a month, the money people at Keen would send them a cheque, which the cartoonists could then frame and hang on the wall. The Dot-com boom was already over, but advertising revenue hadn't tanked completely yet, and popular cartoonists were eligible for a cut. By the time I qualified, though, the deal was off.
Between that time and Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan moving to Modern Tales, the comic actually became pretty popular. But after the move, only a handful of episodes remained on the Keenspace-hosted site: Some short archived stories, the latest episode, plus whatever recent episodes I haven't deleted from the archives yet. The Keenspace pageviews sunk to very low levels, as they should - the action is now at Modern Tales, where I actually get paid for my work through subscriptions.
But 50,000 pageviews a month has remained a bit of a magical number for me, and I'm very pleased that since the restoration of Dolphins and Dragons to the free archives, this number is once again in sight! I posted a message to the El Goonish Shive forum about the EGS-derived flashback sequence, and it did the job of alerting readers of that comic to the existence of mine. When I followed up with a link to the restored storyline, it caused my archive pageviews to surge to pre-Modern Tales levels: over 2000 a day. That's a modest number but the archive now has far fewer episodes in it than back in 2002. I expect that peak to end about now, but it shouldn't be impossible to sustain that level of interest and more.
I've already mentioned that I think ads for comics on other comics sites work. In a few weeks I'll advertise on Clan of the Cats with a specially-made campaign, and it shouldn't be too hard to come up with another campaign on El Goonish Shive advertising the restored storyline, which should appeal to many EGS readers.
The one good thing about the Bush administration's appallingly spendthrift fiscal policy is that it's made the US Dollar very cheap so this sort of promotion won't cost me much. Of course, any return on this investment won't occur until later, at which time the US Dollar will probably be worth even less. So I'll do this primarily to stroke my own ego, and to build and maintain my reputation in online comics circles, a task I've been neglecting for the past two years.
One thing I'll be asking more often in the next couple of years when I ask site owners about their demographics is "which percentage of your users is European?" I want to pursue publishing opportunities and freelance work in Europe again.

November 3, 2004

What I did yest're'en

I wrote a few days ago that I'd spend the night of the US election getting shitfaced, but instead I spent the first part of the evening looking at a naked woman and scrawling marks on paper.

Leunend model
model-staand.jpg
This model was an oddly-built one that I had a hard time drawing. She was thin and bony but also loose-skinned. Only a handful of drawings are worth showing to people at all, and that only to comment on what I try to accomplish drawing a live model.
The point of life drawing isn't just to get the anatomy right - it's to learn to perceive shape. Sometimes I do spontaneous charcoal sketches before settling down to do a more developed version in pencil. Not last night - I couldn't find my charcoals. So I drew the basic shapes of the figure in B pencil, and then went on developing the figure with a 4B. This is similar to how I cartoon except that instead of constructing the body from a shape in my head, I start from what I see but try to bring out the shape of that. You will see that I'm having a particularly hard time getting this right with heads - I don't think I've ever got the head right in any of my life drawing sessions, and I may need to do some studying from a book. You'd think that heads would be easier because you see them so much more in everyday life, but not so.

At right: most sessions, I can finish my drawing before the model assumes a different pose, but yesterday, some drawings remained unfinished.

Continue reading "What I did yest're'en" »

November 19, 2004

Busy as a bee could be, could be

Floor, season 4, page 6, panel 1Blogging has been light lately because I've been trying to get ahead on ROCR again while at the same time drawing a page of Floor, the sixth of the fourth season. Drawing Floor always takes me a lot of time because it requires more careful work than ROCR does.
Oh, and teaching. I did a two-hour workshop on Wednesday, and was pretty useless the rest of the day. I had some paperwork to fill in, but even that was too hard in the state I was in, so I got a deadline extension.

second panel
The Floor page turned out rather nicely, though. Easy on the eye without being dull. There's a strong Robert van der Kroft influence in how I draw the buildings in those two panels, and in the poses and proportions of the characters.

November 22, 2004

Damn those headaches!

I woke up this morning with a headache. I'm trying to fight it with paracetamol and coffee (my coffee consumption has slowly crept back to the level it was before I tried to quit, so having gone a whole weekend without it resulted in renewed withdrawal symptoms) but it's taking me some time to get the brain into gear again.
I want to draw five Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episodes this week, write a new episode of Floor and update my financial records, so I could have used a better start to the week than I have had. If I spend the day posting new items to the blog, that means I won't have got myself in a fit shape to write and draw — but it's better than spending the day in bed with a splitting headache.

November 27, 2004

Money stuff

Today, I'm taking most of the day off from drawing to do money stuff: sending bills, writing a cover letter for one of the bills, filling out forms, signing my Hello You! contract which arrived belatedly a few weeks ago (not their fault - they sent me one in May but it never arrived. But it's a bit odd to sign a contract for work that is two-thirds done and one-thirds printed) — boring stuff like that.
I'm itching to get back to the drawing board because I'm drawing next week's Grimborg sequence. It's taken me many months to get out of the court, and the new scenery and visual focus of the next sequence is a breath of fresh air to me. But the boring money stuff comes first.

December 1, 2004

Flu and possible deadline collision

I got my 'flu jab in October, but they've never actually stopped me from getting the 'flu. They only stop me from dropping dead from the 'flu. That's a crucial difference but doesn't make me feel any better right now. I'm sick as a dog.
Despite the sickness, I got some work done. I managed to finish coloring today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page, and will put the final touches on Friday's page today. Both pages were drawn late last week, fortunately, meaning that the hardest work was already done. I had a very clear picture of how they were going to be coloured, so I didn't need to think too hard about that either.
I don't think I'll be able to start a new page in the state I'm in right now, though, and that's a bit of a problem. I've already been hassled by Hello You! over the script for the 7th Floor comic, but I can only do those with a really clear head. I'm not worried, yet, but I've noticed that the window between the deadline for the script and that for the finished art is slightly smaller than usual (presumably to fit in the Christmas holidays of the editorial staff and the colorist), and I'll really need to draw it next week. In other words, I'll have no ROCR pages prepared in advance before next week, and will spend that period drawing something else if I'm at all capable of doing so.
Time to bring out the guest art! Are any of you reading this game? I'll have some fillers ready but I would rather have work by other people. It will be seen by the new readers flooding in from Clan of the Cats and The Webcomics List as well as the regular readers.

December 7, 2004

Newsprintified!

serfdom316-50s.pngSo I was sick and asked for guest art. Adam and Jeroen signed up for some, but soon after finishing his script for Jeroen, he got sick himself, so he needed some guest art for Dangerous and Fluffy. I was in no state to promise him anything, but I was still working a few hours a day on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and sending the finished work to friends on MSN just to keep up morale. Adam liked the update for December 6 so much that he asked if it could be used in D&F as one of those "Gregory reads a comic book" episodes.
The only problem with that, of course, is that ROCR isn't exactly a 1950s comic (D&F is set, albeit loosely, in the '50s). The colors are unlike anything the pulps of the day ever printed, and what with the nudity, paganism, violence, extramarital cohabitation, moral ambivolence and general disrespect of all that is proper and good, it would never have got the Comics Code Authority Seal of approval.
One problem was solved by using the GIMP's newsprint filter go create a grimy, poorly-printed look. The other issue was resolved in the episode itself — Adam managed to come up with a gag and Timm got the Gregory art done in the nick of time. It's not quite a full collaboration but it got the filler episode out there.

December 17, 2004

Buggre alle thisse for a larke, I'm outta here

I just put the final touches to the seventh Floor episode of the season. Barring emergencies, this will have been the last bit of production work for the rest of the year. I'm taking a break from the long, hard days in the studio.
Oh, I will doodle, script, study, sketch, brainstorm and put commit some of the things haunting my head to paper. And I'll probably work on the website a bit. But for the next two weeks, I will not tear off another Bristol sheet or use the ruler.
This weekend, and Monday and Tuesday, I'll read, relax, go swimming, go skating, resume spring cleaning, sort my cupboards, prepare my accounts for the next round of taxy stuff and do Christmas shopping. Oh, and I'll catch up on sleep, blessed sleep.
Then at an ungodly early hour, I'll head for England with my parents to celebrate Christmas at my brother's new digs. Internet access during those days will be intermittent at best (which is why any guest artists must have their stuff in on the 20th). I'll be back on the 27th, and between then and the new year I do not intend to leave my bed for anything other than drinks. The update for January 3 is already in the can, so I will probably resume drawing comics again around that time.
A whole two weeks off. Wow.

January 26, 2005

Gallery problems

I'm not sure if this is part of the fallout from my attempts to get Movable Type upgraded, but the Reinder Dijkhuis gallery is down right now. It returns this error: "Fatal error: Cannot re-assign $this in /home/rocr/public_html/gallery/classes/Album.php on line 412".
This is a bit of a problem. I haven't upgraded either the software or the content in a long time, and it does have comment functionality. In other words, it may be as vulnerable as Movable Type (with comments enabled) is.
I've contacted the hosting site administrator and will decide what to do with the gallery in a few days.
Thanks to reader starrclaw for alerting me to this.
Update: Upgrading gallery is as fraught with problems as upgrading Movable Type. The pattern is that upgrading a program of this complexity either goes smoothly the first time, or will keep you tearing your hair out endlessly. Because the config script exited with an error the first time I ran it, I can now expect to lose more of my already quite sparse hair. And for a while there, the cascade of computer errors and human errors affected the blog as well. Long story. Probly won't bother to tell it.
Update: Okay, I'll tell a little bit. I've been futzing with file permissions to resolve the problem of why a file that was in the Gallery directory couldn't be read. This was dangerous stuff, and resulted in *everything* being set to 700, ie. owner can do everything, the rest of the world can do nothing, for a while. In the process of repairing the file permissions, I have "fixed" the final errors that showed up in relation to the blog. I'm somewhat concerned that bits are less secure than they should be, and will inform Xepher of this concern later, but at least I got a smoothly-functioning Movable Type install out of it.

January 27, 2005

Talkaboutcomics going down for emergency work

I dimly recall mentioning on the blog that instead of having comments enabled, I was going to refer people to the Reinder Dijkhuis forum if they wanted to discuss posts here. I was hoping at the time that I would find a way to automate this so that Timm or Adam could point people to the Capn forum. Geir would not have a forum of his own to link to, but since he rarely posts it would be easy to accommodate discussion on any of the above anyway. He could room with me.
It'll have to wait, though, because Talkaboutcomics.com, which hosts my forum and the D&F one, is also straining under the load put on it, and is going down for more emergency maintenance in the next few hours. Could be down for one or two days as well. This could be a sign from above that God wants less talk from all of us.

I have conquered my recalcitrant Gallery installation!

sample image from my Gallery
It's taken me a lot of aggravation, but the Gallery works again! Next step: Make it work with Movable Type! Muahaha!

January 30, 2005

No RoCR update on Monday due to motherboard problems.

The studio PC's motherboard suddenly gave up the ghost this afternoon while I was coloring. I'm sort of covered for that: I have a good computer and a usable scanner at home. But rather than make a desperate last-ditch attempt to get the comic ready on time while at the same time refamiliarising myself with The GIMP's interface and quirks (no Paint Shop Pro on the linux machine, alas), I've decided to postpone Monday's comic to give myself time to work on other, better-paid projects and to do the work properly. I'll take the PC to the shop on Monday, and depending on what they tell me, I'll either wait for it to come back or start working on the coloring at home on Tuesday. I can't guarantee a Wednesday comic on that basis either, but at least it will allow me to stay almost completely sane, and the comic won't look like it's been colored by a blind monkey when it's done (at least not more than usually). In the mean time, I'll post the odd filler or two.

The computer troubles may also interfere with Jeroen's ability to get work done, although he'll probably be able to hook the scanner to his laptop and get it done that way.

Commiserrate with our computer problems on the forum

January 31, 2005

Studio computer update

The studio computer is at the store. They'll call me soon enough to tell me what they think is wrong, but repairs may take a week. That's too short for me to switch gears towards coloring the material for that period in a different application on the home machine, but I will if it takes longer.
What I plan to do now: work ahead, draw the next few pages at a steady clip and then start coloring them next weekend no matter what. Until then, I will post fillers on regular update days (partly to test the automatic updates on the mirror site and partly to give you something while you're waiting). These will look like today's comic - they'll have simple, flat colors, and be single panels or illustrations.
As for Jeroen, he's annoyed that he can't get the printer working on his laptop, but he can use it to scan. He'll be able to create his work even if he can't bill clients for it.

February 1, 2005

To-do-list for the Reinder Dijkhuis webspace

I need to fix comments, trackbacks, trackback spam and subsite integration on rocr.xepher.net. Here's how things are going:

Continue reading "To-do-list for the Reinder Dijkhuis webspace" »

February 6, 2005

I think I have a problem here

I am seriously considering canceling the Internet service at the studio, or at least opting out of my share of it.

Continue reading "I think I have a problem here" »

February 9, 2005

Whoa! I've been Mircked!

Some people get Slashdotted, others get Boinged. I just got Mircked. Or maybe that should be "Comicbased"?

In any case, I'm nominated for a Clickie at Clickburg, who I really need to get in touch with on a nearly unrelated matter...
Edit: Jeroen has also been nominated for various projects: Capn, Opa, Van de Pup... and his work on Dangerous and Fluffy.

