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January 28, 2005

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Dale, who writes the comics.

the house invisible

My house is disintegrating. The hot reptilian king slumbers in the floor boards, jackknifes out like Nosferatu. His scratches at my door are confusing instructions.

"Are you going?" he asks

Other things that are invisible to the ignorant:

most abstract concepts
the invisible woman

This week one of my students shined a laser pointer in my eye while I was teaching. I called her parents. "It will take two weeks for the medication to set in" was the reply. This was slightly less unsettling than, "I'll get 'em" which means "with a belt."

I asked her to write a page on the phrase, "permanent retinal damage"

How did David get those great dots in his post? I would like some.


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David, who draws the comics.

I'm not really married.

Finally the new issue is complete, and I can slide off the saddle. My wife will be so relieved.

Have you noticed? We've updated four times this month! Not since August in the hazy, distant summer of 2004 has such a thing occurred. Let it be known that ALILBTDII is a weekly comic!

And now, for the curiously insatiable, a behind-the-scenes tour of my drawing process, like we tried once before with issue #13. This time, I have gone into excessive detail in order to test the loyalty of our readers.

Fish Legs from the Primordial Ocean

01 / Rough Sketch - I'd already done some sketches on paper, so I had a pretty good idea of how things were going to be arranged. Sometimes I start drawing on the computer right away without sketching first, but that often leads me into a more protracted process with lots of complex rearranging throughout. • In the first panel, the lone figure is present but will appear differently in later stages. • The large figure with arm extending into the space below is already in place, as is the bed in overhead view. Above it, a close-up which was later cut would have repeated and emphasized the action of the figure in the bed. • At the bottom, the final two panels are already there, although I didn't know what to do with them until much later. I just knew I wanted a "tapering off" feeling. • The large circle one quarter down the page is a bit mysterious and doesn't appear to have any correlative in the final piece. It really is just a circle and was never meant to be anything else. Looking at the overall composition, I sensed that the circle would be a convergence point for several major lines; the comic would radiate from there.

02 / Getting More Specific - Already much of the major work is done. The large head at the bottom would later become a more distant figure, the close-up above the bed (center, right) would disappear, and the close-up in the first panel of the second line would also pull out some, but most everything is in place. I will become less and less a composer and more a musician, enacting and embellishing the idea.

03 / Introduction of Color - With the last episode (#20), I added color only after finishing all the line work. For these comics, color doesn't take half as long as the line drawing, so when I save it that way, I enjoy it as a big, sudden payoff after a lot of careful labor. But this time I wanted to get a sense of my colors before moving on, to help develop the atmosphere in my mind, I suppose. • A couple scenes were to be overcast or rainy; although red, green, purple and blue are pretty saturated, the rest of the colors have a lot of gray. • My blue shirt in the large "looking up at the rain" pose is greenish and grayish in order to push it back, to protect the clarity of the overhead view. • The Hot Reptilian King in panel one has attained a more exciting pose... although it's still very static. "Excitement lines" are doing too much work.

04 / Balancing the Page - Time to pull things together a little bit. Everything was looking too floaty and I didn't want a bunch of shoulder-to-shoulder panels like episode #17 this time. Some heavy black lines broke things up nicely in a somewhat Mondrian-like way. • Some panels are tinted orange to help balance the page as a whole. As I adjusted the colors later on, this tinting effect was lessened and I think the balance of the page suffered somewhat. But I liked the orange-heavy palette; it reminded me of Winsor McCay (Little Nemo). Dale pointed out that the floating bed did not diminish this association. • In the first panel on the second line, the close-up has become a medium shot. • Living room and bedroom scenes are more articulated. • At this point I probably felt that I was almost done, but there were still hours to go.

05 / Correcting the End - Here I started redrawing things that looked boring or wrong. The most significant change is in the bottom panel, where the close-up became a head-and-shoulders viewed from greater distance. The close-up felt too hopeless, as though The Hot Reptilian King's words had filled me with sinking dread. Instead, I wanted it to feel like I had been momentarily distracted from my frivolous activity. There had to be more drama in the waves than in the face. • Both figures in the first panel are redrawn. The Hot Reptilian King looks more radical than before. As for my face, I kind of prefer the rougher one. • Waves now extend along the full length of the second panel. I've abandoned the tentatively indicated door, which was to lead in from the first panel. Enough trickiness for now! • The figure looking up in panel three looks a lot nicer. I'd been putting the arm in different places -- holding the strap, on the hip -- but decided to go for something less difficult! The girl is moved left and likes it better there. • The large sleeping figure has been redrawn from a lower, more interesting angle. • A bunch of other things are slightly better than before.

06 / This And That - At this point I probably called Dale and told him, "it's almost done!" although it would take another day (thanks to school and other interferences). • Lines are mostly all done, although they look messy because the colors under them are a mess (often because the lines they were drawn for have moved). • The last scene is virtually finished, although other parts still languish in unfinishedness. I try to advance a work in an even, unified way, but I think I just got stuck in that scene, enjoying it too much, and didn't want to leave. • The final two panels have finally been given a purpose. Earlier versions show my head, then nothing, suggesting that I have drowned, although that was never my intention. Instead, I'm catching the ball, which I think ends the story on the right kind of note. • Four discrete instances of the beach ball form a sweep in the meta-meta-meta-land of the comic page, where everything exists simultaneously. This is one of my favorite pranks. (See books in #13.) • The now-defined shoreline (middle, right, overhead view) completes another line converging where that circle was in the earliest sketch. I guess the circle became the face of the grandfather clock. Now it looks to me like the shore line and the invisible roof where the rain is falling (both wet/dry divisions) are hands of the clock, and everything is rotating around that clock face -- all the furniture and rugs and me -- showing the passing of time in the room. Maybe that's why everything is such a mess, because it's turning.

07 / Finished (Almost) - Okay! It's done! Clouds, scales, droopy dolls. Everything is done except for changing the color of certain black areas to set them apart and increase spacial depth (see final version). I hadn't tried this before, and it worked pretty well, except on the large sleeping figure, which in the final version is too faint and throws off the composition. I think I may fiddle with that. • Also in the final version, I let that Winsor McCay association take the reign and borrowed some 1920s style for the word bubbles.


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(c) David Hellman and Dale Beran 2005