by HHB BOOKMASTER


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NEWS



4/8/08: OK, todayís strip was officially the hardest one Iíve drawn to date. It caused a total art block that lasted a LONG TIME. Now that Iíve worked through it, I have more confidence and a renewed enthusiasm in drawing. ^_^ Also, this is the first strip done with Photoshop CS3 from my brand new Adobe CS3 Master Suite! Dude, I have an entire studio on my computer!
I have a friend who finds it funny that Lute just assumes that Hazzardís Gang is there to help him out. Heís not wrong but itís still funny. Thatís how Lute works; heís the hero so things should work out for him, right? Now itís time for some large-scale brawling!

Boy itís sure good to be back! Iíll give you all a brief summary as to why Iíve been on hiatus for so long:

Graduation: This was a huge mess that spanned months and was a real hassle. I had to visit a psychologist to prove why I couldnít handle taking foreign language classes. What I learned taught me a lot about myself and why I have some of the problems that I do (many that affect my efforts with my comic, too). I learned that I have a math disorder that disrupts my ability to estimate time effectively (yeah that happens with this comic a lot). I also have both a reading AND a writing disorder, which explains my spelling errors. The doctor thought that was ironic, considering how Iím an English major. She also thought it was weird that I only had an average memory but my vocabulary was better than 99% of tested people in my age and education bracket. I also have an auditory discriminatory disorder, which explains why I have such a hard time understating people sometimes when they talk to me, hearing on the phone, or hearing dialogue from the TV. In addition, I also process information much slower than the average person, which slows down everything I do. In spite of all this, I still have a very high IQ! ^_^ If it werenít for these brain anchors, Iíd be at genius level. Iím satisfied with being on the superior level, though, so Iím not too bummed. Iím just jazzed that Iím smarter than I thought I was. All this was certainly enough to deal with the whole foreign language problem, and as of August 2007, I am a proud graduate of the University of Washington! ^_^

Moving: I moved to Utah this summer. This was a BIG DEAL. I had to clean and pack for weeks. I havenít moved since I was five or something. Now Iím getting ready to move again, but itís just a short ways away so itís not as big of a deal. That first move was a NIGHTMARE. >_<

Injury: I injured my neck back in the end of August. BADLY. The fourth vertebrae is still out of joint. I was in serious pain for a few months and since then I have occasional bouts of pain that make me want to lie down and not move. This is a serious setback for an artist since working on my strip or other art aggravates the injury. I have no idea when Iíll get better.

Employment: I HAVE A JOB! I got it back in September. I do data entry. No, this does not help my neck any. >_< Itís not up my education level but itís just temporary so I can build a resume.

miscellaneous reasons of questionable importance: Thereís been other stuff too and Iíd be lying if I tried to pretend that all my hiatus reasons were good ones. I did do a bit of goofing off, such as getting involved with insanely long shows (Babylon 5 DVDs and the fansubbed Once Piece anime) that I just couldnít stop watching. My bad.

Anyhoo, Iím getting back into the grove of things. I still have stuff to do (I have a BIG project that I must finish ASAP), so the update schedule will still be random until things settle down more. I will do my best to work as hard as I can to update as frequently as possible. Iíll let you all know the moment things change.

5/24/07:This strip took much, much longer than anticipated due to a variety of reasons: 1) schoolwork, 2) it was WAY harder to draw than I thought, and finally, 3) problems with Comic Genesis. I donít think I need to go into detail; that should suffice. I really liked how this strip turned out, though. The drawings worked out excellently (though I forgot a few details on Hammer, but oh well. Iím SOOOOOO ticked off at myself for saving my file AFTER I cropped and resized for the web, meaning that I donít have a larger, high-resolution version anymore. If I ever wanted to print this, thatís a problem. DARN!

Oh yeah, and by a show of hands, how many people thought that the dude in the spiky, dark-purple armor was intimidating when he first showed up? Now, how many of you are still intimidated after Hazzard used him as a catch-mat? ^_^ Yeah, appearances can be deceiving, huh? I like to think that this guy wears that get-up to accommodate for his inability to succeed at anything.

By way of warning, I wonít be able to do any new strips for a week or two. I have a LOT of things to do, what with finals, graduation, and job-seeking to prepare for. During this period, Iím going to see if I can get the funds I need to buy a tablet PC laptop and a scanner, because after I graduate Iíll have NO SCANNER and the always-bugged-up family computer. No more school computer lab, which is where Iíve done 95% of the comic computer work to date. If I cannot get the needed funds, the comic will have to go on hiatus until I get a job and save it up (and forget about ever getting a Wii in this lifetime). Yes, I DO need an expensive tablet PC; my hand-eye coordination is terrible and after several years of using my Wacom tablet, I STILL canít draw right onto the computer. Being able to draw on a screen is the only way I can work around this difficulty. Iíll keep you posted on how this all plays out.

5/14/07:I have to admit, this latest update was one of the easiest ever. I got four panels out of three small drawings. ^__^ Yes, I cheated. No, I donít feel bad. I spent more time than I needed to in making last weekís update all pretty, so I feel justified in slacking. Originally, Hammer was also supposed to be in this strip with some lines and more than two poses, but he didnít add much and just cluttered the whole thing, so I cut him out. He really didnít fit, anyway. At any rate, itís good to see these three goons again, huh?

Schoolís moving along, still working on several of the same major problems. I also have a paper due this Friday, so the next update will undoubtedly be delayed until next Monday again. Iíd like to say that I can get it done by Friday but letís face it--we ALL know Iím a terrible judge of time. >_<

On a completely unrelated note, Iíd like to alert the scientific community of the discovery of the newest ďmost addictiveĒ substance in the world. Anyone who suffers from acute obsessive behavior should never touch a Pokemon game. (Because I know somebodyís wondering: I have Pearl and no, I do NOT have Wi-Fi and therefore I have no friend code, so donít ask.)

