Super Seed #15- Super Seed Updating Regularly

Two panels from Super Seed, Episode 1, Page 11

It's been a week since I relaunched Super Seed at it's new online home, www.superseedcomic.com. I'm pleased with how the site looks, and I'm pleasantly surprised to find that I'm getting roughly the same number of daily page views as I was getting over at Zuda. I've been doing only a modest amount of web advertising, a lot less than I was doing during the Zuda competition. So, kudos to webcomicsnation for it's service and fan base. And thanks to all of you who are following Super Seed as the story continues.

And for the record...I love the Yankees.


Super Seed #14- The Story Continues! New Site!

Now that the April Zuda competition is far in my rear view mirror, it's time to continue the Super Seed story started there. I was nearly finished with the Episode 1: Donor story arc when it was chosen to be featured on Zuda. So, the good news is, I'll be able to update frequently and with consistency. So, add www.superseedcomic.com to your websurfing link lists, and follow the story.

To drum up some reads, here are the ads I'll be running....



On the Screen #1: Invincible?

I pride myself at being pretty adept at predicting box office performance. Two months ago, I predicted a great performance for Iron Man, but like almost all of the experts I underestimated the power of ol' Tin Head. I'm now predicting Iron Man will be the biggest "super hero" flick of the summer, and will gross more than Hancock and The Dark Knight (which both look great.) But is it possible Iron Man could end up being the biggest movie of the summer?

Here was my analysis two months ago when predicting how Iron Man would fair:

"Iron Man has the opportunity to start the summer off big. I imagine it will open in the 55 million territory, and with the help of good reviews, could approach 200 million domestic. Even if it's critically panned, it does $120 million easy....If Ghost Riderr could do that opening in February, Iron Man certainly will as the first big movie of the Summer. I expect the movie to do well with a top quality supporting cast (although it could use the Jessica Alba's butt factor that helped out the FF franchaise.) I think $170 range is doable for Iron Man."

What surprised me about Iron Man, and what led to it's incredible performance:
  1. Great reviews. I think the super hero genre of movies is relatively review proof...the 14 year old boys are going to come out regardless. But when these movies blow away the box office is when they are well-reviewed. Spider-Man 2 received great reviews and it smoked the competition. But who knew Iron Man's reviews would not only be positive, but it would be the best reviewed movie of the year thus far?
  2. Female appeal. Women love this movie. I thought the lack of a significant love story and the testosteroney marketing would have kept away the ladies. Not so. I've had a ton of female friends and family members tell me they loved the movie. Toss some credit to Robert Downey Jr.'s wit to attracting the ladies. And to quote my girlfriend, "The movie was good. I liked Gwyneth Paltrow's hair."
  3. The Blank Slate factor. Iron Man is not a household name and I think the movie was most viewers first exposure to the character. I think that helped. I heard someone brilliantly describe Iron Man as a "shiny new toy" or the surprise gift you didn't ask for but were surprised at how much you liked it. It was the perfect movie to kick off the summer flick season.
So, could Iron Man be box office king this Summer? Two months ago, I picked 4 movies to finish ahead of Tony Stark and company: The Dark Knight ($210 million), Wall-E ($220 million), Narnia: Prince Caspian ($240 million), and Indy 4 ($270 million.) Clearly, Iron Man is going to do better than 5th place. It's going to finish as the 4th highest grossing super hero movie of all time, behind the Spidey movies, and probably in the $275 million range. We've already seen one movie (Caspian) fall short of estimates. I will safely say that The Dark Knight will not top Iron Man, as no Batman movie has ever done more than $250 million, and this darker, grittier take, won't be the first, regardless of the Heath Ledger factor. I'm not changing my prediction on Wall-E.

So, will Indy top Iron Man? I'd say probably, but I wouldn't bet the house on it. Early chatter is that the movie is good, but not spectacular. However, it's going to have have four extremely strong weeks, before it has real competition in The Happening and The Incredible Hulk. I figure pretty much everyone is going to find their way to the theater as a break from the summer heat to see if Harrison Ford can still deliver.