Some more art for you to look at

I'm putting together my part of a joint portfolio for the studio I'm in. We're finally getting our arses in gear to present ourselves to the outside world as a unified organisation, a sort of creative hive-mind that will assimmilate your unformed concepts.
While rummaging through my old art, I found that I rather liked some illustrations I drew for Hello You in 2003/4, so I added a page's worth of them to the Gallery. (Over time, I'll move these pics around. But for now, the material fits rather neatly on a page, representing most of the illustration I've ever done that was aimed at pre-teens)

February 10, 2005

Musings on looking for illustration work

I just had a meeting with two of my studio mates about joining forces, seeking out illustration work as a unit instead of each of us by ourselves. That has made me think, once again, about my plans for this year. I've done a lot of work lately re-designing the various websites I've got, but I haven't made them into a cohesive whole yet (that's in the pipeline, though), and I haven't addressed the issue of making them into a jobs-seeking resource, which they will have to become.

Continue reading "Musings on looking for illustration work" »

February 14, 2005

Before I forget

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will update 5 times this week. Possibly, maybe, conceivably. I have no buffer right now but if I manage to get 5 updates out, the storyline will end on Friday, which would be quite neat.
So, while it's very rare for me to promise updates knowing that I may miss them (unlike on this weblog, where I'm as likely to break promises as keep them), I'll do it this time. I'll shoot for five, meaning extra updates on Tuesday and Thursday. If things go wrong, it's more likely that I miss the Friday update than the Tuesday one, so the only way you'll know if I've updated is by checking...

February 21, 2005

GIMP vs Paint Shop Pro steel cage deathmatch

This week, Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will answer nitpicks from readers. I will also take the opportunity, in these non-canonical strips, to experiment with my tools a bit.

Continue reading "GIMP vs Paint Shop Pro steel cage deathmatch" »

February 22, 2005

About that house-keeping...

For every item that I've crossed off my to-do list for the week, two new ones have sprung up. For the past year (actually longer, but it only began to be harmful in the past year), I've put work first before anything else. It's that mindset which allowed me to complete a long story with regular updates, full page format, full color. But it's also caused me to neglect a lot of stuff - from correspondence to replacing household items to actually making concrete plans for the next couple of months. And now it's all coming home to roost.
The reason I mention this here instead of on my Livejournal is that some of it actually affects other areas of the job, like reprinting old minicomics and sending them to people who have them on order. I'll get to it this week. However, it sometimes helps to poke me a little bit because that takes me out of my hyperfocus... eventually. So don't be shy about dropping me an urgent email reminding me to do this, that or the other, should the need arise.

Continue reading "About that house-keeping..." »

February 23, 2005

GIMP vs.Paint Shop Pro Death Match part 2: GIMP just hit the floor

Today's experiment has been succesful beyond my wildest dreams. I now know that I can't do that.
I tried to color the comic with Ecoline, a transparent water-based range of paints that used to be used in professional comics in the Netherlands in the 1970s and '80s. Then, the art was colored at published size, on a blueprint of the line art. Now, like many other products, it's falling into disuse, and I thought I'd learn about it while the product was still available at all.

Continue reading "GIMP vs.Paint Shop Pro Death Match part 2: GIMP just hit the floor" »

March 3, 2005

No comic on Friday due to injury

Folks, I've taken a bit of a spill on my bike, and I've hurt my wrist. It's my left wrist, so my drawing hand is fine, but I can't do the computer work properly, and I would rather not hurt myself more trying to finish the next Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episode with this unexpected handicap. Also going to the studio with a damaged bike and reduced steering ability in the worst frost in years doesn't appeal to me much.
I expect it will be all right in a day or so. In fact, it wasn't immediately painful so I suspect it's my body's own cleanup work that's generating the pain, not the injury itself. I have now belatedly packed the wrist in ...er... snow from the back yard and will spend the evening holed up with a shiny Richard Thompson DVD I bought a few days ago. ROCR will be back on Monday.

March 4, 2005

Wrist and comic update

The wrist is feeling better. I have considered seeing my doctor but as there's no visible swelling or bruising, and I can sort of use it again already, I don't feel like bothering him. However, now that the pain in the wrist is subsiding, I'm noticing more how sore other parts of my body are, most noticeably the area of one rib. Also, my wallet hurts from the repairs to the Koga Myiata. The repairs have made the Koga a very happy bike indeed, so it's not a waste of money.

I have been able to do some drawing work, despite being sore and a bit uncoordinated. Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will update 5 times next week and the week after that.

Continue reading "Wrist and comic update" »

March 8, 2005

Next story to be Courtly Manners 2

A change of plan from what I've been telling people: my next webcomics projects after The Rite of Serfdom will be the second issue of Courtly Manners, written by Geir Strøm. My previously existing plans, to do a series of shortish storylines focusing on various aspects of the vast and sprawling Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan universe will go ahead a little bit later. Arguably, Courtly Manners #2 fits it well enough, considering that it features Kel, Krakatoa, Guðrun and the characters from Geir's Chronicles of the Witch Queen who have appeared in ROCR before.

Continue reading "Next story to be Courtly Manners 2" »

March 16, 2005

Well, I'll be buffered.

Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary has always had a sensible approach to the workload that comes with publishing a comic strip online. On several occasions, he said something along the lines of "You need to be three weeks ahead; anything less and you're living hand to mouth". I don't remember if he used the three weeks as a benchmark before or after he quit his managerial job at Novell. I'm sure the number won't stay the same for him throughout his hopefully long cartooning career, and I'm sure that they won't be the same for everyone, everywhere, ever. I can now conclude that for me, it's two weeks. I am now two weeks ahead where just a short time ago I was working on the comic for the next day, and it's a big relief. The fact that I effectively cheated to get this far ahead does not diminish the relief in anyway. I am off the conveyor belt, and good riddance. It's a significant next step towards coming up from under the pile of stuff-to-do that's been overwhelming me.

Continue reading "Well, I'll be buffered." »

March 23, 2005

Monitors, continued

Using the new monitor at home has been a bit of a shock. Everything has colours all of a sudden! Bright ones. This has made me realise that the monitor I work with at the studio is, not to put too fine a point on it, appalling. Not quite as bad as the old home monitor was, but bad enough to affect the quality of my output on the web. I couldn't tell black from gray on either the old home monitor or the studio monitor and it shows in recently scanned art where lettering is added in grey (56,56,56) instead of black, or banner graphics where a lightish gray block has been "corrected" with spots of black.
This will not do. The monitor advice thread is still open; if you are a cartoonist, illustrator or graphic designer and have recommendations for a new monitor, please post.
Of course, we will have to find a way to pay for a new monitor. I will have to make time for commissioned art and illustration jobs. That will take a while to prepare because I've just come out of two years of nearly-uninterrupted comics work taking its toll, and there's a lot to do before I can fill up my calendar again. But in the mean time, I will plug one of my revenue sources a bit harder. The Modern Tales house ads on ROCR.net don't pay directly but hopefully they'll entice some people to subscribe to one or more of the sites. If you like Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, Courtly Manners or any of my other comic strips, you will love the over 800 episodes archived on Modern Tales which also houses Jeroen's Shadow project. Meanwhile, Adam and Timmerryn's Dangerous and Fluffy can be enjoyed in all its farmery superhero goodness at Graphic Smash which has become my favourite comics site thanks to T Campbell's great hand at picking interesting artists who make exciting, unpretentious webcomics. Your subscription money pays for our tools! And put food in our babies' mouths, because all of us have lots of babies.

Courtly Manners now syndicated

The Department of Putting Things Inside Other Things has put the Courtly Manners on the old Reinder Dijkhuis homepage. People still visit that, and it still shows up in Google searches, so I might as well give them some updating content.
Thanks to the dilligent efforts of the Department of Putting Things Inside Other Things, you too can now put Courtly Manners on your webpage. Cut'n'paste this bit o'script:
<script language=javascript src=http://www.moderntales.com/tooncast.php?series=courtlymanners&affiliateID=xxx></script> making sure that no line breaks appear in the code.
The Department regrets that it could have done this earlier - it requires just one switch in the Modern Tales control panel settings. However, that switch is now set, so help yourself to a daily comic for the next few weeks.

March 29, 2005

Work update

A week and a half into my "break", I got the following things done:

  • Did my tax returns, or at least the part of it that I absolutely had to. In practice, that meant bringing my books up to date, doing my VAT calculations and asking for an extention on the Income Tax return.
  • Remastered two chapters of the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan storyline "Guðrún": Escaping Winter and Kel and Jodoque Live it Up. I used the new A3 scanner to make high-res scans of the A3 originals from 1998/1999 and make new letterings which I may also be able to use for print. The new finished files are a consistent size and slightly larger size, have greater greyscale depth and have larger, neater lettering. They should be easier to read and not so off-putting. I'll do the rest of the story when I have time - it was mostly the first few chapters that offended my eyes.
  • Drawn a tiny, tiny bit. Some art needed to be reconstructed for the remaster project, and I've finished one installment of Courtly Manners. That' s right. Just one, and it was already partly drawn over Christmas. The rest of the week will be spent drawing some more episodes.
  • Fought spam on the Talk About Comics forums. I won't link them here because it looks like threads linked from this blog are more likely to be targeted by spammers. I've had to close down the nitpick thread, even.
  • Made a lot of promotional graphics from the existing material
(boring discussion of ad effectiveness below the cut)

Continue reading "Work update" »

March 30, 2005

Bride of the second cousin of technical difficulties

[UPDATE: April 4, 2005: The control panel in which artists can edit their archives is back up, but doesn't appear to function properly. I can add chapters but not new installments. It may be a while yet before I can restore the archives fully.]


[UPDATE: March 31, 2005: The sites aren't back up, but Joey Manley has informed cartoonists that the data up to January 28, 2005 has been saved. It may be possible to get to the more recent data. If not, cartoonists will have to re-enter two months worth of data, which may take them a while.
Before then, it will take a few days before the sites come back up, and Moderntales.com will be last for technical reasons that I won't go into now. You will see old material on the front page, and miss new material in the archives, until they've been re-entered.
Having to re-enter stuff would suck, but it wouldn't be a great disaster.
Practical consequences for Courtly Manners: there are updates in the queue at the free sites until Friday. Between Friday and the day Moderntales.com gets back up and is back up to date, I won't add new updates to the queue. It's difficult enough to keep the three different locations where the comic is uploaded in synch without having to deal with major technical problems on the most important one (the one that pays me money). After that, re-runs are a distinct possibility. ]

What happened less than a week ago with Keenspace is now happening with Modern Tales, where my subscription-based webcomic archives are housed. This may have longer-term consequences if the database is damaged. In that case I will have to reconfigure Courtly Manners and re-program the re-mastered episodes of the "Guðrún" archives.
Until then, look for the most recent Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episodes (basically, anything I hadn't cleaned up yet) at ROCR.net and the latest Courtly Manners archives at the secret Courtly Manners site.
Normal service will be resumed ASAP.
Meanwhile, the Talk About Comics Forums are about to go registered-members-only, so that instead of a two-front war against spammers and DOSers we will only have to fight a single-front war against the DOSers. I prefered to have the forums as open as possible, but once again my ideals on this matter slammed into the brick wall of Reality. The Reality is that the trust-based Internet isn't working and that spammers, DOSers, trolls and hackers will destroy anything that isn't nailed down. Top Admin Joey Manley has decided that instead of deploying an army of unpaid volunteers to clean up after every dump taken on the forums, he will get rid of the pollution the simple and effective way. Doesn't cure my urge to go out and break some spammer fingers, but it will allow me to get on with productive work, so I won't object.

April 1, 2005

Update of the Bride of the Second Cousin of Technical Difficulties

Joey's just sent word that he intends to bring Modern Tales, Serializer and Graphic Smash as temporary non-updating archival sites by tomorrow morning (in his time zone - he's in Kentucky). Girlamatic is already back up in that form. Note the word "intends" in bold italics for emphasis. A million things could still get between him and that intention.
Cartoonists won't have control panel access until Monday, so until then, all sites will be in a timewarp.
When we get the control panel access back, I will first restore the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives, then I'll bring the Courtly manners updates back up to date, rescheduling the episodes for yesterday and today for Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7. Then, when the archives at Modern Tales are back in synch with the updates on ROCR.net, I'll run the next new episodes. Until then, I may run fillers on ROCR.net and its mirrors so the regular visitors will have something to look at. It's a bit ironic (in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word) in that Courtly Manners was itself intended as a filler, but the Department of Preventing Headaches insisted that I go about it this way.
Note that my plans are dependent on Joey's plans working out on the proposed schedule. If his work is delayed, mine will also be.

April 4, 2005

Attack of the 16-Foot Technical Dififulties

Blimmin' Keenspace updater is stuck again, so ROCR.net is not updating. Not that you're missing much, because I'm showing fillers while waiting for the go-ahead to repair my archives at Modern Tales, but if you want your fix, go to the mirror site.
I think this shows the problem with redundancy: you never have enough of it to fully cover yourself against technical failure. Out of three locations where my comics can be found online, only one is functional, and it's arguably the most fragile one.

April 9, 2005

Invasion of the Giant Stalking Technical Difficulties

(I'm going to run out of B-Movie Titles of Technical Difficulties sooner than I thought)
The Talk About Comics are down with a cryptic error message. This has happened before, recently - the message means that the database has got corrupted and needs to be rebuilt. Ultimate Owner, Lord and Master of the TAC Forums, Joey M, has been notified and will undoubtedly soon wave his magic wand over the situation. He has a lot on his plate now, though, unlike the last time when he merely thought he had a lot on his plate , so it may take a while longer.

Update: The forums are back up, and Joey has explained that DOSers were the cause. These people are quickly catching up to spammers on my hate list...

