So, before I tell you how collaboration has saved my butt on multiple occasions, a couple announcements:
1. I’ll be speaking at the best comic book store in the country, Quimby’s, on May 30th at 7pm! I’m speaking as part of the Laydeez Do Comics series (I know I know, I’m not a lady). I’ll share the proverbial stage with Sarah Morton. These talks are always a lot of fun, so if you are in the Chicago area, I hope you can attend. I promise to share some juicy secrets! Here is the info:
2. As this post is about collaboration, I think it fitting to announce that I’ve had the privilege to collaborate on a podcast with the amazing Justin Fah of In This Issue Podcast. It’s called Back Issues. On the show we analyze older comics that we’ve always wanted to read, or always loved, or know to be essential. First we did Green Lantern: Willworld. Our lastest episode is focused on the classic X-men storyline ‘Days of Future Past’. You should subscribe to the show In This Issue Podcast on itunes or listen directly on their website:
Now, on to the meat!
So… I always wish I could do everything myself. That’s cuz I’m dumb. One of the areas I struggle with the most is graphic design. It’s an area that folks that who self-publish often under-utilize or ignore. It’s unfortunate, because I think it keeps their (my) work out of a large number of consumers hands. We live in a world saturated by design. As Steve Jobs said, ‘design matters’. Very true. No matter how much your comic rocks, if you can’t put it in a package that communicates that the work is professional, you’ll have a hard time selling it.
Since I struggle so much in this area, I often lean on my friends for help. In particular, I know this dude named Gerald Proctor. Gerald is a college buddy that has quite a talent for graphic design and all things digital art related. I got to know him through many a long night of Halo death matches in the dorms (yes I’m a nerd). The first time we collaborated was in college on a poster for my comic Simon. I gave no specific direction, so Gerald brought his own style to the piece:
It was really exciting for me to see someone take a concept like Simon, that up to that point only I had done, and explore it in their medium. Years later, Gerald helped design the cover for my Simon 10 year collection:
I’m fairly sure this cover has helped in me selling out of the first printing of the Simon Collection. Now, to the untrained eye, this cover might not look too complicated. Which, honestly, is the beauty of it. It just works and you see it as another piece of fitting design. The same way you see a book on the stands of any bookshop and just ‘get it’ at first glance. Now, without Gerald’s help, the cover would have turned out much different. To give you an idea of how bad this cover would have been if I had created it solo, here are some of my cover designs before Gerald joined the project:
Pretty bad, right? That’s because DESIGN IS HARD. Gerald used texture and subtle color to accentuate the feeling the black and white line art had. This was much more effective than just simply coloring the cover in a traditional style. Not only that, but this design adds to the feeling that this book is a collection of work over time. You get a sense of history when seeing the cover, which is exactly what a collection of 10 years of comics should feel like.
Gerald also helped give cohesion to my Gary series:
When looking at the series as a whole, it becomes even more obvious how consistent and direct design helps in catching the eye of potential buyers. Gerald also created the interior layouts for the Gary series. Picking font families, alignment, and page placement is not as intuitive as it might seem to the layperson. It requires a keen eye for detail, and a knowledge of the language of graphic design.
Collaboration is not always easy. Gerald and I tend to disagree about almost everything when working on a project. But I’m a firm believer in “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The disagreements lead to discussion and honest critiquing of what’s working or not working within the piece. Hopefully, after the dust settles, you have a great piece of design in your hands.
Gerald continues to be a monster of a digital artist. I highly recommend you check out his gallery of work on Society 6:
I particularly like “If I walk to you”.
I plan to do another post about collaboration soon, delving into some other working relationships. I’ve had the chance to work with some amazingly talented people. Most recently, my brother Logan and I collaborated on a new Simon comic. It went so well, we are already working on another. And of course, John Wright and I are still working on our epic cage fighting comic NUMB:
I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at 6 pages of Victus #1:
Holy cow, folks! What a weekend! Stumptown Comics Fest was fantastic! Thank you to everyone who came by to show support or purchase some books from the amazing artists exhibiting. Before I launch into Stumptown details, a couple quick announcements:
I have started a (hopefully) ongoing podcast with Justin Fah of In This Issue Podcast, where we analyze older comics that we find interesting or declare “must read’s”. The first one was released this week. Check it out as we discuss Green Lantern: Willworld, drawn by one of my favorite artists, Seth Fisher. Click below or subscribe to In This Issue podcast on iTunes:
REVIEWS & SUCH
Those fine folks over at Spandexless saw fit to finish up the Gary series with another kind review:
They also took the time to explore one of my older Simon comics, “Mercy”
Now on to the wacky exploits at STUMPTOWN…
Manning the table with me was my trusty sidekick (and younger brother) Logan.
