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Guest Strip Week 2018 open for submissions

Guest Strip Week 2018 open for submissions published on 2 Comments on Guest Strip Week 2018 open for submissions

Good news: Leif & Thorn is accepting guest strips again!

I didn’t get enough to fill a week in March, but I did get a few…and those will definitely be posted at the end of October. It’ll be a nice breather after the ends of the Volume I Kickstarter and the six-month (!!) Leachtric storyline.

I’d love to stretch out that break by adding a few more strips to the ones I’ve been saving. So if you have a great Leif & Thorn bonus idea, now’s the time!

Submissions will be open until September 30.

You can use any AU, explore any era, include any headcanons.

When you submit the strip, include whatever name you want to be credited by. And, if you like, a link to your gallery/blog/fanfiction account/webcomic/Etsy store.

Format: PNG, GIF, or JPG
Size: up to 825×825 pixels
Rating: up to PG-13 (basically, match the tone of the strip)
Characters: whoever you want!

Safest way to get the strips to me is by email (sailorptah at gmail dot com). You can also PM me on Deviantart, or submit them via Tumblr.

Happy stripping!

LAUNCH DAY: Leif & Thorn Volume 1, on Kickstarter now!

LAUNCH DAY: Leif & Thorn Volume 1, on Kickstarter now! published on No Comments on LAUNCH DAY: Leif & Thorn Volume 1, on Kickstarter now!

If you didn’t catch it in today’s strip, or even if you did, here’s a whole post about Leif & Thorn Volume 1!

Leif & Thorn Volume 1

It’s 180 pages. It’s oversized. It’s full color. It’s already drawn!

…it’s not already printed. This is Only A Model.

Which is why I’m raising the funds to do a print run on Kickstarter. Back this project, and you can get your very own copy of Leif & Thorn Volume 1, plus all kinds of other cool rewards. You can get wallpapers. You can get postcards. You can get custom art. You can get yourself drawn into the strip!

(Not in this book. In a future book.)

I kept the budget modest, so if we get funded, I get to print a short run of books. And if we get OVER-funded, I get to print a LONG run of books.

Visit the campaign page to learn more, and get involved by sharing, following, and backing!

A merchandise question, and a book-related favor

A merchandise question, and a book-related favor published on 3 Comments on A merchandise question, and a book-related favor

First, the favor: Anyone have a recent version of Photoshop (at least CS4, ideally later) who would be willing to make some Leif & Thorn graphics for me?

I have the art, I have the template…but the template has Smart Objects, and all I have is CS2, which is not smart enough.

Shoot me an email (sailorptah at yahoo dot com) with “Photoshop Graphics help offer” in the subject line, and I’ll send you the source art to put together!

Next, a question about pins. In the form of a poll, because the people, they love polls.

Pick as many answers as you want. I pre-populated it with a scattershot subset of characters, but you can also add your own:

Which Leif & Thorn character(s) would you want on a pin?
  • Add your answer

Sign up to get Leif & Thorn updates

Sign up to get Leif & Thorn updates published on No Comments on Sign up to get Leif & Thorn updates

In the process of planning the Leif & Thorn Volume 1 Kickstarter, I’m starting an email list for announcements and updates. Because as much as it helps to be on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and so on…the first thing most people check in the morning is their email.

Obviously things will get posted on the website too — but maybe you don’t check the site every day. Or maybe you want the latest Leif & Thorn (and But I’m A Cat Person) news delivered straight to your inbox with no delay.

Well, this is for you!

I don’t actually like cold-sending emails, so I can promise you won’t get spammed with random trivia. Just the big updates, like book releases and Kickstarter kickoffs.

Add yourself to the list:

* only this one is mandatory


New polls: How many webcomics do you read? + How do you follow this comic?

New polls: How many webcomics do you read? + How do you follow this comic? published on 10 Comments on New polls: How many webcomics do you read? + How do you follow this comic?

If you scroll down to read the comments on any strip, you might notice there’s now a polling widget underneath!

It randomly cycles through all our active polls. Right now that means (a) the shipping poll from the previous post and (b) the two you can find right here.

Shoutout to the Comic Tea Party indie-comic reader-habits survey, which got me thinking about all the cool data I might want to track.

First off, a simple question of numbers:

How many ongoing webcomics do you keep up with?

Second, a question for Leif & Thorn fans, showcasing DemocracyPoll‘s “if the answer isn’t there already, you can add it yourself” feature:

How do you follow Leif & Thorn?
  • Add your answer

This particular poll widget allows the website admin to mess with almost anything through the back end. So if any user abuses this to add a troll answer, it can be deleted.

