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The Team Behind THE LYNX Share Their Pitch

THE TEAM BEHIND THE LYNX SHARES THEIR PITCH

The creative team be THE LYNX shares with us a look at the pitch they put together for prospective publishers and future team members.


Photo by Victor B. on Unsplash

 

Pitching a new series to artists and publishers requires some advance work and a bit of heavy lifting in terms of showing the potential for the project into the foreseeable future. Editors and publishers want a sense of how the story came together, as well as the tip of the iceberg of backstory and unseen elements. Meanwhile, artists need to be fully immersed into the universe if they are going to successfully translate the world inside the writer’s head into compelling and coherent images.

This introduction is placed before the actual script begins. Ideally, you want to build and develop it as you since it is a fair chunk of work. 

When the time comes to approach potential publishers, more elements can be added to the intro including character bible, link to an art reference library and fleshing out the story beats for future issues.

In any case, editor Joey Sheehan and I thought the Intro might be of interest to ComixCentral members.

-Michael Lent

THE LYNX

Written by: Michael Lent

Art by: Vittorio Garofoli

Color by: Carmelo Monaco

Lettering, Graphic Design & Editorial contributions by: Marshall Dillon

Cover by: TBD

INTRO for EDITORS: THE LYNX is a three-book arc that tells the saga of GAUPA, a young Norse boy caught between two mythical pagan worlds at war.  The title of this series derives from Gaupa’s name, which old Norse for “Lynx.”

Pronunciation IPA(key): /ˈkøyːpa/  (Audio available)

Rhymes: -øyːpa

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gaupa

Gaupa risks everything in pursuit of a mysterious destiny. Set against the pre-Christian, pre-marauding 6th century, this Viking tale recounts the days when two houses of Old Norse mythology, the warrior Aesir (Odinn, Thor and Loki) and the mystical Vanir (Frey and Freya), practitioners of shamanism, sorcery and prophecy, clashed and vied for adherents in the harsh Norse landscapes. Keep in mind that this is a time where gods were not immortal by birth. Often they mingled with humans and for their part, some humans laid claim to godlike powers such as shape shifting, prophecy, and dark magic. Meanwhile, the “dragons” of this period are unlike any we have encountered before.

The Lynx is an epic drama, fantasy adventure story that’s in good company with other successful stories and series including: THOR (Marvel and Disney), GAME OF THRONES based on A Song of Ice and Fire, VIKINGS (History Channel TV series), Northlanders (Brian Wood’s series that ran for 5 years],  Vinland Saga (the Japanese Manga currently in its 15th volume), and Valhalla, the long-running Danish comic that began in 1978, the films BEOWULF and BRAVEHEART. 

And while Viking stories are more popular than ever, the pre-marauding Norse world is one we know so very little about. Until now, this a time period rarely told because runes are the only documents that survived.  To wit: any school child can give you a dozen gods from the House of Zeus or Apollo whereas from the far more recent and arguably more culturally relevant Norse pantheon you may know Odinn, Thor and Mjolnir, but what about Skadi, Njord and Freya, not to mention Gerda? THE LYNX will correct this gap. Rest assured: I have read many 6th century runes as well as 19th century translations of the 10th century Icelandic sagas chronicling the Age of Iron. On the pages that follow you will leap across a 1500-year chasm to feel the power of this rare history finally unleashed in fiction form.

Thanks,

ML

SUMMARY OF THE LYNX THREE BOOK ARC

The Lynx is named for the main character Gaupa, Old Norse for “lynx.” He is the product of an Aesir (warrior clan) chieftain and a Vanir (mystic) woman captured on a raid and taken as wife. Gaupa identifies more with his mother in temperament and lives in the shadow of his father.

Book #1 begins with the death of Gaupa’s father.

Book #1: Ritual

Clan chief Thorvald Hildibrandr has died. He is 15-year old Gaupa’s father. During the funeral, the clan is attacked by Heiðnir, a band of rival warriors and mystics. Thorvald’s mythical sword has been stolen. A revenge war party is formed. It is Gaupa’s first time to be included and everything that could go wrong does.

Book #2: ÞRÆLL Slave

Three years have passed. Thorvald’s sword has changed hands several times before being restored to the Heiðnir. Gaupa is now enslaved on a trading ship headed for the Heiðnir stronghold. Gaupa’s thirst for revenge has grown but so has the power of his rivals. Gaupa exacts his revenge but the sword and some of its newly revealed mystical powers escape his grasp once more.

Book #3: móðr tíð Wrath of Time

The ghosts of Gaupa’s parents, family and friends continue to haunt him. He encounters a mysterious fellow mystic/warrior hybrid who claims she can help Gaupa locate his father’s sword; however, all may not be what it seems.

CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND THE LYNX

Michael Lent

Creator/Writer

Designated Top Writer of 2018 on Quora.com with more than 1.2 million reads, Michael Lent’s trans-media writing and producing experience spans film, fiction and nonfiction books, biographies, graphic novels, animation, video games, and reality television.

As a writer, Lent has adapted both Stephen King and E.M. Forster.

Writer of more than fifteen graphic novels and comics including i, Holmes (currently in development as a television series by veteran producer David Rambo (Empire, Revolution, V, CSI), Prey (Marvel), Brimstone (Zenescope), graphic novel nonfiction bios for Orbit including Keith Richards, Stephen Hawking, Stephen King and JRR Tolkien.

Writer of eight books including On Thin Ice, published by Disney/Hyperion, based on the top-rated reality television series Ice Road Truckers. Research for this project entailed one winter in the Arctic.

Producing credits on seven films including the upcoming animated horror movie MALEVOLENT starring William Shatner, Ray Wise and Morena Baccarin, and IF YOU’RE SERIOUS, shot in Fenghuang, China and nominated by the Academy of Sound Editors for the Verna Fields Golden Reel Award for Sound Design in 2014.

The Lynx is an homage to Lent’s Scandinavian roots.

Vittorio Garofoli

Panel Artist

Garofoli has been a comic book artist seven years, following three years of study at the School of Comics in Palermo.

He began his professional work at for Zenescope Entertaiment working on the long-running series Grimm Fairy Tales. He also worked on the well-regarded Dorian Gray series for TidalWave Productions. Garofoli has drawn for independent books and editors including CCTVYLLE, as well as various Kickstarter projects.

Garofoli admires artists such as Brian Hitch (Marvel’s Ultimate series), Alan Davis’ work on the Excalibur series, and French comic book such as Alpha by Yori Jigoumov and Largo Winch. His influences range from artists such as Trevis Charest, Ivan Rais, Mike Perkins, as well and Italian artists such as Sergio Toppi, Massimo Carnevale and Corrado Mastanuomo who helped inspire his style on The Lynx.

Interested in history, Garofoli loves the Viking Age and has studied it extensively, especially in preparation for this project. He is a devoted fan of the Vikings television series.

Marshall Dillon

Lettering, Graphic Design and Editorial Contributions

A comic book industry veteran, Dillon got his start in 1994 during the middle of the indie boom.

Over the years, he’s been everything from an independent self-published writer to an associate publisher working on properties like GI Joe, Voltron, and Street Fighter. Dillon has done just about everything except draw a comic book and has worked for just about every publisher except the “Big Two.”

Primarily a father and letterer these days, he also dabbles in old-school paper & dice RPG game design.

Dillon also has Scandinavian roots and has studied the history, customs, mythology and language through the on-line lectures of American scholar and poet Dr. Jackson Crawford of the University of Colorado, an expert on Old Norse. A particular thrill was a recent trip to Iceland with Dillon’s family.

Previously, Dillon and Lent collaborated on I, Holmes (Alterna) and worked at the game company Slime Sandwich.

Carmelo Monaco

Colorist

Carmelo Monaco is an Italian comic-book artist and illustrator. He lives and works in the city of his birth, Catania, Sicily. He studied at School of Comics in Palermo, where he got his degree in 2013, focusing on digital 2-D animation.

He worked as a background artist for Grafimated Cartoon on the feature film ”I Vespri Sicliani’.” (The Sicilian Vespers). The story is adapted from Guiseppe Verdi’s classic grand opera of the same name.

Since 2013, Monaco has worked as both artist and colorist for many comics including the series Totally Spies. Publishing credits include Disney, IDW, Tunuè, and Mondadori.

Since 2015 Monaco has taught anatomy for comic books and visual storytelling in the School of Comics in his Catania.

Carmelo’s interest in the subject matter and desire to work with artist Vittorio Garofoli brought him to this project.

NOTES ON THE ART

Okay, so, a small intro into the pre-Christian Viking world is warranted here. You might be interested to know that our modern idea of the Thor-worshipping, pillaging & marauding “Viking” — literally Old Norse for “to go wandering” — comes from a finite period of about two hundred years, roughly from the 10th to the 12th century. When the Norse, aka “North Men” first raided the Saxon lands we know today as England, Scotland and Ireland starting with a raid on a monastery at Lindisfarne, Britain in 793 AD, they were pagans worshipping the plethora of gods of war from the House of Aesir. Chief among these were Odinn, Loki and, of course, our beloved Thor. They soon discovered that the abbeys and monasteries conveniently located in snatch and grab dragon longboat distance along the Northern Britain coast housed many bejeweled golden relics whose protection was entrusted to pasty-faced Christian monks who never heard of Chuck Norris and instead spent their days in prayer, silence and organic gardening. For decades, the contest of Marauder vs. Monk was akin to Pitbull vs. Pot Roast.

Eventually, the Vikings pushed on to Russia (“Rus” being Old Norse for “men who row”), Normandy “Norse Man” and Constantinople serving as an elite royal guard there and the Age of Vikings was well underway. There were raids deep into Italy, Spain and Portugal. During this time, worship of Thor and the warlike House of Aesir gave the Vikings strength and made them much feared. However, as the Men of the North cut a swath through post-Roman Empire Europe, they began to settle in to the lands they had conquered, intermarrying and raising families. It was then that the local practice of Christianity with its carpenter and fisherman seemed more appropriate and conversion to the new religion swelled through the ranks. The conversion was more for practical reasons than anything else: when you’re raping, plundering and pillaging, it goes without saying that a God of War comes in mighty handy; however, when you have a wife, three kids, a house with attached two yak stall, well, “Love thy neighbor” seems like a more actuarially sound game plan. Back in Scandinavia, Harald Bluetooth, converted to Christianity in the 960s before taking the throne as the King of Denmark.  A supreme politician, Harald realized that this new religion both unified the many clans, tribes and chieftains under him, as well as gave him protections from other Christian realms that would otherwise attack Denmark as a place of run amuck with heathens to be conquered (i.e. see Native American “conversion”). Thus, Harald Bluetooth consolidated his power by renouncing Paganism and declaring that none other than God himself had anointed him king.

The end of the Viking Age is often marked by the failed invasion attempted by Norwegian King Harald III, who was soundly defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. More thumping followed in the ensuing decades and by the 12th century, the age of Vikings was over.

This is a thumbnail narrative mostly familiar to even the casual student of History. If not familiar to you, first “you’re welcome” and second, “shame on you.” For crying out loud, the Vikings gave us the days of the week and the practice of divorce, so would it kill you to learn something about these so-called “barbarians?” Yeesh.

Yet, there is another narrative, one from the pre-marauding Viking days before Christianity and even before the House of Aesir (Odinn/Thor/Loki/Valhalla) was solidified in Norse consciousness when the embers of a fierce, Germanic people were just beginning to stir. The sixth century was a time when TWO sects of Norse paganism vied for adherents. In the red corner, we had the Aesir with Odinn and his posse of warrior gangsta Gods geeked out on heavy metal — mainly iron — for hand-to-hand combat. In the blue corner, hailing from the world of mysticism and some very unsettling sex practices, the Vanir with Frey and Freya, practitioners of shamanism, sorcery and prophecy. Mysticism was considered unmanly (“ergi”) and its use less than ethical by the Aesir who saw no irony in worshipping a magic hammer that could manscape mountains. For their part, the Vanir probably brought it on themselves by openly advocating incest and mystical gender reassignment. In the close confines of relatively resource starved Scandinavia (a major reason for the Viking raids that were soon to follow), it was inevitable that the Gods from both houses would fight an epic war. It was the sword vs. the wand.

After a ferocious battle, the Aesir faith prevailed by and large over the magical Vanir, which is why the ensuing Viking raids didn’t consist of legions of Norse Harry Potters and Ron Weasleys. Unlike the warlike house of Aesir, the Vanir were all about the seasons, getting buck wild with fertility rites, love and sex, mysticism and intuition. In fact, even today when we speak of the Rites of Spring, that is Vanir and we are drinking from a well of full moon hookups and more than a thousand years old.

Keep in mind that this is a time where gods were not immortal by birth. Often they mingled with humans and for their part, some humans laid claim to godlike powers such as shape shifting, prophecy, and dark magic. It was said that the destinies of both gods and men were governed by the same Norn — female beings not unlike the Moirai or Fates of Greek mythology. Along with the Germanic pagans of the same period, our awareness of dragons, giants, and trolls comes from this place and time. Some argue that it was only the advent of Christianity with its emphasis on battles between good and evil that made comingling between the natural and supernatural world impossible.

Apart from a small taste of this world given to us in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem of Beowulf and the monster Grendel, this is a world we know little about and until now, this a story rarely told.  To wit: any school child can give you a dozen gods from the House of Zeus or Apollo whereas from the far more recent and arguably more culturally relevant Norse pantheon you may know Odinn, Thor and Mjolnir, but what about Skadi, Njord and Freya, not to mention Gerda? This is the raison d’etre for THE LYNX.

Of course, gods or no gods, the sixth century was a very difficult time to be alive. Uninhabitable wilderness is the predominant feature of this gritty landscape of craggy mountains, deep snows during intensely frozen winters that lasted seven months, and vast dark forests inhabited by trolls, dwarves, elves and the occasional dragon interrupted with swaths of raw earth where the locals cling to their subsistence farms.

When we draw this world, it’s often with a steel grey and blue pallet, or else the rust browns and reds of corroded iron and spilt blood. And yet, because the Vanir were about Spring and lust, we get the occasional exotic shimmers of gold and silver and gems against the otherwise drab backdrop.

Hopefully, your appetite has been whetted and we can get going.

The script begins on the next page.

THE LYNX



ComixCentral would like to thank Michael, Marshall, Vittorio, and Carmelo for offering their knowledge to our community. It was a special look behind the scenes that is not always available, especially to new creators.

Follow: Michael Lent

Follow: Marshall Dillon

Follow: Vittorio Garofoli

Follow: Carmelo Monaco


Banner Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash

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Nailing Page One



Nailing Page One

Participants: Marshall Dillon (Editor/Letterer/Graphic Designer), Vittorio Garofoli (Artist and Inker), Michael Lent (Creator/Writer), and Carmelo Monaco (Colorist).

