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Lars Brown

I am 30 years old and I draw comics and take care of my two children. My published work is North World from Oni Press and Penultimate Quest from LAVApunch. My website is Larsbrown.com
Apr 15 '14

Anonymous asked:

Do you think you can be a good comic artist and raise a family and kid in the same time or you have to choose ?

royalboiler:

sure, lots of great artists have kids. I feel like it would only give you more to talk about in your work. 

not that I’m gonna have kids though. 

Yeah, it is possible but it changes your entire life. I finished the third North World book in anticipation of my first born, however I got about 75 pages into a planned four book series and I completely and literally lost the plot. My daughter would typically take 20 minutes of outright sobbing to get to sleep, and that on top of working at a soul-crushing job equaled that I just could not do it. The story was shelved and I rediscovered video games for a few years.

Then she started sleeping better, I started working nights and being alone for hours in silence and io9 did a review of North World and kicked my butt into gear. Penultimate Quest 1 was drawn in anticipation of my son and the second volume was drawn despite his occasional sleepless nights (but he goes to sleep great, thank you, Lord).

Because I drew before and through this time I feel far more confident about continuing to draw even as I have now passed the 30 year mark. Also thanks to my son I can reflect on the lost years as being pretty understandable. Kids are draining, but also wonderful. Similar to comics.

Apr 14 '14
I’ve got a lot to talk about Dark Souls 2, mostly bad. 

[[MORE]]
I’m done with Dark Souls 2. After some 60 hours I reached a point where I no longer cared about upgrading equipment, finding whatever a Grand Lance was or defeating the handful of optional bosses that I skipped (what’s that you say? The ancient dragon has 25,000 HP? GET OUT OF MY LIFE!) I beat the underwhelming final boss, sat upon the Throne of Want and was done.

Dark Souls 2 is a fine game. The adjustments it made to the gameplay was fine. Making enemies stop spawning was fine. Including health items and depowering the Estus Flask was fine. Changing the hitbox on backstabbing was fine as well, especially considering that I had only just begun to backstab after playing through Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 1 about three times each. It was enough that I could ram my Channeler’s Spear into some Bell Tower invading jack hole and watch it spin like a blender.

These changes were fine with me because they were as much changes from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls 1. Some of them were actually good ideas to keep seasoned players in check at the beginning of the game. Something to force a change of perspective.

I was okay with the sprawling nature of the land, especially when the next location opened up in sometimes surprising ways. I was particularly drawn to the Pit, which gave way to the Grave of a Saint, which went still deeper into the Gutter and ultimately ended up in the insane neon-green Black Gulch (which in turn lead still deeper to where Giants slept). I also particularly liked the Shrine of Amana, the use of the water hiding the path and then tempting the player to cross it’s wide expanse, as if it were Demon’s swamp or Dark Souls’ Blight Town, was cruelly genius. I also actually liked the Demon of Song, the creepy giant corpse crawling out of, or retreating into, the mouth of a giant armored frog. The music though was a rip from one of the other games, ah well.

But there are problems here. Sizeable ones. Disappointments that bleed my heart and make me grumpily complain about video game details to my wife. My wife does not care enough for all of the problems that I find with Dark Souls 2.

I’ll start with a minor quibble, and that is with the level design. Too often the game would give a little bump that the player became unable to cross, a few times in the forward but mostly in the reverse.  It’s an extremely old and extremely “video-game” sort of thing to do. I first noticed it in the Huntsman’s Copse. I opted to summon a few helpers and they neatly blitzed through the level to go and stomp on the Skeleton Lords. I followed but noted all of the twists and turns that we passed that contained sweet, sweet loot. Once we had vanquished the Skeleton Lords (in which, cruelly, I was the only survivor) I forged ahead to the next Bonfire in hopes that I could journey back and sweep up that loot. This was not to be and the sole reason was a ladder that did not reach the ground.

Now thanks to the always available bonfire warping I was free to simply go to the earlier part in the level and grind my way back. This is fine in concept, but it is something that, to my memory, was never present in Dark Souls 1. For instance in the delightlfully twisty Catacombs you could work your way to the bottom and then back to the top, if you knew where the right chutes and ladders were, of course. Certainly you could slide down some holes to reach the Skeleton Blacksmith and then warp your way out, but the fact is that if you had no warping spells or warp bones you could climb your way out, inch by bloody inch. The same was true for the entire game. Dark Souls 2, for no reason, decided that it should prohibit going backwards for the player some of the time.

The parts where it badly keeps you from moving forward are even more baffling. This is the case in the Salamander Den in the Forest of the Giants. Early on there is a nice sword protected by a heavily armored Salamander shooting fire balls. If you start as sorcerer it is possible to exhaust a full battery of spells to defeat him. Ah, but now there is a bump in your way. Following the goading of a summoned phantom we eventually both hopped over this minor obstacle and were then, literally, trampled by a fresh salamander. Why would the game only partially keep me back? The Salamander Den is separately infuriating for having little of note (I don’t do great shields, sorry Rebel shield) with enemies that are difficult and you fight nowhere else and it leads nowhere of note. And why are they there? Who knows.

