Posted by Mike Renner
As you may notice from this website, I use a character named Shiori as my author avatar.
For years, I chafed at the notion of creating an author character. I had two reasons for this.
The first was the fact that my background in sprite comics comes from the Bob and George community, and the stuff on the periphery. Author avatars were a pretty dominating trend in sprite comics because Bob and George made it funny, so there were a ton of "follow the leader" comics. One of my mission statements when I created IWD was to try to stray as far as I could from what made Bob and George work, so I intentionally chose to not have an author character. Unfortunately, that still didn't stop me from completely derailing IWD's story with the deity characters that I *did* have (especially Magdelena).
The second reason was because I didn't want all of the fanart and fan stuff to be devoted to my author character rather than the actual characters of IWD who were part of the story. I've since dropped that reason because of Shiori, who is usually a cameo or minor character in most of my works today. And also, because I blame Tara.
Over the years, my lack of an author character was my point of pride. I wanted to be faceless and unseen. I wanted to speak through my characters without having to put myself in the story or the comic. While working on Get Blue Spheres in 2006, I learned that Psy hated that about me and wanted me to make one. Let's just say that any rumors about a "blue monkey" are clearly the products of your deranged, delusional minds.
So, after all that, what caused Shiori to happen?
Well, Shiori was created to be an in-universe historian to Fetch Quest who could explain things from the perspective of someone who was in the universe. While that part of the Fetch Quest website eventually had to be scrapped because I didn't have the time to update it regularly, I loved the concept and began to sprinkle in little cameos of the character here and there. I realized that by definition, that made Shiori my avatar. So she became that.
If you're starting something of your own, though, my advice is always to focus on your characters and your story before anything else. If you have to use an obvious author character, make it a point that they're the same kind of character as everyone else in your story. Don't be the god. Don't be the anthromorphic pig on Earth. Don't be the human in Equestria. If you're the hero of the story, don't be invincible (actually, don't have an invincible hero in general).
And above all else, *always* expect the Spanish Inquisition. They'll never show up as long as you expect them.
|Posted: Friday, June 07th, 2013 |
The creative process of on-fly sprite comicking.
Posted by Mike Renner
I have a process I go through when working on In Wily's Defense, which stands in contrary to anything else I've ever done creatively.
IWD is outlined in arcs and seasons, and I have a bulletpoint of all the things that I need to get done in each arc of the story. There's been times when I've had to improvise something or change things drastically, like the end of the first series when I realized I wasn't going to be doing a fourth season (at the time). But for the most part, I have a plan and I know the flow of the story and the feel of it.
Beyond the plan, though, IWD is entirely unscripted before I make the comics. This can be good or bad, and I admit wholeheartedly to having some real critical research failures, spelling mistakes, and generally being really dumb throughout the whole thing. The original IWD was jam-packed full of me being really stubborn about making sprite comics, which unfortunately carried over into my work on Get Blue Spheres. It took me several years before I developed any kind of real instinct about making comics, and by then, IWD was in its third season and fading fast.
But don't think that's just me being negative about the past, either. Even today's comics, though artistically superior, could be better from a writing standpoint. Because of the start-and-stop nature of working on IWD, I've had situations where I've actually forgotten plot points and have to go back and edit the comics I just made or, in the case of the yet-to-be-totally-revealed character of Blast Orange, make damn sure I was as non-specific as possible in talking about them.
For the most part, though, I stick to the plan. For example, in the last two updates, Violet and Lilith are having a conversation. The fact that they're having a conversation is something I knew was going to happen. I planned it when I wrote the outline of the story. But the actual meat of the conversation is written as the comic's being built. This lets me fit the dialogue around the panels easier, and I do it to maintain a natural feel to the conversation.
On the other hand, most times I do a Dodongo comic are entirely unplanned. It's not like I have a note in my plans where I say, "yeah, just spam textboxes". Again, it's for reasons of a natural flow. A visit from the Old Man is best left unplanned. The old fuck won't show up when you want him to. He shows up when you least expect it, drinks all of your beer, and demands that you get off his lawn even if you actually own the lawn. You just don't want to argue with the guy.
I'm generally happier with the sequel of IWD than the original, but my process hasn't really changed - just the tone of the story and obviously the artwork. I've some real surprises in store. You know, for the two of you who still read.
|Posted: Friday, May 17th, 2013 |
The degeneration of my film tastes.
Posted by Mike Renner
Let's talk about movies!
I don't watch movies!
At least, I don't watch them any more. Or at least, I don't watch movies that critics fawn over and adore.
