More Than Capes

Let me start by saying that I have nothing against super hero comics. In fact, I still enjoy quite a few. I’m only writing this entry to highlight to readers that there are other genres to choose from. As Scott McCloud once said, people often confuse the genre for the medium. That is, they think that all of comics  (the medium) is the super hero story (genre). And while there are a lot of great super hero stories out there right now (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl being my favorite), I’d like to show people that there’s a wide variety of story telling being offered. In fact, it’s more than ever these days. I think, though, that with the success of the comic book movies, there is more emphasis on these books. But I’d like to get people to see what else is out there.

I guess maybe it’s a bit personal. Like I said, I enjoy super heroes, but personally, it’s not the kind of story I want to tell. At least at this point. Anyone who has read my comics, either on this website, or in the physical form, knows I have a wide variety of stories to tell. Granted, as we speak, I’m working on finishing up a super hero story, but that’s more of a comedy than a tale of tights. I’ve really used comedy to highlight the bizarre. To tell stories that I think will entertain and leave people with a message (sometimes. Other times I just draw pocket bees). I don’t think I could do that with a super hero story. Now, some people can (Alan Moore!) but not me. So I rely on other genres.

I think the biggest thing that these genres give me is an ending. Super heroes have been around for a long time. They continue to be published, and there’s really no ending for many of them. And even the ones that die come back. Now, for me personally, one of the best things about fiction, for me, is an ending. Writers can craft something that ties everything together. I wish life worked that way, which is maybe part of the reason I got into writing. Now, with many books outside the super hero genre, these stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They are epics that stretch for just the right amount of time, then come to an end. Take Y the Last Man for example. 60 issues was the sweet spot for that story. That sounds like a lot, maybe, but it was always going to come to an end. It didn’t just run until it got cancelled. It told a great story. In fact Y was one of the first stories that really showed me what comics can do. I read the whole thing and saw the power of the medium, controlled not by the genre, but by a story to be told. In fact, you should go read Y right now.

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OK, done? You read it all? Wasn’t it so good? These types of stories also often offer us much more real stakes. Part of the super hero genre is the impermanence of death. That’s just part of the territory. But personally, it often leaves me asking “what are the consequences, really?” That could just be me. I’ve read a lot of super hero books, so it might have partially numbed me to anything really happening. But when someone dies, they don’t stay dead (for the most part). And, as I’ve said, most characters have been around so long, I wonder what they could possibly do next. It all kind of becomes a game. But take a story like Y the Last Man or Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire. When something bad happens, the results will be permanently felt. When a character dies, they stay dead, often in truly heartbreaking fashion. There are often fantastical elements to these stories (Sweet Tooth is a deer boy), but they somehow feel more real. I think these other genres invest us in their characters a little easier because they are not super heroes, and neither are we. So it’s easier to see ourselves in Sweet Tooth, even though he’s part deer, because faced with danger, he’s scared. Super heroes, not so much. But that is part of their appeal, and I understand that.

But sometimes these stories aren’t fantastical. Sometimes they are really our stories. One of my favorite comics ever is American Splendor which is an autobiographical account of Harvey Pekar’s (RIP) life. You might say “I don’t want to read about someone’s life. I come to comics for adventure!” and yes, comics are good for that. But read Pekar’s work, and I bet you’ll change your tune. It might not seem like the medium lends itself to these down to earth stories, but it does. Very much so. Harvey had a way of looking at everyday life and turning it into a narrative. Even the most normal things turn out to be examinations of the human condition. That’s something that everyone can understand, if you are in fact human, and not a lizard person. Sure, you get this from time to time in the super hero books. But I think it’s a whole lot more genuine when it comes from a normal guy who spent his whole life in Cleveland. When Superman gets a flat tier, that’s easy stuff. When Harvey gets a flat tire, he’s got to deal with it like the rest of us. There are a lot of emotions to be found in auto bio comics. And, I don’t know about you, but I like hearing people’s stories. I think that is because I’m a writer. I think that real life is the basis for the best stories, or at least the issues we face in real life. And when you hear someone’s story, it’s so fascinating. Let’s face it, we tend to think that most other humans are just empty shells, but then they tell you about this or that, and they’re actually real live people, with backstories, hopes, and dreams. Sorry, that’s a bit of a tangent, I suppose. But American Splendor does that to me. Not only that, but it inspired my own auto bio comics, Bearded Comic Book Enthusiast (issue 2 coming soon!). Shameless plug aside, thanks, Harv.

