Argon Zark! remastered

Argon Zark! webcomic remastered

Argon Zark! webcomic remastered

A long time ago (on an internet far far away), I created one of the earliest webcomics, Argon Zark!, a cyberpunk humor/adventure story about a computer geek who has invented a way to be physically transported into and through the World Wide Web.

For a long time I thought it was the very first online comic — simply because I couldn’t find any others for comparison or inspiration — but as search and internet history improved over time, I found there were a couple of others that preceded it by a few months.

Argon Zark!, however, was certainly the first long-form (comic book or graphic novel style) webcomic, the first drawn in a format specifically for the computer screen, the first drawn entirely on the computer and the first to incorporate elements of animation and interactivity.

I pursued the project for a number of years, but I was finally worn down by my inability to make the comic pay for the enormous amount of time it demanded. Selling a few T-shirts here and there didn’t cut it, and the fun wasn’t enough to sustain me through the huge number of hours required to maintain progress.

Weary and somewhat defeated, I felt I had to put the comic aside for lack of funding. It’s been dormant now for more than ten years (sigh).

Since then, however, things have changed. The size and activity of the web has increased by orders of magnitude since the mid 90s, and not only are there now hundreds (if not thousands) of webcomics, there are new resources for funding such projects — notably “crowdfunding” sites, and in particular, Patreon.

Patreon allows those who wish to support a creator’s work to contribute a small amount each month on an ongoing basis. With sufficient numbers of patrons, this can give a creator the leeway to put dedicated time and effort into their project. It’s explained in more detail on the new Argon Zark! Patreon page.

So, I’ve relaunched the comic, with the intention of trying that avenue, and in the process, I’ve taken the interactive elements of the pages out of Flash (which limited its availability on iPads) and put them into HTML5.

I’ve also gone through all of the pages in the most recent, ongoing story, and made them 50% larger, as well as adding to and revising many of the “special features” incorporated into the comics pages.

Some of you who are long time Lines and Colors readers may remember the strip, and even if you’ve read the story thus far, you may find it enjoyable to go back and reread the newly enhanced version.

(You can also still read the original first Argon Zark! story, though it is still at its original size to fit the small resolution of mid-90s computer screens.)

I’m working on a new page, and will post notices on Twitter and on the Patreon page (a day in advance for second level patrons) when new pages go live.

 
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Li-An

Li-An, French comics (bande-dessinees) and illustrations

Li-An, French comics (bande-dessinees) and illustrations

[For some time, I’ve wanted to feature more comics artists from non-English speaking countries — particularly Belgian and French comics (bandes-dessinées) — but I’ve been put off by the challenges of providing links to images and information across language barriers. With this article, I’m going to try a method of providing both original language and Google Translate links to relevant sites and pages.]

Li-An (Jean-Michel Meyer) is a French comics artist perhaps best known for his work on The Tschai Cycle (Le Cycle de Tschaï) (Google Translate link), a multi-volume graphic album adaptation of four novels by Jack Vance (Planet of Adventure) in cooperation with writer Jean-David Morvan.

Li-An was influenced early on by French comics artists like André Franquin and Jean Giraud (Moebius – link to my articles), and his style has developed in a manner in keeping with the aesthetics of Franco-Belgian comics, a clear fresh alternative to the sometimes overworked styles in many mainstream American comics.

Li-An has also worked on numerous other comics projects, from science fiction to documentary to adaptations of classic literature, like Guy de Maupassant’s Famous short story, Boule de Suif (Translate), also with Jean-David Morvan.

Among his other documentary style graphic stories are a fictionalized account of Gauguin’s time in Tahiti (Translate), and a biography of Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain (Translate), part of a series on the history of the Guerlain perfume house.

You will find pages and images from these and other projects on Li-An’s Blog (Translate) under the heading of “Mon Travail” (My Work).

His blog in general covers other topics, including articles on other comics and comics creators, under the topic BD (bandes-dessinées) – (Translate). You can also filter the blog posts to show blog posts about Li-An’s own work (Translate), as well as some of his online comics (Translate).

Li-An’s blog is extensive, and worth exploring. Once you enter by way of a Google translate link, the system should continue to provide paths to translated pages.

 
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Mac Smith, Scurry

Mac Smith, Scurry comic

Mac Smith, Scurry comic

Mac Smith is is a concept artist and illustrator who has largely put aside his work in the gaming industry to concentrate on his own comics project.

Scurry is a post-apocalyptic survival story in which the protagonists are mice. The setting is an abandoned house and the surrounding woods, now mysteriously devoid of humans. With the disappearance of the humans has gone the availability of food their presence provided.

The mouse colony, within which Smith has developed distinct characters and political factions, is faced with the dangers of moving vs. the inevitable decline of food supplies. Scouts are sent out, facing terrifying challenges in the form of cats, wolves, birds of prey and the other dangers that real mice might encounter. These are seen largely in upshots, from the point of view of the mice.

This is the setting in which Smith unwinds his story, told with the cinematic acumen of an experienced concept artist, and beautifully drawn and rendered, with nicely textural attention to naturalistic environments. I particularly enjoy the way he handles rain, mist and similar atmospheric scenes.

Scurry can be read online as a webcomic, which Smith has been supporting through Patreon, offering, among other things, tutorials, walk-throughs and PSD files as perks for supporters.

Smith has also been offering Scurry as a series of printed graphic stories, two of which are available as both hardback and paperback. He is currently raising funds for the third book.

You can find examples of his artwork for the strip on his Artstation and deviantART galleries, and some videos and instructional material on YouTube.

