Don't forget, folks, my other comic, A Piggy's Tale #1 is currently available for order from comic shops this month. Order number is FEB141030 from Diamond Distributors. If you didn't reserve a copy via our KickStarter, now is your chance to get to your local comic shop and support us! Get more info at piggytale.com.
I just read a very interesting and sobering article over at The Beat; a mini-expose of what it's like to be a working cartoonist. And it also got me thinking a little; I want to express my feelings about being a comic-centric freelancer. I also wanna discuss money, which is a difficult subject to broach for cartoonists because those who make less become envious and those who make more take a little pity (though not maliciously). But here goes with my rant:
I make a pretty decent living with cartoons and comics...and it makes me feel super guilty. Guilty because I see and/or hear about other cartoonists struggling. Guiltier still, when it comes to comic books, people generally think that a more famous/popular cartoonist makes more -- that fame commands money. It becomes reinforced within the comic culture: you can charge more for your work when you become famous. Well, that's actually complete bullshit.
I'm not famous at all. I have a pretty small but fairly loyal fanbase for Tails, but I'm also an obscure artist to most of the comic-reading public. But I get paid very, VERY well by my clients from the advertising and marketing world. Doing comics.
See, in the real world, clients don't give a shit if you're famous. They don't have that internalized HERO WORSHIP with artists that comic fans have. They just want to see talented work delivered at a reasonable time with professionalism and tact. I've always told aspiring freelancers: Clients don't just pay for talent, they pay largely for experience.
But in the comic book world, well, the old rule applies: you get paid more when you become famous/popular. Most of the COMIC projects I've been offered have been with fairly standard beginners' rates or really low rates. (Sorry, but I've been freelancing for almost 10 years, I'm not a beginner; I'm just unknown because my life goal isn't to draw someone else's creations at a big company.)
Low pay for journeyman cartoonists is the accepted norm in comics.
And yes, before you try to correct me, I know, the comics world is different than the real world. "Stop complaining and shut up, Ethan!" But here's the thing: IT SHOULDN'T BE!
The comic book world, like everywhere else, is inhabited by ADULTS! Adults who should understand that creators deserve a living wage. Not everyone can do what we do. Not only is talent a rare thing, but it takes a LIFETIME of practice and honing to turn that talent into a real SKILL. You can't just take a 6 month course in Human Anatomy and expect to understand anatomy when you leave. (Heck, I still see 40-year-old artists who don't have a grasp on anatomy)
Have you ever had a plumber come to your house? I have. And it cost me $500 for a job they didn't even do right (no offense to all the competent plumbers out there). But guess what, I can go to a convention and get a super talented artist to do a super awesome, professional sketch for $20. Try getting your plumber to come to your house for $20.
You can make the argument that plumbing is more essential than art, especially as a homeowner, but that would be beside the point.
Professional service should always come with a professional rate.
Annnnnnnnd THAT is why I felt bad reading this article on The Beat; reading about super talented comic artists who are struggling. Because (I'll say it again), we have reinforced the idea that low pay for journeyman cartoonists is the accepted norm in comics.
And we have to change that.
The title says it all.
I'm a big statistic nerd, and I check every facet of Google Analytics that I can reasonably comprehend, and on a fairly regular basis. Over the past year or so, I've noticed that a lot more folks have decided to visit this site on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, rather than a weekly basis. This is partly due to the page-a-week release schedule which hinders consistent returns to a degree, but I think it's mostly due to the long-form nature of the story in Tails, which lends itself to binge reading. For those who have been reading since the very beginning back in 2009, you can surely attest to all the changes that have occurred over the years. Some gradual, like the steady growth of the characters. And some more drastic, like the genre mashing and flying cats. I had to make a very hard decision back in 2010 from a twice-a-week release to a page-a-week release, which I knew would hurt me a bit. Let's face it, when you're not visiting a site on a regular basis you tend to forget about said site. (Not to mention the decline of Google Reader.)
So, leave a comment and let me know that you're still a regular reader, and if you're so inclined, let me know how often you visit.
This information will be VERY helpful moving forward. When Tails was averaging closer to 5000 to 7000 pageviews a day, I ran into bandwidth issues with the hosting service on my shared server, and upgraded to a dedicated virtual server, which runs $500 a year. It's not a fortune, but it's also not chump change. The pageviews have dipped, so I'll most likely be switching back to a shared server within the coming months (with adequate bandwidth, of course). I'd like to know how many readers this will affect.
Thanks in advance, everyone.
Hey, folks! So, I've been telling you about a kids' comic I've been developing with my friend, Tod Emko, right? It's called A Piggy's Tale: The Adventures of a 3-legged Super-Pup! And yeah, it's as awesome as it sounds. Anyhoo, the KickStarter has officially launched today, so now's your chance to contribute. The KickStarter is for 2 Full-Color issues, and lots of other goodies are being rewarded. Click here to visit the page!
Heya, folks! Long time no chat. I've been super busy this past Fall season. First off, I've finished all of Tails, every last page. The ending is done and tucked away on my storage shelf. Second, I've completed the first 60 pages of my WW2 graphic novel, which I'm planning to take to a publisher soon. The story is about 2 abandoned Chinese soldiers during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Third, I've also wrapped up the first issue of an animal-themed super hero comic (which also happens to be kid friendly!) named A Piggy's Tale: The Adventures of a 3-legged Super-Pup. Why would a puppy be named Piggy, you ask? Well, you'll have to read it to find out. The comic is written by my friend, Tod Emko, with me on illustrations. We're launching the KickStarter this month to complete 2 full color issues. Check out the website here, and please visit the Facebook page to give us a LIKE =)
I probably shouldn't post this, but I need to get something off my chest: I almost got into a fight with a tubby highschooler today.
I was simply walking towards the local Ithacan library to teach a comix course to young kids, and passed a small group of teens passing a cigarette around on the sidewalk (1 Caucasian, 3 African-American). The tubby one (who's also the white kid in the group), mistakenly offers the cigarette to me. "Ah, shit, I almost passed it to the Asian Kid!" (And you have to imagine him as a suburban white kid who's trying to mimic an impressive thug.) I walk ahead, and heard mumbling and laughter, something like "Asian Persuasion!" and whatnot; then someone mumbles the word "Chinaman" or something of that ilk.
I turn around, walk back, and tell him "That's not cool, man." I'm being fairly diplomatic when I say this, but still assertive enough to show that I mean business. "It was just a joke, yo", he responds. "You wanna throw it down here?" He reaches into his back pocket as if there will be some weapon in play, but of course it's all gesturing.
I simply note, "No, man, you wouldn't want me to say that shit to you, I just want an apology." I extend my hand and ask for his name (as if I were a guidance counselor). He shakes my hand, but decides to give me one of those hard, tough, I'M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW STRONG I AM handshakes. It's clear he was also using all the strength he could muster to squeeze my hand. I smirk a little, and then squeeze back. HARD. He quickly withdraws and says, "Yo, what the hell, man?"
Now, this kid, he's as tall as me, 5' 10", and probably heavier, since he is tubby. He's probably also the strongest kid in his class (He looked no older than 15 or 16). And since I was wearing a t-shirt, you couldn't tell from first glance that my arms are the product of the ability to do 100 push-ups. I can tell he was a bit surprised that I wasn't fazed.
In the end, he walks away, while I stand there.
The reason this whole situation bothers me is because I really had to fight the urge to punch this kid in the stomach. That's not something an adult should want to do. But I am glad I kept my cool. Not that I'm freakin' Bruce Lee or anything, but I have tussled a little here and there; back in junior high, I put a friend in a sleeper hold so strong, he started bleeding from the nose and nearly passed out (we were really rambunctious kids with not enough supervision in the lower east side). I have to keep telling myself: it's not worth getting arrested over.
Moral of the story; boys who act tough and puff their chests are usually morons and wimps with too much to prove and too little to work with.
Heya, folks! (I think I use the word 'folks' a bit too much.) Just a quick rundown of all things new and semi-interesting:
- First up, MoCCA Fest 2013 this coming weekend. I'll be selling lots of goodies and anyone who is around should totally stop by the table.
- Concerning the next segment of 'Tails', I've wrapped up chapters 16 - 19, and just started chapter 20. It's really a weird experience to see a labor of love draw to an end. I'm really going to miss Cartoon Ethan. Maybe I'll grant him a cameo appearance in my future comics as an aging fart.
- Sorry I haven't been able to post as many journal comix as I originally intended. When I first started this experiment, I was SURE that I could at least drop 2 a week. That's the way the cookie crumbles, unfortunately. I recently wrapped up a huge storyboard project and I'm already planting the seeds for my next graphic novel, all while crafting the final chapter of 'Tails'. Plus, a lot of my downtime has been monopolized by video games and basketball. I'm 75% done with 'Shadow of the Colossus' (a game that everyone recommended to me). That game is equal parts brilliant, and equal parts frustratingly-angry-I'm-gonna-punch-a-hole-through-the-PS3.
- Speaking of which, I'm not sure how you, the reader, has been responding to the journal comics. Like? Dislike? Hate? Leave a thought.
Hi, folks! Hope everyone has been keeping warm this winter. Here are 2 upcoming events that I'm participating in:
- First off is Ithacon 38, this coming Saturday on March 2nd, 10 am to 4 pm (free admission). If you're in or around Central NY, feel free to come on down and give the convention a visit. It's free to the public and loads of fun. Ithacon 38 is located at 123 The Commons, Ithaca, NY.
- The second event is at Housing Works Bookstore on Tuesday, March 5th, 7pm (also free to the public). I'll be taking part in a unique comic panel, The Cartoonist in Comics: Using Autobiography in Graphic Novels. I'm hoping for a good turnout at this event, so if you're in NYC (and you want to have an awesome time), please think about dropping by and showing your support. Housing Works Bookstore is located on 126 Crosby Street, New York, NY.
Other than that, not much else for March. I'll have updates on April later. I hope everyone is enjoying these weekly journal comics.
Also, here's an interview with SFsignal, courtesy of one Ms. Carrie Cuinn.
Go give both a read!
The title says it all. Hope everyone is having a great holiday with family and friends. Be safe and happy.
Hey, Folks! It's been a long 2 months. With multiple signings and traveling the country, I'm pretty beat. As I'm writing this, Chapter 15 is a little more than halfway posted, which wraps up the content for Tails: Book 2. Book 1 has been selling okay, and I'm still out there promoting and planning to do more signings and conventions. Book 2 will not be out until later next year, and as for Book 3 (which would be comprised of Chapters 16 - 20), I'm only about 3/5 of the way done. Which means...and I hate being one of those creators...I'll have to take a short hiatus from posting up new Chapters after this current one wraps up in February. The hiatus will most likely last until Summer 2013.
Now -- hold on one second -- don't throw the stink bomb at me just yet. I'm well aware that a long hiatus is fast-track suicide for any webcomic, so I have a compromise. While the main story of Tails takes a hiatus (and by main story, I'm referring to the mix of comedy and fantasy), I'll keep the site regularly updated with my other work: sketch comics, mini-comics, and journal comics. (It's actually funny when you think about it; when Tails started over 3 years ago, people just assumed it was going to be your typical slice-of-life journal comic.) And of course, you'll still get regular updates on the print editions and my convention/store appearances. I know I haven't been updating my blog as actively as I should, especially with my Adventures in Freelancing posts (part of it may be the fact that freelancing is actually fairly simple and I've run out of things to say).
So, as the title of this post suggests, let me know what you guys think so far (whether it's about the comic or the direction I'm taking). Feel free to leave a comment or email me your complaints/concerns/praise/accusations/death threats. I do this all for you =)
Are you a Marc Silvestri fan? Do you live near or around Central NY? Well, guess what? Marc Silvestri is coming to HeroBot Con in Elmira, NY this Saturday! This is Marc Silvestri's ONLY East Coast convention appearance for the rest of the year, so if you can make it, do so!
Other HeroBot guests include Jamal Igle, Matt Hawkins, Roger Stern, Ron Marz, Ken Wheaton, Charles Paul Wilson, Ron Marz, Steve Ellis, Aaron Kuder, Mike Raicht, and ME!
