Well, there is no turning back now. I have placed the teaser banner on the website. String Finger Theatre will begin its run on Friday, November 30th, 2001. I hope to keep up the pace of posting a new comic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after that. I didn't think I could hack five or seven days a week. I have to sleep sometime, and I hope I don't fall into the same disastrous situation I did toward the end of The Faire Folk of Gideon where I never knew when I was going to get the next chapter finished and posted.
I have thirty-five comics done using pencil and paper, and I have converted five of those to Adobe Illustrator. I should have more converted by November 30th. I hope it is enough of a buffer so it will take me a while before I fall behind.
I was originally going to call the comic Stick Figure Theatre, but I was concerned that there might already be a Stick Figure Something-or-other out there. I did both a Google and a Yahoo search of Stick Figure Theatre, and the only thing I found was Stick Figure Death Theatre, which is an interesting but morbid website if you ever feel like visiting it.
The reason I went with String Finger Theatre was because I kept mispronouncing Stick Figure in my head. I would think String Finger and then have to chide myself, remembering the correct title was Stick Figure. I finally decided that enough was enough and that if I was going to keep mispronouncing the name to myself then I had better change it or else be forever correcting people. So String Finger Theatre was born.
I couldn't resist the subtitle. It was originally going to be Across the Third Dimension in honor of The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension, but George Lucas had to go and name Episode Two Attack of the Clones. This puzzles me. I mean why is The Empire Strikes Back an acceptable title while Attack of the Clones is not? They are both equally dippy. Why is Empire acceptable?
The only reason I can think of is that Attack of the Clones sounds way too much like Send in the Clowns. Anyway, it doesn't really matter. All I have to do is remember that the first movie is A New Hope, and I can laugh just about anything else off.
All of which is my way of explaining why we have got String Finger Theatre – Episode One – Attack of the Third Dimension.
Anyway, that is the plan.
Transferring the pencil and paper comics into .gif format is really tedious and time consuming. It has even sucked a lot of the fun out of doing the comic. When I first started, I just scribbled and scratched out whatever stupid non-sense struck my fancy. Now, I can't draw a stick figure without thinking about how hard it is going to be to pose in Adobe Illustrator, or I'll wonder if I've got an acceptable figure that I can just copy and paste. I shouldn't be thinking about whether or not I have something I can copy. I certainly shouldn't be spending all my time thinking that it's all going to look static because I keep pasting the same three figures over and over again.
Oh, well, that is just what separates the wannabes from the professionals or hack in my case. It's easy to say wouldn't it be cool to write this or draw that or god forbid compose music. It is quite another thing altogether to actually follow through and continue in spite of how difficult it is.
Anyway, that last paragraph was just starting to sound really sanctimonious so I thought I would end it where it lay. Should I publish it? Sure, why not. I'll sound silly. I've done it before, and I'm sure I can continue to sound bloated and self-important. Why try to hide it? It'll just leak out when I'm not paying attention. This way I can laugh at it.
Despite everything I just finished typing, the comic is coming along. I'll be ready for the big unveiling on Friday. I've got something like thirty-five strips done in pencil so that should last me ten weeks if I continue the thrice a week posting schedule, and I'm not even done the Attack of the Third Dimension story. I'm not sure what I'll do after that. Maybe, a demon possession or Cthulhu story. I don't know. That's looking too far ahead. I should finish the Third Dimension story first.
While on the other front, I have all but finished the first chapter of the prequel to The Magic Flute. Yes, I am still calling it simply the prequel. Yes, I know that doesn't bode well for the story. One of the marks of a story that doesn't know where the fuck it is going is when it doesn't have a damn name, which has always been the biggest problem with the prequel. I could never decide on a decent name for it. Long ago and far away, it was Dragonquest, which was probably because of Elfquest that great comic by Wendy and Richard Pinn. The prequel has had a random assortment of names along the lines of Dragons in the Mountains or Legacy of the Dragons or the really long winded Legend of the Draconian Mountains. They were all really bad.
Of course, who am I to talk? The Faire Folk of Gideon: Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I seem to have a thing for long and incurably dippy titles.
Anyway, the first chapter is all but done, and it has taken much longer than I would have imagined, which isn't saying much. I seem to suffer from the incurable delusion that all stories and books and poetry and music I do will be finished in two weeks. It never fails. Oh, yeah, I'll have that done in no time at all. I'll have the entire prequel done by Christmas. No sweat. I am a full-on dufus.
Anyway, the first chapter is pretty cool. Much better than any previous version, which always tended to be a little on the gee-whiz side. No, I'm serious. Tahrl always seemed to be channeling Luke Skywalker or something. Anybody, see Hardware Wars? Remember how Fluke Starstruck (or whatever) was always saying stuff like golly gee gosh wow gee far out etc etc etc? Yeah, I think I've managed to excise the worst of that from the script, and I've finally got his state of mind down. He's more than a little beat down and not very trusting. In fact, the reason the chapter isn't finished is because Tahrl and Alexander are having this long rambling conversation about stuff like trust and the future and whatnot.
I'll probably have to go back and do some touch-up work with the chapter. It's wild. I'm really trying not to look back as I go. I am just writing and writing and writing. When I am writing, that is. Looking back is for after I have reached the end.
