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  #1  
Old 01-24-2016, 06:52 PM
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Default Section 42, a new sci-fi webcomic by bobbywatson

I was going to wait before making some sort of announcement here (and I will make sure to update this post once the webcomic is available at its final URL), but since according to Google Analytics a scary number of people found their way to it (around 50, which is 49 more than I expected, though I still don't know how they managed to end up there), I figured I should open the floodgates slightly and maybe get some valuable feedback.

So, here it is, my webcomic: Section 42. Here's an extract from the 'About' page that I will post at some point this week:

Quote:
Section 42 is a science-fiction comic. It takes place in a future where mankind has terraformed and colonized other star systems of the Milky Way. It focuses on the activities of the Fleet, a private company responsible for all space travel. The Fleet's Internal Investigation department, better known as Section 42, is responsible for keeping employees in check.
Pages 1 and 2 are up, and I'm in the middle of inking page 3. The plan is to post it next Saturday. I had the pencils and inks already done a few months ago, but when I scanned it into Manga Studio on Wednesday, I said out loud something along the lines of 'This looks like fucking garbage' and redid the whole thing.

I can't promise regular updates just yet, my schedule for the first half of this year is kind of insane, with a possible move and job change coming up, and some travel and vacation.

Also, as noted in the blog post from Friday, January 22nd, the look and feel of the comic will change. Hopefully everything will be more stable by the time I finish Episode 01 (which, according to my script and thumbnails, should have 22 pages total).

The comic is originally written in French, then translated to English. If you'd rather read it in its original form, change the 'en' in the URL for 'fr', or follow this link. Adding a link to switch language is on the website to-do list. If you notice any grammar or spelling mistake, please don't hesitate to PM me!

(And BEAT, in case you read this, navigation using arrow keys is not done, but is next on my to-do list for the website).

Fair warning: The website may be slow. It is hosted in my office, on a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B. I expect to move it to an external host (with an actual domain that I already own) at some point around April or May.

Other warning: The comic does feature same-sex relationships. If this something that offends you, well, this is 2016 so, you know, grow up. You should probably also avoid the comic if you live in a horrible country where this sort of relationships is illegal. The comic will also feature at least one character of non-binary gender.

Speaking of non-binary gender folks, if you feel qualified to discuss this sort of topic (I know I am certainly not), please PM me if you would like to help, I need to make sure that I am treating these characters (and potential readers of non-binary gender) with respect.

Adult content warning: There will be brief (male) nudity on page 11. It will be completely gratuitous, and I only added it because I wanted to draw it. And episode 02 (which is in the planning stage at the moment) will feature some more as well.

In case anyone cares, I use a CMS called Grav, which has been working fairly well so far. I did have to rework the templates significantly to use it for a webcomic.

I think this about covers it for now. If you do check it out, let me know what you think!
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  #2  
Old 01-25-2016, 09:26 AM
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It looks good! My one suggestion so far: talk to someone (maybe someone here but it's not me) who has experience processing images for the web. Your images are huge. I get that most people have broadband now and I'm sure you don't want to lose details, but 2MB is a little ridiculous - I'm on fiber and I can still watch it load down the screen, giving me flashbacks to 1999. Also there's some aliasing effects on some of the fine lines, especially noticeable on the solar panels at the top of the second page (Page 01). Some good image processing could solve both these issues, and if you really want you could always have links to full-resolution versions anyway, if your outgoing bandwidth can handle it.
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:10 AM
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Yeah, you might have the resolution set too high. 72 DPI is all you need for the web.

Not much else to comment on, but I like the color palette.
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:22 AM
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Yeah, you might have the resolution set too high. 72 DPI is all you need for the web.
That's probably part of the problem, yes. I will see if I can improve that today, once I'm done importing the page 3 art into Manga Studio.
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Old 01-25-2016, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excitemike View Post
72 DPI
MYTH ALERT

WEE WOO WEE WOO


"72 dpi" is an arbitrary value set by Photoshop (literally what it uses when no dpi value is stored in the image) and comes from a zillion years ago when older Apple screens really did have 72 pixels per inch horizontally. These days they have over 200.
When publishing on the web, "72 dpi" is meaningless and even a handicap if strictly enforced when scaling down from your originals, because it can result in smaller-scaled pages with weird dimensions.
The only thing that actually matters is how big they are in pixel dimensions when displayed on your website. What you're currently using is fine.

