My Top 5 Comics Biz Sites

If you love comics and cartooning and can't get enough of that inside track stuff - you know, like the commentary on your favorite DVD's - then here are 5 websites (in no particular order) you should be reading daily:

Tom's MAD Blog

Not only has Tom Richmond written a book on caricature that is taking the world by storm (The Mad Art of Caricature - available here) he blogs almost daily with his tips, tricks, inspirations, and, most importantly, business advice for aspiring freelance cartoonists. If you are looking for practical help to improve your cartooning/drawing/marketing skills this is the place to go!

Mike Lynch Cartoons

A prolific, highly respected, and well, just darned funny gag cartoonist, Mike is also a collector of comic art and old time book collections that he frequently takes the time to scan and post for posterity. He also frequently has his finger on the pulse of the cartooning and creative world and can tip you to great articles like this one. If you've never visited his blog, prepare to spend about 2 days straight reading to catch up with just a smidgeon of the good stuff he posts.

The Daily Cartoonist

Founded in 2006 (just before the launch of Edison BTW) The Daily Cartoonist by Alan Gardener quickly became THE place to go for up to the minute cartooning news. I probably visit this site 2-3 times a day, as do almost all the cartoonists I know.

Comic Strip of The Day

Mike Peterson has been a columnist, an editor, a journalist, in fact, just about any job you can name related to a newspaper and he has probably done it. And it shows. He has a newsman's eye for the most well done, relevant cartoons - both editorial and comic strips - every single day. Not only does he cherry pick some of the day's best 'toons for you, you'll roll on the floor as you read his witty and insightful commentary. His site is also an excellent place to find reviews of, and links to, some of the best comics collections and books on comics history currently available. A "must visit" for the comics lover on your holiday shopping list.

Tall Tale Radio - Tall Tale on Gocomics

Ever wonder what your favorite cartoonists are like up close and personal? Then this is the place for you! Stephan Pastis, Mark Tatulli, Dan Piraro, Sandra Bell Lundy, Bill Holbrook, Jeff Keane, the list goes on and on. Tom has recorded almost 200 top notch interviews with folks in the cartooning business. Set aside some listening time - maybe while you're doing all that social networking stuff - and start catching up on these podcasts.

It looks as though I'm cheating here, and putting 2 sites in the place of 1, but Tom Racine's Tall Tale Radio podcasts are posted both on his traditional site and over on gocomics. The gocomics podcasts tend to be shorter installments of the interviews you'll find on the main site. So if you don't have an hour to spend listening to a great comics interview (which I do regularly when I am coloring for John) then the gocomics version of the interviews is the place for you. You'll want to use the above link - for some reason it's very hard to find on the gocomics site itself.

There are a lot of other great sites - especially for the comic book industry - but these are my current top 5.

The Art Of Trees - Or, "Why John Is Behind"

There is such a thing in syndicated comic strip land known as a "deadline". It is the day "you", the creator, are supposed to have your strips for the week submitted to "them", the syndicate that distributes your work to newspapers.

Because papers like to have the strips for review well ahead of the intended publish date, this deadline can be several weeks before the strip will run. John is supposed to be submitting Sunday strips 9 weeks before publication and Daily strips 6 weeks before.

Well, he isn't.

OK - it's not like he's behind enough to be a huge headache for the syndicate or get fined. (Yes, fined. That's what happens if, like Garry Trudeau, you are turning your strips in a week to 2 weeks before they run. - Although Garry is such a big fish he probably has a contractual exemption or something.)

But 6 and 9 weeks we ain't exactly at.

As a result I am asked an almost weekly question by my lovely spouse. "Why am I so far behind?! Why can't I get back on track?"

I don't always have an answer but this week I do.


Really great trees.

Trees you probably don't see in many other syndicated newspaper comics being produced today.

These trees:

And all the other really cool, gorgeous things John draws in Edison every day.