He also helped create the newest Simon comic, which we had available at the show.
I did a few throughout the weekend, including this Simon piece.
I’d like to think this is just our first collaboration.
Speaking of Brandon Graham, I geeked out at how he one-upped Simon Roy’s signature on my
Prophet TPB. Farel Dalrymple also added his own touch. Dirty fellows.
including Mr. Jack Bracken, who did this wonderfully racy poem for me.
Reid Psaltis took a time out to show me around Portland’s very own IPRC. Cool joint!
And of course, there was much food and drink to be had. From left to right/top to bottom:
Broder, Pacific Pie (x2), Little Big Burger, Biwa, Blue Star Donuts, Lardo’s, Teardrop, more Blue Star.
Not pictured: Bunk, Luc Lac, Pine State Biscuits, Wurst
I’m not great about taking pictures, so you’ll have to look through the Stumptown Tumblr to find more shots of me and other exhibitors.
In the 11th hour, I was invited to participate in the famous Art Battle at the Stumptown afterparty, hosted by Ezra Clayton Daniels! My team was doomed to lose as we were the ‘away team’ vs. the Portland home team. But we gave it our best shot, fighting through language barriers (I’ve never had to explain auto-erotic asphyxiation to a frenchman before), shake-weights, and insults. Really, I thought including Robocop in our G.I. Joe team drawing would ensure our win. But hey, it was all in good fun.
I had an awesome trip. Special shout out to The Con Crew: Josh Shalek, Neil Brideau, Reid Psaltis, Kenan Rubenstein, & Jack Bracken. Finally all of us in one place! Couldn’t ask for a better group of creators to share a convention with. Also it was great to see the incorrigible Beth Hetland, the lovely Nomi Kane, and the edgy Ezra Clayton Daniels.
I have some BIG announcements coming in my next post. So stayed tuned next week for the details!
STUMPTOWN COMICS FEST IS THIS WEEKEND! And guess who will be there? Yep… ME. And if that’s not a good enough reason to visit this amazing fest, might I present Exhibit A:
So as you can see, there is an awesome little block of tables right in the middle of the con (thanks to Neil and Kenan for the map!). I’m in the good company of Neil Brideau, Jack Bracken, Kenan Rubenstein, Reid Psaltis, our old pal Josh Shalek, and some other new friends! And as if THAT isn’t enough, I have a couple other amazing comics colleagues tabling at the show: Beth Hetland & Ezra Clayton Daniels!
Wow… this is going to be an epic weekend of indie comics! If you are anywhere NEAR Portland, you MUST come to the show! Here are some more reasons why you should attend:
I’m premiering a new Simon mini comic that I co-created with my brother.
along with a special treat for anyone who pre-orders issue 1 at the show.
Speaking of Victus:
Some images that have inspired me lately…
I saw Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color. Wow.
Hope some of you can come down to the show this weekend! Mention the blog and I’ll give you a discount on any purchase!
Chicago Zinefest ROCKS!
I had tabled at Zinefest in the past, but this year I opted to just attend and enjoy the show. And boy did I! This show was full of some awesome folks! Here’s some of what I saw:
The Great and Powerful Beth Hetland had her Hourly Comics minis available!
The always fantastic R. Hendricks (Stranger Two Stranger) had this awesome mini of portraits.
Ashley Elander was, as usual, putting the rest of us to shame by showcasing her phenomenal drawing skills.
I fell in love with this accordion mini compilation of text book illustrations from Kseniya Yarosh.
I was happy to catch up with the lovely Marnie Galloway, who had the new editions of In the Sounds and Seas.
Next to Marnie, I discovered a talented gentleman named Chris Garcia. He had previews of his upcoming beautiful first comic ever (!)
All in all, Zinefest 2013 was a blast. I can’t wait to see more from all these folks. I really need to table here next year!
Here’s a preview of a new Simon comic I’m cooking up…
I thought I had posted this before, but I guess not:
Thanks for checking in ya’ll!
Thought it was time to actually post some images of stuff I’ve been up to:
Here is a quick shot of me installing and another shot of my installation in the Artwork6 Exhibition at the SAIC Sullivan Gallery:
Thanks to Christina for the picture of my installation. There is some fantastic work in the show, so please come by and take a look.
