Blank Tape Comics: The Wendell Strips

by otterdisaster

Brain Teaser Comics is on hiatus due to a hard drive loss, and while I attempt to get that data recovered I've been digging around on backup disks to see what I still have.  I have mentioned on this blog before about my Doomed original web comic, that remains unreleased...until NOW!  Discovering I had 16 completed strips sitting there on a backup disk doing nothing, I have decided to let you see them between now and the end of the year.   Today I released Walk This Way the first Blank Tape Comic. I'll release them Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday through the end of the year...and the end of the strips.


Blank Tape Comics was conceived as a three times a week gag comic with a loose continuity. The adventures of Wendell Winger, a teenager in a small town trying to survive the late 1980s. It is admittedly semi-autobiographical and steeped in nostalgia. It didn't end up working for a ton of reasons, but I learned a great deal while working on these strips. I hope you enjoy them. Looking back at them now, I like them well enough, even knowing that in a lot of ways they could be better.  Each strip comes coupled with a music video that matches the strip's title, part of the original conception of the idea. This was to add additional content to each strip, as well hopefully be a conversation starter for the comments.

With all that said head over to Blank Tape Comics and take a look at what a failed and ultimately abandoned web comic looks like!

Brain Teaser Comics is Going On Hiatus

by otterdisaster


Today's strip 'Sixth Sense' is the last Brain Teaser of the year.  Sometimes we agonize over decisions we need to make, looking at pros and cons, and analyzing all the factors. Sometimes decisions are made for us. Brain Teaser Comics going on hiatus was a decision that was made for me. The main drive on my workstation where I color, caption and store all my finished strips became unbootable and unaccessible. Foolishly I had not backed up my work in about 8 weeks.  ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!

I usually maintain a buffer of at least two weeks, and had a handful of finished strips that were not yet uploaded when this catastrophe struck. This means today's comic was the last finished strip that was also uploaded to the site.  I will have to redo the strips I had previously finsished as well as redoing about 20 published strips if I want to have them in high resolution. That is a fair amount of work, and I'm still in the process of moving and adapting my workflow to my laptop, installing sofware, etc. The one upside to my process is that all of my line art is done in traditional pen and ink and can easily be rescanned.

There is still some hope that I can recover the data from the drive, I should find that out by the end of this week, and hope that is the case.  All of this happening with the holidays looming led me to the decision to put the strip on hold until I know whether my data can be recovered, give me enough time to rebuild my buffer and start fresh after the New Year.

Thanks for reading Brain Teaser, enjoy a safe and fun holiday season, and see you in January!




