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Nuke 'Em 'Till They Glow!! - The  Early Years

Frightening The Children
Written by Benjamin A. Oliver
Artwork by Esa Karjalainen
September 22, 2003
Ben Oliver

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid.

You know, I get the idea that we've been scaring off our readership gradually, over the past few months. Initially, we kind of promised a one-page-a-week deal with the possibility of expanding into (gasp!) two pages per week once our illustrious artist mastered the art of Speed Drawing from the Fred Gallagher Monastery of Webcomicry. Here we are, (checking the date…) five months later, and we've managed six pages, plus a whole bunch of extras like this one. However, I would be just pleased as a zebra in a sack full of rhinos if our forum became just as unmanageable as a herd full of monkeys.

(Checking what I just wrote for metaphorical correctness…) Eh, close enough. Anyway, we offer constant excuses for our apparently lazy behavior, and as I've mentioned before, people seldom see the behind the scenes action. I've been working nearly every night (every morning in Esa's time zone) on developing the comic further and on creating more sprites and art for the GDM game. Oftentimes, Esa is rather unmotivated, after having slept probably two hours for the entire week and living on a diet of stimulants and more stimulants. Still, I tell him that he can do it, and little by little, slowly—ever so agonizingly slowly—but surely, the work gets done. He runs into blocks, and I help him work past them.

Cracking the whip

Now let us pause to reflect on how difficult webcomicry really is, as opposed to writing, which we all know gets done quickly and easily, and only truly lazy bums could ever hope to fall behind in pursuing even very long storylines. (Checking what date it is… checking when I had planned to get the fanfic done…) Ah heh, yes, well… such is the way of thing.

Esa's mentioned before that he has to redraw each frame and redo the page layout three times or more to get it to look right. In drawing terms alone, that might tack an extra hour on what might otherwise be a quick process. But between all that, he must do what all creative people must do eventually: wonder if it's good enough, decide that it's not, and have to be convinced that it really was anything worth looking at in the first place, then redraw it twice and repeat the cycle over and over again.

Sometimes, I wonder how the comic might turn out if we just threw caution (and quality) to the wind and just used the first frames to come out. It would likely be very, very messy.


I drew that one. Innit perdy? (twitch, twitch)

The lesson of the matter is: good art is hard. Esa's told me time and time again when I say Terra should be cute, "Cute is HARD!" And that's why I've kept him around. He's slow but does good work. He's so loyal he stays up whole nights working on this stuff, and when that's still not enough, he goes on to agonize about not being able to do better and do it more quickly.

I must admit, though, that there's nothing quite like it when your artist's been working all day on the comic (4 hours coding, 8 hours drawing), wants a revision in the script, and asks for it in a flawless Gollum impression. "We wants it. We NEEDS it. Our precioussss!" "Words! Good Hobbits…"

Did you catch it? That should have been my first clue that it was beddy-bye time for my dear artist. But me, being the clueless one that I am, let him go on and do more work on the page until his optic nerves started dying. Most people will take care of themselves and act selfishly in the end, out of a sheer need for self-preservation. An artist, who has been working far too long and can barely see, ought to say, "Look, Ben. I love this project we're working on, and it could someday become something great, but I've got this really, really important program I need to be working on in the morning, so I'm going to bed right now and you can't stop me! Later!"

But Esa didn't say that. He might have thought that, or not, but he kept on going until 5:00 A.M. without a break. Is that dedication or is that insanity?

The answer is, of course, "yes"!

We have no idea what we're doing, this is the first webcomic we've ever worked on, our continuity's based off a decade-old manga series and TV show aimed at strange young Japanese women, the legality of which is highly in question. I keep asking for more cuteness… and more ninjas and pirates while we're at it, and Esa slowly churns them out. I say, "Hey! How about a video game parodying Princess Maker? That sounds like fun!" and people go along with it, albeit at their own pace.

Life slowly becomes a simulacrum of a Dilbert comic, where I am the pointy-haired boss, and people around me are aggravated while I don't understand what the problem is. The comparison is frightening, since I'm currently attending the Eller Business College, where everybody gives me these ill-defined (or overly-defined) huge projects which must be accomplished in groups bound together by contracts, and schedule the whole thing out as well. Certainly, I'm an MIS major, but I'm told by some with Computer Science majors that the CS people really dislike the MIS people.

What does this have to do with the comic? My lack of management skills. I brought everyone together, I'm supplying the scripts and documentation, I'm doing what nudging I can to keep the whole thing from falling apart around me… and once it all falls apart, all participants breathe a long, happy sigh of relief, and get back to work on it. Creative destruction, as it were.

Creative Destruction

And the same thing happens over and over again. Once we think the project is dead and it will not rise ever again, it gets back up and starts dancing the rhumba for a bit before falling over again. A voice in my head says, "Welcome to reality, Ben!" and then I have to tell it to hush up.

Likewise, just when I decide to stop trying to figure things out, a perfectly logical solution presents itself to me… with diagrams and a Powerpoint slideshow.

CuteNevertheless, all this uncertainty has got to be frightening the people that actually like my work (and Esa's) and have been faithfully following it, despite all the setbacks and excuses we've pumped out. Oh, the truly loyal fans of the series will not be deterred, but in the meantime they'll be forced to grin nervously while one or all of us jump into the lion tamers' circle and gets gnawed on.

But because I am beginning this sentence with a preposition… No, wait, that's one of Danny's jokes… (That's Circular Humor there.)

All of us get distracted with real life things, such as school, work, video games, and bright shiny objects. I'm surprised any of us ever crawl out of bed (especially Esa, after what I put him through—or what he puts himself through ^_-). Still, we go on, we get knocked down, but we get back up again. We will figure out the Great Secret and unlock Esa's hidden Super Drawerjin powers of speed drawing and sock-sorting. There's no excuse, really. He should be doing a full page, twice a day, in 32-bit full color, uphill, both ways, in the blinding snow, dragging a broken sled…

Now where was I? I guess the point I'm really trying to make is… I think zebras in sacks full of rhinos wouldn't be very comfortable. That's all I'm really trying to say.

The original title of this article was "Internet Piracy," but I didn't quite see how I could relate that. But we've got a pirate-guy that's going to be dumped into the storyline as well, along with the kunoichi and any other random characters we decide we want to toss in. Without further ado, or what-to-do, here's another mystery character that fits into the grand scheme of things. Feel free to discuss it on the forums in a completely random manner. Odds could be that you're right about who and what he is.

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September 3, 2003: Stabbing From the Shadows!


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