4/20/07:Well, that was fun. AS IF! I get sick a lot, but that bout with bronchitis was the worst EVER. For those of you who didnít know, Iíve been struggling with the aforementioned illness for about a month and I think Iím finally over it. Now I just need to build my muscles and such back up. Then I had an early midterm sneak up on me from behind and try to kill me. I spent several days this week in a frantic struggle with it, and I came out on top. Iíve been wounded, though. X_x

Letís see if I canít get this comic going in spite of the several crises Iím trying to take care of this quarter. Hereís a black-and-white strip today and Iíll get color in it shortly. I have the next strip almost completely drawn already, Iíve started drawing the one after, and I have the following half-dozen planned out with layout and dialogue. All this should help me keep on schedule, I hope. Oh yeah, Iíve also started drawing the artwork for the HHB Third Anniversary Special, for some reason, even though thatís not until October. I just got an idea and decided to get it down. No, Iím not telling you what it is. ^_~

3/23/07:Yeah, I donít care what you people think. I like this strip. If you donít like it, go...um...do something. Preferably something unpleasant, otherwise it defeats the purpose of the whole thing. If you do like it, forget I said anything. Youíre cool. You know, we watched The Matrix for my Studies in Film class, and the idea of this strip came to me on the way home. I couldnít get it out of my head, so as a reward for being one of the few spontaneous gag strips that actually stayed in my memory, I decided to implement it this week. Neo and Trinity are fun to draw, though difficult without any visual reference handy. Of course, you just know Agent Smith is going to find this amusing. I can picture him now: He looks at Neo for a moment, looks to the side, and then back to Neo. In his slow droning tone, he asks, ďAre you planning...to help the Oracle.....bake cookies,...Mr. Anderson?Ē As for the HHB characters featured here, they havenít been formally introduced in the story yet, though Princess Miara has appeared in two Halloween Specials and a Future Shot. Here, we get to see her in her adventuring gear. Though you canít see it, her rapier hangs on her left. Miara is the crown princess of her kingdom, so sheís the take-charge-and-get-things-done type. This other guy is...wait...hang on, just who is this tech-punk? Judging from his gadgetry, Iíd say heís from the future--and by ďfutureĒ I mean sci-fi setting. This is a fantasy gig! Sci-fi doesnít belong here! Somebody oust that party-crasher! Sheesh. Letís hope he takes a hint...maybe...........

Iím enjoying my break this week and Iím back in school on Monday. Iím already drawing the next two strips (Iím ahead of schedule! Wheee!), which are 4-panel plot strips. These puppies are FINALLY going to bring the action OUTSIDE for the final round of the struggle at the thievesí fortress and the climax of this arc. So letís have some fun!

3/13/07:Hoo boy, where to start first.. Well, I finally finished this last strip. It was delayed since I spilled juice on the drawing I did where Nelati has her hand on the statue and is looking at it. I like Nelati in this new drawing, but the angle was better in the ruined one. Itís hard to tell weíre low and looking up. Bah. Oh well.

Itís finals week, and thatís obviously been affecting the schedule. Something else happened too, which Iíll explain in a moment. For now, I have Thursday and Friday slated to work on strips for this week Friday and next week Friday during Spring Break (yay, Iíll update during a break!). One is a plot strip, the other is a gag strip Ďcuz itís faster to make and I felt inspired with a joke when watching a certain movie for my Studies in Film class.. Anyhow, I had planned on doing a third as a make-up for last week, but I hit a snag.

And that brings me to last Thursday and the snag. Out of consideration for the other parties involved, Iíll be vague. Let me just say that it was the worst day of my life. I spent over half a year working with a councilor on a graduation requirement, and when I submitted the paperwork, she basically told the committee her office didnít support it. OW, backstab much? My chances of graduating PERIOD hinged on the committeeís decision. Their denial of my request was major hit #1, followed by the discovery of this ďbetrayalĒ as I felt it was, which was major hit #2 and resulted in a complete breakdown + panic attack. So there I was, the weekend before finals, and I was a complete wreck. I felt betrayed and on top of it all, it looked as if three years of university schooling was down the tubes as far as a diploma was concerned. Oh yeah, and Dad was just recently diagnosed with Coronary Heart Disease and while the doctor believes we caught it before it became a heart attack (like the one that killed my uncle a few years ago), itís not something thatíll go away, either. Heís also borderline to becoming diabetic. Whee, more worries.

BUT...things are starting to look up now. It turns out that there was some major misunderstanding going on between myself and this councilor as to what her office is allowed to support. While the crisis still exists, weíre currently working on ways to possibly get around it. Whatever happens, I feel that things will work out for the best, even if they may not work out exactly the way I want them to. As for my dad, heís still tickiní but he gets a major change in diet. Bummer. At least we get to eat lots more salmon. ^_^ And to brighten my day more, I have a very promising opportunity at a great job that I just might actually be able to GET this time! Itís basically an assistant job in the English dept. computer lab, and by all luck, my favorite professor (who teaches my Studies in Film class I mentioned earlier) happens to the one whoís doing the hiring. Sheís really cool and she knows me well, so Iíve got connections like skin grafts for this job. In a nutshell, Iím feeliní optimistic and darn good right now.

2/16/07:CELEBRATE! This strip only took me one dayís worth of work! I actually drew, fixed, and colored the entire thing today! Wheee! Without fancy layouts, difficult drawings, and magic/sound effects, I finished in half the time the recent strips have been taking. Thank goodness--I have a lot of schoolwork due in the next couple weeks. Next weekís update shouldnít be that hard, either.

