Monday, March 22, 2010

AC:SCU Cover Preview!

As we near the point of sending the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit Preview to the printer, we had to share with you the pencils for the cover by AC:SCU artist Leandro Panganiban.

Vasquez is being circled by several Komodo Dragon / Cassowary Bird hybrids, which factor into the story "Feral" inside the book.

We can't wait to show this to all of you in print this summer! Come see us at Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC on June 4th - 6th, and we hope to have an announcement regarding another summer convention very soon.

(Click image for a larger view.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Robert Kirkman on Self-Publishing & His Early Days

Photo by Gage SkidmoreI recently got the chance to ask Robert Kirkman about his early self-publishing days during the online Comics Experience Book Club. While the meeting topic was The Walking Dead, Volume 1 (one of my all-time favorite comics), the questions I most wanted to ask centered around his start-up days. I found his answer so interesting -- inspiring even -- that I thought it was worth sharing.

Just a day or two before the book club, I had read Tyler James' article "Going All In" on Comic Related where he mentioned Robert had racked up credit card debt equal to five times his annual income at the beginning of his self-publishing career. That seemed like a pretty high level of commitment, if not insanity, to me. So my question to Robert was what exactly was his "plan" at that time -- simply an "all or nothing" approach? And if he had it all to do over again, would he do it the same way?

Robert admitted his plan was just "doing comics" -- there really was no plan. He confirmed that he racked up a $40,000 - $50,000 credit card debt in the early days, many times his annual income at the time. He told himself if it all fell apart, in the grand scheme of things, paying it off wasn't much worse than the college debt many people have, and this was the opportunity he wanted to pursue.

According to Robert, very early on he had worked at a comic shop and learned some basic things about how Diamond and comics publishing worked. He pretty quickly decided he'd like to make comics, and formed the publishing company Funk-O-Tron with several friends. Robert emphasized that the "publishing company" was pretty much just a bunch of guys in a room, some of whom, like Tony Moore, he'd known since the 7th grade.

When Robert got started with publishing, he had an office day job. So he was essentially running a publishing business around his 9-5 job -- calling Quebecor about printing or whatever, in between working. Then he would go home and write until 2am, sleep for a few hours, and go back to work the next day.

Eventually, running a publishing company and writing while holding down a day job started to catch up with him, so he took the plunge. He quit his day job to do comics full time. Now he had no money coming in, other than some minimal profit when an issue of Battle Pope would be published. He'd give artist Tony Moore his cut of the proceeds, pay the printing bill with his credit card, and attempt to live off the rest of the cash. That's what I'd call living on the edge.

It all worked out for Robert in the end -- both Invincible and The Walking Dead took off within about 6 months after they were published, and he was getting gigs at Image and Marvel as well -- but if he had it to do all over again, he admitted he might not do it this way. It was just too stressful. More than once, he described his mindset at that time as "desperate." He did anything to save money, even spot inking on the books sometimes, and he lettered The Walking Dead himself for 18 issues to save on the expense.

When Marvel came calling, he was willing to work on any character that they threw at him. In fact, when they asked him what characters he'd like to work on, he refused to name any, for fear he'd give the "wrong" answer and he'd miss the opportunity. His response was always "I love 'em all." And that freelance desperation mode led to him taking on more work than he could comfortably handle; those Marvel 2099 one-shots, for example -- five of them -- when he was already committed to Invincible, The Walking Dead, Super-Patriot, a Jubilee series, and several other things. But he got through it.

Much of the rest of the Book Club discussion centered around the craft of writing and The Walking Dead, but the biggest takeaway for me was the lengths to which Robert went at the beginning to make comics his career. He definitely was willing to take risks, whether it was casting a Pope as his main character or racking up a mountain of credit card debt.

He also gave us the same advice you hear everywhere for writers: if you're trying to break in, do your best to find an artist, make a comic, and get it published -- whether in print or online. If you can put together a comic, Robert said, "it shows you have your stuff together," and plus, you then have a comic you can sell.

