Now I’ll ask you one with Dave Sim

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“Now I’ll Ask You One” with Dave Sim, part 22 – All things must come to an end.

Blair: Well Dave, I’ve got to say it’s been a pleasure having this discussion with you and Mike. I really enjoyed reading your conversations with Steve Bissette and Jimmy Gownley over the last few months and hopefully our discussion holds up to both of those alright. (Maybe we’ll even have to do this again sometime).

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you in July!

Mike: “Cinderella Liberty”… there’s a comic in there somewhere! Perhaps it’s naivety or perhaps it’s simply optimism, but I do think there are people out there that would enjoy the sorts of work we do on the fringes with our self-published works. Far more than recent sales would have us believe. I continue to find support for my own work in the most unlikely of places. When those allies are found, I am overcome with a sense of gratitude. It makes the battle seem a little less hopeless. It reminds me of two different quotes that I’ve collected into a category I call Mantra’s on my Ultraist Studios Blog Journal. The first was something you said in your conversation with Steve Bissette over at his Myrant page:

“Self-publishing for a living is somewhere on a sliding scale between extremely unlikely and totally impossible”

Which, so far as I can tell in 2011, is as close to a truth as I can imagine. And that in turn makes me think of something that writer Seth Godin said recently on his own blog:

“Your chance of winning is so vanishingly small it’s as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners. Which means that you should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits of playing it to a normal conclusion, not because you think you have any shot at all of winning the grand prize.”

That can be said, not only for self-publishing, but for life itself.

I mean, we’re all going to fly into the ground one of these days…
… so we might as well enjoy the ride!

Thanks again for instigating this conversation Dave.
Both Blair and I enjoyed doing it.

But now it’s time to fax this off before the clock strikes twelve.
The family and I look forward to seeing you in July.

Mike Kitchen – signing off.

By |2018-05-25T03:50:27-04:00April 9th, 2011|Now I'll ask you one with Dave Sim|4 Comments

“Now I’ll Ask You One” with Dave Sim, part 20 – Mike and Blair ponder whether the internet is a scam

Mike: You’re going to open a “can of worms” on this one Dave, because it kicks my conspiracy theory brain into full gear.  I absolutely think this internet is the world’s biggest scam in the same way that I think fractional-reserve banking is a scam and bloated socialist governments are a scam.  I think the reason we’ve had so much freedom on the internet for so long is because the “powers that be” are trying to get everyone hooked on the system before they clamp down on it for total control, much like they did with the radio waves many years ago.  Now that everyone (almost everyone) is plugged into the matrix, equipped with their iPhones and other Star Trek devices that can be GPS tracked and traced and now that banking is going electronic and now that all of your actions can be recorded on giant echelon computers and your habits can be predicted (go look at amazon.com as an example) and I see pretty much the whole of humanity being suckered into loving Big Brother.

Conspiracy brain aside; I think maintaining an on-line presence is about as beneficial as keeping an in-print presence for whatever that’s worth.  I mean, both of those I’m not making any money with, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.  But I can easily point to people (in both on-line and in-print camps) who are making it work.  I have discovered artists and their work on-line, I’ve bought stuff on-line and sold stuff on-line and connected with people on-line, so there is something to it.  No question there.  My big question is HOW to make it work so that the energy out is greater than the energy in (which is my same question for in-print).  The answer seems to be the same:  Do it well, do it frequently, do it habitually, offer something that people want that serves them.  One of those easier-said-than-done answers… unless you do it.

Measured against going to conventions and small press shows and getting the local store to carry the books on spec?  To me it’s apples and oranges.  Using military analogies that I like to use, I see the on-line aspects as media and propaganda campaigns.  It’s putting up billboards and dropping leaflets and broadcasting commercials and giving up to the minute news bulletins and branding yourself into the mass consciousness “Keep Calm and Carry On” “Uncle Sam Wants You!” types of things.  The conventions and small press shows and local stores are like ground assaults.  You’re going in on a special-ops mission and occupying territory (be it shelf space or table space) planting your flag and fighting to not get cut down by enemy fire.  The internet thing is certainly cheaper than paying for gas and airfare and table space and accommodations.  The data can be duplicated infinitely so it theoretically has infinite reach, which is great for spreading idea-viruses.  But it sure ain’t as real as holding a book in your hands.  I don’t care if you can read a comic on your iPad, you still can’t sign a limited edition first print issue number one on the internet.

