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?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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. Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a...

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Online Shop is Now LiveTruth 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...

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

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...

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.

Care to read more?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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. Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a...

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Online Shop is Now LiveTruth 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...

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

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...

Want to chat about this?

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?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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. Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a...

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Online Shop is Now LiveTruth 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...

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

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...

Want to chat about this?

How to Color the World

How to Color the World

Digital screenshot preview of eight sequential pages from my upcoming short graphic novel, Amphiox. It's meant to be too small to read clearly. It features a lot of blues and reds.

From Inks to Colors
I completed the inks to Amphiox sometime in November. From there, I needed to figure out how to color a comic. I’ve done short comics in full color before. The thing with a one- or two-page micro-story is that each individual story can have its own color scheme. It’s a wholly different concept to color 48 individual pages in a book. The pages all need to look like they’re part of the same book, but also evoke different moods, times of day, and settings. I’d never colored more than a sequence of one or two pages before. This was going to get interesting, and fast.

Digital spread of black-and-white comic pages. It has several panels with striking black backgrounds. It is otherwise uncolored with black lineart on white background.For lack of knowing what else to do, I filled in spot blacks across all the pages in the comics, like I did in this page. 

It was hard to know where to go after I filled in spot black inks. They weren’t intended to be a final version of the comic, but they did make it look finalized. A fallback. The point of Amphiox, though, is to approach the challenge of making a complete comic, colors and all, so that I feel less afraid and lost while making other comics. Since I had the entire book drawn and inked, I had one advantage, and one advantage alone:

I know what the most complicated spread in the whole book is.

(…Or at least, I thought I did.)

Digital comics spread depicting a chaotic village of people who live inside of airships. All sorts of air vehicles are strewn about, near a garden and tables full of food. A lot of stuff appears to have been repurposed for village life, such as dumpsters used as storage and old solar panels used as roofing. There are hot air balloons, RVs, motorcycles, old military equipment, and helicopters perched near a section of highway that has clearly seen better days. There is a black fill on the ground and the rest of the subjects are white. Manta rays fly through the air overhead, which is not something they do in real life.Here it is. The most complicated spread. If I can’t get colors to work here, they’re not going to work for the rest of the book.

I chose this spread of the airship village because it is the most detailed and overwhelming piece in the entire story. How I ended up coloring this would influence the rest of the book. It would be hard to retrofit a color scheme from a simpler page onto this spread, because what if I didn’t use enough colors elsewhere? What if the colors I was using in smaller panels were cacophonous here, when I needed all of them at once?

Same digital spread as above, only now it sports chaotic colors, most notably: Bright green.My first attempt at flatting this spread. I used literal colors, except for the manta rays. They were made red in an attempt to make them stick out from the background more.

My thought process was, a nice bright green to welcome readers into the world, and make them see that, through all the wrack and ruin, something beautiful and fun had come together in the form of a traveling village. However, I discovered that coloring everything with a literal hue (as in, a 1:1 representation as seen in real life, which has no art direction) still led to a cacophonous color scheme. There weren’t many good ways to direct reader attention if everything is a very bright color. The biggest problem here was my inability to separate the extreme foreground (flying manta rays) from the extreme background (airship village and villages). I did genuinely like the green and what it represented. I just couldn’t get it all to agree with itself in one spread. That meant that this strategy also wasn’t going to work across the rest of the pages.

The good thing was that the way I had set up my flatting, it was easy to change colors with one click via Fill tool with ‘contiguous’ unchecked. I could blaze through as many color schemes as I wanted without too much fuss.

Spread of the airship village, only now in nightmarish red, yellow, and blue hues.My second attempt at flatting the airship village was inspired by the works of James Fenner.

