Friday, December 30, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Next week will begin a new webcomic, completely different from this. More details next time.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
To begin with, anthologies are a tough sell; folk tend to prefer a single storyline rather than a bunch of different ones. My experience at the recent con enlightened me to the harsh truth that folk won't gamble on a small press book unless it has some kind of 'buzz'. I wouldn't want to invest in boxes of books gathering dust in my basement (anyways, I simply can't afford that option).
I also struggled a bit with which concept to devote my energies to; on the one hand, I have several that are easily 'sellable', but a couple are dear to my heart and would be the most fun to tackle first. Time management is incredibly tricky, but after alot of thought, I think I've come up with a direction I'm happy with.
Starting next week, this blog will showcase a continuing webcomic, in glorious color. Each week like clockwork, until the strip is replaced by another. My hopes are that the blog will start to attract a steady following, and eventually printed issues will be the result. At the same time, I'll work on pitches for a few concepts (as well as continuing to develop new ones that pop in my head), with hopes that a publisher may bite.
I thank my current followers, and promise that some cool stuff is on the way. Please spread the word about my blog if you like what you see, I realize small steps are required to get my dream off the ground.
Friday, September 30, 2011
From there, the idea grew. My first impulse was to showcase a female character who transcends the limitations of a weird power she's gifted with; I later figured that she could act as a commentary on how women (and female super-heroes) tend to be objectified as sexual objects, with no likeable personality. Still later, I decided to add a level of campiness to the concept, with the title character facing goofy villains and predicaments with a wink to the audience. I see her as a sexy, out-going crime-fighter, who still struggles with esteem issues and day-to-day life.
Ms Bubbles is a tricky tight-rope; I don't want her to be seen as a 'bad girl' character (like Lady Death or Vampirella, who dominated comics in the early 1990s). As well, my goal isn't to produce titilating material appealling to young teenage boys and insulting to girls. I simply hope to create an interesting, believable female character who uses her rather strange abilities to do what she feels is right.
I guess I'd need feedback from readers to find out if my vision translates. I asked Ash to tackle some pages, and I really like what he came up with. As always, his pencils were fun to embellish, and he helped shape the overall feel of the strip perfectly. Ms Bubbles is one of my favorite concepts, and one I definitely want to put the effort into to get to the next level.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Once set up, I immediately had a sinking feeling. On one side of me was Jeff Simpson, selling beautiful Photoshop prints; on the other was a woman producing custom watercolor caricatures. Although my ashcans and printed comps were proudly displayed, there was absolutely no interest; the crowds (and turnout was huge, with the event basically selling out and folk turned away) weren't there to purchase small press comics.
I slinked home in a funk, but Sunday morning decided to change my strategy. I displayed my portfolio and original artwork, and made some money with sketches and inked drawings. Sunday ended up a very positive experience, and I'm inspired to do future cons. The reality is that I was badly placed to sell my comic; for that, I would've had to be situated with other retailors, and I have a feeling I still would've been lost in the shuffle.
I think Sunday was extra special because I brought my daughter along (she even drew at the table) and I met Gail Simone (although what I babbled to her was almost gibberish).
In the end, I failed spectacularly in my goal to promote my ashcan and generate interest. Ultimately, the experience was rewarding and thought-provoking, and has helped me clarify some artistic goals. Despite the outcome, I'm not giving up on Sore Thumb Press; I simply have to find better ways to market myself and my product, and must accept that the process will take many small steps.
I've set a new goal for next year's convention: a completed first issue of one (or more) of my concepts. Onwards!
Friday, September 16, 2011
When I decided back in early Spring to focus energy on a self-publishing venture, I set the Montreal Comic Con as a deadline of sorts. I figured 4 solid months was plenty of time to create an ashcan, which would showcase 4 of my concepts, as well as a couple ad pages. The deadline forced me to accomplish a set goal of work, which wasn't too hard.
Despite a few hiccups (mainly involving printing of the booklet itself), I now have a small box of the things, to be sold to the masses this weekend. I booked a half table awhile ago (although too late to take advantage of early bird prices), and will be seated there tomorrow, ready to face the public, Sharpie in hand.
As this is my first con, I'm curious how it'll go. I'll be certain to provide a detailed report next week.
