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The making of a comical

I've had a number of people ask me what's involved and how much time it takes to produce the Sarah Connor Comicals, so I thought I'd put a post together.

There are really two parts to the process: the thinking and the doing. I never know which half is going to torture me more from episode to episode, but one of them surely will, every time. Creative processes are just like that (for me anyway, but I'm guessing most of you know what I'm talking about). Sometimes I have a good deal of it planned out before I begin and sometimes I dive in with one or two ideas and hope it leads me.

So the time it takes varies — widely. I've whipped up a comical in a few hours before and others I've struggled with off and on for days. But whether it's totally fun and goes quickly or drags out and starts to feel like a chore never seems to be a factor in how good it ends up. That, I think, just depends on the way an episode hits me, how much I've got going on and probably what kind of mood I'm in when I work on it.

After I've beat my head against the wall for a while and made some notes, I set up the "studio" (2 clip-on lights on a work table, some poster board and a Canon PowerShot on a tripod). It actually takes quite a while to photograph scenes (way longer than you'd think). The action figures are often uncooperative and I have to Fun Tack them into submission. If the setup doesn't look right, I have to un-Fun Tack them, rearrange and re-Fun Tack them. It can be tedious. There's also this to contend with:



Depending on how many ideas I have when I start, I may go scene-by-scene or I may shoot a bunch of different scenes in succession. Then I take them into PhotoShop for the finishing work. That's where the raw photos become comic panels and also where I end up changing my mind about stuff a lot. That sometimes leads to reshoots, but I also change things around on the fly. I've erased an action figure from a scene before because I couldn't bear to set up the shot a second time and I've pieced-in figures that weren't originally there. I add in backgrounds, objects, I make graphics to use (like the Jesse calendar). And some stuff I create in Illustrator because PhotoShop's vector tools leave much to be desired.

The comical for episode 11 wasn't one of the more amusing ones, but I think I ended up putting more work into it graphically than any previous edition. Partly that may have been me making up for what I felt was kind of a dud, but it's also just that the longer I do these, the more desire I have to make them actually look good. What started as a quick and dirty hack job has turned into a full fledged hobby. And despite whatever frustrations it brings me during the process, I simply love doing it.

For those that have been curious about all this, I've assembled a step-by-step peek at the making of two of the more complex panels from the Self Made Man comical.



Comments

( 14 comments — Add a comment )
cisaac
Dec. 12th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
Ok, that was an extremely interesting read. Thanks for posting this up, and I really found it enlightening. Like a burning T-888 in the moonlight. ;)

Cool as all heck, in short.
roxybisquaint
Dec. 12th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Well good, I'm glad you enjoyed that. Meanwhile, I've been totally dodging Alpine Fields. I still haven't even made it through that episode a second time. I keep getting sidetracked, so I've watched like the first 20 minutes about 4 times. I think I need to get on that tonight.
indiefic
Dec. 12th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
The step-by-step is awesome! I've been wondering how the hell you work your magic.
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 12:55 am (UTC)
I think it was the bowling alley panel from Brothers of Nablus that got people asking me how it was done. Some thought I set up a mini bowling alley set. No, not quite that ingenious. Its just Photoshop ;)
lenageek
Dec. 12th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for giving us a peek inside the complex, creative process! (And I know what it's like to have a fuzzbutt, er, tabby cat to contend with too!) I love the Comicals and really appreciate the effort you put into it since it's so unique and never fails to make me laugh hysterically!
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
Aw thanks.
Two cats, actually. The one I caught trespassing in the studio is the nice one. The other one is over 16 lbs, eats action figures (I have to put the figures in a box if I leave the room for even a minute) and tries to kill me on a daily basis (he's actually knocked me over before when I didn't see him coming). He was such a sweet kitten when we found him under our front porch. Little did we know, it was all an act - a clever con. We're stuck with him now. :P

So... your cat... nice one? killer?

lenageek
Dec. 13th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
Ha! No, I just got her a few months ago and she's a typical tabby - meows very loudly for attention, love, food. Not fat yet, but if she keeps eating the way she does, she'll get there! Likes to sleep on my DVR cable box which she occasionally knocks down, so it could have been the fuzzbutt's fault why it screwed up and didn't record Alpine Fields last week! :D
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
Oh yes, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Your kitty is the culprit! I assume you did eventually see Alpine Fields, though?

Funny you should mention the DVR, though. Mr 16lb cat is afraid our DVR. It spins up in the middle of the night when it updates the schedule and it freaks him out. He normally won't go within 2 feet of it ever. But once in a while when he's feeling *really* brave, I have seen him run up, punch it and dash away. It's hilarious.
zanpakto
Dec. 12th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
your whole family is adorable!
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 12:56 am (UTC)
You mean my kitty cat? She's a sweetie. ^ See comment above for the tale of the other one. Eeek!
gothamite66
Dec. 12th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to demonstrate how you make the comicals. I was always very curious about how you made them. The comicals are always so cool and make me laugh every week. I certainly look forward to the comicals almost as much as the episodes themselves and appreciate all the effort you put into them.
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
Well you know, it's a labor of love. But if other fans didn't enjoy it too, I wouldn't be making them. It'd be kind of creepy if it was just me making action figure comics for myself ;)
devmackie
Dec. 13th, 2008 04:46 am (UTC)
Wow. Just wowza wowza. Thanks for sharing this, Roxy! You're kind of amazing. :-)

(and here I am still struggling to learn how to make non-Saving-Private-Derek versions of the episodes. i bow in your general direction.)

BTW, earlier this evening I went thru the Comicals season backwards. That was a hoot!

-- DEM

Edited at 2008-12-13 04:48 am (UTC)
roxybisquaint
Dec. 13th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
DEM!!!!!!!

Hee. Thanks.

Comicals in reverse could be dangerous. I"m glad you're okay ;)
( 14 comments — Add a comment )

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roxy burglar
roxybisquaint
Roxy Bisquaint

Roxy Bisquaint...

Is self-indulgent. Over thinks everything. Tweets too much. Looks really good in these jeans. Wants to eat butterscotch. Makes herself laugh. Obsesses about aging. Does some crunches. Lives with two ghosts. Procrastinates daily. Measures once, cuts twice. Hates Foo Fighters. Drinks lots of coffee (keep it coming). Puts spiders outside. Brings balance to the force. Draws a perfect curve. Enjoys dark chocolate. Bangs on the drums. Always gets in the slow line. Orders from a menu. Hopes to be reincarnated. Speaks fluent Sarah Connor. Cooks tasty crack theory. Loves a good storm. Dances like a dork. Picks some locks. Tips well. Refuses to share the popcorn. Dreams about the future. Ignores the clock. Sings off key. Has a superpower. Shoots the paper bad guys. Needs some eyeliner. Goes to bed at dawn. Can't resist good smut. Quotes movie lines. Eats whipped yogurt. Lets the story tell itself. Maintains a rich fantasy life. Knows all the mysteries of the gods and of the universe.

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