Establishing Goals

Working with a bunch of entrepreneurs on a daily basis has given me a somewhat more goal-oriented outlook on my personal projects. As a creative person, this is an area where I have forever struggled. I work on a lot of projects, but I have never—with the exception of most of Mike and the Ninja—approached any of them with true focus or a firm plan of action, something beyond vague objectives like “draw something once a week” or “write something sometimes.” Occasionally, I might give myself a slightly more specific deadline, such as a holiday or comic con. But there is rarely a plan. I work when I have time, and frequently decide to play video games, instead.

However, I have determined that this, like most problems in life, can be solved with a spreadsheet.

I listed all of my upcoming/ongoing projects in the first column, and then subsequent columns have been categorized by time as 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, 1-year, and so on. Then, I placed project milestones and goals into these columns based on when I want to have them done. As milestones and goals are completed, I can highlight them green or move them off the chart as the next milestone moves into its slot.

So, now I’m officially goal-oriented. It feels pretty good, but the next challenge will be sticking with it and seeing actual production as a result. In my day-to-day activities, I am bad about setting up new time-management and habit-forming systems, following them religiously for a couple of weeks, then forgetting about them entirely in an instant when some crisis or life detour interjects. However, this system focuses solely on creative projects and is set up on more of a long-term basis, which could either be good because I won’t feel guilty for not accomplishing something for a day or two, or bad because it allows for more slacking. But I’m excited to try it out, and time will tell whether or not it works.

I Need a Heroine

I don’t talk about social issues much online, or at all, really. I’m not particularly good at it or confident in my beliefs, and everybody else on the internet is way angrier than me about every possible topic, so any effort I make is a whisper in an arena full of screaming fanatics.

However, being the tremendous manchild that I am, I feel as though there is one arena in which I can contribute something worthwhile: girl action figures.

There has been much controversy surrounding the lack of girl action figures in major franchises. When Avengers 2 came out, Black Widow wasn’t included in any of the merchandise, and her action figures were either nonexistent or nigh impossible to find. Likewise, the first wave of Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise excluded Rey. She has been making appearances in more recent releases, but fans were upset with her initial exclusion. If you want more information on these toy controversies, there are ten thousand articles already online about them, many of them including actual details with citations. I can’t bother with that, though; this is an opinion piece.

The running theory was that Rey was intentionally held back to reveal as little information about her as possible until the movie’s release. This was true of Rey’s exclusion from a Star Wars Monopoly set. More recently, it came out that Disney executives instructed Star Wars toymakers to not make too many girl action figures because boys don’t like getting toys with girls on the packages.

If that report is true (which it probably is, but you have to be careful about anything you read on the internet), those Disney executives have never met me, and have no idea how neurotic toy enthusiasts—even little boys afraid of cooties—can really be.

I’ve been dealing with this whole scarcity of female action figures thing forever. I don’t really buy action figures anymore, but when I did, it was a constant nuisance. It all started with figures from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I was four years old, and I had all four Ghostbusters, but no Janine. She came in a later wave of figures, but was always hard to find. I don’t recall if I ever saw one of her figures in the store or not, but if I did, we didn’t have the money to buy her. But I needed Janine! My Ghostbusters adventures without her were passable, but not 100 percent accurate. Who was going to keep the Ghostbusters on task and in line if not Janine? Who was supposed to rescue them if they all got captured or stuck in slime or something? The Gummi Bears? My brother’s Lady Jaye figure? It was inexcusable, and probably the result of some suit instructing the toymakers to not make too many Janines because boys wouldn’t like them. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care that she was a girl. She was a part of the story, right? An integral part, at that. Everybody knows the Ghostbusters weren’t getting anything done without Janine.

When I got interested in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had figures of almost every major character in the show, except April O’Neil. I couldn’t find her anywhere. Other people couldn’t find her, either, so asking for her for a birthday or Christmas didn’t help. One, just one, schoolyard chum had her, but he wasn’t letting her go. When I got interested in X-Men, the same thing happened with Rogue. I had all of the Fantastic Four except Invisible Woman. The women were always scarce or missing. Yeah, I could’ve used my imagination or whatever, but it would have been much easier to just have a tangible action figure. I simply couldn’t re-enact my favorite moments or create my own without the full cast.

Toymakers, make these things. There is a market. The story can’t be told properly with a missing character. The machine won’t run when one of the pieces is missing. There are crazy kids out there who appreciate nuance and accuracy in their action figure adventures. Believe me, I was one of them.

