Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Bob Morane Artwork

I've spoken about my time working on the amazing Bob Morane series before on this blog and today I'd like to share a few more pieces of art and design work for that series.

First here are some design sketches of Bill Ballantines

(Click to enlarge all images)

Bob Morane Designs

Bob Morane Designs


Bob Morane Designs

This storyboard panel is a good example of some of the elements that made the series so distinctive.

Bob Morane Music Score CD

Bob Morane Music Score CD

Bob Morane Music Score Cover

Bob Morane Music Score Cover

Bob Morane Music Score Artwork

Bob Morane Music Score Drawing 1

That's all I have for today, but if you would like to see more Bob Morane work, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 42

Mister Crimson Episode 42
Wherein buttons and people get pushed too far...
Read it here .:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Things and Creatures

Before we get to today's free comics, I want to explain how I picked them. Last week, Gentleman Jerry Hinds has sent me a few more pages of the Creature Wildcard Comic he is working on - So Falls the World (written by Charismatic Chris Sims ). (see below)

So Falls The World

So Falls The World

Anway, between these awesome new pages and some conversations I've been having with a few other folks about Public Domain characters, it got me to thinking about Public Domain versions of The Creature and The Thing.

I'm talking about the characters that appeared in the 50's in Charlton is the Creature:

50's Creature

and here is The Thing from Charlton

The Thing

Now, at this point, using The Thing in a comic book is pretty much impossible because Marvel's version is trademarked 7 ways to Sunday. However that golden age Creature has some possibilities doesn't it?

Here are the comics wherein you'll find the first (and only?) appearances of both characters:

Charlton's The Thing

Charlton's The Thing 02


Friday, September 25, 2009

Is Illegal Comic Downloading Passe?

Click here to read something awesomeHas illegal comic book downloading grown during the recession?

Recently I got a spam comment on this blog from someone who has made a blog of nothing but links to illegal comic book download sites. :\

At first I was a little surprised to see blogger allowing such a site in their domain, then I realized if the blog was simply linking to other sites, it may not be doing anything wrong.

Heck, I've seen quite a few other blogs that post entire issues of DC or Marvel comics in the name of criticism or fair use.

To be honest, I think posting an entire issue of Blackest Night 3, with nothing more than This comic rocks isn't what the academic commentary portion of fair use was intended for. However, when you are posting a complete issue of a comic that is no longer in print and mostly likely never will be again?...well then I am willing to turn a blind eye.

However, back to the spam comment - checking out the site with its multitude of illegal comic download links made me wonder had illegal comic book downloading grown during this recession.

Here is what I was able to determine by checking out the known haunts of comic book downloaders.

1. The DCP Scanners are still pretty much running, business as usual

DCP scans in Usenet

2. Comic book downloading from torrent sites may be going down

Remember Z-Cult FM, the infamous comic book torrent site that pretty much popularized comic book downloading? Well, before they were practically shut down by the combined legal might of DC and Marvel, that site had 74,000 registered users. There were several cases where a torrent of comics was so popular, that it had over 15K downloads.

So, one would suspect that once Z-cult was shut down, we would see the illegal downloaders moving to other torrent sites, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Check this out.

Here is a screenshot from a popular torrent aggregate site. The numbers on the far left represent the number of seeds and completed downloads of the latest batch of DCP scans. No more than 1000 downloads registered at a site that aggregates the seeds? Seems pretty low considering Z-cult's DCP torrents often reached much higher (from 7k to 14k at its peak I think.)


Here is screen shot from one of the oldest torrent site on the net.


Again, the SE numbers are seeders and the LE numbers are Leachers.

Finally, here is screenshot from the newest members only comic download site.


The 886 represents the number of DCP torrent downloads.

Okay, so far, this doesn't look so bad. What have we got? About 3000 total downloaders?