Wanna hear something funny? On Valentineís Day, my Studies in Film class screened The Terminator. Just how everyone wants to spend their V-Day--watching the governor of California march around in punk attire as an unstoppable assassin cyborg gunning down large numbers of people. Feel the love. <3

2/14/07:SURPRISE! Hereís a little something kind of extra. Remember that Valentineís Day Special I drew last year? Yeah well, I finally got around to COLORING the darn thing. So Iíll toss it out today as an extra this week. ^_^ A large reason for the delay is that I experimented with different styles of cell-shading (and I grew bored of it for a while). The style I stuck with is a blur style. I basically cell-shaded every color on its own layer, duplicated each layer, and slapped a Gaussian blur on the copied layers to give the shading a blurred edge. Thatís the basic idea, at least. There were some tricky parts that needed adjustments, but there you go. I drew the piece in a style slightly more animeish than my comic uses (the same style I like to do my good art in). Dayshade has her hair down, the way she wears it when she wants to tease, flirt, and/or cause distraction and confusion. Mezmoroís reading a book because he reads a lot and will sometimes hide behind books when he wants people (namely Dayshade) to leave him alone.

Dayshade just loves to mess with the poor guyís head. I just love these two characters; the relationship between them really developed them as characters and helped develop the plot, too (this is all in my head so far, btw). Is it love? Is it hatred? Well, for starters, itís entertainment on Dayshadeís end and stress-inducing irritation on Mezmoroís. Youíll have to find out what else is going on as the story unfolds. ^_^

Whatís going on:
Just Dayshade playing more of her games. Itís Valentineís Day, so Mezmoro already expects trouble and hides behind a book to send the message that he does NOT want to be bothered of have his time wasted. Dayshade presents a V-Day gift as a peace offering. Just as Mez starts to let his guard down, something kinda nasty-looking lifts the lid of the box. The funny thing about Dayshade is that she thinks ugly, creepy, scary, disgusting things are cute and cute things are gross and freaky (her greatest fear is of sickenly cute animals). So does she really intend this to be a nice gift, or is she playing a prank? With Dayshade, itís hard to tell and often the line blurs. She is, after all, capable of doing both at the same time. As for Mezmoro, most goblins are comfortable with gross, nasty things but being the vain, high-class, egotistical neat-freak he is, he doesnít share that opinion. Either Dayshade doesnít understand him or even worse, she DOES understand him and pulls stunts like these anyway just to bug him.

I hope you all have a happy Valentineís Day (or Single Awareness Day, for those of you who short-handed on ďsignificant othersĒ at the moment)!

2/12/07:I made this comic using a variation of an older tactic in an effort to save some time. I think it worked. Instead of drawing the characters scattered about two pages of paper on their own and then assembling it all together on the computer, I drew a rough panel layout and drew the characters in their estimated places, and fixed it up on the computer. This was a big help. I once drew on computer-made printed panel templates but gave it up for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that it was hard to keep panel width as size constant for oddly-shaped comics. This new method worked nicely; I may use that trick more often in the future. Itíll help keep me from drawing larger, complex drawings that get chopped up and cut when I edit and thus save me from wasting all that time in the first place.

Anyhoo, Star gave Rashar the slip thanks to Nelatiís blunder. She really couldnít have aimed that shot any better, huh? Oh, and speaking of Nelati, weíre back with Lute and that crazy pirate brat next time, so stay tuned. I really hope to start moving the action outside the thievesí fortress by spring break. Iím looking forward to that, since it brings more character development on a couple characters..

Iíd like to ask everyone a question. For some reason, itís almost impossible for me to keep up with Friday updates anymore. Doing so has always been a problem, anyway. Should I just go ahead and officially change the update schedule to Monday? I date all my strips according to the Friday they should update but since I mostly update on Mondays, thatís rather misleading.

Now if youíll excuse me, I need to beat the circuits out of my brand-new, recently-tricked-up, now broken-for-no-reason Nintendo DS Lite. BLAST this techno-curse of mine!

2/5/07:Keeping up with a comic when life is constantly getting in the way is though. I had to miss last week due to Midterms and a scholastic crisis (which isnít over with yet but Iíve made progress). Since I would like to graduate before I decompose, I must give full priority to school and such. My dad wants to see me get out of school too, and get a good job and decent financial footing so I can pursue a career involving my art, which he says I have a real talent for. That kind of praise coming from Dad means a lot to me, and now Iím all the more determined to pursue my webcomic as a real JOB in the future. For now, it must remain a hobby until I get all the prerequisites of this time in my life out of the way. While I might take breaks on the comic here and there, I donít think anything short of and act of God (literally) will keep me off the comic permanently. No, Iím not saying this because Iím going anywhere. Iím just sharing my determination. ^_^

That said, letís get on with the commentary for this recent update.

This strip was a blasted pain to draw. Iím not that skilled with equine anatomy and rendering it in my own style is a difficult and evolving process. In other words, drawing Starís body is darn-dang HARD! Especially in complex poses. If anybody ever tells me that cartooning is easy, Iíll assert my opinion in the delicate vernacular of body language, focusing primarily on the vocabulary of my fist in the offenderís face. Itís not easy to reduce a complex image to a simple, iconic form that still accurately represents the original in spirit. I believe the difference between a talented cartoonist and an incompetent cartoonist lies in his/her ability to convert the complex into the simple without loosing anything other than frivolous detail. And now Iím talking in scholar mode again. If you totally understand me, pat yourself on the back right now (hint: if you donít get it, pat yourself anyway so you look smart).

