young astronauts in love:
director's commentary edition

kirk israel

So this was my effort for 2008's 24 Hour Comics Day. I worked at Miller's place (where I used to live) who liveblogged the whole thing... Kate was there too.

chapter 1

space... the... frontier

Nothing like a good cheesy Star Trek reference to set the tone.

not the final frontier, probably. but it's a frontier and it's pretty big

i'm an astronaut. always had been.

So, I decided that I wanted astronauts to always be in their suits. Partially as a gimmick, partially as a way of letting people put themselves in the story, if so inclined, partially because I'm a bit lazy, and am not above using "stylized" as a crutch.
This is actually a bit of a rendering of the Tufts campus, where I went to college from 1992-1996... Goddard chapel and the cannon, though come to think of it the cannon is on the wrong side.
the academy was... pretty great actually

i got my degree, and my first assignment

I was kind of concerned about what kind of society this was, that could justify people in full astronaut suits all the time. I thought a subtle hint of a militarized society might be interesting, hence the shoulder chevrons on the person congratulating Jake.
These are supposed to be a "futuristic" toolbench.
i'm a federation technician, first class

my first assignment was on GHIBAL 3

Ah, my love of foreign-sounding names for planets. I googled to make sure I wasn't doing anything too weird in another languge; I had the impression it was sometimes a last name in India.
I wanted the anomoly to be other-worldly relative to the rest of the comic. I thought about using animated GIFs to cycle colors, but decided to use a layer effect with some photographs to make it a kind of peek into our universe.
GHIBAL 3 is the famous home of the ghibal anomaly

and ghibal city, set up for the scientists to study the anomaly and the corporations hoping to cash in.

Roughly modeled on NYC, with a hint of Seattle's Space Needle.
Astronaut Rave! My workflow was that first I wrote the script for all 100 panels, then I drew them in b+w (with a few color highlights, like for the anomoly) at 400x400 in Windows Paint, and then I colored in the panels, and shrunk them to 200x200. Anyway, sometimes the coloring (using floodfill) was a serious pain in the butt, like this scene.
it was even more of a happening place back then!

it was a long journey there

I've always loved drawing the "classic" rocketship. Also a bit like the Syreen rocket in Star Control 2, but not quite as sexed up.
So back in the day I used to doodle "Astrosurf", aliens on jetpowered surfboards flying through space, and usually in the background I'd put someone "space water-skiing" like this.
you can only ionski a few hundred times before it gets old

finally we were there!

unfortunately my assignment wasn't the city

or the suburbs

Kate and Miller thought maybe the 100-panel 24 Hour Comics Day guideline for Web Comics (as opposed to the 24 pages for traditional format -- which could be fewer panels, especially if you play with the space) was set with the expectation that there would be a lot of copy and pasting, but every panel of this is hand drawn.

or that area surrounding the suburbs

I used to kind of worry with comics that everything needed to be super consistent panel to panel, but have learned people usually aren't being that kind of critical when they read stuff.
Trying to get the sense of distance, and isolation...

it was an outpost. scanner outpost gamma-222.

222 being my lucky number. (My High School Jazz Band, where I met V., was 222 Street Jazz, named after the street my school was on.)
"Anomalyobverse" was probably trying a bit too hard for a name. In general I tried to take it easy on the "technobabble".
a monitoring station, for technical reasons as far as possible from the city and the anomaly, the anomalyobverse.

little glitches were happening all the time.

that's why i was there! one of the most qualified technoplumbers in the history of humanity

i had a few small rooms, 'net connection, coffee maker, a GIANT PILE of spare parts...

The Fujitsu Lifebook tablet I drew on was Windows XP, and the more recent HP tablet is running Vista. So far the only thing I like more about Vista than XP is that Window's Paint has a slightly more subtle set of default colors... this whole strip probably would have been more jarring if it wasn't for that fact.
So holograms in this universe were green outlines, as opposed to Star Wars' famous blue ones.
it was lonely, but with minibreaks to the city and holocoms with old classmates, not too bad.

After I posted just the first chapter, some friends said they liked this panel the most. I think it captures a bit of the geek happiness at doing geeky things. Not sure why he's leaning back.
Knowing I had 100 panels to do, I started writing the narration, and it seemed like 4 groups of 25 might work. When I put it on the web, I added in title pages for the chapters, which helped keep things lined up with even numbers.

chapter 2

The setup on GHIBAL 3 was kind of odd

So, a hologram model of the anomaly.

