Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stick and Carrot

Page 8 lines complete. Click to enlarge. More below.


Here's how it looked at the thumbnail stage (witness the moment when I realize diagonal panel boundaries exist):


Talk about your trench warfare drawings -- this one was the battle of Verdun. If I have a nemesis, it's multiple panels depicting the same complicated object from different angles. And man, that saddle... Why, oh why, did I put netting around two of the barrels? Why would I do that, except to add even more time to the already interminable barrel-drawing task? I suppose it goes without saying that the bottom panel was a little cathartic. I think I may have put a little extra stink on that impact, just out of spite. Take that, pagoda-with-infuriatingly-complicated-beam-placement!

If this page seems difficult to read, please join me in my fervent and possibly naive belief that color will make everything much more legible.

Also adding to the long turnaround for this page was a week of thumbnailing for the rest of the issue. It's all there now, just waiting for a liberal dollop of barrels and elaborately-knotted ropes. Having some certainty about the layout has taken a bit of the edge off of my completion anxieties -- there do not seem to be any un-drawable things lying in wait at the end of the book (though the last page is going to make this one look charmingly simple).

Drawing lots of barrels gives you time to ruminate on the future, and my futurey thoughts on this project fall into three categories: dreams, plans, and goals.

My dreams for Project Waldo are embarrassingly opulent. They involve winning Eisners, having the book turned into a movie, and palling around with Michael Cera. Of course these are ridiculous notions, as that sort of great luck has never befallen anyone, ever. I don't really have illusions that anything of the sort will actually occur, which is why these kinds of thoughts don't fall under the "goals" category. But they do help my mental rowers to put their backs into it when I'm becalmed in the barrel-doldrums.

Planning is much more wheel-meets-road. I've made a schedule, complete with deadlines, and set a ship date for myself. Of course, this was before I fell down the bottomless pit of page 8. So after two weeks, I'm already a week behind schedule. Still, I've discovered that being able to put a number on my lateness has added some urgency (some would say "abject panic") to my work day.

I've only got one concrete goal: to get the first issue printed. I'll have crossed my personal finish line when I'm holding Project Waldo number one in my hand (which is not to say I won't do the next issue, but that I'm not spending many cycles thinking about it right now). My prospects of getting a "real" publisher interested in this are probably hindered by my propensity to brag about how slow I am, but that's all okay because Ka-Blam exists.

I've mentioned Ka-Blam here before, and several people have chimed in with positive impressions of the company. It's starting to look like my safety school. Their site is a little confusing, as Ka-Blam is only the printing arm of a three-headed entity that also sells your books online (Indyplanet) and distributes them to retailers (Comics Monkey). It's basically a one-stop solution for the independent creator, with the (gigantic) caviat that the creator is still responsible for marketing.

Here's the ultra-rad part: you don't even need to print a single issue before posting your book on Indyplanet. You can upload your images and set your quantity to zero, and Ka-Blam will print each issue as it's ordered. That's right: you don't need any capital to get started (though I think there may be some setup fees).

I can only see a couple of potential drawbacks. First, the per-issue cost is relatively high compared to a four-color press. I did the math for a full-color 24 page comic on high-bright paper, and it comes out to $2.64 per issue (it goes up to $2.99 if I go with glossy paper -- is glossiness worth an extra thirty cents to you guys?). At $2.64, I'd have to price the comic at $4.50 just to have a chance of staying afloat. I've been listening to the House to Astonish podcast (it is hilarious and promotes accent envy), and from them I get the impression that in many cases, any price over four bucks can be a dealbreaker. If anybody has pricing advice, I'd love to hear it.

Drawback number two: Comics Monkey is a new and untested entity, and it remains to be seen whether retailers will go out of their way to set up accounts with them. CM certainly won't have the penetration of a company like Diamond, but it looks like they're very motivated to build solid relationships with stores. Sometimes the little guys show a little more hustle.

Wow, this post is getting epic. One last thing: I think this may be the last full page to appear here. I'm told that there should be some previously-unseen material in the comic, itself. That said, I'll continue to post individual panels and other development art over the coming months.

Here's one last barrel for old times' sake. Click to enlarge.

43 comments:

  1. Continued thanks for putting yourself out to be a public case study in self publishing... Its fascinating to watch the process...you'll have a making of book even if the world doesn't embrace the comic! But it's looking aweseome right now, so I'm thinking you'll be gold if you can make it last. This is good stuff here! My bet is the trick will be staying afloat long enough to get the story out - to hook the imagination of us, the readers....

