Review Day Tuesday: Bartez

bartez book cover

Bartez is a comic I found at Intervention Con, mostly because the author, Ryan, was right across the aisle from me. I never heard of the project before that weekend, so I bought a copy of the book. Once the convention madness died down, I finally sat down to read it.

And you know what? I like it.

Is it life-altering? No. Is it fun? Yes, and delightfully silly to boot.

The story follows Jimmy Barton, an average guy who works in IT, who still hangs out with a lot of his old high school buddies, and lives in the town he’s always grown up in. He’s also a bit of a quitter – he tries new things, but he never sticks to them for very long. Tae Kwon Do? Wrestling? Parkour? Nope, nope, and nope.

That is, until he discovers one of his old friends was murdered by a rogue member of a secret society. And now, Jimmy might be next on the murderer’s hit list! Will he be able to actually stick to something and learn how to save himself?

The book I read is the first volume in a series, but I don’t know how long the series will be. It’s a series I want to read, though! Now let me tell you why.

bartez by ryan peraro and gale williams

bartez by ryan peraro and gale williams

The art, which seems (very) influenced by the likes of Bryan Lee O’Malley and Vera Brosgol, is sharp, clean, and easy to read. In an art style like this it can be easy to make the characters look alike. Thankfully, the artist (Gale Williams) does a wonderful job creating unique character visuals. I could tell Jimmy apart from his friends, and even the ladies look varied and stylized.

The action scenes are sporadic, but are drawn very well. I look forward to seeing what future action scenes in later volumes will look like!

The writing is, at the start, slow. The writer definitely takes his time developing the characters and scenarios, which isn’t a bad thing. I appreciate the slowness a bit because in too many comics nowadays people are rushing to get to the action. In Bartez you’re supposed to see what life is like before things get crazy. And Ryan Peraro does a great job showing everyday situations.

Once things start getting crazy, Ryan has built up the characters and the scenario enough that you believe what happens in the story. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

And you know what? The art and the writing work fantastically together in this comic. There are two creators on the project but it feels like one unified voice. That, to me, is wonderful.

If you want to read Bartez, they have the comic online and in print. My vote? It’s worth the $10 to get the first volume.

Have you found any comics worth reading? Did you read Bartez? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow with new artwork.

The Toledo Art Walk and How It Went

So on Thursday (July 24), I went to the Toledo Art Walk thanks to an invite from Packo’s at the Park and my friend Chloe. Packo’s wanted some caricature artists to help promote their restaurant and be a part of the Art Walk this month, and I was happy to do so because…

  1. I like to draw,
  2. My friend Chloe is awesome, and
  3. I drew caricatures at Cedar Point for 3 summers and knew what I was doing.

The day of the set up, we got there early and stopped at The Art Supply Depo.

Inside the Art Supply Depo.
Inside the Art Supply Depo.
Another shot of inside the Art Depo. They had artwork from local artists on display as well.
Another shot of inside the Art Depo. They had artwork from local artists on display as well.

The Art Supply Depo is an awesome store situated on South St. Clair street right behind Packo’s in downtown Toledo. They let Chloe borrow an easel for the night to draw caricatures on, and they had just the right markers and board that I needed to draw with.

The nice thing was Packo’s advertised for us in the Art Walk map, so that helped a lot in getting our name out there.

The front of the map. These were available at The Art Supply Depo and other sponsoring shop fronts.
The front of the map. These were available at The Art Supply Depo and other sponsoring shop fronts.
The back of the map.
The back of the map.
Our listing.
Our listing.

Once Chloe and I got everything we needed, we set up our tables by Packo’s.

Chloe's table sat next to me.
Chloe’s table sat next to me.

I didn’t bring any Validation or Johnson & Sir books with me. But I did bring Prologues, IF-X, and a bunch of smaller things like bookmarks and stickers. I also had a book of prints.

