Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Start a Webcomic - Basic Steps and Tools

Webcomics are getting popular for self-publishing manga or comic artists to showcase their talents. That is because self-publishing physical comic books has a high overhead start up cost, which may total up to thousands of dollars, while starting a webcomic can be as little as zero cost to a few hundreds of dollars.

However, few aspiring manga or comic artists know how to start a webcomic from scratch. We are going to discuss some of the needed tools and basic steps required to start a webcomic.

Tools needed to start a webcomic

You will need:
1. An image scanner.

Reason: This is essential if you want to plan to draw your artwork on paper and scan it into your computer to upload into your website.

Alternatively, you could buy a graphics or drawing tablet and start drawing from your computer. However this method is not encouraged as it takes skill and time to adapt to drawing on your graphics or drawing tablet.

2. A graphics or image editing software.

Reason: This is important to do changes and touch up on your artwork images files. When we draw, we are bound to have lines or pencil sketches that are out of place. Having a graphics or image editing software is necessary to make corrections on our artwork.

3. An Internet connection.

Reason: Without an Internet connection, it will be impossible to start with your webcomic in the first place.

4. A hosting site for your blog or website.

Reason: You need to have a website or blog online to feature your webcomics to the Internet community. There are free blog hosting sites like Blogger and Wordpress.

Be sure to include an image gallery for your website or blog. That will house your webcomic images.

How to start a webcomic: Basic steps

The following steps are recommended if you do not have a graphics or drawing tablet, or you are not able to draw on a graphics or drawing tablet well.

1. Draw your manga or comic art on a piece of white paper.

2. Scan the completed artwork into your computer via the image scanner.

3. Start inking and toning your artwork in the computer.

4. Do necessary clean up and corrections onto your artwork with the graphics editing software.

5. Add speech balloons and conversations if you haven't.

6. Resize your image file so that readers do not have trouble reading your webcomic. Save your image file into a web-compliant format. For example, png, gif or jpeg files.

7. Upload your webcomic images into the gallery of your website or blog. Arrange them in sequential order according to your comic script.

These are simple steps and necessary startup tools to start a webcomic online. These basic steps and tools will help aspiring webcomic artists in starting up their webcomic without much cost.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Creating Characters For Children's Graphic Novels

While the world of book publishing has been experiencing all sorts of staggering jolts of late-stores closing, staff cuts at major publishing houses, the conversion to eBooks and e-readers-one of the few bright spots has been the emergence of the graphic novel category. Despite what some misinformed parents may believe, graphic novels are not books focused on salacious activities. Graphic novels are basically comics in book form. They can be collections of classic comic strips, or comic book series, all-new comics stories, or even non-fiction in comics form. Until recently, bookstores had just two sections devoted to graphic novels-the clearly labeled Graphic Novels section and the Manga (collections of Japanese comics, usually in thick, black and white paperback editions) section. Since graphic novels are created for readers of all ages, a Children's Graphic Novel section is the newest space being carved out on the bookshelves.

Writers and artists of comics, especially the formula-driven super-hero variety, looking to find new work in this new category often assume that editors are simply looking for simpler, or dumbed-downed versions of existing comic book titles. Fortunately for us, they're sadly mistaken. Comics and graphic novels for children are perhaps just as demanding, if not more so than most mainstream superhero titles. That's because children are looking for imaginative material that appeals to them on many levels-compelling storylines, fun characters, and colorfully fantastic artwork.

In many ways, kids are looking for the same types of characters found in most other books created especially for children. Not surprisingly, boys enjoy boy characters, girls enjoy girl characters, and both boys and girls enjoy stories featuring boys and girls. Of course, there's far more to it than that, and we hope to offer you several insights on creating characters for children's graphic novels.

Like anything creative, the first rule is that there are no rules. It's really subjective. All any article of this type can hope to do is give you an understanding of what already exists and perhaps offer the conventional wisdom of the day. But anything can, and often does happen. The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, created the Man of Steel from their personal fantasies, and were passionate about the character, while Batman creator Bob Kane was more focused on creating a successful property that would make him rich. So, while it's far nobler sounding to encourage you to pursue that character of your dreams, which may embody many of your personal visions and ideas, it's true that great characters can also be created somewhat cynically, or even by accident. In some cases, characters can even be created as parodies of existing properties or celebrities, which then go on to become hits on their own-such as Miss Piggy being inspired by Miss Peggy Lee or Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being a parody of a run of Daredevil comics by Frank Miller.