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  2. Your colors are gorgeous, your lines are incredible, your story is compelling, and your barrels are inspired. :P Thanks much for putting all this out there for us to absorb. The process is fascinating, but I have to say, what keeps me coming back is the quality of your work. I can't wait to dive into the finished product!

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  3. Glossy is worth 30 cents.

    And, just a thought, mightn't it work better to make Project Waldo an annual prestige format book than a single issue bi-annually?

    Page 8's looking great.

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  4. Hey, I can totally tell what is happening on that page. You didn't badmanga the action at all.

    Elephant thing got hit by a sword on a rope or something, and then the elephant thing fell down. Also BARRELS.

    And if you can't get Michael Cera, you can get the Diet Michael Cera who was just in Zombieland. He is hot right now.

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  5. http://www.freakangels.com/?page_id=52

    Freakangels publishes a book every time they've accumulated 144 pages. The cover price is $19.99.

    I'm not familiar with the particulars, but the pages seem glossy to me. Of course, it's Warren Ellis.

    With books drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Avatar seems willing to wait quite some time between printed issues. You may not be particularly turned on by their catalog of stuff, though.

    Beautiful page. I'd still buy it if I saw every one beforehand. ;)

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  6. Going to second what Eagle said. I understand about how some unseen stuff is market smart, but know that I'd love to hold a copy of this in my hands even if I had to pay for the printing myself. Well, at least the $4.50 (which I would feel like I was getting a steal with artwork like this).
    Anyway, looking great still. I'm just blown away every time I come to your blog.

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  7. Marc - Thanks for the kind words! I'd be so stoked if a bunch of other people tried to do this, too. For me, the mere existence of a company like Ka-Blam seems like a giant invitation for everyone to try at least one at-bat. Marc, if you made a comic, it would kill.

    bykamon - Actually, I feel like the third barrel in the fifth panel doesn't fully convey the weltschmerz that I wanted to explore with this piece. But thanks for all the encouragment! It's great to hear you're enjoying the art. That's a very good sign!

    fanboy d - The prestige format annual book would be superior, but I don't have enough money in the bank to stay afloat for that long. I need to prime the income pump a little bit in the near-term, or else it's back to games for me. I think I'll just have to keep going this way and then release the whole run as a graphic novel when it's finished. I hope you're still interested then!

    Michael - Dude, I'd totally settle for diet Cera. Zombieland was the most fun I've had since Ghostbusters. If you're out there, guy-whose-name-I-can't-remember, let's hang out and make Bryan Lee O'Malley jealous of us!

    Eagle - Thanks again! I'm going to go take a look at Avatar right now.

    Shaun - Wow, you're very kind. I'll do my best to put up something interesting here all the way to printing day. Plus, I'll still be posting the color versions of everything that's currently black and white. It's great to hear that $4.50 wouldn't be too off-putting. Maybe I'll be able to afford fancy cereal, after all! Frosted Mini Wheats, here I come!

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  8. Nate,

    Again just opinions from a fanboy who spent many years behind the counter at the comic shop... the 30 cents for glossy paper are definitley the way to go. your details and vibrant colors will pop that much more. I agree that about $4 is the standard threshold for comics these day, but I think everyone can agree your lev of detail/art is anything but standard. I think $5 would be a fair price anyone seeing your art would pay... and it would help you last till issue #2.

    On a separate note I totally picked up on your cool avatars in another world concept back on page 6. It was an easy jump from you as a game artist. What Im curious about is if the other people in the caravan are avatars too or "NPCs." Definitely a cool story. Still can't wait to here about your story development process in some of your posts.

    great stuff showing the thumbnail too!

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  9. Love this blog. Great stuff, a bit annoying too because I want to be this good, but aren't.
    You were worried in a previous post about stuff getting lost in all the detail. Have you tried changing the colour of the line? The grass could be drawn with a dark green line. that'll knock it back a bit if you think it needs it.
    (who am I to give you advise!?!)

    I won an eisner once... :)

    http://speenal.blogspot.com/2008/03/eisner-award-winning-spleenal.html

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  10. Hi Nate,
    I'm the deviantART GM who featured you recently, and I'd be surprised if you don't go very far in this field. I'm thrilled that you have a blog where you share so much of your thought process as you work. Definitely keeping an eye on you!

    Joumana Medlej
    www.malaakonline.com

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  11. capt_parsons - It's been a while, Mister Parsons! I keep forgetting we've got an actual former retailer here. I'm definitely getting the sense that glossy-and-pricey is the way to go. Have you been following Comics Monkey at all? I'm curious what you think of them, given your background.

    spleenal - Your link has a typo in it, although there's a certain humor value in the dead link, too. Anybody who changes "speenal" to "spleenal" will discover that there are some VERY funny comics over at your site. And well drawn, too! REALLY well-drawn, not just I'm-being-nice-to-you-because-you-were-nice-to-me well-drawn. People, go look at this guy. I enjoyed some of the more "serious" comics you've done, too. And thanks for the nice words!