This is funny because up until at least 2005 or so, I was enough of a cinephile to take a film class and watch and analyze some classic, and not-so-classic, movies. So I don't know when it happened, but I lost a lot of interest in watching films. At first, it was mostly in favor of big, crazy television shows like Lost and Heroes... but then I lost interest in those especially after Heroes went from one of the best TV shows out there to one of the worst, and I've all but stopped watching TV entirely now.
The movies I care about these days and want to watch are superhero movies, the big action movies, or whatever Pixar's released.
I don't go to theaters most of the time because, to me, it has to be a movie I really want to see to make the effort to take a trip to the nearest theater that's thirty minutes away. Maybe I've just grown too comfortable sitting in my office, but I don't like to be out of my house for very long. Nothing discomforts me more than not being here.
Of last year's releases, I'd seen a total of seven movies and only two of them at theaters. The two movies I thought worth a trip to the theaters (and I wasn't wrong), were the Avengers and the Dark Knight Returns. Other films I watched from 2012 were Skyfall, Brave, the Amazing Spider-man, Wreck-It Ralph, and Men In Black 3. And generally speaking, if it didn't have James Bond or a superhero in it, I didn't like it that much.
I've gotten to the point where I'm fatigued of critically lauded movies. I actually want to watch the big, stupid, summer blockbuster action movie. I've become the perfect target audience for Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich.
Do you realize how much that actually bothers me, though?
I used to watch every movie that was deemed good. I used to go out of my way out of high school every single day and rent another one dollar movie to go watch. I've seen everything from Raging Bull to Memento to American History X to every Coen Brothers movie out at the time. I'd seen Casablanca years before I would ever grow to appreciate it. My favorite movies of all time are Shawshank Redemption, Snatch, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, O Brother Where Art Thou, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, and the Blues Brothers.
So, how did I get to this point?
Well, I have a theory about this: It's apathy.
It's apathy and the general cynicism of the internet. I've become grumpy, jaded, and more interested in doing my own thing than to pay attention to movies. A lot of movies want to be depressing, dark, mature looks at the human condition, and I just don't have the desire to watch those kinds of movies.
My only desire nowadays is to see Iron Man shoot somebody in the face with a Unibeam. Is that so much to ask?
The point of superhero movies, apart from being big crazy action-packed moments of awesome, is that they're not depressing. They're big, loud, colorful pieces of cinema. They're about Norse gods bringing down the hammer. They're about enormous green rage monsters breaking Harlem over somebody's head to save the world. They're about punching Adolf Hitler in the face two hundred times.
I watch these kinds of movies because they make me happy, and I need that more and more these days.
|Posted: Friday, May 10th, 2013 |
Revisiting the old.
Posted by Mike Renner
Maybe one of the six of you who visit this site remembers this, but I used to run a sprite comic called Tales of Southtown.
It was a pretty standard setup of taking Fatal Fury's big bad, Geese Howard, and turning him into a patriotic crazy person with a habit of long, meandering solilquies who was mayor of the city of Southtown before he was ousted by equally crazy Capcom joke character Dan Hibiki. It's also the sprite comic where I had characters called "the Seraphim", who had a bit role in Fetch Quest as the sources of magic in that world.
So, recently, I had made a whole new design of Shiori and did an entire sprite sheet based on the concept. While I was working on it, I came across some sprites of Janice, one of those Seraphim, done in the newer IWD style I'd been working with for the past few years. I decided she was due for a redesign. In the intervening years since Tales of Southtown, the character became markedly different in personality, even though I wasn't really using her publicly, and I didn't think the old design still fit that personality.
Anyway, this is the old design. Janice had originally been based on Magdelena, because the two characters were related (Janice is Magdelena's daughter). A large reason for this is also the fact that she'd originally been designed in Megaman 7 style, and it didn't give me a lot of room to really play with.
So when I decided I was going to revisit her, I took a long look and decided she didn't need to be that similar to Maggie. More to the point, I didn't think Janice looked cute enough.
Recognizing this, I did this to her.
What I felt I needed to do was to give her a much lighter appearance, and that in turn help bring out her more adorable side. The white discs in her hair and on her skirt are big decorative fuzzballs that hang off of her, and I limited her character color of yellow to her skirt, and gave her much more white than before.
She's still recognizably the same Janice as before, but her redesign helped better emphasize her cutesy, girly nature. So she comes off better for it.
It's always okay the revisit old characters and breathe new life into them. Comic books do this a lot. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, but the results can oftentimes be something you're happy with. And still yet, some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world get more adorable.
I'm one of those men.
|Posted: Thursday, May 09th, 2013 |
Me and sprite comics.
