CH 5 Notes:


I thought I would share some various notes I had about the comic. Nothing too revolutionary, just rambling thoughts while working on the pages.

Lots of 'spoilers' here by the way.

Page 1: One of my original goals in this chapter was to minimize the amount of time I spent shading things. On the last few comics I had been putting in a bunch of time into rendering and airbrushing every detail and it was getting a bit too obsessive-compulsive. So I started out by just adding in a little amount of shading, but as you can see on later pages I haven't really stuck to that plan.

I haven't had a chance to properly introduce her yet, but the "cat-girl" is Mara and I think she's going to be one of Claire's closer friends. She is the xenozoo's lead botanist studying the various plants and things that are in the environments. The box she's carrying is full of sample sprouts to be transplanted and studied or something.

Incidentally, I haven't figured out Mara's species or cultural background too much yet, but they have made an appearance in the comic here.

Claire is actually wearing an alien dress here, not something from Earth or that the Wardens replicated (or whatever). The bracelet is the "com" they are referring to. It's the kind of thing that is going to appear and disappear conveniently in the comic when it's needed. So even though you don't see it all the time, you can assume that she probably always has it. Ann has one too.

They're supervising the unloading of supplies off the ship when Mara came along. That's a lot of notes for just the first page, don't you think? Oh, there's also a hidden comic link on the page too.

Page 2: I wonder if there should be more paperwork, folders and boxes of things in there. In retrospect I think maybe it needs to be a ridiculously overwhelming amount of stuff, but then you start to worry about how to show the characters in the panels. I guess at this point in the story Claire and Ann have probably been in the xenozoo for a little over ten months. So maybe that's just the right amount of paperwork for that amount of time.

I do find it funny that in science fiction people are always looking forward and coming up with virtual windows and eReaders while ignoring hard copies. Seems like the perfect device for an alien bureaucracy. Maybe if they really don't want something done they have it copied on stone tablets using ancient alien runes or something.

Page 3: I was originally going to have Doe be a reoccurring character that would show up in the backgrounds of the comic for no reason at all. He wouldn't ever really interact with Claire, but would just be standing in the background looking at map or something like "Where's Waldo". But then I came up with this story idea and decided to have them meet right off.

I should be able to still have him lurking in the backgrounds, and it might add something extra with Claire and Doe knowing each other but just having missed meeting.

Also, I originally wanted his name to be "Do" as in "Do-Re-Mi". But then I figured that his name would be constantly misinterpreted as the word, "do". So I decided that I had to add an "e" at the end.

Why Do-Re-Mi? I don't know! Sounded like a funny alien name.

Page 4: The "Intergalactic Explorers Club" is obviously a space-alien equivalent to National Geographic Explorer. Although the members of the IEC are probably a bit less responsible than the explorers of National Geographic. There are probably other organizations through history that might be a better fit for the IEC but I haven't researched it too much.

Page 5: Doe? Irnex? Pinrir? Aentnan? Quroad Verabuf? Keeka? Coming up with alien names is harder than I though! I keep wondering if I'm giving something a stupid name and the answer is typically, "yeah, probably". But you have to name it, so I apologize if I ever come up with something that sounds too stupid.

Also, in conjunction to naming things is the issue of what to call currency, weights and measurements. What do you call an alien dollar? Gold Pressed Latinum? Credits? Space Bucks? Astro-Dollars? I called it "Keg" because I though it was similar to "Gil" in the Final Fantasy games. It can probably change due to the fact that there are a lot of alien species in that part of the universe and probably all have their own currency. (Please don't ask me about the exchange rate!)

The idea on this page is that Claire and Ann have already agreed that they're not getting involved with competitions like this. The competitions are really more for enthusiasts and hobbyist and Claire and Ann are too busy doing actual work. But of course if there's a big enough prize...

Ha, Ha! Ann thinks she's going too!

Page 6: But no. On a side note, that's probably the best pose I've drawn of Ann.

I'm trying to infer a lot of subtext here (I guess) and I'm never really sure if I'm selling it well enough. There is also the ambiguous reference to raising money so they can get home. Most readers are probably more under the impression that they are looking for where Earth is since they are "lost in space". The idea is that since they don't know where Earth is, it will probably also be difficult and expensive to get to. So in addition to finding their home world, they're also trying to build up a travel savings. It's one of the bigger missing pieces that I intend to address in chapter 3. I really got to get to work on that...