To do for week 15

I may have trouble getting five Courtly Mannners updates done next week. My to-do list for the next week:

Continue reading "To do for week 15" »

April 13, 2005

On extended hiatuses

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but because it's the sort of thing I expect to get either a bit of flack or a lot of unnecessarily concerned responses for, I kept putting it off. Now that this award nomination is on, I have a reason to post this sooner rather than later, which is fundamentally similar to my previous reason for putting it off: people on the internet tend to be quick to jump to conclusions, and I don't want the wider webcomics-reading world to think that the concerns raised below were sparked off by me not winning a Clickie or something.

Aanyway. A few weeks ago I channeled Robert Fripp and posted this on my Livejournal. Since then, I have come to a decision, which I will reveal tomorrow. But first, if you're a Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan or Courtly Manners fan, read this from beginning to end - and don't worry.

Continue reading "On extended hiatuses" »

April 14, 2005

So, what am I going to do next?

It just had to happen. Just after yesterday's angsty ramble on extended hiatuses, Wednesday White on Websnark posted a commendation of Jeffrey Rowland's terse notice:


OC for Wednesday will not be available due to an issue regarding an event.

saying

See, folks? THIS is how it's done. Not with paragraphs, not
with angsting...

Well, this one's going have paragraphs again, and maybe some angsting. But it will also have a point. Because I deliberately left the point hanging in that other post.

Continue reading "So, what am I going to do next?" »

April 15, 2005

Short Courtly Manners interruption

Perhaps unsurprisingly in the light of my blog entries of the past few days, Courtly Manners will be briefly interrupted on Monday and Tuesday, April 18 and 19. I have too much on my plate preparing for Clickburg and don't want the climax of the story to be spoiled by rushed artwork. Horses aren't easy to draw, y'know.

There are about a dozen episodes to go in the story. I'd like to wrap it up in good time, but, like I said, not at all cost.

May 6, 2005

What I learned today (3)

The GIMP is really appallingly stupid.
Imagine you have an SVG file that you want to import. Its original size is something like 580 pixels wide, but that doesn't matter: the good thing about vector graphics is that you can scale them losslessly. So in the Import dialogue, you enter the new resolution (600 DPI) and the new dimensions (280 mm wide - this is for print), and you click OK. So, do you get a file that's 280 mm wide at 600 DPI? Nooooo, what you actually get is a file that is about 990 pixels wide. At 600 DPI, that's about 1 1/2 inch, which is considerably closer to 40 mm than to 280.
Mystified, you close the file, and try again. This time, the outrageously, appallingly stupid file importer has caught on to the fact that you want to import at 600 DPI, but has merely guessed that you want the canvas dimensions to stay the same and has calculated that that means you want the file to be about 3800 pixels wide. You set "280 mm" again, check the dimensions in pixels, and this time they look all right, so you import.
With the next few files you import, things go exactly as in your second attempt, but the system you're working on being Windows, you are forced to reboot before completing all your file imports.
After rebooting and opening GIMP again, the scenario of your first attempt happens again, but this time, before hitting "OK" you enter "280 mm" and then check the pixel size a few more times. Each time, the unbelievable, amazingly stupid GIMP returns the wrong dimensions, until you decide to hit "OK" and close the resulting window in a cargo cult attempt to trigger the scenario of your second attempt. That works, as cargo cult magic often does in the world of computing.

Of course, I could tell you stories about Photoshop 6.0, which while being considerably less stupid than GIMP, has the even greater drawback of hating my guts. One day, I'll build a Photoshop 6.0 out of twigs and leaves to appease it. Or I'll wipe it with a magnet. Whichever is more satisfying.

Continue reading "What I learned today (3)" »

May 12, 2005

This tech-request is actually comics-related

I'm trying to download Lamppix with a view to maybe using it on Saturday to host my comics archive on a laptop at Saturday's Small-Press festival. I'm sure there'll be many hurdles before I get it to work, but the biggest hurdle is that at the present rate, the download would take until some time in June. If any of my techie readers happen to have a copy on file, could they stick it on a server that actually serves the file? Or maybe on Bittorrent - that would help other people out as well. Thanks!
Update: Got it now, thanks again to reader Squiddharta, and with special mention of Martin Diehl who went through the ordeal of downloading a copy from the official location. I managed to create a functional Lamppix CD, but unfortunately it didn't work on the ancient laptop I had at my disposal. As soon as I've got some money coming in, I should get me a laptop of my own to use at conventions.
That's life: I've now got a bit of experience with LiveCD-based distributions, and it's always a matter of luck whether they will work on the machines you'll want to use them on. They can only exist at all through educated guesses on the part of the distribution-makers as to what machines they'll be run on, and an eight-year-old Toshiba laptop clearly wasn't considered in the making of those guesses.

Continue reading "This tech-request is actually comics-related" »

May 16, 2005

Convention schedule addition - short bus to Dordrecht!

I'm very likely to be at the Stripfestijn Dordrecht on June 5. Not as a table-holder though, but as a gate-crasher. The provisional plan is that six of us (Aimee of the Verhip een Strip organisation, me, and four others) will load into Aimee's van and check out the event. But I'm sure I'll take some merchandise and hopefully a laptop to show Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan on. I didn't quite get that done at the Small Press convention because the laptop I had borrowed off my friend Kim turned out not to be able to run the software, but we'll try again between now and June 5.

May 24, 2005

Attack of the Mutant Zombie Technical Difficulties From Beyond the Crrrrrypt!!!

The computer at the studio went on another one of its strikes on Saturday. I waited until today to take it for repairs, because the last time this happened, the repair people found nothing - it worked when they tested it.
I have got an emergency scanner working now, and I should be able to deliver comics on time and even get ahead because without the whole Internet to distract me I can concentrate pretty well. Except for one thing: the Internet connection at home is also flaking out a lot lately, and this may lead to delays. Or it may not. But I thought I'd warn you anyway.

Blood-Spattered Blade of Technical Difficulties the Barbarian

Yes, I know ROCR.net is down, as apparently is all of Keen ToonWhateverspace, the server ROCR.net is on.

The devil does always crap on the big pile, doesn't he?

May 26, 2005

Well, this is more like it.

I've been pretty down on The GIMP lately, but on Tuesday I coloured three pages in it, and by the end of the process, I'd mended fences with it. Not literally; the GIMP doesn't have DIY-fu yet. But I've managed to make it do what I want at a decent speed.

Continue reading "Well, this is more like it." »

May 31, 2005

What I'm doing with my Webcomicsnation site

I might as well tell a little about my plans for the website in development at Webcomicsnation. I see a few people have gone over to look at it in the past few days, and they'll have noticed the Chronicles of the Witch Queen title graphic, and wondered what the hell that might be.

Continue reading "What I'm doing with my Webcomicsnation site" »

June 1, 2005

Chainsaw Rampage of the Technical Difficulties of Death

... Any of you who are waiting for comics hosted by the Webhost Currently Known as Keenspace But Soon To Be Known As Something Else: don't wait up. With over 6500 comics still in the updater queue as I type this, it could be a while before everything updates.
The new Courtly Manners is available in a few other places: why not go to the Webcomicsnation mirror to help test that a little?

Continue reading "Chainsaw Rampage of the Technical Difficulties of Death" »

June 7, 2005

Work update

Good news about the buffer and the side projects! I'm making great progress. Here's what I've been up to:

Continue reading "Work update" »

June 9, 2005

Some more art stuff

Two more updates in the DeviantArt gallery. One of them is a familiar piece: the cast image for the Fire Elf from "The Corby Tribe", shown this time at a larger scale and cropped a little differently from earlier versions of the same image.
Kel with dragonBut while looking for the source image for that one on my hard drive, I found another image that I'd all but forgotten about. It's a cover image for the Night of the Dragon story. I think it was made in 2001, when I had plans to put out a print collection of the short Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories from the mid-1990s. That collection never materialised, just like many other ideas for new print editions of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan; I was not, and still am not, willing to put in the work unless I'm sure it can sell and make a serious difference to my income from doing Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. But I did find the time to draw some cover art; today, I don't remember whether or not I even showed it to anyone. Here it is though, now.

June 13, 2005

A quick note on webdesign

The new webdesign on rocr.net was ready to go live earlier than expected (now that's a change), but there are a few things that still need to be fixed.
The work was actually rather fun (another surprise), but I do count webdesign as one activity that I shouldn't do for too long at a time. Today, I snapped at a reader who emailed me with questions and screenshots which showed that it looked very different for him than it did for me. Eventually, it turned out that this was simply a matter of the reader reloading the stylesheet, but my reaction showed that it was time to get away from the redesign project for a while. It's functional, tested in Opera, Firefox and (buuerk) IE. I expect that recent, reasonably standards-compliant web browsers won't have much trouble showing the site, and people using other browsers may notice some oddities below the fold if they bother to look, but nothing that breaks the core function of the website: to show the latest comics and the free archives.

I do wish I could figure out how to close the gap between the blog and the link list, though. Expanding the dimensions or the padding on any of the blocks involved has the effect of pushing the blog out of its place in the middle on at least one browser, which is not what I want. I suspect it's very simple, but I don't see it.

Apart from that, I don't think I need to do much except copyfitting: cutting down the space for the blog and lengthening the two other columns. That's doable.

July 5, 2005

Lives of X!Gloop now has an archive worth checking out.

Speaking of archival comics, my weekend project, The Lives of X!Gloop, has reached page 10, so I'll probably start telling more people about its existence. X!Gloop was a comic I started in 1989 when I was 18. I wouldn't exactly call it good, but I am quite fond of this early work, with its defiance of the rules of plot and common sense. My plans for the comic are to serialise all the complete stories I made between 1989 and 1994, with updates on Saturdays and Sundays. That's about 48 pages so it'll take about half a year at that schedule. There are also two unfinished stories in my archives, and two more in my sketchbooks; I may finish these if the comic develops a sizable readership, and if I can be arsed. Go and take a gander if you've got a bit of time. If you enjoy Jeroen's Capn, then X!Gloop, poorly drawn as it is in comparison to that great comic, should be right up your alley.

July 12, 2005

Mao's widow's not in it.

The new title for the magazine comic formerly known as Floor will be The Gang of Four.

No name is ever ideal - even "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was chosen, committee-style, because no one could agree on the other suggestions. Names, and most brands, derive most of their strength from the product they refer to, and never trust a marketer who tells you it's the other way around. But as titles go, I think this new name is a good one. Since it was suggested on Friday, I adjusted to it easily and found myself thinking about the comic by that name.

I've got two previews of the new look and style on my DeviantArt site.

July 18, 2005

Email availability

Reader Martin Diehl has just alerted me that my email address reinder@despammed.com is unavailable. I don't know how long this has been the case and for how much longer it will be, but if you must reach me urgently, my gmail address is my first name, reinder, and my last name, dijkhuis, separated by a dot, at gmail.com.

July 23, 2005

X!Gloop grammar error

Oops, there's a slight mistake in the latest Lives of X!Gloop page. I'll fix it when my other work is done. Of course, this is a good enough excuse for me to mention that comic again...
The website also needs a bit of work done to it, to ease navigation. I hope I'll be able to get to that this weekend. I'll be doing a lot of work on the rocr.xepher.net server, where the blog also lives, so there may be interruptions to the service anyway. The work shouldn't break anything, but considering my capacity for screwing up, I might as well warn you that outages may occur.

July 25, 2005

Quest for the Dominion of the Abominable Technical Difficulties

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, The Pantheon and the recently-updating-again Capn are down again as a result of a webhost outage that according to The Belfry's Webcomic tracker has gone on for several hours now. Just like last week, I have no real idea what's going on or when the outage will be over.

My internet presence seems to be vanishing before my very eyes anyway. Reader Martin Diehl reminds me that my email provider, Despammed, is also still down. I don' t miss it much, because it was no longer able to filter all the spam on its own. I've had it forward mail to my gmail address for another round of filtering for some time, and that worked a whole lot better. Nevertheless, I am not going to publish my gmail address on the web. If you must reach me, refer to this post for email instructions.

August 1, 2005

Photoshop

I've spent quite a lot of time in the past few months ragging on The GIMP and its usability problems. I've also had some not very nice words to say about Paint Shop Pro, which has great usability but is marred by some of the nastiest bugs I've ever seen in commercially published software. I've gone as far as to pit the two programs against one another in a steel cage death match. I'm colouring The Gang of Four in Photoshop 6, and it's only fair that I share some of my experiences with that program as well. Let me just report some of the things I've been saying to myself while working in Photoshop:

Huh? I'd already coloured that! Huh. No! Oh God, no! Not again! NOOOO! WAAAAA! What? What the fuck? How can this be? NO! Don't be so fucking stupid! Oh, God, no! Huh? Undo, dammit! Oh, wait, it works differently. Aliased zoom hurts my eyes! C'mon, respond to my key-presses! NO!

Trust me, the swearing is mild compared to what actually came out of my mouth these past ten minutes. I'll admit that most of the "huh"s are the result of hitting a shortcut I know from using Paint Shop Pro and then having something happen that's completely unrelated to what I want. But still. It's becoming very hard to see why Photoshop has become the standard app for image processing in the print world: it may do CMYK output and colour proofing well, but actually using it makes my blood boil. Easily the least comfortable application I've worked with in a long time.

Continue reading "Photoshop" »

August 30, 2005

International standard paper sizes

Potentially useful resource for future reference: International Standard Paper Sizes an overview of common paper formats with some info on the underlying maths and the history of paper standards. It may look dull, but this matter occasionally comes up especially when exchanging art material with people on the other side of the Atlantic, and it's important to be able to point somewhere and say "that's what A4 means, now explain American paper densities to me."

