About Bill Maher

Apparently, the smug, self-important, and self-righteous so-called comedian doesn’t understand comic books.

But don’t worry, Bill. We question your legitimacy and relevancy, too.

The comic book is American Mythology. They’re our Zeus, Odin, Aphrodite, Shiva, Gilgamesh.

In the future, when we think back on 2018, we will still remember Stan Lee and what he brought to not just American culture, but world culture. It is said that America’s contributions to the world are Jazz and the Comic Book. Well, Stan Lee made the comic book dynamic and the superhero human. He will be remembered.

Bill Maher? Exactly what has he contributed to American culture? He will go the way of Rush Limbaugh, remembered about as often as Walter Winchell.

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Valkyria Superheroine Comic Underway!

I have entered the world of superheroine comics! If I’d known it was this much fun, I would have gotten involved years ago.

Meet Katie Ashe, also known as Valkyria.

Katie Ashe Character Card

Here is a turnaround of the Valkyria costume. It was her mother’s old Halloween costume. Katie is broke. The costume originally had a cape, but I discarded it. It was too difficult to make look right in dramatic poses.

Valkyria Costume Upgrade Turnaround

Valkyria will be a superheroine story for mature readers. It will feature nudity, violence, foul language, sexual themes, social commentary, and occasional bloodshed. It will be more along the lines of Budd Root’s Cavewoman and Dynamite’s Red Sonja than anything released by Marvel and DC. Obviously, it will be composed of 3D renders. I can’t draw.

I’m going to play Valkyria straight. As in, serious. That gives me a chance to comment on the world as I see it from my chair. It’s also my natural bent as a storyteller, as it allows me to develop fully-dimensional characters and add emotional poignancy. Already, the first chapter is pretty serious and dark.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be funny. The humor will come from Katie herself, being inept and incompetent as a superheroine, and realizing the real world does not behave, or respond, like it does in a comic book. There are semis on those roads she’s running on! With only one costume, she’s spending half her pay at the laundromat. Meaning, she’s making it up as she goes, often with chaotic results. Those chaotic results will include being stripped naked and tied up. Besides, her superlair is a backstreet hovel and her supervehicle is the city bus. This is one impoverished superheroine! Ralph Kramden is a lot funnier than Bruce Wayne.

It will be the same with the villains. Most were once decent folk who snapped because of the world they live in, and decided to turn against it by going evil – except they aren’t very good at it. Being evil in real life isn’t like it is in comics and movies. Trying to act like a comic book villain, in our world, only makes them look silly. If they succeed at all, it’s out of dumb luck. The one thing they’re good at is luring Katie, stripping her naked, and tying her up. There may be one or two who were rotten to begin with, and they will be the truly dangerous ones. Then, there will also be monsters.

I believe that humor is funnier, and more pointed, in a comic drama, than in a comedy. MASH was a comic drama, and the funny parts were more hilarious because they happened in a devastatingly unfunny situation. There is also great humor in the surreal, as in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But let’s face it. How much more surreal can you get than being transformed into a metahuman in about two minutes by a being that shouldn’t exist?

Katie will have allies, namely Katie’s mom, her little sister, and her uncle Robert, who is her contact at Parthenon PD. Her step-father is just an asshole! There may be other superpowered allies as the series progresses, but I haven’t though that far ahead yet. Right now, I have seven chapters outlined in my head, up through when Katie takes the name Valkyria. After that, like Aura has, Katie will tell me what happens.

And, of course, Katie doesn’t really know what she’s doing. Except attract cats.

Katie Ashe

Some days, Katie Ashe feels like she has a split personality. Between all the changing into “big” form to practice running, lifting, and jumping, and changing back into “little” form to carry on with her life, she’s starting to see herself.

Katies

“Aw, man!” Big Katie whined. “Do I hafta wear a bra? Like I even need it when I’m you. And I hate glasses! There are benefits to being superpowered, you know.”

“Screw you!” Little Katie snarled. “I have to go to work, and they won’t recognize me if I show up looking like you, Gargantua! Until you … we … I start making some money at this superheroine gig, I’m the only one paying for this dump.”

“You? Me? We? I am you. Oh, crap. I’m talking to myself! That’s it, I’m blowing the tips at the liquor store!”

She should be more careful when she runs on the sidewalk.

Running

She needs to remember to get undressed before changing out of her 5’0” “Little Katie” form into her superpowered “Big Katie” form.

Not Again

I will leave you with a closeup of Katie’s face.

Katie Portrait

Valkyria is going to be fun and exciting! I already have the first seven pages of chapter one completed. Other than DeviantArt, I’m not sure exactly where Valkyria will land for publication. Wherever it is, I’ll let you know.

 

Aura Lockhaven in Iray and Comics

Yes, you read that right. Aura Lockhaven comics!

I’ve been experimenting with the Iray rendering engine, and the results are beyond what was expected. So, I had to see what Aura looked like.

Usually, I render her in Reality-Luxrender. That texturing system and render engine gives me more control over the look, and has far greater textural fidelity than Iray. It is, however, slow. Luxrender is the Treebeard of the rendering world. It never does anything hasty. A six hour render is just too time consuming for a comic, or even an illustrated short story. A page of a comic per week is reasonable. One panel per week is not.

Iray, however, is lightning in pixels. I can expect a render to complete between 20 minutes and 90. Extremely complicated sets and lighting require more time, but that is usually limited to fine art pieces, not the panels of a comic.

So. Here is the first image of Aura, rendered in Iray.

AuraIraySM

Aura looks great! Her skin is fantastic, and comparable to Reality. The clothes, however! They’re too orange. I can control the colors better in Reality. She’s the “red enchantress,” not the Orange Bowl Queen. Well, they are three years old, and date from her incarnation as a Victoria 6 figure (she’s a Victoria 7 now). Time to give the lady a new wardrobe.

This scene was … interesting. Iray should have rendered her in 20 minutes or less. It’s just one figure, a few clothes, a simple set, and two lights. She took an hour to reach 15% completion! That is not acceptable. This required some drastic measures. I could only surmise that the issue lay in the fact that Aura is a custom made, slider-by-slider, character. All those morphs had to slow her down. So, I made a single character morph and applied to to a stock G3F. If you don’t know what that means, I essentially turned her into a character I can sell. Instead of ten different morphs for her mouth alone, I have just one that says Aura Lockhaven, and it controls both face and body. That cut load time in half, but did not significantly increase render time.

Oddly enough, I experimented by rendering her in the Beta edition of DAZ Studio 4.9, instead of the public release of 4.9.3. She rendered much faster. At eleven minutes, she had only reached 10% completion. Not great. Not good enough for a comic. Better than 15% after an hour. At that point, I stopped the render to check her pose. Satisfied, I resumed the render. Within four minutes, she shot from 10% to 55%.

What the heck! There is no difference between 4.9 Beta and 4.9.3. They are identical. Why would stopping and resuming the render cause that much of a speed increase? My wife speculates that stopping it freed tied up resources in either the cache or VRAM.

It does matter. I’d like to know the answers so I can correct them. However, this opens the door for Aura Lockhaven illustrated short stories and comics.

I plan a few short comics, as in ten to twelve pages. They will fill in the gaps between novels, and provide a bit of backstory to some of the characters and situations. They will be free, on my website. Why not? Give them away as promotional items, and as fun things to fans.

This also opens the door for the Sarethian Seven to be that series of illustrated short stories I’ve envisioned for three years.

I will leave you with a scene I call “Night of the Wraiths.” Aura seems to be in a wee bit of a predicament.

Wraiths