I think now is a good time for a little expository explanations of some forms of magic, as it is practiced in Eoa:

Shadow-Walk is the ability to travel instantly through shadows. As long as the shadows connect, a person or creature could travel miles in no time at all (so it works much better at night and in dark places). The ability comes naturally to many dark-dwelling magical creatures and is also a Dark Magic spell that can be learned by a magic user. While possessing the ability does not always mean the user is evil, many Shadow-Walkers do have evil tendencies. Most races that Shadow-Walk are either evil or chaotic (meaning they vary wildly in alignment according the individual and have no natural tendencies toward good or evil as a race), though there are a few good and neutral races with the ability. Most magic users that Shadow Walk are evil, since Dark Magic is a more dangerous kind of magic that attracts those types of folk. It must be noted that Dark Magic itself is not evil - - it is a dangerous neutral magic in the form of the absence of light or energy. Dark Magic spells often consist of anti-energy, which is more dangerous than energy. Shadow Magic is a form of Dark Magic that is concerned primarily with the manipulation of shadows (the Shadow-Walk spell falls under this specific classification of Dark Magic) and while some Shadow spells are easy to learn, only Shadow-based creatures can ever master this type of Dark Magic completely. Other types of Dark Magic include Standard Dark Magic, Parasitic Magic, and Dark Summoning.

On a related note, Black Magic is an off-shoot of Dark Magic that is more refined, powerful, unholy, and destructive, and is thus the only true evil magic. The use of Black Magic contaminates a personís soul - - the more the person uses this power, the more contaminated he/she becomes, and thus the more evil. Since soul contamination turns a person evil, a good person using Black Magic is rare to find and even in such cases, that person will not be good for long (though some magic scholars theorize that there could be exceptions). Types of Black Magic include Standard Black Magic, Unholy Magic (the most powerful form of Black Magic), Demon Summoning, and Necromancy. Necromancy can be divided into two categories: Pseudo-Necromancy (the ability to manipulate corpses, create zombies, and communicate with ghosts that are willing to cooperate, but does not include the ability to control souls, ghosts, and spirits) and True Necromancy (the ability to fully interact with the Spirit World, create and control all forms of Undead creatures, and control souls, ghosts, and spirits). Unholy Magic can be divided into two classifications: Standard Unholy Magic and Anti-Healing Arts (a form of torture magic that is capable of delivering instant mass death, and is arguably the greatest evil power in existence).

Rashar is a Dark Magic user who dabbles a bit in Standard Black Magic and is very adept with Rock Magic (a variety of Earth Elemental Magic) as well. Dayshade is a Succubus, a type of demonic creature, and therefore can use bits of virtually every kind magic mentioned here (and few that havenít been mentioned) except Necromancy. Lord Gaurtros, our big villain so far, is a Black Magic user who specializes in Pseudo-Necromancy and would love to think heís a real Necromancer but heís not. Mezmoro knows some basic Standard Dark Magic but usually uses Illusion Magic, which is a unique form of magic that is difficult for magic scholars to classify.

1/19/07:This would have been done earlier, but I had to spend several hours establishing what Rasharís magic looks like visually. It took a lot of experimenting; however, Iím happy with the results. The hard part will be duplicating that procedure in the future...

We also see here that Star has a hard time keeping his big mouth shut. Heís the kind of person who says whatís on his mind, regardless of the consequences. Well, almost. Even if he admits to himself that an opponent is too strong for him, his over-abundant unicorn pride keeps him from admitting it out loud. His tendency to taunt is his own personality flaw and not inherent to the unicorn race, which is usually more polite by nature. Rashar isnít easy to provoke, but he must be getting fed up with this annoying unicorn by now.

On a side note, I develop these characters in my head in spurts. After their initial creation, I occasionally revisit them every once in a while and laden the character with fresh ideas. Recently, Iíve been developing Rasharís character quite a bit. Like with all characters, it will take a very long time to fully explore Rashar, so all the thinking Iíve done lately isnít really going to make much difference immediately. The bummer is that I had to postpone the moment when we see what he really looks like for a very, very long time. Itís funny--this character didnít even exist until I drew him in the strip (he kinda blindsided me and demanded a role). Now that heís in, heís added another fun touch to the overall storyline, not to mention something of a rival/enemy for Hazzard.

1/8/07:I hope you all enjoyed the Holidays! Well, itís back to work now. Fridayís update didnít happen because Iím a class-A oopster and labeled the darn thing wrong. I figured as long as I noticed the goof on Monday, I might as well splash the thing with some color to make it a little more interesting. So hereís the New Yearís sketch (only itís not a sketch anymore but WHATEVER). Just a little something thatís always puzzled me. Puzzle, puzzle. My mind is like a complicated jigsaw puzzle; itís in pieces and those pieces are hard to fit right, especially since many of them go missing.

As for the previous strip, I did have one ready on time for Friday but I came up with a better way of presenting it, hence the delay then. I decided to turn it into a four-panel color strip instead of the one-frame sketch I already had. It was a quick job and I didnít use Illustrator for it. You can check out the old version, if youíd like. Oh, and if you tell me you like the original better, Nelati will make you walk the plank.

OK, I believe we can get back on track with the story now. I spent the break considering what to do with Starís visual character design, and while it is still evolving I believe I managed to come up with something that all of me can agree on for now. You can see some of the trial sketches if you want. Keep in mind that I wasnít concerned about practicing his painted pattern (though I did change the stripe on his face in order to move away from the blocky-head look)--I was primarily concerned with his general shape and the details of his head and face. He looks a little different, and the method I use to draw him changed as well. The hardest part now is figuring out how heíll work visually in proportion to the other characters. Heís about pony-size and just barely big enough for someone as small as Lute to ride him. Iím also not sure about how skinny he became. Star was originally supposed to be a chubby unicorn, but his shifting character design and my inability to draw obese people and creatures seems to be forcing him on a diet. I suppose I can tolerate it so long as he maintains some resemblance of above-average weight; itís important to his character that he looks far less graceful than your typical unicorn. In all, this is how he looks so far; he may change some more still in the future (as I settle into this new design), but that applies to pretty much all the characters as my own personal style evolves over time.