(The admin also has the power to rewrite answers or change point totals completely. For me, the actual reader data here is too valuable to mess with…but if I ever try to prove Leif & Thorn has high traffic by showing you a poll that got 30,000 votes overnight, you’ll know I’ve gone to the dark side.)

Check it out, the site has polls now!

Check it out, the site has polls now! published on No Comments on Check it out, the site has polls now!

Help me test them out by voting on something I know a lot of you have feelings about:

Favorite ship in Leif & Thorn? (Choose up to 3!)

If one of your choices is “Other”, leave a comment to tell us who you meant! (Then if I do another version of the poll later, I’ll know who to include.)

Learning and helping each other for webcomic artists (a #WebcomicChat compilation)

Learning and helping each other for webcomic artists (a #WebcomicChat compilation) published on No Comments on Learning and helping each other for webcomic artists (a #WebcomicChat compilation)

Some topics that are more about dealing with practical Life Concerns, outside of the art itself.


April 15: Art Education

Lots of influences, sure — discussed more on the inspiration post — but they’re all artists (comics, illustrators, writers) rather than educators.

Favorite story-writing influences: L. Frank Baum, Octavia Butler. For comedy-writing specifically, Stephen Colbert.

Visual-art-wise, Alphonse Mucha. Comic creators that I’ve gotten the most from: Naoko Takeuchi, Kohta Hirano.

I’ve gone to a bunch of local figure-drawing sessions (most of the results are NSFW) not affiliated with any school or class. Those can be great.

Went to an art high school, buuuut I was there for the literature program. Did get into one of the art courses — as a junior without the full background of the art-track juniors, I got placed with a sophomore class.

When deciding whether to place me at all, the teacher opened with “draw an eye.” (I asked if they wouldn’t mind me staring into their face as a reference.) When I had a passable drawing, they said with relief, “Oh, good, you didn’t draw one of those anime eyes.”

Like…c’mon, I was/am a huge anime nerd, but I did know that wasn’t the point of the class.

The value of an actual art degree is so unreliable that it’s a punchline, but I do wish I’d taken more art classes in college. My BS degrees have been, uh, of limited use, and at least the art would’ve been fun.

See Resources for Making Webcomics!

I avoid Pinterest because of its reputation for being bad at sourcing, and for making it hard to find an artist’s original post. At least on Deviantart, and sometimes on Tumblr, you usually get tutorials posted by the artist who made them.


Auto-Bio Comics

Slice-of-life is about fictional characters, autobio is about yourself (and might not actually fall under slice-of-life, depending on how exciting your life is).

I run out of interesting autobio material pretty quickly. It’s why Webcomic Woes doesn’t have a fixed update schedule, so I can draw it based on when something funny happens.


June 3: Helping Each Other

Recommend each other’s work, draw fanart, do exchanges, share advice & resources, support each other’s Kickstarters and Patreons when possible, follow on blogs & social media, promote with likes & reblogs.

“Be excellent to each other” is always a good star to steer by.

Personally, I make a bunch of stock backgrounds & repeating tiled patterns that are free to use. And I have a standing offer to do guest-art swaps with other webcomic artists! If you want some cross-promotional energy with an audience that’s into LGBTQ+ fantasy/comedy, hit me up.

Gloomverse fanart. (Not part of a swap; this one was spontaneous.)

Con stuff. I really wish I had a con buddy – either someone full of experience who can give lots of advice, or just someone I could split the cost of a table with and look out for each other’s merchandise while the other makes a bathroom run.

In the meantime, I do a fair amount of looking up other people’s “how I did this cool thing” tutorials, or “the brushes I use for this effect” freebies.


July 8: Spam

Seems like I was the only person on Twitter who’s never gotten “please read my comic, here’s an unsolicited link” spam. Even when I’m actually doing rec posts, I barely get solicited links.

Most of the spam I get is on my websites, but WordPress filters it so effectively that I never have to deal with 99.9% of it. As a result, most of the spam I encounter is via email.

…really, I’m mostly adding this here so you get a link to some choice excerpts from my Akismet spam filter.

Development & inspiration for webcomics (a #webcomicchat compilation)

Development & inspiration for webcomics (a #webcomicchat compilation) published on No Comments on Development & inspiration for webcomics (a #webcomicchat compilation)

May 13: Character Development

Start with a single strong/exaggerated personality trait, and build outward. You want a memorable hook for readers, especially with minor characters who may not appear for months at a time.

