Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Want To Learn How To Make Comics? Here's a Self-Learning Path

A question came up on an online forum, asking how can one begin to learn how to make comics, given very little knowledge in both writing and art. I decided to write my answer as a blog post.

I've been drawing comics on and off for more than 20 years, but I've been drawing far longer than that. I'm primarily self-taught, and had regarded drawing purely as a hobby. As far as the writing goes, I started writing professionally by working in corporate public relations.

Even though I've been writing and drawing for a very long time, I was only able to make my first comic book as both writer and artist at 31 years old. Now that I've gained success as a comics creator, I would sometimes wonder how I should have done things differently.

Is there a method, a "curriculum," that one could follow to learn how to make comics?

Sure, there are tons of books out there about how to make comics, and they cover a lot of topics. However, a lot of them don't look at progression, or the step-by-step way of learning for someone who's starting from scratch.

So I tried to think of something on my own.

With all the things I know now, this is what I would tell my younger self. These are the subjects to learn over six year-period--the first four will be mostly about education, the next two will be mostly about application. Though I don't give much detail, it gives specific areas of focus. For most of these subjects, there are a lot of free and for-pay books and online tutorials available.

Year One

Form Drawing: Building, Slicing, Contouring
Light and Shadow
Materials Drawing (fabrics, stone, metal, etc.)

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Establish relationships online and offline

At the end of Year One, you should be able to draw a variety of forms and materials with confidence, as well as render them in inks.

Being able to do this quickly and confidently sets you up for greatness. :-)

Now, you might ask, "Isn't one year too long?" It's only as long or as short as how much work and practice you put into it. This is foundational--your ability to draw and ink simple and complex forms with speed and confidence will make the rest of the journey easier. Plus, form drawing is crucial in learning to draw everything else.

A very quick drawing. By combining and contouring basic forms, you can already draw a lot.

Year Two

Perspective Drawing: one-point, two-point, three-point
Landscape / Nature Drawing
Art and Comics Composition

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Build relationships

You've spent a year drawing all sorts of forms in different configurations, so you're now ready to tackle placing those forms in perspective. Not only that, you'll also be moving towards drawing locations in perspective--interiors, exteriors, and landscapes. You'll also dig into the topic of artistic composition, or how to arrange elements that results in an aesthetically pleasing drawing.

At the end of Year Two, you should be able to draw a variety of locations confidently using different perspective views. You should also be able to create artwork/comics that follow sound composition principles.

Year Three

Cartooning: Character Design and Expression
Color Theory and Basic Digital Coloring

For Writing: Storycraft: the Principles of Story
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Three, you should be able to create your own unique and expressive cartoon characters. You should also be able to do basic digital coloring based on your knowledge of color theory.

Year Four

Human Anatomy
Online Marketing / Content Marketing
Print and Web Production

For Writing: Scene Writing
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Four, you should be able to create unique and expressive characters that follow human proportions. You should also have gained working knowledge of online marketing principles and techniques, as well as how to create artwork for print and online.

Years Five through Six

Consolidation / Styling / Fine-Tuning of Drawing Knowledge through single plates and short comics (three to six finished plates a month)

For Writing: Writing complete stories + script for your first graphic novel
For Marketing: Create "official" online channels for your work

Years Seven

Make your first graphic novel.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila Part 2: An Update

So.... as of this writing, I have two and a half pages left to draw, and I've given roughly 75% of the draft to my publisher Visprint for preliminary editing. Another piece of good news, at least for me, is that the most difficult panels are done.


This means I should be finished with all comics pages by next week. I would then have to work on the other editorial pages, plus the back cover. I still don't know what to put in the back cover.

But, Hallelujah! I'm almost done. Thank you, Universe!!

Of course, on a professional level, three years isn't the most appealing amount of time to wait for part two of a story. Still, I'm moving forward with it. While, at this point, I shudder at the thought of announcing when the third part is going to come out, I will declare right now that I'm committed to churning out pages on a more regular basis. Part Three will be more or less 88 pages, bringing the total page count of this graphic novel to 262.