I really wanted this to work. Really, really wanted it. It just wasn’t going to cooperate. I didn’t quite have a bead on what made Fenner’s color schemes work. The tone was ‘complete nightmare’ when I was going for ‘cool dream’. I had possibly overcorrected from literal hues to more symbolic ones. I also fretted that I was stealing a bit too fiercely from Fenner, whose entire portfolio uses basically this color scheme or other similarly unhinged schemes. It was still a great exercise and one that made me think more carefully about stylizing hues.

Digital spread of the airship village, now rendered in teal with...pink and purple manta rays? What?My third attempt at coloring this spread, before I gave up temporarily.

I came to one conclusion: The ‘village’ portion of the illustration was likely going to be all one color. At this point, I had mostly learned about what my comic wasn’t going to look like. It was time to step back and think about the other extreme within my comic:

What was the simplest page going to look like, when it came to color?

Since this comic’s inception as a quick, experimental short prose story, I’d always had one scene in mind with a definite color. The character uses a red light in a dark grotto, so as not to disturb the local wildlife. The red light changes to ultraviolet, then back to red, so that the character can find a UV-sensitive egg. This red, then, was my next clue to the comic’s color scheme.

I looked at how red light lends two different tones to a scene. I used only a midtone and a shadow to begin with. No highlights. This kind of color scheme would heavily rely on silhouette and staging to work. Spot black fills were key. I had to hope that I’d set up my inks well enough for this. I was pretty sure I had, but, just in case, there’s always the option to obliterate detail!

Digital comics spread of a wayward explorer using red light to explore a cave full of rocks, eggs, and giant serpents. In one panel she is tripping on the stones and yelling 'Crap!'. She lands on a giant fin. More complete transcriptions will be available when the comic officially launches.I was shocked by how easy it was to flat this sequence.

Since this color was working out fairly well, I went ahead and flatted all of the pages in what I referred to as the ‘red light sequence’… No, not that kind of red light! Anyway. This firmly established this particular red as an important color to the comic. It meant that I needed to find other places to use the red to keep it as a thoroughline color, so that it wasn’t too shocking when the whole comic went monochromatic with red as the only hue. 

Digital screenshot of Photoshop's color picker tool, displaying al the hue sliders and options for selecting colors. A triangle with an exclamation mark next to the chosen hue indicates it's not going to print accurately in CMYK.Photoshop warns artists with a triangle if they’re about to use a color that won’t translate accurately to print. It’s mostly fussy about green tones, but any hue can cause trouble if it’s too bright or the K (black) value is too high.

I also needed to be aware of ink density. I believe that my small press printer of choice, Mixam, does digital as well as offset printing, depending on the amount of copies a person orders. Offset printing tends to be more dull so I relied on Photoshop’s ink density warnings wherever I could. I wanted a nice screen-to-paper conversion via CMYK values. I will find out whether these worked out when I get a proof of this from Milan. This consideration gave me about 4 different reds to work into my ‘red light’ sequence. 

Once I’d flatted the darkness of the cave, I reasoned that, the easiest way to carry this red color through the whole comic was to apply it to Lyrat’s clothes. She features throughout most of the graphic novel. I’d envisioned her as wearing a mauve jumpsuit when I was first writing her, but mauve is just another term for desaturated, dark red.

Digital comic page depicts a character dressed in red in the basement of an abandoned house, which has been rendered in soft, dreamy green tones.First attempt at flatting some opening pages. Green typically complements red, so I went with that.

I sat back and thought about the other elements in the comic that featured prominently. Sure, there was a giant magic doom eel, which was black, but that was already covered by my preliminary spot black fills. Black goes with any color scheme, same as white and neutral gray tones. I also found this lovely axolotl art and wanted to try grouping colors the way this artist grouped their colors. The magic doom eel has a peculiar face which requires many colors, so that gave me another space to throw in ‘all the colors’ and see if it worked. This page, I am hiding, because I would prefer to surprise readers with what the Amphiox’s face looks like. Stay tuned for the webcomic launch to see it for yourself.