I see both aspects being very useful but for very different reasons.

But like I said; I’m not making any money on either of them.
So what do I know…

Now I’ll ask you one…  You’ve mentioned glamourpuss numbers a few times during these conversations.  My question is this:  What can us readers do to help YOU with glamourpuss?  I mean, we can buy the comic – ✔ check.  We can talk about it for the word-of-mouth viral effect – ✔ check.  But if there was another way for readers to help a self-publishing author make sure the numbers grow and the work continues, what would it be?

PS.  We got the missing page from Oliver so Blair should be good to go.  They can’t keep THIS frequency jammed! I haven’t heard from Blair this evening, and I’m not sure if he also has a question ready for you or not. Regardless, I figured I’d send this to you now so I can log off this computer.

Blair: I have to agree with Mike’s conspiracy theory brain on this one, although I haven’t put much thought into it that way, but I’m sure the powers that be are up to something.  For the most part, I lump the internet in with TV and video games as far as time wasting goes and I’m just as guilty as the next guy.  I purposely cancelled my cable for my TV and we have one video game in our house from about 14 years ago, but I find I still end up wasting time only it’s on line rather than in front of the TV.  If I wasn’t trying to make a comic and promote it I probably would have no use for an online presence.  Pre-Possum, I didn’t own a computer (2004 I think it was when I bought my first one to colour pages) and I may have checked my email once a week at work, although in those days I was animating on paper and the only time I was around a computer was when I was pencil testing a scene.  I checked the hockey scores in the morning and didn’t think about it again all day.  Work was steady and if someone wanted to reach me they’d call me on the phone.  Things are different now though.  I’m no longer content working for a studio so I’m trying to start a business and I think the internet is an invaluable asset if it’s used properly, but like most things it has a down side that might outweigh the good side.  I mean at the moment, there would be no way that I could carry on this conversation we’re having right now without the internet and all the people reading our conversation wouldn’t have access to it without the internet.  One thing is for sure, there’s a lot more competition out there because of the internet, because everyone now has a voice and anyone can put their stuff online for everyone to see which is a good thing, but at the same time it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

The conventions, small press shows and selling books in stores on spec is a tough way to make a living as well.  I find there’s only so much you can accomplish with those options and selling $3 comic books by hand is almost like trying to swim upstream.  I once spent $5 on TTC tickets to get me to the Beguiling and back in the winter to pick up $6 worth of commissions.  Most stores will take between 3 and 5 comics to sell on consignment and it really doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money it takes going store to store to pick up any cash I may have coming to me.  The exception to this has been the Silver Snail in Toronto where they’ve been good in keeping my books in stock and have consistently been selling out of them for years now.  (I’m not talking hundreds of books or anything, but enough to make it worthwhile making a detour to the Snail every other time I’m in Toronto to see if they need more comics and to pick up a small cheque, and by small I mean enough to buy a few comics for myself with).  Unless you want to go the hardcore webcomics route, then distribution is really the key to the whole thing, and Diamond is king right now.  Without distribution, I find I’m just spinning my wheels at comic conventions and the same can be said about my online presence.  Sure I make a few web sales and sure I sell comics at each convention but the web sales are sure not going to pay my mortgage and I find with $350+ tables at conventions selling $3 comic books the goal is usually to just not lose money.  Both Mike and I have a small following now though and my hope is through all of this work online and at conventions we can get a bit of a head start, so that when distribution becomes a reality the ground work can already be laid to start seriously advertising, using the internet as an invaluable tool.

Cartoonists are making a living through the internet, ignoring the traditional distribution channels and I must say that right now my backup plan if I’m not able to get into those traditional distribution channels would be to focus on creating my own distribution through the web and see where it takes me.  I like paper though, and there’s something legit about having a printed book selling in stores, so that’s my primary goal.