The other big challenger to Iron Man is the unstoppable combination of Will Smith and the 4th of July. Two months ago, I said this about Hancock:
"Hancock, I'll put at 169 million without seeing a trailer or reading more than a one sentence description. If Will Smith can bring in 160 million playing a homeless stockbroker, imagine what he can do as a superhero. Could go as high as 200 million if it looks cool." Well, guess what? Hancock looks AWESOME. I think it'll battle Iron Man for the number two spot.

Looks like I'll be spending some serious time in the theaters this summer.


Grudge: A 24 Hour Comic #1- New Site

Last year I was crazy enough to partake in the 24 Hour Comic Challenge. I kid, it was a ton of fun. Comicopia, a Boston comic shop hosted the event, providing complimentary food and beverages for myself and twenty other artists all trying to draw a complete 24 page comic in just 24 hours.

I'm proud to say that fueled by about 7 Red Bulls, I stayed up for the full 24 hours and managed to complete all 24 pages of my comic, Grudge.

Here is the new online home for Grudge... http://www.webcomicsnation.com/tyler_james/grudge

Check it out.

Creator's Toolkit #1: Comic Writing Class

Monday was my last Comics Writing Workshop at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education. For the past six weeks, I've been attending the class, facilitated by Alexander Danner, as an opportunity to connect with some fellow comics creators and enthusiasts and to get feedback on my scripts. Taking a similar course 3 years ago at Georgetown's continuing education center was a major contributer to my getting back into creating comics. In fact, Super Seed was conceived (the puns don't stop) during that course. I decided that it was time to take another writing course to recharge my writing batteries.

You can check out the syllabus for the course I just took here.

I would strongly suggest that any aspiring comics writers, or even pros who find themselves in a rut, consider seeking out a similar class near them. Comics and graphic novel writing are hot courses at continuing education schools around the country. They're usually relatively inexpensive. Here are 5 reasons why taking such a course is a good idea:
  • Get your scripts and works-in-progress actually read. It's no secret that it's tough out there for aspiring writers. There are tons of places on the net where you can post artwork and get praise or critiques. But it's a lot harder to get strangers to take the time to sift through scripts and WIPs and actually give you valuable feedback. During this course, I had the opportunity to have six short scripts read by several different eyes, and each of those projects is going to be the better for it.
  • Make Connections. Let's face it, creating comics is not the most social activity in the world. You log long hours in front of a computer screen typing away or sitting at your drawing table slugging away at page after page. It's largely a solo endeavor. So getting out there and meeting fellow creators face to face is a good thing. Who knows you might even find someone to collaborate with on projects in the future.
  • You don't know everything. (And if you do, how's about sharing that knowledge?) There's a great wide world of comics out there. Taking this course exposed me to a whole bunch of webcomics I never would have found. It also caused me to pick up the incredible Making Comics by Scott McCloud. I highly recommend this book for its practical suggestions that'll help improve your craft. I also found that, low and behold, the past three years of slugging away at creating comics has given me a lot of valuable experience to other creators just starting out. From learning digital coloring to my experience with using on-demand publishers, it turns out I'm not quite a neophyte at this comics game anymore.
  • Promote yourself! If you are creating comics, chances are you're hoping someone or something will actually read them. When you're an aspiring creator, you really need to go grass roots to get people to follow your work, and that means trying to win over one fan at a time. A writing class is a good place to start. It just so happened that Super Seed was competing at Zuda the month the class began, so that was perfect timing for me.
  • You'll actually write. (AKA homework is good!) I can definitely say that I wrote a ton more these past six weeks than I would have had I not been meeting with my writer's class every Monday. There was one project in particular that I've been procrastinating on getting started, but this class forced me to put in the time and get it off to a good start. Sometimes we all need that bit of external motivation to keep at our craft, as there are plenty of other diversions out there in the world that keep us from creating comics. So a little enforced discipline is a good thing.

So, keep your eye out for a class near you. Definitely worth your time.


Velvet Rope # 6- Dead Shots

I mentioned this was a horror book, right?

Sketches and Layouts #3- Kodiak

Here is a quick, 15-minutes sketch of Kodiak, a lesser known character from Rob Liefeld's catalog. I did this for a sketch challenge over at Rob's board. You can monitor the challenge here.


Velvet Rope # 5: Raven

Here is a head shot for Raven Turner, one of the central characters to my story for the Velvet Rope horror anthology.

