2016 Year-End Update

All attempts to update this blog regularly have been dismal failures, but I can’t really complain, because this was on account of me writing other stuff I have no desire to make public just yet. More on that below.

Still, a blog is a weird little beast to maintain. It takes a writer’s ego to imagine I can make stuff up and people will be interested, but it takes a bit more than that to say I will not make stuff up and people will still be interested in what I have to say. About actual things. It’s something I did convince myself of for long years through my early twenties, but which I find difficult to take as a given now. More on that, once again, below.

(That last paragraph is why I have no inclination to comment on 2016 in general. You don’t need me to tell you how you feel about it.)

Work Report

This was my first complete year (i.e. Jan-Dec) working as a freelance comic-book letterer, and it went well. You can see a near-comprehensive list of my past, current and upcoming projects (apart from a few rather exciting books coming up soon) on my portfolio page here.

Some things that are not on there:

  1. My Bartkira collaboration with artist Anand Radhakrishnan.
  2. Gangs of Malaya for Live Mint by writer C. G. Salamander and artist Sunando C.
  3. More Chakra the Invincible short stories for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which you can read here along with the ones we did last year.

A list won’t convey how happy I was to get to work with some of my favourite writers, artists, colourists, designers and editors of recent years, and to see a new Indian comics scene emerging with Black Mumba and its associated projects, many of which I’m lucky enough to be a part of.

I’ve also been working on my craft, and have now moved almost entirely to drawing sound effects by hand rather than manipulating fonts.

I’ve also begun creating my own balloon fonts for use in future comics, as you will be aware if you follow me on Instagram.

Sitting Duck was my attempt at making a clean, mainstream font of the sort used in superhero comics. It was mostly a way to teach myself how to make fonts, and it worked for that. It stands complete at v1.2.

Mighty Mouse is my attempt to make a bouncy, eccentric font to use in more Indie-style comics. It’s nearly done, with some cleanup left on the italics of both weights.

Gillain is my tribute to Eurocomics lettering, and is inspired by the hand-lettering of Jijé (for whom the font is named), Moebius, Dave Taylor and the like. I had intended to finish Gillain v1.0 by the end of 2016, but my decision to add another weight (bold italics) and to take a 15-day vacation in early December (more on which below) put paid to that goal. Currently, I’m hoping to finish a workable version by the end of January. It’s not, frankly, a font that will be complete for a long time given my intention to load it with autoligatures (85 and counting), but it should be usable in actual comics within another month.

No Smoking

I quit smoking on 30th September this year, coincidentally exactly a year after I quit my job (I guess it was just time for me to do something new). So at the end of 2016, I hadn’t had a single puff for 92 days and 8.5 hours.

This was my third attempt to quit smoking, and the first one to feel like it might work long-term. Each time before this, there would come a point when I’d convince myself I had control over the habit, and that a puff or two wouldn’t hurt. This time, the trick was to convince myself that I didn’t have control and that the only way to throw off the addiction was to admit that and quit nonetheless. So far, so good, although I’ll have to accept the constant hunger of something being missing, and being five minutes from my next cigarette forever.

Bike Trip

One of the highlights of 2016 was a 4500-km motorbike trip I took with a friend in early December. Our main destinations were Agra/Fatehpur Sikri and Amritsar/Wagah, apart from which our goal was to ride as much as we could (twelve full days of long-distance riding rather than the nine on our last bike trip).

A very enjoyable trip overall, about which I might write more on the blog soon.

2017: Writing

In a fit of reckless optimism, I have decided to make it my goal in 2017 to return to writing fiction properly. I had already spent the last few months compiling ideas for two possible novels and a comic, but I have hereby decided that shit must get real. Since all three of these have terrible working titles, I’m going the Warren Ellis route and assigning them codenames.

  1. PROJECT ANNIVERSARY: This book is intended as my love letter to tobacco, and I’d like to finish a first draft exactly a year since I quit smoking, hence the codename. Current status: 20 pages of story notes, 60 pages of research, 1.5 chapters (out of an estimated 30) written.
  2. PROJECT TRIO: This is an attempt to amalgamate three sff books that I came up with at various points over the last few years, which I recently realised should actually be one book. That is, however, not why the codename is ‘Trio’. Current status: 30 pages of scribbles, 25% of an outline, nothing written.
  3. PROJECT TWOFER: This is a 6-issue comic book I outlined in my early twenties and left cooking precisely so that I could come back and script it when I felt better capable of handling the tone. I have no idea what I’ll do with it once it’s scripted, but I’m leaving that thought for later. Current status: Nearly ten years of thinking about it, nothing written.

The intention is to finish a workable first draft of each of these by the end of 2017, and then decide whether to do anything with them or to dump them in a metaphorical drawer and forget about them.

I’ll be writing each of these for a week or two before switching to one of the others when I get bored, so I hope to be posting weekly updates with a few more details on the shapes of these books. No wordcounts, though, because a. I don’t know how long these novels will be and b. wordcounts mean nothing in comics. Plus, this is supposed to be fun.

2017: Colouring

I’ve been taking a couple of online courses on colouring comics over the last month, and I want to get decent at it this year.

I have no plans to move into colouring comics – the intention is to use the knowledge to improve my use of colour in my lettering beyond simply picking from the palette of the book.