12/13/06: Happy Birthday, little bro! ^_^

12/11/06: As usual, life doesnít go as planned. I had a lot of homework to do last week and I need to work on something before I get back into the plot. I wanted to zip back to Star in this update but I noticed something that stopped me. I took a big, step back and looked at my art style for the comic. Itís very different from what it started out as in the early trial sketches three years ago. Against my will, the style has moved away from that of a cartoony comic strip toward a more manga/anime style. I suppose this was unavoidable, given how I was developing an animeish style even before I was introduced to anime. Looking at the comic, Iíve noticed that every character seemed to take this stylistic evolution in stride except one: Star. Well, Star changed a little. He got a little taller and his hair grew wild, but he still looks very simple and blocky in body. His head is a brick, for crying out loud. OK, he is supposed to be a little fat for a unicorn (donít hurt me, Star!), but Iím not sure I want to stay with this. So Starís going through a slight revamp this holiday season. Iím not sure what heís going to look like next year - - he may look almost exactly the same. Iím not going for a serious do-over. Just tweaking the blocky head a bit, probably. But I have to practice and get this down right. The way I draw him will be different, even if he doesnít visually look like a dramatic change took place. Iíll start doing what I do with the other characters; drawing structurally first and then fixing the character over the framework. This method takes more time but looks loads better. I canít draw him too realistic because heís supposed to look cartoonish when compared to the other unicorns. The other option was to attempt to revamp the art for the entire strip and try to go more cartoony as originally intended, but the strip has outgrown its origins already and the tone doesnít fit the old art anymore. So we will have to see where this goes.

In the meantime, Iím going to start getting Christmas-themed sketch-comics up for the rest of the year. To make sure they have some kind of purpose, Iím going to poke a little fun at some popular elements of the holiday. Iím also colorizing the sketches to make them look a little more interesting and festive. If you donít get the joke in this first sketch, go watch a particular classic Christmas special. Chastalynd, who still hasnít made his official debut in the comic yet, is the only HHB character here. Chast is rather timid so it probably took him a while to speak up. ^_^ Howíd he get there in the first place? I drew him there, Silly! How else? Please forgive my ugly attempt at a fat elf - - I canít draw fat well. At least Mr. I-know-how-to-yank-teeth-therefore-I-am-automatically-a-dentist was fun to draw. ^_~

12/4/06: OK, that one took forever. Plus, itís gihugic. Bignormous. Largeganitc. I drew larger than I usually do, which probably contributed greatly to that problem. The first three panels took up half a page each and it took me several tries at drawing them to get them acceptable (not happy with the first panel at all; please use your imagination to figure out just what everyone is doing in that large room because drawing a use for it would've added another day to the time this took). This strip was originally intended to be two: one a full-page in layout the other a simple 4-panel gig. I combined them, which is why this took so long. In the past, combining strips usually meant assembling two 3-4 panel strips into a full-page layout. In this case, I ended up having to seriously reorg TWICE to accommodate the different layout styles of the two strips, preserve the tone of both of them, make sure the blasted thing looked nice, and still avoid a total doomsday scroll downwards a la Jules Vern to the center of the Earth (together with the news blog, it mightíve stuck out through China or whatever country is on the other side of planet from where you are and if you are in China, I donít want the bottom of my webpage crashing up through my floor, thank you very much). I ended up chopping what would have been the second to the last panel, which basically consisted of a confused pause (in which Hazzard just stares at Hatchet a moment) designed to suspend the punch line a little better. It didn't fit in the layout and wasn't essential, so I gave the panel the Pink Slip and now it's looking for a job elsewhere. Eventually, I managed to get this monstrosity completed. So be happy! This is essentially a two-for-one deal. Heck, you've been getting that deal for the past several weeks. And we get to visit Hazzardís gang, too! Tune in next time to see how Starís been doing..

This is the last week of class and next week is the dreaded Finals Week. I can right now look out over the vast computer lab and think, ďHA! Suckers! I donít have finals!Ē Therefore, I will be spending next week doing as much as I can to create as many strips as possible before my Winter Break hiatus. In a perfect world or even a happily acceptable one, Iíll be able to get enough done so that you wonít notice Iím even on a break at all. If the world is cruel and a big fat meanie, Iíll have to resort to placeholder drawings. Either way, the goal is to get something up each Friday while school is out of session. At least theyíll all be up on time! My greatest sorrow is that for the second year in a row, I wonít be able to do a full-color Christmas Special. Christmas is a very important holiday to me, and it pains me to skip over it like this. Perhaps one of the drawings may be Christmas-oriented.

I wonder if you can tell I forgot to take my medication today? My attention span is about as stable as a drunken trapeze artist. Therefore, it is time for the Random Thought of the Day: *drum roll* Why donít we call pickles ďpickled cucumbersĒ? We call everything else thatís pickled ďpickled (insert presumably-edible-object)Ē, but pickled cucumbers are just pickles. And where did the word ďpickleĒ come from, anyway? It seems like a long stretch from ďcucumberĒ to ďpickleĒ if you ask me. *cymbal crash* Thank you, this has been another Random Thought of the Day!