3. But...there are a lot more torrent sites now than 2 years ago...

However, these numbers don't tell the whole story. As I started drilling down on the various sites in the Torrent Aggregate site, I was surprised to discover that site does not accurately report the number of seeders and leechers from the sites it aggregates. Many of them had a lot more seeders/leechers than the aggregate site was reporting. I found one of the child sites that as of 10 pm last night had over 1000 current leechers on a DCP torrent from last week!

The most current weeks comic scans had 500 leechers at the time. If one takes the time it takes to download such a torrent and divides the span of days by that number, well, then one would be better at math than me, so feel free to help me out here. :)

But seriously, my best guestimate is that if it takes 1 day (at most) to download a 1 gig DCP torrent, then in one week at 500 - 1000 leechers every day, you end up with 7000 downloads in the first week. And that's just from one torrent site.

So, my final assessment: The downloading hasn't stopped, it's just gotten much harder to track.

I got an email from someone telling me Demonoid was down. I don't know why the powers that be even bother. For every Demonoid, Z-Cult, Supernova they shut down, 100 rise up in their place.

That's just not the answer.

There needs to be a legal system for downloading comics.

I sure hope Longbox is it! :)

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pierre Speaks: How Do You Write

I PaladinJim asked that question some time ago.

When it comes to writing them Blogs… It often turns into a multi-headed Hydra.

Too often as I write these Blogs, what starts as one Blog becomes two. Then four. Then six. So that most of the times I am writing at least half a dozen Blogs in parallel.

As I write one Blog, I will get an idea that I will explain briefly, but that will need another Blog all of it’s own to try to explain properly. Then as I keep on writing… what I am writing will take me in another direction, and that too will end up requiring it’s own Blog.

So before long… I can end up with 2, 4 or 6 Blogs in progress

For example, I could have half a dozen Blogs about various aspects of an animation production. Or half a dozen Blogs about the transition of going from drawing on paper to drawing with the computer.

So often what starts as the idea for writing ONE Blog, turns into many.

Although when it comes to writing comic book stories… I use a trick/technique used by many artists when they “pretend” to be writers… I “write” by drawing rough sketches of my comic book pages.

Click to EnlargeUsually rough sketches only as detail as I need them to be, so sometimes it can be little more then a few lines unrecognizable to anyone else but me. But detailed enough so that I know what is on the page.

By keeping them pages/sketches rough, it allows me to do them fairly quickly. So if I decide to, let’s say, discard one page for some reason…. I did not waste too much time putting details on my sketch/drawing.

Once all my roughs are done… if I need to show the story to someone else… like in this case, Jim, I then make my sketches more detailed so that Jim can understand what is going on.

Domino MaskAn example of that could be when I came up with the story that became our Flashback Universe issue featuring the Paladin.

It started with me trying to come up with a FBU character with some sort of “domino mask”.

Love that kind of mask for some reason.

So as I was trying to come up with such a character, I had the idea that we could give a WW2 sidekick to Paladin.

And the more I developed the character that became “the Squire”, and later in the story, “the Knight of King City”, the more the story started taking shape.

I was possessed.

The story started taking on a life of its own.

I spent the next 2 or 3 days sketching like a madman and shaping the tale of the Paladin and his “kid sidekick”.

The Squire

I used various names as little more as place-holders trusting Jim to come up with some cool names for the characters.

Jim had expressed some concerns that our stories always seemed to end on a sad note. And heck I would have been tempted to do the same. But then I added an epilogue that not only made use of a twist that Jim had come up with concerning who Paladin was (if you do not know what I mean…. Go read our Paladin comic), but also that ended on a hopeful note. We were also fortunate to get Chad Bowers to write all of the dialogue. He did an excellent job in keeping the darker tone of the comic compartmentalized.

That ended on some sort of “new beginning” (again… if you did not read it yet…. Go read it now).

And there you had the rough foundation of what became the tale… “I Paladin”.

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 41

Mister Crimson Episode 41
Wherein our hero must face his demons
Read it here .:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Charlie Chan

Went home this weekend to visit my folks who are big mystery fans so I got a chance to catch up on some classic 40's mystery movies, one of them being Charlie Chan at the Circus. This got me curious if there were any Charlie Chan comics, and sure enough there were several. Today's Free Comics are two issues of the Charlton Comics version.

Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers in 1923 for a novel published in 1925. Biggers conceived of the character as an alternative to Yellow Peril stereotypes; unlike such villains as Fu Manchu, Chan is portrayed as non-threatening and benevolent.

Charlie Chan 07

[ Charlie Chan 07 ]

A Charlie Chan comic strip, drawn by Alfred Andriola, was distributed by the McNaught Syndicate beginning October 24, 1938. Andriola was chosen by Biggers to draw the character. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the strip was dropped at the end of May 1942.

Over decades, several other Charlie Chan comic books have been published: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Prize Comics' Charlie Chan (1948) which ran for five issues. It was followed by a Charlton Comics title (four issues, 1955). DC Comics published The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, a 1958 tie-in with the TV series; the DC series lasted for six issues. Dell Comics did the title for two issues in 1965. In the 1970s, Gold Key Comics published a short-lived series of Chan comics based directly on the Hanna-Barbera animated series.

Charlie Chan 08

[ Charlie Chan 08 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Digital Comics: Longbox Wish List

Longbox IncNOTE: Like many people, we here at Flashback Universe are eagerly awaiting the launch of Longbox Digital Comics viewer. If you haven't seen any of the articles so far about Longbox, then this paragraph from should bring you up to speed nicely

Longbox Digital is a device and hardware independent platform for the secure distribution, sale and enjoyment of digital comics. LongBox will be launching on Macintosh and PC computer systems in Fall of 2009, with handheld devices, eReaders, and game systems to follow. This site is under construction, and will be updated in the coming weeks.

...or you can check out the video below!

LongBox Digital - Pre-Beta Screencast from Rantz Hoseley on Vimeo

Caine's Longbox Wishlist:

Here are the 5 things I would like to see with the launch of Longbox Digital...(and if these features can't make it to the launch, then please consider adding them to the version 2 spec list. :) )

1.) Top Notch Reader

As you can see from the screencast there's a lot too Longbox: a news feed, comic rankings, a flash based featured list, a subscription button, a library button and lots more. I hope that the reader provided to Longbox users is top notch with both a "heavy" and a "light" version to choose from. Both should have all the "usual" bells and whistles you can find in most of the readers on the market now: panning, rotation, zooming, scrolling, page jumps, library, thumbnails, rating system, comments, & "last page read" data stored internally so you can pick up a book right where you left off.

The "heavy" reader could be built into Longbox with quick and easy access to all those great Longbox services like the news feeds and subscription button running alongside the comic you are reading. The "light" reader wouldn't, it would be streamlined and centered around the enjoyment of the single book loaded inside it. A user could go from "light" to "heavy" and not miss a beat.

2.) Comment Integration

If comics are rated (such as a four star system) and the software allows for comments then why not integrate the two? If you're interested in Boom! Studio's THE INCREDIBLES, you'll more than likely put that into the search box to see if there's a preview to look at before purchasing it right? Why not list user comments, integrated in real time, right along with the preview? They could be tagged by user name, include the users ratings of the book, and easily be turned on or off at a users request based on preference. It would almost be like a built in letter page. Remember those?

3.) Formatting

What good would it be to have the best damn comic book reader in the business if it didn't read all comic book file formats and more? Off the top of my head: .cbr, .cbz, .rar, .zip, .pdf, .jpg, .tif, and why not motion comics as well (maybe only in the "heavy" build though) for those who like them. This way Longbox can read digital comics the user has all ready acquired (legally of course), and allow publishers to submit in a multitude of file formats.

4.) Built In Chat

If you're reading Image's The Walking Dead 7, you may wonder if 1 - 6 are worth going back and reading first. You may wonder how many other fans are reading this same book right this second? You may (or may not) be interested in a more interactive comic book experience. Why not let us chat amongst other fans? What about a chat on opening weekend with the creators them selves? If your going to do that, why not include twitter or facebook aps in the mix?