    Joumana - Cedarseed! Thanks again for featuring me over there. I just went and started reading your comic, and I gotta say it's a page-turner. I often worry that my story's going to stall -- it's hard to keep things going at a nice, steady pace. I like that you don't screw around with posing or navel-gazing or brooding, enigmatic pauses. It's just go, go, go. I need to learn some of those good writing habits. Thanks for swinging by!

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  12. Nate,

    You're probably giving me more cred than I deserve, its been several years since I was behind the counter, and the market has changed a lot. I did give a look over comic monkey and gotta say it seems ideal for indie comics. I see both a benefit and difficulty from it vs going through Diamond.

    Background: Youre average dealer uses Diamond because its the simple, standard format to order though. However, those dealers need to not only scan through for the easy sales but also hunt for what the potential new titles with sales potential are. Then they need to calculate how many copies they have locked in from for sale from their regulars who are interested and guesstimate how many more copies over that for the shelf so that other browsers can get it, BUT not be left with a massive backlog that never sells. Another factor they consider is timing, since if you have "the Death of Superman" on the shelf you're just not gonna order as much of other items so that you can max your shelf space for what you know will sell. Its a fine line, but most dealers (who last for more than a year) are familiar with what their customers will probably like and, again, Diamond is the standard format to order from.

    Comic Monkey's advantage over Diamond is that dealers never have to worry about ordering too many and clogging their shelves or too few (which leads to smaller print runs) and potentially never being able to provide that missed issue to the customer. They can simply order a few copies and if they sell well, place a reorder next week for the same issue. In essence it lets the dealer dip his foot in the pool to test the water without requiring him to dive in and hope its deep enough.

    The disadvantage is that its a new format that doesnt have the embedded advertising power that Diamond has established over the years. This will mean that some stores may not even know your comic exists after you've been on Comic Monkey for months...

    If you ask me though, the disadvantage is pretty small in your case. Ive said it before and I'll say it again, your art speaks for itself. Most dealers IF they see it on Comic Monkey would know a good thing when they see it and at least try a few copies. That should be all you need. Once you have that foot in the door, if it sells well Comic Monkey seems to be ideal for re-orders until that dealers market is saturated. Then its just as easy of a sale for issue #2 since they already know they have a locked audience... AND they dont have to order more than they know they could sell.

    Anywho that' my 2 cents... and probably another 2 bucks after that. Best of luck bro!

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  13. While glossy brings out colors more, I really always prefered a paper with a bit of texture. Part of the print medium IS the feel of it.

    $4-5 seems reasonable depending on length. I know whenever it does happen I'll buy a few copies to take to the LCS and stick on the shelf. The quality of art has already eclipsed %99 of what is on stands!

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  14. Oucha doc
    really fantastic.
    In portuguese---muito fodaaa!--

    Im really think to work on comics with pointillism, u got more patience than i!!

    hugss
    M.Ramos
    www.pontilhismo.blogspot.com

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  15. Hi Nate, Al from House to Astonish here. Thanks for the kind words on the podcast! In regard to pricing, the four bucks thing isn't a dealbreaker at all - it all depends on the book. I mean, I would happily pay $4.50 for a really great book (your VIKINGs, your KING CITYs etc) but $4 for standard Pants-Man Punches Doctor Bastard issue 583 kind of stuff is where the problem lies. So don't be afraid to price the book where it needs to be priced - if it's good, people will find out, and they'll want to buy it.

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  16. capt_parsons - To hear you describe the ordering process, I wonder how any comic store ever stays afloat. The whole thing looks like a huge crap shoot. From the comic retailer's perspective, CM seems to be quietly building a business model that Diamond is incapable of duplicating, and I'd think retailers would want to bend over backwards to work with a company that offers such a humane alternative. What Comics Monkey really needs now is a strong catalog of titles -- I'm not sure I see too much professionalism on display at Indyplanet. Actually, the way the site is set up, it's impossible for me to know if there's anything gorgeous lurking under all the piles of furry fantasy books. Can anybody give any examples of good comics sold through Indyplanet? I'd love to order some just to get a feel for the paper quality, and it would be nice to get a good story out of the bargain. Thanks, Captain Parsons! Your comment got me thinking about retailers in a whole new way. You're the best... arooooound!

