Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Revue June 24: Witchy

You Are Opening The Door To New Worlds...Brace Yourself And Tie Back Your Hair For

Power is a double edged blade. It can give you the life you dream of...or take it away. And you have no choice in the matter.
....or do you?
This is the question in Hyalin, where power in moderation is a blessing, and immoderate power a deadly curse. In this deadly world, one teenager refuses to accept the choices she is allowed, and makes her own way. This is the story of Nyneve: coward, hero, rebel, runaway. What you see depends on where you stand.
The creation of Ariel Ries, Witchy can be read at this link.

The Rating

Superb magical abilities

The Raves

With an art style reminiscent of Secret of Kells, the first thing Witchy will catch is your eye.

The color scheme is well-chosen and vibrant, capturing the feel of times and places in an almost impressionistic fashion. Stylistically reminiscent of watercolor and animation both, it's a well-crafted treat for the eye. The world building is gorgeously done: you feel you could walk into the crowd scenes. 

The second thing Witchy will attract is your curiosity. We are dropped right into the thick of a world riven with strifes and prejudices of its own creation, formed through its own history. Well paced and nicely laid out, the story draws you into the pathos of events: characters torn between loyalty to country and devotion to family, between personal safety and personal autonomy, between hopes for the future and wounds of the past. The comic dances nimbly past many pitfalls of trope and stereotype, never quite giving you what you expected but always showing you a character who you can relate to on some level (including a few characters who you shudder to find yourself understanding.)
And then Witchy will capture your heart. This is a story of stubborn hope in the face of overwhelming odds. It's a story of devotion to your loved ones and integrity in the face of all the world's demands to conform.  Witchy manages to explore themes of personal strength, identity, autonomy and personal decision perfectly: without preaching or creating situations that feel forced, it creates storylines that lets us see the many facets of characters' identities and truly explore the idea that diversity is a culture's strength. The weakness in one member of a society should complement the strength in another. When we laud only some strengths and only some ways of being, we soon become dangerously out of balance. The issue of how to be authentic in an unbalanced society is explored in beautiful detail here.

The Razzes

I have only one complaint. Ariel, please stop apologizing every time you have to take a break on Witchy! Reading your comments, I rather feel like giving you a hug. You have nothing to apologize for. Your readers understand: this work is time consuming and life is busy. Nobody can fault you for taking breaks! Take care of yourself and the art will be better for it. 

The Revue

This is a must read, for all ages. It's one you'll visit again and again.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Monthly Matinee June: So you Wanna Print a Comic? (Part One)

So, you've been working on your magnum opus for a while now. You've got some pages under your belt, and the response is good. Then comes the first well-meaning fan asking “So, will we ever see this in print?” Your head spins, thoughts of fame and glory as a published author flash through your mind. You dedicate yourself to the mission – printing your first comic.

Now what?

There's a lot of things to think about when considering printing a comic. From the layouts to the finish, to funding and distribution. I'm here to parse through some of the concerns of printing, and give advice to newbies and comic veterans alike!

For the first part of this we will talk about considerations for before you start writing and drawing

What? I have to start thinking about printing that early?! Well, it doesn't hurt! If you already have your art done, you should still review these suggestions, your work may already be following industry guidelines.

Size and bleed

This is the size you will be working at. Usually, it is informed by industry standards. American comics usually print at 6.63"x10.24  and it is common to draw them on 11”x17” boards. European Bande Dessinee are usually 8.4"x11.6" and made on slightly larger paper. Manga is often 5.04"x7.17" but sometimes larger... so many sizes to choose from!

In general, working to one of these common sizes makes printing cheaper, and gives you more options of printers. However, many printers can also trim to other sizes at no additional costs! I've seen great comics printed square, printed to the size of a 45” record, printed in long scrolls, and even printed on a large sheet and folded up into the finished size. Don't let yourself get too tied down!

The other consideration of size, is bleed. A lot of modern comics use bleed to make full use of the paper. I've attached a handful of good guideline templates, you will notice that many of them have two bleed marks - “safe area” and “full bleed”. When the printer is working there's an acceptable wiggle room in the registration, and each page may not be perfectly centered. Thus, the safe area is the space which will never get cut off. All your word bubbles and important action need to remain in that space! The full bleed is the area which needs to be colored in, so that while trimming there are no slivers of unprinted space.
That white strip at the top? In my first book I failed to account for bleed on the chapter covers.

To be clear – the bleed is ADDED to the page, the safe area is SMALLER than the page area. It's common to buy bond pages with bleed/safe guidelines printed on them in no-photo blue. If you are working entirely within the page, with gutters the whole way around, you only need to be concerned with safe areas. Even then, there should be plenty of margin to prevent anything that's within those panels getting cut off.

Layout for printing

(image of page plan)

You've got your page size decided, time to thumbnail! Whole articles would be written about thumb-nailing, but here's what's important for print.

You are looking at pages as two page spreads. Our eyes often take in the entire spread before focusing in on the upper left to begin to read. If you want to build suspense, or have an interesting reveal – make it on a page turn.
My thumbnails - two pages side by side, just like they will be in the book!

