Wednesday, November 14

The therapeutic value of comics

DUE TO A RECENT operation on my knee I haven't been blogging much. I did mention that creativity and energy levels are intertwined. My surgery tends to prove that to be true.

While recovering I indulged myself and purchased several comic book collections. One of my favorites was the Batman collection, volume 1, by Neal Adams. Not only is Adams an amazing draftsman but his sense of staging is highly entertaining. I got a lot of great ideas for the upcoming Subterranean comic. Adams really pushes perspective and camera angles and has a very cinematic approach.  In the upcoming Subterranean you'll see a panel inspired by Adams that is a silhouette in which you only see the glow of The Subterranean's goggles. Adams really expanded comics' visual syntax. I highly recommend studying his work.

Another great volume was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Gary Gianni. It has a subtle steampunk vibe and is rendered in a beautiful woodcut-like technique somewhat akin to Franklin Booth or Bernie Wrightson. Gianni's staging is a bit more conventional, as you might expect, and yet he keeps the pages lively with a strong sense of design. The main thing I learned from Gianni is just simply to go for it and have fun with drawing. Scratchboard technique can be time-consuming but it is also very powerful.

Another inspiration was Paul Chadwick's Concrete, volume 1, entitled Depths. Chadwick has a unique visual style using lots of black to lead the eye through each page. His storytelling style is unique as well and I really enjoyed the rich narrative. You can read most comics in a matter of minutes, generally under an hour. Not so with this volume. Chadwick packs in a lot of storytelling entertainment. I picked up some ideas from Chadwick as well. You will see in the upcoming Subterranean #4 a series of very small panels depicting the seismic oscillators placed around New York City. I got the idea from one of Chadwick's pages that had 30 small pantomime panels. I found the sequence quite intriguing. I highly recommend studying Concrete for it's excellent story telling as well its fascinating fusion of art and the written word.

I was introduced to comics as a young child when my father brought home a large volume of classic comics, mostly Superman and Batman, while I was recovering from the mumps. Having a few volumes of comics on my nightstand while I recovered from surgery was a nostalgic experience for me. My doctor says I'm making a rapid recovery. Perhaps comics have therapeutic value.

Brad Teare 14 November 2012

Tuesday, October 23

SubT # 2 now FREE!!!

For a limited time the Subterranean # 2 is available free on (was formerly $1.00). Get it here:

Tuesday, October 2

Fixing typos in a digital comic

MAKING CORRECTIONS with a digital comic is remarkably easy with the Graphicly interface. Several readers emailed me informing me of a typo I had on page 18 of The Subterranean #3 (see corrected image below). I made the correction on my original InDesign document and exported it as a PDF file. I then went to my dashboard at Graphicly and uploaded the new PDF file. I then re-directed the panels. By direction I mean how the panel-by-panel views will read in the final application. For example, on an iPhone the screen is quite small so I have the panel-by-panel view display only half a page of each comic page. On one page where I had a small round inset I directed the page so there were three panel-by-panel views.

Generally, I feel it is best to keep the panel-by-panel views as simple as possible and two views per page seems to do the trick. If you had a different experience with panel-by-panel views, or have insights into artistic ways to use this feature, please let me know.

Currently The Subterranean #3 is ranked 3,156 on Amazon comics (an excellent rating for a new title). Thanks for making that happen!

Thursday, September 6

The Subterranean: the screenplay

I RECENTLY PURCHASED a copy of the screenplay writing software Storyist. The software, combined with the voice recognition capability of my Mac, makes an awesome screenplay writing machine. With the help of The Screenwriter's Bible, which gives me additional formatting info (like how to format a flashback) my screenplay project will get done with less hassle.

Tonight I opened The Subterranean #1 on my iPhone and dictated the dialog directly from the comic into Storyist. I dictated the scene headings and other information and got the first four pages of the screenplay which you can read below (this represents four minutes of screen time!) I don't consider this a finished version, it's going to take a lot of adaptation to get it to work as a film, but it's a fantastic start.
As with most writing the hard part is getting the first draft. Subsequent revisions seem easy by comparison. My only complaint about Storyist was that when I cut and pasted the screenplay into this blog some of the tags came in as upper and lowercase when they should have been all caps. Other formatting is off as well. If anyone knows how to cut-and-paste from Storyist without these flaws please let me know.

