Monday, August 31, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Women of Action!

Something old and something new! Today we offer two free comics featuring the fairer sex.

The first one is a brand new comic from the gang at Action Age Comics - Woman of A.C.T.I.O.N., Written by Chris Sims, Illustrated by Chris Piers and colored by Steve Downer this is the type of fast and fun comic that the gang here at Flashback Universe can really appreciate! Note: Clicking the links below will take you to the Action Age website where you can download the entire Woman of Action comic in cbz file format. Be sure to tell them how much you enjoyed the comic in their comments section!

Woman of ACTION

To provide an nice compliment to this cool comic from the Action Age guys, here's a classic story from Quality publishing starring Lady Luck.

Lady Luck 86

Lady Luck is a fictional, American comic-strip crime fighter and adventuress created and designed in 1940 by Will Eisner (who wrote the first two Lady Luck stories under the pseudonym "Ford Davis") Lady Luck was the alter-ego of Brenda Banks, a young Irish-American socialite heiress, daughter of a mine-owner. Her costume consists a green dress, a large green hat, and a green veil in place of a mask. Like Denny Colt, hero of The Spirit, she does not possess any supernatural abilities.


Friday, August 28, 2009

More Thoughts on iPod Reformatting

I mentioned that I'm planning on distributing the Flashback Universe comics via ComiXology, which is by far the slickest comic viewer/distribution application on the iPod market right now. In preparing the files, I've spent a TON of time examining what works and what doesn't on the iPod.

Listening to ComiXology CEO David Steinberger on Comics Geek Speak, he made a point at saying that he really wants the comics on the iPod to make the best reading experience possible. To that end he's spent some time coaching many creators in the proper way to format their comics on the iPod.

From what I can tell, for the most part all of the contributors took his advice and have done an outstanding job converting their comics over to this new format.

However, there are a few that didn't do a very good job. I'm not going to name names, but let me explain a very common mistake I've seen, and show how I've tried to avoid it with our comic.

Too many screen rotation.

A few months ago, Sean Kleefeld commented on another article from this blog about iPod comics wherein he made this excellent observation:

I think any option where a user can only read one panel at a time is inherently too frustrating from a time-spent-between-scrolling-actions point of view. Even the most copy-heavy panels take a moment or two to read before a user would need to scroll/click/slide on to the next panel, meaning they'd have to spend as much time navigating the document as they do reading it. That's the killer for anything done on the PSP or iPhone or whatever. Movies are okay because you hit "play" and let it run. But unless you're running a literally constant interaction with the display unit (as in a video game) the navigate/read/navigate/read is going to prevent current system from being really effective. Users won't latch on until you can navigate/read/read/read/read/navigate/read/read//read.

I think he has a point, but the navigate/read/navigate/read experience feels like a bubblebath compared to the navigate/TURN/read/navigate/TURN/read experience I've seen with some iPod comics (not just on ComiXology but from many other iPod comic vendors.)
While it's nice that the iPod will automatically rotate the page when you flip it, I sure as hell don't want to have to flip it 6 times to read 6 pages (see below).

Way too many rotations

I say, pick a screen size (wide or tall) and do your best to stick with it. Here's how I reformatted a few Tall Pages. Here is a page from Saturn Knight - Same Time, Next Year

Kondorr the Killer in cbr format

Now both of these panels would be excellent candidates for a TALL orientation on the iPod. However, I've chosen to present the comic in WIDE Orientation, so I reformatted them into three wide panels.

Kondorr screen 1

Kondorr screen 2

Kondorr screen 3

I believe that this will accomodate larger text and an easier reading experience than zooming in and out of Tall panels with smaller text.

In some cases, I've had to crop out or remove elements that proved distracting when the page was reformatted for the 320 x 480 aspect ratio. LIke the page with The Vanguard. Here is the original.

Vanguard vs Tiamatrix

Because The Yeti (the furry white guy in the purple garb) was going to be mostly obscured by a caption balloon, I decided to completely remove him.

The biggest challenge I've had is in adapting the big Splash page layouts Pierre and I like to use for the iPod screen. Check out this page as it originally appeared.

