It’s time for another Comitia! I just realized I haven’t updated my page since the last one in May… Yikes.
I will be selling once again. No new books this time around, but I will have copies of all my previous works, as well as some of Philip Tan’s.
Samples are available at my Pixiv page:
I will be at Comitia 116 at Tokyo Big Sight tomorrow (May 5th)! Booth no. is F34a. Stop by if you’re around!
Samples are available at my Pixiv page:
This past weekend, I participated in my first ever Comitia, a convention focused solely on original works — no established anime/manga characters allowed. I’ve attended this event as a guest for over a year now, but this is the first time I actually got a table, bringing along my first-ever doujinshi/minicomic.
As you can imagine, visiting and attending are a very different experience, each one rewarding in their own way.
Registering for Comitia was incredibly easy. I had previously registered a circle at the circle.ms homepage, which serves as the registration platform for Comiket, Comitia, and several other events. The registration procedure was simple, requiring not much beyond name, address, genre and such. I had to submit a thumbnail for the catalog, for which the registration website provides templates. It was crazy cool to see my art in the catalog!
Finally, the big day arrived on Sunday!
Here’s my experience from the show:
Circle admission begins. there are two other doujinshi events being held today, one of which seems to be drawing a major, and mostly female, crowd. I smell BL…
The line for Comitia is moderate. It only takes me a few minutes to get registered (a simple process of handing in the circle ticket that came in the mail, and receiving a different one for re-entry into the hall), and enter the hall.
I reach my table. It’s the usual bare folding thing, with a pipe chair placed on top, and positively covered in promotional flyers.
The promo goods also contains a large, sturdy paper bag from Tora no Ana, which turns out to be a godsend since the one I brought my equipment in (the big yellow promotional one from Dark Horse they handed out at SDCC) couldn’t handle the load and tore on the way in.
The “wandering registration” (巡回受付) begins. A friendly, bespectacled lady stops by my table, and collects my book sample and registration card. This completes the registration process. I am now officially a Comitia participant!
I finish setting up. I brought a nice big tablecloth made from Yukata/Hanten material (purchased from Yuzawaya), a little shelf and some display stands from the 100 Yen store. My poster stand is constructed from plastic pipes from the hardware store, costing below 1,000 Yen (as compared to the “proper” poster stand everyone is using that costs an outrageous 5k!)
I realize that I should have made my “menu” bigger, and brought more decorative stuff, as the table actually offers much more space than I had anticipated. I’m still well within the norm of Comitia booth presentation, but I can do much better.
— Phil Knall (@philknall) August 30, 2015
I also decide to make the poster bigger (It’s A2, but I could’ve easily gotten away with A1 size), and find some cloth to wrap the little wire shelf in next time.
The table next to me is a girl selling cute fantasy-themed illustrations, and has a guy helping her out. Two chairs make the 90cm wide space quite crowded. The person who reserved the space on my other side stays empty, giving me room for my bag.
Doors open to the public. Applause. I see people streaming in from the main door, but they do not make their way into our aisle until quite a bit later. I assume a lot of them are heading towards the most popular circles first, which are located in the big aisles and have the most pull (=are the most likely to sell out).
Usami stops by my booth and I wonder if she’s ok leaving her own table so early in the game (She does have someone helping).
People start finding their way into the minor aisles. Most are headed somewhere, others are browsing cursorily, but nobody stops. My neighbor starts getting visits from established fans, and sketchbook requests (lots of artists in Japan accept requests, and spend a lot of their time during conventions drawing them). A lot of the fans have a clipboard where they note down which booths to visit, and where their sketchbooks are.
I start greeting and encouraging people to take a look when I see their gaze linger on my table for longer than a second. Most walk on, some start to browse. I have a note on my book rack saying “reading is encouraged” (立ち読み歓迎), and a few people take me up on it and read the whole thing. I also encourage them to take my free 1-page comic about visiting SDCC. (I realize that I forgot to put my Twitter account or URL on it – oops)
My first sale! One of the readers liked it enough to buy. I remember telling someone I would be happy if even one person felt my work was good enough to spend 500 Yen on, and that holds true. I am pretty ecstatic.