HeroBot Con will be held at 425 Pennsylvania Avenue, Elmira, NY 14904, 11 to 6. Tickets are $10 and V.I.P. packages are $30 (which come with LOTS of goodies). You can learn more about HeroBot Con by visiting their website.
Hope to see you there, folks!
If so, come to APE! It's a great comic convention that takes place October 13th and 14th. That's 2 whole days of indie comic awesomeness. This will be my first time exhibiting at APE. Stop over at my table (404A) and pick up some neat books, prints, and merchandise. Or just stop on by to say hi. Either way is good with me.
Also, mention this blog post and get a free 11 x 17 print! That's right, you heard me -- an 11 x 17 print! Booyah! Hope to see you all there!
Should I make this free giveaway even cooler? Here, I'll include a password: kitty muffins! Come on over and say kitty muffins and you get the free print and a big hug!
Come one, come all! If you're in or around the Upstate / Central NY area, stop by River Road Expo in Nichols, NY (11 am to 6pm). It's FREE ADMISSION!! It's a close drive from Elmira, Binghamton, Ithaca, and parts of Pennslyvania. Also, it's only a few hours away from Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse. Seriously, it's FREE, and there'll be LOTS of cool shit there. Comic artists, vendors, costumes, gaming, you name it! Stop by my table and I'll give you a free mini-print if you mention this blog post. There, I just sweetened the pot =)
Do you reside in NJ -- or somewhere within the Tri-State area? Do you have a car? If not, are you willing to take a bus?
Come see me at Asbury Park Comic Con 2 this Saturday, 11 to 6 pm. It's taking place in a bar! Come meet and greet me, buy some cool shit, and have a beer. I'll have books, prints, bookmarks, buttons, T-shirts, sketches, you name it! There'll also be lots of other awesome guests and exhibitors.
Hope to see you all there!
Okay, have I got your attention, folks? Tails: Book One is officially on sale at Amazon! No more pre-order nonsense -- buy it today and it'll actually be shipped to you afterwards. Amazing, isn't it? I wanna take this opportunity to thank everyone who pre-ordered the book. I know I sound like a broken record, but pre-ordering the book meant that you were willing to show your support with your dollars, so I can't thank you guys enough. Speaking of which, pre-orders should be arriving any day now.
The second part of this rant is about reviews. I want YOU, the readers, to go on Amazon and write a review for Tails: Book One. Even if it's a mediocre review, I still want you to write it. The more reviews, the better. Don't be timid. Do it and get good karma =)
Haven't written one of these in a while. Hope everyone's summer is winding down nicely. Here's a quick rundown of everything Tails related:
- As all you readers might know, Tails: Book 1 is finally out in comic shops! Hurray! As for book stores, I think they should be available as well, although I'm not 100% certain. The book came out last Wednesday, but Amazon won't be making it available until September 4th. Why? I don't know; I'm gonna guess it's because the comic market and the book market operate with different distribution methods, whatever. If you're thinking about purchasing a copy, I implore you to either support your local comic shop or demand a copy at Barnes & Noble (especially since B&N returns all the copies they can't sell).
Either way, I'll also be setting up an online store soon. Soon meaning sometime before the year ends, probably in the next month or so. I've just been so bombarded with promotion work combined with the regular workload these days. I want to take one more opportunity here to thank everyone who pre-ordered the book on Amazon. I'm so sorry that you don't get it for another week and a half.
- I'll be doing about 4 conventions over the next 2-3 months. Here's the list, and I hope to see some of you there:
On September 29th, I'll be attending Asbury Park ComicCon, for those of you located in NJ.
October 6th will be River Road Expo, hosted by my buddy, Jared Aiosa, in Nichols, NY (this one is FREE ADMISSION, by the way). If you live somewhere in Upstate or Central NY, it's worth the drive.
October 13th is APE in San Francisco, CA! This one is a pretty fucking big deal. For those of you who don't know, it's one of the largest (if not THE largest) indie-focused comic conventions in the states. My wife and I got accepted last week, so now it's been all paperwork; sending checks and filling out tax forms. Last thing we need to do is book my plane ticket.
October 27th is HeroBot Con in Elmira, NY. Guest of Honor is Marc Silvestri of Wolverine and Cyber Force fame! Once again, if you're in Upstate or Central NY, or even in a neighboring town in PA, it is worth the drive! There'll be comics, art, and fun!
- I'll hopefully have more reviews of Tails: Book One posting soon, as well as some interviews.
All 220 wholesale copies of Tails: Book One have finally arrived. Man, it's been a long time coming! In the coming weeks, I'll be setting up a new store page where you can buy the book, the mini-prints, the buttons, all on one convenient site (you'll still have the option to buy it from Amazon, of course). I'd love to have the store page up sooner, but these next few months are gonna be HECTIC. Conventions, store signings, local panels and discussions, more conventions. Stay tuned for more breaking news, folks!
This flyer has all the info you need. Wednesday, August 22nd, 4 to 7 in Elmira, NY. If you're in the local area, or Central NY, come see me. Buy a book, get a free mini-print! It's totally worth it, folks. After the signing, we drink! Keep up with updates either here or on Facebook.
Hey all! Here is an early review of Tails: Book One, by none other than Timothy Callahan. Go to the page and you'll find a link to the interview I did with Tim back in 2009. Jeez, this webcomic is over 3 years old now. Almost kinda hard to believe.
As for the main shipment of the books, my publisher informs me that they should be arriving this week. I've called and called, with no real concrete response, so we'll have to hold our breath and wait. It's like waiting for water to boil...over 5 months. If any of you are anxious to finally get your hands on this book, believe me, I'm equally as anxious!
Later, folks! I'll have more updates soon!
The advance copy of Tails: Book One finally arrived in the mail today. It got to Hermes Press on the 20th, which means the main shipment will be here in 3 - 4 weeks. After that, it'll be shipped straight to the distributors and onto book shelves everywhere. Is this exciting? YES! The book looks great, too. Matte finish cover, slick interior; the final product looks like an art book, I tell you. And all for only $16!! Now's the time to order, folks. (I know, I know, I told everyone to pre-order in January and there was a huge delay, but now the books are finally here, so you can trust me. Only thing that could go wrong is if the shipment is lost at sea, so I think we're safe) Order here. My wife sure is happy with her copy!
Hey all! Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Just a few quick updates from my neck of the woods:
- Part of why I haven't really updated the blog is because I haven't really had any good news. 'Tails: Book 1' is still delayed, and there's a strong possibility that the book may not even be here until August. Apparently, the printer in China received the print file early May and sat on it for 3 weeks before finally going to press. No communication or whatever. I wish I could just say 'thems the breaks' as usual, but this pisses me off royally.
At any rate, advance copies should be arriving this month, with the main shipment late July. After that, the books are shipped to the appropriate warehouses for immediate distribution. If there's anything I learned from this experience, it's to never, ever count on release dates. Sigh, sorry. I could sit here and apologize all night, but that would be redundant. Just know that I, as the creator of 'Tails', am TRULY sorry to anyone and everyone who ordered the book early.
- My new house is starting to lose that new house smell. I dunno, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm feeling more comfortable here, now that the house has lost its initial allure. It's no longer 'the house I own' just 'the house I live in'.
- The missus and I just filled out applications for APE in October and the Brooklyn Comics Festival in November. Fingers crossed on the books being here by then. E-mail me or leave a comment if you know of a smaller convention in your area that you think would be good for me to attend.
- Watched 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' last night because the wife wanted to watch a 'dumb super-hero-esque' movie. Dumb doesn't really begin to describe it...
Hey, folks! Crusader Cat buttons are now on sale for only a Buck and a Half. Look how cool they are! Order here.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. "Hey, how come I need to go to 2 separate stores to get all my 'Tails' loot?! Is this a scam?!" Hardly. When the books arrive (and to those who pre-ordered, I'm really sorry for the delay, it's unfortunately out of my hands at this moment), you'll be able to order 'Tails: Book 1' along with the other merchandise to avoid paying 2 separate shipping costs. The trade-off is, ordering from my personal store means paying the full $15.99 cover price for the book. Ordering the book through Amazon.com means you'll receive their discount (cuz let's face it, they're Amazon and that's what they do).
Speaking of 'Tails: Book 1', Amazon's new targeted release date is July 10th, which is over-shooting it a bit. The book should be in stores, and in your hands, something around June-ish. I want to apologize again to everyone who pre-ordered early and now has to wait and extra 1-2 months. Unfortunately, thems the breaks in the comic publishing world.
Some of you might have noticed that I've made a few changes to the site in recent weeks. Most notable is the fact that I've moved the blog underneath the comic page. It's a bit more traditional, and now you won't have to venture to a separate page/link to read my rants. And now, let me start with the rants...
- Unfortunately, I just heard from my publisher that Tails: Book One will be a bit delayed due to shipping complications. The book was printed in China, so you can imagine the distance these books have to travel. We're looking at a 30 - 45 day delay from the targeted April 10th release date. Thems the breaks. I really want to take this time to apologize to everyone who ordered the book. I know a lot of you have shown nothing but enthusiastic support for Tails, and I want to thank you lots and lots. If I had any real super powers, I'd fly the books straight to your doorstep.
- On the upside, I received some updated order numbers, and Tails: Book One has done a lot better than I originally anticipated. There was a detailed breakdown, and it's safe to say that some readers placed special orders with their bookstores. Once again, THANK YOU!!!!
- The missus and I recently moved into our new house and it's been a ton of work, fun, stress, and fulfillment. I never really dreamed of having my own home, let alone own a home while having a career as a cartoonist, but it's been a dream come true. I've done things I never thought I'd realistically get to do, like ripping up carpet and redoing hardwood floors. Or sanding doors. Or gardening. You get the idea.
- Lastly, I'll leave you with this neat sketch I did for my friend, Mike, owner of Green Dragon Comic Shop. It's one of those sketch variants to give to shops to promote events and such. Enjoy!!
There's still time to pre-order Tails: Book One on amazon.com, everyone. Only $8.50 for 160 pages of pure awesomeness! Ok, now that I've got that shameless bit of self-promotion out of the way, some news and notes:
- Haven't gotten a chance to see the premiere of Walking Dead yet. Truth be told, I was starting to get a bit let down towards the end of the last season (or half-season). It's still a phenomenally well-made show, but the method-y acting just got worse and worse with each episode. Seriously, how many times can you take a deep breath, look sideways, and then jolt forward to deliver a line in dramatic fashion? It reminded me of later seasons of LOST or BSG, where every character began resembling a caricature of themselves. But that's just me complaining as usual. And speaking of Walking Dead...
- How many of you have caught up with the current lawsuit between the original artist, Tony Moore, and Robert Kirkman? It's a bit disheartening to hear, because I always figured that The Walking Dead was one of those fairy tale success stories, where everyone walked off happily ever after. Now money has torn a rift between childhood friends. I even mentioned TWD last year in my blog, using that comic as a shining example of how collaborations in comics can work.
- I might be doing a signing in NYC at Forbidden Planet for Comeback Kings. The second issue is due out later this month, along with a second printing of issue 1. I know, I know, it came out VERY late, but this is what happens when distributors and publishers don't get everything 100% organized. I'll keep you updated on all that.
Hey all. I wanna thank everyone who came out to greet me at Ithacon this past weekend. It was nice (and a bit surreal) to meet people who already knew what Tails was. Weird. Now, some quick news and notes:
- The numbers came in for Tails: Book One. Not great, but not terrible either (pretty much what you'd expect in a crap economy combined with the cover price). The good news is, it'll definitely see print. My publisher and I are still hammering out the details, and you might even see yours truly just take over the printing responsibilities, which means the book will be more aligned with my personal vision.
- Met a really cool webcomic artist by the name of TL Collins. He does an awesome webcomic entitled Bullfinch. Check it out. He's a Syracuse native, so if any of you in that area need some illustration work, he's your guy. Go Orange!!!!
