How-to Create Graphic Novels, Comic Books and Comic Strips

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do You Really Want to Create Your Own Work and Self-Publish?

So You Want to Self-Publish Your Comic Book or Graphic Novel



If you are serious about self-publishing, then you are going to put together a business plan. If you don’t, you’re most likely doomed to waste money and set yourself up for failure.

Discounts aside, printers, ad rates and shipping all have set fees. It doesn't matter if you are a day laborer or a CEO. The fees are the fees. When ANYONE in ANY industry opens/starts up a business, they know there are set fees they have to deal with, one of which is minimum wage for the workers, employees and contractors. Why should having a good business plan change because it's comics?

Why would anyone in their right mind put together a business and budget for printing, shipping and advertising costs, yet not have a budget for talent? An investor looking at such a plan would laugh at you or show you the door.

As a self-publisher, small press or independent publisher, you shouldn’t be in business if you only offer the talent back-end deals, yet you have the money to pay for printing, shipping and advertising. It seems like this is a situation to take advantage of the talent.

In ANY field or industry a person deserves to be paid at least minimum wage. Creatives were taken advantage of in the Golden Age of comics and paid low rates, which was something it took decades to overcome.

The lowest page rate for pencil art today should be $58 a page. How did I arrive at that? The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. An artist should take 8 hours to draw one page. 8 x $7.25 works out to $58 for a page. This a baseline that everyone can follow. Minimum wage is not a living wage. This would barely pay rent and utilities, if at all. Well forget about food, hence the term "starving artist". As long as we have a place to draw, we can do without food. (just joking)

A good writer can do one 22 to 24 page comic in a 40 hours. A good inker should be able to do 2 pages in 8 hours. A good colorist can do 2 to 5 pages in 8 hours. A good letterer can do one 22 to 24 page comic in 8 hours, so the per page rates should be adjusted accordingly based on $7.25 an hour.


to be continued…

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Copyright 2016 H. Simpson

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Inspiration Week - Jack "King" Kirby

The King of us all,  Jack Kirby finishes off my week of artists who inspire me.

Check out the and donate to Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.






If you are interested in further expanding your knowledge of the King Of Comics, then I recommend these books.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Inspiration Week - Wally Wood

The Legendary Wally Wood inspires me.

Check out this Wally Wood website.






If you are interested in further expanding your knowledge of this artist, then I recommend these books.

When you purchase a book by clicking the link below, I get a piece of the action and helps me to continue doing this blog. Support an artist today.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back-end Deal, My Ass!

There are no guarantees with back-end deals. It is a hollow promise.


No one can predict what's going to be the next Nightly News or Invincible. Just as no one can predict what's going to be (insert low selling comic title here).

There's no way to predict who's going to be a hot artist. José Luis García-López should be one of the hottest comic book artists out there and yet he doesn't get the kind of love Jim Lee gets from the fans.

There is no average return to expect to get. That's why anyone who offers no pay to you, "But I'll split the back end with you" are full of it. (Full of dreams that is; dreams.) It's an empty promise. I can't wipe my own back end with that kind of promise.

I'm working on my own graphic novel and have been for a couple years now for that reason (no guarantees). I continue to do paying gigs and do my own stuff in-between.

If I'm going to sacrifice my time and talent, why not do it for myself, not somebody else? Even though, I have run across one first-time comic book writer I made an exception for, because (a) I was approached in a professional manner (not with all these delusions of grandeur and empty promises) and (b) the story really knocked me out. There have been other stories that have tempted me, but I'm drawing the line there.

I'm not counting on the back end of my graphic novel to pay my bills. If it hits, then fine. If not, at a least I told my story and I haven't damaged my life in the process.

There are only two ways to make a living doing comics.

1. Work for a company that pays pro rates and be on time with delivery of your work. Working fast can help.

I spoke to a hot super talented artist (that everyone knows) and he was bemoaning how everyone thought he was making all this money, but  it took him too long to get a comic book done, so he was struggling for the past year. I realized I made more money then he did, because I produced a comic book every month (at that time I was on a regular comic book) even though I'm sure his page rate was much higher than mine.

