ACW Episode 243 – Jaleo!


Click on the image above to see it bigger!

The Hubster and the children inform me that I have drawn Uncle Paco perfectly. Paco is one of Hubster’s 4 brothers. His son, Jaleo, graduates from college this year. No kidding, that freakishly tall kid was an infant in poopie diapers at my wedding. And now he’s finishing college and already got a job lined up at computer software company. I feel old just thinking about it.

With regards to Hubster and his brothers… Hubster is the oldest of 5, Paco is the second child, and then there is Patrick, Carlos, and Chris, in that order. Chris has been in the webcomic once before. His son is Evenrood. Gabe is Patrick’s son. All 5 of the brothers are “saints,” thus the halos. They became “saints” when they were very young. Hubster’s parents traveled often to Puerto Rico, where my mother-in-law is from, and there was an artist in San Juan who painted plaques of saints.  The first year they met him, he painted plaques of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, and the Hubster all as saints. The next year, when they had another baby (Paco), the same artist painted a saint portrait of him. And the year after that, he painted one of Patrick. The artist disappeared after that, but when Patrick was older, he painted saint portraits of the youngest two brothers, Carlos and Chris. And their saint names are…

  • Saint Jerry, Patron Saint of Good Husbands
  • Saint Carmen, Patron Saint of Good Wives
  • Saint Michael the Magnificent (the Hubster)
  • Saint Paco the Perfect
  • Saint Patrick the Powerful
  • Saint Carlos the Crafty
  • Saint Christopher the Cheerful

And this is why when I draw the Hubster or any of his brothers, they all have halos. So now you know!

By the way, this webcomic was actually all done and ready to be posted yesterday afternoon. Then I discovered something very annoying about Manga Studio 5 and Photoshop.

Do you see the plaid pattern on Paco’s shirt? That’s a Manga Studio material/screen tone. It was originally yellow, but I wanted to make it a shabby sort of blue, so I check the option in the materials panel to make the plaid material a black and white screen tone instead of its original yellow color. I then set the blending mode for the material layer to “color burn” and painted a medium blue color on a layer underneath that. The result was the exact shade of blue plaid that I wanted for Paco’s shirt. Hurrah!

(If none of the above made any sense to you, don’t worry. I’m just being a huge graphics geek here. The basic gist of this is, I wanted to make a yellow pattern blue, and that was how I did it.)

Then I went to export the image as a flattened PNG. That’s the file format I use for all the comics. But for some reason, the exported flattened image lost the blue plaid on the shirt and left me with a gray-scale plaid instead!

“Okay,” I said to myself. “Maybe Manga Studio has a problem with flattening layers with blending modes. I’ll just export this sucker as a layered Photoshop file instead and do the flattening in that program!”

And I did that, and when I pulled up the layered file in Photoshop, I saw that I had all my layers but that the plaid material layer had been set to “normal” as the blend mode so it still showed up as gray-scale instead of faded blue.

Well, that was no big deal. I reset the plaid material layer to “color burn,” got back that lovely faded blue, and flattened all the layers in Photoshop…

And promptly got the same gray-scale plaid material again.

I then spent hours researching what the problem could be. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get Photoshop or Manga Studio to keep the blending mode of the plaid material set to “color burn.” The moment I flattened the image, I kept getting the gray-scale, “normal” blend mode instead.

How could this be?! I’ve been working with Photoshop for 5 years or so now. I know I’ve flattened images with blending layers before, and not had ANY problems! In fact, just about every image I’ve ever created with Photoshop used various blending modes  and I don’t recall having any problems with any of those images! So why was I having problems with this image now?

After hours of searching the web, I ran across a comment that pointed me in the right direction. It was a short comment, buried deep in the responses to a graphics forum post from someone who had had similar problems to me a few years before. The comment mentioned how someone at Adobe had really screwed up when the wrote the code for the “color burn” blend mode.

And that’s when I realized that I had never used the “color burn” blend mode in an image before. I know I’d tried it while working on some images, but the result was never something I liked and so I switched to another blending mode instead, like “overlay” or “soft light.” So I opened up the layered comic in Photoshop again and this time set the blending mode for the plaid material to “soft light,” and then flattened the entire image. And it worked just fine. “Soft light” works a bit differently than “color burn” so I got a different shade of blue, one not so perfectly faded. But hell, it worked!

So that was the problem. The “color burn” blending mode in Photoshop (and apparently Manga Studio as well) is pretty much all screwed up, at least in CS3. It was such a tiny little thing in the end, and it took me only 5 hours to figure it out!