The Accidental Cartoonist: Comica Discordia

by otterdisaster
Comica Discordia
Discordianism is the worship of Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord. It suggests order and disorder are illusions of human perception. That the escalation of one results in an escalation of the other. It has been called ‘zen for roundeyes’ and I don’t profess to fully understand it, but it fascinates me. Its founding document is the Principia Discordia, and I came to know it through my favorite novel, the sci-fi-conspiracy classic Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. It is a copyleft document, in the public domain and freely available online.  
It has inspired all kinds of strange people to do strange, creative things and it is at the root of one of my favorite websites, That site serves up random quotes, often out of context of their original sources with hilarious results.  I like to read it when I need some silly inspiration or a non-sequitur jolt to the noggin for whatever reason.
What does this have to do with my comics? Quite a bit actually.
While working on Major Spoilers Adventures, I’d begun drawing again, exploring comics art with my own hand.  I began to dream of someday doing a hand drawn web comic using my own art, and not the computer generated Bitstrips figures and tools.  I felt I needed regular exercise to build up those drawing muscles, and so I set a goal. I would do one gag panel, released every Wednesday, for a year. This would force me to draw. I wanted to focus on the art, and didn’t necessarily want to worry a whole lot about writing gags. I was doing that on Major Spoilers Adventures already. 
I decided I would simply find quotes on that planted an image in my mind, and draw to that.  It was a nice solution, giving a framework and theme for my exercise. Sometimes the art would ‘fit’ the quote too well, so on occasion, I would go back after the art was complete, and use a different, funnier quote that still worked with the art. 
I started drawing and ended up doing 51 black and white installments and a final, 52nd full color installment, to celebrate the project’s successful conclusion. I never missed a release day, and sometimes even maintained a buffer.  In honor of the source quotes, I called the project Discordian Quote Comix
One thing about the comic I wanted to mention is that I released it with a Copyleft notice on each strip. The notice reads: by Otter Disaster (K) All Rites Reversed - Reprint What You Like. The Principia Discordia and many Discordian writings are released this way, including I figured it was right and in keeping with all things Discordian. You are still welcome to copy, print, distribute or modify those particular comics in any way you want to.
Looking at them now, much of the art is crude and cringeworthy, but I was proud of the achievement and what I learned over that year. I went from using simple fine point markers and ball point pens to experimenting with brush markers, halftone patterns in Photoshop, and more complex and interesting layouts. I improved my figures and perspective. I developed and refined a certain cartooning style that is still core to a lot of my work, and I laid the foundations for what Brain Teaser Comics became.  
The self imposed release schedule and deadline was important in that it forced me to produce. Was I always happy with the results? No, but that was a good thing. I learned that sometimes it is better to finish a piece and move on to the next one, take what dissatisfied me and improve on it for the next week. Those lines are too stiff? Hold your pen differently this time. Too much cleanup needed in Photoshop? Pencil your work more lightly so it can be erased without leaving artifacts behind. 
Discordian Quote Comix was extremely important in how my work developed. I thought it was inconsequential at the time I was making it.  It was a project that developed my comics ‘voice’ even though I didn’t realize it. It built the not-quite-right world of Brain Teaser Comics of weird creatures, weirder people, a universe gone wrong.  It allowed me to experiment without fear because nobody was reading it. Without fear, I did what I wanted, and what I NEEDED, never worrying about what anyone would think of any of it. I did it to amuse myself. I did it to learn. 
When I created my Doomed Strip it was with other people in mind. I constantly worried about what ‘the audience’ would think was funny. I worried if it was ‘accessible’. I tried to make it universally appealing, whatever that means. And I ended up hating it. Reading them now, they aren’t that bad, and I think some of them are pretty funny but at the time I grew to despise the whole thing.
When I started doing Brain Teaser Comics on the side, what I was really doing, (and without realizing it) was carrying on Discordian Quote Comix. The single panel approach, the weird humor, the oddball characters, and the skewed worldview carried straight through. There are even a few characters that made the leap between projects, namely the pair of nameless alien greys. Every Brain Teaser Comic I do amuses me first and foremost. I make sure I have fun doing it, I hope that carries through, and when you like it too, that’s a huge bonus! 
Discordian Quote Comix was almost the comic I wanted to do, I just didn’t know it. I had to remake it with a different name and a new coat of paint. Even then, I only figured it out after a time consuming detour in the wrong direction. 
Sometimes we have something figured out, but can’t see the forest for the trees. We have to pause, look back and see we were on a path the whole time. 