Close up on my comics, bookmarks, and stickers. I also had some copies of Mr. Dino and Friends and Ghost to give away for freebies.
I also had some copies of Mr. Dino and Friends and Ghost to give away for freebies.
I had to keep the stickers in the sorter because it got breezy.
I had to keep the stickers in the sorter because it got breezy.
These bookmarks will be listed for sale online soon!
These bookmarks will be listed for sale online soon!
The Book of Prints. There were also a selection of $1 prints in the back.
The Book of Prints. There were also a selection of $1 prints in the back.

Here’s Chloe’s table:

This was before I remembered that my book of prints had a few of her works in it.
This was before I remembered that my book of prints had a few of her works in it.
Close up on her prints, for RWBY, Wreck-It Ralph, and Sailor Moon.
Close up on her prints, for RWBY, Wreck-It Ralph, and Sailor Moon.

Our friend Alex also set up just down the sidewalk from us, selling some of her work. I meant to get pictures but by the time we got done setting up people were approaching us for caricatures left and right.

I managed to catch a few pictures before the customers left!

I loved drawing their hair.
I loved drawing their hair.
Their friends were teasing them the whole time. It was kind of adorable.
Their friends were teasing them the whole time. It was kind of adorable.

While I didn’t sell a whole lot of bookmarks or prints, I did get a lot of tips for working on caricatures, which is awesome!

Once 9 o’clock hit, we finished up drawing our last customers, and then we packed up.

This cart was the best gift I have ever received. Also, I'm a pro at condensing all the things into small packages.
This cart was the best gift I have ever received. Also, I’m a pro at condensing all the things into small packages.

And then Chloe, Alex and I went to The Durty Bird right around the corner for burgers and drinks to celebrate!

Left to right: Me, Chloe, Alex.
Left to right: Me, Chloe, Alex.
Inside The Durty Bird. Their burgers are delicious.
Inside The Durty Bird. Their burgers are delicious.

Of course I had to send the appropriate thank-you notes to folks, because I had a great time and the event went really well! I’m planning on going again when the next one happens August 28th. Hopefully then I’ll have more books (if people are interested!).

I intend on getting more involved in caricatures and doing them at art festivals and parties. But since comics and caricatures are both separate kinds of art forms, I’m making a separate blog specifically for caricatures.

It’s called “Caricature’d!” and you can find it here.

I’ll be adding more to it over the next couple of days, so keep checking back to it.

Here on this site I want to keep the conversation about comics, appearances I’ll be making, and the process of making comics (among other comic-related things).

Speaking of which, I’ll be making more of them soon…

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you on Wednesday.

How I Make Validation

Last time I spoke about How I Make Johnson & Sir. Today I want to show how I make a comic strip for Validation, the other webcomic I work on, because the process is a little different.

If you ever get lost in the technical bits (especially in the Photoshop section), I explain some of those steps in How I Make Johnson & Sir so hopefully the techno-lingo won’t be so confusing.

Today, I’ll show how I made strip #105.

Step 1: Get the Script

I don’t (really) write Validation. Christian does (though we often talk story ideas over). I wait for her to send the script over to me first, and then…

Step 2: Layouts

Sometimes I skip this step, depending on how simple or complex the strips are in the script. Since I work in three panels, it’s important to know where characters will be placed and where speech balloons will go, to make the strip as readable as possible. That way it won’t be so cluttered.

I did not do layouts for strip #105 because it was scripted in a pretty straightforward way, and I had an idea for how I wanted the strip to look.

However, I’ll show the layouts I did for #103, which had some weird camera angles.

validation comic layouts
click to enlarge

Step 3: Ready the Paper

I tend to do this step ahead of time. Thankfully I can get two strips from a single sheet of 9 inch by 12 inch Strathmore Bristol Vellum, which is my paper of choice for Validation. I trim the paper (to make it easier to fit on my scanner) and I’m good to go.

Step 4: Pencil the Strip

validation webcomic strip pencilled art
click to enlarge

Pretty straightforward. Although, if you notice two extra characters, one looks like me and one looks like my boyfriend. Fun fact!

When that’s done, I send the pencils to Christian (via DropBox) for approval. This is where any changes that need made can be done, though 99.9% of the time she gives the ok.

Step 5: Ink

validation webcomic comic strip inked artwork
click to enlarge

Once I get the ok, I ink!