I swear. I'll never make another one as long as that. Unless, perhaps, I become ridiculously rich.

Part Two is supposed to be released by Komikon this mid-April, or it may not, depending on the production schedule on Visprint's end. What's important to me, however, is that I submit everything--final files and all--to them before the end of February.

Recently, I posted a tweet expressing my sentiment about this whole graphic novel making thing, akin to a sado-masochistic relationship. Surprisingly, that post got retweeted 40 times by other comics creators. The one thing that many people don't realize about making comics is how difficult it actually is, especially if you're a one-man show. In fact, there have been blog posts and videos from other comics creators expressing that side of comics very few speak of. Stuff like, "it's depressing," or "it's lonely." And many creators have given up, for practical or emotional reasons, or both. Sure, anyone can make comics. But not everyone can make good comics independently over a long period (unless, maybe, you make comics strips and get paid by the piece), simply because the cost in both time and money is tremendous. So much effort for so little.

Anyway, I still love what I do, despite the episodes. It's all par for the course.

So, once the book comes out, I do hope you get a copy. I hope you'll like what you'll see and read, despite the oh-so-many teaser images I've posted these past years on Facebook.

Here's the cover.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Reviews Are Coming In: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical

Image from BusinessWorld Online

The musical opened last May 7, and the reviews are in. Below are just a few of them--thankfully, looks like people seem to like the show. Thanks to all the kind folks who took the time to write reviews. Also, thanks to those who have watched the show more than once.

But first, a featurette from ANC...


"As for the length, my gay friend Philip hates musicals like a heartbreak but he finished it and told his friends he didn’t even notice it’s three hours long." -- Totel de Jesus


"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is so enjoyable because it takes the tight, strong narrative of Carlo Vergara’s comic and adds flourishes of song and dance at just the right moment that you are carried away into this comedic farce that tackles a host of issues and themes — colonialism, hard work versus laziness, gratitude, elitism, celebrity culture, love in the workplace, finding something inside you that is extraordinary, sister relationships, forgiveness, and a whole lot more — without ever punching or being pedantic about any of it." -- Wanggo Gallaga

From Curtain Call Manila

"In a world where Heroes are celebrities and Villains are closet Sinatra’s, the battle is not between the superpowers in the battlefield or not even against a powerful army. Here is a world where every battle is fought with one self, a battle of will, perseverance, and faith. A fight ended not by bullets or governance, but a fight appeased by Humanity."

From Business World Online

"A good time was expected. And that expectation was fulfilled in spades." -- A.A. Herrera

From A Jellicle Blog

"Though I still find some of its themes somewhat disturbing, the Vergara-de Jesus-Martinez team proves that there’s a lot to celebrate in our local theater. Like its characters, this musical is proof how our artistry and talent have transformed so beautifully without sacrificing wit and the Filipino talent." --Orly Agawin

From ABS-CBN Likestyle

"It merges the glossy aesthetic of western superhero genre and the earthly grit of its Filipino counterpart. And between these contrasting elements is the story of the everyday Filipino, which keeps everything grounded and relatable despite the narrative’s metaphysical framework. Ultimately, it presents a fresh sense of artistic being, something that we have not seen before in any superhero themed content." -- Francis Lubag

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We're now on our second weekend, and there are still tickets available. You can purchase tickets through the Ticketworld website or visit their outlets.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical

Last 2012, I came up with the idea of a simple story involving a maid of a superhero team. It was supposed to be a one-act play, but I didn't know what I could do with the idea to make it a 45-minute acting piece. "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" (How I Became Leading Lady) eventually got penned in early 2013, and was accepted in the 9th Virgin Labfest.

Not sure about the story's future, I had a comics adaptation made. The 72-pager was released in late-2013. The play was later chosen to be restaged in 2014, something I'm extremely grateful for. But I thought that was it.

But, no. Fast forward to 2015, the one-act play will open as a full-length musical this May.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical is being produced by Dalanghita Productions, and will run from May 7 to June 7 this year. It will take place at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.

Music and lyrics are by Vincent deJesus, Production Design by Tuxqs Rutaquio, Choreography by Nancy Crowe. Direction by Chris Martinez, who also directed the original one-act play.