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He always asked the important questions. Anyway, listen, I think I’ve gushed enough. Just know that these type of stories are what influence me the most, and are worth a read. In fact, here are some suggestions: Chew (One of my favorites of all time), Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Lumberjanes, Hellboy, Judge Dredd, From Hell, and really I can keep going and going, but maybe I’ll publish that as a separate list so I can go into more detail.

Listen, like I said, the super hero genre is a good read. I’m only trying to encourage people to delve into other areas. Comedy, horror, auto bio, sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction. Though super hero stories have many of these elements, they are really only one genre. I only hope to get people to take a bigger look at what talented creators have to offer. Independent books might not be your thing, but I think if you try the right one, you’ll open a new door, to a world full of stories you never would have experienced before. And in the end, that’s what comics are all about.

 

Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum

I have lived in central Ohio my entire life, and it was only just this last weekend that I went to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum. If you’re not from Ohio, it’s a museum dedicated to comics and cartoonists. And, for anyone wondering, it’s my new favorite museum. During my trip I got to see the work of some of the masters of comic story telling. I also got to see samples of work from the past (some of which was from the late 1700s!). To see the history was simply astonishing. So, this week for the blog, I’m going to share some of the pictures I took, and talk a little about them.

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To start off, here’s something by Billy Ireland himself. I had heard his name through the museum, but I never knew who he was. Billy Ireland was an Ohio native and cartoonist who gained fame through his editorial cartoons. This cartoon was done 1920. When I saw this, it really shocked me. Look at the size of this thing! I guess this must have been the type of paper he always worked with, but my goodness! But it allows for more detail, and look at all of that text. Well, Billy Ireland did it right, because now he has a museum named after him!

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Man was I excited to see this! What we have here is an original page from Jeff Smith’s epic sage Bone. If you haven’t read Bone, by the way, you should get on that. What’s really neat about seeing this particular page is that Jeff Smith is from Ohio (he still lives here, too). So it’s really encouraging to see a local comic creator in this museum. It was also interesting because when you see it in person (and a lot of other pages in the museum) you can still see white out, sketch marks, and the lines for hand lettering. It gives you a true sense of the process.

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This is a piece done by the legendary Will Eisner. It’s called Army Motors and I’d never seen it before. It was a series of drawings he did in the army with this character, Joe Dope. They think it was made in 1944, and it always amazes me to see how incredibly it has held up through time. I guess when I think of comics and art from the 40s, it mostly feels dated, but that’s why Will Eisner is a true master.

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You might not know this, but I’m a huge Scrooge McDuck fan. This particular appearance was part of this big quilt that was hanging on the wall. It was embroidered with a ton of comic characters (many of which I didn’t actually know). But the important thing is that Scrooge McDuck is here. The crazy thing is all of this time and effort was put into the quilt, and the creator is anonymous!

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This was a cool one to see. There are several pull out drawers at the museum that have some really cool items for display. So, I pulled one open and saw this, the first issue of American Splendor. Another thing you may or may not know is that I’m a big fan of Harvey Pekar. His comics really changed the scene and made it so auto biographical comics could work (and now I make my own!) Another Ohio local, Harvey Pekar was truly one of the greats.