To add a little depth, especially in panel 2, I made the foreground figures in thicker lines to make them pop more. I used a micron pen with a 1.0 width. The background figure in Panel 3 was drawn mostly with 0.5 and 0.3 width pens, with finer details in a 0.1 width micron pen.

Step 6: Color with Markers

My markers of choice are (from most preferred to least)…

  1. Copic markers
  2. Prismacolor markers
  3. Sharpies

I used to do the entire comic in marker, but now I only do half. Sometimes it’s because a marker died, the markers will not blend well for the background, or I need a color I don’t have a marker for. So I just color what I can.

Step 7: Scan and Tweak in Photoshop

validation webcomic comic strip color artwork in photoshop
click to enlarge

Once marker coloring is done, I scan the strip in at 300 dpi (dots per inch) and open it in Photoshop. The first thing I do is adjust the brightness and contrast (shown in the above picture). That way the strip isn’t so dim. Then I adjust the curves.

validation webcomic comic strip color artwork on photoshop
click to enlarge

Doing this will let the colors really pop.

Once those adjustments are done, I make a new layer in Photoshop and call it “EDITS”. This is the layer where I correct color errors I made with the markers, fix any wonky lines, and clean up smudges and spots.

Step 8: Color the Background

Then I make another new layer on top of that and call it “BACKGROUND”, because here’s where I add background color.

validation webcomic comic strip artwork in photoshop coloring the background
click to enlarge

If you notice, I adjusted the blending options for this layer. For “EDITS” I left those settings alone, but with “BACKGROUND” I set it to Color Mode: “Multiply” at a Fill Opacity of 100%.

The reason I do this is because Multiply mode actually keeps the lines clean while still coloring. It works like this:

Screenshot 2014-05-30 13.58.57

Rather than it looking flat and gross like this:

Screenshot 2014-05-30 13.59.08

Then I just color in the background colors as needed.

validation webcomic comic strip art work in photoshop coloring the background
click to enlarge

Step 9: Color the Rest.

Once backgrounds are done, I make yet another layer on top and call that “FLATS.” I also set this layer to Color Mode: Multiply and Fill Opacity at 100%. This is where I color in the things my markers missed, like Jim’s coat and the game table.

validation webcomic comic strip artwork being colored in photoshop.
click to enlarge

…Sometimes I have another file open to reference for color.

Step 10: Color the Shadows

This step is one I talked about a little bit in my previous tutorial, but here you’ll really see it in action.

I make a new layer on top, call it “SHADES,” and then set to Color Mode: Multiply and – here’s the surprise – Fill Opacity at 35%.

Notice it’s not at 100%? That’s because I don’t want the shadows to be overpowering. I also want the color of the shadows to blend, instead of getting any weird effects that would happen if I changed the paint brush opacity (yes, you can do that).

Once I do that, I color the shadows in, and it looks like this.

validation webcomic comic strip art being colored in photoshop
click to enlarge

I did something a bit unusual in Panel 2: I put the two figures closest to the reader in shadow. I did this to frame the picture and keep the focus on Ally and Kyle.

So now the colors are done! I save the file, and then flatten the image so all the layers merge. Then I make another new layer and save the file for lettering.

Step 11: Write the dialogue

For this step, I have the open file of the script handy so I can refer to it.

Then I write the dialogue and captions.

validation webcomic comic strip lettering done in photoshop
click to enlarge

I try to arrange them in such a way that they won’t block too much of the art, and to ensure it can be read easily.

Then, once everything is written and checked for spelling, I get to the bottom layer, make a new layer, and start placing the balloons and boxes with the rectangle tool.

validation webcomic comic strip speech balloons and dialogue added to the final art
click to enlarge

I use the rounded rectangle for dialogue and the plain rectangle for narration.

To make the tail for that balloon, I got to the bottom layer again, made a new layer, and painted it in.

Once all of that is done, I merge the layers to flatten it out, and then…

Step 12: Save the File!

I save it first at its current size and call the file “Validation105_large.”

