Technical Humor – No Exceptions
Movie Inspiration: Raiders of the Lost Ark
No, I’m not getting the band back together. At least not quite yet. CJ and I were joking around the other day, and this comic wrote itself. I decided it would be a shame to not put this one out.
We were reminiscing about our college days, when parking spots were difficult to find at times. Sometimes, I think we’d be happy to take the Staff of Ra into the map room, if only to find the one spot that was still available on THIS side of campus. I remember, somewhat less than fondly, of pulling into a parking lot, only to see multiple “sharkers” at each end of every aisles, waiting for some unsuspecting pedestrian to climb into their vehicle and start to pull out. That’s when the feeding frenzy would start. More than once I entertained the idea of making a few laps through the parking lot on foot, just to drive the sharkers nuts – “Is he lost?!? Which car is his? He’s coming this way, hopefully I’m close enough!!!”
Indy’s outfit turned out to be easier than I thought. Even his cloak’s hood wasn’t too bad – start with a rectangle, and warp it until it looks like it’s sitting on his head, and draped down over his shoulders. The parking lot was a little tedious, but straightforward. What really got me was the glow on the floor. Trying to this to resemble the scene from the movie took me a solid hour. I can’t remember how many layers of translucent shapes ended up in there. A lot.
When I first published “Pirates of the Compiler” back in December 2010, I really didn’t know how far this would go. It wasn’t until March or April of this year that I realized that I was still coming up with lines to parody, and I was having fun doing it. At that point, I still didn’t see an end to it.
But something happened around May of this year. The comics stopped being fun. They had turned into work.
When I first started doing these, I’d hit Friday night and couldn’t wait to start the next comic. Some weekends I’d get the entire thing done that night; other weekends I had it done by Saturday. I loved showing the rough drafts to CJ and welcomed her suggested improvements. The overwhelming majority of the time, her modifications made the difference between “meh” and “awesome!”
The comics since May, however, were taking me well into the following week. More than once I found myself staying up later than I wanted Tuesday night, or even Wednesday, trying to get that week’s comic out. I wasn’t able to prioritize them during the weekend evenings like I was before, so I put them off until Sunday/Monday. At which point I was really feeling the pressure to get them done in time. I also found myself upset I had put them off. I now found myself annoyed with every critique or suggestion from CJ – not because they were wrong or bad, but because it meant more work for me. By the time I got them posted, it was nearly time to start the next one – whereas before I’d have several days of breather in between, now I was getting maybe two.
It was after my 2-week break in June, I decided that I would run the comic out for a year – 52 comics in all – and then call it quits. I decided that if I wasn’t having fun, there was no reason I should feel the need to continue.
Last night, though, while trying to finish up “Get ready for the sprint”, things really came to a head. CJ said that Baby Doll needed her skirt and blouse – she needed a costume – HER costume. CJ was right, of course, but what I felt was anger and resentment that I would need to spend at least another hour drawing those. She saw how upset I was getting, and suggested that I should stop where I was, and pick it up tomorrow. I responded, rather hotly, than I couldn’t because I wouldn’t have time to get it done tomorrow (I had another commitment this evening, and knew I would be mentally drained by the time I got home). Her response was “Then it doesn’t get done tomorrow.”
I snapped. I took off my glasses, threw them on the desk, and buried my head in my hands. CJ realized I had turned a corner and the very thin thread I had my temper on wasn’t going to take anything else. She backed way off and let me be, which was the absolute best thing she could have done right then – did I mention my wife of 15 years knows me pretty well?.
I alternated staring at the inside of my hands and at my computer screen for several minutes, trying to calm down. I was also trying to decide if I really wanted to push my luck by finishing the comic in that sitting. I finally decided that yes, I wanted to get it done right then, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t have it waiting for me tonight. I put my glasses back on and finished it. I didn’t let CJ see the final cut, nor did I do a final review myself (both of which were departures from the standard operating procedure). I just saved it out and shut my computer down. This morning, however, I found a handful of problems with it – ones that I couldn’t let slide. I fixed them and got it published.
