Friday, August 10, 2018

Days Gone 13 - The Hero Makes a Cameo

Haven't had time to work on Days Gone for a while now, but the other day I needed an illustration for a mailing label for the Collectors' Club Newsletter, so I took an old illustration and colorized it.

© 2018 Mike Mitchell

Not a bad job for a quickie. To be honest, I had expected to make his trousers blue or brown, but I found that they looked nice when I matched them to the red arm bands. I don't think these are the definitive colors I'll use when I create cover art for the book, but it was still a fun exercise in digital coloring.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Random Barbarian Image Post 3

I created this as a mailing label for a fanzine.
The figure was created by compositing multiple renders created in Poser Pro 11, and then doing clean up in combination of Photoshop and Manga Studio 5EX (aka Clip Studio Paint). For no reason in particular, I decided to work in color this time, rather than black & white. I don't think it's perfect, but I do think it looks okay.

Conan the Barbarian © 2018 Marvel Comics
Image © 2018 Mike Mitchell

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Comics Talk: The Time I Wandered Away from Comics

I was discussing comics on Facebook earlier today and wound up writing the following response to someone who said that he quit reading comics a long time ago because he didn't like the "to be continued stories" that were popularized by Marvel Comics. He much preferred the stand-alone stories of the old DC Comics.

The following is based what I wrote (I fleshed it out a bit):

"Back in the day" I loved the continued stories at Marvel Comics. It allowed for more complex stories and really built the mythology that is modern comics storytelling in a shared universe. For me, the thing that killed my love of CURRENT comics is the MEGA EVENT. It all started with Secret Wars, which was okay. It was novel at the time and I liked it. 

But... then along came SW2, Contest of Champions, Marvel Mutant Massacre, and tons of other series-changing events. And then DC got in on the act. I think it was the whole Batman Earthquake mega storyline that got me tired of the gimmicks (the entire arc, including Cataclysm, Aftershock, Road to No Man's Land, No Man's Land, had at least 80 issues!). 

© 2018 DC Comics

That wore me down financially and ate away my enthusiasm because it completely disrupted other ongoing series that I followed, including Nightwing, Robin and Anarchy. All of those had ongoing stories that were either disrupted or destroyed by the mega event. Then, no sooner had the dust settled than they disrupted everything again by the Bruce Wayne: Murderer storyline. 

I'm not saying any of these were bad stories. In fact, a lot of good came out of them. I really liked parts of the No Man's Land (I thought Barbara Gordon's portrayal was some of the best ever). Ditto for some of what happened in the "Murderer" storyline. But, honestly... it was just too much.

I didn't make a conscious decision to quit buying comics, but the local store where I shopped went out of business and at the time I never bothered to find another. 

During this time, I still read comics (notably Archie and various Walt Disney titles, as well as a wide variety of indie comics and graphic novels (Blankets, Sin City,Dropsey Avenue), various gaming comics (Knights of the Dinner Table, Dork Tower, Nodwick and others). But I didn't follow anything by the big companies at all.

It took years before I wandered back into "mainstream" comics, and even then, today I only buy about two Marvel titles (Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl (Hellcat and Howard the Duck were recently canceled). I might pick up an occasional DC trade, or a mini-series (Deadman by Neal Adams was just weird, but the Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 were a lot of fun), but mostly I'm diving back into the b&w mags of the 1970s (Savage Sword of Conan, Marvel Premiere, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Eerie, Creepy and so forth). 

One of the many issues I've picked up over the past year.
© 1979 Marvel Comics, cover by Bob Larkin

Another old mag I picked up, Marvel Preview #9
© 1976 Marvel Comics, cover by Earl Norem
New comics just don't appeal to me much, any, and the constant barrage of "Mega Events" like Civil War, Rebirth, 52 and all that jazz are definitely a factor in keeping me away. I just don't have the patience for all these constant reboots, especially when coupled with the onslaught of gender, race and orientation changes (Ice Man is gay? Really? I don't give a crap that they have a gay hero, but forcing Bobby to become gay feels like a cheap stunt designed to appeal to Social Justice Warriors). 