Deciding to do it was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone (for which I have to acknowledge the amazing support of my wife Isabelle). The weekend will be long, but potentially enlightening; I hope to meet Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham if time permits. I'm proud of how the ashcan turned out, and seeing a physical version of my concepts only inspires me to take the next step (which I'm still mulling over).
I have a pdf of the ashcan available; for a Paypal donation of 1.00, I'll email you one asap.
I'm sure you'll like it!
Next week: con report
Friday, September 9, 2011
I'd had a similar revelation a couple days before.
While watching my 6 year old leaf thru a graphic novel, it struck me: although the tween, young adult, and early reader markets are flooded with material, there aren't alot of comic books directly squarely at young kids. I was inspired by her eagerness to look thru a book (albeit she was interested only in the pictures) and decided that I could tailor one of my concepts to the pre-reader crowd.
One of the interesting qualities of comic books is the use of still images to tell a story. The word balloons, thought balloons, and caption boxes are all tools to reveal essential information, but a comic reader should be able to get the gist of what's happening via the drawn panels. Comic books have mutated over the years into static panels with page after page of talking heads. Critics argue that these works are mature and dramatic, and showcase the brilliance of a given writer.
Comic books have become a series of storyboards for talky scripts. It's obvious how the lure of Hollywood success has transformed the medium, and not for the better.
Sore Thumb Press is aptly named; my goal is to bring back fun comics that feel as timeless as those I remember fondly from my youth and can be appreciated by anyone, which isn't an approach that's very popular by today's publishers. I think I can produce a comic without dialogue that pre-readers can enjoy, and adapt my other concepts to other age groups, equally neglected.
Hopefully, focusing on the readers, rather than releasing a 'product' that fits a certain demographic, will result in books I'm proud to publish.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Thanks to the artistic help of Ash and Grant, I have a solid inventory of material to ink and format for four of my concepts. Having an inked backlog of pages in preparation for my September ashcan, I'm experiencing a dilemna: do I devote my energies to producing completed issues with my concepts, or do I pitch them to prospective publishers?
The latter is certainly tempting; having someone else take over the hat of publishing and promotion is extremely appealling. At the same time, signing my creations over to a publisher that may not feel as passionately about them as I do gives me pause.
The former involves a tremendous amount of work and familiarity with both the artistic and business sides of the coin. I'm really not certain if I have the knowledge, drive, and energy to do it all. On the other hand, having complete control over my concepts warms my heart.
That's where I'm at: I'm mulling over pitching certain concepts to publishers, yet half-heartedly. I guess I should find out more about what being published entails, as well as what I really need to know to do it all myself.
My wife feels (and I do agree) that my focus should be on producing completed stories. For the time being, that remains my focus, although I have fresh ideas that I wish I had time to work on as well.
Oh well, whatever happens with the future of Sore Thumb Press will be revealled here every Friday!
Friday, August 26, 2011
While this certainly lead to exciting, thought-provoking work, it ended up alienating the core audience that super-hero comic books should have been directed at: kids. Instead of continuing to appeal to successive generations of young readers, the suits at Marvel and DC focused on appeasing the fans that started reading decades before.
As a result, super-hero comic books have dwindled to a tiny niche market, with repetitive gimmicks and decompressed storylines milking the wallets of the few readers (and occassional speculator) who manage to find a given issue at some specialty store.
I recently stumbled across colorful drawings I did as a teen; I created a bunch of generic super-heroes and villains, all quite lame (but cool to my adolescent eyes, of course). As I got older, my ideas began to evolve outside of the super-hero genre, or trying to find a new spin on the conventions of traditional super-heroes. Instinctively, I geared my concepts toward younger readers, not because it was a hot demographic, but because comic books and kids are a natural fit.
I admire folk who produce 'graphic novels', with avant-garde artwork and intense, adult themes; that being said, they're not really my cup of tea, and I'd rather produce work that will appeal to my own kids.
Super-hero comic books have mutated very far from the innocence of the first issue of Action Comics in 1938. I figure that if you read a comic book and are hung up on why the hero doesn't trip on his cape, then perhaps you've outgrown the genre. I still find charm in super-heroes, specifically the notion that folk choose to do good simply because it's the right thing to do, not on account of some deep and 'realistic' motivation.
Hopefully my love of the medium in general, and super-heroes in particular, will shine through in the concepts I try to get published. Although I've become pessimistic about the survival of the medium, I hope people will flock to comics born from a distinct admiration and respect for the magic possible from the genre.