And so, I’m done. It’s not how I would have preferred it to end (somewhat bitterly), but if I keep trying to get to 52 in my current state of mind, I’ll REALLY come to resent it – the idea, the comic characters, the process, the whole shebang.
As I look back on the past 9 months, I am tremendously proud of what CJ and I turned out. Even “Get ready for the sprint”, less a day old now, looks good. The flair of Baby Doll’s skirt and especially how her hair turned out, were the big hurdles with this one, and I think they turned out quite well.
At the end of it, I guess that’s the ultimate judge of how CJ and I did. There isn’t any of the 36 comics that I could point to and say “you know, I shouldn’t have taken that short cut there; the comic suffered as a result.” I certainly learned a tremendous amount in terms of blocking, drawing, lighting, and shading, and I could certainly go back to the older ones and improve upon them with my current knowledge if I were so inclined. But I can say that about any skill I develop and use over a period of months or years. You SHOULD be better now than you were 6 months ago.
The title of this post should not be taken to be my final answer, though. I may pick the series up again down the road. I’ve even toyed around with some other outlets for the Dude – a wider scope for the types of jokes I can tell (not just parodying movie lines and scenes), or even a graphic novel/comic book. For now, the Dude – not to mention CJ and I – get a hard-earned rest.
Movie Inspiration: Sucker Punch
When CJ and I started seeing the trailers for “Sucker Punch” we had the same reaction. It’s like someone decided to make a movie that had all of his favorite things – beautiful girls in skimpy clothes, kicking butt with automatic weapons, swords, and martial arts, against all manner of bad guys. Oh, and then he tried to write a plotline to fit it.
And yes, even before we saw that it was a man directing it, we had no doubt that it was, in fact, a man that came up with this idea.
The fight sequences were well done, but unfortunately the rest of it couldn’t keep up. It was CJ that suggested perhaps Mr. Snyder should have done with this idea was make a video game, and then used the non-fighting sequences as cut scenes between the action. A first-person shooter where you go from fighting 30-foot mini-gun wielding dudes to dragons to zombie soldiers to robots? THAT sounds like fun.
Due to some poor planning and forethought on my part, the 36th “Try Catch Finally” comic won’t be coming out on Thursday as planned. We were remodeling our basement office this weekend, and as a result my computer was out of commission from Thursday night through last night. Had I thought ahead what “remodeling” would mean, I could have put #36 together ahead of time. Lesson learned.
The icing on the cake, though was I started coming down with a cold last night, and it really bloomed this morning. On any other week, I’d push myself tonight and tomorrow to get it done in time, but I don’t think I have it in me.
So, my sincere apologies for no new comic this week. Here are a couple of clues for #36, though – it features the actress who played Violet in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and the actor who played Captain Mancuso in “The Hunt for Red October”.
Movie Inspiration: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Yeah. If only it were this easy.
This was another one that we came up with on our roadtrip to Virginia last month. We spent a significant portion of our time on toll roads, which meant the “E-ZPass” signs were everywhere. The good news is, it shouldn’t be difficult for Frodo, Gollum, and Sam (yes, I know he should be in this scene and isn’t) to get through the pass doing 35mph or less.
The ultimate traffic cop, also known as Shelob, will see to that.
Movie Inspiration: Speed Racer
You can never be too careful at those programming competitions these days. They’re getting brutal.
CJ came up with the basic idea for this one while we were traveling on vacation earlier this summer. We bounced a couple of ideas around, but settled on the scene where Speed is getting briefed on all of the tweaks being made to his machine. We thought it would be funny for our Dude to be entering a programming competition, and having a similar need for defenses against cheaters.
