This is the grand finale to the comic class posts! Lots of words this time, as I’ve got a lot of information to impart! There are links scattered throughout, particularly in “Staying in the Loop” section; enough to keep you busy for a while. Enjoy!
What to do with your comic after you’ve drawn it
So you’ve finished a comic strip, or a longer story. Now what? It’s been fun making it, and you may not feel that it needs to go any farther than that. But if you want your story to connect with other people, there are a number of ways you can get your story in front of other eyes.
Post it on the web:
You can share it on whatever social media you use. pretty much all of them have a way to share photos. Sharing it with your social-media friends (or even by email) is sure to generate some discussion! It may seem scary to put it out there, but there’s no way to get over that but to post it. Start with media just aimed at your friends; Facebook is good for this because you can set your privacy to only the people you want to see it. Later, if you feel brave, widen the settings.
If you want to do a series of comics and post them to the public, you can start your own webcomic. It’s very easy to start a Tumblr webcomic, and it’s one of the simplest, most elegant interfaces possible in its basic form, though it’s possible to make quite beautiful, elaborate “websites” with it as well. Tumblr is geared towards imagery, though some people use it for writing blogs as well. It’s a very popular choice for people starting webcomics that don’t want to go to a full-fledged website. Here’s an article on the three most popular blogging sites, all of which are used by webcomic artists.
There are of course all kinds of other options for posting your work on the web; I’ve seen people use Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook, and some people even use Twitter, since it will now allow photos. Remember that while people can stumble across it, they’re not likely to unless you do some promotion. Spread the word among your friends, especially on other social media. Send some e-mails. Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn a bit.
One way to do this is to use keywords, tags, and hashtags. Tags are keywords that you write into the appropriate place, which help search engines find your post. For example, when I made a post about my graphic novel, I would tag it as “cat”, “Sasquatch”, “comic”, “graphic novel”, “watercolour”, “illustration” — I would try to think of what subjects people might be searching for on a search engine that might result in them being pleased to find my comic. I try not to stretch the parameters: for example, if someone is looking for an ice cream parlour, and I put that in as a tag because there is a picture of one in my comic, they might find it annoying to be directed to a general comic post! However, since it is a specific location, with a real name, I do put that in if the page where it is being shown is in the post.
There are many different ways to get a comic in print. If your comic is relevant to a niche publication, send it to them and see if they’d like to use it. Neighbourhood papers, your company or club’s newsletter, a local magazine — these are all good bets if your topic is relevant. Usually these don’t pay much, if at all, but it’s great to see your work in print! As you gain confidence, you could submit work further afield, to magazines, newspapers, and comics anthologies. Eventually you might even want to try submitting to a comics publisher.
You can self-publish, all the way from doing a little hand-made book on your own computer or at the local self-serve copy store to having a printing company print and bind it for you. It’s a lot of work to do a whole book, but if you are really keen about making comics, you’ll eventually find yourself with a whole lot of them, and want to make a collection.
Hand-made mini-comics: if you only want a few to distribute to friends and family, this is a super-friendly way to start. Make copies of your comic(s), and lay out a “dummy” book so that you know where all the pages should be when you print the pages. You can do this the old-fashioned way, by paste-up, or in the computer on a page layout program. If you do them the paste-up way, you can make copies at the copy centre. It might take a bit of fooling around to get the backs and fronts facing the right way ‘round, so make sure you allow for some test copies. The same goes for printing it out from your computer. You can bind these together with staples or a needle and thread — or go the art-book route and try something off-beat and creative. Here’s another article; a video on a one-sheet mini-comic; a PDF tutorial; an article with pagination guides; a more detailed article about two ways of making your own comic;
Working with a printer: this could be a course unto itself! Of course, you need to have enough work to actually put into a book before you start thinking about making one. It helps to have computer skills, at least in layout, and Photoshop is very useful as well for adjusting your images. However, you can hire these tasks out if you aren’t able to do that part.
As far as the actual printing, any printer worth going to will sit down with you and explain the ins-and outs of the process, and the options available. Some will even show you around the shop on a slow day or by appointment if you are interested in the mechanics. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; in fact, tell them your experience level from the beginning. This will save confusion all around. Every printer I’ve ever worked with has been very happy to walk me through the steps I didn’t understand, and I’ve learned so much from them! Here in Victoria I can recommend Island Blueprint’s Printorium and Metropol; both have printed comics for me and been very patient with my learning curve, and the results were excellent.
How to stay in the loop
If you are well and truly hooked on comics, you will want to find out more. I hope I’ve opened a window to the world of comics in this course, and made you want to learn more! Remember to consciously make a space for yourself to make comics, and to just draw creatively. You can take classes and read about it and learn a lot, but you never really learn something until you do it. The dishes can wait, there are sketches to be made, stories to be told!
