Friday, September 30, 2011

Concept 6: Ms Bubbles (otherwise known as Bubble Girl)

Ms Bubbles started off (like many of my ideas) as a cute gag that I decided to embellish. As a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I always liked how some characters were given lame powers, and yet that didn't hinder them from acting heroic. One day at work, I doodled a woman wearing a bath towel, and labled her Lather Lady.

From there, the idea grew. My first impulse was to showcase a female character who transcends the limitations of a weird power she's gifted with; I later figured that she could act as a commentary on how women (and female super-heroes) tend to be objectified as sexual objects, with no likeable personality. Still later, I decided to add a level of campiness to the concept, with the title character facing goofy villains and predicaments with a wink to the audience. I see her as a sexy, out-going crime-fighter, who still struggles with esteem issues and day-to-day life.

Ms Bubbles is a tricky tight-rope; I don't want her to be seen as a 'bad girl' character (like Lady Death or Vampirella, who dominated comics in the early 1990s). As well, my goal isn't to produce titilating material appealling to young teenage boys and insulting to girls. I simply hope to create an interesting, believable female character who uses her rather strange abilities to do what she feels is right.

I guess I'd need feedback from readers to find out if my vision translates. I asked Ash to tackle some pages, and I really like what he came up with. As always, his pencils were fun to embellish, and he helped shape the overall feel of the strip perfectly. Ms Bubbles is one of my favorite concepts, and one I definitely want to put the effort into to get to the next level.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Montreal Comicon: post weekend report

Last weekend was quite a roller-coaster of emotion. Saturday began with confusion, as I went to the wrong metro station and arrived late to set up my table. The floor layout was pretty huge, and it took me time to find my small corner of Artist Alley.

Once set up, I immediately had a sinking feeling. On one side of me was Jeff Simpson, selling beautiful Photoshop prints; on the other was a woman producing custom watercolor caricatures. Although my ashcans and printed comps were proudly displayed, there was absolutely no interest; the crowds (and turnout was huge, with the event basically selling out and folk turned away) weren't there to purchase small press comics.

I slinked home in a funk, but Sunday morning decided to change my strategy. I displayed my portfolio and original artwork, and made some money with sketches and inked drawings. Sunday ended up a very positive experience, and I'm inspired to do future cons. The reality is that I was badly placed to sell my comic; for that, I would've had to be situated with other retailors, and I have a feeling I still would've been lost in the shuffle.

I think Sunday was extra special because I brought my daughter along (she even drew at the table) and I met Gail Simone (although what I babbled to her was almost gibberish).

In the end, I failed spectacularly in my goal to promote my ashcan and generate interest. Ultimately, the experience was rewarding and thought-provoking, and has helped me clarify some artistic goals. Despite the outcome, I'm not giving up on Sore Thumb Press; I simply have to find better ways to market myself and my product, and must accept that the process will take many small steps.

I've set a new goal for next year's convention: a completed first issue of one (or more) of my concepts. Onwards!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Montreal Comic Con: part 1

Here we are, finally.

When I decided back in early Spring to focus energy on a self-publishing venture, I set the Montreal Comic Con as a deadline of sorts. I figured 4 solid months was plenty of time to create an ashcan, which would showcase 4 of my concepts, as well as a couple ad pages. The deadline forced me to accomplish a set goal of work, which wasn't too hard.

Mission accomplished.

Despite a few hiccups (mainly involving printing of the booklet itself), I now have a small box of the things, to be sold to the masses this weekend. I booked a half table awhile ago (although too late to take advantage of early bird prices), and will be seated there tomorrow, ready to face the public, Sharpie in hand.

As this is my first con, I'm curious how it'll go. I'll be certain to provide a detailed report next week.

Deciding to do it was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone (for which I have to acknowledge the amazing support of my wife Isabelle). The weekend will be long, but potentially enlightening; I hope to meet Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham if time permits. I'm proud of how the ashcan turned out, and seeing a physical version of my concepts only inspires me to take the next step (which I'm still mulling over).

I have a pdf of the ashcan available; for a Paypal donation of 1.00, I'll email you one asap.

I'm sure you'll like it!

Next week: con report

Friday, September 9, 2011

A new focus

Continuing to mull over the future of my publishing endeavor, I had (as always) a thoughtful chat with my wife. She'd been glancing thru a marketing book recently purchased, and noted that small businesses can succeed if they focus on a niche market.

I'd had a similar revelation a couple days before.

While watching my 6 year old leaf thru a graphic novel, it struck me: although the tween, young adult, and early reader markets are flooded with material, there aren't alot of comic books directly squarely at young kids. I was inspired by her eagerness to look thru a book (albeit she was interested only in the pictures) and decided that I could tailor one of my concepts to the pre-reader crowd.

One of the interesting qualities of comic books is the use of still images to tell a story. The word balloons, thought balloons, and caption boxes are all tools to reveal essential information, but a comic reader should be able to get the gist of what's happening via the drawn panels. Comic books have mutated over the years into static panels with page after page of talking heads. Critics argue that these works are mature and dramatic, and showcase the brilliance of a given writer.

I disagree.

Comic books have become a series of storyboards for talky scripts. It's obvious how the lure of Hollywood success has transformed the medium, and not for the better.

Sore Thumb Press is aptly named; my goal is to bring back fun comics that feel as timeless as those I remember fondly from my youth and can be appreciated by anyone, which isn't an approach that's very popular by today's publishers. I think I can produce a comic without dialogue that pre-readers can enjoy, and adapt my other concepts to other age groups, equally neglected.

Hopefully, focusing on the readers, rather than releasing a 'product' that fits a certain demographic, will result in books I'm proud to publish.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Which hat to choose?

My decision several years ago to take the plunge into developing my concepts didn't seem overly complicated. I'd filled sketchbooks and sheets of paper with ideas and plot notes, and all it took was a leap of faith to decide to spend time on these concepts (considering how thrilled I constantly feel to see them 'come to life' tells me I made the right decision).

Thanks to the artistic help of Ash and Grant, I have a solid inventory of material to ink and format for four of my concepts. Having an inked backlog of pages in preparation for my September ashcan, I'm experiencing a dilemna: do I devote my energies to producing completed issues with my concepts, or do I pitch them to prospective publishers?

The latter is certainly tempting; having someone else take over the hat of publishing and promotion is extremely appealling. At the same time, signing my creations over to a publisher that may not feel as passionately about them as I do gives me pause.

The former involves a tremendous amount of work and familiarity with both the artistic and business sides of the coin. I'm really not certain if I have the knowledge, drive, and energy to do it all. On the other hand, having complete control over my concepts warms my heart.

That's where I'm at: I'm mulling over pitching certain concepts to publishers, yet half-heartedly. I guess I should find out more about what being published entails, as well as what I really need to know to do it all myself.

My wife feels (and I do agree) that my focus should be on producing completed stories. For the time being, that remains my focus, although I have fresh ideas that I wish I had time to work on as well.

Oh well, whatever happens with the future of Sore Thumb Press will be revealled here every Friday!