    Launchpad - Thanks for the new perspective. I gotta say, there's something about matte-finish paper that I love, too. If they had matte-finish cardstock, this would be a tough choice. I wish there were something in between glossy and matte - I'd prefer a little less shine than I've seen, but I do like the way glossy paper shows off color. I think I'll order one of each from Ka-Blam just to get a sense of which one feels better in my hand. Thanks for the generous compliment!

    Ramos - HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGS! Thank you. I still love your drawings.

    Alistair - I have been trying to fit the term "bog-standard" into conversation lately, but I have no idea whether I'm using it right. I assume it's a lot like standard "standard," but maybe even more standard. But here in Seattle, the presence of a bog would actually be somewhat noteworthy. There must be heaps of bogs in Scotland. Here, we'd have to come up with something else - maybe Starbucks standard or lame-chinese-character-tattoo-on-your-neck standard. I love your podcast, by the way - I found out about you guys maybe four days ago (Brandon Graham mentioned you on his blog), and I've already listened to all the episodes. The word "book" was always meant to rhyme with "Luke." I'd totally pay five bucks for a buke, especially if it were an issue of Pants Man Punches Doctor Bastard. And thanks for the help with the price deliberations. I'll sleep better at night knowing I don't have to cut my profit margin down to the bone.

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  17. 'Bog' in this context is, I think, a reference to the slang of 'bog' meaning 'lavatory'. I.e. crap standard. Possibly. I have no idea.

    (Thanks for the kind words on the podcast!)

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  18. First Nate, you're creating some damn cool images. Thank you for sharing your process so thoroughly...this blog is a gift for which many will be grateful.

    Second, I wish it were easy to comment anonymously because I have some really basic half-wit questions: are you using stroked paths for some of your lines? (then off-setting a duplicated layer to create exact parallels??) have you considered creating a YouTube screen capture -- time lapsed of course : ) -- of your workflow? and the most humble question...would you consider posting one of your gigantic 150+ layer Photoshop files online? (I'm self-taught and have already learned so much from your blog it is easily now one of my favorites -- THANK YOU for your generosity!)

    As a person who has never been much of a comics fan -- until literally discovering your blog Thursday -- when you mentioned $4.50 as a price I was STUNNED. From my point of view I would think you could sell images and text culled from this blog with the finished comic as a complete book for $20, easily, at a mainstream store like Barnes and Noble. It might just be a matter of marketing. Apparently the comics market is a universe unto itself: $4.50 took my breath away.

    At least retain rights to recompile the images into a full book of 60 or 80 illustrations + sections culled from this heaven sent blog after the movie : )

    Thank you thank you thank you

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  19. Slightly - You're very generous! When the whole run is complete, I'll definitely want to release it as a graphic novel. A couple of people have brought up the how-to book idea, which sounds great to me. We'll see where this road takes us -- at this point I'm pretty sure I'm doing almost everything the wrong/slow way, and I'd hate to end up transmitting those bad habits to others. If you're in the market for a detailed, professional breakdown of how to draw a comic digitally, I'd strongly recommend The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, by Freddie Williams II. I'm reading that one right now, and it's got a very useful emphasis on time-saving techniques (including paths, which I'll be experimenting with soon). At present, I'm not using paths for stroked lines. It's all just the brush tool + patience. I do occasionally duplicate layers for long parallel strokes (especially ropes), but they almost always require a little tweaking. I have considered the time-lapse youtube video -- I save religiously, and some of the more complex pages have forty or fifty saved variants. The big problem is that my lines are so fine that they almost don't show up at all at youtube-compliant resolutions. I suppose I could do it for a single panel... hm. Let me think about that one. And yes, I can certainly post a .psd, though it would only be valuable as a cautionary tale -- they're a horrible mess. Where would you recommend that I make such a file available?

    Don't worry, I won't be giving up the rights to anything!

    Thanks for the meaty comment!

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  20. Thanks for your help, especially suggesting the book by Freddie Williams.

    I'm uploading a 299 mb file to filefactory.com just to make sure their free service works -- but that was 2 hours ago with 5 more remaining. (They have a "fast" dedicated upload application for PCs.) They do offer unlimited bandwidth and seem to be popular (the first result in a Google search for "file hosting service").

    Camtasia Studio can zoom in for screen capture video, which might overcome the YT res problem. ?

    Also, a cool thing about a digital graphic novel is someone with your talent will be able to repurpose assets in Toon Boom Animate Pro eventually to create a movie-pitch animatic like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pHvg5uHtF8

    Thanks again for your generous inspiration!

