Pen & Stylus

posted in: Art Making, comics | 0

Tonight we’re doing another Pen & Stylus podcast, and tonight, we’re interviewing John Myers. (I know that guy!)

He’s a bit of an over-achiever, so he put together a pdf with some notes and a sample of the first few pages of Era of Great Wonders’ script.

Check out the show here

Check out his script stuff here

Edited next day: I sort of figured that maybe not everyone wants to click on a bunch of links, so here it is, all laid out:

Last Night’s Video with John Myers:

John’s “packet” thingy.

  • What is a Comic Book Script?
    • There are no real hard and fast rules
    • It is basically a tool for communication between writer and artist
    • The default is inspired by the screenplay format
  • What Separates a Comic Script from Other Written Entertainment?
    • Novel/Poetry
      • Novels and poetry are direction communication with the reader. There is no
        intermediary party between the writer and the reader (except maybe an editor.)
    • Play/Screenplay
      • Both are interpreted by a large number of people who all bring their own take to the
        story.

        • One actor’s line reading can change the entire way their character is interpreted,
        • A change of camera angle can affect how a scene “reads.”
  • So What Makes a Comic Script Different?
    • It is communication between an artist (or group of artists) whose job it is to visualize the
      writer’s ideas
    • It is filtered though the work of the people responsible for visualizing it. At a certain point
      the writer hands over control of the look and style of the comic book.
    • The is does not change as much as one would expect when working on a script to draw
      yourself. It is is at its heart a guide to turning the thoughts in your head into a visual story.
  • The Fundamental Challenge
    • How do you communicate the ideas in your head to another person so they can in turn
      visualize it themselves
    • Concepts breakdown a little bit more between each person (like the game telephone), this is
      not necessarily a bad thing. This is a fundamental aspect of the act of artistic collaboration

      • Most times talented artists working together will enhance each other
    • Communication is key but it is hard, hard work
    • The writer has to be willing to let certain aspects of the way they see the story go
  • What Makes a Good Comic Script?
    • At the end of the day the only real test for a good script is one that results in a good comic
      book

Resources

Comic Book Script Archive
Decompressed Podcast (in particular #1 with Kelly Sue DeConnick, #4 with David Aja and Matt Fraction and #6 Matt Fraction and Mark Waid)
Scrivner

Script: Terra Farmers

PAGE 1
PANEL 1
Exterior shot of the Grey Corporation spacecraft as it enters orbit around Verdant. It looks tiny in the vastness of space.

CAPTION
How many times can you fall from space before it becomes boring?

PANEL 2
The Smythes are awaking from cryostasis. They are bleary eyed, and stretching as if waking from a deep but uncomfortable sleep.

CAPTION
If you were me you would say you got tired of it by the time you were 12. It was my fourth unpowered fall from orbit.

PANEL 3
Tameris enters an uncomfortably looking chemical shower.

CAPTION
I celebrated turning 12 by falling from space in a shuttle onto the surface of a barren world. So I could spend a few years preparing it for other people who would move in and get to call home.

PANEL 4
The Smythes are suiting up, getting into their encounter gear. They are still sluggish. Like they are sleepwalking through their morning routine.

CAPTION
We’re Terra-Farmers. My family and I seed lifeless worlds and prepare them for colonists. We’ve been engineered with genetic traits to do the work as best as possible.

CAPTION
But we always move on to the next project before we get to settled anywhere.

Script: Era of Great Wonders

Story 1: “The Time of Giant Men Part 1: The Era of Great Wonders”

Description: A interview with Dr. Reese Wesen, Wesen looks like he could have walked out of a 1960’s educational film, over the course of the interview he smokes heavily.

Interspersed with the talking head shots of Dr. Wesen are images of the ruined city of Pangaea, including various giant monsters both alone and squaring off against each other. And reactions from ordinary people to their presence.

Pangaea looks like an old-world European city, where ancient buildings and temples are liberally mixed with modern sky scrapers.

Narration: The following is an interview with Dr. Reese Wesen the foremost expert on the so-called “Time of Giant Men.” Dr. Wesen is professor of Science! at Pangaea University and like many others he spent much of the period trapped in the city of Pangaea, which is still famous for being the site of the most devastating monster attacks.

Interviewer: Professor, what is the first thing you think of when you think about your experiences during the “Time of Giant Men?”

Dr. Wesen: That the name “Time of Giant Men” is deeply misleading. It was a mistranslation that the media ran with before it could be corrected. When the first reports came in from Pannotia they were sending reports of an “Era of Great Wonders” but the news services were in such a rush to get the word out they used the literal translation.