September 5, 2005

What I'll be doing for the Webcomic Telethon

My contribution to the Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon will be the closest thing I'm likely to do to a 24-hour comic; it will be a fully-scripted 16 page story but it will be an endurance test because it will be
1) good; and
2) made while also working on my other commitments, meaning I may have to work deep into the night.

The comic I'm working on is a new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story that has been in my notebooks since December. I wasn't going to work on new material until after I was done processing the ancient comics, but that will be the "sacrifice" I'll be making for charity. I may make alternate (larger and/or colored) versions available to paying subscribers via the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site but I'll have to clear that with my co-creators there first. They have to agree to sharing the subscription money raised by the project, or else I won't be able to use that option. nothing like that at all. I've just drawn a test page and done the math, and there's no way I can draw that in a week without reneging on my other obligations. It will have to be something else. Mmmm crow. This idea was the third one that I had, and the third that turned out unworkable. So I'm getting a bit desperate for ideas that I'm able to carry out. Maybe stick figure gamer comics would work...


In addition: I am taking commissions to raise money for the telethon. If you are have a fantasy or RPG character that you want a character portrait, I will draw it. Rates: $25 for a penciled piece, $50 for an inked drawing, $75 for a colored work. You will get hi-res master files, as well as smaller versions prepared for the web at a size specified by you. Another $25 plus shipping and handling will get you the original art although I should warn you I'm a rather messy artist and the original may not look as good as you'd expect. See my DeviantArt site and the ROCR cast pages for examples of my character drawings.
I'm not including my Paypal link in this post because I'm not yet sure if I want to collect payments myself or direct people to the Webcomic Telethon. I'll know that in a few days. You can order drawings by emailing meSep.7 edit: use reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com instead. If you have tried to contact me, please resend. with a good description of the character you want portrayed.
Note that in case of deadline problems I may delay creation of the portraits until after the Telethon. This is still on, if people are interested.

September 28, 2005

Buh, bye, Webstats4u

Webstats4u, the company that used to be known as Nedstat Basic and which has been providing basic user statistics for many Reinder Dijkhuis websites, has confirmed that it is using its Javascript to put pop-up and slide-under ads on the websites of their users. Their message tries to justify this by bringing up the cost of the service, but cost is irrelevant. I can just about accept the occasional pop-up slipping through Keenspace/ComicGenesis's net because they provide a vital hosting service and are generally very good about blocking pop-ups when they're spotted. For a counting service, "Free plus intractable pop-ups" is not the right price. Not knowing how many people visit my sites will be a bit of a drag, but there are alternative services out there. The Webstats4u counters will be removed at the earliest opportunity.

October 1, 2005

Past Future New York

The last complete The Lives of X!Gloop story has started on the website. This one was drawn in 1992, and set in the year 2004. Strange how 2004 seemed a distant enough future at the time.
Of course, the future as I envisaged it, a world in which New York City had car-free Sundays, a female mud-wrestler turned President of the US and the Olympics cleaned up by genetically manipulated Belgians, is wildly inaccurate even if President Bush has now been making noises to Americans about not using their cars unecessarily. That's not a problem; the problem is that compared to the future we actually got, it's pretty tame. Not nearly absurd enough. Next time I do a near-future story, I will have to make it more over-the-top.

October 22, 2005

Onlinecomics listings for Geir and Reinder's comics

From the department of agitation, propaganda and destabilisation:

White House in Orbit, The Double and The Eye of the Underworld now have listings at Onlinecomics.net. If you are a member of onlinecomics.net and like any or all of these comics, please add them to your favorites. This doesn't just help these comics rise through the ranks and gain readers, it also helps people with similar tastes as you find comics they might like.

Onlinecomics.net listing for White House in Orbit
Onlinecomics.net listing for The Double
Onlinecomics.net listing for Eye of the Underworld

By the way, in the past few years, I've resisted adding Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan to webcomics topsite listings like Topwebcomics.com, for a number of reasons. They tend to demand a lot of screen real estate on the website, and many of the best ones have long-entrenched comics in their lists' highest reaches, making it very difficult for a comic that doesn't have mega-appeal to get that high. If you don't get that high, the lists are usually not worth the bother as promotional tools in the first place. In short, I think they're too much work for too little return. However, I do know that some readers out there like them, and see them as a good way to help a comic they like gain readership. So I'm willing to at least consider suggestions. If you know a topsite listing that might work for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, let me know.

November 16, 2005

Reinder Dijkhuis comics list

After two years, I've updated the Full list of my available online comics work. The problem, though, is that it probably isn't complete. After 8 years (not counting the first online run of ROCR which had vanished by the time I started on my bart.nl homepage again), I've lost track of which comics have been posted where. If you know of a Reinder Dijkhuis webcomic not listed here, don't hesitate to email me. You'd be surprised by my ability to forget stuff like that.
I've removed some comics from the list that have disappeared, like the autobiographical story "Herman" which will return shortly as the first non-ROCR comic to be uploaded into WillowCMS.

I have also added a new author's bio. I hate writing those things but you got to have them. I'll even get a publicity photograph there some time, to scare people away from reading that page. Yeah, that'll work.

December 17, 2005

Sidecomics: Santa's Revenge, Herman

I have started adding sidecomics to the new website and CMS. The first to appear is a collaboration between me and Geir from 2000 called Santa's Revenge. Yes, we're staying with a Christmas theme. Don't worry, it'll all be over in a week.

Santa's Revenge looks at the darker side of Santa Claus. Traditionally, Santa doesn't just reward nice children; he gives naughty ones their comeuppance too.

The second sidecomic I've added is Herman, from 1996, which was previously published on my Keenprime acount. That finally disappeared when I moved the Reinderdijkhuis.com domain over to Xepher.net, and I'm glad I've now been able to bring it back using the magic of WillowCMS. It's my first autobiographical story showing a hair-raising event I was a witness to.

Both comics are set up as series in the CMS database and presented using a chapter template. For short stories such as these, that's probably more appropriate. However, should I feel the need, I can also set up templates to present them as single-episode webpages, and manipulate their presentation through the CMS. We'll see.

December 19, 2005

Sidecomic: Nightmares

Since people seemed to like Santa's Revenge, I've re-scanned the other episode in the Little Cottage in the Woods series, Nightmares. This was actually the first episode, written by Geir in 1999 or thereabouts and drawn by me in August of that year. It already existed on the old Comicgenesis site, but the version there was too small to be properly readable, and I no longer had the master files. The only way to create a larger version was to scan it again from the A3 papers.

There are some more scripts in this series awaiting art from me. If only I had more hours in the day...

December 20, 2005

Sidecomic: When We Had Tails

When We Had Tails is one of my most-reprinted comics. It was written by Geir Strøm in early 1998, drawn by me soon after that, and has been printed in fanzines from Canada to Italy and (I think) one of the former Yugoslav republics. It's been on my old website at Bart.nl for years, but I want to move all my comics off there into the new site. I've taken the opportunity to rescan and re-compress it, so you get larger images in the new version.

Rescanning the images took longer than expected, because I'm looking at the work through a new TFT monitor. The old one at the studio has finally given up the ghost and we had to rush out to replace it. This new screen should be the best our limited budget can buy, but right now, the greys are coming out a bit blue here. I've already fixed many of the hardware settings but I can't quite get rid of a blueish tint to the whole thing. We'll see in the morning. I'm glad I don't have any color work lined up until the end of the week, anyway.

December 22, 2005

Sidecomic: Tree Test

Tree Test is another wordless comic. It's been lost for a while; it was made for the Bries anthology Wind from 1999 or thereabouts. A colour version exists, done by Gerard Stroomer of the now defunct online anthology Cartoozine. I remember having that on a website somewhere but I can't find it anymore. This is probably one more reason why consolidating everything in my new site is a good idea. If anyone has a copy, please email me.

Wind was a theme book about wind, and while it was tempting to do fart jokes, I went with a more serious story about trees bending in the wind. One tree isn't playing along, but there are consequences.

December 23, 2005

Sidecomic: The Grim Barrowman

Another wordless comic: The Grim Barrowman from 1998. Script by Barbara Stok. I shared a studio with Barbara for a while, but apart from this one, we never got around to any serious collaboration. Same story as with my present studio, really.

Barrowman is a slightly creepy tale of Death stalking his victims with a glassy stare and a wheelbarrow. I think it was based on a dream Barbara had. More noir-ish than I usually do although that's not saying much.

Update: This one highlighted some problems using the new monitor at the studio. There's a grey spot on page 2 that I couldn't see at all on the studio monitor but is conspicuous at home. It's the reverse of a problem with the old CRT I replaced at home that showed even quite light greys as black. I'll fix it in the morning.

December 24, 2005

Sidecomics: Desperately Seeking, The Wife in the Hole, A Trinket's Tale

Three more sidecomics added to the website today:
Desperately Seeking is one that long-time readers of the blog may already know. The story set in the American West, sort of, has been published on the blog when it was just getting started in early 2004. Back then, the blog had a narrow column for the content, and as I'd been putting out all the rescanned comics out at a width of 700 pixels, I went back to the high-res scans I made then and resized them to fit in with the others.

The Wife in the Hole is another one with a script by Geir Strøm. It's adapted from a Saami folktale and features the Devil. You know it's good when the Devil is in it.

A Trinket's Tale has never been shown online before. Drawn in April, 1998, A Trinket's Tale was intended as a parody of and response to a comic I read in the fantasy comics magazine Mythography in the late 1990s. That comic, which shall remain nameless but has since been republished online, was a mess of poorly thought out and hackneyed ideas, only redeemed somewhat by the slick execution. It was rubbish, the sort of work that gives fantasy a bad name.


I considered sending A Trinket's Tale to Mythography but I thought it wasn't too great itself - the parody didn't cut to the heart of the matter and, more damningly for the kind of magazine that Mythography was, the art was rough. Not exactly bad, but amateurish in the sense that it wasn't properly finished. 8 years on, though, I rather like the story, warts and all. I namechecked two of my colleagues at the time in the last-but one panel.

December 26, 2005

Sidecomics: Crossroads + Epilogue

Crossroads and Epilogue were the closing stories of the Pin Drop minicomic I put out in 1998. They are technically two parts of a single story based on my own indecisiveness in the face of necessary career choices. The epilogue in particular adds to the pessimistic "Damned if I do, damned if I don't" feel to the story. Epilogue was printed on the back cover of the book, separated from the main storyline, and this separation has been maintained.

December 31, 2005

A little bit o'fun in the details

Like I mentioned earlier, the latest Gang of 4 comic I'm making for Hello You? had been giving me trouble. That isn't to say that there wasn't any fun to be had in drawing it. For example, I needed to populate the school environment it was set in with kids, and because the first panel had just about enough background space for some small ones, I created these two six-year-olds:

Whooo-ooo?
Now who do they remind you of?

On a related note, when Hello You! #4 landed in my mailbox last week, I was surprised to find that the top half of the comic hadn't been printed quite right. The line art wasn't correctly matched to the colouring. I don't know whose mistake this was - might well have been mine, might well have been theirs. This is how it should have looked.

January 1, 2006

Plans and resolutions

2005 was a mixed year for me. Work-wise I continued working on my existing projects, but didn't win any new ones. I got an award nomination whose fall-out, in the end, was mostly negative (through no fault of the people involved in the award, I must add), got a bit burned out on webcomics, and produced very little new work on the web compared to the years before. Instead, I spent the better part of the year on an archaeological mission to bring my work of the past back to light.
I liked doing that. It was easy and fun to prepare The Lives of X!Gloop for the web even though the art dating from 1989-1992 was horrendously bad. It was less easy, but more fun, to show people two early Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories and find out that this didn't chase away the loyal readership. On the other hand, it made it hard for me, again, to promote the comic to new readers, because the work from 1991-1995 isn't exactly a showcase for my art skills. Nevertheless, the benefits of rerunning the old work outweigh the disadvantages: my workload was down for much of the year (and when I did start drawing new work for the web again in December, it was murder again), I am slowly filling the big gaps that exist in the ROCR archives and I'm rediscovering the work of that naive young writer/artist who tried to update the classic Goscinnyan approach to comics for the 1990s. Talk about my reach exceeding my grasp!

I left Modern Tales and republished my comics on a new free website in October, regained control over the reinderdijkhuis.com domain in November and started reposting my late-1990s work in December. There seems to be a bit more of a buzz around ROCR again now, with the readership trending up, more people trawling my archives and the comic getting mentioned in online conversations more... although a recent reference by a Websnark commenter to that "Swedish Elf-Life" strip (as I am calling it, I am not going to attempt to type out the proper name on the account I know I am going to misspell it badly) that the writer thinks he or she might read on Modern Tales may or may not count, and is probably a sign that I haven't publicized my move from Modern Tales well enough if it does. There's reason to be optimistic.

A picture is emerging of what my goals should be for 2006, and of how I could give myself a better chance at accomplishing them.

