Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Digital artwork of an extreme closeup of a butterfly's pale green egg. The egg is ribbed down the sides with ridges and lines of indentations, softly shiny. The egg is nestled in the fine hairs of a milkweed leaf.</p>
<p>A black arrow points to the egg. Text over the arrow reads: "It's an egg! I swear!"</p>
<p>A watermark for http://hmcgill.art is present at the bottom of the piece.

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 Recap
These weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who approached me with offers to help. I wasn’t at the top of my game for these two weeks, but I did feel less alone and that helped me feel much better.

Revisiting some older parts of my packet really helped. These two weeks, I focused on the ‘wow’ spread depicting the setting.

All in all I’m building my own personal excitement for this blog post series. I can share more art than I thought! Not all of it, but some very fun stuff.

 

Cocoon Week 3

Something in me reawakened, and I laid out the new version of sample pages. This version focuses on the relationship between Stone and Margo. There aren’t any other characters present in the scene. I gave the ‘blorp’ art version to kind friends who read things for me and tell me when something’s off. It’s still a little bit confusing in this stage but hopefully some line editing will help.

Some feedback that I got encouraged me to explore earlier in the story, to show more of Paris and give some context to Margo. This I can do, but I was really hoping to knock out rough art much sooner. I don’t think I’m going to blorp any art in on the earlier pages unless I can get some eyes on comparing the two scripts.

I also revisited the Warlock’d city spread…This is a drawing referenced from a 14th century painting, but with a WIP Notre Dame substituted in. The intent for this piece is to be an interior liner that leads readers into the story proper. This was the best drawing I could do, lacking visual resources from the 12th century proper. I’ve reworked this piece a few times and this time, I finally addressed the messy coloring found in the details of the piece. I found the progression in color theory very interesting.

Grungy, ashen-grey digital artwork on a two-page spread depicting the artist's best guess at a 12th century Parisian skyline. It's very very gray with hot pink highlights. It depicts a small person with a candle crossing a black Seine river, fleeing the city on the Îsle de la Cité. A tall bridge runs over this river. A title lockup reads:

My very first attempt, trying to control the contrast with a grayscale treatment and color overlay. It’s also painterly and overworked. It was fine enough at the time, but my understanding of color is much more nuanced now.

Digital art on a two-page spread depicting the artist's best guess at a 12th century Parisian skyline. Compared to the previous graphic, the colors are more clearly and cleanly divided into sections. A bluish grayscale is applied to the hills, clouds, and city buildings. Soft orange and yellow is used for the sky and reflecting Seine river. The 'Warlock'd title graphic is now black on a sunrise. The overall effect is still fairly dreary. and the clouds almost look the same as the city.

This attempt was a bit better. I removed most, but not all, of the soft brushing. It was inspired by a Vermeer palette, focusing on red being the star color. Feedback was that grayscale is not a big seller in the comics world. A lot of graphic novels are very limited in color or washed-out, which is also not to my taste. I think I can do better!

Two-page digital art spread of the author's best guess at what the 12th century Parisian skyline might have looked like. Set on a sweeping backdrop of heavenly clouds and rolling hills covered with snow, the city occupies most of the foreground. Towers mingle with homey buildings, encircled by a great wall. A bridge crosses over the Seine river. The water has taken on the orange and yellow glow of the sky. A title lockup is wreathed by clouds in the sky: Warlockd: To Hell, with Love.

This is the latest color scheme rendition. I removed all desaturated colors and I am very pleased that the snow is more snow-like. It was also easier to control the gradients of color once I discarded more of the soft brush. I only left the brush on parts meant to fade into the snow a bit more. I’m really happy with the points of interest I was able to create and this is going to be my reference for snow from here on out.

I grabbed and assembled different photographs of a caterpillar’s life cycle to create Cocoon Year graphics. It’s helpful for me to have a checklist of all the art I need to do. I’m hoping that these smaller pieces help me warm up on drawing whenever I do them. I am also going to learn way more about butterfly anatomy than I ever cared to know.

 

Cocoon Week 4

I started the week with a self-imposed break. I call it…No Comics Sunday! Saturday as well but that’s last week’s break. Lately I’ve been feeling slower and slower which means, even if I’m having fun, I need to step back. Getting 1 or 2 hours of work in every day is worse than getting more solid work done four or five days a week.