11/20/06: Well, this was sure a lot of work. Didnít help that I got sick for a whole week. Iím still very pleased with how it came out, though. Nice magic ray, eh? ^_^ That sucker represents an entire dayís worth of trial and error. LIKE IT! To make it kinda easier on myself, I cut up the final ray design and created several brushes out of it. The one you see here is made with several the bushes (the original ray effect was created in its own file and is much longer and I think it looks better but you donít know that since you canít see it, HA!). It still takes a lot of layers to complete the effect, though. Itís rather complicated, and I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. I also decided to spend extra time creating a background from scratch for the third to the last panel to better illustrate the positioning in the room and especially to show that the beam hit the wall, so youíll know it punched through in the following strips. Disintegrate is potentially the most powerful ray spell in magic (it depends how much energy the caster puts into it), and happens to be a spell of the Earth element, since Earth spells often deal with molecular structure. The spell basically breaks down anything it touches into free electrons, protons, and neutrons (go read a basic chemistry book). Breaking apart atoms takes energy, so the more energy a spellcaster puts into the spell the more atoms the spell can break apart. The beam basically continues without stopping, punching a hole through just about EVERYTHING until it either expends all its energy or hits a magic barrier of some kind containing more energy in the point of impact than the beam has when it hits; the ray then stops, unable to overcome the stronger energy field. If the beam hits a barrier that does not have enough energy to stop the ray, the energy of the point of impact on the barrier will cancel out the equivalent amount of energy in the beam; what ray energy is left will then continue on and the energy barrier will shatter. Scientific enough for ya?
Oh yeah, and those teal lightning lines on the door are not small bolts of lightning from the rayís impact--theyíre cracks from the rayís efforts to deconstruct the doorís molecules.

Is it obvious now why Disintegrate is a really dumb spell to cast indoors? >_<

As for this weekís strip, the darn Thanksgiving Holiday gets in the way (silly Americans have to celebrate everything). Iíll get a drawing of some kind loaded by Tuesday (so itíll come up on time for once on Friday) and spend the rest of the week giving sarcastic thanks for ill-timed breaks and more delays. (I really am going to enjoy the holiday, though. I have a lot to be thankful for.) Those of you who live here in the USA, have a Happy Thanksgiving! And if you donít live in the US, enjoy the week anyway. Get your duff off your chair, step away from the computer, and go do something fun. As for me, bring on the turkey!

Oh yeah, one more thingÖTHE HUSKIES WON THE APPLE CUP! Wahooo! Iím wearing purple all week to celebrate.

11/3/06: Due to an excess of schoolwork this week as well as the fact that I have a lot of experimenting to do for this next strip (I need to create some brushes and stuff to save time on future strips), Iím putting up a guest strip today. This strip was done by Kevin of Taymation Studios and the awesome webcomic, Newscast. I received this a while ago, so I figured now is a good time to use it. I really enjoyed it. ^_^

10/30/06: That had to have been the fastest coloring job Iíve ever done. Iím still not quite satisfied with it..I may make some very minor changes later. As it is, I barely made my deadline, but made it I did! Whee!

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy your Halloween! ^_^ May your holiday be fun/scary/however you prefer it!

PS: Oh yeah, I figured out why Miara looks so much like BookMaster. Sheís not wearing makeup. That makes the two characters look way more similar that I thought they did. I tried to add makeup, but Hawkeye does NOT wear makeup and Miara suddenly didnít look like she was cosplaying the right character anymore. Anyhow, Iím going to have to give some thought into Miaraís character design. I donít like the idea of having two characters who look so similar. I just might end up making Miaraís hair longer; that makes things more obvious and doesnít mess up all my design work too much.

10/27/06: OK first off, the Halloween Special is NOT done yet. I didnít think Iíd finish today, so I decided to put up a flat color version first. The full cell-shaded version should be up by sometime on Monday. Be sure to check back next week to see it! This darn thingís taking longer than the strips do (but I was expecting that).

Now then, who can identify the costume theme here? ^_^ For all of you who guessed it (and those of you who didnít should hop up and down on one foot and shout gibberish) these guys dressed up as characters from the anime, FullMetal Alchemist. I stuck to characters that appear in both the manga and the anime, though Iím relying on mostly my knowledge of the manga. The most annoying thing is that this is exactly the same idea my twin sister had for her webcomic (Nowhere U). Being an identical twin is cool and all, but sometimes it would be nice to have an original idea every now and then. I had first planned on doing just a detailed drawing of Lute dressed as Edward, but then Shada and I got to talking on the phone about who could go as who in our comics and I felt compelled to draw more than just the one character. Sadly, I didnít have enough time to draw all my ideas. I wanted to draw Hammer as Scar rampaging all crazy, but no can do. I had an excellent idea for who could dress up as Mustang, but I donít want to introduce that guy just yet. As for those characters that I did draw, letís go through the list from left to right:

Mezmoro as Envy: OK, I just about died laughing after I drew this. Seeing Mez in Envyís...uh...man-skirt outfit got me sniggering out of control. I decided on this combo since they both have dark green hair and I finally figured out the whole ďgreen with envyĒ pun for that hair color choice. So why not take it a level further and slap Envyís odd fashion sense onto the greenest character in HHB? Makes it funny how both of them try to act all tough and full of it, too (though I doubt Envyís as perpetually stressed out as poor Mez is). I simply cannot picture Mezmoro being comfortable in that get-up.

