Friday, 23 September 2016

Hero Code 7 is done!

I've just sent the files to ComiXology and posted it up for the fine folk who Patreonize us.

Here's the cover, by David Brame, Heather Breckel, and Frank Cvetkovic;

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Sept 2016

Hello all - Long Beach Comic Con fast approaches - Sept 17th and 18th - and I'll be tabling at L3 with a test run of copies of The Hero Code volume one, an ashcan of Hero Code Theatre of War, and copies of The Black Wraith. Stop by, say hi, try the books.

Issue 7 of Hero Code nears completion (couple of little fixes and some lettering to do) and issue 8 is about half way done.

Issue 7 sees us return to our current three cast members after the stand alone of issue 6, and 8 and 9 is a two part Black Wraith story. Issue 10 spotlights Myth for a story, before we go into issues 11-15, which ends the first major chapter in the story. 16 is a flash back story before we dive into the second major arc (titled 'A War in Heaven') and we start to introduce a lot more new characters.

Here's a peek at the cover for issue 8;

Art by David Brame, colors by Heather Breckel
Couple of questions for everyone - would anyone be interested in teeshirts if I ran a Teespring? If so, any particular character you'd be interested in seeing?

Also, I am thinking of running a Kickstarter for a good sized print run of The Hero Code Volume one - collecting issues 1-5 of the series - 6x9 sized, full color, about 140 pages - is that something people would be interested in backing?


Friday, 18 March 2016

WonderCon - 2016 - AA Table B14

Hi all, it has been a while, hasn't it?

So here's what's happening;

The Hero Code

Issues 1-6 are completed. Issues 1-4 are available on Comixology now, with 5-6 coming soon.

Issue 7 is around 16 pages finished, art wise. David is doing great stuff with it!

The Hero Code Theatre of War

All issues are completed, art wise. The prologue is done, and available on Comixology. Issues 1-3 of the mini series are awaiting color, and then will go up.

Department O

Issues 1-2 are done, and on Comixology. A new artist will join us for issue 3, which completes the story. Claire Connelly - who I'm a huge fan of. Andrew was unable to finish the book, with the success of Headlopper keeping him busy (for a long time, I hope! It's a great book).

Claire will be starting work on the final chapter soon.

Black Wraith, A Life of Crime one-shot

Chapter one is done. Chapter two is finished art wise, and needs color. I think I have the artists lined up for chapter's three and four. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this up once Department O wraps.

I'll be at WonderCon 2016 - March 25th-27th - at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Artist Alley, table B14.

I'll have a few books. I'm doing micro runs for the shows.

Hero Code Volume 1, cover art by Jonathan Rector
Volume 1 of Hero Code; The Menace of the Mannequin (collecting issues 1-5, full color) - $20
Volume 1 of Black Wraith (collecting 1-4 mini, black and white) - $10
Volume 1 of Hero Code; The Theatre of War (ashcan, collecting issues 1-3, black and white) - $10
Hero Code The Theatre of War Prologue issue (with original art collector card, full color) - $10

I'm sure I'll put together some bundle deals - $25 for Hero Code Vol 1, and Black Wraith Vol 1? $40 for all four? Something like that.

I'll also have some collector card sets, which I sell for $1. People have always seemed to dig those at shows.

The next show I'll definitely be at is Long Beach Comic Con - September 17th-18th. I may have some other completed books by then.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Asking A Lot

Been thinking a lot recently about whether or not to crowd fund my projects going forward.

Are we stuck asking the same group of people again and again to give again and again?

I'm not sure about the crowd building success I've had with my projects, never sat down to look at the backers across two Kickstarter campaigns, and see which percentages are repeat backers, which are new, and what percentage of backers from the first campaign fell off from the second.

But ultimately, I've been thinking a lot about comic work this year anyway. Hero Code has become something I do for my own personal pleasure, if people read it, that's great, but I'm doing it for me, and so is it right for me to ask others to pay?

I have wishes for the series, I wish I could put books out quicker. I wish I could be sure that the story I want to tell will be told across a bunch of issues, and that the people who work with me on it are getting something out of it too.

But I'm not trying to build an empire, break into publishing, become a full time comic writer with these books, I'm just trying to tell a story that I enjoy telling.

I still think Kickstarter and the other crowd funding services available are great, I'm just not sure if I want to do more of them.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Hero Code - Lucky 7

Work has begun on Hero Code issue 7

Hero Code issue 7 page 2 - art by David Brame
Coloring is due on issues four and five for the series, which will see the completion of the first arc, The Menace of the Mannequin.