Interviewer: Why is the name misleading?

Dr. Wesen: Well, the cryptoforms or the “Wonders” are not in any way, shape or form “men.” They are biologically genderless and when they do reproduce it does not seem to coincide with anything we would
associate with traditional male/female roles.

Interviewer: Except for Mr. Jumbo

Image: Mr. Jumbo is a giant naked man.

Dr. Wesen: Except for Mr. Jumbo. Still the name conjures images of the kinds of giants we associate from folklore and mythology, titans or frost giants for example. But still the name has persisted.

Interviewer: And now we seem to be stuck with it.

Dr. Wesen: And now we seem to be stuck with it.

Garden Age

I’ve been playing a lot of Dragon Age recently, while working on pages for All the Growing Things.

This is what happens.

gardenage2

While not as pretty as the actual Dragon Age cover, I’m still pretty pleased with it.

At some point, I will resume posting comic pages online. Right now I’m simply trying to get as many done as possible (I have dreams of finishing issues 4 and 5 of Era, and compiling them into a book by mid summer!) Because I’m trying to get all of the pages done at the same time, it means I have a bunch of half-done pages, but nothing I’m ready to post yet.

Some quick thoughts on Dragon Age:

A lot of people are comparing it to Skyrim, and while I can see the initial comparison, I don’t really think that’s fair to either Skyrim or Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Inquisition does have an open world feel to it, but it’s not as sandbox as Skyrim. You can play Skyrim for hundreds of hours and never touch the main storyline. And that’s something I LOVE about Bethesda games.

DA:I on the other hand is seriously story driven. While you can roam around maps all you want, you can only unlock new maps by completing story missions.

The only complaint I really have (and it’s not much of one) is that DA introduced so many new game mechanics that I really didn’t know what I was doing with the game, while removing old mechanics I relied heavily upon (detailed tactics comes to mind).

All in all, it’s a pretty fantastic game, and I’m having to restrict myself from playing it (and I am now counting down the days until Friday, where I plan to play it to my heart’s content. Or, well, until the early hours of Saturday morning.)

Indecision

posted in: comics, Era of Great Wonders | 2

I finished working on the cover for Era of Great Wonders, issue #4 yesterday.

Shortly after finishing it, (and it took FOREVER to get all those little buildings colored in the way I wanted them!) I realized I’d originally planned on going with the autopsy notes as the cover for number 4.

Now I’m all kinds of confused because I think the city scene works better with the other covers, at least thematically, but there’s something striking about the autopsy notes. Perhaps the autopsy notes should be saved for when I collect the first five issues into a book? I don’t know.

SUPER indecisive right now.

Thematically a better choice...
Thematically a better choice…
...I keep leaning towards this one.
…but I keep leaning towards this one.
A blue version.
A blue version.

Mostly Marketing vs Money

posted in: comics, Conventions | 0

(I wanted the trifecta of alliteration in the title)

The other day at the dojo, one of the ladies asked me, “What is the best way to buy your comic and help support you?”

I froze, because I did not (and still do not) have a good answer to that.

There are three ways you can buy comics from us:

  • Directly from us:
    • Pro: We make the most money, because we have no processing fees
    • Con: We’re homebodies, and rarely leave Albuquerque.
    • Con: What are the chances you’ll run into us and want to buy a comic right then and there?
  • From a local store:
    • Pro: it reminds local shop keepers that local comics do sell!
    • Pro: it legitimizes us in a way, and makes it easier for people to find our work if they can’t buy it directly from us.
    • Con: Because of the printing costs of our issues, the only things you’ll find in stores are our books, not our floppy issues, which until we get an Era book, means only AtGT and Vagus.
    • Con: Very few stores will do anything other than “consignment” which is a fancy way of saying we donate our stock to them, and never get paid. Once in a while, a store will offer a consignment rate that is irresistible, but that’s so rare as to not even mention it. (Also, speaking of “rarity,” occasionally a store will flat out buy our stock, which then erases this con. These stores are the best, and I love them!)
    • Con: The only stores we’ve contacted/been contacted by, are local to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. If you’re anywhere else, you’re going to have a hard time finding our books.
  • Digitally
    • Pro: if you buy it digitally, you get it right away and I don’t have to do anything! Yay!
    • Con: if you buy a physical book from Amazon, then they take a little bit of a cut (but only a little one so far)
    • Con: If you buy a physical book from Amazon, then I have to go the post office, and I am terrified of the post office. (But I’ll do it if I have to!)
    • Con: Because of their processing fees (even though it’s only a little one) I can only sell the books (not the issues) physically through Amazon, which again, means only AtGT and Vagus.

