Now Offering Lettering Services.

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If I had to name one thing about indie/webcomics too often treated as an afterthought, it would be the lettering. Over the past century comic lettering has evolved a very specific set of guidelines and a unique form of grammar that seasoned eyes can immediately recognize–and recognize when it’s being done wrong. Your work can have professional-level artwork and an engaging story, but so long as the lettering isn’t up to snuff no pro would mistake it for something from a major publisher.

I’m offering my services as a letterer, hoping to take your comic to the next level. I’ve heard from industry pros more than once that a great comic with shoddy lettering can be a terrible shame–but a comic with rough artwork and competent lettering is always worth a second look.

My rates are generally $15-20 per page, depending on complexity of the job (unique fonts/captions/balloons for certain characters, average wordiness of pages, frequency of SFX, etc). Inquiries can be made through otty@zukahnaut.com

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Lettering comics — The Trickiest Letter

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I have another tip for potential/amateur comickers out there. This one is about lettering the trickiest member of the alphabet–especially if you elect to use the classic all-uppercase style in your dialogue and narration.

lettering I

This is primarily a kerning issue. Crossbar I uses a lot of white space on either side of itself, pushing the surrounding letters away. When it’s followed immediately by a period or apostrophe then it’s much less obstructive to the reading flow.

SpiderForest Application Season 2015

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appseasonbanner-ms

Do you have a long form comic or a running comic strip series? Have you been looking for the next step up in growing your audience? Are you interested in the support of a group of like-minded comic creators?

If so, Spider Forest is happy to announce that the Summer Application Season is now open!

Please refer to the Apply link for guidelines on what is expected of applications, applicants, and what applicants can expect if and when they are selected.

We look forward to seeing what you have to offer! Good Luck!

“Why is it that some words in comics are in bold?”

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This is why.Lettering emphasisEvery now and then I’ll see someone complaining about comicbook emphasis in balloons and captions. Most of them seem under the impression that when words are emphasized it means they’re being shouted for some reason. Hey…when someone shouts in a comicbook, you’ll know it. Exclamation marks, jagged balloons, huge text–they’ll let you know, trust me.

Emphasis on certain words in balloons and captions is used for two reasons: to clarify the intent of the words (as above), and also as an aid for page-skimmers who may be too wrapped up in the artwork to give bubbles and captions a second glance. Balloons and captions have lots of art to compete with. Emphasizing key words aims to draw readers’ eyes enough to at least pick up the gist of the text.

I’m not saying every comic needs to use comicbook emphasis–not at all. It would be great if people could cut it out with the “they’re shouting words at random, this is dumb” stuff, though. This is one of the things that comicbooks just plain do better than other forms of silent media out there. It’s such a shame whenever I see it getting disrespected by certain fans and amateur creators(!) alike.

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If you don’t stand up for your own work, who will?

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It’s understandable why self-deprecation is so common amongst amateur creators. People are afraid of being seen a certain way — full of themselves, oblivious to their own faults, practically inviting the harshest of criticisms. Making fun of your own work, belittling it, downplaying the bits you are actually proud of…this often gets used as a self-defense measure. “People will be less inclined to tear me down if I swing the sledgehammer first,” right?

I was in Vancouver for the 2011 rioting. There, somebody had another thought: “If I swing the sledgehammer first, everyone else will think it’s okay and join in.”

It's foolproof!

The world watched one of those theories get proven by 5 million dollars in property damage and 140 cases of blood spilled on the streets. The damage caused by the other mindset is more difficult to measure.

I do know that I get a nasty taste in my mouth every time I see a creator (especially one I’ve not heard of yet) saying that their comic is badly written/drawn, that they got lazy on the newest update, that their work is derivative or convoluted or nonsensical. I never bother looking at the comic after seeing any of these. Why should I? If the person in the driver’s seat doesn’t care about their cargo, why would any sane person climb aboard?

Think of the people who genuinely do enjoy your work. What must they feel like when you say these things? When it seems like they need to defend something they like against the very person who made it? They care for what you say in your work, and so they’re inclined to care for what you say about the work, as well. Suddenly they start seeing the flaws you point out – where before they may have noticed none — until it overwhelms what they saw in the first place. Goodbye enthusiastic fan. Hello jaded (ex?)reader.

You don’t have to think your work is the best in the world to get behind it. It’s true that cockiness can turn people off…but passion? Every time you find yourself about to stab your own work in the back, consider talking about the things you love about it instead. Not with a “this part is good” attitude, but in a “I really care about this part” sort of way. “This is important to me. This is why I’m trying to get this out there.” Don’t be ashamed to be seen loving your work. Loving something doesn’t mean you think it’s better than everything else out there. It means the thing resonates with you on a personal level (as your own work rightfully should), and so you privately accept its faults.