One of the most successful graphic novels created for children is Jeff Smith's Bone. Like most popular properties, the characters in Bone are involved in an epic quest, not unlike the quests in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Yet the latest sensation in Children's Graphic Novels is Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which is far more grounded in the everyday reality of childhood. While at first glance these two series may appear totally different in every way-the larger than life fantasy elements of Bone, the mundane reality of Wimpy Kid; the lush graphics of Bone, the stick-figure-like art style of Wimpy Kid-they're both still about characters off on metaphorical journeys or real quests that capture the attention of a young audiences.

Does it matter that the Bone characters are neither children nor human? Of course not. What matters is that the characters are recognizable types that children easily recognize, understand, and like. Which brings us to the question of how does one create such characters? Perhaps the real question should be-how does one tell a story that will captivate a young audience? Most of the greatest children's fiction characters are little more than simple, almost seeming one-dimensional, characters that are there to represent the reader as he goes on a fantastic journey. Whether you're Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, you are experiencing the story through that character. When Nancy Drew solves a mystery, the reader is secretly a sleuth. When Hannah Montana transforms into a pop star, the reader is right onstage beside her.

But how does this relate to the world of graphic novels? Unlike prose fiction, which despite descriptions of lead characters' physicality, a reader is still free to project themselves into the role of the protagonist, graphic novels actually show exactly what the story's lead character looks like (although, the stick-figure drawing style of Wimpy Kid and the amorphous blob-like creatures in Bone allows for reader identification in a sly way) and it's important that readers respond positively to the character's depiction. Fortunately, cartoon characters are usually quite lovable. Generally, the main character is usually more of an every kid-not too outstanding in any obvious way, unless it's something that one would ordinarily consider a flaw of some sort. The character may have a special skill or power, but it may not be obvious from simply looking at the character.

While most cartoon characters seem to always wear the same clothes every day of their four-color lives, comic book and graphic novel characters aren't that different. Characters such as Tintin or Geronimo Stilton may change their clothes to suit their ever-changing environments, but they'll soon revert back to their traditional garb at the first opportunity.

But clothes alone don't make memorable children's graphic novel characters. Quite often there is something unique visually to set the characters apart. It could be a physical feature, or even the distinctive style of the artist drawing the character. Obviously, it helps if the visual distinction is meaningful to the character, such as the lightning bolt scar on Harry Potter's forehead, but it could just be a distinctive hairstyle, as is the case with characters such as Bart Simpson, Naruto, Charlie Brown, Archie Andrews or Tintin.

Naturally, it helps if the character is designed to fit the types of stories you hope to tell. A character designed to be a competitive swimmer, for example, should feature something that would make him or her stand out against other swimmers, but in a way that's not unbelievable or too cartoony - unless the series itself is intended to be over-the-top. A compatible art style also makes sense. For a dramatic series, you don't want the characters to appear unbelievably cartoony, and likewise, you wouldn't want a humorous character to look too serious.

Theoretically, your character could be anything. If you happen to be an expert on rocks, and think you could do stories about a character who is actually a rock-go for it! No matter who your main character is, you'll still want the character to be identifiable, and able to get into as many compelling adventures as possible. If you've secretly been hoping to do a series of graphic novels about your pet dog, an historic figure as a child, or about a light bulb-there's no reason you can't do it; no rulebook that says such ideas are not allowed. Although you may want to do a search online to see if your character's name isn't already taken - you don't want to waste time creating a character that already exists.

The true creative challenge is to put together your graphic novel, either by yourself or working with an artist or a writer, and create a story that excites your chosen audience. An easy way to see if you're heading in the right direction is to put together a presentation for a group of children you hope will enjoy your graphic novel. You probably won't need more than a few sample covers and a few completed story pages. If kids respond to the character in a favorable way, and love the stories you've created, you're on the right track. You'll find no other first readers who will be as candid and as honest as a child. You'll know instantly whether they're bored or excited.

