Vaehling's Various Works Log

edited May 2011 in Work Logs
Okay, time to get back into the workloggy saddle.

Rather than concentrate on one project and delude myself that I can always start another thread and maintain them all regularly, this time I'll do it the other way round. This is the worklog for all my projects including my regular comic Conny Van Ehlsing, Monster Hunter. If one of them threatens to take over the thread, I can still move it to another log.

There's a lot of stuff piling up that I never get around to. If I do this right, it'll make me look into it more. If not, feel free to nag.

For starters, here's a short list of what I either am or should be working on right now.

Conny Van Ehlsing
This series about a girl fighting the forces of evil (monsters, ghosts, teachers and stuff) has been more or less weekly since 2007, so there's always a new story to plot, write and draw. Right now there's a new storyline coming up to be launched this Friday, although it's still in its plotting stage.

Codename: Olga
A spy adventure that I've been dabbling with since 2006 or so. I keep meaning to finish the first actual storyline, but never get around to it. I have about nine (out of 12) pages drawn, but not edited yet. You can read the story of how Olga came to be not a spy here, at least.

Hum Buck & Ass.

Hum and his associates, a group of paranormal investigators / con artists, were supporting characters in one of Conny Van Ehlsing's adventures. Sometimes, when I design a new character, I already know they'll be back, which is why I put some extra work into the designs. Sometimes I only wish I had known. Anyway, these characters were so much fun to even come up with that I wrote them with a possible spinoff in mind. Which is still at the stage of occasionally thinking about it, giggling about the fun things I can do with these characters, and leaving it at that.

Miniplot Man
A superhero short I wrote long ago as a proof of concept type thing. Miniplot Man is the hero of small gestures. You could say he doesn't exactly fight crime as much as shrug it off. I mentioned the concept to a willing artist a while back, so there's actually some perspective in this. Currently, I'm in the process of translating the script from something I wrote for myself to something somebody else will be able to read as well. It's my first real collaboration, apart from a strip or two. Strange experience! Read about it here! (If I remember to log it here.)

Reception Man
This is the series I started with back in 1999. A superhero parody... well, homage, rather ... travesty about a clumsy guy whose super power is hearing radio waves in his head. I stopped writing RM in 2003 because his supporting characters, Conny Van Ehlsing and Olga Stark, became more interesting to me, but people kept asking about it, and I had never gotten to the point where it felt right to let it go. In 2007, I started revising the concept and writing a full-length story, half of which I finished right away in a rush of creativity, and which is still half done.

There are a couple of other things on the back burner, as well as some short stories and a theater play I really should finish before I'm too old to write another, but this should be enough for now. After all, I should be happy if I get half of this stuff here done before the aliens come in 2012.


  • Conny Van Ehlsing

    Thought I'd introduce Conny some more in this thread. It feels redundant because I've already done this a lot on P&P and just about everywhere else, but not everybody here has read that, right? Will it be enough to just link to the Comixpedia article?

    Oh well. I'll keep it brief. Conny is what I like to think of as the most bad-ass monster hunter in her age group, which is 6-10. The series begins with her first day of school, which is also her first day of monster hunting. (Although later, I wrote a couple of Li'l Conny strips just for laughs.) Since then, she got expelled from school, moved to a new town with her mother, spent a while off-school securing playgrounds from monsters and finally got sent back into school. Made some friends and enemies, too.

    It's basically horror, but with a lot of humor, plus some action and drama. (I like moving between genres, although it sometimes confuses reviewers.) Think Buffy in grade school. (Actually, Conny gets compared to Buffy a lot, which I'm more than fine with. After all, it started with a Buffy spoof. Also, a lot of my readers are Buffy fans.)

    (A little illustration from the sketchbook to lighten this post up.)

    As a series, Conny mostly consists of short comics (usually about 6-8 pages) and cartoony pinups, published both as a webcomic and in anthologies and fanzines. The longest story to date was Another World (18 pages), which brought her back to school and was supposed to be the "season finale" to Vol. 2, except that's where things got complicated.

    So far, I've released two German Conny van Ehlsing books. The first book focusses on her first school and ends with her being expelled. The second book was to show her transition between schools, and the third was supposed to pick up in the new school. But when the second book was due, Another World wasn't done yet. So I had the choice of postponing the book, rushing it or changing the story arc. I did the latter, creating an unplanned third book also set in the time before Conny reenters school. As a result, she's not yet back in school in the German webcomic, but already in second grade in the English webcomic - although some of the stories are the same. Makes naming the volumes difficult, too.

