Welcome to Moledet

Welcome to the treacherous homeland of Moledet in this new concept design!

On the other side of Bavel’s gate is the province that Deli governs. As a coastal city battered by the tides, Moledet’s economy exports water and manpower to its surrounding provinces.

Moledet’s inspiration comes from Hebrew words derived from the shoresh root ילד, which deals with birth. (Deli uses a shoresh with the same letters swapped around.)

This location is famous for its giant midwife toads, which are actually male frogs. These creatures are in charge of raising the city’s children and brainwashing them into the armies of tomorrow. The baby in this image is swaddled in an Akkadian robe and wields a classical blade on a Bavel flag.

The Bavel Empire enjoys fanatical support from Moledet’s populace, which hates outsiders due to vague historical grievances. The citizenry also acts like a cultic family and invests much of its resources toward reproducing — naturally and artificially — for the government’s glory. It’s certainly hostile territory for the Holy Tongue Society!

In the new year, look forward to seeing more of Moledet in future episodes of “Milhamah: Fighting Words.” The next webcomic, Episode 10, should be ready by next week.

Later this week I’ll also publicize the new “Milhamah” RedBubble online store. While it was too late to make anything specific to Hanukkah, there is enough merchandise over there to make a great Christmas or holiday gift. And I’ll add new designs throughout 2019!

Episode 9: Taking Potshots

“Episode 9: Taking Potshots” has been released!
 With Shem in a daze, Deli prepares his final attack.
But suddenly, someone appears to be targeting Deli.
The potshot is a direct hit, straight through Deli's eye!
Tiqwah and Etgar come to the rescue, and gloat a little too.
Although Shem might be battered and broken, his Holy Tongue Society colleagues Tiqwah and Etgar come to the rescue. They team up to snipe at the enemy, but have they arrived too late?
I’ve been looking forward to Tiqwah and Etgar’s reappearance for a long time. Based on limited interactions with readers, it seems like Tiqwah is most people’s favorite character. And fans seem to like how Etgar looks, even though he hasn’t shown much personality yet. At least he brought a cool holographic device with him this time, as well as some daring goggles.
Of course, as the adjective and article, Etgar and Tiqwah make a good team.  Etgar’s eagle eye identifies targets based on their profiles and descriptions, and Tiqwah confirms them with target lock-on reticles.
It’ll also be fun to finally develop interactions among the three Ḥeleq members. Etgar lives in the present and is hungry for new horizons and experiences, while Tiqwah wants everything to be planned in place. A couple of surprises await Shem over the next few episodes, and they’ll flesh out him in the process too.
When I designed Deli, I almost immediately got the idea of having someone shoot that urn after drawing a few smug, ridiculous facial expressions on it. I mean, look at him. He deserves it, right?
Anyway, if you enjoyed this comic, leave a comment below, and please subscribe to my social media for more updates!

Grammar Part 2: Semitic languages

The 22 Foundational Glyphs in "Milhamah" depict the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Get ready to enter a study of Hebrew grammar.

As we continue last week’s examination of Joüon and Muraoka’s book “A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew,” the authors remind us that Hebrew is a Semitic language that is similar to neighboring tongues.

For instance, Semitic languages’ shared traits include:

  1. Gutturals like ḥet (ח) and ‘ayin (ע)
  2. emphatics like  ṭet (ט), tzadi (צ) and qof (ק)
  3. Root sequences usually composed of three consonants that suggest specific motifs that are conjugated by adding vowels

According to the book, the oldest Semitic languages were born in the northeast, such as Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian) and Eblaite.

Next the book says the South Semitic languages generally arose, such as Hadrami, Minaic, Qatabanic  and Sabean. The Southern family also includes Ge’ez, which South Arabian emigrants to Ethiopia spoke, according to the book.

Finally the Central (or Northwestern) Semitic languages came to be, such as Canaanite, Aramaic and Arabic. While Hebrew was home to the land of Canaan, the book says proto-Hebrew and ancient Canaanite differed in some ways, like how they conjugated the qal passive verb.