Here are the fine actors that comprise the cast.

Bituin Escalante & Frenchie Dy
Kim Molina & Natasha Cabrera
Markki Stroem & Hans Eckstein
May Bayot
Astarte Abraham
Giannina Ocampo
Jeff Flores
Chesko Rodriguez
Caisa Borromeo
Nar Cabico & Domi Espejo
Red Nuestro
Vince Lim & Mikoy Morales
Elliot Eustacio
Red Concepcion
Kakki Teodoro
Raf Bravo
Rhenwyn Gabalonzo
Josh Cabiladas
Gab Pangilinan
JC Santos
Brian Sy
Ali Santos


Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo

Tickets are now available at the Ticketworld website.

I don't think I'll be able to attend all shows, since I'm currently getting the Zaturnnah sequel finished. But I'm sure I'll be there during most weekends. The comic book adaptation of the one-act play will be for sale at the lobby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why The Idea of A Subway in Metro Manila Makes Me Jittery

It's an irrational fear, or course. But I can only hope that, if ever the Metro Manila subway project pushes through, the government will do a better job maintaining it.

You can read a proposal for the Metro Manila subway through this link.

Please share if you like this comic. :-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Makes a Blog Post Shareable?

In the previous blog post, we proposed that comics creators can start building an audience by creating and sharing comics blog posts as an alternative to the usual text posts.

The idea is that when a comics creator creates engaging comics blog posts, these posts have a high chance of being shared.

The shareability of a blog post is important. When people like something they see on the Web, there's a good chance that they'll share it, which leads to the comics creator's website getting more visits. This is an important step in attracting fans.

But what kind of blog posts gets more shares? It boils down to three things: Topic, Format, and Takeaway.

Topics for Comics Blog Posts

To know what topics are good for comics blog posts, we only have to look at our Facebook news feeds to see what people are sharing. Usually, these are general-interest topics, or topics that a wide audience is interested in:

Dating and Romance
Career and Making Money
Fitness and Health
Parenting and Home Life
Self-Help and Practical Psychology
Gadgets and Consumer Technology
Pop Culture
Politics and Society
Sports and Recreation

So it boils down to anything you want that's relevant to the general public. And that's the beauty of creating these comics blog posts. You don't have to create characters, or choose a genre. Your source of inspiration is your life and subjects that interests you, as long as the general public can relate to them. (If you're interested in nuclear science, that may not be a good topic to start with.)

Choose a few general categories that you feel comfortable talking about. In my case, for instance, I like talking about working out (or the lack of it), cooking, self-help, and writing. So I can create comics blog posts around these topics.

When you begin to focus on a few topics and regularly release comics blog posts that talk about them, you're building an identity. You're beginning to build a brand around yourself as a comics creator.

Format for Comics Blog Posts

Here's a list of formatting options for comics blog posts, based on information from marketing experts:

1) Lists
For Example: Five New Uses for Your Obsolete Mobile Phone

2) How-Tos
For Example: The Quickest Way to Pack for a Month-Long Vacation

3) What Ifs
For Example: What If Famous Historical Figures Could Tweet

4) Opinions
For Example: Why Fairy Tales Should Be Banned

5) Discoveries
For Example: What You Didn’t Know About Nursery Rhymes

The advantage the comics creator has in creating blog posts like these is that these posts are image-driven, and image-driven posts perform better overall compared to posts that are in plain text.

Takeaway for Comics Blog Posts

The Takeaway is, essentially, what is it that you want the reader to take from your blog post. The key here is providing value. If the reader doesn't see any value, if your blog post doesn't affect the reader in some fundamental way, then the reader may just move on.

1) Useful information. The takeaway is utility. Examples of this are wikiHow, HowStuffWorks, or websites and blogs that specialize in practical solutions. People visit these sites because they have a problem that needs a solution, even if it’s as simple as teeth whitening, removing a stubborn car stain, or which tools are best for inking comics art.