We went to a professional tea tasting and it was the perfect reset. Floating Leaves Tea is a shop we’ve frequented for years because it supplies incredible Taiwanese tea. What’s nice about these tea tastings is that we get to go and share her love of tea with none of the work involved in becoming skilled. It’s so nice to have a hobby rather than a drive. Did you know that tea can dance around the mouth, or rest on the tongue, depending on how it’s brewed? It can also be very minty and airy, or grassy, or floral, or ‘big’ or ‘small’, ephemeral or stalwart, and catch in the mouth, throat, chest, or stomach. We booked the whole afternoon for tea and caught up with the shop owner, who is always a delight.

Given time to reflect, I think there is a problem with how I seek and absorb reactions to my work. As a result, I am torn between respecting the feedback and effort of my peers and actually moving forward with the project. When this project lands on an agent’s or editor’s or publisher’s desk, they are going to have their own required changes and I will need to weigh those even more strongly than I weigh peer feedback. However, if I keep resetting my packet before querying, my pitch will never make it to anyone’s desk, so I just won’t know what specific agents and editors want. In any creative field, there is no good, no bad, no better, no worst, and no best…A work only has to clearly portray an idea, and then that either appeals to a specific audience, or it doesn’t.

With this in mind, I’m instituting a new rule for myself where I have to ask my peers ‘given a week’s deadline, how would your critique change?’. This seems like the kindest way to get more information and also move forward with the project. ‘Blue sky’ edits that completely reset the project are more useful when I get an official rejection or a revise/resubmit. I want to leave both options open because otherwise people might feel bad if they gave me the wrong feedback, and that’s quite the opposite! Everyone who has read my work has been most helpful. There is no wrong feedback, there is simply feedback that works better in response to different forces.

I asked other graphic novelists what their pitch packets looked like, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a 5-page synopsis is probably pushing patience in length. I need to make spot illustrations to break up the text. That or, I can really hone my one-page synopsis and let the detailed one be available upon request. From my peers I’ve learned that I can share snippets of my pitch packet, but I need to save the very special stuff for the submission packet. Fair enough. At least now I know I can share some imagery here fairly safely. Especially the stuff I cut from the packet!

One more bad habit of mine is to sit with the INDD document open and just…stare at it. I need to stop doing this.

In closing I’m going to share my favorite cut panel that was removed from a previous iteration of my sample comic pages. I feel like this is the best comic panel I’ve ever drawn, and I’m not even going to use it in the final packet!

Digital sketch of a starry-eyed, innocent-looking barn swallow. She has speech bubbles over her head. Text reads:

 

 

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Ride the incoming high, and not burn out.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryI started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.     Cocoon Week 7 This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryMostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.     Cocoon Week 5 I started the week much less restricted about...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 RecapThese weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who...

Want to chat about this?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 1 & 2

Cocoon Year: Weeks 1 & 2

Digital artwork of a monarch butterfly perched upside-down on a decorative seafoam-green leaf. The butterfly has bright orange wings with stark black outlines. White spots line the edges of the wings. The butterfly's body is covered with black fur that also has white spots. It has laid approximately one little pale green egg. The leaves form stylized curlicues.</p>
<p>Text on image reads as follows:</p>
<p>'Me' over a black arrow pointing directly at the egg, referring to me being 'born' or getting laid, perhaps? Not in the naughty sense, I'm literally being laid in this picture, inside of an egg.</p>
<p>'My Creative Impulses' is over a black arrow pointing at the butterfly, implying that I am a creation of my own desire to make graphic novels.</p>
<p>'http://hmcgill.art' is on the bottom of the image as a watermark to go to my website.

Cocoon Year: Week 1 & 2 Recap
For those who weren’t in the know, this year is what I am going to call my ‘Cocoon Year’, where I establish my creative process by tracking and describing it. Seeing as social media is not extremely helpful for literally anything I’m doing, I’m cutting out small, social-media-friendly pieces in favor of developing larger projects. Chief among these projects is Warlock’d: To Hell, With Love.

Some of my friends have reached out to me about Warlock’d, concerned about its progress. I’m concerned too. I’ve had iterations of this cozy mystery graphic novel in various stages but never feel happy with the writing.

Progress is slow without feedback. Feedback is difficult to get. Either people don’t understand the project, won’t talk technical tips in an attempt to be encouraging, bash it subjectively, aren’t familiar with my target audience, or don’t understand that I’m deconstructing medieval pop culture stereotypes.

