Printing Comics in the Future

Following on from my last electronic missive, I believe we ended on the tantalising question of whether I’m finally going to print the graphic novel ‘Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet’, or continue to let it gather cyber-dust on the cyber-shelves of the Kindle Bros et al.

“Sorry, tantalising for whom?”

I’m glad you asked! Here are the various options. All of them involve the acceptance that there’s no guarantee I will make my money back on any financial outlay in print costs. Feel free to accuse me of being negative!

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – I guess I asked for that.

To Kickstart or not to Kickstart: Whilst Kickstarter is a great method for raising funds (this opinion is based on no direct experience), and though it understandably requires a lot of work promoting your ‘campaign’, my main hesitancy is whether I have a big enough following to ensure my target will be reached (and remember fans, if you don’t reach your target you don’t get no mambo).

Also I feel I need to do it right the first time. I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m dragging the same ol’ material out again and again, trying to convince the donating public this flogged mule with its tongue hanging out really is worth your coinage… this time… please.

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – I guess I asked for that.

Personal Finance: Or I could print up a limited bunch of hard copies, with the intention of getting them into the hands of reviewers. Y’know, create a buzz in the comic community! Of course, I need to have a follow up plan if I’m doing this. It’s no good receiving a positive review if the book can’t actually be purchased.

The other possibility with a limited print run would be to send them to comic shops to see if they’d commit to buying copies to put on their shelves. In a way, I would be the distributor.

I’m not sure about this approach. Mainly as most comic shops are ‘sale or return’ so the money risk would be on me… again.

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – You can stop now.

Advance Orders: Here’s a thought I had the other day, which isn’t dissimilar to Kickstarter. More of a personalised version. What if I sold advance copies? I would commit to printing a bunch anyway, but advertise and promote it as far as I could, with the hope that some of the costs would be offset by advance sales, so it wasn’t just my wallet involved when the time came for paying the piper… I mean, the printer. It’s not like publishers don’t do this already, is it?

Personal Finance Plus: Now this is a bit of a crazy option. How about I print a bunch (say, 100) and just give them away? (Or ask for a suggested donation?) I wonder if by Control-Zedding the fear of having to cover costs; by removing that concern altogether I can just focus on getting this wonderful tale of space adventure into the welcoming hands of the reading public!

“Now you’re talking, Flicko!” – Yes, I thought you’d like that last option.

Or maybe even a combination of some of the above?

We’ll carry on this chat next time.

Love & biscuits to all!

Haven’t you always wondered what might be on Spidey’s playlist, as he’s swinging across the rooftops of New York New York city?

No, me neither.

But here I was, considering this most banal of questions about a fictional fellow and his iPod selection, to such an extent that I ended up collecting together a catalogue of canorous compositions relating to this theme.

From this it seemed obvious to compile these into a Top Ten of tunes that our friendly neighbourhood Spider-guy would NO DOUBT listen to. My main assumption being that because he possesses a great sense of humour (much like someone else round ‘ere) he would love a good pun or at least a salt shake of irony.

The only self-imposed criteria for this array of fine audio choices, was that the title had to relate to ol’ webhead in some way. Allow me to share my musical musings with you.

I’ve conveniently provided links to the songs in question, so you know these are all gen-u-ine ditties. No need to thank me.

I’ve also annotated the list in an attempt to be helpful, but feel free to put your hand up if you’re confused, or if you need the toilet.

They’re in no particular order, other than vaguely chronological.

Do let me know in the comments section if I’ve missed any titles you think should clearly be represented!

1 Bite the Hand  (ABC)
Cos like, he got bit by a radioactive spider, didn’t he?

2 Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy  (The Andrews Sisters)
Cos like, he works for a newspaper called the Daily Bugle. Geddit?