2. Your creation that you sacrificed and gambled on becomes a success and you're making TMNT and Spawn type money or at the very least Invincible money. The Walking Dead type money is for the very few. You have to be willing to pour your blood sweat and tears into it no matter what the pay off will be. You have to be willing to invest in yourself. Invest in your comic book, comic strip or graphic novel.

to be continued…

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pay the Talent!

Don't expect free work on your comic book idea.



We have to recognize that there are more writers looking for artists, than artists looking for writers.

Before I go further, let's take a pause and look at  these links below from various writer's points of view.

"Let's pause here for a quick Reality Check. There is no such thing as an idea so fabulous that, based on it alone, anyone could reasonably predict a smash hit. Not even Peanuts was that incredible an idea, in and of itself. The genius of Charles M. Schulz in executing that idea probably had a little something to do with its success."

- Mark Evanier



"Quality artists charge for their work. This insures that they only deal with writers who are “serious”. If you're serious as a writer, you should be willing to pay your artist collaborators, even those you share the IP with, especially your first few times out. (you may be able to find speculative collaborators later). Word to the wise? Try to find an artist who does finished art – pencils, inks and colors together – so that you keep your costs down and learn to work with one collaborator before you try to shepherd a team. What can you expect to pay if you're a writer? Minimum wage for a pencilist, for example, figures out to about $60 a page. If you're looking for an artist to work for hire, that's your starting point. Artists may be willing to adjust that rate dependent upon the percentage of the intellectual property the writer is willing to share with them."
- Mike Luoma


Harlan Ellison -- Pay the Writer





Here's a piece written by James Rainey of the LA Times and a writer's view of freelance getting a little too free in his industry.

"Other publishers pitch the grand opportunities they provide to "extend your personal brand" or to "showcase your work, influence others." That means working for nothing, just like the sailing magazine that offers its next editor-writer not a single doubloon but, instead, the opportunity to "participate in regattas all over the country."
What's sailing away, a decade into the 21st century, is the common conception that writing is a profession -- or at least a skilled craft that should come not only with psychic rewards but with something resembling a living wage."

- James Rainey




to be continued…

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Inspiration Week - José Luis García-López

José Luis García-López, a very inspiring artist to me.

He knows how to make almost every panel dynamic or interesting to see.
See more of his art at this Tumblr site by Dennis Culver.






If you are interested in further expanding your knowledge of this artist, then I recommend these books.

When you purchase a book by clicking the link below, I get a piece of the action and helps me to continue doing this blog. Support an artist today.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Words and Art - Comic Book Readers and Creators

In Comics: Words and Art are Important




I believe that if you want to collaborate on a new comic book, comic strip or graphic novel, it should be clear that art and words go together. That is the very essence of comics.

Neither is more important than the other. You need both to pitch your idea successfully in MOST cases. "MOST" being that you're an unknown talent.

Writers shouldn't feel that artists consider themselves more important. Shame on the artist that acts that way.

There are certain realities that have to be acknowledged in the marketplace.

On a level playing field with no recommendations;  a new unknown book with unknown writer and unknown artist; then one thing happens in a comic book store every day. The potential reader can't read the whole book there (usually).This person makes a decision based  on the art to buy the book (usually).

Once the comic is read at home then one of four things is going to happen.
1. The reader never buys the comic again for whatever reason.
2. The reader likes the story and art and continues to buy the comic.
3. The reader likes the story, but thinks the art is so-so and continues to buy the comic.
4. The reader likes the art, but thinks the story is so-so and continues to buy the comic.

Like it or not this is visual storytelling medium. It's a symbiotic relationship, because it's a visual story with words. Visuals with text, not a series of pin-ups. Visuals and stories both are important.

