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