Friday, September 12, 2014

Fulfiling Kickstarter Orders

When you start looking at starting a Kickstarter, one of the problems you're going to run into is fulfilling it. You're going to have to deal with getting bookmarks, posters, and even books to those that will invest in the project. You need to start debating how you will deal with all of the different orders.

Let's deal with postage first. You have two options: You can send it out one unit at a time, or do a bulk mailing. When it comes down to it, one unit at a time is going to cost a lot more than you delivering all of the books to yourself and sending them out, so you need to look at bulk mailing. You need to start by looking into media shipping, as that will save you a lot over time. Then you need to get a postage meter (usually free for the meter itself even though the stamps will have an extra charge) along with software to print shipping labels. You just need to make sure you have the right packaging and you should be good.

For the rest you're going to want to find a decent POD. To deal with the posters and books, as well as any number of other needs, a print-on-demand printer may be the way to go. Originally, there were these things called "vanity presses" that would publish books for a price; they have been replaced in general by print-on-demand publishers. The advantage for you is that they offer a discount for bulk shipping (the more you order the better discount you get) and you can keep the shop up after the Kickstarter is through for other other potential customers.

Because you are not likely to just be interested in printing just books, you may need to check out several sites. Your ideal is place that allows you to set up shop with the item in question, offers a bulk discount, and allows you to set things up for free. You can also look at local shops as well, but keep in mind that there will sometimes be a set-up fee and they may not offer bulk discounts. Either way, make sure that you get a sample item to look over before you start sending them out.

One last thing: You may want to look at local regulations. In some cases you may need to obtain a tax identification number just to cover your butt in case someone starts looking at you too closely. The state of California, for example, requires it of any retailer, and you qualify as one.

For books, you can start with Hulu and Createspace. For anything else, start with Zazzle and Cafe Press. And note that I said "start"; I would also suggest looking at 4Imprint and Customink, but you should keep looking until you find what you are looking for. No matter how you decide to do it, good luck!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Women Should Not Wear Clothes

One of the major ongoing controversies in comics is the drawing of women. Apparently some people have a problem with how women are drawn, and I think we need to explore why women are sometimes drawn the way they are drawn; it's easy to slap something down based on our perspectives, but that's ignoring the reasoning of the illustrator in the first place, and sometimes there are some good reasons for that. So here are some of the reasons illustrators do what they do.

10) It's just easier to draw a women with minimal clothes.
Given the choice between a muscle structure and clothing folds, most illustrators would prefer the muscles. An arm can defined with a few simple lines, and an entire body can be done in a relative few lines compared to clothing details. For an artist under a tight deadline, the simpler solution is usually best, especially when it saves a lot of time.

9) There's a certain mythic quality to nudity.
Comic books are about legendary characters, and you can't go more legendary than character designs based on the ancient myths. The problem is that they didn't apparently wear a lot of clothes back then, at least not when they were active. If you were attending a party or lounging around the toga worked, but not so much in the arena or at the gym. If it worked all the way to the Renaissance, it should be good enough now.

8) It is more functional.
Obviously putting a woman in heels for battle is a bad idea, and Spandex can have its own problems. However, for a character with martial arts who wants to use them a minimal costume works far better than even comfortable clothes. In fact, loose clothes can be a combat liability when fighting someone with large piercing weapons; the clothes can be used to pin the character down. Also, it can slow a character down; just ask Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse) about running through a bramble some time about those huge flaps of fabric.

7) Victorian dress is bad.
It may look pretty, but for a character involved in any kind of physical exercise all of that extra weight and encumberance can give the bad guy a serious advantage and add to the character's liabilities. Heat exhaustion also becomes an issue. Yeah, this is more addressed to those that re-design costumes with a Vctorian concept, but I feel it had to be addressed.

6) It's not the Victorian era.
Sorry; one of my major issues are people that complain about how Puritan Americans are, but the second an American draws a woman in anything that isn't straight from the Victorian era people complain. These are people that would die from culture shock if they ever stepped foot in Europe. You are the reason that we are laughingstocks in Europe. Get over yourselves.

5) If it's good for the gander, why not the goose?
It never fails to amuse me that you can have men running around in loincloths, but the second a woman shows up in a bikini feminists scream "SEXIST!" It's like the illustrator drew nothing but naked men so that he could get in that one naked woman. I like my Conan the Barbarian, and part of that means Red Sonja. I know it's a simple argument, but if skimpy clothes work on the men, they should work on the women as well. It's a consistency issue; if the men are wearing comfortable clothes, why should the women be restricted to clothes that may be comfortable but are pure bulk? Wouldn't that take her competitive edge? I guess you can dress for the occasion or win, but not both.