Hebrew is very similar to Moabite and also related to Phoenician. Ugaritic, spoken to the north of Canaan, is a separate language with a cuneiform alphabet.

The Bible refers to Hebrew (‘Ivrit) as Yehudit. Besides the Bible, we know about ancient Hebrew through Babylonian and Akkadian documents. Ostraca and archaeological finds like the Gezer Calendar and the Siloam inscription offer more evidence.

Other languages like ancient Egyptian and Berber have some things in common with Semitic languages, but not enough to part of the family.

Where the languages fit in ‘Milhamah’

As “Milhamah: Fighting Words” begins its first year, expect to see Hebrew explained in depth, along with a smattering of Akkadian.

In our fictional world, several other languages have their own insurgencies and resistance movements against Bavel too. While virtually all of these movements are (at least temporary) allies of the Holy Tongue Society, their activities happen off-camera. “Milhamah” will only deal with Semitic languages, and specifically ones that I study in great detail.

Why Semitic languages? They have features that inspire artistic creativity and make good gameplay mechanics. For example, look at the trilateral shoresh roots, in which three consonants combine to make words with similar meanings.

This concept will make more sense in the weeks to come. The comic’s Episode 9 will be released Tuesday, and I hope to begin showing very early development screenshots or videos of the roguelike game in December.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Hebrew grammar study Part 1: The naqdanim

The 22 Foundational Glyphs in "Milhamah" depict the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Get ready to enter a study of Hebrew grammar.

Today begins a weekly series through a huge tome on A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew by Paul Joüon and Takamitsu Muraoka. While it’s not the best book for learning modern, conversational Hebrew, this book is exhaustive for anyone who wants to master the language.

So from here, I’ll summarize the book’s passages to brush up on my own studies, and I’ll also getting ideas for “Milhamah” characters and plot details. After this book, I hope to move on to study other languages such as Aramaic, Akkadian or Arabic.

So let’s start with Section 1, which is “Hebrew Grammar Defined.” which credits the seventh-century Tiberians, known as naqdanim, for inventing nequdot. Those are vowel symbols under consonants that show words’ pronunciation, syllables and stress.

Other Babylonian, Palestinian and Samaritan groups came up with their own vocalization systems. But this book deems the Tiberians reliable for describing Hebrew’s pronunciation.

The root definitions 

So where might the naqdanim come into play in “Milhamah”? So far this is just in my tentative draft notes, but here it goes…

First of all, the naqdanim and nequdot come from the shoresh root nun-qof-dalet (נקד). According to the Academy of the Hebrew Language’s Ma’agarim Historical Dictionary Project, this root carries a variety of meanings.

The most popular meaning is to mark a dot, and this carries derived meanings of punctuating or vocalizing, which is what the naqdanim do.  (Klein’s dictionary gives “pedant” as another definition of naqdan.) And interestingly, the root’s pointlike connotations tie into neqed, coccus bacteria.

Another root meaning includes shepherding flocks, so shepherds fall into this category. A rarer definition involves stabbing or penetration, which might relate to making a point. There also is a rare definition that seems to be a sunrise or sunshine, but I’ll need to study the context more.

When you permute the root’s letters, you also get dalet-nun-qof (דנק), which seems to be a rare root pertaining to agony. According to the Academy’s more modern Hebrew Terms Database, the root dalet-qof-nun (דקן) is tied to the word for dean.

The worldbuilding approach in ‘Milhamah’

OK, so for “Milhamah,” let’s imagine one of the intersecting paths between Bavel’s gates leads to a place, basically a dot on the map called Nequddah. It’s a sunny pastoral place for sheepherding, so it doesn’t attract many visitors.

The naqdanim are a forgotten group of orators, critics and self-styled linguists. Before Bavel, they might’ve been the traditional guardians of the old order.

