Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cover for the Second Story Done!

Below is the cover for the second issue of College Follies. Wow. Just the idea of a cover having the words "College Follies" and "No. 2" on it is pretty amazing.
So since this is just a five page short that was originally meant as a backup in 2000, I never thought about a cover for the second story until I decided to finish it and turn it into it's own digital issue. The story is essentially a series of conversations in a department store about Dino's dating life. There are artists who could probably turn that into something dramatic and eye catching, but I haven't reached that level of talent.
So I wanted something vague that would introduce the character and setting for the story, which is Super Happy-Mart, the College Follies version of Wal-Mart. I kept racking my brain for things I associate with Wal-Mart. Some of the exclusive action figures I got there came to mind, and then immediately the cover and back cover popped into my head. I had to do it if only to have the words "Dino, The Ex-Girlfriend" on an action figure package.
There were a lot of different figure packages I was looking at to make this. Originally I wanted it to be a cover with some visual element of packaging. It ended becoming the opposite, so by the time I ended up putting the price on the cover, it became a store price sticker (poor Dino is apparently on discount).
I decided to not use any of the tricks I did on the inside cover to give the package an illusion of realism, since I might could pull that off with the packaging, but then I'd have a cartoon action figure in there and it would just look way off. I'd be like dropping Bart Simpson in the middle of an Alex Ross painting. Art needs to have a consistent style. So this is a package and a figure drawn in the style of the series.
The cover gives me with a tremendous sense of nostalgia. It definitely brings back memories of toys I grew up with. It's not Uncle Sam with an uzi but I thinks it's a big, attention grabbing image in its own way.
Next up, the back cover, in which you get to see Dino's exciting action features!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inking the cover

Because of the holiday, instead of working into the wee hours of the morning like usual on Tuesday, I was actually able to get off in the evening so I could get a jump start on digitally inking the cover for the second story.

Monday, November 25, 2013

YouTube video I did of a cool broken Street Fighter II arcade machine

This video isn't comic related, but it is on my YouTube Channel so I thought I'd mention it.

I stumbled on this particular Street Fighter II arcade cabinet at a discount movie theatre in Greensboro. The game was extremely broken. The graphics have turned into glowing black and white lines with occasional flashes or touches of color. It looks like a cross between old school Tron and a photographic negative. Despite that, people were still playing it.

And I can see the draw. Suddenly a background you've literally seen thousands of times before has glowing water dripping from the ceiling or flashing neon lights on the elephant's dressing. It made them fresh, like a new edition of the game. I wanted to stand there and see what the next opponent would look like or how the next stage would be transformed.

What struck was me that people weren't playing this game in spite of it being broken. They were playing because it was broken. And there's something beautiful about that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Title Page Done!

So the first bit of original art I've done for a comic in 13 years is complete. Because I'm breaking in the new Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements, I'm doing this a bit out of order, taking some of the easier stuff on the second story first to get used to this new way of working. Working from home takes some adjustments. The screen's smaller and I'm trying to figure out the best work space for my lap top.
I'm still getting used to the Wacom. I was pretty comfortable using it for coloring and erasing. I think that's because I'm used to editing existing images on a computer. It's one of the things I do for a living. Creating something whole cloth on a computer is something I haven't done since college so I'm not as comfortable with digital inking (which is essentially redrawing the comic, if you think about it). I think I'll get there, though.
Originally I was just going to do a couple face shots with the title in big letters like on issue one for the title page. But then I was looking at some of the romance comic covers posted by a friend on Google+ and the idea popped in my head to turn it into a parody of romance comics.
So at first it was just going to be Dino crying with some text. But when I researched it, I found those covers tended to have the guy that the girl was crying over on the cover too. Fine, I'll throw in a portrait of Stickboy. But I couldn't have it just floating, so I had to do a background, so that became a gag in itself with the Kleenex. After drawing it, I realized I needed space at the bottom for the copyright information, so I came up with the idea that this would be a faux comic laying on a table or desk. I combined the image with a shot of a blank comic cover I laid on my desk to give the illusion of depth in the final page below.    
The cover itself is inspired by a variety of covers I saw of romance comics from the 40s-70s. The heart logo is taken from what DC did on their romance comics in the 70s. Believe or not, they had a pink heart with the letters "DC" in it as the logo on those issues. What some comic companies won't do for love!
So next up will be finishing the actual cover and back cover of the issue!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Inside Cover Colored!

Just finished coloring the inside cover for the second story with the Wacom and Photoshop Elements. It's still missing a background color because I'll add that in when I letter it, based on what looks good with the colors I choose for the fonts.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cover Pencils!