Here is a new Simon mini-foldy comic that I’ll be premiering at my next convention:
I’ll have more info about the conventions I’m attending in the next post.
And here is the first official poster/image/promo for my next project Victus. It features the character Celeste, but you can call her ‘Cel’. More of these are on the way and will also be available for purchase as prints.
Hope you are all well!
In case you missed Part 1, where I discuss print-on-demand services, check it out:
Part 2: Printing ‘at home’
One of the coolest things about printing your own comics now is that photocopiers have gotten about 10 million times better than they were even 8-10 years ago. Even at a local kinkos (or whatever they call them now), you generally are going to find full featured B/W and Color copiers, capable of about any task you can dream up. I often use these big stores, but with this in mind: They will not help you unless you demand it. They could care less what you need or how the machines work. If you want something cleaned or a new toner put in the printer, demand it. They’ll do it.
Of course, this is only part of the process. If you are planning to use commercial photocopy/printing places and do your own assembly & binding, I recommend doing a few things to bring more life to your project:
1. Buy your own paper: A nice paper stock that fits your project will goes miles to improving the overall look/quality of your final product. I LOVE paper. I can spend hours in a papershop looking at, touching, and smelling (yeah I know) paper. It’s not easy to find stores with a lot of paper variety or paper sizes, but they do exist. Just look for ‘office supply outlet stores’ or ‘paper wholesale’ in your fine city. Here in Chicago, I used to go to xpedx before it closed. And of course there is always paper source. Really look at the tooth of the paper, the way it folds, the color. It’s as much a part of the finished piece as the drawings!
2. Buy your own stapler: You can use big staplers at the kinkos type places, but it’s much easier to do this at home at your convenience, especially since you’ll probably do the majority of your collating and folding at home. I prefer the A-frame/booklet style, but many of my self-made comics folks love the long-neck staplers. I’ll also mention that staplers are one of those things that ‘you get what you pay for’. So plan to spend 20-40 bucks on your stapler.
3. Get a bone folder: Dude… bone folders are the coolest things. Mine is almost like a security blanket. I just like carrying it around an holding it. Weird I know (hey, I smell paper). These little guys will save your fingers, speed up the process, and give your books a much cleaner fold.
4. Get a guillotine cutter: Or find access to a mechanical industrial paper cutter. Cutters are kinda expensive, so if you can use one somewhere else, you can avoid buying one. I’m currently able to use both a regular guillotine and and industrial cutter at my place of work (lucky me!). If you are getting one, I recommend something large enough to cut at least 15″ paper.
For my Simon comics, each piece/book is usually a different size, number of pages, paper type, binding, etc. I find this to be one of the coolest and most fun things about self publishing. I love that I can make books of the same ‘series’ a large variety of forms. Publishers don’t really do that (unless you’re Chris Ware).
For these books, I generally go down to the fedex/kinkos/ups/local print shop and do all the printing. I bring my own paper. Sometimes you can get them to give you a discount if you ask (since you are providing my own paper). Generally, my stuff is B/W so the cost is not CRAZY. But it’s not cheap either. I always keep track of the price to print each book, as I’ll use that when determining price later.
I do all the collating, binding, folding, (and some) cutting at home. I enjoy this part of the process. It’s very zen. Also, when I sell a Simon book to someone, I know they are getting something special. Something personal. It’s one of the purest forms of communication in art that you can participate in. You are putting a precious object into someone’s hands and (hopefully) that item will become a precious object to them as well.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting some rock stars in regards to ‘at-home’ self-publishing. Here are a couple creators you can’t go wrong with:
Kenan is blowing my mind with his latest comic Last Train to Old Town. This is a great artist hitting his stride and making something beautiful. Get on board! Lucky for us, Kenan is making printed copies of Last Train, and he puts most of us to shame with the utter quality of his constructions. For a real master class, check out his blog.
Marnie’s In the Sounds and Seas just won a Xeric Grant (I think this might be the last xeric). Try to get a hand-made copy if you can, as they show a real care in their construction and accentuate her beautiful artwork. Everything I’ve seen her exhibit is top notch and you can see more of her process on her website.
Here is some other stuff I’ve been looking at lately:
I love these ornamental letters
an amazing ‘cover’ of a Moebius drawing by this gentleman
and one from Joseph Noel Paton
Happy holidays to you all! I hope you have safe and fun times with your loved ones!
