23 May 2010

Just came back from a great day of exhibiting my books behind a table at Federation Square (Melbourne's central art district in the centre of the CBD).

Just after setting up in the cold morning.

The amount of traffic wasn't manic, but was steady and constant.

Here's me, ready for action.

And my collection of books and postcards.

Long-time comics afficianado, Philip Bentley.

Jen Breach conducted an edifying interview with the talented Mandy Ord about her comics.

I can count on one hand the comic book authors in Melbourne that I'd class as a
pro. Mandy is definitely one of them. Jen went through some great questions that gave Mandy the opportunity to passionately discuss her influences, views, and ideas surrounding comics. For an indie/author comics purist like me, Mandy had me nodding at many of her points as she described her enthusiasm for the medium, and creating stories that meant something to her.

I was sitting at the back of the bus with John Retallick as Jen yakked away to Mandy.


  • Selling to a whole new audience of gallery-goers, and the general public
  • Jen & Mandy's talk
  • The venue itself
Basically, The Emerging Writer's Festival conducted Page Parlour precisely as it should have. I can't fault it. I can't wait for next year to do it again.

The standard convention model that our small comics community tries to make 'float' is a hard up-hill slog for the emerging/unknown comics author. It's very hard going to ask the public to pay $5, or $10, or $20 to enter a venue in the hopes that they'll come in and give an unknown author's comic a chance.

Can we all see how much of a long-shot that is without a large marketing budget to influence people? I sure can.

Conducting events like the Emerging Writer's Festival is
precisely what the small-press and self-publishing comics scene should be doing themselves. It would serve the local comics scene to do much. much more of what the small-press and zine scene does so successfully, which is to place these small-time author events WITHIN the foot-traffic of potential buyers. It just makes A LOT of practical sense.

In my view, The Emerging Writer's Festival did everything right:
  1. It was cheap for us penny-pinching sellers
  2. It placed the event in the thoroughfare of traffic within a busy central location
  3. Comfy seats
  4. Big tables with table cloths
  5. A clean open venue surrounded by bookshops, and cafes
The crowds walking past were solid and flowed through steadily. It wasn't fractic, but very comfortable and what you'd expect for a liesurely Sunday in the city.

The event went from 12 noon - 5pm, and as I was packing up my table at the end of the day, I mentioned to Zora that I felt pretty good about how the day went. It was only 5 hours long, and in that small time I'd gotten my books into the hands of more literary minded buyers (that otherwise wouldn't have ever seen my work, let alone 'comics'), and pocketed about as much profit as I would have at a big comics convention that sucks the life out of you over the course of the whole weekend. Pretty damn good I thought.

So, officially... it's now my favorite event on the calendar. I can't wait for next year.



17 May 2010

Just came across Dylan Horrocks' twitter link to this great TV spot on the ABC about the recent Wheeler Centre comics weekend that happened a few weekends ago. (See a few posts below for some pics I took on that wekeend).

Aside from the standard introduction of comics at the start of the segment by the newscaster (ie: "What was once considered kid stuff, has been re-cast..."), it's actually a nice little expose steered by our favorite shipmaster, Bernard Caleo.



16 May 2010

Two posts ago, I showed you the pencils and final inked page that I had done while at my 3 week guest lecture at NMIT. Well... here's the final page.

I decided to add the text boxes around the narration so that I could add the light grey tone cleanly. Anyway, it's a simple one pager with a simple technique. Hope you like it.

Oh, for those of you in the city this Sunday, pop down to Federation Square between 2-5pm. The Emerging Writers Festival will have something on called 'Page Parlour' where a whole lot of self-publishers and emerging authors will be showing/selling their works. Come along and pick up something amazing for only a few bucks.

I'll be there too.



09 May 2010

It's Monday morning. After a relaxing Mother's Day yesterday at the folks', I'm sitting here drinking a cup of brown thunder, chewing on my Carman's muesli bar, and reflecting on the grueling Doujicon-4 convention that I (and other locals) exhibited at on Saturday.


On the whole, I had a LOT of fun with my fellow creators on Saturday. We chatted across tables and talked comics and made a good time of it. The Monash University venue is very nice. Clean and big and open. Top notch. Really.

Here are some photos I took at the start of the day:

All set up and ready for the crowd.

Brendan was manning Jason Franks' BLACK GLASS table.

Everyone was in good spirits that morning.

The List table manned by Paul Bedford.

Philip Bentley & Bruce Mutard's table.

Some other great local creators...

Matt's comics are killer. Really funny. Buy em.

Sitting next to my brother in arms, Paul Bedford, was a blast. Lots of laughs and fun.

One of the highlights of the day. A passer-by with a bright camera.

One major 'plus' for the day, was being able to ink the pinup that I'd promised Tom Bonin for his upcoming DICKS comic. (By the way, 'DICKS' stands for 'Detectives'... but that didn't stop me being juvenile, now did it).

