11th Sep2015

Director’s Commentary – Mark Buckingham on Fairest!

by Chris Thompson

With Mark Buckingham …
In our latest commentary, Mark Buckingham takes us on a guided tour through the creation of the final Fairest story arc (collected as Volume 5), The Clamour For Glamour. Mark discusses what it was like writing for another artist (Russ Braun) – sharing stories, revealing secrets, and giving the kind of insight you couldn’t get anywhere else. So enjoy, and keep your eyes peeled for future Director’s Commentaries!
To get in touch, send feedback or submit projects for consideration, please email reviews@popculturehound.com. And if you missed last week’s episode (or any others) you can find them right here or subscribe via iTunes.
You can support Pop Culture Hound by clicking here to make a donation or pressing the DONATE button below. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, and will help us to maintain the site and get new equipment.

Chris Thompson’s Twitter: @popculturehound
Chris Thompson’s website: popculturehound.com
Copyright © Chris Thompson 2015

26th Aug2015

Director’s Commentary – Chip Zdarsky on Howard The Duck!

by Chris Thompson

With Chip Zdarsky …
In our latest commentary, Chip Zdarsky takes us through Howard The Duck – sharing stories, revealing secrets, and giving the kind of insight you couldn’t get anywhere else.
If you’ve heard Chip before (and if not you can listen to him here) then you’ll know just how funny he can be. So enjoy, and keep your eyes peeled for future Director’s Commentaries!
To get in touch, send feedback or submit projects for consideration, please email reviews@popculturehound.com. And if you missed last week’s episode (or any others) you can find them right here or subscribe via iTunes.
You can support Pop Culture Hound by clicking here to make a donation or pressing the DONATE button below. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, and will help us to maintain the site and get new equipment.

Chris Thompson’s Twitter: @popculturehound
Chris Thompson’s website: popculturehound.com
Chip Zdarsky’s Twitter: @zdarsky
Chip Zdarsky’s Tumblr: zdarsky.tumblr.com
Copyright © Chris Thompson 2015

14th Mar2013

The THRE315IVE (315): Three Writers, One Process

by Chris Thompson

We here at the ThreeOneFive love Pop Culture Hound, so when Chris asked us to do a guest blog we were all about it. We then did what any writer would do, and waited a month to start working on it. Sorry Chris.

To make up for it, we’ve decided to do something special and dip into our top-secret archives to reveal just how our three man writing team functions. But first, a brief recap for those unfamiliar with all things ThreeOneFive:

Our collective is made up of Evin Dempsey, Matt Heistand, and Dan Fifield and we have a weird way of making comics. To start, Evin creates what we call a bible or a rough outline of the important plot points for a given project. It’s a very raw and almost unreadable block of text that has to be decoded into real-people talk by Matt and Dan before it is ready to be turned into a script.

Matt then takes over, writing a script for our artist. This step takes forever because Matt loves to take breaks. Dialogue, at this point, is left very vague because we’re going to argue about it for a long time later.

Next, we argue about the dialogue for a long, long time. Then Dan, the man who makes all our Internet magic happen, enters the arena and sniffs out any busted logic or super-bunk dialogue. After all that we send the script to the artist and hope for the best. So far it’s worked out.

Congratulations, you’ve just about made it through the boring part …

Look now, brave reader, as we lay bare the inner workings of our collective and open our Gmail chat archives. Please note, this is most certainly a terrible idea that we’ll grow to regret more and more with each passing day. Enjoy!

First we’ll take you behind the scenes of our all-ages weekly webcomic, DEEP DIVE DAREDEVILS.

2:39 PM Matthew: Dude, I came up with the Captain’s speech.

2:39 PM Evin: Dude, I made a pizza sandwich

Matthew: REALLY

2:40 PM Evin: Yes, I made two french bread pizzas out of a hoagie top and bottom and then put salami between them.

Matthew: nice



3:09 PM Evin: Rousing.

3:57 PM Matthew: Well, that was the point

We try to maintain a level of professionalism and netiquette at all times, and the results can be seen on this page.