Then I adjust the image size.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

The large file is at 300 dpi, which is the right size for print, but it isn’t too web-friendly. So to make it nice and tidy for the website, I shrink it from 300 dpi to 100 dpi. And I save that file as “Validation105_small.”

I send the finished strips to Christian via DropBox, and shazam! I’m done!

I hope you enjoyed looking at my process, and I hope you found something useful from it!

I’ll see you again on Wednesday.

Comics Are Literature. Period.

I was reading through my comics news feed and came across an article, called “But Where Are The Conservative Mangas and Graphic Novels?”

The gist is that the writer found an article about conservative folks catching on that comics can spread ideas for political gain. There are already plenty of comics out there by folks who would consider themselves liberal. I still remember shelving comic books about President Obama and John McCain when I worked at the Browne Popular Culture Library.

However, the article goes on to mention the comments. That’s what got to me.

There were comments essentially boiling down to, “Them there liberals don’t like it when their kids can read!” And worse, “Comic books are not literature, and it’s not elitist to think so.”

I’m going to ignore the politically charged comments right now to focus on comics as literature.

I won’t lie. When I grew up, I thought comics were sort of dumb.

I lived in a village of less than 200 people. The library was a ten mile drive away. The only comics they carried were collections of newspaper comic strips. I never read a Marvel or DC comic until I was twenty years old.

However, the pubilc library carried one anomaly in its comics collection. I don’t know how they got this book but I’m glad they did.

It was Gundam Wing: Episode 0.

That was my first exposure to longer and more serious comics. And it changed my life.

For the first time ever, I saw that comics were like any other book. They can tell complex stories. They can have high drama. They can have glorified violence.

Hell, comics can tell any story they wanted.

When my family and I moved out of the village, we moved to a town of around 20,000 people. To make up for the culture shock, I started working at the public library there.

That was around the time that libraries noticed graphic novels were really, really popular with readers. So the local library’s graphic novel collection was fantastic. And every week there was something new. Actually, three new graphic novels a week came in sometimes.

I devoured everything in their collection, from Blankets to Paradise Kiss. I read comics that told autobiographies. Science fiction. Romance. Comedy. Fantasy. War. Shakespeare. Anything and everything was encompassed in comics.

And I loved it.

Now, the stereotype is that people who read comics can’t read “normal books” (ugh, don’t get me started on “normal”). Or worse, people who read comics are lazy and are terrible students.

I am not ashamed to admit I was an overachiever in high school. 4.2 GPA, clubs, a part-time job to save money for college (it sort of worked).

I was not lazy. So that stereotype doesn’t apply.

The other stereotype is that comic book readers can’t read “works of literature.”

And my favorite non-comic books?

I have a long list that includes 1984 by George Orwell, BeowulfThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

I’m such a nerd for Slaughterhouse-Five that I want to make it a graphic novel.

You could argue that I know these books because I’m a former librarian, but no. That’s not the case at all.

You could argue that reading comics was a stepping stone to reading these literary classics.

That’s not the case, either.

I read comics, graphic novels, and books because they all satisfy my need to read and engage in the world.

Books, fiction or non-fiction, are gateways into the world. They are windows to show us life and how to grow as human beings. How to empathize. How to love. How NOT to love.

Comic books and graphic novels are just a way to tell those stories.

Some people are great with words. They can write the best novels and make great pieces of literature.

I argue that there are many comics that do the same thing.

Is there trash in comics?

Yes. There’s trash in novels, too (Twilight and The Pillars of the Earth included).

But just because some works are lackluster doesn’t mean the entire medium needs to be discounted.

Comics are a valuable medium. We need comics to tell us stories just as much as we need books.

And besides, who are we to say what’s trash? I know people that actually like Twilight and I still respect them as people. Those books are a treasure to them just as much as Maus or Koko Be Good are treasures to me.

My point is, it’s not the medium that counts. It’s the story it conveys and what that story means to its reader.

For me, though, comics will always win. For me, comics are the best and most entertaining way to tell a story.

That’s why I make them. That’s why I write about them.

So what about you? What are some of your favorite books, comics or otherwise? Let me know in comments!