Finding the People

Last year around this time, maybe a little later, I was thinking about how I could “level up” my creative work and complete a worthwhile challenge or two. I’m generally happy with my progress and my output in a lot of respects, but I don’t always feel like I’m good at getting things in front of the audience that would appreciate it.

So, I thought a good way to start would be to level up my publishing. I explored my options for print on demand and wound up trying CreateSpace, Amazon’s in-house solution. I was pleased with it, so I published more books, and now I have several that I can bring with me to shows or just sell online.

Now that I am planning for next year, I am excited about a few potential projects but I also want to continue trying to extend how I reach the audience. It’s been obvious to me for some time that I probably won’t ever create something that has mass appeal, like Spider-Man; but there is definitely a group of people out there who seem to like my work, and I want them to be able to access it easily. And I’d like to be able to access them easily too, to let them know first if I’m doing something I think they’ll like.

So, I think I will start a Patreon. In fact, I already have, but I haven’t activated yet while I’m still figuring out how it will work. I plan on keeping it as simple as possible, basically with a level where subscribers can access a bunch of digital exclusive stuff and another where they can access both digital stuff and periodic physical shipments of comics, little bits of art, and so on.

It’s intimidating, but I think I need to get out of the habit of assuming that people would not subscribe to such a thing. I didn’t expect them to buy as many copies of my books as they did this year either! So why not try?

Not that it’s about making money. I don’t expect to profit from a Patreon- at best it will pay for the time it takes me to make and ship patron-exclusive stuff- but having the additional “channel” of Patreon to point people to could be very useful for building and maintaining an audience and giving them a sort of virtual convention table to go to for the 48ish weeks a year that I’m not doing shows.

So, that is kind of the big effort for next year. I already have a long list of ideas for Patron-exclusive stuff to do in addition to everything else I want to do- more details as they come, including the Patreon link after it launches.

What else to talk about this week? We started a new month, so my participation in Inktober ended and my participation in National Novel Writing Month began, as it has for the last few years. I was overall quite pleased with the stuff I did for Inktober this year – some of the illustrations will definitely be included in an upcoming art book of some sort and one or two favourites might also get used as cards or prints. Again, I’ll keep you posted.

The novel this year is a comedy and a Western, something which we don’t see as much as we used to – I grew up with the “They Call Me Trinity” movies, Blazing Saddles, and so on. Not that I expect the novel to turn out to be a classic like the latter of course, but I am enjoying where it’s going so far.

As for the week coming up, it’s Remembrance Day next weekend here in Canada, which is a big deal to me and many others. Thanks to those who have served to defend their country and others from tyranny. May you never be called to action by poor commanders.

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One Last Push…

2017

Hard to believe it’s almost Halloween. Last weekend was my last show of the year, the Halifax Pop Explosion Zine Fest, and I had a good time.

If you’re interested, I did manage to put together a new illustrated zine for it, an adaptation of Carmaig DeForest’s song “Hey Judas”, which was originally written as a takedown of then-President Reagan. I updated it for the current occupant of the Really White House and created some illustrations that depict what Hell would be like for Donald Trump. I decided to make it an extra challenge for myself by making the zine through 100% analog tools; it was all hand-drawn, painted and lettered. Fun, right? Anyway, there are a limited number of printed copies of the zine left – I will list it in my comics/zine store for those who want it.

As you can see in the picture for this post, there is also a new print called “Donair Trail” that borrows the design of some Nova Scotia provincial highway signs. I’m going to look into local distribution but if you are out of the HRM and would like one, you can order through InPrnt.

One of my goals for 2017, after a 2016 where I did some shows but was a bit disappointed with the results, was that I was going to upgrade the things I had to offer; I wanted to collect and publish some of my favourite older material, create and publish some new books, and work harder in general on the quality of my illustrations and prints. Overall, I feel like I have achieved those goals, so that feels good. Having the books available for sale, especially The Insult and Young & Dumb, had a positive impact on sales and generated some very welcome feedback. It was interesting and invigorating to “level up” my publishing efforts from trying to do everything myself to working with print on demand. I feel like it helped me turn a page, if you’ll pardon the pun.