This is your work. You brought it into the world. If one person in the world should love it, stand up for it, and tell people why they should be reading it…shouldn’t it be you?

The Room Dictating the Conversation

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I find it very strange how after that “The Sponsor” comic blew up, the response I saw to it was completely different depending on whether I was looking at one social media timeline or another. Every person I saw on Facebook was saying that James Sturm’s comic, about an artist struggling with their peer’s successes, was universally relatable. On Twitter I was exclusively treated to a gaggle of tweets condemning the premise and preaching against the sorts of ideas its characters were grappling with.

Here I thought I moved in the same circles in both rooms…Though it is worth remembering that both of those rooms has a habit of picking and choosing which pieces of conversation reach us (to varying degrees). I am a person who values multiple perspectives, so hearing dissenting opinions is always of interest to me, but this time the monopoly of one viewpoint per room sort of overshadows the issue being discussed.

Everyone’s timeline is different.This experience may have been uniquely mine. I’m not sure if that makes it more or less valid a thing to ponder, but look here: I’ve already written the damn thoughts out.

OSJ

Zukahnaut joins forces with SpiderForest!

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Visitors to our main website this weekend will have noted the addition of a new banner running along the top. We are pleased to announce that Zukahnaut has joined forces with the SpiderForest webcomic collective! Together our goal is to bring to you a diverse list of new comics — browse through them whenever you find yourself between pages on your favourites!

Is there still room for amateurs in modern webcomics?

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Inspired by a forum topic, as more than one of these blog posts seemed to gestate. Let’s begin with a quote and move on from there:

“Used to be when you clicked on a comic you expected the early pages to be kind of (or extremely) crappy and it just got better as it went. Used to be tons of popular comics were just kinda… mediocre. The art wasn’t perfect. The writing was sloppy. But they got better.

Now it seems like there are so many comics that start straight away with professional quality art, that are just amazing the whole way through, that those of us who started by floundering and trying to learn the craft are just shoved under the bridge, shuffled off to the wayside by people who’ve hired artists, marketing teams and are creating amazing comics.

There’s no room for the slow evolution and process of improvement. People expect instant gratification. There’s too many good comics to bother giving the amateurs a chance anymore. Is it even worth starting a comic anymore if you don’t have it polished to perfection from page one, written and rewritten and perfected before you ever let someone lay eyes on it? I’m talking about us, you guys, us with our page one to page 300 showing vast improvement, us with our one or two man teams, us with our 5 dollar marketing budget spent on 3 cent Project Wonderful ads. Is there room for us anymore?”

-Tiana, Between Places and Stargazer’s Gate

I never really took note of webcomics until a big name got involved with them. Warren Ellis is one of the finest writers in comics today, and when he announced he would be publishing a series for free online I looked into the scene and was captivated by the possibilities. The way he described the landscape held such an allure that by the end of the year I had sorted through the ten-plus years of character and plot work that I had been accumulating for this one character since 1998 and front-loaded it into Zukahnaut.

I knew it would be the hardest thing I’d ever done and that I would have to improve as I went, but the way Ellis talked about webcomics made me feel as though it was both okay and totally worth it. “We don’t wear no stinking badges here,” he said, and gloried in the freedom to do whatever he wanted in the webcomic medium because “hey, I’m not charging you for it!”

So the big dogs jumping in the pool isn’t a downside at all, not to me. It raises the water level, sure, and maybe those without the endurance to kick their legs and stay afloat will drown. Let’s be honest here — most of them would have drowned anyway. This stuff is hard. But when someone with Eisner awards and television shows and movie scripts comes to play in your pool, passersby take note. They come to watch. They treat the other people there with a new respect. “Oh, you do a webcomic? Like FREAKANGELS? I loved that!” is much more preferable than, “Ugh, like that Tails Gets Trolled thing my cousin showed me…?”

Sure it’ll be harder to get noticed when there’s good stuff out there to compete with, but would you honestly rather be the brightest teenager in a room of toddlers, or the fresh-faced kid at a conference of seasoned veterans? When you’re around people who are better than you, you have the opportunity to study them and learn from them. You can more easily grow to their level and again, they elevate you by association.

I say there is room for average comics. There’s room for mediocre and downright bad comics, too! More importantly, there’s room for them to grow into something more. Their time in the light is still there waiting for them — it might take a little longer to get there now than it used to. It might involve someone giving them a break or taking them under their wing if they’re especially lucky. With endurance and with patience and with a determination to learn, anyone can swim with the big dogs. There’s no shortage of space.

We just have to keep kicking our legs is all.