Prometheus vs Terrorsaur Rexx

On the iPod, the caption balloons are positioned in such a way that if I just crop in/zoom in on them, the reader won't get a very interesting image. So I decided to move and resize the balloons like this:

All this photoshop manipulation and relettering is time consuming and the question I get a lot of times is: Is it really necessary?

Well, Pierre and I have always prided ourselves on being the first (if not only) guys to specifically design our comics to be read in cbr format, utilizing the wide ratio and transitions to give readers the smoothest reading experience possible.

We could have gone with the traditional Portrait/Tall comic page like I've seen some comics on the web use. Certainly this would make going to a printed version much easier (if we ever decided to do that.)

However, I've never liked scrolling down to read a cbr comic. I understand it's necessary when you are reading comics that were first print comics THEN became cbr comics, but for a NEW comic which is not in print - I just don't see why one would adhere to such an outdated format - unless they ultimately intended to make a printed version.

So, now that we are talking about migrating our content to the iPod, I really want to do the same thing for this format. To provide the best reading experience possible. I think when we are done, it will be well worth the effort! :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Ninja Gar-Den

Ninja GardenAnother comic project that I worked on was called Ninja Gar Den.

It was a short 8 pages comic that should have been part of some sort of anthology. Something that would be easy enough to fit in my schedule between my animated gig, and not too time consuming so that even if I ended up making no money with it, it would not be too dramatic.

I kind of liked the creator of the project, and it was a cute project, but things did not work out in the end.

It was another case of “draw now, get paid someday if there is some sort of future profit”.

At the time… I was in a tough spot financially.

There were few animation projects at the time… and some of them were very short gigs. A week of development here… a few days of design there.

So my time between animation gigs was split between making various animation tests (storyboard, design, in-between) to try to get more work to pay the bills, and making them comics for “future profit”.

In addition to not being paid… it was expected that I should get the services of a Notary for the contract they sent me.

Although it was later offered that I would be paid back half of the Notary fees…I did not have the money at the time to pay for that anyway. I was already struggling with the rent; I could not afford such an expense.

Also… never before was I expected to get any work contract notarized, which I was unable to do, so I ended up not working on the project.

Although when Jim and I were at HeroesCon with our Flashback Universe booth, we did see some sort of Ninja Garden ashcan.

So it seems that the creator of the project published the thing himself after all.

Good for him. [Editor's Note: Self publishing is hard and we at Flashback Universe salute everyone out there going that route! ]

It is always strange to see something you came up with drawn by someone else.

So it was strange to see the NGD’s artist take on the designs I had come up with. To see how he drew the comic pages. And how the story evolved since I was involved on the project.

Here are some of the artwork I made… some sort of teaser, a very rough drawing for the cover, and the first NDG story.

I was very happy with the teaser artwork and the establishing shot of the city on page 01. But I was not too happy about the result on page 07.

page 1

page 2

page 3

I probably would have redrawn pages 06 and 07… but in the end I had no reason to.

page 6

page 7

The problem that I had with page 07 was that there was a lot of dialogues, and I had to make sure that the characters were in a certain order so that the speech balloons would work.

It is common in most script that the writer not only includes the dialogues… but that he includes LOTS of it. So a common challenge when drawing from the script of inexperienced writers, or even experienced ones for that matter, is to try to fit what is often too much dialogues for a single page.

Also not only must you fit a lot of dialogues, but you must be sure that the first person to talk in each panel is to the left of the panel, and that each other characters with dialogues come in the proper order so that the dialogues read properly.

Although there are ways to cheat, or to bypass such a challenge.

One of them ways is to do what I call “channeling my inner George Perez”.

Perez is a master at putting too much material on a single page. And it was even more obvious when someone like… let’s say Marv Wolfman, was working with someone other then Perez.

Its seems that Wolfman was spoiled from working with Perez, and he got used to asking for a truckload of stuff on each page, in each panel, and then for extra fun… add some more. ;)

Perez could pull it off…. Some other artists could not. At least not very well.

So when someone asks for way to much stuff to happen in one page, or in each panel… I ask myself “How would George do it?”.

Although it usually does help… I did not pull it off with the pages 06 and 07 of the NGD story.

It happens.