The lawyers bit is, in part, to justify the bigness of the city later.

There was so much we didn't know about the anomaly, it really kept the scientists busy, and some of the lawyers

sometimes they had to do research the outposts. there was a minilab for them, with its own coffee maker.

I tried to use the coffee maker as a semi-humorous connection to our world, as well as a landmark indicating this particular worktable.

then, one day...

lydia showed up

I had Lydia fly, and Jake not so much. There's a note of insecurity and admiration there.
lydia was one of the lab-scouts. THE fastest jetter i had ever seen

the scientist-scouts were the elite of the elite.

Overhead perspective was kind of fun.
This part of Lydia is based on a Math Professor I went on a few semi-dates with. She was doing some deep theoretical stuff, "holomorphic curves" and other things some of which even had implications in String theory.
and lydia in the lab... her specialty was this unspace stuff i could just barely get the outlines of

didn't stop me from trying though!

Her work hologram is a Mobius Strip and not the anomaly itself. I meant to imply she's looking at the anomaly a bit more deeply than the other scientists.
And those are something like Feynman Diagrams on her whiteboard
techs are supposed to ask questions, and she was pretty patient

and so it rolled on... lab-scouts came and lab-scouts went.

So yeah, the color and the coffee maker tell you its Jake's place, even as the different color of astronaut suit tells you it's not Jake or Lydia.
my own work was pretty interesting, and i had a few side projects

for a while i had a theory she was showing up more often than her research demanded

So, I'm terrible at drawing figures, but I wanted to give Lydia a longer, leaner look than Jake. (Also the professor was like an inch taller than I was, maybe it shows here.)
Ooh, I thought I spellchecked...
it was tough to tell. her stuff was pretty obstruse. and it wasn't like i was the only lab she stopped at.

probably i was just projecting

women! or maybe just people.

compared to them, circuits were cake.

Hokey dialog! I kind of like the slow zoom-in to the machinery
maybe her research was about the kind of complexity i'm thinking of

circuits:on, off, mu. you don't understand something, you set up testcases, you can isolate your assumptions and test them...

So, geek note; our circuits are known to be binary, on, off. I wanted just the nudge of scifi that all circuits have that third state, mu, which is a Zen word for "no answer". An isolating and testing assumptions is a big part of my programming job.
This is my favorite panel...
i've always been pretty easy to read

one time it was near the holiday break. we were talking schedules.

"had you noticed how often i'm here? i've virtually had to make up a new branch of anomaly wave dynamic to justify my trips here."

"i'll bet you say that to all the techs!" i said

So, obviously not having to draw faces was easier... I tried to get some body language in there.

Keeping everyone in spacesuits is also a bit of a metaphor for the distance Jake feels from everything.
Echoes a line, plus maybe the pacing, from "The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love", come to think of it.
no, she hadn't

This panel is a copy of the one that started it all, a simple one panel cartoon where the humor was partially in the title, "young astronauts in love"... years before that one astronaut gal drove across the country.

chapter 3

those were some great times

we figured out how to schedule leave time together

cities look better when you're with someone

Honestly, it would make more sense if there wasn't a big city here, and it was all just isolated, but I had things I wanted to say about cities.
So, I'm hemming and hawing about the size of the city here. I made a distinctively striped building to make up for the sketchiness of my sense of drawing perspective.
something about the bigness, the aspiration, even a medium university / corporate / federation city like this one.

i mean, small change compared to what humanity was aiming for with the ghibal anomaly

The anomoly is based on the old Rutherford model of the atom.
Quoting Douglas Adams here-- at the time I thought I was paraphrasing but I got the quote exactly. (But it starts "in an infinite universe...")
but like the old wisdom says, "the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

but it's the little things. knowing where to get a good raspberry lime rickey

Little New England shout out. Candi, a friend of mine, enthusiasm for the drink encourages me to order one whenever I see them available.
One of the few panels I don't use the exact same colors for their suits. Glad I realized I didn't have to color all the astronauts like in the rave!
touching hands at the theater

hanging out with friends as a couple

Something I wrote in 1996: "body language; one person's leg subtley hooked around another's, a hand casually placed on a thigh: are the signals only meant for the recepient? " Unfortunately the red foot didn't come out so well in this panel.

even the shamelessly goofy stuff. thanks to the anomaly, we were able to watch the sunset every direction at once

still, there was a lot of work to do. the anomaly obverse beckoned!