There is still some older material I want to publish, most notably my old MA thesis as a monograph and my first three NaNoWriMo novels, but they all need significant editing, so if I can get those done by this time next year, that would be great. Of course I also want to get some new comics done, and illustrations, and perhaps look into listing my stuff on digital services like Comixology. I have also been thinking about a new project that would consume a good chunk of time, but I think it would be a fun challenge, so… we’ll see.

If it sounds like I am talking as if it’s the end of the year, it’s because it kind of is for me. The last few years I have been loosely planning my projects month by month, with a general plan for the entire year done in advance so that I can try to have something new to launch at the shows that I do.

But the end of the year has pretty much been the same since 2014: in October I do Inktober, a daily challenge for artists to draw something in ink every day. I’ve been doing it this year too- you can see it on my Instagram– and I think this year has been my best overall.

In November I’ve been doing National Novel Writing Month, a great way for experienced and amateur writers  to quickly knock out the first draft of a novel and raise money for school writing programs. I was able to complete the challenge on my first two tries but came up short last year due to some personal issues. I’m about to do it again for this year, so wish me luck.

December is not exactly a month off – I usually wind up doing an illustration or two for xmas presents, plus I draw custom gift tags and plan projects for the next year. Mostly I try to relax and enjoy time with family and recharge.

So, yeah; one last push for this year- NaNoWriMo- and then the holidays and snow and all that will be upon us. I’ll try to post here a little more often, especially about the new stuff as it becomes available. If you’ve made it this far, thanks as always for your support. I hope you have a great remainder of  the year. I hope we all do.

 

A Book! A Book Comes!

young_dumb_coverIt’s true! This past weekend I had the pleasure of launching a new book at the Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival, a retrospective of my 25+ years making comics called Young, Dumb, and Full of Comics. It contains material dating back to 1991, including many out of print stories and mini-comics.

If you are in the Halifax area, you can get a signed copy at Strange Adventures or watch for it to roll out to some other local spots (including other Maritime cities) over the next few weeks. If not, you can order online through Amazon – see the Books page for links for the US, UK, and Canada.

Special thanks as well to my old friend Jason, who wrote the introduction, and to my wife Nicole and son Jack for their love and support. My old pals Mark Dykeman and Kari Smith are represented in the book as well. I’m really happy with how it turned out and how it makes a nice sort of time capsule of my developing years as a cartoonist. I think another reason why I’m happy about it is because it feels like a good place to close the door on the kind of comics I’ve been making and move on to some that would be more challenging to make. Maybe even some in colour (gasp!)

If you buy the book, thanks. If you can’t for whatever reason, that’s OK! Request that your library order a copy, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, tweet about it – it all helps!

Adventures in Publishing

I’ve dusted off this old blog and will try to post something useful here once in a while, probably about projects that I am working on.  If you’re interested in other kinds of content, you can also enjoy my angry retweets on Twitter, reblogs of useful art tips on Tumblr, and a very infrequently updated Facebook page.

Anyway. I’ve posted before, here and there, about how I am a project-oriented artist. So much so that I keep an Access database of things I want to get done, from comics and illustrations to animations and card games. I usually have more than one thing going on at a time, for the sake of variety.

As 2016 came to a close, I realized that it had been around 25 years since I started drawing comics in earnest. Most of them were self-published at copy shops and distributed around wherever I was living at the time, and while I still have decent scans and file copies, most of them fell out of print. Sometimes I would make them available for download online as PDFs.

I thought that it might be nice to mark that 25th anniversary with a collection – something I could publish through a print on demand service, make available to actual bookstores and libraries as well as comic shops. So, I looked around at my options and decided to try Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace.