The general theory here is that the more I understand about the other aspects of making comics, the better-equipped I will be to do my job. I’m already familiar with writing, editing and production; this felt like the logical next step.

Also, I did promise myself at the age of 25 that I’d like to write, draw, colour and letter an entire comic by the time I’m 35, so with four years to go, I need to learn how to draw and colour well enough to do that. Thought I’d start the wrong way round.

2017: Travel

I would quite like to finally travel outside India this year. I’d wanted to do this in 2016, but work made me a lot busier than I’d expected, and I had to choose between general travel and the bike trip, and you know which one I chose.

Separately or combined with this, I also want to attend a big comics convention outside India. I’m currently scoping out which would make the most sense. I’ll (hopefully) keep the blog updated about that.

2017: Blogging

Finally, I’m making the rash promise to myself that I’ll post to this blog at least three times a week. And that’s not on average, that’s supposed to be per week.

This is the only legitimate New Year’s resolution in this post, because everything else is stuff I’ve already started.

I love the idea of blogging regularly, but tend to be too precious about things I want to write about. I’ve started and abandoned too many epic blogposts when maybe I should’ve concentrated on finishing smaller ones.

Topics will likely vary between progress reports on the three books, lettering and font design, adventures in learning how to colour stuff, and anything else that comes to mind. Probably, given the beginning of this post, not current affairs.

Have a great year, folks!

Go Fund: Linda Medley and Castle Waiting

Linda Medley has been making Castle Waiting since 1994. Written and drawn (and occasionally coloured) by her, and lettered mostly by Todd Klein, Castle Waiting is one of my absolute favourite comics.

It is stunningly drawn, and the writing has wit, emotion, and a sense of infectious joy. Most stories I read tend to affect me on an aesthetic or formal level, but Castle Waiting is an exception in that it gets me in the heart, and seemingly effortlessly.

But of course, making such a comic takes a lot of work, and recently this has been difficult for Medley, which is why she’s set up a GoFundMe page to get some financial support – not only to work on her book, but to help her with some important real-life stuff. From her campaign page:

Several years ago I was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, and took some time off from creating artwork to rest, and adapt to new modes of working. Now I’m currently hard at work on Castle Waiting Volume 3 and hope to have the first 150-page installment ready for publication next year … but I’ll need your financial help to be able to continue working on it.

I am raising funds to help cover my living and ongoing physical therapy expenses for the next year. I will be losing my present living situation in the next month, and currently don’t have enough to get into a new place. I really want to continue working on Castle Waiting and desperately need a secure home – and the peace of mind that comes with it! – to do so.

So far, between the GoFundMe page and her Patreon page, she has received enough to cover three months’ worth of living expenses, but she could use more.

If you’d like to know more about Castle Waiting, you can watch the video on her campaign page and also read snippets from the comic at the Facebook page, including an excerpt from one of my favourite Castle Waiting stories – Wilgeforte (which she had originally posted in full, free to read, last Women’s Day).

I urge you to help out a marvellous comic-book creator currently in need.

Etsy Store

Kickstarter: DOPE by Trina Robbins

(This is the first in an occasional series of write-ups on crowdfunding campaigns I’d like to see reach their funding goal.)

Drew Ford, who recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to republish Red Range, is back with a campaign to republish Trina Robbins’s comic-book adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s Dope.

Robbins is an absolute luminary of comics. She was part of SF fandom back in the ’50s, and she was one of the earliest female artists to be involved in the underground comix movement. She co-produced It Ain’t Me, Babe, the first comic to be made entirely by women, and was later involved in Wimmen’s Comix. She was also the first woman to draw a Wonder Woman comic.

Her adaptation of Dope was originally serialised in Eclipse Magazine starting in 1981, and has never been collected. From the Kickstarter page:

The story centers around a talented young actress, who becomes fatally ensnared in London’s mysterious and glittery drug culture of the early 20th century. Dope was both the first novel to speak openly about the world’s international drug trade, and the first story to center around the death of a celebrity by drug overdose. Robbin’s comic book adaptation was first published in 1981, serialized within the pages of Eclipse Magazine (and later, Eclipse Monthly). The story started out in a black and white magazine, and finished up in color comic book. Since its initial publication, it has never been collected in any form. With the success of this Kickstarter campaign, we will produce the first ever complete collection of Dope, in glorious black and white, on glossy 105 lb paper, at 8.25″ x 11″, the way it was first intended by the creator.

Ford’s Red Range campaign had a bit of a rough time getting funded, although the last few days thankfully saw a lot of contributions that pushed it almost $5000 over its goal. I was a little surprised to see how shaky its course went, considering it involved people like Joe Lansdale, Sam Glanzman and Steve Bissette, and offered sketch rewards from artists like Rufus Dayglo, Russ Braun, Tim Truman, Stan Sakai and a veritable truckload of other remarkable artists. From the outside, it seemed like a combination of not enough media coverage and perhaps too many reward combinations that might have confused potential backers.

I’d like Dope’s course to be smoother, and it seems like it’s well on its way, having reached 37% funding in its first five days.

Dope still has a few too many rewards offered, in my opinion, but this time they’re cleanly presented, and the page is much less confusing as a whole than last time. I haven’t tracked media coverage for this one, but hopefully Robbins’s involvement will help on that front.

If you’re interested in this project, I encourage you to contribute, and to share it on whichever platform you think will help. Click here to visit the campaign page.