Shortly after, a woman zips straight to my table and asks for a copy. I wonder how she found me.
I start to realize that having something to convey the genre of my book more clearly might be of help – since my illustration skill isn’t up to the level of most of the artists here, I have a much harder time getting people to take a look in the first place. (I do think the cover of TCOM #1 does a fairly good job of invoking a Sci-fi feel though, the circuitry background was a wise choice in hindsight.)
Noticing a steady increase in traffic past noon. People are done getting the stuff they were actively looking for, and spending time just wandering the hall.
A customer, after flipping through the book and checking out my menu, purchases the only Japanese/English set of the day.
At some point I notice that Takeshi Miyazawa and Ken Niimura are only about 5 booths away and stare at their backs for a bit.
People are starting to pay with coins. Up til this point it was all 1000 Yen bills, so I am relieved I’d prepared so much change. (I saw a guy who used a roll of packing tape as a container for his change, I liked that idea)
The organizers announce that the catalogs (which double as tickets) have sold out, so anyone can enter the hall.
I cannot tell if it has any effect on attendance.
A dude in a Mad Max shirt picks up my SDCC comic, and I thank him with a V8 sign.
Mangaka and friend Tateo Retsu stops by and takes over the booth while I take a quick break. I get a fresh bottle of water and visit some friends I hadn’t gotten to in the morning. Attendees are getting visibly more tired, and harder to talk up.
I stop by the editor’s outpost (a section of the hall exclusively devoted to pitch reviews by editors from roughly 100 publications. They look for pitch-ready sequentials rather than a portfolio of works). Beside this, there is a really interesting exhibit of scenario, roughs, and inks process from several published manga, including Saint Young Men (which is really funny).
Back at the table, I chat with Tateo for a bit. She’s a cool lady, very knowledgeable about comics and the only person to notice my BPRD T-shirt.
A girl stops by to pick up my SDCC comic. She’s really into Marvel movies and dying to go to comic-con. Hasn’t looked into the comics.
I am at about 10 sales so far.
More and more sellers are packing up and going home. The shipping agents getting really busy at the end is a factor in this. I have decided not to pack up until the closing announcement.
Very few people looking at books anymore. The event is effectively over.
I sold 14 books, which, considering that it was my first time, and reported sales numbers from the event, I consider a success! I made the registration fee back, plus enough for a couple of beers 🙂
The organizers announce the end of the event. Applause. I pack up my stuff (my box is noticeably emptier, but with the handful of books I bought or received from friends, it’s about the same), fold up the chair and put it below the table. Folding up the table is optional but encouraged – at Comitia, sellers, just like attendees and organizers, are considered “participants” responsible for making sure the event goes smoothly. There are no guards shooing people out of the hall. Whoever remains is expected to help clean up, and the hall empties amazingly efficiently.
Yasuaki Funayama picks me up for an evening of Yakitori, really random drinks, and lots of taking about comics. Should be enough to get me into his next Comitia report comic! (Check out the one for Comitia112 here – it’s really funny.)
TO BE CONTINUED
(at the next Comitia and Kaigai Manga Festa in November!)
The past month or so, I haven’t made a lot of time to go out, or even for this blog. Instead, I have spent my time living the dream: drawing comics all day in my underwear. Glorious! And today I was rewarded for the work: A box of professionally printed books containing my story arrived at my door!
This post is going to be a recollection of my efforts. I am by no means an experienced artist – this is my first book! – but perhaps people looking into putting their own comics together for the first time might relate, or find some of it helpful.
TCOM, in various forms and stages, has been in the making for the better part of 15 years. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve been drawing for 15 years (that would mean I’d drawn a page a year), instead I wrote and rewrote the first chapter, started drawing and scrapped it again, over and over and over again. It’s kinda self-destructive if you think about it. But for some reason, the idea just wouldn’t leave me be, and I knew I wanted to realize it some form, some day.
