Behind the Scenes 2: Shaping Cosmic Rage

Last time, I shared with you about how the idea of Cosmic Rage came about. Now, I have lived in the midwest almost all of my life. Living in cities no bigger than 150,000 so when I moved to Minneapolis shortly after college, I was kinda surprised. I mean I never imagined myself living in a larger city to be honest. Probably because it was something I never gave thought to. I was always cared more about what I was doing for work than where I was living.

Cosmic Rage was something I started in high school, but shelved for a while as I was searching for my next move after college. It was about 6 months into my job in Minneapolis and I became friends with one of my co-workers. One day we decided we wanted to collaborate on a project. Cosmic Rage was that project.

In the early days of the project, we wanted a motion comic aspect to the game we wanted to work on. Over a year or so, life took us both different ways and our priorities changed. He took a larger role for work and has made some amazing work at his job and undoubtedly mentored a lot of people so far too. As for me, I decided to keep the motion comic going in my spare time.

So why was a motion comic something I wanted to make versus other methods of storytelling? I have always been visual person, so I knew artwork needed to be made. I tried a couple variations of comic and manga style but I wanted the viewers to have the full experience, moving pieces, audio, and color. I didn’t have a way around this all though. I spent some time researching motion comics and found some interesting ones, but they all were basically still comic books, just with faded in type and subtle effects. I wanted to take Cosmic Rage further than that.

One night in Minneapolis I was channel surfing and stumbled across Archer. I was intrigued by the artwork, the characters looked like rigged illustrations but the backgrounds looked painted, yet 3D. I took to the internet after watching the show and found a blog on how Archer was made. This video got my wheels started on how to make Cosmic Rage.

A few render tests later, I was convinced this could work out for Cosmic Rage.


American Anime, Can it Exist?

I had a friend recently post this article up to my Facebook timeline. While it is questions submitted by readers, it is only the first question I was directed to by said friend. The article comes from io9.

If you want the cliff notes version of the article, the viewer is curious if there is a business model or alternative business model for America to make anime. First, let’s clarify a few terms, at least for this entry, since many people tend to like classifications and labels to group things. I mean, look at the debates over what people classify as manga vs comics and some people believe the country of origin plays a role in these classifications, such as the great Original English Language (OEL) manga vs manga from Japan or Korea, etc.

Anime, in it’s traditional sense, is used to describe animation from Japan whether it is a full length film or a televisions series. However, I would argue that the term “anime” will be going through the same thing as manga does in the near future. I envision this due to the growing amount of artists that were inspired by anime and are taking on the world of animation. For instance, the web show called RWBY with heavy anime influences and the rise of “fanime” series and projects on Youtube, which are combined of the words “fan” and “anime”.

Let’s tackle the first model, which is the traditional route of a manga series being turned into an animated series. In a sense, this already exists in the US. We have animated shows like Batman, Superman and the Ninja Turtles, all based on comics. While they don’t follow the story lines note for note, these shows are probably the closest thing to that model in the US. With the slow death of comics, we have seen an influx of spin-offs from Pixar and Dreamworks films for animated shows, such as Kung Fu Panda. Now one could argue, that these are more children’s cartoons than anime, which kinda carries the more mature label of animated content. Could we classify shows such as Archer or the Simpsons as anime? I personally tend not to. Some people classify shows based on art styles and some on content. For instance, some would classify Archer or the Simpsons as cartoons since they are animated and others would classify cartoons as content geared towards a younger demographic. So with the terms being used, we will be flexible and look at the greater picture.

The article is called “Why America Will Never Truly Be Able to Make Its Own Anime” and that may be true to a sense. Anime in Japan gets made to promote manga, video games or a toy line. So if an American company were going to make an anime title but based it’s premise off of a Japanese manga, it would miss out on some potential marketing goodies. As the response to question states, if a series is doing well, a Japanese studio will license it, American studios wouldn’t get a chance.

America also doesn’t have the proper infrastructure to have a successful anime series take root. The show would essentially have one outlet, the late night block on Cartoon Network to reach the masses of cable viewers. SyFy no longer has a late night block in any form of anime to my knowledge and hasn’t had one for several years to my knowledge.