I tend to write dialog first and not worry about the stage direction, which is how most of The Magic Flute was written. I would sit on my couch or sprawl on my bed and scribble dialog into a notebook, using a different color ink each day just because I had different colored pens and it was fun. I got a couple big ugly ink stains in my sheets because I would fall asleep mid-sentence, drop the pen, and whatever color I was using would become part of my sleeping ensemble. I would then take my book based scribbling and type them into the computer. As I typed, I would add the stage direction and whatnot.
What this all means for the prequel is I have these long swatches of dialog without a lick of annotation. I don't mean to say that it is nothing but people talking. There are descriptive passages. It is just that there are also places where there is only sparse description. I just hope I can remember who said what when I go take another look at it.
Well, here we go. It is time for String Finger Theatre–Attack of the Third Dimension. I must be out of my mind to attempt a web comic. I can't draw. I never evolved beyond the stick figure, which explains why you're getting a stick figure comic. Now, I'm sure my parents will gladly tell you all about how I used to draw all of these stories when I was a very little kid. The first batch were based on the old Flash Gordon serials staring Buster Crab (I'm really sorry if I've spelled his name wrong). After that they were based on Japanese cartoons and TV shows. There was Battle of the Planets (cartoon), Ultraman and Spectraman (live action shows with lots of guys and monsters in rubber suits), and I will swear from here until the end of time that Ultraman and Spectraman are infinitely better than any Mighty Morphing Power Rangers or whatever they are calling that show this week. I'm not trying to say that Ultraman or Spectraman were great art or anything. I'm just saying they were way cooler than what the kids have got today. I mean Ultraman and Spectraman were robots.
But, I digress. The most interesting tidbit about those old comics I would draw was that they were done completely without dialogue, which means that everything had to be conveyed by the pictures. This doesn't mean I am any good at sequential art. I mean I had an audience of me. Just because I knew what was going on doesn't mean that anybody else would ever be able to follow one of those old comics simply by looking at it.
There is a very simple reason why they never evolved into talkies. I can't spell worth shit. My spelling is worse than my drawing, which is really saying something. The reason I never did a comic with dialogue before was because I was so ashamed of my lack of spelling ability, and I tell you I really tried to learn to spell. I put effort into it, which didn't amount to shit. Even in college, I went out of my way to attend Improve Your Spelling classes. Nothing helped. I am just very grateful for my word processor's spell checker. In fact, my computer just told me that I misspelled grateful. Damn, but I can't spell.
I just realized something. I do String Finger Theatre in pencil and paper first. It is then redrawn using Adobe Illustrator. At no point does the comic pass through a program with a spell checker unless Illustrator has a feature that I don't know about. This means it is very likely that there are going to be spelling mistakes in the comic. Well, there is no turning back now.
It will be interesting to find out how long I can continue the comic. What I figure will happen is that I will finish the Attack of the Third Dimension storyline and then go on a long break while I figure out what the hell to do next. There will be a break even if I do know what is going to happen next. I don't want to fall into the same trap I did with The Faire Folk of Gideon where weeks would pass before the next chapter was posted. I want the entire storyline done before I begin posting it or in the case of the Attack of the Third Dimension it is mostly done.
We'll see what happens. I want to spend another day or so converting pencil and paper drawings into Adobe Illustrator and then go back to finish the story. At that point, I'll slack off and let the thrice a week schedule eat through the assembled comics. I'll try to make sure I convert three a week so I don't fall behind, but we shall see.
I want to make sure that the prequel to The Magic Flute doesn't fall completely by the wayside. It is still my top priority if I can only get myself to work on it more diligently. I swear I think the whole String Finger Theatre thing is just writer's block on the prequel. Since I know the prequel so well, you would think that I would just breeze through the writing. But, no, it has to be difficult.
I think the lack of steady employment and concerns over how to pay next month's rent are contributing to the whole delay. Speaking of which, should I get a job, the schedule I just laid out goes completely out the window to accommodate any hours I have to work to pay bills.
I badmouth The Faire Folk of Gideon too much. I was reading parts of it over not long ago, and I realized how much I like it. I wanted to do something light and entertaining, but The Faire Folk morphed into a serious epic. I am hoping that I can keep the tone light with the web comic. The format kind of makes it touch to do character development so I'm hoping that helps maintain the tone. I'm not trying to badmouth comics and say you can't do serious stuff. Just check out Sluggy Freelance for an example of what you can do while staying totally within the confines of the medium. I'm serious; go read Sluggy Freelance. Worship the comic.
So, the plan is to finish the Attack of the Third Dimension story and nail down the prequel to The Magic Flute just as quickly as possible. The middle third of the prequel will be very similar to the previous draft so I'm hoping the writing will go better. I'm not trying to do some vast epic with the prequel. If it is one hundred pages, I will be happy. When the prequel is done, I'll be diving right into The Faire Folk of Gideon – Book Two – The Popular Uprising. I'm not promising that is going to be the official title when the work is done.
Each chapter of Gideon Book Two will be posted on my website at the rate of one per week just like with Book One. I am planning to make one change to my writing habits. I intended to finish each section of the book before I post any of its chapters on the web, which should help ensure people are not left waiting weeks between chapter sixty-two and sixty-three for the big payoff.