- Some of you might've noticed that I've recently added social-networking buttons on the top-right corner of the homepage. God, I feel like some really old geezer who has finally discovered the VCR or something. At any rate, feel free to push those buttons =)
That's it for now. If you haven't already, pre-order Tails: Book One!
I'll be in attendance at Ithacon's Winter 2012 show this coming Saturday, February 4th, from 10 to 4.
If you're in the neighborhood or around Upstate NY, consider taking a trip down to attend the show. Admission is only 3 bucks, and if you come see me, I'll give you a free sketch =)
PLEASE PRE-ORDER TAILS: BOOK ONE, FOLKS! It's only $8.50 on Amazon.com right now. As you can see, I've put up a nifty little order button on the top right of this page. I've also added a new SHOP page where you can get a nice look at the cover, and gives you different options of where to shop.
Look, here's the rub, folks (I might as well be brutally honest): my publisher isn't showing 100% confidence in this book right now. We have an agreement to do 3 books, but if this first one tanks, I don't know what the chances are that the 2nd and 3rd one will see print. Those of you who have been following Tails for a while know just how much time and energy I put into this work.
Tails: Book One collects Chapters 1 - 9 of the webcomic, with never-before-seen pages and packaged in a handsome softcover. It totals out at about 160 pages and is priced at $15.99, but you can get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for about $8.50. Either one is fine with me, so long as you guys order it! The book is scheduled for an April 10th release, give or take a week.
Think of this like a KickStarter campaign, only instead of donations, I'm asking you to show your support by simply ordering an awesome book at a great price. And if you do order the book, don't forget to Like it.
Also, spread the word to as many people as you can. May the Force be with you...always.
For all you comic book fans who patronize your local comic shop, Tails: Book One is now available for pre-order via Diamond's January Previews catalog. For all those who need a quick lesson on comic book distribution: local comic shops primarily order through one distributor, Diamond Comics Distributors. Every month, they put out a hefty catalog called Previews. The catalog released in a particular month (in this case, January) is previewing comics, books, graphic novels, and other items scheduled for release 2 months away (in this case, March). Got it? Tails: Book One is slated for mid-April, if you wanna get super-specific about it.
NOW -- I want all of you Tails-Fans to run out to your local comic shop and ask your retailer to order it. The Order Number is STK457317. It's Tails: Book One from Hermes Press (or Volume One) on page 307 of Previews. It's a softcover, 7 x 10, 160 pages, and priced at $15.99.
I know it's easier to just wait until it's available online, but orders through comic shops will look a lot better to my publisher. I'm not asking for free money here, but I am asking for anyone who wishes to show their support to spread the word at your local comic shop. Come on, it can't be that hard, can it?
Within the next month or so, I'll post up a pre-order banner for online orders, but if you can order through your local comic shop, please consider it.
Halleluyah, you can finally read Tails on your RSS Feeds again (or at least on Google Reader again)! If anyone out there is having trouble with other Feeds, let me know ASAP, and I'll try to have it fixed right away. For Google Readers, you may have to clear your cache and cookies. But trust me, it works. Once again, sorry to all the readers whose comic-reading habits were interrupted by the wide-sweeping updates in both WordPress and Google Reader. At least you could always read it on the site at blazing fast bandwidth speed, right?
I'll be doing a Comeback Kings signing over at the Ardden/Atlas Booth next Friday at 4 pm during New York Comic Con.
Stop on by and say hi; it'll be at booth 659 (right next to the Marvel booth). Feel free to ask for a drawing if you'd like. I'm not 100% sure if I'll bring my sketchpad with me or not, but I'm sure you have a book I can doodle in. See you there =)
Justice League #1 by Jim Lee and Geoff Johns was pretty much what I expected. Nice art, decent writing, and storytelling so decompressed that you're basically paying $4 for 4 minutes of reading. Buying a Jim Lee comic though, brought me down memory lane. Sit back and read, this is gonna be a long one...
In 2002, I dropped out of SVA. More specifically, I went on Spring Break and never returned. The institution of school just wasn't for me. "WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE?! I DRAW BETTER THAN HALF MY TEACHERS! FUCK THIS PLACE!!!!" Yes, I was full of myself, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a point.
I didn't listen to anyone, least of all my Older Brother, who was officially a failed cartoonist by then. "How are you ever going to get a job at Marvel or DC?" Didn't know, didn't care. I was arrogant, naive, and ready to make my mark on the comic world - and I had a master plan up my sleeve!
Jim Lee was scheduled to show up at AppleCon that year. I attended with my then-girlfriend (Sin), 2 buddies, and a portfolio of my bestest work. I was nervous. Once Jim Lee arrived, I bombarded him in the lobby and asked if he'd review my stuff. This was before he even had a chance to greet his art dealer, whose table I was lurking at for 45 minutes. This goes to show you just how enthusiastic and ill-mannered I was.
After Mr. Lee sat down, I was first at his table with my portfolio wide open. He was...mildly impressed. My work was very good for a 19 year old, but nothing that made him go, "I have to snatch this guy up before anyone else does!" (To be fair, Jim Lee was no longer in a position to hire people anyway. He had just sold WildStorm to DC to refocus on penciling.) He gave me some encouraging words and the usual advice. It boiled down to 3 options:
1.) Try to get a job at Marvel or DC via the traditional submission process.
2.) Get a comic published by Image which might lead to work at Marvel or DC.
3.) Self publish, hopefully get picked up by Image, and then get work at Marvel or DC.
Looking back, I can't articulate what I was really expecting that afternoon. Was Jim Lee just going to spread his legs and poop out a 5 figure salary for me? After the portfolio review, I went outside and cried on the steps for 15 minutes. Drama Queen, I know. I literally thought that my comics career was over before it had even begun. I went to the convention with hopes of immediate super-stardom, and all I got was the same old advice I could get anywhere.
It wasn't necessarily bad advice, either. It was (and probably still is) the prevailing school of thought on breaking into the comic industry. My only issue with said advice: it was a 20 year old paradigm, and even by 2002 it was starting to feel outdated. I spent most of my adolescent years watching my Older Brother receive dozens of rejection letters from comic companies, so I was NEVER going down that road.
But have no fear, Dear Reader, things turned out okay for me in the end. I started self-publishing Tails in 2005 and the rest is history. For a day job, I eventually found a niche as a comic illustrator / cartoonist for hire, which leads directly to the other segment of this blog entry...
--------------FREELANCING - PART 5: EARNING A LIVABLE WAGE--------------
Note: This installment elaborates on my last entry on Freelancing regarding pricing.
As mentioned above, there were usually 3 choices for aspiring comic book artists (this was before the general population realized that you could money off of webcomics). I had plans to eventually self-publish Tails, but I wanted to make an actual living with my art skills in the meantime. Unfortunately, most aspiring comic writers were looking for collaborations and couldn't pay. I found miscellaneous art gigs in between my day job as a dog walker, but nothing inspiring enough for the foundation of a career. My usual thoughts were, "Eh, these jobs aren't paying much, it'll never go anywhere."
As luck would have it, 2006 was a breakout year. I met some independent filmmakers through a friend of a friend and started doing storyboards for $100 a page - which at that point, was the most money I had ever made for my art. Filmmakers - even small ones based out of lofts in the West Village - understand that in order to get something, you need to pay. Doing storyboards for $100/page was great because they were inherently loose and rough, and didn't require the refinement of comic book pencils (and $100 per page is roughly how much a smaller comic company would pay anyway).
I stuck with the $100/page price scale for a few years. It was a reasonable amount of money for clients to wrap their heads around. After a while, it was time for a raise. I needed to make enough to quit my day job. If you want to know how much I charge these days, take a look at my iFreelance profile.
Okay, so without getting into specifics of my annual salary, I charge about $50 per hour these days. For comic pages, I offer flat rates that cover 5 - 7 hours worth of work. If you're wondering how I landed on $50/hour (or how I thought I could get away with charging those kind of prices), the answer is simple: I followed the business model of graphic designers.
As my fledgling career took off, I started meeting and networking with other freelancers: graphic designers, web designers, photographers, programmers, you name 'em. I noticed one thing they all had in common: they were making more than me. More specifically, they managed their businesses better than me. Some were taking in $30 an hour. Others were taking in $60 or more. The median seemed to be around $40 to $50. I wasn't jealous, mind you, I was inspired. And it wasn't just the money that inspired me. These people were actual professionals - meaning they behaved professionally. They talked directly to clients, advertised their services, managed their expenses, everything a small business should be doing. That was the key - approach freelancing as if you're an enterprise. You tell people what compensation is required, not the other way around.
I know what some of you might be thinking, because I used to think the same thing. "What if nobody hires me after I raise my prices?" Here's what I'll ask you. Would you rather do 100 pages for $15 each, or 50 pages for $25 each? Getting paid more for time spent not only sets a better precedent for ALL freelance artists, it vastly improves self-confidence and improves your overall well-being. You think that sounds like mumbo jumbo? Next time you run into a successful freelancer, just ask him or her. Bottom line is -- so long as you're capable, competent, and professional, there will always be work for you. I know it's tempting to take EVERY job that falls on your lap, but running a successful business also requires successful management.
Look, before I go any further -- I know $100 is still good money, I'm not delusional. But you, as an individual artist, have to decide what pay rate is right for you. If you charge $100 per page and you intend to spend a maximum of 2 hours on it, then you've made $50 per hour. Great. But what if this job goes overtime? Say you end up spending 3 hours on it - or 4 hours. What if that $100 was a flat rate? Then you've lost 2 hours pay, and time is money. What if you're doing a kick-ass comic page for $100 and it takes the entire work day? What's $100 divided by 8?
$50 per hour may sound like a lot at first, but think about it. Being a good cartoonist or illustrator requires a lifetime of training. You can't just take one anatomy class and learn anatomy. You can't even take 40 anatomy classes and learn anatomy. That's something that usually takes (as stated above) a lifetime to hone, along with other elements like shading, composition, perspective, everything. And even if you're a professional, you're still learning and hopefully improving. You don't learn to be an artist by just going to class, it's something you devote your entire existence to. Isn't that worth $50 an hour?
As a cartoonist, you have the right to charge good money for good services, and don't let idiots guilt you into thinking that you're a crook. It took a while for me to soak in that new-found confidence, but I eventually did.
So, that's the story of how my freelance career got kick-started. A nice happy ending for a college dropout crying after a portfolio review, right? I didn't follow the conventional path laid out for me, but I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. True, I'm not drawing Justice League, but money-wise, I can't really complain too much. I'm not making Jim Lee money, but I keep the bills paid. I'm my own boss and I make my own hours.
I guess what I'm saying is, don't just choose your own path, make your own path. I'm living proof that you can be a self-made, moderately successful cartoonist. All you need is talent, professionalism, perseverance, and a little bit of luck.
A few important notes, in case you read this and want to leave a hateful comment:
- Just to clarify, when I say collaboration, I'm referring to a non-paying collaboration, one typical amongst independent comics. I am NOT against writer/artist collaborations, I just don't think that they are beneficial for aspiring artists who need to make a living. True, there are collaborations that have become extremely profitable. However, for every Walking Dead, there are countless collaborations that ended in bitterness and destitution.
- I never regretted leaving school. It has had absolutely NO effect on my freelance career. In fact, most of my clients are impressed when they find out. I'm not encouraging any of you to drop out of college. All I'm saying is, if it's not for you, it's not for you.
- Jim Lee was super nice. I know I made him sound like a tool or something, but he was extremely polite and sincere. I have nothing but admiration for his work and character.
- This was probably the most money-centric post I've ever written. Yes, I believe money is important and essential to our lives, but not as important as finding something you love to do. $50/hour is meaningless if you hate your job. My love of cartooning still comes first... it's just nice when you can get paid to do it as well.
Recently sat down and did a pretty in-depth interview with Stumptown Trade. Go check it out. In other miscellaneous news:
- I've been mulling over what to write for my next installment of my freelancing essays. I can't think of anything I can expound upon for more than a few paragraphs without appearing too redundant. Anybody have any ideas on what I should write about or what they'd like to know more about? Leave me a comment.