3 Spinning Around  (Kylie Minogue)
Web? Spinning? Spinning web? Keep up!

4 Life through a Lens  (Robbie Williams)
I’m not going to explain this one.

5 Mary Jane  (Rick James)
Some people suggest Mr James is not actually singing about a pretty lady, but is referring to ‘other stuff’. I don’t see it, to be honest. Anyway, Peter Parker fancies a girl called this. Mary Jane that is, not Other Stuff. That’d be weird.

6 Dancing on the Ceiling  (Lionel Ritchie)
You know what spiders are like… they dance… on the ceiling… when I try to catch them.

7 Man in Black  (Johnny Cash)
Cos like, he wore a black costume, remember?

8 I’ll Stick Around  (Foo Fighters)
You know what spiders are like… they stick… around… dancing on the ceiling.

9 Life of Riley  (Lightning Seeds)
One for the comic readers and what was known as the Clown Saga, or something like that.

10 Oldest Swinger in Town  (Fred Wedlock)
Cos like, he swings on his web, and he’s been doing it a while, hasn’t he? Hasn’t he?!

BONUS TRACK: Back to Black  (Amy Winehouse)
Another one for the comic readers. When Spidey no longer wore the alien black costume, he donned a cotton version for a while. So like, he went ‘back to black’. Y’welcome.

Phew, if you’ve made it to the bottom of the list: CONGRATULATIONS. And you might also be interested in another rambling piece I wrote about our web-headed wonder right here. Many reviewers have claimed this article is both “hilarious and poignant in equal measure”*.

* They haven’t, I made that up. Sorry.

“Where’s your graphic novel, Flicko?”

“I thought you were going to print your comic!”

“Why aren’t you writing your barely humorous blogs any more?”

Are these the questions you’ve been itching to ask me, but for one reason or another just haven’t plucked up the courage to thump your quiet query into an available keyboard? (“No”) Don’t worry, I’m here to ask these questions for you!

Let’s recap: this website’s primary purpose was (and is) to promote my graphic novel ‘Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet’ and when I started blogging I was building up to the grand entrance of this potential best seller (“I admire your confidence”) into the marketplace of digital viewership – via Kindle, Comixology, Sequential and the rest of the those pixellated prose providers.

This happened in July 2015 but for some bizarre reason I didn’t see it ascending the literary hit parade, so my order for a new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S had to remain on hold as the buying public decided to ignore the adjective I just kindly used in describing them.

This was of course a harsh lesson gently dealt out by the world of digital comics. I did have a suspicion it was going to be tough, and would probably need significantly more of a push than I could justifiably give it (looking at my busy schedule of climbing trees, reading Thomas the Tank Engine and pooing my nappy – and that’s before we get to the kids!) – and as they say, indifference is worse than a bad review. (I think Oscar Wilde said that. If he didn’t, then I’m claming it.)

As I mentioned in my blog from the past, the comic readership still seem to be a paper reading bunch. They (and I should also add ‘I’) like to have something in their hands, to feel the crisp turn of the page, to inhale the distinctive odour of an even litho print, to place an item on your bedside cabinet to gather inordinate amounts of dust before not being read.

Admittedly the men in tights and well-endowed ladies seem to do well in digital (just cast your eyeball over Comixology’s homepage) and there is a definite online presence of comic creators knocking out screen-based tales to delight all tastes. But interestingly many of these guys and gals will still gather their bits & bytes into a printed version at the end of a story arc or set time frame. This is telling in itself. (“Is it?” Yes, it is. “Really?” Yes.)

As I’ve previously harked on about, comic buyers like to meet comic creators (and I’m sure vice et versa) so it’s essential for hard copies to exist so comic cons aren’t just rows and rows of empty tables with nobody too sure who is selling and who is buying, with the odd black-clothed lounger drawing Wolverine for the umpteenth time to cover his drinks tab for the evening.

This then leads to the question I know you’re going to ask again: “Are you going to print your comic then?” An excellent question, and one I will cover at our next session.

You can get off the couch now. My secretary will book your next appointment.