You live and learn. Painfully, most of the time, but still, you learn.

Enjoy the webcomic. I’m getting started on the next one tonight!


ACW 236 – Oh yeah, it’s Christmas


Click on the thumbnail to see the full-sized holiday webcomic.

Oy vey, have we been having fun here. Hubster was away on a business trip for a week. Those things are brutal for both of us. Him, because he’s away from home, in a dry, life-sucking hotel room. Me, because I’m home doing double-parenting duties. Anyway, Hubster came home from his trip in time for me to get the house ready for our monthly Girl Scout troop meeting. The day of the meeting, my back started to spasm. All I could think about was how I was going to take a pill once the meeting was over and just collapse in bed. But the Hubster’s back went out before that could happen and I had to limp along to take care of him.

Then Pixie came down sick, so I had to take care of her and Hubster. Hubster finally made it back to work, just in time for me to get sick. So now I’m on the couch, struggling to finish off a simple one-panel cartoon with accompanying blog post.

As for Princess, that poor kid spent the last couple weeks working on a book report that involved writing a synopsis and opinion of the book, writing a letter from the POV of the main character, and completing a poster that showed a picture of the main character, a time-line of his life, include pictures of 10 items that appear in the book, etc. Then while we were in the middle of that, she got an assignment to write a report on Hurricane Isabel, which had to be turned in the same week. So she was kind of fried by the time she was done with all that.

So now I’m sick in bed. I’m missing out on all sorts of things I was supposed to do this week, but it was all volunteer work so I don’t care. I am allowed to take sick days when I need them, and boy howdy do I need them this week.

Hopefully, we’re all better by next week. We’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy the webcomic!

ACW Episode 231 – Side effects may vary

It's Cynical Woman!

Click on the funny comic above to see it full-size!

Sorry I’m late. Once again, Girl Scouts took over my life. This past Saturday, I spent the day working at a service unit encampment. I got to the camp site at 8AM and was on my feet working until I got back in my car to go home at 9PM. It was an exhausting day, and no matter how hard I tried on Sunday, I couldn’t see straight enough to draw the webcomic. I managed to get today’s strip pencilled and lettered and then had to quit. And since today was Veteran’s Day, and I am a veteran (and was still exhausted, to boot), Hubster let me sleep in late. So I got a late start on finishing up the inking and coloring today.

But about the content of today’s strip! I’ve been having joint pain for a while. Most days, it’s what I think is probably regular arthritis pain in my knees. Lately, that’s spread to my hips and ankles as well. Some days it’s better and some days it’s worse. And then there are days where my joints feel so achey and inflamed that I think I have the flu, only I don’t have any other symptoms. Those days I end up staying in bed, curled up with the heating pad, accomplishing almost nothing.

So I finally decided to see a doctor. I opted to have a full physical, which meant I scheduled the appointment in July and got in to see the doc just last week. She ordered a slew of blood tests, all of which came back negative for any diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. But she also prescribed a pain medication for me since I told her the normal over-the-counter stuff wasn’t doing anything for me at all.

She warned me to take the pill before bed, since dizziness and sleepiness were the two biggest side-effects. I followed her directions, I swear! And yet somehow, the next morning when I woke up, I couldn’t tell up from down. And I had a big case of the uncontrollable giggles on top of that!

It took about 4 hours for the dizziness and loopiness to wear off. The next day wasn’t quite as bad, and the day after that the only issue I had was being too sleepy to get up in the morning. I’m still having that problem so tonight I plan to be in bed by 9:30PM.

But the good news is, the pain meds work! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t hurt. I may get the occasional twinge of knee pain, but I can now bend my knees, get up and down the steps, take karate class… I feel like a whole new me!

I’ll keep you all updated on how things go, but like I said, I feel much better than I have in a while. So enjoy today’s webcomic. I’m going to get up and move now! ‘Cause I CAN!

ACW 224 – Kittens come home!


In all honestly, not my best effort, despite the fact I put in a lot of time on this one. September is turning out to be a brutal month, so it’s not the best time for me to learn new graphics software, like Manga Studio 5. Still, I’m doing it anyway. I am working on a color version, with better inking. In the meantime, this is up online, only a few hours late, so there ya go.

Oh, and the kittens have since come out from under the bed.

Episode 209 – HATS!!

Click in the thumbnail above to view the full-sized webcomic!