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And guess what else was in that same drawer? The first issue of TMNT from 1984. The original black and white Eastman and Laird adventure. You know, the one where Leonardo told Shredder to commit seppuku (really). This is a nice piece of comic history. I mean, here were two guys who created a concept by creating something ridiculous, printed a couple thousand copies and just hoping to make some money back. And look at the Turtles now. Sometimes the little guys can make it.

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This is one I definitely had to put on the blog. This is an original page from an issue of Captain America by the King Jack Kirby (some of you could probably tell by the art alone). Now, I’ve seen lots of Jack Kirby art, but I have never seen an original page of his in person. So many comic creators were influenced by Jack Kirby, and he shaped so much of what we know. This was really an honor to see.

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Now, you’ve seen some impressive stuff so far, but I have to tell you that this was probably the thing that I freaked out the most over. Why, though, you ask. Well, it’s because this story (from MAD Magazine) influenced none other than my biggest hero in comics, Alan Moore. I have read several accounts of Alan Moore’s life, and he has mentioned on multiple occasions how this story helped to shape his love for comics. And guess what? You could actually flip through and read this one. So, yeah, I read the same comic that gave a young Alan Moore love for comics. Alan Moore is the biggest reason I started making comics, so believe me, this was a big deal.

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I had to add this one simply because of history. Sometimes we think that the issues we face are entirely new to our generation. Well, look at the subject of this cartoon. Looks familiar right, we hear this talk all the time. But guess what? This was from 1881! This editorial cartoon by Frederick Opper is called A Dangerous American Institution. I had to put this one on here because it really made me stop and think about the cyclical nature of history, and how the issues we face today may not be new.

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I read about this comic once. It was part of the underground comix movement, and it landed the creators in some hot water. Dan O’Neil, Ted Richards, Gary Hallgreen, and Bobby London made this book which depicts Disney characters doing some not so Disney approved things. Well, Disney found out about this and tried to stop this. It’s actually a very interesting story. They kept making the books, even though Disney sued them, and eventually Disney racked up so many legal fees that they settled. That would never happen today, because Disney has so much money the $2,000,000 in legal fees is pocket change.

These are just a few of the pictures I took, but this post is already pretty long. More can be found on the Facebook page. The trip to the museum was really something else. Seeing all that I did was a very useful experience for an aspiring comics creator. But, no matter what you do, I suggest you check out the museum. There’s something to learn for everyone.

On Tabling

Tabling at conventions is one of my favorite things to do. For a day or two I can finally settle into my true environment: the comic book scene. Conventions bring together creators big and small, and for a small press creator, gets your work out there to the almighty reader. Now, all of this being said, I’ve only tabled a handful of times. But, I’ve had a lot of experiences in that small number.

Tabling is all about being attentive and friendly. There have been a number of times that, when walking around at cons, creators are looking down at their phone, or they look like they don’t really want to be there. I get it, some weekends can be long, and looking at your phone at some point is unavoidable. However, you’ve got to avoid looking at it for too long. That shows disinterest. And, personally, I feel like I’m interrupting someone when I have to get their attention. Part of that is on me, but when I’m behind that table, my phone is out of my hands for as much time as possible. You want to look inviting, because, well, you should be.

It’s an interesting environment, you want to sell stuff, but you aren’t going the retail route where you’re trying to sell a toaster to someone. You’re trying to sell something that you made to someone. I always feel that small cons are far less pressure to buy something that a regular sales transaction. Which is funny because when you’re out there looking at other creators, that’s when you most want to buy something. But in a normal retail situation, I feel a lot of pressure from salespeople, but I don’t want to buy something as badly. But to be fair, that’s because I want to support an independent artist over a big store.

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Accurate. You can take it from me.

Gosh, I think I’ve strayed a little bit from my original point on tabling. The point is: be engaged. If you’re not excited about your work, why will anyone else be? The other big survival tip about tabling doesn’t have to do with selling, though. It’s simple: be a good table neighbor. You will probably be surrounded on all sides by other people at their own tables. You’ve got to be considerate. Don’t take up too much space! You want to have good relations with your neighbors, you’ll be with them all weekend.