The Accidental Cartoonist: The Bitstrips Factor

by otterdisaster
In my last post I talked about how I became, at least in my own mind, a ‘real’ cartoonist. 
I even mentioned some comic projects I’d done that led up to those moments of discovery and self identification. One of those projects was Major Spoilers Adventures.
In March 2008, I was reading and stumbled across an article detailing an odd little Web 2.0 startup called Bitstrips. It was a set of simple tools that allowed you to design characters and easily plug them into comic strips.  As someone who’d always liked comics I thought this might be a fun little distraction, and maybe a way to add content to my recently launched Otter Disaster Blog where I commented on comics, pop culture and politics. I was a fairly early adopter of Bitstrips, and enjoyed being a part of the early wave of users, innovating, giving feedback to the developers, and generally having fun making comics. I designed characters based on friends and started doing strips about my misspent youth, and being a husband and father.  I also used Bitstrips to do 24 Hour Comics in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that were immensely satisfying from a creative standpoint. I believe I still stand as the only Bitstripper to ever use it for the 24 Hour Comics Challenge.
I eventually did a strip based on an episode of the Major Spoilers Podcast, hosted by a couple of friends from my college years and posted it in the forums on their site.  It got a really great response, and so I posted a couple more, and the next thing I knew Stephen Schleicher, the owner of Major Spoilers, asked me if I wanted to make it a regular feature, appearing on the main site.  I thought this was a pretty cool opportunity, so almost by accident I was doing a weekly comic strip for a fairly high profile web site.
Bitstrips feature set continued to grow allowing me to do more and more, and I ended up doing 120 episodes of Major Spoilers Adventures for the site for over two years. Major Spoilers Adventures ran from May, 2009 to November 2011. I did a lot of pop culture related gags, inside jokes from the site and its podcasts as well as a few long form continuity stories.
It was a lot of fun for a long time, but Bitstrips began to frustrate me.  New features aside, I grew annoyed with the limitations of the site tools, the homogenous art and the site’s intermittent bugginess. In June of 2011 I started a more personal side project as a secondary creative outlet, drawn by hand without the aid of Bitstrips. I took a lot of joy out of that project, Discordian Quote Comix, designed as an education in doing my own art with self imposed deadlines and release schedule.  That project helped me decide to end Major Spoilers Adventures in November of 2011 and Stephen was kind enough to allow me to spin a hand drawn gag panel strip out of the end of the weekly comic strip. That strip was called ‘SPOILED!’ and ran for another 33 weeks. It didn’t feature any of the main characters (most based on actual people) from Major Spoilers Adventures but it did have similar pop-culture themed gags. It did have a few new recurring characters designed for jabs at superhero and comic book tropes, and pop culture fandom.  SPOILED! did not get as much positive response as Major Spoilers Adventures (and a fair amount of vocal, negative response). Half a year into SPOILED! my work schedule changed, I went back to working swing shifts, and the desire to develop my (doomed) continuity strip converged into a decision to end SPOILED! as well. Stephen was very understanding, and said I was welcome to contribute to the site in any wanted I wanted at any time in the future. 
I have been asked and have considered bringing back Major Spoilers Adventures on a number of occasions and was actually poised to do so, when Bitstrips went viral. They released a mobile app, shifted to a social media strategy and they were everywhere for a while, becoming both extremely popular and equally reviled all at once. The explosion in mobile/social Bitstrips users also took down their servers, screwed up many features on the main site and made it harder to use for an extended period of time. To bring back the strip would also mean the homogenous Bitstrips ‘look’ which was fine before everyone’s Facebook timeline was littered with that style of comic, but now seemed off putting and commonplace.  I’ve tinkered with a few potential solutions outside Bitstrips, but the one thing it offered that my current solutions don’t is time. When it worked, Bitstrips was a pretty fast solution. These days I’m producing two Brain Teaser Comics a week, doing the Media Montage Podcast, and I have returned to Major Spoilers every other week with a second podcast. I am producing, Top 5 Express, a short supplemental show to the longer Top Five Podcast that features the main Major Spoilers Crew.  
What does all this have to do with anything? I guess it is an exploration of how I got deeply involved in making comics largely through a series of happy accidents.  Bitstrips, and similar sites like Pixton and Chogger get slammed as devaluing comic making by many artists, but without it, I might never have explored making comics with my own art.  Every artist has a journey and every journey begins with a single step. Bitstrips was mine. It led me to a regular gig with Major Spoilers which in turn inspired me to rediscover and better my own art, explore my own creations, and find a voice for the work I’m doing.

Media Montage Podcast 73 - The Monster Squad (1987)

by otterdisaster


October is upon us and The Media Montage Podcast is celebrating with Halloween themed episodes all month long. 
In this episode Bruce and Larry take a look at the often overlooked cult classic horror-comedy The Monster Squad, from 1987. Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, The Gill Man, and the Mummy wreak havoc in a small town, while a band of brave kids work to end their evil. 
Andrew Gower, Tom Noonan, Duncan Regehr, Jonathan Gries, and Stephen Mach star it this creature feature. 
Find out how Dracula adjourns a meeting in Episode 73 of the Media Montage Podcast! 