So, is the internet a scam?  I don’t know.  Unlike TV or videogames, it can be a tool, and like all tools, it’s entirely up to the person using the tool to make something great with it.  I’m not sure what the future will bring, but at the moment the American dream that everyone has a chance to make it big has never been more real…… for now.  Tomorrow, the internet may be nothing more than glorified cable TV.

OK, I know Mike has already asked you a question, but I’ll ask you one too, trying to keep in line with what’s already been asked.

I’m wondering what your idea of success for Glamourpuss is after all you’ve accomplished and been through already?

By |2018-05-25T03:50:28-04:00April 8th, 2011|Now I'll ask you one with Dave Sim|0 Comments

“Now I’ll Ask You One” with Dave Sim, part 18 – Blair and Mike recall their first drawings

Mike: Hmm… I guess it depends on how lenient you want to get with the term “comics creating”. Where’s Scott McCloud when you need him?

The earliest thing I remember drawing myself:

My earliest memory drawing has to be in kindergarten when I was drawing a landscape of some sort on an art easel. The girl sitting beside me looked at my paper and asked “how do you draw a tree so good?” I was slightly shocked that this female was attempting to communicate with me, but I thought I should at least try to answer her question; “well… you just kind of draw a squiggle… like this!” and I gave her a fifteen second art lesson.

My earliest memory drawing a story was in grade 5. In class we created our own small books, bound them ourselves and used wallpaper to wrap the hardback covers. My book was about a dolphin named “Flash” and a shark named “Mark”. It was closer in appearance and structure to a children’s book than it was to a comic. But it was illustrated and it had to have been my first completed story in book form. That’s got to be kicking around somewhere, probably at my parents house in a box in the attic.

In grade 7 for a school project I started working on a sci-fi adventure. It was as a prose story (which I added illustration to because that’s just the kind of guy I am) called “DeathStar Returns”. The second version was done as the first comic I ever remember creating. It was a horrible rip-off of all the toys and pop culture of the time. Star Wars, G.I.Joe, Robotech, MASK and I even had a blatant swipe of Snarf from Thundercats in there. Here is a picture of the prose version:

And here is a picture of that first comic (that I can remember). Never got around to the word bubbles.

I think this was also the year that I was drawing Garfield all of the time, and when I told my mother that I was going to draw Garfield for a living, she said to me “why don’t you make up your own character?” That’s the moment I started trying to plot my own stories, eventually leading me to create Spy Guy a few years later.

The earliest thing I remember my brother drawing:

His previous answer to you on 28 March, 2011 jogged my memory into remembering a bunch of his earlier works that I had forgotten about (like the porcupine). But the big one I remember was Sir Lance. It was only recently that I found out Blair was just copying Spy Guy and turning him into a knight. That gave me a chuckle. No wonder I was fond of the character. I was always curious if he was ever going to do something with Sir Lance. But now he has The Possum!

Where it happened:

It seems like most of those things I remember happened at school for myself. I guess it just goes to show that once you are confined in an enclosed space, and have a project deadline, things seem to get completed. Most of my other work came out as just piles and piles of random ideas, drawings and doodles. Closer to concept art and gag panels than they are to actual comic work. Sir Lance I remember at my parents dinning room table. I’m not sure where Blair would have created the character originally, but I do know we spent a lot of hours at that table drawing. That’s one of those “anchors” that gives me flashbacks whenever we have family get-togethers and dinners.

Since Blair’s running late in Texas, I figure I’ll send you this response of mine on it’s own, and let Blair send his off whenever he’s finished with it. I’m very curious to see what answers he comes up with.

Blair: Mike wouldn’t let me see his response to your question until I finished mine, so I’m going to have to really think here and not just copy his answers. (Being the younger brother there was a lot of that going on while we were growing up). Totally off topic; I remember one time Mike was sick and had to stay home from school and I faked a cough so I could stay home too even though I felt fine (I think I was in kindergarten at this time). I spent the entire day lying down on the couch, bored out of my mind, thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” My only entertainment that day was playing with a stamp set of all of the Marvel superheroes. (That was the first time I ever faked being sick and I never did it again). Mike usually did things first and because I naturally had similar interests, I’d just follow along and do many of the same things he did. I think this trend mostly applies to comics and drawing, but I’m sure Mike will say it happened a lot more than I’ll admit to.