It’s opened up a lot out there. This is good and bad. The good is that the entry into printing up your own stuff in a professional manner is easier than ever. The bad is that there are a lot of places/methods to choose from. I’m not going to give you an overview of all the print on demand places (there are tons of great articles on that topic which are easy to find). I’m going to tell you what my method and experience has been.
Printing your own stuff is not exactly Publishing in the true sense. Basically, if you go the route of printing and distributing your own work (whether by choice or by necessity), you are your own publisher. You’ll be making all the calls, paying all the bills, and doing all the advertising. ADVANTAGE: Total CONTROL
DISADVANTAGE: Money, connections, public awareness
Everything’s a give and take. For the last 10 years, I’ve been producing, printing, and distributing my own work. It’s hard. I don’t make any money doing this. But at the moment it’s my only real option. I’ve had the chance to experience both ‘at home’ printing and used a couple Print On Demand services.
Part 1: Print on Demand
A hot phrase. I think it’s died down and most people have realistic expectations for these services now. I decided to print Gary with a print on demand service due to the length of each issue, binding preference, and number of copies. These factors combined to be a bit too much for me to handle printing at home. I barely have time to draw my comics (hello dayjob!) let alone print and bind longer projects. Print on demand seems to be good for folks that:
- Don’t want 1000 copies around their house
- Have a little more money to spend
- Have a project with appropriate content for print on demand formats (standard size, a lot of pages, images reproduce well on digital printers, etc).
I did a lot of research on many different options. It was apparent to me early on that there are places that want to basically be publishers/distributors for you, and other places that are happy to just print things for you. If you are using a place that does the ISBN and distribution for you, they will usually charge you more for those things or take a bigger cut of the sales prices. I arrived at two main competitors for Gary‘s printing: Ka-Blam & Lulu
I had a pretty lackluster experience with Ka-blam. I have heard they turned things around in the last year or so, but I had issues with their communication and timeliness. After initially uploading my files and requesting a job, I didn’t hear back for 2 weeks. After 15 days, I emailed them to ask what’s up. I got a response (2 days after that email) saying my files were corrupted. The files were exactly the same files used for lulu, so i’m not sure what happened. If I had known this when it happened, rather than 2 weeks later, when I reached out to them, I might have continued on with the order. So in the end, I cancelled my order and never even saw their print quality or options on my book. I figured, if this is how just getting my files uploaded goes, I don’t want to bother with actually ordering a print job!
Lulu is huge, and mostly automated. Responses and quotes were given to me promptly and made perfect sense. Getting a demo copy of my book was super easy. I literally had priced out my print job, uploaded my files, and ordered a proof copy in a couple evenings. I had my final book within 2 weeks.
As for the quality of the books…
Honestly, it’s just passable. It’s not great. I’m not embarrassed by the quality, but I wished I had more options. They don’t offer many paper options, and the cover stock default is glossy. The perfect binding is actually pretty good though. None of my Gary books have fallen apart. The biggest issue I had with them was the dot patterns I used would consistently print kinda spotty (that’s confusing), and the line quality on thinner lines was a bit jaggy.
Once I did get an entire order of books that was printed poorly. There was a huge mark across 4-5 pages of the issue from the printer roller. Lulu required I take pictures of these defects to officially file a complaint (which is reasonable). They let me talk to a person on the phone very promptly so I could describe the problem. Then they sent me new proofs from another printer. When I wasn’t satisfied with those, they had another printer send me proofs. This might seem like a hassle, but I was able to discuss this with a real person on the phone (big plus) and this all happened within 10 days of the original order. Once I got a proof I liked, they sent me a whole new batch from that printer, free of charge. And I got to keep the messed up copies! (btw… if anyone wants a severely discounted copy of Gary: Book 2, let me know).
Now, I’ve moved on from Lulu to Rink Printing. I decided to use them for all of my Gary re-prints once stock ran out. Hallelujah! I am currently singing the praises of Rink! I have had a stellar experience with them. I found Rink at their booth at C2E2 here in Chicago last year, and was very impressed with their quality and friendliness. Following the show, I reached out to them to inquire about printing my book. Within 24 hrs (!) I received 4-5 sample books showcasing the different options they could produce. I am a freak, so I had a million questions, from paper quality, to binding, to what types of printers they used. Every question was answered promptly and thoroughly by a person (not a generic email address).
I proceeded to upload my files and request a proof copy of my book. It arrived within 2 days (!) of the order. The proof copy is free if you proceed with your order (which I did). All concerns/questions I had about the proof were addressed personally by the print technician prior to the final run. Please note: I had not been charged anything at this point.