The overarching goal is the same as every year: to make a living — a good living — from cartooning, so I won't have to go back to working for a boss. It doesn't have to be with online cartooning; indeed it would be a bad idea to pin myself down to just that. However, I'll focus on that aspect of my plans because I'm posting to my online readership here.
Here's what I need to accomplish in 2006 to make the online work stable enough to keep doing it in 2007:

1. Increase the number of readers, and the readers' involvement in the comics. Counting readers is surprisingly hard, but in the past week, 1500 individual visitors looked at the site, including both people who came back repeatedly every day of the week and people who accidentally dropped in once, went "Yuck!" and fled. I need to get that up to 15,000 to be able to sell merchandise or make significant money from advertising on the website. Getting there from here will be difficult, but I don't think it's undoable, if I do the other things on the list. Naturally, I have other reasons than money to want as many people as possible to read my comics, but money at this point is the make-or-break reason. I also like it if readers come back and getting feedback from you motivates me a lot. Thanks to all of you who posted comments to the archived comics: you are helping me a lot with that.

To get more readers, there are some things that I'm happy to do (I'm already doing those: I buy advertising on webcomics sites and will buy more on sites outside the webcomics community in the new year), some things that I'm willing to do if I must (I dislike link exchanges and topsite lists, but they can work, so if my other strategies fail I will use them), and some that I am not willing to do. I will not pander to any demographic or change the work itself to make it more commercial. I've made a few baby steps in that direction in the past, but it's always left me with a bad taste in my mouth. My online comics are what they are and if I have to change them to suit the audience I might as well work for a boss. For well-paid work outside of webcomics, it will be a different story, but what you see here will have artistic integrity.

2. Showcase a much wider artistic range than I have been doing in the recent past. Someone who doesn't like humorous fantasy may still like to read autobiographical comics, experimental work, a kids' comic set at a school... I've done all of these things and more. Getting my other stuff online (as I've been doing with my wordless Pin Drop comics) will help me accomplish goal number 1, but also make it easier for me to get work published in print or get new projects from paying customers. In the process, I may have to start thinking about the website as reinderdijkhuis.com instead of rocr.net...

3. Create new work of much higher quality. To be able to stick to my self-imposed deadlines for ROCR, I've often allowed the quality to suffer. Never again. I will use the fact that I have old material to give myself time to work on new material including new ROCRcomics, and make them as good as I'm able to. I'm doing that already: I drew Headsmen, which will run in January, while the old story The Green Knight's Belt was running. After Headsmen, I will run old material again for a while and use the time that buys me to work on another new story at a very steady pace. I will also work on new sidecomics whenever the urge strikes me.

4. Have fun. Because what I'm doing is an uphill struggle at the best of time, and goal number 1) is one that has eluded many artists more talented than I. Whenever it stops being fun, I should take a breather, look at what I'm doing, and change things so they become fun again.

Is that it? I think that's it. Happy new year, all!

February 4, 2006

Review roundup-ette

I've had some nice things said about my webcomics lately. Here's an overview:

On Webcomicsnation's new "Peer Reviews" feature, Pat Jones wrote:

Enter the "hive mind" with me now....
When's the last time you've seen an alchemist's rump? Never? In The Eye of the Underworld, writing by Geir Strom and art by Reinder Dijkhuis, you'll see an alchemist's rump and much more. This completed fantasy adventure tale highlights Reinder's black and white line art and Geir's gift for comic farce. Reinder drew The Eye of the Underworld in a very different style than his solo masterwork, The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. The Eye of the Underworld is a powerful amulet, stolen by Caliph Iznobezzer from the Witch Queen. She orders the renowned alchemist Ioannis to retrieve it. Along the way, Ioannis teams up with Farah, the Caliph's beautiful daughter, who dresses like a ninja and proves to be his equal, in every way. The Eye of the Underworld makes a great introduction to the prolific universe created by the "hive mind" of Reinder Dijkhuis (Netherlands), Geir Strom (Norway), and Daniel Ostvold (Norway). Their collected works overlap and enhance one another. You can fall in love with their characters and read their adventures for days, immersed in magical fantasy.

By design, "Peer Review" articles are puff pieces, but someone has to take the trouble to write them, and Pat was very complimentary when he emailed me a draft of the review.
Over on Livejournal, Will Howitt wrote:
...I got sucked into Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan this week, and read the whole archives from start to finish. Reinder Dijkhuis has been drawing this for many years, and there must still be lots of material that's not on the web site, but it's a uniquely engaging and intriguing saga, for those who are into such things ... check it out.

And finally, Galith wrote:
One of my guilty pleasures is online comics, and I've recently discovered a new one that I think many people on my friends list would enjoy: The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan.

The art style is similar to Asterix the Gaul and the writing is light hearted fantasy. Serious things do happen, and they are taken seriously when they do, but the world always seems bright, hopeful, and very multi-dimensional. Both magic and magical creatures are present in the world without being overwhelming, and all the magical sentient races seem to possess really interesting backstories and unique customs. As does the witch culture. As does Christianity.

I also really like how the comic handles nudity. It is really nice to read a comic with well-drawn nudes and near nudes (both male and female) where none if it is "fan service"; it's just the way things are. Characters spend large amounts of time not wearing clothes, and it isn't weird or sexualized, it's just the way things are. If you go to a witch sabbat and the weather is nice enough then you walk around "sky clad". If you're a fairy you don't tend to wear clothing. If you step outside of the time stream and your clothes don't go with you. If you're in a bath or getting into or out of bed you tend to be naked. It's just the way life happens.

The comic starts off a bit blah, I wasn't that moved by the first few story archs (although I did find some of them were quite funny), but the quality steadily improves as the series progressed. I found the last major story arch to be just as engaging and humorous as a Disk World Book. If you've got the time I recommend you check it out (and tell me what you think).


Which did make me think "I do have a lot of perfectly good reasons for my characters to lose my clothes, don't I?" but I know that's not what he really means, and besides, the comparisons to Asterix and Discworld are quite flattering anyway. Thanks Pat, Will, Galith!

April 26, 2006

Projects update

Here's my status on the ongoing projects:

Headsmen minicomic: Still ongoing, but delayed. Only 15 people signed up so it's not a commercially viable project. I will need to make the book anyway, for the donors who made it possible for me to write and draw Headsmen, but it's going to have a lower priority.

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan the webcomic: Buffered until the seventeenth twentyfifth of May. Progressing at a rate of 2-6 episodes daily, depending on available time.

Chronicles of the Witch Queen: Hoping to be able to restart it in May. Probably not on May 1, though. Thinking of including the series in the transcription project.

Transcription project: Almost 1000 episodes are now transcribed, with special thanks to reader Andrew Hecker. About 200 Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episodes to go before the work is done, plus the side-comics and maybe the Chronicles of the Witch Queen stuff.

Gang of 4: All comics for the season have been done. I'm thinking of putting this season's episodes online with a bit of a delay and of doing some web exclusives, probably adapted from rejected or abandoned scripts (the link goes to 3 episodes already online for a range of reasons). That would mean adding a proper website section for the comic as well, which it doesn't quite have yet. Also I still need to bill the publisher for the last episode.

Workshops: I finished a series in the library in Hoogkerk; there's another series in Selwerd scheduled for May. Now I'm doing active acquisition work to get more workshop gigs in the second half of the year.
I'm also thinking of doing a workshop or lecture for teenagers and adults specifically about webcomics. I've been doing webcomics non-stop for six years and I dare say I have a few experiences to share. Unlike the workshops I teach now, these would not include a practical section; it would be mostly me talking about topics such as digital tools, content management systems, good and bad working habits, mistakes I've made, mistakes I've avoided, my own successes and failures, and most importantly, targets and purposes. There'd be room for questioning and I might invite some people specifically as critical voices. I've got a venue in mind as well. I'll brainstorm on that a bit though, yet.

Work acquisition: I'll be spending a few mornings looking for magazines and publishers to send work to. I'll also be thinking about what to do with Gang of 4 and my work for Hello You! generally in the next few days. And next week, I'll start a project to kickstart my creativity a bit, because it needs it. More on that in a separate post.

June 4, 2006

Albatrosses

On Friday, I had a longish talk with my brother about his creative endeavours and mine. He mentioned that whatever he planned to do, he'd find himself losing interest and not finishing it. What I found interesting was that the sort of projects he mentioned as examples were things like cleaning up and remixing old recordings of the various bands he was in, editing videos he had lying around unfinished, and other projects that involved a lot of digging through old stuff, cataloguing it, improving what already exists, trying to finish what didn't get done when it should have been. Hearing that was like having a mirror held up to me - it's exactly what I've been doing for over a year, and I'm heartily sick of it.
My brother's projects, and mine, are the sort you start on when you don't feel up to the task of setting up something new. My brother's a father and a full-time wage slave, and all his old bandmates apart from me are either one or both of those things, so reviving his old bands for serious performing commitments has proved elusive, and setting up new bands even more so. So instead, he remixes his old recordings. In my case, I've found myself a bit stressed-out from doing long ambitious comics, and also a bit frustrated that the finished work on those was a bit uneven. I didn't want to start a new long storyline until I was damned sure that I had an idea that was worth pursuing and that I could keep the process under control. Also, I was spending more time having meetings, doing research for each new project, planning and trying to get organised. And I didn't want to burn out again. All these things made me very reluctant to plunge into a new storyline, but while I was getting things into place, I could keep the schedule going by translating and posting old work. On a per-episode basis, this takes a lot less time than drawing new work (although it does often take more time than I would have hoped), so I could use some of the time saved for setting up the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site, remaster some of my side-comics (Pindrop and Unfantasy, for example), transcribe the archives in OhNoRobot, and generally fix things up that needed fixing.
The problem is that all of these things are sort of interesting to do, and they're definitely useful: I want my web archive to be the best it can be, and that means having polished scans and searchable pages are good things with a capital G. But taken together, over the long run, these projects turn into albatrosses around my neck. They take more time than planned, seeing them through to the end is a bit of a drag, and at the end of the day, they're not creative. They act as surrogates for the true creative act, using energy and effort that should have been used for making something new.

I wonder if this is a common pitfall for artists. From talking to my brother, I suspect that it might be. (Another pitfall that I think is commonplace, at least with webcartoonists, is that of simplifying ones art to be able to make deadlines. Works well if you do it only once, for a short time, to get out of a tricky deadline situation, but if you do it again and again, then in the long run, you take all the fun out of creating the art in the first place. So the simplified art ends up taking as long to make as the more complex art, simply because it's become a chore. Eventually, the artist gives up. I've avoided that pitfall so far though.)

Luckily for me, a lot of my albatrosses are about to fall from my neck. Tomorrow, the remastered Guðrún will start its run on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen website. On Tuesday, Geir and Daniel's Alcydia will start its own serialisation at the same website, after many delays. Adam Cuerden has agreed to act as a script editor for Alcydia and he's been doing a great job whipping Geir's self-translation from the Norwegian into shape and making sure it matches Daniel's visuals again. Finally, I'm now very close to finishing the transcription project. I really want that one out of my life, so this morning I bit the bullet and transcribed over 40 episodes, most of them from 2002. The list of comics to transcribe now shows several non-ROCR sidecomics, a good number of recent episodes and a few ones from 2001 and 2004 that are a bit problematic for various reasons (if you want to help transcribe ROCR comics, best to leave anything from before 2006 alone). Soon, the list will become shorter until it only contains the latest few comics. By that time, it will no longer be a project but a minor chore. Good riddance.
I wish I could guarantee that the end of these projects will lead to more new comics. My best guess is "not yet, not quite". But I'm sure it'll help.

July 1, 2006

Thank you, beer

I've long admired and envied René van Densen's ability to come home hammered in the wee small hours, sit down at his desk, and write and draw his comic. I can't do that, but yesterday I discovered that knocking back a Witbier or two in the early hours of the evening can actually benefit the work I do immediately afterwards, and leave no ill effect the next morning. This Saturday, I'm up bright and early, and ready to chip away at my backlog for another day, until it's gone. The prize will be three days off next week.

Roadworks goblins!

Here's something I've been working on (click small image to see full version in new window):


Some familiar faces in a local setting
View image

It's the first page of a comic set in Groningen, for a book about Groningen by night. So it features drinking, the local geography, and the real explanation of why the streets of Groningen are always broken up.
The full story is posted at my DeviantArt site: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4. Just in case you want to read it all and comment (requires registration at DevianArt, because I've had to mark them as adult due to nipplage. Yes, I know, but them's the rules).

I have very little time left to make changes (The story is due on Monday and tomorrow will be spent meeting another deadline), but I can probably fix major, urgent things if people point them out and pester me.

July 5, 2006

Word balloon tutorial

Short but very useful tutorial on how to make scalable word balloons in Photoshop. This will bring me one step closer to not needing Paint Shop Pro anymore. (What this adds to what I already know about the shape drawing tools is the correct use of the Path mode.)

July 31, 2006

48 hours without comment spam, and other stuff.

Thanks to some changes and improvements to WillowCMS's commenting system implemented by Mithandir over the weekend, the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website has now been free of comment spam for over 48 hours, as has Mith's own site. Allow me to take some time to gloat and flip spammers everywhere the bird in an obnoxious manner.

... right. Mith has improved the content-based scoring system, added the ability to close individual entries for comments, made changes to the comment key system and added a little honeypot for spammers to fall into. None of these measures will work forever, but for now, it's looking pretty good. So far, legitimate comments to the site are getting through, but if you have a problem commenting, email me.

Even failed spam attempts can cause problems for the site, because they use up resources and pollute the usage statistics, so I will want to install Bad Behavior on the site. But that's not too urgent right now.

Meanwhile, the heatwave has finally broken. I can actually concentrate! The 24-Centigrade temperature actually registers as a slight chill now. I can remember as a child that I'd consider a day like today a fine, hot summer day...