Actually reducing your comics' data footprint is another matter entirely. Photoshop and Manga Studio barely even try. I use IrfanView for that: Bring in the original full-size page (300 dpi at least, often 600!), scale it down to the pixel dimensions I want (In your case, 900 wide), and save the finished result as a copy ready to be uploaded.
You're using JPG right now, you might try PNG. Sometimes it saves a few kilobytes.
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  #6  
Old 01-25-2016, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Dart Zaidyer View Post
Actually reducing your comics' data footprint is another matter entirely. Photoshop and Manga Studio barely even try. I use IrfanView for that: Bring in the original full-size page (300 dpi at least, often 600!), scale it down to the pixel dimensions I want (In your case, 900 wide), and save the finished result as a copy ready to be uploaded.
You're using JPG right now, you might try PNG. Sometimes it saves a few kilobytes.
I will test with Pixelmator (I'm using Mac OS X) and see what I get. I guess I can get my old XP netbook out of the closet and test IrfanView as well.

Thanks!
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Old 01-26-2016, 03:28 PM
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If you want to chat about image optimization next time we talk, I am up for it. It's something I deal with often at work.
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  #8  
Old 01-26-2016, 06:15 PM
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If you want to chat about image optimization next time we talk, I am up for it. It's something I deal with often at work.
Deal!

I tried a few things last night and managed to save about 200 kb on page 1, and the jaggies don't look as bad. I just need to upload the change and do the same for page 2. I might wait until we've had that chat though.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:22 AM
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Page 3 is finally up!

I've also resized re-exported all the pages using Pixelmator, which seems to have a significant impact on page 1's jaggies. Not much in terms of file size, unfortunately, they all are around 1.6M... I will test Irfanview as well in the coming weeks.

I may have found a website host (I'm going to be experimenting with this over the next two weeks), so once that is in place speed should be improving.

Priority number one for the next pages: More consistent inking!

Edit: Fixed link, thanks Kirin!

Last edited by bobbywatson; 01-31-2016 at 11:59 AM.
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  #10  
Old 01-31-2016, 11:23 AM
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You accidentally linked to a local copy there. Anyway, yeah, it's still kinda slow but the anti-aliasing does look much better from here as well!
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  #11  
Old 02-04-2016, 02:11 PM
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I think the headline above each page should be much smaller, maybe 12-14 point, and you could drop "Section 42" from the headline since it is already there in the title. There's also too much vertical padding between things in general, maybe minimize that so that the reader has to scroll down less.

The art looks good, but page 3 is a little hard to follow since the captain's room is the same color as everywhere else and you cut there for just a single panel. It looks like security has walked into that room and that is what they see.

I'd say just keep plowing ahead instead of correcting it, but be mindful or cutting between different scenes that have a similar look in the future so that you can include instant visual clues.
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  #12  
Old 02-04-2016, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traumadore View Post
I think the headline above each page should be much smaller, maybe 12-14 point, and you could drop "Section 42" from the headline since it is already there in the title. There's also too much vertical padding between things in general, maybe minimize that so that the reader has to scroll down less.
It was way worse before, but I agree with you that there is still a lot of progress to be made in that department. I'm thinking I should just drop the title for the comic pages. Also I need to cut the space above the first panel and under the last row to 0 to cut on file size and padding.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Traumadore View Post
The art looks good, but page 3 is a little hard to follow since the captain's room is the same color as everywhere else and you cut there for just a single panel. It looks like security has walked into that room and that is what they see.
Now that you mention it, this should have been obvious, and yet I missed it completely. That is some small thing I can fix easily. Plus I wanted to add some colors, so that is a reasonably good occasion to do it.
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Old 02-15-2016, 09:58 AM
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New page is up! Again, I'm not happy with it, but I don't think I will ever be anyway. Also, we are finally introduced to the main character!