Bottom line, as Robert put it, "when you're self-publishing, you gotta' do, what you gotta' do."

Anyway, I highly recommend Andy Schmidt's Comics Experience Book Club to anyone interested in creating comics. Almost all of the book club members are either creating comics or want to create them, so the discussion tends to focus around the craft of words and pictures and what works and what doesn't. Every session, I walk away with a list of things to try in my own work.

The next two club meetings will cover Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's Invincible Iron Man, Volume 1, and David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp. Seating is limited, and, last I heard, there were only a handful of spots still available, so jump on board soon if you're interested. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

AC:SCU "Feral" - Pencils!

As production continues on the second Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit story, "Feral," we couldn't resist sharing some of the stunning pencils being turned out by Leandro Panganiban!

Here we present page 1, where we see that Vasquez isn't a big fan of Pocket Dragons.

They're small, but they're mean!

(Click image for a larger view.)

This page is now in the hands of inker Steve Bird. We can't wait to see the combination of Leandro's pencils and Steve's inks!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Panda Dog Adventures - Preview Panels

Episode 1 of Panda Dog Adventures, "Girl Trouble," is now in the capable hands of our Letterer, E.T. Dollman. While work is still underway, we wanted to share some of our favorite panels, as well as one example of the progression from rough pencils to inked pages. (Click on the pictures for a larger view.)

We think artist Eve Yap really did a great job of capturing the light-hearted tone of the story. As usual, the Panda Dog just can't seem to stay out of trouble.

Panda Dog Adventures will be appearing as a back-up feature in the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit Summer Preview. Come by the Panda Dog Press table at Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC (June 4th - 6th) or stay tuned here to get your copy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

AC:SCU "Feral" - Creature Design

We're currently in production on the second Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit story, "Feral," and, frankly, we're getting pretty excited here.

If you've been following Panda Dog Press for a while, you know that our regular AC:SCU penciler, Leandro Panganiban, is a talented sequential artist. What you may not know is that Leandro also has a background in creature design for gaming companies and others.

So, while I don't want to give too much away on the new story, I will share just one rough creature design sketch from Leandro.

Have you ever heard of a Cassowary aka the "world's most dangerous bird"? How about a Komodo Dragon? I wonder why someone would create a crazy hybrid like that?

Find out why in our special Summer Preview comic book coming in May!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

AC:SCU Summer Preview Coming Soon - 3 Stories!

The first three Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit stories will be available in one comic book in May 2010, just in time for the summer convention season.

Included in the comic will be "Breeding Stock" (the 5-page story initially appearing in the Tales from the Comics Experience anthology in April), "Feral" (the 7-page story currently in production), and a special back-up feature, the first episode of Panda Dog Adventures entitled "Girl Trouble." We plan to include some character sketches, production art, and other cool stuff as well.

We can confirm that the summer preview will be available at the Panda Dog Press table at the Charlotte Heroes Convention on June 4th - 6th, so please stop by to say "hi" and pick up your copy!

In the meantime, check out the back of the first AC:SCU promotional postcard by AC:SCU letterer and designer, E.T. Dollman. You should see this postcard floating around conventions soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Panda Dog Adventures - Girl Trouble

Our Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit Summer Preview will contain a very special back-up story featuring our popular friend, the elusive Panda Dog.

The Animal Control Officers may never catch him, but we can follow along with his trouble-making antics in Panda Dog Adventures.

The first episode, "Girl Trouble," will be written by Rob Anderson and penciled and inked by artist Eve Yap. Eve is a talented painter, penciler, and Manga artist -- check out her portfolio. As you'll see from Eve's fantastic character designs shown here, this first episode will be told with a bit of Manga flair, and we're just bursting to see the final result.

So hang on tight for Eve's interpretation of the Panda Dog, the girl who loves him, and a not-so-little beast known as the Horned Mastiff!