Here at Pipedream Comics we’re big fans of writers and artists who embrace the world of self-publishing.. One of our favourites at the moment is Blair D Shedd, aka @OneGemini, creator of his own Kickstarter funded series The Raptor (which should see the light of day sometime in November) as well as artist on Dr Who for the folks over at IDW. Keen to find out more about self-publishing The Raptor and drawing timelords we got in touch.
How do you think the growth of digital comics on the iPad and other tablets is affecting the world of comics?
I think it’s putting a few more comics into the hands of people who would otherwise not bother with comics. I know this firsthand. I’m not saying it’s tons of people, and when you think about how many people actually have a tablet, the number of people who then buy comics on that tablet isn’t a huge percentage.
What I have seen is people like me, where our local comic shop is either unfriendly and unapproachable, or is nonexistent, and we either spend hours driving to a shop, or buying everything off the net and paying shipping plus waiting a while to see our “weekly” pulls.
Granted, I still love hardcopy comics in my hands, but if I want to try something new, and it’s $1.99-or-less right in front of me, fine. I’ll take that plunge. I’m less likely to take that plunge on a regular floppy at $3.99-plus. However, I’m also less likely to try something new at $3.99 for a digital title.
So (trying not to lose site of the original question), in my limited experience with it, and based on feedback from those who have discussed it with me, it’s getting some readers who once-purchased-but-stopped to buy again, but I’m not hearing much from those who were never readers and are only now getting into them.
For what it’s worth, on the Apple iOS App Store reviews for the IDW Publishing App for the Doctor Who comics, one of the comments read something like “The comics were pretty cool, but too bad they want you to pay for some of them.” I think that unfortunately says a lot about a bunch of different things right there.
As a creative are you looking at new ways to exploit this technology and do you change the way you work to accommodate these new developments?
I do work digitally, but I’d be doing that if there were no digital comics. Heck I was doing that before the advent of the App Stores and the iPhone/iPad.
For the most part my workflow hasn’t changed. When working for IDW or Dark Horse on artwork, I’m not in charge of marketing/designing the end-product, so what I do on my end isn’t going to effect that.
However, when it comes to my creator-owned work, like my current work on The Raptor, I definitely am looking at the venues available to me when it comes to marketing the book and selling the final product. Part of the problem right now is that I’m going to approach a few publishers first in hopes of a distribution deal that way, so I don’t want to commit to any one path of digital distribution yet, as I don’t know how it might effect any possible deals.
As I funded the work on this comic via Kickstarter, and some backers are promised PDF copies of the work, I’ll get them those copies and/or an equivalent digital file. I’ll also have hardcopy versions of the book available for sale for a limited time via the print house, Ka-Blam.com (using their Indyplanet.com service). But as far as selling digital copies of the comic, I don’t know quite yet.
However, that’s all on the “after the comic is finished” side of the calendar. Right now it’s all about doing the work, which right now is done like all my other comic work; prepped for physical print.
Do you have a completely digital workflow these days or do you still rely on pens and ink?
I’m about 98% digital. For the most part, I like to do rough character designs, and thumbnails for my pages on paper. More often than not, I thumbnail my pages right on the printed script pages. Using my 2003-era Wacom Cintiq 15x, I then will do roughs in Manga Studio EX 4, and my “pencils” and “inks” in the same program as well. If I’m coloring the book, I then export the pages to Photoshop CS2 for that.
For Doctor Who, about four to five pages were hand-penciled, mostly for sale to collectors. On my first Doctor Who run, I would sometimes hand-pencil single panels as I tried to wrap my head around certain layouts and panel-flows. That happened less as time went on.
Right now on The Raptor, I’ve penciled one interior page (a splash page) and rough-penciled the cover. Everything else will be digital. Right now I’m quicker digitally, and also there’s not the collector-want of these pages, as most people have no idea who the character is, so therefore no interest in original art.
However, if you catch me at conventions, I still work in pencil, ink, and marker for quick commissions and personal sketchbooks.
You’ve worked on IDW’s Dr Who, how was that experience? IDW seem to be something of a success in the world of digital, what do you think make them different?
All in all, my experience with IDW has been phenomenal. I can’t imagine a better place to have my first mainstream experience. Everyone there has been great to me. Major props to my editor Denton Tipton for going easy on the new guy, yet stern enough to keep me in line and on time like a good editor should.
As for what they’re doing to make themselves successful with digital, once again, based on my own experiences and things I’ve been told at comic shops, conventions, online, etc, I think it’s because they’re willing to take that plunge with a lot of digital venues that some of the other publishers their size haven’t tried. Or at least, they got there just ahead of some of the others. I don’t know if that’s made a difference.