Thanks to Traumadore, I managed to get the file size much smaller! I will probably go back and re-export the other pages at some point, probably around the time I move the site to its final hosting location, somewhere between now and the end of March.
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Old 02-22-2016, 08:11 AM
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Page 5 is up!

I just noticed that there is a bug on the Archive page, where the template limits the number of pages listed to 5. I will fix this later today. All fixed now.

Next update: two women kiss, and a spaceship shows up.
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Old 02-29-2016, 11:27 AM
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New page is up!

As I mention in the article underneath it, I will be experimenting with different coloring schemes over the next few weeks, as I am not happy with how things look. Well, colors are only one of the many things I don't like, but hey, I have to start somewhere, so the most time consuming aspect is probably a good first stop.
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Old 03-04-2016, 01:21 PM
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Sounds good, I think experimenting while moving forward simultaneously is a great way to work.

I want to say that I think your industrial designs are really sharp, like the Cromwell and the placement of hatches, text and logos on it. It's definitely a strength of yours. I think just making it a point not to have plain rectangular rooms and hallways could increase visual interest as much as discovering the perfect color scheme.

Looking forward to the next page!
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Old 03-04-2016, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traumadore View Post
Sounds good, I think experimenting while moving forward simultaneously is a great way to work.

I want to say that I think your industrial designs are really sharp, like the Cromwell and the placement of hatches, text and logos on it. It's definitely a strength of yours.
Thanks! It really came together at the last minute, too. I've been thinking about ship design for quite some time. Originally, the containers were going to be arranged in more of a train shape, but I eventually decided to go for something different.

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Originally Posted by Traumadore View Post
I think just making it a point not to have plain rectangular rooms and hallways could increase visual interest as much as discovering the perfect color scheme.
I will probably keep things like this for now, simply to stay consistent across the same episode/chapter, but it's definitely something on my radar for the next space thing where the action takes place (probably in episode 3, episode 2 mostly takes place on the planet you keep seeing in the background).

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Looking forward to the next page!
Me too! Which reminds me that I need to get started on that... Like, right now.

EDIT: Due to my weird schedule this weekend, this week's page may not go up until Tuesday

EDIT 2: No new page this week. I was hoping to get it published on Tuesday, and I ended up rushing things a bit too much, which ruined the whole thing. As a result, I have to redo a whole bunch of things. Also the new coloring scheme I was trying did not pan out, so it will look like the other ones. Which makes me think that maybe I should hold off on changing everything until episode 02.

Last edited by bobbywatson; 03-07-2016 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 03-14-2016, 10:13 AM
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New page is up (one week late).

Next week: Hazmat suits!
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Old 04-18-2016, 07:03 AM
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Page 8 is now up! (It's late by a month, I was on vacation outside of the country.)

Next week: Migraï unzips the top of his uniform and sits in his cabin in his underwear.
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Old 04-18-2016, 11:48 AM
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FYI you've got your French version up on the English page.
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
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FYI you've got your French version up on the English page.
I was wondering when I was going to do that... Turns out I had exported the French version twice, but named the file differently.

Should be fixed now. Thanks for bringing it up, Kirin!
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Old 04-18-2016, 05:25 PM
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I thought maybe they spoke french privately between them and I was enjoying that development and its implications to the plot! (Yes, I'm an idiot.)

The comic is amazing sir!
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Old 04-18-2016, 05:34 PM
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I thought maybe they spoke french privately between them and I was enjoying that development and its implications to the plot! (Yes, I'm an idiot.)
Actually, when characters are talking to each other, it's typically in Esperanto (at least on Fleet ships and space stations, since Esperanto is the Fleet's only official language). The languages spoken on planets vary. All messages displayed on screens (at least those that are relevant) are also in Esperanto (though I will add the translation under the panels if the meaning is not obvious, as I did in page 2).