It's really just one of those excuses to keep them motivated and get out and do things. Always impoverished and needing something.

Ann seems a bit bitter...

Page 7: I can't really justify why I had them hooking up the ships in order to tow Doe's ship. They could just as easily fly separately, or in the same ship and return to the xenozoo later. There really isn't any other reason than I wanted to show Doe running through the tube ship to ship. By the way, does Doe's ship look like Sputnik? Oh, that's just a coincidence, I'm sure.

Page 8: More subtext, Claire indirectly trying to be nice and not as enthusiastic about their adventure as Doe. Are her eye's weird here? Hummm...

Page 9: I gave the Pod an "upgrade" since it was presumably repaired in the last time we saw it. Why did I ever call it a "Hexapod" when it only has four legs? Well, it was suppose to be a bit more adaptable than I've shown it. Extra legs, crab like claws and the tentacles (seen in Chapter 1) were meant to make it a six appendage optional configuration. But mostly it just sounded better than "Quadrapod". I think from this point forward I'm going to just refer to it as "the pod" and be done with it.

Claire's parked the ship on a mesa here. I'm not certain that's geologically correct with mountains in the background, but it is after all, a comic about an alien world. I also realize that I'm not necessarily pushing myself in how an alien world could look. But I'm wanting to sort of ease into that and have stranger looking worlds and situations as the stories progress. It just seems a bit more dramatic that way to make things sort of normal and get weirder and weirder until it's completely unrecognizable. (And that's not to say that I couldn't have weird things in between.) It also gives me some time to build up some ideas. Provided I ever get to that point.

I hope people are buying Claire's plan here...

Page 10: a beginning of a comedy of errors...

I'm not really sure how to portray how the Irnex would sound at full volume. I considered music notes and just abstract marks, but in the end, "CHIRP" seemed to be the best idea.

Page 11: I should probably push the contrast on this page but I was afraid I was spending too much time shading again.

Page 12: I wanted to add a "DOH!" but I couldn't figure out how to really work it in.

Page 13: This is kind of the beginning of me questioning whether or not I'm making Claire a bit too much of a jerk. But considering the stuff Doe's done, it's probably justified.

Page 14: Doe off to prove himself. I did think the music notes worked here for the bird (possibly the Irnex) call. I'm also trying to keep in mind that it's a forest and that there should be animals running around through the background.

Page 15: I've tried the make the wolf here look like it has a head shaped like a alligator, but I think it's been "off model" from the beginning. That's a strong argument to work these issues out before putting them down in the comic. Or try to be a better artist in general.

What's the right sound effect for an alien wolf with a alligator shaped head?

When Doe refers to the wolf as a "beast" and starts to whip around his knife it's meant to be an imitation of how he thinks a great adventurer would heroically react. Were it not a comic he probably wouldn't react that way even if it was his inclination. And if it was, he'd probably end up dead and eaten before Claire got to him.

Page 16: Something tells me the lower four panels could probably have stronger compositions, but I can't quite figure them out. It seems that the wolf should be more of a threat with Claire holding him back... Oh well.

Page 17: Claire is doing a kind of flip into the tree here by kicking her legs upward while holding on to a branch. I had thought it read clearly, but I've had some feedback that maybe it isn't. I tend to think that if it isn't blatantly obvious to everyone then it probably doesn't work. So maybe it might be better if I had included her hand on the branch in the panel. Might be a revision for the future.

Claire carrying Doe like luggage might be a bit unrealistic considering her strength and his weight but I have two defenses. 1) We could presume that there is a difference in the gravity so that Claire is in a sense like superman with greater strength. or 2) realize it's a comic book and that it's funnier.

Page 18: Claire and Doe are suppose to be pretty high up in the branches of the trees but I haven't shown it very well. Also, did you notice the "tzow"? It doesn't seem to jump out much, but at the same time, it's meant to be somewhat obscure, as if Claire barely heard the sound.

Page 19: This is one of the few pages that I really regret not doing the comic in color. The laser blast and the animals running would a lot more impact.