So here's the pencils for the cover of issue two, modeled after action figure packaging from the 1990s. The back cover (which I'll be drawing within the next week) will be the back of the package, which will be a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Inside cover digitally inked with the new Wacom!

I know I said I was tentatively going to do all the pencils needed for the issue before inking, but when I was testing out digital inking on the inside cover with the new Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements, it ended up becoming "Oh I can actually finish this tonight." So there you go. Below is my first digitally inked piece ever and my first inks on actual art for a comic in 13 years.

It took awhile. Inking digitally takes some getting used to. There is something about moving a pen on a tablet while looking at the results on the screen that was just awkward at first. By the end I was getting kinda comfortable with it. If my hand can get used to what my eyes are seeing I think it's doable.

I inked on layers that were over a scan of the original pencils (having background and foreground inks on different layers is actually kinda handy). Most lines took umpteen tries but being able to use an eraser and  hit Control Z (undoing the last thing I did) makes for a much, much better outcome. I'm very happy with the results. I think it's as good as the cleaned up inks on issue one.

So hopefully if I can get comfortable with it and am able to do it with reasonable speed, this is how I can ink the second issue. I'll be testing the digital inking further before I make any decisions. I may also see if I can completely finish the inside cover (doing the colors and letters) with the Wacom and Elements.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Page five and inside cover pencils done

I finished the pencils on the incomplete final page of story two last night. I only had one fourth of the page done back in 2000 when I abandoned it. So it took a little work, but boy does it feel good to have the pencils done after 13 years! You can see one of the new panels I did to the left. My tentative plans are to do the pencils for everything before I start on inking, etc. and finish any pages.

I also did the pencils for an image for the inside cover. Once I put the words and colors to it, it'll be an awesome parody of old romance comic covers. I promise  no scene like this appears in the actual story or, heck, in the entire series. No real Kleenex was harmed in the making of the image below.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My first penciled panel in 13 years!

So if you want to get over fear of drawing a comic, just pick the hardest panel you can and start from there.

And that's what I did last night. I drew a couple panels on the unfinished last page of the second story starting with the one below. Most of the story was pretty easy to draw back in the day. But for the "Lunch Break Dino" panel, I wanted at it at this weird, close up angle with more complex hand positions than I'd done up to that point. I struggled with it in 2000 and it was probably one of the factors in why the page didn't get finished. Perhaps it was simply too ambitious for a novice artist.

So I contemplated simplifying the panel, but. instead, decided to tackle it head on with the exact layout I sketched back in 2000. I took it piece by piece, finding reference photos online for the soda and fries. I took pictures of myself imitating Dino's position and gestures in the panel and drew from that. Working from models is very important when trying to draw something unfamiliar.

So I'm pretty happy with the result and the rest of the page should be a relative breeze that I'll get done this weekend.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sketching and Breaking in the Wacom

Spent last night trying to get used to drawing again. I did some practice sketches, mainly of the second story's main character Dino, trying to get comfortable drawing her again after 13 years.
I'm also breaking in my new Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements on my home computer. It's taking some getting used to.
I didn't have time to do much beyond sketches because of work, but I should be able to get more done this weekend. I'm going to do the pencils that need to be done on the first story (completing the last page, the cover, ect) while breaking in the Wacom, deciding if I'm comfortable enough with it to digitally ink the story.
Below is a sketch I digitally inked while struggling with glitches in the tablet (which I mercifully figured out how to fix this morning). 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chiggy says "It tastes great!"

In an earlier blog, I said I'd post more Chiggy art if  I got around to scanning it in. Well here's one I had to scan in to get another image I needed. This is the one that was at the top left corner of my student web page's title logo. It's inspired by the same gag that Garfield would do at the beginning of every Garfield and Friends episode, saying a random funny one liner as he appeared in a box next to his show's logo (it's a brilliant show, which is on Netflix and Hulu currently, by the way). I wanted Chiggy to say different things, but I don't know if I ever got the chance to switch up his saying. I apologize for the image's size and quality since web graphics back then tended to be much lower rez to accommodate the slower dial up internet speeds of the time

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Social Media on Parade! Stickboy wins...himself?

So it's going slower than I'd liked but I finally was able to update the main image on the College Follies Google+ main page so that someone actually got a doll. I plan to switch it up every month or so with different dolls and maybe different characters playing. It's a little touch, but I smile every time I scroll up to see Stickboy looking at me with that bewildered look. It's the little things in life...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Political Cartoon-Palooza! One for Veterans Day...

This is a political cartoon I did for my college newspaper back in 2004 when the country was fighting in civil wars raging in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it's still relevant today...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The "It's Done!" Video!