Initially I started working on TCOM (the pitch for TCOM, more precisely – just like everyone around me I was obsessed with breaking in to the comic industry by getting picked up by an established publisher. At the time I was really into Oni Press) with Hiromi Ueyoshi, a fellow comics fan who was an absolute wizard with a pencil – her old character designs and pages for a minicomic we did just before SDCC 2001 (where she chickened out from saying hi because I looked scary with my eyebrow piercing) still blow me away.
Hiromi was 15? at the time, so it was obviously unrealistic she’d be able to stick with it for long, and I was on my own again. I felt insecure in my abilities as an artist, plus, all comic books I read were made by a writer + an artist. I never really thought about getting it done by myself. I wrote and re-wrote the first chapter at least a dozen times. Never got much farther before I backtracked and restarted.
I’m in a very different place now. I’m 34 years old, with a full-time job, and hardly looking for a “break” into the comics industry. But I do still love comics, and I do still want to make comics.
In recent years, I’ve started attending Comitia, an event where creators known and unknown sell their own original works. Most of them work alone. There’s artists looking to be discovered, but there’s also people just making comics in their free time because they enjoy it, and the level of quality in art varies wildly. I started writing doujinshi reviews on this blog, and made friends with some of the artists. I learned that it’s not hard to get your stuff printed at a reasonable cost. And I realized, there is absolutely no valid reason why I should not be making comics.
I looked at the books I buy and enjoy at Comitia. I noticed I prefer the smaller A5 size, matte covers (often with a pearl finish), and rough paper. I already knew the process of selecting printing properties from producing Philip Tan’s Garan Guard, so I knew I could get these for my book. Paper sizes in most of the world are standardized, A5 is half of A4 etc, and comics are usually scaled down to the next smaller one. So I grabbed some A4 sized Deleter Kent paper (Philip’s recommendation), and started drawing.
My process is completely non-linear – I had a basic outline of what I wanted to happen in the book, broken down by pages, but I made layout sketches, rough pencils, and the final digitally inked art for each stage at various stages in the process. I had an idea what the characters would say (remember, this book has been in my head for the better part of 15 years),but I didn’t plot out the actual dialogue until after the art was almost completely done, and basically made it up as I lettered. The Marvel way!
I drew all of TCOM in blue pencil, which is something a lot of artists use for their roughs – in my case inconsequential as I didn’t pencil or ink over them. I ended up liking the slick, crayony feel of the colored lead, but it really made no difference. I then scanned them (400dpi for color, 600 for greyscale, as per the printer’s guidelines) and inked over them in Photoshop, using mostly the “Ultimate Inking – Thick & Thin” and “Belgian Comics” brushes from Kyle T. Webster’s “Megapack” brush set. I work on a Wacom Intuos pen tablet, with the grey-tipped kinda rubbery nib on my pen. Ultimately, my choice of inking brush hardly mattered, as I ended up using a very small amount of line weight variation – something I will need to work on.
I think I noticed this too late because I was working in Photoshop, and zooming in a lot.
For the same reason, I also had a hard time keeping the parts of the bodies and faces in proportion. Which is a strong reason to keep doing those pencil roughs, as much as they differ from the finished pictures. I mean sheesh!
A few things I noticed that helped me improve throughout the process:
1 Lock your layers, dummy!
Multiple times, I’d make some adjustments to the layer containing my scanned pencils, and then go back to inking… Only to find I’d been inking on the pencil layer, with no way of separating the lines from the background. It’s just one click to lock a layer in Photoshop (and you can even just lock individual aspects, like position or transparency!), and it’ll prevent mishaps like this with a really annoying dialog box popping up whenever you try to paint on the locked layer.
2 Keyboard shortcuts abound!
I knew most of the basics – hold space to drag, individual letters corresponding to tools, etc. – but I found some new stuff: the tab key hides all the tool bars, leaving the work area free and uncluttered. Shift + tool letters let you access the secondary functions of the tools, like the polygonal or magnetic lassos. In Illustrator, hiding the guards by hitting Ctrl+: sped things up quite a bit.
