I mentioned back in Oct 2021 (6 months ago) that I uploaded HWA to Webtoons and Tapas, so I thought I'd revisit and share the "fruits" of those labours, or accurately, the lack of fruits, haha—BUT I put zero effort into promoting/driving traffic to either of these places, since I rather people read on my website. So the stats are 99% based on people stumbling finding my comic on their own via the webtoon/tapas websites.

Webtoons

  • Views (across 12 chapters): 1055
  • Hearts (across 12 chapters): 44
  • Subscribers: 30
  • Comments: 5 ( Webtoon's lack of comment notification is a grand oversight)
  • Rating: 10 (IDK what this means since the rating is out of 5 stars)

Tapas

  • Views (across 12 chapters): 119
  • Hearts (across 12 chapters): 11, but I consider this to be outlier data because I'm 99% certain someone did it because I answered their question on the forum
  • Subscribers: 3
  • Comments: 0

My website itself has no stats so IDK how this compares, but I'm ultimately fine with this. I didn't want to get mega popular, just wanted to maybe find a small handful of people at most!

Itch / Tie the Knot

Itch isn't comparable to webtoon/tapas at all, but the closest comparison I have is my 18+ short comic that's up on there, Tie the Knot, which also features HWA characters. It's also not something I promote much at all, so majority of the traffic is through itch itself.

  • Page views: ~228
  • Downloads: ~90

Itch / Come for a Drink

Come for a Drink (the game) gets a bunch of mysterious traffic and has been around for wayyy longer (4 years). I do link to the game directly from my main website. My eyeballs always want to fall out of their sockets when I think of anyone dedicating hard drive space to this silly game and/or the zine.

  • Page views: ~1465
  • Downloads (across game/zine): ~288

Just some notes for anyone who is interested in these platforms, which already have a lot of great stuff on them! Tagging makes a big difference and so does being free (on itch). I personally have a lot of weird internalized issues with tagging my creations. I know the tags that will make people interested and/or make the stuff findable, but sometimes I feel like I don't want to use them as labels for my own stuff.

All these platforms' SEO game is stronger than my personal website too. I can't see myself expanding beyond these platforms unless one of them does something terrible. Basking in my weird little corner on the internet.

I scrounged up the courage to apply to Sloane Leong's Inkshrines webring! You can find some other comic creators on there too~


Today's music post: Someone already did a mashup ofr 4*Town's Nobody Like U x Ariana Grande's Focus

Jinhao 100 / Centennial

Jinhao 100 Centennial fountain pen (ivory/black)

Cover Image

I was looking for a pen with fude nib and wider section/grip diameter. I've been weary with too cheap pens drying out, so after reading many reviews about this Jinhao, which is not as cheap as some of their other models, I wanted to give it a try! I read that it's an homage/based off the Parker Duofold Centennial's design. I chose the ivory/off white and black colourway. I put it next to my bone folder (made of bone) and the colour of the pen is similar.

Collage of severage photos of the Jinhao 100 fountain pen, which is primarily white/ivory coloured, with a top and bottom finials in black

The Jinhao has some heft to it, but not overly so. It does get too back heavy if you try to post it. The barrel has some opacity differences/striations to the way the off-white shows up. There's barely/no step between the threads and barrel, which is a design feature I love. Some people love to have a flush cap with barrel, while I would sacrifice that streamline look with the practicality of not having a step/barrel dig into my hand.

Sandwiched between Pilot Kakuno and Pelikan 400NN. The colourway of Kakuno and Jinhao are...Pinkey. Jinaho's grip diameter is comparable to Kakuno and definitely thicker than the 400NN. Photo collage of 3 fountain pens from top to bottom: Pilot Kakuno in pink/white, Jinhao 100 in black/ivory, and Pelikan 400NN in green stripe. Photo shows capped and un-capped versions of the pen, for size comparison.

I loaded the pen up with Pennonia Rági (Bubblegum), and it wrote without any problem out of the envelope. I was worried the angles wouldn't be forgiving, but after writing/drawing fast, it seems to keep up fine.

Jinhao 100 pen laying on top of a sheet of line ruled paper with a lot of pink writing on it.

Photo close-up of text written with Jinhao 100, using Pennonia Rági ink

Solid pen! It's a true ink guzzler. I got this pen last year and after using it for a few months, it doesn't seem to have issues with drip out, but rather, some dry out. I enjoy writing with it when there's ink loaded in it though! Versatile :)


Today's music post: Cleft Of The Rock by Kyshona Armstrong.