5.) Mecca Marketplace

Sure, Marvel has its back issue on line catalog. DC has Zuda. Image, Darkhorse, Boom! and others have made use of Myspace in the past but there isn't a single place where all digital comics can be found. That includes self published comics, foreign comics (outside the US), and webcomic integration as well. I hope that Longbox is so industry shattering that everyone feels as if they HAVE to be a part of it.

Now it's your turn - what features or expectations do you have for Longbox?

What do you want to see from Longbox?

Have a great weekend!

- Caine

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Why no more paper?

Drawing on PaperNote: This article is a follow up to Pierre's Drawing On Paper post. - Jim

A few weeks ago I said..

“But we are nearing the point where studios will prefer to hire someone who can do the work using the computer, even if the work quality is poor, then to hire someone who does great work by hand on paper.”

A lot of people are in denial over this.

Not as much now as… let’s say… 5 years ago.

At the time… many felt safe under the “illusion” that as long as they were producing “great work”… it would not matter that they could not create their artwork with the computer.

That the quality of their work would speak for itself. That it would allow them to be above all that.

But now for a lot of those artists…. Drawing on paper, or heck sometimes drawing itself is now nothing more than a hobby.

One question that often comes back is:

Why would a studio turn down someone who does great work?

Or even more…

Why would a studio turn down someone with many years of experience on many productions who can do great work??

There are many reasons… but I will try to keep this Blog from being 2053 pages long, so I will explain only a few of those reasons.

One reason is that, for example, here in Montreal, there are various tax incentives/subventions for companies that use “new” technologies.

So from the point of view of most producers… using someone who draws using the computer = FREE MONEY.

Free MoneyAnd sadly… for many of them… they don’t see much difference between someone who does great work, and someone who does poor work. For them it usually is mostly just a matter of what will be more “cost effective”.

So they will choose to hire the person who can work using the computer. Even if the quality of the work is poor, since wayyyyy too often, they cannot tell the difference.

I’m sure that it does not make any sense for a lot of you guys. But for many producers…. To hire the person that can allow them to get some sort of tax-return, that allows them to cut down on cost, is the only thing that makes sense from a business point of view.

For another reason…

Photoshop LayersIt allows the artist to separate various elements on different layers easily.

For example, on a storyboard, you can have the BG (background) on one level, the characters on another level, then another level for something like let’s say an overlay, and heck even a level for various notes.

This allow other people in the production, like lets say the Director, to easily make various comments directly on the work, or even to easily edit the work themselves if needed thanks to the fact that the work is done on multiple levels.

So although using the computer does not necessarily make the job easier for the artist doing the work…. Heck sometimes it makes it much harder… it can make the work easier for various other steps of the production.

It can make it easier for someone who would want to make some changes/corrections in the artwork for some reason.

Part of the pressure to switch to using the computer comes partly from that. It can make the work of some people in the production much easier. Allowing them to do more work, or needing less people to do the same amount of work.

So again, from the point of view of a producer, it won’t matter if it is much more work for an artist to use the computer, if it allows the producer to have less people later in the production process.

For example, there is a fixed price when an artist does a storyboard. So it does not matter for a producer if the storyboard artist has to work twice as much to do the same work, since it is the same price anyway from the point of view of the producer.

But if thanks to that, the producer needs to hire one less person to check/correct/make changes to the storyboard… it means extra money in the producer’s pocket. And that is in addition of whatever tax return the producer might get for using someone who works using new technologies.

Of course… the best option would be to hire someone who can do “GREAT work” WITH the computer.

But we are not there…. Yet.

I will try to explain why at a later time.

Until then.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 40

Mister Crimson Episode 40
In which our hero must make a tough choice
Read it here .:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Free Comics Monday: More Black Terror!

I installed the Vista Sevice Pack last night and now my internet has been sort of wonky, so I'm going to make a quick post today and see if it takes...

Black Terror 24

[ Black Terror 24 ]

Black Terror 25

[ Black Terror 25 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The first move by DC Entertainment is...Spam?