This next entry answers the often-asked question, “How did you come up with the title Deep Dive Daredevils.” The answer? It was either that or The Aqua-Nuts. Seriously.

Dan: Oh, and I still don’t have a name for the Crew

Matthew: me either

5:56 PM here are a couple probable rejects

The Abnormal Aquanaut Society

The Union of Professional Aquanauts

Dan: ummm … what about switching abnormal with Adventurous

5:57 PM Matthew: maaaaaybeeee

something better than adventurous

5:58 PM Dan: The Unabashed Aquanaut Society

5:59 PM Matthew: why would they be abashed to be an aquanautical society

Dan: hell if I know

Matthew: hmmm

What about …

Dan: all i know is they aren’t ashamed of who they are 😉

Matthew: The Aquanautical Society

6:00 PM Dan: that’s not bad

Matthew: still not great thought … nothing is making my balls tingle

6:03 PM Dan: this just popped in … just simply “The Aqua-nuts”

Matthew: are you fucking kidding me?

As you can see, writing as a team has its stumbling blocks though, and early on in our bid for comic book writing immortality we had many a fight about who should get top billing on the projects we had planned. Writing as the ThreeOneFive didn’t seem to satisfy any of our rampant egos, so we kicked around a few ideas.

Evin: We should conglomerate into a pen name.

Matthew: I’ve thought about that

Evin: Cocky Mcbonermane

Or Noah Rection

Matthew: better

Evin: But for sure Michael Taurus

Matthew: the best

6:20 PM Evin: When we write Xmen we will use the Pen name Sarge Giantgrowth.

6:21 PM And I will retcon Gambit to be Rogue’s dad!

Matthew: wowzers, gross

6:22 PM Evin: I know, he traveled to the past to fight the Time Skrulls.

After, he was stranded there and fell for a poor southern girl that reminded him of his true love.

6:23 PM Matthew: NOOOooooooooooooooo

Evin: I just wrote the best Xmen in the last 5 years.

Matthew: but he can’t fuck rogue anyway so it is unrequited incest?

Evin: Yes, man.

Evin: Unrequited incest.

6:24 PM Matthew: we should write a book with that as the title

Evin: It will be part of a 16 part Marvel crossover.

6:25 PM Evin: X-men: Unrequited Incest part 6: The taste of mommy.

6:26 PM Matthew: part 7: tecno-organic incest

6:27 PM that’s when cable fucks Jean grey

Evin: How did that happen?

Matthew: cable is the son of Jean and Scott

Evin: You can’t just have incest for the sake of incest.

Incest must always be handled artistically.

Matthew: Chapter 10: double team your phoenix mommy

Evin: You’ve compromised the integrity of what I created.

6:29 PM Matthew: there’s a lot of incest possibilities in the X-Men universe though

like, would it be incest if Wolverine fucked his female clone?

Evin: Fan fic it.

Matthew: no

I’m saving it for X-cest the crossover event

Evin: X-Cest is a good title.

6:31 PM Matthew: I know

Evin: I get top billing.

Matthew: no way

maybe on the rogue chapters, but the wolvie chapters are all mine

Evin: Fine.

6:32 PM Matthew: fine

Evin: Then Xorn and Magneto and other Xorn all fuck.

Matthew: YES

Evin: “have you ever put the head of your dick into a star logan?”

Sadly we don’t have any art for that, but it does answer another often-asked question: How do you guys write the family-friendly DEEP DIVE DAREDEVILS, and The First Lady of Vulgarity, BABY GIRL?

If you’re super-cool, you probably read BABY GIRL’s first adventure, Lost Treasure of the Afrika Korps, when it appeared as a back up in Joe Keatinge’s HELL YEAH. (Like I did. – Chris) If you missed it in print, it is now available for FREE online at Challenger Comics.

We’ve searched exhaustively through our Gmail chats about BABY GIRL and 99.99% are just not in anyway appropriate for human consumption. But, here is a sneak peak at a future BABY GIRL adventure …

12:45 PM Evin: The russian teenager part stays

12:47 PM Matthew: maybe, maybe not

12:48 PM Evin: it works with the dildo part later

Yeah, we’d better leave it there …

To the Future,

Cocky McBonermane

You can keep up with everything ThreeOneFive related on their website: www.thethreeonefive.com.