- Don't know how many of you purchased Comeback Kings #1 -- but for those of you who did -- I promise you that issue #2 is on its way. I swear. I finished the issue on time and everything, it's POST-production that has taken so long (Ardden is a small 2-man company). This goes to show all you future entrepreneurs, always keep yourself organized!
- Because of all the freelance work I've had to finish this summer -- combined with all the edits I've had to make for Tails: Book One, I haven't been able to work on new Tails chapters in a while. I think I'll finally have some time to get started when the winter rolls around (after wrapping up Comeback Kings). But have no fear, Dear Reader -- Chapters 13, 14, and 15 were completed back in early March.
- Who else watched American Ninja Warrior last night? The missus and I were pretty fucking disappointed that David Campbell couldn't make it past the Ultimate Cliffhanger. Not disappointed in the contestant as a person, but disappointed because we really believed he could make it!
That's it for now. Later, y'all!
I recently designed a logo for Darwin Animal Doctors, a non-profit veterinary clinic down in the Galapagos. They're trying to raise some money to keep their doors open, so please visit their store to purchase some lovely merchandise. If you're wondering which design is mine, I created the one with the bird merged with the red cross. My personal favorite is the Dog T-Shirt. If you've got a four-legged friend, this is the perfect gift for 'em. And they'll go, "Why are you putting a T-shirt on me? I'm a DOG, for cryin' out loud!"
...Tails will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2012. Man, that's such a futuristic year when you look at it. You can read my full interview with MTV GEEK here.
This humble webcomic will be seeing print life thanks to Hermes Press , a company which specializes in classic reprints such as Dark Shadows and The Phantom. They're expanding into original titles and Tails will be one of them. You can visit their main site (which will be updated eventually), or you can click on over to their awesome blog run by Chris Irving.
Thank G-D it's Friday, right? Here's a few quick updates:
- Tails was mentioned on MTV GEEK today by Sean Kleefeld. Sean's a big webcomic aficionado (and big all around comics fan) and wrote a pretty interesting article regarding the issue of continuity in webcomics, a topic not often discussed. Give it a read, 'Like' it, Tweet it, do what you must!
- I haven't been on any social network sites for a while. I deleted my MySpace account a while back and never bothered to sign up for Facebook or Twitter. Nothing opposed to them on a moral level or anything, just never wanted to get sucked into it. Well, that being said, I'm on Goggle+. I dunno, someone sent me an invitation and I figured I'd give it go (mainly because it was relatively easy). So...look me up. But honestly, there wouldn't be much I'd share on Google+ that I wouldn't share on this blog. But hey, we can be internet friends, the best kind, eh?
- Just played Chrono Trigger for the first time. Not the biggest gamer here, but I must say, it was AWESOME! Now I finally know what all my friends in high school were geeking out about.
- Also just came out of Harry Potter. Good film. I don't think any fan can complain or be disappointed with the last film (or 2 films, I guess).
That is all. You are now free to enjoy your weekend =)
Greetings from Ithaca, NY, my new base of operations. Carol and I moved here last month for her job. The one thing that has stood out so far: everyone drives a hybrid. Ok, maybe not everyone, but an insane amount. Back in Oneonta, I used to play 'Spot the Prius' with Carol. That game's not even remotely fun here. Anyhoo, some news, notes, and rants...
- Comeback Kings #1 was officially sold out last week! Thanks to everyone who went out and purchased a copy, or followed a link and ordered one. The comic itself has received some pretty positive press, including this particular gem from the HuffingtonPost. I'm just a megalomaniac who drools over seeing one's name in print. A 2nd printing is already in the works (or a Director's cut, your call).
- Movies. Watching Thor, I couldn't escape one nagging thought, "This is the plot from Disney's Hercules." I don't think it was necessarily intentional, but it was a distraction from an otherwise fun film (and I say fun not in a patronizing sense). I was genuinely anxious to see this film because Iron Man 2 left a sour taste in my mouth. To me, Iron Man 2 felt like an expensive toy-commercial (not unlike X-Men Origins: Wolverine), legitimized by good actors (who phoned in their performances), interesting special effects, and the good faith left over from the original film. When you boil it down, the sequel was missing all the heart from the first film, all the excitement of new territory, all the natural chemistry developed between the actors, the disciplined story structure that gradually built tension and action (instead of just throwing it at you in some jumbled mess), and so on and so forth. In many ways, Thor and Iron Man 2 are just tie-ins for Avengers, but Thor understood that at the very least, you should tell an actual story, even if it's a formulaic one. (Jeez, why the hell am I talking about Iron Man 2 a year late?)
And I just have one question related to X-Men: First Class. How is Michael Fassbender NOT James Bond yet?
- I'm currently reading Y: The Last Man (7th volume). It was always one of those comics on my bucket list that I neglected to purchase. Enter the Thompkins County Public Library. Y is a very addictive read, and I totally get why people went crazy for it. Another wonderful mystery comic (or comic with a mystery in it) I recently devoured was 100 Bullets. It's funny reading these 2 series back to back. 100 bullets was a labyrinth, prolonging its reveal/explanation until the very end, while Y: The Last Man feels more like a detective story, divulging portions of its big secret midway through. Or hey, maybe it's a red herring, I won't know until I'm finished. Giving me part of the answer has kept me hooked, but it also rewards me as a reader. I feel like I'm getting more of my money's worth, metaphorically speaking.
- WARNING: RANT UP AHEAD
And the last topic I wanted to touch on is the needless reboot of DC Comics. First of all, if this weren't DC, and some random upstart company was launching 52 titles at once, that company would be dead in a heartbeat. Who remembers the staying power of Virgin Comics? How about CrossGen? Yes, I know, those companies didn't launch 50+ titles at once, but what they TRIED to do was build a sustainable line of comics out of nowhere, without any real support for the type of comics they were publishing. There's an old saying: market presence doesn't mean market dominance. Luckily, DC has enough loyal support from diehard fans who need comics like a junkie needs a fix. But I really don't understand certain titles. Deathstroke #1? Is there really an audience for that?
I'm also baffled by the arguments in favor of said reboot. "This will clean up continuity. This will make it accessible to new readers, especially younger ones. The digital initiative will work." I don't know how anyone can repeat that first excuse with a straight face. When has ANY attempt to clean up continuity in comics ever lasted? For Christ's Sakes, they brought back Golden Age Superman! Even if this reboot IS successful, how long can it really last? Remember when they re-numbered all the Marvel titles to reflect the actual number of issues printed? Spiderman #500, for example. When Action Comics hits #1000, do you honestly believe that DC Comics WON'T make a big deal out of it? Who wants to take an early bet?
Then there's the next elephant in the room: bringing in new readers + lapsed readers. I don't think the average person ignores super-hero comics because there's too much continuity. I think it's because they don't care about super-heroes, or at least not the stories they are telling. Plus - and I think this is the biggest issue - comics are Fucking Expensive. $3 for 22 pages, otherwise known as toilet reading? A subscription to Entertainment Weekly is only $0.39 an issue. How do you expect new readers to jump aboard, especially in a crap economy, if your product is astronomically expensive? And it's even harder for me to believe that anyone would pay $3 to download a 22 page comic.
I, myself, was a lapsed reader in high school, and now I'm back bordering between casual/frequent/sometimes obsessive reader. In high school, I started reading Amazing Spiderman again. It was the Ezekiel storyline by J.M. Straczynski. I loved it. I was a bit confused by - oh, I dunno - EVERYTHING that had happened between the end of the Clone Saga and the current issue in my hand. But guess what? I ignored it and read the story, and it was a damn good one. MJ and Petey are divorced? Oh, ok. Bummer. Where's the next issue? I find the whole 'rebooting-will-bring-back-lapsed-readers' defense to be a bit insulting. I think I have the basic intelligence to follow a comic book plot. It's not like I'm diving into Ulysses midway.
From my perspective, I believe it's more important to simply tell good, captivating stories with solid visuals and clean storytelling. If a character has a complicated and confusing past? Or just a dumb past? Just ignore it! When Frank Miller took over Daredevil and made it a best-seller, do you think readers were outraged by the lack of Stilt-Man? "Where is my Stilt-Man, damn it! He's an integral part of DD's story!" Or how about the fact that he basically transformed DD into a hard-boiled crime comic? Or that he took a Spidey villain and made him a DD mainstay? No re-numbering. No rebooting. Just take what works (his powers, his friendship with Foggy) and ignore what doesn't... like Stilt-Man.
Here's another rhetorical question I'll throw out there - how many of you expected All-Star Superman to become the most critically acclaimed Superman story since Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? A nostalgic silver-age style comic with actual crossover appeal? And did they make Supes younger and edgier and hipper and all that jazz? No, Morrison and Quitely just went out and told a great story. (You can say that it started with a #1, but it was a mini-series, not a reboot of the flagship series)
Comics are all about trends - cyclical trends - and each of the big 2 experiences their trends separately (understandably so, since their respective universes are ages apart). When DC rebooted everything with Crisis in the 80s, Marvel was riding high with their X-lines. Then Marvel has Heroes Reborn, and that worked out swell. Then DC did Zero Hour. Then Marvel did Spiderman: Chapter One (or whatever that John Bryne thing was), shortly followed by the Ultimate Universe. And now DC's doing this. (I'm sure I missed a few reboots or soft-boots here, so please excuse me) I'm sure in another 10 years, we'll be sitting here complaining about whatever reboot is destroying the landscape of our beloved franchises. Or at least I will.
So what am I trying to accomplish with this rant? -Deep Breath- Look, I'm not diametrically opposed to rebooting. I'm not staging a boycott or calling for anyone's head. I just don't see reboots as a wise or necessary tool. I see it as a gimmick. And gimmicks don't last. I don't believe that renumbering issues and sprucing up costumes will work. It's about the stories. If you have a good story, or better yet, a GREAT story, it won't matter if it's #1 or #147.
But HEY, maybe I'll be 100% wrong. Maybe this isn't just a publicity stunt and all the stories will be superlative. Maybe I'll be eating my words a year from now. Who knows, right?
The title says it all, folks! After months of waiting, issue 1 of Comeback Kings is finally in stores. Head over to your local comic shop and buy a copy right away! I command you! Seriously, we need good sales. Help make this comic a surprise hit.
How to Sell a Novel That No One Wants to Sell. Hey, I'm Matthue. I'm Ethan's friend and occasional co-creator (what, you've never read Can Zombies Be Vegan? What about Catpocalypse? Or that book that's going to take us six years before anyone but our roommates sees it? OK, never mind) -- and he's very kindly asked me to guest-blog, since I have a new book that's coming out, and he wanted to tell you good people.
Well -- it's sort of coming out.
A few years ago, I wrote a book called Losers. It was about Russian Jewish immigrant nerds. It was pretty funny (other people said so) and a little bit serious and sad and a lot bit weird. And there are tons of references to obscure X-Men, and I think Ethan was the only person to find EVERY SINGLE ONE. (See? Ethan comes into it again.) It sold a respectable amount of copies, especially in today's Depressing Publishing World. And then I wrote another book about Jupiter, the main character -- and nobody bought it.
"Teenage boys don't buy books," one publisher said.
"Could you put in some vampires or a werewolf?" said another.
So I decided to submit the first chapter as a short story, to an anthology. And then I submitted another. And another. The first chapter just came out, as the first story in the new book Truth & Dare. You can kind of read it on its own. Or you can read it and hold your breath for the second chapter to come out (in Apiary Magazine, coming soon!) Or you can go here and read the full explanation:
Or just click here: enemies, a novel
In any case, thanks a zillion for tolerating my little interruption. And my mostly-lack of pictures. And do check out Losers or Truth & Dare, if you get a chance. Because in this book-eat-book world, us nerds have to stick together.
(Wait, did I just call everyone nerds? Did I call Ethan a nerd? Oops. Sorry. Can we delete that?)
As you've all noticed (unless you're reading this on an RSS feed), the site has gone through a nice, sleek redesign. You all have Joenis to thank for that, creator of L.A.W.L.S. Joenis has a great aesthetic eye, and I highly recommend him to anyone looking for a good web designer.