David Brame will be taking over the art duties for the series. He provided art for issue 6 (which was published as issue 2 for a short while, a stand alone story that we put out while waiting for art on what is now issue 2 - hopefully not too confusing!).

David Brame's cover to now issue 6

The first arc is very much an introductory story, hopefully leaving enough questions for readers to want to continue. The pacing on the next batch of stories will be different, and we will see more characters introduced.

The series has been hit by delays, some unforeseen (changing artists after delays), some the usual fare for self published work (day jobs, other priorities and commitments).

I'm hoping to have a little more stability and regularity in 2016 - we have issues 4 and 5 to come (as well as seeing 6 being released on ComiXology) and the 3 issues of the Theatre of War mini-series to come.

Hero Code Theatre of War issue 1 cover, art by Gary Lister
Even just getting these five books out in a year would be an improvement on previous years publishing records - so working on future books, and hoping to get at least two more issues in the bag would be quite a leap.

I've also been reworking scripts and folding in other story lines to the series, to make the whole thing hopefully move along smoother.

As always with self publishing, we are in the hands of other fates, but fingers crossed, there will be a lot more MPS stuff coming in the future.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Kickstarting a Single Book (With a Series in Mind)

Issue 4 of The Hero Code is about to begin the coloring stage of production.

Which means that we're a step closer to finishing the first arc of the series, and a step closer to a planned Kickstarter for the collected edition.

This is the first collection of what I'm hoping to be several more, which raises an interesting issue - whatever I end up making the book into now (in terms of design, size, cover, cost) will hopefully be a design that works for a series of books.

So, although on paper I am looking to produce a single book, I am actually establishing the look of the series.

Two thoughts have come up with regards to this process.

Ken Epstein of Nix Comics raised an interesting point, and one which got me thinking - with stretch goals (I know, I'm getting way ahead of myself here) books can sometimes change - becoming bigger, become hard covers - from what was originally pitched as part of the campaign. This might work for a stand alone book, but for something which is going to establish a look, it could prove problematic.

The other point is an ongoing series of posts by Justin Jordan about the price points of books, and what people are willing to pay for a book - often dictated by the physical attributes of the book itself, sometimes over content.

The Hero Code: Menace of the Mannequin (volume one of the series) will be around 140pp, full color. I have two ideas as to what size I would like the book to be - standard comic book size (6.625x10.25) or a smaller 6x9 size.

Using the standard page and cover weights on these two sizes (12pt cover and 70lb gloss interior pages), and looking at a print run of 500 books, the two print costs for these two print runs would be as follows:

Standard: $4066.03 (around $8.13 a book)
6x9: $2396.35 (around $4.80 a book)

Quite a difference, as you can see. However the price point for these two books is quite different - one could comfortable charge $15-$20 for the stand size book, but would probably be looking at $10-$12 for the smaller size.

I tend to use a model of giving a slight discount or "free shipping" on reward points for Kickstarter rewards. So taking the higher price points of the two books, and using just the physical books to make the goal on a Kickstarter covering just printing costs, you would need to get around 204 backers for the bigger book, 200 for the smaller book.

So that leaves around 300 copies for future sale - seeing a return of around $3561 on the larger books and $2160 (neither of which will cover reprint costs on a future run if the book does sell out - the costs for 1k print runs isn't much more than 500, and offers greater opportunities for return and reinvestment, and 2k print runs seem to be the really sweet spot.)

There isn't much difference between the two numbers of backers needed to make the project happen, even though the costs are very different.

Now, looking at the same books but with hardcovers;

Standard: $4942.28
6x9: $3261.39

You could probably charge more for hardcover versions of both books, although would the rise in cover costs be enough to justice the increase in costs to produce?

Having a stretch goal to make the book a hardcover would work for sure, but then would I be reliant on having to meet the stretch goals on future Kickstarters to make the book uniform, or have future Kickstarters be at a higher goal amount to keep the books the same?

It should be noted here that stretch goals don't always mean that the book itself will change dramatically. It could be something as simple as including a collector card, a mini-print, a book mark, a button, etc - something I did with my own Black Wraith Kickstarter.

With the Black Wraith Kickstarter I was very conservative, went for a low amount, kept the rewards very simple, made it very clear. It worked well, raising more than three times the goal amount (however, see box to the right to see where I stand in terms of breaking even on that project). I would like to be less conservative with The Hero Code Kickstarter, and see if I can actually make the goal amount, but still keep the reward tiers as simple as possible.

Which makes me nervous, for sure.

