What I’m reading/writing/learning

What I’m Reading
I’m a bit behind on my comic book reading; and, in actuality, I’ve cut back significantly on the number of books I’m buying every month. I’m down to less than a dozen books a month now, which I’m OK with even though I’d really prefer to be closer to eight. I’m buying both of IDW’s ongoing Transformers series (More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise) and all three of its G.I. Joe books (G.I. Joe, Cobra, and the newly-renamed Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow). I haven’t kept up with the Transformers books like I did before IDW split its one ongoing series into two after Transformers 125 (which I never got), so those are almost in the “I’m only buying these because the shop is pulling them for me” territory.

My DC reading was getting out of hand with their New 52 initiative, and I dropped all but four titles from them — Animal Man, Batman, Batgirl, and Birds of Prey. I missed Animal Man #9, so just by that I may be done buying that one even though it’s a title I have enjoyed quite a bit. Batman is just shockingly good; I read tons of Batman books when I was a hardcore comic book collector in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and while I’m not at all familiar with his recent print history this is as good as any Batman story I’ve ever read. Scott Snyder is just in the zone with the way he’s written the story so far, and Greg Capullo is doing absolutely astonishing work on the art. I’ve looked forward to it every month for eight months now, and it hasn’t let me down yet. Batgirl and Birds of Prey have just been fun books; Gail Simone is right in her element writing Batgirl, and I’ve just been surprised at how much I have enjoyed Birds of Prey. It’s been a really good team book.

I’m also reading three books a month from Image — Invincible, Morning Glories, and Saga. I’m all-digital with Image — I have the first seven hardcover collections of Invincible and the first two trades of Morning Glories, but have never bought single paper issues of either series. I got the first issue of Saga because of the buzz about it online, and then went digital with it just because I loved it so much. All three of these titles, really, have a spot among my favorite books right now, along with Batman and Cobra.

You’ll notice no Marvel books on my list. As much as I love their characters, I’m not buying any of their books. Moon Knight was really cool and I enjoyed following that for a year until it wrapped up; Daredevil was fantastic but suffered the Animal Man fate and got swept aside when I missed an issue somehow; Ghost Rider was silly fun before it wrapped up after nine issues; I decided to quit on FF when it went into space and got kinda silly, and I’ve been buying the second SHIELD miniseries — but it’s been many, many months now since the last issue came out, and I have no clue what the status is on that series moving forward. I bought the first two issues of the Scarlet Spider series that Ryan Stegman was doing art for, but that didn’t hook me; Stegman’s fantastic, though, and now that he’s moved to pencils for Fantastic Four I am probably going to check that out.

What I’m Drawing
As much as I love to draw, and as much as I really wish I was better than I am and had the ability to put the things I can see in my head onto paper rather than just being a Xerox machine of marginal quality, hammering out somewhat decent, but not quite good, copies of work produced by actual artists, as I’ve been trying to get back into it on a more serious basis, I have found it difficult to find motivation to draw regularly. I know, those two sentiments compete mightily and make absolutely no sense. But it’s exactly where I find myself.

So in order to provide myself a push, I bought 15 blank 5×7 Canson watercolor postcards and put out a call on Facebook to my friends — the first 15 people to respond would get a drawing on one of these postcards, which I would then mail to my home. Right now I have a queue of 28 postcards to draw — the response has been overwhelming, and I’m quite excited about that. I hope I can get to all of them in a respectable amount of time; I suspect it’ll be a project I will be working away on for the majority of the summer.

I’ve started already; the first two cards are completed and ready to go out the door. My process has been to start with a light purple sketching pencil to define shapes, then use a 5H pencil to build the image. From there, I’ve been inking over the top of the pencils with Kuretake Zig Memory System Millennium markers — they come in a five-pack of various point sizes that runs about $10.50 at Target — and then erasing all of the pencil lines and coloring the final image with Prismacolor markers and pencils.

Right now, the Kuretake pens are killing me. They’re fantastic pens — if you stop at the inking stage. I’ve discovered the hard way that the ink isn’t waterproof; the Prismacolor markers will catch the black lines and smear ink all over the place when I’m trying to color the cards.

I had an Amazon gift certificate to burn, so I took the plunge and bought a four-pack of Copic Multiliner SP inking pens a couple of weeks ago. I’ve wanted to try Copics for awhile; the ink is waterproof and is specifically designed to use for this kind of inking and then colored over with markers. So I think for Card 3, I’m going to switch from the Kuretakes to the Copics and see how that works out. I’m actually afraid that I’m going to fall head over heels in love with the Copics and want to buy more — because they are stupidly expensive.

What I’m Learning
I spent today trying to learn a couple of new social media tools – HootSuite and Storify.

HootSuite is pretty much just like TweetDeck or Seesmic or any other Twitter client along those lines; it allows you to create different columns for different content and search piles of stuff simultaneously, has functionality to allow you to keep track of Facebook, etc. It’s got some built-in post scheduling abilities that are either non-existent or not as apparent as they should be on the other clients.

Most of the “good” features of HootSuite are limited to the pro (“paid”) version, which costs about ten bucks a month; so who knows if they’re even worthwhile. I’ll probably just pay the $10 at some point to try them out, and if they seem useful I’ll keep paying them.

There still is not a multi-column Twitter client that allows for any decent way at all to manage user lists. You can add users to lists in HootSuite, but I need to do some digging to find out if that’s actually adding users to my Twitter list (which means their membership would be available to me in other clients, like TweetDeck or the Twitter desktop and/or mobile clients), or if they’re just added to a cloned version of that list that only lives in HootSuite. If it’s the latter, that’s basically useless.

Storify allows you to cobble together bits and pieces of stuff from all over the web, with an emphasis on social media posts, to build a “social story.” The best way to explain it is to just show you the test story I built this afternoon. You pick and choose social posts, images, web pages, text snippets, any piece of content you can find on the web, really, and mash it all together into a “story,” along with text fields that allow you to put the pieces into context or weave an overall narrative to stitch them all together into something coherent. I can foresee a few applications for this for work; I can also foresee a few uses of it for some of my other side projects. I may try to use it to support the comic book reviews I write; I have never felt like putting in the time to download art, format it for the blog, and upload it to support the written reviews. It’s just seemed like too much work. But, I can see how it might be pretty easy to cobble together the existing pieces of the comic from all over the web — IDW’s original solicit for the issue, the cover art, the preview that gets posted, pencils/inks/etc. posted by the creative team on their various blogs and hangouts all across the Internet — and smoosh them together into a “supporting art” story in Storify, and then just link to the Storify story from the review. I might give that a shot this week and see how it goes…

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