There are still good comics out there, but I've moved on from the mainstream and I seriously doubt I will ever move back.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Days Gone [Addendum]

Hard to believe that I haven't posted an update on this project for almost six months. Wow. Time flies when your full-time career starts consuming almost all of your waking hours with commute and work. But I think the big hurdle in that particular project has been passed, so I'm trying to get a handle on time again so I can get back to work on Days Gone #3.

As a side note to this project, I found myself needing a back cover illustration for the Collectors' Club Newsletter #122, so I quickly pulled out two separate illustrations from the Days Gone project and combined them into the illustration below.

Dragon Spire
© 2018 Mike Mitchell

I made the color choices because I wanted to emulate the old three -color printing process that was frequently used in fanzines back in the 1970s and early 1980s. I also chose the framing effect (cropping the background smaller than the figure so we could see paper on the sides) based on a Conan or Kull portfolio piece I saw in an old Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Speaking of which, I've really been enjoying reading those old issues. I've been buying lots of them this year, and have about half of the series. I'll write more about this in a future blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Excel - Get URLs from a range

I'm storing this info here so I can find it later. I have a spreadsheet with a lot of URLs stored in a column (more than 150). The URLs are embedded in files stored on a remote server so when you click on the file it will take you to the file.

Great, except I need the actual hyperlink info. I could get the URL by right clicking then cutting/pasting each file, but that would take hours. So I need a custom function or macro to extract them for me.

The basic info is copied from this location:

The cure for tedium—like them or not—is a macro. With a macro, getting at the underlying URL for a hyperlink is child's play. All the macro needs to do is pay attention to the Address property of the hyperlink. The following is an example of a macro that will find each hyperlink in a worksheet, extract each one's URL, and stick that URL in the cell directly to the right of the hyperlink.
Sub ExtractHL()
    Dim HL As Hyperlink
    For Each HL In ActiveSheet.Hyperlinks
        HL.Range.Offset(0, 1).Value = HL.Address
End Sub
Instead of a "brute force" macro, you could also create a user-defined function that would extract and return the URL for any hyperlink at which it was pointed:
Function GetURL(rng As Range) As String
    On Error Resume Next
    GetURL = rng.Hyperlinks(1).Address
End Function
In this case you can place it where you want. If you want, for example, the URL from a hyperlink in A1 to be listed in cell C25, then in cell C25 you would enter the following formula:
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3281) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Extracting URLs from 

How to create a custom function
That's all good and fun, but it doesn't tell me how to create a custom function. So, here's another source:

BEFORE YOU PROCEED, you will need to go into your Excel settings and, in the File > Options you need to edit the Auto correct setting that automatically turns URLs into hyperlinks.
  1. Press Alt + F11.
    This gets you to the Visual Basic Editor, where VBA is written.
    You can also click the Visual Basic button on the Developer tab of the Ribbon. The Developer tab is visible only if the Developer checkbox is checked on the Customize Ribbon tab of the Excel Options dialog box.
  2. Choose Insert→Module in the editor.
    You have an empty code module sitting in front of you. Now it’s time to create your very own function!
  3. Type this programming code, shown in the following figure:
    Writing your own function.
    Writing your own function.
  4. Function GetURL(rng As Range) As String
        On Error Resume Next
        GetURL = rng.Hyperlinks(1).Address
    End Function
  5. Macros and VBA programming can be saved only in a macro-enabled workbook.
    After you type the first line and press Enter, the last one appears automatically. This example function adds two numbers, and the word Public lists the function in the Insert Function dialog box. You may have to find the Excel workbook on the Windows taskbar because the Visual Basic Editor runs as a separate program. Or press Alt+ F11 to toggle back to the Workbook. Save the file as a Macro-Enabled Excel file (necessary).
  6. Return to Excel.
  7. Click the Insert Function button on the Formulas tab to display the Insert Function dialog box.
    Finding the function in the User Defined category.
    Finding the function in the User Defined category.
  8. Click OK.
    The Function Arguments dialog box opens, ready to receive the arguments. Isn’t this incredible? It’s as though you are creating an extension to Excel, and in essence, you are.
    Using the custom Add function.
    Using the custom Add function.