Bandcamp was recently bought out by Epic Games. I'm not sure what the full implications are, but hope that there will still be a place for music makers to get direct support from folks beyond abysmal stream dollars.

Feb 2022 media round-up

What I watched/read

Another manga-heavy month. I started a bunch of these series because I heard about them in Mangasplaining!

War in the Blood by Arthur Cary

An intimate, feature-length documentary following two patients through groundbreaking ‘first in-human’ trials for CAR T-cell therapy, a treatment described as the beginning of the end of cancer.

If you're not good with seeing blood/needles, please avoid. I cried so much because it is very raw, human, educational, and at the intersection of life and death.

Way of the Househusband vol.6 by Kousuke Oono

Amanda Haley (translation), Jennifer LeBlanc (english adaptation and editor), Bianca Pistillo (touch-up art and lettering), Alice Lewis (design)

Playing Yakuza makes me appreciate the jokes in this series even more! Shiba inu neck flab scrunching is A+

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Requiem of the Rose King vol.14 by Aya Kanno

I forgot to copy down the credits, but I presume: Jocelyne Allen (translation) !!!

This story arc gives me anxiety because soooo manyyy thingsss cann goooo wrongggggggg and you know things WILL go wrong / things have always been going wrong.

Haikyu!! vol.7 by Haruichi Furudate

Adrienne Beck (translation), Erika Terriquez (touch-up art & lettering), Fawn Lau (design), Marlene First (editor)

Crows go go go! Continues to be a pleaser. Excited to see the wheels of the "growth" cog turn for all the different characters, within a game. Glad that the 3rd year got to set ;_;

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Tokyo Tarareba Girls vol.1 by Akiko Higashimura

Steven LeCroy (translation), Rina Mapa (lettering), Sarah Tilson (editing)

I was a bit shocked at how strongly the message of deeply embedded the mentality of "need to be married with man by 30s" was, to the point that I found it kind of annoying, but I suppose that's still a strongly held belief that I purposefully purged out of my own life. In that respect, I am like the guy at the bar who finds them annoying and that I should empathize more. I expected the guy to be more ikemen...he looks weird to me?

Cells at Work and Friends vol.1 by Kanna Kurono / Mio Izumi / Supervised Akane Shimizu

??? I have no idea who did the translation or lettering because it's not on the credits page ?? Production by animaru

I started reading this because the premise sounded like a socially awkward jock himbo trying to make friends, so it delivered exactly what I wanted, haha. Except the himbo in this case is a killer T cell so there's a layer of immunology baked in.

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The shorts are pretty funny because the guy's turmoil is all about trying to uphold his macho demeanor, even though he is fluffy inside. Not dissimilar to Otomen in some ways.

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It was fun to see the writer's storyboards and compare them to the final version.

Sera and the Royal Stars vol.1 by Jon Tsuei (writer), Audrey Mok (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Karina Plaja (assistant colorist), Tim Daniel (designer), Jayden Wassel (special book design)

Since I've been reading a lot of manga lately, the pace of this felt very rushed in comparison, but I think it's a stylistic thing with western action comics. It wasn't obvious to me that Antares is associated with Scorpius/Scorpii (etc.) since I don't know much about stars or constellations, and that caused some confusion for me. I really like the character designs and Audrey Mok's art!

Love me, Love me not vol.12 by Io Sakisaka

Nancy Thistlethwaite (adaptation/editor), JN productions (translation), Sara Linsley (touch-up art & lettering), Yukiko Whitley (design)

Nice to see the story wrap up!! Nothing too special happens but it's a feel good ending.

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Ajin: Demi Human vol. 1-16 by Tsuina Miura (story) Gamon Sakurai (art)

Ko Ransom (translation), Risa Cho and Hiroko Mizuno (production) Vol 16 has Ko Ransom (translation), Daniel Joseph (editor), Risa Cho, Hiroko Mizuno, and Lorina Mapa (production)

The premise reminds me of X men in the sense that there's a human vs demi human power struggle with both sides fearing each other.

Someday I will read the conclusion...just 1 more vol. I really like the sense of whirl/snap/flow that the artist is capable of doing with the bandage-y shadowy people. I can feel the movement!