Mostly what I take from all of this is that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Okay, so that’s the… er.. “money” part of the post, so you know how I’m not making money. Marketing is… related? Unrelated? I feel so terrible: I went to school for graphic design and they forced us to do marketing research course, and it was the worst thing ever! I hated it so much that my grades dropped (I think I got a “B” for the course, or something awful like that!)

My entire comic book marketing plan has been (and continues to be) MAKE MOAR COMICS!

I suspect that’s not the path to success I want it to be.

I read a lot of articles/blog posts by indie writers and listen to a lot of podcasts about how to market ebooks. I keep thinking maybe “ebooks” are similar to “comic books” but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. (Seriously, if you know about this stuff, help an idiot out and tell me!)

Basically, I think the advice boils down to:

  • Write a series (check)
  • Publish them digitally (check – I’ve been doing these as webcomics for ages, and am now putting them on Amazon)
  • Drop the intro book price to permafree* (Sorta-check: I can’t figure out how to do this  yet, but I DID get dumblucky with the price matching dropping Era #1 to 99 cents)
  • Have a call to action (CTA) at the back, urging readers to review it. (Sorta-check: I did that, but I couldn’t get html coding to work, so… it may not work as well as I hope.)
  • Write more, and write like the wind (I suck at this. It takes me so long to draw stuff.)
  • Also there seems to be stuff about getting a newsletter together (check) and building a platform (I think that’s a website? If so… check? Although it could be a social media platform, which then… uncheck because the only thing I do is twitter.)

I’ve been trying to adapt as much of this to selling comicbooks as I can, but I’m, well, I’m not all that social media stuff. I mean, I sort of chat to myself on twitter, or if I can think of something short to say to someone in my feed, but other than that, I’m pretty much isolated in my studio.

Another thing I’ve been wondering about is, why should anyone bother buying any of our comics?

The few times I’ve told people they can read the comics (in their entirety) they almost always ask me, “How do you make money from that?”

Short answer: I don’t.

Long answer: Well, I mean, I guess I could put ads or something on my website, but that seems so tacky. And honestly, I don’t think people really read comics at my site (my jetpack stats are, well, kinda low. I couldn’t in good faith sell ad-space on my site. Like, six people looked at my site the other day.)

So what’s the point of having free webcomics on your site?

Having the free webcomics on our site allows John and I to tell people that if they want to check the book out online first and see if they like it, that’s cool with us. There’s a confidence that I feel, knowing that our comics are good enough that you’ll want them after you read them. (And it has worked a few times: we’ve had a few people see us at the start of a convention, take a card, read our comics, and then come back on the last day of a convention and buy our stuff! It’s super encouraging!)

On the other hand, now that we’re trying to sell our comics digitally on Amazon, I’m left wondering if maybe we should pull everything but the content for each “first issue,” that way people don’t get mad that they’re paying money for something that is (in a way, if you don’t mind staring at my website) “free.”

The way I tried to compensate for that was to put a heads up in the back of the digital comic issue saying, “While we know you can read this for free, we really appreciate you dropping us a dollar or two!”

And it’s true, we really do appreciate it. We don’t make much money from Amazon, but knowing that our work is at least worth a dollar has been incredibly flattering (and encouraging, which, we all need more of.)

Sorry this post is too long. I ramble a lot.

Amazon, Smashwords, and Comixology

I am in the process of converting our comics into ereader friendly comics.

The fact that it’s taking me forever to convert webcomic pages into ereader formats is an irony that is not lost on me. (In my defense, there are so many different settings, page sizes, and then the upload process itself. It’s… time consuming.)

A quick run-down of thoughts:

Comixology

Comixology is the reason I started converting all these files to digital.*

Comixology is the big one that I see all my comic friends talking about. It was a bit of a long and involved process (some of it due to their vetting of submissions, but most of it due to the fact that I can’t seem to stay focused long enough to finish any one project in a timely manner.) I finished setting up our profile in late June (or July? time has no meaning to me) and sent in the first Era issue. It was accepted fairly quickly, but then came the long wait while they “processed” it.

While Comixology was setting up the first issue of Era, I was riding high on a feeling of general optimism, so I decided to tackle the “Amazon Problem,” which is it’s own little area of thought that I’ll get to in a moment. Because every optimistic upswing is followed by a devastating crash (at least, for me) I quickly noticed that I’d sent Comixology the wrong file. When we’d first printed these comics, I’d sent a file with a typo on the first page. I’d thought that I’d long since deleted that page and replaced it, but because the process of getting accepted into Comixology was so long and involved, it turns out I’d started building the ebook before I ever sent the files to get printed (where the guy running the printing press found the typo!)