INTRO

by Michael Lent

The con panel I was on had just wrapped. During the event, we answered several process questions which can be complex and boring for some fans who don’t care to hear how the sausage gets made. So it was a good sign that a sizable portion of the audience hung around for my panel mates and me to sign our respective books. A few fellow creators also wanted to discuss struggles they were having with their own work – finding publishers, how writers could find artists, artists looking for suitable material — that kind of thing. On the panel, we had tried to give practical, take-this-and-use-it-right-now information that empowered people to take the next step in telling their own stories, but it seemed like each answer sprouted two more questions.

The last guy waiting for me opened a binder containing sample pages of what he hoped would be his first published book. The cover was interesting but once inside, it was hard to get a bead on the story, at least from a cursory pass through. So I went back to the first page, realizing that it failed to establish both the narrative and the author/artist’s voice. Without truly planting his flag, the pages meandered both in story and tone. It was kind of there but blurry.

Not wanting to offend anyone, I handed the binder back to its creator and wished him luck.

“I just want to make a comic that doesn’t suck,” he said in a way that told me he had received a similar reaction from others.

Unfortunately, we were being kicked out of the conference room to make way for the next panel, so I recommended that he find a way to give his book both stronger visual and emotional impact, starting with the first page. Since this was a DIY effort, I also urged him to check out the books and community on ComixCentral. I’m a big fan of the site and of Leigh Jeffery and her team’s vision. For sure, it was barely half an answer but the best I could do with the time allotted.

Fellow creators might feel that it’s hardly fair to judge a book by just thumbing through the pages. I would agree except that that is exactly how most of us make our choice on what to read and what to buy. We all thin-slice our first impression starting with the cover. If that checks out and looks cool, most readers will turn to the first page. I live and work in Los Angeles where you can throw a rock in a coffee house and hit five writers. Especially here, people are always worrying about things like how to get an agent or how to land a gig with Marvel or one of the studios or production companies. To me, those things are fake priorities. Even if you land a good agent by blind luck, you won’t be able to keep them unless you know how to tell a story. That becomes apparent when you realize that potential readers are experts at deciding on whether something is worth checking out often based on the first page (not who is the agent or even the publisher). Even a top publisher can’t make a bad book sell.

When discussing the idea of first page impressions with ComixCentral editor Joey Sheehan, we decided it might be cool to bring together a creative team to discuss the challenges faced and respective goals for that all-important page one.

It just so happens that we’re finishing page #1 of a new indie series called THE LYNX. It’s so fresh that we haven’t locked a publisher, yet.

Joey, the team and I agreed to share the script page, low-res roughs, as well as discuss goals and methodologies for setting tone and hooking the reader, etc.  The culmination would be the first pass at a completed first page of THE LYNX along with everything that went into creating it.

We all know how much work goes into a comic, even one that misses the mark, so this blog is an attempt to do a better job with my answer at the con. Hopefully, the creator who attended that panel followed my initial advice to check out ComixCentral and will find a better response here.

The following team members, me, Vittorio Garofoli, Carmelo Monaco and Marshall Dillon (two Americans of partial Scandinavian descent and two Italians), are presented in the order that they came into the process. Note that even if you are an indie one-man band doing everything yourself, you’re still consciously or unconsciously making choices and compromises for the sake of the other processes.

-Michael Lent

MICHAEL LENT

Creator/Writer

Designated Top Writer of 2018 on Quora.com with more than 1.2 million reads, Michael Lent’s transmedia writing and producing experience spans film, fiction and nonfiction books, biographies, graphic novels, animation, video games, and reality television.

Writer of more than fifteen graphic novels and comics including i, Holmes (currently in development as a television series by veteran producer David Rambo (Empire, Revolution, V, CSI), Prey (Marvel), Brimstone (Zenescope), graphic novel nonfiction bios for Orbit including Keith Richards, Stephen Hawking, Stephen King and JRR Tolkien. Lent has adapted both Stephen King and E.M. Forster.

Lent has written eight books including On Thin Ice, published by Disney/Hyperion, based on the top-rated reality television series Ice Road Truckers. Research for this project entailed one winter in the Arctic.

Producing credits on seven films including the upcoming animated horror movie MALEVOLENT starring William Shatner, Ray Wise and Morena Baccarin, and IF YOU’RE SERIOUS, shot in Fenghuang, China and nominated by the Academy of Sound Editors for the Verna Fields Golden Reel Award for Sound Design in 2014.


THE LYNX is an homage to Lent’s Scandinavian roots.

Most of the background for writing THE LYNX are in the script section that I have included with Blog #2 (didn’t want to slow the flow). My experience has been that it helps to give editors and artists as much background as you can so that they can make an informed decision regarding whether they want to be involved. Basically, I always wondered about pre-marauding, pre-Christian Norse life, so, for more than a year, I read translations of Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda by the great Snorri Sturluson, and Codex Regius (“The Royal Book”), as well as researched the pre-10th century time period. I watched Youtube lectures in the field by the esteemed American scholar Dr. Jackson Crawford. I even started learning Swedish which came in handy at IKEA.

By no means an expert, I came away intrigued by the idea of a time even before the House of Aesir (Odinn/Thor/Loki/Valhalla) was solidified in Norse consciousness.  The sixth century was that period when TWO sects of Norse paganism vied for adherents. On one side, was the Aesir with Odinn and his posse of warrior Gods On the other side, the Vanir with Frey and Freya, practitioners of shamanism, sorcery, prophecy, and some very gnarly sex rites. 

In the close confines of relatively resource-starved Scandinavia (a major reason for the Viking raids that were soon to follow), it was inevitable that the Gods from both houses would fight an epic war. It was the sword vs. the wand. Often you would have a clan of people who worshipped the Aesir living alongside a clan of Vanir mystics. When one clan raided another, they took slaves who were assimilated into the rival clan. Imagine a young mystic woman forced to become the wife of an Aesir-worshipping chieftain. 

To me, those are the seeds of a good story. For a series to attract readers and go the distance, it has to have deep roots and be about something. 

So your first priority as a creator is to make sure you have an idea that can carry a multi-issue story arc. The formula is PGA+:

Protagonist

Goal

Antagonist

+Why do we care?

There should be a juxtaposition or conflict between images and what we’re reading. The result creates a dynamic tension that will engage readers in an active way (versus clichés that invite only passive interest).

Conflict is a steel cage death match between ideas where only one can prevail. For example, say your underlying theme is that our inner-humanity is the only thing that can ultimately save us as a species. But then you create a main character who is basically good; however, because of bitter life experience, he or she believes in the inherent dog-eat-dog savagery of our universe. Well, we are headed for a throw down between you the author, the character you created (who thinks you are full of crap), and your reader who is participating in the spectacle. 

Page #1 is your chance to introduce this conflict between theme and main character, plus grab the reader with interesting visuals and not let go. 

P.1 questions you should ask yourself are:

What is the setting and scope?

What is the situation?

Is there a sense of whose story this will be?

Here’s an example of a great first page script:

1:1  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 

1:2  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

1:3  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 


Book of Genesis:  Chapter 1/King James Version

Some creators and readers will argue that it is the first THREE pages that make the book. Page one creates the dynamic tension for the smash, a splash page that crushes it. That’s fine because essentially this formula is a continuation and payoff of the Page 1 setup.

Check out Batman #655 by legends Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert.

As I said in the intro, the first page of a new series represents an opportunity to slam your flag into the lunar surface and claim a reader’s attention. For that you’ll want a hook, namely something that is provocative that they may not have seen or heard before. All too often we writers and artists squander our chance to do that. On a side note, as a writer, I’ve learned to refrain from overusing splash pages because they can become a crutch (much like flashbacks or voice overs in movies) and many readers have become desensitized to them and see them as filler. Above Morrison and Kubert should their appropriate use for maximum impact.  

Of course, none of the above sees the light of day unless you can clearly convey your ideas to the artist(s), colorist and letterer. 

THE LYNX is a fantasy story; however, when discussing the narrative with artist Vittorio Garofoli, we agreed that his realistic style was crucial because to the people in this story, our fantasy was their reality. Mysticism was all around from birth to death and was an ordinary law of the universe in the same way that we treat gravity. What you will see in Vittorio’s art progressing from extreme roughs to the finished ink is an understanding of the story and control of the images to create a unique universe. 

With colorist Carmelo Monaco, it was important to build upon that reality, as well as convey things like the temperature dropping 20 degrees from one panel to the next. With both Vittorio and Carmelo as Europeans living in the seat of the Roman Empire, you feel their intrinsic understanding of lore, conquest and war in a way that many of us Americans and Canadians can’t. Sometimes Vittorio would send me pics of him literally hiking among ancient ruins. When it’s in your backyard, you get it. 

Letterer/designer/editor Marshall Dillon seized all the elements like a pitbull with a pot roast. 

Here’s the setup for the series and script for Page One (as I said, the setup and intro for the series is included in a bonus Blog #2:

THE LYNX

Written by: Michael Lent

Art by: Vittorio Garofoli

Color by: Carmelo Monaco

Lettering, Graphic Design & Editorial contributions by: Marshall Dillon

Cover by: TBD

PAGE 1

Panel 1

Two wagons in a procession of humanity seen in silhouette traveling from right to left across a pockmarked Nordic winter landscape. Some walk with horses, there’s a dog or two; however, the procession is somber and respectful. In fact, the whole village has turned out for this trek.

NARRATOR CAP: Mid 6th century in the Vendel Era, a.k.a. “The Prehistory.” Four hundred years before Christianity comes to the Norse lands. This is a savage, cold land of peril and mysticism. In short, a difficult time to be alive.

GAUPA NARRATION: Thorvald Hildibrandr our hǫfðingi*, our clan father is DEAD.

GAUPA NARRATION: He was my father…

Editorial Caption: * Hǫfðingi – Chieftain

Note: With his narrations Gaupa speaks directly to the reader.

 

Panel 2

The procession passes the mother of all trees where human and animal sacrifices hang. Again, show these in silhouette. Also, let’s limit the number we show here to maximize impact with the next panel.

GAUPA NARRATION: He lived life well, so it is a day of celebration.

Panel 3

Let’s fire both barrels by pulling back to discover that dozens of such sacrifices hang from the tree. In keeping with the narration, let’s show a bear and lamb hanging side-by-side.

GAUPA NARRATION: As a blood sacrifice, many of our slaves were given. With my bare hands I myself killed a lamb I raised from birth and put it in the tree with the others.

GAUPA NARRATION: My brother, Ulf, killed a bear in the same way.

Panel 4

The wagons approach a huge shale pile by a massive waterfall. We can see icicles where the falls are partially frozen in the intense cold. Snow along the parameter of the slag pile.

Norse men hack at a hole from the frozen, stoney ground. Behind them, we see the winter sun far away and low in the sky. Time’s a wastin’.  The next page helps give a fuller sense of what we’re seeing.

Note: there are many fine Norse books that will show typical winter garb for this period. Let me know if you need specific photo reference.

NARRATOR CAP:

Cattle die,

Kinsmen die,

Every man must perish,

Only reputation endures.

Gestaþáttr

ML Again: So now we hand things over to artist Vittorio Garofoli to see what he can make of the above.

 

VITTORIO GAROFOLI

Panel Artist

Garofoli has been a comic book artist for seven years, following three years of study at the School of Comics in Palermo, part of the prestigious Milan School of Comics. Faculty credits include credits on projects at Disney, Bonelli, Marvel, DC, Soleil and many other well-known entertainment companies.

Garofoli began his professional work at for Zenescope Entertaiment working on the long-running series Grimm Fairy Tales. He also worked on the well-regarded Dorian Gray series for TidalWave Productions. Garofoli has drawn for independent books and editors including CCTVYLLE, as well as various Kickstarter projects.

Interested in history, Garofoli loves the Viking Age and has studied it extensively, especially in preparation for this project. He is a devoted fan of the Vikings television series.

Currently, Garofoli is at work on the comic book miniseries CCTVYLLE by Italian writer Gianluca Bonomo who lives in London. CCTVYLLE is a despotic, sci-fi story. He drew the third issue last year and is now at work on the final two books.


Although I like drawing various kind of comic books, I usually draw in a realist art style for all genres whether they are superheroes, spy story, historical, sci-fi, or fantasy. My drawings are simple and classic. A realistic style dictates that I don’t have any particular signature elements or flourishes with my drawing. That said, I like to draw backgrounds with as many details as possible. I prefer to choose writers and subjects which are almost the same of my art style.

As an artist, the hardest challenge for me is to keep a faithful idea of the script according to the vision of the writer. Moreover, it’s very important to have constant feedback with the writer. This was especially crucial with THE LYNX because Michael Lent writes in American English and English is my second language. Also, the script calls for a lot of Old Norse words. When you’re trying to adapt yourself to the script and story, language barriers force you to go slow and carefully. So feedback is essential. If a writer isn’t clear about what they want, there can be misunderstandings. 

Besides following the script, I did a lot of research which was fun because I love so the Viking period. In fact, I’m a great fan the of Vikings TV series. I watched various movies dealing with that period, as well, and I used the series and the films for reference. Additionally, I read Torghal, a fantasy/sci-fi French comic book that’s set in the Viking age. Online research included “Atlas Obscura,” which is called “an explorer’s guide to world’s hidden wonders.” On this site I discovered an authentic Viking village movie set in Iceland that I used as reference source for the village in THE LYNX story.

For Page #1, my first goal was to bring readers through the harsh way that Vikings lived and the difficulties of their environment. For this reason, I decided to show the procession of travelers across the panels. It’s winter. The way is slow and difficult. We move past a tree with animal and maybe human skins that is mysterious and shocking. A reader wants to know what is happening in this strange place.

I sent the rough to Michael and then waited for his reaction:

Michael liked that all the details from the script were covered so we were ready for the next step: 

As you can see, things are coming together pretty good, so after another exchange of emails, we were ready to continue. 

A page should stand on its own merits even before color. I think we succeeded.

I recommended Carmelo Monaco for the coloring because I liked his work and was confident he would understand this story.

Now we move on to color with Carmelo. 

CARMELO MONACO

Colorist

A triple threat, Carmelo Monaco is an Italian comic-book artist, illustrator and colorist. He lives and works in the city of his birth, Catania, Sicily. He studied at School of Comics in Palermo, where he got his degree in 2013, focusing on digital 2-D animation.

Previously, Monaco worked as a background artist for Grafimated Cartoon on the feature film ”I Vespri Sicliani’.” (The Sicilian Vespers). The story is adapted from Guiseppe Verdi’s classic grand opera of the same name.