2) Cautionary information. The takeaway is also utility. These articles play on audience’s fears by essentially saying, “You have to read this or else...” Health and money articles are more often structured this way to encourage clicks.

3) Insight. The takeaway is a different way of looking at a life concern. Examples of this are Upworthy, ThoughtCatalog, or websites and blogs that provide inspiration, spiritual guidance, or a unique point of view. Commentary and opinion articles also fall under this category.

4) Positive Emotions. The takeaway is humor. These are your Buzzfeeds, 9gags, and CollegeHumors. Their main focus is not useful information or insight, but more on giving people something to laugh about, or at least something that’s not sad.

Choose a Topic, Format, and Takeaway to Make a Comics Blog Post

So, for instance, you're the guy who doesn't have a lot of time in his hands and you find yourself using the microwave a lot for your meals. That's something a lot of people can relate to. What kind of comics blog post can you create from that?

1) You could create a List post containing Useful Information, like Three Quick Microwave Meals For The Time-Starved Artist
2) Or a How To post to elicit Positive Emotions, like How To Microwave A Zombie For Dinner

All it takes is a little creativity, and a desire to provide value, even if it's just something that gives a good dose of amusement.

Add an Intriguing Headline

Look at the examples of headlines I've given above:

Five New Uses for Your Obsolete Mobile Phone
The Quickest Way to Pack for a Month-Long Vacation
What If Famous Historical Figures Could Tweet

Personally, I dislike click-bait headlines, or headlines worded in such a way that they compel you to click on them. But I only dislike them if I don't get a good pay-off.

So make your headline intriguing enough, but at the same time deliver on your promise.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Make Shareable Comics Blogposts to Establish Your Author Brand

This is a continuation of the previous blogpost about a comics marketing framework that indie comics creators can use. One of the first things mentioned in that post is the use of comics blogposts to attract audiences and build your author brand.

A comics blogpost is simply that: a comic that’s 12 panels or less. You can make a comics blogpost about anything. It’s really no different from comics strips, except that you’re not limited to the usual three to four panels. It’s more flexible.

Using comics blogposts is a content marketing tactic comics creators can use to build their author brand. The benefits are:

1) The principle of low commitment. This is the biggest advantage. People on the Web are generally looking for quick reads when they’re on social media. If you post 22 pages of a comics story online, there are very few people who will take the time to read them all. With a comics blogpost, a reader can dive right in and get the whole “story” in around a minute or even less. It doesn’t waste people’s time, and gives them something to laugh about, if not a brief epiphany. This is why we’re looking at 12 panels or less. It’s short and sweet.

2) The illustration style isn’t too complex. In fact, the rule of thumb is to present information cleanly and clearly. The highly-rendered and detailed, multi-camera angled, color-saturated styles won’t work for our purposes because you’re asking a reader to process too much visual information. Stick figures, royalty-free clipart, or even photos you’ve taken can work.

Dinosaur Comics uses the same dinosaur clipart with every strip, and people don’t mind. For the general audience, it’s not really about how good the art is, but what the comic has to say.  Clean and simple art also means comics shorts are relatively faster to do.

3) People get to know who you are and how you think. You don’t have to create new characters or a storyline for these comics blogposts, because what we’re highlighting is you as a creator—your opinions, your ideas, the way you look at the world, your style. It’s like writing in your blog, but using comics instead of plain text. And studies have shown that blogposts that are image-driven have a higher chance of being read.

When you regularly create and publish comics blogposts, you slowly but surely build your author brand, or what makes you unique. People are drawn to the brands that they like. And when people like you and your work enough, there's a higher chance that they'll buy something from you.

4) Eventually, you can leverage your fanbase and sell books, whether they be compilations or original material. If you build an audience using comics blogposts, you’ll have an easier time selling your longer stories, and even have an instant well of support if you want to do a crowdsourcing activity. Also, if you want to try releasing a book through a traditional publisher, having an large enough audience tells publishers that you have a ready market.

“But I don’t have time!” While comics strips are usually published everyday, you don’t have to do the same with your comics blogposts since you’d want to be known more for your long-form work. Weekly or bi-weekly is good enough, and you’ll have enough time to make them really worth reading. What’s important right now is to try it out and see the results. Every kind of marketing requires work—there is no magic formula. But when you get it, it’ll feel like magic!