Horror!

Heading back into the Comixology dashboard, I realized that they were dead serious when they said “If you hit the submit button, there is no options to change your mind, you can not re-edit this comic.” So that’s super embarrassing and permanent.

In the time it has taken for me to get one issue accepted and another submitted to comixology, I’ve made some serious inroads into Amazon. The one really nice thing? We can sell our comics for as low as 99cents!

Amazon

Okay. Deep breath.

There are a lot of things I’m not good at, and figuring out (and filling out) forms is one of them. Amazon is a massive sprawling beast, and in order to do one thing, sometimes you have to do another (unnamed) think first. I finally broke down and instead of submitting another useless email help request, I gave in and asked them to cal me.

Another thing I’m not good at? Talking on the phone.

But the lady at the other end of the line told me in which order to set up my profiles and products. Something that was either reassuring, or not, depending on your point of view, was that she was also googling answers to questions that I was asking. I found that particularly empowering because I’m fairly good at googling answers (it’s how I got through my college electronic arts class).

After setting up a seller’s account and putting up the two physical comic books we have (All the Growing Things and Vagus Project**) I was then able to make an author profile at Amazon’s Author Central. From there I was able to dig around and get into the KDP dashboard which is how all the digital publishing magic happens at Amazon.

(My author page, linking to all our uploads at Amazon)

Whereas Comixology wanted high-resolution tiffs compiled into a high-res pdf, Amazon will take whatever you have. I used their Comic Creator to set up everything up, and because double-page spreads are important to me, I had to turn some other features off. There’s also supposed to be a way to insert a page where you can have text (and hypertext) that the kindle can resizes and manipulate, but I was never able to figure that out, no matter how much I wanted to.

The Comixology dashboard is pretty stripped down, while the Amazon dashboard is a maze of choices and decisions. At Comixology I was able to set the price to whatever I want (as long as it ended in 99cents – no freebies at comixology, or at least if there were, I couldn’t figure it out). Amazon on the other hand puts in price requirements based on your file sizes (and my files are huge.) People always joke “why would you ever take a 35% cut from Amazon when you have the option to take a 70% cut?” The answer to that is when you have a massive file (AtGT the digital book is about 70mb) Amazon will cut out all profit, citing that the “delivery” is too expensive if you don’t charge more (I chose 4.99 for the digital book.) While I didn’t lose money selecting the 70%, I didn’t make any money either. I was at a deficeit. But when I selected the 35% option, I now make a $1.70 for every $4.99 ebook that sells.

Smashwords

Pricing! Many authors I follow talk about using Smashwords as a control for pricing at Amazon. It doesn’t always work, and when it does it doesn’t work fast, but it’s still a thing I’d like to try!

I am looking forward to figuring out Smashwords, only at this point I need to use a Word doc to build my comics, and I don’t have Word. I have Open Office, and I guess it inserts a bunch of crummy code when you try to build your book. John, on the other hand, has Word, but only on his work computer… which means I sort of hover around his office, waiting for him to get off work. By the time he IS off work, he’s too exhausted to struggle his way through the Smashwords Style Guide.

I’d like to use Smashwords to offer the first of the ebook issues for free (regardless of the fact that the comics are free on the website), and then drop the rest to 99cents, and I have it in my head that Smashwords is the only way to do price matching with Amazon – I’ve read a lot of stuff about that, but “reading” and “doing” are two different things, so we’ll see what it is I actually “know.”

Another hesitation is that the file size requested for images is something like 600 pixels x 800 pixels, which seems incredibly small to me. I’m not a fan of how small the text looks at the larger sizes, and this seems just way too small to me.

Notes:

* Seriously, it drives me nuts to say that because I drew them digitally to begin with! However, the entire time I was/have been creating pages, I’ve been planning for print, so there is a substantial switch-up with how I’ve had to think/re-think my process.

** These two books are the only ones we make money on. The single issue comics (Era Issues, AtGT issues), were a small print run from a local printer. The cost per unit to print is pretty big ($3.50 – $4.50 per issue) compared to the fact that we sell them for $5 a piece. We make our printing costs back, but not quite enough to pay for printing more.

Well intentioned friends have suggested that we try to sell them for $8 to $10 in order to pay for the books and make a little money, but I don’t think I can sell a black and white 22page comic for that high of a price with a clear conscience. the same well meaning friends have also suggested we color the books, and then sell them for 10$ or so, not realizing just how expensive color printing is, and again, how little people will pay for physical comic issues.