So I woke up this morning to find this in my gmail inbox:

Here's what the text says:

Here at DC, things are happening so fast, it can be tough to keep up with all the news. But you need never miss a beat. Just join the DC MOBILE NATION and you'll get text updates from the DC Universe sent right to your wireless device -- usually once a day every weekday.

Be among the first to hear about upcoming storylines, new series launches, your favorite creative teams and more from our world of comics and graphic novels. You'll also get convention news, special offers and sneak peeks of upcoming covers and artwork. We're putting it all in the palm of your hand.

Join us! Text DC NATION to 62407 right now!

**Standard carrier rates may apply.

Now while the idea of having a direct line to Dan Didio so I can call him up and congratulate him every time DC thinks of a new way to eviscerate some cherished icon from my childhood is indeed enticing, I'm a little underwhelmed by this mass spam approach.

It strikes me as a one of those things marketing people do when they have no freaking idea what they should be doing. Like they ran out of people on the staff to get twittering/blogging but they have been commanded to use Transmedia (hey, remember when it was called New Media?) to promote brand synergy or some such nonsense.

I don't know - maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood today. :D

About this whole DC Entertainment/Disney Marvel thing

I've been asked by several people to give my opinion on the short term/long term effects of the changes in the industry over the past two weeks, but I think a lot of people have covered the the short game pretty well. The long game is harder to call.

I will say this - BusinessWeek (and me as well) correctly surmised that the Disney/Marvel Deal was going to put heat on Time Warner to get on the stick and do something dramatic soon. BusinessWeek in a recent article with Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, predicted TW might go buy some company to add to its content library. BW was predicting a MGM purchase among other things.

I, on the other hand, was thinking TW would find some way to revitalize DC in the eyes of Wall Street. Right now, despite the success of Dark Knight, DC Comics is getting about as much attention from Wall Street as, well, Cosmopolitan. Like Time Warner Cable, most of the business practices going at DC Comics are legacies from over 30 years ago. It's hard to make cable tv and comic books seem as sexy as anything involving the internet.

So we find out this week that the timetable for Diane Nelson's ascension to DC has been advanced by about 6 months which I'm is meant to get lots of good press for Time Warner, and it may initially. However, it'll take more than a mobile hotline to combat the rapid fire advancements Marvel has been making along the digital scene.

What does all this mean for comics?

Well, in the long term it could mean that both Marvel Comics and DC Comics become licensed published properties like the current stable of Disney comics being published by Boom! Entertainment.

If I was Disney, I'd *spin off* the publishing side of Marvel Comics (because, let's face it, printing on paper can ONLY get more expensive in the long run, right?) then license out the characters to this newly spun off company for as long as that company was able to make money off of any print products. I mean the footprint on a high selling Marvel comic is at the most, what? 100K? If you are Disney, do you really want to be involved in any endeavor that's trying to satisfy such a paltry number of consumers?

Remember, we know Disney bought Crossgen several years ago, and what have they done with those licenses? Well, I remember some company that was repackaging the Sojourn stories but damn if I can find a link now. Other than that, all that stuff is just sitting on a shelf isn't it?

There are a lot of good things that could come out of these new deals for both companies, so don't leave here today thinking I'm just seeing the glass half empty. For a fan of digital comics, the future for both companies couldn't be brighter now! :)

Also, hopefully, we will finally see an end to all those 6 issue Movie Proposals masquerading as Comic Mini-series! :D

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Digital Tools

Cintiq TabletI mentioned how drawing on paper would soon be a thing of the past.

But I was not very helpful when the time came to suggest what program to use to learn to draw in the computer.

The truth is… I don’t really know.

A lot of it depends on the kind of work you are hoping to do as a professional artist. Or of the field you are hoping to work in.

Do you want to make comic books?? Illustration?? 2D animation?? 3D animation??

It also depends on personal preferences. Some will prefer to use Illustrator, while others will prefer to use Photoshop.

