2014: The Come Back Year

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 6.03.33 PMI want to write a little about the year 2014. For me personally, it was a rebuilding year. I started 2014 with practically nothing but an a apartment, a solid job and a car. Everything else had fallen apart apart rapidly. But I have come up from nothing before, and I was determined to do it again. I’m a believer in affirmations, and I’ve seen almost all of the things I wrote in December 2013 come true. After the jump, I’ll recap the highlights of my come back year… read more…

Revenge of the scroll down comics!!! (webtoons)

My new webcomic “The Webtoonist” is now up for you to read for free here. It’s primarily aimed to encourage creators to enter the Challenge League. Episode 2 will post on January 1st.

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One of the interesting things about Webtoons.com is that they love the scroll down format. A format that was shunned a lot in early American webcomics. Way back in 2002 I did a brief stint with Zombieopolis on MoviePoopshoot.com that was scroll down format and people would complain that they had to scroll! Oh, 2002 internet. People also poo-pooed the idea of using WordPress or a blog CMS to release a regular webcomic, and now it’s one of the most used webcomic hosting platforms around. It’s nearly 2015, don’t be afraid to scroll! You might actually enjoy it!

Of course just stacking your pages one on top the other is fine and allows for that “slow reveal” as to not spoil a few panels ahead, but a better use of scroll format is to abandon the “page” all together and just let your story flow downward. Even write it and lay it out that way. It’s actually really fun.

Too many comic creators I know are afraid to abandon “the page” thinking they MUST stay in a format that could be collected into a book….

but really it would serve many comic creators better if they realized more people will read them online and you don’t need a book format. Ever.

436The past couple weeks I’ve done some experimenting beyond “The Webtoonist” comic I’m drawing for LINE Webtoon, and I posted SPACE APE for fun, using old panels from our old newspaper style adventure strip. Then Ally wrote up a great PegaSquirrel comic and I had to draw that too in between things. That was a lot of fun to monkey with!

Scott McCloud is best known for championing the scroll down format for webcomics. Well, he was actually  all over the place with infinite canvas experiments.

Very cool stuff. If you haven’t read his books “Reinventing Comics” and “Understanding Comics” you should probably pick those up as required reading for being a comic creator. ;)

Back to using Webtoons.com to post your comics… they make it VERY easy. Just login with either Facebook, Twitter or LINE username and then hit the PUBLISH button. You’re then prompted to upload a cover image for your series, a title, brief description, e-mail confirmation that you’re a real person, and you’re off! The next screen allows you to upload “Episodes”, and if you’re wanting to do the scroll down format you’ll need to chop it into chunks that are no larger than 800×1280 pixels. You can then drag and drop your pages that will stack and then make your comic live or save it as a draft if you’re not ready yet.

You can tell Webtoon did it’s UX homework because everything is easy to find, publish, rank other comics and navigate the site fairly quickly.

There are times in overall webdesign when a lot of white clean space isn’t your friend. Case in point, my friend at work (who actually does web design all day) was confused when I sent him to the main series page, didn’t realize you had to click the individual episode link to bring up the PegaSquirrel comic. If it’s a series that has a whole bunch of episodes it’s easier to see, but if you have just one episode hanging out, you may have friends you send the link to who will say “the comic isn’t loading.” not realizing they need to click the individual episode. If you do publish comics there, I suggest shooting the links to your direct episodes to get readers to the meat.

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It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways, that you can always pay to host your own webcomic somewhere else. I wrote a tutorial that shows you how here.

I think one of the major pluses to using a “hub” site to post your comics is the built in audience there (for better or worse sometimes!)- especially if you are unknown or just starting out.

I personally like Webtoons so far because it’s not filled with ads.

It’s clean and easy to use and puts the focus squarely on reading the comic without distractions.

I do wish there was a way to post links to your other websites or social media for your comic, but I understand them wanting to keep readers there as a destination and not just another social media pit stop.

Now that I think about it, I don’t recall in the history of webcomics an easier to use system to load up your new comics and hit the ground running. Maybe DrunkDuck or SmackJeeves was like that, kind of? To me, Webtoons feels very different from those. I hope it catches on.

A couple of my favorites so far is SpaceBoy by Stephen McCranie over on the Challenge Side. (he does a great job of utilizing the scroll format) – And over on the featured comics is ClusterFudge by John McNamee which is simple and makes me laugh. Especially comic #1

So yeah… wow…. I have drawn a TON of comics this year. Next blog will probably do my 2014 wrap-up post and resolutions. It’s been an amazing year getting back to my roots.

