MatsuriCon: or, Why I Want to Sell at More Anime Cons, but Can’t

artist alley table layout

These last couple of weeks have been bananas for travel, from personal vacation time to selling my work in artist alley at MatsuriCon. My first anime convention in over 5 years (as a seller).

First, I was in Philadelphia for a personal vacation with my mom. My 30th birthday is this month, so we wanted to celebrate by going to a city neither of us had been to. We had a blast!

After the train ride back home, there were a couple of days for me to get ready for the next thing, MatsuriCon over in Columbus, OH.

So the headline of this post might make it sound like I had a bad time. This is not true.

MatsuriCon was freaking GREAT! For an anime convention, I was surprised how many people wanted to see original stories and art. I was a bit concerned, because of my 20+ products, only 3 things on the table were fanart.

Ok, I’m going to have an aside about selling fanart, because this is a hot-button issue among creatives wanting to sell their work.

Here’s the thing: if you can do something new and put your own spin on the fanart, then by all means, do that. I actually did that with this piece, taking a Kingdom Hearts bad guy and drawing him as an incubus:

incubus xigbar from kingdom hearts
Also on Tumblr.

The problem with fanart is when an artist does something BORING and makes money at it. Portrait shots of a character would fall under the “Boring” category…for me, anyway. If you’re new to artist alley, a portrait rendition of your favorite character from another artist might be exciting for you. But go to enough artist alleys, and you’ll begin to appreciate the artists who do unique things.

(Also a few of the portrait artists/people who do boring fanart are actually plagiarists. So keep that in mind, too. I’m glad some artist alley organizers are catching on to this.)

MatsuriCon actually had a rule in their Artist Alley contract that fanart could only take up 50 percent or LESS of the table. Any more, and that was considered grounds for having your table revoked. So there was a refreshing amount of original stories, products, and ideas in artist alley, which is REALLY FREAKING NICE.

Here’s a peek at the stuff I found in Artist Alley. Keep in mind, these are just what I traded for/bought:

matsuricon artist alley convention haul

Regarding sales of my own work, I made back 3 times what it costs for a table…or rather, half of a table. I was splitting a table space with my comics buddy Ben. We also stayed at his house, so we didn’t have to spend on a hotel room. And the both of us packed lunches, ate breakfast at his place, and just in general shared food. So all of that kept costs down for us.

I can’t speak for Ben because I don’t know how much exactly he made, but it’s fair to say the both of us made it in the black.

Plus, nearly everyone at the con was just a LOT of fun and very cool.

10/10, would go again…except…

Here’s where the headline of the post becomes relevant: the thing about artist alleys at anime conventions is that applications fill up FAST.

As in, within half an hour of opening, all open table spots are filled.

So, by the time I find out about a convention and check for artist alley spots, none are available. You either have to have that shit bookmarked so you can jump on it the INSTANT the alley applications open, or know the organizers of the con personally in order to get a spot.

As much as I want to go back to MatsuriCon next year, I’m just not sure that I can. We’ll see what happens.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

On Vacation, BRB

Starting today, I will be on vacation. I’ll be back in the office August 12.

That means The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Indie Comics Hub, the email newsletter, KickStarter fulfillment, and email and Facebook page posts are ALL on hiatus.

These projects will come back online at various times. After August 12, keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.

Thank you for your understanding, and I will see you again soon!

Custom T-Shirts, Anyone?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who really like some designs I do. And they’ve asked (sometimes urged) that I make these designs into a T-shirt.

Thing is, though, is that actually designing a T-shirt and getting it printed takes a lot of time – and it’s not something I wanna do for the poops and/or giggles.

If I’m gonna’ make a T-shirt, I’m not doing it for free, ya’ dig?

But I also don’t wanna’ get bulk orders of 1000 T-shirts. A LOT of shirt printers will do this: their machines are only set up to print off designs in bulk. I just don’t have the storage space to house 1000 T-shirts that I’m not wearing.

I DO know a handful of printers who can print 1 to 10 shirts at a time, though.

So I thought, “What if I started offering to make custom T-shirts for people?”

This idea also came from a Vlogbrothers video, in which Hank Green has a shirt that says, “Don’t Talk To Me About My T-Shirt or I’ll Put Forks in You.” A Nerdfigher designed and printed the shirt for him, and it’s the only shirt in existence. That design was (to my knowledge) not mass produced.

I saw that, and I was like, “I could do that!”

The big issue would be pricing these shirts, and I imagine this is where people would get turned off by it.

Just by my rough math, a custom, one-of-a-kind “Fork-In-You” quality individual shirt would cost:

  • One of the commission rates for the design – likely $25 for a black and white design, $60 for the color.
  • $10 for the shirt itself.
  • $10 shipping and handling.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I know anybody who would be ok with forking over $80 at most (or $45 at least) for a single custom T-shirt. Even if they knew they would be the only person on Earth with that specific design.

What are your thoughts on the matter, though?

How (and Why) I Script My Comics Like I Do

One of the backers of The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 had asked to see some scripts for the comic as part of the PDF reward. This question made me realize that my scripting process is not like how I’ve seen other comics makers work on their scripts.

Why?