    To make the third book a satisfying chunk of stories, I've yet to include at least one longer story set in the new neighborhood with no mention of school or the characters I introduced in Another World. That's where the new story, Neighborhood Council Meeting, comes in.
  • The Max Files

    I haven't included the Max Files in the original post because it isn't something I'm continuously working on, much less something I'm working my way up to. It's part of my Gate Crash anthology webcomic (actually - is it really an anthology if it's all by me?), consisting of short comics featuring me. Rather than working with a plan,I just occasionally write something spontaneously, usually about making comics.

    A two-pager is about to get finished tomorrow, and I've got two one-pagers mapped out. Altogether, there's a very diverse collection of a dozen or so pages, if I don't count the ten-page jam comic interview from 2004.

    The idea behind Gate Crash is to collect the stuff I come up with into ebooks every now and then. Each ebook being a mix of comics from different series along with blog entries and maybe a short story or two. Except now I'm thinking of collecting these Max Files, along with some of my blog posts about making comics, into their own ebook.

    I've been thinking about collecting blog posts for a while now, but I never came around to compiling the stuff. Mostly because they didn't meet my definition of what a book should be. (Complete, for one.) But an ebook that's more of a comic book / magazine wouldn't have to be complete, would it?

    Just another idea I'm toying with. Which makes it another topic for this thread.
  • edited May 2011
    Conny van Ehlsing

    Neighborhood Council Meeting is partly based on an idea I had for another series, terrain vague, back in 2002. I've always wanted to write a sequel to the original adventure strip (I may elaborate a bit in another post), and one plotline was about banning evil from a neighborhood by means of human sacrifice. I probably won't go that far in Conny Van Ehlsing, but the basic idea is returning now in Neighborhood Council Meeting. (Actually, it may be returning in terrain vague, too. I think I mentioned in Do The Work how I had an idea of how to revive an old comic? That's the one.)

    The other core of the story is that I wanted to make a story that works both in the English webcomic, where Conny is back in school, and in the third book of the German version, where she isn't yet. So back to the neighborhood it is, and back to the Vol. 2 characters. Tim and Gaijin are in it, Kevin as well, and most of all, the weird neighborhood watch woman from Wrong Step whom I've always had a lot of fun writing (albeit not drawing). And actually, once I had decided to include her, the rest of the basic plot kind of fell into place, along with the setting.

    Well, as much of the plot as I have, anyway. Despite my best intentions I'm making this one up as I go along, following a very loose plot outline that is sure to carry me over at least another page, and then I'll have to make stuff up. Not a problem, but in about two weeks, I'll have to know how long the story is going to be so I can decide when to start it on the German web site so it won't collide with the stuff I've already fixed for July.

    I've drawn the last two Conny stories entirely in Manga Studio, (three actually, but one was more of a joke) mostly because my scanner doesn't work on my computer since a friend of mine "repaired" it and I have to plug everything into my old computer every time I want to scan something. Which leads me to only scanning if I really have to.

    But I wasn't happy with it. I love inking with MS, but pencilling... it made me realize how much of my pencil work is really "thinking with my hand". Which I can't do as easily with my tablet. (It's an old one, without pressure sensitivity, but I don't think that's it.) I need more of an idea of where the line is supposed to go when I'm working on the tablet.

    So now I'm pencilling on an A5 paper pad, larger thumbnails really. I scan the pencils, reluctantly, then switch back to my other computer and ink in MS. Took me a bit, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'll evaluate it once the current story's done. Maybe then I'll stick to A5, maybe I'll switch to A4.

    Gotta say one thing for A5 pencil's, though - I save a lot of time not pencilling in A3 anymore. Of course I lose some of that time switching computers and inking in MS (which I'm still slower with).

    It also makes me not skip the thumbnail stage anymore. Because the pencil really is the thumbnail sketch, too.

    Anyway, tomorrow's Wednesday. That's when I really need to get going on that next page.
  • Yep, got fed up with the thread title. Don't let it irritate you.

    Thinking about rescheduling Gate Crash, my compilation webcomic. Right now, the German version of Conny Van Ehlsing runs on Mondays and Fridays, and Gate Crash is on Wednesdays. In English, Conny is up Fridays and Gate Crash Mondays. But I keep having trouble getting stuff done between Friday and Sunday, which is the only time in the week that I have time for it.