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  21. Slightly - That Ratatouille animatic is crazy. I wish the whole thing were out there somewhere -- in its way, it's as enthralling as the CG version. So much love went into it! More than you'd expect for something that wasn't going to be seen by the public. Very inspiring stuff. I'd love to do that someday for Project Waldo, but the finish line is so far away at this point that I'm having trouble believing we'll ever get there. But when we do, I'm all about the animatics!

    Toon Boom Animate Pro and Camtasia Studio are both now on my to-try list. Thanks very much! How did filefactory go in the end?

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  22. Hey Nate, the 299 mb file was dropped after about 5 hours but a 150 mb file took less than 25 minutes to upload this morning, and, required only an eight minute download. Maybe there's less traffic on Mondays? Also, I didn't use the internet at all during this second attempt. Filefactory has a 30 second nag page before downloads begin but otherwise everything is free. (And for PCs they offer a "faster" dedicated upload application which I was unable to try.)

    Wish I could offer more than just encouragement in exchange...you know about the Nicholls Screenwriting Fellowships, right?
    http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html

    Also, your use of unorthodox panel boundaries is cool...you mentioned very consciously placing text bubbles while composing a shot. I'm wondering if authors ever place dialogue entirely off to the side of the graphic, on the outside edge of a panel (if it is clear who is speaking), so potentially cheesy bubbles don't detract from their artwork? Just a thought. Your work is freakin' beautiful!

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  23. Slightly - Yeah, word balloons are a weird concession, aren't they? It's a balance between looks and legibility. The danger is that by putting the text outside of the panel you may make things less clear. And you'd be squeezing your available real estate for the art, itself. For similar reasons, I decided right at the beginning that I'd never use a "narrator" box in Project Waldo -- partly because I feel like a voiceover is a crutch, and partly because I need every millimeter I can get. I'm really bad at fitting stuff into small spaces.

    I hadn't heard of the Nicholls Fellowship. 30k would sure hit the spot about now. It looks like it's closed for 2009, but I'll definitely keep that one in the back of my head. Have you submitted anything?

    I'm not at my main computer at the moment, but I'll try to post a .psd somewhere shortly. Thanks for the comments!

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  24. Slightly & Nate - I totally understand the comment about the word balloons, and as you mentioned Nate the commonly used option is the narrator box, but that only works well for time/place updates or for, well narration. The dialogue pretty much has to be in balloons if your doing a traditional comic.

    A couple of exceptions to that rule come to mind:
    1) You could do a motion comic (like the "Watchmen motion comic" on I-tunes) where you get a voice actor to provide the dialogue as the the panels move around... but Im guessing this would be a labor intensive process and would make for difficult sales for a new breakout artist I think.

    2) the other exception that comes to mind is devoting an page to story/dialogue next to your page of art (such as the "Stardust" comic by Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess). The difficulty with this idea is that your art can't have alot of back and forth it really needs to be one or two panels to the page so that the story doesnt need to clarify what panel you should be looking at. Cool for some story driven projects but would require going back to the drawing board for Project Waldo.

    Nate - I think you should stick with Project Waldo as is, word balloons and all.

    However, something else to consider might be removing the balloons for some one page wall posters or lithos. Those you could probably start selling to fans of the blog a lot sooner than the completed comic would take, and it might help get more buzz (not that you havent gotten a lot already)... Just a thought.

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  25. Just admiring the unorthodox panels above: their diagonal movement, dynamic tension, motion and so on…I was wondering: what if someone took really cool images similar to Nate's -- except that they were by traditional illustrators, like Rackham or Dulac -- and put text bubbles across them: instant cheese. There is nothing cheesy of course about Project Waldo, or anything that should change, but, I was just curious, where Nate's ability to imagine unorthodox alternatives to "traditional" comic styles might take him (over time) regarding one of the most unusual features of comics.

    Hasn't the art form only been around for two or three centuries? We are hardly aware of the best format for presenting graphics and dialogue together, if there is one. --For that matter, suppose Shakespeare were also a gifted graphic artist…would he have filled his images with with massive unending text bubbles? Would he draw dialogue by hand, like Mucha in the extreme, dripping literally with emotion? What would the graphic novel of an artist with the combined talents of Shakespeare and Rackham look like? Just a curious question from outside the comic book world. There are many possibilities…I'm excited to see how Nate's naturally evolves. No "need" whatsoever to change anything of course. Project Waldo is purely amazing as is! Absolutely marvelous! : )

    (Nate, what do your storyboards look like…I don't remember seeing any images of them in this blog? You know, when you resume storyboarding, the fast greyscale technique used by Derek Thompson in this DVD may be liberating: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/product/415/ )

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  26. I saw some of your art on Deviantart and I have to say that this could be one of the most visually stunning comics ever made.