Friday, August 19, 2011
I remember clearly that I never questioned why they were wearing costumes; I took it for granted that being a super-hero involved a specific attire, often including domino masks to obscure secret identities (although when I discovered the Fantastic Four, I realized that was a non-issue for them). I wasn't distracted by the number of radioactive accidents causing super powers, I wasn't worried how capes might hinder crime-fighting, nor did I find it weird that Batman, Flash, and Aquaman were flanked by teenage side-kicks who kicked ass.
The thing is, I was subconciously made aware of the 'rules' of super-hero comic books, and went along (happily) for the ride. Creators were carrying on the tradition of Golden Age super-hero stories, filtered through a 'modern' lens.
A new breed of creators gradually replaced the old guard: Frank Miller turned Daredevil into a ninja-fighting thug at the mercy of a city run by gangsters; Jim Starlin dealt with theology and the meaning of power in Captain Marvel; Chris Claremont and John Byrne turned a cancelled series featuring mutants into a soap opera of epic proportions. Super-hero comic books were growing up, and the old rules were slowly being ignored.
It all came to a head in 1986: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons released Watchmen, a maxi-series that helped spiral super-heroes into a grim and gritty period that lasted years. Watchmen was a highly realistic portrayal of super-heroes; not only were the logistics of certain conventions dissected, but character instabilites (to explain the need to dress up in a costume and fight crime) were dredged up.
Critics hailed it as a masterpiece, but unfortunately, it was, in retrospect, a big nail in the coffin of modern super-heores.
Next week: to be continued (what else would you expect?)
Friday, August 12, 2011
Over time, an interesting plot took shape in my brain, and I found my 'hook': a slacker gets a job (thanks to his Dad) at a down-on-their-luck super-villain call center, run by a very crabby supervisor. While getting to know his fellow co-workers, he starts getting suspicious about the purpose of the center itself, and manages to thwart a devious plot by the boss behind the scenes.
Originally, I considered having the lead character fall for a co-worker; recently, I've decided to keep romantic shenanigans out of the first story (which I figure would work well as a finite graphic novel), maybe to be used in a possible sequel.
Although I found it easy designing the co-workers, I had a hard time fleshing out the look for the main character. I was never happy with my sketches, something was missing; one afternoon, an individual ambled in front of my car, and I thought to myself excitedly: There's my temp!
I've whipped up a bunch of design sketches, as well as an ad that will appear in my soon-to-be printed ashcan:
This concept has recently moved to the front burners; my goal is to have a solid synopsis and preliminary script completed as soon as possible. Next will be finding the perfect artist to fit my vision, but that'll be down the line. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into the world of The Temp.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Some characters I've created sprang from my pencil sketches almost fully formed. Others required alot of tweaking until I felt satisfied. My fish-wearing-armour super-hero (who is now a turtle), went through many revisions over the years:
2 Reworked as a deep sea diver... interesting, but awkward.
3 Looking a bit robotic, but getting closer to what I was going for.
4 I like this guy and his fish-cycle, but felt it a little too cute.
6 At one point, I replaced the fish with an electric eel, hence the lightening effects. I still like that idea, but eels are dull to draw, visually.
7 Trying to figure out how to make the character move, this action-figure design was an inspired solution. The belt and guantlets are looking good!
9 Almost there; the shoulders flow better and fins pump up the arms and legs.
10 A stylized sketch that I really like.
11 A flying manta replaces the fish bike; shield and staff give him a knight vibe which I enjoy.
The design hasn't evolved much from this one, although I've replaced eel with leatherback turtle.
And there you have it. I think the many years of sketching were worth it, ending up with a cool character I love to draw, and hopefully readers will enjoy as well!
Friday, July 29, 2011
I think inspiration hits when I'm relaxed, not really 'trying'. For example, I came up with some concepts and plots during bus/metro rides; crammed into public transport with fellow commuters like a sardine, losing oneself in imagination seems a reasonable way to escape.
I think it's easy to come up with bad or boring ideas; it's pretty simple to take an existing concept (or genre) and rework it slightly, plugging in generic characters and situations. I find it difficult to settle on ideas that just feel right and 'original' (which, considering how absolutely everything has 'been done', is nearly impossible).
Recently, my Mom and I with my two daughters went out for breakfast. We were all discussing her new car, and started teasing her about her fast driving. I blurted jokingly how it'd be a funny story to have a Grandma driving wildly with a cute child through the city; as I mulled it over, an unrelated germ of an idea I'd had long before (about an oblivious elderly man facing Zombies) floated to the surface of my thoughts.