Photoshop 7Heck some might prefer to use Photoshop 7 instead of Photoshop CS4.

Sometimes it might be a matter of cost. Photoshop is somewhat expensive. So sometimes, people will try to use the version that they have for as long as they can. So they will not be in a hurry to trade the one they already have for the latest version if the one they already own can still do the job.

And to make matters worse… some studios will develop their own way to do things. So there is no standards, no established way to do things that is standard in all studios.

Where some studios might use Storyboard Pro to do their storyboards,

others might decide to use Sketchbook Pro instead for some reason.

Where some studios might use Flash to do their animation, others might decide to use Harmony instead.

So which program should you use?? Which is best for you??

To get started… once you make up your mind on the type of work you would like to do… try to find someone who is already doing that work, and simply ask him what program he is using.

Nowadays, it might be just a matter of finding the web site of that artist and ask him through an e-mail. Or sometimes, there will be some sort of tutorial where the artist will show the process he is going through to produce his work.

Or if they do not have a website, they might have a profile on sites like Facebook, or maybe they are posting on some comic book forum.

So some research might be needed.

As for me… I started by teaching myself to use Photoshop a few years ago. Although I still draw on paper, that is what I use to tweak my work for Flashback Universe.

Why Photoshop??

I knew that comics were colored with it. And various animation productions I worked on where using it to do the color of various steps in their productions.

So it seemed like a good idea to learn to use it at the time.

Although lately I learned to use a neat little program called Sketchbook Pro. It is fairly inexpensive… around $120 CAN… and it is what we are trying to use in producing the storyboards on the production that I am currently working on.

Why do I say “trying to use”?

Because although we would like for people to use that program, we have a production schedule to stick to. We tried to get them to use Sketchbook Pro, but when it became obvious that they would blow the deadline big time, we went back to let them use whatever working method they were used to.

Storyboard Pro

So some DO use Sketchbook Pro, but some use Storyboard Pro, some use Photoshop, some use Flash, but most still work by hand on paper…. For now.

But before long, everyone will be expected to be able to produce the work digitally with one program or another.

Once you learn how to use ONE program, it does help you in using other similar programs since sometimes some of the principles or some of the shortcuts will be the same.

But no matter what program you decide to learn to use, it would be a good idea to learn how to use graphic pen/tablet. That is something that will be useful with any sort of “drawing program”.

It may seem obvious… but heck I spent a few years using Photoshop with the mouse before I decided to finally learn how to use a graphic pen/tablet.

Although if you can, learn to use a Cintiq tablet. I’m sure there are other models/brands, but this is the one I know of.

Wacom BambooIt is much more quick/efficient to draw on such device then on a standard graphic tablet. But it can be expensive. So if you can afford it, it would be worth it to learn to work with such a device.

But if it is too expensive for you, at least get a standard graphic tablet. You can get a small Bamboo for around $120 CAN. I had bought mine for $80 CAN about a year and a half ago, but last time I checked, prices had gone up for the very same tablet.

All of this may seem obvious to some of you out there… but I know from experiences that there are still a lot of artists out there who are still in denial over this.

Who still think that drawings will be produced on paper till the “end of days”.

Heck I was one of those just 5 years ago.

Sadly…. I could not deny what my own two eyes were seeing any longer. Or what my two ears were earring from various discussions/meetings with producers/directors for the past few years.

As artists, we must learn to adapt to this new reality, or run the chance of becoming obsolete.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 39

Mister Crimson Episode 39
In which the Mayor makes our hero an offer

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Mystery Men Comics

All Smash FunniesRecently, I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Mike Rickaby, publisher of the CE Publishing Group who is another big fan of Golden Age comics and also the publisher of his own Golden Age style comic All Smash Funnies which you can acquire from ComicXpress.

The first issue is a royal treasure trove of mystery men characters (The Chameleon, The Snow Man, Mercury and The Black Rose) and is crowned with a fantastic cover illustration by master artist Don Perlin.

