Tag Archives: meta

3D Dragon Comics #1!

You were probably expecting something with a little more depth, but that's just a matter of perception.

You were probably expecting something with a little more depth, but that’s just a matter of perception.

There’s a type of psychological intervention known as Sand Table Play Therapy, which basically involves arranging objects and figurines in a tray of sand. Sand is nice, but it also goes everywhere and I don’t really think it’s all that integral to the actual symbolic actions that comprise this treatment, which is basically about forcing rigid adult minds to become malleable enough to throw off the limitations of maturity engage in meaningful play. I’ve got a million of these little objects–I could easily have created dozens of different tableaux using stuff that’s already in my office–and it really is soothing to rearrange them sometimes. It’s also nice to justify owning all these tchotchkes.

I’d been thinking about doing this type of 3-dimensional photographic comic for a long time, even before I started this blog. Reading Dave McKean’s Pictures That Tick made it seem like time to try. For some reason, I thought this would be faster than actually drawing a comic, which was not in any way the case. It took twice as long as Dragon Comics usually take. But it was more fun, and got me away from my desk.

It would be really nice if there was some easy way to build a model that didn’t fully set: one whose features couldn’t be smushed, but whose arms and legs could be repositioned. And then I wish I had the equipment and knowledge to make stop motion animation films.

Anyway, I wasn’t really ready to do a comic about my demons, even though creating them yesterday also inspired me to do this. Maybe one day. I’m still puzzling over my comic about depression. It’s funny: seems like everyone gets depressed, and yet depression is a really personal and idiosyncratic experience. At least mine is.

Dragon Comics 32

If we’re using the Andy Kaufman metric, this comic is a complete success because it amuses me.

The danger of time travel is not that you might become your own grandpa. It's that you might have to clean up your own mess.

The danger of time travel is not that you might become your own grandpa. It’s that you might have to clean up your own mess.

We’re just taking our meta experiment as far as it can go. The 4-panel layout has some particular limitations in terms of what you can do horizontally and vertically, but it also allows for this perfect setup mocking the passage of time.

Personally, I find time travel to be primarily comedic. I’ve never seen a time travel story that actually made sense, and while I was a big fan of Quantum Leap in its time, a lot of what was going on there was more fantasy than science fiction. There’s an X-Files episode that covers time travel as well, but the storyline has a guy from the future returning to the past to kill the people responsible for discovering time travel, because the knowledge of how to conquer time has made the world a horrible place. Generally speaking, though, time travel stories are ridiculous. Looper, for instance. If you can send people back in time, wouldn’t it made more sense to just send them farther back? Instead of sending back assassins and paying them in precious metal and then forcing them to assassinate themselves and run the risk of them balking at that task, why not just send your targets directly to the Jurassic era and let them be eaten by dinosaurs for free? I know people loved that movie, but I found it completely nonsensical. If I were a criminal and going to break the time travel law anyway, I can think of a million better things to do in the past than kill people.

As for the comic, originally the gag was just going to be that Dragon goes to all this trouble to see the future, only to learn that the future holds no surprises: Dragon will be drawing. But I think having the kids in there adds another dimension: Dragon realizes that jumping ahead to the future means that certain things have been left undone in the interim, and then we get a final zinger when the girl references traveling back in time.

I also like some of the poses I’ve gotten the different characters into. In reality, The Man cannot kneel like that, on account of a sudden and unplanned high-velocity meeting of his knee with a guardrail, which resulted in the metal volume of his patella being somewhat higher than that of a normal human. The rabbit really would wrap her ears around her eyes, if she could, to unsee anxiety producing activity. In panel 2, I guess the fox is jumping off the otter’s back to whack the remains of the shattered 4th wall with the broom. That is what is happening. And I also like the way the otter’s tail wraps around the panel frame for balance. And I’m glad the animals in panel 3 have taken it upon themselves to clean up the mess, so that panel 4 Dragon can draw in a clean environment.

That’s the shocking revelation of adulthood. Whatever it is that you do, you will most likely keep doing it.

Dragon Comics 31

This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing for weeks and weeks, almost since I started drawing Dragon Comics. Are you not amused?

In my defense, the rabbit is definitely getting cuter. And cut and paste is easier than trying to make the characters looks like the same characters every time.

In my defense, the rabbit is definitely getting cuter. And cut and paste is easier than trying to make the characters looks like the same characters every time.

More or less, I was basically able to recreate what appeared in my mind when the idea came to me, which is progress. Still not perfect, but the main idea is communicated by the illustration, I think. I’m fairly pleased with the shattered glass effect in panel 4. It could use some more work, but, once again, the witching hour is at hand and the terms of my agreement with myself say that the comic goes up, perfection be damned.

This kind of playing with meta perspective pleases me greatly, and it’s so well-suited to comics and cartoons. Probably the most extreme and well-known example of 4th wall breaking in animation would be the 1953 Chuck Jones Looney Tunes classic, “Duck Amuck,” in which the animator spends 7 minutes torturing Daffy Duck with inappropriate scenery changes, repeatedly erases him with a giant pencil wielded by an unseen hand, and, since this cartoon relies heavily on the viewer’s knowledge of trope, replaces an (open, functioning) parachute with an anvil. There’s always got to be an anvil. For an added bonus, the sketch ends by doubling the self-referential nature of the narrative while pushing it firmly back into place by revealing that the sadistic cartoonist is actually Bugs Bunny, screwing with his old nemesis Daffy. After establishing a refreshing commentary that reflects the separate world (reality) influencing the cartoon, the end sequence encloses the entire story back in the cartoon world.

I could never be so cruel to my characters who, as you may realize, represent my actual loved ones, none of whom have even tried to convince a hunter that it was Dragon season. I just like to play. In fact, as I get older, that kind of classic cartoon violence-for-the-sake-of-violence makes me more and more uncomfortable. Apparently, some of us become gentler with age. That kid of cartoon violence is funny. It’s just not fair. I would rather wait 3 seasons to watch Aang spend 8 minutes fighting Firelord  Ozai before defeating him with compassionate nonviolence than see any number of falling anvils. Don’t get me wrong; falling anvils are still hilarious. Epic storytelling is just more fun.

Please note that even after the fourth wall has been completely shattered, The Man goes right on breaking it. He’s funny like that.