There are many different books on how to make comics; see the bibliography below. And just as an aspiring novelist reads novels, the aspiring cartoonist reads comics and graphic novels — you’ll be amazed at what is possible in this art form. A browse through the public library will yield lots of reading material; the Victoria Public Library has been very proactive in stocking comics, and most if not all of the branches have adult, YA, and children’s sections. Hang out in bookstores, many of which have growing sections devoted to graphic novels. And the best places of all are comic shops— go down to Legends and talk to Gareth or Lloyd, and ask them to give you some recommendations (tell them what you like). They are incredibly knowledgable about comics. Gareth also teaches classes.
Here are my favourite books on learning to make comics:
Will Eisner’s three books on comics are classics, and are often used as textbooks in comics courses. Comics and Sequential Art, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Expressive Anatomy For Comics And Narrative: Principles And Practices From The Legendary Cartoonist. This trio of books alone could keep you busy and inspired for many years!
Scott McCloud also has produced a trio of books about making comics, all in comics format. Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics are the books that got me into comics in the first place. They are quite analytical about the way storytelling works, but the added meta-charm of being told in comic format makes what could be really dry reading if told in prose come out as pure fascination.
Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have two books and a fabulous website dedicated to helping people learn to make comics. Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, also the name of their website, is intended for use either in a classroom, a study group, or self-directed learning. The sequel, Mastering Comics, has even more great exercises, focusing on more advanced topics. Matt Madden also has a book called 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, which I have not got, but it is on my wish list!
To keep yourself inspired and practicing, I highly recommend a little book by Robyn Chapman called Drawing Comics Lab. With 52 fun exercises, you could do one each week for a year, and start over!
Whether you’re into Manga (Japanese comics) or not, Mark Crilley’s Mastering Manga is a useful book for its emphasis on creating characters, with tips on anatomy, expression, clothing, and lots more. There is also a section on perspective, and one on the usual fundamentals of comics. I first encountered Mr, Crilley’s work through his videos, and immediately subscribed to his you-tube channel. I just love watching other people draw…
Some other books I’ve found useful:
Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics from the Ground Up by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer
The Complete Guide to Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels by Daniel Cooney
Foundations in Comic Book Art by John Paul Lowe
Comic Book Design: The Essential Guide to Creating Great Comics and Graphic Novels by Gary Spencer Millidge
And especially good from the writing point of view: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel by Nat Gertler and Steve Lieber
There’s a series of utterly charming books on making comics for kids put out by The Center for Cartoon Studies: Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics, Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action, and several more, all by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost. The great thing about them is that they work for the adult beginner as well, especially someone who might be shy about their drawing skills!
On the web:
There are lots of sites with information about how to make comics, the business of comics, scholarly theory of comics, comics culture, and anything else you can think of. And of course, there are webcomics. Look around. Explore. Go on unexpected side trips. Prepare to be enthralled. I have some Pinterest boards dedicated to comics and comic resources: Cartooning and Animation Resources, Comics Culture, Comics, Graphic Novels, Webcomics (which is kind of like an online bibliography of online comics and print comics that I like — it’s a good way to get started reading some webcomics, just click!). I’ve also been collecting links to all sorts of art and reference articles and tutorials for my own use — feel free to browse around my boards and click to your heart’s content!
These are great fun, and for anyone trying to make a living in the field, necessary. They’re not all alike; some have more of a focus on the literary and creator aspects of comics, like the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) or Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF) and others are crazy, intense, media-driven extravaganzas like the famous San Diego Comic-Con. They generally have programming (I found TCAF’s extremely educational last year), famous guests, an Artists’ Alley where comics creators have tables with their books and art and will often do sketch commissions (for a fee), and a Dealers’ Room where you can buy commercially produced merchandise. If you want a taste of what a convention can be like, I’m involved in organizing one at Camosun College on Saturday April 11; it will be called (ta-da!) Camosun Comic Arts Festival, or CCAF — there will be more on this blog about that in the very near future.
Short-run classes like this one are becoming increasingly common. I believe in learning from a variety of mentors, so be on the lookout for more from other people; there are several people around town giving classes. There are now comics programs at many different institutions, including our own, full-time, one-year certificate program at Camosun.
Comic Jams and drawing groups: Sometimes it’s just fun to get together with other artists and draw!
These come in lots of different flavours, or organize your own. Find out about them through the art stores and comic stores. A group from the comics course I took used to get together every week in a restaurant and have a jam and socialize, until most of them moved to Vancouver to become animators! Here’s an article from Jessica Abel.
Comic jams can be a way to express yourself…