• The Secret Lair - Overlord KrisThere’s plenty of activity over at The Secret Lair these days. We’ve posted our discussion on Richard K. Morgan’s Market Forces in the latest episode of The Secret Library, the donations from our loyal minions have completely covered the cost of our new Samson Zoom H2 mobile recorder, our promo has been played on some great podcasts (including J.C. Hutchins‘ UltraCreatives and Geek Radio Daily) and the comic strips just keep coming!

    P.G. Holyfield, who apparently isn’t busy enough recording his own audionovel, has published some comics over at Bitstrips suggesting that things aren’t exactly rosy over at The Secret Lair. I couldn’t let that kind of impudence go unanswered, so I fired a shot across his bow. Unfortunately for Mr. Holyfiend, he couldn’t take the hint, and his continued poking and prodding has awakened the dragon. I am assured by a very reliable and trustworthy source that his uppance will soon come.

    Rivalries aside (and Mr. Holyfiend has more than one), I’ve ventured into morally and bioethically challenging territory with a strip that addresses cloning. “Evil Kris” introduces a new character to The Secret Lair and brings up a very interesting question from my co-overlord, Mr. Miller.

    Bitstrips: Evil Kris

    Meanwhile, the Secretary of Artistic Propaganda has been busy creating comic strips the old fashioned way. The overlords and their rivals must leverage emerging technologies to bring the illustrated funny, but Natalie Metzger has something better than a drag-and-drop interface: loads and loads of talent. Episode 0002 of our web comic finds yours truly participating in a very dubious blood drive. Click the preview panel below to see the full comic (and yummy cookies!).

    Blood Drive

    I’ve seen the scripts for the next few episodes of the webcomic and I must admit that I’m very pleased with our Secretary of Artistic Propaganda. Ms. Metzger has quickly risen through the ranks of the various minions, pursuivants, lickspittles, lieutenants, lackeys, lobbyists, goons and thugs we employ at The Secret Lair and proven herself to be quite valuable. I have informed the Disposal Squad that they can stand down…for now.

  • Bitstrips: Remixing


    One of the interesting things Bitstrips allows users to do is remix other users’ strips (provided the original creator grants the appropriate permission). The function is “Edit a new strip based on this one” and invoking it loads the original strip, complete with all of the characters, furniture, dialog, props and backgrounds into the strip editor. Once in the editor, you are free to manipulate the strip as you see fit: add a new character, delete a prop, change the colors, move the furniture, etc.

    When blob published “To Each His Own” earlier this week, I was informed that I had appeared in a new strip.

    Bitstrips: To Each His Own (by blob)

    Sure enough, there I am, sitting at the bar in the background. And seated next to me (though completely blocked from view by blob’s character) is our mutual friend, 5thHorseman. If you look closely, you can also see the back of codeshaman‘s head, almost entirely blocked by the fellow who yells “Go Team!” in the final panel. I thought it would be cool to remix the strip from another point of view, so I hit the “Edit a new strip based on this one” button and started moving characters, furniture and props around to essentially put the camera on the opposite side of the room.

    The result is “Meanwhile…“, and it takes place in the same bar and, in fact, at the same time as blob’s original strip.

    Bitstrips: Meanwhile

    If you look at the characters in the background, they go through the same motions from panel to panel as they do in the original. Now, however, 5thHorseman is completely visible and we’re having our own conversation in that comicspace, while the dialog in the background is “inaudible”. Oh, and codeshaman is there, too. See, each panel in a Bitstrip comic is actually much larger than what is displayed in the frame, which allows the author to set up a large scene in one panel, duplicate it in the next, then simply pan the camera or resize the panel to include only those elements that are important to each single panel. So, codeshaman is there, out of frame. As in the original, he’s seated to my right. However, he’s only actually in the final panel, as I deleted him from the first two.

  • The Secret Lair…Illustrated!


    The Secret Lair has gone two-dimensional! Thanks to the efforts of some very talented (and funny) folks, the evil overlords have recently been featured in not one but two comic strips.

    The first strip comes from the Lair’s own Secretary of Propaganda, Natalie Metzger. Natalie is the very talented artist who created our official site banner, community site banner and evil overlord avatars. Click the thumbnail below to view at 750 x 500 pixels. The full size image, a whopping 1500 x 1000 pixels, can be seen at The Secret Lair. This is the first of what we hope will be many, many Secret Lair strips from the Secretary of Propaganda.

    The Secret Lair: New Pet

    The second strip, “Problems at the Lair?” by P.G. Holyfied, relates an unfortunate early communications problem; one long since resolved, I can assure you.

    Bitstrips: Problems at the Lair?

  • Bitstrips: Perspective


    Bitstrips allows you to assign a genre to each of your strips, the default genre being Comedy. For “Perspective“, I thought it best to go with the Experimental genre.

    Bitstrips: Perspective

  • I was beginning to think my first Bistrip was going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and that I’d never have an idea for a second strip. Then I started messing around with the editor and trying to figure out what I could do with my avatar. Messing around with the poses let me to my second strip, “Pumped Up” (click image to enlarge).

    Bitstrips: Pumped Up

    My third strip, “On Originality“, was born from the fear that I would subconsciously steal a gag I’d seen in someone else’s webcomic. The mini-strip (or “meta-strip” or “recursistrip”) was a bit of a pain to create, as there aren’t really any drawing tools or primitives on Bitstrips yet. I had to use the “speed line” effect over and over again for all the lines, and getting them aligned was a chore. I wanted to put some background color into this one, but there would have been no (easy) way to make the margins on the mini-comic white if I had.

    Bitstrips: On Originality

    The script for my fourth strip, “Bigger on the Inside“, wasn’t written until after I had the entire layout finished. I wanted to see if I could effectively create a gaming table that was longer than the one included in the Bitstrips furniture library. Once I had Chris Miller and Miscellaneous G™ (AKA GoonStar) seated at the table, I decided they should be having an argument, much to the dismay of the other gamers at the table. Special guest star: Jason Penney.
    Bitstrips: Bigger on the Inside

    In retrospect, I really wish I’d kept the background color the same in all three panels to promote the idea that everyone is sitting at the same table. EDIT: I published a new version with a consistent background color across all three panels. Yes, it bothered me that much.

    EDIT (again): I just published the final version of this strip. I found a bigger table that allows me to put together a proper-sized gaming group (four players plus a Game Master). This allowed me to do the strip in two panels instead of three and add a new guest star, SambearPoet. I also tweaked the expression on my face a bit; I figured two adjacent characters with closed eyes wasn’t a good idea. I’m leaving the second version here for posterity and comparison.

    Bitstrips: Bigger on the Inside (Ver. 3)

  • Bitstrips: Boundless Creativity


    The latest big thing among my circle of Interfriends is Bitstrips, a site that lets you create your own comic strips. The concept is simple: create an account, build your avatar and start making comic strips starring your avatar, (or better, your friends’ avatars) and a library of characters props, scenes and furniture.

    The drag-and-drop interface is pretty simple; it took me all of 10 minutes to write and lay out my first strip (after about an hour and a half of agonizing over my avatar, which still needs a proper goatee). Don’t expect me to be churning out Penny Arcade or PvP Online anytime soon, but the basics are there and I’ve already seen some fairly clever (if a bit niche) comics in the past 24 hours or so.

    And so, without further ado, I present (assuming the embed code works properly) my very first comic strip, starring none other than me.

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