Velvet Rope #4- Layouts

While I hurried to get the pencils for page 1 done quickly so that Bong could get started with his inks, I decided to spend some time laying out the whole story before continuing with the finished pencils. These thumbnails were done relatively small (5 x 7.5) on standard white computer paper. Overall, I think it's progressing nicely.


Velvet Rope #3- Page 1 Preview

Here's a sneak peak at the first page for my Velvet Rope story. Can't wait to see what Bong does with it with his inks.


Velvet Rope # 2: Sketches and Character Design

I tried to spend a little more time doing character reference sketches. The cast is a diverse group of high school seniors. I like the approach for Raven...I buy her as a witch. But I really love the sketch of Heather...I buy her as a bitch.


Velvet Rope #1- Intro

So, now that Zuda is done dominating my comics life for the foreseeable future, I suppose now is as good a time as any to announce what else I've got going on comics-wise. (And yes, Super Seed is still rolling...and yes, there will be an announcement about where one can read more Super Seed coming soon.) But for now, let's turn our attention too...

The Velvet Rope!

What is the Velvet Rope, you ask? Well, in creator Mark Poulton's words, "The Velvet Rope is a new anthology I am producing along with my [Koni Waves co-creator's] Steve [Sistilli] and Dexter [Weeks], for Arcana. We are trying to collect some of the coolest horror stories around in time for Halloween. The book was inspired by the old Creepy and Tales From The Crypt comics. Our hostess, Velvet, will introduce each short story and in fact have her own little story running at the beginning and end of the anthology to bookend the comic nicely."

After meeting Mark at NYCC, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring and take a stab (get it) at writing a short horror piece for this project. So, last Saturday, I wrote a short 7 page comic script, my first horror piece. I took it my comics writing class on Monday, where it was promptly torn to shreds. Only slightly deterred, I spent a few hours reworking it, added a couple pages and sent it off to Mark Poulton. Mark loved it, and said he wants to see a couple pages and then will green light it for inclusion in the anthology.

As I was conceiving this story, a dark tale of a high school prank that goes awry inspired by recent headlines, I decided that I wanted to layout and pencil the story, but would really like to get a talented inker to ink it for me. I really wanted someone whose inking style was grittier and a contrast to my rather conventional art style. I actually had a specific artist in mind, and I'm happy to say, I got him!

Bong Abad is going to be inking me for this project. Below is a killer Ghost Rider pic he did recently, and his blog has a ton of cool images as well. I honestly have NO idea how well the two of our styles will gel, but I'm excited to see what happens. So stay tuned for more updates.


Super Seed #13- Zuda Wrap Up

Well, the Zuda contest has concluded. Super Seed found itself in 4th place for all but a few days of the April competition, and that's where it ended up. What follows are my reflections from competing in the Zuda experience.
  • The first few days of the competition are AWFUL! It's completely nerve wracking, as you are constantly checking out your page views and comments, and those of your competition, with no idea how you are doing over all. I honestly thought that there was no way I'd make it through a whole month like that.
  • The butterflies calm after the first ranking. Maybe I'm speaking only for my experience, but once the first rankings came through, I pretty much resigned myself that winning was a long shot, and the competition should now become an effort to position Super Seed appropriately for my post Zuda plans. Granted I still was planning a number of marketing moves, but as previous contests showed, things don't change a whole lot from the beginning of the month to the end.
  • The one thing that is COMPLETELY under the creator's control is page views. Fact is, if can create a decent banner ad, a comic's page views is a factor simply of how much money you want to spend on internet advertising, and time you want to spend plastering your comic around the internet.
  • Your work needs to do the heavy lifting. Yes, production blogs, youtube videos, support websites, contests, etc. all help. But I think this month's victory going to Melody showed that at the end of the day more important is that the eight page submission be really good, and the creator already has a decent following. Creating a groundswell of support and supporters from scratch is damn hard.
  • Zuda is not the be all and end all of webcomics. I don't say this as a slight to Zuda in anyway. It's just that getting involved in this contest and trying to figure out ways to get people to look at my comic exposed me to the realization of just how vast the world of webcomics truly is, and how many different, and successful approaches creators are taking to building audiences and share their work with the interweb. So, mourn not, fellow competitors who have come up short, your comics can still find their place.