I feel this is very important to understand. Writers and artists are equally important to the long term success of the comic.

to be continued…

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Inspiration Week - Frank Frazetta

Inspiration week of artists who inspire me.


Today Frank Frazetta. Such a raw primitive, yet elegant power to his work.

Check out his web-site.








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If you are interested in further expanding your knowledge of this artist, then I recommend these books.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Uproxx picks the 15 best comic books of 2013

Best 15 Comic Books Of 2013. Do You Agree?

Let's see your list in the comments.




  1. Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC Comics)
  2. Heck, by Zander Cannon (Top Shelf Productions)
  3. Nowhere Men, by Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire (Image Comics)
  4. Mighty Avengers, by Al Ewing and Greg Land (Marvel)
  5. Buzzkill, by Donny Cates, Mark Reznicek and Geoff Shaw (Dark Horse)
  6. Astro City, by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (Vertigo)
  7. The Crow: Curare, by James O’Barr and Antoine Dode (IDW Publishing)
  8. Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Sacasa-Aguirre and Francesco Francavilla (Archie Comics)
  9. Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  10. Harbinger, by Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans and Ian Hannin (Valiant)
  11. Numbercruncher, by Si Spurrier, P.J. Holden and Jordie Bellaire (Titan Comics)
  12. Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido, et al (Marvel)
  13. G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, by Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso (IDW Publishing)
  14. Star Wars, by Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly and Carlos D’Anda (Dark Horse)
  15. Archer & Armstrong, by Fred Van Lente, Khari Evans and David Baron (Valiant)
See more information here.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Denys Cowan art that UPS lost may be at large

Help Denys Cowan find his art




Last weekend there was a gala art show celebrating the history of Milestone Comics. To get ready for it, Michael Davis shipped a bunch of Denys Cowan original art to the Steve Geppi Entertainment Museum via UPS

Although the package was VERY securely wrapped, when it arrived, all but one piece of art had been removed, which UPS blamed on “poor packaging.”

Since it appears the package was opened in transit, it’s very possible that the following art is out there and could possibly be offered for sale–there are images of the pages in question at the link above, and anyone with any knowledge of the art is asked to contact Melissa Bowersox, President of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, by phone at (410) 458-4290 or by email at bmissy@geppismuseum.com.

Find out more information here.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

So You Want to Collaborate on a Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

The easiest way to find a collaborator may be between two people who have known each other for a while. 


As a collaborator, each should share in the risk, ownership, copyright and royalties and whatever else they agree upon. If any money changes hands, however little; that amount is between them as creative partners in a speculative venture. 

So you didn’t grow up knowing an artist or writer, then how do you find someone to collaborate on a comic book, comic strip or graphics novel? You have your choice of social media to find talent to collaborate with on the comic. It’s always best to become part of the community and get involved. Let people get to know you. Your first post shouldn’t be “I’m looking for a (fill in talent here) to collaborate with on a comic book.” That always leaves a bad taste and tends to be ignored, except by the bottom feeders.

As you make yourself known and get to know people it’s easier to approach someone about working together. The two of you can throw some ideas back and forth and create something together. If you two decide to submit to companies, then follow the guidelines on the company web site. Maybe you two want to go the crowd funding route? In any case, it’s best to have your whole book done. Maybe you both chip in to self-publish a print comic or graphic novel. Or you can skip any costs by just creating a web comic.

I feel forums are a great way to find a collaborator and other talent. Here are some you may want to try.


If it’s not a money free collaboration, then it’s going to be a paid collaboration or just hiring someone to fulfill your vision. Everyone deserves to get paid a fair rate. A fair rate is not what you can afford to pay. Everyone should be paid - at the very least -  for their time.

Even though I wrote ‘fill in talent here’ let’s face it, it’s usually writers looking for artists. 

So next, let’s look at the ins-and-outs, do’s and don'ts of hiring talent.

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If you are interested in further expanding your knowledge, then I recommend these books.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top Ten Artistic Talent Scale

Here is my scale of one to ten to rate your artistic growth level. 