By the same token, at best I am an amateur historian, just like how, with RAWR! Dinosaur Friends, I was an armchair paleontologist. I’m making do with the information I have available to me. It’s not always the most up-to-date, largely text-based, and I do not fully understand the most complex parts of this time period. I fear sharing much for this reason.

Demons are difficult to talk about. For some people, demons are very real, present-day entities, for good or for evil or for silly. Demons are part of religious history, so religious and spiritual discussion inevitably crops up. From an art historian perspective, many demons are racist caricatures. None of these are safe subjects to talk about on a whim.

I have some friends that I would love to share Warlock’d with, but I fear wasting their time if the writing is not quite good enough. Luckily, I’ve been working really hard and this is getting easier. I often feel bad for wasting people’s time. If I get better at writing then it’s less of a waste for them.

It’s also hard to share progress for a project that oscillates between being an indie webcomic and a published graphic novel. I can’t ever tell how much I should share, and if things I’ve shared publicly hurt my chances of getting published (or if I even want to be published…I literally have everything I need to do a webcomic!)

With all this in mind, I participated in #DVPit this year and got so much attention on Warlock’d that I feel it’s best to query, at least a little bit, before I settle in on this project as a webcomic. Having a very polished and workshopped pitch is also good for indie development. I feel like sharing my progress shouldn’t hurt my chances, as long as I talk about my trials with writing, revisions, and synopsis hell. I may keep my character and cover artwork close to my heart until I get rejections from querying.

I have never once actually queried Warlock’d. I have taken it to workshops and reviews. There’s been interest from agents but I suffer the curse of perfectionism, as well as not knowing whether this project is an indie webcomic or not.

I also have some very wonderful friends who have taken an increasing interest in reading my work…and are even willing to read revisions. Once problem I had in a past writing group was that revisions weren’t allowed! It was so hard to keep track of people’s progress beyond slapping down the first draft. To me, revisions are where writing gains depth and interest. It hurts to feel like my critique went nowhere.

Ideally I could have this book picked up by a publisher and share my process in great detail on my blog. I fear marketing mishaps if I retcon something I worked on in this blog but honestly, I don’t know of anyone who’s ever blogged their graphic novel creation process from pitch to finished book. There might be a reason for this, probably that graphic novels are soul-crushing work. It’s something that still feels very helpful to me. SAWgust was very good for tracking a shorter project. Having a whole year might be great for tracking a longer project.

Game development is also a recurring distraction…I’m currently working on a little physics-based platformer where players wreck our house with our cat. It’s nice to get away from comics every now and then, although game dev is its own challenge. Having to wrap my head around how sprite cat heads work on a rotating circle body was the most recent challenge.

Anyway. In the spirit of what I want to do with my blog, my comics career, and my website, here’s a breakdown of how my first three weeks in 2024 went:

 

Cocoon Week 1

I started out with an existing synopsis that I’d written in October 2023. Several people read it. It was deemed ‘fine’ but not amazing. A big problem was character motivation. The villain felt evil for no reason. I had a reworked synopsis that I shared with no one for fear of it being too long. I wrote a ‘shorter version’ that, of course, became much longer. However, I feel pretty good about this long “short” synopsis. It feels more focused.

I have a lot of questions about cozy mystery structure. Initial research tells me a cozy mystery-style murder ought to have been committed for a specific and clearly-defined reason…but a lot of Warlock’d’s emerging themes involve a chaotic reality under a spiritual ‘veil’ that appends meaning and order where otherwise there is none. I’m leaving a couple parts of the story as accidents, but they do feel like  temporary pins for the time being.

I also wrote a sample script to show off how Margo and Stone (formerly Pierre) interact. It’s pretty good and has been workshopped very intensely, but Stone’s motivation never feels strong enough via his dialogue. Maybe he’s too chill, or too masked. I wonder if I should lean into this and make it part of his devil-may-care attitude.

Margo, on the flip side, is the easiest dialogue in the world to write. She’s ranting in the same cadence as a barn swallow chirps. I find that the more I type freeform, run-on sentence, shitposty even, the more I hit Margo’s voice. She has been a fairly popular character in past versions of Warlock’d, so at least there’s some aspect of the project I understand.

 

Cocoon Week 2

I stalled out on remaking my sample pages. I had a version of the pitch in roughs/inking stage but the writing was too complex. This version tried to set up Tittivillus alongside Margo, and Stone’s character was just getting lost between them. As a result I was getting too precious about the art that was furthest along in the panels. Rewriting according to that art wasn’t producing a good set of sample pages. I’d also caught some illness in between starting and stopping the sample pages, and looking at it reminded me of feeling sick.