I'm looking for ways to spend my tax refund! I've already done the routine of buying stuff I needed but couldn't afford to spend money on, and there's still a decent amount left. First priority will be stuff that benefits my work in comics, including advertising. I've asked this before, but considering how quickly the online landscape can change, I'll ask it again: if you know a good online publication for me to advertise on, please let me know. I have a few hundred Euros to spend on this. I prefer advertising within the existing webcomics community, but am willing to consider outreach-style advertising if the venue looks promising.

August 3, 2006

Gallery update

Some new stuff and some rediscovered old stuff on my DeviantArt gallery. Most of these will show up on the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website sooner rather than later, but if you can't wait, have an account and want to comment on some of the pieces before they go live, here's your chance:
Guest art in progress for Head Doctor Comics.
Cast portrait in progress for the Even in Arcadia story.
Tentative coloured version of the same.
Nymphs! drawn as a guest comic for The Pantheon in 2003.
Nymphs!, a new sequel to the previous one.

August 7, 2006

Another gallery update

Some more recent additions to my gallery. All Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan-related artworks contain mild spoilers about the general direction of the next story, but no major ones just yet.

Feiht from Chasing the Sunset, drawn partly as gift art, partly for the cast page.
Shireen, a minor character from the next ROCR story.
The Feral, another character from the next ROCR story.
Brother Bartlemew, A Monk. From the next ROCR story.
Size comparison drawing for Kel and the Feral.
Ragnarok with a new outfit and hair style.

Looking at these drawings I can't help but notice that I've been drawing very simple, basic poses lately. That's not a bad thing for art intended to demonstrate what a character looks like, and I find it encouraging that I can draw those simple standing poses, enjoy it, and not end up with something completely boring. For the sake of keeping myself interested in the longer run, I'll need to build on this, work in more complex poses and more elaborate backgrounds, but for now, this is not a bad way to get started on cranking out more output. When the comic starts in earnest, in two weeks, I'll need to be able to work fast again.

August 14, 2006

Guest series at The Bare-Pit

I'm doing a guest series at The Bare-Pit called "Incognito". It involves my character Abúi, getting lost in 21st-Century Australia and trying to blend in in a human environment. The story is a sort of sequel to Abúi's appearance in Chasing the Sunset, which still hasn't ended. That's webcomic crossovers for ya.
The Bare-Pit is a comic about nudists, set at an Australian naturist resort, and is probably the only consistently good fiction with a nudist setting. It's been fun for me to borrow Noodtoonist Stephen's characters and setting for a while. The comic normally updates two or three times a week, but will update on weekdays for the duration of "Incognito", which will be ten installments in total.

I've been very busy both at trying out new concepts and at getting the next Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story going. In the next few days I'll be posting sneak previews of Feral on my DeviantArt, so be careful to watch that. There are some new character and costume drawings up there as well.

August 22, 2006

Next on rocr.net

I have one more bonus piece for the Keenquest/Even in Arcadia storyline. It's another comic originally made for the The Pantheon website. After that, I will run "Roadworks Goblins", a short story I made for an anthology book that's about to come out in September. It's not a Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story — it's more related to the Little Cottage in the Woods stories I made with Geir a few years ago.

After that, I hope to fill a few days with a short ROCR story while also buffering for the next proper ROCR storyline, "Feral". The art for the first few pages is very labour-intensive, so I need a little more time to create a nice buffer, even with the schedule moving back to Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
"But wait," I hear you ask, "Didn't you say you weren't going to do the regular schedule thing anymore once you got back to doing new material?" I think I did, but I've changed my mind. Let me tell you what happened last week.

I was trying to write the next Gang of Four page for Hello You! magazine. I spent two days practically dozing in front of my iBook, then at 3 PM on Thursday, my editor asked me when she could expect the script, so she could send it to the language corrector before she went on holiday. So I took a deep breath, made tea, sat down on the studio balcony with my sketchbook, and wrote it in ten minutes.

I need deadlines. Without them, I go slack and become easily distracted. For a while, I was burned out on producing to a deadline, and it was a relief to just publish old material for a year and a half. But now it's time to jump back in the grind.
"Feral" will be produced on a deadline, but it will have to be a realistic, reachable one. To make this possible, I'm delaying the story's start a little, but I am also joining the second edition of the Lazy Grind, a competition among webcartoonists to see who can update on a thrice-weekly schedule the longest without missing an update. That starts on September 11, leaving me with four days' worth of updates on the old schedule to fill between the end of "Roadworks Goblins" and the start of "Feral". The comic will update on those days.

That's the state of things for now. Do take care to read my guest storyline at The Bare-Pit, Geir and Daniel's Alcydia and Abúi's misadventures in the world of Chasing the Sunset.

August 28, 2006

Want an invite to a book presentation?

I've got until tonight to send a list of invites to the presentation of the "Groningen bij Nacht" book and Ricky van Duuren's collection of comics at Vera on September 8. Anyone want an invite? I know I've got a few readers living in the Netherlands... Email me at reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com.

An English version of my contribution to "Groningen bij Nacht" is currently being serialised on ROCR.net.

August 29, 2006

Housekeeping

As you may have noticed, I've been switching tooncasts around on the ROCR front page. For the time being, I'll switch manually between Alcydia and Guðrún, probably until I get fed up. I'm still dubious about whether people actually see the tooncasts in the spot they're in, but they do push those comics up the Webcomicsnation charts, which should get them noticed elsewhere.

I've reorganised the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives a bit. There's now a crossover section which includes Keenquest/Even In Arcadia and Incognito, the latter in larger scans than during its run on The Bare-Pit. I still need to add some annotiations to Incognito but will do so ASAP.

September 5, 2006

O RLY owl plush toy!

[Rahball]
I have designed a soft toy of the famous O RLY owl.

I'm now collecting pre-orders via the website linked above. When I get 500, I'll be getting them mass produced. Go on! You know you want one!

I will be refining this design soon, to make it even more like the photograph. And once the O RLY owl's out there, stay tuned for his friends, the YA RLY and NO WAI!! owls...

September 20, 2006

Adventures in banking

I'm in the process of becoming the main tenant of the studio I've been working in for the past five years, taking over from studio-mate Edmond. On Monday, we both went to the corp that owns the building, Edmond signed a document canceling his contract, and I signed the new one. That bit was easy.
What's not so easy is paying the deposit. Back then, Edmond just gave the corp's representative the deposit in cash and got a receipt. Since then, there have been some changes in how these things are done. The corp came with the seemingly reasonable request that instead of paying the deposit directly and polluting their books with money that isn't theirs, I give them a bank guarantee for the amount. So today, after asking about how this worked at the Postbank's desk, I went to ING bank (the same company as the Postbank, but their serious banking branch) to ask about it. I got a very nice welcome - I was asked to wait for one of their staff, who then lead me into a meeting room, gave me coffee, held an introductory talk and then eased into the business part, getting my info and explaining the arcane workings of bank guarantees to me. Including the cost.
If the song and dance weren't indication enough to me that this wasn't the sort of transaction normally handled at the front desk, the cost was. Bank guarantees come with a 60 Euro administrative fee and a quarterly provision of 1% - perfectly reasonable if you're renting an € 10,000/month office space, but not for a one-off deposit of € 287, which is what our tiny studio's rent is.
The bank guy actually told me he'd never been asked for a bank guarantee for such a low amount. I'm feeling all special now.

I'll be asking the company that recently set up in the room next to us how they worked that out. But I expect I'll be simply sending the deposit to the corp's bank account, or maybe drop sixty bales of potatoes on their doorstep. I don't know. If you want something kept off the books, potatoes are the way to go, I guess.

November 8, 2006

Internetless at home

I may be slow to respond to mail or comments in the next week or so, because I have no working internet connection at home.

Last Monday, my home PC refused to boot up. I now know that the problem is with the motherboard, which, as it turned out is in a kind of customer-service limbo: it's no longer being made but still under warranty. The store says they can still get it but it'd take a while. They also offered an inexpensive replacement mo-bo of a slightly different type that would fit the chip, but I expect that I would end up having to spend an afternoon reinstalling linux (after first backing up my financial data, correspondence and ROCR website archive just in case I wipe my file system again) just to get a few tiny details right, so right now I'd prefer waiting for the warranty replacement.
Meanwhile, I've been trying to get the iBook online. Looks like getting online at @home.nl is to join the surprisingly long list of things I just can't figure out how to do with a Mac, even after two tech support calls. It's the first one that's actually important, and failure to get it done will affect either my future use of Apple computers, @home.nl's internet service, or both.
While not being able to get online from home has its advantages, it's bad on the whole because I couldn't get to my business email, some of which I had to act on that very morning, and I couldn't check on the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan site at update time. I will have to urge all my contacts to direct their correspondence to reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com, but I can't make them. I still get non-spam email at samizdat@bart.nl, which hasn't been my public addess in ages, and I still hear from people that they've tried to contact me through reinder@despammed.com, which hasn't worked in over a year.
As for the updates, I guess I'll have to double-check them before they go live, and the loss of my home connection has also served to remind me that I need to buffer as far ahead as I can. So yesterday I spent several hours setting up my future updates through to the end of the guest comics reruns. I now know reruns will continue until December 12 so if you want to contribute a guest comic, that will be your new deadline. I do plan to keep the number of new guest comics low, simply because they'll come at the end of six weeks of guest comics - but at the same time, I want there to be some new ones to finish off those six weeks.
It's pretty inconvenient for this to happen during my busiest month in years. I'll muddle through, I guess. Let's at least hope that by tonight I'll have the iBook online.

December 1, 2006

More computer troubles (long, some tech stuff).

Last Saturday, a few hours after posting this, I made a deal with my supplier in which the issue of the memory sticks was resolved, and I got my PC back with a new motherboard and hard drive. I partitioned and formatted the new drive, installed SuSE linux 10.0 on it and started copying my administration and working files to the new drive, from the old 40 Gig drive which was still installed. I also moved my music collection to a data partition on the new drive and started downloading some old Doctor Who seasons just because I had that much space to fill for the first time in years.
Because of the download, I left the PC on overnight for a few nights. When I got out of bed on Tuesday morning, the PC was unresponsive. I rebooted it and was greeted with a large number of file system errors. Because I needed to plan my travel for a workshop in Emmen, I panicked a bit, but eventually I managed to boot the PC from a Kubuntu LiveCD and after a few attempts managed to mount the partitions on the new drive, causing the reiserfs journal entries to get replayed so the drive could be shut down properly. Yes, this is going to be that kind of post. Long and technical.
I ran fsck a few times with different options as well, but I do think it was mainly mounting the disks that caused the problem to go away for the time being. I shut the PC down, rebooted it after my workshops and it worked normally. So I resumed the download and continued to leave the PC on overnight. One might argue that that was irresponsible, but hey, I knew how to solve the problem if it reoccurred, right? And if it did, I might be able to investigate it in my own time, without running in panic mode, and solve it properly.
Well, that didn't turn out that way. I got the same problem again on Thursday, so I rebooted into Kubuntu LiveCD, did what I did last time, and rebooted my normal system again. Only now I got a new set of hard-drive-related I/O errors during SuSE bootup, and when I rebooted again, I got hard drive errors during the BIOS bootup stage. Eep.
Booting into Kubuntu LiveCD again for another look at my disks turned out to be harder than it had been before. The Hard Drive error occurred before the system decides to boot from the CD... luckily, it doesn't occur every time, and upon repeated tries I got the LiveCD to boot. Unfortunately, LiveCD technology isn't all that reliable, and this one had about five different places in the bootup process where it could and would get stuck, including at the end, when it sometimes displays a 1280*1024 pixel desktop on a screen set to 640*380. Now, there are plenty of linux geeks around who can fly blindly and fix problems like that without being able to see what's on their screen. I'm not one of them. If I can't see nearly all the contents of the screen, I can't fix the screen configuration, so in those situations, all that's left for me to do is reboot and try again.
When I did get Kubuntu to run properly, I found I could no longer see the new drive in the Disk/File system configuration screen, so I figured that at the very least, the file system was a goner, and possibly the hardware as well. So I fetched my portable hard drive from the studio, so I could back up the data that was still on the old hard drive. That way, if the new drive was broken, I'd be able to do a fresh OS install on the old drive. But while I was copying over my working files, the old hard drive also began to fail, and it didn't last long enough to copy over my Opera config files (which contain my email and my password). Upon a remount, the system returned similar I/O errors to the ones I remember seeing on Thursday morning. It's very likely now that that drive is also dead. It's like my computer is rotting!
I've called the shop about the problem. They invited me to bring my PC back to them, but mentioned that they were still drowning in repair work. I've mentioned their workload before - it's a big part of what caused the three-week wait before I got the machine back the first time. It may also have been the cause of some less than stirling workmanship; the intermittent nature of the Hard Drive Errors may be a sign that it's actually functional but not connected properly.
So I've decided to take some cooling-off time in which I weigh my options. I could take it back to the shop; I could take it to another shop; I could get a more hardware-savvy friend to look at it. If I get really desperate, I could open it myself and see if someone didn't connect the yellow wire right.
Or I could give this machine up as a bad job, reevaluate my computing needs and start with a fresh system. If the hard drives are broken and the data on them lost, I have no real reason to keep tinkering with this system; I might as well get something new that's more adequate to my needs right now.
When I bought my current system, I had a need to edit high-res comics in mind, and got a decent processor as well as as much memory as I could fit in. As it turned out, I've only ever used that power a handful of times since. All my productive work is done in the studio - on the desktop PC if possible, on the iBook if necessary. The home machine is used for getting online and playing media, and doesn't do the latter all that well.
And while I'm at it consider that:
1) I consider not having to spend time rummaging in the innards of a computer a good indicator of my quality of life;
2) I find tinkering with Operating Systems and getting software to run somewhat interesting, but it's not something I should spend great amounts of time on, which linux tends to make me do too often;
3) I don't trust Windows - I think XP is ancient and unsafe, and don't think Vista was developed with my interests in mind;
4) I don't have a lot of space in my apartment;
5) Me and my iBook, we get along very well...
...what's to stop me from just plonking a Mac Mini in the space where the PC is now, and join the army of computer dimwit graphical artists for a while? Well, apart from the price of the damned things. But maybe if I work a bit harder while there's no PC at home to distract me, I might earn the money soon enough.
Oh, and there's the issue of getting Macs online through @home.nl. But then I'm a bit fed up with them anyway.