There may be some people who have slobbered over your art because you draw better than them.  They will give you a 10 and you're no better off than you were and still left standing there with false expectations.

Here's what my scale of 1 to 10 means. See where you fit.

0 – No talent.

1 – You have talent.

2 – You draw like a twelve year old because you ARE a 12-year old.

3 – You draw like a twelve year old and got stuck there, even though you are 20 or 30 years old now. You never expanded your knowledge/practiced enough/took life drawing classes/read art books or any combination of these reasons and more. Yet you think (insert current popular artist here) is a hack and you can draw better than them.

4 – You draw more adult like. Your work is primitive. This is just a hobby for you. You're happy to express yourself with your art.

5 – You mostly copy other artists to practice. Your total knowledge is from what you've seen other artists do. You gain surface knowledge from copying, but nothing deeper. (Don’t stay in the copying stage too long. it only hurts you.) You only draw figures and no backgrounds.

6 – You're finally taking classes and reading books to learn about anatomy, perspective, composition, chiaroscuro, color theory, storytelling, etc. You're adding skill to your raw talent. Now you're getting some where!

7 –  You have potential. You will answer an insulting ad from someone who won't pay you upfront, keep the rights to your art and promise you great exposure. If you can resist the temptation, use the time to make all the practice, learning and studying art to become second nature to you. Right now you still have to think about it. Editors have a field day tearing your work apart.

8 – The work is inconsistent. Figures are stiff. Backgrounds are weak. You're not able to maintain character likeness or your style consistently. Storytelling needs help.

9 - Draftsmanship is good. Storytelling could be better. You've learned how to use photo reference  as a tool, not a crutch. Now everything you've learned is a part of you. You don't have to think about how a deltoid and trapezius fit together and move and stuff like that. Now it's second nature to you.

10 – Art is good. Figures are lively, solid, anatomically correct with proper proportions and consistent. You can draw backgrounds that create a convincing reality. You understand how to create depth with foreground, middle ground and background. You haven't gotten bad critiques from editors for a while now. Just little things here and there and not the big glaring errors you used to make. You're just waiting for your big break. You just need someone to take a chance on you. Or create your own opportunity!

You will always find someone willing to give you a first chance. What determines if you are ready to go pro is if someone gives you that second chance.

Now you may not neatly fit this scale. You may be in-between. That's good, that means growth is happening. Can you honestly look at yourself? Can you remove your self from the confusion caused by accolades from well meaning people and the rejection from editors and art directors? Can you be honest with yourself about your talent and skill level? 


TIP - If you hear the same critique more than once. It's not an opinion, it's something you need to work on, so do it!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How much do you get paid?

The most asked question is "How much do you get paid?"



The answer is you're not going to get what I make, because I've been drawing comics for awhile. You're going to get a starting rate from the Big Two comic book companies.

Here's what you need to be able to do before you can think about the rate.  If you can't produce comic books pages at this speed, you are not going to be able to make a living at this.

Writer -  4 books a month
Penciler -  1 page in 8 hours 
Inker - 2 pages in 8 hours 
Colorist -  2 to 5 pages a day average

Letterer - 1  to 2 days to do a full comic book

Here are the average starting rates per page:
writing - $35 
pencils - $125
inks - $90
colors - $50
letters - $20

These are pro rates from Marvel and DC and can go higher;
writing - $75 to $100
pencils - $155 to $200
inks - $100 to $175
colors - $75 to $100
letters - $35 to 50

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting Down to Business

Believe it or not, it's not all about the art.


Art done for client web-site

The recent move has thrown my schedule out of whack. Plus the time I would normally spend on the blog was taken up redoing my web-site http://abbadabba.com. Check it out and let me know what you think. it’s still in progress, so you run across some of the previous site in places. All should be in place by year’s end.