31st Jan2013

Comics Commentary – Sloane Leong’s Prophet #33 Back-Up

by Chris Thompson

When Chris invited me to do a guest post on my Prophet #33 backup (which you can read here: sloanesloane.com/labyrinth.html) I thought ‘well that’s easy enough, I’ll just throw together a little walkthrough on how I made my comic’. This thought was immediately followed by ‘wait, that’s boring’. My actual comic-making procedure is pretty straightforward, I sketch out ideas, pencil layouts, ink, color and then letter just like everyone else.

Now I’m going to take a few steps back and try dissecting my creative process from conception to execution, which is something I get asked about quite a bit. ‘What inspired this? How did you think of that? I could never come up with something like that.’ The answers are long-winded but the process is simple. Inspiration is not magical or hard to attain and creativity is not a gift. Inspiration is the breathing in, the consumption of things you like. Creativity is the exhalation, what you decide to do with what’s inside of you. Simple yet complex cerebral procedures. Here’s how I work:

Even though I only had a few pages to work with on this project I didn’t want to skimp out on having at least the semblance of a story for the reader to chew on, especially after they’ve read a whole diabolically entertaining issue of Prophet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with silent comics or plotless vignettes but I wanted to push myself. I usually start to conceptualize ideas by sketching or writing out words or ideas I want to explore.

For this, the first words I wrote were:

aliens (DUH), sickness, intestine, prison, constriction, chase, parasite, escape, polyps

Which I then ruminated on and revised as:

A sentient intestine-like cave alien functioning as a prison/warden observes a pair of human inmates flee from their parasitic correctional officers and attempt to escape.

That’s paraphrased of course but there’s the story. The only thing I decided to changed was focusing on one human inmate instead of two. Bill from Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup sums up the conceptualizing segment of my process the best: “They don’t mean anything when I do them. Just a mess. Afterwards, I find something to hang onto, like that leg. Then it sorts itself out and adds up. It’s like finding a clue in a detective story.”

I don’t worry too much about theme or meaning when I’m creating my comics as they usually develop naturally over the course of the comic’s development and in a way that is not too ham-handed. Besides switching around a few story elements, I prefer not to edit my stories so they fit any certain narrative paradigms or run them through any monomythic meat grinders. I mostly just ignore these pesky ‘universal patterns’ altogether. I’m human. I make human stories. That’s all the universality I need.

Next step is usually cogitating on scenes and page layouts. I don’t thumbnail often because I can never get the sense of time when I look at them though I will sometimes thumbnail specific panels to better their composition. Otherwise I prefer to just vaguely pencil and work out the layout on the 11×14 page I’ll be inking on. This doesn’t take very long and I only revise layouts once I’ve penciled all of the pages that compromise the scene that page is in. In this case I penciled them all first. Character and setting design also happens simultaneously during this step which usually just involves a lot of visual reference research and sketching until I like something. The first thing I drew was this:

Then I jumped straight into roughing out my pages in blue pencil which is basically a lot of boxes and squiggles that represent people. Paneling (or not paneling) is obviously a critical part of comics but I tend to obsess over it, probably more than I should. Masamune Shirow and Dino Battaglia’s beautifully composed panel compositions were a big inspiration for this. Panels need to be attractive and directional but overall they need to be invisible. They are the bass player of comics.

I try to remember that panels convey time and time influences emotion. Music is temporal by it’s very nature and so I tend to gravitate towards thinking about the dynamic between emotion and music when I approach paneling. “… the heartbeat follows musical rhythm. Stimulating music increases the heart rate and sedative music reduces the heart rate.” (Nordic Journal of Music Therapy) Rhythm is an intrinsic part of us. Panel content and size controls duration and the visual tempo of each page manipulates the emotion of the reader. A flurry of small staccato panels are evocative of a heartbeat and well-used negative space on a page will sometimes make us hold our breath as our eyes move over the page, searching, absorbing.