And now...

After spending the last few months pushing to finish my comic for the event (that I used as my deadline, by the way)...

...and paying to get my banner designed & delivered...

... and working with my publisher Gestalt Publishing to make sure the book/s were created, printed, and delivered on time for Doujicon. (Thank you to them!)...

I now, feel somewhat suckered... Doujicon-4 was a let down.

Oh, I'm still as pig-headedly determined about creating my stories. That's solid. But man... Doujicon-4 sure did it's best to kick me in the nuts. I can really, really (and honestly) see how a more fragile person might (having been defeated on the day) just say, "Oh, fuck this comics thing. I give up... what the hell am I doing here?!", after such an experience. You question yourself, your work, and your passion for comics in the face of sitting behind a table... as you hear a cricket leg chirp in the distance.

And that's not what comics need.

It needs people creating work in confidence. Days like Saturday won't do it. Comics have only just started to grow in the last few years, and days like Saturday discourage comics publishers from attending, and possibly, producing work in the future.

Look, I've always championed this convention as my favorite in the past. Ask anyone in the local comics scene that knows me. When I first exhibited there a few years ago (Doujicon-2), I was blown away and officially named it my absolute favorite convention. Period. It even out classed the bigger cons like Armageddon and Supanova (in my estimation), as a wonderful pure comics/self-publisher event. But that was then... Now, Doujicon seems to have slid downhill. Fast. From my point-of-view, it was tepid on Saturday.

Basically, THE problem, was that there was almost NO traffic going through to buy our work.

This was the scene about half an hour after the doors opened...

... and this was as good as it got later in the afternoon. Most people packed up an hour before they needed to, just because they had better things to do than sit and yawn behind their tables. There were moments that loud crowds did roll past in hordes, but they were only the cosplayers that we attached to a co-event on this day. They were just passing through, and weren't really there to buy comics and stuff. They had their own agendas to take care of in the form of sword fighting, talking loudly, posing, and flashing a lot of body fat.

A saving grace was the table arrangements and University facility itself. It was damn good. The organiser did his best to situate us with fellow creators upon request, which was great.

But in the end, it fell very short of expectations. Most who secured the $100 tables (like I did), told me that they were disappointed with the convention, and didn't make a profit... or made way, way less than they had expected to. And yes, I know it's a monumental task in organising a convention. It's huge. I know Doujicon makes a loss most every time. I know almost no-one volunteers help or money. I can see the frustrations of the organiser. I feel for the organiser as he struggles and appologises for this and that every year. I know. I know... but as it's the 4th convention, a few of us had hoped some of the creases would have been ironed out by now. They haven't. It seems that more wrinkles are appearing each time Doujicon is held. As the convention experiments with format, venue, etc each year, it doesn't seem like a 'thing' that is being refined... but rather, it seems like a different dice is rolled each time and there are a lot of fingers crossed.

I say all this not to incite anger from the organiser or those that thought differently of the event. I admire what the convention is trying to do. I will still attend every time I can, just to support the event's intent and to get my book into another reader's hands... at the very least. We need more good conventions. We do. I really adore what the event was. I miss it. I want it to have it's strength back.

I know a few might say, "Why not help the organisers with the event instead of complaining?", to which I say, "I am. I'm spending every spare moment of my time producing comics and books to SELL at these conventions." I'm not creating a product that's quick to make. It takes a lot of time and effort. I'm not selling things I've just acquired (like pens, or trinkets) and have some time to offer. No, It sucks up all my time to squeeze each issue out before the fixed deadlines. You see, the way I see it, the better books and professionally driven authors we have 'booking' $100 or $200+ tables at conventions (because it's worth it for their time and effort behind the drawing board) - the better said conventions will 'reciprocally' do. It's a win-win situation.

Let me use an analogy closer to myself, in the hopes of conveying why I don't think I'm being too unreasonable;

Say I advertised to readers to pre-order my upcoming comic book for $50 (in good faith). I tell them that it should be about 400 pages long, in full glossy colour, and be about something (roughly) literary, like the human condition... but then, when the book is finally delivered to them - they end up holding a 16-page B&W children's book about bunnies and rainbows.

Shouldn't I (objectively) understand the readers' agitation?

You see, I can't (realistically) expect to charge people, upfront, $50 for a book in one context, and then hand them the value of a $5 book in another (and do it frequently), and then get perplexed at why the buyers don't understand the obstacles I faced in getting the book out. (ie: "That was all I could give you for $50... but thanks for your $50 dollars anyway.")

That's all I'm saying.

And yes, I know. Life's gotten in the way for me too when producing my books. I've missed the mark a few times, but that's not my readers' problem... it's mine. I know that if I've committed to something, and if I fall short, then it's ultimately on my shoulders. I do try to give people value for money each time they buy my books, and I know that if I don't... they have a valid reason not to buy my work in the future. I think that's reasonable.