I worked on character designs instead. I’m not sure how many of these characters will fit into a pitch packet. They’re all mentioned in the synopsis, save for Tittivillus who goes into the story and then gets cut frequently. Poor guy. One cutesy idea I had was to format the characters like a suspect lineup, with lines behind their heads. I suppose I should do a pitch packet layout in InDesign. I want feedback on the text parts first.

I also stalled out on making a ‘cocoon year’ graphic for the blog, and thus postponed creating a blog entry for the week after. I think queueing content is a healthier thing to do than write up to the blog post deadline I set for myself. What I’d like to do is have 24 evolving ‘cocoon year’ graphics to show a caterpillar doing its thing, every other week until the end of the year when I see what the butterfly looks like. I really like Monarch butterflies so I’ll go with that.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Make Cocoon Year posts easy to update by prepping artwork.
  2. Slowly rebuild momentum on my pitch packet, especially the sample pages.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryI started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.     Cocoon Week 7 This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryMostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.     Cocoon Week 5 I started the week much less restricted about...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 RecapThese weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who...

Want to chat about this?

In the News Again

In the News Again

Photograph of the "In the News, Again" comics anthology in print, lying on some vintage pebbly sidewalk somewhere. I don't know why but I'm always photographing stuff on random surfaces near my house. I guess I just get too scared of the outdoors to proceed much further.</p>
<p>The anthology itself is a duotone, half beige and half neon lime green. The text is set in big block letter blue, with thick wavy serifs. There is a photograph in the center of the cover. It depicts a drawing of an adult woman kneeling next to a photo of a little girl. Hand-written in two speech bubbles: "I love you" and "Don't ever forget it!"

In the News, Again: A SAW Nonfiction Comics Anthology
Recently I had the pleasure of joining a nonfiction anthology, In the News Again, edited by Emma Jensen and Karlo Antunes.

Digital art comics page. It has three panels depicting how my 2019 Geek Girl Con went. Panel one:

Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a comics convention pre-pandemic vs. post-pandemic. I signed up for a two-page entry because I don’t have much experience with anthologies and did not want to over-promise. I remember thinking, as I created this incredibly short story, that I was slow and awkward and shouldn’t be making comics.

Then I realized…You know what, not everyone commits to 2- and 3-pt perspective in their comics. And not everyone puts crowd scenes in multiple panels. There are some things that just take time to draw.

To read the second (and final) page, consider buying a copy of the anthology here. Though my contribution is lighthearted and harmless, the anthology contains “stories that explore themes of sex, death and grief, mental illness, suicide and abuse, racism, slavery, surgery, trauma, animal cruelty, and violence.” As such I can only recommend it for adult readers.

I may release the second page to read for free at some point in the future, but for now I’m keeping it locked away in hopes of tempting book sales. Here are some other samples from the anthology, graciously provided by book authors:

Digital art of a page from the nonfiction comic, "Super-Hero Grandpa", by Aman King. It depicts the Phatnom, his secret hideout, his dog sidekick, his fashionable alter ego attire, his ancestral wealth, and his readership.

“A 6-page non-fiction comic about Lee Falk’s The Phantom (the world’s first costumed crimefighter in comics) and the ‘Phan’ community. I interviewed multiple fans, who come from different walks of life, to get their personal take on the character. The most creative aspect for me was depicting people’s real-life memories based on my own imagination. The best compliment I received was from an interviewee who said my ‘deviations from reality’ were a great improvement on the real thing!”
~ Aman King

Page of Adrean Clark's comic. It's a vignette of various buildings in a sunset tone. The overlaid dialogue reads like this: The Way Above is a meditative tour with Adrean through her memories of growing up Deaf and walking the Saint Paul, Minnesota, skyways as an adult. It illustrates the complexities of the city’s unique pedestrian route. Also available as a printable zine at https://ko-fi.com/s/ce2f357eeb“.
~Adrean Clark

Crop of a single panel from a comic about frogs. This is a muddy-looking brown panel done with something that looks like crayon or pastel. It features a forest in the background, with a human head poking up in the foreground. The person has scraggly brown hair and looks to their left. Something deep in the background goes,