I could nearly hear a bell chime as a fun concept was born, one that I instantly found appealling and tremendous fun: a Grandmother and granddaughter drive through a post-apocalyptic world, fighting mutants. I whipped up some quick sketches, and couldn't stop grinning:
Of course, Thelma and Louise meets Mad Max isn't high literature; that being said, the idea screams 'fun' for me, and I think it'll be easy to come up with adventures for my daring duo. I mentioned it briefly on my Facebook, and folk seemed to like it as well.
I hope this glimpse into my creative process (which is basically random musings colliding in my brain) has been enlightening!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Chasing Amy by Kevin Smith featured a scene where inkers are called 'tracers'. Strictly speaking, one of the main goals of inkers is to darken and 'clean up' pencils in order to guarantee a clear reproduction. That being said, the artistic contribution of an inker can be tremendous, depending on the state of the pencils he/she has to work with. When an inker is given rough pencils or layouts to work from, the process is called 'embellishing'.
Inkers have alot less wiggle room for creativity these days. Advanced technology has allowed publishers to print directly from pencils, which are darkend and cleaned up digitally. Pencillers tend to labour extensively over pages, with inkers discouraged to deviate from what they've been given to work with.
I miss the days when embellishing was common. It was cool to see how different inkers interpreted certain artists' pencils, and I appreciated the creative contribution by an often overlooked member of the creative team.
When inking Ash's pencils for Super Combo, I was excited. I enjoy his dynamic, loose approach, and figured that my style could mesh well with his. Here's a comparison of before and after:
My goal was to define the outlines clearly, add a line weight in order to have specific things 'pop', and fill in background detail to enhance the visuals. I also chose to flip certain poses to create flow, and resized panels with dialogue balloons in mind. I think the marriage of the two styles works well, resulting in clean, fun artwork.
I think inking has always been a strength of mine, it often feels easier for me to work over someone else's roughs than fill a page with my own doodles.
Next week, an unpublished 4 page story involving a special monkey!
Friday, July 8, 2011
It hit me abruptly: why not have super-powered characters working a dead-end job?
Kind of like X-men at McDonald's.
I'd spent my early 20s working at Monsieur Felix & Mr Norton Cookies downtown, so I had plenty of experience with a 9 to 5 existence. I decided to skew the concept towards teens, since they tend to try out for menial jobs to support their school aspirations or daily expenses. A comic series involving adolescents trying to find their paths in life while making new friends working at a burger joint (while dealing with strange abilities) seemed ripe with promise.
Characterization and action sequences would go hand-in-hand. I tried to create interesting (visually as well as personality-wise), culturally diversive characters. Writing teens accurately will be the biggest challenge, as well as providing a glimpse into their thoughts and feelings as viewed through a super-hero lens.
Like I've said before, I think the idea has tremendous promise. I asked Ash Jackson to produce some pages, and have finally gotten around to inking and formatting the first four (which will also be part of my September ashcan).
I really like the results, and hope you will too.
Friday, July 1, 2011
It saddens me how comic books have fallen in popularity over the decades. There are many factors to blame, including cover price, accessibility, and inconsistent product. Once distribution became a monopoly, folk had to actively seek out specialty stores to pick up an issue; I was first exposed to comics at a depanneur spin-rack, an impulse buy that certainly changed my life.
Comics used to be directed at 'all-ages'; material was sometimes sophisticated, but could be appreciated by just about any reader. Helpful notes and thought balloons scattered throughout a given issue kept the reader 'in the loop' with what was going on, encouraging them to track down past issues referred to. Stories were constructed to be 'timeless', and could be reread without feeling overly dated.
Comics today have become overly-complex, continuity-driven (without clear explanations), and feature antagonists with questionable motivations. Creators claim that this makes the books more 'real'. but the reason I personally read comics is for escapism. Most books published today are confusing, badly paced (spending multiple issues to tell a story that could be told in one), and lack 'super-star' artists; when I started collecting, artists like George Perez, Frank Miller, and John Byrne were at their prime, producing absolutely fabulous work.
At one point, folk aspired to work in comics because they genuinely loved the medium; nowadays, a gig in comics is a stepping stone to 'Hollywood', or a temp job until something better comes along.