Posted by Mike Renner
As someone who first built his Sealand-level empire on the creation of a sprite comic, I've spent a long time thinking about what I do as a creative hobby.
I've probably mentioned before that I got into sprite comics originally because I wanted to do something than plain text writing, something I was doing in eWrestling at the time. While I was much more productive as a creative writer in my late teens/early 20s than I am today, I was also burdened with a lot of free time and was pretty much kicking the crap out of college with minimal effort on my part. So I spent some time thinking of a new way to tell stories, and that's when I was given a link to Bob and George. I took one look at "Bob and George" and thought, "Hell, I can do that! Let's do it!"
Yeah, um. No.
On the surface, sprite comics are easy. You just copy and paste and you're good to go. You might just make a plain solid background or use something from another video game, but ultimately, the point is that the actual "art" part of a sprite comic isn't hard. Anyone can make a sprite comic.
But it takes a whole other kind of effort to make a good sprite comic, though. You have to make a special effort to make the art unique and you definitely have to be at least somewhat competent a writer. To me, the whole point of a sprite comic is to circumvent the "art" part of a comic just enough to let a writer do his thing. Even then, creating your own characters and making them far more than just a recolor is a lot of the fun for me.
It's easy to make a bad sprite comic. I've seen many terrible ones. The ones with bad recolors, with humor ripped directly from the annals of Bob and George, like author avatar characters running over all of the other characters and many references to ice cream. Hell, I've made some really terrible ones myself that would make the early IWD comics look like the Mona Lisa in comparison, which I'm glad got lost in the death of my old hard drive.
I put forth a large amount of effort preparing for a return to IWD, including designing a lot of new characters and redrawing old ones because I was stupid enough to get into a new art style and stubborn enough to stick to it with every character in the comic, and while my ability to maintain a schedule hasn't been as spotless as it was with the original run (due in large part to my old job), it's astonishing to see the difference between the old stuff and the new stuff. It's like two different people made two different comics.
I just do IWD for the art and the ability to tell a different kind of Megaman-styled story that's largely its own beast. I don't believe in making money off of it. This is the project I do for fun. If it makes you guys happy, then I'm happy. If it doesn't, then I'm still happy because I'm a professional dick.
|Posted: Thursday, April 25th, 2013 |
Back at it again.
Posted by Mike Renner
So, as you may note from the sidebar, I've put up a new IWD comic.
I'm actually approaching the ten year anniversary of In Wily's Defense, which not only makes me feel damn old, it makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with myself that I'm willing to revisit it again.
Nevertheless, I'm giving IWD one last shot until something happens that makes me not want to do IWD any more. Knowing how I am lately, it'll probably be whenever I see pretty bunnies or if I design something extremely cute and want to design an entire story built around that cute thing.
Don't laugh, that's where Fetch Quest came from. XD
|Posted: Sunday, April 14th, 2013 |
Lost In Skyrim Again
Posted by Mike Renner
I have a real love/hate relationship with Skyrim and, really, all of Bethesda's games.
Truth be told, I don't think much of them as actual games. The combat is usually very sloppy and every one of their games has so many weird glitches and bugs that it's amazing that they're functional at all. Indeed, during my new playthrough of Skyrim, I've run into a quest chain that's broken to the point that I can't continue it and that's not getting into the weird physics glitches that go on in the games. My only motivations for playing the game is to horrifically break my character in hilarious ways as hard as I can find the patience for it, and to knock out achievements.
The thing about Bethesda games that make them compelling isn't the combat, the characters, and most certainly not the voice acting. It's mostly about exploring big, huge, open worlds with crazy locations and many dungeons to dive into in order to beat the shit out of whatever's inside. I've gone to places in Skyrim in the second playthrough that I never came across during my first, approaching the same quests with different results in mind, and generally just dicking around in places. That's ultimately where much of my time had gone this time around.
I'm hoping to tackle the Dragonborn expansion eventually and bring all of this to a close, because I would like to actually spend my time doing something constructive again, soon.
|Posted: Tuesday, April 09th, 2013 |
Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.
Posted by Mike Renner
I'm a few hours removed from completing Bioshock Infinite.
It's a really astonishing game, compelling from beginning to end, and full of characters and a setting that I find very memorable.
Comparing it to the original Bioshock, I actually find it better and more tightly constructed. One of my only criticisms of the original Bioshock, a game I still remember and quote to this very day, is that after the Andrew Ryan encounter, the game's narrative loses a lot of focus and it's mired in fetch quests, an escort mission, and a bizarre and out-of-place final boss fight. The game's great plot twist and story effectively ends with "a man chooses, a slave obeys", at least for me.