Although it did help with the First Ladies pages… especially page 01.

first ladies page 1

So… although I was hoping to get my name out there with the NGD comic… it would not be so.

But there would be other projects.

There always are… if you really want to find one.

Until next time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mister Crimson Episode 37

Mister Crimson Episode 37
Wherein our hero goes through the door

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Ravens

While researching names of public domain superheroes, I discovered there were two heroes called The Raven back in the 40's.

The first one I found appeared in the pages of Quality comics. He was sort of an aid to the Spider Widow, a character whose sole advantage when fighting crime was that she had a halloween mask, so I can see where she could use some backup.

The second Raven I found was the Danny Dartin character who appeared in the pages of Lightning Comics.

Neither of these characters ever had their own comic, so don't let the covers fool you, their stories are in todays featured comics. This first one also happens to contain a great Doll Man story. There is a Phantom Lady/Spider Widow team up story in this issue as well.

[ Feature Comics 71 ]

While you may not be able to tell from the small version of this cover, that IS a mummy cutting the tight rope on this issue of Lightning Comics. The cover character is a hero named Flash Lightning whose origin will be familiar to all you Captain Marvel fans.

[ Lightning Comics 01 ]


Friday, August 21, 2009

What's Up with Wowio

Digital comic book fans should remember WOWIO:

"WOWIO is today the only source where readers can legally access high-quality copyrighted ebooks from leading publishers for free. Readers have access to a wide range of offerings, including works of classic literature, college textbooks, comic books, and popular fiction and non-fiction titles." ~Wowio

The digital content providers who were, at one time, purchased by PLATINUM STUDIOS (who also own the Drunk Duck webcomic site) copyright holders of "Hero by Night", "Atlantis Rising", and "Unique".

It was just a few years ago that Platinum, seemingly on fire as it scorched through the comic book industry making its mark, had BIG plans for wowio. The development of a digital comic book distribution system. Many readers may remember this, some may have even been a member/subscriber of wowio's.

I can't recall if any PLATINUM products were ever released through wowio. If so, they've been quiet for the past year, not the kind of press I'd be looking for when thinking of an industry changing publishing and distribution platform. In fact, the last stories I remember hearing about wowio had more to do with money being owed, than books being published here & here .

Today, less than two months away from the launch of another digital comic book distribution system, known as Longbox we sat down and spoke with Brian Altounian CEO and President of Wowio, LLC. about the state of digital comics, its past, its future, and a bit more.

To be fair, I did not ask Brian about anything financial and have no updated knowledge, one way or another, regarding debts owed by wowio. As far as this blogger knows, they've all been paid, I simply mentioned them as they were the last public stories I remembered hearing about them...

Q.) Are you still owned by Platinum Studios?

No. Platinum acquired WOWIO in July of 2008 but has narrowed its focus this year to be strictly on its core film and television business. I personally formed a holding company that acquired 100% of WOWIO from Platinum on July 1 of this year.

Q.) How has that effected the evolution of wowio?

When it was acquired by Platinum, WOWIO’s business plan was changed to a more sustainable model. Initially, WOWIO was providing free downloads of books in an effort to bring a large readership and a broad mix of publishing partners with the hope of attracting advertising dollars. The problem was WOWIO was paying the publishers regardless of the existence of paying advertisers, a model that you can imagine was not sustainable.

We changed the model to allow publishers to set the price of a download so if the reader wanted to download the book, there would be a revenue event for the publisher even if the download was not sponsored with advertising. In addition, we created a web-browser reader that would allow for free online viewing of the material in its entirety.

We did this to answer our publishers’ requests to find a solution to the distribution “channel conflict” the publishers had in some territories, where digital downloads might conflict with their distribution deals. The added benefit to this browser reader is it expanded our readership globally as we now have readers from over 188 countries worldwide.

Q.) Can you speak to why you offer your content in the pdf format?

3 reasons:

1) Ownership. Unlike the agreements that other providers have with publishers and readers, we believe that the downloaded file of an electronic book should be owned by the reader and the delivery of an eBook as a pdf file provides that. Once the file is downloaded by the reader, we will not betray the relationship by wirelessly removing the file from the readers’ devices, unlike Amazon.