BTW: I am not copying this here to rip off anybody's content. I'm just storing it here in case the original links ever go away.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Random Barbarian Image 2

A bit of fun for a Sunday afternnon. I was in the mood to play around with inking, so rather than create something new, I took an earlier render of a Conan figure I was working on and experimented with some new pen settings in Manga Studio 5 EX (aka Clip Studio Paint). Not all my inking choices worked, but I don't think it's all that bad. Especially fro something I'm just playing around with.

© 2018 Mike Mitchell

As with most of my work, this was rendered in Poser 11 pro and cleaned up in Photoshop and Manga Studio 5 EX/ Clip Studio Paint.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Random Barbarian Post 2

I wanted to do something really GRAPHIC (not violence or sex, but in terms of design). So I tapped into the feel of 1960s posters and came up with this. Obviously, this is based on Conan the Barbarian, and I really need to thank takezo_3001 over at Daz for sharing his custom morph with me. The outfit is from the M4 Warrior, and I'm not sure which of my many swords I used.

As usual, this was rendered in Poser Pro 11, then edited in Photoshop and Manga Studio 5EX (aka Clip Studio Paint).

I'm calling this one, "Warrior of the Wastes."

© 2018 Mike Mitchell

And yes, this is a precursor to me getting back to work on my Days Gone comic book very soon.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Random Barbarian Post

This year is just screaming by, and my new work schedule has really cut down on the time I have to allocate to art (let alone work on the Days Gone comic, which is progressing, but at a glacial pace).

Since I've been reading a lot of Conan comics and stories (specifically the b&w series, Savage Sword of Conan and the original REH stories), I decided to pick up the M4 Barbarian Warrior bundle over at Daz3D and take a very quick stab at creating an illustration. Total time was only about 2 hours, and as you can clearly see, this needs more clean-up and a better pose.

© 2018 Mike Mitchell

His hand was supposed to be resting on a doorway in a cave, dungeon or something like that. Never got around to it last night, and probably never will, as I think this was a fun diversion, but I don't see it being worth spending any more time on.

Hopefully next week I'll be able to get back to Days Gone and have something cool to share with you.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Use Thinkpad x240 with two monitors

I'm using a company-issued Thinkpad X240 (quad core, 8 GB RAM, 65W power supply (I think it is officially considered to be 70W) and I am doing a lot of work at home on the weekends. At work it connects via docking station to a single 32-inch monitor (nice one, too!). At home on the weekends, I want to use my dual 27-inch ASUS monitors and my KVM.

This has been a rough couple of days because my KVM  (Keyboard Video Mouse switch) supports dual DVI ports, and the Thinkpad X240 only has a mini display port and a VGA output. I tried a Dual Monitor Docking Station by Plugable (UD-3900), but because this is company issued, I cannot install the drivers to use it (back to Amazon it goes).

I got it working (finally) by mostly bypassing the KVM and wiring directly to the backs of my monitors, but then the thing gets buggy after it goes to sleep sometimes the dual monitors don't come back. After some trial and error (and some bourbon) I finally sorted out how to get it working consistently.

Required Cables:

  • VGA cable
  • Mini displayport to (regular) display port cable
  • USB-A to USB-B (see graphic) cable
    (FYI: Type A is the "standard" USB cable)

Even though I have to manually connect the monitors (the KVM doesn't do a great job of mixing a digital and an analog signal – I think if this were hooked up here every day I could figure a way to get it to work, but since I only bring the company laptop home on weekends, it's not worth the extra time it would take to sort out). However, I do want to use my keyboard and mouse, which is why I'm routing that signal through the KVM.