This all sounds kind of pessimistic, so what exactly am I saying?

In the US, people are increasingly cutting the cord to cable, thus making an American anime series primed for another platform, such as; Netflix, Amazon or some other player not in the market yet. As a culture, we are in a period of transition. One from the old ways of watching cable, to a new way people consume media that has not yet been directly defined. Once a show gains a level of success, it can then expand outside of the US. For instance, Roosterteeth recently announced that RWBY was going to be aired in Japan. You can read the article on adweek.

While I am not a businessman by any means, going this route may be a more profitable route. You wouldn’t have to pay to license a manga, and you could make money off of the licensing of the new Intellectual Property (IP), I believe.

So while anime is not the hot ticket item it was a decade or so ago, there is still room for an American series to make money in the space. I believe that we will see a successful title like that in the future and maybe develop it’s own niche as well. In my opinion American anime can exist, otherwise I wouldn’t be working on Cosmic Rage. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Cosmic Rage Unplugged: A Year in Review (and a Glimpse into the Past)

As the new year gets underway, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year of Cosmic Rage. I want to be up front with what I think worked, what didn’t work, and I’ll also discuss the direction in which we are headed for 2014.

The Origin of Cosmic Rage
Before I recap 2013, let’s take a look at how this whole thing got started. As some of you may know, I had the initial idea for Cosmic Rage almost 10 years ago, when I was still an aspiring art student in high school. Over the past decade, the story and characters have evolved and have taken their current form. Cosmic Rage didn’t really get started until after my college internship, when I became a freelance artist. Characters such as Zeth and Jani (whom you have only seen images of so far) spent some of my college years toiling in various stories that were inspired by other things I had seen and liked; no doubt they were cookie-cutter story lines, such as a space odyssey inspired by Outlaw Star or a world of teleporting to locations as in Dot Hack.

I began to realize that these were not stories I wanted to tell; rather, they were things that I liked—two vastly different concepts. One of the initial launching points for Cosmic Rage occurred when I was first unemployed. I had just completed a college internship and was in the real world without a job. The year 2010 was the first time I hadn’t been working since I was 14. The tanking of the economy had finally reached the Midwest as hiring froze and people were let go from work. I headed south to my sister’s, where I spent the days searching for opportunities to showcase my skills and talented people to work with. However, I spent my nights working on Cosmic Rage, getting years of ideas and characters out of my head and onto paper.

After three months, I landed a job and relocated to Minneapolis. This marked another major turning point in the evolution of Cosmic Rage. I started shaping the Cosmic Rage universe into a story of my own, completely scrapping the aforementioned plot lines and universe influences from other shows. I began to create original story lines and worlds, which was a goal I had committed to while I was at my sister’s, back when I was redesigning my character art and removing other obvious influences.

It wasn’t until some spirited conversations with a friend that I really decided to commit to finding a way to tell the story of Cosmic Rage. Over the years, I had tried to find the right medium, but from dabbling in just writing a text-only version of it to developing a graphic novel to navigating the logistics of animating it, nothing seemed to stick as a viable solution.

Production Influence
I tend to be a night owl, so one night while in Minneapolis, I stumbled across a show on FX called Archer. I had seen commercials for it, but never paid much attention to it. After a couple minutes, I was sucked in by the witty dialogue, interesting art style and the limited animation in the show’s early seasons. This lead to a late-night hunt for information about the show’s animation production, and eventually I stumbled across this gem.


I now had an idea of how to carry out the Cosmic Rage project, so I started researching motion comics in general to see how other limited animation stories were being made. After a few rough animation tests, I decided to roll with it.

Production Starts
In January 2012 I decided to start blogging to share my work and ideas with potential fans. I left the start-up company in Minneapolis where I had been working and returned to freelancing. All of the production work—the nights of storyboarding out the scenes, drawing the artwork, and coloring and shading everything— is a blur to me at this point. It seemed at times that I could never get into a groove. Since I was moving around a bit, traveling for freelance work and recruiting new clients; it felt like as soon as I gained momentum, I had to put Cosmic Rage production on hold for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I have great clients and enjoy working with their brands and helping solve their problems and needs. However, I felt that in both cases (client work and Cosmic Rage), I couldn’t get into a good routine because the work was inconsistent, which is the nature of the freelance business at times.