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WEBTOONS = WEBCOMICS

Recently I was approached by “LINE Webtoon” about helping to get the word out about their “CHALLENGE LEAGUE” contest. I’m currently producing some fun exclusive comics for them to encourage cartoonists to enter their contest…. DJ!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!??! A COMIC CHALLENGE!!?! Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time around?

I know I know! Bear with me here a minute…

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 3.39.44 PMAt first glance, I was pretty skeptical as I saw their twitter feed had sent the same message to a bunch of my colleagues in comics. AND I happen to know a thing or two about “contests” and the controversies in the past in the U.S. Market. Honestly, I kind of just ignored it at first because I was very busy and it looked like a “manga”style type thing to me when I took a quick look. About a week later Ally comes into my office and says that one of her favorite creators, Nick Seluk (the guy who does Awkward Yeti and Heart & Brain) is on this new site called webtoons.com  and there was a contest there to win $30,000 and she suggested maybe we put up one of our new comic ideas on there, etc….Being that the universe decided to bring this SAME thing to me in two very different ways, (and someone who doesn’t really believe in “coincidences” like this) I decided I should take a closer look and find out what this was all about before discounting it….  and I was pleasantly surprised.

First up, I wanted to know the RULES. What are they wanting to do here? Who’s behind this? Is this an IP grab like past comic contests? It doesn’t appear to be any of those things. And in the USA “Webtoons” sounds like it should be animated, so I think many regular comic artists just don’t even bother to click. Webtoons = Webcomics. Ideally the kind you scroll down to read.

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The main goal is for LINE Webtoon to expand what they’ve already been doing on the other side of the planet and expand into the United States comic market and diversify the styles of comics. You own all of your content. Webtoon DOES seem to select key creators and offer them a deal of some kind but it’s not for ownership, more like splitting of ad costs or having the creators design integrated ads for the most popular features.

Here are some facts I’ve gathered in my own research (and links) for you to judge yourself and learn more about this. I find it fascinating that this GIANT COMICS SITE exists over there, more popular than any in the USA and seemingly nobody in the USA comic market has heard of it. I think partly because it’s called “Webtoons” which sounds like animation to most comic artists I know. But… WEBTOON = WEBCOMIC.

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Junkoo Kim

Factoid #1 : JunKoo Kim, the director and head of the LINE Webtoon Division for Naver was named #2 “Next Gen Innovator 2014″ by Forbes Magazine. Read the article here. I found this pretty interesting.

#2 “Webtoons’ growth is similar to Google’s development… LINK TO ARTICLE HERE  — Long story short, NAVER is like the Google of Korea, and they are investing in WEBCOMICS as a platform just Google did for BLOGS and created the “Blogger” revolution (38 Million blogs as of 2006!) – Essentially they feel Webcomics can be a big platform like YOUTUBE or Blogs….. and over there, they are right! In Korea, Webtoons are just as known and accepted as people going to Youtube or Facebook.

What is one of the key reasons NAVER is a bigger search engine than Google in South Korea? WEBCOMICS…

“Naver provides a platform where users can consume contents- comics (webtoon) and novels (webnovel).  Every day, more than 20 webtoons get updated on Naver. Famous webtoons regularly gather close to 30,000 ratings and more than 10,000 reviews from readers in less than 12 hours. Naver hires promising webtoonists through various sources including their own open webtoon platform (Challenge webtoon), where amateur webtoonists can upload their work and get evaluated by Naver’s 40 million portal users. Naver also recently launched a Webnovel service. Popular webnovelists from Naver make over 10,000USD a month for the preview service, where users can access the new chapter a week before. Naver is planning to introduce its content business to the international market this year.” LINK

Naver , and LINE Webtoons, in my opinion, are ahead of the game with forethought on delivering comics to readers worldwide. Online and Mobile. It’s seriously one of the BEST apps I’ve seen for comics on my iphone. And they actually put marketing budget behind commercials that are fun and well produced. See:

Pretty cool huh??  This is something probably 98% of us in the United States Comic Market have never heard of!!! I looked around at all the major comic blogs, webcomic places and not a peep about Webtoons anywhere.

At first glance, like I mentioned, you’re going to see a lot of Manga looking stuff there. (actually in Korea it’s called Manhwa) — but it’s not that they only want that style, it just happens to be the most popular in the Asian market. And that’s exactly why they are over here with this contest, knocking on the USA comic market’s door…. they want ANYONE with ANY style amateur or pro,  to upload their comics there and give it a shot. No strings attached.

