Broken Kode

Process

A few months after publishing the last episode of Moon Racket Season One, I’ve now finished writing the second season. If the first season was all about seeing a project through to completion, the second season is taking the idea and adding some polish.

One of the things I’ve always enjoy watching is the natural maturing process a body of work sometimes goes through while the creative minds behind the work hone their skills. Although I can only dream of reaching the lofty heights reached by a series like The Simpsons, an apt comparison in one regard would be how the first season looked compared to what we recognise as the characters now. There was a maturing process and this is something that I aim to achieve for Season Two, both for the writing and the art.


I’ve already spoken about the proposed increase in paper size (and therefore Panel Size) of the coming season. One thing I realised very quickly was just how important the initial scripts were. The first season had a bit of looseness in the scripts. I would often times rewrite the thing as I was drawing it - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

For this season I decided to really pour into the details of every script. I would not go on to the next one until I actually had completed the one I was working on. If I got stuck on any one strip, I would remove it from the document I was working on and paste it into a second document that acted as my ‘graveyard’. This allowed me to focus on one strip at a time. What I realised was that some ideas took days, weeks to mature or develop in my head and other ideas effectively wrote themselves. What I also realised was the last 5 episodes were extremely difficult to complete, which might have been a mental block on my side, or the fact that I had a lot going on in my life at the time.

Panel Sizes

Moon Racket started out life on my iPhone 4. It was a method for me to actually use my latest ‘computer’ to create content, rather than just consume on it.

The obvious limitation was the size of the screen, so I decided to use this as the panel size (or at least the same aspect ratio 3:2) with the idea that eventually when I release the series digitally, it will already be formatted for this screen size.

I realised pretty quickly that although I was getting the benefit of colour and I was using my iPhone, the creation process was stifling and the end result wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked. I decided to take the strip back to the physical world and made the investment in an A4 hardcover art book with thick paper - no idea what the grade is, but it was reasonably smooth (not bristol board smooth). It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. All of Moon Racket lives in this A4 book.

Traditionally the newspaper industry and therefore the artform itself, comic strips are typically 4 panels, 4 inches by 3 inches. In an attempt to grow, Season Two will be framed with the typical 3:4 ratio panels. I’ve had to get some American sized paper, 11x14 inches, which frustratingly is slightly larger than A4 but smaller than A3 - and means I can no longer use my A4 book.

Hopefully this change will mean that the art will breathe more and therefore should allow the strip to better shine.

Season One Report Card

Today marks 20 consecutive weeks that I’ve published a new episode for my online comic Moon Racket, so I thought it would be nice to take stock and review the experience.

All 20 strips in a nice overview image.

Rather than being completely harsh (which would come easily for me when reviewing my own work), I think I’ll first highlight some of the things that I thought went well.

Firstly, the strip never missed a ship date. All 20 episodes were released every Sunday for 20 weeks. Secondly, the general reaction on both Facebook and Tumblr have been really great and I’m grateful to everyone who has liked, shared or read the strip. I’m still debating whether or not Tapastic is worth it, but I do it for the 3 that have subscribed and hopefully enjoying the strip.

Overall, I give the strips an overall 5/10. There are some stories that I think worked out better than others but the truth is I could have written better stories and could have developed the characters better.

One aspect that I am genuinely happy with is the evolution of the artwork. I still think it’s ok and only the errors jump out at me, but at least I can see a proper improvement over the life of the strip.

With that in mind the series is going to take a break for a few months while I write better stories (currently I have 10 in the bag) and come back stronger with Season Two.

Inking Tools

In early 2012 I started work on my first iOS app with my cousin. The trip was long and meandering (one which unfortunately we never completed).

One of the things that I made sure I did was keep all my notes and scribbles in a single notebook. This was a bit of a departure for me, but one that I have maintained for all my future projects. Each project has it’s own notebook where most things can be found.

One sketch that I attribute the inking of Moon Racket to, is the original icon sketch for the app.

