Friday, October 10, 2014

Lettering For Fun and Profit

Lettering can be as much as an art as any other aspect of creating a comic. Not only can it be a lot of fun, but it can help you better define your characters, as well as provide a lot of bonus exposition and make things a lot clearer for the reader. If you have any doubts, let's look at what some basic plusses.

1) You can better differentiate between characters. If you have two or more characters that are basically the same, giving them a different font or even color of word bubble can help make the difference. Just giving two characters in the same panel a different color can help, and if you make that color consistent you can even have fun drawing the characters wildly different and they'll still be recognized as the same characters.

2) It allows you weirder characters. The obvious example is Deadpool and his multiple personalities, each with a different font and color, but this allows you to have some fun with other characters as well, such as showing how different an alien race is or having fun with that intelligent sword. You can even erase the link between alter egos by just changing details of the word balloon. There are just some characters that work even better when they have a visibly different way of talking.

3) You can make different modes of communication more obvious. Consider how the elves in Elfquest talked through telepathy or even the basic example of radios. It adds a little to your comic when the characters aren't limited to just talking, and it can really mess with readers when they realize that they just heard a character use an electronic means of talking when the character normally doesn't. It can also add potential clues to a murder mystery. Just messing around with the fonts gives you added dimensions.

4) For your dialogue boxes mixing up the fonts, colors, and even borders can cue the reader as to who is speaking, or the purpose of the box if you really run things complicated. When you start having fun with the editorial boxes, you can add a lot of exposition quickly without having to figure out how to make it part of character dialogue. For that matter, you can cut characters completely out of the exposition loop, which is useful when you want to tell the readers what is going as well as any necessary details while allowing the characters to remain ignorant of them. A little lame, perhaps, but sometimes it is nice to have options.

For those of you who keep to black and white, you can use different shades of gray as well as patterns for the boxes and word balloons. Just look at what they can do with manga, and you can have a lot more fun with them. Don't limit yourself to colors, and you can have a lot of fun. Lettering should not be seen as just a chore, but as a way to have some fun with the story and to better define characters. Just don't use it too much and you should be fine; it should be used like any spice and not overpower the meat.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Local Comic Shop: Your Bestest Friend

Regardless of whether or not you do regular comics or webcomics, it can only help to establish some sort of relationship with your local comic book shop. Not only can you get some great feedback on how to better market your comics, and they are definitely interested in promoting local artists: There is no narrative better than the local boy or girl done good, and being local it means that they help promote that work more effectively than someone that lives anywhere else. This is why it really helps to develop that relationship.

[Keep in mind that everything I say for comic book shops should apply to any book store. Comic book shops are just more responsive, and a more receptive setting. This should not be seen as a reason not to try it, and you should definitely try it.]

The first step for webcomic artists is to create links between the two sites, literally. Local comic book shops are always looking to promote local comics; they are willing to promote any comics really, but they really like local comics, especially if the shop is outside the usually roads, such New York or Los Angeles. The local creator wins by having access to someone who can sell his books.

Which of course brings us to the second thing, which is to discuss selling your books. Even if the shop itself doesn't buy your books directly, they may be willing to discuss commission, where they sell the books and give you most of the money back (stores usually charge 10%-15% for commission sales, though some stores charge more). Combined with some sort of display you should be able to sell more books than usual.

You should also debate holding an author day when you start selling at the store. This is something that you and the store should work (see previous entry for more information). It will take some work to set up, but it should be well worth it.

The local comic book can be one of your biggest supporters, and they can help you in a lot of great ways. Let them know you exist, and see how they can help you. Expect them to ask some requests, as they are a business after all, and it would e a bad businessman that would do something totally for free. Nonetheless, it can be a profitable exchange, and one that should happen for the benefit of both of you. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Convetions and Legal Issues

Ever curious where you can find the Black Market? Try Artists Alley.

Artists at a convention have always had a fun relationship with the law. Although a lot of artists are there selling products that they own with images that they wholly own, including the characters, you have a lot of others that are using characters that they have no real right to. You can break it down to three issues: fan art, counterfeiters, and unlicensed printers. I'm going to ignore fan art; we all acknowledge it's illegal but it's ignored as long as it stays small. It's the other two that make for some interesting conversations.

Although there are a couple of famous ones, there are a lot of counterfeiters in any given convention. Counterfeiters are a particular evil at a convention because nothing sucks more than putting a lot effort into finding what you thought was a really cool souvenir of someone you really wanted something from only to find out that it wasn't. A person who illegally forges money only creates an inconvenience; a person who forges a signature ruins a life so heavily valued are our memories. It gets worse when artwork from a famous artist is forged; the person deserves to be run out of the convention, and they usually are. Before buying, make sure you do your research on both the seller and the items being sold. When buying, avoid the high pressure and "recently unearthed artwork"; great art sells itself, and artwork with mysterious origins should always be questioned. Just remember that you have no one else but your own self to blame if you pick up bad artwork.

I'm really not sure where to stand when it comes to prints of fan art, however good it is. POD publishers have pretty much given up on it, leaving it to the rights owners to police; most companies don't mind it as long as it doesn't become too big as it works for some great advertising. The probem is that there some gray area, as there is some debate as to whether it is considered derivative artwork or copyright infringement. The latter is patently illegal and opens up the seller to some serious litigation, while the former is allowed under a number of jurisdictions; the idea is to provide a reasonable loophole for smaller sellers to provide a non-competitive means of providing competition in order to keep local markets thriving. Although there are some issues with originality, there are some incredible fanartists out there, especially among the furry community.

Derivative works were originally applied more to crafts than artwork. Local craftsmen would develop a variation on a major manufacturer's invention and want to sell it; the classic example is a boat with a slightly different prow that would work well for the local waters. Lawmakers listened and so derivative works laws were born. Eventually artists would figure it out and apply the concept to their individual art.

There's been some great stuff coming from derivative works. Probably the best example I can think of are the T-shirts combining the TARDIS with Disney Princesses. The problem is the old issue when it comes to forgers (and I'm not comparing them to forgers): These are usually people that have some serious creative talent, and it would be interesting to see what they could to do if they attacked the art world with their own ideas. So while I think that there is a lot of cool stuff being done as derivative works, I would love to see them do a lot more of their own work. Obviously the derivative works, just like the fanart, is way too profitable to ignore.

So with that said, encourage your artists, with your dollars going to the best artists regardless of the origin of their works and beware the fakes. Now I need to go find a T-shirt...Meridia would make a scary Companion. But then again Romana was my favorite. Hey! There it is!