 
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Inktober

Inktober 2017, Jake Parker, Moemai, Max Dunbar, Meredith Dillman, Abbe Branberg, Camille Marie, Chordephra, Loish, Alyssa Tallent, Jason Chan, Mack Chater, Sweeny Boo, Yuko Shimizu, Paul Heaston, Nick Nikopoulos, Stoaty Weasel, Ian McQue, Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde
Inktober started as a challenge illustrator and cartoonist Jake Parker set himself in October of 2009, to draw 31 ink drawings in 31 days.

The goal, as in any exercise of this sort, was to get better end develop a more consistent working practice.

He repeated the idea the next year, promoting the notion that others should join him, and since then it has grown into a worldwide endeavor.

If you search on Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms for #inktober, or #inktober2017, you’ll find the stream of those currently participating.

There is a lot of variation in style and level of ability, from novice to professional, and that’s part of what makes it such a great practice. There is no barrier to entry.

It’s not a contest, there are no real requirements or central authority deciding who can participate.

The rules, such as there are, are simple: do an ink drawing and post it online with the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2017 — repeat every day in October.

Even though this is the fifth day, it’s not too late to join in, I see lots of posts that say “late to the party” or “just joining in”. If you want to, you can throw in a few extra drawings along the way to come up with 31 by the end of the month.

You don’t have to use a dip pen or anything fancy; anything that makes marks in ink counts: ballpoint pens, markers, brush pens, whatever. The drawings don’t have to be elaborate or finished, and you can add color or not as you choose.

If you need suggestions for subject matter, there is an official prompt of 31 subjects on the Inktober website.

You don’t have to follow it, though. Lots of people make their own prompt list, or choose to do a single subject (e.g. cats, cars, portraits or monsters….), or just do whatever comes to you.

You can look through the social media feeds to see what others are doing, or simply for the enjoyment of it.

You will encounter a lot of work by beginners, and this is a Good Thing; part of the value of the practice is encouraging folks to get started. If you’re looking through with the thought of finding professional work, you might do better to seek the more curated experience of following Jake Parker’s Twitter feed, or the @inktober feed.

The images above are just some examples (mostly by professionals) that caught my eye. I particularly enjoy those images in which the artist has included their drawing tools in the photo with the drawing.

(Images above [some of these names are just Twitter handles]: Jake Parker, Moemai, Max Dunbar, Meredith Dillman, Abbe Branberg, Camille Marie, Chordephra, Loish, Alyssa Tallent, Jason Chan, Mack Chater, Sweeny Boo, Yuko Shimizu, Paul Heaston, Nick Nikopoulos, Stoaty Weasel, Ian McQue, Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde)

 
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Luigi (Gigi) Cavenago

Luigi (Gigi) Cavenago, Italian comics artist, Dylan Dog
Luigi Cavenago (also Gigi Cavenago or GigiCave) is an italian comics artist based in Milan.

He is best known for his work on the supernatural detective series Dylan Dog, for which he did cover illustrations as well as interior art.

Cavenago has a forceful, graphic style, contrasting blocks of color with areas of detail and texture. Often he does complex compositions with multiple figures and lots of implied movement.

The only web presence I can find for him is his deviantART gallery and a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2014.

The blog is still worth exploring, though it’s one of those annoying Blogger arrangements with no “Previous Posts” links. You have to use the dated links in the right column to access previous years.

 
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Jean-Claude Mézières

Jean-Claude Mezieres, French comics artist, Valerian and Laureline
I haven’t yet seen the new Luc Besson film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but I have read a number of the French comics (bandes dessinées) on which the movie was based — Valérian and Laureline (alternately, Valerian: Spatio-Temporal Agent), created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.

Mézières is an influential and highly respected French comics artist, though not well known here in the U.S. except among fans of Franco-Belgian comics.

He has worked on a number of comics and illustration projects over the course of his career, but is best known for his work on Valérian and Laureline, and as a concept designer for films like Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (including the designs that inspired the flying taxis).

Valérian and Laureline is a long running science fiction comics series that was originally serialized in the French comics magazine Pilote. It has been tremendously influential on both comics and film.

It’s widely recognized to have been a distinct but uncredited influence on George Lucas in his designs and settings for the original Star Wars trilogy. There is an article on Core 77 that points out some of the parallels between scenes from the movies and prior comic panels from Valérian and Laureline. There is another article pointing out what Star Wars took from Valérian and Laureline on Popular Mechanics.

Mézières’s style is more light and cartoony than the styles usually associated with American super-hero and adventure comics, but it gives the stories and the characters a jaunty, breezy character, and works well with Mézières’s wildly imaginative settings.

The French Valérian and Laureline comics albums have been translated into English, and most recently are being collected into a series of volumes with three of the original French albums (what might be called “graphic novels” here) in each volume. There are three collected volumes available as of this writing.

You could start with Valerian: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 (Amazon link), and go from there to Valerian: The Complete Collection, Volume 2, or if you want to get right to the stories on which the film is most directly based (and that are the most overt space opera), start with Valerian: The Complete Collection), Volume 3. Beyond that, there are older printings of individual albums.

There is an official website for Jean-Claude Mézières, but it’s in French and does not feature as many images as one might hope. It is useful, however, for it’s listing of the Valerian albums (titled as Valerian, sptio-temporal agent).

The best resource I can find for Mézières’ art is this article from 2015 on Dark Roasted Blend.

You can also find some originals on Comic Art Fans.

If you try a Google image search for “Valerian”, it will mostly come up with promo pictures for the movie; try searching for “Valerian comics”, “Valerian and Laureline”, “Valerian et Laureline” or ‘Jean-Claude Mézières”.

 
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