    The idea of Gate Crash was to show all kinds of stuff including old comics that have never been presented online. But even that stuff needs to be made presentable, which sometimes even includes scanning them first, and almost always includes translating. It should get better once I get around to finishing some of my longer stories, but I don't know when that will be.

    So now I'm thinking about moving it to Tuesdays. Back when I started Conny, I toyed with Tuesdays and decided it just doesn't work for weekly updates, but it would give me that extra day. Also, it would push Gate Crash to the front page for three days a week, and leave it to Conny for four. Makes sense, since Conny is still my flagship title.

    Disadvantages are (apart from Tuesday possibly being a bad day for this) that I'd have a day less to finish my Conny pages at the last moment - or, rather, that I'd make that last-moment thing official. Also, the reason for the current schedule was to eventually insert a serialized sketchbook on Wednesdays. I've put that off until the time when scanning isn't a pain in the ass anymore on my system, but when that day comes, I'll have no idea where to move that series.

    This clearly needs some more thought.
  • Hum Buck & Ass.

    The other day, while procrastinating something else, I brainstormed a little more about the Hum Buck spinoff to Conny Van Ehlsing. Nothing new, just some clarifications of ideas I had before. I'm trying to educate myself into brainstorming that stuff directly into a Celtx project, but it doesn't always work that way. Anyway, I did make some headway outlining the storylines.

    So far, I have three basic ideas for one-shots set in different places, conveniently working-titled The Village, The Forest and The City. Yes, that's something like a trilogy, and I have a history of not finishing my trilogies. But it's already the less sophisticated plan. I'd been pondering the idea of a graphic novel for a long time (just for the sales of it). Hum Buck seemed a natural choice at first because the characters lend themselves to a Fumetto Nero style of storytelling and would feel quite natural in a 96 page story. (This would also mean A5 printing and A4 originals which can be done more quickly than my usual A3s.)

    So, three shorts instead. Adding up to 96 pages anyway, if I'm that lucky. Working as singles, too, if I'm not.

    The Village
    needs to go first because it's the most traditional horror story, and it can serve as an introduction to the characters and their set-up, which is part paranormal investigating and part con. By traditional, I mean witch hunts and werewolves. I'll have to put some work into not making the village sound too backwards, though. A lot of my readers live in smaller places. (Maybe I should stop reading old Swamp Thing issues.)

    The others are more complex and, frankly, more interesting. So it would be a pity if I didn't get that far. But they portrait the group in less typical surroundings - lost in the woods, and confronted with a corporate world that's clearly not theirs - and I want to show them do what they do before deviating from that.

    I'm piling up ideas for story beats now. Trying not to think about the fact that somebody will have to draw all those things I don't have any practise drawing. Trees, mostly, and, er, villagey stuff. Maybe I'll have to start looking for a collaborator.
  • edited July 2011
    Reception Man

    If you've been following GATE CRASH, you've noticed I've introduced Reception Man now. The adventure that started today is the very first RM story I wrote, way back in the Nineties. It's not the new story that's still on the back-burner, though I'm thinking of launching it as the new #1 issue in September. (A crazy idea when I had it which is getting crazier every day I'm not actually working on that book.)

    I didn't change much compared to the original edit last published in Germany in 2007. Added a few greys, replaced my very bad hand lettering with a computer font, oh, and then spiced up the greys with a chopping board I once scanned for backgrounds. I'm using that thing way too much these days, but it just looks so good.

    Here's a Reception Man pinup from 2003 so you know who I'm talking about:


    RM's superpower is hearing radio waves (and all kinds of similar stuff) in his head, which, depsite being a hero, makes him a ctiminal because in Germany you can't listen to the radio without paying for the receiver. When I came up with this stuff, that was the kind of angle I aimed for rather than the straight-forward parody you'd expect. Strangely, the few people who knew RM back then liked my approach. Later stories are a bit more serious and treat RM like the blue-collar anti-hero he is. That wasn't quite as popular, but I kept this direction up in the unfinished 2007 reboot.

    The new story is more mainstream - I actually got inspired into writing it by a post about writing a genre film within a week, over at the 1000$ Film blog. I wrote the outline and half of the first treatment within an afternoon and drew the pages I got pretty quickly, too. Then life happened and I had to do something else for four years.

