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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Creating Mini Comics


"You also mentioned photocopying home-made comics as one of the effective ways of promoting your work. So, how do you go about it? What size do you originally draw a page in? And, when photocopying, what size do you reduce the page to? Are the pages back-to-back? How about the cover?" -JA

I actually haven't written about the technical side of mini-comic book making yet, and I think this would be a great opportunity to do so. I've done mini comics since 1994, beginning with Wasted #1. Back then I didn't know who to ask or exactly how to go about doing it, so I was just guessing most of the time. So I came up with a way to do mini comics that worked for me. It's not necessarily the only way to do it, or probably even the best way to do it, but I made do with what I thought best at the time. Back in 1994, there wasn't an Internet like we have now, where we can log in and ask in some message board or blog how to do these kinds of things.

THE STORY

Before anything else, you really should have a story to tell. I'm writing this with the assumption that you already have one. If not, I would suggest you just have a short story for your first mini comic, one that can fit into just one issue. It's to make it easier for you to accomplish for this, your first effort. Right now you still might not know if doing comics is what you really want to do, specially if this is the first time you're attempting to do something like this. You might not realize the kind of work that's involved. You might find the work that goes with it discouraging, or you might realize while doing it that it's just not for you, then it's far better to have one complete issue, rather than to just have issue #1 in a colossal epic that you never finished.

You can also do a collection of gag strips, or 1-2 page skits or vignettes, if you feel this is more up your alley.

DRAWING and PAPER SIZE

Since your comic book will be photocopied, the size of your mini-comics will depend on the commercially available paper sizes. You can use short bond paper (8.5"x11") or long bond paper (8.5"x13"), or if you feel like it, A3 size (11.5"x16.5").

Folding those pieces of paper once would yield the size of your mini comic. Short bond would have a mini comic the size of 5.5"x8.5", long bond would be 6.5"x8.5" and for A3, 8.25"x11.5".

I have used both short bond (for Crest Hut Butt Shop and Dead Heart Stories) and long bond (for Wasted), and although I considered using A3, it proved to be too expensive to reproduce.

You can use specialty sizes of course. Maybe you want to make it as big as the standard comic book or make it really, really small...but oh man, why go there? You can do it of course, but me, I get tired just thinking about it.

Let's say for the sake of discussion we choose short bond. Since half of one short bond represents ONE comic book page, the size of your page would be 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches.

You can choose to draw your original art in this size (as I do with Crest Hut). It would save you from having to have your art reduced later on.

Or, you can choose to draw your original art bigger. How bigger? You can use a whole bond paper (like I did with Wasted), a whole long bond paper, or you can draw on an A3, if drawing in that size is easier for you. Why make your art bigger? Some people find it very hard to draw in very small paper. And generally, you have more control over the drawing if you are drawing on bigger paper, and the reduced art looks better.

Let's talk about proportion. If haven't drawn your art yet, you can have better control of it's proportion, in relation to the finished mini comic book.

In one page of your mini comic, which is 5.5"x8.5", you only have a limited area in which your artwork can appear. Many photocopiers, or most anyone of them currently available to us locally, are not able to print on the entire 5.5"x8.5". It is a certain that around 0.75 centimeters above, below and on the outer edge of the page will not be usable to you. But it would be a good idea to go to your local photocopiers and see exactly just what the limitations of their machines are.

This is why "bleeding" is out of the question in many photocopied mini comic. "Bleed" is a technical comic book term that means artwork that extends right up to the edge of the paper.

12 centimeters wide and 20 centimeters high would be a safe area in which your work could appear in the finished comic book. That then, is the proportion of your artwork. You can work on larger paper, and create bigger art, but make sure that what you do is proportional to the smaller size limit.

Here's a little trick I learned in high school about making sure your artwork is sized proportionally.



I drew this up so that I don't have to explain in words what I hoped I could explain by a drawing. I hope it's clear enough, if not, oh, well. The main trick is really the "projection line" which you can extend even much further if you wish for a much larger original art.

PHOTOCOPYING 1

It would be really great if you are able to find a photocopy place where you are able to establish a good relationship with the operators. It's so much better to have someone there who completely understands what you are trying to do, so much so that you can leave them and they would know exactly what to do. Specially when you need to have 100 copies or more photocopied. There's nothing more boring than watching endless photocopying after endless photocopying. That way, I can go off and browse the local Booksale, or get a snack or whatever. Additionally, I hate it when an operator tells me offhandedly, "This is gonna take a lot of toner." I really hate that. To me that smells trouble (uncooperativeness, inattentiveness that could lead to errors) so I take my business elsewhere.

Older type photocopy machines use liquid toner, which produces copies that aren't very good. You need to find machines that uses powder toners, which are generally much more expensive, but produces excellent copies.

If you decide to make your original art larger than the final print size, then you would have to take your original art to be reduced. You can do this in the computer, or at a photocopy place. Since my printer is crappy, I never attempted to print out reduced original art for reproduction because my lines tend to break apart and thicken. I always opt for reduction via photocopy.