“The Secrets of Mud is about the author’s discovery of a frog orgy in the middle of the woods on a rainy February. From the congregation of birds around the site to the sounds of the frogs diving beneath the water at the first sign of danger, the discovery is not obvious but pieced together from details scattered through the forest.”
~Mae Wilson

DIgital comic page depicting hands doing various tasks: Sculpting a bowl, weaving a basket, hammering a nail, chopping a cucumber, and gripping a handsaw. They are all contained in organic-looking blobby panels with soft pastel colors. The margins are black. Text on top and bottom reads as follows: “Thinking of Thumbs is Lynn’s reflection on MIchel Montaigne’s essay, ‘Of Thumbs,’ written in the 1500’s. She describes his fascination with the destructive power thumbs endowed on humanity and wonders why a Renaissance thinker overlooked the thumb’s contribution to civilization.”
~Lynn Bernstein

Photo of the back of the anthology in print form. Credits include: Featuring work by Emil Wilson, Adrean Clark, Maja Milkowska-Shibata, Jim Hamilton, Lynn Bernstein, Shannon Brady, Jeff Klarin, Walter Hudsick, Mahour Pourghadim and Sadaf Faghihi, Olivier Ballou, Maia iotzova, Cassie Seiple, Virginia L Small, Deanna Feinstein, Amelia Brunskill, Maria Fitzgerald, Jeannie Mecorney, Ken Harris, Mae Wilson, Emily Zilber, Justin M. Carroll, Don Unger, Donna Druchunas, Aman King, H. McGill, Darlene K. Campbell, Juliette Yu-Ming Lizeray, Siobhan Orient, Jamie Scandal, Janice Goldberg, Naters, and Laura Garzon. Text at the bottom reads

Clicking this button will take you to a third-party shop.

All proceeds from sales of In the News, Again go to Sequential Artists Workshop,
a comics school devoted to affordable arts education.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryI started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.     Cocoon Week 7 This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryMostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.     Cocoon Week 5 I started the week much less restricted about...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 RecapThese weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who...

Want to chat about this?

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

Photograph of the Amphiox mini-graphic novel, artfully posed within some overgrown ivy. The cover is black and has a fish tail on it with the title 'AMPHIOX' running vertically down the middle. Serpentlike coils writhe in the background of the cover. The artist/author label reads 'H. McGill http://hmcgill.art'.

My Online Shop is Now Live
Truth be told, I’ve been promising this online shop for years. I think over a decade, now, people have asked for a digital shop and I’ve been unable to supply it. I’ve just not been able to set the shop up. It’s been a combination of perilous housing decisions, competition for P.O. Boxes, and optimizing my offerings. A lot of the trouble setting up this shop has been really personal and embarrassing. Now, at last, I’m in a state of mind and security to offer products through an online shop. I am grateful that a lot of people really wanted my art to be available online. The convention exclusivity was not ideal for anyone.

After so many years, what was the tipping point for this shop to be set up? Basically — I have a product worth selling online, now. It’s a high enough price point to be worth my time shipping, even if I only get one sale during a given week. It’s an interesting and collectible item, too, at least for us grungy indies skulking around in the backroom of the comics industry.

When I finished my proof-of-concept short graphic novel, Amphiox, I explored several options for independent print distribution. Amazon seems complicated. Etsy destabilized years ago. I disliked Kickstarter’s embrace of blockchain. Crowdfundr, a Kickstarter alternative, created a workshop just for kidlit and Young Adult books. I was invited and it seemed good. I read through the recruitment emails intensely, before ultimately deciding I didn’t want to do crowdfunding at all. I fear scammers who pledge and then cancel the pledge at the last moment. The gamification of sales and possibility of failure turn me off as well. My online presence is simply not big enough to fundraise thousands of dollars.

All of this, and…

The weird thing is, I don’t want to grow too quickly. 

A crowdfunding campaign, especially one with official themed highlighting and curation, gets a lot of eyes. Strangers are introduced to indie products. These campaigns are designed to play on people’s emotions. Hopes rise. Crowdfundr was very kind to invite me but they had invited many similar people, so I didn’t feel like I was harming anything by declining. Since Amphiox would have been gathered into a group of other indie works, pending approval anyway, I couldn’t bear to see it fail its goal. A failure would be compared unfavorably to the other crowdfunding successes. So, in a way, I’m purposefully standing in the way of my own growth.

