Michael Avolio's sci-fi war story romance webcomic
Michael Avolio

Since mentioning in this newsletter two week's ago Robert Fripp's advice on going from good to great, I've been listening repeatedly to Fripp's 1973 album with Brian Eno, titled (No Pussyfooting). The album is two long instrumental songs made with a system dubbed Frippertronics, in which an artist plays and records a bit of music and then plays back the recording with a delay while playing more music on top of that, recording that as well. So put simply, you play part one, and then play part two along with part one, which is playing back, and play part three along with part two (and possibly part one), and so on. You sort of duet with yourself, or a version of yourself from a few moments in the past. Here's a diagram I believe was on the back of the original album's vinyl release. (I think Eno's use of the tape loops when working with Fripp was a little more complicated that what I've described, but that's the gist.)

The technique was accomplished with analog tape loops for (No Pussyfooting), but nowadays there are effect boxes that guitarists can use to achieve this. I've seen this technique used a bit here and there in live shows, where a guitar player will play/record an instrumental bit that they want repeated and then play the remainder of the song over that initial riff as it repeats. I've only witnessed one artist use Frippertronics in a live show to the extent that Fripp has; in a solo concert I attended many years ago, guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy spent some time improvising a piece of music using an effect box hooked up to his guitar. He'd play for maybe ten seconds, recording what he played, then play along with that first ten seconds for the next ten seconds, and then play along with the second ten second section for ten more seconds, and so forth. To hear it was pure delight.

Cartoonist Matt Madden is an expert on comics that use various interesting creative constraints (you can see 99 such constraints in his collection of one-page experiments 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style). I had  an idea for a comics-related application of Frippertronics that I ran by Madden, and he agreed it was a good idea for adapting the technique. What I'd do is draw on a stack of thin paper that allows ink to bleed from top page into next page down, so the second page will have to incorporate lines from the first, the third will have to incorporate lines from the second and possibly also a bit from the first, and so on, intentionally using bleed-through on one page as part of the composition of the next. It's an experiment I'd like to try eventually. I don't know of it ever being done before.


"The ducks won't help."

Carl Barks was a cartoonist now widely-acclaimed for his smooth linework and clear storytelling. His most prominent work was for Disney. He contributed to Disney cartoons; he wrote and drew stories for Disney comic books; and he was the creator of Duckburg, Scrooge McDuck, and many other Disney duck characters. Over several decades, Barks wrote and drew hundreds of Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck comics (uncredited, as was the custom of the time).

I always find it sad when a talented cartoonist works for a publisher that doesn't allow them copyright control of their work. I'm fortunate to not need to depend on work-for-hire comics (though I have an unrelated work-for-hire day job to pay my bills). I own Flesh Machine, and I hope to only ever make comics I own copyright of and have creative control over.

Veteran comic book writer Kurt Busiek recently wrote this about Carl Barks:

"If you’re as good as Barks, you don’t need Disney,
because you can make up your own cartoon animals.
If you’re not as good as Barks, the ducks won’t help."

The silver lining is, comics publisher Fantagraphics has been restoring and re-releasing the entirety of Barks' comic book work for Disney in smart-looking hardcover collections. There are more than a dozen volumes. If you're looking for comics safe and enjoyable for children, you'd do well to consider them (and you might like reading them yourself!).


My free science fiction comic Flesh Machine continues at with new pages every Tuesday. Thanks for reading — it means a lot to me that so many people are enjoying it!

Michael Avolio

"The art in Flesh Machine is deceptively simple, with a hint of Mike Mignola influence, but this comic is one cool science fiction story for older readers. Once you start reading Flesh Machine, it is easy to get warped right into this mysterious and provocative universe."
- Farel Dalrymple
(Pop Gun War, NY Times bestseller The Wrenchies)

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