Reading this comic got me to thinking about the original Mystery Men comic, so I dug up a couple of issues for today's FCM.

Mystery Men Comics was first published August 1939 by Fox Feature Syndicate, which was a company started by Victor A. Fox and Bob Farrell. Fox Features is most famous for Lou Fine's the Flame and Matt Baker's revamped Phantom Lady. Mystery Men was an anthology title which featured The Green Mask, Blue Beetle and the Dick Breifer character Rex Dexter of Mars.

Mystery Men 3

[ Mystery Men 3 ]

Throughout the 1940s, Fox produced comics in a typically wide variety of genres, but was best known for superheroes and humor. With the post-war decline in superheroes' popularity, Fox, like other publishers, concentrated on horror and crime comics, including some of the most notorious of the latter. Following the establishment of Comics Code Authority in the mid-1950s, Fox went out of business, selling the rights to the Blue Beetle to Charlton Comics. ~wikipedia

Mystery Men 05

[ Mystery Men 5 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Digital Comics Industry Spotlight 1:

Carbonated ComicsGentleman start your engines because the time trials for the pole position in the race to deliver you your digital comics in a pleasing, easy to use format/setting that is profitable to publishers has begun.

Of course you knew that, Darkhorse and Boom(among others) partnered with MySpace to kick the digital comic book industry into gear. That was followed closely by Marvel putting up its digital library for subscription, and then DC'S Zuda imprint/competition. However, did those events kick off a"Digital Comic Book Industry"?

You may or may not of heard of other sites/services such as WOWIO, DriveThroughComics, EyeMelt and other newer services such as Comicsxp, the much buzzed about Longbox and our subject of this weeks blog post: CARBONATED COMICS.

Will these services, some having yet to even launch, create a"Digital Comic Book Industry"? I'm here to say: YES. The first step is upon us as of right now.

Carbonated Comics Site

Their Site:
Simple, cross platform, and to the point an extremely easy (and attractive) web site to click on. Their focus is clearly on comics. A list of available "featured" comics runs down the center of the page. Down the right are searchable categories and down the left are the few tools they offer. Prime among them is the CARBONATOR, Carbonated Comics Comic Reader Software which you can download or obtain via CD from the website (or event where they may be handing them out - such as Dragon*Con this weekend).

Their Reader:
The Carbonator shares several features with other popular readers such as the file types it will open/read, thumb nails for each page, mouse controls and hot buttons to customize how the comic fits on the screen and is enjoyed by the reader.

Carbonator Reader

The folder that the Carbonator last read from has its contents displayed as thumbnails in the main window. Along the left Meta Data can be displayed, below that are the player controls. The software is streamlined and, like their web site, focused on your enjoyment of the comics.

It does take a minute for all the pages to populate, but once you click on "Player"...

Things start happening (ignore that little box up in the top left, its the screen capture control box..oops). After taking it for a spin I have to say the Carbonator does a great job at delivering you the comic page by page, or even panel by panel if you choose to read that way.

The Carbonator does have its draw backs. The largest of them is that the comics them selves take a minute to load fully in the side panel. In addition, the tutorial in the "help" section doesn't seem to be functioning 100% as of yet (I tweeted that to @ccomics and they assured me that this has been addressed and will be fully functioning soon).

Whats nice about it though is how streamlined it is. There isn't a lot of advertising or branding built into the reader, the menu at the top is purposefully sparse and to the point, the button controls at the bottom are general on purpose and it all functions just as you think it would upon opening it.

By that I mean the right arrow gets you to the next page, the left arrow takes you back to the previous page, and the +/- buttons make the page larger and smaller.

But that's not all. By holding down the control key you can rotate the pages with the mouse and by holding down the Alt key you bring up a magnifying glass that can be dragged across the screen to get a better look at the page in a 2X3 inch clear window. The magnifying glass, although a bit surprising at first, I found to work well. It allowed me to zoom in on tiny details without moving/zooming the enitre page.

All in all, a nice experience that was easy to use with little instructions, and very enjoyable.

