“It’s like a self contained ecosystem which really speeds up the entire process of creation” UK artist Tony Wicks discusses web comic Angel Papers – now created entirely on iPad

The Angel PapersWith self publishing becoming increasingly easy in the digital world, it’s never been a better time to produce your own comic. UK writer and artist Tony Wicks has fully embraced that ideal as not only is his web comic Angel Papers released digitally, but earlier this year he announced to the world that was now producing it completely on his iPad. This was the first time I had heard of someone embracing the world of the iPad so wholeheartedly when it came to comics and so I thought I would drop him a line and ask him how he goes about producing a comic exclusively on an iPad.

How did you come up with the idea for the Angel Papers and what made you decide to release it as a web comic?

The Angel Papers came together while I was out walking the family Labrador on the farmer’s fields near our home. It was a gradual process, over many weeks, with the field itself acting like a backdrop for alot of the concepts in the story…the argumentative angel, the sudden appearance of prehistoric creatures in boggy ditches, the relationship between the man and his dog, and the idea of a landscape being a ripe source of spontaneous creation, given the right tools. As with most of my stories it remained a vague collection of ideas, or at least it appeared to be, until a couple of things happened. The first being a concept sketch of an alien drawn at the Bristol Comics Con’ in 2010, and finally an idea about incorporating the aforementioned angel, which I can’t reveal, as it’s a major spoiler of sorts! These both provided the framework of the story, and also the title itself.

The idea of releasing it as a webcomic came off the back of a very lengthy collaboration with a script-writer called Martin Buxton which resulted in our first self published graphic novel called Jack in the Box. It took about 2 years and hundreds of man hours, plus the expense of printing and promoting the book. While very rewarding as an experience, and critically very well received, it only yielded very modest returns which pretty much only covered the cost of printing. The effort put into it didn’t seem worth repeating on quite the same scale, at least not so soon after the end of the project, and so I decided to work on something that gave me less in the way of overheads, and also far less pressure. Because funding the printing of it didn’t seem a viable option the logical step was to find an online audience. To that end I’m publishing it on its own website at www.tapcomic.co.uk and also as an Ebook at www.myebook.com

You recently said on your website you were going to start drawing Angel Papers exclusively on your iPad, what made you make that decision and how is it working out so far?
Since pretty early on in the process of creating the panels and pages of The Angel Papers I’ve been using the iPad to sketch various character concepts, to put together storyboards for pages in thumbnail form, and more recently to write the actual script. These were then e-mailed to my PC where I used the sketches and thumbnails to work up full page renders in Photoshop using my Wacom Intuous 3 pad.

As I’ve got to grips with the iPad and its various apps I’ve found myself getting more fluent and ambitious with the sketches I’ve been drawing, both for the Angel Papers and also the one-off sketches I do from time to time which I publish to Flickr. The story involves a little boy who is an illustrator. I started to use sketches drawn on iPad in the actual finsihed comics pages to differentiate between his artwork and the ‘real world’ inhabited by himself and other characters in the story. I then realised that the sketches were becoming accomplished to the point where they were matching the Intuous work, and in some cases surpassing it, at least in expressiveness. I recently went on holiday for ten days and set myself a little challenge while away…to draw my first full page using the iPad. I was happy enough with the results to make the decision — The Angel Papers is to be an iPad-only comic!

It’s a very pleasurable method of working. I basically have all my tools in one place. A writing tool with Notes, research tool with Google, and drawing tool with ArtStudio. I’ve also got all my old pages and sketches archived in Photos for easy reference. It’s like a self contained ecosystem which really speeds up the entire process of creation.

What apps do you use on your iPad for drawing and sketching with and which is your favourite?
So far I’ve used Sketchbook Pro which was my first purchase for the ludicrously low price (at the time) of 59 pence. I’ve also dabbled with Procreate which seems really nice and expressive as an illustration tool, but the one I settled on finally for creating my comic is ArtStudio, which seems to have everything I need in one place. I still marvel at the sheer amount of functionallity they’ve crammed into such a cheap little app!

Do they have any particular pros and cons which make them easier to use?
I think Sketchbook Pro has a really nice clean interface, but its lack of transform tools makes it a bit limited. As a sketching tool it’s very nice, but I couldn’t use it to create a page of comics by itself. The same with Procreate, where the lack of copy and paste means I hit a wall very early on in using it. It’s a shame because it has all the layers you’d ever need to use, and its brush selection is quite simply the best. It’s a joy to sketch freehand using this app. ArtStudio has a slightly clunky interface at first, but when you realise just quite how many tools they’ve crammed into it you can forgive them a little! It would be the ‘perfect’ tool if it had a ‘free transform’ tool that allowed perspective or skewing style effects to a drawing, and of course if it had a decent lettering tool, which they all seem to lack in my limited experience. If someone came up with a decent comics lettering app for iPad they’d clean up!

Do you use a stylus or just your fingers?
I use a stylus…the Boxwave Stylus to be exact, which I couldn’t recommend enough. It has a pleasing friction on the surface of the screen which almost (but not quite) replicates the sensation of Staedtler pen on cartridge paper. It makes things like cross-hatching and fine line rendering seem a little easier than with fingers alone.

Do you use your iPad for reading comics on? If so which apps do you use and which would you recommend?
I’ve made the switch to digital comics because of iPad…well, except for some of the rarer stuff by artists such as Moebius (my favourite) who haven’t really got a significant presence on iPad yet. But other than that I’m buying all my comics digitally now. Walking Dead, Invincible and Irredeemable are currently the main 3 I buy, but occasionally something else catches my eye, and its always cheap enough for an impulse buy to happen. My favourite app is ComiXology.

How do you think the growth of iPad apps have helped aspirational comic writers and artists like yourself?
For me it gives me the functionallity of the Wacom Cintiq which I’ve always wanted, but at a fraction of the cost, and in a handheld truly wireless form that just makes sense. I realise that the Cintiq is a truly professional tool, but for someone who wants to sketch without being tethered to a computer, and with a toolset onboard that allows writing/ research/ sketching and finalising the project the iPad currently seems the best solution for the money. It badly needs a decent lettering app though. At the moment I apply that finishing touch in Photoshop, using its larger font choice and ease of creating the speech bubbles themselves.

The Wacom Intuous is great for final renders, but doesn’t really encourage the act of keeping a sketchbook, which I think is vital in keeping you fresh as an artist. I always felt a certain sense of disconnect in not being being able to rotate the canvas instantly and instinctively as I drew, and I’d lost the ability to settle on a rough render because I was always zooming in to per-pixel magnifications. Before I got the iPad I’d virtually stopped sketching, because my pen on papers kills had all but deserted me. I guess because I was so conditioned to Intuous use. Now I doodle all the time once again, and my art has become looser and more spontaneous as a result.

What would you like the next step for the Angel Papers?
Well, for a start I’d like to think I’ll see it through to the end…however long that takes. It would be nice to get some feedback, either through my website or via MyEbook, just so I don’t feel it’s being created in a vacuum. Sign up to the mailing list please…it’s free, and you won’t get spammed! Also, I can see my approach to page construction and storytelling changing as I make the switch to iPad more completely, so I’m interested in the possibilities this might bring. Whether I release it as a printed book is up in the air until it’s finished. I just want it to continue being a fun outpouring of my ideas, and hopefully one that people will have fun reading! Maybe it will end up on iTunes one day!

www.tonywicks.co.uk/ or you can see his iPad sketchbook online here. You can also read Angel Papers via www.tapcomic.co.uk or you you can buy is eBook here and then check out his first book Jack in the Box at www.c2d4.com

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.