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Filtering by Tag: Maps

2/3 of MAPS 3

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I recently crossed the 48 page mark on my pencils for MAPS 3. To check on the books progress, and give myself a touch of perspective, I reread what I've done so far. In some ways it's better than I had anticipated. I will want to work on the dialogue in the first few pages. It's a little open ended for the beginning of the story. I think a lot will be fixed with the "our story til now" page, but relying on that exclusively feels like lazy story telling.

I need to seed in the cultures reverence for the sun throughout the story more to best justify actions towards the end as well. I always notice things I should have done differently in previous MAPS when I start reading them aloud to my class. I'm adding in more captions at scene changes, because I always notice improvising those explanations when I read them to my classes.

I hope that I'm striking a better balance in this issue. I want to keep the pacing very quick and have lots of set pieces per story. The trick is putting in the quieter moments to build tension and strengthen the characters. I'm not sure I've hit the emotive notes I want to yet, but MAPS 3 will certainly solidify how powerful Sartr can be, and why Elwood is the hero of our story.

Building a Better Ninja

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I'm working through the PE book, and still churning away at skeletons. Today I want to talk about the brick wall I've hit as I started pencilling the next book in MAPS. Character design is crucially important for having your characters recognizable and establishing the tone and nature of your world. As I got to page 2 I realized I did not have a good idea for how the people in the next universe dressed. I knew they'd be ninja esque, but I wasn't going to use the stereotypical black mask and catsuit that I'd shorthanded the characters with in my layouts.

I've been watching some old 50's and 60's kung fu movies to think about my storytelling but for the character designs I began by image searching some outfits from feudal Japan. Robes, swords, layers, pulled back hair, sweet flip flops...I sketched out several guys and picked and chose the more iconic parts of their wardrobe to get some idea for how to set the tone of the universe.

I talked over these sketches with Timothy and we both agreed they needed to be altered significantly to help make our new universe feel unique and alien. These guys need to be light on their feet, they need to be able to soar through the air.  We began to talk about base jumpers and the wind suits those guys use. I started thinking about the masks/visors from the Shinobi games or Gatchaman. This is a little more unique, though not actualized yet. I'd say these designs are about halfway to where I want to be.

I've leaned up the character a little bit which strikes me as a lot more 'ninja'. Added a few little design flourishes to start jazzing them up. Trimmed down the billowing of the cape/drag suit. I want to expand off of this sort of direction. Work on the helmet/visor on a structural level. Then it'll be another round of action shots with the new design and I can finally get back to those pages on MAPS.

Wrap It Up

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I've sent the final approval on the printing of When the Warlock and that feels great. I think that the project is really cool and I'm eager to see other people's responses to it. I'm not sure if that'll go on sale prior to Appleseed Con or not. I'm leaning toward starting the sales early though. Spacing out our releases a little bit. I'll have three books completed this year and I'd like to have them as equally distributed as possible.

I also have been hard at work on Maps. Book 2 is nearing it's end and I've gone through my first run through on edits. Not even half as many corrections as I had on Warlock, which I think is pretty incredible. I've also completed the page by page spine of Maps 3 and have begun the layouts for our future installment. I don't know how Timothy feels, but I think it's exciting to be in the last phases of one Maps while in the the first phases of the next.

Tough Calls

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I'm having a book signing at my school in a few weeks and it's really upped the profile of MAPS tremendously. This is great news.  More people are reading and buying the book, I'm gotten at least 500 eyes on the project that were otherwise clueless to the book's existence. The book signing will surely lead to more sales which is great.  Except I'm almost out of copies of the book.


I only have 9 copies left of the first printing, which is great. The Trouble With Lions has been an overwhelming success in that regard. The first printing of the book was graciously covered by the Pitts County Art Council.  This did lead to us pricing the book more cheaply than I think we should have.  At 10 dollars a piece I'll have to sell every last copy of the second printing to break even.  This is not a sustainable business model.