3 Have a mirror handy!
I learned to have a mirror on my desk. Our rather, I learned why a lot of illustrators and cartoonists do.
For some reason, I never got into the habit of doing this previously. I’ve drawn my share of stuff, nothing professional of course, but never a lot of sequentials. Having a mirror at hand helps a lot with “talking heads” style sequences, which is to say most of this book… Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until halfway through, so the improvement is not as visible as it could be.
I did the cover very late in the process. I knew this was the face of my book, and I wanted it to look presentable. My art skill was very, very rusty (and had never been particularly good in the first place!), so I decided it was probably wisest to keep it until I felt confident I could do an ok job with it.
I went for the obvious choice, a picture of TCOM’s protagonists (Tom and Andy).
My initial idea was for them to be on different planes of existence (the real world and the computer world, Matrix if you will), Tom reaching in and his hand dissolving into pixels. I tried to draw this, but every effort I made looked like crap. I chose to stick to the deadline, accept the failure, and try to do a better job next time.
For the background, I came up with the idea of a stylized circuit board rather quickly. I played with a myriad of color combinations – some that stuck were black/pink, yellow/blue, and green/magenta – and decided to keep the green. I also noticed that the pearl finish I enjoy doesn’t really seem right for the subject matter, and thought about alternatives. I noticed the printer I was working with does foil embossing, a technique that was popular (=overdone) in american comics in the 90s. I initially planned to do the entire “circuit” part of the cover in foil, but it was too big for the printer’s standard foil stamp option. So I experimented a little and noticed that the part around the logo type was actually a pretty neat cluster that lent itself well to the foil treatment. The final cover, along with the beautiful back cover Philip did for me, looks like this:
There’s tons of things I would’ve liked to improve. The coloring on the characters, for one, I didn’t have the chance to go beyond flats. I’m not at all satisfied with the girl’s figure. But it was either run with it, or not have the book done in time for SDCC. Sometimes you have to let things go, or risk never to finish the book at all.
The way the embossing works is, you send the printer an additional file containing the shape for the emboss stamp, in 100% black on one layer. In my case, this was super easy. I’d done the circuit board background in illustrator, so I just put the relevant paths on a new layer, and made sure the outline was as clear as possible. I left the registration- and trim marks the same, so it would be positioned the way I wanted it.
Here’s the illustrator image, the metal stamp the printer was so kind as to send with the books, and the finished product!
I did the layout and lettering in Illustrator (I have a limited design background, so I knew for simple shapes Illustrator always looks best). The printer I used has templates available for both Photoshop and Illustrator, so I didn’t need to fiddle with cut marks and the like. For the actual lettering and panel borders, I found this tutorial from Scott McCloud very helpful (in particular, McCloud’s technique to add an outline to everything on a layer was a lifesaver!)
The result, with a line weight of 2pt for the balloons, and 1pt for panel borders:
The printer, as previously, was super helpful in getting everything figured out. I’d met one of their sales managers at Comitia, so I had a direct contact person. That helped heaps, however as I’ve said before, their website has tons of helpful tips on how to prepare the data for print, if you’re able to read Japanese.
I registered and uploaded the files digitally (believe it or not, it’s still quite common for people to send physical originals), and paid per credit card. The printer I chose (Taiyou Shuppan) offers several “set deals” that have a handful of paper- and finish options included at a set price, so that was painless as well. Overall, the entire process was ridiculously foolproof. Including the foil emboss, the semi-transparent cover separators, and shipping, these came down to about $3 each. Not bad.
And that’s it! My first minicomic in the can! I only printed it in Japanese, but I’ll do a translation for SDCC on separate copy paper (yikes! only 3 days left!), so I’ll throw a translated PDF up when I’m done! Thanks for sticking with me through this huge post, I hope it offered something entertaining/helpful/new. As always, Likes/comments are very much encouraged!
Click the pictures below to read a 7-page preview of the first issue of TCOM. Let me know what you thought!