    I've yet to re-edit the script, but I think I'll mostly stick to the old one. It was pretty solid. Also, not so much time left if I want to use the reboot meme.

    For future issues, I may not stick to the outlines I made up back in '07. Those stories worked in '07, but they're playing with 2007 themes comic tropes. I even called the right-wing politician who's intent on banning superheroes Eisenmann, which is German for Iron Man. If I revisit the series now, I want to deal with today's themes and tropes. How does a super hero who's mostly focussed on street crime react to the white-collar variant that seems to be en vogue today? Also, how do I make up for having read so few superhero books since '08?

    So, that's where I am right now. Two pages into the first story's re-edit, and about 13 unedited pages into the new story. With an action-packed finale yet to draw.
  • Reception Man

    Sorted out two of the plot problems I had with the new book. One was the focus on superhero banning I mentioned in the previous book. I can easily replace that with a public debate about the relevance of superheroes. Since that part is mostly media debate, no real action, all I have to do is change the dialogues.

    The other problem was the fact that it takes me twelve pages to introduce the Fanatic Four, the super professional heroes team that Reception Man has to measure himself up against. They have a major role in this story, and introducing them that late felt unbalanced. On the other hand, the first eleven pages were paced pretty smoothly, so I couldn't just add a page there.

    On p. 7, Reception Man's alter ego Border walks past a TV store. The TV sets in the window show anchorwoman Olga addressing the problem of superheroes, and what a mess Reception Man just made of himself. Replace that with a shot of the Fanatic four busting a corrupt banker, and I've got the comic's new improved main theme covered and the Fanatic Four introduced.

    This is the point where I feel this thing is beginning to go somehwere.
  • edited September 2011
    Reception Man

    Cutting every corner I can, I'm actually making good progress on the new book. Drew 7 pages in the last week (with 2 ink jobs to go), only one of which sucked and had to be redrawn. The corners I'm cutting include drawing in A4 instead of my usual A3 (the other reason for that is that my inks were much rougher back then, and I'm hoping to emulate that so the new pages don't stand out too much) and losing quite a few details I'd usually get hung up on.

    This week's pages make up all of the middle part I had troubles with. The finale will be difficult to draw, but I've got the plot all worked out.

    The middle required some heavy editing, including breaking down the media discussion scene in two parts, altogether longer that the originsal plan, but with better pacing now. It also required sacking two pages I'd already drawn. That's a pity since the best time-saver you can have on a book is to edit the script so rigidly that you won't have to draw any extra pages, then edit those. And those were good pages, they just didn't progress the plot much.

    I originally planned to have the book done and printed for the Hamburg comic convention in late September, but since that got cancelled (there's still an event, but no book fair), I'm free to finish it any time I want. Which should still be soon if I want to capitalize on the DC #1 meme. Also, I live in fear of losing another four years if I allow for a break. But with the additional time I now have, I'm actually thinking about coloring it. If I can get the coloring done, say, next week. I'll edit some test pages once I got the new scans up, just to see how (fast) it goes.
  • Reception Man

    Finally got all the remaining pages drawn and scanned, leaving me four pages to clean up and six to color. I'm about two weeks behind schedule now, well, the last version of the schedule, anyway. I'm a month behind the actual schedule and four years behind the original schedule. (About exactly, actually.)

    Here's the cover:

    You can see it in fuller size if you right-click "show image" or whatever it's called in your browser.

    So far, I'm exclusively working on the German version, but I may translate it later-on, either for an ebook or as a webcomic, or both.
  • Conny Van Ehlsing

    Still waiting for the Reception Man books to come in, so I may as well get back to Conny. Well, I already did, weeks ago. The current story, Conny and the Pirates, is what I came up with after a comics community I'm half-involved with,, called for pirate stories for their next print anthology. I toyed with some real pirate stories at first but couldn't come up with anything original. Also, I was quite sure I wouldn't find the time next to the Reception Man books and my regular webcomics. The only way to get it done would be to make it one of the webcomics regulars.

    And why not Conny? Not her usual genre, granted, but part of the fun in making a supernatural horror comic is to get away with the freakiest stuff.

    Getting the kids into a pirate setting was easy. I always liked those playground installations that look like ships. Of course kids would play pirates on one of those. At first I'd just have Gaijin and Tim shout nonsensical sailor's jargon until Tim would shout: "Sea snake ahead!", to which Gaijin would reply: "What'd you have to say that for?", with the snake rising from the sand in the background. This would lead to the snake hypnotizing the kids into believing they're really at sea.