On Doctor Who specifically, putting out an app just for those comics does help make it easier for those fans to zero in on those books. Any random fan can type “Doctor Who” into an iOS App Store search and find that pretty quick. And it comes pre-loaded with four free comics. Full comics. Not just previews or specially-made mini-comics, but full books.
Are you an iPad/iPhone/Google tablet user and what do you think of them as a way to consume comics? Ever considered creating art on them as well?
I have an iPod Touch and an iPad (First Gen). Like I mentioned above, I do buy comics on them when I either can’t get them at my local comic shop (if they’re obscure comics, my LCS won’t even bother ordering them), or if the Wily Gnomes of Instant Gratification take hold.
I still prefer paper, but it’s a great alternative. I’d rather read digital comics on a tablet than on a regular computer screen.
As for creating on them, I know guys who do it, and I’ve tried to do it myself, but I have yet to find a stylus I’m happy with or gives me the level of control I want. I don’t need drawing to be an exercise in over-concentration. I just want it as easy to create on as it is with the Cintiq. If I ever decide I want to create digital art on the go, I’ll invest in a ModBook or something similar.
Do you think the prospect of self-publishing digitally is spurring on a new generation of comics talent and who and what is inspiring you at the moment?
For better or for worse, it certainly is. I say that jokingly, but I’ve had conversations online about this recently. Some are actually put off by the fact anyone can put out a webcomic or even printed comic (via publishing houses like Ka-Blam) nowadays. I think it’s great… to a certain degree.
No longer do you have to be accepted by the “gatekeepers” at the Big Two or wherever to put out the story you want to tell. You just create and share.
Sometimes gatekeepers, though opinionated (and who isn’t), do know what they’re talking about and help keep quality up, in both art and writing.
Now, if you want to create, share, and don’t care if anyone likes what you’re doing, save for your friends and family, and are more concerned with just telling your story and getting it out there, then that shouldn’t bother you.
But if you actually want to make a living selling your books, and you’ve tried to tell a story via the Big Two or another other publisher, and they all said “this needs work,” and you say “you don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ll just self-publish,” you may be disappointed. You might get people to buy that first issue, but if they’re turned-off by the quality in those books, you’ve just given yourself a black-eye right there, and will have to work harder next time to get those people back for another issue or new idea.
These people should not avoid editors or curse their name, but hire editors. They’re not there just to tell you what you’re doing wrong, but how you can make it right.
On my self-published stuff, I have a few people editing my work, including former English Majors (they mostly do grammar/spelling passes and act as the general audience to see if the story makes sense) and one pro comic writer (they focus more on the story, not only to see if it works, but if it’ll resonate with the audience, if it sticks to the theme, etc.).
What I’ve said above really focuses on writers and writer/artists. As far as guys and gals who just draw and don’t have a desire to write, they still have to attach themselves to a writer. But they do have to be careful whose car they get into – it could be one of these critique-fearing scribes I mentioned. Then the whole team can fail.
As for what’s inspiring me right now, it’s a mix of some new guys and classic comic illustrators; the writing of Brian Clevinger (Atomic Robo), Joss Whedon, Erik Burnham (Ghostbusters), Joshua Hale Fialkov (Tumor, Echoes, I, Vampire), Joe Hill (Locke & Key), the illustrations of John Romita, Scott Weneger (Atomic Robo), Cully Hamner (Red), Nate Simpson (Nonplayer), Pete Woods (Action Comics), Ryan Ottley (Invincible), and many others.
What are you working on at the moment (that you can tell us about) and what does the future hold for Blair Shedd and OneGemini?
Right now, since the completion of my successful Kickstarter.com funding campaign, I’m working on a 48-page creator-owned comic, The Raptor: FPS; A missing video camera, the Russian Mob, and the masked vigilante known as The Raptor come into play in THE RAPTOR: FPS. Journalism student Kathy Walsh and her boyfriend Paul Clemens have been found dead, their video camera missing. Realizing their own personal connection to the victims, detectives Jason Hawking and Willow Barnes of the NYPD Special Crimes Squad take the case. As the detectives get deeper into their investigation, they discover that not only might their suspects be part of the Russian Mob, but that The Raptor may have a private stake in the case as well. I wrote it and now I’m currently illustrating and coloring it. I’ll also letter it and design the book itself. It’s a lot of work, but I hope to get it done by mid-November.
After that’s completed, I’ll get it into the hands of backers, put it up for sale on Indyplanet.com (as mentioned above) and shop it around to a bunch of different publishers in hopes of publishing the continuing adventures of the characters within.
Whoever wants to can follow along with that venture at www.oneGemini.com.
Past that, I’m working on a few long-standing commissions and other brief projects. As for next year – that’s anyone’s guess at this point. Ah, the life of a freelance comic artist.