Also, if you are making a two page spread, with or without outer bleeds, you have to consider the inner bleed – the part of the page which descends into the fold of the paper. Just like outer bleeds, you will want to have the image reach all the way to the possible edge of the paper, and have important bits within the safe area. It's no good for people to be breaking the spine just the read that word bubble! When designing a two-page spread it's a good idea to have some repetitive boring business in the middle, just to fill it up.
This image from an InDesign file actually cuts the bleeds out of the middle, lots of extra room for safety!

Color processes

Doing black and white? Too bad! You still need to consider file types and color profiles!

Printing uses CMYK color. This is an additive color process, with the inks layering and mixing to achieve the correct colors. A CMYK file splits into four images, with the necessary amount of each color kept separate.

All screens use RBG color. It's subtractive color (kind of, there's some interesting physics going on which you can read more on HERE). It splits down into three parts.

Almost all digital artist will work in an RBG color file. It just makes sense. However, prior to printing it needs to be converted to CMYK. This is best done when individual pages are separate files, rather than converting an entire finished PDF. Mostly, to ensure the color is still as intended! For scanned files (colored analog, then digitized) there are rarely problems with this conversion. In fact, many scanners can scan in CMYK if the image is going to be sent directly to printing and not used online first.

BUT, for digital artist, that conversion can cause strange things to happen to the colors. There are certain parts of the spectrum that are unavailable in RBG, and others that are difficult to reproduce in CMYK. Obviously, reviewing it on a screen is imperfect, but it usually reveals color problems, and allows them to be fixed!
(This is from a great article!)

Even if you are working in black and white, you will still need files that are the correct output, and CMYK is fine.

Rich Blacks

It is not uncommon for people to convert the blacks of a comic to Rich Blacks for printing. This is particularly important for very dark comics! If a black is coded as just being the “K” part of CMYK, then it's actually only getting one layer of ink. If there's anything being printed underneath it, even just “artifacts” that are covered by it in the finished image, they may show through. Rich Black is the layering of all four colors of ink to make the darkest black (just like your art teacher made you do in 1020...)This is recommended for all lettering and bubbles, to make them very legible over the art.

(I'm not going to go over the technical details of doing this, but here's some tutorials!)

In Conclusion - taking a moment to consider printing guidelines before you even start writing, drawing, and producing your comic will save you a lot of trouble in the long run! 

In the next segment I'll talk about the language of printers, pricing your book, and funding. Stay tuned!

Note from the MC: this article is written courtesy of Pink Pitcher, Author of Root And Branch, which is currently on its third published volume. A tip of the hat to you Pink! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Comic Revue June 10: I Kill Giants

Grab your weapons. Hang on Tight.

 We're riding to Battle with

I Kill Giants is an incredible comic written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by J. M. Ken Niimura. It is a tale of pain and redemption, loneliness, loss and connection. It's a tale of everyday magic hiding just under the skin of the mundane, and the power of myth to change a life.

Barbara is a freak. A weird kid. A nutcase. From the outside. But inside, she is a hero with a sacred trust. She studies the lore. And she. Kills. Giants.
This comic is a must read. For sale at this link, it can be read here until you can buy a copy of your own. There will be no spoilers below, but I will repeat: Read. This.

The Rating

A gem.

The Raves

If you've not heard the term 'urban fantasy' before, welcome to the genre. This comic tells the tale of a girl with one foot in Faery and one foot in the principal's office. And she has something worth fighting for. Her quest consumes her. That sounds noble until it gets you sent to the school shrink. 
The exploration of the intersection between these interior and exterior experiences is seamless, poignant and absolutely true. If you were ever the weird kid, this story will bring tears to your eyes and a grin to your lips. If you were ever the one trying to help the weird kid, you'll most likely feel the same. I love this work for its ability to gently explore the interface between fact and inner truth, the fault lines where the stories we live by rub up against the expectations laid on us by those around us.
At its heart, this work is a story about stories and their power. When life hands us the incomprehensible or the unbearable, we humans have a choice: we can become stone, bearing up under the weight at the cost of shutting down our emotions. We can become shattered by the pressure. Or we can become storytellers who force the narrative of events into a tool we can use in our fight for survival. 
This comic's frank, realistic and humorous exploration of trauma and the places it can take the mind of a child is amazing. Relatable, empathic and painfully funny in equal measure, it is the story I'd most recommend to school counselors and anyone dealing with kids handling difficulties. The creators truly remember how children think, and they remember how sharp the edges on the world are when our hearts are new. In Barbara's utter focus on the rituals and lore she must abide by in order to slay giants, we understand humanity's desperate urge to have some control over our lives. In Taylor's urge to hurt others, we understand the need to feel we have power of some kind, any kind. And in Sophia's stubborn insistence on seeing the good in others, we can see that connection is what has kept humanity alive this long.

Most of all, this story reminds us why we tell stories: to make us something more than we were and give us the strength to take on our monsters. Gamian said it best: Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. That is why Barbara kills giants.

And now that I've gone on my poetic rant, let's talk about the art. Don't let this work fool you. It's kept loose and stylized to match the material, but this piece knows all the tricks and uses them to advantage. The simplicity of the ink drawings, without color or complex backgrounds to dazzle the eye, leads the reader to every detail.

The pacing is perfection, and all I can say is....*happy sigh*

The Razzes

Occasional, very occasional, reversals on word balloon reading direction can be irritating breaks in the flow. I would have liked to see those resolved. Other than that? I got nothing.

The Revue

Read. This. Today. Feed your child's heart and your inner geeky soul. Go on. I double dog dare you.