I'd like to talk about Tyrus's walker thing but I really don't know what to say about it other than I think it's funny when not everything in science fiction hovers.

Page 20: Lord Tyrus is meant to be the sort of adventurer that you'd see in classic pulps and science fiction. The kind of larger than life guys that stomp through the jungle and conquer everything with a big rifle. It's been kind of funny watching old shows and movie with these kinds of characters. I recently saw a Flash Gordon serial where he basically tries to prove he's right by punching everyone. It's like, "man, what an a-hole." And I guess it's this kind of out dated stereotype that I want to put in Tyrus.

There is a bit of Tyrus that is modeled after the real life socialite big game hunters that you'd find throughout history. But as I mentioned before, I really don't know that much about those guys.

Doe's goggles here are suppose to have multiple lenses and sensors that give him different readings and views at the same time. I'm sure it's all very impressive when you use them. When I think of it in a real sense, the different parts of it move and whir and spin around. Also, it collapses down into a hand sized disc for convenient storage. I had originally envisioned them as bigger and more elaborate but they ended up like this. Another example of needing to plan things out better.

Page 21: Again, more expository dialogue and subtext going on here and I'm not sure how well it all comes across. Everything I wanted them to say is there but is the reader getting it? Is Tyrus a big enough jerk that it justifies Claire knocking him out with tranquilizers? Or does she just come across as a bully? How do I know the reader will agree with that reaction? Even if they say, "oh I get it!", how do I really know they've interpreted it correctly? Do I even get it? Sometimes I think I'm over thinking these points. Or am I?

I was always worried that the one panel would look like Tyrus wa getting shot in the head and that it would look like blood splatter or something. But I guess it looks gooey enough.

Page 22: The bottom half of this page is meant to imply that night is falling on Pinrir. Things getting darker and the wildlife settling down, etc...

With Pinrir being a inhabited world of space ferrying aliens there are a few colonies on both moons. Although you can't really see them in the jpg because of the resolution. Also I like the idea that the moons aren't perfectly round.

Page 23: I haven't really addressed the Variblade (the pan) in the comic either. But it's a shape changing blade that can morph into other simple tools or objects. It's like an advanced version of memory metal that changes shape as needed. Grappling hook, saw, hammer, wrench, skillet, etc, etc... It has other settings that can be programmed into it along with standard default settings. Claire probably uses it as a machete the most often or has the blade retracted into a single blunt edge while it's in her backpack.

I kind of figured it would be less sexist to have Doe using the variblade to cook than Claire. I thought it might be kind of an indirect insult to have this amazingly useful morphing tool and then "Hey, the girl is using it to cook!"

Different times on different planets. I guess if you were to think it through it would also be Two O'clock for Claire and she wouldn't be tired enough to go to sleep. But maybe she could take a sedative, maybe it's very late on Pinrir and they slept through to mid-day, maybe she's really jet lagged or maybe it's just a comic and I'm over thinking it again.

Page 24: Lets say that the thing they're using to cook their dinner can also be put on a low setting to provide them with light. Sound good? What are they eating? Noodles, I think.

Page 25: More expository dialogue and subtext... I hope Claire's explanation is justified and not too heavy handed. While I want her character to be reasonably ethical I really don't want to have her seem like an eco-nut.

Page 26: You don't see many oblong moons in Sci Fi for some reason...

Page 27: Kind of preachy, but I hope it's justified.

Page 28: I've been waiting twenty eight pages to draw that tent wrapping up like that. I think it's a really cool idea, but seems understated. Of course, it's probably because in my head it's animated and has sound effects.

Doe has also picked up something from outside his tent that will relate to something toward the end of the chapter.

Page 30: A shift to Tyrus' camp and some new characters. I've vaguely defined the contest and the characters reasons for tracking down the Irnex bird. Hopefully it works.

Page 32: Two more new characters that you'll probably never see again. Although if I'm able to keep making this comic, it might be fun to have them as recurring background characters.

Page 33, 34: Blah, blah, blah.

Page 35: I should probably mention that after some research I've found that the Audubon Society, American Birding Association, (etc) don't approve of using recordings to attract wildlife. Especially rare and endangered wildlife. I'm not entirely sure what the issue is, whether it has to do with tricking birds and the inherent stress that it might cause or what. My guess is that it has to do with mass amounts of hobbyists doing it and the impact it could have on wildlife over time. In any case, I'm sure it's a good principle and wouldn't argue against it.