“Facebook Is Like Dating”
C-Section Comics
As of this writing, it’s been shared over 70 times on Twitter and Google+! C-Section Comics is managed by cartoonist Idan Schneider, and his cartoons have been featured in many websites. There are over 100 short comics in his website, and his Facebook fanpage has over 19,000 likes!

“Republican Planning”
The Metapicture
As of this writing, it’s been shared on Facebook over 120 times!

"Why Facebook's Sneaky Little Psychological Experiment Can Be Good For Some People"
I did this little experiment some weeks ago. I created an account in the webcomic platform Tapastic and posted this short comic. Then, I shared the link only to my Facebook and Twitter followers. The comic got 16 shares in less than 24 hours.

So it’s not impossible to build traffic to your site with some comics.

The key to the success of a comics blogpost is its shareability. Notice that the three above examples are self-contained short bursts of information on topics that are of interest to the general public. They don't feature particular characters or a specific genre, but still have been shared.

To maximize the shareability of the comics blogpost, create an effective headline that will make people curious enough to click on it when they see it in their social media newsfeed. And if your content has value, then there's a higher chance it will be shared.

In the next post, I'll share with you what kinds of blogposts have a higher chance of shareability.

Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Framework for Comics Marketing

Click on the image for a larger version.

The image gives an overview of the marketing funnel as described in the previous blogpost.

It's based on the hundreds of podcast episodes I've listened to over the past year on online entrepreneurship, online marketing, and self-publishing. Because there are very few resources out there that talk about these topics as applied to the comics-making space, I decided to think just a bit too much and come up with something.

In a nutshell, it's a proposal for the indie comic book creator on how to attract audiences from both the general public and the comics crowd to visit a comics website and lead interested visitors into sampling/buying long-form comics.

(brief explanation after the graphic)

Comics Blogposts
For the general audience, use comics blogposts, or blogposts that are in comics form. A comics blogpost is a kind of webcomic, but the main difference is that it showcases the author instead of a specific storyline, genre, or set of characters.

Comics blogposts would be twelve panels or less, using a simple drawing style, on topics that are of general interest. Because they are presented in very few panels, there's a good chance readers will read it as opposed to lengthier works. The objective of these posts is shareability.

This tactic is similar to what webcomic and comic strip creators do. When an author posts comics of this sort on a regular basis, he can start developing a fanbase. A fanbase would be more open to reading lengthier works, like comics singles.

Comics Singles

For the comics crowd and for the fans of comics blogposts, use comics singles. These are short self-contained comics stories that are 12 pages or less. Unlike comics blogposts, comics singles now allow the author to showcase his storytelling skills in a genre of his choice.

For the fans of comics blogposts, comics singles present the idea of longer stories, but don't require a huge time commitment to read.

For the comics crowd, comics singles introduce the author without asking them to commit to reading a series. The comics crowd will be able to read a complete story and immediately assess the quality of the author's skills.

The Series

Those who like the author's short comics can now be led to reading the series, which can be the first issue posted for free reading. They like the author's style enough to invest some time reading a much longer work, and are generally a few steps closer to buying something compared to those who are visiting the site for the first time.

The Email List

Most marketing experts recommend building a mailing list of subscribers, those who like the author's work enough that they're giving the author permission to contact them directly. The author can then tap into his subscriber list for more direct feedback, as well as give bonuses and privileges or inside information.

Calls to Action

Calls to Action, or CTAs, are important to include in a every website page. CTAs lead site visitors from the blogposts to the singles, and prompt visitors to subscribe to a mailing list. Without CTAs, there's a higher chance that a visitor will leave the website without further exploring its contents.

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I'll be tackling these items in more detail in future posts. But it would be nice if you could give feedback on the above information. Thanks so much for reading!

The podcasts that have been my favorites include:

Internet Business Mastery (my top choice and the primary basis for this framework)

Again, if you'd like to learn more about this system, you can start by reading about comics blogposts through this link.


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