What’s that? Oh yes, sorry, my mistake… I’ll leave.

Oh dear, hasn’t there been a lot of fuss over this Doctorette malarkey?

I guess it was inevitable that once the announcement was made that the new Doctor Who would be played by Jodie Whittaker there would be a huge vocal digestion in the world of social media and them newspaper columns.

For some this is a positive sign that our ever-changing culture is being reflected in popular TV programming, as this seems to be the perfect Venn meeting between feminism and the T part of LGBT. Whereas for others it’s a sure sign of a crumbling society as marginal groups are apparently afforded unchecked influence over our mainstream media’s output.

For me, it’s neither of those two, it’s simply lazy creativity.

Whilst I recognise the cheers or jeers from the various camps are genuine expressions of delight or disdain, as elation or fear is projected back at screen-bathed faces by the winking pixels of a blonde actress – I admit I have no stake in this time travelling horse.

For me, this is about the artistic process and the nature of creativity. Let me explain as briefly as I can as there’s a distinct possibility this is not going to be of any interest to you.

Allow me to present two types of art (get ready for some pretentious and clumsy misuse of art terms).

The first is a form of creativity that responds to and reflects the world and environment in which it is created. This being the concerns or thoughts that inhabit the public consciousness at that point in time, which are then filtered through the artist’s own perspective and musings, to then find an outlet onto the printed page or canvas or other media. Most art falls into this category.

The second is a form of creativity that looks beyond its current circumstances; maybe not even consciously, the artist seeks a form of expression or subject matter that is not currently available within their world. A way of thinking, or an approach to a subject or medium that is not housed within the available public consciousness.

Examples of this are easy to find, particularly in music (The Beatles experimental period, David Bowie’s early work, and a fair few classical composers) and the visual arts of course (Paul Klee, Paul Cezanne, even Banksy – whose first name could also be Paul). I’m sure you can think of several pioneers yourself from the world of comics, cinema, theatre, writing and fashion.

For me, there’s an integrity about the latter approach which may not always be found in the former. And this is where I’m sitting with Doctor Who as a woman.

No doubt there will be fun for the script writers (and hopefully viewers) in exploring the idea of the Doctor as female, but it does have the suspicious smell of being a bit showy, unimaginative and pandering.

The pursuit of truly seeking a creative path ahead for this established and much-loved character seems to have been overtaken by “brave decisions” and self-satisfied back slaps.

I do question the intention and artistic integrity of all this – based on my love for art in all its guises and the basic desire to see creatives pushing towards the future, rather than simply pleasing the present. (There’s your time travel reference!)

Image copyright BBC (via Radio Times)

How to Sell a Robot

February 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

imageI understand if the words Self and Pity start to come together in your head, as you’re reading this. That isn’t my intention but I’m just letting you know it could happen. Self and Awareness too hopefully!

Here is what I’ve discovered about promoting and selling a digital product: It’s not easy. Particularly if you’re from a World of Print.

When I first self-published back in the mid-nineties it was a very different landscape. Print was the only option, of course. And getting your publication in front of people’s eyeballs took legwork; attending comic cons (such as they were back then in the UK), linking in with like-minded groups to network (like the internet without the inter), advertising in comic journals, sending your work for review in fanzines and getting your comic on the shelves either with Diamond or through face-to-face contact.

Sounds like a real hassle doesn’t it? Surely it’s better now, Flicko? Afterall an international network is only a binary ride away, millions of potential readers teetering on the edge of their screens. Comics digitised and accessed by anyone in a matter of seconds. No need for the ancient practice of stamped address envelopes and queueing in the Post Office!

Hey, it even cuts out the need to actually meet someone, avoiding those awkward conversations and sitting behind a trestle table self-consciously mumbling into your sketchbook in a futile attempt at self-promotion. A lot easier! Or is it?