I’m not sure if Amphiox is the ‘first impression’ that I want the larger reading world to have of me. There are parts of a possible continuation I haven’t workshopped. My freshly-formed ideas are frequently too edgy for most readers, especially in the kidlit world. Amphiox isn’t made for a specific audience. It’s just me, fooling around. There isn’t even a concrete plan to continue it. I would hate to be shackled to overblown expectations, if it were unexpectedly well-received. I feel like it’s much better if this project gets passed around through understated word-of-mouth, via friends who share things with each other. It would be insincere to pretend this is a big, world-changing project worth hype. I like Amphiox so much better as a nifty little secret thing.

Photograph of a box full of 'Amphiox' graphic novels. The graphic novel has a giant fishtail with a glowing fin on the front. The graphic novels are stacked and wrapped in shrinkwrap inside of the box.The unboxing of Amphiox, 1st edition — pretty exciting!

Shipping is also an area where I lack expertise. I hear horror stories where unexpected fees make every sale cost the artist more to make and ship the product than to do nothing at all. Crowdfunding sites take fees. Shipping supplies were also something I didn’t have much experience purchasing in bulk. The local USPS office is also like something out of a Parks and Rec episode, in terms of in-person customer service (love them, but it’s true). Having stood in line behind a person with 200 envelopes that needed individual stamping, I’m willing to bet this post office isn’t equipped to handle mass package mail-outs.

So, what to do?

 

  1. I didn’t want competition. Especially not with my friends and fellow creatives.
  2. I wanted to avoid allying myself with ‘yet another’ digital platform, whose code of conduct might change unexpectedly or which might shatter and vanish outside of my control.
  3. I didn’t want my ‘test’ comic to be regarded as all that I am capable of, forever.
  4. And, most of all…I just wanted to see what I could do on my own terms, with low stakes.

 

Call me sentimental, but I’m really enjoying the experimental stage of my artistic identity. I’m not ready to give up the freedom that obscurity grants me.

An independent digital shop was ultimately my solution. I didn’t do much research, but I did compare Ko-fi’s shopfront to WooCommerce, which is built into my WordPress theme. Hacking a shop into my existing website appealed to my partner, Devin. I’d gotten almost all the way through setting up a WooCommerce shop but some sort of unknown technical hurdle stopped me from finalizing the shopfront. Devin is a seasoned software engineer so I asked him to poke around and see what I’d done wrong.

It turns out…

I’d neglected to click a button…

So then Devin clicked the button for me because at that point I decided to give him the win. I don’t quite remember if it was the button press that did this, but at some point the shop setup replaced my entire homepage with a default shopfront. I was so horrified that a feeling of calm settled into me. Was it ennui? This dead feeling? Well, displaying my stuff online doesn’t even matter, does it? I get like a hundred hits on each blog post, tops. I’m small, and this is fine.

Screenshot of the ugly shop layout, including an unnecessary sidebar, search bar, and an ugly stock photo of a 'come in, we're open' sign.The horror.

That’s the thing about WordPress and other WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editors. A software engineer is going to look at code, understand it, and execute a clean solution. With a plugin, the backend is largely hidden. Out of an attempt to be simple, a plugin button can be quite unpredictable to press. It was nobody’s fault but mine, since I hadn’t deliberately made a backup version of my homepage. For a bleak moment, all the work I’d done designing my homepage had resulted in a blank, default shop page.

Luckily my homepage still existed on the server. The WooCommerce shop setup had simply made a new, different homepage and redirected to that. Some wrestling with the dashboard and everything was put back in place. I set up my shop with various items to make it seem less empty. I haven’t figured out how to ship prints yet, but I know they would really spruce up the page visually. Books get a little discount on postage rates so for now, I only sell zines. My first branch-out may be international shipping, but we’ll see.

Suffice to say, I’m now offering print and pdf-only editions of Amphiox, among other copies of my work. This isn’t crowdfunding, as I can cover an initial run by myself. But, if you’d like to help yourself to a copy from this run of Amphiox, I have some cute goodies included and appreciate the support. I printed my zines via Mixam, and my stickers via StickerApp.

Product photo of three different vinyl sticker designs, still in their StickerApp bags. One sticker is a smaller version of the Amphiox cover with rounded corners. Another sticker is the golden bee-infused 'H' logo that I use to represent my brand. The third sticker is an egg with a baby amphiox inside.