John is one of those "old school" artists who still produces the strip 100% non-digital. He hand letters every word balloon, draws every "gutter" and "panel" and uses brush and India Ink on Bristol Board. A comic colleague recently told John he considered him one of the finest "brush men" in the business.

I have to agree.

And if all that attention to detail - coupled with top notch writing - means that the strip is a little behind the publishing curve, well, I can live with that.

Until they start fining us, that is :-)

Don't forget to read Edison for free every day here.

My Favorite Strips To Color

Most of you know that I (Anne) color the strip - 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

That's a lot of coloring.

My mother recently gave me a book of Mandalas to color in as a meditative exercise - "Are you serious?! Do you realize I already spend 10 hours a week coloring things? It's like I live in a never ending Kindergarten!" (I did not actually say this to her - but I seriously thought about it.)

But, despite all that coloring, for 7 years now (Edison begins year 8 on November 6 2013) I still LOVE this job.

Sure, probably 80% of Edison readers only see my work on Sundays - very few papers across the country run daily comics in color - but I still love doing it. Especially when I see the color on the internet where it is backlit, adding more dimension to the strip. (Except for on Arcamax. They do something funky to the color as is evidenced here:

Note that the purple is more neon as are the blues and greens in panel 2

My absolute favorite strips to color are the ones that happen in the lab. Outdoor scenes require fairly faithful representations of real world color, as do scenes that happen in the family home and school. But the lab can look like ANYTHING. It's also the space where John gives me 100% autonomy over color. (I have 90% over the other scenes - like I said before, they have to be fairly realistic.)

I did not do the color for the first three months of the strip back in 2006 - but once I took over I quickly decided I wanted the lab to be a place that really popped and sizzled. Hence the use of bold primary colors and backgrounds consisting mainly of blue, green, and yellow/orange vignettes. As you can see here in a Sunday page that ran April 11 of 2010 (sadly, this strip could have been published yesterday - still true)

I've been asked where I got the inspiration to color Edison strips this way and my answer is twofold - Marvel Comics and Warner Brothers Loony Toons. I remember as a kid being totally knocked out by the color in Loony Toons - especially the Chuck Jones cartoons with Marvin the Martian and Duck Dodgers etc. And I also remember that the Marvel Comic Books I read had way more fabulous color than Batman or Superman.

So, when you read an average daily comic set in the family living room - sure, I enjoyed coloring that. But when you see the stuff in the lab - I enjoyed the hell out of coloring THAT :-)

Top Ten Kickstarter Mistakes

A while back I wrote a post comparing Kickstarter to Indiegogo that has turned out to be the most popular post on this blog. Apparently people are very interested in advice on crowd funding :-)

Since that post I have contributed to more campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as running a crowd sourced fundraiser independent of both platforms, and I have a new batch of insights you may find helpful if you are considering starting a Kickstarter campaign. Keep in mind that, while I will be using the label "Kickstarter" these tips apply pretty much across the board for crowd funding.

Here, in no particular order are ten of the top mistakes you should try to avoid when using crowd funding:

1) Putting a lot of work into your pitch (video and essay) but then just sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in.

  • Making your pitch is only the beginning. Your project is sure to die on the vine unless you have a coherent plan for publicizing it. A terrific tutorial on publicizing a Kickstarter campaign can be found here.

2) Forgetting that, in most cases, the majority of your money will come from people you already have relationships with.

  • No matter how well you publicize your campaign you will find that your most generous and engaged donors are people you already know. Family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, etc. Make a list of these people before you launch your campaign and be brutally honest with yourself while assessing how much each person is likely to support you - both financially and with spreading the word.

3) Assuming that others will automatically have as great a passion for your project as you do.

  • Just because your friends like you doesn't mean they believe in your project. Work hard to explain your project in an exciting and engaging way. You want your support network going that extra mile for you. Convince them your project has a solid vision and that they can count on you to follow through with it.

4) Asking for 100 % of your project budget via Kickstarter

  • Have other backup sources of income lined up in case you don't make your goal. Consider using Indiegogo if you need a flexible funded campaign rather than the traditional "all or nothing" Kickstarter campaign. Click here to re-read my explanation of the different kinds of campaigns.