Creating characters isn't easy. And creating your character is just the first step. And it should be noted, that there is no market for characters in and of themselves. Publishers buy books, not ideas-so you need to put the whole graphic novel together before approaching a publisher. And after you've written and drawn your children's graphic novel, the really hard part begins-finding a publisher (unless you intend to publish it yourself). Comics and graphic novel publishers are bombarded by new submissions all the time. Some even refuse to look at new material to avoid potential legal trouble-for example, a publisher may already be working on a project similar to yours, and if they look at yours before theirs is published, you may assume they stole your idea and sue them.

But selling a graphic novel is a whole 'nother story. Creating a Children's Graphic Novel character is an exciting challenge. If you succeed and go on to create a Children's Graphic Novel character (and series) that becomes a classic in the field, the rewards can be greater than you can possibly imagine. The opportunity is real, the competition is great, but if you have that special magical character that generations of children are sure to love, then by all means, get to work, and do it!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Draw a Manga Illustration in Five Easy Steps!

Manga is another word for Japanese comics. While American's may know it as one of the centuries latest fads, Manga has been an important part of Japanese culture for years, and brings in billions of dollars in revenue. From the kid friendly Pokémon to the more mature and dramatic Sanctuary, there is something for every age group and walk of life that covers many subjects: romance, action, comedy and adventure. This is what makes Manga so popular and why so many people want to create their own Manga illustrations. For an easy how-to guide to proper Manga drawing, follow the steps below.

1. Have supplies on hand. Before sitting down and getting started, you'll want to make sure to have all the supplies on hand that you'll need for a successful Manga drawing lesson. Since art supplies can be expensive, and you'll be doing quite a bit of erasing at the beginning, practice drawing on multi-purpose white paper, and with plenty of #2 pencils. A ruler, eraser and sketch pad will come in handy as well.

2. Become familiar with the basic shapes. The key to construct Manga learning and accurate drawing is to get the head shape right. As the most difficult part of the figure, the head is crucial and may require the most time you'll need to spend. It could help to buy a Manga drawing book from a local bookstore or from an online tutorial. Practice drawing spheres, cones, cubes and cylinders.

3. Start with an oval. Once you have a basic understanding of the supplies you'll need and the shapes you'll be drawing, you can get ready, get set, and draw! Here's our strategy for a easy step by step plan for successful manga drawing. First, start by drawing an oval shape for the head. Outline the shape by connecting a simple skeletal line for the body, making sure it is 6-7 heads tall. Then, begin to add cylinder shapes to the body for the arms, legs, shoulders, muscles and joints. Lastly, connect the joints by adding facial features and other fine details.

4. Concentrate on the eyes. Drawing your character's eyes is one of the most important parts of Manga drawing. You'll want to begin by drawing an upward curving line for the upper eyelid, and draw diagonal lines that come to a point. Make a circle within the eye to draw the iris, and draw a circular pupil and eyelashes that follow the curve of the eyelid. Darken the pupil until its black in color, add eyelashes and an eyebrow.

5. Apply the final touches. Lastly, you'll want to finish your manga character's face. Start with a circle and divide it into thirds with simple, straight lines. Draw a line underneath the circle, and this will be its chin. Along the second line, draw your nose and below it your mouth. Lastly, erase the lines and add facial details. Now you're perfectly drawn manga character is complete!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Writing and Selling a Children's Graphic Novel - Writer - The 10 Most Common Questions

The newest, most vibrant category to emerge in the volatile world of book publishing is the Children's Graphic Novel. That's a distinction that may be lost on some folks who may still believe that graphic novels, which are essentially comics printed in book form, are all for children. Fortunately most people are more enlightened these days and realize that graphic novels are, in fact, written for just as many audiences and types of readers as traditional books.

The confusion arises because "graphic novel" has been used to describe just about every type of book featuring comics, other than manga (Japanes comics). Unlike other sections of the bookstore, such as "Mystery," "Science Fiction," or "Romance," "Graphic Novels" is not the name of a genre, but a category. Like "Audio Books," which can also encompass a multitude of genres, "Graphic Novels" are not just one type of book. In other words, until recently every type of graphic novel has simply been stacked together in one section regardless of content.