Since 2013, Monaco has worked as both artist and colorist for many comics including the long-running French series Totally Spies! Publishing credits include Disney, IDW, Tunuè, and Mondadori.

Monaco has taught anatomy for comic books and visual storytelling in the School of Comics in his hometown of Catania since 2015.

Carmelo’s interest in the subject matter and desire to work with artist Vittorio Garofoli brought him to THE LYNX. Currently, he is at work on a couple of other projects that he’s not at liberty to discuss.


In my own experience, collaboration between colorist, writer and artist can be heaven or hell. It really depends on people’s character. Sometimes the writer or the artist (or even both) are so emotionally attached to their project, that they start questioning every single choice you make as color artist… or asking for so many corrections, which really are way unfair, especially when looking at the budget and time constraints. I want to make the best possible product, but I think people need a fair amount of space, objectivity, ”artistic freedom” and, yes, confidence to do the best job possible. With Vittorio and Michael, I had none of these issues. I would be very happy if I could work with them both all the time.

Well, when you color the first page of a new project, it’s all about fun and excitement. For THE LYNX there were a few firsts for me. Going in, I had no idea what would work because I never worked with Vittorio before — even though I had known him and his work for years. Certainly, I am familiar with his style, a realistic mainstream style, like Bryan Hitch and that kind of artist (which I enjoy).  

Another first: writer Michael Lent and I had not worked together before but he had been working with Vittorio who recommended me for the project. So I read Michael’s script and found it very interesting. A good script inspires you visually and I could see that Vittorio had come up with a lot of special things visually. 

I’ve never colored a Viking fantasy story, but I know what kind of color style usually combines with this art. I decided to let things just happen, like floating with the process, but keeping in mind an underlying structure for what to do. It’s like swimming where your feet touch the bottom when you need to; however, because no matter what you’re coloring, color theory always works the same way. And that’s a sort of parachute you as the colorist must have, especially in pages like this, which are more about ambience and atmosphere, than characters.

I also did research. I looked on internet for references, I collected a fair amount of images, from tv shows, from movies about Vikings, and really a lot about sunshine and snow, from reality, from animation and video-games art books and even watercolor paintings (I am a big fan of watercolor artists, I love the medium) and then I was ready and started coloring the page. 

The first page must be intriguing and exciting for the reader, as much as the cover. It’s like a handshake — the way you present your product to a possible reader — so you don’t want to fail in that.

My main strategy for the page was to show different day lights through the panes to give a sense of time passing. I think about colors in comics as I think about a movie soundtrack. It’s good so long as it doesn’t overpower the images and the interpretations. I never bought a comic book because of the colors, because in the end, if the color is ”too much,” you can’t really read the story. And comics are all about telling a story, not watching beautiful images. That’s why I use textures and different brushes with different textures on, but I don’t want the results to be extreme. 

The most challenging element regarding Page 1 was the wooden boat on the final panel. I tried different colors with the goal to separate and make it pop (’cause it’s on the first plane) in contrast to the rest of the last panel. 

When I was fairly satisfied, I sent it off hoping Vittorio and Michael would like it. 

Color is such an emotional thing — I never quite know if my choice will work for the writer and the artist. But I always try to give a credible deepness, as happens in the real world. Since, this was the first page of the book I felt I had to nail it before we could go further with Marshall Dillon and lettering.

 

MARSHALL DILLON

Lettering, Graphic Design and Editorial Contributions

A comic book industry veteran, Dillon got his start in 1994 during the middle of the indie boom.

Over the years, he’s been everything from an independent self-published writer to an associate publisher working on properties like GI Joe, Voltron, and Street Fighter. Dillon has done just about everything except draw a comic book and has worked for just about every publisher except the “Big Two.”

Primarily a father and letterer these days, he also dabbles in old-school paper & dice RPG game design.

Like Michael Lent, Dillon also has Scandinavian roots and has studied the history, customs, mythology and language through the on-line lectures of American scholar and poet Dr. Jackson Crawford of the University of Colorado, an expert on Old Norse. A particular thrill was a recent trip to Iceland with Dillon’s family.

Previously, Dillon and Lent collaborated on i, HOLMES (Alterna) and worked at the Colorado-based game company Slime Sandwich. Currently, Dillon is at working on the long-running Wayward series that will end with Issue 30. For more on his upcoming projects see Blog #2.


What drew me to this project? Vikings. What? You want more? I’m more or less 1/4 Swedish, 1/4 Irish, and half various other northern European ethnicities… so that means I’m more or less a bastard son of the Viking process. I like that I know of the culture. I like the good movies and TV shows I’ve seen. I like the mystery surrounding what little we know of the Vikings. There’s very little written by them, and most of that comes from later centuries when they’d settled down so the tales were already anachronistic by the time they set them down on paper.

As far as the choices and challenges I had in lettering Page 1 of THE LYNX, we’ll hopefully be having a video to go along with this at some point soon, but for now, I’ll try to summarize. When lettering you make choices about balloon style, caption style, and font style, as well as how you want to convey emotion. Is simply bolding a word enough or do you need to make it larger?  How do you want to handle shouting, how do you want to handle the subtitles of speech, the pauses, the UMs, the AHs, and the emphasis implied by the speaker. All of these things happen for me when I start a new project. Often it takes the whole first issue to work out the basics.

My priorities are STORY. Always. We all serve the story. How to make the lettering mesh with the art and convey the intent of the writer and the artist — that’s the primary goal. To this end, Mike and I have talked at length about this project. I did a deep dive on the script and came back with notes. Lots of notes. And some questions. That’s my editorial side kickin’ in. Plus, Mike and I have worked together before. We both know the drill. 

I haven’t really discussed anything with Vittorio or Carmelo yet, but we’re pretty early in the process. Right now, there isn’t anything specific to point out except that so far it seems that the landscape is a character and my choices will honor the landscape as much as possible. I’ll be staying out of the way as much as possible but leading the eye as needed. It’s a dance.

The main lettering font is one of my own design. It has most international characters, so the Old Norse language should work pretty well. I also have a rough runic version of the same font so we can drop in runes as needed. The font itself was designed to be pretty straight forward and thin — similar to the way most stone cut alphabets are so, again, I think it fits in stylistically and story-wise.

This is the first pass through on the very first page. I will continue to look at the page to make everything is balanced. Once we have a logo worked out I can make adjustments to the top part of Page #1 (or we can omit it entirely).

-Marshall Dillon

Check back next week for Part two of this special guest blog series where we learn more about this creative team and what other projects they are working on.


Follow: Michael Lent

Follow: Marshall Dillon

Follow: Vittorio Garofoli

Follow: Carmelo Monaco


Banner Photo by Lena Rose on Unsplash

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Making a GREAT Paper texture in Clip Studio Paint (Manga Studio 5)


Making a GREAT Paper texture in Clip Studio Paint (Manga Studio 5)

Texture overlay on the left. Flat color on the right.

So you’ve made a great illustration in Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop. Your line work (if you’re a line artist) is the way you want it, you have an eye catching color palette, your composition is dynamic, but there’s something about it that still feels just a little off. It feels a little too, well, “digital”. If you do artwork digitally, or color scans of your traditional art and digitally color them, you may have run into this. Working digitally is fantastic for so many reasons but it can sometimes result in your art lacking the tooth of traditional artwork.

There are of course a variety of ways to remedy this. If you have a more painterly style you can use textured brushes, from brush makers like Kyle T. Webster, Ray Frenden, Paolo Limoncelli (DAUB Brushes), Brian Allen, and many others. There’s also the grain filter effect that you can apply in Photoshop (Comic artist Paolo Rivera mentions how he does this in his Comic Book Coloring Tutorial.) All of these methods are totally valid and I’ve used all of them at one time or another. Recently though, I discovered a fairly simple way to create a really fun paper texture (seen above) to add over your work.

Note: This tutorial is geared toward users of Clip Studio Paint (Manga Studio 5) but is possible in Photoshop and similar programs that have layer modes. I’ve provided a dropbox link at the end of this post to a .psd that contains layers which will allow you to replicate this in Photoshop to some degree.

So how do we create the texture overlay pictured above? In Clip Studio Paint there is something called the Materials Palette. The materials we need are in the Dot and Sand Pattern palette’s in the Basic Materials palette. If you don’t know where those are you can find them by going to Window>Materials>Basic

Presumably you have your file open at this point. If not, do that if you want to follow along.

STEP 1: Adding Materials

Open the Basic Materials palette. Select Dot from the sub menu and pick any of the half tone dot screens. You can always adjust the screen frequency, density, and angle settings later in the Layer Property Palette, and we will.

I advise choosing the circle patterns. Black dots are probably more useful for this tutorial.

Once you’ve selected a dot pattern you like click and drag it over and on to your image canvas.

Once you’ve dropped the dots into your canvas you should see something similar to the image below. If you’re working over an illustration and not a flat color like me you’ll obviously see the dots over your image.

Next we will replicate this step but instead of dots we’ll be dragging in a noise screen over top of our halftone dots. You can find it in the Sand Pattern sub menu in the Basic palette.

Now you’ve hopefully got something like this on your canvas.

STEP 2: Adjusting Materials (Optional but recommended)

Next we’ll be making adjustments to the screen frequency, density and angle settings of the screen layers in the Layer Property Palette. If the default settings are fine to your eye feel free to skip to the next step.

If you want to make modifications select your Halftone Dot layer in your layers palette and direct your attention to the Layer Property Palette (Window>Layer >Property)

As stated before we’ll be adjusting the Number of Screen Frequency and the Density sliders. The higher you set these numbers the smaller and more compact the dots will appear. This is honestly more of a preference thing and it depends on the image. Sometimes you’ll want bigger dots, sometimes smaller dots. Do what looks good for your piece.

For this example I’ve set the Screen Frequency for my Dots layer to 59 and my density to 40. There’s no particular science to this, it’s just what looked good to me.

This creates pretty small dots that are fairly close together. If you zoom in and turn off visibility for your noise layer, it should look like this.

Next open the Dot settings sub menu in the Layer Property palette and set the angle to 55.

Now the dots are on more of a diagonal. This prevents some of the “tiling” you may have seen on the canvas screen shot above. This makes the texture a bit more organic looking.

Select your noise layer and turn it’s visibility back on. In the Layer Property palette set it’s density to 40.

Now it should look like this. Do you see the texture forming? 😀

STEP 3: Setting Layer Modes and Adjusting Layer Opacity

Step 3 is the simplest step. We are going to set both our Noise and Dot Layers to Overlay.
So orange!

Once we’ve done this, the black dots on our Dot and Noise layers will pick up the color of the layer(s) below them. It works well for what we’re doing but as you can see it has turned our yellow into an orange. We do want to see the texture, just not that much. So next we’ll lower the opacity of both of our screen layers. You can choose whatever looks good on your image, but for this I set my Noise Screen opacity to 30% and my dot Screen to 25% opacity.

In case you don’t know where the Opacity slider is.
Thats better.
Now the texture is there but still subtle enough that it won’t greatly distort your color palette. It may seem almost too subtle in the above screen shot. But look at the image below.  I’ve masked out a section so you can more clearly see the texture.
There you go! A fun paper texture overlay to add a little traditional feel to your digital work. If you’re curious what it looks like over some art and not just a layer of flat color, here’s a recent piece that I added this texture to. A fan art piece of Hellboy and Kaoru & Kuma; characters from Champions of Hara which I helped create!
Hellboy,  Kaoru and Kuma. Done in Clip Studio Paint EX. Brushes and pen tools from Frenden, Daub, Brian Allen, and Robert Marzullo.
Close up on Hellboy’s beautiful Mug for detail.
Texture masked out in the center.
So there you go! Feel free to adjust your opacity, dot settings, or anything else. Make this texture work for you and if you come up with anything better feel free to leave your discovery in the comments.
 
Photoshop Users (Or Manga Studio Users that don’t feel like doing the leg work) You can download a file from HERE which contains raster versions of the Screen and Noise layers shown in this tutorial. They are 500dpi and 9 x 12 inches.
Happy Arting!


An illustrator, comic artist, and storyteller Jason Piperberg has worked on projects like Raising Dion and Champions of Hara as well as his own creator owned comic: Spaceman and Bloater.

 

In 2012 Jason graduated from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in illustration. He has always had a love for illustration, comics, super heroes, sci-fi, robots, and anything related to narrative imagery and storytelling.

He currently works as a freelance illustrator and is available for projects including: Book illustration, comic books, comic covers, storyboards, concept art, editorial illustration, t-shirts, posters, album art, and more.

If you like Jason’s work or want to contact him click here


Banner art used with permission from Jason Piperberg

This blog originally published on September 5, 2017 at pipelineillustration.blogspot.com

Reblogged with permission from Jason Piperberg

 

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Comic Printing 101: Understanding the Basics of File Setup


Comic Printing 101: Understanding the Basics of File Setup

 Over the years, we’ve encountered a lot of disgruntled comic book creators whose files were sent to the press by their printers despite having layout discrepancies.

Let’s just say that the results of their print runs with the wrong specifications were nothing short of heartbreaking.

This is the reason why it’s important to be aware of the technical side of printing a comic book to avoid problems down the line.

Setting up your comic book files for printing in itself is actually a lot simpler than it would seem. Dealing with Trim, Bleed and Safe lines isn’t that difficult, but it’s very important to know the technical aspects behind it to avoid disrupting a print run and wasting hours in file revision.

So, whether you’re a professional comic creator, self-publishing indie or creating comic books for fun, understanding the basics of file setup is essential.

Basic File Setup Guide

Because most comics are saddle stitched (staple bound), this will just be a basic guide and won’t cover other types of comics. Perfect bound (PUR) and hardcore cover graphic novels require a slightly different approach when it comes to creating print files.

For a more realistic example, we have also taken a page of comic art, which is not perfectly laid out to the page size. We did this for two reasons. Firstly, to better demonstrate how the different Trim, Bleed and Safe lines work. Secondly, because we know from experience that many people are so busy bringing their stories to life and that they only consider how to print right at the end of the creative process.

Paper Size

Before anything else, you need to choose the size of your comic. US Standard (6.7″ x 10.2″) is the most popular, while Manga Standard (5″ x 7.5”) and UK Standard (6.2″ x 9.4″) sizes are less common, while some people prefer print typical industry print sizes such 8.5″ x 11”, 5.5″ x 8.5”, A4 and A5.

In this example we are going to look at US Standard, although the Bleed and Safe areas are typically the same regardless of your chosen paper size.

What is Trim?

Let’s start with the Trim line. This is where, in a perfect world, you would want the page of your comic to finish. When working on your layout, be mindful of where your Trim lines are located, because there is always a margin of error where your layout is printed and cut. This is why we have a Bleed area, which exists outside of the Trim line and a Safe area, which exists further inside of the Trim line.

What is Bleed? 