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Sato is really messed up (I suppose all the demi humans would be perceived as messed up because of what their bodies are capable of) but I do find him to be a charismatic antagonist.

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Also very interesting how the the support staff and CSP assets are specifically credited for elements of the comic.

Hitorijime my Hero vol.1 by Memeco Arii

Anne Lee (translation), Michael Martin (lettering), Lauren Scanlan (editing), Phil Balsman

I was very confused while reading this comic. Probably because they introduce 5+ characters at once I couldn't tell the characters apart and they also change hair style/colour...and there's a timeskip...??? The pair dynamic is not my taste but I think people who like the Sekaiichi or Junjou series would find this series appealing!

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The author draws themselves as a bikini-wearing bunny getting bitten by deadline dog

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City vol.1 by Keiichi Arawi

Jenny McKeon (translation), Grace Lu and Hiroko Mizuno (production)

I can't quite put my finger on how to describe this series, but I find it to be very random and has very Japanese-style cartooning and humour.

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This broccoli thing also made me laugh cause it's so bizarre.

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The duck lip chapter was disturbing but also fit in with the book's vibe.

Otomen vol.9 by Aya Kanno

JN Productions (Translation and adaptation), Mark McMurray (Touch-up art and lettering), Fawn Lau (design), Amy Yu (editor)

I feel betrayed that the author doesn't like glasses characters hahahahaha.

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Blissful Land vol.1 by Ichimon Izumi

Christine Dashiell (translation), Carl Vanstiphoutl (lettering), William Flanagan (editing)

DOGGGGGG! IDK how accurate this is to 18th century Tibet, but I I do love Moshi Rati's accessories/skirt (always drawn to be fanned out while siting) and her fangirling of weaving and thread dying!!

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The author sometimes simplifies the boy's face in a way that's kind of strange to me (like googly eye) but maybe I'll come to understand why later.

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Today's music post: 草蜢/Grasshopper did a cover of 少年隊/Shonentai's ABC and here's a mash up of both. I'm surprised at how similar the voices are.

Matchy Snatchy

A simple card game inspired by Ittybeatty and Dirchansky's favourite animal/creatures.

A game made by ittybeatty and dirchansky!

In MATCHY SNATCHY, players are personal stylists who are tasked with building the best outfits for a suite of hot shot Clients to flaunt their looks at their next big Event!

HOW TO WIN

A stylist must accumulate the most Client cards by end of the game. To win Client cards, stylists try to score the highest amount of points by creating the best outfit for a Client, every round. The best outfits are ones that match the Event dress code, the Client’s preferences, and are the most Eco-friendly. Watch out though—the other stylists are also competing to dress the same Client for the same Event. They have their eye on your rack, and might get snatchy...

The game mechanics aren't complicated: it's a point accumulation game, where every card has a point assigned to it. It requires both strategy and luck. Hopefully when we're allowed to safely visit each other again, I can play this game with people in real life!

Background: December game jam

Over December 2020, I had the privilege and pleasure to collaborate with Bea on a wholesome card game. She was craving to create something, while I was waffling around, needing external distraction from the roaches. Bea lives on the west coast while I live on the east coast, but with the power of dropbox file syncing, jitsi meet, and cryptpad (UX tradeoffs for privacy), we were able to collaborate quite well! We agreed to dedicate 3 days a week (~5-7h/day) to make a MVP game by the end of the month. We also had a secondary goal of learning how to use the Affinity suite, so that we could both eventually wean ourselves off of the $$$ Adobe suite.

Overall, the game jam was a big success! We learned a lot about Affinity (lots of habits to unlearn from Adobe ecosystem) and we ended up going higher fidelity than we both expected; we made 2 very limited printed copies for ourselves! We also had great laughs along the way, including delighting each other with Friday Night (Yakuza 0) in the late afternoon.

v00

The premise for the game was inspired by plushies and pets in our lives. At some point Bea drew clothing over some of mine, and I was completely smitten.

photo of several animal plushes, with digitally drawn on clothing

We started our brainstorming in a shared doc, typing as we spoke to each other. We used a game design framework as a starting point to talk through goals, style, genre, etc. Then we made an asset list spreadsheet. We were both most excited by the "client" cards, so those were hashed out pretty early on, haha.