You may also have noticed that the site moves a lot faster these days. Well, that's because I've purchased a Virtual Dedicated Server. I apologize to everyone who had to put up with the slow connection all these months. You're a real trooper if you still showed up every week to read the comic.
On a side note, Comeback Kings #1 will be a bit late, but not because of me. I had the artwork done months in advance. It'll probably ship around the end of April.
Anyhoo, that's about it! Enjoy the new site!
Hey, y'all! Here's a quick rundown of all the new things I'm sure you're DYING to know.
- First, the new comic I mentioned. Comeback Kings #1 (in stores March 30th), written by Matt Sullivan and Gabe Guarente and illustrated by yours truly. It's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Celebrity Rehab, only the celebrities are all dead icons. The art style is slightly different from what you see in Tails; I used digital inks along with zip-a-tone. Not my usual M.O., but it was the perfect fit for this concept (and you'll still see elements of my aesthetic approach and storytelling). Now go out to your local comic shop and ORDER them to get you a copy. Shake a fist full of cash if you have to.
- Ninja Warrior aka Sasuke. Have any of you ever seen this shit before? And I say shit in a good way. It is the fucking craziest shit I've ever seen. For those who've never heard of the show, it's the ultimate - literally, the ULTIMATE - competition show that pits man against obstacle. It's like watching human beings trying to conquer a Super Mario stage brought to life. The reason I'm salivating here is because my fiance and I recently discovered/obsessed over this show. I can't get enough of it!
- Quick Knicks tangent: MELO, BABY!!! MELO!!!
- Sorry to anyone on the RSS feed who has been receiving old posts. I'm not sure why that is happening or if it was only one or two people. If anyone has any clue, feel free to hit me up.
- Everyone seems to be enjoying the new storyline, and the new 'villain', Jordan. Sigh, it wasn't so long ago when all of you wanted to clench your fists and give Ethan a one-two punch. My, how times have changed. Just to elaborate, since some of you have expressed interest: YES, Jordan is slightly based on a couple of old classmates + a few unnamed comic artists. I'll let you figure out who those artists might be.
God, winter is here. I'm not sure how everyone else feels about the snow, but I can't wait till it's springtime again. I'd rather sneeze than shiver. Here are a couple of updates for all you readers out there:
- Yours truly has recently gotten engaged. Sorry, ladies, I'm officially off the market. (Can you smell my sarcasm?) Needless to say, I'm stoked. My Fiance, Carol Jean, has been my biggest supporter and my biggest inspiration these past couple of years. (Cliche, but true) She really pushed me to work harder and develop into a better artist. She even encouraged me to pursue the Crusader Cat storyline (I guess you can say she's sorta like an unofficial editor. Unofficial meaning I don't have to pay her). So, to everyone who enjoyed this recent storyline, you have Carol to thank. And if you hated it? Well, tough shit. Which brings us to...
- Chapter 9 officially caps off the 2nd storyarc. A lot of you seemed to enjoy it while others seemed a bit befuddled. You guys didn't honestly believe I would just dump the protagonist into some wacky super-hero world, didya? At any rate, the next storyarc will be a bit more serious in tone (not too serious, mind you), and will touch on some mature subjects. Stay tuned...
- I recently finished some cool illustrations for Streaming Media Magazine, which in turn was implemented into an even COOLER promotional motion comic! The megalomaniac in me absolutely digs this. The humble illustrator in me digs it as well. Go give it a peek and leave a comment.
- (Not really an update, more of a reflection) I was never a fan of The Walking Dead comic; I always found the tone and pacing to be mismatched from its respective genre. I could never sincerely believe that Tony Moore's cartoony, Art Adams-esque characters were actually scared; nor could I really feel absorbed by Charlie Adlard's serviceable, albeit rushed, draftsmanship. Of course, nothing against either artist, but Moore, for instance, has proven that he's most effective when handling more 'fun' material, i.e. Fear Agent.
That being said, I'm really enjoying the TV adaptation. It helps that Frank Darabont is behind the wheel. Say what you will about the guy's love affair with Stephen King, but that guy knows how to make an entertaining program.
That's all for now, folks. Stay warm and be sure to root for the Knicks this season! Later!
Everyone here has already caught wind of the infamous game developer controversy (who wrote a blog encouraging others to troll for cheap art), right? Since I proudly make my living as a freelancer, I refrained from making any immediate emotional outburst. Well, I guess it's my turn to get on the soapbox. (I haven't read every single blogger's response to this story, so I apologize if I accidentally plagiarize someone)
The sad reality for many freelance artists is the mediocre salary. I learned from Collen Doran’s blog that the average artist earns about $15K a year. That really isn’t much. Most depend on a day job to make ends meet. That’s why I can't blame a freelancer for jumping at any opportunity, even if it undercuts me. Don’t get me wrong, I hate any employer who tries to weasel his/her way out of paying a decent wage, but I know what it’s like to be desperate. I’ve been there before, trust me.
Why do struggling artists get exploited so much? Well, there's your first answer:
1.) They’re struggling. The stereotype of the starving artist isn't just a stereotype, it's an accurate portrayal. I've run across potential clients who literally think that 'exposure' is a legitimate form of compensation. How many times have you heard someone offering 'exposure' as compensation for designing a website? Or tailoring a suit? But hey, you're a struggling artist; exposure is all the payment you’ll ever need. I paid my landlord in exposure once. Something about an eviction followed…
That leads right into the second point:
2.) Art is still viewed as a hobby, especially cartooning and comic art, rather than a serious, profitable craft. Two years ago I was visiting friends in Amsterdam and had dinner with several couch-surfers. They asked me what I did for a living, to which I responded, “I’m a cartoonist.”
“Oh…that’s pretty hard to break into.”
I held back my indignation, handed them my business card, and replied, “No, I’m an actual cartoonist.” The rest of the meal was pleasant.
3.) Artists are treated like a dime-a-dozen. “If an artist doesn’t want the work, then they don't have to accept the work; stop whining about it!” How many times have we all heard that argument? That’s the conventional belief out there: artists are disposable, they're interchangeable. (In fact, that's how all of Corporate America views workers, so it's not specific only to artists)
4.) Most people are just plain ignorant to how much an artist should actually earn, least of all the artists themselves. I've run into artists who have no idea how much they should charge (as emphasized by the infamous game developer), and I've run into potential clients whose jaws plummet to the ground when they hear my rates.
“You make THAT much?”
No, sir, I don't make that much. I make an honest, decent living because like everyone else in this country, I have bills to pay and a belly to feed. Just because I make more than $2 a page doesn't mean I'm rich.
Here is my response to each of these 4 problems:
1.) Be professional. I’ve talked about this in previous blogs entries: you need to hone your business skills. This may seem obvious, but you can’t believe how many freelancers I've known who are completely unaware of proper business etiquette. When you're dealing with a client face-to-face, be eloquent, be affable, exert confidence, make eye contact, don’t laugh at your own jokes. Be sure to listen, but don’t be too timid to speak.
A personal website is important. You are a business, and all businesses need a good website to function. I never went to business school, but I can’t imagine a company saying, “We don’t have a website set up? Eh, fuck it.”
2.) Emphasize that what you have is an indispensible skill, not just a hobby. Remember, they need you more than the other way around. The average person couldn't draw a table lamp if their life depended on it, let alone a 22 page comic. Don’t let anyone trivialize your profession. That’s why I seldom use the term ‘comic’ and ‘drawing’ while communicating with clients. I use the term ‘illustration’. It just sounds better, don’t you agree? Like a real grownup.
3.) Gather as many good references as you possibly can. You wouldn't spend a fortune on eBay if the seller had terrible ratings, would you? Build good relationships with your clients and allow them to speak for you. It’s easier on a freelancer site such as guru.com or elance.com, where feedback is monitored. But a client list with contact info works just as well. “Call these people up; I'm sure they'll have nothing but great things to say about my services.” You are not just a dime-a-dozen.
4.) When asked about pricing, have very, very specific numbers planned out. For instance, I break down my prices into categories: sketches, character layouts, full pages, storyboards, covers, poster size illustrations, and so on and so forth. Make sure it's descriptive yet clear. Make sure the prices are not too low and not too high. Yes, there is such a thing as over-bidding. A client will be immediately turned off if the price is too exorbitant, and start looking for someone else. Plus, it’ll look weak if you make a steep price slash in order to accommodate a budget.
On that note, also have very clear payment options laid out. It's good to be flexible when it comes to payment, but not too lax. You don't want to be stuck with a large bill for months. Make sure that all the payment options work for you.
That's all for now. If any of you have any other theories and solutions to go along with these, please feel free to leave a comment.
Hiya, folks! I hope everyone is enjoying the dog days of summer. Here are some quick news and notes for all those itching for updates.
- First, in case you missed it, I recently illustrated a guest strip over at Menage a 3. It was really fun to work on, so go check it out if you haven't done so already.
- I'll be posting extra pages this week to close out this current chapter. I want to thank all my readers who patiently waited week after week for the updates. You guys are awesome (Awesome to the max). I don't want to come off as cocky or arrogant, but let me warn you: the opening sequence in Chapter 9 is gonna rock your socks!
- I recently finished all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars. Talk about a smart, witty, well-crafted show. I was always the contrarian nuisance who refused to believe that any cult show could ever be any good. I'm glad I finally overcame my silly, unwarranted prejudice (I think all fanboys like to feel that they discover something by themselves, rather than following the popular opinion).
After watching a show that cleverly and adequately unravels a season long mystery, I'm left underwhelmed for two reasons: 1.) I'm sad that the show no longer exists in any form. At least Whedon properties exist in comics and movies. 2.) I wish Lost would've followed the same structure as Veronica Mars: resolve one mystery at the end of one season -- then build the next mystery on top of that.
Although the overlapping mysteries of Lost were compelling, it was turgid and impenetrable, and became unresolvable. Hence the cop-out ending. (Sayid and Shannon? REALLY?! I'm supposed to believe that somehow they're destined for one another in heaven/sideways universe/deus ex machina?) Oh well, at least it was touching.
- I've taken on a new hobby: increasing my vertical leap. My goal is to eventually dunk a basketball. That's right, you heard me.
Anyhoo, that's it for now. I wanted to chime in on the whole controversy surrounding the flash game producer. That's a whole separate can of worms, so I'll save that for another time.
...I started tailscomic.com as a webcomic. It's bizarre how quickly a year can fly by. It's been a great year; posting up stories, getting feedback, receiving both good and bad reviews, conversing with all you folks out there. I hope all of you have enjoyed reading Tails as much as I've enjoyed creating it.
Here's to another year of Tails!
Matthue: I never used to be a book snob, but I think I'm starting to become one.Maybe it's this whole Downfall Of The Publishing Industry thing, and I only really want to invest in nice-looking hardcovers anymore. Maybe I've just run out of space in my library, and I only want to commit to nice-looking books. Or maybe I've just run out of money.
All this is just a nice way of saying: I like expensive books, and I wish I could buy them. So when my friend Jake showed up to lunch toting -- or, actually, lugging, because it was so big -- a handsome slipcase edition of 'Absolute Sandman', I nearly coughed up my own intestinal tract and ate that for lunch. Granted, Jake works for a publisher and frequently brings me advance copies of stuff. But a $100 hardcover -- one that's out of print, no less -- is not the sort of thing that either of us ordinarily comes in contact with.
I'm a little bit ashamed at how much I love nice books. When I saw the cover of my own first book, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Inside, though, it looked as boring as any other book -- every chapter heading was the same, all the pages had the same layout as every other book on the label. In the designer’s defense, he did use a cooler-than-average font, and he must've gone through a hundred different fonts to find one that wasn’t totally bland—but that’s all it was, a different font.
Maybe I've just been spoiled. Reading comics -- especially reading someone like Neil Gaiman, or Alan Moore, who spend hours detailing the minutiae of how each panel looks. Yes, just mentioning their names is a cliché, but it's obvious that they were both the kind of kids who read each page of a comic a hundred times as kids. They really appreciate the graphic design of a page; you can go over the panels and margins of, say, 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' and find something new each time.