See the part of the print file that’s highlighted in red?

 This is the Bleed area and this is where the blade typically falls outside of the Trim line during the paper cutting process. Basically, you need your artwork or background to extend into the Bleed area, while expecting most of this area to get cut off. If you don’t have a Bleed area and the printing machine cuts your paper where the Bleed should be, you’ll end up with a white edge from where there is no ink on the paper.

Why does this happen? This is because print is more art than science. While we’ve become accustomed to uploading artwork to exact pixel measurements online, printing machines cut hundreds and thousands of sheets of paper to size in a manufacturing process, which is not so precise.

This cut can be affected by many things such as paper thickness, finish and the set up of the machine itself. All of which can cause tiny shifts in where the blade falls.

Anyway, Bleed is the printing industry term for any solid color that extends to the edge of the paper. To create a Bleed area, you simply add 0.125” outside of your Trim line, to the top, bottom, left and right of your design.

Creating Bleed protects you from printing errors as it helps ensure that your comic book design will fully extend to the edges. Imagine if you print your file in its exact final output size without adding a bleed area and the printing shifts your layout by a few millimeters? You’ll definitely end up with a blank white paper peeking on the edge of your page.

This is why it’s crucial to not put texts or images near the Bleed area, because it could be at risk of getting cut off. You can see in the photo how the tip of the speech bubble at the top of the page is likely to be chopped off!

What is a Safe area? 

While your biggest concerns will be your Trim line and Bleed area, the Safe area is also important, because the cutting blade could also fall inside of the Trim line.

You can see the Safe area highlighted in yellow on the example print file.

How big you want your Safe area to be is completely up to you. Some people place their Safe line the same distance as their Bleed line inside from the Trim line. But we recommend that it is 0.25” inside of the Trim line, just to be “extra safe”.

Due to mechanical variations in printing, where the blade falls could occur anywhere between the outside Bleed line and the outside of the Safe line. See what I meant about printing being more art than science?

Don’t worry though, this is to allow for small shifts in the alignment of the paper as its stacked high on large print runs and put through the guillotine. The dimensions of the paper and your design will always be consistent, but the alignment may move slightly in one direction during the print run.

So while you should expect the cut to fall within the Bleed area. It is advised that you keep all your important texts and images inside the Safe area as a precaution.

Tips in Setting Up Your File

Here’s a quick summary of everything we’ve gone through and recap of all the lines and areas on the print file itself.

  • Always expand your design to cover the Bleed area and prevent the appearance of irregular white borders from cutting.
  • The Bleed area starts at the Trim line and finishes 0.125” outside of the Trim line.
  • Keep the important parts of your illustrations and texts inside the Safe area.
  • The Safe area begins 0.25” inside of the Trim line.
  • Don’t forget to turn off the template layer before sending to print!

 



About the Author

Adam Smith lives a life of swashbuckling adventure at Mixam – a little print company with big ambitions! And they have been gaining a reputation for their comic printing services ever since they printed the Etherington Brothers’ Kickstarter How To Think When You Draw.

Artwork by Sires Jan Black.


Banner Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash







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Pitching Your Comic: 6 Tips to Get Your Comics the Attention They Deserve Online

 

Arguably, one of the most difficult and stressful things in any Comic book creator’s professional life is getting exposure for their work.

If you care to spend a few hours trying to navigate the tricky minefield that is cold-calling potential news outlets, review sites, podcasts, potential publishers and others, you will more than likely discover two common issues:

  1. Finding WHO to contact is often very difficult as more and more of these places are inadvertently or intentionally hiding their contact information.
  2. If you do find a contact, getting that person or organization to respond and take action can be a nearly impossible task.

With that being said, we’d like to throw our experience having been on both sides of this fence into the conversation and share with you some techniques, tactics, and ways of thinking that will hopefully help you vanquish that formidable foe that is PITCHING YOUR COMICS!

In this article, we talk less about hard tactics and more about building relationships and making your Comic as prolific as possible. This is about your online presence and how to leverage it in order to find the success you’re looking for in the Comics industry.


1.Change your thoughts; change your behavior

Firstly, let’s talk about mindset. The more we connect with this fantastic community, the more and more we’re convinced that this is one of the major hurdles keeping many creatives from achieving the success they crave. We’re not talking about a “you can do it” mindset. The fact that you’ve already taken the plunge and poured your heart and soul into a Comic means that you know you can do it. We’re talking about patience, tenacity, and the self-permission required to promote your own awesomeness.

  • Have patience. Nothing happens overnight. Expect this process to take years! You’re building something you want to last forever, so take your time and do it right. Most Brands (and that’s what you are now; a brand) take an average of 3 years to gain enough exposure and recognition from their prospective audience in order to turn their work into a viable career & cash flow.
  • Be tenacious. Persistence, consistency, determination, “get back on the horse-id-ness”. You have to make the decision that nothing is going to stop you from achieving your dream and push through the hard times, the slow times, the time’s people ignore you, are mean to you, or are just plain indifferent to you. Put your shoulder to wheel and don’t look up until you start to feel it moving. Only the strong will survive the Comics game.
  • Give yourself permission to promote your own work. Many creators struggle with this one. The thought that they don’t have the right to ask for people to read and buy their Comics because they are “nobody” is pervasive in our industry. Everyone starts out as nobody. You have to be brave and give yourself the permission to pitch and promote your own work. For those of you with crippling introvertedness, try setting up a fake PR account. Give your PR rep a name and email account and let him or her pitch, sell and plug your work. It’s like business Cosplay!



2.Be prepared

Take it from us, an unprepared Comic creator is a forgettable Comic creator. If you’re not ready to be found and put your best foot forward, busy customers, news outlets, and publishers will simply move on. So get your shit together!

  • Have a digital review copy ready to go. Create a compressed digital version of your Comic that you can quickly and easily share with prospective readers. Use a service like https://www.ilovepdf.com/ to both create your PDF Comic and compress with no visible loss of quality. A PDF that is less than 100 MB is ideal. It will download very quickly, preventing your reader from getting bored waiting and moving on. Using a service like https://wetransfer.com/ is great for sharing your Comics. (Note: PDF is the most widely accessible file type. If you choose to save as a .CBR you may find many folks simply can’t open it and won’t bother downloading any special software to do so. Sorry, but it’s true.)
  • Showcase & sell your work. If you have a website, upload lots of samples of your Comics and make sure you offer them for sale as well! Make sure that once you have a potential fan’s attention, that you feed that attention with lots to look at, read, and ultimately, buy! Make use of the internet and its platforms. You can upload samples and sales links to sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Behance.net, Artstation.com and of course ComixCentral.com!
  • Be easy to find! If we had a nickel for every person who’s Comic book we have read with no contact information inside, and another nickel for those who we’ve tried to contact with no email on their website or social accounts, we’d have so many freakin’ nickles! People, you have to let readers know how to find you! It’s imperative to have your contact info on all your social media accounts, your website, and your Comics! How is Marvel supposed to find you?! They (and others) sure as hell aren’t going run around trying to figure it out. We’ve had people say to us, “why can’t they just tweet me? Or DM me?” Why?! Because professionalism. That’s why. Don’t be stubborn about this, this isn’t a battle you want to lose. Be easy to contact!

3.Be social – Make and maintain friendships

We’ve been paying attention to Comic creators for a long time now, and the one common trait we see in all those that inevitably rise above their peers is friendliness. Weird right? Or is it. When you consider the old adage, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know” this stops seeming weird. Our world is undergoing a massive transition. The old ways of networking still work, but the new network is bigger and more powerful than anyone could have imagined. There are over 7 billion people on this rock, and while you once may have been able to touch and talk to a few hundred at your local Comic-con, you now have (outlandish as it seems) the opportunity to turn billions into your potential fans and buyers. And you never know, who the person you’re talking with knows. Treat everyone like they’re someone, and you’ll never go wrong.

  • Set up social accounts on all the platforms that appeal to you and start using them regularly. You might think this is stupid, but if Facebook is powerful enough to sway an election, it’s powerful enough to launch your Comic book career. We have also found Twitter to be a hotbed of Indie Comics conversations and Instagram a great way to drive traffic to our site, but you should use the ones that are the most fun for you. After all, you’re going to have to maintain them. And maintain them you must! Post new content at least once a day (as long as it’s fresh and interesting. If not, step up your game) and interact with your followers… well… as much as you can. There is a direct correlation between social interaction and sales. It’s going to take some time, remember to have faith and patience.
  • Do your homework and make an All-Star list. Do you know the top 10 people you’d like to know who you are? Create an All-Star list of the top 10, or more, people you’re interested in getting to know. Search those folks out on social media and start interacting. DON’T be a creepy asshole though! Just follow them. Pay attention to their posts. Comment when you feel interested in the post. RT when you feel it’s appropriate. Tag them on your posts – THOUGHTFULLY! Ask questions. Don’t be pushy and DON’T get pissed if they chose not to respond. That’s ok, find a new All-Star! There are so many amazing people out there to learn from and network with. The goal is to get on their radar and create a connection. You’d be surprised how quickly you can become “friends” with people you previously may have thought untouchable.
  • Engage. Do not use your social media accounts as a megaphone for the things you want to pitch. This is the fastest way to get unfollowed. Spamming social is always a bad idea. Instead, find like-minded people and make friends! Ask them questions about their work, join Twitter chats like #CXCpowerhour, join groups on FB, play Hashtag games, ask questions, share your works in progress, ask for feedback, have fun! Most of all, remember that social media is meant for being social. It’s a conversation regardless of platform, and the more social you can be, the faster your audience and a network of friends and fans will grow. It’s not rocket science champ. Being popular works. Always has, always will. Instead of hating on it, use it to your advantage.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions. If you’re an introvert, this may sound like sheer hell. We get it. But making “real life” friends is not only great for you personally, but also goes a long way in helping you reach your Comic book goals and growing the indie Comics community. You can find local groups of creators in almost every city in the world by simply Googling “Comic book creator groups in my area” or using Meetup.com. If none exist, don’t be a chicken and get one started!

4.Don’t sell yourself short

Resist the urge to belittle or downplay your own Comics. You’d be surprised how much self-deprecation in this particular instance influences people’s decisions regarding your work. When we receive emails from creators telling us their Comics “aren’t very good, but I’m trying” or “I’m still learning, so please take that into consideration” as opposed to “This is my Comic, I’ve created it over the last 5 years and I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve accomplished”, it’s stunning how much these words skew our opinions. So even if you HATE your own and think you suck worse than everyone else on the planet, fake it. You don’t’ have to brag, but resist the urge to shit on yourself.

  • Write 2. When sending your requests for review, or publishing to a perspective outlet, write 2 emails, DMs or PMs. The first one is to get all the flowery, self-deprecating language out of your system. Really go for it. The second will be a copy of the first with all the self-hate stripped out. Keep to the point, be proud of your work and bonus tip: keep the ass kissing to a minimum;P
  • Practice being nice to yourself. Being kind to yourself doesn’t make you arrogant, but it does make you confident. Try and catch yourself being nasty to your Comics and yourself. Everytime you say something mean. Stop. Then think of the exact opposite sentence and say it out loud. – “This Comic is embarrassing. I’m the worst.” turns into “This Comic makes me proud, I’m pretty great!”. – Yes, it’s cheesy, but consider this: Neural pathways in the brain are strengthened into habits through the repetition and practice of thinking, feeling and acting. So just give it a shot if you’re prone to self-hate talk.



5.Get creative & standout from the crowd

We’d love to write all kinds of things in here, but that would sort of be taking away from the creative part. So we’ll leave you with a few “primers” for your imagination to work on.

  • Create a free “teaser comic” and give it to everyone who looks your way.
  • Run a contest
  • Create a Youtube show about your creative process, daily habits, your dog who tells you his thoughts on your Comics!
  • Sell or give away swag you create
  • Create a soundtrack or Spotify playlist to accompany your Comic
  • Contact 100 Instagram influencers and offer to draw their avatars or write a short story about them and their followers
  • Create trailer videos
  • Get your messed up friend to do a live read of your Comic to a group of Senior Citizens on Facebook live
  • Be rich and famous (;P
  • Pull a PR stunt
  • The ideas are endless! If you need any, you can always reach out to us… we have some hella creatives we know:)

6.Cold call

This is part many people dread. The Cold call. Fortunately, this doesn’t actually involve phoning people anymore (not for pitching Comics anyhow). But it does involve sending out custom and thoughtful emails to prospective publishers, news outlets and anyone you want to read your Comic. Your ultimate goal is to leave to an impression and create a relationship. Below are some tips on how to do just that.

  • First. Construct thoughtful and to the point messages. Create a template to work from (we’ve included a sample below), but resist the urge to copy and paste in bulk. It’s our experience that anything that starts with, “To whom it may concern” and reeks of being a form letter, gets deleted immediately. If you can’t be bothered to talk to us like people you want to have a relationship with, we can’t be bothered to read it. This was a hard lesson learned on our end as creatives as well. So don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen into the copy & paste trap in the past. When crafting your messages be yourself. Be honest and upfront about what you want. This is so if the recipient decides they like you, they know EXACTLY what to do for you.
  • Slide into the DM! This is a weird phrase that used to imply you were going to send a photo of your junk to another person in their direct mail on a social media platform. It kind of still does. Don’t do that. But DO send thoughtfully written and to the point PERSONAL messages to people, you’d like to connect with. The best way to get a response in this fashion is to offer them something they want. Do not randomly send out your Comic book. No one wants to have something the didn’t ask for shoved in their face, no matter how awesome it is. This is human nature. Instead, ask for permission to do so! Strike up a conversation. Be an f’ing human! Say Hi. Show them you’ve taken the time to see what they’re up to and be friendly. Then, if you get a response, ask for permission to send them a review copy of your Comic. Again, this was a hard learned lesson on our part! So learn from our experience. Spamming is a dick move bro.
  • Stay on the radar. If you’re going after a high-level critic, publisher or influencer, chances are they aren’t going to respond to your first interaction. They’re busy and are probably being solicited multiple times every hour. Your job is to stay on their radar. Check in on a random basis. Send follow up emails and DM’s. Don’t be obnoxious, give them breathing room, be professional and polite, but don’t let them out of your sight. That is not until you get told, in no uncertain terms that it’s a hard NO. (Even then, stay on the radar) If you stay on their radar long enough and I guarantee something will happen. It might be a restraining order, but it will be something!

We’ve provided a sample email to get you started:

Hello Name, (do your best to find the direct contact you are trying to reach. Using a person’s name goes a long way when trying to establish a bond. #science.)