I’ve been lucky enough that, as of this writing, I’ve never been stuck next to someone who I can’t stand. In fact, I’ve ended up becoming friends with the people located around me. We are able to talk about what sort of comics we like, and tips and tricks of the trade. It goes a long way. Plus, you will be in close proximity, so it will just be awkward if you’re silent the whole time. Not to mention that those people will watch your booth if you have to go pee! That’s invaluable. All of the people that I’ve sat next too were very cool. If/when I see them at different cons, I’m always quick to go over and buy something from them. These bonds turn into friendships, and those are important in life and in making comics.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that I haven’t been host to some pretty weird things at cons. I won’t get into specifics in case any of those people read this (odds are small, but I don’t want to get murdered at my next con!) Those odd characters are pretty much unavoidable at these things. Conventions and weirdos go hand in hand, after all. So all I can say about that is be prepared to deal with the strange. You will have to listen to some peculiar things, smile and nod. Smile and nod. That’s how you get through the rough times. Then, once those people leave you, you can look at your table neighbors and have a good laugh.

I will also add this, tabling can be frustrating. People will come look at your work, flip through it, tell you it’s good, but not buy it. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not an art I pursued because of the riches. I know better than that. But, during a long day of tabling, it can be irksome when you can’t make that sale. Sometimes you’ll go hours without making money (OK, that’s my experience anyway) and that starts to wear you out. You start to wonder if your stuff just isn’t any good. But hang in there. You’ll make the sales. And equally important, you’ll get your name out there. You’ll make connections and the more conventions you attend, people will start to remember you. In the end, take a deep breath and realize that there are a lot of other people there, and everyone has different taste in comics. But if you do make a sale, show some gratitude. They didn’t have to buy anything. So always say:

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Now, if you’re reading this and do not table, never fear, I have some advice about that too! When I go as a fan, and not a creator, I’m always conscious about how long I stand in front of a table. I try to look at everything, and have a bit of conversation with the artist and/or writer. But, I don’t like to block the way for too long. That could cut off potential business. Especially if I’m not going to buy anything. It is pretty easy to get caught up talking to other creators, and they really don’t mind, but I try to be mindful.

I guess that comes more from some of the stuff I’ve seen (i.e. standing in front of a table for 20 minutes giving a complete presentation on your own hobbies). There’s been a lot of times that I see other creators give the look…you know, the “what are they doing?!” look. The “Please go away” look. But they are all too polite to say this. Just be respectful to the artist or writer, or what have you. As a con goer, you have no duty to buy everything, just make sure that you don’t turn your visit into a filibuster.

I hope that all doesn’t sound too harsh. As much of a passion as this is for me, cons are my biggest way (as of now) for making money to continue doing what I love. And I suppose this really comes from a few bad apples making it harder for everyone else. Most everyone at cons is great. They come, they talk, we find things we love, and we form a genuine bond. So don’t take anything I’ve said the wrong way.

As I said, behind the table is the place I feel like I truly belong, so I’ve got a lot of feelings about this. And I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff I left out, but let’s be honest, you’re tired of reading this by now. So I’ll see you at a show sometime!

Web Comics

So, as you might recall, last blog post I mentioned that I’d talk about the benefits of web comics sometime. Well, that time has come. Phew, didn’t have to wait to long. I remember last time I caught myself veering off into the topic of making web comics, but it’s better if I can give it the spotlight it deserves.

I really started thinking about the positives of a web comic when I was at SPACE. Another vendor there asked me how I liked having a web comic. Now, I really do enjoy putting out a web comic, but I’d never stopped and thought about just what doing so afforded me. So I got to talking to this guy and realized that making web comics is really one of the best experiences I’ve had as a creator thus far. Isn’t it always great when you have a revelation that you’ve been doing something right?