5) Neglecting to factor in fees charged by Kickstarter and Amazon Payments

  • Read carefully the page on Kickstarter that explains all the fees and the percentage that Kickstarter takes of your project total. Be sure to add those fees into your total "ask" when you set your Kickstarter goal. It's an awful feeling to think you've raised all the money you will need only to find you have come up short at the end of the fee process.

6) Not putting enough thought into backer rewards.

  • Be sure to offer the best backer rewards you can think of - things that your backers will be excited to receive - but don't overdo it by offering rewards that cost you a lot of money to acquire. Reward items should be donated, or things that cost you very little, whenever possible. 

7) Not factoring in the time and money needed to fulfill backer rewards

  • You can break your budget with shipping costs for heavy items or items that need special handling or special packaging. For example: I had to invest in poster tubes that well exceeded the cost of printing the posters. They were also expensive to ship. I also had trouble navigating the Kickstarter spreadsheets and wound up creating my own reward tracking system. There are now companies that specialize in fulfilling backer rewards. If you plan to use one, remember to add this expense to your project budget. Click here for an article on such companies.

8) Not having a backup plan to accept donations from payment sources outside of Amazon payments

  • This was a real headache for me personally when I used Kickstarter. There were backers that wanted to support the project but, either they wanted to pay me by personal check, or wanted to use a credit card or paypal or other payment method besides Amazon Payments. Not only is Amazon the only way to process Kickstarter payments, Kickstarter has very specific rules that prohibit you from "paying yourself" to reach your goal. Which meant that I could not accept personal checks and then transfer them to the project. When I contacted Kickstarter support about this problem I received the following advice: "You should probably find a friend with an Amazon account who would be willing to process payments on your behalf." I take this to mean that I should have accepted the personal checks and paypal donations personally, found a friend with an Amazon account, written him/her a check for the total amount, and let him/her make the total donation for all those other payments.

9) Not using social networking

  • This seems like a no brainer but you are doomed to fail if you are not already using facebook and twitter and other forms of social networking in your regular life. If you are planning a project a year from now and don't currently use social networking, make your accounts NOW and get busy forming relationships.

10) Not understanding the best level of engagement needed with backers or the proper number of updates.

  • One of my pet peeves when I back a project is being inundated with project updates. Choose your number of updates  - and requests for backers to keep sharing your project with other potential backers - carefully. Too few and you won't create excitement, too many and you will alienate your backers and they will start hiding you from their facebook feed and deleting your emails. I personally feel as though requests for sharing should be posted 1 to 2 times a day - with updated funding totals - but actual "updates" should be saved for really important news. No more than 9 big updates in a 30 day period unless your update news is truly earth shattering.

This post has been long but I hope you will find it helpful as you set off on your crowd funding journey!

The Dangers of Crossover Comics: Edison Lee Meets Pearls Before Swine

The ^&#% is hitting the fan. It's a tiny amount of ^&#% but it's hitting the fan anyway.

We probably asked for it and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Well, we could blame our 22 year old son who chirped brightly one day "Hey, you should put Rat from Pearls into the strip for a cameo!"

We started brainstorming - how would Rat show up, what would he say, what scenario would lure him into Edison in the first place - stuff like that. And, Rat being Rat, it was pretty obvious from the first that  swear words would be involved. Cartoon swear words of course, but to some newspaper editors even cartoon swearing makes them nervous. We knew it might raise some eyebrows but hoped it wouldn't go beyond that.

We went for it.

And came up with todays strip - which, if you've been reading all week, you'll know is a fairly logical culmination of a storyline in which Joules the Lab Rat tires of being Edison's unpaid intern and general dogsbody.

And the strip did indeed raise some eyebrows. And a little more. And, for the first time in the history of the Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, John had to provide a replacement strip without the cartoon swearing.

I wish we could say we're ashamed of ourselves. But we're not. It's Stephan's fault.