But these days, they gather in the fields to pedantically debate the finer points of speech. They basically do nothing while the Bavel Empire threatens and oppresses the world.

While the naqdanim might not be villains, they act more like sheep than the shepherds they believe they are. I’m not sure where the bacteria would play in such a setting, but surely the land carries physical and spiritual sicknesses.

Anyway, that should inspire me to eventually do some art of Nequddah and its inhabitants. It’ll be awhile before we see it in the comic, but maybe they’ll appear in my roguelike soon.

Episode 8: A Bout with Doubt

In both fiction and in real life, evil adds insult to injury. It gloats and humiliates. It tries to make you doubt who you are and what you believe in. Sometimes it may even tempt you to question who God is.

In “Milhamah: Fighting Words” Episode 8, Shem ‘Etzem is faced with that same sort of evil from the Bavel Empire’s agent, Deli. Deli puts Shem up against the wall and then questions Shem’s loyalty to his own cause, the Holy Tongue Society.

Deli slanders Shem as an ogre and demon, but only looks at distorted outward appearances. For the record, Shem is human and not only has to fight a powerful foe, but people’s expectations over what a virtuous person should look like. Note also how the Bavel Empire accuses its critics not only of hypocrisy, but blasphemy!

This episode is also the first time that the 22 Foundational Glyphs are shown. These are tied to a non-biblical story of how God created the world through the 22 Hebrew letters.

In the fictional world of “Milhamah,” the letters (seen here in Phoenician or Ketav ‘Ivri “Paleo-Hebrew” style) are not mystical but tangible. After all, they exist in a world where grammar and parts of speech take human form.

As we end Episode 8, our hero may be conflicted and broken, but he’s not destroyed yet. Likewise, let’s persevere in our own lives — even when we don’t have all the answers neatly figured out.

Almost ready for a big reveal

Deli boasts as his vessel positions him for a close-up reveal.

It’s time to reveal an update after several days of comic creation!

“Milhamah: Fighting Words” Episode 8 has all its panels complete and is in its final editing stages for a Tuesday release. All that’s left is a few sound effects and some reformatting for the webcomics platforms. (Above is a preview revealing the villain Deli in all his arrogant glory.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing new character concept sketches. We finally have profiles for the Holy Tongue Society’s pronoun and verb characters, and my next goal is to vectorize them over the next couple of weeks. I also plan to do some digital painting of a concept based on the main villain. A couple of minor villains that will appear within the next few episodes also have their concept work done.

And for more good news, I’ve been getting my online store ready to launch. I made two T-shirt designs and will have a sample or two printed by next week. That way I can wear it to a marketing event next month.

Soon you’ll be able to buy the shirts online too, along with art prints and maybe stickers. Right now I’m leaning toward selling merchandise on Redbubble and TeePublic, though Amazon and Printful appear tempting too. Exciting things are ahead!

Inspiration and experimentation

Last weekend I did a new experiment to see where inspiration takes me.
Lately I’ve been drafting T-shirt designs for a promotional event. While thinking of ideas, I remembered how popular online Bible verse images are, especially on Instagram.
So I wondered if there would be crossover appeal to using “Milhamah” on the side as a teaching platform. My goal is to teach a Hebrew word or two to people who might be interested.
The psalms and wisdom books are my favorite parts of the Bible, so that was the first place I looked for a passage.

Inspiration came to me through Psalm 20:4.Levav is Hebrew for "heart," and 'etzah is Hebrew for "plan."

Besides the psalms, in the future I might use other examples of poetry or do language lessons using my characters for colors, animals, etc.

Art is about experimenting. If some people like inspirational quotes or vocab words, I’ll occasionally make more and maybe even make prints or shirts. Otherwise I’ll drop the idea and devote full attention to the webcomic.

Hopefully my plans will be fulfilled!

Welcoming fan art and feedback

Tiqwah asks people to subscribe every episode.