Bioshock Infinite kept me hooked all the way through, sealing shut the one problem that I felt marred the original Bioshock (other than replayability, anyway), and keeping its final and most significant plot developments for the mindfuckery that was the end of the game. It was everything I wanted out of it. I couldn't ask for more.
|Posted: Thursday, March 28th, 2013 |
Posted by Mike Renner
One of the things I wanted to do when I decided I was going to turn this website into a blog was to talk about things at more length than I would have just using Twitter. So, let's talk about some video games - specifically, the new Tomb Raider.
My history with the Tomb Raider series is suspect at best. I do havwe vague memories of at least playing a little bit of Tomb Raider II on the PS1, and falling off the big cliffface in the first level over and over again. I recall that I wasn't too enthused about the game, as at the time, the only games I really wanted to play were JRPGs like Final Fantasy VII. I just remembered that every bit of wildlife out there wanted Lara dead.
So, Tomb Raider games came and went, and I played none of them until the downloadable game "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" came out. That game couldn't really be called a Tomb Raider game, mostly because the gameplay was so bizarrely different from the Tomb Raider series I'd vaguely been familiar wih. It was a good game, but as I'm a single-player gamer by nature, I didn't get the full effect as it's designed for co-op play.
The new Tomb Raider game is a strange beast. The opening moments of the game have the feel of a survival horror game, with the creepy madman in the cave, the oppressive feeling of the unknown surrounding you as you enter the forests of the island, and the island locals who are all focused on wanting you and everything you love dead. This is actually a pose. Tomb Raider is as much of a survival horror game as the recent Resident Evil games, because as the game progresses, it becomes much less of a horror game and much more like an Uncharted game. An Uncharted game with elements of exploration.
One of the problems I personally have with the Uncharted series is the fact that there isn't really a lot of exploration to be had. Nathan Drake spends most of of Uncharted wishing he was anywhere but in the immediate area of all the gunfire, explosions, and falling rubble that seem to follow him wherever he goes.
It makes for great setpieces, but apart from shooting hapless mooks in the face with your assault rifle and trying to survive the platforming sequences, you aren't really encouraged to go exploring. Instead, you're encouraged to go from setpiece to setpiece. Uncharted is a good enough game series that you don't really notice how linear the games typically are, and I can usually forgive linearity if I find the gameplay or story interesting enough to justify being railroaded.
The interesting thing about Tomb Raider to me is that it's effectively what happens if you took the equipment-based progression of Batman: Arkham Asylum and let it get married with the Uncharted series' love for exploding set pieces and horrifying destruction, and then let them fart out a crazy love child. Your progression in the game is dependent on your equipment, which you slowly pick up as you progress through the game. Lara starts with nothing and eventually picks up a bow, a climbing axe, three different types of firearms, and then gets to upgrade all of them through an experience system and talent tree system. Of course, by the end of the game, you'll likely have maxed out most of it with just a little bit of exploration under your belt.
Lara, like Nathan Drake, can't walk two feet without someone or something trying to make a mess out of her, and that's the part I find most interesting about Tomb Raider's design. They've created a more open world Uncharted game, and the environment changes depending on what happens in the story. An airplane crash drastically changes a previously visited area, an attempt to backtrack from a completed area leads you down a hectic river rapids sequence, and a trek across a broken WWII-era airplane can turn hazardous really quickly. Not to mention that all these dudes are trying to kill you.
It's a much better game than I'd been expecting given the focus people had on this game exploring Lara's past in such a brutal fashion, and it's worth at least a play if you've got time for it.
|Posted: Sunday, March 17th, 2013 |
A New Site
Posted by Mike Renner
It'd occurred to me some time ago that I had a lot of comics and works that just needed to be consolodated into a single website. Whether it's my sprited works, my collaboration comic with Alan, or even my writing, I had a lot of work that didn't need to be spread across sixteen different websites.
On top of that, I've long desired to just make a blog site that I can just ramble in for some time. It's a simple blog and I don't have anything like Wordpress or the like, because to be perfectly honest, I don't want to administrate that kind of thing. It's a hassle.
I've decided to archive every comic series I've worked on up to this point, with the exception of Get Blue Spheres (which is more of a Psy production that I just helped with). This includes my two most notable comics (In Wily's Defense and Fetch Quest), which have their own buttons in the navigation bar up top. It also includes Tales of Southtown and Two Doctors, which can be found on the Works tab above.
I'm still tinkering with this blasted thing for the next couple of days. Hopefully, nothing breaks.
|Posted: Friday, March 15th, 2013 |
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