Unfortunately for me, it puts Claire in the position of doing something that a person in her position wouldn't normally do. Hopefully readers that follow the comic will:

1) Assume that since Claire is an expert that she is aware of wildlife ethics/regulations and is doing things responsibly.

2) Understand that it's just a comic and cut me some slack for not having fully researched it (even though I really should have).

I am actually very sorry about the inaccuracy. I considered changing it to where the emitters were just collecting data, but doing so would mean changing a lot of other things and omitting a couple gags. I hope to address or at least have Claire acknowledge the issue later in the chapter to justify her actions.

Page 37: Speaking of action...

Page 38: (note to self) Two things to correct, 1) redraw the lizard so he's more proportionate/smaller. 2) Put, "YAAAAAAAH" into a balloon.

Page 39: Probably a good example of where color would really help. I think the gray is probably hurting it here. I also imagined the tent popping open would be more comical but it looses a lot. I probably should have made it the dominate panel on the page.

Page 40: The bottom panel I tried to make give it a Depth of Field effect hoping the sudden change would add to the drama. Meeeeh, not sure it's worth the effort... for the next several pages.

Page 42: Oh, by the way, Claire can clip the variblade on the back of her belt. I decided that just now.

Page 43: Probably need a leap line on that first panel.

Page 44: I should probably draw a stronger pose of Claire there on panel one. I've been thinking of the lizard as a silent killer. Not really making any noise until provoked (by Claire).

Page 45: I think it's clear that Claire is setting up a trap here, but you don't really notice the debris falling from the branch in the last panel like I would have preferred.

Page 46: I wish I could draw that animal I made up better. That's what I get for not finding references, I guess.

Page 49: Probably need to boost the VR graphics in the last couple panels...

Page 51: "You're not the chicks I was looking for" isn't a direct call to a certain phrase for a more popular sci fi series. Just happy coincidence. Mostly.

Page 52: The original idea was that Claire was walking into a trap set by the Lizard this time. Like he was imitating the Irnex call to lure her in. But it seemed too convenient. Thankfully I came up with this idea at the last minute. I think it works better because it's like the lizard has simply caught up with her rather than luring her in, while still being a surprise. Also, I've been trying to show as much wildlife as I can. I don't want it to seem like there is only five or six sort-of weird animals on the whole planet.

Who's a pretty birdy? YOU ARE! ...heh, sorry, I thought it would be funnier.

Page 53: I'm not super happy with the way this page turned out. There's a lot of little things I wanted to change while I was painting it. Her hand in Panel 1 should be across her stomach before reaching behind her back in panel 2. Anatomically, it also looked like her hand is twisted wrong. Not sure why I didn't go to a reference, it's always looked wrong. Panel 3 should have a bit more foliage obscuring the nest, but that's not a big deal. The larger problem is, action-wise the bird shouldn't have her wings full open in both panels. It should be spread wide open in one panel, and closed in another to imply motion. The same goes for the lizard. his mouth should be open in one and closed in another.

Finally, Claire's pose in the last panel could be better. She's suppose to look like she's getting ready to dive off the branch, but it would be better if her right hand were down on the branch, right knee turned outward, and left arm brought in toward her body. So this whole page might change eventually.

Page 54: I'm mentioning this here since it is the point in production where I made the change. I have this same note in the Chapter one notes too. Anyway, I was procrastinating on officially naming Claire and Ann while drawing the first chapter and then got to the point on Page 38 where I had to. I had liked the idea of using "Tesla" as Claire's first name but thought it might be too much of a allusion to the inventor Nikola Tesla. Honestly, I just liked the name and didn't have any interest in directly referencing Nikola.

Obviously, Tesla has a long history of being used as sci-fi fodder and I didn't think there was much common ground between him and what I wanted to do for the comic. Nikola Tesla's research was mostly about electricity while Xenozoo would be more about aliens, creatures, space and environments. So I figured it would be better to give them a more conventional first name, but kept Tesla as their last. Since then I've considered integrating something into the story to bridge the gap, like having giant Tesla coils or towers with electricity shooting out of them involved in overall story. But doing so seems like trying to bend the story into a direction that it didn't need to go in just to justify a reference to their last name.