    Well, I kept most of that, with the addtition of Kevin as a tied-up Englishman (to enhance the pirate theme). Thing is, I need Kevin on board for this one. (Btw, don't read the rest of this paragraph if you mind spoilers.) He's the kid who's always on drugs his mother gives him. I needed one character to still be aware of the snake, otherwise the kids would just be flying blind. (In another version, they fought the snake at sea and then were trapped there. But in this, the snake is still in the sandbox, invisible to the kids, waiting for them to jump ship. So I needed an "outside" perspective to get Conny back on track. Also, I liked the idea of Kevin actually contributing to the solution for once.  (/spoiler)

    Not sure if this will be piratey enough for the anthology, but we'll see.

    Within the Conny continuum, this story was much needed to get back on track after a long summer break, and I chose for an action-oriented story to start with because I haven't had one of those in a while.  The last two longer stories, The Haunting of Conny Van Ehlsing and Neighborhood Coucil Meeting, had more subtle menaces, if any. Personally, I love how Conny has developed from a creature feature into a wider range of stories, but it's only a wide range if you have these kind of stories, too.
  • Haven't been around much recently because non-comicky stuff got in the way. I've found a day job that's actually during the day - more precisely, suring the afternoon which used to be my time for creating comics. (At the moment, it isn't really clear if I get to keep the job and for how long, but I've quit the night shift job already anyway. There just wasn't any point in keeping it - I wanted to get out either way and almost quit half a year ago to force myself into looking for a new job. So, worst case scenario, I'll be in exactly that situation a couple of months from now. But with enough money to actually be able to afford it.)

    Still figuring out my new comics-making schedule around these new enhanced afternoons while I'm recovering from years of night shifts. Oh, and did I mention the third Conny album is due later this year? In the meantime, I barely managed to crank out Conny And the Pirates.

    I'll keep you posted. Eventually.
  • edited April 2012
    Aaaaand there goes the new job. Sigh.

    The good news is, it's just in time for me to finally start editing the third Conny Van Ehlsing album which is due for the big German comics convention Comic-Salon in June. After that, though, I'll have to seriously begin scouting for a new new job. Or become an overnight success or something. I'm open to negotiating movie rights. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    In a hurry to finish the webcomics pages more often than not, I left a lot of edits unfinished. I've now exported the PS files from before I had Manga Studio into MS-fit tifs so I can edit them on the tablet with all the tools I'm now used to. If I can crank out three pages a day, I may just about get it down. On the other hand, I have half a mind to re-inking it all digitally.

    Also, I really need to make a decision on what stories to include in Vol. 3. Since I had to finish vol. 2 prematurely, the story that was supposed to be its finale is now Vol. 3's. Some of the stories that appeared after "Another World" have been written so I could present them before that (mostly by omitting the new character Sophie), and now I'm sorting out all those, putting them in different orders, swapping stories between Vol. 3 and 4 which is also half-done and trying different concepts for size.

    Here's a view of my very sophisticated story mapping procedure:

    imageKlicking on the image will take you to a larger version on Tumblr. But of course, those are the German titles, so never mind.

    Actually, this is the best story mapper yet. I used a CDR file for the early stages of Vol. 2, then different size piles of empty CD cases for the actual album. But reducing the detail to three sizes of sheets and omitting all the one-pagers from the process allows for a better overview.

    For now, I have three possible structures for Vol. 3.

    One begins with The Haunting of Conny Van Ehlsing, then takes Conny past the encounters with Scary Neighborhood Council Lady to Another World where the issues with Gaijin and Tim are resolved.

    One mostly just swaps The Haunting for the Pirate Story - making Vol. 3 more action-oriented while leaving the learning focus for Vol. 4. This may work well especially if I get around to finishing Vol. 4 this year.

    And then there's the wildcard version, including both the pirates and the Haunting in Vol. 3, finishing with Neighborhood Council and beginning Vol. 4 with Another World.

    It'll likely be one of the first two. I'd go for the pirates because they're hip this year, but the story is scheduled to appear in an anthology at the very same con. Much like Tales from the Sandpit two years ago, which made it kind of an awkward sell.

    I should decide that within the week because I'll run out of other pages to edit by then.
Sign In or Register to comment.