Dayshade as Lust: Alright, the similarities here are downright eerie. Their taste in clothing is the same, their personalities are sort of similar, their hairstyles are kind of similar, they both enjoy being haughty and cruel, and they both have extendo-nails for extra nastiness. Yeah, thatís right, Dayshade can do that. Itís actually part of her transformation into a much more dangerous and not-so pretty form, but she only transforms like that if she gets super ticked, wantís to freak someone out, or decides to play the Rampage of Carnage game without summoning some other monster to do the dirty work for her like she usually prefers to do. I suppose Dayshade may be nastier than Lust because I donít think Lust runs around torturing people or messing with their minds just for kicks (Dayís a demonic succubus so sheís into that kind of thing), but they are both certainly deadly femme-fatals. Youíll notice Dayshade is encroaching on Mezmoroís personal space again; she just loves to bug the poor guy.

Princess Miara as Riza Hawkeye: This is Miaraís second cameo appearance before her actual introduction in the strip (third if you count the Future Shot she appeared in). If you think she looks like my BookMaster avatar, there are differences. Sheís actually evolved to look something like my mother, whose personality seems to have seeped into Miaraís a little bit for some reason. Well, I kinda look like Mom too..so I guess there is a reason we all look alike. I chose to dress Miara up as Hawkeye since theyíre both practical and self-reliant. I kinda forgot the gold rope uniform accessory thatís supposed to be looped under Hawkeyeís right arm, so just pretend itís there. Iíll bet you all have fabulous imaginations, right? Sure you do. And stop laughing at my attempt at drawing a gun. Iíve never drawn a gun before, alright? Leave off!

Lute as Edward Elric: Gee, what this one hard to figure out? Theyíre both short with longish blond hair. Theyíre also both fast learners and study hard. But as similar as they are in appearance, they could hardly be more different personality-wise. Theyíre both sensitive about being called short of course, but at least Lute exercises a little patience and restraint. Edwardís a raving lunatic. I swear, I think heís a berserker and his trigger word is ďshortĒ or anything related to the subject. Luteís tolerance might have something to do with how heís older. When he was younger, he kinda flew off the handle on just about every emotion. Heís learned to contain and focus his hyper enthusiasm over the years, though it still pokes through every now and then.

Chastalynd as armor Alphonse Elric: Thereís no way in heaven or on Earth that I am going to attempt to draw that armor with the time constraint I have for this strip. I simply cannot fathom how anyone manages it. So I hid the metal bulk behind the wall. He wouldnít fit on the page, anyway. Oh yeah, Chastís also a cameo thatís appeared before even though his character hasnít been introduced in the strip yet. Heís quiet, polite, and reserved like Al is, and heís kind of Luteís sidekick so he gets this role. Chast isnít as comfortable as Al is in a lot of situations though; being more of the bashful inverted type, he gets embarrassed more easily than Al does and often needs some coaxing to get him near large groups of people.

Shali as Izumi Curtis: Shali is yet another character who has not appeared yet in the strip though she did pop up last year for Halloween. Since both Izumi and Shali will beat you up if you so much as look at them funny, I figured Shali will make a good Izumi dress-alike. They both do things their way and donít tolerate nonsense if itís not their idea to start with. Shali is far more sarcastic and perpetually irritated than Izumi, though. I get a kick how they both have long white coat-like outfits (you havenít seen Shali yet in her usual garb, so just take my word for it). The difference is that Shaliís white coat is technically a lab coat, since sheís something of a scientist even if she does specialize in Chaos Magic. Go figure. Shaliís a walking self-contradicting conundrum.

Hazzard as Greed: Everyone loves a rogue, right? Well, Hazzard and Greed do things their way and donít give a rip what everyone else thinks. Theyíre natural gang-leaders born for the darker side of town and are looking to get their kicks however way they feel like. They consider their social-reject comrades to be their closest buddies and treat them with respect. They also both seem to have a soft spot theyíd rather nobody notice. Hazzardís not as greedy as Greed is, but they both love their independence. Hazzardís normally on his own with his gang, but heís willing to work for the good guys if he decides he likes them enough. He acts all big and mean but thereís a good heart buried under there somewhere. I feel bad including him without Hammer and Hatchet, seeing as how the trio is almost inseparable.

10/23/06: I felt like getting a little fancy with this recent strip because I liked how it turned out. Cool, huh? One of these days I might actually get the hang of this.

In an effort to speed things along, Iím consolidating a bunch of 4-panel strips into fewer, larger strips. This Friday will be a Halloween Special, followed by another page-layout strip, and so on and so on until I get through the part Iím trying to avoid dragging out much further. In short, Iím spending more time making bigger strips each week so that events go faster. Whee.

Well I...guess thatís it. Not much to talk about. Lifeís kinda beige right now. Not boring, mind you, just...consistent. Wow, thatís weird. I didnít know my life did consistent.

10/16/06: New tagboard! That annoying login pop-up the last one imposed on my site was the LAST STRAW. Gosh, I'm so glad to be rid of that putrid pile of twisted coding. This new one seems nice and has a lot of new features...which aren't offered to the free version. -_- Bummer. Oh, and if you happen to find the login page, ignore it. This being the free version, I'm the only one who logs in. And I now have the power to delete posts. MUHAHAHA! So be civil, watch your language (bad words will be replaced with cartoon curse symbols thanks to the profanity filter), do NOT spam OR advertise, and things will work out fine. With this new delete ability, I may no longer have the need to use my patented Flaming Arrow of Tagboard Justice. ~~}}}-----> Bummer.

10/6/06: I wouldíve had this strip up earlier this morning, but I decided to make a few changes that I think look better. I still might change something. Maybe add some zoom lines or something to make the third panel look a little more ďBAM!Ē or whatever. Itís nice to get back to the plotline, isnít it? ^_^ As long as Iím doing great with my time, letís see if I canít manage to get ahead a little. *laughs at self* As if. At least Iím already getting a head start on the Halloween Special. Halloween is my favorite holiday to draw special strip for because itís fun to dress up my characters to look like other characters.

