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.

8 More Tips for Comic Conventions: The Second List

We just got back from the Boston Comic Con and are exhibiting at a another convention, ComiCONN, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT this weekend. We will be at Table C52, right as you walk in the front door. For more details, check out our ComiCONN 2014 Event Page!

Though there are many who are wise to the ways of a convention, still, we see so many issues of consideration and vexation  that could be easily avoided. Here's a second list of tips for comic conventions if you are a new to the scene. If you missed the first list, you go back and read our 20 Tips for Attending Comic Book Conventions:

  1. Don't take photos of an artist's displayed work without permission. Remember, they are trying to make a living by selling art be it originals or prints. We know people do this because they like the images or the witty caption but it is a no-no. Buy a print instead and help an artist out.
  2. Please do check out comic book publisher's titles that are presented on tables and booths. That's what they are there for but don't stand there and try to read the whole comic without purchasing. If you like it, buy it and make everyone happy. (Yes, this is a reiteration of the first tip but you'd be amazed what people do at conventions)
  3. Don't hold your drink over an artist's table while talking to the vendors. Spilling makes for much regret. (Note from Alex: I have throat punched people for less!)
  4. Well fitting pants are a good thing. Unless you are cosplaying as a sad version of Mario or Luigi, butt crack only causes needless suffering.
  5. As much as all of us behind the tables enjoy lively discussions on things comic book, pop culture, and scifi-fantasy related, we have limited time to engage everyone. If you really want to chat, find us at the hotel bar or come by at the end of the day when the crowds thin out.
  6. Get change. It's hard for most artists, vendors or smaller publishers to break $100, especially in the morning.
  7. The last hours on the last day are great for picking deals so put aside some money to go shopping then and you will save a few bucks.
  8. Don't be a dick. (Again, Alex has throat punched people for less!) This goes for everyone: vendors, artists, staff and vendors. These conventions are overwhelming to most. Have patience. Smile. We're all there to have fun. Being a jerk can ruins a person's day and then they might just pay nastiness forward.  But also, being kind is contagious and that's the kind of infection we all need.

Okay. That's all for now. But if you happen to be going to ComiCONN, please swing by as we have new deals and discounts on new items such as artwork.  If you come see us at table C-52, right by the front entrance, mention this post and get a dollar off a print or a book.

Ars longa, vitae brevis.


20 tips for attending comic book conventions

Comic book conventions can be overwhelming for all involved, but to have a good time, plan ahead and prepare. So far we've done two cons in three weeks time and are headed down to Charlotte for Heroes Con on Wednesday (table AA-54). Just wanted to share some tips to make life a little easier not just for you but for the people you go too see. BTW, most of this is common sense and you've probably heard many of the tips before as purported by many in the comic book industry but I have a few novel ideas too.

1) Hydrate before you go.

Drinks at concessions stands can be rather pricey and cotton mouth can be an impediment to talking to the creators. This I know from experience. Trying to convey your sentiments to someone you admire can be hard enough without catching your words on a dry tongue. Plus, the cons can get hot and lead to sweating, which brings us to the next tip.

2) Wear the proper clothing.

It might be a little chilly while you stand in  the morning line eagerly awaiting entry, but unless you are prepared to lug around extra clothes, it is sometime better to just shiver a little because around 1:00pm cons can start to get really warm with the body heat. Not all conventions have great AC and ventilation but if you know the venue has good working atmospheric controls then do what you wish. Also, not many cons have places you can stow articles of clothing or items securely so bring only what you need, which brings us to the next tip.

3) Not every creator has bags for you.

It is best to bring a large bag with loose handles so you can carry around your comic book haul with ease. I recommend bags with a tight weave or a smooth interior so you don't accidentally scuff anything while it shuffles about during the walk around, which brings us to the next tip.

4) Walking.

You'll do a lot of it. Wear shoes with comfortable soles and fit well. Blisters and aching feet can bring the whole experience to a stop as well as reduce your enjoyment.

5) Courtesy

We're all there to enjoy the show even from the other side so courtesy is important.

  1. Knock into someone, say "Excuse me."
  2. Give people with strollers the right of way
  3. Don't block creator's tables for long periods of time.