My name is —————-. I’m the (writer, creator, illustrator, etc) of (Comic book name). If you’re not familiar with it I’d love to provide you with this (preview, review copy, issue 1, etc) you can quickly download using this link. (link to wetransfer.com file)

From here on out, it has to be very personal. Sorry sport. But we hate form letters! Let your personality shine, be yourself. Keep the self-deprecation low and the over-the-top ass kissing even lower. You are attempting to create a business relationship, you don’t want to give away any leverage.  So keep it short, to the point, polite and don’t forget to ask for what you want! The wost is a rambling email that never makes the ask. Be honest and upfront about what you want, so if the recipient decides they like you, they know EXACTLY what to do for you.

Finish up with a plea for them to contact you with any questions and don’t forget to add all your contact details in the footer. Chances are if you’ve made it this far, the person you are contacting will want to stalk you a little and make sure you’re not a Nazi or something that could hurt their public reputation. So make it easy for them

Sincerely,

My Name

Mywebsite | My CXC ComixShop  |  Twitter | Facebook  |  Email address (yes again)  |  etc


And that’s all we have today! Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions or comments please let us know below or on our Social media accounts! Now get to it, you can do this!


 






 

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The Most Important Video-game You’ll Ever Play: A Nerd Metaphor for Success

blog-headers_monday-motivation_1

 

Competition is a beautiful thing. This is such a weird realization to hit a universal lover like myself.

As a person who does his best to appreciate as many people as possible (and fails constantly), I have realized that this truth is a fantastic relief. There’s a massive old-school misconception swimming around in the self-help ocean that is hurting people. The message that everyone can get what they desire out of life is true to a point, I guess, BUT many will not. I don’t make it my goal to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s not my job as an encouraging entity to present a Barney-and-Friends reality either. People will get tired. They will get weary. They will get trapped in corners by monsters that only exist in their imagination. It’s because self-help often projects an all-in, one-and-done mentality. Sure, we can talk about how people “learn from failure” and “get up and try again,” but the brain’s primary instinct is to survive. It fears actual death when the only thing really dying is perhaps the current idea of self, only to be resurrected again a moment later. We get unlimited tries until we stop breathing. My point: Life is the most important video game you’ll ever play. 

The biggest identity crisis within this type of positivity is this: everyone seems to think that each person is their own celebrity. That’s not the world we live in. Pay close attention though. I’m not saying that everyone doesn’t have value or isn’t important. I’m saying people focus on a celebrity end-game rather than thinking about what they can do to provide genuine value.

Here’s another scary thought for you — I haven’t REALLY figured out how I can provide genuine value yet either, and I’m 32. I’m crazy insecure. I worry about my age and the amount of time I have to make an impact. I worry about something I just posted at least once a day. I wonder if people are actually looking at my content. I’m learning as I go. I’m overwhelmed by the internet world and the flood of information we all have access to. As I’ve said many times before, I’m incredibly human. It’s a tired truth, but a really valuable reminder nonetheless.

Despite all of those concerns, I still love being in the trenches. Why? Because “Everybody wins” is a wonderful lie. Regardless of a person’s situation or environment, the golden truth is that each person gets to define “winning” in his/her own way.

Does the fact that everyone gets to define winning means that everybody wins? Absolutely not — you still have a chance to lose. The best news you could ever get is that life is much more like a video game than a lot of people would like to admit. Unless your body gives out on you, you can always hit the reset button. Each time you hit the reset button, you get to take everything you learned from losing a life and apply it to your brand new journey. In other words, each time you “die” in this life, you come back with upgrades.

The gift of losing exists for the same reason that human beings are mortal. A part of who we are will always love the chase at certain moments. It’s human nature to desire progress. I wish everyone in the world would put a sign on their bathroom mirrors that says, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Screw up. Fall down. Walk away. Let a business crash. Bomb in front of an intimidating audience. Have the worst day of your life. Wake up covered in mud. Realize you’re still in the game dirty as all hell, and realize that being human is the ONLY reason winning is possible in the first place.


by Chris Hendricks 

ComixCentral COO and host of the ComixCentral Podcast – Chris has reached over 100,000 people, young and old, from all walks of life throughout the US, Canada, and Europe using his music, spoken word and personal stories of transformation.

 







 

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Link Your Site

blog-headers+link-your-site-comixcentral

 

Follow these simple steps to link your own website to ComixCentral.

Link your ComixShop, Profile, Comic in Progress or any page on ComixCentral.


Step 1

Choose a button, banner or sidebar square on the “Link Your Site” page.

comixcentral_leaderboard_my comixshop_728x90


Step 2

Copy the code below the button, banner or sidebar square.

link_your_site to comixshop


Step 3

Replace the red section “https://www.comixcentral.com/placeyourcomixshopurlhere/” with your own ComixShop URL.


Step 4

Paste the code into your website’s Html on the page and in the place you want the banner, badge or sidebar square to appear.


Step 5

Test!

Click your link. It should now go to the page you directed it too.


 





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How to Upload & Sell Your Comics on ComixCentral

blog-headers.uploading-sell-comics-tutorial

Step 1

Open your ComixShop.



Step 2

Add a new product.


Step 3

Fill in your Comic book details and add the PDF file so customers can purchase your digital Comicbook.


And that’s it! You’re all set.

Your Comic will now be submitted for review and will be added to our Marketplace for sale in the next few days, as long as you’ve followed our Uploading Guidelines. If there is a problem, support will contact you to sort the issue out as quickly as possible. Watch the quick tutorial video below if you’re still a little sketchy on the details;)


Welcome to ComixCentral! If you have any issues or need any assistance, check out our forums or you can contact our support email at any time.

 


 



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Comic Shops Open Up About How to Get Your Comics on Their Shelves

sell comics stores

If ever there was a field where independent creators have it rough, it’s the comic book industry.

Completing any project can be a feat in itself but with comics, you have to have it all (as in finished comic book product) and hope that you can recoup your expenses monetarily or at least in the capital of prestige/notoriety.

So, as a way to help guide indie creators to greater heights, I talked to several different comic book stores about their ordering processes, how indie books make it to their shelves, what books seem to sell and ideas on getting indie books in stores. If you don’t already, you should fully understand the juggernaut you’re up against coming out of the gates. Out of the stores contacted the majority reported their independent/non-DC/Marvel titles sales were only 5-20%. Since Image was included in these numbers (which is essentially just a smaller version of the Big Two) it’s safe to assume the percentage for non-Image independent books drops even further. Obviously, as in any competition against established products, the uphill battle is very steep indeed. But not impossible, and this is where the owners have keener sight and advice.


1. Any Insight into why certain titles seem to take off compared to other titles? What seems to misfire?

Dave Michaels of eXpertComics: “I find what works in the indies better than anything is word of mouth. If a book is not doing well, it is probably because the fans and retailers are not spreading the word in the shops and online.

Jim Drucker of NewKadia.com: “Marketers have been trying for about 150 years to figure out what products the public will grab onto. You never know.”

Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomicbooks.com: “I think some non-DC/Marvel titles fail because many are uninspired 3rd rate DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse wannabe books. The publishers are simply trying to create what other publishers are already doing better, maybe in the hopes of securing a job with those publishers. Some creators seem to think “indie” is simply a step up the rung. I also think many floundering indie titles could benefit from stronger editors. Overall, crappy art, lame writing, uninspired storytelling. In many cases, you can judge a bad book by its cover.”

John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics: “Indie titles are just like a mainstream book. It’s like Batman except his butler is a girl! Whoa. It’s like Superman only he’s kind of a jerk. It’s like Justice League only they hate each other.”


2. How does the person responsible for ordering make their specific choice of titles and the quantity they order?

Dave Michaels: We specifically have on online subscription service. I believe we order based on what is pre-ordered mostly, and secondly, we try to order based on mainstream exposure and/or ‘hype.’”

Jim Drucker: “Based on past sales of those titles.”

Ryan Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple: “Diamond Previews is our main catalog but we also look at emails, mailings and get many calls and visits directly from creators and publishers alike. Generally, we will look at the creative team, publisher credibility, story concept and artwork to help determine ordering levels.”

Benn Ray: “I think my filter works something like this: if the book looks like a wannabe DC/Marvel superhero book, I’m not ordering it. If it’s a hokey-looking genre book, sci-fi/ fantasy, I’m not inclined to order it. If I’ve never heard of the publisher, the writer, or the artist, it’s unlikely I’m going to take a chance on that book. If the art looks poorly computer colored, computer-generated or the story concept seems hackneyed, I’m probably not going to order it. If the art looks “manga-inspired” I’m probably going to skip the book. My store focuses on alternative/underground books, so I’m more apt to carry those. If it’s a publisher I recognize as doing quality work, if the book has artists/writers I know I have an audience for, I’m more apt to carry their book. I’d rather miss an issue or two of a new comic and have customers ask me to order it than get stuck with a really crappy book that I”m embarrassed to have on my shelves that I can’t get rid of.”

John Robinson: “Managers base their ordering on their personal tastes, number of pre-orders from customers and the current amount of buzz surrounding the title.”

3. In terms of sales does anything stand out to you as remarkable from the past few years, as far as indie publishing?

Dave Michaels: “I don’t know if this counts but I would say the resurgence of Archie and the whole relaunch of the Archie line of comics shocks me. Whoever decided to reboot the line in that way is absolutely brilliant! I think the indie market should be thinking about tapping into that fan base.

Jim Drucker: “TV shows and movies and other mass media and massive social media all contribute to sales of various titles.”

Ryan Liebowitz: “Image Comics are starting to outsell Marvel and DC titles. We also have seen much success from publishers like Black Mask, Boom!, Valiant and others on select titles.”

Benn Ray: “We’ve seen a big resurgence in interest in self-published mini-comic.”

4. Any advice or suggestions as to how someone with a self-published book would best go about getting it on comic book store shelves?

Dave Michaels: “My best advice for indie creators would be to use the times and social media as much as possible. We live in a big “convention era.” Try to get booths at cons both big and small, do panels, interact with fans. Also, the internet and social media is our best tool today. Get online make Facebook pages, do the Twitter thing, get a Kickstarter going. These are the best avenues we have today. Also, go to local comic shops and ask them to put your stuff on the shelf. There are not many stores that won’t support local content. Make friends and fans and get out there!”

Jim Drucker: “ A, have a ground-breaking idea. There is no substitute for quality and originality. No amount of great marketing can sell AND maintain sales for a lousy product. B, have a strong social media presence. If young musicians can find a worldwide audience from YouTube, aspiring writers and artists and comic book creators can to with the right product. C, have the necessary capital. Starting any new business takes a great product but it is expensive. I have seen HUNDREDS of comic books that published only one issue. Many, deservedly so. But some, I thought had some potential, but for reasons unknown to me, there was never a second or third issue. My guess is that poor early sales sapped their budget. There are countless examples of products in other industries that took YEARS to catch on. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you may not stay in business long enough to catch on.”

Ryan Liebowitz: “Self-published works that are not solicited through Diamond are very difficult to get onto shelves. Their stronghold on the industry is criminal and another distributor needs to form to help all publishers get into the hands of comic book fans.”

Benn Ray: “There is no magic bullet or quick fix or trick to this.”

John Robinson: “The thing I tell anyone that is self-publishing is to take a hard look at their own buying habits. Ask yourself some questions. Do you buy Stray Bullets every month? Are you interested in Zombie Tramp? What indie titles have gotten you to buy them faithfully month after month and what was it that got you to try them? I constantly get people that buy only Marvel/DC type books doing their own self-published book and not understanding why no one buys it. Every item in the store is fighting for your attention–what’s unique about your property? Could be just great art. Could be it fills a niche that is currently not being filled in the marketplace.”


So there you have it, folks, straight from the mouths of those who know and want to see indie, self-publishers and creators succeed.

There are certainly a few key takeaways. Even if you can’t use a hot established property such as Archie, maybe try and tap into the essence of what is attracting so much attention today both in comics and Comic related TV programming. Support other indie/self-published books. Research and explore the market. Be original, don’t clone the big Marvel/DC titles. Or if you do, put a real spin on it that no one has read before. (It’s the Justice League but they’re vampire zombies!) Lastly, and most importantly, network the hell out of yourself and your book. Without that, even the greatest of indie comic books will stay undiscovered.


*A seriously big thanks to all the people and establishments that took the time to answer my questions and help propel, if even only a small amount, the world of indie and self-published comics.

NewKadia.com  |  Atomicbooks.com  |  grahamcrackers.com  |  goldenapplecomics.com expertcomics.com





 

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When Artists Hire Artists- The Business of Storytelling

gamal hennessey

In this Guest post Gamal Hennessey shares his insights into the things you’ll need to consider to protect yourself when creating comics.  For a more detailed look at this either head to Gamal’s own page or listen to him talk to the ComixCentral team on this podcast


The business of storytelling is evolving to take advantage of new technology and business models. It’s creating new opportunities to get stories in front of people by breaking down the old barriers to entry. Self-publishing and independent projects are growing at a record pace, thanks to digital distribution and micro niche marketing.

Creators are now in a better position to publish books on their own without traditional publishing houses to act as gate keepers. Some artists are releasing their own comics to build their reputation in the industry and break into the mainstream. Some writers are self-publishing their books to retain more profit and control. But with great power comes great responsibility (sorry, that was too tempting to leave out).

Artists and writers who used to be forced to sign a publisher’s work for hire agreement are now in a position where they need their own work for hire contracts to protect their rights. But what are the key elements that need to be in this kind of contract? How can you protect yourself in both the short term and the long haul? How can you be the type of creator other artists want to work with? When artists hire artists, they need to take care of their world, their defenses and their reputation.


Your World:

When you create a story, you have the power to define what happens. When you have your own creative project, you have the power to define your relationship with your artists. The three key factors you need to deal with are:

Defining the project:

Spell out in as much detail as you can what the artist is working on, what kind of work they’ll be doing, when the work is due and how much they’re going to get paid.

Owning the Services:

Make it clear that your relationship with the artist is a work for hire. This means they aren’t going to have any ownership or control over the property itself or the underlying characters or stories they’re going to be working on.

Own the use and distribution:

Reserve the right to use any work the artist does for you in any and every way you can think of. You might only be planning to do a web comic now, but you don’t want to limit your options to do a deal with Netflix or whatever the next hot media turns out to be

Your Shield:

Producing your own book opens you up to a certain amount of risk. You could pay for work and never get the finished product. Your artist could deliver artwork done by someone else. There are all sorts of pitfalls in publishing, but certain terms in the contract can help protect you from trouble.

Payment:

If you tie payment to delivery of work, you are more likely to get the services you commissioned.

Representations and Warranties:

If your artist makes promises to protect you and your work, they’re less likely to screw you over because they’ve been put on notice

Indemnification:

If they do break their promises to you, an indemnity (just a fancy word for repayment) gives you the ability to resolve your dispute in a court (which is one place artists don’t want to go).