That's what I want my books to be like. The ones I write, the ones I read, the ones I buy. I know my prose-books won't get that way until I start self-publishing, or until I get really big -- Scholastic doesn't let their mid-range authors anywhere NEAR the design computers -- but a boy can dream.
And, in the meantime, I've still got my comics to read. And my omnibus Sandman to obsess over.
Ethan: It's funny that you've mentioned the subject of the never-ending omnibus hardcover releases, because I've very adamantly leaned towards the opposite side of the spectrum. I almost NEVER give any thought to those deluxe hardcovers. I'm strictly faithful to paperbacks; the worn edges, the musky smell of a library, and just sitting comfortably on the couch with a book in your hands. Besides the fact that it can be intimate, the paperback also offers a tangible satisfaction. It's art that you can touch, carry, lend and borrow.
Sure you can lend a DVD or a CD (cuz you can just download shit, right?), but music and movies both need devices to operate. You can argue that an iPod (or any of those i-Products) offers the same intimacy I've described for a paperback, but to me, it's a blank slate that an owner just projects their media onto. That's not the same as opening up a paperback on your lap and entering a world the author created specifically for you to experience. The art is one format, one presentation, no assembly required, no batteries. Just adequate lighting so you don't hurt your eyes.
Although harsh to say, I kinda hate those over-sized, expensive hardcovers. To me, those kinds of books destroy the intimacy that can be achieved between creator and reader. I've tried reading a 20 lbs hardcover before (it was last year when I was trying to get through 'LOCAS'), and I just felt like the story was being presented to me as a collection of sleek, over-polished gallery pieces.
Another example: part of me wants to purchase the deluxe hardcover of the 'Calvin & Hobbes' archives. But I know that once I do, it would sit on my bookshelf forever (outside of the occasional times when I'll show it to a guest or flip through it myself). And I think most fans who own those deluxe volumes of 'C&H' own it for the same reasons: they love the original material, they're loyal to the material, and they want to own it. But I'll bet all those same fans will head straight to the paperback volumes of 'C&H' if and when they decide to re-read it (re-read the WHOLE thing, not just one small section). And in the end, those deluxe volumes have lost all their functionality; more a symbol than anything.
I know I'm preaching to the choir, and I know you love paperbacks as much as I do. But I guess I'm just trying to say...to HELL with those big, fancy hardcovers!
Matthue: You totally caught me on the Calvin & Hobbes front. I've never been voluntarily into buying the expensive editions -- actually, as a kid, I resented the concept of "collected editions" so much that I cut out every Sunday's strip, dating it and everything. I mean, they were in color. It was a totally different world.
I actually think this is the single thing that's going to rescue us all from the monster that is the KiPad. Nice-looking books. Why should I pay $8 to own a digital copy of the new David Byrne album that gets fried the next time my iPod decides to reboot itself when I can pay $12, get a CD in a swanky case with cool drawings in the liner notes? And I can keep it on the shelf and show it off to other geeks when they come over.
Which is why, Mr. Ethan Young, you need to give me something to wrap my grubby paws around. I'm sick of reading 'Tails' on Google Reader. I want PAGES. I want something I can show my mom.
Recently ran into this interesting article detailing Brian Bolland's fight against artistic plagiarism. I just figured I'd post up a link because I personally find artistic plagiarism -- otherwise known as swiping -- otherwise known as stealing -- to be heinous and dickish. Homage is one thing, stealing is another.
Hiya, Folks! Starting this week, Tails will be updated once-a-week every Monday. The simple truth is, I'm posting pages faster than I can finish them (even though all of these stories are done months in advance). I know this is a big change from the twice-a-week updates you've all become accustomed to. But this was a necessary adjustment to a.) ensure regular updates for the loyal readers and b.) maintain the highest possible quality of comic book work. Read on and enjoy.
Hiya, Folks. You might have noticed today that this site is sporting a slightly new look. I've finally got the site revamped, and most of the previous problems plaguing the site have been eradicated.
- Comments are no longer acting up. When you leave a comment on a certain page, it'll appear on that page.
- The Blog Archive has been reactivated, and now you can go back and re-read all my endless rants.
- The drop-down menus at the bottom of the page have been removed. Sorry if anyone was a fan of those; they were causing too many problems.
- The site no longer looks like complete and total shit on IE. Just the normal shit you get with IE.
Because of the updates, the site may look a bit strange when you first visit. Just hit refresh and it should be fine. If anyone notices any additional problems that I've missed, please drop a line to inform me.
Hey, Folks! Hope everyone is off to a good new year. Just want to mention a quick change to all you Tails readers out there. Because of all the constant confusion to whether or not Ethan's parents are actually his birth parents (people keep mistaking the grey hair for blond), I've colored in his parents' hair so that the resemblance is more visible (go back and re-read some of the pages if your interest is piqued). The parents look more Asian now, so stop asking me if Ethan is adopted =P
Greetings. Next week I'll be showcasing the work of the talented Tricia Van den Bergh in a segment I'd like to call (wait for it...) Short Tails. Don't worry, the installment is only 4 pages long, and Tails will return the following week. With Chapter 5 (and the first storyarc) drawing to a close, I figured you could all use a nice little vignette before moving onto Chapter 6.
Tricia's previous contribution to the comic book world was in Syncopated, a comics anthology released by Villard Books last year (which is stellar, by the way). Short Tails will be a reoccurring segment here, usually showcasing vignettes and short stories (either by me or another artist I feel deserves more attention), and will pop up whenever the hell I feel like it.
Everyone who's around and happens to enjoy Short Tails should say so and speak up. Leave comments!
Peace out, y'all!
Season's Greetings, folks! Hope everyone out there is enjoying the holidays and having a safe and wonderful time. Here are some recent updates for all of you:
- I recently moved to upstate NY (Oneonta, NY to be exact) with my girlfriend, Carol. It was a big change for this city boy, but I'm adjusting to suburban life a bit better than anticipated (alcohol and Nintendo Wii come in handy). As a result, this will effect some of my convention plans next year. I was originally planning to hit MOCCA 2010, but now that's up in the air. I'll keep you all posted...
- I was recently reviewed/interviewed over at Fandomania.com by Kelly Melcher. Kelly was kind enough to showcase Tails for their weekly webcomic column. We discussed a multitude of topics ranging from the comic's origins to the comic's future. I guess there are a few spoilers here and there. Go give it a read.
- I'm almost done with Chapter 9, which caps off the 2nd large storyarc of Tails. It's a great feeling to bring this next chapter to a close. I can't say much about it now, but I think you'll all be pleasantly surprised/shocked/delighted when the time comes to read it.
- Saw Avatar last week and needless to say, I walked away happy. Not deliriously happy like when I walked away from Up and Inglorious Basterds, but I think Cameron did a good job. I think the preemptive backlash Avatar received has been unfair to say the least. Yes, it was over-hyped (as it needs to be to earn back that 1/2 billion budget) and yes, it's Dances with Wolves in Space (which only marginalizes the story but misses the whole point), but Cameron delivers an enjoyable cheez-fest epic adventure with some of the best visuals since Jackson's King Kong. The theater around Oneonta had a small screen, but the 3D and CGI were still superb, so I can only imagine what the IMAX experience would be like.
Everyone is complaining about the cheezy dialog and predictable plot. First off, the dialog was terse and a tad lack-luster, but it was nowhere as cheezy as people implied. (Sure, it had a few melodramatic moments here and there, but what movie doesn't?) If anything, given the situation, a lot of the actors did a great job delivering the dialog. I mean, come on, you're dealing with a story about 10 foot blue cat people! The fact that the actors can play it straight and pull you into the story is an achievement. And the predictable plot? Yeah, no shit -- it's intentionally predictable, it's a formula. In fact, it's better that way, because it doesn't distract from the visual story-telling. The plot and story are appropriate for this film and I doubt James Cameron thinks his screenplay is great either.
You may be asking me how I can forgive Avatar for its missteps and still walk away enjoying the film? Well, the same way I can forgive Star Wars: A New Hope -- which also had a mediocre, lack-luster screenplay. Think I'm joking? Go watch Kurt Russell's reading for the role of Han Solo, if you haven't already. It's clear that Harrison Ford saved Star Wars; he took 'cheezy' dialog and made it 'cool'. He injected the film with its much needed charisma, charm and accessibility. Yeah, sure, you have the great music, the cool lightsaber battles and the universal themes, but Star Wars gave you just a little something extra when Harrison Ford was on the screen. I know that pointing out the faults in Lucas' films doesn't excuse Cameron, but I still think it's a valid point to make.
I think if we really stood back and watched our favorite action-adventure films from our childhood with a more objective eye, we'd make a lot of the same criticisms that everyone is making about Avatar today. Try reading some comics you loved as a child and I'm sure you'll cringe just a little. I guess what I'm trying to say is (I'll have to bring this rant to a close sometime), Avatar may not be Cameron's best film, but it's a good film in its own right (and not just on visual merit). And when it comes to films like his, which are essentially romantic films, we have to surrender ourselves just a little, just like you did as a child. I'm not saying you have to dumb yourself down, but try not to be so jaded. There's a kid watching Avatar right now who's experiencing the film the same way you experienced Raiders of the Lost Ark.
And hey, at least Avatar's not a Star Wars prequel (ba-zing!)
- The NY Knicks are back on a winning streak! Go KNICKS!!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Hey, folks! Here are some highlights and updates for all you 'Tails' readers out there...
- The site is still being renovated as we speak. I know the site is still funking up here and there, especially when you try to leave a comment. Yeah, it pisses ME off, too. All I can say is, bear with me. If any of you have a direct question you'd like to ask, just feel free to email me.
- As of now, Chapter 8 has been completed. Yay! Now on to Chapter 9.
- I was recently interviewed over at Sequential Tart. (Needless to say, the interviewer and the last reviewer are not one and the same) Go give it a read.
I want to thank everyone who poured in support concerning the bad review I received. But just to make things clear, I was never upset with the review of the comic itself. If someone doesn't like 'Tails', there's nothing you can do about it. I was more upset with someone trying to pass a bias judgment off as journalism.
But the interviewer was really nice.
- Recently finished watching all 5 seasons of 'Lost' in 2 weeks. When the show first aired, I missed a big chunk of the episodes, thus ruining both my comprehension of the continuity and my overall enjoyment. But thank god for Hulu. I also avoided watching the show for this long because I knew how easily I would be hooked. DAMN YOU, BAD ROBOT!!!!
I'm a weak individual when it comes to TV shows (or at least TV shows I like). I become a TV junkie. Earlier this year, I re-watched all 7 seasons of 'Buffy' along with all 5 seasons of 'Angel'. Also watched 'Firefly' for the very first time and completely fell in love with the show.
- My girlfriend and I visited the Museum of Natural History yesterday and purchased tickets for the show at Hayden Planetarium. While waiting to enter the auditorium, we see David Duchovny walk in with this kids. We both end up gawking. I think he noticed...
On a related note, Dinosaur fossils are awesome!
That's about all for now.
As the great Al Gore once said, "PEACE OUT, Y'ALL!"
One of my best friends, Timmy (who's currently in Australia), responded to my latest blog concerning Sequential Tart's review. Timmy put a lot of thought into his response, so I figured I'd share it with you guys:
"'Offending' is the euphemism of the moment for 'burdening with accountability' . While before a person could hide behind blissful ignorance, now they have no excuse and attacking the person who happened to inform them is easier than making any changes in their thought patterns or, scarier yet, lifestyle. Religious people use it when their beliefs don't stand up to simple reality, politicians use it when their ideology doesn't stand up to investigation, and everyone else uses it whenever rectifying a nugget of guilt in their brain would be an inconvenience.
The reviewer simply doesn't have the wherewithal nor bothered to obtain it to be discussing such things and hides the fact behind the convenient curtain of delicate sensibilities. She must also be the last person on earth to find questioning the ethics of wearing fur "extremist" - even the industry has largely given up that line of attack.
