Day 1188 of the war…

Something of a red-letter day as this morning, after three years, three months and two days I completed the last page of art for my Tabula Rasa graphic novel.

Although it’s not actually the final page of the story, nor the book, aside from any changes required during editing it’s finally done and ready for finishes and lettering, so as I shared the first page with you a while back I thought it only fair to show this off too…

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Life On Mars

To paraphrase Sam Tyler, “These are my parents. They want themselves in a photo from 1972. But how can they do that outside of going mad, into a coma, or back in time? However it happens, it’s to be like they’ve landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can do some image editing, I can sort that out.”

An invitation design was needed for my parents forthcoming fortieth wedding anniversary in January and while flicking through the photos of the day a copy of their order of service fell out from the back of the album.  Since the theme of the anniversary was to echo the red and white colour scheme of the original event anyway, maybe there was a way to adapt this into the invite design, and do something cute with one of the original photos too…

Let’s take the above photo with the respective parents from the big day as a starting point.  There’s some slight damage from the original negatives to address and we’ll need the right hand side of it empty of people for what I have in mind.  The damage is easy to repair, but I feel slightly odd about erasing what are my grandparents who are now all deceased from the picture. 

Maybe there’s something to be done about balancing that out later…

An altogether trickier proposition by far is to get my parents as they are today dressed appropriately in front of a green screen, facing towards the direction of their previous selves.  Getting rid of the modern-day background is childs play in comparison after that!

Pasting them into the now empty half of the picture and scaling them down to meet the eyelines of themselves is a straightforward task.  But that’s exactly what it looks like, that is, someone cut out a picture and stuck it on top of another unfortunately, I’m sure we can do better…

The original picture looks to have an orangey tint to it and it’s also quite grainy.  The portion of it which was edited also confirms that it was a fairly harsh ambient lighting or flash which was used leaving sharply defined shadows behind the subjects.  Also, it may just be age of the photo or the 1970’s preference for beige tones but the colours are pretty washed out to my eye…

A quick warm hue, drop shadow and desaturation of the current day parents (with a judicious amount of transparency brushing where the foot overlaps the bridal train) and we’re just about done.

All that remains it to add some Gaussian Blur, tidy up the drop shadow where the background plane depth changes to make it less flat and crop it to size.  Unfortunately, this cuts out the mirror towards the top right which I’d intended to use as an ersatz photo frame to have the now edited previous generation represented.

The finished article is then added to the vector file drawing of the rest of the invite booklet to go to the printers.  It takes a bit of tracking down the Adobe equivalent of the font used by the printer to ensure the modified interior text matches that of the Order of Service and sadly the gold foil writing on the front of the original can’t be replicated by the printers so white has to be used as a compromise, but otherwise the end result turns out pretty good…

Marks Remarks

Back in February I touched on the the fact that I’d failed to deliver an update for the CoHCOMICS site for the first time since I took it over. Unfortunately following that the same thing happened again for the next update and the next and I came to the realisation that I just wasn’t enjoying it any more.
On top of that the laptop death/remediation issues with the domain name/a general lack of time to develop it further/other superhero MMOs being prettier/not actually having played CoH since i14/Paragon Studios global account merger stupidity had all conspired to force me to the decision to draw the site to a close at the end of April.
Thanks to this blog though most of it will still be around in some form even if it takes a while to move all the material across and it’s not to say I won’t do something with it or the three dozen or so submissions which are still waiting to go online eventually, but after five years running it (three of which have been updating a minimum of very two weeks) and nearly seven after the site first opened it’s doors it was time to take a breather!

With all my new-found free time I’ve gravitated back to playing Champions Online, favouring it slightly even over my beloved Star Trek Online with its recent content drought. That’s not to say Champs has been any better in that regard what with the buyout of Cryptic from Atari by Perfect World and effort seemingly being focused on the move of STO to a free to play model instead, but having left CO when the closed beta for Trek started and not having returned till the debut of its Weekly Comic Series there’s a ton of old content which is entirely new to me at this point.

It’s also prompted me to push on with my Tabula Rasa comic. In fact in the last month I’ve made more progress on that than I have at anytime since I completed the first 14 pages of it back in July 2009!

Ugh. We’ll just gloss over January, shall we..?

I’m not a Star Wars geek, by any stretch of the imagination particularly since, Lego Minifigs aside, nothing good has come out of that franchise since about halfway through 1983. Having said that Christmas Day 2010 was a lot like Christmas Day circa 1981, having received the toy versions of the AT-AT and Snowspeeder for both from the jolly fat man in red, i.e. Dracula.

Having spent Christmas and New Year in a weird haze of not knowing whether I’d have a job come April and the best part of the first two weeks of 2011 bouncing off the walls of a Premier Inn in Aberdeen WHERE 3G HASN’T BEEN INVENTED YET, it was a relief to return home and have legitimate excuses for not actually accomplishing anything.

For the first time since I took over the site CoHCOMICS.COM missed an update because of being away. I had actually prepared (well, I say prepared, I mean worked until 22:30 the night before it was due) everything for the upload but the whole not being able to access the Internet sort of put the kibosh on that.
Once again the planned submission had slipped and I had to use an inventory issue to fill the spot, hopefully this was somewhat mitigated though by the debut of a Second Feature. This was a concept stolen from DC and is something I plan to do occasionally to get submissions which haven’t in the past been strong enough to put out on their own some exposure.
A good example is the double-header of Star Trek Online based comics which I hummed and hawed over previously, but several of our contributors create material surrounding their main storylines and it’s a good chance to get some of that seen.
For the inaugural edition though, I went with something closer to home that is a slightly tweaked version of the New Year Rill and Led update. Since it focused on the superhero characters rather than the two erstwhile Snowtroopers, the strip lent itself to magazine format naturally anyway and Spider-man, Hulk and the others would take less explaining to anyone seeing these 12-inch Adventures for the first time.
The whole story was pretty elaborate actually. Look! That’s an actual set that’s been built for the first time, even if it was only 30 minutes work with some marker pens and small Christmas decorations..!

Speaking of the Second Feature initiative, it’ll make a good showcase for the 7 pages of comic I’ve finally finished after agreeing to provide them back in July!
You may recall I previously commented on the bespoke speech bubbles the main character used and the multiple elements which required compositing for each. Stupidly what I did was to reduce the number of these required by creating dialogue boxes which required even more work for each.

There’s little chance I’d have the time to expand this out to a full comic anytime soon to complete the story, but half a dozen pages every couple of months to showcase alongside one of the other titles might be possible.

By the way, that’s Star Trek Online just passed its first Anniversary, which remarkably for someone with such a low boredom threshold means I’m still playing the game a year on.
They celebrated this week by having Q (or more accurately his son) show up and quiz players on their Star Trek knowledge. successfully answer five questions correctly and you could have a badge, but it was much more fun to get them wrong so that he’d turn the player into various creatures like one of those Klingon dogs from Star Trek III, or a Vulcan Selath cat or best of all a Horta. Luckily players could beg him to be turned back or wait for ten minutes till it wore off otherwise it might’ve been difficult to push the buttons back on their ships.

One thing I’m unlikely to be playing a year from now, or in fact ever again the way things are going, is Battlestar Galactica Online. I wasn’t very enamoured by the gameplay and after docking at the Galactica I found myself stuck looking at a hangar with no way to interact at all. Now after logging out for a week I find that myself and many other players get about a third of the way into loading the game and it just stops dead.