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s simply that I don’t really understand how to sufficiently ‘work the system’ in promoting my artwork amongst a crowded swimming pool of screaming caps-locked voices, virtual belly flops and attention-seeking inflatables. Maybe I just understand print better.

But it is hard (or impossible) to place a download on a coffee table for a random chum to casually pick up and flick through. The experience for creator and consumer to meet and chat online is not as warm or connecting as a face looking into another (possibly eye-avoiding) human face. Holding something tangible and solid, emanating a waft of freshly printed paper, is a lot easier to shove into a passerby’s hand than its electronic cousin.

Bits n’ bytes are great, don’t get me wrong, Ms Hynde, I just suspect we’re still learning how it works (for ‘we’ read ‘me’). It seems so diametrically different to print than I ever initially anticipated.

Of course it’s amazing to be able to send my comic round the world in the blink of a click, and the array of platforms that send my doodles and scrawls spinning across the globe to alien shores is mind-blowing, but… particularly for small press, something is lost when the opportunity for two humans to share a moment of sequential pleasure no longer takes place, or the gentle joy in picking up an unknown collection of pages reveals unexpected delights within a few flicks of 100gsm. Even the simple sales patter of talking about your lovingly crafted tale doesn’t have the same effect when transposed to a staccato computer exchange.

The present and future may be digital, and my intention isn’t to smash the spinning jenny, but I wonder if the increase of comic cons of various sizes is testament to this full-circle desire in today’s reader: to meet and talk and smell the comics and their creators.

Nostalgia? It must be if I’m reminiscing about the odour of comic artists! No offence, I’ll let you decide. Smiley face.

Cover to Cover

January 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

Here are some sketches you may find interesting (no pressure). These are the rough thumbnails I drew a few years ago for the publisher I was with at the time, when presenting my cover ideas for Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet.

Here’s fun – why don’t you try to find the cover I ended up using? A firm handshake and solid thumbs up for the winner!

Postscript: Feel free to tell me if you think I should’ve used one of the other options, I won’t be offended. Hey, it might even start a fascinating discussion thread (I’ve seen these on other blogs!).

ABCDEFJKLNOGHIP

imageSlightly more than half a marathon, more like three fifths of a marathon! But come on, where’s the excitement in setting yourself a challenge if there isn’t the real possibility that you might not make it? Which, I hold my hands up, is what happened here. My quivering sweaty body lying in the road as tears and embarrassment stain my hopes of achieving that shiny medal of success (metaphorically speaking). Okay, maybe it’s not that bad.

The Comic 365 Challenge was/is a self-imposed project to create a comic strip, one panel a day, over the course of a year. Click that button here for more (but not much more) explanation.

It started well and continued fairly steadily through the first few months, but it did quickly became apparent this was going to take longer than a year! After all, the storyline wasn’t meticously planned out in advance, other than in the vaguest way in my head, with certain images and plot points I knew would happen, then basically stringing individual panels between these narrative buoys. (That’s story writing, kids!)

I also set myself the additional challenge of using blue pencil and art pens (whereas normally I would be found sporting a regular grey-type pencil, brush and ink). But the discovery that blue leads in a retractable pencil are frustratingly fragile, liable to collapse at the merest suggestion of pressure, soon sent me back to the trusty HB. I did stick with the art pen, even though the line became noticeably thicker as the pen got older and I unconsciously veered back towards a variation of line with which I’m familiar (like a brush, y’see). You can see this if you compare some of the early panels with the later ones.

But unexpectedly there was a wonderful delight in using Instagram as a window to the world, primarily from the immediate response and interaction with those viewing my fresh sequential produce.

My illustrating experience is one of spending time crafting and sculpting a tale or doodle, with no audience participation whatsoever, even when it’s gone to print let along during the process itself! I know this can be good and bad, but in regards to this challenge the engagement was an essential flavour of the scheme. Every ‘like’ or ‘comment’ added a joyful skip in my pen work, though there is of course an addictive quality which only becomes apparent when you’ve proudly posted up the Mona Lisa and received a disappointedly muted response. My desperation for the affirmation of strangers reflected back at me by a blank comments box. Sad face.