In the center of the lab we see a bed upon which a man is fitfully sleeping. The sheets are in complete disarray from his night of torment. He startles awake as if from a terrifying dream. His eyes, now wide in horror, are strangely white as if covered with thick cataracts.
My eyes! My eyes! I can't see!

The city from afar.
(Driving and shouting into a cell phone)
We're almost there!
In the back of the van another thug prepares a rocket launcher. He is prepping a strange devise by pushing a series of buttons and turning dials.
Approaching mark!
The second thug attaches the devise onto the launcher as they shout at each other with military precision.
Weapon armed!
Standby to execute!
Ready to launch!
The door of the van flies open and the 2nd thug braces himself against the doorjamb and pulls the trigger. We see the strange weapon fly toward a second-story bay window of a posh brownstone.
(Shouting into a cell phone)
Target acquired!
The van races towards us as the bay window explodes and a huge fireball spews glass and debris onto the street.
Target destroyed!
We see a skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan with a large sign proclaiming "HyperLabs".
Several men huddle together in the middle of a cavernous laboratory. They are surrounded by six gigantic high-tech machines that look like a cross between a generator and alien hyperdrives. In a small amphitheater overlooking the lab we see several dozen scientists, military, and other officials jockeying for a vantage point. A weird thrum fills the air. One of the scientists in the center of the lab steps forward.
The experiment you are about to witness will revolutionize the creation and delivery of power!

Two men in lab coats stand several feet behind Dr. Ferryl Maughn. One is feverishly typing commands into a laptop computer.

It's impact will dwarf the splitting of the atom!

Maughn makes a sweeping gesture towards the six devices.

I present the century's greatest invention, the seismic oscillator!
We see the crowd. Some are rapt with anticipation, others have dubious expressions on their faces.

Power extracted from the earth's magnetic field is transmitted through concrete, lead, human beings! Virtually any object imaginable. Yet it is completely safe and undetectable at any point along its path.
The two men in lab coats behind Ferryl Maughn are twin brothers, Drs. Hugo and Theo Thanatos.
Maughn's powers of observation are working against us now, so try to stay calm!
I was going to offer you the same suggestion!
Towards the back of the laboratory we see a large concrete monolith. Theo Thanatos pushes a key on the computer. The thrum grows louder and begins to pulse. A blue magnetic field envelops the concrete pillar. The pillar begins to vibrate, then crack, then shatter. The large generators begin smoking, then burst into fireballs of flame. The group of observers reacts in horror and begins to run.
(Under his breath)
This is impossible! It's all going wrong!

Wednesday, September 5

Write a great logline

Brad Teare, comics, the subterraneanA LOGLINE IS A BRIEF explanation used in the movie business to describe the entire story. It's not easy to boil down a complex plot into one sentence but it's necessary if you're going to pitch your idea to a Hollywood executive you meet on an elevator. In anticipation of such a meeting many people memorize their loglines.

Loglines get their name from the short titles producers write on the spines of screenplays. They can then identify which screenplays have potential by quickly browsing the spines. Here's a checklist to use when formulating your logline. You probably won't be able to get all of these elements into one logline. Remember; if the logline gets too long it loses its effectiveness:

CHECKLIST (squeeze in as many as you can)
Reveal the star's SITUATION
Reveal the important COMPLICATIONS
Describe the ACTION the star takes
Describe the star's CRISIS decision
Hint at the CLIMAX
Hint at the star's potential TRANSFORMATION
Identify GENRE
Keep it to THREE SENTENCES or less

Here's the logline for The Subterranean (If you haven't read issues #1,#2, and #3 , all free. Isuggest reading them first as the tagline contains a spoiler):

A scientist forced underground by the murder of his wife battles to avenge her and save New York City as former colleagues launch the world's largest bank robbery under the guise of a terrorist attack.

Is this the best logline I could write for The Subterranean? Haven't I neglected many of the exciting elements of the story? Due to the nature of loglines, yes, but until it ends up on the spine of a screenplay it's a work in progress.

Friday, August 31

Making a trailer with iMovie

I wanted to make a new trailer for The Subterranean using the new iMovie software from Apple (version 9.0.7 that comes with Mountain Lion). I had used a previous version of iMovie (7.1.1) with my blog Thick Paint and found it to be a great video editing program. But if you haven't tried the new version you're in for a real treat.