Publishing artwork online is like leaving your wallet in a public place. Your valuables and identity are exposed, and most people who find it are going to keep it for themselves instead of trying to contact you or return it.

So when an artist gets comments and fan art back, it’s a welcome and wonderful surprise. Last week, @the_art_of_bsienk drew this excellent inking of Tiqwah Tawit for Inktober after requesting ideas on Tapastic’s forums. You can check out the link and the artist’s other Inktober work below.

While I hope that more people will create fan art and have fun with “Milhamah,” my biggest short-term goal is to get a community of commenters, especially on this blog, whether it’s talking about:

  • The latest “Milhamah” webcomics, including characters and settings\
  • Trends in video games, comics and anime
  • Artists who inspire me
  • My upcoming “Milhamah” roguelike
  • Video game mechanics and game design
  • Linguistic studies, especially Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian and Ugaritic
  • Archaeology of Biblical times and ancient Near East civilizations, or
  • Issues related to Orwellianism, speech and censorship

As a result, I plan to write a bunch of blog pieces on the weekends and schedule them to automatically post throughout the week. While I won’t name countries, lately I’ve been getting a consistent trickle of readers throughout the world, and I want to create content that will entertain and generate discussion.

If you know anyone who would like to read about the topics I mentioned above, send them this way!



The fight begins in ‘Aim for the Jugular’

After covering himself with ossified armor, Shem ‘Etzem tries to fight off the intruder Deli… to little success. Can Shem focus and pull himself together, or will he soon pass through Bavel’s gate as a captive?

Shem charges toward Deli to fight him.Shem's attack misses.Deli soars and lands in his humanoid vessel's hands.Deli fights back, using the urn as a baseball to score a home run on Shem.Shem flies backward toward Bavel's gate.

After a few episodes of buildup, the action scenes finally begin in “Milhamah: Fighting Words.” Part of the challenge of making this scene was illustrating motion and pacing the anticipation.

Manga-style speed lines and glowing brushstrokes help, but there is more room to push myself and improve. And because this comic now keeps the vertical scrolling webcomic format in mind, I’ve been adding more anticipation shots and facial expressions to tell the story through the images, and not just the dialogue.

It’ll be interesting to see where Shem’s impulsiveness takes him. He’s a bit of a contradiction, a volatile mix of focus and wild passion. The goal is to make him, for all his flaws, someone who’s memorable and easy to cheer on.

What do you like to see in a good fight scene? Which fight scenes in comics, TV shows or movies to you find most memorable, and why? Feel free to leave a comment. Questions and suggestions for “Milhamah” are welcome too!

Episode 6: A Jar is Born

In Episode 6, Shem ‘Etzem rejects the evil jar Deli and his suggestion to surrender to Bavel. Will Shem’s ability to form bone armor help fight off this intruder?

Deli reveals himself in a Bavel gate.

Deli the evil jar introduces himself. Deli introduces his humanoid "vessel." Deli urges Shem to surrender. Shem drops the dalet... ... then grows bone armor and charges toward Deli. Follow us on social media!

The conflict is starting to heat up, and we learn a little about Bavel’s ideology. It not only wants a world with a single language, but also a world with no competing nations, cultures or religions. As the comic develops, the characters will show how Bavel plans to do this.

After earlier using his spiny bone armor to break through a wall, Shem is ready to use it again: This time for attack! Look forward to seeing more of Shem’s superpowers in the next installment.

This episode stylistically marks a big change in format. This is the first time I switched from a standard comic strip format to a webcomic one, as commonly seen on Tapas and Webtoon. I also punched up the colors and refined the color levels to alter the mood. And this time the comic incorporates several effects from Clip Paint Studio EX.

Overall, I hope Episode 6 marks a new milestone in the development of “Milhamah.” I already started the seventh episode, and I hope to get on a consistent release schedule soon.

So what do you think about the characters, plot and setting so far? Leave questions and suggestions in the comments!