My creature design inspiration led me to the color blue. Deep, oceanic, broad, cerulean blue. I had initially colored all the oceans in the comic with spot black. My thought was that this was a reference to the Euxine, to sleep, and to death, but once again I found myself pulling away from stylized colors to more literal ones, at least where the ocean and the water and the waves were concerned. This ocean is an enormous part of the setting so it makes sense that blue would be a major color in the comic.

DIgital screenshot of an ocean texture, rendered with delicate, sparkling cerulean tones.(Regina Spektor noises)

I decided to make the amphiox’s fins blue instead of gray, and I filled in all the water in the comic with this blue color. It’s a warmer blue, not as warm or as bright as cyan, but it easily blends to the greens and yellows of a Mediterranean-climate body of water. This solved most of the comic color scheme in one fell swoop. I improvised in the opening series of pages and at the end to see if I could indicate the passage of time. I used a pea-green teal color to indicate the foggy morning of the opening pages, and purples and oranges to indicate nightfall.

Digital comics spread of the character on an island, tossing her rope into the abyss. Everything is lit with blue tones. The island is a vibrant yellow with green plants here and there.Then I worked on this spread, which I found to be very playful and bright. Exactly the tone I want in the comic.

Having flatted most of the comic, I took a break. When I came back, it was time to fix the airship village spread.

The airship spread returns! Complete color description is in the post below.Here is what I ended up doing.

While this spread had initially appeared very complex and needing tons of colors, it was actually a large variety that made my composition unreadable. There was a pair of dimensional planes that needed definition for the story of this spread to work: The meandering village in the sand down below, and the flight of the manta rays from the ocean. Any more colors and this spread loses all meaning. It was here that I invented the sandy yellow beach to contrast with the blue manta rays, and this yellow would  become more important later. There’s a thing called ‘atmospheric perspective’ which generally relates to the color blue and far-away objects turning more and more blue as they approach the horizon line in the distance. Here, I used atmospheric perspective, but with yellow. All the characters were colored with various shades of yellow, except for the two small characters that I want everyone to look at first in the top left corner. Yellow atmospheric perspective makes the scene look dusty but I think an airship village in the sand would be that way.

Digital art of an abandoned house overlooking a shore strewn with airships and the ruins of a highway. In the distance is an island. It is all covered in murky green fog.I still had some problems with the overall color scheme within the comic that I needed to address.

This panel looked fine on its own. The next page also looked fine. But, within the context of the whole comic…? It really didn’t match, at all, even though the pea-green showed up elsewhere in the comic. My favorite spreads were the ones with vibrant jewel tones. An art director friend, Sarah Dungan, reached out with some constructive criticism: Among other things, I needed to put the yellow from the airship village on the beach. I huffed. No!! This was my misty foggy mysterious opener!! How dare!

Same panel as above, but with an expanded composition to show more sky and more of the setting near the abandoned house. Abandoned picket fence and the shadows of electric equipment dot the cliffside.Well. I tried. This still didn’t look right, but it also didn’t feel right to walk it back to what I had.

As it turns out, there just isn’t enough room in a 48-page action adventure comic to properly display the slow, calm passage of time. This was also affecting how the sunset in the final pages felt — purples and pinks are very nice, but if they’re not really omnipresent in the rest of the comic, it feels weird for them to be central colors all of a sudden. It was time to dial back something about these spreads to be less literal and more stylized, fitting the style of the pages I already liked.

Same panel as above, but all the green is now a muted desaturated blue.Desaturating a blue can make it seem ‘greenish’ when placed next to something that is more deeply blue. Sarah is, after all, often right.

So, now my comic has two ‘modes’ of color instead of four. It has ‘outdoors’ mode, and it has ‘deep in a grotto with a monster’ mode. I think these are the most dramatic and exciting transitions for the reader, and having more modes would make it harder to sink into the world I’m trying to convey. Would I have room for more modes of color if I continued the comic? Most likely, I think I would, but I’m still going to keep mode-switching to a minimum and rely on the blue and the red the most.