I didn't know about the new Trailer feature until I opened up the software. There are fifteen genres to choose from including action, adventure, documentary, epic drama, film noir, friendship, holiday, love story, pets, romantic comedy, sports, spy, supernatural, and travel. The themes are self-explanatory. I used Blockbuster for the trailer above and thought it was perfect for The Subterranean.

When you start a new project with iMovie you first pick a genre. You then get a new set of tabs. One tab is labeled outline, the next storyboard, and the final one shot list. Into outline I typed in the movie name, the release date, cast member number one, cast member number two, etc. I then proceeded to the storyboard tab where I typed in the basic outline of the trailer. This is where I typed in all of the titles you see in the YouTube movie.

Because I was working with stills rather than movies the next step was the only part that got a little tricky. If you have a set of movies ready to drop into the storyboard your job will be considerably easier. To make the requisite footage I simply made a movie out of a series of stills in iMovie. It was at this point that I added the camera moves to the still shots. I then imported the newly created movie back into my trailer footage. I selected parts of the newly collaged video to drag and drop the animated selections into the storyboard.

The third tab is the shot list and this shows all the various kinds of clips you can add such as action shots, group shots, etc. Obviously you can place whatever kind of shot you prefer but the suggested layout is well thought out and is a nice guide.

The only bad thing about the trailer templates is that all the time slots are preselected. You can't change a three second shot to a six second shot, for example. This made it a little tricky because I didn't time each scene in my stock footage shots. If I had to do it over again I would make a list of all the footage I needed, then go to the shot list and write down how many scenes I had, and how many seconds each scene should fill. This would be especially important if you were doing a series of still shots and animating them using the Ken Burns effect. If you have pre-existing animation or video footage your project will go much faster because you can import your footage into iMovie and start dragging and dropping into each storyboard slot without having to time fade outs or Ken Burns effects.

To make the original footage I used imagery from The Subterranean #1 and #2 and will do another trailer as soon as I get number three published and number four finished. It's just too fun not to do more.

Please let me know what you think of the trailer and about your experience with iMovie. Thanks for your comments.

Brad Teare September 2012

Thursday, August 2

Subterranean #3 available now!

The Thanatos brothers have hatched a plan of monumental proportions. Will it unfold as planned or unravel? Time is running out and only The Subterranean can avert total chaos from striking New York City. Click here to read!

Get issue #2 here:

Tuesday, July 10

Designing a comic book cover

I HAD what I thought would be a strong idea for the cover of The Subterranean #3. I wanted something extremely graphic and thought an extreme close-up of the Subterranean's head showing his goggles with a series of ominous pipes in the background would not only look striking but read exceptionally well on digital book displays (which tend to reduce complicated covers to a smudge). With previous covers I assembled images from the inside pages. This made for an arresting montage while reflecting what the reader could expect inside the comic.

I was surprised that the image I envisioned for The Subterranean #3 just didn't work. So I reverted to my old solution by making a montage.

Surprisingly the montage made a stronger cover, perhaps the strongest of the three. And it has the advantage of subtly suggesting what the reader can expect from the story.

The lesson is that even on a cover I need to focus on storytelling. When I deviate from storytelling the graphic effect is weakened. This reinforces my theory that comics are best when all elements; art, graphics, narrative, and dialogue, are all subjugated to the art of storytelling. A comic book's storytelling power becomes diluted when one element goes out of balance.

This defusion of artistic intent is illustrated by the all too frequent case where visual effects overshadow the narrative of a film and the natural unfolding of the story is impeded. A special effect intended as a rewarding addition to the narrative becomes an obstacle to clear story telling.

Wednesday, June 27

How to write a comic

WITH THE SUBTERRANEAN I wanted a different tone from the comics I created in the past. So rather than rely on intuition or studying comic book writing I read several books on how to write screenplays. The best was Story by Robert McKee. Whether you write for comics or film I highly recommend this book. Another great book is Screenplay.

After absorbing the basic elements of screenwriting I started jotting down scenes on index card-sized sticky notes. Some of these story events, although highly creative, proved irrelevant to the story. But I recorded every idea because at this stage it's impossible to know every twist and turn of your plot. Some of these ideas were incorporated into the final comic. Others were sacrificed on the cutting room floor. I archived the rejected scenes for possible use in later episodes.

Within two months I recorded enough material on sticky notes that I could begin organizing my narrative.