So, here’s what I told him. I enjoy making comics to publish digitally, but to me the most important thing is this: it’s the least expensive way to fail. And that’s not a negative thing, not at all. What I mean by that is, through the creation of these web comics, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and through those mistakes, I’ve learned a heck of a lot. When I started making comics on my own, I didn’t know anything about coloring, lettering, inking, or pretty much anything. I knew how to write, period. But I had to learn all of these things as I went, and now, while I’m sure I have a lot to learn, I know so much more than just a year ago. So, what do you do when you’re learning? You make mistakes. And, instead of making costly mistakes, I got to make them for free! How great, really. It’s not that I like making mistakes, but if I had to choose between paying money for them, or getting away with them for free, well I choose the latter option.

Now, I absolutely don’t like to look back at my comics and realize I did something wrong. But, that’s how you learn, isn’t it? I look at the first couple comics I made and think “Oh, never do that, that, or that again.” And sure, I put those comics out, but that’s a nice public record of progress, I suppose. So that’s excellent.

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Now, there are other positives to this method as well. As I said in my last blog, it’s cheap. Actually, it’s free! And think about this: you can publish on your schedule, and you don’t have to have a whole full length comic done as you would if you want to publish. Plus, not everyone wants to make long stories. Some people just want to do gags, and that’s something you can do with web comics. Not to mention that anyone can do them. Isn’t that great? The power to make comics is really in the hands of everybody when using web comics. All you need is a place to put them, and that’s easy these days.

The affordability of web comics also allows you to experiment. My web comics are hardly ever about the same thing. It’s the ultimate place for me see what works and what doesn’t. And if something doesn’t work, then I can abandon it with no real damage done. Sure, I’ve lost some time, but that time went into practicing making a comic, anyway. If you publish a book, and it doesn’t work, you’ve lost the printing fee, and potentially the money given to the artist. That’s not to say that publishing physically is a bad thing, I quite enjoy publishing that way, too. It’s just a lot more final. The first couple of books that I published (as is to be expected), are not very good. And that’s all on me. The art is good, but gosh, I read that writing and I don’t like it. I feel the same way about my first couple web comics, but I didn’t lose any money on that.

In the end, I’d recommend doing both. But if you’re getting started out, why not do a web comic? What do you have to lose? You can learn a lot about the craft. And hey, you’ll get some exposure. I’m the kind of guy who jumps right into things, so that was a big plus for me. Was I ready? No. But I did it, and people read the comics I put out. When you publish on the Internet, people from literally anywhere in the world can stumble upon your work. I see people from the other side of the planet have looked at my stuff sometimes. That’s how you get your name out there and build a fan base. That fan base will grow to support you in the future. Gotta start somewhere.

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Sorry that these pictures don’t really have anything to do with web comics, but I use the images I like. Anyway, there’s quite a lot to be learned from doing web comics. And, because they are typically shorter, they can be done quicker. So you can put out more, and thus learn more. It’s like a concentrated training session. An 80s montage. Sure, you should always be reading (comics and books about comics), but getting the hands on practice is invaluable. I know in another year I’ll be better than I am now (well, hopefully, anyway). So making the web comics have really only done good things for me.

My final advice is this: if you’re thinking about doing a web comic, go ahead and give it a try. It won’t hurt anything, and you can still do any other work that you might be trying to do. It’s a win win. Don’t let digital reading or any other technological concerns get in your way. Get those comics out there and let everyone know who you are.

Making Comics Epilogue

Well, you’ve done it! You’ve made a comic. You wrote it, drew it, inked it, colored it, and lettered it! Woo, I’m out of breath now. Anyway, I’m proud of you, it’s a tough process, I know. So, what happens when you’re done with all of that? You publish it! I understand, it sounds pretty scary. And, it certainly can be.  But, after you did all that work, you probably want to publish it, right? So you better get on it, folks. Like I said, it can be scary, but we’re actually living in a great time for this sort of thing. There’s quite a few options you have when it comes to publishing.