These protections are not perfect. People breach contracts all the time. But when all the terms and conditions are spelled out, people are more inclined to see you as a professional and treat you in a professional way.

Your Reputation:

Clear and consistent contract terms will remove most of the confusion and doubt that comes with making a business deal. As more and more people do business with you and get exposure to your business practices, the better your reputation will be in the industry. The creative world of books and comics is a small one if you stay in the game for a while. A professional reputation as both an artist and a publisher can be just as critical to your long term success as your ability to write or draw.

Independent creators need to tailor each work for hire contract to fit each new creative project. Larger publishers work better with form agreements and economies of scale, but until your publishing evolves into that level, a custom agreement is probably your best bet.

Have fun.

Gamal

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE.

IF YOU HAVE A LICENSEING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Judge Dredd Image Credit Magnetic 007 At Deviant Art





 

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Eff The Naysayers

sean martin

From an early age, I was exposed to the negative effects of being an artist. I’ll explain.

Most every artist (be it Illustrated, digital, paints, etc.) has been subject to psychological evaluation through their art. This is usually done by anyone who views their art. From the earliest caveman all the way up to present day artists. Art has always been up for interpretation, much that same as the written works of those who contribute to society as civil servants, psychologists, theologians, whathaveyou. There is the problem of judging the artist by his art. The worst culprits of this activity are usually parents, psychologists and art critics. This is to be expected.

My father was my worst critic. Going so far as to admit me to therapy at the age of 13, Puberty-Age, with some of my art as the reason behind the visits. He believed that a few pieces of art, and some erratic behavior of a budding young man, were cause for concern. After several visits for therapy, and a prescription for ADHD meds, I was “better”. The only thing that made it seem as if I were better was the fact that I stopped making art that could be seen as psychotic, or otherwise questionable to the morals of my family’s household. So, a lot of misunderstanding took place between myself and my old man. What were these images that landed me on the therapist’s couch? Mock-up covers for a horror book I was writing, pseudo-posters for “Child’s Play” movies, and a few Beavis and Butthead images with them dressed as Wolverine and Cyclops.

Can I blame him for seeing things that weren’t there? As a 37 year old father myself, probably not. I’m constantly worried about what my son and my twin daughters are posting on Instagram, but tend not to overthink their intentions. My behavior towards my own children was directly influenced by the negativity of my own upbringing. I tend to let them rant and vent and share things, as I see it as important to let them get it out in the open. So, in that respect, I understand what my own father was going through with me. As I said, my father was my worst critic. He was my naysayer. I think he understood that I wanted to be an artist, but misunderstood where I wanted my art to go; Comics. He would constantly tell me that computers were the way to go, as more and more films and other media seemed to migrate with the technology. He hardly understood my intentions, and would become increasingly more vocal about not drawing. I sometimes find myself questioning his motives as a father to not support his son’s wishes and dreams. It seems that I was not allowed to draw anything, as it was a “waste of time” when hand-drawn media seemed to be disappearing. It was like a constant redirect.

My own father would not be alone in trying to dissuade me from chasing my dream of being a comics artist. My first wife was the same way. But from a completely selfish direction. Much as I hate to talk about my ex-wife, I feel it’s relevant. I was a young father, then, and adult responsibilities had to take priority. That’s only natural. But it seemed that she, like my father, saw drawing as a waste of time. Chasing a dream like that will only lead to failure. She and my father would not be the only naysayers in my lifelong dream of pursuing a career in comics. But they are the closest examples of those whom you trust to back you up, fall short and try to shut it down. A dream can fade if the support factor is absent.

Despite my naysayers, close relatives or otherwise, I was determined to make my dreams come true. Eventually, I would distance myself from those naysayers, either through divorce or outright choosing to not be around them. My point is, Fuck those naysayers. DO NOT let someone, who knows nothing of your struggle, try to make your dream seem less important. My own trust in family has been damaged for many years, so this isn’t advice on how to deal with YOUR naysayers. I have since found my family in the friends I keep close to me. Those who support my dream, and try to do anything to help me achieve it.

Surround yourself with supportive people, be it family, friends, your dog, your cat, your pet snake, or even the smelly guy on the bench who drunkily says “Go for it.”Draw

Draw everyday. Practice those challenging areas that give you trouble. Don’t stop drawing, writing, painting, whatever your passion. Don’t give up because it’s a waste of someone ELSE’s time. You have a gift for a reason. A “Super-Power”, and to some, it is a perceived ability that not everyone possesses.

EFF the naysayers. Chase your dream!


 


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Starving For Affection Part Deux: The Search for More Money (AKA Becoming the Unicorn)

becoming unicorn chris hendricks

What’s shakin’, cartoon cartels? Welcome to another episode of I Think I Might Know What I’m Talking About (Maybe Sort of a Little Bit) by Chris Hendricks, sponsored by Comix Central.

In case you were wondering, the title does reference Spaceballs, the ultimate parody of everyone’s favorite star odyssey that didn’t feature Patrick Stewart or William Shatner. On a rather important note– If you don’t like Spaceballs: The Movie, please do normal people a favor and go away. I’m happy to assist you in shuffling off this mortal coil with the use of my trusty Spaceballs: The Flamethrower. Now that the terrible people have been cremated, let us continue.

Today we’re talking about, you guessed it, making money as an artist… again. Why, you ask? Because I hear a glimmer of hope beneath your mocking laughter of disbelief. Oh yes, my apprentices of art appreciation, you may still laugh. You may even call me a madman, but I told you before, and I’ll tell you again: it can be done. These “successful” creatures exist. Granted, it’s rumors mostly. They participate in foreign rituals like eating non-Ramen-like, energy-sustaining food products three times a day. I hear they also drive cars without the check engine light on and have personal relationships outside of immediate family and beyond that kid you decided to loan your retainer to in fifth grade who for some reason still comes over to play Magic: The Gathering even though you don’t really “get” each other.

These money-making artist types are troublesome. The frisky unicorns are as rare as a Polish Leprechaun sunbathing in the South Pacific. Lucky for you, I’ve been navigating their rainbow road for sometime. Stay in the middle of my flow, brothers and sisters, and we might get somewhere. I’ll teach you to avoid some red turtle shells along the way, so you can at least cross the finish line in the money race without becoming a total wreck. Let’s pull our nerdtastic-selves together, and we’ll get out of mom’s basement yet. The best part, of course, is that we’ll do it on our own terms. Rise up off the couch and start your engines, people. Let us not simply survive off our passions, but thrive! At the end of this journey, you won’t just find the unicorn, my friends. You will become the unicorn.


The last time we crossed this bridge together, the preparation provided was largely mental and philosophical in nature. This time I’d like to give you insight into some real tactics I’ve learned along the way. I should warn you: this piece is as much a rant against lazy people as it is a learning opportunity. Not to worry. If you’re reading this article, you are not a lazy person. If you want to make money doing art, your desire must be genuine, and we all know that learning is the first step to genuine understanding. Most learn by asking questions, so let me begin by asking, how serious are you really?

Most creatives, including myself, are one ADHD moment away from hobbyland. There’s nothing wrong with hobbyland. It’s a carefree kind of kingdom, somewhere around the end of world one or two, but I’m sorry, Mario, the princess is in another castle. Toadstools won’t pay the mortgage, and there’s no warp whistles in this game. If you want to afford a kingdom for your king or queen, you’re going to have to face the greatest Bowser of them all: consistency.

via GIPHY

If you want money as an artist, earn it. You must learn to treat it like a job. That means working on your craft at least three to five times a week. Part-time or full-time, make it happen. Most of the unicorns I know currently paying bills with skills work on their magic everyday. Call me a snob all you want, but the bottom-line is that work ethic is your greatest asset. It’s the only thing you can control. If you’re really serious, then take advantage of the fact that you care more than the other guy. I encourage you to think of the free time you have as a sort of currency you exchange for future freedom. If you can’t do 9am-5pm, then do 7pm-1am. Get up early, and do 6am-8am before your day job. If you wish to exist inside the business of art, then Weekends are prime time for the art of business. Fruits of opportunity are born inside seeds of dedication. In other words, “I don’t have time” equals “I’m not an artist.” I know some of you are afraid of structure when it comes to things you love, but if you want to stay the course, you’re gonna have to roll over the curious question box, hope for a feather, press the A button, and get over it.

If you want money as an artist, earn it. You must learn to treat it like a job.

Now that you’re keeping your foot on the gas, let’s examine some of the power-ups and pitfalls you’ll encounter on the road. My first piece of advice: watch where you’re going. Sounds simple, right? Well, you’d be surprised how many blind, angry, flaming-guitar-playing drivers exist in the art world. It’s sort of like the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, except this time you’re stuck in downtown Los Angeles, there’s a lot more drivers, you’re not Tom Hardy, you’re stuck in an ‘82 Pinto without any weapons, Charlize Theron has hair, and one of the other guys behind the wheel is an angry gorilla who throws bananas. Side note: If you actually do happen to be Tom Hardy, then congratulations on winning the life game. Otherwise, let’s keep going.

The only real way to avoid slippage and catch an upgrade is self-awareness. Learn who you are as an artist. Have the courage to give yourself an evaluation every-so-often. What are you good at? What do you suck at? Use that knowledge to evolve as a creator. Consistency is great, but it guarantees nothing without swerving the learning curve. Let’s say you’re an illustrator who consistently “draws” Harley Quinn, but your version of Harley Quinn consistently looks like a five-year-old girl’s first attempt at wearing clown makeup. The bottom-line: the only thing more important than consistency is growth.

The bottom-line: the only thing more important than consistency is growth.

Sometimes this happens naturally, but if not, the best and worst opportunity for this is social media. Ask the people you most admire for feedback. Eventually, you will develop a filter between the haters and the mentors. Like most upgrades in imagination land, this is something you earn over time. Thick skin requires experience points, and experience points sometimes mean “killing your darlings” for the sake of something better. On behalf of your self-esteem, remember one thing: Success is not external. The outside world does not determine your worth. Only you, the artist, can do that. Bear in mind I’m speaking to personal worth here. Monetary merit, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. That is determined by the market, and it can be a little overwhelming sometimes.

Success is not external. The outside world does not determine your worth.

It’s understandable if you feel pressure considering the amount of content out there right now. The road to success is always going to be a congested mess of warlords and wannabees. The fastest way to alleviate the pain is by accepting the truth and forging your own path. This doesn’t mean you will discover a shortcut, but it does mean there’s always room for you to get ahead. Sure, there’s a lot of content out there, but it’s not YOUR content. There are millions of pieces out there worthy of purchase, but there’s only one you. The sooner you figure that out, the sooner the rest of the world will. The sooner the rest of the world figures it out, the sooner you can use your passion to pay rent. You do this by giving your art monetary value. Sure, it takes awhile. You need to figure out what people charge. You might have to go up and down for a bit before you find the sweetspot for your service. So what? I don’t understand why people in the art community, and especially the indie-comic community I know personally, aren’t always up front about charging a fee. For some reason, when it comes to giving people a number, some creatives turn into some sort of Oliver Twist-reject in a poorly done, one-off Disney film. Does the following sound familiar at all?

Customer: “Hey there, how much is your drawing of Pennywise? It’s amazing!”

Artist: “Gee willikers, sir. Thanks for noticing! Gosh, I did work awful hard on this here piece. Now that you’re here, stranger, it looks more like a finger paintin’ than a true work of art. It’s Uhhhhh, 50 dollars.. I mean, maybe… well, I’ll go ahead and take 10 dollars if you can’t afford that. You know what? Actually, I just want to “get myself out there” so if you could just tell your friends….”

Me: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!

If your drawing of Pennywise is fifty dollars, it is fifty DOLLARS! If they don’t have ten dollars, guess what? They have to go work an extra hour at the Give-N-Go Gas Deluxe first, or they can’t have your hard work. You hear me, people? They have to go away until they return with your value. If they say, “I only have ten dollars.” You say (in a much more polite way), “Tough shit, my drawing is fifty dollars. It is fifty dollars because if you wanted it for free, you could’ve done it yourself, but you didn’t. That’s why you work at the Give-N-Go, and I draw things a lot.”

Listen, there are exceptions to every rule. There’s nothing really wrong with doing free stuff every once in awhile, but you’ve got to have the right intention around it. If you really want to do something for free, then do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t give the charity guy an immediate answer. Tell him you’ll think about it, and really think about it. If you are honestly being a good Samaritan here, fine. Now hear this: if you’re doing it for free because you’re afraid you’ll lose the opportunity for “artistic exchange,” then being poor is your own fault. This just happens to be a perfect pipe dream down into the next topic.

In the indie world there’s this debate about being a creator for hire versus the allure of profit sharing. The “hired-gun creator” usually gets an agreed-upon lump sum divided into two parts. The first half being a deposit (upfront payment allowing the artist to prioritize his/her time), and the second half being the remainder (the rest of the fee).  Profit sharing usually happens with larger projects. If you’re a hired writer for instance, the head of the book may offer you a large percentage of ongoing sales in exchange for a smaller deposit upfront. If you’re a hired illustrator for an ongoing comic series, this is also common. My take is by no means a biblical breakdown of bartering skills. However, these are lessons I’ve usually learned the hard way. I hope this knowledge makes things easier for you.

Early on, if you really want to start paying for things with art, I suggest the hired-gun approach. It’s simple, it’s immediate, and it’s a wonderful way to learn the business as you go. The clientele that you serve will prefer quality and a quick(ish) turn around time. Find a way to serve them well and protect yourself at the same time. A good reputation with these people who hire you is critical, but you’re not a piece of meat. Creative newbies can be very trusting, and therefore, sometimes get taken advantage of. If you really know your worth, then get comfortable setting boundaries. For example, if you’re an illustrator, you might consider giving the client the opportunity for 2 free full revisions. After that, you charge a per-hour penalty for your time. Otherwise you may wind up drawing the same Poison Ivy with 100 different noses for six months. As a writer, there are only so many drafts you can shell out. The same rules apply. After a few rewrites, there needs to be a draft fee. Make sure the clients are aware of everything up front. If you can’t eat while working on the project, the project shouldn’t be a priority. Again, I learned this the hard way. I once ate cheese off of cardboard while writing a song for a client. Don’t short-change yourself, and definitely don’t eat cheese off of cardboard.

If you do things right, your confidence should increase with each project. Remember to have faith, and always challenge yourself. Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no to a project. It seems counter-intuitive, but when you do have the courage to ride away from something that isn’t serving you, that’s when you’ll really start going places.

If you do things right, your confidence should increase with each project.