I'm not upping the price until after the book signing. Everything has been advertised already and if anyone deserves a break its the parents and children. I don't mind selling more books, obviously. I just wish that I'd handled the grant money a little differently. If we'd charged more for MAPS at the outset then we could have had a little in the coffers to handle this sort of thing. 

Although to be fair, MAPS proceeds did cover a good portion of Public Education 2's printing.  I need to figure out how to spark some interest in that book.  Those sales have been abysmal.  My worst performing book ever.

In conclusion, go buy Public Education 2. 

One Week Post Con

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I have been incredibly productive this past week.  Getting work done across three different projects, with jobs from coloring, to inking, to pencilling to layouts.  All my myriad projects are making forward momentum right now, even if it's not always steady progress.

I finished the lettering and backgrounds for my 7 page anthology piece titled Valor. I used fixed tip pens and brushes for the lettering for the narration and dialogue respectively. It's a trick I've seen used by a few people including David Mazzuchelli.  I think it's effective, though I'm still a poor excuse for a letterer. What's taking the most time with the project is trying to digitally add a gray tone for the skies and drop shadows.  I'm not great with photoshop anyway, and using a mouse instead of a tablet is...frustrating to say the least.  I also learned, if you don't completely erase stray marks and then change the gray tone all shades of the erased colors come back in full force.  So today has been spent repeating my coloring blunder.  That what I get for using the brush tool instead of flatting everything.

I've pencilled a couple pages of MAPS 2, and it's a blast working on 18 x 24s.  Something about that huge size just lets Elwood leap onto the page. I've got my half page storyboards to work from. With the extra size I'm able to really expand and develop each panel into better conveying the information. I find it very interesting that these pages seem to be pencilled faster than the 11 x 17s were.

I also spent an evening turning the script for my last EOC Anthology into layouts. It's for another Professor piece, which is a fun experiment in design. I try to make sure each page is balanced as a whole, with little focus on panels. Instead I try to most clearly diagram whatever idea that is being explained. I want 'Mind Matters' to be as clear as possible, because it's a concept I've never run across in my life. I'm hoping to change worlds.

-Jon O'Briant


Summer Jobs

Added on by Timothy O'Briant.

I've got a lot in the works this summer.  I'd like to share my battle plan with yall to better hold myself accountable for my workload.  I have three projects I expect to hit pivotal points in their creation.  Maps will be available for sale.  Public Education 2 will be printed.  Awful Lot's last chapter will be pencilled and inked.


Maps has been printed and is ready to be shipped.  My projection was the books will arrive on the 18th, which gives us three extra days before we leave for Heroes Con.  I really want these books to be ready for Charlotte.  It will make my third consecutive year going to the convention with a new book to show off, and that's a tradition I want to keep.  I could have spent astronomical amounts to expedite the shipping but I tried to be frugal.  I hope that decision doesn't come back to bite me on the tail.


Keeping all this in mind I am trying to give myself a lot of wiggle room with PE vol 2.  I have been out of school a bit over 30 hours and a lot of my time has been spent on organizing Public Education.  The first thing I did was go through the 300 strips of Public Education I've done over the past couple years and narrow it down to my top 180.  I divided the strips into 5 tiers based on humor and clarity.  The top two groups gave me 160 strips and the middle group had 40.  The fact that these groups always landed on even tens mystified me.  I broke the middle forty into a top and bottom tier and the high group made the final cut into the book.  The tedious part was moving all of those strips into a seperate folder and cataloging all of the strips titles.  This has taken several hours, but the organization is going to help a lot as I get these strips formatted for the book.


I've also inked and drawn two pages of Awful Lot since yesterday.  That finishes up my work on Chapter 5, sans clean ups and scanning.  Last summer I did two pages of Awful Lot a week while I was pencilling Maps.  This summer I plan on three pages a week and that will let me finish up the final chapter of Awful Lot before the end of the summer.  This would give me tons of time to work on cleaning up the pages and getting it ready for book treatment.

The coolest thing about three projects wrapping up is getting started with all the new ideas I want to explore.

- Jon O'Briant

Production Values

Added on by Jon O.