I divided a spaceous wall in my studio, using string and tape, into three areas. I labeled the sections act one, act two, and act three. I sorted the events on the sticky notes into scenes that would be most appropriate for each act (see the books listed above for what needs to happen in acts and transitions). All introductory scenes ended up in act one. Some events were highly dramatic and ended up at the climax of the story in act three. Other events made nice transitions and I ordered them appropriately. This wall soon became a mass of notes, arrows, and strings giving order to what otherwise would have been an overly convoluted plot. My daughter called it my Beautiful Mind Wall. 

There were frustrating moments in the process. I would occasionally write myself into a dead-end and would have to reconfigure plot elements and resolve them. I frequently had to amp up the drama in slack passages.

It wasn't always easy. It was often quite challenging. But when it finally started coming together it was very satisfying and a great deal of fun.

Having a great script to work from is a great confidence booster. But despite my best efforts occasionally a scene didn't translate well into action that could be broken down into panels. So I had to refocus and revise my script on-the-fly.

I recently had to do this at the end of episode #3. In these cases I tightly storyboard all the action by writing the dialogue on small sticky notes and cutting them into round, balloon-like shapes. I then apply them onto a page to give an idea of how to divide the page into panels. I roughly sketch the panels and reposition the dialog balloons when necessary. I then roughly sketch in the figures and backgrounds. The whole idea is to keep everything in flux. Occasionally I redo a panel by completely obliterating the drawing beneath with a sticky note and reapplying balloons and drawings. It's a kind of visual brainstorming where anything can change at a moments notice.

I've included an example of page 25 from episode #3. Click on the image to see a larger version.

This is my process. Let me know what works for you.

Brad Teare June 2012

Tuesday, June 26

The Subterranean #1 & #2 now on Nook Color!

I'M EXTREMELY proud to report that The Subterranean #1 came out for the Nook Color today. Many thanks to the crew at Graphicly for their diligence. No report yet as to how it looks on the Nook but if it looks as good as it does on the Kindle Fire all will be well. Note: The Subterranean #1 is free on the Nook. 

If anybody has a Nook Color I hope you will leave a comment and let me know how it looks. Many thanks as always!

Brad Teare June 2012

Thursday, June 21

Kindle Fire vs. iPad

WHEN AMAZON made The Subterranean #1 a free offering over the Father's Day weekend I expected downloads to increase. With all the promo behind the Kindle Fire I also expected the Kindle downloads to beat iPod downloads. However when the stats rolled in iPad/iPhone downloads beat Kindle FIre downloads three to one. Kindle Fire downloads for a single day exceeded 110 (on Father's Day) but still didn't surpass the iPad totals.

It will be an interesting contest to see which company wins the eReader battle. Until then it seems prudent to keep a foot in each market.

Next week the Subterranean will go live on the Kobo (Europe's leading eReader) and the Nook Color (Barnes & Nobles' offering). I'm not expecting them to rival the Kindle Fire or the iPad, but who knows?

Brad Teare June 2012

Monday, June 11

Calling all SubT fans!

AMAZON PICKED THE SUBTERRANEAN #1 for a Daily Deal this morning. Ranking soared from 4 million to around two thousand (which later dropped to 4K). The review by James from Madison, Wisconsin says "The artwork here is very stylish and quite good . . . and serves this story well . . . this comic was clearly designed specifically for the Kindle Fire." (Note: It is also available for free on the Kindle for Android).

As you can imagine this is a huge moment. If you consider yourself a fan of SubT and have friends with a Kindle Fire or an Android please consider forwarding the link below. MANY THANKS!

PS- I had no idea how The Subterranean would look on the Kindle Fire as I didn't test on the Fire (since I don't own one). However I had been reading several comics titles (the New 52 Batman, primarily) and often found the text too small. I was especially perplexed by the convention of making voice-over text at least a point size smaller. As always I decided to opt for maximum communication rather than convention.

Brad Teare 11 June 2012, 7:16 pm

Friday, June 8

Making a scratchboard comic

SOMEONE ASKED ME why I decided to do a superhero comic in scratchboard. The question behind this question is why do I think a scratchboard superhero comic book will be successful?

The French philosopher Michelle Montaigne wrote that to be successful you need to write in an established genre but in a new way. This idea is the guiding spirit behind the Subterranean project. I can't remember having seen a superhero comic done in scratchboard, so it seemed like a good opportunity to test Michelle Montaigne's idea.