Then I realized: why not bring back other stuff into print? I have also written plays, novels, tons of film reviews, and webcomics. I decided to try publishing one of my plays, An Otherworld, first. I already had the interior pages saved as a decent PDF, so all I had to do was design a cover. The entire effort took less than a day, and within a week I had copies in my hand. The quality was good, so I did another book of plays and then decided to try a collection of comics, to see how well the artwork would print.

That collection of a webcomic I did last year, The Insult, turned out very well, I think. So, I am currently dividing my time between getting that book into stores and assembling the pages for the next one, the aforementioned retrospective which will be called “Young, Dumb, and Full of Comics.” After that, probably one of the novels, and after that, a collection of film reviews and essays.

If you wind up checking any of them out, I hope you enjoy them. Watch this space for updates on their progress.

The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

I’ve developed a fairly decent sense of restraint in my old age. Despite my ardent love of comics I will wait until a series is collected in trade paperback, or until I can find it at the library, or obtain it from my galley service. It’s not often that I glance through a book and immediately buy it because I must own it; but this is one of those books.

I had heard good things about it, of course, which is why I picked it up from the shelf in the first place. I knew that it had something to do with Buddhism, and that it had won lots of awards last year; but I hadn’t really properly seen it. And so last night, when I should have been working on my own comics, I devoured this one instead, and am better for it.

The Nao of Brown is the story of a young woman called Nao Brown; she is half-Japanese, half-British, and lives in London with a friend who is a nurse. Nao is a graphic designer in a bit of a downswing, recently dumped by her boyfriend and sacked from the job he had gotten her. She runs into an old friend from school who offers her a job in a geeky toy store that specializes in the kind of Japanese, anime-themed merchandise that Nao loves and knows about.

Nao has a Buddhist meditation practice and other strategies to help her combat her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes her to imagine violent things happening to others, especially those who are smaller than her (eg., children). Perhaps that is why she falls in love with Gregory, a burly appliance repairman who knows about Buddhism and Latin; but Gregory has issues of his own.

The Nao of Brown is not a perfect book, but it is so well-realized, from script to art to design. Like Blankets, Essex County, or Fun Home, it is an accomplished auteur piece that I would readily recommend to new readers or veterans alike.

Comics by Sam Alden

Sam Alden is the real deal. I first noticed his work sometime last year, when a link to his comic Eighth Grade made the rounds. Unfortunately I don’t keep up with Tumblr as much as I should, so it was only recently that I caught up on the wealth of material he has online, including standouts like The Farmer’s Dilemma, which made its print debut at this year’s Angouleme festival.

Alden has a good command of brush and ink illustration and a fine colour sense, but what strikes me about his work is how he combines these traditional tools with the fluidity of an infinite canvas. He seems to be fascinated with the forms of the natural world and man’s (or at least his own) relationship with them. I admire his technical skill as well as his willingness to explore his emotions.

For a guy in his early 20s, Alden has built an impressive body of work with the aesthetic and approach of a fine artist who happens to make comics. I hope we get to keep him for a while.

Last Days of an Immortal

Last Days of an Immortal by Gwen De Bonneval and Fabien Vehlmann is one of the most thought-provoking, interesting comics I have read in some time. Set in a future where humankind has evolved beyond violence (mostly) and is in contact with alien races, global law enforcement is composed of philosophers rather than truncheon-wielders. Thanks to advancements in medical science, humans can essentially live forever by transferring their consciousness into multiple identical bodies, with the only negative side effect being a loss of early memories if the minds are re-integrated.

One of the top Philosophical Police agents, Elijah, is called upon to mediate tensions between a couple of alien races; failure to do so could result in great destruction on Earth and off. At the same time, Elijah is disturbed and a little hurt that one of his oldest friends has decided to voluntarily end his own life without telling Elijah. As he investigates the root of the tension between the alien races, he comes to understand both the case and his relationships with greater clarity.

Last Days of an Immortal is an ingenious piece of writing wrapped in an imaginative art style that creates a vision of the future that is both contemporary and quaintly old-fashioned, as if a graphic novel had arrived from the era of Aldous Huxley. Long may it survive.