I guess the spiralling demise of the industry has served to inspire me; since companies no longer publish the types of books I picked up as a youngster, I guess I decided to try and create them myself. After reading thousands of comics from all eras, I figure I have an inkling of the ingredients required for an entertaining comic book. Of course, my stories may be simple or derrivative (and my concepts a bit lame), but I feel strongly that a fun, appealling comic book that any kid can pick up and immediately get into should be 'sellable'. My daughter's enthusiasm at whatever concept I tinker with is proof enough for me.
Perhaps the comic book as I knew it growing up will eventually fade away. Regardless, I feel a genuine love and respect for the medium, and I think I always have ever since that first issue I pulled from a spinner rack. I have no idea how far Sore Thumb Press will go, but I am proud of myself for trying something.
Next week: Concept 4
Friday, June 24, 2011
He produced a bunch of pencilled pages which I've only recently gotten around to inking and formatting. I'm extremely pleased with the results, and the following three pages are going to be part of an ash-can I'm putting together for September:
I really get a kick out of the action and expressiveness of the characters, and the pencils were tremendous fun to ink. I'm hoping that if Ninja Baby ever took off, I'd like to have Ash on the book somehow. In the meantime, these completed pages inspire me to finish my ash-can, and from there, we'll see how far my concepts will go.
Since he's provided pencils for a couple other of my concepts (including another I'll discuss next week), I'll devote more space to Ash in the future.
Friday, June 17, 2011
I thought it'd be alot of fun to have a baby defending her crib (and household) against menaces using her stealth and skills. I decided on having a ghostly spirit guiding her, inspired by Sarah's Grandfather Alan. At first I figured the concept might work as a children's book, but over time, developed it as a potential comic book.
Ninja Baby is a good example of a potentially fun concept that could work for all-ages. Kids would be thrilled to see a young heroine overcoming danger, and parents should chuckle at a pint-sized crime-fighter. I always thought that the art style for the strip chosen would be critical, as it is for any concept.
I hired Grant Perkins (an excellent artist from the UK, more on him in a future blog) to take a stab at it. He produced a few pages which were interesting, but I wasn't sure they fit my vision. I started coloring his work to see if I felt better about it. Here are his first pencilled pages that I worked on and adapted as a potential webcomic.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Here are the next two pages from the story begun last blog; these were printed in a couple issues of Comicopia, but I can't recall if the concept was well embraced there.
I came in 6th out of 10 webcomics (if memory serves, Zuda has since collapsed, unfortunately). The competition involved garnering votes for entries, which meant that certain folk could 'stuff the ballot box' to ensure a winning concept. I wouldn't be arrogant enough to proclaim that Slam was the best webcomic competing that month, but I find the overall quality of the strip was certainly top 3 material compared to the rest.
Regardless, the experience inspired me to pursue webcomics. I'd submitted to Zuda a second webcomic called Perry's Trip (which may debut on Drunkdunk in the near future), but was informed that the site was ending. My webcomics dream abruptly went on hold.
I find Slam to be a very strong concept, visually appealling and quite different from run of the mill webcomics. I've shifted my goals somewhat, and have decided to treat the story as a finite graphic novel (with sequels to follow). Once I figure out how many pages it will run, I'll have a better idea of how much time and resources will be required to get it done.
In the meantime, I have other concepts I'm working on, and I'll speak of one of those next week.
Friday, June 3, 2011
I've always been a fan of The Far Side, and one day while doodling in my sketchbook, I drew an egg wearing a trenchcoat standing over a puddle and two popsicle sticks. I found amusing the idea of an egg detective solving crimes involving 'living' household or grocery items; the idea lingered in my brain until I decided to expand on it.
A fim course at McGill introduced me to film noir; as my idea developed I could visualize Slam (the name came pretty easily, a nod to Denny's breakfasts and egg commercials I remember fondly from my youth) in a black and white world both literally and figuratively.
Here are some early pages that were printed in an issue of Comicopia. They're pretty rough and incomplete, but give an idea of my thought process while developing the concept:
Friday, May 27, 2011
I can't recall the exact date the following 4 page story was drawn. It was definitely during a break in between animation productions, and is the first 'official' Pike tale. I was still trying to get a feel for the character and his world, and like the energy of the pages. The panel arrangement and pacing needs work, but all in all, a fun little introduction to Pike and one of his rogues, Sweet Tooth.