Part of the fun for this one – ok, a LOT of the fun for this one – was coming up with the list of modifications. Jump jacks were left in, mostly because they were the most recognizable feature of the Mach 5, but also because it’s just plain funny to think of a laptop having them. They give a whole new meaning to “booting up”. One of CJ’s original ones was having the cutting blades in the DVD-ROM drive, which was also awesome – don’t even THINK of trying to peek at Speed’s screen. I came up with most of the others, but got stuck with how to twist the homing robot. The movie described this as being able to transmit video footage from wherever the car was, so we converted this to a “Remote 3-D web cam”. I’m not sure what exactly this means, but it sounded cool.
When I had it mostly finished, CJ remarked at how visually different this one is from most of the others, specifically the blue. She pointed out that since a lot of TCF end up being in the office, and since the most recognizable feature of an office tends to be the rows and rows of cubes, the color scheme tends to be very neutral. The technician’s glasses were also a bit of a challenge. It took me four or five attempts to arrange them on her face without making her look cross-eyed.
Movie Inspiration: The Matrix Reloaded
Sometimes you just gotta do the insane to get the job done. And Trinity and Morpheus can certainly bring the insane.
Three out of the last four Try Catch Finally comics have involved mobile devices (today’s, as well as Can you hear me now? and Fire beacons are SO last age). I certainly didn’t plan to go through a “mobile” phase. I don’t even own an iPhone, Android, or anything else in that class.
When I was brainstorming amusing wifi names, I did a quick search online. I’ve seen amusing network names in the past like “BuyAnotherCupYouCheapskate”, “SkyNet”, and “UseThisOneMom”, but most of the ones I turned up weren’t appropriate. Huh, go figure? There’s smut on the internets. My original thought for the name of the public wifi was something like “Information Superhighway”, which would have had some punny charm to it, but it was a bit unwieldy. I settled on “HighwayOfDoooom” because, well, most things sound funnier when you add “OfDoooom” to the end. The trick is you have to stretch out the “Doooom” for maximum comedic effect.
Go ahead, you know you want to try it. Here’s a few to get you started:
When I started today’s comic, I had a good idea for what the screen would look like, but not what should be in the background. CJ suggested putting Morpheus there. That was a good idea, but it took us another hour to actually fit him in. I think he turned out great, especially his trench coat. The collar turned out to be the most interesting piece. CJ kept telling me to “just draw a line from the center, going off to the right”. I couldn’t figure out why until I did it. His collar has a piece of material that folds across the front, and attaches to his left, to keep it in place. As soon as I drew it, it all clicked.
Movie Inspiration: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
If the Internet had existed in Middle Earth, the real beacons would have been totally superfluous. Tweeting and updating your Facebook status would have been all you needed to do to get the word out.
I wanted to come up with tweets that would have logically preceded the lighting of the beacon in the movie, but because I haven’t watched “Return of the King” in over a year, I had some trouble remembering the exact order of events with all of the various story lines. At CJ’s prodding, I threw it in and watched about 20 minutes leading up to it.
Other than coming up with tweets for everyone, it was fun trying to decide what some random Rohan guard, Pippen, Gandalf, and Gollum, respectively, would have used for their profile pic.
Movie Inspiration: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana simply doesn’t have any patience. Of course, I really don’t picture Indy being a morning person either, so perhaps it can be forgiven. At least once he extracts his cup-of-joe he won’t have a room full of poison darts to dodge, a chasm to jump, a stone door to dive under, a boulder to escape, or a mad tribe of natives shooting after him.
Or at least if he does he’s doin’ it wrong.
Movie Inspiration: 300
Apparently ancient Sparta didn’t have very good cell reception. Who knew? I guess that’s a good thing. If it did, Xerxes might have found that goat trail on Google Maps, and made the entire movie a WHOLE lot shorter.
CJ thought I should have given the Dude a set of abs, in keeping with the actors in the movie, but I resisted. I doubt I could have done them justice. It probably would have made him look like he was wearing a fishnet girdle. Not a sight that would have done anyone any good.