Merry Christmas Eve!

johnson and sir frozen elsa dress comedic print
Johnson’s getting into the holiday spirit!

The previous blog post was a bit of an angst-fest, and I thought to myself, “That’s no way to leave off a blog before Christmas!”

So I want to talk about some things I’m grateful for this past year, and mention some plans I have for next year.

Let’s start with gratitude. I am grateful for…

Seriously, you, dear reader, are awesome. Thanks. :D

I have a lot of plans in store for next year, including more comics, more art, and more blog posts. Expect more mini-comics! Expect the return of Seeing Him!

And sometime, at some point, one of my comics will come to a close. I don’t want to say which one yet, because it’s a surprise.

I’ll talk more about my goals for next year soon.

Until then, have a Merry Christmas!

Also Happy Hannukah, Kickin’ Kwanzaa, Merry Winter Solstice, and have a Festivus for the rest of us.

So what are you grateful for? What did you get for Christmas? Let me know in comments!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you on Friday.

Character Design for Comics, Part 2

So in yesterday’s post I talked about what I feel like makes bad character design for comics.

To be fair, creating unique designs for characters is hard, especially in comics. It’s too easy to fall into formulas and make your characters suffer Same Face Syndrome, or its cancerous cousin, Same Body Syndrome. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? You should have been here yesterday.)

So then, what DOES make a good character design?

This is a hard question to answer. It’s even talked about in one of my favorite episodes of the Chris Oatley ArtCast podcast, when he interviews character designer Brett 2D Bean.

It’s not an easy question to answer, even if you’ve been making comics and animated works for YEARS. What makes great characters tends to vary from artist to artist.

However, I try my best to keep these points in mind. Good character designs in comics (to me)…

  • express the full range of human emotions,
  • are visually individual from each other, and
  • embody necessary elements in your story.

Let’s take a look at some of my own character designs.

nada character design sheet sketches
Character sheet for Nada.

Nada is a character I created for a work-in-progress, where she and several children are trying to escape a haunted house. Nada loves the wilderness, exploring, and practicing her survivalist skills. So in her design, I gave her sturdy hiking boots and a pair of pants that wouldn’t snag on anything from long sleeves, but still protect her legs from ticks and burrs. She’s still feminine in that she keeps her hair long, but she’s low maintenance and would rather keep her tangle of hair pulled back.

Let’s look at another story, which has the working title The Hoard.

claire the zombie hunter lady

Claire is a tough cookie. She’s also sharp and abrasive, which is why I drew her with sharper angles, especially in her face. She’s also muscular, having fought against the zombie hoard for a few years. Her clothes fit her snugly – she has no time for loose things to snag onto obstacles. She needs to do her thing quickly and get it done.

Let’s compare her to Tracy.

tracy character design sheet of sketches
Tracy’s character sheet.

Tracy has softer edges and curves, including a round face. That’s because she’s much more innocent and timid than Claire is. Compared to Claire’s hardness, Tracy is squishy. She also has more introverted body language – she keeps her arms in and her mouth shut. Compared to Claire’s open and fierce body language, Tracy is quiet. She compliments Claire nicely for the story.

Ok, so what about in something like Validation?

Let’s look at the progression of Ally.

validation ally art progression comparison
Ally in the first strip, compared to strip #151.

This isn’t just a comparison to see how my art improved over time. There’s some subtlety going on in Ally’s design.

When she first appears, her hair is much straighter, she’s quiet in her demeanor, and she keeps to herself for the most part.

As time goes on, she gets more outgoing, more outspoken, and that gets reflected in her appearance. Her hair is much looser and wilder, and she’s not afraid to wear a shirt that says “Boss.”

We can also see a change in Roxie, especially in one particular arc.

validation roxie character progression
It’s almost like Roxie is two different people.

Roxie is a punk. She is loud, she is funny, she is energy personified. Even her hair is electric!

However, in a rather dramatic story arc, she hits a slump. She retreats inward and loses a little of her spark. Usually, her mohawk has vibrant color, but in her slump, her hair is apathetically white and lifelessly blank. Her hair is limp, her energy just sucked out of her. And instead of standing straight and proud and emphatic, she slumps over, drawing herself in, away from the world.

Thankfully the downturn doesn’t last long, but it’s still dramatic enough that her appearance changes to match her character.

There are even more character designs I want to show and discuss, but that will have to wait for tomorrow – I don’t want this post to get too long!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Character Design for Comics, Part 1

alien character design sketches concepts
Sketches of an alien race, the Uthers (Click to enlarge).

“Character Design” is generally something you hear more in the animation industry than the comics industry. However, the two industries often overlap, especially whether you talk about camera angles, lighting and moods, or, in today’s post, character design.

Character design is especially important in comics. You need characters that…

  • express the full range of human emotions,
  • are visually individual from each other, and
  • embody necessary elements in your story.

On top of all of this, the character design should be simple enough that you can draw it repeatedly and NOT want to stab your eyes out with a mechanical pencil.

So before I show my own character designs and what elements I think work, I’m going to show some things that…don’t.

While there are no hard and steady rules for character design, I have this one personal rule of my own. It’s the only one I need, but it’s no less important.