December 15, 2006

White House in Orbit

The current guest comics sequence will be followed up, over the Christmas period, by more archival material. I'll be running the first White House in Orbit serial "Orbital Germans" on the website, in a remastered version based on new, cleaned-up scans.

I'm not nearly far enough along with Feral to resume posting that story. I've got seven pages drawn, but not lettered or coloured. Based on my experience posting the first batch, I would run out of pages in no time even if I had those seven ready to go. So something else will have to run in its place.

As you may know, I've got a love/hate relationship with regular update schedules. As a reader, I like them; as a website publisher, I find it satisfying to have them. But as an artist, I no longer want to be a slave to them. Unless I wring a living wage out of my webcomics somehow, I'm going to produce them at my leisure.

That leaves me with the need to post something else on the website, to keep... and of course, when I announced the interruption of Feral's regular publication, I said something about sidecomics. At least I have been working on that a little bit. But the problem with sidecomics is that they tend to disappear in the vast archives. Some of the batch I posted a year ago have been very succesful, especially the one-pager Chain Mail Bikini which I'd been sitting on for years, convinced, based on the reaction of one person I told the script to, that it wasn't any good at all. But while they do reach their audience eventually, they don't benefit from the exposure that comics posted on the front page get. So from now on, I intend to give every comic I add to the site, whether it's a Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic or not, its day in the sun.

I've long been meaning to consolidate White House in Orbit into my main website again. My first effort was with a site hosted on Keenprime several years ago, which never got off the ground. Most of White House in Orbit was made in periods when I was also working hard on other comics. Especially back in 2001, I was maintaining a regular schedule with Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan while also drawing the first season of Floor, and WHIO never got as much time and attention expended on it as it needed. I remember spending a lot of my time working on it being stressed out and frustrated at unstable software. I want to avoid a repetition of that, so don't expect me to run two webcomics simultaneously any time soon. Instead, I will make a serious effort to give WHIO a decent-sized audience, using tools I didn't have at my disposal back in 2001, such as Project Wonderful.

By the way, doing things this way (producing at leisure, running one comic at the time, giving each installment of every comic I post its day in the sun), I should be able to update the site 7 days a week, possibly for as long as a year. So that will be my aim for 2007: 365 updates. Many, perhaps most, of these won't be ROCR updates though, and it may turn out to be necessary to re-brand the site, to start presenting it as reinderdijkhuis.com rather than rocr.net. Not that rocr.net URLs will stop working, but there may well be a change in emphasis. We'll see.

Embarrassingly, there's still some uncertainty as to when the WHIO reruns will start. The most likely date is Sunday, December 17, when the guest comics run out. But there's still a slight chance of one guest comic arriving on Saturday, and if it does, I'll reschedule the WHIO comics and post that on Sunday. If the guest comic doesn't arrive on Saturday, I'll post it on New Year's Eve instead. The flexibility of WillowCMS allows me to do that and still keep the archives coherent in the long run.

Speaking of which, Mithandir has been busy working on new features, which will be rolled out on the ROCR site in the next week or so.

Got something to say about my plans for next year? Comment in the forum!

December 17, 2006

Odds and ends

  • White House in Orbit: Orbital Germans has started. I'm running an ad campaign for it, and I've put up a provisional home page for the series for people to bookmark and link to. Of course, the series also runs on the ROCR.net home page.
  • The "Oh-my-god-why-are-the-scans-suddenly-tiny-and-ugly" point in the Guðrún storyline has been pushed to the comic for November 8, 2000 the comic for November 27, 2000. I'll add some more remastered comics today. It's going reasonably fast now. infinity. The work is done, folks!
  • All this work on Guðrún is making me itch to put it into print. Not that I expect there to be many buyers; after all, only a handful of people have signed up for the Headsmen collection - not nearly enough to lift it out of its current vaporware status. But perhaps Guðrún would be more popular? One never knows.

December 27, 2006

First rejected PW ad on my site

Here's a first: Today, for the first time, I've rejected an ad on ROCR.net and banned the Project Wonderful member posting it. The advertiser was a tacky Italian lottery site that's probably illegal in my country and for all I know is completely fraudulent. Nuh-uh. No way am I accepting those ads (he said, reminding himself to keep an eye on the google ads that this post throws up).

Generally speaking, as an advertiser, I find it very annoying when a PW site insists on approving every ad by hand. It leads to delays and uncertainty, which degrades the value of the entire service as far as I'm concerned. Because of this, I've set all ad boxes that I host to "automatically accept everything". So far, it's been highly unlikely that anyone hosting ads will be confronted with inappropriate ads. If more gambling-oriented sites of the kind that have been traditionally advertised through spam join the system, that may have to change... but the interface for blocking ads and banning advertisers is actually pretty easy and convenient to use. So I'll leave things as they are and will continue to advise other PW members hosting ads to set their ad blocks to automatically accept everything.

December 30, 2006

Snap on rocr.net - please tell me if it doesn't work

I've just added Snap preview code to Rocr.net's templates, or at least some of them. Snap offers previews of links on web pages. If you find this irritating or it doesn't work properly on your browser, let me know; I think it'll be a nice addition to the site but if enough people complain, I'll take it off again.

January 7, 2007

Notwithstanding the previous post...

... 365 updates this year, folks. No matter what.

Ground rules: the 365 updates won't all be Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan updates - obviously the material posted since mid-December hasn't been. It won't all be new either. White House in Orbit was all done and published on another website years ago. However, I will only post material that hasn't been posted on ROCR.net or the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site before, and all the updates will at the very least be re-scanned. All updates made from old material will have a significant amount of work done to them compared to the versions as originally published, varying from simple clean-up and correction to recolouring and wholesale dialogue rescripting. I'm looking to create definitive versions, which will be ready to go to print if any of them turns out to be popular enough to sell in print form.

365. One a day. Overall, I expect to post more completely new material in 2007 than in 2006, even if the bulk of that won't show up until the second half of the year.

I just scanned in 10 installments of Feral, by the way.

March 18, 2007

Project Wonderful to cease to be wonderful?

In the blog under his comic, Matthew Skala has been thinking about the same concerns I have with Project Wonderful, and thought them to their logical conclusion:

In Project Wonderful news, I started scaling back my bids because my account with them was running low, and I've already sunk what feels like more than enough money into it. I decided to shoot for breaking even - spending no more money buying ads on other people's sites than my own ad boxes bring in. So I've been looking at my bids, figuring out which are most expensive per click, and lowering those until they're no longer winners - the idea being to reduce my total expenses while keeping the bids that produce the best performance of clicks per unit money. Thing is, though, pretty often when I lower a bid to the point where it starts losing the auction, it only loses the auction for a short time. Other people are lowering their bids too. I wonder if I've started some kind of a thing. Unfortunately, it's happening on my own boxes, too. The vertical box went from 0.10 and 0.20 bids, to 0.02, in the last couple of days. Of course that reduces my budget and means (if I'm going to be serious about the break-even thing) that I have to lower my own bids even more.

I wonder if this is going to stabilize in some kind of steady state, or if it's a basic problem with the market. Money leaves the system for Ryan's 25% cut, and presumably some of the big-time ad venues (the ones that get bids of dollars per slot per day) are taking out profits as well. I'm not taking out profits. If too many of the small-timers like me decide they want to break even, there's going to be very little actual money entering the system, and the stable state is going to be basically a free banner-swap network. For it to work as designed, there need to be more buyers bidding more real money, and I don't know where they're going to come from.

I'd add that that projected steady state would be a free banner-swap network that is much smaller than PW's current network because people would start taking down their PW ads and returning to the warm, heaving bosom of Google Adsense and other large advertising networks. If I was Ryan North, I'd worry about this a bit.

I'm definitely experiencing the same phenomenon that Matt is talking about, partly because I'm one of the people he's inflicting it on, the cheap, cheap bastard. It's extra painful for me because I spent rather a lot of money on Project Wonderful in the final months of 2006, and once I take that into account, it's very unlikely I'll break even over the full period I've been buying and selling ads through it. I'm running in budget-neutral mode now and I'll be able to claim the late-2006 advertising binge on my taxes, but with hindsight, I'd have done better to keep it in my pocket.

Note that this is the third time I've linked to Matt since he started putting his ads on my site. I'm normally against doing that. It's a conflict of interest even though the amounts of money involved are infinitesimal. But every time I click on Matt's ad I find, if not necessarily a great episode of The Bonobo Conspiracy, then at least a well-written and/or thought-provoking article about one of his many geeky interests. Besides, there's actually a perverse incentive for him to take down his ad, because the permalinks to this blog are free and are arguably a lot more effective than the tiny button ads he's currently paying a penny for (the cheap, cheap bastard).

Another effect that may be coming into play with Project Wonderful if not enough new buyers enter the network is bid monopolies. I think one of my ads may be in a bid monopoly situation: One bidder is willing to lock in a bid over and above the likely real value of the ad for a long period, so that people willing to bid the real value and not a lot more end up giving up, leaving the overbidder to snap up the ad spot for pennies.

I hope Matt is wrong about the direction PW is heading in, and I hope someone will prove me wrong about that other thing as well. But right now, I'm a bit bearish about it, as they say.

Oddly, the one place where my PW ads still do well is this blog, which you wouldn't think of as an ideal place to put (mostly) webcomics-related ads.

March 26, 2007

What my workday was like (and is like far, far too often)

(Boring, journal-type post below, but sort of important to my ability to do my job)

At the start of the workday, I was pretty on the ball. I arrived at ten-ish (which is normal - early rising disagrees with me, as does hurrying my breakfast), fixed an already-published comic, finished and set up two more, so that the website is all set until Friday. So far so good, except that by the time I was done, it was noon. I wrote the previous blog entry, which was about my workload, then went on with my next task which was printing out some paperwork (a copy of my Verklaring Arbeidsrelatie for magazine clients that hire me as a freelancer to draw comics) and sticking that in an envelope. Then work on next Monday's ROCR comic, which I really should have finished yesterday. I sat outside in the stairwell of the building at Papiermolenlaan 3 with my penciled art on my knees, on an improvised backing board, so I could catch some rays, popping back inside occasionally to check my email or pour myself a cup of tea. For the first time ever, I took my ink jar outside and inked the page, except for one panel that needs light table work. Done by two - not bad. Mind you, that's just the character art, because I'm still hoping Calvin will be able to find the time to do the backgrounds. Still, I'll go on working like this for as long as the weather remains sunny. There are drawbacks: the posture is bad for the back and bad for control over arm movements, the ink tends to congeal in the ink jar while outside, and it will be a while before I can work as well outside as inside; but on the positive side, there are fewer distractions and I get some fresh air.
Half past two and I've corrected the page. Time for a grocery break. Back at three. Lunch. Half-hearted attempts at developing additional characters and costumes that I'll need in Gang of Four. I get a bit sleepy. Suddenly, Jelena is making moves to call it a day, I look up and it's nearly five o'clock. Since I have some errands to run and am planning to be back after running group training this evening, I leave early.

If you've kept count, after my break, two hours pretty much disappeared, with nothing to show for them but some bad sketches in my sketchbook. What did I do? Some of that time was spent reading The War Nerd, but that doesn't take two hours.

I think the important bit is where I mention I got sleepy. Coffee after lunch might have helped. Or a smaller lunch. That sandwich toaster Jelena brought in just might turn out to be a tool of the devil.

Or it might be the result of daylight savings time, which started the night between Saturday and Sunday. I'd been looking forward to the switch (running practice in daylight! Yay!) but when it happened, it took my by surprise. I'd been up late on Saturday, working. On Sunday, I was in a bad mood for most of the day, all the way into the evening, when I practiced with my band for the first time in many months. I enjoyed it, despite the marked decline in my already limited playing chops, but I was more than a bit moody and not entirely with it. And I definitely didn't get enough sleep last night - effectively having to get up an hour early.

If it's DST, the problem should go away soon enough. But if it's something else, I need to hunt it down and kill it. Expect a few more boring, journal-type posts over the next few days while I sort it out.

March 27, 2007

Tuesday Workday (so far)

Today was the opposite of yesterday: I spent the day feeling sleepy and out of it, but ended up at six with a difficult half of a page mostly tight-penciled. It's likely that I'll get it inked tonight.

I went to bed at 11-ish yesterday, which taking into account the switch to Daylight Savings Time is three hours earlier than my bedtime last Saturday evening. Didn't stop me from feeling sleepy well into the day. Got up at 8, made it to work before 10, didn't properly get started until noon. Luckily for me, part of the work for today involved looking up pictures of objects on Google Images, because I didn't have a folding beach chair on me, and the work crew fixing up the outdoor pool below the studio for the summer haven't started on the pool ladders yet, the bastards. Then I sketched panel actions in my sketchbook, so I knew how much space everything would take. Then I went outside with the Improvised Backing Board to rough-pencil the page itself. At some point while working on that I lost track of time again, because when I came back in to have another look at those pool ladders, it was three PM. Well, better for that to happen while I'm doing actual work, I guess.