So these ‘bumps’ serve generally such little purpose that they may as well just be patched out. Okay, a few times the game chose to do so to force you into a dire fight. This is especially the case in Harvest Valley where you fight the four giant sickle grunts. That’s not a bad idea, direness is good, but it actually brings me to another problem: unnecessary mobs.

The beginning of the Forest of Giants held such promise. I had grunts coming at me one at a time, or in the extreme case I had to juggle fighting one with a long sword while another took potshots at me from nearby. Dark Souls 1 had prepared me for fights like this. The next immediate section however had three aggressive undead, one sleeping that would awake if you came near and yet another shooting arrows at you. This was truly an ‘augur of darkness’ in the negative. The combat in the Souls game in general has always worked best in 1 v 1 battles, and for the most part all of the games allow you to ‘aggro’ individual enemies as opposed to groups, yet there were several instances that Dark Souls 2 launched a mob of enemies at you.

Focusing on a single fight there was a hallway in the Undead Crypt that contained four regular undead and three S-Class wizard hotties. The wizard hotties could launch hex hails, poison clouds, exploding ball sorcery,  threw lightning spears and exploded firestorm things. First, why so overpowered? Somehow I aced this section my first time, but when I came back to kill the warden for his invisible katana I died well over a dozen times. I know I died that many times because at some point the regular undead gave up the ghost and stopped coming back. In the course of fighting the hotties I would start slashing one only to be poisoned and zapped by the others. It all took place in a hallway that did me no favors and was needlessly brutal.

I think this compares unfavorably to the grim reaper sections in Demon’s Souls. In those caves you could very meticulously slash through a never ending army of shuffling ghosts until you could finally stop the grim reaper from firing off soul arrows out of his bony hips. Or you could, like me, leap off of a stone diving board and ram a winged spear through his rib cage. At any rate the game allowed you to take your time even while pressuring you onward. The goons stopped with the grim reaper’s destruction and his soul arrows were obnoxious but predictable. It was grinding without being punishing.

I do want to give credit to one amazing psuedo-mob fight in DS2 that happens in the Huntsman’s Copse. I remember on the first play through I held to the right edge and found myself in a valley where I saw a tall warden jump down from a platform, when I turned to run I was shocked to find the warden and three of his mates doing chase. I could just get one down to half health before they murdered me. Unfair, I thought. The next time I attempted this section I summoned a helper who quickly, and wordlessly, showed me that if I stood my ground I could take the creeps one at a time. Now I knew that this section was programmed to prove the courageous and punish the coward, that’s great design.

The mobs of giants in the ‘memories’ near the end of the game were balls though. I had focused on sorcery and was more than a little sour that it was my only recourse to defeat the lumbering hole-faced cretins. Was there a way to dodge the massive pyromancer’s fireballs? Because my only strategy was to attack them while they were busy wailing on the king’s troops. At this point in the game I was waning and was getting pretty sick of the whole mess.

This brings me to my biggest beef, and that’s with the ‘story’. It’s a mess.

Let’s watch that opening cutscene. Dying in the woods, losing family, an ‘augur of darkness’ (???), melting face (!), ‘you won’t care’, ‘a hollow, feeding on souls,’ Drangleic, decrepit gate, bugs (!), jump a hole, fate of the cursed, who cares? Often when I was confronted with key story elements my thought process would go ‘What is this? Why did they do that? Who is that? Screw it, who cares.’ Now think about the end scene where your cursed undead avatar sits on a stone throne stolen from giants. Yeah, what is this? Why did they do that? Who is that? Who cares. Contrast this with the introduction in Demon’s Souls, the very first line tells you that a great king used the power of souls until his prospering kingdom fell under a deep fog and slipped into legend. Perfect, and then sets up a world for the brave player-character to forge into. You journey into legend to hunt for riches and slowly reveal the nature of the kingdom’s downfall and unravel secrets of the entire universe. Things were never completely clear in any of these games but Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls have the upper hand of consistency.

In Dark Souls 2 the opening scene and your ‘character’ don’t play out in any meaningful way in the finale.I think I got the gist of the plot, but it seemed to not matter at any point between the Forest of the Fallen Giants and Drangleic. It kind of feels like a lot of the game was just middling around and wasting time. I think the story was that a king married a secretly demon woman, went off and stole a ‘throne of want’ from some giants, they got pissed and wrecked his kingdom and he hid his soul and his body in a crypt. I guess. You as the main character are simply cursed for no apparent reason and then assume the role of king at the end.. At some point the game makes some sort of ballyhoo about liking the first fire. But I don’t see no fire. I don’t see any ancient connection to the previous game. I don’t get how the Throne of Want connects to the giants or the first flame or the cursed mark. It just feels like they jumbled up a halfway decent story with dribblings of story instances from the first game. That’s not to mention the Emerald Herald, lady of the monotone voice, fair maiden of ambien and heir of clueless plots.

You meet this lady idling away in Marjula, later she ‘projects’ herself to key points near the end of the game until at some point she tells you she was named by dragons and made by… someone? According to a wiki she was made to break the curse. So what does the curse mean to the King Vendrick? What does it mean to this world. Why do you have it, why do you need to break it? Did it come from the giants? From the queen? Who cares.