2) Ubiquity. A pdf file doesn’t require a designated device to download and view. Adobe is widely available as free downloadable software and pdf files can even be viewed on most handheld and wireless devices – this allows WOWIO books to be viewed by the largest amount of readers on the widest selection of devices.

3) Transmedia. At WOWIO, we believe that the wired, digital environment creates a new opportunity for a much more immersive and enriched reading experience. Additionally, pdf files have the capability of showcasing additional content within the file such as audio and video clips, as well as live web hyperlinks. We encourage our publishers to include additional content so the WOWIO eBook is NOT just an electronic version of a printed book but a richer experience.

An example of this is the WOWIO version of the public domain title “War of the Worlds” which, in addition to the full text from the novel and art from the original serial magazine release, it also has an audio clip of the 1937 radio broadcast of Orson Welles’ staging of the play, a newsreel video clip of Welles after he testified in front of congress and an additional audio clip of Orson Welles and author HG Wells discussing the impact of media on society – obviously, a much deeper experience than just reading the black and white text.

When the WOWIO ebook contains the equivalent of “DVD extras”, it becomes a differentiated product for the reader. Live hyperlinks throughout the text can also take the reader to online resources to extend the text as well. PDF files, downloaded by the reader, are currently the only eBook format to provide all of that capability.

Q.) Are there any plans to offer content in any other formats?

Yes we are exploring other formats for specific audiences that would extend the immersive experience even further, such as an audiobook format. We will have more to announce shortly.

Q) Would you say that wowio is in the comic book business? The periodical business? Something else entirely?

The print publishing business is experiencing unprecedented dropoffs in sales and distribution outlets for print material of all kinds such as comic books, graphic novels, books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals. While WOWIO remains one of the few outlets for the digital distribution of comic books, I still consider WOWIO to be in the content distribution business.

Our new motto at WOWIO is “Books. Evolved.” The internet has become both a resource for content and related material as well as a distribution channel – the smart approach would be to create an offering that takes advantage of that. We believe that the rich, immersive reading experience that WOWIO offers our readership is also a unique opportunity for our publishing partners to deliver content (and generate significant revenues) in a new and exciting way.

Q.) How would you define or classify "digital comics"? As a seperate entity from its paper counterpart? A part of an entire industry?

Well, since you now know my view on expanding the delivery of content to include audio/video, etc., you can imagine my sense of digital comics. I think there are a lot of variations of formats and functionalities that encompass the digital delivery of comics that it CAN be an extension of its print counterpart or contain enough additional content to be considered its own stand-alone version – either way, the delivery capability of the internet has created the opportunity for comics creators to reach a broader audience, which can include readers/viewers whose appetite for comic material may be entirely different from the traditional print comic book/graphic novel consumer. Feature film adaptations of comic material have already proven that notion throughout the years – in the end, it’s the storytelling appeal of the material that will sell.

Q.) What factors will those involved with digital comic books need to get a handle on, in order to see digital comics succeed into the future?

I am a firm believer and proponent of the Long Tail Theory ~wikipedia:The_Long_Tail that describes the amount of revenues that can be generated along a longer time frame, yielding substantial results for smaller players who can be innovative in their marketing efforts. Limited shelfspace among dwindling distribution outlets, as well as lower overall demand relative to the major players, make it nearly impossible for smaller, independent comics creators to sell their wares.

The same holds true for the digital comics creators. The key to success here, then, is the creative marketing efforts employed using viral marketing campaigns amid the various online social networks to reach as broad an audience as possible. A story, well told, will appeal to a large audience over a long period of time. The other element of the Long Tail theory relates to what we call “genre-slicing” – that is, fans of a particular genre of material will consume almost any content that fits within that category.

Horror fans will consume, share, discuss, and blog about books, movies, games, comic books, and digital comics within that horror genre. SO, I believe that digital comic creators will need to create a great story or series of stories, produce them in multiple formats to reach a broad audience, and then aggressively market them virally across online social networks and genre destination sites to reach their specific fan base, who will, in turn, add to their marketingefforts.

Q.) What sort of things does wowio have in store for us in the future?