So, let me start by saying this: publishing a comic is not the same as publishing a book. When publishing a book, you have to send out your manuscript to a publisher and hope that one of them will pick it up. Now, when it comes to comics, it’s far easier to publish yourself. That’s not to say that you can’t ship your story out to established publishers, but a lot of companies do not even look at unsolicited material. So, you might have a hard time with that. Plus, it’s easier to get yourself noticed when you have finished products to show to editors. That’s a whole different game though.

Anyway, I was saying, self publishing is the way to go (at least in the beginning). And comics are way smaller than books, so they are easier to publish yourself. And when it comes to publishing yourself, you have a couple of options: publishing a physical book or publish online. Let’s start with the physical.

Publishing in physical form is great. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling of holding a book that you’ve made in your hands. It’s an amazing experience. Now you might be asking yourself, just how do you get that book in your hand? Well, what a time to be alive friends. There are several companies that specialize in printing comics, and of course you can find them all on the Internet. The place I use is called Kablam.

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The thing that makes Kablam affordable is that they are a print on demand service. That means that you can order how many ever you want, and don’t have to worry about a minimum quantity. So, you can order 50 books at a set price per issue. If one issue is, let’s say 1.50, that’s the price you’ll pay per issue. That is in contrast to offset printers, which require a high volume of books being published. Basically, the more books you print, the lower your price will be. So if you wanted one single issue printed, it might cost you 20 dollars (as an example, I’ve never used this sort of printing before.) This type of printing is used by the big boys (Marvel, DC, etc.) that will be printing hundreds of copies of each book. For smaller, self published labels like Hot Cakes, print on demand is the ticket. This way I can order 50 or 75 copies and not break the bank. There are lots of places out there that will do this, so if you Google around, you’ll find something. You might even find something local like I did, with Page by Page Copies and Finishing. You will spend money to make physical books, but in the end you’ll have something tangible to sell at cons and maybe even a book to get into your local comic store!

Now, as I’ve said, what a time to be alive. Publishing online has never been easier before, and guess what? It’s only going to get easier as time goes on. You may notice that on this very site I publish comics. Yes, it’s true! So I know what I’m talking about. The Internet is a great, great thing, and if you use it’s power for your comics, it can mean really good news for you. Obviously, the best thing about publishing online is that it’s free. Sure, you can buy a domain name, a place to put all your comics, but those are stupid cheap most of the time. But, even if you don’t want to do that, you can just set up a tumblr and get it going. You can put your content out there for literally everyone to see. While holding a copy in your hand is primo, not having to pay anything to put your comic out there is also very nice.

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Basically, once you’ve finished making your comic, and saved it in a PDF or tiff file, it’s ready to launch. That’s a really cool thing. I mean, think about the time that you’re saving (printing does take some time). While you won’t be able to sell these digital comics cons, you will be able to drum up interest for anything you might do later. People who read your webcomics regularly will probably like you enough to want to see what you might do next. And, I don’t want to get any hopes up, but maybe someone from a big company will notice you that way! Don’t count on that as your way into the industry, though.

You might do stories that are unrelated (like I do), or you might build an entire story page by page. Either way, you’re getting your work out there, not to mention doing webcomics have other benefits (that I will address in a separate blog). Then, let’s say you’ve done a page a week for a story, you can collect those for print and you’ve got a physical comic!

The other nice benefit of publishing online is that you can sell your comics digitally. That meaning you can put your comics on your website for sale without having a single physical copy. That way your fans and supporters can simply download a file and read them on their phones and tablets. This means you can still make money, and charge a cheaper rate since it didn’t have to be printed, and people can still read your comic. As I said, what a time to be alive.

Really, publishing either way is good, and it’s not that difficult. You just have to assess what works for you and your story. Maybe you feel more comfortable with a weekly tumblr comic. Maybe you want to have a book to show an editor at a con. Just think about what you want for yourself, your book, and your future. I know that sounds like a lot, but it starts to come pretty natural after awhile. I publish in both formats. And, while online is quicker and free, there is something about holding that book in your hands that you’ll never be able to replace. Now, that’s not saying that one is better than the other, it’s just sort of surreal when you see your name as a creator.