The importance of this sketch was in making me appreciate the Muji 0.38mm black gel ink pen as a tool for clean inking and providing the correct thickness of line that I was originally looking for - but couldn’t really achieve with my Copic pens.

While this pen isn’t completely suitable for the clean lined artwork of Chroma, it still has it’s uses for all the cross-hatching required. Sometimes you stumble on a tool that elevates your art, for me it was my Muji gel ink pen.

2013 in Review

When you reflect back on a year, the hope is always to find a number of moments that put a smile on your face - thankfully these last 12 months have given me with a lot to smile about.

Getting the news that I am going to become a father was the definite highlight - a fact which I’ve honestly not wrapped my head completely around, but I’ve started preparing1.

Creatively this year is one of my strongest in recent memory. I drew an entire season of Moon Racket, a slew of additional promotional images and designed the website - although it’s going to get some redesign love in the new year. Surprisingly the comic work didn’t end there as I completely rewrote the script for Chroma (my upcoming comics project) that has been many years in the making.

I redesigned this here site for the umpteenth time, however I do believe that this iteration is by far my most mature attempt and probably one that I will likely not change fundamentally for many years to come. The aspects of the site that I am most happy with are the colours and the typography, which is the first time in many years that I am ahead of the curve in certain respects (small caps only valid in certain browsers, surprisingly not Safari/Webkit proper).

Finally I started work on two iOS apps. The first one, we’ve scrapped and shelved, the other I hope we get some traction in the new year and we finally ship something, because as we all know:

Real Artists Ship

Steve Jobs

Here’s wishing everyone a great 2014.


  1. This year I started getting into photography a little bit more. I want to make sure that I am capable of capturing my son or daughter’s life in the most beautiful way - like every self respecting geek father should. 

Chroma Script

Earlier this year I completed rewriting the script I have been working on for many years now. I originally conceived of the idea in my 20s. Now in my early/mid-30s I’ve finally completed the works in a fashion that I believe I can actually start making some progress on this idea by drawing it and eventually publishing it.

Although it’s never the tools that make the end product, the right tools remove unnecessary friction. In this regard, Highland has been an irreplaceable solution for creating scripts. I thoroughly recommend it to all script (and non-script) writers.

Lettering

In creating Moon Racket, it was very clear to me early on that the lettering would have to be a character in itself. My initial attempts at lettering involved hand lettering, in the end I opted for some great fonts from the Comicraft library.

Moon Racket T-shirt designs I’ve done for fun. Hopefully one day I’ll have a whole collection of these in my wardrobe.

The latest episode of Moon Racket is online. The second panel of the strip is probably the first time I was comfortable enough with the characters to try and make them appear more grounded in their environment.

The latest episode of Moon Racket is online. The second panel of the strip is probably the first time I was comfortable enough with the characters to try and make them appear more grounded in their environment.

(Source: moonracket)

Codanauts

In early 2012 I was working on an app for iOS with my cousin. The second company name we came up with was Codanauts. I loved the name and came up with this logo over a weekend. 2 months later my cousin found out about Codenauts. There is a subtle difference if you missed it: Cod-a-nauts vs Cod-e-nauts.

Oddly enough they seem to have stopped their operation and our operation never took off. I still love the similicity of this logo and hope to use it in the future.

Fresh Starts

Earlier this year I contemplated shutting down Broken Kode, a site that has been part of the internet landscape since January 2004, a total of nearly 10 years online. In a last attempt to keep the name and the site alive I tried changing things around to see if I could maintain my enthusiasm for it.

My first attempt was to try and focus on all things Tesla Motors. However I quickly realised that actually I was writing to an audience of one (myself) and that I wasn’t enjoying the process all that much. My next idea was to use the site as a simple Tumblr, a digital drawer for things that others created. My attempts can still be read here.

Ultimately I felt that the site deserved better treatment. In the last few months I have started publishing my comic work, on Moon Racket and I have several other projects in the pipeline as well. So this site will be used as a way to log my ideas and showcase the creative process, in the attempt to better understand what I am doing and how I could be doing it better. The posts on this site will be more limited, however each and every one will be infinitely more personal.