The good news is that the Children's Graphic Novel is the first genre to break free from the generic Graphic Novel section. A wise move on many levels, especially because bookstores need to be sensitive to customers needs-particularly parents who don't wish to inadvertently purchase inappropriate material for their kids.

So as a new section is carved out of the always-crowded bookstore shelves, astute publishers recognize the need for material to fill this new demand. And that's when ambitious writers start sniffing around to see if they can get in on this new craze. But what do they really need to know if they hope to actually sell a Children's Graphic Novel to a publisher? Let's take a look at, and answer, some of the most commonly asked questions...

1) Do I need to be an artist?

No, but it doesn't hurt if you are, and your proposal should include either the entire finished Children's Graphic Novel or a sizeable sample. If you're not an artist, then you will need to find one. Comics are obviously a visual medium, so even if you're not an artist, it's important to think visually. If you want to keep a kid's attention throughout your Children's Graphic Novel, it's important to keep the graphics as compelling and as exciting as your script. If either the story or the artwork appears boring, why would any kid want to read your graphic novel? For the best guidance check out Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art, Will Eisner's Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and ScottMcCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

2) How do I find a Children's Graphic Novel artist?

There are many ways. One is by attending comicbook conventions, especially those in large cities that feature portfolio reviews. Many professional or would-be comicbook artists attend these conventions hoping to find work from attending comicbook editors. Simply introduce yourself to these artists, explain that you're hoping to find an artist to work with to propose a Children's Graphic Novel. Don't feel obligated to work with the first artist who is willing to work with you. It may be best to suggest that you're looking for the right artist for your project, and that you'll need to review the work of several artists to find the one that's right. Another way to find an artist is by reviewing the samples posted on deviantart.com

3) Do I need a contract with the artist?

To be safe, it's probably best to have a written agreement between yourself and your artist before you actually start working together. For the best legal advise it's always best to consult an attorney. But if that's not practical, you should get an agreement in writing between yourself and your artist that spells out as much as possible, as specifically as possible. You want to be as fair, so the goal of the agreement is to your mutual expectations and goals, and to make allowances for either party to be able to walk away if things don't work out. No matter what, you should be clear that the copyright to your story is yours alone. The copyright to the artwork can belong to the artist.

4) Is there an app that I can use to format my script?

There may well be, but you don't need it. A comics script is similar to play, television, and film scripts, except it's divided into pages rather than scenes. While dialogue scenes can last for pages on end, especially in plays, comics and graphic novels are limited to how much art and dialogue can realistically fit on a physical page. It would be wise to study graphic novels that are similar to what you hope to do to get a clear idea of the word count in the word balloons and captions. Keep in mind, there are no hard and fast rules. If you wish to have sequences told without any dialogue at all, where you let the pictures tell the story (like the many thrilling silent sequences in Alfred Hitchcock films or in the imaginative wordless sequences in Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret), it's important that you give your artist as much information as possible. Unlike most modern movie screenplays that leave out character and set descriptions, as well as detailed information for each and every shot, comics scripts should have as much information for the artist as possible.

5) Where can I see a sample script?

Like everything these days, you can probably find many comicbook scripts online. The basics are fairly simple, as the short sample page illustrates:
Mister Snuggles [Title of Children's Graphic Novel]
Page Five [This is the fifth comics page, not necessarily the 5th script page]
Panel One:
(Mr. Snuggles is running to the front door of the apartment with a teddy bear in his mouth.) [Description of artwork for first panel.]
Caption 1: It's 6:00 PM and even though Mr. Snuggles can't tell time, he somehow knows when Cortney is due home. [Text for first caption.]
Panel Two:
(Close-up of Cortney's hand inserting her key into the apartment's front door lock. The key is on a key chain containing other keys and a small figurine of a dog that looks very much like Mr. Snuggles.)
SFX: K-CLICK [Sound Effect.]
Panel Three:
(The apartment door opens, and Cortney is thrilled to see Mr. Snuggles. Snuggles is also visibly happy to see Cortney and she bows down to pet him. Mr. Snuggles has dropped his teddy bear so that he can lick Cortney's face.)
Caption 2:..and he's always there to give her a warm welcome...[Note numbering of captions and word balloons is by the page, not by the panel or throughout the entire book. So Caption 2 indicates that this is the 2nd caption or word balloon on the page.]
Cortney 3: Hey, I'm happy to see you too, little feller!