I’ve been covering the creative side so far and planned to get to the business of things when I was done with that information. I have been getting quite a few questions about that, so I will take a small dip into the business side of things this week. Next week will be Inspiration Week, which has proven to very very popular and then back our regular program.

I do respond to requests and questions, so don’t be shy about asking.

Remember... Just Create!

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Do You Want to Sell Merchandise With Celebrity Images?

You can and you can’t sell celebrity images.



Right of publicity laws prohibit you from commercially exploiting a person's name and image. 

On the other hand, the first amendment grants you certain freedoms to express yourself as an artist with so-called informational or "communicative" uses -- for example, original artwork, articles, books or documentaries.  

Each state has its own laws and rulings, the trend has been to permit limited edition art prints.

You can find out more here http://tinyurl.com/lu8onoz

Let me know if this information has been helpful to  you and please share it.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Movie Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug





I don't do movie reviews often here on my blog. When I do, I like to make them related to the comic industry or drawing. In this case, I make an exception for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I want to say right away that I enjoyed this movie and it is a great movie.

I never read Lord of the Rings. My experience with The Hobbit is reading it as a child.  As a child I thought it was a cute story. I didn't really understand Gollum. The drawing of the Hobbit was something stuck in my mind, especially the big hairy feet.

Last night I attended the world premiere of The Hobbit: DOS, in Hollywood. I arrived two hours early. That is usually enough time to put me in front of the line. But I forgot this is a part of a fandom that I'm not a part of and there were people there much earlier than I. The line was already a block and a half long. And it was far removed from the red carpet. So I didn't get to see the cast as they arrived. I think they could've made the line go along the red carpet so we could see that. In any case, I forgot my smartphone so I would have been able to take pictures of them.

Once the line started moving, we did get a glimpse of Orlando Bloom. And inside there were free popcorn and drinks for us. Our seats were assigned and we were in the balcony of the Dolby theater. Cast, crew and industry people were below.

Movie was in 3-D. And I was, for the first time at a angle to the screen for 3-D movie. I was concerned about the 3-D effect at that angle. But I needn't have worried, it worked fine. This is a big movie showing a big world and they show you it in excruciating detail. And I do mean detail. You can see everything. Used to seeing this kind sharpness on HDTV. And at times I felt I was watching a hugeTV screen.

The 3-D was effective and well done. There are nice little bits with bumbly bees and butterflies. I also felt at times I was traveling into the world. Sometimes felt I was inside a videogame or an amusement park, which is  meant as a compliment. This world is very well constructed and brings me to one of the reasons why I'm reviewing this. All artists should see this film to see how to put depth into your drawings and compositions. To see how to build a world.

Movie starts off with Peter Jackson cameo, which was fun. You don't need to have seen the first movie to know what's going on. There's a nice breezy recap at the beginning with Gandalf. The story is  well told. There are no slow parts as in the previous movies. There's a sense of adventure and fun in this movie. More so than the previous ones. I think Peter Jackson finally gets his stride and finds the rhythm. The presence of Gulliermo del Toro may have helped.

The company of dwarfs and hobbit continue their quest with many trials and tribulations. They encounter elves along the way. We are treated some of the best action sequences I've seen in a long time. Usually CGI actions move too fast for the eye keep up. What's the use of action scenes if you can't see the action? In this case… there was a smooth blend between live-action and CGI. The choreography of the elves going from long distance fighting to close quarters is amazing. Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel acquits herself well in this movie with the action and acting. The seeds are sown for a romance between  Tauriel and a dwarf, which is handled well.

When Bilbo finally meets Smaug, we are treated to the most fully realized dragon ever to be seen on the screen. The dragon’s weapon is fire, which spreads. Yet it has the aim of the Storm Tropper and keeps missing the dwarfs and Bilbo.

The movie is two hours and 41 minutes long and it doesn't feel like it. By the time the dragon appears you want to continue watching the movie when it ends. It is a cliff hanger ending and I hope the next movie continues right where this ended.

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