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Do your comics live off the grid?

Frank Santoro's grid layouts

Get ready for some serious comics wonkery: Cold Heat cartoonist Frank Santoro (he of those bitchin’ Strange Tales II Silver Surfer pages) is talkin’ grids — specifically, the grid panel layouts most frequently used in North American comics. Frank’s argument is that the common six-panel grid is a great framework for pacing the flow of images but “loses the center” of the page, to which your eye would naturally be drawn, since there’s basically nothing there but a gutter. Three- or nine-panel grids, on the other hand, have a big ol’ box smack dab in the center, which gives the page extra power on an almost unconscious level. Santoro goes on to discuss some tricks artists have used to create a “center” for a page that uses a two/four/six/eight-panel grid, even though the grid itself gets in the way. It’s an eye-opening post if you’ve ever made comics, that’s for sure — read the whole thing.

Sketchbook: Ben Towle creates some characters

A character evolves in Ben Towle's sketchbook

Ben Towle has been working up his characters for his next graphic novel, In the Weeds (which sounds like it will be set behind the scenes at a restaurant), and he shows off his thought process at his blog. The book presents some challenges:

About half of the book takes place in a restaurant kitchen and this presents a prickly problem in that everyone will be dressed the same. It’d be really easy here to fall into an “Alien 3″ situation here where you’ve got a bunch of (mostly) white guys running around in the same outfit and you can’t tell who’s doing what or saying what unless you’re seeing a close-up of their faces.

It’s interesting to see how much the characters change as he refines them.

How to successfully pitch a superhero comic

from S.H.O.O.T. First by Justin Aclin and Ben Bates

from S.H.O.O.T. First by Justin Aclin and Ben Bates

It was an awesome thing to behold. My friend Justin Aclin — editor of ToyFare magazine, head writer of Twisted ToyFare Theater, and author of the graphic novel Hero House — came up with a great idea for a comic, about a super-powered team of militant atheists who track down and kill supposedly supernatural entities for meddling in humanity’s affairs. This was on a Monday. On Tuesday he pitched it to Dark Horse. On Wednesday it was greenlit. From idea to approval in under 48 hours. Amazing, right?

By now you’ve seen the end result: S.H.O.O.T. First, an eight-page story from the final issue of MySpace Dark Horse Presents. But if you’re an aspiring comics writer, perhaps you wanna see exactly how Aclin managed to catch lightning in a bottle in the first place.

Fortunately, he’s got your hook-up: On his blog, Aclin has posted his successful proposal for the comic. It sets up the concept, introduces the characters, and walks you through the plot of the initial short story in seven paragraphs and one catchphrase — pretty much a how-to for clear, concise, compelling comics pitches. Read and learn.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Love & Rockets

Love & Rockets

Digital | Sean Kleefeld points out the launch of Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels, “the first ever scholarly, primary source database focusing on adult comic books and graphic novels,” the site’s home page says.

The site currently hosts 24,000 pages of comics and a small number of The Comics Journal issues — all with the permission of the copyright holders — with plans to eventually expand to 100,000 pages of materials. The site’s advisers and partners include Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth and Kitchen Sink Press’ Denis Kitchen. Access to the site is available for one-time purchase of perpetual access or as an annual subscription. [Underground and Independent Comics]

Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson rounds up reactions from the manga community on the recent layoffs by Viz Media. [Publishers Weekly]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller crunches direct-market sales estimates for April, comparing them with previous years. [The Comichron]

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Everyone’s A Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

It Was the War of the Trenches

It Was the War of the Trenches

Peter Richardson discusses why World War I did not capture creators’ imaginations the way other wars have, and he accompanies his discussion with a beautiful counterexample, a sample from Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches, upcoming from Fantagraphics next month. (via Journalista)

Craig Fischer has a decidedly mixed review of The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, but then halfway through he goes roaring off into a digression on one of Hal Foster’s possible influences, Olive Beaupre Miller’s series of children’s books titled My Bookhouse. For good measure, someone just sent Ben Towle a set. (I had these as a kid, and they are lovely.) For more about Foster, see Ng Suat Tong’s recent post at The Hooded Utilitarian.