We had over 100 item cards shortlisted, an early on, an elaborate stat system linked to each item card. Our heads began to spin because we couldn't figure out how to even score our own game. We knew we had to make some fundamental changes to our original plan, which then took a few days to pare down, so that the game didn't feel like a drag to score.

This version was super scrappy and had a lot of placeholder images from the internet. We laughed because our early design work looked like those ads that you tape/staple to lamp posts on the street.

We play tested the game over webcam, but only Bea had the colour printer and cards, so we played with open hands. We started with very few "events" and "items" for this pass.

collage of screenshots of remote play testing

As we played, we took note of how the game mechanics and assets worked together, whether it was fun, and how long it took to set up/play the game.

v01

After the first play test we made adjustments to gameplay/rules and added more "events" and "items". We also balanced the number and features of cards available. I was responsible for balancing and writing instructions, while Bea took on visual design and colour palette.

I really like how Bea built in addition visual cues for item type based on the location and size of the colour fill. BRILLIANCE that really shined through when I could barely read the text off the webcam stream during the playtest.

collage of images showing the gentle progression of asset design fidelity across versions

When we did our 2nd playtest, we used the instructions as a guide along the way. This approach allowed us to see where there were inconsistencies or uncertainties in gameplay. Chosing consistent terminology was also important.

We ended up tying for win at the end of the game, so we had to think of new instructions on how to deal with ties.

v02

We both wanted to get a "slightly more professionally printed" copies for ourselves, so we let some print specs dictate the scope and quantity of cards that we would have in this iteration of the game. We added a final suite of "event" and "items" and did a design/visual pass on everything (cards, instructions, placemats, etc.). I proofread everything, while Bea did her magic on card backs and other design fine tuning. Since the game required colour matching, we added labels for any player who might have colour blindness. It was December 23rd, 2020 when we exported everything for print! Not only did we finish, but we finished early!

Screenshot of the placemat design

Screenshot of a client card, featuring Pinkey, drawn by Bea

The smaller cards were designed at standard playing card size, so we could get those printed at places that print customized decks (front and back). These cards were printed through Artscow.

photo of action and item cards

The rest of the materials haven't been printed yet (yes, a full year later) cause it ended up being quite expensive! It's still a MVP so it was hard to justify the cost. Someday...


Today's music post: 野良犬 by 刃頭 feat.ILL-BOSSTINO. I was making lunch and remembered this song from 2002. I'm not sure how I found it originally (was it really a Bleach connection?) but I remembering liking the beat and the sense of urgency/desperation with the voice and flow. ILL-BOSSTINO is from THA BLUE HERB, a group from Sapporo and they're still making music (e.g., ASTRAL WEEKS / THE BEST IS YET TO COME).

Edited these from some forum replies I wrote.

On starting creating original work

  • I'm self-indulgent⁠—I make stuff for myself, first and foremost (e.g., include possums in everything).
  • Making is hard, so I try make it worthwhile⁠—I include stuff that I look forward to writing/drawing that has some mental/emotional pay off (e.g., chance to draw a really funny scene or reaction).
  • I'm ok if nobody reads/sees my work, because the desire/need came from a place of satisfying myself⁠—not everything has to be seen by others, nor do I require my work to go viral or be monetized (this isn't true of everyone!).
  • I mostly look at my own website as record keeping/archive of my own work that is superior to just files on my hard drive—I post stuff online in the odd chance that someone else might appreciate/enjoy or be inspired to take the plunge and start making for themselves too.
  • Not every story has to be mega awesome innovative unique new amazing earth-shattering groundbreaking⁠—my most "popular" comics seem to be the extremely poorly drawn autobio ones.
  • I consider every piece and the process of creating it, to be practice—they'll never be perfect, and aren't meant to be anyway.

IMO it's healthy to not strive for best/perfection based on some vague, external standard—especially in comics (in an artwork context), where an average reader is going to look at a panel for a few seconds and move on. Folks talk about only having one or two "really good" panels on a page, and having mediocre panels as filler. Mediocrity can be great and wonderful. Mediocrity will save you from carpal tunnel. I do my best given the time/energy/effort that I have. When I was working full time, I did my best in the little hours I had left, but ultimately my goal was to complete the story, rather than to perfect every drawing in every panel.

I sometimes use the analogy of "levelling up stats in a RPG"—you can put all your points into a single attribute, or spread them across different attributes! Both are valuable in different contexts. Time/energy is finite, and I will never be the person who is going to be the most amazing at only X, because I'm also spending time developing A, B, C, and D (for me, ABCD are not even comics related).