 First off, definitely watch the video before you read the commentary below...

So this video is basically me summarizing  my recent blog posts on submitting the comic. It's a continuing effort to show my progress on the series across all the different social media sites. I used the same techniques to make it as I did in my other videos.

Well, until you get to the after-credits scene, that is. This is me eating Shawarma at Mooney's Mediterian Café, which I blogged about yesterday. And obviously this is a homage to the Shawarma scene from Avengers.

I had to go out and buy a camera for it. I'll occasionally have use for motion video and it's always good to a camera handy. So I got a Samsung HMX-W300 for $100. It shoots quality 1080p with great sound and doubles as a high resolution digital camera, so I felt like it's a good investment.

I've only shot one other short video in my life so I'm pretty new at this. So what did I learn from the whole 11 seconds of video footage here? Well, preparation is important if you're shooting yourself. It's easy when you can just move around the subject and look through the view finder or screen on the camera to see what you're capturing. But in my case I had to put the camera in one place and didn't know what I'm shooting until I stopped recording and played it back.

So I did test shoots in my kitchen and discovered I needed to get the camera really damn high. If I just laid it on the table it would cut my head off. So I went out and bought a tiny, cheap 8 inch tripod on the way to Mooney's. It turned out to still be too short for this particular shot, but I came prepared with a box to put it on and finally got just enough height to pull it off.

It also took several tries and a several minutes of footage to get those 11 seconds. Even though I'm sitting there really eating it, my chewing didn't look right. I was moving my mouth too much. But after a few takes I got it right.

The raw footage has sound, which was "Don't Worry Baby" from the Beach Boys playing in the background because that's what was playing over Mooney's sound system.  I'm unsure if I could have used it without dispute from YouTube, but the scene really didn't work unless it was silent (like in the movie) so I guess it worked out.

Adding this ending to the rest of the video was a bit different since I didn't have access to imovies at home. The software that came with the camera wasn't fully compatible with my computer so it made putting it together with the existing slideshow video (which was already in MP4 format) difficult. I ended up using YouTube's video editor. It glitched out the first time and so I had to redo it (thank God, it was just putting two videos together!) but I'm super happy with the results!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Shawarma Time!

If there's any lesson to be learned from The Avengers movie, it's that shawarma is how you celebrate major accomplishments, whether it's saving the world from alien invasion or, in my case, completing the first issue of a comic series. I had mine at Mooney's Mediterranean Cafe in downtown Winston-Salem. And to answer one of the movie's great unsolved mysteries, yeah, shawarma is pretty darn good!


Up Next, the Second Story!

With the first story done, I'll soon begin working on the second story for the series.

The stories were usually conceived of and plotted in no particular order. When I was pitching the series to comic publishers in 2000, I had to plan out what would be in the first few issues. The first completed story "Natural Wanna Bes" actually ended up being the second issue in the planned series. The plan was to introduce the college cast in the first issue, and then in the second I'd introduce the "at home" cast that Stickboy would hang with when not in school. "Wanna Bes" would introduce his best bud Psychoboy and a back-up story would introduce Stick's ex-girlfriend, Dino.
After I ended up completing "Wanna Bes" for my senior project and submitting it to publishers in 2000, I decided to go ahead and do the planned back-up story that would accompany it. Entitled "Everyone Says I Love You (Even Though I Really Wish They Wouldn't)," it's the complete opposite of  "Wanna Bes," which is a grandiose story dealing with the current events of the time. This is a more grounded. slice-of-life story about Stickboy walking his ex-girlfriend to her car and the strangeness that ensues from it. It's semi-autobiographical, based on something that happened to me and it's a lot of fun. I think it really shows the range of the series, how every story is different.
The story, which is five pages long, was mostly penciled with several panels left to draw on the last page. I'll be adding a new cover, title page and back cover since this little short will have its own release as a .99 cent digital comic.

So there you have it! Next up is an anti-romantic comedy 13 years in the making!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

First issue: The Lessons Learned

First off, I'm very pleased to say that all the technical issues with the Amusedom version of the first issue have been ironed out. It's good and ready to go. I'll be waiting on a response back from Comixology before I schedule a release date, but it feels great to have it done.

And now, here's what I learned from making issue one:

Pencils- It's hard to draw when you haven't done it in awhile and I've lost a lot of years I could've been honing and improving my skills. That's my mistake. I should have never stopped making comics. Now I got to play catch up.

Inks- Similar to drawing, very hard to get used to doing again. Inks are especially hard because of the precision required. No erasing, no backsies. Wite-Out can only help so much. You really have to be a surgeon with an ink pin to create lines precise enough to hold up at the size Comixology wants it to. Lines that look fine in full size print required major work for digital.