If the organiser/s are content and found this weekend a success under their model, then fine. I'm glad for them. But for me, if Doujicon is on again next year I won't be paying for a table unless there seems to be an improvement in the organisation and advertising toward making a crowd-busy event (so I can at least make my table money back)... like it used to be.

Here's hoping.



07 May 2010

  • -

I just finished a stint as a guest lecturer at NMIT here in Melbourne. Not many people know, but aside from my day job as a graphic designer, I also have qualifications as a teacher. A feather I put in my cap after I got my Bachelor of Industrial Design (many moons ago), but after doing it I realised I didn't want to spend my working life teaching high school kids to draw perspective and shapes. I still wanted to climb mountains myself, and I couldn't do that at sea level.

Anyway... NMIT emailed me earlier in the year, and I said yes to a three week gig every Wednesday morning. It was to talk/show their final year illustration students about drawing comics. I jumped at it, and my day job was reasonable enough to allow me the mornings off to indulge the undertaking.

The students were good. Since I didn't have to teach them to 'draw' (thank God), I could jump right into showing them the basics of how comics function and putting a page together themselves. The idea was to come up with a basic one page comic. So to take off the pressure, I approached it as coming up with a simple scene. It could be as basic as a person sitting down in a chair, or watching a bird fly by, or glancing out a window over a few frames. You get the idea. This wasn't about 'writing' or 'drawing'... this was about getting them to do as basic a comic as they could in the hopes of showing them how simple the medium can function. Paring it down to this excercise might actually bring some of them closer to this wonderful artform and, hopefully, have them hooked enough to do more ambitious stuff on their own.

FIRST SESSION-1 (3 hours)
21- April 2010

I began by introducing myself and running through some slides showing 'what' comics were and how they worked. After an hour of this, my aim was to get the students to come up with a simple scene for a comic page. The students were really switched on and came up with the kind of ideas I'd hoped they would. Simple images, one after the other, leading the reader along. It was great to teach students who were interested in what they were doing, instead of high school kids just wanting the class to be over so they could go outside and play.

I got them to then thumbnail the panels very small (and rough), just to 'plan' the page out before they began to pencil the actual page. Planning it out before you get to the page is the most important thing in the page's construction (in my thinking). It takes the pressure and stress out of rubbing out hundreds of lines over-&-over on the finished board because you're 'winging it'. I'd end up hating comics if I did it that way... but that's just me.

I worked along with the students. I wanted to show by example how easy the story can be.

The above scribbling was my quick outline and thumbnails. Unlike the students (whom I didn't really expect to use words... after all, it was an illustration class), I wanted to do a real-time comic about the Wednesday classes I was teaching them. A sort of 'a comic can just be me showing you what we are doing right now' - kind of thing.

SECOND SESSION-2 (3 hours)
28- April 2010

The second session was them finishing their thumbnailing of the scene, and then it was onto the penciling of the page. They could either pencil straight onto their final artboard, or (like me) pencil onto a rough piece of paper (1-1 size), and use it for the underlay for my final artboard.

The above was my penciled page (from my thumbnails above).

FINAL SESSION-3 (3 hours)
5- May 2010

This last session started with me running through a slideshow of my process for scanning inked pages into the computer and simple clean-ups to the artwork to get it ready for print.

Following this, we inked out pages. Here's mine:

Not sure if I'll add the text boxes, or leave the captions 'floating'. But the page is pretty much done save some cleaning up or a 1-colour tone.

So anyway, this weekend (tomorrow actually) is the annual DOUJICON comics extravaganza!

I'll be releasing DIGESTED.03 there this weekend!!... yes, you heard right. It's out. I have the beautiful thing in my hand. If you can't make it down tomorrow to get a SIGNED copy from me (and a sketch), you can buy it straight from my wonderful publisher Gelstalt Publishing, or my own website.



01 May 2010

  • -

It's 1.24am on a Friday night (ok, Saturday morning), and my brain is mash potatoe. Anyway, before I forget, here's a few pics from last weekend's wonderful comics extravaganza that was held at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne's CBD.

I wore my new 'Cerebus in Chains' t-shirt to the event.

No one could keep their hands off it!

So, off to the Wheeler Centre I went. The Saturday's event, originally $20, became complimentary due to publisher 'Allen & Unwin's' generosity. There were four talks on the day. It was a mouth-watering comics smorgasboard.

Tim McEwan was there.

Along with a packed house.

Bernard Caleo chaired one of the talks discussing comics.

Most notable highlight for me was listening to the words of wisdom from Shaun Tan & Bruce Mutard regarding creating their books. Another interesting guest/speaker was Dylan Horrocks. His talks and experiences in the U.S comics industry were a treat to listen to .

Anyhow, Bernard Caleo wrote in more detail about the weekend. Read about it HERE.