The Maiden in Black in Demon’s Souls is perhaps given less overt plot but is vastly more interesting and coherent. Start with the design of these two ladies. Beyond aesthetics it is simply a mystery why the Emerald Herald wears green, is a woman, and has a magic feather. The Maiden in Black drips with interesting design that links her inextricably to the world. She has a simple job in lighting candles in the nexus, she guides the player but is herself blind (possibly by wax which could imply self infliction), she knows everything and can maniuplate the souls of the player and lull the old one to sleep (a few more complex job). She gives the player the choice of ending reality or lulling the old one to sleep and continuing the cycle. I also love that she succinctly asks the player “dost thou seek soul power?” when it’s time to level up. The Emerald Herald meanwhile prattles on with four lines of dialogue whenever I engage her for any reason.

In the end Dark Souls 2 is a sequel, and in that it seems to be undone by the success of it’s predecessor. The biggest problem is perhaps the loss of the director of the first two Souls games; Hidetaka Miyazaki. There is a quote where Miyazaki took a designer to task on Dark Souls 1, the designer had shown him a disgusting looking undead dragon to which Miyazaki replied “Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?” If you can extend this kind of thought throughout an entire game I think it’s easier to detect the nuances of what a singular director can bring to a product. Taking Miyazaki out of the picture and I think you can begin to see why elements where so clumsily yanked out of previous games and the story in Dark Souls 2 was such a mess.

Still, it was quite a bit of fun and the matchmaking was so delightfully smooth (as opposed to the janky attempts to connect in Dark Souls 1, yikes). That said, is anyone interested in a copy of Dark Souls 2 Black Armor edition?

I’ve got a lot to talk about Dark Souls 2, mostly bad. 

Read More

Apr 12 '14
Pin the mustache on the strongman a game for my son’s first birthday (game is for the older kids)

Pin the mustache on the strongman a game for my son’s first birthday (game is for the older kids)

Apr 11 '14
Pyromancer Dark Souls

Pyromancer Dark Souls

Apr 2 '14
inkmo:

Con sketch for Lars Brown

Its Kailee!!! Thanks, John!

inkmo:

Con sketch for Lars Brown

Its Kailee!!! Thanks, John!

36 notes (via inkmo)
Mar 29 '14
Dark Souls commission

Dark Souls commission

Mar 29 '14
Hello from table 107 in the lonesome crowded west.

Hello from table 107 in the lonesome crowded west.

Mar 25 '14
Volume 2 of Penultimate Quest is complete! Tell all of your neighbors and friends. Read online at larsbrown.com

Volume 2 of Penultimate Quest is complete! Tell all of your neighbors and friends. Read online at larsbrown.com

Mar 24 '14

devereauxs-doodles asked:

What brand of bristol board do you use? (I was intrigued by a previous question about inks and erasing)

royalboiler:

Everyone, everyone! Brandon Graham just revealed a fantastic secret.

This is the paper that he and Stokoe draw everything on. It can run through a printer (I use it for prints) but it can stand up to some good ink. It’s also cheap because you get 250 sheets in a pack. And as the label says it’s 11x17. I used to pick up a pack when I was in Seattle but I recently ordered a pack of Neenah Paper brand of the same type online and it works great.

Mar 4 '14
Book sketch

Book sketch

Mar 4 '14
muggyebes:

Ironically this comic where I complain about being amateurish is in fact amateurish. 

I tell young people to focus on maths and sciences all of the time. 

muggyebes:

Ironically this comic where I complain about being amateurish is in fact amateurish. 

I tell young people to focus on maths and sciences all of the time. 

Mar 4 '14
Maiden of doom

Maiden of doom

Feb 26 '14
More designs for pq.

More designs for pq.

Feb 22 '14
Feb 17 '14

nachosrv asked:

Hey!! i just wanna say that i just finished reading northworld and i think it was awesome. Also, while reading the comic, i had the constant feeling it had a Scott Pilgrim-ish thing to it (its not bad at all, i love SP and you made unique in its own way). And when i saw the last page, with the bear dressed up as Scott and Kailee as Ramona, it brought a smile into my face. But just to be sure, i wanted to check that up with you. Thanks for the good work, and keep it up.

Thank you so much! There is absolutely a Scott Pilgrim vibe. When I started seriously considering making comics I was following a very short lived art blog called Dumpling that had art by Corey Lewis, Andy Helms and Bryan Lee O’Malley. At the time it totally tweaked my brain and definitely aimed me in a certain direction. When Lost at Sea and Scott Pilgrim came out I purchased them immediately. I had the good fortune to talk to Bryan on Corey’s Gingerbox forum when I was starting out and while I was rewriting the first part of Epic of Conrad I sent Bryan some notes and he correctly shot them down. I definitely owe a large debt to him in sensibility in approaching stories, and also gratitude to him and Corey in helping to ingratiate me into Oni and the comics community. And the cosplay drawing was meant to be an ad for the book, originally James Lucas Jones thought it was funny but it was appropriately not used.