Sunday, May 26, 2013

MTDAA Comics Volume 1 Now Live

If you didn't order your print copies via Kickstarter, you can do so now for MTDAA Volume 1: Tour of Duty. If you are a Kickstarter backer who ordered it, sit back and relax. Your copy is on its way. I will be fulfilling those orders over the next two days.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Proof is in the... Pudding?

I received my proof copies of MTDAA Volume 1: Tour of Duty in the mail today. The box was a smidge beat up, and one of the copies (I ordered 5) had a ding in the corner... I hope that individual copies fare better from them. I'm a wee bit concerned, but at this point I'm all in with Createspace for my print publishing, so I will keep my fingers crossed.

I had to make a few minor tweaks to the cover and back cover, but everything else looks good. The book is how I always envisioned Army Ants, so that in and of itself is a win. The art was really built for this format.

If I get the approval in the next day or so (which I'm supposed to...) I will be direct shipping copies of Volume 1 to the Kickstarter backers who ordered it; this means you should have it by the end of next week, assuming all goes well.

I also received t-shirts and tattoos this week. I'm still waiting on the patches, still need to order the lunch boxes, and still have to design the character sheets. I hope to finish the Player's Guide in the next week or two, although I don't think that a June 1 launch for that is going to work out. Life has gotten quite busy of late. I'm going to make it a priority next week, but it may have to get in line behind my grad school class (which has had a 10-page paper due each week this month).

Consider yourself updated!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Negative, Negative... Just impacted on the surface

I should have known that titling my last few posts with obscure Red Leader quotes would lead to no good... the guy had a shot at taking down the Death Star and missed it. If you want something to go well the first time around, you send in your Jedi-in-training. That's what I get for invoking the lesser-known Star Wars quotes... that will teach me.

I digress.

Several backers reported problems getting the download of the first volume of comics from my direct link to the Google Docs account, so instead of trying to fix all of those, I've posted the comic to DriveThruComics and sent a download link to all backers who ordered the comics. If you didn't back the comics, this means that your time has come! Head over to DriveThruComics and get your copy. You may as well post a glowing review and tell all of your friends about it, too... I mean, you DID go to all the trouble of buying it and downloading it.

(Edit: I just realized that this is post #300. Woot for me.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's Away!

The first comics collection, MTDAA Volume 1: Tour of Duty, has now been shared in pdf with all backers who had that reward as part of their pledge level. I did this as a link to the Google Docs upload. If you have a problem with this for any reason, let me know and I'll look into it. The file was too big to simply attach to an e-mail, and I wanted to avoid making you download it through DriveThruComics, so I went with this route.

The second volume (another 228 pages) will be out in the next month or so, and work continues apace on the RPG. Other rewards of t-shirts, 2nd edition RPGs, tattoos and patches will be going out in the next few weeks.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Almost... There...

Tonight, I finished the layout for the first volume of MTDAA comics. The book weighs in at 228 pages, and I expect that the second volume will come in at exactly the same page count. I have fewer pages of comics for that volume (right around 200) but I'll be putting in the sketchbook pages and other miscellaneous stuff that should push it up to 228.

I haven't decided exactly how to share this with Kickstarter backers yet... feel free to give me feedback on the options. I don't want to just e-mail a copy to each of you, because the file is pretty huge (almost 100 mbs). I could put it up on drive thru comics and then send a link to each of you, but that seems to create problems for people. I'm tempted to put it up on a file sharing site for a month and send the direct link to people. That's probably the way to go... I am a little nervous about putting up an unprotected file with no sharing limits for people to just grab, but then again:

A) the Kickstarter backers are people who invested in it already, so I know they value it on some level and won't just give it away willy nilly.
B) any belief I have in the sanctity of file protection is false anyway. If someone wants to pirate it, they will find a way easily enough.

In the end, I have to trust that people aren't going to just try to steal my comics, and that even if they get a free copy somehow, they'll swing by the blog and hit the donate button and send a few dollars... so, once I get the file sharing worked out, expect a link (if you were a backer and ordered the comics) in a few days for the first volume.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Updates? Are You MAD?

A few (comparatively) brief updates:

- I'm 95% through scanning the first comic collection, and I've started organizing for scanning the second collection (I was missing some of the high-quality copies of the original pages for scanning, but I think I found them this evening!). I'll keep plugging away on scanning, but my goal right now is to get the first volume out well before August. We'll see... maybe as soon as the next few weeks!

- I've placed orders for everything for Kickstarter backers except for the lunch boxes, which I'm still not done designing, and I'm still not happy with the quotes I've found on those. The quest continues... however, t-shirts, patches and tattoos are all scheduled to arrive to me within two weeks, and at that point I'll be putting together backer packages for anything I'm direct shipping (because the RPG and comics will be direct shipped from the printer). This means that some of you may get your initial Kickstarter packages rolling in as soon as June 1...