Worse, as far as the reviewers position as a critic of fiction, she shows the embarrassingly naive inability to distinguish between author, narrator, and characters. Instead, every word every character says is taken as a literal, didactic diatribe to the reader saying, "This is how I feel, think, and act, and so should you." No wonder she would then miss the point entirely, reading the pages as if the character were saying "That coat is literally made of the very dog the woman is walking." It's this kind of devolved barfthink that leads people to try and censor Huck Finn for having characters use the word "nigger" or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" for its straightforward descriptions of rape and violence. It's as if they didn't even read past the text at all, and indeed the reviewer admits she would have stopped reading had she not started from the back. What thoroughness! What rigor! What professionalism!
Such a basic mistake in reading comprehension is especially embarrassing when the subject is something like Tails, a story of a boy growing, learning, struggling with his identity, exposing his vulnerabilities or trying not to, etc. I can't fathom how one can read Tails and come away thinking of it as the heavy-handed, exposition-centered, Ayn-Randish lecture her review spends the bulk of its thickest paragraph portraying it as.
A partly positive review from such a source is more of a liability than a benefit, honestly. I wouldn't spread it around."
To be fair, I don't think the reviewer at Sequential Tart was in support of fur, she just detested my 'vulgar sense of humor'. That's perfectly fair. Not everyone can appreciate the term, 'Bear's Vagina'.
On another note, Jared Gniewek wrote a very wonderful review of 'Tails' over at NYC Graphic Novelists. The review was thorough, critical and insightful. Go give it a read.
'Tails' was recently reviewed over at Sequential Tart. It was fair and balanced, but I feel like I need to address an excerpt from the review: "If the first two pages had been the first two I'd seen, I would have stopped reading. Period. The PETA-esque extremism and hate is a huge turn-off. First of all, the fur coat the lady is wearing is not made of dogs (yes, I know the author knows this as well, but it's a poor analogy). Secondly, calling someone a "bear's vagina" is so far from an intelligent argument or even a good savvy comment to make to someone wearing furs when you're anti-fur that it's not even funny. Animal Rights activists should be outraged at such a comment, so I hope the author's not trying to gain support for the anti-fur angle. Insulting someone is never going to get them to change their ways. Thankfully for Ethan, I had seen his humor in later pages so I kept reading, but had a mental note to stop if any other such vulgar comments were made."
Now, those of you who have been following 'Tails' since the beginning know that I'm Vegan (or at least you should know). I don't think of myself as an 'extremist', but I do understand and accept the fact that my views and opinions might seem a tad extreme to some of you (if not most of you). You may also have picked up that I have a huge potty mouth. What can I say, that's just the way I am. If you don't share my sense of humor, then there's nothing I can do about it.
I don't blame the reviewer for being offended by the first couple of pages. To be fair, she also said a lot of nice things about 'Tails'. I'm not here to challenge the reviewer's comments. I am, however, here to point out that she got one thing very wrong, where she noted "...the fur coat the lady is wearing is not made of dogs."
The fur industry does use cat and dog fur imported from China. Sorta like how we slaughter horses in this country but ship the meat to France (because I'm guessing the average American doesn't want to have My Little Pony for dinner). Granted, not all the fur used is from cats and dogs, but make no mistake that cats and dogs do get killed for their fur -- and their meat, for that matter. Bender Burgers, anyone? (If you get that reference, kudos to you!)
When I first started fostering my cats, my mother told me a story (partly in guilt) about how she had to chop the head off of a dog; a dog who was kind, loyal and had a sweet disposition. But at the end of the day, they needed to do what had to be done. I don't -- or can't -- blame my mom for what she was forced to do back in Communist China (especially since their dictator at the time was horrendous). But it's a fact of life that in some places, cats and dogs get slaughtered on a daily basis - and some of the by-products, such as their fur, will find their way back to our shores. Cat and dog fur is usually mislabeled, so people will be none the wiser.
I've included a link to an undercover video that shows cats and dogs being transported and skinned for fur. Warning: it's fairly long and graphic, and you may not even be able to stomach watching the whole thing. Some of you will respond with shock, some with disbelief, some with indifference, and I'm gonna guess that some will have your defense mechanisms kick in and respond with humor. "Haha, they stomped on that kitten!!"
But please, if you do decide to click on that link to watch the video, click on it with an open mind.
I'm not here to convert anybody, or force people to join some cause (if I wanted to do that, I'd post animal rights banners all over the bloody site). I just want to inform people; especially when others spread misinformation.
Sorry for getting all pseudo-political on you folks, I'm sure this all seemed rather trivial to most of you.
Now back to the comic.
I recently received a comment concerning Ethan's ethnicity, which read, "I didn't realize Ethan was supposed to be Asian." Just in case you all didn't realize (or didn't read the description in the 'About' section), yes, Ethan is intended to be Asian. However, it was never emphasized in either the story or the illustrations, so don't feel bad. I always thought that giving Ethan thick black hair and slightly smaller eyes was evidence enough, but I've been drawing this character for so long, I'm not the best judge. And I'll admit, there are certain pages where Ethan looks very Anglo.
Honestly though, I'm surprised this didn't come up earlier. It was always an issue while I was doing 'Tails'. None of my friends thought that Ethan looked Asian enough (if at all). Ethan was always intended to be a representation of me, not a replication (hence why I always refer to him in the third person). I tend to think of Ethan as what I'd like to be (handsomer, taller, quirkier, always has a good hair day).
Just to be clear, this is what I look like (it's dark chocolate that I have in my mouth):
And this is what Cartoon Ethan looks like:
Observe and compare. Cartoon Ethan looks about as Asian as Cartoon Jackie did in 'The Jackie Chan Adventures'. I guess I can blame mainstream American media (easy enough scapegoat), where Asian characters always tend to be white-washed in some way. Remember Grunge from 'Gen 13'? Kwai Chang Caine from 'Kung Fu'? Or how about the upcoming 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' film? They didn't even bother to cast an Oriental kid for the lead role. It's internalized, being an Asian-American. You grow up wanting to look more...well, white. (I speak for myself, not for every Asian-American kid.)
But I know I'm not alone. How many of you have read 'American Born Chinese' by Gene Yang, where the main character wishes he was a white kid? Or 'Shortcomings' by Adrian Tomine? These stories really hit home, and capture the self-doubt, self-loathing, self-deprecating self-image that a lot of Asian-Americans have. I went through that stage myself. Over it now.
Of course, none of this really matters, because you can enjoy 'Tails' no matter what race, creed or gender you are. And if you enjoy it less because Ethan is Asian, then you have a real problem...
But still, I wanna ask you, the readers, for your opinion. What ethnicity did you think Ethan was? Leave a comment at the bottom of this page or shoot me an email, don't be shy. This is kinda like a social experiment for me. And don't worry about sounding politically incorrect =P
A funny thing about today's page (Chapter 2 - pg 9 of 13), it's the only page from the original Tails that's left intact. No changes whatsoever from the print version. I guess I just like this page a lot. Or maybe it's because it's one of the few pages that doesn't feature the main characters, so I didn't stress over it as much. At any rate, enjoy!
As of last night, the 7th chapter of Tails was completed; way ahead of schedule. Woohoo! I originally thought I'd be working on chapter 7 for the rest of 2009 (at least). It's great to have some breathing room. Now I'm going to enjoy the weekend with some beer and mexican food.
I find that I’m collecting more comics these days, which is astounding considering that they’re $3.99 a piece now. It started with Batman & Robin, which I bought mainly to see what crazy stuff Morrison and Quitely were gonna throw out.Then I hopped over to Streets of Gotham to get my monthly dose of Dini and Nguyen (I loved what Dini did with Detective, making the stories self-contained, yet subtly building up other story-arcs, such as Zatanna and Bruce’s relationship).
After those two, I thought, “Well, let’s see what’s going on in the regular Batman title.”I missed the whole Battle for the Cowl thing, but caught up fairly quickly (because you’d have to be a complete dumbshit if you didn’t realize that Dick Grayson was the obvious successor to Batman’s throne). I’m not the biggest fan of the art (I like Ed Benes and Mark Bagley enough, but I’m more into clean, cartoony stuff these days), plus the book is colored in that heavily saturated, make-everything-look-shiny style that I tend to shy away from.However, I’m smitten with Judd Winick’s direction for the book.What can I say?I’m a sap, and I’m drawn in by the melodrama.Dick and Alfred crying?Playing up the father-son angle between Bruce and Alfred?I was hooked.I like Alfred (seriously, who doesn’t?) and I’m glad that his character is being used as the emotional anchor for the Bat-family again.(Come to think of it, was he even that noticeably upset when Bruce got crippled in the 90s?)
Also, I really dig the whole Dick-learning-to-be-Batman angle.I like coming of age stories (can you tell with Tails?), and this is a pretty cool one.Lastly, I’ve been collecting Rucka and Williams’s Detective, because I couldn’t miss out on the gorgeous art.So, all in all, I’m collecting pretty much the entire Batman line, which I’ve never done.I always thought my comic collecting would dissipate as I grew older, but I’m glad that’s not the case.
Anyway, enough of that, time for another installment of…
HOW TO MAKE A LIVING WITH YOUR ART WITHOUT BEING FAMOUS: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF FREELANCING!!
-Get your own website
It’s great to showcase your art over at sites like DeviantArt or Guru.com; those places are wonderful for networking and finding clients.But ultimately, you’ll need your own website as well.
Imagine you run into someone at a coffee shop (or a bar or a bookstore, whatever), and it turns out he/she could be a potential client (could be an art director, could be an editor, could be an event planner, the possibilities are endless).Now, you hand him your business card, he takes a look, flips it over and sees an unpronounceable weblink listed as your site.“Oh, you don’t have your own site?”Now keep in mind, this potential client might not be looking for an artist at the moment.He might not even give your business card a second glance once it goes into his pocket.It might be forgotten and washed up with his laundry.This is why your website needs to be simple and easy to remember.Something like, fullname + art.com will stick in a person’s mind much more than http://websitename.com/blah-blah-blah#@.Sure, a person who’s really interested in your work will sit in front of the computer and type all that shit out, but let’s not take any chances.
As a freelancer, you’re going to be viewed as a business (especially by the IRS). That means you’ll have to start treating it like a business - which means you’ll have to think about marketing. (Ugh…)
-Make business cards
This probably should’ve been listed first, seeing as how I’ve just mentioned it before.
Having business cards, especially well designed ones, are essential to a successful freelance career.Not only is it your calling card, but it encapsulates professionalism.And once again, since you’re acting as your own business, professionalism is the name of the game.Business cards are cheap to produce; places like VistaPrint.com can offer you great deals (but I’m sure you can find great deals at dozens of other places).It’s worth the investment.Make sure to leave your business cards at locations where other artists (or people who tend to hire artists) frequent, such as a coffee shop.Some years back, a local musician contacted me after discovering my card at THINK coffee (a trendy coffee shop/music venue located in NYC’s West Village) and he developed into a regular client.
-Color your work as much as possible
This might seem like a no-brainer (they’re actually ALL no-brainers when you think about it), but I’ve seen a lot of aspiring comic artists struggle because they don’t (or can’t) color their own work; they only want to pencil, or ink.Look, I hold great respect for those who want to concentrate on one medium and excel at it - but it’s really hard to make a living if you’re solely marketing yourself as, say, an inker.Even professional inkers will tell you that.
In the past, I’ve lost freelance jobs simply because I didn’t color my own work (this was before I buckled down and bought a Wacom tablet).Most clients you meet outside of the comic book world will be unfamiliar with the division of labor within the comic book field.They won’t go out of their way to find another colorist; they want to get everything at a one-stop shop.
Imagine going into a coffee shop to purchase a hot cup of coffee (yes, I know this is the third time I’ve used coffee shop as an example) only to discover that they don’t offer milk.You have to go next door, or the next block, to get milk for your coffee. (Am I driving the point through yet?)
Be as versatile as possible, and you’ll survive longer as a freelancer.After I bought my Wacom tablet, my freelance work literally doubled within months, and that’s no joke.
