Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Rocket Science Comic By A Rocket Scientist

Clay Carsbie's FaceIn my recent search for scientist/artist hybrids, I came across what you will probably agree is a perfect example of both. His name is Mark Graybill and he used to be a rocket scientist. He worked on the space shuttles, rockets, fighter jets, and missiles, as well as many other things. Recently, he retired as an Aerospace consultant to pursue a lifelong dream of creating a comic strip.

The name of the comic is AceDev: High Tech Jobs, Low Tech People, and it focuses on the life of Clay Carsbie, a new hire in an old-fashioned rocket plant. He has a Master's degree in Electronic Engineering, but has been continually turned down for jobs as being an "over-qualified" candidate. I'm pretty sure that's universal HR jargon for "you're too freaking smart, and that intimidates me and will make our other employees look bad."

While I don't understand a lot of the people stuff of the comics or the science jargon that Mark uses, I still find the comic entertaining. I am mostly an artist, although I do have the equivalent of an AS in Mathematics, so I can generally guess as to what the characters are talking about. A sort of added bonus to the comic is the backgrounds and objects that Mark uses in his comics. I'm a bit of an old computer geek and AceDev is an old-fashioned rocket plant, so there are computers that look oddly similar to a Darth Vader's Lunchbox (Kaypro) and rooms packed with ancient, tube based computers.

While the art of AceDev isn't as fancy as the art of a Marvel comic, or as quirky as the art in Chew, the characters are easily distinguishable. Each also has characteristics that hint to their personalities. The leading lady and potential love interest has a short, cute haircut that suggest both a focus on work, rather than looks, and that suggests a cheerful personality. The main character, Clay, is a little harder to read in his design, but he's got an open face that suggests honesty and naivete. His collared, partially unbuttoned shirt suggests to me that he's a hard worker, but is a little tired. I can certainly identify with that, since college and job searching can be tiring.

Mark updates his comic three times a week. His last comic of the week is a pet comic day. These are definitely my favorite comics of his. All of the animals are cute and fluffy. The cat, which seems to be the main character of the pet comics, is always drawn in a very expressive way. Mark does use some cheats when he draw the cat, such as giving it a frown and eyebrows, but I suspect he does this to make the cat accessible to all cat lovers, even if they've never had a cat. Cats can be very expressive, if you know what to look for, but that isn't always easy to draw.

Mark makes the characters that he draws stand out from the background by giving them a thick outline. I think he does a good job of varying the line weights of the characters, using thinner, lighter strokes for details in clothing or fur. His open circle eyes for the human characters remind me of the old Little Orphan Annie comics.

AceDev has good character designs and has an interesting storyline. Even for people that aren't very knowledgeable about technology, old or new, there's the people interactions and pet comics. The story is interesting and can be pretty silly. I would recommend this comic to anyone who loves animals or anyone with even a slight turn of mind towards science and technology.

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