    Just don't do a Joe Mad on us and you'll be a rich man when they go to print!

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  27. capt_parsons - I'd love to sell some of these pages as posters. Sadly, I draw the bubbles directly into the original linework -- there isn't anything behind them. Still, there are a couple of pages with no dialogue. I still think I'm going to be making some revisions on the earlier stuff, but when it's all final, I'll follow your suggestion. Thanks for the good ideas!

    Slightly - I totally feel you on the need for experimentation. My favorite artists are the ones who try everything, no matter how crazy-sounding. I think the fact that I'm trying to turn Project Waldo into a source of income has made me a tiny bit conservative, which might be a bad thing. If I ever get rich (ha!), I think I'll get a little looser with my approach. Oh, and my storyboards look pretty much like the thumbnail at the top of this post. Or rougher. Thanks for commenting so prolifically!

    Adam - Thank you so much for the encouragement! If by doing a "Joe Mad" you mean going back to making games, I'll try my hardest not to throw in the towel too soon. As for being rich when they go to print -- well, that would make me a religious man. I'll settle for above-the-poverty-line for now!

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  28. "Thanks for commenting so prolifically!" Thanks for creating this inspirational favorite cool blog! : ) It's exciting that others more familiar with comics also consider this "one of the most visually stunning comics ever made."

    "Have you submitted anything? [to the Nicholl's Fellowship" Yes once without success -- it may help to start writing before April : )

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  29. Personally, I think $3.00 is the highest I would ever pay for a comic. I stopped reading marvel books entirely due to their $4.00 price tags. That an how their quality just went to hell all around, but the pricetag was what really caused me to stop buying their books on a whole.

    Maybe that would change if I had a more expendable income, but I also think comics need to be an affordable medium for the time spent with them. It only takes a short amount of time to read a 24 page monthly, hiking the price just makes it all the less appealing a purchase.

    I would prefer if all the books I read took the Japanese approach. They have lower quality paper and ink in their anthologies and step up the paper quality once collected into trades.

    Unfortunately, your book uses color very smartly and very heavily. I can understand that making a comic in color will need to be priced on the higher end so that you just be in the break even range. It would also be expected that you would need to print on at least somewhat higher quality paper just to make the colors print correctly.

    I myself plan on making a book in black and white, so I feel the relief of lower printing costs affecting my decisions.

    I think you should also look into Longbox Digital for a possible distribution. They are still in their beta phase, but it looks like it might be a great possibility for independent comic marketing which will alleviate printing costs entirely for some. (www.longboxdigital.com)

    Selling a digital copy for a dollar with no printing costs could suppliment an indie creator very well, and with the quality that you put into your work, I am sure you would attract more readers than many through such digital outlets.

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  30. ability - I've heard a few people fantasize about distributing through Longbox -- one of the nice things about self-publishing through Ka-Blam is that I won't be encumbered by any sort of contractual baggage. There's nothing stopping me from doing both. I would probably have drawn the comic differently (horizontal page layout, fewer panels, lower resolution) if I had intended it for digital distribution, though. Project Waldo is uniquely maladapted for screens, which is a pity!

    Your blog is spectacular! What a huge talent you've got. And I love the reference images, too. I've got you bookmarked, and I'm looking forward to Future City Waltz. Thanks for the input!

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  32. Hi Nate,

    Belated thanks for your own kind comments on my work :) I don't know if I can recommend my writing habits, as I rely entirely too much on faith that the story will keep coming as I go! But I do note how interesting it is that your writing matches your style: carefully planned and painstakingly executed to perfection. My style and writing are both more impressionistic, throwing the essentials out there and leaving the gaps to the readers. It's a question of natural temperament and we can't do much about that :) What I do envy is the way your style alone is capturing new readers. Even in this saturated field, you hit on something people haven't seen before.

    I've been meaning to share some thoughts in answer to your posts, so let me do this in a big dump right here.

    I'm of the opinion that as a creator, you should always stick to what you feel compelled to do. This is the only way to keep your motivation and personal relationship to your work. If this amount of detailing is what feels right to you, stick to it. It's already a signature, and not many people can claim their first comic was so distinct. Some people commented that having such detailed backgrounds hurt your compositions: they're neither right nor wrong, in my opinion. It completely depends on the point of view one decides to adopt, so that in the end, since you're the source, it's your own point of view that matters most. I think you'd quickly become frustrated and unhappy if you started curbing your instincts to cater to what you think your audience wants, or to produce pages faster. A good product never goes to loss, and you're putting together a very good product, so by all means don't feel rushed. I don't believe your pace can lose you any audience, nor do I see how a publisher could possibly turn down something so professional.