If you dig a little further, you’ll see there’s also a push to translate Korean comics into English, and vice versa, AND other languages as well. That potentially expands the readership of your comics by millions of people worldwide. That seems pretty awesome to me.

Okay, I’m going to leave this as my first blog pertaining to LINE Webtoon, etc. I’m really excited to be involved in some way and help get the word out. I’d love to see BleedingCool.com or someone posting about this and you have my permission to quote me or use any of this as you’d like.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 3.49.46 PMNext time I’m gonna talk about the layout and usability and ease of use. And maybe how to use this to experiment with your sequential art. I know I am.  I’ve posted a comic of my own just to go through the process myself and report on it in my next blog.

In the meantime, the deadline for entries of any length is January 25th if you want to give it a go. I do see a few recognizable webcomics sneaking in there.

Links mentioned: http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mfl45eleeh/junkoo-kim-director-and-head-of-the-line-webtoon-division-naver/

http://www.digitaljournal.com/a-and-e/arts/op-ed-line-webtoon-a-web-comic-service-makes-usa-and-global-debut/article/404866

http://www.atelier.net/en/blog/2014/03/25/how-naver-came-dominate-search-south-korea_428288

 

State of the…. SECRET BASE!!!

Wow! 2014 has been a great year for me on the creating front and getting back into making the comics… ALL OF THE COMICS. I wanted to talk a little about what I’m up to currently and how you might see even more.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 9.54.03 PMHERO BY NIGHT…

First up, a 7 or 8 weeks ago I began fudging around with coloring an old Hero By Night page to practice my comic coloring skills since I was getting ready to take on all art chores on GodChild. That turned into a surprise update and a new weekly page ever since. No theatrics, no press releases, just whoever happened to notice it was there. It’s only really because of the Hero By Night fans who constantly email or come up to me at shows and demand more. It’s back in my hands firmly now, I don’t want to talk about the past, only focusing on the future. If you’re so inclined you can read Hero By Night weekly at http://herobynight.com – Usually updates Wed or Thursday. :)

The GodChild…

Ally and I are about midway done with the first big graphic novel. It can be read weekly at http://godchild.keenspot.com (mature readers) -I now cover all of the art chores on the book, (pencils/inks/colors) and it’s been a blast. We had to amicably part ways with the old colorisScreen Shot 2014-12-22 at 9.55.50 PMt and my old friend Adam Black who seems to be suddenly crushed with his own successes with his subscription comic Locus GodSlayer and a bunch of freelance work. Taking on a project like GodChild is a huge endeavor on it’s own. Much thanks to him for helping us get started and being WAY affordable and kind. I’ve been having a blast doing it on my own. It’s really a different way to approach the page than just pencils or inks. Lots of fun… but I’m also kicking it into high gear to get this big book done because….

We didn’t make a big scene about it, but we signed with Caliber Comics in July to be the official publisher of the graphic novel when complete and a follow up book. I’ve been quietly stoked about Caliber coming back. Things are low key for now but ramping up slowly for us. Caliber used to publish some of my favorite indy comics back in the day, so even to be mentioned alongside them I consider an honor. Some people have jokingly called me “indy comics legend” at shows (thanks a lot Chris Yambar!) but the REAL Indy Comics legend is someone like Gary Reed who has seen every side of the business and helped to launch the careers of some of the biggest names in comics today. So there, I finally emoted about how awesome it is to even say… CALIBER COMICS is our publisher for GodChild, and we couldn’t be happier.

SECRET BASE!

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Just a little look at what the secret activity stream looks like.

I would tell you more about this, but it’s a secret right? Oh, okay… I’ll let you in on it. “SECRET BASE” is basically our Patreon.com/comics campaign to help us raise money to produce MORE comics. It’s a “pay what you want” model, and patrons get exclusive access to the secret activity stream. On different levels I’ll be sharing behind the scenes art, from pencils, inks, colors. Plus fans of GodChild or Hero By Night will get to read the comics in advance of the public and watch them as they come together.

One of my goals is to post a nightly production feed showing EVERYTHING I’ve produced that night. And I want to launch another feature there called “SECRET BLOG”…which, well, that IS a secret. ;)

Currently I am posting my most recent surprise project of the week, “The Webtoonist” which you can find out more about as a patron. Check out the whole campaign and join up if you’d like at

 http://patreon.com/comics

As you can see, Ally and I have a BUNCH going on. And actually I’ve been reminded that there are TWO more little projects that are also in the works on the side. It feels great to be creating things again!

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