6) How do I know how many panels to place on a page?

It depends on how big your printed page size will be, and how much you have happening within your panels. European graphic novels tend to be larger than American graphic novels, and contain far more panels per page, yet the format has not proven to be that popular in the United States. Even classics such as Tintin have been reformatted into smaller books in recent years. Standard American comics, which are about 6 ½" x 10" tend to average from four to six panels per page, which is fewer panels per page than was the norm decades ago. Manga or digest-sized comics will either have fewer panels per page or far more simplified page layouts. But again, there are no rules-as soon as an uncommonly sized Children's Graphic Novel becomes a bestseller, it's guaranteed that other Children's Graphic Novel publishers will start publishing at that size.

7) What type of subject matter is taboo?

That's a tricky question, and the answer truly depends on the publisher. Most major publishers hope to sell as many Children's Graphic Novels as possible, especially to schools and libraries, and are not too eager to test the boundaries of what's acceptable and what's not, preferring to play it safe. Other more daring independent publishers may be more willing to tackle controversial issues, in a politically correct fashion, to generate publicity and attention. Because Children's Graphic Novels are so visual, they're quite often even more conservative than many traditional Children's Books. While certain questionable words or scenes exist in such classics as Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, they're buried in the book's text, while any type of controversial scene could easily be taken out of context, by holding up the page before TV news cameras and pretending to be shocked at what the evil publishers are feeding to our innocent children. As a result, most of the people who buy Children's Graphic Novels for bookstores, schools, or libraries are careful to avoid ordering anything risky or controversial. The end result being that many kids may find the content in certain Children's Graphic Novels to be far too tame or juvenile for them. This poses is a constant challenge to publishers-to provide Children's Graphic Novels that can get past the overly protective gate-keepers and still be entertaining and hip enough for today's kids.

8) Do I need an agent?

While many traditional publishing houses still insist on exclusively dealing with agents, many graphic novel publishers are willing to work directly with authors and artists. Because this is still such a relatively new development in the world of traditional book publishing, the doors still remain open to creators without agents. Even literary agents haven't quite figured out how to respond to the demands of this new category. Children's Graphic Novels aren't quite the same thing as Children's Books. In fact, most Children's Books editors will not even look at a Children's Book proposal that comes with an artist attached, while editors looking at Children's Graphic Novel proposals wouldn't know how to find an artist for a graphic novel at this point.

9) How do I find a publisher?

If you have an agent, that would be the agent's job. Without an agent you need to be willing to do a lot of research. Many authors make the mistake of considering only existing Children's Graphic Novel publishers as their only potential publishers. The truth is that many traditional publishers may consider publishing a Children's Graphic Novel if it's something they believe they're uniquely suited to publish. For example, a business book publisher may have no interest in publishing a Children's Graphic Novel about a squad of dragon-fighting pixies, but they may be interested in publishing a graphic novel that attempts to explain basic business concepts-how a checking account works, for example-to children. Publications such as Publishers Weekly can offer a good overview of the book-publishing field and can provide invaluable information on countless publishers. Also, self-publishing has become far more common as the technology for print-on-demand has advanced. No longer is there a stigma attached to what used to be called "vanity press" publishing as more and more authors eliminate the middleman and self-publish.

10) Does my Children's Graphic Novel have to be published as a physical book?

No, it could be published as an ebook, especially as such technological breakthroughs as Apple's iPad make it possible for full-color, lavishly illustrated Children's Graphic Novels to be viewed on a screen as they were meant to be seen. Of course, it's still very early, and the question is-do enough children possess this kind of expensive hardware to make it financially worthwhile to be available exclusively in such a format? At this point, it makes more sense to have a digital version available as an additional option, and not the exclusive format.

If ever there was an opportunity to break into publishing, creating a Children's Graphic Novel could be it. Good luck!