Timothy and I got our proof copy for MAPS in earlier this week!  It looked fantastic, I'm incredibly proud of how it's turned out.  We read through the hard copy.  Proofed a few dialogue balloons, adjusted a few last colors, and checked to make sure all of our file sizes allowed for clear, simple reading.  In a mere 48 hours we had corrected all of our last minute changes and sent the files back to Ka-Blam for the printing of 100.  We should get these in time for Heroes Con which feels really good too.  We cut the deadline close, but then, we always do.


In the next couple weeks, I will start putting all the files together for the next Public Education.  I used Lulu for the first volume but Ka-Blam is a ton cheaper.  I'm hoping to be able to use a similar format to the last P.E. but it seems foolish not to switch to the cheaper printer.  I'm hoping that this volume comes together much more smoothly than the first book. I feel with the experience I've gained in publishing over the past two years it will be.  It'd better be.

Last month Public Education Vol. 1 sold out of it's initial printing.  Currituck County Schools bought copies for all of their first year teachers!  I've been asked to speak to them tomorrow and try to "inspire and motivate".  I'm incredibly excited and so long as I have an internet connection I'm well rehearsed. This is exactly what I want P.E. to be, a tool to bring teachers together laughing and empathizing.  It's nice to see that four years into the strip people are really starting to notice.

- Jon O

Making Books

Added on by Jon O.

The first draft of MAPS is off to the printers.  Timothy and I have both gone through the PDF's and had a cycle of edits on the book.  My hope is that we have enough time to see this single copy test and then get a few browsing copies to go to Charlotte with.  We need to modify the sketch pages in the back and I need to get Timothy to write his closer, but I'm confident that we are close to a final copy version of MAPS.  Timothy did most of the work formatting and uploading the pages.  The bulk uploading that Ka-blam allows is fantastic in a lot of ways, and I think overall it is superior to the way Lulu uploads files.  The advantage to using Lulu is you can have your files named anything.  As long as you know the order of your pages it'll be fine.  Ka-Blam requires a more stringent file naming structure.

I've also started to organize and filter my strips for the second volume of Public Education.  I've got about 120 of the 180 strips chosen.  There's about three more weeks of school so I'll get about ten new strips or so before I start putting the book together.  My stack to choose from for the last 60 is enormous.  Public Educations have gotten easy for me to produce and so I've made a lot of them.  That should bode well for this volume.  The first book had a few strips I would have rather been able to replace.  This time I'll have more comics that space.  I've considered putting more than 180 strips in the second book, but I think I'd rather err on the side of quality.

The yearbooks also came in.  The ladies in the office were complimentary, but I cannot get jazzed over making yearbooks.

- Jon O'Briant

Cowardly Lion

Added on by Jon O.

The debate over how Maps will be colored continues in a passionate manner.  Having very little practice or education with coloring and it's theories makes these discussions fairly vague.  We have to really parse out each other's descriptions to try and figure out what we each mean.  I've envisioned more saturated colors, reminiscent of the old 4 color comics from days long gone.  Timothy is leaning more towards pastel like colors that keep a very strong contrast with the ink lines.

The bright colors make the entire shapes pop, and can really draw your eye from one character to another.  The darker shades we use though, the less clear the think ink lines become.  Not as problematic on the outlines, but we don't want to lose the details inside each figure.

The light colors help keep clarity to a maximum but I don't feel have as much energy jumping off the page.  Maps is an exciting tale of adventure and I don't want the images to feel washed out or less powerful in any sort of way.

Other discussions we've had have touched on the shades we've been using (Is there too much yellow in that green?  Do we need a bluer blue?) and how to find a good balance.  We want the pages to feel cohesive, but again too many colors in the same value (I'm guessing at the meaning of the word value here.) and the page begins to blend together and muddy again.

I have very little in the way of advice or pointers in this week's Curve.  I guess the takeaway is to take no aspect of a comic for granted.  Coloring is hard, and the more we experiment and discuss the work, the more questions are raised about it.

- Jon O'Briant