Leif & Thorn examples: “she’s a ridiculous overachiever,” “he’s extremely cutsey,” “she’s ruthless but glamorous,” “he’s way too into conspiracies,” “she’s a goth nerd,” all probably identifiable just by that. (Even “she’s chronically unmemorable” can work…)

A variation: start with an archetype and flip part of it around. The stereotype is “apathetic goth,” so this character is “social justice goth.” Stereotype is “brutish muscular axe warrior,” so this character is “glamorous flirty muscular axe warrior.”

I had fun writing the Leachtric sections of Leif & Thorn because it’s a show-within-a-show. I got to develop the characters as they existed in-universe, then figure out how they’d be fictionalized for a historical drama.

I’m a discovery writer. Can’t plan too far ahead in too much detail, because I’m always working out new things along the way. That applies to character actions as much as anything else.

For instance — there are plot points that were conceived with a vague idea of revealing them in But I’m A Cat Person‘s climax, but instead they’ve already happened, because there was no good reason for the characters to keep holding the information back.

Well, most characters are going to have a little bit of the author in them somewhere.

I wouldn’t make a character just “in-universe counterpart of Person X”, but sometimes real-world details are too good not to include. (When this chat occurred, I was in the middle of drawing Rosie’s recent conversation with Rowan, which was heavily inspired by a real conversation that I couldn’t have made more ridiculous if I tried.)

If you’re going to base comics on reality, though, you have to have distance. When a character is facing a struggle that’s inspired by something you’ve been through, great, but you can’t take it personally if some reader says “wow, this character is being an idiot.”

…there was one time, many moons ago, when I left a comment on another person’s work that effectively said “character X needs to get a clue and realize they’re bi.” Author reacted with fury, because character X’s experiences were based on their own, and they were straight, definitely straight, how very dare I.

Six months later, this same author was bi, definitely bi, and proud of it! …but still mad at me. Never did quite figure that one out.

Some things are easier/more effective/more fun to express via storytelling than anything else.

If you develop a character enough to really understand their perspective and motivations, you usually can’t end up hating them. Unless they’re a particular flavor of villain.

If this is talking about when you hate the process of writing a certain character…why would you keep it up? Unless it’s work-for-hire, there’s absolutely no reason for it.


June 17: Inspiration & Influences

In terms of the content: Sailor Moon and Hellsing.

In terms of the mechanics: the moment I realized “posting comics on the Internet and having people read them” was a thing, it was like a light had been switched on. First read might’ve been Venus Envy.

On a more somber note, a bunch of Leif & Thorn is a reaction to stories that made me sad/mad/upset – usually they took a premise or trope that had a lot of potential, and ruined it in some way – and I wanted to do better. (And fixit fanfiction wasn’t enough.)

Depends on the inspiration. And the reader. Recently got a comment on BICP that was basically “I’ve been reading this for years…and I only Just Now picked up that you put Stephen Colbert expies in everything.”

Sometimes readers pick up on inspiration that isn’t in the order they think it is. Like the person who asked if a plot point in Leif & Thorn was inspired by Steven Universe. Nope — both it and SU are doing the same reference to Utena.

I’ve also been inspired by things in the news, particularly disasters, which means I end up researching them and learning a lot about the real-world background. Even when the in-universe considerations are different (mostly because they can have magic-based solutions).

Hey, I was just listening to a DoL epsiode that goes into this.

It’s easy to spot a magical-girl series where the creator’s only inspiration is Sailor Moon. People who have watched/read a bunch of different mahou shoujo come up with fresher, more grounded, more engaging additions to the genre.

Terry Pratchett is the model for doing this right, imo. Discworld riffs on everything — this book is Phantom of the Opera, that one is Macbeth, this one has a whole sequence that’s Mad Max, and so on.

But it’s all set in a fundamentally well-developed world. The characters have rich and complex personalities. There’s a lot happening on the Disc besides direct takeoffs on other stories. The writing is funny and thoughtful.

…also, he makes the most extended references to public-domain works, which I’m sure helps.


July 1: Planning a New Project

At this point? To start something new, it has to be powerful enough on its own that I’m inspired with no extra effort.

Otherwise, it’ll take away from the seeking-out-inspiration energy I’m already using on existing comics.

Take a bunch of different seeds, plant them all together, watch how they grow around each other. As of this chat, I’m in the middle of “what if magic Hamilton” + “sudden wing growth = medical issues” + “Internet friends are real friends” + “SVU parody.”

Also, doodles! Get a feel for the characters, the props, the setting — and discover which bits you really like, and want to draw more of.