Scratchboard is also the technique I originally made successful in the early days of my illustration career. It's the artform with which I have the most proficiency. Sometimes it's not a matter of doing what we desire but expressing the form that finds us. And whether we like it or not we have to be true to our gifts.

With scratchboard I found an ease of execution I never experienced with other drawing media. In scratchboard you explore and discover the surface of the form almost like sculpting. It is also a method where you start with black and work toward light, the opposite of conventional drawing, and more harmonious with the way my mind works.

If you've never experimented with scratchboard you may have missed connecting with the unique way your mind works. And when you discover that unique connection you will be more able to express your inner vision.

(Note: I currently use a digital version of scratchboard but with a little practise it is identical to the conventional medium.)

Brad Teare June 2012

Monday, June 4

How to promote a digital comic

ONCE YOU CREATE your digital comic and upload it to iBookstore or Amazon your job isn't over. It's just beginning. I don't enjoy promoting as much as I should. I prefer to be writing and drawing my comic book. But if you neglect promotion your book will just sit on its digital bookshelf.

Here are some tips to promote your book:

Make it fun. If you are having fun, even with promotion, your readers will too and will share your comic and blog via social media with friends and colleagues.

Go viral. Let your friends and family know about the TELL A FRIEND and WRITE A REVIEW buttons on the last page of iBookstore comics. This is a feature that allows fans of your work to easily email a link to people they feel might enjoy your comic. Amazon also lets people add reviews (and has a LIKE button). They are features that are easy to miss but by reminding people you let them know in a subtle way that you would appreciate a review or a rating. Many will happily oblige.

Keep blogging. You are excited that your book is finally for sale so you might be tempted to stop blogging and reserve your energy for your next comic book. This might seem like a great time saving strategy but try to resist it. Blogging is how you expand your fan base. You have to find a way to blog at least once a week despite a heavy schedule of drawing and writing.

Make a YouTube trailer video. This seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it's one way many writers expand their promotional efforts. You can make your job easier by using programs such as Anime studio and iMovie, both are extremely easy to learn and use (if you are on a budget use Anime Studio Debut, it is amazingly functional for a very low price). 


Leverage your fan base. You should have a Facebook page about your comic as well as a Twitter account. I opted to post announcements about The Subterranean via my Twitter account which is synced to Facebook. I post once and both accounts post the same announcement.

Keep it simple. I found that trying to maintain a schedule of writing, drawing, and blogging more than once a week was too much for me. Focus on quality not quantity.

Film A Making Of video about your comic. In coming weeks I'm going to re-edit some videos about making maquettes as a drawing aid for The Subterranean. Such videos expand the story of your project.

If you have any other ideas about how to promote digital comics I hope you will share them in the comments section below. I look forward to your ideas!

Brad Teare June 2012

Thursday, May 31

How to edit a digital comic

WRITING CAN BE EASY for me depending on my level of creative energy but editing is often difficult. It requires a level of focus and attention to detail contrary to my nature. In today's publishing environment writers must know how to edit their own work. Here is a list of ideas to improve your editing:

Focus on communication. Good communication can be broken down into two steps; writing and editing. Writing is creating content and editing is refining content. Do one step at a time. Don't edit while creating content. A few good books in your library will help with the basics. My favorites are The Elements of Style, If You Can Talk You Can Write, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Experience the writing in a new way. Read the manuscript out loud. Awkward sentences can be detected and a more colloquial feel introduced into dialog. Listening to someone read your manuscript is also a good way to detect awkward constructions.

Simplify. Most problems of communication can be resolved by simplifying complex ideas. Complexity is fine as long as clarity prevails.

There are two types of editing; content editing and line editing. When you edit content you use creativity to order and embellish existing ideas. When you line edit you use logic by following the rules of spelling and grammar Rules are irrelevant if you are communicating uninteresting ideas but correct grammar and spelling are still a part of good writing. 

In comics you can combine an omniscient narrative with first and third person narrative, add copious amounts of intricate dialogue including internal dialogue as well as incorporating flashbacks and dream sequences. Things can get pretty complicated. The more complicated it gets the more you need to edit for voice, organization, plot, pacing, and rhythm. If you use flashbacks I highly recommend drawing a timeline and adding events at precise moments on that line.

Mistakes will creep into your manuscript no matter what you do. Reading your manuscript backwards is a good way to replicate the mindset of a good line editor. If all else fails enlist the help of a friend with a gift for line editing.

Have fun and good luck!

Brad Teare June 2012