This is when you remind yourself that actually the ‘normal way’ of drawing is to receive a ‘muted response’ EVERY TIME you’ve completed a panel because… you’re working on your own! Stop being so cloying!

Where were we? Yes, August is when things started to slip, and the odd missed panel slowly started to grow into a whole stack of missed panels. Like Billy Liar stuffing the undelivered calendars back into his wardrobe, it comes to a point (in October) when you need to admit you’re not going to catch up. The priorities of life outside of social networking (is there such a thing?) take precedence over the virtual. The unseen referee holds up my hand to watch it limply splat to the canvas, announcing the match is over, and the winner is not me. 235 days complete, 130 remain.

But let us not be downbeat, fellow travellers! Though the tale is still not told at least we are now released from the shackles of weighty expectation and rattling on the bars of unrelenting deadlines. Now I can continue the story without the constraints. “Maybe you needed the constraints to actually motivate you, Flix!” Hmm, you might have a point. “Thanks.” You’re welcome.

Let’s see what happens next. But I’ll be honest, this isn’t my priority. I am keen to at least scan and present the current panels, and finish off the ‘final’ 130 images. I say ‘final’ because I already know the first 365 drawings would only be Chapter One! This is going to take ages. “Especially if you’re not drawing it anymore!”

In the meantime, you can view the panels on Instagram, you don’t even need to have an account. Of course, feel free to ‘like’ or add an effusive comment. “Stop being so cloying!” Soz.

P.S. If you were looking for an explanation of WHAT ON EARTH the C365 story is about, I’m afraid this isn’t the blog for that. Another time, kindly reader!

Selective Focus Close Up on Pile of Clock Parts, Assortment of Cogs and Gears in Variety of Sizes, Shapes and MetalsDid you know, many years ago people didn’t know what the time was? As in, someone would confidently claim it was ten o’clock whilst another fellow would insist it was actually a quarter past nine. Absolute chaos! A world without clocks, calendars or even numbers (in some parts of the United Kingdom).

Then one day a clever chappy said, “Hey, why don’t we divide the year into twelve easy sections?” “Why not eleven?” piped an opposing voice. “I like twelve!” concurred another. So after much to-ing and poo-ing they decided on eleven. A year would be sectioned into eleven months. Unfortunately the person taking the minutes was the chappy who championed the twelve option, and so this is what was officially written, and as anyone who has any experience with minute-taking will tell thee, if it’s written down it’s official and cannot be tipexed out (even by a Mayor or Police Constable who would prefer the text recorded otherwise). That was 1932, and ever since a year’s length has been recognised as twelve months!

So here we are today, shuffling into the 2016th Century, stepping over the decomposing husk of Old Father Time and high fiving the tiny optimistic palm of Baby New Year. An opportunity to reflect on the previous eleven months. Ha, I mean twelve, of course!

And in the spirit of positivity let us not dwell on the shades of gloom, my friends; the crushed hopes which can easily litter our memories of the past 365 days. Nay, let us focus on that which is, rather than that which is not.

“Wise words, Flicko, you should post that on Facebook alongside a picture of a cat and goldfish getting married.” Thanks, compliments indeed.

Get ready for the bullet points, it’s reviewing time. Links included!

  • Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet. PAST – A remarkable year for the graphic novel, which of course is the primary focus for this website – lest we forget in the joyous cavalcade of marginally humorous remarks. The digital edition was released from its electronic shackles in July and immediately made itself at home with Mr Kindle and his master, Mr Amazon; along with the Apple Family Store. But most encouraging was that it was accepted onto the virtual shelves of Messrs Sequential and ComiXology. We could talk about sales, but as aforementioned, let’s keep this positive! Smiley face (with a hint of deeper emotion). It’s been a long time coming (as they say), and I am genuinely thankful this adventure of one girl and her planet has finally seen publication! FUTURE – Release a print edition, supply to willing shops and start showing up at some o’them Comic Cons.
  • Weekly Pages. PAST – These ten sample pages continue to hold their own on the Homepage, a new selection of panels appearing each Friday to continue the tale for anyone committed and patient enough to be reading each new page week by week. We’re now on the final chapters which thankfully contain the more polished artwork! FUTURE – It looks like I’ll run out of weekly pages by the autumn (that’s right, the whole 128 pages of the graphic novel will have been shown), so there’s going to be some pressure (I’m not sure from whom) to produce some brand new artwork. Let’s see what happens.
  • Comic 365 Challenge. PAST – For those who joined this vehicle of vibrant creativity and impossible claims at the beginning of year 15, what a ride it was, eh? Oh, the highs and not-so-highs of trying to draw an image a day to create a 90 page comic over the course of a year! It can’t be done, they said. Let’s just say, I’m always willing to prove others right. FUTURE – I’ll write about this more in-depthly (is that a word?) next week as I know I’ve got a lot explaining to do; mainly, what happened to September, October, November and December? Wink.
  • Blogs. PAST – The blogging is not the essential content of this website, but I appreciate there are those for whom words delight over pictures, and the desire to be entertained and brain-massaged by profound insights and punchy prose, is a priority. I am assuming most of these readers, as described, would’ve jumped ship during the course of last year, if not before! And those left are the kindly readers who find small contentments in rambling sporadic musings and borderline banter, which is generally what is served at this metaphorical greasy spoon. If you do insist on topical references, well-researched cultural commentary or shouty polemics, then I’m afraid this is where our faceless friendship must end, because this is the kinda’ quality I’m generally chucking out there: exampli gratia. FUTURE – Some more blogs about stuff and other less specific subjects too.

I think we can leave it there, I’ve said enough (“You’re not kidding!”) To be fair, if you’re still reading by this point I can only be partially blamed. This is a two way street, chum.

Happy new 16, Mock-fans! Your support and interest is appreciated – I am now being genuine. Group hug.

Sir Flicko

image: www.freeimages.co.uk

ComixologyI know you will find this hard to believe, so prepare your ears and brain for processing hard to believe stuff. But Comixology – the digital comics download people, covering all devices – has accepted your favourite comic book into its virtual ranks!

“What? Asterix and the Funny Foreigners?”

No, your other favourite, Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet, and for a cool £5.49 ($7.99) depending on your currency choice.

As I mentioned when Sequential took on the comic, this is a remarkable encouragement because Comixology don’t accept any old tat! You have to have top quality tat to get the double thumbs up from them. Which is what I imagine happened when they took one look at my seemingly random arrangement of squiggles and natter. “Send that limey kid an electronic mail expressing our interest in his quaint British doodles.” Probably said by a cigar-chewing Texan gent, as he steps into a pink limo, packed full of loose notes, open bottles of Frizzante spilling across the white suede upholstery and a boot/trunk overflowing with Quality Street’s purple ones… ah, the high life!

What are you waiting for? 128 pages of sci-fi perils and futuristic adventure are only a button press (and small transaction) away! See you in the funny pages.

All in Sequence

August 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sequential Logo 2Them lovely folk at Sequential have only gone and released Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet through their app for iPads, and at the best price too, £4.99 ($6.99)!

The great thing about Sequential taking the comic is this: they didn’t have to! I’m super chuffed that they felt it was of sufficient quality to sit on their digital shelves, rubbing virtual shoulders with the likes of Love & Rockets, Torpedo and Rainbow Orchid. Super. Chuffed.

If you’ve been holding back then hold back no longer, my friend, cos’ this is the best price, for 128 pages of space action, adventure and jeopardy! All within the safe confines of your iPad. High fives all round!