Once I have my scenes, layouts and shots established I start to ink. During this time is when I start to think about the writing. I usually jot down notes on my sketchbook pages and pencil in empty bubbles as placeholders. A few rather arbitrary narrative goals I latched onto in this story was narrating from a non-human perspective, developing a character which you never truly ‘see’ and world-building without exposition, keeping the narration personal.

The story itself developed from my own fascination and horror with the human body and illness. The sentient world that the prisoner finds herself in basically mirrors her own body, magnified a thousand fold. She swims through cavernous veins, walks across embryonic bridges and falls into a smoking field of twitching polyps. She is suffering the Droste effect of being consumed over and over again, experiencing something similar to her own viscera, well, viscerally. The physical boundaries of the alien and the prisoner are blurred and she finds herself caught in a liminal state of being: inside and outside, infection and infected, freed yet still trapped.

There’s also the quality of identity dysphoria as we spectate ‘with’ the Warden and observe the movements of the prisoner who thinks she is heroically escaping from a monster. To the Warden, the prisoner’s motivations and goals are essentially meaningless and puzzling, feelings which the Warden’s narration forces us to consider while we watch and try to identify with the only character we can completely see, the prisoner. The Warden and prisoner both consider one another utterly abject, foreign organisms forced to exist in the vulnerable spaces of each other’s bodies.

I also find it important to pinpoint what things I’m pulling from and why, to insure I’m distilling the concept I want to its purest form. Without the conscious clarity of what I’m after visually or narratively, it usually leaves me with something that’s not all the way there. It’s lukewarm, diluted. The intent is there but not the full execution which can be frustrating and disappointing for myself and especially the reader. For this comic I was thinking of the solemn horror and claustrophobic isolation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Hour of the Wolf, Cronenberg and Lynch on body horror, Tomomi Kobayashi’s color palettes and AM from Harlan Ellison’s short story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.

At this point, the atmosphere felt like it needed to be soberly disconnected and no one does that better than Asano Inio. The pacing of the narration in Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph is bleakly austere and slow moving in a manner that adds to the morose atmosphere of the story, which fits quite well with my initial Bergman inspiration. I thought that mood and pacing fit with the Warden’s ability to be omnipresent, observing and reflecting on the decisions her prisoner makes and solemnly predicting her next moves before she makes them which adds to the almost funereal feeling of her journey.

And that’s it*. Hopefully this was a little more interesting than your usual walkthrough post and if not I at least hope it encourages other artists to scrutinize and share their creative processes. And of course be sure to pick up Prophet #33 at your local store or online if you can!

* Other notable steps in my creative process I neglected to mention: worrying, procrastinating, anxiously drawing and throwing out pages and notes, staring into the abyss of the internet, throwing things, worrying, e-mailing friends for their opinions, worrying, working on other things to take my mind off what I should be doing, e-mailing my friends to make sure they’re not just being nice about it and, lastly, worrying.

You can find more of my comic and illustration work on my website sloanesloane.com and Tumblr sloaneshutup.tumblr.com.

13th Jan2013

Comics Commentary – Daniel Irizarri’s Prophet #32 Back-Up

by Chris Thompson

Hello, I’m pretty certain none of you know me. My name is Daniel Irizarri and I’m here because Chris Thompson very graciously asked me to write something for you; his audience. Why? I have no idea, but it might have something to do with the fact that I was privileged to have a short comic showcased as a back up in the most recent issue of Image Comics’ Prophet, drawn by Simon Roy. Of course, this is just me taking a stab in the dark about it. So here’s a little insight on how it got made, and what thoughts went into the story (I hope) you all read. Before that, here’s a little about myself.

Prophet #32 marks my American comics debut but I’ve been drawing comics since long before that. It wasn’t until 2007 though, that I decided to make work that was actually presentable online. I wrote and drew Mecha-Reign which was,a short-lived, self-published series that I would work on between classes and the semblance of a social life that I had back then. I finished a total of 4 issues that can still be read over at my deviantart account (dio-03.deviantart.com), but don’t expect more anytime soon.