Confession of an Accidental Cartoonist

by otterdisaster
I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’m making it all up as I go along. 
As a father, a husband and as a cartoonist. Luckily I have a wonderful wife who helps me figure out the father and husband stuff most of the time. 
As a cartoonist?
I've basically stumbled my way up to this point. 
Brain Teaser Comics is now in its third year.  Artistically I am still exploring styles, drifting from very cartoony to more illustrative/realistic renderings, depending on my mood and the nature of a gag. Brain Teaser’s one-off format is perfect for this.
Brain Teaser was itself an accident, born as a side project to another project that I incompetently murdered before it was ever released. Like I said, I don’t know what I’m doing. 
I had a few comics projects under my belt (Major Spoilers Adventures, Spoiled!, and Discordian Quote Comix), all educational and formative experiments that didn’t really ‘count’ in my mind. 
I decided I wanted to be a ‘real’ cartoonist so I conceived and started work on a newspaper style continuity strip, intended to come out three days a week. Think Archie meets Better Off Dead, the classic 80’s John Cusack teen film. I began writing strips and building my buffer, but my digital only, full color process was slow, unwieldy and grew into something more chore than fun. I was never going to be able to release three strips a week with this workflow, I’d be lucky to get one out. 
While I was slowly strangling that project to death by over thinking it, I was also doing side sketches and drawings. I threw some captions on them and began posting those as Brain Teaser Comics, almost as a goof.  The longer I slogged away at my continuity strips, the more the very idea of that particular comic became suffocating.  I found myself stepping away and drawing the gag panels, because I was having a great deal more fun doing them, making it up as I went along.
I eventually noticed work on my ‘regular’ strip stopped completely while I worked more and more on my strange little panel comic. 
I felt like I’d failed. I felt like I’d failed for several months, all while producing a comic I really enjoyed. Again, I don’t know what I’m doing.
Because I’d focused so much on the thing I thought I should be doing (and not even working on), I was ignoring the thing I was actually doing (and really enjoying).  I had developed tunnel vision. I thought I had to do my comics in a certain way. I thought I had to do them the way others were doing them if I was to be a cartoonist. I weirdly thought there was an expectation of what my comic would be, even when I had no comic and no audience to read it. I don’t know what I’m doing.
It took a while, but I figured out that I’d been doing what I wanted to be doing for quite a while. I was drawing silly stuff, and putting it out into the world for all to see.
I’d become a cartoonist. 
I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go along.

Media Montage Podcast 72: Music Matters

by otterdisaster

Music is everywhere, and it shapes our lives in interesting ways. Bruce and Larry take a look at their formative years, discovering, listening to and sharing music.

We tell some tales about discovery of our favorite bands, and share the emotional impact of music at specific moments in our lives. Bruce tells a tale of a girl who shared a name with a popular song, and Larry faces down the Ace of Spades!

How do we discover our music?
Does format affect the way we consume our music?
Find out why music matters in Episode 72 of the Media Montage Podcast!

Larry's Formative Years Playlist
Bruce's Birth to Jr High Playlist
Bruce's High School and Beyond Playlist

Our Comics:
Magna Comica:
Brain Teaser Comics:


Media Montage Podcast 71: Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD

by otterdisaster


Agents of SHIELD Season 2 will be premiered last night so Larry and Bruce travel back in time to visit the first live action SHIELD movie, 1998’s Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD starring none other than the Hoff!
David Hasselhoff and Lisa Rinna star in this made for TV movie that served as a failed pilot for a potential series.
High camp, a questionable plot by the villains, and cigars that get chewed as much as the scenery. 
This all leads to a discussion about the evolution of Marvel’s live action from the 70s to today in Episode 71 of the Media Montage Podcast!
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