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Jan
02
2014

2013: The Year in Review

DSC_0501(On my drafting table, Jan 1, 2014: half-penciled Oyster War page 110.)

Here’re a few parting thoughts on 2013:

Oyster War

The bad: I’d vowed this time last year to have Oyster War wrapped up in 2013. That didn’t happen. I am though, fairly close. I just posted the last page of Chapter 9, all of Chapter 10 is done and ready to post, and I’m drawing Chapter 11–the final chapter–right now. Including the epilogue, I’ve got around 20 pages to go to wrap it up.

The good: in short, 2013 was a great year for things Oyster War-related.

  • The biggest thing was (obviously) getting an Eisner Award nomination for Best Digital Comic. Although I ultimately didn’t win (damn you, Bandette!!!), you can’t beat that kind of recognition with a stick. I know some folks think awards are just silly in general, but it’s gratifying just to have some comics entity say to you, “Hey, we dig what you’re doing” –especially when that “entity” is something as prestigious as the Eisner Awards.
  • Despite several semesters of heavy teaching course-loads, I posted on schedule throughout 2013. I continued to post every other Wednesday to OysterWar.com and I even upped my posting at GoComics.com to twice weekly–Mondays and Thursdays.
  • Oyster War was included in the Best American Comics list of Notable Comics of 2013.
  • Oyster War made a number of “best of 2013” lists, including some fairly high-profile ones such as Paste Magazine’s 13 Best Webcomics of 2013 (Oyster War took the number seven spot) and Buzzfeed’s Must-Read Webcomics of 2013 list.

Finding a publisher: toward the end of 2013 I began to approach a few publishers about a possible book version of Oyster War. I don’t have anything to report on that front at the moment, but I’m hoping that’s something big that will fall into place in 2014.

Other Projects

monkey_business_final

I tried to remain as focused as possible on Oyster War in 2013, but I did do a few other things comics-wise. “Monkey Business,” a one-pager I drew last year about Jackie the baboon, who fought in WWI, finally saw the light of day in the Panels for Primates anthology, a benefit book for the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, KY. Buy it here on Comixology.

I participated in the AlphaBots weekly drawing challenge for the initial few letters, but ultimately dropped out because I just couldn’t keep up. You can find my contributions here.

kane-toned

In the last quarter of 2013, I was commissioned to do a bunch of Silver Age JLA characters. They turned out really well and wound up getting a fair amount of traction online.  Partially as a result of that, I wound up doing a ton of commissions in 2013. The Kang the Conqueror commission above was the most elaborate of the bunch. In fact, I’ve got a handful more lined up right now, but I haven’t been able to execute them yet because of the holidays, getting ready for teaching next semester, etc.

lou reed

Speaking of “online traction,” for reasons unfathomable to me, among all the things I posted to my tumblr in 2013, this particular drawing of Lou Reed really took off. It made the tumblr radar and currently has around 1700 notes.

I continued to work fairly steadily in my sketchbook, but I wasn’t very good this year about posting samples to this blog. I was, though, fairly active with posting sketchbook images to my Twitter. I always use the #sketchbook tag when I post, so all that’s archived fairly well right here.

Process

final_trapping(Sample of an image for an upcoming silk-screen print, artwork done entirely in Manga Studio)

I’m calling 2013 the year I officially “went digital” art-wise. I’ve had Manga Studio for a while and used it here and there, but 2013 was the year I really dove in fully. The big change this year that precipitated that was my purchasing a Yiynova digitizing monitor.  I’d had a small Wacom tablet for a while, but I never felt really comfortable drawing with it; I could never get over the disconnect between the tablet drawing surface and the screen. With that gone, though, I’ve really begun to get comfortable with drawing digitally start-to-finish. I’m still doing Oyster War on paper with traditional tools (mainly, just to maintain visual continuity), but I’ve gone either partially or fully digital with most other things–especially anything freelance where saved time essentially equals a higher hourly rate.

Conventions

Without a new book to hawk, I took it fairly light this convention season. As usual, though, Craig Fischer and I did a big “Mega-Panel” at Heroes Con this year. Our topic was “music and comics” and things went really well I thought. Craig and I were interviewed about it over at Comics Reporter.

I also went to the San Diego Comic-Con this year, something I’ve not done since–I think–2005. My main reason for going was to attend the Eisner ceremony, but I’d been really wanting to return to the convention for years. The two previous times I’d been there, I’d spent the bulk of my time behind the SLG table. Until this year, I’d never attended as a  “civilian” and been able to take in all the activities. I did a big write-up about the event here, but in short: I had a blast and I’m hoping I’ll be able to attend again this year (although that depends on finances and scheduling).

I attended a few regional cons this year as well: NC Comic-Con, Comic Book City Con, and DICE in Durham. I’m not 100% sure this region can support three conventions in the long-term, but it was great to be able to go to some events that didn’t involve staying overnight and I saw a bunch of folks I know at all of them.

In 2014

What will I be working on? As mentioned, I should be able to wrap up Oyster War in the first quarter or so of 2014. During that time I’m also going to be trying to find a publisher. I have a few folks in mind who seem like Oyster War might be a good fit with. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news on that front in 2014. I also have a ton of corrections to do on Oyster War: off-model characters in early pages, coloring errors, typos, etc.

What’s next? I have a few things in mind.

I’d intended Oyster War to be a stand-alone story, but the ending as-written is fairly open-ended and even overtly suggestive of a continuing story. So, I’ve been thinking about potentially working on a second “volume” of it and trying to focus on GoComics as its site for publication. I don’t see it ever generating a ton of money, but having a significant portion of the readership visiting the non-monetized OysterWar.com site seems like leaving money on the table.

I wrote a full script a while back for a comic about cooking and playing music in the 1990’s called In the Weeds. No one’s really breaking down my door to publish it, but it’s something I’d like to see through. I’ve kind of half-considered a scenario where someone other than me could draw it, but I don’t know how that’d work–especially how I’d pay an artist.

chararcter_01_02

I talked with a few fairly high-end publishing industry folks at (or directly after) San Diego comic-con who basically said to me, “You’re a great storyteller. If you ever put anything together that’s all-ages, I’d like to see it.” Nothing at that point in my “idea file” really fit the bill, but I’ve been ruminating a bit on something lately that’s all-ages and that I’m thinking could be really cool. I’m going to try to get at least some character designs, a plot synopsis, and a few sample pages together in 2014.

My 2014 To-Do List

  • The all-ages proposal mentioned above.
  • Oyster war: finish, find publisher, do corrections.
  • Getting a better “day job”/comics balance – I taught three classes last term and I’m teaching four this term. It’s nice to have steady income and I enjoy teaching… but I don’t like having so much teaching that it precludes me actually practicing what I’m supposed to be teaching about: art. To that end:
  • Better promoting/monetizing – I need to do a better job looking for work, promoting myself, making contacts, following up with folks, etc.
  • Speed up comics-making – My current process is so slow it’s just untenable. I’d like to transition as much of my work into the digital realm as possible in order to eliminate all the scanning, printing, correcting, etc. that I’m currently doing the old fashioned way. I might also start work on a custom font based on my own lettering.
  • Training: I’ll have to clear out time for it somehow, but I’d like to expand my skill-set in 2014. There are lots of reasonably-priced opportunities to learn online from some great professionals these days and I’m thinking a digital painting class would be really beneficial for me.
  • Life drawing – I need to start doing life drawing again regularly. I should have the opportunity to do so at one of the places I teach, but again, it all comes down to time.

Finally

That’s about it. All the best in 2014, everybody! And many, many thanks to everyone who’s read, written about, or otherwise supported my comics work in 2013!

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