Never really being happy with the decision, I decided that I could just change the "L" to a "K" and solve the whole problem. Claire and Ann could have a similar name to my original choice but have their own identity without the reference to the inventor. I've gone through all the pages and changed the instances of "Tesla" to "Teska". I think I got them all, but it's possible that I missed one or two somewhere. I don't refer to their last name very often, so it's really not that big of a deal to change at this point. Also, I don't have a massive readership, so I doubt hardly anyone will notice/care. But I figured I would mention it for those of you who might notice.

(I probably won't be changing it on the webcomicsnation site though. I think I'll just wait for the site to burn itself out.)

Page 55: I'm not sure how well this comes across (well, it doesn't come across), but the pod is suppose to be on a downward arc so that it lessens the impact with Claire. But I guess the hard hit works without it. There should probably also be a panel between the first and second to show the pod landing. Without, it seems like the pod has caught her after it landed on the branch. Or maybe revise the second panel with the legs just touching down... Hummm...

Page 56: I have the same issue with the last panel here. I need to show the pod more in a mid-landing pose. Wish I'd thought of that while penciling the page.

Page 57 & 58: Not really a issue, it's just I wanted to take a moment to show the events of the last several pages having taken a toll on Claire. I think most comics would skip over this as a waste of pages, but since I'm not on any real deadline and there's no printing cost, I might as well include it.

Page 59: The last two panels are meant to transition into the next part of the story where you meet back up with Tyrus. But I worry about how well it works. Clearly it is a transitional page to mark that time has passed But since you're already in the frame of mind and thinking about Claire, you might assume that the transition is to go to the next part of her catching the Monitor. Then the Strider appears on the next page undermining that presumption. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I just wonder if maybe I should place a small Strider in the panel at the bottom of page 59. (I probably could have just done it, rather than sit here and philosophize about it.)

Page 60: It's a little innocuous, but the 'mystery of the Jenari Wolf tracks' will be referred to later in the story. I hope it isn't too subtle and pays off.

Page 61: I'm genuinely disappointed in this page. It's suppose to build tension as Tyrus looks around and I think it falls flat. A redraw is probably in the future.

Page 62: Do you see the mistake here? If the Monitor grabbed the rifle out of Tyrus's hands from the direction he's coming in from, then handel should probably be pointing away from the Monitor. I should probably also have a panel showing the Monitor chomping down and taking it from Tyrus. But I wanted it to imply "quick action" like your brain was missing something. Not sure that really works in practice though.

Page 63: I intended to add a sound effect in the second panel for the Strider falling over, but it seemed unnecessary. I also thought it might be too much stuff visually in the panel, so I opted to leave it out.

Panel four is suppose to look like the monitor is thrashing around, but I don't think it really comes across.

Page 64: I think I need to redraw the monitor in the first panel. Make his neck more serpentine.

Page 65: Chomp, chomp, chomp.

Page 66: I meant to have the foliage more dense around the guys there. Not sure what happened to that plan. Might redraw, might not.

Page 67: I tried something different with the 'speed lines' in trying to make him look like he's running. Not sure
it works.

Page 68: I hope people get the fact that the emitter isn't just there by coincidence. And also remember the tranquilizer shots from page 21.

Page 69: I didn't show the 'gun' that claire uses for the tranquilizer goo until now. Hopefully people won't think about it being too big to carry in her backpack... The reason is, it would insinuate that she would have gone back to the pod, picked it up, shot Tyrus, then put it back in the pod before retrieving Doe.

Page 73: Not sure this is important or not, but I don't think the monitor (at least this fictional alien monitor in the comic) has eyelids. So that's why he doesn't blink or make frownie faces throughout the comic. I thought it would make her seem more like an animal/eating/killing machine to limit her expressions.

Page 74-76: I had a discussion with a friend who thought the transition here was too abrupt. I argued that it might have been the break between the time that he read the previous set and when read as a whole it would be alright. He eventually agreed that it worked but I'm still not sure if I did this right.