Some good news though! My printed proof is coming shortly, after which I can tweak the colors to print better. I’m also in the process of designing a website and a preorder campaign for ordering the book. I’m just going to see where this goes!

Care to read more?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

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Amphiox: Launches Today!

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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...

Want to chat about this?

Amphiox, Continued

Amphiox, Continued

Digital artwork of the opening page in a 48-page comic titled 'Amphiox'. It depicts the title in loosely-kerned Alegreya font as well as a section of some sort of eel, fin included.

Defining Steps in a Personal Production Pipeline
My Amphiox short comic is an exercise in art production. Up until I attempted it, I’d never really done much longform comic storytelling. Most of my practice was in one- or two-page micro-stories. I chose 48 pages as a test for art production because that’s a typical length for a ‘floppy’ comic book, like the ones that debut monthly in comic shops. As I continue to work on it in drafts, I have to define particular stages of production. This frees me from judging myself too hard too early; if something’s not working, I can do my best and then leave it for a later pass.

At the moment, I’m working on inking. However, prior to this I needed the following passes:

  1. Thumbnailing
  2. Value Sketch
  3. Roughing
  4. ‘Clean’ Roughing

I don’t like two separate stages of roughing. For the purposes of figuring out how I like to work I had to give myself the opportunity to ‘let go’ on any given panel in my comic. But, will this be a fast enough process to deliver a comic according to a tighter schedule with more people’s livelihoods on the line? Most comic art I see has a roughs stage, then a lineart stage, nothing in between. I wonder if I have to sharpen my confidence to get to that stage?

Just for fun, here’s what the above stages look like on the most complex spread of my comic so far. It’s an airship village that I named ‘Villagespread.psd’ and it’s fun but I also am expecting a lot of myself with it.

Digital artwork of a very scribbly, simple 'airship village'. If you squint it might be full of airships.Thumbnailing

Digital artwork of the airship village, rendered in stark black and white. The shapes are still very abstract. There's stick figures running through it shouting 'Amphiox! Amphiox!'Value Sketch (with extra panels to indicate the path the characters take)

Digital artwork of the village spread, now drawn more competently and with grayscale shading. It's still pretty rough but at least the airships are visible.Roughing (with grayscale study)

Digital artwork of the airship village spread, with more work on the characters and refined setting pieces.‘Clean’ Roughing

Digital artwork of the airship village spread with the rough sketch set to low opacity, and a few polished lines on the left of the composition.
Inking (Work in progress, of course!)

I also did some late-stage editing on the writing in this draft. When test readers went through the comic they were greatly misinterpreting the following spread. They thought this was a rescue team. I came to the conclusion that this was just a few too many threads in a very short, simple story.

A rough spread with a subterranean submarine, new characters, banter, and uh yeah it's confusing.

However, it’s a bit late in the game to commit to a spread that is equally complicated as this one.

Digital artwork of a view over a hill. There's an airship village on the beach. A rickety house sits on the hill. Off in the ocean there's a grotto. There is text: ONCE UPON A TIME... A traveling village perched upon a shore.  The villagers kept an eye on the horizon. Hungry and deep, the ocean growled. The villagers called their planet, 'haunted'.

I schooched in a ‘prequel’ spread using graphic design to minimize the amount of art I needed to draw. White space is more than about being artsy or airy…it’s also about freeing yourself from extra work. This spread also solved a problem with staging that I had. It’s important that the reader be able to ‘feel’ the location of the airship village in relation to the Amphiox grotto and the haunted house on the hilltop. I’m not the greatest at prose but hopefully I could give a little bit of cultural context to how people react to giant magic doom eels.

Scanned traditional sketch of Lyrat with a patchier outfit and more utilitarian clothing.