I was pretty comfortable doing the computer touch ups and I'm going to experiment with the Wacom tablet I just got today to see if I can ink the pages digitally.

Color- This was really interesting since I've never worked extensively in color. The first thing I discovered is that color is sometimes relative and defined by the colors around it. A specific color may look dark on one panel and faded the next depending on the colors around it.

I also learned that color can tell as much of the story as any word or line can. It can have its own meaning, themes and humor just like any other part of storytelling.

Letters- I relearned how to use Illustrator to letter. Didn't really discover too much new about lettering itself other than how awesome it is to drop out the lines on logos since it'll show up on a color background (like I did with the CNBC and NIN logos).

I'm hoping I can figure out a way to do lettering in Photoshop so I don't have to buy Illustrator at home but that remains to be seen.

Submitting to digital comic sites- Read up. Do your research and be prepared for half of it to go out the window at some point. Be ready for anything and don't be shy about asking for help.

With issue one behind me, I'm taking few a days off of work to rest and recuperate before I get started on story two. I'll still be blogging during that time, so keep your eyes on this spot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Issue Submitted!!! Part 2

I can already say that within  a couple months you will definitely be able to buy the first issue on at least one site. No one is more surprised at that than I am.

The second site I submitted to was Amusedom. It's a smaller, less streamlined site, but I'm in good company on there with Moebius and Joe Jusko galleries, Asylum Press, Heroic Publishing, Elephant Men and the amazing M3. I heard about the site at Heroes Con in Charlotte from the creator/writer of M3, Erica Schultz. I thought it was just a site you could submit for free and it would just give you a bigger cut of the sales than Comixology.

After getting around technical difficulties (thanks to some Twitter advice from Mrs. Shultz) I was able to finally upload my pages last night...and much to my surprise they just automatically became a digital comic! There is no review process. You just upload your comic, set the price and your portion of the sales go to your Paypal account.

I was amazed! Now it's not ready to go just yet. There are some technical issues that will require me to re-save and re-upload the files. In theory I should be able to iron those out this weekend, if not, definitely in the next few weeks. 

An early release like this wasn't planned. I'm taking time off for some recuperation starting the later half of next week. I'll be breaking in a new Wacom tablet and Photoshop Elements on my personal laptop that will hopefully make the whole creative process easier. And I'll be starting on the second story very soon. 

So in the middle of all that, I'll need to figure out what the best way to let everyone know when the first issue is out and how to link you guys to it. I'm still deciding when the best time to release it will be.

Amusedom's digital comics are similar to Comixology just without the guided view and I don't think they have a mobile app. The site is relatively small and a bit dated (they've got MySpace and AIM on the share options). It's no substitute for a larger Comixology release but it definitely is a good way to get it into the hands of readers.
Right now I'm thinking about waiting to hear back from Comixology. If they reject me I can use just hit a button and the comic goes online anyway. If they accept me, I might go ahead and go live with the Amusedom version to give people who want it early access.

So give just give me a little more time and the first issue will be to you guys in all its digital glory soon! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Issue Submitted!!! Part 1

Movies aren't released, they escape. The same holds true for comics. 

I've looked over the comic several times. I made a last round of corrections on things that, honestly, are so small they probably won't even be seen by readers. I could touch up it forever, but at some point you got to say "done" and release it, knowing it's a good comic and that it's far, far better than it's ever looked before.

The comic has been submitted to Comixology, the biggest digital comic site there is and the industry standard for digital comics. It'll take months for them to review it, and then convert it for their site and app if they accept my submission. If they take it, it'll be converted into guided view, which will givers viewers the option of seeing the comic one panel at a time and lets you navigate between panels with the press of a button (or a swipe of your finger or stylus). Though not designed for guided view, the comic should be pretty much perfect for that with its panel layout.

So submitting to Comixology was a long, but easy process. I'd been making the comic all along with Comixology's requirements in mind, so the pages were already in the right format. I had to include square images of my company logo and of myself, but since I already made both images specifically with Comixiology in my mind, that was a cinch.

I also had to make a new square image for the series itself. You can see some of the images I considered on the side. The group shot from the College Follies Facebook page looks good, but just wasn't legible when shrunk down the to the size viewers might see it at on Comixology (it may appear at roughly the size of an avatar when listed with other titles). The yelling Stickboy one I also liked, but I didn't think it was as immediately, unambiguously readable as the one I went with below.  

I'm also submitting to one other site, but I'll deal with that in a later post as I'm trying to figure out what's going on with it at the moment.

NEXT: Submitting to Amusedom!

The official series image I submitted.