Signing up for MCM again, AWOL updates and ACTION

March 8, 2013

Well, I’ve gone and done it now. I’ve signed up for London’s MCM Comic Con this May, so where the hell are all those new pages I was meant to have?

‘In progress’ is a frustrating label to tack on I know but it’s the best way I can describe it, they’re coming together but I’ve had to run through a veritable factory of brick walls to get there. Hard brick walls, covered with rusty nails and that delightful black paint you can’t seem to wash off. The name of this factory? Action.

Much harder than it looks it turns out...

Much harder than it looks it turns out…

To clarify I’ve had plenty of other stuff keeping me busy too – which all being well should appear online eventually – but for the most part there’s no avoiding the fact I have almost no experience in planning or drawing a proper action sequence in a comic. I’ve had bursts of violence and quick motion before but they’ve generally been ancillary to the scenes they’re in rather than the focus.

The last time I really had a crack at it was around six years ago with my first proper comic Cyberdog…

The hands, the faces, the wasted space in the layout... Can we just pit it away now and stop talking about it?

The anatomy, the faces, the wasted space in the layout… Can we just launch it into the sun and stop talking about it forever?

<Insert shudder>

Suffice to say I had a lot to learn back then and the whole endeavour left a foul taste in my mouth that likely put me off trying anything similar for a long time. Still here I am again, facing a similar set of problems; my drawing’s certainly improved and actually having a script this time has helped but learning to draw action from Scratch (pun intended) has proved a challenging process.

The early sketches for page four highlight some of my worst sins, I apologise in advance for their slightly spoilerific nature:p4actionpose1

Here we have the bare bones of Scratch someone delivering an elbow thrust. I roughed it out, looked at it and wondered what was wrong with the picture when the obvious struck me; there is no thrust. Indeed no motion at all, this isn’t a professional delivering a crushing neck strike it’s an exercise enthusiast having a gentle warm up. Argh.

I’d literally got so wrapped up in the anatomy I’d neglected to think about the pose and how I might make it exciting. Conveniently it was at this point my memory fired up – for once – and I recalled a good bit of advice from How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way about exaggerating poses to emphasise motion.

Armed with this reclaimed knowledge I tried again:

p4actionpose2Better; the subjects legs are actually pushing them into the strike this time, with a general lean in the direction of movement and the arm extending further out suggesting actual force is being applied. It remains far to stiff though, with the victim being altogether too upright for someone who’s just been struck in the chin full force, while knees should be bent much further in both cases if this is at the end of the motion.

Aiming to make third time the charm I created a digital mockup this time:

Branchissue2page4rough Much better. There’s a far stronger sense of engagement between characters here while Scratch’s the attacker’s front leg being bent further suggests a much longer run up and push into the strike. The victim’s head being knocked back further also emphasises the force of the impact more tangibly.

By exaggerating the key areas of the action – exertion and impact – the snapshot’s extreme qualities imply what preceded them – approach and attack – allowing the reader to fill the gaps without even realising it.  We immediately know that it’s the end of a quick and likely powerful movement by the positioning of the aggressor’s arms and legs, while the victim’s reeling off-balance makes it clear that a painful strike has been made.

Unlike films and games comics can only imply an action since the reader is in control of acquisition; everything that goes in between the panels comes down to the mental images inspired by the real ones. The issue here is a broader one really and interconnects with much of what I’m learning and practicing in the medium as a whole, elbow strikes may not be subtle but the methods used to create genuine excitement and credibility are.

I’m still struggling a lot though the next page and those following it are closer to the right track now at least; I’ve set myself a tall order getting a new issue ready for the end of May but if I take some of that fighting spirit onboard maybe I can make it work after all.




MCM Expo Photos

June 6, 2012

Should have had these up a little sooner (see the previous post) but better late than never! Nikita – my volunteer helper at the expo – conveniently remembered to bring along a camera after I forgot and took some great photos of the expo madness! A big thank you to her for doing so and for anyone who stopped by to talk, look at the comic or pose for the camera :)




London MCM Expo May 2012: Reflections

May 28, 2012

Phew, that was quite the weekend! Besides last year’s Platform Expo in Hull this was my first real convention I’ve attended and certainly the first time I’ve ever sold any work. It’s been both exhilarating and daunting in equal measure, more than anything though it’s most definitely been worthwhile.

In the end I sold 10 copies of Branch, with the majority of purchases being made on Saturday – by far the busiest day – which going on other people’s tables and what I’ve been told is pretty decent for a first timer. Financially speaking this doesn’t even equate to me breaking even but quite honestly I’m happy enough that there was interest in Branch, that I got constructive feedback and met like-minded folks with the same passion for comics. As it is I can always sell my spare stock another time and recoup the costs in the longterm.

I could rave on about all the cool things I saw or the weird and wonderful cosplay in abundance but to keep things concise and critical it’s probably best that I reflect on what I did right, what I did wrong and what I can do better next time.

Obvious as it may sound I think the lower pricing helped convince more customers, giving them the extra nudge where they otherwise might not of purchased. At £4 and £3.50 where I discounted I was hardly raking it in but most people are fairly cautious of unknown quantities and if there’s less to gamble they’ll be more willing to take the plunge. Call it optimistic but if I can interest more readers now then perhaps I can raise the price slightly without driving them away.