Once you have gained a bit of experience, you might consider profit sharing. It’s a whole different circuit and has its own ups and downs. If I’m sticking with the Mario Kart metaphors, we’re sliding into 150cc territory here. The drivers of projects tend to (usually, but not always) be more experienced. The relationships are more long term. As a result, there can be more expectations, more assumptions, and more risk. It’s a great idea if you have a lot of faith in the project itself. If you really think the story, franchise, or business model is something special, then by all means, feel free to forgo immediate riches for a stake in passive income possibilities. It’s a bit of a gamble, but can be very rewarding if you have patience, dedication, and good interpersonal skills. Once the product is out there and begins to gain traction, your bank account should grow accordingly.

Another facet to consider: Younger creators sometimes have a hard time with starry eyes. They believe in the dream more than themselves. Don’t make that mistake. Contracts can provide the perfect amount of UV protection from the blinding burn of big, bright, planet-size promises. It’s important to note that contracts don’t exist to protect naive geniuses from hungry sharks. In my experience, they exist to protect good people from their own, sometimes accidental, humanity. In other words, good people with the best intentions make bad decisions all the time. Good humans have bad egos. Good humans forget things. Good humans can lose heart when heads get too crowded. A contract should not be an intimidating document. It should be an inanimate friend that preserves the animation of a relationship. Bottom line: people come first. Make sure any contract you sign is a covenant of friendship and business, not a prison sentence for you and your dreams. Respect will take you closer to the finish line than any other shortcut out there. I don’t share any of this to make you fearful of collaboration. We know there’s nothing more fulfilling than a group of people letting go of ego for something much bigger. Learn the difference between owning who you are and being selfish with your content. This arena is not always about speed. Sometimes the only way to win is to slow down.

We’re rounding the final curve, friends. How do you feel? Can you reconcile personal, artistic integrity with your bank account? Are you comfortable with asking for dough? Can you call yourself an artist? I believe you can, and so does this community. The only ones who can’t are people who refuse to at least acknowledge the modern era of this art business. If you’re one of those Luddites out there who’s “angry” at the digital/internet world, fine. I can’t change your belief system. There’s nothing wrong with putting pen/pencil to paper. It is, in fact, and will always be, incredibly beautiful. However, avoiding or especially “hating” digital because you feel like the world is “losing something” is straight up immature, moronic, and just bad business. I’ve said this before, but learning, exploring, and adapting to new platforms is what creativity is all about. If you’re making money in indie comics without the power of Google, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, then I applaud you. Email me at chris@comixcentral.com and tell me I’m wrong about the necessity of the internet community and digital platforms. Break down your own process, tell me how you pay all your bills using your art without the Internet, and I’ll write you an apology personally. I’ll even give you the opportunity for a guest blog post. Let the games begin.

It’s about connection, and this new world is ripe with that possibility.

Last thing, I’m not trying to be overly positive or overly direct here. Living off of your art in the indie world is hard. I get it, but there’s plenty of people who do. Look for us. Ask for help. Be genuine. Chances are we’ll probably want to help you. It’s not about chasing a deal with Marvel, DC, or even Image (If that happens for you, great btw). It’s about connection, and this new world is ripe with that possibility. It’s everywhere. Just keep your eyes open, and actively look. Honestly, I need to ask you all one more favor as a community. Can we please take the word “starving” as far away from our artistry as possible? The kind of artistic success we’re talking about means time and overcoming challenges, but it also means fulfilment beyond measure. This article may have been about tactics, but this game is still 90% mental. If we keep calling ourselves starving artists, then so we shall be. Let’s change it up. We’re not starving. Starving implies a sort of frailty. We are not frail. We are hungry. We are energetic. We are the collective. We are pillars of support. We are hunters, gatherers, and friends. We create the very ideas that feed us. How could we ever starve? We are the never-ending story in a world that lives off of imagination. We make fantasy into reality for everyone else all the time. Why not do it for ourselves? You got this, people. Laziness must die, and fear must be let go. Only when you quit being a bitch can you finally become the unicorn and never go hungry again.  


 


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Just DO the work.

comic book motivation

A friend of mine had once told me the secret to breaking into the comics biz was to “Just DO the work.”

Without name dropping, this friend, who made quite a name for himself in the indie comics world and was becoming a success in his own right. When he gave me this seed of wisdom, it took some time for the idea to grow. Once I realized what he meant, I was at the drawing table as often as I had the time. Just creating.

I had had brushes with my dream job, make it into the comics biz as a full-time storyteller, a few times in the past. My relationships with other creators always seem to steer me further into the right direction. But somehow, fall short of the intended destination.

I pushed my submissions to many publishers over the years, nearly coming close to drawing my hero for a fledgling company. No matter how close I came to my dream, it seemed not to be. I was chasing the damned Roadrunner. It was exhausting. Coyote or not, I could not continue wasting my time and energy chasing something, seemingly, unattainable. So, what was there to do?



“Just DO the work.” His words kept pinging off the inside of my brain. What had it meant?

To me, four words never held such mysticism and mystery. Doing the work surely had meant keep submitting your work to companies. Over time, that didn’t prove true. So, there had to be another meaning. One I had to discover on my own. Just DO the work. Just create. Just write. Just draw. Just DO it. It began to sound convincing. What had I to lose?

Over the years, technology progressed, social media pages began exploding with all kinds of new apps. I began to think, Fine, If I can’t sell my art, I’ll showcase it. Somebody is bound to take notice. I took my art to Instagram and to Facebook. I stopped trying to sell myself to a faceless company whose only concerns were their bottom line and not the reader’s interest. I want to tell stories and draw them for you as I see in my head. 

Just DO the work. Let THEM decide if they like it. Get your stuff out there. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback.


 

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Get New Customers and Reward Loyal Fans by Using our Coupon Feature

Here at ComixCentral, we don’t have favourites, But it doesn’t mean that you can’t!

Make your fans feel special by giving them discounts with the Coupons section in your ComixShop.



Perhaps you want to say a little thank you to your buyers or to those that helped you get up and running?

Say, you post something online using our social media links and would like give a small reward to those that help promote you by sharing?



You could even create a key for your friends and family which offers a 100% discount, such that you can gift your comics to those close to you!

 

So whatever you decide to do with your coupons, let your fans know that they are appreciated and grab some new readers too!

Best of luck!
Sincerely,

Your friendly neighbourhood Crystal & the ComixCentral team


 

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The Red Hyena Dragged Me Into The 21st Century!

red hyena doktor geraldo

Digital art fascinates me.

I usually work in traditional media, such as pencils, multiliners, copic markers, coloured pencils, watercolour, and gouache. I use apps on my phone to manipulate my drawings, making alpha layers and background layers, and scaling and making panels. Then I transfer to my laptop and use Photoshop to build pages and arrange the lettering. That’s as far as I venture into the digital realm.

I decided to draw a pinup of The Red Hyena, a great character from Project Shadow Breed. I started with a pencil drawing, outlined it, then blocked in the areas with flat layers using copic markers. I would normally render with markers, adding shadows and depth, then highlight areas with coloured pencil or gouache. Instead, I uploaded the drawing to Photoshop and decided to finish it digitally.

I was so absorbed in the process that I forgot to save the separate stages, but the last image in the strip was the final result!

Issues 1-4 of Project Shadow Breed are available at ComixCentral.


 


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How to add a video to your ComixShop



Welcome to our new series “How to: in 100 words or fewer”.

Here we’ll be helping Vendors and Consumers know what they need to know, fast.


Our first post for vendors: “Add a video to your vendor store”, here we go: 

Step 1: Go to “settings” on your store and switch to text view (top right-hand side of the editor).

Step 2: Go to the video on your YouTube channel and click the “Share” button.

Step 3: Click “Embed”

Step 4: Copy and paste this code into your description.

 

That’s it!  Save and your video will appear on your vendor page!

Bonus Step: Add Auto play

Just add ?autoplay=1 at the end of the link.

Like so:
`<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GPo-6RQiN0?autoplay=1″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>`


 

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Starving for Affection: The Nasty Business of Art

starving artist business

Welcome again, my friends, to another dashing dive into the depths of deplorable life choices.

I’m your host, CXC staff writer Chris Hendricks, and today we’ll be talking about everyone’s favorite Green Goblin (and no, I’m not talking about James Franco), talking about money. Either way, money and art don’t always mix for reasons unbeknownst to some but knownst to every brave person who finds themselves saying, “Pay me for stuff you’ve never seen before.” I thought this might be a good opportunity to do some exploring in the realm of real-life monopoly.

As an artist myself who has picked joyful starvation over responsible monotony, I thought I might be able to provide some insight into the herculean maze that is the artistic hustle. Let’s role the dice together, shall we? I’m not an expert, but I haven’t been to jail yet.

First, lets everyone take care of something. If you have the space, and your alone (or at least completely lacking in shame), then rise with me and yell that thing you’ve wanted to yell for years now. Ready? We’ll do it together. 3… 2…. 1… go. “Why the hell doesn’t anyone buy our s***?!”



Feel better? Now let’s get down to business.

Assuming you’ve chosen to cross the business bridge, don’t mistake a stroll over the abyss for a quick trip. Regardless of how long it takes, the steps are as sturdy as the emotions we carry with us. Turning something you love into something that covers the wage gap left behind when sanity quits working, is your classic “genie in a bottle” story. You’d be amazed how our emotional state can influence whether that genie is Robin Williams or Jafar on his final power trip.

Sorry for all the metaphors. Sometimes I get paid to put them on paper, and money is confusing sometimes, so they help. My point is there’s no need to be careful what you wish for unless you’re truly afraid to begin with. Either you believe your art is undeniably worth dollars, or you don’t.

If you can’t embrace the worth of your own stuff, you can’t expect the world to embrace it either.

Start thinking “This is going to work” somewhere in your head, or guess what? It won’t. Once you believe your art is really worth something, proving it is where the fun really begins. An easy place to start is taking some of your savings and putting your own money where your mouth is. If you believe your masterpiece is worth someone else’s paycheck, then you won’t have a hard time giving it your own. Take a class, hire a coach, or trade in your old Crayola collection for some serious art supplies. It’s a quick-action step that tells this universe of ours that you mean well…and you mean business.

So you’ve got an honest desire, and now you’ve got the tools.

Congratulations kings and queens of creation! One more step and you’ve reached Mediterranean Avenue, but you still can’t afford it (and it’s the cheapest property). Screw you, Monopoly guy. Nothing says I’m going to be poor forever like the phrase “waiting for inspiration.” Waiting belongs to Greek statues and the restaurant industry. You, my friends, are seekers.

In the beginning good art is like bad tequila. She’s desperate for a good chaser.

I’ve also found that it’s a good idea to define oneself with the skill that drives one’s passion. For example, if you love to draw and you want to make money, then you should call yourself an illustrator. If you love to write, call yourself a writer. Take that definition and put yourself in any position possible to use it. I, for one, will write anything I can, including but not limited to songs, stories, blogs, poems, musicals, and even the occasional instruction manual on how to make money from art while living in a van down by the river. Art is the original pimp of the world and I will happily whore myself out for the sake of freedom.

Now we’re getting somewhere, hopefully.

So what if, in spite of all your hard work, people keep saying no? Well now, welcome to the dirty underworld of this sometimes-pretentious paradise. Welcome to the realm of the critic. These are defining moments for artists and creators that happen time and time again. In my view, what happens in these moments determines whether you really have what it takes to make money with your craft, but not necessarily the way you might think. The truth is, being told “no” is a luxury.

As artists it’s our responsibility to determine the difference between haters and heralds of wisdom.

There are absolutely people out there who don’t want you to succeed. There are people who just don’t understand you. Sometimes though, the truth really does hurt. You can swallow your pride and be flexible, ignore it and keep going, or quit. Luckily, only one of those three options means game over. If you’re stubborn enough to keep playing, you can’t lose.

Here’s the harsh reality. Most of the world wants you to lose, especially when it comes to giving away money if you win. We live in a consumer-driven Internet age where people are bombarded with attention-hungry mayhem during most seconds of their day if they own a smart phone. I know it sucks to not be supported as a new artist, but it’s a simple case of hating a game you chose to play in the first place. It’s going to be harder for people to gravitate toward something new because people like routine. It’s one less thing for people to worry about.

Artists need to stay in the arena long enough for the audience to trust them. You have to be the hero of your own creation.

Fighting for your brand of awesome is like wrestling waves over and over again. The only way to win is to keep coming up for air. Hating on the average consumer is not going to help you breathe any easier, and at least you’re close to the boardwalk at this point. Soon enough you’ll run the place. In all honesty, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My apologies for sounding like an afterschool special, but as always these are suggestions. The proof isn’t necessarily in the art itself, but the joy you generate when you make it. It’s funny how energy works sometimes. Often times, joy has it’s own gravitational pull and you’d be amazed who shows up in your orbit when you realize you’ve been worth it all along.

What we do have is each other, and that’s a force to be reckoned with.

We have a duty to be good Samaritans, especially in the Indie realm. New art will rise much faster as a community. The days of the Hemingway loner vibe are few in the new world. I realize it’s weird to view this new monopoly as more of a D&D team experience—complete with Funyuns and Mountain Dew—but that’s where we are now. The business world you live in is one big dungeon master. Lucky for you, we’re the “all here” and “all creative.” Together we have the tools we need to win the game.

Ultimately, art as a business is hard because the prize means getting paid for being you. Next to love, I don’t know anything more worth the fight.





 

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Motivation

comic book motivation

My mother was born in a small village in Guanajuato Mexico.

Her mother was dirt poor even by 1930’s Mexico standards, which is really saying something. Her father had died before she was born. He was trying to catch a ride on a bus. It was one of those old-fashioned buses with the standing platforms on the corners and handlebars to pull yourself up in case you were running to catch the bus before it drove away. At least that’s the vision of it in my mind. The good news was he caught the bus. The bad news was he couldn’t hold on to his grip on the handlebar. So he was buried a couple of months before he got to meet my mother.

My grandmother already had an older daughter and had no way to support them both. So she immigrated to the United States. But she couldn’t take the girls with her. It was going to be all she could do just to keep herself alive. So my mom and aunt went to live in an orphanage. Grandmother told them she’d be back to get them when she could afford to provide for them. And then she left.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about that orphanage over the years.

About how mean the nuns were. How’d they dispense beatings for trivial slights. About how hard the children had to work every day. About how they barely had anything to eat.  About how my mom had to sneak into the pantry in the middle of the night and eat raw oats because she was so hungry she couldn’t even sleep. It was many, many, many years after she left the orphanage before she could bring herself to eat a bowl of oatmeal again.

But leave she did, along with her sister. Grandmother came back. She had found a job and a home. She could provide for them again, but only in Texas. The problem was getting them across the border. So late one night she took the girls for a ride on a small handmade raft across the Rio Grande. And before she knew it, my mom was in McAllen Texas, living in the first real home she had ever had.