On a side note, when you download the Carbonator, you'll notice a button on the control panel that looks like it controls the audio volume of your comic books. When I asked about it, I was told that yes sure enough it was for volume control and future downloads will have dvd style audio commentary.

While their initial offering does not yet contain anything from the "Big Three" publishers I found a fairly moderate variety of titles and genres to choose from. Also, it would seem that nearly half of the books in their current roster are free for you to enjoy. NOTE: In the example images, I was using a comic that is not, at this time, offered at Carbonated Comics.

In addition to comics they offer a regular newsletter and are active with social media including Twitter, Facebook, and ComicSpace.

They host a forum for fans/readers to conglomerate and probably get help. A detailed help page. A sellers application when you're ready to sell your own comics (That's right I'm talking to you Jim). and even a free Digitization Service to assist the creators in getting their comics in the .CBX format.

If you haven't clicked over there yet then you should seriously consider it. Or, if your near Dragon*Con go check em out in person.

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Drawing on Paper

We see a lot of talk about the “death of paper comics.” (especially from Ye Editor ;) )

Of how someday comics might be published/distributed digitally in the future.

But what rarely gets mentioned is how more and more, comics are created digitally.

I will tell you a little secret…

Write this down because it is important…


Before long…. Drawing on paper will be a thing of the past.

It will be obsolete.

Already I can hear some “old dinosaurs” like me going “We will always draw on paper!”.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news… but no.

I have no doubt that some people will keep drawing on paper for a long time…. Just as some people are still listening to 8 track tapes. But I am also sure that there is no doubt in your mind that 8 track tapes are a thing of the past.

That at some point… There will be no one left listening to such tapes.

The same thing goes for drawing on paper.

Already, for years the coloring of comics has moved into the realm of digital coloring.

Heck not that long ago, the big 2 started their own lettering department where the lettering is done entirely in house digitally.

And even the inking process is moving more and more in that direction. Either by inking the artwork using the computer, or tweaking/darkening the penciled work using various softwares.

But each day, as time goes by, we are getting closer and closer to when even that part of the process will finally be done using the computer.

In animation, we have been going through a similar process.

At some point, the backgrounds/character models and animation started being colored digitally. And other steps like the compositing and the editing were also done in the computer.

But many felt safe in the belief that certain steps like the storyboard process would always be drawn by hand on paper.

They could not imagine why anyone could want to do what is essentially a bunch of quick rough sketches with the computer.

Quick rough sketches are done much faster freehand on paper…. So who would want to make that with the computer… right?

Sadly… all those in denial are slowly waking up and smelling the coffee… and it’s hitting them straight in the nose… hard.

Right now, there is a lot of pressure in studios to get artists to use Storyboard Pro, Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop, Flash, or other programs that I fail to mention to draw their storyboards with.

The only reason why some studios are still using some artists that are drawing on paper to work on storyboards is mainly because these are the only ones who can do a proper job drawing storyboards.

So far, artists who can work digitally can’t do a very good job, especially compared to those with years of experiences who still draw on paper. And those who draw on paper aren’t as fast/efficient when trying to figure out how to do the work with the computer.

But we are nearing the point where studios will prefer to hire someone who can do the work using the computer, even if the work quality is poor, then to hire someone who does great work by hand on paper.

It would already be the case right now… if not for certain productions that require a certain level of quality.

But already, when you talk with various producers, the word is often the same. “Those who will get the job are those who can use the computer”.

And I have no doubt that before long, the same will be true in most comic book studios.

It is not even a matter of “if”, but simply a matter of “when”.

So I would suggest that if you are someone out there hoping to become a professional artist at some point, weather a comic book artist, an artist in the field of animation, or heck any other type of professional artist, learn not only how to use the computer, but some of the various programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Storyboard Pro, Sketchbook Pro, and countless others that I fail to mention.

But “which program should you learn to use?” you ask?

To be honest…. I don’t really have an answer.

But I will try to explore the question some more in a future Blog.

Until next time.


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