In getting prepared for leveling up the content for "Kleefeld on Comics" (as noted yesterday) I think it best if I take a few days, maybe a week, off. I really want to make sure I've got my new strategy worked out, and that's proving a little difficult to do if I'm trying to make daily updates at the same time. I'll be continuing my poorly executed presence on Twitter and Facebook, but I'm going to put the blog on hold for a few days.
("Boy, Sean, this would've made a LOT more sense if you did it over, say, an extended holiday weekend like we just had!" Yes, that would've been the smart thing to do, wouldn't it? Sadly, my second eureka moment didn't hit until Monday afternoon.)
Monday, December 02, 2013
My writing this year, my blog in particular, has mostly been on a sort of autopilot.
"Wait, I haven't posted anything today. Idea, idea, idea... Ah!" Type type type type, publish! "Crap, I should've gone to bed an hour ago!" Dive into bed.
There hasn't been much fore-thought, or design to what I've been putting out there. Frankly, I just haven't been bringing my A-game to the table this year.
I don't mean that as a criticism necessarily, just an observation. I've had so much going on, I just haven't had time to really focus on my comics research and writing. Not properly anyway. Life is kind of an ongoing balancing act, and comics haven't been as much in the forefront as I'd generally like them to be because of some of the tactical work I've had to get done.
But now it appears that things have stablized a bit, and I've had a couple of eurkea moments in the past couple weeks as I've started reacquianting my brain with comics writing. I've got some ideas that I think will make for note-worthy improvements on this blog here, and hopefully that will take it to a higher level. And maybe, if I can really pull off the type of things I'm thinking about, it might just add something to the overall discussion of comics online. (Possibly in general, but we'll see how things go.)
So today's post is partially a heads-up to anyone who's reading that I'll be making a few changes in the coming days and weeks, and partially a way to publicly draw a line in the sand for myself to up my game and start playing like I really mean it. Stay tuned!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
While the book touches briefly on some cartooning basics, it spends much of its time annotating different types of lines frequently seen in comics. Walker calls that wavy line coming from a delicious smelling pie a "wafotarom." But the same squiggle drawn behind a paper airplane to show its flight path is a "sailatron." By the time he gets to drawing hands towards the latter half of the book, he's clearly poking fun at over-analysis of the medium by calling fingers "digitons." Perhaps because I was vaguely aware of the book and many of these terms before reading, this part came off as mildy amusing but I would have been disappointed had that been the extent of the contents.
There is, however, a more direct "how to" section at the end. How to draw a straight line, how to stipple, how to draw caricatures, etc. These are actually pretty funny, despite many of them taking on the same basic gag: step 1, draw a circle; step 2, add three lines coming off the circle; step 3, fill in all the details to make it look awesome. He uses the figure of Little Orphan Annie when he's showcasing how to draw eyes, for example. How to draw pretty girls consists of: start with a stick figure; add other elements; finish off full figure; reluctantly add clothes. I won't spoil all the jokes here, but they were pretty funny, as I said. A welcome surprise, and somewhat different style of humor than I'm used to seeing from Walker.
The original 1980 book seems to have had a pretty short press run, but there was reprint published in 2000 that should be easier to get your hands on. It is kind of an amusing anecdote to comics, and maybe Walker's career in particular, but I don't know that there's any huge need for people to go on a major scavenger hunt to try to find a copy. Kind of neat if you stumble across a copy in a used bookstore. Although it's short enough that you could probably read it pretty easily in the store, too, and that might be plenty enough for you.
Friday, November 29, 2013
First we have Frank Beddor, who's launched a project to complete his fifth and final Hatter M graphic novel, a spin-off from his successful Looking Glass Wars prose trilogy. Beddor's books have been primarily self-funded, I believe, and his previous Kickstarter for the fourth Hatter M graphic novel was his first attempt at crowd-funding things. Many of his rewards are enticing, including not only original art and a promise of getting written into future stories but also unusual items like a custom milliner's hat like the one used in the story and a Princess Alyss maquette prototype. Beddor also established the series several years before Kickstarter and is coming to the table with a decent fan-base, both of his material as well as the original Alice in Wonderland stories it's derived from.