- The webcomic continues on. I've got the next short story after Slab Smash ready to go, and I found 12 pages that continue the story from the end of the Year of the Ant, and I'm going to use those and build from there... those pages are not formatted the way I want to format pages going forward, but for one month you'll just have to deal with some funky layouts on your screen for pages as I work through those. There is no point re-drawing them just to format them ideally for the webcomic format. Starting in July, I'll be into the same format all the time (at least that's the plan). As of right now, I can continue publishing webcomics 3 days a week for the foreseeable future, and by the time I get through my backlog, I should have enough new material, and be on a regular drawing routine, going forward.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How Osama Bin Laden Almost Killed the Army Ants

I thought that title would get your attention.

Starting in late 1999, I felt Army Ants burnout settling upon me. The comics and games had not garnered the reactions that I was hoping for (although in retrospect my failure to publicize them well is largely to blame), and I was feeling creatively tapped out. I also had changed directions in my life, enrolling in college and pursuing a career in teaching. I was student teaching by the spring of 2001, and landed my current teaching job in the summer of 2001, and had moved Army Ants as far back on the burner as I could while still being able to argue they were still on the stove.

Then September 11 happened. I remember spending a few weeks watching the nation’s response to this, and thinking about the stories that I’d written. I started to feel as though I had taken a flippant, detached approach to a topic – war – that was soon going to dominate the national conversation. The cumulative effect of the new life directions and creative burnout coupled with this new weight of responsibility for making sure I was telling a responsible story caused me to box up my Army Ants pages in storage crates and leave them there for a decade.

Sure, I revised my game system a few times over that period, but I didn’t bring that out of mothballs for 5 years (2006), and even then my heart wasn’t truly in it. I wanted to revise the game around the new superhero game system that I’d just developed, and I thought Army Ants would be a good fit for it (in retrospect, I think I was wrong – 2nd Edition, even with its quirks, oddities and inconsistencies, is superior to 3rd Edition in almost every way). 

Reading The Things They Carried started to change my mind. It’s been a slow process. I first read Tim O’Brien’s book three years ago when I taught a summer school class and was looking for a high interest read for my senior boys. We all ended up loving it, and I’ve taught it about five more times since, each time getting a better handle on my feelings on war, suffering, loss and all of these things. However, in that time I’ve also discovered that The Things They Carried is not about war – war is the context he uses to discuss love and death and hope and disappointment and honor and respect.

It dawned on me that Army Ants is not, and never really was, about war. It’s about friendship, and self-sacrifice, and hope, and humor and the people and things I love. These are the things I write about and think about and meditate on. The unending ant war simply gives me a context to discuss these things.

(FYI – I looked down at my word count at the end of what I had written, and it said 911 words. Oh, serendipity)

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I'm NOT doing

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to communicate through my comics and games, about the experiences I hope that a reader has or the ways in which players interact with the games I design. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about unintended consequences, because these are (by nature) things that you probably didn’t consider, and would have done differently if you had…

Cases in point: tattoos, guns and the Second Amendment.

I don’t think that I necessarily support anyone’s argument (on either side) when it comes to the Second Amendment. I played with GI Joes when I was a kid, I played ‘war in the fields’ with my friends throughout middle school and into high school (wielding replica weapons and wearing surplus store uniforms and carrying surplus store gear). I have spent a large chunk of my adult life drawing guns and imagining how an explosive device can blow something up.

However, I don’t own a gun, and never intend to. I would never consider joining the NRA. I’m not a fan of hunting, although I have nothing ethically/morally/socially/philosophically against it. I generally think that killing is bad if you can avoid it, and peace is better whenever and wherever it presents itself as an option. War is an invariable aspect of the human condition; when we are done with war, we will probably also be done with life on earth and be ready for the next thing. Until then, war is going to happen.

It occurred to me this week in sending in my tattoo order that 3 of the 4 images that I am encouraging people to affix to their skin show insects wielding guns. I’m promoting body art (a thing I actually don’t really like) and guns (something I don’t know where I stand on) by default.

In the end, you respond how you are going to respond to any creative work. On some level, the creator has a responsibility to make sure that the story ends up reflecting the beliefs that he or she truly wishes to espouse. For me, those issues are bigger than guns or tattoos (or Sarge’s smoking while I’m at it – I don’t particularly like the smell of cigars, and I think smoking in general = 0 benefit with substantial costs all the way around).

I don’t suppose that Tolkien lost much sleep in thinking about the implications of including war, violence and weapons at the center of his narratives, so I probably don’t have to lose much sleep over it either. Still and all, I wanted to at least mention it…

Friday, May 3, 2013


The new MTDAA webcomic has launched! You will get Monday/Wednesday/Friday updates through May, and I will go weekly with new comics starting in June. will now be a permanent link over to the right, so you can get your MTDAA fix any time of the day...