4) Sometimes you just want a sexy woman.
Okay, I've said it I just find it sort of weird that sexual liberation is part of the feminist movement, and I think it would be hard to argue that the Sexual Revolution was overall a bad thing as it was a major assist in some areas of the Civil Rights movement as a whole, but any expression of sexuality is considered bad BY FEMINISTS. Who started the whole sexual revolution in the first place. Seriously confusing when you think about it.

3) And what about the other kind of fun?
Sometimes you just want to parody the whole situation, and that means using a sexy woman who has been exaggerated. It's sort of sad that Power Girl (she of the boob window) is used as an example of the problem of how women are dressed in comics, and she's a satire of some of comic's...um...bigger issue. Someone aparently needs to get a sense of humor.

2) What about current fashions?
This sort of goes both ways, but I'm looking specifically at the tightness of current fashions. A lot of women wear tight clothes both on the street and in social situations, and that's ignoring the sheer number of bikinis on the beaches and near the pools. I just find it interesting that people want more realistic art in comics but hold illustrators to a Puritanical standard of dress that obviously doesn't exist in real life.

1) And don't get me started on the limited opportunities for women in comics.
Man in a shower? No problem. Locker room scene of guys after exercise? Cool. Adolescents changing into fighting uniforms? See it everyday. Guy in bed in nothing but boxers? That's natural. But the second you show a woman hanging around in a loose tank top and shorts, no matter how hot the weather is, and it's obviously an unrealistic portrayal of any woman ever.

Obviously I'm a pervert, but I don't think women should be limited to loose bulky clothing. But I can live with that....

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

BackTo Some Basics

There are some writing that everyone forgets about. Let's discuss these.

1) Kill your darlings. With a machete.
Every so often you write that really cool scene that you really love but doesn't really fit. So, of course you rewrite a few things so that the scene fits and you end up royally screwing things up. If you really want see this in action, watch the deleted scenes on the DVD and instead of doing the typical fanboy "Man! They should have used that!" figure out why the scene was dropped. Yeah, sometimes scenes had to be dropped due to time issues, but sometimes the scene was dropped for other reasons, usually precisely the reasons that you should drop your own really cool scenes.

2) Write the first chapter and then delete it.
Too many writers fall in love with their own writing and forget that sometimes writing is all about the slicing and dicing. Some people take a chapter or two before they really get into the spirit of things. Thus, if you really want to see the work as a whole improve really debate killing those first couple of chapters. That applies to any written form, including comics; take a closer look at the beginning part of your projects with an eye on what you can delete and you'll be surprised at how much you'll prune. That pruning usually only helps the book or script.

3) The plot is not the only thing that needs to go forward, part one.
Part of a well-balanced comic are the scenes that have nothing to do with plot. Look at Kitty Pryde of the X-Men. She's a cool character because we've grown up with her; we've seen her crush on Collossus and Nightcrawler, we've seen her yell down Wolverine, and we've seen her go shopping with the X-Women. Few of these scenes have advanced the plot; they were all character development. Sometimes they did feed back into the plot, but usually all they did was develop her character. Just look at the of X-Men football games; you just had a group of friends hanging out having fun. Remember to have some of those scenes and you'll find that people will care about your characters and they'll keep coming back to your comic just to see what's going on with their friends and/or family.

4) The plot is not the only thing that needs to go forward, part two.
I need to emphasize that you do not need to move the plot forward in every scene. It's fine to drop a clue in a scene that is otherwise about two people falling in love or ending a scene with klaxons sounding. All I'm saying is that sometimes you just need to throw in a cool scene just because you need a break. Or because you need to explore the world a bit. If those scenes feel right, go for it. But...don't throw those scenes in just because you feel there is a rule saying you need to. You'll note this contradicts the "kill your darlings" point. If you want to see this done badly, watch "Y Mama Tambien" with its scenes that are nothing but endless exposition that goes nowhere. On the other hand look at the newsstand scenes in "Watchmen"; you can omit them with no problem, but why would you want to?

5) The hero needs to lose every so often.
As much as people throw the Kobyashi Maru in Kirk's face, the reality is that he loses quite a bit. Sure, he gets the job done in the end, but sometimes he has to go through some really nasty territory to get there. And that's how it needs to be; the hero needs a challenge and you as a writer need to show us that he can fail. Not only is it great for character development, but it helps build suspense; sure, it may be the last fight of the comic but we've him lose twice to that guy, what right does he think he has to win? Failures should not be seen as the enemy, but as opportunity.

So basically have some fun when you write. Do that and you would be surprised how much better your writing will get.