Order your copy of Amphiox here
(includes spoiler PDF and stickers):
https://hmcgill.art/product/amphiox-graphic-novel-1st-edition-preorder/

While you’re in the shop, feel free to add other things to your cart, too!
I print shipping stickers every Wednesday and ship by the following Saturday or earlier.

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Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryI started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.     Cocoon Week 7 This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryMostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.     Cocoon Week 5 I started the week much less restricted about...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 RecapThese weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who...

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Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Image depicted is the cover to the webcomic, Amphiox. It's a black cover with criss-crossing blue serpent coils taking up most of the background. The coils writhe around each other with faint glimmers of scales highlighted, before vanishing into darkness. This is a teaser for the beast that will be encountered and explained within the webcomic. Layered over the writing coils of the Amphiox is its tail, oddly centered and still compared to the rest of its body. An amphiox's tail ends in a fin with rounded tips. The fin's color is a bright, bioluminescent gradient composed of yellow fading into bright skyblue, before tapering into a darker cerulean. The tail has vibrating red highlights. It casts a rainbow of highlights onto its own scales. Attached to this tail are two more, lesser pectoral and dorsal fins, in cerulean blue. The pectoral fin pokes out near the tail, and the dorsal fin is further up, and larger. Layered onto the tail is a vertically-aligned title text: AMPHIOX, set in a serif font and bright white against the darkness of the rest of the cover. Under the tail, floating in the darkness, is more text set in white: H. McGill, http://amphiox.hmcgill.art.

Amphiox: Launches Today!
Today, my short story Amphiox launches in free-to-read format! This is the first time I’ve ever self-hosted a webcomic and I’m so happy it’s all come together. My partner Devin coded a website design I had in mind, and it is immaculate. Just look at that horizontally-tiling ocean texture with smart scrolling!

…Please. Look at my site and compliment my tiling ocean texture. I’m really proud of that.

Fishing for compliments aside, reception to my cover design and concept (magic doom eels) has been enthusiastic. Readers recognize I am trying something different with this project. My efforts are meant to create a webcomic that is exciting for readers to pick up, and also manageable on my end to create and display. I have looked at webcomics for a long time. Amphiox is my first foray into testing my three webcomic theories.

Theory 1: Readers are here to read a webcomic.

My readers are here to look at comic pages and read a story. I must design my comic to be legible on, at least, desktop, and if I can manage it, then mobile as well. While it’s a time-honored tradition to hide jokes in the alt text of webcomic pages, I’d also like to use them to point to the full text transcription in every page. I have omitted news posts in favor of these transcriptions. After all, a reader is here to navigate from page to page and the story must be kept intact between said pages. I can’t have a news post from my life interrupting a reader’s journey after the fact.

Theory 2: The webcomic must be something I can maintain.

While comments sections are fun, activity is what begets activity. A reader who sees no comments on a page is not going to feel great about being the first commenter. Someone else deciding to comment on my comic is not something I directly control. I refuse to sign up to do community management. I would also fear fan-theories and headcanons poisoning possible future plans for the comic. With these aspects in mind I have omitted the comments section. I do not want my comic judged based on how many people have commented. Readers may happily discuss my comic elsewhere if they please. For the part of the reading experience that I personally host, I prefer that readers do not influence each other’s opinions of the comic, or my own opinion of my work. My comic should be a connection between my work and one reader at a time with a bit of a personal barrier for safety.

Theory 3: I must fulfill an unstated but very real promise between me and my readers.

That promise is a complete story. Too many comics go on hiatus unexpectedly. This comic is complete, and, starting July 10th, may be read in full early via PDF purchase. Attached to this is a preorder sale for physical copies. The physical preorder sale is mostly a courtesy rather than a requirement. This is why I have opted for independent preorders rather than crowdfunding. I’m ordering a small press run of Amphiox anyway — Readers can grab their copies upfront if they so desire.

Now, will the story of Amphiox be satisfying? That is up to the reader. On my end, I have 46 pages of content to deliver, and after that, my half of the promise is fulfilled.

Read Amphiox as it begins updating daily here:
http://amphiox.hmcgill.art

Reserve a copy from the print preorder of Amphiox here
(includes spoiler PDF on July 10th, 2023):
https://hmcgill.art/product/amphiox-graphic-novel-1st-edition-preorder/

 

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryI started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.     Cocoon Week 7 This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February SummaryMostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.     Cocoon Week 5 I started the week much less restricted about...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 RecapThese weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who...

Want to chat about this?