2013 in Review
The year 2013 was interesting. I started off by continuing freelance work. In terms of Cosmic Rage, I worked on the trailer and wrapped up drawings and shading for the first episode. I even started to spend some time writing anime reviews. Throughout the year, I posted a few entries sharing my advice on things like story structure, character design and storyboarding. I also had a great opportunity to work in a studio again, so I made that change and spent some of the transitional months finishing up freelance work and getting some funds for future Cosmic Rage assets. Things have mostly settled back into order in the last month or so.

So, up to this point, that is the story in a nutshell of Cosmic Rage. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what worked well in 2013 and what didn’t, what areas I grew in, and what changes I could make to have a smoother production in 2014. First off, I didn’t get the response I thought I would from the trailer that I spent most of 2013 working on, which I think can be attributed to a couple things. The first was my original idea to do character-based trailers leading up to the release of the first episode. However, after production began on the first trailer, I could tell that it would be a bigger time drain than I had anticipated, so the three or four planned trailers were scrapped in favor of just one, which would provide teasers for the Cosmic Rage universe and its potential fans. Although the trailer is a little abstract since there is no narrative context yet, I learned a lot solely from that project.

I didn’t storyboard out much of the trailer, which became a problem later when syncing things up to the VO. Wasting time on that was a mistake I don’t intend to repeat. But the effort wasn’t a total loss: During the time I spent working in 3-D, I learned more about modeling, lighting, texturing and so many other things. I am only going to get faster as production continues. I felt I grew quite a bit in 3-D too, and look forward to doing more and continuing to learn.

I also played around with the art style in terms of texturing the 3-D work. I decided whether it should look more CG, hand drawn or painted. It was a good thing to work out while creating the trailer because it ensured that the art style didn’t change during the series.

Moving Forward
With my feelings about the past year now explained, it is time to look forward to 2014 and things that I hope to accomplish. The first goal is of course to have episode 1 released and ready for viewers. I am not sure if it is possible, but having recently worked on the first scene, I am very pleased with the process of building environments and moving cameras around to get my shot. In December alone I have been able to render out work for three scenes, despite freelance work, the holidays and traveling. I hope January turns into a good month of production.

Additionally, I want to continue to develop my 3-D skills, and Cosmic Rage is a great platform for doing that. I have a few other scenes to work on that will give me a chance to do so. I have found some great help on forums and other online sites where I can connect with artists who are willing to share their knowledge.

As production of episode 1 continues in 2014, I aim to get more artwork done for episode 2 as well. There will be nights where my computer will be rendering out scenes I need, and I can be productive during those nights by working on the next episode, which is already storyboarded. I am also hoping to add additional animation and raise the production quality even more.

A different but related goal is deciding how Cosmic Rage will be viewed by users. Though I have a couple potential paths in mind so that users have viewing options, one idea is publishing an e-book. I have experimented a little bit with an e-book publishing platform to see if it can support video files or movies. Otherwise, I may have to put everything into one video, but the downside is that there is no user control over the reading portions, which would alienate some potential viewers. I definitely want to create the best user experience possible.

Some other skills I want to expand my knowledge on is being a better writer. While I intend on the production blogs to still be pretty loose and spontaneous, the Thursday posts I want to get better at through editing, word usage and making my ideas clearer. The next skill would be coding; which has become a valuable skill in the professional world. I have started learning html and CSS, but want to improve at using them in an actual working environment.

Finally, I need to do a better job of posting work-in-progress images for you all to check out. I love seeing behind-the-scenes work of productions that I like, so I need to offer more insights for you all too.

I also want to thank everyone that visits the blog and keeps up with the production! I love creating, and I am really looking forward to telling the story. In case you missed it, here is the trailer/prologue for Cosmic Rage. Let’s make 2014 great!