It's fine to talk or take picture in front of artist alley tables but the guys behind are trying to work and make a living. When people just stand in front of tables, the flow of the crowd will naturally divert around it; thus, diverting attendees from creators who they might want to investigate. For example, two cosplayer with acoustic guitars ran into each other in front of our table at a recent con. They stood about two feet away from our set up. Two guitars, lacking proper tuning, began an ill-conceived attempt at a jam session. They were young and having fun but they weren't very skilled instrumentalist. So, all who walked by were blocked from seeing our comic books and they focused on the two young men trying to coordinate a cohesive phrasing with inexperienced fingers. The traffic diverted for two minute or so. This doesn't sound like a lot of time but not everyone does multiple rounds in artist alley, and when they go through one section that's it. Sales are important but turning people onto new comics and artwork is why we're there. By blocking or having little congress in front of creator's tables, you're effectively denying others the chance to discover a new world of of story and art.

6) Don't be a creeper

Don't be the guys who stalk the con trying to get secret pictures of women cosplayers' anatomy when they're not looking. If you go behind a woman and take a picture of her posterior with out her knowledge, you are going to get yelled at by the people behind the tables, including us at Wayward Raven.  Just don't do it. Getting yelled could be the least of your worries.

7) Ask for permission

Always ask permission to get a photo with cosplayers. If they say no, walk away. They are in no way obligated to pose with you and take a picture. No means no in all contexts.

8) Don't be a dick.

All because someone doesn't share the same passion or knowledge base as you doesn't mean they lack authenticity and should not go to conventions. Everyone starts with absence and moves through experience and knowledge. Everyone.

9) Grub

When in doubt, ask a local about where the best cheap food is because con chow can break the bank.

10) Watch out!

Cosplayers with wings will accidentally hit you with them if you walk to close. Little turns of the shoulders equate into large motions of the false appendages. Not their fault, nobody is born with wings... yet.

11) Don't be stinky.

Bath. Deodorize. Brush your teeth. Don't load up food heavy with garlic. Repeat.

12) Have change.

Don't go up to indie creators in artist alley on the first day, first thing in the morning, and ask them to break a $100.

13) Be Prepared.

Buy bags/sleeves and boards in bulk. Bring them to the convention. They cost more there. Keeping comics safe is important to us all but not every creator has them.

14) Get a con layout map.

Study it. Most creators behind the tables can't give you directions. We know our table number, our relative position to the entrance/exit, who is basically around us, and where the bathrooms are. We don't get to walk around. We're not event staff. Plus, knowing the layout allows you to speedily get to the creators you love.

15) Take breaks.

There's  lots to take in but you can't see it if you're being spirited away on a stretcher because you passed out from dehydration, exhaustion or low blood sugar. I've seen people pass out at cons and the floors are not forgiving.

16) Don't be drunk.

Drinking is is fine but crashing into people and creators tables can result in everything from nasty words to having to pay for the things that were broken or damaged. Alternate between alcoholic beverages and water. Eat something too. Empty stomachs will get you drunk fast. Speaking of drinking...

17) Don't Pitch.

If you see an editor, creator or writer out at dinner or a bar after the con, and you want to talk about business matters such as portfolio reviews or submissions, don't. Don't pitch. Don't ask business questions. Don't hand them your portfolio. Instead, buy them a drink. Introduce yourself. Ask if you can talk to the them next day at the convention. Most will say thanks for the drink and of course come on by. Then leave unless they engage you in conversation. Business in times of business and relaxing in times of relaxing.

18) Don't be a Stalker

This is by no means a universal truth, but the high profile guest aren't at their tables as much as the other folks. They are paid to be there so some get in a little later, take a lunch hour, and they do panels. So if you have a specific artists or writer in mind who you must see, incorporate this into your con strategy. Use the early morning and lunchtime to investigate the indie dudes.

19) Protect Your Stuff!

If in dire need for a stiff folder/large envelop to stash your precious art or comics and you can't afford or find one at the con, go to a Post Office or UPS and snag one of the free cardboard large shipping envelopes they offer in the front. The are usually Post Offices around the convention centers.

20) Most Importantly...

Go see the Wayward Raven crew.

PS: if you stay in a hotel, bring your own toilet paper. Unless you like the one-ply.

Ars longa, vitae brevis. Cheers!