Monday, July 28, 2008

Forgive the Delay, Part II, How To Cartoon

Cartooning often goes far beyond simply (ha!) writing and drawing a strip. The time involved in 'busy work' can be quite substantial, especially if you are drawing everyday. This does take away from your creative time, but like the paperwork of bills and taxes and other stuff, it's a necessary part of being a Cartoonist.

How I work right now:
When a new comic strip comes off of the drawing board, it is immediately scanned into Photoshop at high res, where I clean it up and make the image a true bitmap so that the blacks are black and the whites are white. I save the black and white bitmap in case I need a black and white comic strip for some project. I then color the strip in Photoshop, and save the color strip as a large high-res file, again, in case I need it for something. Once an image is finished, you are basically stuck at the current size and resolution. I've made that mistake in the past of creating images for the web only, and then finding myself redoing them from scratch when I needed them for print.

Cartoonist Tip#1: Do NOT try to make a book or other print project with low res images! This is not professional, and the end result will not look nice.

Anyway, in the current case of The Inquiring Minds, I then reduce the size of the color strip to the dimensions of the book I am working on, and save the strip a third time. THEN I reduce the strip to 72dpi (low res), increase the size slightly, add my byline and copyrite, and save it a fourth time for use on the web.

All of this takes a lot of time, but in the long run can save your butt. You never know when you may need a certain strip at a certain size, so plan ahead. Planning ahead is a smart way to run your business, and Cartooning is a business.

It may seem like a lot of work right now, but later on you'll be glad you have options. Reprint rights are a big part of a cartoonist's income, whether you sell the rights to someone else, or make a book of your collected works.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Forgive the delay...

The Inquiring Minds' Summer Adventure continues... although at a slightly slower pace than originally schedules. Have no fear, and a lot of patience, please, as I move into one of my busiest months. However, the recent delay had nothing to do with time, believe it or not.

The latest cartoon in The Inquiring Minds' Big Summer Adventure

When I first thought of this Big Summer Adventure, it was going to be a large Sunday cartoon. Only when I started thinking about Imagineering, and the Disney theme parks, did it occur to me to make this a long adventure. Once the idea struck, though, it poured forth like water from a spigot, and I wrote out about 20 comic strips, to tell the rough story. I say rough because part of the fun of Cartooning, and especially story telling, is letting your characters chip in, and take the story where THEY want it to!

One advantage to storytelling in a comic strip is you may find time to make changes, corrections, or additions as the story goes on. If you've been following along with The Inquiring Minds, you've already met the gang. Iris was supposed to come in later, but I later decided that I wanted to introduce her earlier in the story. That change suddenly upset some of the dynamics of the storyline as written, and suddenly some of the strips appeared weaker. What to do?

I could have drawn the 3 strips and posted them as is, keeping up with my self imposed deadlines, but I didn't think that would be right. I risk losing you, the audience, by not posting frequently, but at the same time, are you going to stick around if the strips are just 'okay'? I don't think so.

So it took me two days to rearrange strips, and rewrite strips, and I'm still not back on track yet! Yes, Cartooning is harder than it looks, folks, and believe it or not, but the writing is just as much work as the art. That's why Artist/Writer partners usually get a 50/50 cut of comic strip profits, unless one is lucky enough to be 'hot' at the moment.

So when you toon in for our latest toon, and it ain't there, please don't fret... just come back again later, or the next day. I promise that even though my schedule is getting heavy, I have a commitment to finishing up The Inquiring Minds' Big Summer Adventure THIS summer. :0)

And it's gonna be good!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Will Somebody Please Read My @#$%! Webcomic?

Of course, the title could also read, Will Somebody Read My @#%$%! Blog, but that's another story.. or is it?

The World Wide Web of Wonder has so many pages to offer, and so many visitors to offer them to, but like the world's wealth, the distribution of visitors to websites is highly off balance. The philosophy of "If you build it, they will come" applied for about 12 seconds before the big boys shuffled in, and using their wealth and power in the real world, soon began sucking in visitors of the virtual realm.