Trade paperbacks (like the Vagus and AtGT book), however, sell fine at higher prices, and are where we make the most of our money back so that we can continue printing and expanding our lines. (I can not wait until we have the first five issues of Era together so that we can print that in one large book!)

Esteem

I’ve been hesitant to post anything  since my hosting provider took my site down on Monday. I have since learned that WordPress multisites tend to be rather CPU intensive, and that some hosting providers don’t even allow them, at least, not on shared servers, which is what this is.

I’ve been looking into various solutions, but if the site goes down again, well, just know that it’ll come up again, eventually.

That said, I’ve been thinking about “self esteem” and “art” and “aikido” and a variety of other things for a while. This is probably all going to come out in a jumble, but I’m going to do my best.

It has come to my attention that several people think I have low self-esteem.

I don’t really argue the point, because, honestly, I’m not really sure I know what self-esteem is. I don’t feel bad about myself. I mean, I do, but that’s usually a depression issue, and I’m pretty aware of it and have other ways of coping and compensating for it. If you were to ask me, “Do you like yourself?” I would say, “Sure, I’m a pretty funny and nice person to be around.” Which sort of leads me to thinking I’m okay on the whole self-evaluation thing.

I think what people pick up on is that there are a lot of things I’m not good at, and I don’t hold back when I critique myself. (And for the record, I mean “critiquing” not “criticizing”). I know I’m not the best artist out there – I’d say I’m not even in the top 30% or 40%. My art tends to be “good enough;” I’d say I’m better than average.

Same with my aikido: I am aware of some of (what I think) are the core concepts, and while I am usually smooth (as opposed to jerking my uke around) and aware (for a given value of “aware”) I am also miles and leagues away from where I want to be. From even where I should be, after six years of practice. I am slow, and I am easily flustered. I forget simple movements, and I concentrate so much on “connection” that I forget we’re supposed to be fighting, not feeling. I think too much, and haven’t trained my body to react properly. Even when I do react well I usually hesitate mid-action and lose the moment.

A lot of this I chalk up to, “Well, I was in school and had to really concentrate on graduating. I didn’t have time to give aikido my all…” But that’s not how it works, is it? You make time for the things, when you really want to.

So maybe, (and here we go, some psuedo-psychology) I identify myself as too much of a person that is “just good enough.” I really do identify myself as “someone who tries, but doesn’t really succeed.” Maybe (and I say this with a shrug) that’s why I’m never able to fully commit myself to aikido as much as I would like to? Maybe it’s why my art has never really pushed past that 30% -40% barrier?

I have found a comfortable area (where I like being me) and where I’m only an average person: not really good at a lot of things, kind of terrible at other things, indifferent about most. Part of this could be in reaction to when I was younger. When I was growing up, I “had to be the best.” No one ever told me I had to, it was just something I was compelled by. I felt that I had to “prove everyone wrong,” and be the most amazing person, ever, in the history of everything.

It was a lot of stress, and I don’t think I ever really excelled at any of the things I tried to do, despite my determination.

When I met John, he would often tell me that things were “okay,” and that projects didn’t have to be perfect. He spent a lot of time wearing away at my type-a personality (and it may surprise those of you that know me now to imagine me as type-a) and while I’m never really and truly “relaxed,” I am happier these days. I’ve learned to accept being average, and that ‘average’ is not a bad thing at all. After all, writing and drawing comics (even if they’re not professional quality,) are things I enjoy.

I know that I no longer have to be “the best” at anything, and while it may seem to some people that I have no drive or ambition, it doesn’t. It just means I don’t get as mad as I used to when I fail, which means (I think?) that I’m more willing to try new things. I’m willing to fail in front of people (even though, honestly, I’d LIKE to be a hotshot and succeed at everything I try, I no longer feel that I have to.)

It also means that I maybe don’t go to aikido classes as much as I should, and that I don’t practice in my sketchbook as much as I want to. Contentment is a mixture of good and bad habits, I think.

This is all pretty long winded. I wanted to write about getting out of an art slump instead, but I think I had to write about this, so you’ll know where I’m coming from in my next post.

 

 

Wrecked Cars

posted in: Art Making, Era of Great Wonders | 10

So I just posted a new chapter cover for Era of Great Wonders, and I was talking to a friend how I put it all together. Depending on your point of view when it comes to these things, I’m either a big fluffy cheater-cheater, or I’m just using references.

