Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Où est Waldo?

I'm not really sure how much traction I'll get on the strength of five colored pages, but it seems like a good time to start building relationships with European publishers. I'll be contacting the following companies tomorrow:
  • Delcourt
  • Casterman
  • Soleil
  • Les Impressions Nouvelles
  • Dupuis
  • Dargaud
  • Le Lombard
  • Frémok
  • Glénat
  • Les Humanoïdes Associés
  • Standaard Uitgeverij
This list is heavily weighted on the Franco-Belgian end of things (and by the way, thanks to everybody who tossed these names at me!). If anybody can suggest other companies that seem like a good fit (from any country or planet), please let me know. If you have any sort of direct contact with someone at a publishing company and think you might be able to get me past the submissions gatekeepers, your help would be much appreciated.

I'm having the weirdest experience with Image -- a couple of their artists think Image would be all over Project Waldo, but I'm unable to get anything past their submissions guy. I assume many publishers have similar bouncer-types. It often helps to know a guy who knows a guy. If you're that guy, or you know the other guy, then I would like to be the guy who knows you.

Finally, I think I should probably send my pitch email in French. To my knowledge, I don't speak French. If any of you Francophones would be willing to translate a couple of paragraphs for me, I'd be so grateful that I'd give you a free signed copy of Project Waldo when it comes out (how's that for hubris?). I might even make a really crappy drawing on it. Of a penguin. If you're interested in doing this, please contact me directly through email.

Sorry to spam everybody with this. I appreciate your help and/or patience!

A Seattlite Yankee in King Louis' Court

Page 5 first-pass color complete. Click to Enlarge. More below.

This page is... well, I'll come back to it later and figure something out.

I took some time off to do a pin-up for a real, live comic. It'll be my first-ever appearance in print. My rationale for breaking the no-side-projects rule was that Project Waldo might be taken more seriously by reviewers if it were perceived to have been drawn by a "real" comic artist. The theory was that I'd shed my hobbyist mantle by making an appearance in a well-known book. I'm not sure I should count that chicken before it's hatched, though, so I'll save the details for later.

Meanwhile, my initial enthusiasm for Ka-Blam has been muted by a spate of anti-POD comments. There are several potential drawbacks: first, I'm prepping all the art in RGB (Ka-Blam's format), but I may run into some major headaches if I end up switching to a publisher who uses CMYK (pretty much all of the big ones). Second, it's been pointed out that if I get an ISBN for my Ka-Blam run, it could prevent me from re-releasing the comic through a new publisher (I'm not exactly sure why this is, so if anybody has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them). Third, there's a guy over at the Gutterzombie forums who's had some problems with color profiles at Ka-Blam -- it sounds like their output may be a little inconsistent (though on second viewing, there may have been a miscommunication about CMYK profiles). Regardless, Ka-Blam's the plan until a publisher shows some interest.

I've talked to a couple of established comics artists about self-publishing, and they generally reject the idea out of hand. I can certainly see the disadvantages, especially when it comes to marketing and distribution, but I've heard so many horror stories about working with the big publishers that I'm not entirely convinced one way or the other. Other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, can anybody provide examples of successful self-published titles (and maybe share some of the strategies they used to break through)?

As I've continued to troll the internet-sea in search of publishing alternatives, I've often been told to look to Europe. To North American eyes my art looks foreign, but I wonder if actual Europeans would interpret my style in the same way. Ever since I ran across my first Moebius comic, I've had sort of an inferiority complex when it comes to Franco-Belgian comics (I have a similar feeling about high-end manga). I have assumed that readers acclimated to the "real" stuff would dismiss mine as weak tea. My blog statistics haven't done much to dispel this fear: there's a fairly marked lack of interest from France (especially compared to Germany and the UK). I guess I'm the anti-Jerry Lewis of comics. It's too bad, because France is an awesome place to sell comics -- larger format books, more generous schedules, and robust sales. AND you're perceived as a real artist, as opposed to here, where comics artists are relegated to the same social stratum as mimes and puppeteers (who, come to think of it, are probably also cherished in France).

If any of you would be willing to pose as a French person and write me an encouraging comment, it would do wonders for my self-esteem. Spell "the" as "ze." That's how I'll know you're French.

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.