A lot happened between then and the Prophet back-up. For a time I thought working pencil samples for Marvel and DC was how you got into comics. For some it still is, but for me it became pages going to waste on imaginary fan-stories and not anything that had actual meaning to me. So I started concentrating more on sci-fi and the freedom that it gave me in terms of content. Things could be weird and glow and look fun and everyone could have space-suits. I felt like I had truly gotten somewhere personally as an artist.

So when I was talking to Brandon Graham about what I wanted to do for the short, I showed him some of the sci-fi illustrations that I had worked on, and wrote out a good synopsis of a story I could do with one. Brandon was unbelievably cool about it, in the sense that he just trusted me to see which-ever one I picked through to the best of my abilities, which is great but also a terribly daunting. Still, I outlined the plot and hoped that my abilities would be enough to craft a decent 5 page short story.

I tried not to go nuts on little details but made just enough to actually work on the story. The advantages of working short stories is that you need relatively little plotting and design to make a consistent world. You create enough to fill the page and then you hope the reader will fill in the rest with their imaginations. I just need to know enough of the story for me to start drafting pages.

Drafts are where you solve all the story-telling problems so that when you do start drawing you can concentrate on making it look pretty and not on glaring continuity problems, ideally, since I still found myself making changes and corrections from draft to drawn page. Still, this way I was able to see how the story looked in sequence and knew that the pace was going to work for the kind of story I wanted to make.

Page 1 – The initial idea was to have one image that would bookend the story and sort of give you a visual conclusion to the action. So in page one it was important to give you a good clean shot of Verde Luz as a thriving, green and beautiful planet. It had to look like that sort of paradise tourism companies sell you in brochures. The other thing was making sure no one looked at the creature in the second panel, and through the coloring I was able to do that pretty successfully. All the set up for the next 4 pages is here, and we have a flashlight conveniently illuminating everything of interest.

Page 2 – In page two, and really every page, I was trying to really take advantage of everything that color brings to the story. The flash light keeps you interested in the actions, but it also serves to hide the fungus creature in that last panel, by contrast. I’m actually really happy with how the reveal looked, having it be illuminated by the containers internal light, and it’s always fun to have scenes like this juxtaposed with positive or celebratory dialogue.

Page 3 – Since this was a 5 page story, I was very aware that by this page I had to have the mutant fungus monster scaring her, doing this through the glass was the best for that, and it let me push the creepiness for 2 more panels before her big realization. My friend and assistant-person hated the yellow I used in that third panel because it came out of nowhere, but I didn’t care. It’s panic, it’s yellow, it’s bright and loud. When I showed it initially to a friend and when he asked me what font I used for it, it was like a little victory in my head, cause I had drawn those by hand on the wacom tablet.

Page 4 – This was the escape page. It’s always tricky to show movement and transitions from place to place clearly. Panel 4 did wonders for this, and the coloring helped in spades as well, since the room she was coming from was brighter than the one she was going into. Lastly, a moment a lot of people responded well to, the reveal that the poor thing wasn’t a terrible ol’ monster but just a lonely creature that had fallen for the first person it had seen in years. I wanted people to just feel a little bad for the guy and making a monster like that look sad isn’t easy.

Page 5 – Here’s where I tied it all up and finished with the other bookend, the view of Verde Luz and the space bridge as it is after years of deterioration. Of course, for that you have to get the main character on the ship and out of harms way. I feel like I managed to do that at a reasonable pace, and I’m pretty proud of the sequence in general and directing the readers eyes (hopefully) to where I wanted them looking.

All in all, I think that the comic worked. Believe it or not, the story is sort of layered if you want to read into it further, but regardless I’m just happy to have the work out there and have people enjoying it. I’m never totally comfortable with my writing, so I can’t really give you my honest thoughts about it, but I will say that I liked writing the conversations between the main character and ship. I could write those for pages and pages after these 5 and I wouldn’t get tired. Who knows, this might not be the last time you all get to see these two out in the depths of space.