So, I guess the main theme for today is business.To make it as a freelancer, you have to start thinking of yourself as a business.I know that sounds a bit cold and detached, but it’s the hard truth.I’ve seen so many talented artists unable to jumpstart their careers for lack of business skills.Don’t fall into that trap.
And go get a cup of coffee.
Tails has just been reviewed over at Coyote Trax's Webcomics Critique and The Comic Book Catacombs. Both reviewers had nothing but good things to say about this humble little comic of mine, so go over and take a look!
In addition to those, Tails was also reviewed over at Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast. It's a little weird to listen to people talk about Tails at length for a good 10 minutes. Weird yet satisfying. Go take a listen.
Like everyone else in the comic book world, I spent this past week soaking up the awesomeness that was Wednesday Comics. I was frightened at first (since there was a rumor that stores under-ordered), and my regular shop, Roger’s Time Machine, isn’t always fully stocked (still my favorite comic shop though).Luckily, that was not the case, and even though Wednesday Comics contained merely 15 pages of actual content, it took me twice as long to absorb compared to the Batman issue I purchased.
I can’t judge the stories yet, but the art is astounding; especially the Green Lantern story illustrated by Joe Quinones.I mean, all the artists were stellar, but Quinones’s work had a certain flare and quality that reminded me of Dave Stevens’s Rocketeer stuff; an old-school craftsmanship, you could say.I’ve never heard of Quinones before this week, but was completely blown away.This one issue of Wednesday Comics reminded me why I fell in love with comics in the first place.
Which coincidentally brings to mind a certain era: the 90s.The infamous speculators’ market. (Or was it spectator's market?)Say what you will about the comics industry in the 90s, but in my mind, that was the last time a mass audience fell in love with American comics.Without mentioning Manga, of course.I have nothing against Manga, but those are just a different set of circumstances.And I’m not counting casual readers who don’t collect comics but follow titles such as Strangers in Paradise, Y: the Last Man, etc., etc.I’m well aware of the crossover hits.
During the 90s heyday - a ton of grade schoolers, college kids and young adults were falling in love with American comics as a medium, or at least as an industry.“Hurray, we can invest in multiple copies!”
Every boy in my 3rd grade class was reading X-MEN, collecting the Marvel and DC trading cards, and watching the X-MEN cartoon.Comic shops (or at least shops that carried comics) were ubiquitous (to an 8 year old anyway).I remember this one hobby shop in Chinatown jumped on the bandwagon and decided to sell comics too.Image stuff.Valiant stuff.These old Chinese men knew NOTHING about comics, yet they were making a killing.
I’m not really trying to get at anything; just contemplating out loud.It’s just kinda sad how the American comics industry isn’t solidifying a new fan-base.Even after the speculators’ bubble burst in the mid 90s, the top selling comic was still reaching numbers as high as 300,000.What’s the highest selling monthly these days?100,000?150,000?
One can argue that it’s better now, since graphic novels are more prominent in book stores and we’re developing a casual readership versus planting the seeds to create future fanboys.I get that, I know that.But quite frankly, the romantic in me, misses the 90s.I miss the idea of sneaking your weekly purchases into school, avoiding confiscation by your teacher, trading comics & cards back and forth.
Ahh, the good ol’ days…
I know I’m just being nostalgic, and we always reconstruct memories in our head.I’m sure if you were an older reader at that time, you would’ve been horrified by the idea of Rob Liefeld starting his own studio.
Out of all the kids I knew in grade school / junior high who collected comics, I think I’m the only one still reading.That’s kinda sad, but not unexpected.You tend to outgrow things, but at least my old classmates will have American comics as a part of their childhood.“Hey, remember when we used to read Spawn?”They are the last people who will get to say that…
Anyway, that’s it for the ranting.Time for another installment of…
HOW TO MAKE A LIVING WITH YOUR ART WITHOUT BEING FAMOUS: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF FREELANCING!!
If you’re an aspiring comic book artist and you’re having trouble breaking into the comics industry - try doing storyboards in the meantime.
Now, I’m not talking about storyboards for a big-budget Hollywood film.I’m talking about the countless independent filmmakers, screenwriters and producers who are in need of your artistic abilities to bring their projects to life (so they can pitch it to financiers).Think about it – storyboards and comics both utilize the art of sequential storytelling. But with storyboards, you don’t have to stress over every tiny detail (since more often than not, all that’s required are simple, loose drawings).
If you haven’t done so already, look on Craigslist, which is where I’ve found some worthwhile storyboard jobs.It should be much easier if you live in or near a metropolitan area.I find that a lot of people view Craigslist as simply a haven for spammers, scammers and crap gigs that pay you shit.Although that may be roughly accurate, there are always some hidden gems.More importantly, check job sites that cater to freelancers, such as Guru.com and iFreelance.Those two sites both costs money to join, of course.
Storyboarding will help expand your portfolio and hopefully put some cash in your pocket.Indie filmmakers are usually more willing to pay (even if it’s a little), versus most aspiring comic creators who prefer collaborations.I don’t have anything against the latter, but we’re talking about paying the bills here, right?You could make the argument that collaborations with a 50/50 split of future profits is more lucrative in the long run, and I completely respect that, but let’s not open up that can of worms tonight.
Quick update: Tails was recently reviewed over at Comics Worth Reading.
Okay, now back to the show.
When people ask about my occupation, I get a bit tongue-tied over my response.What do I say?Comic book artist?Artist?Cartoonist?Drawing Extraordinaire?To me, artist is a bit of a gift word – like the word cool.You can’t call yourself cool, because that makes you kinda uncool (and kinda lame if you think about it). And as for the term comic book artist, that would imply that I actually draw Batman or Spiderman for a living, not a self-indulgent comedy about my cat-hair-covered-love life.
I generally stick with the term illustrator.It’s such a sleek, technical term; and most appropriate for the work I normally do.Most of my clients are either advertising firms or independent entrepreneurs who need an illustrator to translate their ideas into eye-catching 2D form.
After people learn about my job, two questions will always follow:
Q: You can make a living off that, Ethan?
A: Why yes, kind sir, I can.
Q: HOW?Do you have an agent?
A: Nope… and stop looking at me like that…
Q: Then HOW???
Okay, so that was more like three questions, but you get my point.Everyone always wants to know how I do it; how I’ve transitioned from starving artist to…not-so-hungry artist?Well, since you asked - be prepared for the first installment of…
HOW TO MAKE A LIVING WITH YOUR ART WITHOUT BEING FAMOUS: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF FREELANCING!!
Ok, let’s begin.The first lesson should be a fairly obvious one.If you want to be a successful freelancer, you’ll need both confidence and tough skin.I’m talking beef jerky tough!(Or soy-jerky in my case)
When I first started out, I was like any other rookie: timid and submissive.Around the summer of ’07, I had one particular client - for sake of anonymity we’ll call him Bob - who hired me to design characters for his budding comic property (release date was tentative, and I’ve yet to see it on the shelves).The pay was good (professional rates), and the work came naturally enough (big muscles, perky boobs, the usual).
However, Bob was a bully (although he’d never admit it).As a stock broker by day, Bob could afford to pay professional rates, but with his notable budget also came his Wall Street arrogance.Bob’s idea of encouragement was to break you down emotionally and intellectually, until you truly saw yourself as just another cog in his machine.He took every opportunity to remind me of my relative inexperience (he probably took a smidgen of pleasure in it, too).He’d criticize everything on the page in the most demoralizing fashion possible. (Remember those pretentious snobs in art class who passed judgment for the sake of passing judgment?) And hey, I welcome criticism from my clients, especially if it’s constructive and insightful and will help improve my work.But there’s a HUGE difference between constructive criticism and plain-old condemnation.
I eventually stopped working for Bob after a few short months.Bob was not happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many great working relationships over the years, but there’s always a bad apple in the bunch.Or three or six…
So, develop a tough skin so you may learn to deal with all the various Bobs in the world.But more importantly, learn to be confident so you may not have to.True, being paid professional rates is GREAT for a rookie, but it’s not worth being put in the corner wearing the proverbial dunce cap.Establish - as quickly as possible - just how good and valuable you are.Don’t let anyone ‘Alpha-Dog’ you.If you take away only ONE thing from this essay, let it be this: the client needs YOU more than you need the client.That may not seem true at first, but it is.They may have the money, but you have the talent.
Or, you know, come to think of it… you could just land yourself an agent which will make your life MUCH easier.But hey, we don’t aspire to become comic artists ‘cause it’s easy, right?
WELCOME TO TAILSCOMIC.COM! I WILL BE YOUR HOST, ETHAN YOUNG! GLAD TO MEET YA! (Shake hands)
In a nutshell, this website is devoted to the re-launch of my first comic, Tails, along with new stories for all the Tails fans out there (all 8 of you).
For those of you who haven’t heard of Tails (I won’t hold it against you), it’s the semi-autobiographical adventures of a young, quirky Asian vegan who lives with his parents while struggling to become a cartoonist.The twist: he’s an animal rescuer with a dozen cats in his bedroom.I know, sounds like a winner! Tails was originally released in late 2005 as a 3 issue mini series and then collected into a trade paperback, Tails: Life in Progress. The collected volume was awarded Best Graphic Novel during the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards.All in all, the book was fairly well received.There was even a sequel planned for 2007, Tails: Addicted to Sin.
So…why the new website and re-launch?Lemme explain.
Like every other deluded, quixotic creator entering the field with their head in the clouds, I was expecting immediate riches and rewards; that all the wealth, fame and glory I deserved would fall directly onto my lap (I didn’t have a dime to my name in those days, so money was a major concern).
When you’re putting out a 24 page black & white comic, you wouldn’t need to sell that many copies to break even; and not that many more to turn a small, if not miniscule, profit(of course, this is only if we’re talking about printing costs).You sell about 2500 - 3000 copies, and you’re in Breaking-Even-Land.Do enough research, and you’ll find dozens of cautionary tales about self-publishing.You read them over and over again, and you think, “Oh, please!That ain’t gonna happen to me!I’m the next Jeff Smith!”Or Dave Sim or Terry Moore or whoever else you admire.Anyway…I ultimately learned, the hard way, just how rare it was to get pass the gates at Breaking-Even-Land.
At any rate, the sequel never saw print (obviously), but not for lack of completion.I completed all 80+ pages of Addicted to Sin around the winter of 2006, way ahead of schedule.However, the self-publishing route was more than I could really handle.I decided to try my hand at indie publishers.I sent the manuscript to all the major players in the indie field and got a wealth of lukewarm response.I even pissed off an editor or two with some contemptuous replies (hey, I was younger and more arrogant, gimme a break).
Afterwards, I decided to piece together Life in Progress and Addicted to Sin along with a third act to make one larger graphic novel; hopefully making it an easier sell to the publishers.Along the way, I thought, “Would it really hurt if I touched up a few pages?”What started as a simple ‘touch up’ turned into…well, let’s just say, out of the original graphic novel, only a handful of pages remained intact and unaltered.
Most of 2007 and 2008 was spent immersed in the re-editing process; as well as completing that glorious third act.Normally, it wouldn’t have taken me as long, but something amazing happened along the way: my freelance career started to gain momentum and I was actually able to sustain myself with it!I quit my day job as a dog-walker (not that I don’t still love dogs, but picking up their shit all day isn’t as fulfilling as you’d think) and started paying the bills with my art alone.A large part of my focus shifted from completing Tails to managing a fledging art career and learning new business skills, such as how to communicate articulately with the more big-wig clients.
After Tails was completed (again), I tried re-submitting it.Still no luck.
Then it dawned on me to release the entire comic online (I dunno why it didn’t dawn on me earlier).No editorial control, no having to deal with distributors, no having to worry about sales.Truth be told, I’d be working on Tails regardless of my financial situation.For better or worse, this comic is my baby; a labor of absolute love.So now, Tails is free for everyone to read.
And as for the people who actually did BUY Tails to support me, I only have one thing to say: thank you from the bottom of my heart.The numerous fan e-mails I received along this journey kept me going.I know you probably feel a bit ripped off right now, so I owe you one.Seriously.
I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it (hard to believe seeing as how I’ve just complained about the whole creative process).It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it.
Please read on.