A note on references: in art class, it’s not uncommon to use a projector to cast an image onto a canvas and then paint it from there. In comic book circles, this is called “tracing,” and is a bit of a dirty word. What is considered okay to do in fine art is considered tacky and talentless in the illustrator world.

Luckily for me: I stand in both worlds, and don’t really worry about these things too much. (I mean, I do, but only a little.) Also, I have no illusions as to my inability to draw cars. I’m terrible at them.

I used these two references to create this art:

I googled "broken tank"
I googled “broken tank”

and for the cars

I searched for "car pile up"
I searched for “car pile up”

I copied these two images into Manga Studio, and then traced bits and pieces of them. I didn’t want all the details, and I didn’t quite like the “modern” shape of the cars, so in many places I made them curvier and/or boxier – I wanted something that looked like it could have been from 60’s or 80’s in there.

I ended up with these pencils:

Pretty sparse pencils
Pretty sparse pencils

Again, I just really wanted the basic “shapes” of the cars to help with perspective. Also, I wanted to figure out where to put in wheels and lights and things like that. I then deleted the source images from the file because I didn’t want them to influence the “details” stage of the drawing. (Also known as “inking.”)

While inking the image I didn’t worry about getting the lines straight. In fact, letting them wiggle a bit and veer off into wrong angles helped create an illusion of wreckage and bent metal. I don’t have any screen shots showing the inking process, but I started with the tank wheels (and I googled “tank wheels” to see what they looked like. I only looked though, because I didn’t want to get them too perfect.) Then I followed various lines to create shadows.

I really wanted a “bent metal” effect and was really pleased by how it looks like parts of the tank’s top are “peeled” open and showing the insides of the tank. That was all pure luck, but I went with it, and I think it worked.

Finished Inks
Finished Inks

I know it looks like I jumped from really rough pencils to a finished image, but I sort of did. I’ve been drawing a lot of wreckage these days, and I’ve developed a sort of “short hand” for it. It doesn’t hold up if you really LOOK at the drawing, you’ll notice I have angles off, proportions (even with references) are off, and defining shadows aren’t necessarily there.

A lot of what you see in the finished inks is this short hand. Anywhere I could add a “plate” of warped metal, or a squiggly dent in a car, I did. “Tires” are pretty readable, so I threw a lot of those in, or I would put them near areas where I thought it would read as if they’d been “ripped off” the hub. I also added spiderweb/cracked glass in all the windows that were still “intact” (as in, I didn’t draw the interiors of the cars, and I didn’t want to do anymore than I had to.)

Someday I really will show my method of drawing from crappy sketches to finished art, but that requires more planning than I’ve yet done.

I’m just not there yet.

Setup (part5) Finally! ComicPress!

It’s been so long since I’ve installed ComicPress that I really don’t know how to do it anymore. These days I just copy my stylesheet from one comic into another, and then replace the header with the correct one. The things I tend to change are:

  • Background image. I like pattern8 for repeatable background images, although you can always create your own if you’re patient enough to make sure things line up properly!
  • Text and Link colors. If you’re going with a dark background color/image make sure your text is light enough to read. If you have a light background color/image use a darker text. Pick link colors that blend with the feel of your comic – you don’t have to stick to plain black and white. Check out this fantastic Color Wizard to see what kinds of color schemes look great (or not so great) together!
  • Boxes. I don’t know how easy it is in the CSS editor because I use Firebug (below) and get into the styles editor that is just code to muck around, but if you have a REALLY complicated background image, you may want to have colored boxes around your text – otherwise I tend to leave the boxes transparent to “pull” the whole theme together. This is purely a readability issue, and isn’t always necessary!
  • Header Image. You’ll definitely want to hide the text at the top that has your comic’s name, and replace it with a header image that has your comic’s name, and some bad ass art to show off your comic. Even if it’s a stick figure comic you want that bad ass art up at the top!

Video that Comes with Comic Press:

Frump (the guy who maintains ComicPress and Comic Easel) has a great video on how to set up. He moves his camera around a little bit, but you can still see enough of what he’s doing that you’ll be able to figure it out:

What I do differently:

I don’t use chapters (I set my stuff up a few years ago, and I had to migrate over to Comic Easel and all that fun stuff. I messed up a bunch of formatting, and now I don’t mess around with chapters. I’m certain that it’s easier to fix than I imagine, but I just haven’t bothered to mess around with it.

I also tend to get into the guts and us CSS that I find in the Appearance>Editor. I use a Firefox browser with Firebug to help me locate and change CSS.

If you’re interested in going that route, I did a lot of experimental learning (and site breaking) on my own, and then recently found this video. This lady is SUPER helpful with learning how to use Firebug and how to work with CSS.