If it makes a gorgeous illustration, it’s a terrible choice for a comics character design.

This is something mentioned briefly in an Aaron Diaz blog post about costumes in character design, under a section called “Simplicity.” He says…

Above all else, keep it simple.  Comic characters are not pin-ups or other illustrations; you have to draw them over and over again, from various angles.  If you pile on too much detail, you’ll wear yourself out slogging through all the bits every time you have to draw them.

Let’s look at an example…

final fantasy belt dress lulu

THAT is a beautiful illustration. It would be a total pain in the ass to draw repeatedly for a comics story.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: A Bride’s Story.

a bride's story manga
A scene from A Bride’s Story (Click to enlarge)

Yes, it is insanely detailed and gorgeous. The artist also has assistants to help her meet her deadlines.

Most comics artists I know don’t have the luxury of an assistant to help them make art. They are, 99% of the time, making everything on their own.

To that end, I still stand by my personal rule.

If it makes a gorgeous illustration, it’s a terrible choice for a comics character design.

Remember that simplicity is key.

So, what else doesn’t work?

Same Face Syndrome.

disney frozen same face syndrome character design
The most notorious example of “Same Face Syndrome” to appear in recent years. (Click to enlarge)

Same Face Syndrome is when you use the same face in your character design. The most cancerous of Same Face Syndrome symptoms spread into the physique, when you draw all of your characters with the same general body shape.

I used to suffer from this HARD when I started out. It’s a common mistake because Same Face Syndrome is so formulaic, and formulas help make new work faster…even if it’s not necessarily better.

The thing about character design is it should not be formulaic. Your characters should not fit a mold.

They should be individuals, with their own physiques and faces and personalities.

Each character you draw is their own person. They should serve a unique but specific purpose in your story. That’s why you draw them into your comics, after all.

Have you noticed any Same Face Syndrome elsewhere? Have any tips for character designs? Leave them in the comments!

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you tomorrow, when I show some of my own character designs and the creative decisions behind their looks.

Lessons Learned from a KickStarter Project

seeing him webcomic logo work in progress
Click to enlarge.

My sister Kia and I were running a KickStarter to help fund the beginning of our new webcomic, Seeing Him.


It did not meet the goal.

To be honest, Kia and I weren’t really sure whether this project would get funded or not. We were hoping for the best, whatever the best may be.

Now that the KickStarter is over, I think, for now, it DID turned out for the best.

I am sad our comic cannot be made right away.

However, we did learn the following things from this KickStarter:

  • People WANT to support indie comic creators (we did, after all, raise a little over $500. We didn’t get any of that money because KickStarter is an all-or-nothing fundraising system, but people were still willing to contribute money towards our project!)
  • People WANT to see more positive trans representation, especially for trans men.
  • People are more altruistic than we are lead to believe.
  • And digital rewards are way more popular than I thought they would be.

Kia and I are going to take these lessons in and plan our next move.

We are hoping to fund raise for the project again sometime after New Years, and perhaps…

  • Lower the asking goal.
  • Offer more/only digital rewards (so we don’t spend our funds on making rewards for the backers, therefore justifying our lower goal amount and getting the comic made faster and sooner)
  • Offer more ways backers can be included into the comic, because MY GOODNESS during the campaign the $100 reward to be drawn as a recurring character got sold out FAST.

As soon as Kia and I have a plan, I will let you fabulous readers know so we can try again and, hopefully, succeed.

Thank you to everyone who shared Seeing Him on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and elsewhere on the internet.

Thank you to Pink Dollar Comics and Women Write About Comics who wrote about the KickStarter project as it was going.

Thank you to all of the backers who contributed (sorry we didn’t make the goal).

And a very special thank you to my friends and family who were eager and supportive for our project. You know who you are.

Again, stay tuned for further developments for Seeing Him!

Thank you for reading (and for all of your support), and I will see you tomorrow.

KickStarter Updates and Videos

The KickStarter for “Seeing Him,” the new webcomic made my Kia and myself, will end on December 15!

I made a video for the KickStarter on my own YouTube channel, which you can watch below:

We’re still not near our goal! So if you can, please donate and spread the word. You can get cool rewards like posters, stickers, or even a chance to get drawn in the comic.

But the best thing about funding Seeing Him is that you’ll help bring a story, featuring a trans man, to life.

Because there need to be more stories about and for trans men.

Again, the KickStarter ends December 15!

Here’s some art to show what the webcomic will look like when and if it’s funded:

seeing him trans man webcomic comic page preview
Click to enlarge (and read).

In other news, I’ll be updating my YouTube channel much more often. Hopefully the next update will be the blooper reel for the KickStarter video. After that, there’ll be a video showing off a sketchbook I finished recently.

For the rest of December, I’ll be finishing up the KickStarter, making commissions, and wrapping up presents. But the webcomics I do will still update regularly!

Here’s another crazy thing I’m doing: starting Monday next week, I’m updating this blog every day, from Monday to Friday.

I’ll be showing never-before-seen sketches, posting more videos, talking about comics (maybe even discuss some comics history), and who knows? Maybe I’ll write a blog post you suggest.

Leave suggestions for next week’s blog posts in the comments below!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you on Monday.