I'm starting to wrap things up here and maybe I'm doing it too abruptly. I just didn't think that having a whole sequence of "we caught the lizard, new we have to load it on the ship and Claire has to go away to deliver it, etc, etc" was really necessary.

Hopefully it's clear that Claire and Doe used the emitter network that they were using to find the Irnex to lure in the Garuen Monitor. But changing the signal (which you can't hear) has skewed the data from the network and Doe (or maybe the computer) has misinterpreted some of the data. Claire is sorting it out and Doe might be a little too naive on page 76...

Page 77: There was probably a lot more walking/climbing trees involved than I have here, but the alternative is doing page after page of silent hiking.

Page 78: I hope the Irnex isn't too under whelming. I always intended it to be kind of average even for a animal that is suppose to be alien. Most of the critters I've been making aren't very alien looking, but I'm hoping to make them stranger as the story moves along. I have a little bit of an argument for starting things out recognizable and then trying to make it weirder and weirder.

Page 79: The little cube deally is the photoscanner (camera). The idea is that it spins around and takes a 3D virtual picture of the whole area. Even though I have it looking like it's flashing, it probably shouldn't emit any (or very little) light, lest it scare the animal.


Page 80: DENIED. I don't think it should be a too big of a surprise that Claire and Doe didn't win the big cash prize. I would think people would expect that they were never going to get it from the very beginning. But I tried to do it in a funny way and they do have some lovely parting gifts.

*I also reserve the right to change the cat-alien guy (I don't have a name for their species yet).

Page 81: The office was going to be a lot more ornate but I got kind of lazy. On a side note, in a real setting there would probably be a much bigger argument here contesting the accusations and claims of 'Bait and Switch' about the contest. But hopefully there's enough there to suggest that everyone is in agreement about the situation. (Even if they don't necessarily like it.)

Page 82: I wish I could have gotten more detail in the background...

Page 83: The idea for the building they are in is that Pinrir is inhabited by a number of alien races and there is no native sentient species. All the statuary in the background are representative of the races 'working in cooperation' or some nonsense.

Page 84: In the first draft I had Claire and Tyrus meeting to butt heads but it seemed superfluous. I was running late on things and it would take another 3-4 pages and not really add anything significant. In the end I liked the idea that their actions affect each other throughout the story, but not really in a direct way. Claire and Tyrus could probably guess at who is responsible for what, but you the reader know the whole story. At least I hope it works that way.

In panel two, the box is probably more impressive in real life. As for the compass, think of it as a cross between a iPhone and a Fabergłę egg. Even though Claire wasn't going to 'win' a pile of money from the contest, I though Doe giving her a gift that would aid her to find a way back home was an interesting consolation prize.

Page 85: You'd probably never know it, but all the compass graphics were done in 3D. I spent all day working on the graphics for it and about a million years making the maps and images in the background that you can't see. My original idea for Doe's cabin was that it would be full of clutter of crazy stuff like in Howl's bedroom in 'Howl's moving castle'. But it was a little too ambitious and I figured it would be too busy for the page. Anyway, I like the way it turned out.

I wanted to give Doe a little bit of competence and not just have him as a bumbling inexperienced outdoorsman. He's suppose to be the kind of guy that mastered his craft (making the compasses) to the point where he kind of got bored with it. Then one day, just stood up and said he was going out. He still works for the family business, he just charts the galaxies and worlds while making elaborate compasses as a hobby. The pictures in the background are of his family, brothers, father and grandfather, etc. The backstory I came up with while making them is that Doe's grandfather was probably a legendary explorer who found his navigation tool were not up to standards and started making his own. After a while they started manufacturing them and his son (Doe's father) turned it into a successful business.

The ceiling is also too short for Claire to stand in.

Page 86: That's an Indiana Jones style Fedora that Claire had made in the gift shop while picking up something for Ann (which might be addressed in a epilogue). And Doe is the only person in that part of the universe with one.

Page 86: That's it! Last page. I hope it's not too syrupy or dorky of an ending. Hopefully I tied everything up and don't have any massive plotholes that I missed. If you read all this (wow, what a trooper) and have any comments or questions about the comic, feel free to let me know through twitter or facebook. I'd like to know if I went wrong somewhere.

Thanks for reading.

-a