I used this to put in my header, and different layers of background. I think nowdays you can do most of this from within the Appearance>Customize area, but I’m a bit old fashioned! Either way, I’d HIGHLY recommend putting in an “image” header and hiding the text header – I know I said this already, but I’m saying it again: having an actual image header looks so good, and sometimes people just ignore this. It drives me crazy.

Plug-ins I use:

There are a lot of recommended plug-ins for wordpress and comic press. I use a bare minimum because I hate messing around with this stuff, and because sometimes plug-ins will break your comic site. Just remember to load and install plugins one at a time, and check to make sure your site is still pretty where the viewers can see it before you move on to another plugin.

Easiest way to get these is to go to your wordpress dashboard, then to Plugins>Add New. Search for the plugin and download them from there! I’ve included links to the ones I recommend, but it’s only so you can see (and make certain) you get the ones I’m talking about, instead of something similarly named.

One-Click Child Theme – You NEED this one, even if it looks optional. After you get ComicPress to look the way you want it to by following Frump’s video and playing around with it, you’re going to follow the instructions on the One-Click plugin and make THIS your new theme. Any theme (not just ComicPress) you use and like, you should make a One-Click version of it. Child themes help protect your site when new versions  of a theme roll out, and they keep you from losing a lot of the customization that you’ve put into it.

Askimet – this helps with spam, and by “helps” I mean it hides about 1000 pieces of spam I get, and only maybe  2-3 slip through to my email every once in a while. It’s pretty crazy awesome. It comes installed with wordpress, so just follow the instructions to get your API key and activate it!

JetPack is the plugin that tells me that people actually read my comics and blog (on a good day, maybe about four people or so) while  Google Analytics is the one that tells me I’m alone in the internet and that no one cares and I should quit drawing comics and go get a real job. Everyone seems to recommend both and I figure that between the two of them, I have a better idea as to who’s actually seeing my stuff. (All two of you!)

Neat to have:

All In One Favicon let’s you put a little icon up in the tab of your browser for your comic! If you look, typodmary has a little ghost thingy. It’s not very visible, and I need to do another, more readable one for typodmary and all my comics. This video shows you how to make the .ico images you need for a favicon.

I also used to have twitter and instagram plugins that would allow people on typodmary to see my twitter feed, and my instagram feed, but those plugins broke. That’s another thing that happens: maybe you get a few good years out of a plugin, but then the manufacturers stop updating them, and they break. It is always sad when that happens. There are plugins I can use, but I’ve not been willing to search through them all to see what’s right for me (which is to say, if you find a good one that you like that works with comicpress, let me know!)

 

Small World Giant Monster (throwback)

posted in: comics, odds and ends | 2

These were the pages that prompted Era of Great Wonders.

All I knew was that I wanted to draw giant monsters, but I couldn’t really think of any sort of story.

smallworld1

Page one started out as a gray scale mess, and while I always tell people to “never go back and fix your art,” I did go back and fix this when I was trying to talk John into doing the comic. (This was YEARS ago. I think it must have been around 2009?)

This was all done in photoshop, and the text is an art layer that I “wrote” in – meaning that when* I made a typo, it was impossibly difficult to fix.

smallworld2

This was about as far as the story went. I knew I wanted these two kids to be the first to see the meteor swarm, and for them (and the reader) to be able to look back and know that this was the last “normal” night of their lives, and that whatever fell from the sky wasn’t just rock and minerals, but was the start of the giant monster invasions.

…and then I didn’t know where to take it from there. I drew a few more sketches of giant monsters destroying a city, and then lost confidence in my ability to write this story.

smallworld3

I don’t suppose those giant monsters look familiar to anyone who’s read All the Growing Things?

smallworld4

And that’s it. I can’t even tell you what’s happening in the second to last panel. Maybe it’s building a web? I have no idea.

After John and I finished up The Vagus Street Rehabilitation Project, John wanted to take a break from horror and do something a little different. I don’t know if I consciously remembered Small World Giant Monster or even showed it to him, but at any rate, I told John I wanted to draw giant monsters, and he started working on Era.

 

* “when” not “if”

Setup (part4)

Alternate title:

WordPress, why won’t you love me?!
I’ve done everything you’ve asked for, EVERYTHING, and I just don’t know what else I can possibly do to make this work!
(with tears of frustration)

But that’s too long of a title, really, so we’ll just go with Setup Part Four.

This post assumes that you have your owe domain name hosted on a server that you can gain access to it. For the record, I use ixwebhosting – this isn’t an affiliate link, it’s juts to let you know where I’m coming from.