(Early Leif & Thorn development sketching. You can see which details were fully-formed from the start, and which…weren’t.)

Since BICP takes place in present-day Boston (…well, 2010 Boston, which was present-day at the time), I took a bunch of my own reference photos. Here are some of the settings from the early chapters.

And Leif & Thorn needed bunch of geology-type research. It’s easy to say “2 moons, that looks cool,” but then you get to think about “how do those 2-moon tides affect everything from international trade to beachfront property values.”

But I can’t think of any resources for “new projects” that aren’t just resources for…projects. Everything from worldbuilding to fashion design is gonna be an ongoing endeavor.

I’d been stuck on a while for this Leif & Thorn mini-arc, with some bonding and friendship-building for the goth kids. I had all the plot points, but something was missing – it was coming out like an As You Know Bob speech instead of a character moment.

Then last week I wandered into this little Satanist/metal gift shop, and finally I realized, duh, the kids could be shopping here.

So that’s the most recent thing I finished. Goth kids having character development while poking at all the skulls/etc that I got to poke at IRL.

Pitching, analyzing, and marketing your webcomic (a #WebcomicChat compilation)

Pitching, analyzing, and marketing your webcomic (a #WebcomicChat compilation) published on No Comments on Pitching, analyzing, and marketing your webcomic (a #WebcomicChat compilation)

Because Twitter is hard to backread, much less search, I’m doing more WebcomicChat answer roundups. Multiple topics per batch, this time, since I’ve fallen way too far behind.

(Also, they’re consolidated! Which is why you won’t always see all 5 prompts.)


April 29: Elevator Pitches

A headache. (See this Webcomic Woes.)

…which is why I keep using different context-specific promo descriptions at the start of every new chat, instead of having a stock one that works everywhere.

But I'm A Cat Person ad

But I’m A Cat Person does pretty well with “it’s about broke queer millennials with battle monsters,” but Leif & Thorn resists summaries. A one-liner that focuses on the romance makes it sound unfunny, and a one-liner about the comedy makes it sound non-dramatic, and “it has some comedy, some drama, and some romance!” just sounds uninterestingly vague.

Leif & Thorn ad

It used to be easy to do a quick head-to-head comparison of different slogans (or anything else) on Project Wonderful. RIP ;_;

Haven’t yet made enough via my Google AdSense experiments to start doing the same there.


June 3: Analytics & Demographics

My only target audience is “people who like the same stuff I do.” Which is part of why these comics are hard to market, since that’s not exactly a recognized and analyzed demographic…

The age range (for both BICP and Leif & Thorn) is at least 16+, since they have content not suitable for little eyes. That’s about as targeted as I get.

(Fanservice! …and if you’re not a fan of it, you’re probably off reading something else.)

Just the built-in stats in CPanel. Used to lean on the Project Wonderful ad stats for a quick look, but, well. Haven’t made the effort to install anything more complicated.

Twitter also has stats! Mostly what they tell me is “nobody clicked the links in your tweets.” Experimenting with hashtags has…not helped much. Tagging general webcomic accounts that do retweets can make a difference… sometimes… sparingly.

A lot of what analytics tells me is… unsurprising. The most popular pages are the front page, followed by the 3 or 4 strips directly preceding? Never woulda guessed.

(Data from mid-July 2018. Also near the top: the script that runs whenever you load a WordPress page, and the scripts that run whenever you load a wiki page.)

When I wasn’t sure how many people were even reading these blog posts, I didn’t use any high-tech data analysis, just posted this low-stakes low-effort poll. It drew some of those readers out of the woodwork to comment.

If we’re talking about reader demographics, those should really only matter to advertisers. The important thing for the creator is that they’re in the demographic of People Who Like This Work.

Say your kid-friendly comic is getting a lot of adult readers. Sure, they’re probably enjoying Adult Content from other sources — but they’re visiting your site because your content appeals to them as-is. Don’t mess with that.


June 23: Pitching Comic Projects

Including answers for a matching discussion from WeHeartComics!

A couple of anthology projects. So far, all polite rejections. (Not counting the ones that are unanswered as of this posting.)

Not sure if there’s anything I could’ve learned. In the one case that offered individual feedback, it turned out to be a matter of “your pitch made it to the final round, where we liked everything there but didn’t have space to print it all.”

I got a couple of pieces into the Webcomic Almanac zine (no longer on sale) — but it was to benefit Project HOPE, not the contributors, so I don’t believe they rejected anyone.

The benefit is, if you get accepted, someone else handles a bunch of administrative stuff – running Kickstarters, promoting the work, maybe selling at cons – that you don’t necessarily want to do.