I also redesigned Lyrat Poes (‘Poesy’ in the comic) because I didn’t want her to be so symmetrical. I also felt like her original balloony clothing was going to get caught on stuff. Now she looks more like she mods her outfits for jobs rather than fashion.

What’s Next?
Inking! So much inking. Especially that airship spread, wow. I was averaging about 3 full spreads per day before I hit that one.

How am I Feeling About Warlock’d?
Right. This was meant to be a thing that helped me with Warlock’d. Okay, so, I’m feeling intimidated by the amount of work I have to do to make a very long story (300+ pages) coherent and as polished as I am making Amphiox. However, I think that I can commit to polishing individual chapters and editing layouts in the same way that I’ve been editing Amphiox layouts. Am I glad I made Amphiox? Yes. Do I enjoy how much time it’s taking from Warlock’d? No, but at the same time, I needed a break from Warlock’d.

Care to read more?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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. Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a...

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Online Shop is Now LiveTruth 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...

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

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...

Want to chat about this?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Digital artwork of a cow mascot over a colored-in balloon letter word of 'SAWGUST'

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!
For the month of August, I pledged to ‘rough’ 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren’t necessarily polished. As I went, I colored in typography supplied by Sally Charette, one block for each day I completed. The cow mascot, SAWgustus, was created and drawn by Adrean Clark. I even won an ‘Auggie’ – a casual award for participating.

How Many Comic Roughs Can I Get Done in a Month?
As it turns out, 48 individual roughed pages in 24 spreads is a reasonable first benchmark for me. These aren’t ready to ship at all, by any means, but I have a solid start to a zine I might be able to sell at Geek Girl Con coming up in November. Probably not full-color or fully complete, but it’s exciting to think about having a short story available when normally all I sell are one-off illustrations and charms and things like that. Check out my progress below.

Digital artwork of a sketch of Lyrat, a bandit who wears a beanie and a jumpsuit.

I did some explorations of character designs as I went, but they needed adjustment within the story, so I’m glad I didn’t get too polished too quickly. I think I’ll leave my other character designs like this in the future. A little amorphous until they need to be solidified.

Digital artwork of various cover ideas, including some typographical explorations, some character art, the Amphiox monster, eggs, and random junk in the ocean.

I even had some time to experiment with cover designs.

Now what I’m sitting on is a base for the rest of the comic. I don’t think I can get a full-color comic inked and printed by November, but a black and white one would be possible. I definitely want to take an appropriate amount of time with inking so that I don’t have to re-do that. I also don’t want to commit to color too early and use a color-key to help me make good decisions as I polish off the rest of this comic before the year ends.

Many thanks to the SAW community for the great space to post rough progress and catalogue my thoughts as I was creating this!

What’s Next?
I have the following steps to get through as I continue honing this project and turning it into a little comic for my portfolio.

  1. Test Reading: Two readers have tested my comic and written a short story summarizing what they think the story is about. I’ll be reviewing their thoughts and incorporating changes to the story and characters based on what they thought. Some of the comic is still too ambiguous at this stage.
  2. Rough Revisions: I’ve shuffled the spreads into an order from least-favorite spread to most-favorite spread. I’ll be revising them with fresh rough artwork
  3. Value Studies R2: Roughs are a great spot to pause and see if my values have changed from my initial studies. They also inform whether my compositions are still working or not.
  4. Color Studies: Roughs are also a great spot to try out color schemes and see what will fit for the entire story, or if I need to adjust particular compositions.
  5. Inking: This will likely happen in a few steps but I haven’t thought through them fully enough to deliberate what those steps are.
  6. Coloring: This, too, will have its own series of steps in a process. Probably something similar to how I color smaller artwork.

Care to read more?

In the News Again

In the News Again

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. Above is the first page to my small entry. I wanted to do a comparison of attending a...

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Digital Shop: Now Open!

My Online Shop is Now LiveTruth 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...

Amphiox: Launches Today!

Amphiox: Launches Today!

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...

Want to chat about this?