The most important thing I can tell you about publishing is that, if you’ve done the work, publish! Getting your books out there is the goal, so don’t let this last step stop you.

Recommended Reading
The Complete Guide to Self Publishing Comics By Comfort Love and Adam Withers

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

There aren’t too many books that I’ve read that focus on this, so supplement your reading with the all powerful GOOGLE!

Making Comics Part 4-Coloring

So, we have continued the odyssey that is making comics, and here we are: coloring. I will tell you up front that coloring is probably what I have the least experience with (coloring comics, anyway), so I’m still working it all out, even as I write this.

The first thing you have to think about when coloring something is quite simple: does it NEED color? Do you WANT color? Color is an excellent way of setting the tone of a scene, but some stories are better off without color. Think about the Walking Dead. It’s one of the most successful modern comics, and wouldn’t it be odd if the books were in color? Any number of horror books benefit from black and white, it sets a darker, edgier tone. Same with a genre like Noir books. However, any genre can pull off black and white if done well. Look at the previously mentioned Usagi Yojimbo, or Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus. Totally different books that look great in black and white. Art from Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy:

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Also, speaking quite practically, black and white is much cheaper to print. I discovered this while making my mini comics, and now black and white is my best friend. If you do decide to work in black and white, you will be doing a lot of work with the inks and with shading. But when done right it really does look good.

Now, if you do decide to work in color, it can be tough at first, but it is rewarding. My web comics I get to do in color, because it doesn’t cost anything to put them online. And through this, I get to learn a lot by trial and error. Mostly error. Let me tell you something: color theory is complicated. I’ve read a couple books on coloring comics, and I still have only scratched the surface of color theory. Dealing with warm colors and cool colors, or complimentary colors, it’s all a bit confusing when you jump right in. That being said, you don’t need to have a degree in color theory to work on coloring comics (though I’m sure it helps). Like most things, I just started doing stuff and saw what worked. But, there is a process to coloring comics.

By the time you get ready to color your comic, all of the inking will be done. So, if it helps, you can think of this as sort of like a coloring book. Those inked lines are what you should stay inside. Unless of course your story calls for messy coloring. That can be really cool sometimes. Once you’ve looked at the inked art and decided what base color everything will be, it’s time to add the flats. When I started making comics, I had no idea what flats were, I just thought you colored stuff. But a flat is the base color of something. That is, for example, the color of skin before you factor in any sources of light or darkness in the shot. This gives the drawing color that looks very flat (ha, get it?!) but helps for rendering later. Whether you are doing your coloring traditionally or digitally, it’s the same. Lay down those flats! When you do it digitally, coloring the flats will help to separate parts of the image in the future. So when you want to render some pants, you can use the Magic Wand tool and click on the pants, and you won’t go outside of those lines. It’s pretty neat stuff, really. Flats tend to take me a really long time. Partly because I’m still learning, and partly because you have to make sure everyone and everything in the shot has color! So I have to spend time lassoing everything (I color digitally most the time) and filling it with color.

Once you’ve done your flats, then you get to have some real fun. It’s time to render everything. Rendering is adding in shades of color, basically. It’s when you decide, for instance, that the light is right over head, so the top of someone’s head is lighter, and the shadows are cast toward the bottom of the face or neck. It’s making the folds in clothing look darker. It’s giving highlights in hair. Get the idea? Rendering something is what turns a flat image into something more life like. Colors that are rendered look much more realistic. Think about all the things you see in everyday life. How many of them are one flat color? Probably none of them. Now, you do want to be careful, because I think there are times when I have over rendered, and it’s looked sort of rough. But, as I said, I’m working on it, so maybe I’ll get it one day.