In terms of presentation meanwhile I was pretty humble but I think I made the most of what I had. During set up on Friday I met Chris/Ushio who I collaborated with on the Six anthology – we’ve been in contact for a few years but hadn’t previously met in person till now – anyway, besides being as nice a guy offline as on he gave me a few pointers, specifically suggesting I leave a copy or two of Branch open to read. This was definitely a good move as the contents seemed to go down better than the cover – too grim? – while later my friend/volunteer Nikita opened one on page 7’s cityscape which seemed to impress a few.

The direct feedback I received was largely positive, with most praising linework, use of colour and the general style. There was some understandable scepticism over the ‘to be continued’ conclusion but most who read through didn’t seem as bothered by the slow pacing and build up as I might have thought. I sincerely doubt anyone was blown away but it was uplifting that people urged me to continue and wanted to know when I’d back.

An additional offshoot of all this was getting a stronger sense of exactly who my niche audience is, I’ve only vaguely mentioned it to be  somewhere in the young adult SF crowd upwards before so it was interesting to see exactly who was buying. If you’ll forgive me generalizing slightly, most of my buyers were older men – likely no one under 20 – suggesting I am indeed on target.

It might sound a little condescending but I feel the content of the storyline rules out children for the most part while the majority of teenagers are likely to want something with more action, comedy and faster pacing. Maybe it sounds like I’m stereotyping, but I didn’t have much interest in film noir, detective fiction or cyberpunk until I was at least 17 and the readers are always welcome to prove me wrong :P

On the downside I felt that my chosen genre may be in a bit of a slump at the moment. Fantasy, superheroes and steampunk were all dominant at the Expo with the latter’s romanticism of technology being especially at odds with the cynical portrayal in cyberpunk. That’s not to say I don’t love these genres respectively but I did feel like it might be the wrong time and place for sci-fi dystopias; I got a palpable sense of people searching for fun and optimism rather than gloom and angst. It’s not like I’m going to change Branch into cheerful magic-adventure anytime soon, but it does present an obstacle I should give serious thought to in future.

There were exceptions to this formula such as Twisted Dark and Romantically Apocalyptic which seemed to do good business however they were well established with impressive displays to boot, which neatly brings me to my weakest area: presentation. Right from the off I knew I was outgunned since more than half the tables had banners, postcards, badges and stands; you literally couldn’t miss them. I meanwhile showed up with a table-cloth, my first issue and a modest A5 pricing sign. To make one of my stupid analogies, it was like being a mouse amongst elephants. Big elephants, wearing sparklers and wielding boom boxes playing loud “UNTZ” music…

Even in retrospect I know I wouldn’t have had the time or money to get something like an 8ft banner made for Branch but there are plenty of smaller things I could have done and certainly will do next time I attend a convention.

First and foremost I need to get some business cards, they’re a nice compromise for people who are unwilling to spend money on a comic but are still interested in your work and want to find out more. While I did write this blog down for plenty of people, having something to casually grab without a fuss is definitely preferable and likely to draw more attention in the long run, also peripherals such as badges and postcards could also give my table more substance and alternatives for hesitant customers. Even if I can’t get a banner, building a smaller display of some sort could help catch people’s eye and a stand to prop my comics up on would make them more visible at a distance as opposed to being flat on the table.

There are other matters too such as whether I should adopt a company name and what it might be, starting a proper website and sorting out a possible internet store but they’re really things I’ll need a while longer to mull over and talk about in other posts; right now I want to make good on the momentum and boost of inspiration the Expo has given me and get back to work.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who bought a copy of Branch, talked with me, helped me out, offered me veteran advice or sold me their work at the Expo. I had a great time :)

Page 22 + Printing for the Expo

May 22, 2012

Well here it is, the conclusion to Branch issue 1…

This may not be my best page but at least it gives some sense of the issue/chapter going somewhere as the threads mesh together. Curt realising his delivery has being stolen more or less concludes the introductory section and marks an important shift towards the main plot.

On the downside I haven’t covered anywhere near as much of the story as I would’ve liked though. The first third of my script was written with the intention of setting everything up and giving readers a balanced cocktail of excitement, drama, intrigue and dark humour; as it is I manage about half of that first act here, with the majority of my favourite moments infuriatingly just around the corner. There’s no use in dodging it, I need to work faster.

Not that I haven’t been working hard. I doubt it shows in the finished piece but I seriously short-changed Mr. Sandman this weekend finishing this last page for the printers. I’ve still got red roadmaps all over my eyes and the kind of complexion which has people barricading doors and brandishing crucifixes…

Still, I guess it was a valuable lesson in working economically, I didn’t get time to do everything I wanted to with this page though maybe that was the point. While the backgrounds are a little sparser than usual and the shading less detailed the flow appears reasonably clear. I could quite easily have spent another four-five days polishing this up and adding things in but would it have been worth the additional wait? Maybe having an unbreakable submission deadline yesterday demonstrated the kind of discipline I’ve been lacking till now.

Anyway on that note it’s at the printers now and will be ready just in time as I leave for the MCM Expo. As planned I’m going with an A5 colour format going for a suitably modest price of £4-5 – I’ll see how it sells :p Given that it’s the first time I’ve done something like this I’m naturally terrified, but like everything on this project I’m sure it will be a useful experience even if it isn’t a massive success. I’ve had various people telling me to get my work out there in physical form so I can at least say I’ve finally given it a shot – that and seeing other folks at the comic village should also be a lot of fun!

I’ll post again before I set out to London, in the meantime I just need to make sure I’m prepared. Stay tuned.