After all that ground work, tightening up the pencils and filling in the details was actually easy, and most of that was done in an hour and a half, while still feeling sleepy.

It's now ten minutes to eight in the evening, it's getting dark, and I'm waking up. Slowly, but surely, I'm becoming more alert. I think this goes a little beyond adjusting to Daylight Savings Time, though Jeroen did mention that he and people he knew were affected by that.

March 28, 2007

Wednesday Workday

Wednesday was like Tuesday only slightly less so.
Went to bed at midnight-ish on Tuesday, after inking most of the top half of my Gang of Four page. Was good and tired, slept well, but woke up before the alarm. Stayed in bed until after the alarm anyway.
I arrived at work later than usual, close to 11 AM, after doing a bunch of things that I can't even remember right now. Oh yeah, posting a blog post and writing a long forum post somewhere that I then threw away because my argument sucked. I scanned Monday's character-art-only ROCR comic, cleaned it up and sent it to DFG for colouring. The backgrounds will be drawn separately; I don't quite know how we'll handle that, but I'll probably ask Calvin to draw them on a separate sheet of paper, with smaller gutters between the panels so there is some wiggle room for splicing them together. I may ask Mravac to colour the backgrounds so we have one page that the entire team has worked on.
Then, drawing the bottom half of the Gang of Four page, which started slowly but got well underway once I took up my spot in the stairwell outside. I'm getting used to working there, and even the posture aspect is getting better. Let's hope the sunny weather goes on for a little while - I just might get back on track.

I got started on the inking at a little past 4, left at 6, came back to work at nine-ish to do more inking and light table work. Most of it is done now. Tomorrow, I need to finish up the inks, add a few more backgrounds, clean up, scan, letter and colour. I don't think I'll be done at five, but I'm pretty confident I can send the material to the magazine by Friday morning. It'll be my last of the series, possibly my last ever, so I'm trying hard to make it a good one.

March 30, 2007

Thursday Workday

Thursday was bad. Of all the things I wanted to get done, I only got as far as post-scan cleanup. In the afternoon, I developed a headache and the bad temper that usually goes with it.
Calvin returned from self-imposed study retreat a day early, having decided that it'd be better for him to take his Friday exam some other time. One reason he's such a powerhouse is that he picks his battles carefully. I asked him to work on the ROCR background, using the procedure I described yesterday. Didn't go well - once his work was scanned, it didn't match up at all well to the character art. In the evening, Jelena and I looked over the originals and found they matched up slightly better, but he definitely did allow the paper to slip on the light table. Also, he was still pretty frazzled from burying himself in his studies. Shouldn't have put him on the spot like that.

Looking back over the past few days, I think I should change the way I work. I don't mean cutting down on the procrastination, though that would definitely be beneficial. I'm now looking at the amount of busy-work in the process. I particularly spend far too much time on cleanup, when it would be much better not to let the materials get dirty in the first place, e.g. by working in non-repro blue pencil, and/or inking on the light table. There are reasons I don't do those things now, but ... they're not very good reasons. They all boil down to "I don't like to work that way" or "I'm afraid to work that way".

For a long time, I had a serious tactile loathing of kneaded erasers. I found them extremely unpleasant to the touch, and refused to work with them for that reason. I've managed to overcome that and now use kneaded erasers a lot, albeit merely as part of an arsenal of erasers for cleaning up my heavy-handed pencils lines. I have some formative bad experiences with non-repro blue, which amount to "this feels all wrong and shitty" but I should be able to overcome these too. As for inking on the light table, that's a bit trickier, because I like to rotate my paper a lot while inking, and, as you can see from the bit about Calvin's backgrounds above, you need to tape down or otherwise fixate your work while working on a light table. Hmmm... Calvin has a set of peg bars that I might be able to use...

The headache subsided in the evening after a cup of Darjeeling Gold Tea. Might be coincidence, might be a sign that I need to watch my fluid intake. I thought I already did that, though.

Today, I hope to get the Gang of Four comic finished, preferably before five. Though I guess it won't make much of a difference whether it arrives at 16:30 today or early on Monday morning. Not practically, anyway. It would be good for my morale if it was done today.

Friday Workday

If yesterday qualified as a bad day, today was a Symphony in Suck-Flat. From the ominous, discordant opening bars of "Oh my God, Photoshop Crashes on Startup Without Even Making It Past the Splash Screen" to the drawn-out, repetitive and excruciatingly slow coda of "Let Me Upload, Damn It, Xepher.net!", the dominant themes spoke to me of impending doom, anger, irritation, frustration and Man Battling an Uncaring Environment Especially His Computer. Especially noteworthy were the entirity of the middle Movement, Oh, Bugger It, I'm Not Going to Finish This Before Five and a frenzied section within the penultimate Movement, "One More Little Change Before I Can Save For Web And Upload — Oh, Wait, One More, No, Two More". Both were eminently missable.

Oh, and my headache came back, tea didn't cure it, and my concentration was shot through most of the day as a result of the red-eyed rage and panic caused by Photoshop's weird behaviour. And the fact that the cure for the Photoshop problem was to reset my preferences meant that Photoshop was annoying me in a thousand little ways for the rest of the day.

(If you run Photoshop 7 on XP and it starts crashing on startup, don't waste your time looking for the installation files; what you need to do is start it up again, hold down CTRL-SHIFT-ALT, and answer Yes to the prompt to reset your preferences. The file containing the preferences has been corrupted and you have to start anew. All your actions and swatches are in different files and won't be affected, but you'll have the standard scratch space, brushes, fonts and tool options set, so it will behave differently from what you're used to. Starts up a lot faster now, though.)

What I want to do this weekend is sleep until Monday. What I need to do is finish the colour work on Gang of Four so my editors have it on Monday morning, at least; and also to work on the ROCR pages for Tuesday and Wednesday.
What I'm actually going to do is finish my VAT returns. That shouldn't take all weekend, but the way things are going, it's likely that I'll find a way to stretch the process over two days and/or get myself blocked from the electronic submission process.

It's enough to make a guy move to Tahiti to paint nude women.

April 19, 2007

Project Wonderful sophomore slump update

I'd be remiss in my duties as a Project Wonderful watcher if I didn't mention that since my last post, my Project Wonderful earnings have gone up a bit (though not so much that I can start taking money out of the system, yet), and that I've seen some new advertisters crop up both here and elsewhere. Most notably, I saw an ad for Republican Presidential hopeful Ron Paul on the Clan of the Cats front page. It would be nice to think that the ad was placed there by Congressman Paul's own campaign committee, and in the long run, I can see that happening at least with the lesser-known, lesser-funded campaigns (I had heard of Ron Paul before, mostly in the context of his anti-war stance. But a likely contender he probably ain't). After all, PW isn't all that different from Blogads (now there's a thought - how about a Blogads-style ad format, with text, within the PW system?) as both are inexpensive, turnkey advertising systems. In this particular case, though, it looks more likely that a supporter of Mr. Paul bought the ad on his behalf. Which is a nice enough way to support a candidate.

It would seem that the Project Wonderful sophomore slump is over. I note that for some websites, such as Girl Genius 101, the slum appears never to have happened. Those big-audience webcomics can pull in $ 35 a day minus PW's 25% cut from Project Wonderful advertising. For a webcartoonist, that's pretty good money.

While I'm at it, here's that list of my ad slots again:
Buttons on all my webcomics pages, currently going for $ 0.09 each.
ROCR front-page only square ad, currently going for $ 0.20.
ROCR archive-only leaderboard, currently going for $ 1.80.
Square ad on the blog, currently going for the princely sum of $ 0.04.
Skyscraper ad on Chronicles of the Witch Queen, currently going for $ 0.30.

Readership on the webcomics pages has been going up steadily, so they may well be better locations for your ads than they were just two months ago.

April 30, 2007

New Project Wonderful ad and future donation campaign

In response to the recent, slight uptick in Project Wonderful advertising I've observed, anecdotally, on my own and other sites, I've added another ad slot on the front page. This is a single, half-banner-format ad between the comic and the blog. As such, it might be good for advertising things that aren't strictly comics, things that appeal to the part of the readership that scrolls on below the comic to see what rants my co-bloggers and I have to offer. If you want to appeal purely to Waffle readers, though, the square ad on the blog itself may be a better match for you.

I've also tried to put up another donation button, going back to basics with the standard Paypal button using the latest revision of their button code. Unfortunately, what should have been a five-minute job of picking a button from Paypal's website and sticking it into my front page template where I wanted it turned into an hour-long brainracker that ended in failure. Wherever I put the button, it displays at double size, and I no longer understand my own stylesheet code well enough to fix that problem. I'll either have to create a button that fits the dimensions my style sheet dictates, or comb through the style sheet to simplify it to the point where I can understand what's going on, removing code that's no longer used and sorting things so that everything is legible again. Both tasks will cut into my drawing time, though, and I'm already very late with Wednesday's comic. I don't even have enough material for Tuesday's filler! So no matter how important and urgent this is in my current, dire financial situation, it'll have to wait.

For testing purposes, here's the button code, as created by Paypal (so with my previous attempts at wrapping it into divs to control the display removed):

It looks all right on the blog but when I put it on the rocr.net home page, it's so big an eyesore that I can't leave it there while I'm not actively working on it. Feel free to click it and donate! But right now, I'm more interested in hearing why it's not displaying as it should, and what I can do about it. My stylesheet code is here.

No front page comic on Tuesday - archival Pin Drop comic instead

I didn't get as much as a filler done for Tuesday - I got started on Wednesday's proper Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic unexpectedly late, and by the time I was able to send it off to Mravac for colouring, it was already 1 AM, and I draw the line at starting a new drawing or background article at that time of night. My apologies. Things will be back to normal soon, scheduling-wise.

Instead of posting a filler, I've scanned an old one-pager, Juggling, and posted it in the Pin Drop archive. Juggling isn't all that significant by itself but it is part of the greater whole of what I was trying to do with the run of wordless comics I was doing between 1997 and 1999. With the addition of Juggling, that run is now almost completed. The twelve-page story Injury and the one-pager Sponge, which is similar to Juggling still need to be scanned and posted, which will happen real soon now. I've got the master copies of Injury ready at the studio; Sponge will take a little longer because I can't find the original. It's still in my archives, though. Somewhere.
I'm babbling, ain't I? It's because I'm very sleepy right now.

June 8, 2007

Shout-outs

Enter the Vortex

I've got a guest comic on Jelena Saiso's Weekly this week. Jelena and I are on the same wavelength about a lot of things, so writing this one was a breeze. I did cheat a little with the drawings, though - that Vortex was the easiest background I've made in a looooong time.

Her majesty is interrupted at her daily routine
Meanwhile, Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan has steadily drifted into a story sequence outlined for me by Geir Strøm of White House in Orbit and more importantly Chronicles of the Witch Queen. We're finally seeing the Witch Queen herself, she who Alcydia wants to be Witch Queen instead of, and her advisors, guards, and the subterranean castle she inhabits. The story is taking on a bit of a Courtly Manners-esque feel from this point onwards, which I guess finally justifies its inclusion on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site.
Geir has only outlined about a dozen pages, but those should take us somewhere close to the end of the invasion.

June 25, 2007

"Injury" updating every four hours on ROCR.net today and tomorrow

Today and tomorrow, the ROCR.net front page will update six times a day with a short autobiographical story, "Injury", from 1997. The story starts here. Once it's completed, "Injury" will be moved to the Pin Drop section of the site.

I've been meaning to rerun this short story, about depression, rain and the hand injury I inflicted on myself ten years ago, for some time, but hadn't got around to it. A snag in the production of new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comics forced me to reschedule them, leaving a gap in which I could post a short story. Because I like to have each comic on the front page for at least a little while, I'm posting one page every four hours, sort of like one would do if one's doing a 24-hour comic, only slower.

July 10, 2007

Minor site updates

I've updated my online biography partly to reflect the fact that I'm looking for work, but also to clarify that I'm in the Netherlands after a reviewer at the Giant in the Playground forums got that wrong.

I've also updated the full list of comics I've got online, streamlining the list itself a bit, adding a few comics and de-linking a few others. The ones I've de-linked are currently only hosted on my old personal website at http://users.bart.nl/~samizdat, which I expect to go down the next time my former ISP has to clean up its servers. I haven't had FTP access to the site in over a year, anyway, and at least one javascript on that site now does something completely different from what it did when I put it there. Time to let it go off into that great web archive in the sky. I hope my email address there gets shut down soon as well; it's been a repository of spam for some time, checked only for the one message in 10,000 that could possibly, conceivably, actually be a legit email message for me.

It's possible that I've forgotten to de-link some comics on the list or update some URL that is no longer valid. If you find one, let me know. The de-linked comics will eventually be back in re-scanned, remastered form.

July 27, 2007

Silverstripe

I'd never heard of Silverstripe before, but it's probably worth a spin in case I ever need to get a (non-blog) website off the ground quickly.

Thanks to studio-mate Jeroen, I'm back in the market for web development work. It's been a long time since I've done web development for anything other than my own sites, though, so I'm reading up and looking for some experience-builders. Simple things to do so I can say I've done them and know how to do it, and get a feel for the snags. So if anyone reading this needs, say, Wordpress installed on a clean system, or some Wordpress templates made, you just might be able to talk me into doing it for free if it's not a big job. I do hope to get past that stage soon, though.

About Work

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Waffle in the Work category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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