Tom Crippen, who is no Sarah Palin fan, cries foul nonetheless on Oliphant’s cartoon showing her postcoital encounter with a moose, pointing out that it probably reveals more about Oliphant than Palin.

Vom Marlowe reviews vol. 1 of Song of the Hanging Sky, a lovely manga with a quirky plot and a few perplexing translation problems.
Brian Heater thinks Jason’s Almost Silent is a good choice for graphic novel newbies.

Frank Santoro reviews Gipi’s Garage Band at Comics Comics.

Also at Comics Comics: Jeet Heer posts some loosely related notes on John Stanley.

Larry Cruz explains why video game webcomics are a good thing at The Webcomic Overlook.

Sean Gaffney reviews D&Q’s latest Yoshihio Tatsumi release, Black Blizzard.

Everyone’s a Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

Super-cute bacteria from the Moyashimon anime

Super-cute bacteria from the Moyashimon anime

Biochemist/manga adaptor Lianne Sentar looks at three manga series that get the science right (well mostly) and are still entertaining.

Noah Berlatsky thinks he has settled the question of what is and isn’t a comic once and for all, and he makes a pretty good case, but the commenters manage to have a lively argument anyway.

Librarians Eva Volin and Robin Brenner discuss all 10 volumes of Emma, and they jump right in with a discussion of full frontal nudity.

Jog takes a look at the many forms and uses of the thought balloon, which, despite an editor’s admonition to Stephen King, is far from dead. Scott McCloud adds his two cents as well. Related: Chris Sims explains exactly what’s wrong with the lettering in the Twilight graphic novel.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Diamond Book Distributors

Diamond Book Distributors

Publishing | Citing frustrations over fulfillment, warehousing and invoicing issues, Checker Book Publishing Group reportedly has ended its exclusive book market agreement with Diamond Book Distributors. Simon Jones reports that Checker Publisher Mark Thompson made the announcement in a series of “strongly-worded posts” in a private online industry forum (Thompson apparently granted permission for the information to be reposted). Repeated attempts to contact Checker by phone this morning were unsuccessful.

The Dayton, Ohio-based publisher signed exclusively with Diamond in November 2003, expanding on an agreement made the previous year. Checker’s problems with the distributor apparently arose over the past 1 1/2 years. According to Jones’ post, “Outstanding canceled orders of Checker’s books are allegedly in excess of $250,000 in retail value.” Jones has more details. [Icarus Publishing]

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How to write comics …

the title page to an Antony Johnston script

the title page to an Antony Johnston script

the Antony Johnston way! After all those aspiring-writer Don’ts from Sara Ryan, Ron Randall and Dylan Meconis we linked to yesterday, I figured a few Dos would be much appreciated. Fortunately, Wasteland and Daredevil writer Antony Johnston has posted a lengthy essay in which he walks us through his writing process, from his first scribbled notes through outlines and pitches to his final polished script.

Johnston’s quick to point out that the best way to write is to find out what works for you and then do that, rather than slavishly aping what someone else does. “But you have to start somewhere,” he accurately notes, and getting a good look at the soup-to-nuts process of a professional writer like Johnston is as good a place as any.

(via Andy Diggle)

How NOT to write comics

Sara Ryan has advice for you

Sara Ryan has advice for you

Attention, aspiring comics writers and weary comics artists: Sara Ryan and friends are about to make your lives much easier. On her blog, Ryan and a few of her comics-making chums are offering advice for writers on what not to do when writing comics scripts for others to draw.

Ryan — who’s currently wrapping up the script for her upcoming DC/Vertigo graphic novel Bad Houseskicked things off by reminding us that it’s awfully hard to have a character do more than one thing per panel, even though it comes naturally to us to rattle off several actions in the course of a sentence.

Next up is Supergirl artist Ron Randall, who among other things notes that telling an artist to “impress me” with a particularly memorable scene or sequence is a roundabout way of insinuating that he or she otherwise isn’t all that impressive. And finally (for now), Family Man‘s Dylan Meconis offers seven tips, warning against everything from the overuse of film jargon to telling rather than showing to the dreaded words “Have fun with this!”

Given Ryan’s links to the seemingly ever-growing Periscope Studio, this could end up being quite a long-running recurring feature, so check back often!

(Via Hope Larson)


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