Oh sure, there are many who have profited from the web, and others who reach many readers without profit, but how they do that remains a mystery to me, and, I suspect, many others. I've been skimming through other comic sites, and I see the question of reaching people being brought up quite often. Today there are more options than before, but the struggle continues. It's funny, but the biggest way people see to advertise themselves is to not just blog, but to get their names on other people's blogs, chat groups, forums, etc. in the hopes that people will like what they say there, and click on the links to their blog.

What this results in, of course, is a slew of people chatting across the web for the sole purpose of advertising themselves, which is frankly dishonest, and annoying. The better of these do so by honestly getting involved in discussions that interest them, and in doing so, present themselves to others with similar interests. The worst of these just show up, say 'read my blog', and annoyingly don't get involved in the conversation. In other words, they're using you, but don't feel the need to hide that!

So, this technique may work, but at what cost? It takes a lot of time to surf around for sites that are interesting enough, and longer still to get involved. I don't have that kind of time! That time could be better spent working, to provide original content for viewers to explore... IF they ever find me.

So what's my point? Read my @#$%#! webcomic, please. Currently, The Inquiring Minds are in the midst of their biggest adventure ever! So far, 8 strips have been produced in living color, and the story is rapidly unfolding. Here's the latest two...

See, you don't know what's going on, but your interested, right? So click this sentence to go to the main page, or click that pretty little ad on the sidebar... yeah, the one with the sheep and the stars... what, you didn't notice the sheep?

Click the ad, please. Read the comics, please. And then come back and tell me what you thought, please.

Thanks for visiting, JOHN :0)

And thanks to you who do visit this site, and take the time to comment. I really appreciate that! Many come, but if they don't comment, I don't know if they bothered reading the stuff that I take the time to write. By commenting, I know what interests you, and can accomodate the discussions more to your liking. Everyone wins! :0)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Schulz and Peanuts: A Review

I just finished reading Schulz and Peanuts, and have to put it right up there with Moby Dick... as one of the most unnecessarily longest and most drawn out books I've ever read. I read every word of it, but finishing it felt like an act of mercy, and I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of paying for it. The book basically tells us every word that Schulz had ever had with every person he ever met, and does so in such a way that makes Charles Schulz and anyone who ever met him look like a jackass. I'm not sure if this is what the Author intended, but it comes across that way, and since this is an unauthorized biography, it makes the Author look bad in comparison.

I've been a fan of Peanuts since I was a kid, and have paid tribute to Charles Schulz on several occassions in my work. (two of those toons are included here.) I honestly have not followed his personal life all these years, and have only read the occasional article. His passing saddened me, and in a way I'm sorry I read this book. Biographies suffer from the fact that they rely on testimonials, and testimonials must be, by definitiion, questioned for their accuracy. Some people may say harsh things out of jealousy, others may have faulty memories, and still others may just want to say something memorable to make sure their names get in the book. I love to read biographies, but they do suffer when you realise that very little of what you are reading can be backed up with fact. Saying that "somebody" said "something" clears you legally, but are you really portraying people faithfully? Can you?

Now I never met Charles Schulz, but interviews with Lynn Johnston and other Cartoonists seem to contradict this book. They make him out to be a thoughtful caring guy, where this book forgets to mention that. All of it may be true, of course, but it really makes an uncomfortable read.

Cartoonists looking for advice or information about the business can just forget it. All of this happened so long ago that it does not apply today. Charles Schulz was extremely talented, but also extremely lucky to be syndicated at a time when newspapers ruled supreme, and television was in its infancy. He was also lucky to get involved in television early, and Peanuts have made Billions over the years.

One good thing about the book, is the look back in history. I found it interesting to read about life in the midwest in the early 1900's, and also found it interesting to see what it's like to live life without any money problems. Very unique in that aspect.

The book definitely had some moments, and, unlike Moby Dick, I actually read it all the way through. I did enjoy some of it, but in a smutty way... kind of like reading the tabloids and enjoying the soap opera that famous people make of their lives. In fact, some of it could have been made into a soap opera!