Well, most comic makers I know only WRITE the script. Usually in a movie-script-like format, in which it goes like this:

Panel 3:

Billy stares at Marc Macaw in disbelief. Marc Macaw realizes his gaff and smiles a bit sheepish.

BILLY: …I’M A DINOSAUR.

MARC: Right. Sorry. Stupid question. Let’s do a practice run, shall we?

Truth be told, this format is how I write my rough draft of my comic scripts.

The only comic I’ve made that this didn’t apply to was Johnson & Sir. That one, I wrote out the story page by page. It’s not a method I would recommend to anyone unless you’re writing gag comics.

My other comics, from Thoughtful Dinosaur to The Case of the Wendigo to The Legend of Jamie Roberts, have been scripted in this pattern:

  1. Rough Draft: type it up in my version of a comic script format.
  2. Second Draft: Read the rough draft and thumbnail the pages. I make adjustments as I go.

Sometimes the second draft is a re-typing of the rough draft. If that’s the case (like with The Case of the Wendigo), the thumbnailing stages will actually be my Third or even Fourth draft.

What are thumbnails?

This is a term I stole from animation – it means to VERY roughly sketch out how a page looks. I’m talking stick figures and bubbles. Thumbnails are in a sketchbook and are meant to just show how the page would look in a rough layout.

I find thumbnailing the pages to be helpful, even if I wait several months between the rough draft and the thumbnail draft (or, Thumb Draft, if you will).

When I work on the Thumb draft, I can sketch out how the page looks according to the script. And if I don’t like how many words a character says, or I don’t like how certain scenes pan out, I can draw a different result.

As a visual person, it helps me to SEE how a scene pans out, rather than just read about it.

So if you’re having an issue in your comic script, try drawing it out in rough stick fugure-ish form. It may help you visualize the scene easier.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

A long while ago I wrote a post about my inspirations. Some of those still hold true (looking at you, Paprika). Some, however, have moved to the shelf so I can focus on some new inspirations.

Here’s what been getting my creative juices flowing recently:

KINGDOM HEARTS 3

I loved this series as a teenager. Then I hated it. Now I’m back to enjoying it.

This series is NOT flawless. But it’s like a cup of tea with a bar of chocolate: the best self-indulgence you can get without thinking too hard about it.

Really, the series is at its best when you’re not thinking about the plot. Though, as SuperButterBuns put it, the plot isn’t that confusing: it’s just a lot to remember.

(I also do the Crash Bandicoot logic of boss fights, in that the bosses in the previous games didn’t “die.” They were just defeated once and then came back for Kingdom Hearts 3.)

So what about Kingdom Hearts 3 has been getting me inspired? Well, I’d be lying if I said anything other than “The Organization.”

Or seeing Woody from Toy Story tell one of the Organization members to piss off. That scene gave me SO MUCH LIFE.

Also, Kingdom Hearts fans will get this reference: Yeetas Vanitas.

There’s tons of silly, charming character moments in Kingdom Hearts 3 in particular. Is the voice acting as good as the Union Cross: Back Cover movie? Nope. But the character banter is on point, more so in this game than in any other Kingdom Hearts installment.

And, well, the Organization and the mystery behind each member just intrigues the hell out of me. Not to mention that the characters themselves make good warm-up sketching material. Every character looks and acts differently. And I appreciate that.

Ok, I’ll move on to the next piece of inspiration before I gush anymore:

FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD

From Kingdom Hearts’ absolutely bonkers plot to a story with a damn-near flawless plot. Yes, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s story is so expertly woven that it’s really McFreaking Hard for me to find a fault with it anyplace.

Every character has a purpose. Every motivation makes sense. And the action of this series is driven by the motives of the characters, not some invisible hand dragging them by the nose under plot contrivance.

Also, much like Kingdom Hearts, the character designs for FullMetal are just superb.

Really, though, it’s the writing and how the story moves forward that’s been inspiring me the most. It makes me want to write.

I doubt I will ever write anything like Brotherhood. But it gives me something to aspire to, and a benchmark to look at whenever I lose focus.

TRIGUN

Above anything else, the humor (and one other thing) of this series has been inspiring me the most lately.

The other day I was marathoning this show in the background while I was doing studio work. And yet the show still makes me laugh, even when I’m not watching it directly.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for any character who fulfills the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass trope well, and Vash the Stampede is the best embodiment of this trope.

Also, the very first episode of this show is the best introductory episode of any anime I have seen thus far. Period. Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself. You’re welcome.

Did you know Studio Ghibli (yes, THAT Studio Ghibli) did the animation of some episodes of Trigun? When I learned that, it blew my damn mind.

This is also another series with some damn good writing to it. But for a different reason: FullMetal’s focus was on the characters and motivation. Trigun’s focus in the writing is on the world-building, and Vash’s connection to it.

Once you see the conclusion of Trigun, you will realize there’s no other story like it. And that’s what inspires me.

That’s all for now. I’m gonna’ get back to drawing.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. Another fun fact that blew my mind: the English voice actor for Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts also did the voice of Detective Konakawa in Paprika. Now I can’t look at Xemnas half the time without thinking about Konakawa’s dream antics.