    European publishers may be a good way to go, yes. I'm more of the French-Belgian school myself and I associate this with them immediately. It reminded me of Michel Weyland's Aria, published by Repérages Dupuis, which has a similar highly detailed approach to fantasy. At any rate, this isn't the kind of work you throw away into cheap and ultimately short-lived monthly prints. French authors publish no more than annually, but beautifully printed and bound, in a larger format than American comics, and more expensive – but I would pay for such a high-quality product, where I can see the art properly. If it came down to it I'd purchase your work as a ka-blam print, but I'd much rather see it offset-printed, so please do try some publishers first :) I invest in offset myself but I don't know how realistic it would be for you to consider that (different country and costs) so I won't elaborate unless you're interested.
    (continued in next comment)

    I'm a bit puzzled by all the flatting business. Maybe I'm missing something, but I've always done it the way you used to (magic wand and expand 2 pix), using an action to reduce that to one click, and it's the fastest part of my entire pagemaking. Granted, my style is much less detailed, but I'm over 100 pages in and I don't know why it's so essential for the color areas on the color layer to touch, or what's so much faster about having a plugin create those areas if you then have to go and select them again to color them properly. I deliberately leave some lines unclosed to keep some looseness in the lines, and for those areas I just go back with the brush after my automatic fill – no big deal. It never takes me more than a couple of hours to complete my flats. Since you made the switch and you're happy with it, maybe you can tell me what I'm not getting?

    Sorry for the length! Looking forward to more posts from you.
    All the best,
    Joumana

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  33. Howard - Thanks! I'm incredibly impressed that you've made an actual film (on top of having done just about everything else)! The Secret World of Comic Book Artists looks like a lot of fun. When is it coming out?

    Joumana - Holy mackerel! Now THAT'S a comment! I'll try to take it in chunks: First, thanks for the encouragement. I think I've kind of gotten past that early criticism about "too much detail." You're right: that's just how I work, and no matter what I do, some people aren't going to like it. A lesson most of us learn on the schoolyard, but I've always been a late bloomer.

    I would love to see my stuff offset-printed, and if a European publisher were interested, I'd be all for it. As far as I understand (and you can correct me if I'm wrong), publishing through Ka-Blam doesn't preclude reprinting with a professional publisher down the road. If that's true, then I can look at the Ka-Blam version as sort of a marketing tool or mock-up. Having said that, the high-end Ka-Blam stuff looks pretty darn good. Like, better than much of the offset printing I've seen. So I see it as win-win. Assuming it's true that I'm not committing to anything by using Ka-Blam. I should probably check that out. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear more about how you're getting your stuff offset printed. Does it take a heap of capital, or are you working through a publisher? Do you have to deal with a lot of inventory in your house?

    The flatting stuff. Actually, you making an action that selects the open space and then expands is a great idea! The plugin is just another way of doing the same thing, really. My main reason for using it is that it deals decently well with very tight or ambiguous anti-aliasing situations. Like where a diagonal crosshatch meets another line, there's always a tiny triangular area that doesn't get selected when I'm using the magic wand. I suppose I could just run a threshold on my line art and then do it your way, but in the end it sounds like it would take almost exactly the same amount of effort. And I wouldn't get the fun patchwork to lay on top of everything for that free surface variation!

    I think I'll write more about the European publisher question in my next post, which should come very soon (I got bogged down in a side project, but I'm back in the saddle now). Thanks so much for all the advice! And keep up the nice work on your comic!

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  34. There's some having problems with Ka-Blam on GZ:

    http://www.dave-co.com/gutterzombie/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=13675

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  35. Eagle - Uh-oh... I'll follow this closely. Thanks.

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  36. I'm only too happy to discuss this stuff!

    Regarding Ka-blam and publishing down the road, the echoes I get are that it varies with the publisher. Some don't consider print-on-demand "publishing", but some do and are reluctant to pick up what they consider to be previously published work. So it's worth checking out the terms of potential publishers while your book is in progress to get a feel for that – just to be on the safe side. It's a pretty quick question as well so you could probably shoot them a quick "What is your stance on previously self-published submissions" email and get a straight answer if their FAQ isn't explicit about it. I'm pretty sure, however, that you should avoid getting your own ISBN for anythign you want to pitch to a publisher. That said, even if it turns out to be safer not to use a PoD service, it's excellent marketing to use it privately to print copies of your book to send to publishers as samples.
    Here's a really brilliant link I ferreted out while making our comic resource index (on deviantart): The Submission Guidelines for every Comic and Manga Publisher in the Universe: A fantastic list of active publishers, briefly stating their submission requirements and linking straight to their submission pages.
    Only for US publishers unfortunately, but very useful!