I promised you all Iíd give you a link to the Zelda site I built for my Adaptation Theory class last Spring that was the primary cause of many comic strip setbacks. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think of it. Itís looks best viewed in Explorer; demented-Dreamweaver doesnít seem to like formatting for anything else.

On a more serious note, Mom is going in for surgery on Tuesday for her ruptured discs. Please keep her in your prayers.

9/29/06: Ready...set...BLOG BLITZ!

Alright! Iím back! YES!!! Aha! *dances* Boy, I missed all this. Iíve been ansty to get back into things for months. I havenít been this charged and enthused about my webcomic since I first started it. Iíve come up with a whole lot of new ideas that the storyline wonít get to for years and Iíll just have to sit and suffer because I want to show it all off at once sooooo bad. Ok, reeling in the excitement here...

So how has everyone been? Itís been too long, hasnít it? Iím terribly sorry for the unexpected hiatus. Things didnít go my way this summer. I wonít bore you with the list of every single detail, but you deserve to know the gist of things, so Iíll explain the bigger problems:

Just after Spring Quarter, my @$!@#! tablet broke. Something wrong with the cord, it seems. Itís been on the fritz during spring (contributed to the lateness of some strips, but just a little) and then decided to just up and DIE. Well, it can throw itself off a bridge for all I care, because I just bought a new one this week! Itís silver and has two programmable buttons and...wait for it...a scroll wheel! Wheee! And the clear cover is SO much easier to take off so itís not nearly as much of a hassle to customize the background photo (I printed off todayís anniversary pic for it). Since the strip had evolved into something that I really needed the tablet for, I was rather helpless without it. I couldíve used the mouse, but itíd have been sloppy and would have taken twice as long.

Next item on the agenda is our thrice-cursed computer. If youíve been following the strip for a while, you might have an idea just how unreliable our family comp is. After fighting it all summer I still canít run Photoshop effectively (once a file reaches a certain size in graphics, the compís reaction slows considerably despite the good quality graphics card we have on the thing and the should-be-suitable amount of memory). Once I get my check from Financial Aid, Iím SOOOO getting that laptop Iíve been looking for. I have to keep putting it off for various reasons, but itís getting closer. I can feel it.

Another problem would be my dear mother. She badly ruptured three disks a few months ago (OUCH!), just below her neck, and lost a lot of strength and feeling in her right arm. Iíve had to help out around the house more than ever before since she hasnít been up the job (not for the lack of trying; this woman just can NOT sit and do nothing). Sheís doing better, the pain has subsided somewhat at least, but she hasnít improved as much as the doctor would like and heís concerned her arm will atrophy permanently if she canít get her strength back. Sheís had two injections to help stop the inflammation, but itís not doing the trick. Weíre really hoping she doesnít have to go in for surgery. Still, despite her condition, my mom remains cheerful and as active as she can manage and doesnít complain a lot even though I know it really bothers her. So please do us all a favor and keep Mom in your prayers, OK? Thanks.

Job hunting. Again. As usual. Every summer. With the same result: NOTHING. Oh! But thereís one good thing! I was actually called in for an interview! Nobodyís even given me that much of a chance before! It was for GameCrazy, but they hired someone else before the big boss had time to go over the recent applicants. -_- A totally awesome job and I missed it.. I donít think people like my resume because I havenít held a job since 2001 due to my inability to work and go to school at the same time, but I canít GET any more work experience if nobody hires me! I may have a chance this quarter, though, with my schoolís workstudy program (now that Iím finally eligible). Iíve tweaked my schedule so that I only have two days of classes, so I hope to be able to work part-time and still have time for study and the webcomic. Assuming, of course, I get a job.

Vacations! Yeah, I went on a few. Not all delays were tragedies, after all. Just the usual trips for my family. One was to the ocean where we flew our kites (my family is getting really into kites and growing dahlias). I tried out my new ďAlpha +Ē delta stunt kite that Mom and Dad gave me for my birthday and it just about dragged me down the beach. That thingís big! We enjoyed the hot-tub at the chalet we rented, went for walks on the beach, and watched a lot of cars, trucks, and a monster RV get stuck in the sand during high tide. Hereís some advice: never drive a vehicle the size of a small house onto loose sand unless itís a monster truck, a CAT, or some kind of tank. We also took my twin sister back down to her school, so that took up a week too. In addition to vacations, we attended several fairs. The first one was the Scottish Highland Games, which as SO incredibly awesome. It felt good to get in touch with the Scottish part of my heritage (I come from at least four clans!). I bought some cool stuff, including a cool dagger and a sword-shaped pin with the MacMillan clanís crest on it. I also went to the Puallup Fair (the official Western Washington fair and one of the biggest fairs in the nation) a few days with my family to show off our dahlias in the Novice category. We did awesome, and even took ďbest in show for single bloom flowerĒ in the second and harder round (and with a mysterious magenta ball flower that we question the origin of). After next year, weíll be able to move up to the Amateur category.

Not all my excuses are all that valid. For example, I procrastinate and I forget and I get lazy. What little I could have done this summer didnít happen for those reasons. And I got a really cool new computer game: Battle for Middle Earth II: Collectorís Edition. Itís AWSOME. Wasted a lot of time on that sucker.

But thatís enough of that. Iíve been talking for too long. I have here, in celebration of both my return from the dead and The Heroís Handbookís second anniversary this Sunday, a fun pic I colored with my new tablet. I started the drawing over a year ago, and decided to finish it for this purpose. The style is more detailed than I usually use for the strip because I drew it large and wanted to get fancy. I colored it fancy, too. Just to try out a new technique.

Thank you all for waiting so patiently!

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All original characters and contents and stuff copyright 2004 A.L.McMullin
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