Step 1: mySQL

My host comes with mySQL databases. I don’t really know what this means, other than I need them for wordpress to work okay.

While inside ixwebhosting, I click on the “add new database” and follow the instructions carefully, (creating a new database user if I need to) and taking notes as to what my database name is, what the database admin’s name is, and what the database admin’s password is. After you fill all that stuff out, you’ll also need the database hostname.

Step 2: Opening up wordpress

Download the wordpress file from earlier and unzip it onto your computer. You’ll need to use winRAR or winZIP or something similar to open it. Once you extract the files you’ll need to open the folder and look for the one labeled “wp-config-sample.php”

You’re going to need something that can open that file. I use Activestate’s Komodo. If you’re going to do any sort of webdesign at all, I LOVE this program, even though I don’t use it much. If you’re just going to use it this once, that’s fine, you can delete it when you’re done (but why would you?!)

In the wp-config-sample.php file, fill out four areas. Make sure you don’t mess up the quotes, ONLY replace the text inside the quotes, and make sure you don’t add any spaces!

Replace the ‘database_name_here’, ‘username_here’, ‘password_here’, and ‘localhost’ with your notes from when you made the database in step one. (Localhost is where you copy the database hostname.) (Also, sorry if this sounds super pedantic, but I’ve messed up those damn apostrophes before, and they’re super important.)

Save this file as “wp-config” (removing the “sample” from the name.) If Komodo asks if you want it to add the php extension, say yes.

Step 3: FTP

Now you need to get this onto your server. You can use the internal ftp that comes with your hosting, but I don’t really know how to do that.

I used filezilla to connect to my host server. Filezilla is probably the easiest ftp thingy I’ve ever used. Just fill out the connection details, and if you’re really a goof like me, there’s even a “save this connection” area, so I don’t have to remember my passwords or sign-ins.

After connecting to my server with the ftp, select the domain name you want to add wordpress to by double clicking it. (I have a couple different sites on my host, and I don’t necesarrily want them all to have wordpress.)

On the left hand window is where your “Local site” is, select your wordpress folder and open it up so you can see all the folders in there, including your new “wp-config.php” file. Select all of those and drag them to your domain’s “remote site” to the right.

Now to go make a sandwich or something – it’s going to take a while for all of these to copy over.

 Step 4: Install

This is the big moment. Once everything is done copying, open a new tab in your browser, and type in your domain name. If everything went right, there should be a wordpress prompt welcoming you to wordpress, and asking you to fill out your site name, and things like that. If you’ve made it to this point without any accidents, I applaud you: I have never made it here on the first try. Just fill out your info, and you’re ready to go find some themes and play around. (I’ll write about themes next!)

 Figuring out where things went wrong

If your new site doesn’t immediately welcome you with a wordpress setup, and you’re wondering what the heck happened, well, you’re in good company. I can’t say for certain what’s happened on your end, but I can tell you where I’ve gone wrong.

wp-config inaccuracies: make certain that you don’t delete an apostrophe, and that all your text is snug in between the apostrophes in the config file. Also make certain you wrote your name and passwords with the FULL name, ie, write ‘typodsite_jenn’ instead of just ‘jenn’ when it asks for user name. You need the whole thing.

wp-config password: I have a list of passwords that I use, and copious notes on how to use them. One of the things I didn’t realize was that if I change my database user password, it changes it for every instance. Back in the old days, setting up a new database, I’d use a new “just for that database” password that was ACTUALLY linked to my name, not my database. So it changed all the previous databases passwords, and I watched them disconnect, one by one. I finally figured it out and felt kinda dumb. If this is your first database, then just remember to keep that in mind when you set up your next one.

index.html: This happened this morning to me! Anytime you have something with the word “index” on it, your site goes to that first. The new domain name came with a placeholder “index.html” file and after double checking my spelling, my apostrophes, my password – double checking everything I could think to check, I went and looked at my site through the FTP. Sure enough, after I deleted the index.html, the wordpress index.php was able to take control of the site, and suddenly everything worked!

Patience: if nothing else, find someone that knows a little about setting up websites. Have them looking over what you’ve done. Also don’t be afraid to google your heart out, trying to find a clue as to what has happened. You can also email your hosting site and ask them for help – they are incredibly knowledgeable, and can sometimes get into the guts of your site and tell you, “oh, you left out a dash here,” but they’re sometimes hard to get a hold of, and not really interested in “easy” things like wordpress setups.

Next: Setting up a Comic Press theme

1 2 3 4 5 6 14