    Oh those pesky triangles, I had forgotten about them. I see why it would make your life easier in that case!

    (continued in next comment, too long)

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  37. As for offset, I'm not working with any publishers, here in Lebanon they wouldn't finance the printing anyway so I prefer to do without them altogether. I'm trained as a graphic designer so I have experience working with printers. I have a few good tips for preparing a comic for press that I really should type up as an article asap, they're too much for a comment. Assuming your file is ready for press though, the first great thing about working with a traditional printer is that you can sit down with him/her and discuss your needs and budget, and find ways to cut costs with minimal compromise: selecting paper type and weight (thinking both of the feel of the printed book and how costly it would be to ship), size (small adjustments can lower the cost), number of pages (multiples of 16 optimize your cost) and other considerations. My printer really collaborated with me to find the perfect balance, and they also provided me with a color profile so that I can convert my pages to CMYK myself, something nobody should do on their own because it adds so much black to the pages. Normally the printer does that for you, but it's an extra cost that you can avoid by doing it yourself, hence it was really nice of them to show me how to do it and give me that profile so I could do it safely. It's still quite a bit of capital but at least we have some control over it, and "heap" is relative. I don't know what the costs are like in the US; over here is costs me about $2700 to print 1000 full-color 48-page A4 books (printing more would cost less per unit, but our market is too small). It's not little for my freelance income, but I consider it a long-term investment – sales can only go up over time as the comic gets better known. I have to mention 2 things I do before going to press: I get an ISBN (for me it's not subject to hesitation because I know I won't work with a publisher within Lebanon) and I sign a distribution contract, to insure the comic is placed in bookshops. It's not a distributor specialized in comics, we have no such thing, and distribution doesn't mean promotion, but it means it's available everywhere for those who ask and I don't have to rely solely on myself to sell my stock. I do have to deal with inventory, by the way: I give half to the distributor and the rest, uh, well I'm starting to think of ways to use it as furniture in the meanwhile ;) We're kind of used to that because we also publish children's book so we have something like 10,000 books hidden around the house. But that's just because our distributor can't take all our inventory, and we make more money from the books we sell directly, so we go half-half. So a distribution is something one has to consider when dealing with offset, except of course if by then you have a fanbase large enough to ensure your inventory will fly off your shelves, which is certainly possible.
    I hope this gives you a general idea; again I don't know if it can all apply to your part of the world, but I'm sure there are always options beyond the better known ones.

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  38. Joumana - Thanks again for all the info. It's especially interesting that you discourage the obtainment of an ISBN, as I had planned on getting one. In fact, if I'm going to distribute through Comics Monkey, it's not even optional. This may all mean that I should shop the comic around a bit more before I pull the trigger on Ka-Blam, I think. Great food for thought. Much obliged!

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  39. Hey Nate...ran across this animatic and thought of how cool your images would look if similarly animated for a film pitch (especially given your interest in such an end goal, etc):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EAjzbU9Ikg

    Apparently it was animated only in After Effects -- not Toon Boom's Animate -- and...and...only took ONE month! (Shocking...to me that seems like a blink in time for such quality...the best I've come across thus far.)

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  40. Slightly - That animatic is amazing, isn't it? We had to do similar stuff for pitches in the games industry. It's huge fun seeing your stuff move around like that. When I first took this year off to make a film, that was how I was working. Rough black and white puppet show type stuff. I think it could be a lot of fun turning the comic into something like that, though I'm sure you know how painful the process is. You've got to do quite a bit of background work once you break the foreground elements free.

    Maybe I'll just skip ahead to hundred-million-dollar Hollywood blockbuster extravaganza. If any of the viewers of this blog have that kind of money lying around, I'm your man! I will totally spend all of it. Totally.

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  41. Hey Nate, just reviewing a site of another favorite artist, James Jean, and when he mentioned "flattening" (on this page linked to below) it occurred to me that sometimes you and he both have a kind of similar line work:

    http://processrecess.com/index.php?uid=D8A2CA#

    My guess is you are already familiar with his art...but...if not, maybe it will be inspiring? Cheers!

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  42. Slightly - You know, James Jean has been coming up in conversation a lot lately! This is the first chance I've gotten to see what all the fuss was about, and boy... I see what all the fuss is about. I especially love his color. Really gorgeous, gorgeous stuff. And inspiring! Thanks very much for the link!

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