Overall, though, I came away feeling dirty. When people say "let my work speak for me", they are speaking words of wisdom. Learning THIS much detail from anyone's life can be uncomfortable, and not knowing how much is true just muddies the waters further. Do yourself a favor and go buy one of the Peanuts retrospective hardcover collections, instead. You'll truly enjoy that, and be able to reread it again and again. And you'll be able to admire Schulz for his work, like it should be.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Imagine(er) that!

If I weren't a Cartoonist, I'd be an Imagineer... no doubt about it. I should qualify that with 'a Cartoonist running two companies of his own', and explain that part of the job entails the dream of having a syndicated comic strip some day (soon).

Imagineering is probably the path that I should have taken, considering the headaches that come from running my little companies without a large fanbase or marketing team. I spend more time trying to get people to look at what I've done, instead of actually doing, some days! Unlike baseball parks in cornfields, webcomics do NOT operate on the principle of "If you build it, they will come", an require a lot of what inevitably appears to be begging people to come take a look. Much more painful than it sounds... trust me.

I'm currently reading "The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite your Creativity", and I'm honestly getting very little from it. Everything they are telling me are things that I've either learned the hard way through experience, or already possess instinctively. I still pursue every butterfly in the garden, and look at all the seashells on the beach, the same as when I was 4 years old. I've never had writer's block... on the contrary, I don't have enough time to implement all the ideas that I do have! The book does provide fuel for thought, at least for me. I probably would thrive in an environment where others could help out with all of those ideas, and I am sure I would learn so much from being around other creative people.

I have indeed sent my resume to Disney, but it sits in a database somewhere unseen because I haven't openly applied for any specific job. I should probably find an address for Walt Disney Imagineering (anybody?) and send my resume there, and see what develops. To be honest, I'm not afraid of rejection, but the alternative! What if they accepted me? I'd love to go for an interview, and see what they had to offer, because I know I have so much to offer them. However, an acceptance would mean having to make a very difficult decision. Would I give up my personal successes (and failures) and dreams to become a part of a team? For the right job, probably. Maybe. I don't know.

I love what I do, I love my work, my characters, and enjoy working with my clients. I also have a terrific idea for a comic strip, which, when I'm ready, I am 99% sure will be considered by the Syndicates. Then again, Disney has all the things I'm lacking here... companionship of creative people, marketing people, a ready made audience, a budget, free passes to the parks (bonus!), cool jackets that say 'imagineer' on the back... ooh, that tempting list goes on, it does.

In all my boasting, though, I forgot to add my one big character flaw; my need for a challenge. I have mentioned elsewhere that I could have done anything with my life, and succeeded. I chose Cartooning because it seems that it is the one thing that requires the most blood, sweat, and tears from me. It is not easy, and requires so many disciplines and hats to wear, and endless challenges, and certainly does not come easy to me. I suppose being an Imagineer would offer much challenge, as well, but there I would have others to help, to rely on, to lean on.

There's also ego. My creations mean my success, and my failure. It's all mine, right now. I'd love to share that, of course, but right now at this stage, it's me. HappyGlyphs Comics is John Steventon. I've been lucky to work with such a creative person as Brian Hughes, and love the collaborations we have done, but mostly it's just me. When I get that Syndicated Comic, then 'just me' will stand on a mountain top and laugh maniacally, but until then, it's kind of lonely around here.

So, what do I do with that resume? Do I go looking for a new challenge, and wonder what I left behind, or do I keep chasing my dreams, and wonder what I'm missing elsewhere?

For now, I've got too much to do to worry about it. It's summertime, and The Inquiring Minds have some really big plans they need me to help them with. I'm sure that working on some great comic strips will keep my mind away from the temptations of Imagineering... right? :0)

Have fun, JOHN :0)

PS Click on this sentence to see all the summer fun with The Inquiring Minds, in their biggest adventure yet!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Press Release: Biggest Summer Adventure Ever!