Connecting the monitors and the KVM
With both the laptop AND monitors powered down, make the following connections.

Plug USB-B into back of KVM
Plug USB-A into laptop
Plug large end into Monitor 1
Plug small end into laptop
Plug into Monitor 2
I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT PLUG THE VGA CABLE INTO THE LAPTOP!

  1. Turn on the laptop. Let it boot up completely (be patient). I wait until everything has stopped spinning about and launch Outlook. I let it check my mail. When I'm certain that it has completely booted up...
  2. Turn on both monitors. Monitor 1 should automatically start working (i.e. get the signal and you can use it).
  3. Plug the VGA cable into the laptop. It should also start working. If not, check out the "Alternate Method" I describe below.

This is the method I've been using for awhile now. If this assignment continues with weekend work, I may look into another method of getting it to work (this one is annoying because sometimes I step away for a break and come back to find it has "lost" one or both monitors (usually powering off monitor 1 will bring that one back).
BTW: You want to use the VGA on your second screen because the Displayport connection (which also sends sound) is digital and will be a bit crisper and cleaner than the VGA signal. 

I can't swear this method will work for you, so good luck!

I only use this if the monitors aren’t automatically detected (and you may have to do this the first time you try connecting to the external monitors).
With the monitors connected to the laptop and powered on, type the WINDOWS KEY + P. (Yes, the button to launch your Start menu, plus the letter P.) In Win 7, 8 & 10 this will launch a menu where you can pick the following:
  • Disconnect Projector
  • Duplicate
  • Extend
  • Projector Only
Select "extend" and then Monitor 1 will receive the signal and should work. If the laptop doesn’t see the monitor, then turn the monitor off and then power it on again. I think it has some kind of “handshake” signal when it powers up that the laptop needs to see. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

MS Word - Search for all Instances of Superscript or Subscript in a Document

Right now I am proofing a technical document for the oil and gas industry. One of the things I'm doing is copying the text from a badly formatted source file and pasting it into a new, clean document and tagging all the paragraphs with the correct styles. Some of the original formatting is very bad, so this is the fastest way to do this.

Prior to cutting the text, I use the Clear All Formatting tool (it's on the Home Tab in the Font Group) to strip out everything from the source text. This gives me a clean block of text to paste into the new document. Unfortunately, this also clears out superscripts and subscripts. After pasting the text, I compare the two documents and retag the appropriate text (CO2 becomes CO2, for example).

But, when it comes time to proof, I need to go through the entire source document and search for all instances where the author used a subscript or a superscript. In a long document after a busy day, I can't rely on my eyes to catch each and every tiny number or letter. So, I found this process at this site, and it allows MS Word to find and highlight all instances of subscript (and a second pass finds the superscripts) using the standard Find/Replace tool in MS Word.

Thanks to Allen Wyatt for posting this great MS Word Tip:

Since it's his material, I'm not going to reprint it here without permission. Just follow the link and thank him for this ingeniously simple, but useful, power user tip.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Resource: Convert Daz Poses to Poser

One of the biggest drawbacks of using Poser 11 as my primary render tool is that it limits me to using older figures, like Michael 4 and Victoria 4. Now, those are FANTASTIC figures that have literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of items, characters and hairstyles available. They are probably the most popular figures ever created for this type of work.

But... sometimes you want something new, and many of the Genesis figures offer more features, more control points (making it easier to get better control of expressions and body parts, as well as automatic muscle flexing when the arms or legs bend).

Now, there are ways to use some Genesis figures in Poser, but that only brings the figure over. It doesn't give you access to their poses because those are stored in a different format than are used in Poser.

I'm not going to peek under the hood into the differences between the two formats (some of it's beyond my skill level, anyway), but I was excited to start this new year with an exciting discovery: a batch script to convert a Daz Poses to Poser!

I haven't used it, yet, but I will and report on the results shortly. I just wanted to share it here so others could enjoy it, and so I won't lose the link!

This is a script that runs in Daz Studio, btw.