Also, I heard that girls like to play with action figures, as well.

Blatant Teaser

Oh ho, what do we have here?

blatant teaser

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say those are comic book artboards. But I do know better—I actually laid them out, so I can confirm that they are, in fact, comic book artboards. I have 26 pages plotted and ready for artwork to be added. My plan was to keep it at a traditional 24 pages, but I couldn’t quite fit it all in, even with some creative editing, so 26 pages it is.

I am (finally) working on a new comic book. It’s been two and a half years since Mike and the Ninja wrapped, and while I have had a lingering itch to draw more comics, I felt like a break was in order so as to avoid more serious burnout. I’ve also been pretty busy, as mentioned in my first entry of this particular blog. But now it’s time to get back to it—I can’t hide from my inner need to draw comics forever.

One of the criticisms I leveled against Mike and the Ninja was that I didn’t plan it out properly. Most of the time, I worked from the seat of my pants to try to meet a weekly deadline, so pages were frequently written and/or drawn the day they needed to be published online, without the benefit of revisions or concept art. As such, a lot of characters and story elements were not as developed as I would have liked them to be. It still turned out okay, but this lack of planning led to quite a bit of undue stress in the production of the books.

I didn’t want to make that mistake again in future projects, so here I am with a fully written, fully plotted comic book. I’m just now getting to the drawing portion of the project. Once I get some concept art down and flesh out some character and location designs, I’ll be in business. Of course, all of this pre-planning means this project likely won’t be ready in time for this year’s Cape Comic Con like I intended, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality to push it out by a certain date. That would be repeating the same mistakes made with Mike and the Ninja.

Anyway, I don’t want to reveal too much about this new project. All I can say at this point is that it’s not a Mike and the Ninja story, it will be action-packed, and fans of B-movie horror will probably get a kick out of it. Let the wild speculation commence!

Building the Makeshift Studio Space

In these parts, we’re now in what would probably be considered the dead of winter. While we haven’t experienced the lowest of lows thus far, it’s still cold, and so is our house. Amanda and I are total cheapskates, so we keep our thermostat set at around 63 throughout the winter and make due by sitting next to space heaters and wearing sweaters and hoodies. And, since heat rises, our upstairs stays quite a bit warmer than our main floor, so we move most of our activities up there—game consoles, DVD player, computers, and so on. If there was a kitchen and bathroom up there, we’d never have to leave.

But what about a drawing space? My drawing table is on the main floor, and it’s not really convenient to bring it upstairs. It takes up a lot of space and has to be maneuvered up a narrow staircase and some tricky corners. We’ve had it upstairs in the past, but it doesn’t work out well. So, when I found myself needing to draw yesterday, how did I get it done?

First, I tried this setup:

Makeshift Studio Space - 1st Attempt

Ah, the floor. I can get a lot of work done here, and I did. For about two hours. Then, two problems presented themselves:

1) There are a lot of really distracting electronic devices here. There’s a Wii U and an Xbox 360 within arm’s reach. Long-term, I know this setup isn’t going to work. I’m not made of stone—I’m willing to abandon a fulfilling and engrossing personal project if it means getting to play some Fallout 3 or Super Mario Maker.

B) With only some beanbags for support, my back and shoulders started to hurt from being all hunched over for an extended period of time.

But, work’s gotta get done. So what to do now?

I remembered something I had mentioned to Amanda earlier this winter. Our upstairs has a squat little closet, pictured below, where we store our boardgames and puzzles and such.

Closet/Cat Perch

It’s also a popular nesting location for the cats, as demonstrated here by Bones, and Dax looks like he might be thinking about it, too.

Now, take a closer look. It’s just a closet to the casual observer, but it has a solid, reachable top. This thing could almost be a standing desk, and I had suggested maybe using it as such to Amanda. I decided now was the perfect time to give it a shot, so I shifted my operation to the closet, and this is how it turned out:

Makeshift Studio Space - 2nd Attempt

Not bad, huh? I’ve got space to work, added a light source, I can be all healthy and stuff by standing, and I can even watch wrestling and consult art references while I draw. The only downsides are that I have to make sure I don’t bump my head on the low ceiling, and that this cannot be a permanent space—the stairs are just on the other side of the closet, so leaving anything here unattended risks having it knocked to the floor below by one of these thug cats. At least this will force me to keep the space tidy, if nothing else.

I think I can work under these conditions for the next three months.