Once all was set and finalized, Rink called me to finalize payment. It was great to put a voice with the name of the print rep I had been emailing. She was fantastic (thanks Teri)! Now, The price quoted to me originally was about 50 cents cheaper per book than Lulu had been. But I expected to pay a shipping fee, especially since I had requested a specific delivery date that had to be met. Here is the best part of the whole thing: the original price quoted to me included shipping and taxes. That’s right folks, there were zero hidden fees. This made the order more than 75 cents cheaper per book than I had paid at Lulu! Teri assured me they could meet my requested due date, so no rush charges would be required. The books arrived right on time!
Rink’s quality is head & shoulders above what I got from Lulu and what I’ve seen from Ka-blam. The paper stock is nice and thick, holding the ink very well. The covers are durable, but not stiff. The binding is clean and professional. They had many options on paper stocks and cover stocks. And when I asked what sizes they could print, they just said ‘any size you want’. They stressed that they want to work with the artist to bring their vision to the final product. Since my last order, they have actually updated their online ordering system and added tons of new options, included cover coatings. I’m very excited to try these options as well.
I HIGHLY recommend Rink for print on demand. Please give them a shot if you are working on anything that seems appropriate for this avenue of printing:
That was a bit long winded. I’ll have another part to this up for the ‘print at home’ options I use. Thanks for reading!
Your moment of zen:
So while we’re waiting for Gary: Book Three to arrive from the printers…
A very nice review of Gary: Book One from the fine folks at Spandexless:
click the pic!
At Wizard World Chicago a few weeks back, I became acquainted with the work of fellow Chicagoan by the name of Daniel Warren. His webcomic Space-Mullet is fantastic! You should be reading it…
And I leave with a sneak peak of a Simon story I’m working on…
Gary: Book Three is on the way! Can’t wait to share with ya’ll!
Hello dear reader! I have returned!
I’m happy to say that the move went very well. I have some of the kindest, most helpful friends on the planet. It’s truly a blessing to have them in situations like these. Thanks guys!
The studio is set up!
I am STOKED about the new studio. As you can see, I have all I need in one place. The opposite side of the room houses Ms. T’s studio (pictures are forthcoming), so I couldn’t ask for more good things in one place. Quite a step up from a drawing table next to the bed. I’m hoping next time I post I’ll have the wall covered with reference, art by my heroes, and things that generally keep me motivated. The first thing I’ve cooked up in the new studio is…
An edition of 15 new prints of the Simon: Symmetry minis. These are a tad larger than last time and happen to be on one of my favorite new paper stocks. These will be available at…
Let me tell you friends, this show looks to be amazing. There is a fantastic collection of artists exhibiting. And it’s FREE! That means you can take that money you saved on admission and spend it on superb comics by the best artists that Chicago, America, and beyond have to offer! In particular, I strongly recommend you check out:
Sean Dove (my tablemate)
Beth Hetland (my other tablemate)
Mr. Jeff Brown (I think you’ve probably heard of him)
There are TONs of other artists so you do NOT want to miss this show. Here are the details:
Columbia College’s Ludington Building
1104 S Wabash, Chicago, Illinois
Saturday & Sunday 11am – 6pm
Free and Open to the Public!
Please come down and say hi! I’ll have the aforementioned Simon books, along with Gary 1-2, the Simon Collection, and some other goodies. Mention this blog post and I’ll offer a kind discount!
See you there!
I’m happy to premiere Simon: The Collection 2001-2011 this weekend at Chicago Zinefest!
This volume of 166 pages collects the last 10 years of my Simon comics (sneak peek last week). Not only do you get a taste of the beginnings of Simon, but I’ve included some never before seen material as well! I’m also honored to have pin-ups from these talented folks:
John Wright II
my Zinefest table-mate Beth Hetland!
and that snazzy cover is a collaboration with the great Gerald Proctor III, who also created the graphic design and layout for this collection
I couldn’t be more excited about this book and I’m hoping all of you in the Chicago-land area can come by Chicago Zinefest to get your copy!
Saturday, March 10th
1104 S. Wabash
8th floor @ table 62
I’ll be signing every copy and including individual sketches on the inside back covers. Of course, I’ll also have Gary 1-2, Simon mini-comics, and another special item that is only available at Zinefest. For those of you who can’t make it, I have also added the Simon Collection to my store for purchase:
Thanks everyone for the support and hope to see many of you this weekend!