Publishing advice for comic books.

Getting published is hard for every creator but here are the basics of what we're looking for in comic books we want to publish and read. We'll quickly go through some broad points about pencils, inks, colors. First off, story telling from panel to panel, page to page must be of a regulated pace like a sine wave: Act One-The beginning-> inciting incident, story problem, character introductions, and theme stated within five pages. Then break into the middle/Act Two with a decisions that the character debates as the world has been disrupted (almost turned on its head if you will). This new reality must one where the characters must learn to navigate and address the story problem. It's a series of conflicts/obstacles where the protagonist fails but comes closer to resolution.

Then, midpoint. This is where there is a false victory or an agonizing defeat where the protagonist must make a decision to go forward and all the while stakes are ever increased in a break into act three.

The end, means a crisis event that leads to a final showdown where the character's internal issues are realized and dealt with along with the story problem. This must occur in every issue of a comic book. You might say, "This is a series." Fair enough, but each issue must have this structure as well although in a more simplified fashion with a beginning, middle and an end, which would in turn advance another condition to an overall story arc. One would only need to strategically position cliffhangers at the end of the issues, but that's not difficult if you have a competent outline.

Really, I shouldn't need to write the aforementioned. If you don't already know about what was explained, then it isn't advisable to try and reach out to publishers yet. Just being honest.

Okay pencillers, this is for you. Panel to panel-> do the illustrated images transition with enough information to eliminate confusion of what is occurring? Yes, then move on. Clear connections of the action that carries the reader's eye must be composed and must move the plot along. Use only as much as you need and kill redundancy. If the sequence can be deduced quickly and clearly from the panel sequence, use as few as needed. (e.g. a kid has a baseball in his hand-> a broken window). The panels must transition to the next page if the story doesn’t jump cut to another subplot. It is best to cut to other subplots after odd pages.

The panel anatomy-> in Mid to Wide Shots, where a foreground, mid-ground and background must be established, the most important thing is have a vanishing point set at he proper place so that diminishing perspective creates the proper illusion of depth. Linear perspective is so important. In complex visual arrangements, there can be multiple vanishing points with a variety of focal points but this is difficult (like creating multiple vortices fighting for position in a two-dimensional plane like whirlpools on the surface of a pond) and utilizing a single point is normally best within a panel, which accompanies others. If you have a splash page or just a double panel page, then there’s a possibility of pulling it off.

Character: hair, hand, and hips. Hair--because it is difficult to simulate the natural flow and positioning. Hands—because they are hard to replicate in action and at rest. Hips—because this is really about proportions. Hips represent the relationship between the torso and the extremities. In fact, not using the proper proportions of any animal, character, or even architectural elements is obvious and a red flag.

Don’t crop out vital characterizing attributes. Move your camera back. Nothing annoys like a character’s head cropped out or an important element/artifice that is integral to their character. As C.B. Cebulski says (paraphrased), “If you draw Wolverine, don’t crop out his claws.”

I understand that styles differ and that one might be more into realism and another into some sort of Dada wet dream or fevered cartoon, but even if you’re drawing a three fingered, balloon headed clown, depth perspective and the relationship of that character to objects in the room must be established.  Filippo Brunelleschi is your friend.

And for goodness sake, avoid tangents. They kill depth. A tangent being two objects, at different distances, being connected by a shared line. They can be fixed somewhat fixed by a good inker and colorist, but if you are submitting your work as a penciller, then we don't have that to hold against you.

Okay, inkers, you are up. This is easy. Be aware of the light source. Where is it? How bright is it? What sort of angles will be created by the shadow and light. Thickness of line depends on placement of light source and relative position in the panel (i.e. background, foreground, distance and size). Inking is not tracing. It is a skill that develops depth and form as well as separation of objects in a two-dimensional space. FYI, shadows orient the action and how the eye determines the flow of it. In reality, both object and shadow are interpreted and processed by the visual cortex to allow for humans to predict where an object is going. It’s a triangulation process and thus inking is a three point process for me. Light source, object, shadow/highlights, together create motion in a still image and direct perception.

As for colorist’s work, it’s about mood and tone. Does the choice of color palate reflect the story? Hope so. Can’t go all pastel and fuzzy neons in a story that’s foundations are built on disturbing/dark subject matter… unless it’s a tool to convey absurdity or other contrasting elements in a parody or satire. Always confer with the writer to find the proper color pallet.

This goes for everyone: BE CONSISTENT. From beginning to end. If you happen to become better by the time you finish a first round of work, then go back and tidy up the beginning. One exception, if this is a deliberate artifice to show the transitions and changes of a character perspective or a fictive world like a world going through a magical transformation, but this is rare.

Pencillers, last but not least by any stretch, you make the words live and there is much to say but instead here’s a link to Blambot, the website of Nate Piekos.

Yup, that's a bit of a tirade but it's not a comprehensive list of factors that we use to determine publishing and reading preferences. Hope it helps.

We wish you well in all your creative acts and motions. Persist and flourish. Good luck.


PS: if you're in the mood for some humor, then please have a look at the new Damn Heroes webcomic.

PPS: we are willing to give tutorials on comic book publishing and on how to exhibit at conventions for a fee. Just drop us a line to inquire by using the form on the Contact page.