Friday, June 13, 2014

Costume Design Considerations

An illustrator has a lot of issues to worry about, and costume design is the biggest problem. The character designs are not just important for the comic itself, but for marketing, branding, and even sections of the website. There are some basic considerations that need to be taken care of so here's some ideas.

An important consideration: Every detail needs to be debated, but especially if you are doing a humor comic. You can get away with some skimpy designs, especially compared to a lot of other comics, but for those that have some serious designs make sure that you know the genres involved. This means that not do you need to know the genres you are making fun of, but you also need to know them well. If you're making fun of superheroes a hero with lts of pouches and pointed feet with a ridiculously buffed body and huge guns needs to be considered if anything involving the 1990s is involved. Comedy requires a lot of details to be right to work well; keep that in mind and your comic will look great.

It's a great idea to make sure that the costumes are functional as well as great looking. This is a criticism levelled at most science fiction and fantasy comics, but worth bearing in mind for other genres as well. The outfit needs to work with the person's profession as well as the local weather; there is a reason that a beekeeper is dressed so thickly and Pacific Islanders wear so little. If the character does a lot of traveling the character will tend to cover a lot of skin, and the clothes will also be loose. The clothes have to look right for the character and what the character does is important.

Social class also needs to be allowed for. A poor character's clothes are going to have more wear than a rich character's, and the rich person will also tend to have more decoration than a poor person. The key word in that last sentence is "decoration"; it can mean scrolling and piping as well as jewelry, and some cultures do not use jewelry. That also applies to any equipment the character carries, and especially any weapons.

Seriously debate kilts and pants. There aren't enough men in kilts, and they make a great fashion statement for action heroes. I also think that there needs to be more women in pants; it also makes more sense for an adventurer than a dress. This is not to say that the character needs to be exclusively into kilts or pants; they can wear pants or dresses for other functions. It would just be nice to see more of them.

Racial elements also need to be debated. A character with a tail does not need to just wear pants with a hole in them; it needs to be allowed for in the race's fashions. A winged race is unlikely  to wear metal armor due to its weight, and is unlikely to wear much back armor if any. It also bears noting that a thick-skinned race is unlikely to much, if anything, in the way of clothes; there is just no real need for it. This applies to body decorating as well; a furred race is likely to color patches of fur rather than tattoos.

Body decoration needs to be seriously debated. You should not use tattoos just because they look cool; they need to serve a purpose in the world. Consider yakuza tattoos; not only are they worn by people tat need to make themselves known, but their wearers are also forbidden from some areas. In general, poorer cultures with a lot of visible skin have tattoos, merchant cultures tend to favor ostentatious displays of wealth such as jewelry, and more philosophical cultures prefer simpler clothing. For example, the yakuza are from a poor culture (the criminal element outside of society) and one that displays a lot of skin (they do spend a lot of time in baths).

There are some cultural reason as well. Besides concentration camp survivors, tattoos have also been used to show possession (some nobles tattooed their serfs and slaves) as well as military organization (some European militia went sleeveless because their regiment information was tattooed on their left shoulder). It can also show rebellion; Amy Tan is famous for the shock of purple hair she wore to rebel against her background. This also shows up in hair styles; a mullet is rarely the sign of a rich man, while a short hair cut shows someone in the military. In Europe the rich wore long hair for the same reason rich people in China had long finger nails; they had other people to do care for it.

The basic point is that you need to have some serious fun with character designs, and it can help you build the world at the same time. Take some time and have some fun with it. After all, with any luck these are character designs you are going to have to deal with for a while, and you had better have some very good reasons for them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Using Kickstarter to Raise Funds

Eventually you are going to want to gather your comic together, print out a large number of copies, and sell the hard copies at a convention or every comic book shop you can think of, or even through a website. Odds are good that You are going to use something like Kickstarter. Setting up a Kickstarter campaign can be a lot easier than you think, but it does require some planning. There are three major considerations:

1) Make sure that the idea is solid. First off, make sure that someone is going to buy your book. In general, less than 1% of your fans will buy your book; most people just reprint the webcomic, maybe with just a new piece of art as the cover. Add in a few extras, such as roughs, concept art, or information on how you create the comic, and you get more buyers. You need to think: "What can I do to make people interested in this book?"Oh, and let's go back to that 1%: Base how many book you will need printed based on that figure, and you should be okay. If you have less than 100,000 fans, think long and hard if you really want to sell a printed version.

You also need to debate the tiers. They should be cumulative, and you should have at least four tiers. The book by itself should be the second or third. The first tier should be a couple of dollars and be something cheap, such as bookmark or sticker pack. You should also have a tier that is the book and a piece of good swag, such as a tee-shirt or hat. You can also use sketches, posters, and any other swag you can think of. Just debate what you think will help sell the main item; some items are simply not appropriate, so have fun but think it through.

2) Know what you are going to do with the money. This means that you need to know not only how much you need, but also to make sure that you have enough for the product itself. Also keep in mind that sites like Kickstarter charge a fee, so that needs to be allowed for as well. If you are going to pay for any marketing that needs to be allowed for as well. Lastly, do not forget to charge enough to make a profit; a good mark-up is 50% to 100% of the price it takes you to produce each item (this allows for your production price as well as marketing and the site's fee).

3) Make sure that you market it. No one will buy what you have to offer if they don't know about it. Not only can you use social marketing, but it also means to possibly pay for advertising as well and promoting it on discussion boards as well. Project Wonderful is great for anything comic-related, so make sure you spend some money there.

In short:
1) Make sure your idea is solid.
2) Make sure you know money you'll need to make.
3) Make sure you market it.

Do that, and your Kickstarter project should do well!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Building A Scene

One of the hardest things beginning writers have is building a scene. Although I can understand why, it's not that hard. Let me show you!

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you need to accomplish. This is the "scene goal", and sets up a number of plot issues. The first is that it gives you something to strive for, but it also establishes the setting and minimum characters needed for the scene. You also need to decide if the scene should end negatively or positively; an argument can end in two really ticked characters or in reconciliation. This is the first step.

The second is to do up a short outline. Each scene needs to be set up like a miniature three-act play; it needs to have an instigating action and end with either a falling or rising action depending on if it needs to end negatively or positively, respectively. A scene must have an initial set up, and go from there. This outline should end as per the scene goal.

The last is to throw in dialog. Only use dialog if it moves the plot; sometimes action or facial expressions is all you need. One of the reasons that comics are known for stilted dialog is because the writers feel the need to add in dialog to fill space rather than move plot; limit the use of dialog to a bare minimum and you are going to be surprised how much better the strip looks.

This should really help with any basic script-writing. It may not seem like it applies to talking head strips, but all of this really does: If you break down the best strip will follow this a lot closer than you would think. See how it works for you when you start writing, and you should note things becoming a lot easier.