Knowing the correct reduction percentage to specify at the photocopy place is simple. Your final print width is 12cm. Divide that with the width of your original art. Let's say your original art has a width of 18.30cm, divide 12cm by 18.30cm and that yields 0.65573. That means you can specify 65% or 66% reduction.

If part of your artwork is done in the computer (like lettering) or all of it is done in the computer, then you have no choice but to print it out. Just make sure you have a very good printer, accompanied by good paper.

One of the things you need to deal with when using a computer is the use of grey tones. If you choose to use them, make sure you print them in a way that they can be photocopied well. I have little experience in things like this but I'm sure other people may have thoughts about it.

LAYING IT OUT

Now that you have reduced your art, you can now lay them out in an "original plate". You can see what I mean with a photo of the original plates of Crest Hut Butt Shop #3 below.


Now "original plate" is a term I just came up with. I don't really know what it's properly called, but for the purpose of this discussion, that's what I'll call it.

If your mini comic has 20 pages including covers, you would have FIVE original plates, with one plate containing 4 comic book pages. One plate is 8.5" X 11". I generally use thicker paper to use for the original plates because I like them sturdy, and would take less damage from continuos handling and photocopying. You will then need to cut up your photocopies to paste on the plates. Refer to the photo above to get an idea of the proper order of pasting pages.

You can add a lot of fun stuff to this like editorials, where you thank your girlfriend, parents, pet parakeet, or whoever you wish to mention. You can talk about what made you want to make comics. You can even add a photo of you and a bio. You can be either truthful or not. One of the cool things to do would be to "create" a comics company as way of at least showing a sheen of legitimacy, all in the spirit of fun. I used to put "Deranged Comics" in all my mini comics complete with a logo and wrote a lot of fun bullshit in the indicia like "Copyright violators will be punished and shot by firing squad. You were warned." Of course, you can even be completely serious about it, it's really up to you.

Nowadays, all comics that I do, beginning with ELMER #1, will carry "Komikero Publishing", which is a legitimate and duly registered company with the Department of Trade and Industry.

Take note that for Crest Hut Butt Shop, I drew it in actual size, and I drew right on the original plates. This way, I don't have to reduce, and I don't have to paste anything up.

PHOTOCOPYING 2

Now that you've completed your "Original Plates", you can go back to the photocopy place and have it reproduced. You can have 20 copies made, or even 50, but if you have the money, why not go for 100?

Since this is your first time reproducing a mini comic book, make sure you monitor the photocopying. If the operator has something on his mind he's bound to commit errors. Imagine one single error being reproduced 100 times. That poor guy would have to pay for that out of his own pocket. Have them test copy one plate and once it checks out, give the go signal to reproduce. Do the same for the other plates.

It's kind of cool coming home with a huge stack of photocopies that are still hot. But cooler things are yet to come.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

Put together one copy and fold once in the center. The line formed by the fold would be your guide where to staple your mini comic. There are three ways of stapling. One is to get a long stapler so that you can staple in one go. But if you have just an ordinary short stapler, you can do either of 2 things.

Get two thick books of equal thickness, place them side by side but leave a gap of 1 centimeter between them. Place the spine of the mini comic (the cover and back cover side up) along the gap between the books and staple. This would allow the staple to pass freely through the papers. Flip the mini comic over and fold the staples manually.

OR, you can just get a large thick styrofoam board, place the mini comic (the cover and back cover side up) on it an staple. Flip the mini comic over and fold the staples manually.

And there you go! You have the first copy of your very first mini comic.

Allow yourself a few minutes to take in this momentous moment. Get a picture taken of you with your work, if you like. For posterity.

Now hunker down and go and staple the next ninety nine copies.

SELLING/MARKETING

Distributing mini comics is mostly a hand to hand affair. You do not have a giant distrubtion system at your disposal. But there are many ways in which you can get your work around.

In the old days, Paul Grist, creator of KANE, peddled his mini comics on the streets of London. Although it would be fun to do that, you people today have the additional benefit of the Internet, where you can create a presence online from which you can promote and sell your mini comics.

Create a buzz for your work by uploading previews and other information about your comic book online. Join comic book communities and share your work there.

Promoting oneself may be frowned upon by some, but for you to sell your work, how else can people be made aware of your comic book? Try everything to get your work out there, short of compromising yourself and your work.

Get in touch with stories in your area who would be willing to sell your comic book. In Manila, there's Comicquest, Druid's Keep and Comics Odyssey as a few of the supportive comics stores willing to carry mini comics.

Join comics conventions. This year alone, there are three different comics events where you can promote and sell your work including Komikon II in UP Diliman in October, and the San Pablo Comics Art Festival II in December. If you don't have such events in your area, why not organize one? Or get a stall at your local tiangge and flea markets?

Get your comic book reviewed by sending copies to local or nationwide newspapers or magazines. You can send a copy to me, and I generally review ALL comic books I like. If I don't review it, it probably means I just didn't like it. Sorry.

That's it. I guess that's all I can say about this, but please feel free to ask me any other question to clarify things. I'll be leaving and won't be back till next week so I won't be able to reply until then.

For the meantime, check out another article on creating mini comics courtesy of The Comics Reporter.

MAKING MINI COMICS
http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/all_about_comics/all_about/77/

Good Luck!