Also: payment! The exposure part is nice, but if I want exposure for no money, I’ll get that by posting stuff on my own site/DA/Tumblr.

(Fundraising for a worthy nonprofit, see above, also counts.)

Some people talked about the value of community with your peers at this point, but that’s something you should be able to find in lots of other places. Right now I’m enjoying threads on the SpiderForest forum. Some users have pitched things to the collective (with or without getting accepted), but it’s not at all a prerequisite.

All the time you spend writing pitches that get rejected is time you could be spending on other things. Like making comics and sharing them on your own terms.

The requirements can bend you out of your artistic comfort zone, which could be a benefit or a drawback. For instance, my standard MO involves color, but the last submission I finished required grayscale…so I figured out how to make it look good in grayscale.

It’s definitely a drawback if you contort yourself too far. It would be stressful and draining trying to come up with ideas for an anthology where the basic theme bores you, and editors will notice that you don’t care about the idea for its own sake.

Finally, if you get a conditional acceptance, where the editors want to change your project before they’ll print it…that could also go either way, depending on what kind of editing they want. And on how much you’ve already drawn.

Have a timeframe for when you’re going to make the final selection, and send out emails during that timeframe. To everyone!

Individual feedback would also be nice, but even if you can’t give more than a polite form letter, don’t leave the rejected people hanging.

Honestly, I’m still struggling with this one. Short stories are intrinsically hard. If I care about the content enough to draw it, I inevitably come up with more material than a short-form would cover.

You would think, given how I do lots of standalone Sunday strips for Leif & Thorn, that a fun and engaging one-off would be more doable! But it’s hard to keep that energy going for 4, 6, 10 pages, without needing more worldbuilding and/or character development than you have time for.

…granted, this is a problem with lots of other writers’ short-form works, too. They leave me cold because they feel underdeveloped.

It would be great if more people got around that by writing multiple self-contained stories about the same world and characters. And I literally just brought an anthology of those for Narbonic, so my money’s where my mouth is.

Resources for Making Webcomics

Resources for Making Webcomics published on 2 Comments on Resources for Making Webcomics

A post that I plan to keep adding to, as cool new things keep crossing my path.

Artistic resources!

29 Panels that Always Work – the Wally Wood classic, expanded

Artist-Advice, Art-Tutorials, and Help-Me-Draw on Tumblr

Blambot – free quality fonts

Some specific posts on color harmony: by gigi d., by Justin Oakford

Howard Schatz’s photos on the diversity of athletic body types (that link has the women; there’s a matching lineup for men)

SenshiStock, Tigers-stock, and my stock & patterns on DA

RoomSketcher – for creating handy modelinteriors

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange – Q&A for writers/artists needing references for science, geography and culture

…and Bing Images for all-purpose reference-image searching. (I know, I know, but Google keeps making itself deliberately harder to use.)

RoomSketcher model vs. final panels: Rowan’s bedroom, Thorn’s living room.


Productivity resources!

5 Simple Website Blockers – Apps you can use to limit your access to distracting parts of the Internet


Website accessibility resources!

Smashing Magazine – fonts, layouts, coding, and general design advice

W3C Markup Validation Service – checks your code

Browsershots – how does your site look when loaded in a hundred different browsers?

WAVE – evaluates different measures of site accessibility

Worth checking: whether your site is still legible to colorblind users.


Webcomic podcasts!

ComicLab, with Dave Kellett, Brad Guigar, and Scott Kurtz. They’re old friends, which means sometimes they’ll wander off into a ten-minute digression about shopping habits or renovating their houses, but they’re also old pros, which means they have a lot of useful thoughts about comicking. Tends to focus more on the business side than the artistic.

Dirty Old Ladies, with Spike from Iron Circus Comics, Kel McDonald, and Amanda Lafrenais. Also friends, all with different levels of experience, covering both business (Spike is on the Actual Publisher level) and creativity (their digressions come in the form of ten-minute summaries for projects they want to work on).

Two of them have erotic comics in their repertoire, thus the title. It’s kind of misleading because they aren’t the only focus — they just come up when it’s relevant.

The SpiderForest Podcast, with various members of the SF collective, plus guests. Each episode includes an interview and a moderated roundtable discussion, so it’s less banter-y, but organized well enough to move along nicely.

(I have more discussion about individual SF podcast episodes over on their forum.)


What not to do!

How Not To Run A Webcomic, a collaborative project that ended in 2006 but is full of solid still-relevant advice.

(…give it enough time and I might add some personal complaints to this one.)

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