The first picture that I can actually remember drawing was a picture of the Incredible Hulk I did when I was having my interview with my kindergarten teacher before the school year began. (a standard interview they do with all kids, just to make sure my marbles were all there). I would have been 4 years old at the time, because my birthday wasn’t until November and I remember being a little confused that there were no other kids there, because in my child’s mind I didn’t know what an interview was, but I did know that kindergarten was supposed to involve a lot of kids, but it was just my mom, my teacher and me. I think my mother might still have that drawing in a folder somewhere in the closet hallway, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it, although I remember using the green crayon for the Hulk’s body and the purple one for his pants and thinking I was doing a really good job at making him look really strong.

When I was younger most of my drawing wasn’t comics, but rather I’d tell stories through making huge battle scenes on big sheets of paper that my dad would bring home from work. In my memories, we were drawing the pictures on the family room floor, just close to the steps that went down to our basement, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if we even had a family room at that time. (before the family room was built, there was a kitchen and a mud room there). Regardless, I remember drawing cars jumping over ramps and shooting other cars while planes would fly overhead shooting dotted line bullets until the page was completely filled with carnage. The first comic strips I drew were copied Garfield strips, until I felt confident enough to make my own characters, and I guess you could say the first original comics (that consisted of more than a one panel gag) was with my sir Lance character that I talked about earlier. We did a lot of drawing at the dining room table in those days and I remember my best friend Jarrett’s mom telling me years later that he would always come home from our house and tell her “All those Kitchen boys like to do is draw!” Although we must have done a lot of other things too, because I always seemed to get in trouble with Jarrett and there’s not much trouble to get into while drawing. (Unless you’re drawing about feminists….. nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

The first comic book I ever drew (other than my Dave Sim and Gerhard inspired Sir Lance that only made it to page 11 or so) believe it or not was The Possum #1, which I started in 2002 when I was 26 years old and completed in 2006.

A lot of my memories of Mike’s drawings were similar to things that I was drawing. Mike would draw every Autobot on a big sheet of paper and I would attempt to draw every single Decepticon. Mike would make a poster of Heathcliff and I would make a Garfield poster. Mike would make a short character with big feet who was a spy and I would make a short character with big feet who was a knight. It wasn’t until Mike moved out and went to college that my drawing style naturally started to take on it’s own identity. Once Mike moved out of our parents house (and I was only a couple years behind him), we really didn’t draw together any more and I don’t think it was until we started doing comic conventions that I’d actually sit next to him and draw with him again, which has been a lot of fun and has brought back a lot of those childhood feelings.

Mike: And now I’ll ask YOU one:
Some of the best pro-tips I know I’ve learned from you. I got the Hunt 102 and S-172 Bainbridge from reading Cerebus (the parts that would become the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing). I got the tracing paper transfer method from reading the Blog And Mail. I got some old school brush techniques (which I’m still itching to use on SPY GUY #3) and some award winning lettering advice from you (that I used to fix up SPY GUY #2) when you came to visit Ultraist Studios.

What are some good pro-tips that you can give us the secrets to? What tricks and techniques could help us take SPY GUY and THE POSSUM to the next level? What is your favourite NEW trick to use on glamourpuss? What is the trick to writing great dialogue? (I’m seeing lots of question marks here… I guess that’s more than one… feel free to pick and chose which ones you feel like answering).

ps. If you’d like, you can try sending the fax directly to me again. Page 3 from this morning came through fine (not sure why the first two didn’t). One thing I noticed is that when Oliver sends them to us, they’re not nearly as clear to read, so sending them direct will make for easier reading when they’re posted on the website.

Pss. I’ve really been enjoying this conversation.

By |2018-05-25T03:50:28-04:00April 7th, 2011|Now I'll ask you one with Dave Sim|1 Comment