Probably the biggest challenge he faces is that his reward tiers tend to heavily favor higher backers. This project includes four new books in total (one graphic novel, one prose novel, an art book and a "Millinery Academy Handbook") but the only way to get both the graphic novel and, say, the Handbook is to pledge $110 so you also get the art book and the prose novel. And while you can get a paperback version of the graphic novel at $21, the prose book is only available in hardcover starting at the $35 level. I don't know Beddor's costs on any of this, obviously, but it seems that he's setting the project up geared towards existing, fairly devoted fans. It doesn't strike me as conducive to folks with anything resembling a casual interest, or first-time backers.
Our second example is Ryan Estrada, whose project is based around a story he's been trying to get together for several years now. It's a series of stories he's written in which the villain of one story becomes the hero of the next. It sounds like an interesting take on the "everybody is the hero of their own story" idea, but spelled out through 18 different people. And while Estrada has written the whole thing himself, he's enlisted a cadre of talented artists to illustrate the different stories. Folks like Amy T. Falcone, Brittney Sabo and Carolyn Nowak to name a few. Estrada's also made something of a name for himself, although more for his own personal style and mission than with a single character or intellectual property, so he's got a fan-base to work from as well.
My guess is Estrada's biggest challenge lies in the opposite end of the spectrum. You can give him one dollar, and receive all 18 stories in a digital DRM-free format. So while Estrada's project has over twice as many backers as Beddor's, he's raised about $7000 less (as of this writing). His lower threshold for entry is apparently making it more difficult to raise enough to reach his $25000 goal, even as he attracts more attention and interest. The other aspect working against Estrada, it seems to me, is the focus on digital rewards; he's providing a lot of stories at lower tier levels but they're primarily available electronically with little in the way of tangible print items. In particular absence is the main Broken Telephone story itself; it's not available in print format at any level. So while people might be willing to drop a dollar or twenty for a digital set of comics, the project really has little to appeal to folks who have no interest in digital delivery comics.
That Beddor and Estrada are coming at their respective projects from two different angles, and are facing pretty much diametrically opposed challenges, strikes me as a fascinating study in how Kickstarters work. Beddor is looking at a smaller audience but one from a vigorously devoted fan-base, while Estrada seems to be banking on his own personality and word of mouth to win over enough casual readers. He's not going for fans as much as he's just setting the barriers so low that it's easy to reach the masses at large. But they're both about half-way through their campaigns and have each raised over half of what they're aiming for.
I suspect both will achieve their goals, although not with some of those spectacular 1000% results. But I think we should keep an eye on them to see just how well they do in these campaigns. Maybe we should check back in a few weeks to do some follow-up when they're both done.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
I'm sitting here in my half-completed library right now, and I repeatedly finding myself just staring around the room, giddy at the prospect of realizing a dream I've had for many years now. And even in lieu of the holy-crap-is-this-the-most-fantastic-collection-ever sense of awe I had at the Billy Ireland Library and Museum, that I'm able to do something even remotely capable of being called a comics library makes me inordinately happy.
And within the sphere of comics writing, I usually just sit off in my own little corner, banging away on my keyboard. I don't have a lot of interaction with other folks about my ideas, so I'm left to assume that I'm shouting at the wind. But then (again going back to the Billy Ireland event) to get recognized repeatedly, and to have folks like Danny Fingeroth and Charles Hatfield introduce themselves to me, is very humbling and gratifying. And then getting name-checked by Tom Spurgeon? Well, how can I not be thankful for that?
The S.O. is in the kitchen now working on what I have no doubt will be a delicious Thanksgiving meal. I'm about to head up to the gym so I can go run. Later, we'll be dining with friends.
I've had a few challenges thrown at me, but right now, I have to say that they've been worth whatever struggles I've had. The biggest complaint I have right now is that "25°, feels like 12°" is a little too chilly for me to run outside and I have to use the gym instead. That's not a bad life at all. It really is a good life if you don't weaken.