Over the years she watched her sister have two girls of her own and then waste away due to unchecked cancer. My aunt died a couple of years after I was born. My mother managed to have a lot more kids, though. 8 in all (I’m the youngest). She met my father in McAllen. He was a native of Illinois, having come down to Texas to start his career as a journalist. He was working at the McAllen Monitor as a cub reporter. Mom says she knew immediately that he was the one. He took a couple more jobs over the years before settling us all down in Houston, where he got a position as a reporter for the Houston Post, since closed.

We visited grandmother several times over the years in her little house in far south Texas.

She never did learn to speak  English. But she had worked her ass off for decades and paid off that house. She had her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She always seemed happy to me, even though I couldn’t communicate with her. She passed away while I was serving in the Army in  Germany. I think if I could have asked her, she would have told me she had a good life.

It’s probable that all my memories from those years played a role in my dreams one night. I woke that night to a vision of a young Hispanic woman beating the ever loving hell out of another woman. Why, I thought, am I having THIS dream? The setting of the dream looked exactly like the small towns of south Texas near the Mexico border that I had visited as a youth back in the 70’s and 80’s. But I couldn’t shake the dream. It returned several times over the years. With more characters and developing storylines. I’d be at work, completely unable to focus because I had suddenly thought of a new plot twist to the story. I’d spend all of my time on the treadmill at the gym thinking about ways to advance the story to its next logical step.

So I finally decided I had to write this book.

I thought I could be like my dad and brother. They’re natural born writers. Stories flow from their fingertips. Meanwhile, I stared blankly at the computer screen. Unable to fill a single page much less an entire chapter. The characters didn’t seem real to me if I couldn’t see them. I realized if I was ever going to make this book I was going to have to draw it out. And why not? Illustration was always my greatest talent as a child. Just because I had abandoned it as an adult didn’t mean I no longer had it. But where was I to find the time? I had a full-time job plus a family to support.

That’s when Saudi Arabia stepped in. They decided to kneecap the US oil industry by no longer artificially supporting the high cost of oil. So the oil industry crashed and my job went bye-bye. Hello free time! I spent the last 8 months of 2016 reacquainting myself with how to draw the human form and how to make comics. After a few tries, I finally finished chapter 1 and built a website to host the book online. I had finally, after 45 years, found my true calling in life.

Unfortunately, I had to go back to a regular job.

The money was drying up fast and I knew I was a long way off from making any money as a graphic novelist. So I’m back to working in the oil patch. But now, instead of spending my free time watching Houston teams lose on television, or working on odd jobs around the house, I work on my book. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to finish these books (oh, did I mention this has turned into a trilogy?), but I know that I will do this. Like my grandmother paying off her house, it may take decades of hard work. But I think about how hard she worked over her life. And my mother too, raising so many kids mostly by herself. In three generations this family has gone from living in absolute poverty in Mexico to living a comfortable middle-class life in the suburbs of America. If I don’t finish these books, what would my grandmother and mother think of me?





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Word Vomit: How I Got Out of My Head and Onto the Page  

word vomit

Hi, I’m Chris Hendricks, and I’ve never written a comic before. ( At the time this was written)

Now that you’re aware of my expertise, we can move forward together.  Up, up and away.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, and heroes, not necessarily in that order.  I never got into comics as a medium, because I was too busy reading the Star Wars canon.  For that I will never apologize.

I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a kid.  Basically, god the universe or fate (whatever you decide) didn’t want me running into burning buildings, so I decided my best course of action was to save the world via storytelling.  It’s truly a wonder what wonder can do.


Every story, in my opinion, starts with a question.

A question the writer has almost an excruciating desire to answer.  I say this only because, as many of you may already know, writing is torture.  So the question better be worth the pain.  The question is the catalyst for any creative outlet, but how you choose to answer is the fun part.  My question was, “How do I tell my story to my fellow fractured brothers and sisters, while at the same time connecting to a wider generic audience without coming across as an afterschool special rip off of Forrest Gump?”  My answer was a comic book called vs K.  It’s not finished, but it’s alive.

Like most ideas that survive the ever-bullying ego, mine was and is very flexible.  It started out as a manifesto to people with disabilities.  A rulebook of sorts for how we should carry ourselves as a minority in order to be seen and respected the way we desire to.  The idea later turned into a graphic novel as a result of collaboration.

The idea started off fine until I ran into my first problem.  It wound up sounding like a mixture between a set of standards and personal experiences.  The audience didn’t know whether I was talking about myself or giving them directives as to how to live their lives.  I have no interest in dictating the lives of others.  Politics isn’t my game.

A friend of mine suggested that, rather than write a memoir or manifesto, I create a character.

The character could go through experiences, and learn the lessons I did in various ways.  This gave me a tremendous sense of relief and freedom.  I could stay true to my own experience, but be truly creative with the environment around those experiences.

As a result of this limiting moment I’ve learned this: if you know how your main character feels, a world is easier to come by.

With this revelation, an idea much bigger than the original began to take shape, starting with the title character. Kevin. Other than having CP we don’t have too much in common (except being a social oddity of course).

After having a main character and a general idea, I needed a premise and a villain.  I wanted to craft both at the same time, because I love stories where the antagonist and protagonist are chasing the same goal. It seemed that with the premise, came the goal, and with the goal came the villain.  One building block made the other easier to find.  Once these things came together, the world around the characters began to reveal itself naturally.  There’s a lot more architectural work to be done, but the outline came out unscathed.  Imagine that.   

Some ideas decided to crawl out of my head in the shower. 

Others came in the form of suggestions from fellow creators.  Ultimately, I think the most important lesson I learned is that creative inspiration comes to those who wait in want for it to arrive.  I don’t know if the story will do anything, but the process of its creation is always the best part. As a person obsessed with heroes and wonder, I don’t really see myself as a creator but rather a vessel for ideas to use as they see fit.

Elizabeth Gilbert says,

” Ideas come to us when we’re ready, but if we don’t act on them they will become the ideas of someone else.”

The reason this comic is rising to the surface at all is totally because I’m a selfish vessel for ideas.  I can’t stand the idea of not acting on their genius.

I am no genius, but I’m determined to a fault.  The trouble is my lovely, self-sabotaging ego is just as determined to ensure this comic never sees the light of day.  I find the defence against the ego is collaboration. If you have other creative people that depend on you, you’re much more likely to follow through.  At least that’s been the case for me thus far.  Being around people who are particularly encouraging is key.

The other thing that’s helped is sitting on the premise behind the story. What it means to me. Why I have to share it. What the story itself specifically lifts off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong; storytelling is eye opening, mind twisting, heavy-handed and sometimes lonely.  But, it’s also generated a sense of both relief and purpose for me.  It’s almost as much a natural medication as it is a time consuming battle with the ghost inside your head.  Silly ego.  Tricks are for kids.

The last thing to remember is that I don’t know anything. This is a great place to start from, because any other desire beyond learning to be a better storyteller seems to get in the way.  It seems the only way to crack the code is by putting pen to paper, or forcing the sound of a key strike to drown out the other oddball in your head that says you’re not worthy of the stories you hold onto.

Humanity needs stories.

All the heroes and villains we love are strong for different reasons.  Maybe each of them represents apiece within us.  Either way, they’re not strong enough to exist on their own.  The only thing stronger than the hero of a story is the story itself.  If you have the courage to write the story, I guess that makes you the hero after all.





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Getting Started as a Comicbook Illustrator

Let’s start at the very beginning.

You’ll need to know a little bit of lingo associated with Comicbook illustration. This will help you find more tutorials, locate books and videos to help you along your journey.




Here is a simple list of terms you’ll need to know:

  • Pencils – Comicbook illustrators and the industry at large refer to the initial drawings of comicbook pages as pencils. Pencils can be “loose” (rough sketches) or “clean” (the finished pencils ready for the next stages). Pencils are often drawn in Non-Photo Pencil. This is a particular shade of blue that can not be detected by Graphic Arts Cameras or copiers. This allows artists to lay down sketch lines without the need to erase after inking.  Even if you are wishing to become a digital comicbook artist, you will still refer to the initial drawings as Pencils.
  • Inks –  The second stage of comicbook illustration is Inking.  Using a pen, brush or digital tools, the inker adds depth and shading to give the image more definition. Basically, we’re talking about the dark lines that outline the shapes in a comicbook drawing. Take a look at one of your favorite comics. More than likely you will see black lines around the objects and people, creating shape and shading. Inking was necessary in the traditional printing process as presses could not reproduce pencilled drawings.
  • Coloring – Stage 3 is coloring. Whether done traditionally (adding color by hand with markers, colored pencils, pens or paint) or digitally (using software like photoshop), coloring is, in the simplest of terms… adding color to an image. Coloring is a difficult and time intensive process with steps of it’s own. I’ll quickly lay them down here for reference:
    • Flats- adding the base colors with no shading
    • Colors– adding the shading and highlights to the flats. (When coloring digitally you might use Cuts and gradients)
    • Holds – sometimes colorists will add color to the ink layers. These are called holds.
    • FX– Special effect- adding sparkles, shining, fire… anything that is added to the top layer of the artwork.
  • Lettering – stage 4 of comicbook creation is lettering. The letterer crafts the comic’s “display lettering”: the story title lettering and other special captions and credits that usually appear on a story’s first page. The letterer also writes the letters in the word balloons and draws in sound effects.
  • Panels – Comics are created in panels. Like the frames of movie, panels depict the movement of time and show action.
  • Gesture drawing – The art of “getting the feeling” of a pose in a drawing. This is a skill all in itself. A difficult thing to learn, but will pay off big time if you have the patience to stick with it.
  • Anatomy- The drawing of the human figure.
  • Contour drawing – You’ll want to avoid contour drawing. This is drawing the outside of the shape rather than using gesture and anatomy to draw people. Resist the urge to draw this way.
  • Life Drawing/ Live Figure drawing – Practising from real life. As a model poses, quickly sketching the pose and getting the gesture. Often timed to help the artist get out of their head.
  • Reference – Reference refers to images, drawing, people, objects and animals that artists use to look at while drawing. All artists use reference. In fact a sure sign of an amateur is someone who might say, “ I don’t use reference”. Now, professionals do use reference differently than beginners. When beginning you may use reference drawings or pictures to copy directly from. You may even chose to trace images to train your brain to get the “feeling” of certain angel and shapes. As you grow as artist you use of reference will mature. You may use it look at how a nose falls away from a certain face, or how someone’s eyes seem to penetrate your soul… but you will continue to use images, pictures, drawings, real people, real scenes, movie frames and anything you can draw inspiration and accuracy from.
  • Dynamic posingDrawing dynamically is tricky. Most comic artists consistently say it is one of the hardest things to get right when drawing comics. Well, What is it? Simply put It’s the feeling of motion in your work. The action scenes that you can feel. The landed punch to the jaw that instinctively has you put your hand to your mouth. That is dynamic posing and it is hard. I would encourage you to search the term on YouTube and watch as many tutorials as possible. It’s one of those topics you can’t over educate yourself on. Every technique has it’s own little gem that might just be the thing you need to get it right!

That’s all the lingo we’ll cover for now. With those terms you can search and find everything you need to get started as a comicbook illustrator. Let’s move onto some interesting choices you’ll have to make as a Comicbook artist.


Digital or traditional?

It is recommend by most professionals to start traditionally. This is for a number of reasons, but simply, your brain seems to pick up the fine motor skills necessary for illustration more quickly when the artist is using a pencil and paper. You can more easily “draw from the the shoulder’ and are also more likely to have those “happy accidents”. Happy accident occur when you make a mistake and find something awesome. A new way you like to draw lines, or the head.. who knows what you’ll find when you mess up?! It’s very exciting!

Digital is also extremely expensive to start, and the learning curve will involve getting to know both hardware (tablet) and software (photoshop). However, digital allows the illustrators to waste no paper and tracing is a breeze.

But, like everything, it’s up to you! Whatever feels good, do it. Art is all about expression, so express yourself!


Finding your style

Style is the strangest thing. It just sort of sneaks up on you. Trust me, it will find you. You don’t have to go looking for it. Just draw things you love, study art you love, trace art you love, try to get the details of things you love. Eventually all your practice will gel into your own unique style. It’s freakin’ magic, and it can’t be forced. Let go and let it happen. So zen right? Right.


Practising

Learning to draw is not a simple process. In Fact, it might one of the hardest things you will ever learn to do. But remember this. Drawing is a skill. Very little of learning to draw is based on talent. Hard work and practice beats talent every day of the week. If you commit to learning the skill of illustration… it will pay off. I promise. Most professionals recommend practising the craft at least an hour a day. But like anything, if you practice more than the recommended, you’re skill will increase faster.  There are a few types of practice. Let’s go over them now.

Passive Practice

Definition: Learning by osmosis. Watching, observing and analyzing.

Examples of passive practice:

  • Tracing
  • Watching speed paintings
  • Watching artist draw or paint in real time
  • Watching tutorials
  • Analyzing pieces of art you admire. Really look at how each artist achieves different techniques. Hair, eyes, feet, water etc…)
  • Mindless doodling
  • Stopping movies mid frame to analyse the set up the scene

Deliberate Practice

Definition: The fastest way to level up your skills is to do something called deliberate practice. That is, practising the things you find the hardest, even though it can be excruciating. Scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.  If you’d like to geek out and learn more about it, you can do that here: http://expertenough.com/1423/deliberate-practice

How to put Deliberate Practice into action: Let’s use the example of hands:

  • Break the hands down into parts.
  • First learn the anatomy of the hand. Learn the skeletal structure and draw the bones from every angle.
  • Then add the muscular structure. Practice drawing the bones, then the muscles on top from every angle.
  • Then add the skin and details. Focus on the study of each part – ie: finger nails, knuckles, wrists, etc.
  • Draw each part by itself until you feel comfortable with drawing it from every angle.
  • Put it all together and draw the hand until you can pose it in every direction from every angle, every age, every size and so on.
  • This whole process can take months, so be patient with yourself.. I promise you it will work!

Final thoughts

This has been a lot of information for you digest. Do yourself a favour, take it slow. Give yourself lots of time and lots of patience. Learning to illustrate is not for the faint of heart. It’s going to hurt like hell. You’re going to be embarrassed of your work, you’re going to be self critical and it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get where you want to go.

But guess what? You can do it. I know you can because you’re here. You took the time to read this which says to you have the drive and passion to get to the next level. So don’t be a chickenshit! Reach out and take what you want. No matter your current skill level, age or sex, you can become an amazing and sought after comicbook artist if it’s what you really want. So what are you waiting for? Get to work!


We’ve curated a fantastic library of tutorials in the ComixCentral ClassRoom to help you go from beginner to expert.  See Our Learning to Draw Tutorials »