Well, as I have mentioned, we are exploring additional media elements such as audiobook and other formats for our readers to broaden their collection of material. We are exploring new revenue-generating opportunities for our publishing partners. We are looking at new corporate sponsorships and we recently launched a new non-profit initiative that will expand our readership greatly. Look for new announcements to come out over the next couple of months.

Sounds like Wowio has a lot going on!
Thank you for your time Mr. Altounian!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Photorealism AKA Hyper-realism

Joker by PierrePhoto references are heavily used in comics these days.

It is nothing new… but it seems to be becoming more and more obvious lately.

I rarely draw in a photorealistic way. Sometimes I will do it just as an exercise… but usually, it is something that I do only when I am specifically asked to.

I will always remember the first time that I fully understood how to draw from a model. Ahhh… the memories.

I had often been told about “values” and “measuring”, but was only half aware of what was truly being said.

Then one night, as I was drawing a portrait as an exercise, I had an illumination and suddenly, it finally all made sense.

It was quite a moment that I will never forget.

Some time after that… I was shown a very simple way to draw from photos (which if you keep reading I will explain later in this Blog), and I knew there and then that it was not what I wanted to do.

Make no mistake… I do use photos as references.

But usually just to know what things look like, to know how certain things work.

I was always worried that drawing too much from photos… it would become a crutch from which I would become too dependent.

So I used photos loosely as references.

But once in a while, I do use photos heavily when I am specifically asked to.

One of the most obvious example of someone who uses photos heavily in his work is Brian Hitch. Although he is not the only one… he is an obvious example that is pretty much publicly known… so let’s use his work as an example.

I remember when I first saw a preview of the Ultimates comics in Wizard, I was scratching my head as to why they were starting the comic by lifting images/scenes straight from the “Saving Private Ryan” movie.

The movie hadn’t come out that long ago.

Heck once the comic finally saw print, some of these images lifted from the movie were removed. I guess someone figured that they may have gone a little too far.

But the comic was a success, and before long, many tried to copy that approach.

It was nothing new. Long before that, others were using movie stills as “inspiration” to do their work.

But in this case… it was very obvious where the “inspiration” was coming from.

How photorealistic artwork is produce? What is the big secret??

It is very, very simple.

Photorealism is produced…. By using/copying photos.

A few centuries ago… artists would actually use live models to do their work.

But now with the invention of the camera… or now the digital camera… all that is required is a few snapshots of your model and voila! You have the reference you need to do your artwork.

Thanks to the NET, some don’t even need to bother with finding models or taking their own photos. They simply use Google to find whatever references they might need.

Although before the NET, what many would do is have a truckload of magazines and build reference files out of the photos they would find in those magazines.

Essentially to draw from photos… whether you take your photos yourself or you get them from Googles, you need a truckload of photos.

That is most likely why for example Greg Land often reuses multiple times the same photos over and over. He needs lots and lots of photos to produce a single comic, and probably runs out of photos to use after a while. So at some point, he might need to reuse some photos he already used before.

When I was in college, I was shown a very simple way to work from photos.

Here is a quick example.

First you find the photo that you want to use.

Then you simply make a grid over your photo. The grid can be as big or as small as you need it to be.

As an exercise, you can take a piece of paper and in it you can cut a square the size of one square on your grid. You can literally draw each square one by one separately. You simply need to reproduce the value of what you see in the square.

Once you are done with the last square… you might be surprised by the result.

Using that method, drawing from photos becomes not unlike those drawings where you connect the dots.

Often it is assumed that some drawings were done by tracing the photo, or tracing another drawing… but with the grid, tracing is not really needed.

I guess it ultimately comes down to whether you prefer to use the grid, or use your light table and actually trace the photo references.

Of course, sometimes you will need to do more then just trace the photo.

Or you can simply use it as a reference without even tracing it.

The choice is yours.

Until next time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mr Crimson Returns!

Mister Crimson Returns
Sorry for the delay, but we have a new installment of Mister Crimson ready to read today!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Free Comics Monday: Gorgo Returns

I get a lot of requests and suggestions for Free Comic Mondays, but the most requested so far has been Gorgo, the ginormous amphibious dinosaur created by King Features and published by Dell who I originally featured back in July. So today, I bow to the requests and present two more issues from his short lived Dell series...