Of course, you can also play around with color. I find some of the best color jobs use many shades of one color. For example, everything is a shade of red. This can be a trick of light, or to set an emotion. If something was colored using all red, the reader would get the indication that there was something intense happening, or someone had a lot of anger. Good colorists can pretty much do anything with color.

Have a look at this picture, I think Hellboy comics have some of the best coloring in the industry.

hellboy-in-hell

I’m not sure who colored this particular image, but you can see the different uses of reds, blues, grays, and yellows paint a darker story. I recommend you read Hellboy as is, but while you’re doing so, really pay attention to the use of color. It’s pretty unique.

Once you’ve rendered everything, and you’re happy with it, you’re done. That is, however, easier than it sounds. You have to weigh every stroke you make to render against a lot of questions. What’s the lighting? What’s the tone? Does this color choice make sense? Like everything else, and like I said before, it’s all about clarity. You also don’t want your colors to over power your drawing. Making a comic is about everything working together in harmony. So if the color is too distracting, you’ll want to reconsider. Part of the art of coloring is standing out while not being seen. I hope that made sense, because it sounded pretty cool.

Recommended Reading

DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics by Mark Chiarello and Todd Klein

Hi-Fi Color for Comics by Brian and Kristy Miller

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics by Comfort Love and Adam Withers

And, as always, read comics and study them! Join me again soon for the art of lettering.

 

Putting Together a Con

Boy howdy. Since you’re reading this, it means that I’m still alive. For a while, it didn’t feel like I would be. See, I recently put together a mini comic con. You might think to yourself, “A mini comic con? That’s easy.” But you would be wrong! It kept me up at night!

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the anxiety. Putting together the con was a great and terrible experience all at once somehow. See, my boss at the library wanted to put on a con, and after my experience at SPACE, I felt like I could do it. But I didn’t do it alone. The biggest part of putting on a con is getting the talent. And luckily, because I’ve started running in the comic book and artist circuit, I know some people. So, when I initially reached out to the people who tabled at my con, I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure that they would want to take a chance at such a small, and first time, con. But I had an ace up my sleeve: free tables. Usually people charge for vendors to set up, but since this was our first, there was no cost. And since all of these people pretty much knew me, it was easy to open that door.

Of course, I do need to stop and give extra special thanks to the Marysville Public Library. Every con needs a place to be held, and the Library was the place for me. Granted, I do work there, but that doesn’t mean that they had to let me set up a mini circus in their valuable space. But having that space was invaluable. I also have to thank all the other staff at the library for putting up with that madness. It got pretty crowded!

Anyway, so what do you do when you have the space, and the vendors? Well, then you panic! Or at least, I did. See, Marysville, Ohio, has never had a comic con before. They didn’t know what to expect. I tried my best to explain it to people. I put out advertisement everywhere, I even did an interview with the local newspaper. But you never know if people will show up to something new. Especially when a town like this doesn’t know much about con culture. If there was no turn out, I was worried about the future, and about wasting the vendors’ time. So I spent several weeks panicing about that.

But look how it turned out! A lot of people showed up! To be honest, I’m surprised I pulled it all together. It really felt like blowing up the Death Star. The vendors had a good time, and I think Marysville did too. And it certainly warrants another con next year. This con exceeded all of my hopes, and it really gave me faith in the community. Plus it showed that we have a community of artists and fellow nerds willing to put their stuff out there.

Sure, there were lots of little things I worried about: door prizes, food, program guides, and a number of other things that would have killed a normal sized person, but it all came together. I mean, we had successful panels (my friend ran a talk about WWE that was very successful) and activities, including a costume contest where about 20 people dressed up! That’s great for  the first time!

So, I want to thank the Marysville Public Library, it’s staff, all my vendors (Vanessa Prentice, Unhinged Twins, Married Math Toys and Comics, Ohio Legends, Addie J. King, Canada Keck, and Packrat Comics), and I want to say thank you Marysville for making this happen, and we’ll see you next year!