Whoops! I could have sworn I put this blog post together and scheduled it to go up yesterday. I know it was drawn and ready to go on Friday. Oh well, I guess it got overlooked in the pandemonium of getting ready to take Girl Scouts camping.

Anyhoo, here it is. I know I spend more time volunteering than I do on anything else, and it drives me crazy. And the Hubster is in the exact same boat. We love the volunteer work, but I feel like it's taking over too much of our lives at times. I'm hoping we find ways to balance things out a bit more. We'll see how successful we are at that in the future.


ACW Episode 196 – Beware the donuts!

Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized comic!

I've been crocheting weird little toys for a few months now. Right after my ACL surgery, I made a zombie sock monkey and a creature I call Funky Chicken. Now I'm making Deadly Donuts and a sort of abstract duck character I call Mr. Squishy. Yes, I am selling these. No, I do not have an Esty page. Yet.

Right now, if you want one of these crocheted oddities, you'll have to catch me at a convention. I'll be bringing my creations to Farpoint in Cockysville, MD, on 15-17 February. I'm hoping to bring some to Ravencon in April too, but don't know if I'll be able to get a table or if I'll put some of the more elaborate pieces in the art show. Either way, I'll post more info about that here later on.

And yes, you will be seeing more of my crafty skills. I'm going to be adding posts about those as a regular feature on the blog as soon as I recover more from the surgery. I'm off crutches and the knee brace now, but still not back to full strength. I've been told it will be end of May at the earliest before I can really get back to my old routine. Until then I'll just keep doing whatever I can!


ACW Episode 190 – Recovery slowing me down

I will color this later. It has taken me all week to get this done. The doc took out my stitches last Friday and told me to get back to some of my regular activities, so I did and now I'm paying for it. Been in the pool twice this week, plus helped out with an all-day Girl Scout event on Saturday and ran my troop meeting yesterday. And of course, I have physical therapy three times a week. Today was especially brutal. Niw I'm very, very tired. So I didn't even color this strip, just got it inked and threw it up on the web. Sorry, but one day I will eventually get back to my usual routine.


ACW Episode 183 – Let me take you higher…

The Adventures of Cynical Woman Web Comic!

Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized web-comicky goodness!

This is the perfect comic. I drew it exactly as I had imagined it. The colors came out brilliantly, IMHO. And the story is 100% completely true.

The second day of our last-minute vacation to the Shenadoah mountains, Hubster decided to take us all hiking. There was one trail, Bear Fence Ridge I think it was called, that included the words “rock scramble” in the description on the map. I was hoping for an alternate/indie music festival. Instead, what we got was miles of trail that meandered over stones taller than Hubster and I combined. I use the term “trail” loosely here. The actual footpath disappeared as soon as we hit the first giant pile of rocks. From then on, we had to scramble over the rocks (thus the term “rock scramble”) and follow hash marks of paint scattered here and there over the ridiculously increasingly dangerous landscape. And did I mention that somehow the kids ended up taking the lead? They ran right out in front of us the moment we hit the worst terrain and skipped their way up to heart-stopping heights to balance on the edges of cliffs that offered a breath-taking view of a sheer drop that went 50 or more feet straight DOWN.

Every time we reached the summit of one of these piles of mountainous stone, I kept thinking, “This is it! We can’t get any higher up! There’s no way the park rangers would make this path any worse! Not when they must know it could possibly get people killed!” But then we’d head for that next hash mark and sure enough, there was an even bigger pile of rock to climb.

When we reached the highest summit, Hubster and I stood there, staring down at the sheer drop only inches on either side of us. That was when he turned to me and confessed, “Ya know, I have a sleight fear of heights.” I swear I came so close to decking him. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that if I hit him, I’d probably knock him off the mountain, and then I’d have to go down the cliff face and retrieve his dead body myself. After more than an hour of rock scrambling, I was simply too tired to do that, so I waited until we got back to the car in a nice safe parking lot to hit him.

Today is the day Hurricane Sandy is supposed to do its worst damage to our area. Hopefully everyone out there stays nice and safe today. I plan to hunker down on the couch with my latest stash of yarn and work on more creepy craft projects. I think pretty soon I’m going to start posting pics of the weird dolls I’ve been making. I’ve been showing the works-in-progress on Twitter, and folks really seem to like them, so I may start blogging about crochet and spooky projects on a regular basis once I’ve got a few more pieces made up. So you have something to look forward to! Or run away from screaming! Depends on if you like crochet, I guess.