[ Gorgo 06 ]

Gorgo 7

[ Gorgo 07 ]

- Enjoy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On Vacation

I'm on vacation this week, so no new posts until I return August 16th.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Tablet Revoluton

Digital Comics are making the news nearly every day now - Whether it's some new online only comic on Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited site, another company putting their comics on the iPod or most recently, the huge support the comics media has given to LongBox. But so often, in the comments section of such articles you will encounter people complaining because they don't want to have to read their comics in front of the computer.

like this one from

i appreciate this technology, i really do. but the same goes for comics as for books, i just can't read them on the computer. it's not comfortable, and it's strains my eyes more. now if they come out with a kindle like device them i'm all for it, as i do own a kindle and it's great for books, because it's most like paper. the same needs to be true for comics in order for me to switch.

Well, I understand that complaint, and today we are happy to provide news round up of some of the upcoming options for reading digital comics planned for 2010...

Dell MID/Tablet Device on the way?

Last we heard, Dell was secretly at work on a handheld / MID that would challenge the likes of the iPod touch, but it turns out it may also have its eye on the Kindle and the still emerging e-reader market, or the two may be one in the same -- or neither, but bear with us for a minute. According to Wired's Gadget Lab, Dell is looking to shake things up...ENDGADGET

iTablet to be unveiled in September?

Much of the speculation around an "iPad" -- a rumored 10" Apple tablet -- has portrayed it as an Amazon Kindle-killer or a large-screen iPod touch, but there's a strong case that such a product could effectively serve as a replacement for – or a compelling complement to -- Apple's non-platform sleeper Apple TV. Apple faces a dilemma in moving iPhone apps to a larger screen size or higher resolution. It must either scale them (ugly), ask developers....ENDGADGET

iRiver build an iPod Touch killer?

Put this one strictly in the rumor basket, but if the apparently loose-lipped product manager at iRiver's Australian distributor is to be believed, the Korean company has the iPod Touch, Amazon Kindle, and even Arrington's CrunchPad firmly in its sights.
Accordingy to the iRiver hopes to launch an Android-based iPod Touch rival next year, they also hope to soon test a new iRiver e-book reader and Internet tablet. Is a three-way Web Tablet Battlemodo between iRiver, the possible Apple tablet and the CrunchPad looming...... ...GIZMODO

Meanwhile, more details about the CrunchPad surface....

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes on the CrunchPad since our last update in April, and have just about nailed down the final design for the device. We’re showing the conceptual drawings here today. In another few weeks we’ll have the first working prototypes in our office.

This launch prototype is another significant step forward from the last prototype. The screen is now flush with the case and we’ve decreased the overall thickness to about...TECHCRUNCH

Barnes & Nobles teams up with Plastic Logic to counter Amazon's Kindle

It's not exactly an e-book reader of its own as previously rumored, but Barnes & Noble's announced an alliance with Plastic Logic in which it'll serve as the "exclusive eBookstore provider" to the long-in-development e-reader, which unless we're playing with semantics here means any and all digital literature...ENDGADGET

Sony revamps its eReaders

I guess Sony's been a little jealous of all the attention the Amazon Kindle e-readers have been getting lately. The company just announced two new portable Readers, the PRS-600 and 300, a.k.a. the Reader Touch (left) and Reader Pocket, respectively. The Touch, available...DVICE

Quite a selection of devices coming down the pike this year! It's no wonder Wired has declared 2010 the year of the Tablet. Currently, the iTablet has gone from an item of idle curiousity to one of the the biggest rumors floating the internet right now...

Analyst Predicts Apple Will Unleash Touchscreen Tablet Next Year
Rumor: $800 Apple Tablet Coming in October
Financial Times Confirms Apple Tablet for September
How an Apple Tablet Could Pit iTunes Against
Large-Screen Kindle Won’t Mean Squat if Apple Tablet Arrives
Rumor: 10-Inch Apple Tablet Landing in Early 2010
Rumor: Mac Tablet Coming Fall 2009

I for one would love to have any one of these, as long as they read comics in an established or new file format. I'll be keeping my eye on the "plastic", particularly its second version...

Have a great weekend,



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