On being your own worst critic

I like to share Ira Glass's words about the "taste gap" (the gap between your taste, and your skill) because it rings true for me. I've been drawing/making comics (spotily!) for 20+ years and only now is the taste/skill gap starting to become smaller. Though as one improves in skill, your taste also inevitably improves, so it's always a moving target.

I'm fairly neutral about my art (specifically, what's drawn in panels)—well, unless it's animal comics (which I love)—but I'm passionate about my characters, story, communication, and the medium. Art is only one facet of a comic. My focus for the past few years has been how to communicate clearly instead of how do I try to make {art/drawing in panel} looks {arbitrarily good with regards to whatever standard you're deciding upon}.

These days, I can usually find something I like about my art. Being nice to myself and complimenting myself is a deliberate action that I have to build into my life—it's way too easy to get trapped in only having negative feelings about my own work.

On plot point churn

Again, this is written from the my POV where my objectives are to balance the time/energy that I have to put towards getting my creative work out the door.

IMO as long as the choice made serves the plot or drives the characters forward in some way, it's a good choice. Sometimes choice A and B can lead me to the same impact/result. I personally don't think a perfect choice exists. Nobody will see my choices unless I make the comic!

Choices worth getting stuck on

It's easy to get stuck on choices/plot points that don't necessarily have a huge bearing on the character/plot line, so I spend my time on the ones that do. Philip Pullman has a series of essays compiled in Daemon Voices (on stories and storytelling). He uses an analogy that every possibility (phase space) within a story is the forest and it's the creator's duty to create and stay on a path. I like the analogy because its reminds me to not spend too much time off in the forest, unless it's part of my path.

PS: I sometimes make some story choices for totally shallow, non-plot-relevant reasons, and build rationale from there, haha.

Exploring choices

My first writing passes are always unrestricted/unedited/unfiltered—pen to paper flow of consciousness. After the first pass of what I'd describe as absolute word vomit I take the stuff that seems interesting or that dovetails well with what I'm trying to communicate, and continue to select and then pare down. It's OK to have divergent thinking (good practice to at least explore a few options), but at some point, I need to converge and commit.

Sometimes I put a constraint on myself to make choices less daunting—for example:

  • Explore 3 different types of choices/paths for {this point in the story}.
  • Explore these paths at an overview/outline level (e.g., what are the key actions/events that trickle down from this choice/path that I'm exploring), not at a detailed level.

As long as the choice works in the context of the story/characters and there is some rationale for the choice, then it's good. IMO, bad choices are the ones that takes a reader out of the world I've created. Ones that seem awkward/odd/inconceivable given the context, that a reader notices it.

On romance

HWA arc 1 was ROMANCE so indeed I think a lot about romance. Sometimes it can be totally shallow and indulgent, and other times it can be very deep and meaningful. Everyone has different combinations of tastes.

HWA's romance required believable chemistry and some emotional connection and commitment in a relationship. To build that, I thought about:

  • Who are these characters and why would they even be interested in a relationship/romance? What are they hoping to get out of a relationship?
  • How do they first notice their feelings? Is it sudden and strong, or slow and gradual?
  • What are their opinions/beliefs about friendship vs. romantic vs. physical relationships?
  • How are they different? How do they complement each other?
  • What do they like about each other?
  • What do they like (less) or dislike about each other?
  • Why would these character get together and/or stay together (in the short and/or long run)?
  • How will they grow/change as individuals and as a unit?
  • What happens to the rest of their social circle(s)? Do they combine/never overlap?
  • Are they the kind of couple that neglects their friends to hang out with just each other?
  • Etc.

Within HWA I have only scratched the surface of J/A romance and I have 1000129019012901283 other stories underneath that dig into their relationship deeper.


When creating stories, the thing that I ask myself the most is why over and over again re: what I'm doing, what my characters are doing, etc. This form of investigation of actions/behaviours/mental model, borrows from Five Whys and Ladders of Inference. Indeed, if you asked me "why did your character do X" I could probably give you a deeply rooted rationale for it—however, that doesn't mean that anything I make is necessarily better than anyone else's stories or characters. It's just my own way of understand who my characters are and why they show up in the worlds I make, the way they do.


Today's music post: nine lives by maassai