Funnily enough, my first idea was to use Swedish, but after thinking about it for 30 seconds, I thought of Esperanto and realized that it made more sense.

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The comic is amazing sir!
Thanks!

Last edited by bobbywatson; 04-21-2016 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 04-25-2016, 08:40 AM
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Page 9 is now available! I did double-check this week and made sure that both languages were showing up correctly.

I'm still in the process of rewriting the current scene (the end of the episode was a huge info-dump, and I'm going back to the script to prevent that from happening). However, I do know that we will learn more about the nano-machines.
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Old 05-02-2016, 02:33 PM
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Page 10 is now up!

The current scene should go on for at least the next page, if not part of the one after that as well.

I have no idea regarding the date at which the next page will be available. A new project is starting soon at work, which will involve a lot of travel, and me going back to the regular five day/week schedule (and hopefully not too much overtime). So, I will probably bring my MacBook Pro with me, along with my shiny new iPad Pro (the big one) which is actually a surprisingly good graphic tablet, but since I will only have two days per week instead of three to work on the new pages, it will likely be longer between updates.

Page 11 should have been the halfway-mark of the first episode, but since I'm in the process of rewriting the rest of the script and thinking of adding additional scenes (mostly to flesh out the relationships between the characters and possibly some of the Fleet's internal policies), the first episode could easily go over 30 pages.

Next page (whenever I can release it): Source code change management! (No, I am not kidding.)
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Old 06-18-2016, 09:26 AM
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New page is finally up!

I can't say I'm happy with it, especially after a radio silence of five weeks. Alas, it was either I release it, or wait a few more weeks, so I went with the former.

Who knows, maybe someday I will be able to draw the characters consistently. Migraï is definitely the hardest, for some reason.

If all goes well, page 12 should be up late next week. If things don't go well, then we'll see. My goal is to at least get the pencils done so that I can scan them before next Sunday. If I can do that, then the wait for the next page may not be as long as the wait for page 11 was.

Also, I'm in the process of finding a new job, and I might have to move for this, therefore the release schedule is likely to stay rocky (at best) for the foreseeable future.

So, next page: Ensign Silver is hoping to get into those tight grey underpants.
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Old 06-18-2016, 10:27 AM
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He's doing a pretty good job of ignoring Migrai's obvious posture in panel 2 of page 11 then.

Is this the first time we've heard of this Kraus character? I'm very interested to see where this goes.

Also you may not be happy with page 11 but it's clear you're using a lot fewer lines to draw Migrai, whom you've probably had the most practice with. That's a good thing, it'll probably click in no time.

Edit: also I really like how the lighting is looking from page 8 and onward. I hope you keep refining that process.
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Old 06-18-2016, 10:38 AM
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We've already seen Kraus quite a bit, it's just that the name and the character have not been linked in the pages. My bad. I've got my nose so deep in that stuff that I completely missed it. One small dialog change on page 3 would have taken care of that.

Could I interest you in an editor job The pay is crap though.
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Old 06-23-2016, 08:37 PM
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I've been doing some practice drawing on my iPad tonight with the Sketches II app (which, for a free app with $6 worth of in-app purchases, is a surprisingly good product), trying to draw a 'reference' portrait for Migraï because. I think this is fairly close to what I want him to look:



I also kinda want to explore this more watercolour-y and sketch-y look for the comic, as well.

I'm still trying to get used to drawing on the iPad with the Apple Pencil, and this is definitely my best iPad drawing yet. The iPad Pro + Apple Pencil combo is certainly a pretty awesome drawing tool, I have to say. Not exactly cheap though.
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Old 08-13-2016, 12:13 PM
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Page 12 is now up! It only took two months

The current scene is almost over. I did not expect it to go on for three pages. I did not expect it to be so significant in terms of plot progression either. I had the whole script written a while ago, but there was a major info-dump at the end, and I've been trying to prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, this means I had to rewrite every single page.

Next time on Section 42: Captain Perra is not too happy. The ETA for page 13 is September 4th.
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