The two campaigns I have so far run on Kickstarter, both have been successful. Both have had just over 100 backers.

In order to do a full Hero Code Kickstarter (that is to raise the printing, shipping, KS costs, etc) I would be looking at needing more like 300 backers.

All things to ponder on in the future - however, for now, I open the floor and ask if people have a preference to the size of the first and future volumes of The Hero Code - standard or 6x9 - leave a comment...

Monday, 14 September 2015

How Making Comics Can be Like Working in Film

I had mentioned doing a post along these lines briefly on Twitter last week, so here it is -

Working in film as a freelance sound mixer means that I have encountered jobs of a variety of budgets, levels of professionalism, genre, style, format, technique, etc etc. It also means that sometimes I encounter those words dreaded by both film technicians and comic book creators alike - jobs that are "good for exposure"

I see a lot of artists and creators who quite rightly rally against this as an idea, and I am incredibly pro people getting paid for the work that they have done. I am, after all, a member of a union.

I have, however, realized that there have been several occasions where I have taken jobs where the pay wasn't great, or even non-existant, for a number of reasons, and it got me thinking about the similarities, the differences, and why "for exposure" can often be the wrong way of thinking of these things.

One thing I would point out now is that, as a technician working in a union environment, a lot of the negotiation work has been done for me - I have benefits and wage levels set out by the union, which helps when making some decisions.

It wasn't always the case, though. In the UK, where I started, and in the world of non-union movie making, there was a lot of job to job negotiations that went on.

When I was first starting to make the move up the ranks in sound, trying to get more work and experience as a mixer, there were a few options open to me. I could do work for experience (sometimes referred to as 'copy and credit' work - that is, you don't get paid, but you do get a credit on the project, and sometimes even a copy), I could do lower budget work, or I could cold call and sit and hope and pray and wait and sit and hope and... you get the idea.

A lot of work in these areas is short (sometimes shot over weekends, or just a couple of days, or a handful of weeks at most), and they do give a great arena in which to learn ones trade.

But even short projects in film take up a lot of time. 12 hour days are pretty much the norm. Often it is a lot more.

I used to have three rules for taking on such work - especially the short movies - and they served me pretty well;

A) Was the movie being shot on film? The thinking behind this was that film was expensive, and so it lent itself a level of discipline and professionalism that many films shot digitally lacked.
B) Was the equipment being paid for? Sound equipment is not cheap. And it gets worn out when being used. Makes sense that these costs should be covered at least somewhat.
C) Did I know anyone producing/directing/working on it? It just helps to have a friendly face sometimes!

If one of the three were covered, I'd think about it. Two of the three, I'd do it if available. All three, and I'd be more than happy to do it.

With lower budget movies I would make decisions job to job, but there was of course a time when I would say yes to most things because I really needed to build my credits. However, as time went on, I was in a better position to say yes to those projects that I found interesting, or thought I would learn something from doing.

Some jobs are great for the experience, terrible for the bank balance.

I still did the job though.

Here's another rule I've always had - if you agree to do a job, have made it through the negotiations for the rates, the perimeters, the rules of the engagement, then you've agreed to do the job. No complaining about the rates, no moaning about the pay.

Here's where I think a different approach to comics would work, along the lines of film work, and were some fluidity in approach could help -

Film rates are determined by the budgets of the projects. In the union world I work in they are set within tiers, project budgets determine the rates one will be getting from job to job.

Non-union or even what are called 'tier zero' are negotiated at the point of the job, and can vary wildly.

I think some people would do well to approach comic work in the same way. Consider working on the big two company books as high end, full rate, or scale, productions. Do the work for the pay (and chances are you will get higher readership - in the same way that if I work on a big budget movie, more people will more than likely see it) and also be expected to have more asked of you.

Working on a professional publishers project for hire that is not one of the big two? Treat it like a medium budget or lower tiered movie. You won't get as much pay, you won't get as much exposure, but you'll still learn something about your craft. If it works for you, do it.

Working on an indie or self published project? Treat it like a non-union project. Negotiate a rate that works for you (even if it is free). Set the perimeters (length of time you are willing to set aside for the project). Establish the rules. Maybe even come up with a three rule system (will it be printed or digitally released? Will it cover expenses and material costs? Do I know the person I'll be working with?)

The great thing about this is that if you establish rules, you leave yourself able to walk from a project that doesn't feel right when the rules are transgressed. And, if all goes well, you still learn something about your craft.

And that's the thing here - and where I think calling it exposure isn't great - each project teaches us something new, and that is invaluable.