I've been to NYC with m. in college, with V, with mo (once meeting up with V and her friends there), with Ks. There's nothing quite like it.
If this space car is a-rockin'...!
it was a long drive back. luckily, neither of us needed to actually drive...

time passed. she had to make her rounds, but gamma-222 was really becoming her base-away-from-base.

and my side project was coming along

actually, in retrospect, i think the project helped catch Lydia's eye, the months before

This is how guys think. I don't know if it actually works that way or not.

nothing too ground-breaking but I was proud of it...

it was looking to be the most advanced 'bot on GHIBAL 3, all made from my giant pile of parts,

finally it was time for the full AI/body connection and powerup...

something wasn't quite right...

This was another panel I had proof-of-concepted way back when. For a while I was drawing that robot a lot, kind of a if "Robby the Robot" mated with an egg thing.

"RUN!" I shouted.

luckily, lydia didn't need to run

I worry it's not obvious she swooped in for the rescue...

back at the minilab there was a universal kill switch

guess i know why fed regs require the cutoff circuit... no one thinks they're building a frankenstein!

Kind of meant as answer to typical sci-fi "well why didn't they build in some kind of safety feature?"

later the post-mortem revealed it was "anomalous" radiation and the virtual synapses.

actually, years after that lydia wrote her dissertation on the interaction.

Some mild foreshadowing... also I like the siliness of holographic paper.

chapter 4

but just then the robot incident had left us a bit shaken

This is about the only flash forward/back I use, I hope it wasn't too confusing.
Rowr! This is a combination of a memory of V, standing outside her host family's home, and Ks' forward approach...
and quite a bit turned on

i kept making "robot buddies", but kept them dumb-ish, below the critical synaptic threshold

Now her Mobius Strip has a zigzaggy bit!
and lydia's research was deeper than ever.

for her birthday, i made her a robot pet UFO

i think she liked it

a lot. it followed her constantly!

It means a lot to a guy when a gal takes a liking to a gift like that.

her birthday gift to me was kind of harder to explain...

it was kind of a combination anomaly/holo of the two of us

I hope the blend is obvious... most holos were green, but this is made of the same stuff (and with the same visual technique) as the anomaly...

it's unique, in a strict use of that word. i'm not sure you could make it anywhere besides the anomaly obverse!

during minibreaks, she showed me how to enjoy the planetside... nature stuff i'd never really looked at

So I gave Jake a jetpack, but it's not part of him, and supposed to look a bit clumsy. Also: I don't like nature, except bodies of water.
Line from a poem I wrote after/during the breakup of my marriage.
at these times, i was happiest.

as far as i can tell, so was she.

I've laid like this with m. and R. I tried to make doubly sure it didn't look at all obscene. Hopefully the perspective works.
Quote of Robert Frost, but I was probably thinking more of Hopkins' Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
but nothing gold can stay

she got her orders. assignment at tylon academy. the big leagues!

Supposed to be an "ivory tower" reference. (At this point it was very late.)

we took one last trip to the city

at the sodashop, we had a talk

Oy, the talk.

I show them sipping in an earlier panel, but I kind of like the weirdness of straws and spacesuits.
This is the first time I mention Jake's name. Jake and Lydia was a story I wrote in college. There are some parallels in character and theme, but mostly it's just two names that I love.
"i don't know, jake... maybe it's the difference between you and everyone else."

"...the astronaut thing is so temporary for them..."

I wrote this dialog in a test panel way back when. It... it stings, a little, because I worry that I'm kind of an eternal manchild, that I have a job I like and don't feel compelled to push for a mangement-y role, and that some of that might have hurt my marriage.

now, we still write and holo sometimes. she hasn't found anyone new.

The UFO-bot was kind of filler, though I also tried to use it to help identify Lydia in scenes like this.
This scene is how I felt after V went back to Germany before my senior year of high school.
so there's still a little hope. not a ton.

she left, but deployments in the federation are funny things, and the anomaly still has some unplumbed depths.

Life goes on. And there's still coffee.
i'll say this, i learned more from lydia than all the other lab-scouts put together.

All the visual material for the anomaly material are from photos of old romantic interests. Hope they don't mind! It's meant to reflect how Jake's story draws from my own, but isn't my own.
Thanks for reading! I know putting forth a "director's commentary"
is majestically self-indulgent, but they're kind of notes to my future self,
and maybe others might find the details vaguely interesting.

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