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2008

Cartoonist John Steventon and HappyGlyphs comics are proud to announce The Inquiring Minds' Biggest Summer Adventure Ever!

It's summertime, and The Inquiring Minds are not about to rest! Quite the opposite in fact, as Bobby, Albert, and sometimes Iris embark on an adventure of the most grandest proportions, a project so big that it's crazy to assume that it will actually go anywhere. But this is a comic strip, so therefore anything can happen, including miracles. Stay tooned to for the whole story, beginning now.

"This is what The Inquiring Minds are all about", says Creator John Steventon. "I love this strip, but did not pursue Syndication because the syndicates were not looking for a strip that told stories, and I was not interested in a 'gag a day' daily strip with these characters. Finally, I'm taking them on a grand story on my terms, and it is going to be a lot of fun."

For the first time in a long time, The Inquiring Minds will be updated regularly throughout the summer of 2008. Visit often and get caught up in their biggest scheme ever to achieve fame, fortune, and fun.

Here is the first strip to get the adventure started. For reprint information, please contact John Steventon and HappyGlyphs Comics.

Click this sentence to see the rest of the strips as they develop.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Where do Ideas Come From?

So where exactly do ideas come from? The easy answer, of course, is everywhere. With a little imagination, and the drive to look for them, ideas can be found in everything we see and do. The hard part of the answer is that ideas need a venue to be actualised. For a Cartoonist with a comic strip, the characters of that strip reside within us, and when we find the germ of an idea, it is the characters who take that idea into their world, and do something special with it.

In the case of this strip about the annual Perseid meteor shower, we need to look first at The Inquiring Minds. The Inquiring Minds comes from my childhood, and my longing for something from that time... a feeling, a special feeling where everything is possible, and the world is a safe and happy place. I was fortunate enough to have an idyllic childhood (until my sisters learned to talk, that is). This was back when television stayed in the background, and video games were entertaining but not riveting, and telephones and music players and all other gadgets were left behind when one left the house.

As kids we gathered to play sports, or games, or just to get out and about exploring. Exploring was my favorite, and back then we had fields and woods and dusty paths leading to mysterious places. And as a kid there were no worries about Lymes disease, sun poisoning, poison ivy, or... any of the things we adults worry about today.

So, The Inquiring Minds are about my idea of what childhood should be. For this particular strip, I looked at that childhood through adult eyes. I always stayed out late every August to watch the Perseid meteor shower, and still do. As a kid we'd have sleepovers, and hang out all night talking about life, the universe, and.. everything! All while keeping our eyes on the stars for those elusive streaks of light that would suddenly appear above us.

Today? I had to do some menial task the other night, so thought, "hey, why not drag the work outside, and work in the fresh air, while watching as the lightning bugs do their thing?" Right. Within minutes I was covered with mosquitoes, and running for the door. It didn't take me long to mix my childhood camp-outs with my mosquito-bitten attempts to return to that idyll. Counting mosquito bites today was easy to compare with counting meteors back then.

So there you go. That's where the idea came from. Not so easy, in retrospect, but a wonder how the brain puts things together, and so quickly.

Ideas, and comic strips, are expanded by our influences. In this strip, the light sabers came from my buddy Mohan who is a huge Star Wars fan. I wanted Bobby and Albert to have some kind of light source so that the illustration wouldn't be all shadows. A lamp or flashlight would have been okay, but the idea of lightsabers makes it more special. The "Indeed" comes from T'ealc, and Stargate SG-1, and the rest comes from the above situation of trying to enjoy the fresh air of evening.

"Whew!" And that's just the concept! Then you have to draw the darn thing, which is another blog all together. Today's lesson? Cartooning sure looks easy, but it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and a sharp mind. Maybe some of you will remember that the next time National Cartoonist's Day comes around. (A card would be nice, but an email will do) :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS If you like The Inquiring Minds, then please stay tooned! They are about to embarck on a very ambitious summer project, and you won't want to miss it. More about that later. :0)