Monday, May 28, 2012

The Web Comics Model - Guest Post

Here is a guest post from my husband, Ralph Hanson -- author of the textbook Mass Communication: Living in a Media World, with a collection of links that look at how web comic artists promote their work, both online and in print.  This is to go with a presentation I'm giving at the West Virginia Writers Conference June 8-10, 2012.

Please note that some of the links here go to comics that are "PG-13ish" and may have offensive language.  This is not my normal milieu!   

Web comic artists sometimes work together as a "co-op" of 5-15 other artists to promote their work and merchandise.  This provides a central place to sell books, merchandise, and t-shirts.  By combining with other artists, they can help build traffic to their site and their store.

West Virginia artist Danielle Corsetto (she lives in Shepherdstown), who draws the web comic Girls With Slingshots, works with Blind Ferret Entertainment for promotion and sales.
Web comic artists often self-publish books, and they travel to conventions many weekends to sell books and merchandise.

Jeph Jacques, who draws the enormously successful comic Questionable Content, gets about 400,000 readers per day, but he's an exceptional example.  He sells his books and merchandise through the online web comics store Topatoco.  He's even had plushy versions of his robot sidekick characters made for sale. (You can read more about the origins of Topatoco here.)

Comics artists often sell an artist edition of their books that is signed with a small drawing at a 50-100 percent premium over the cost of the basic unsigned books.

Even established mainstream comic artists, such as Karl Kerschl, work at selling their web comic material on the side. His "day job" is drawing comics for major publishers, such as the Assassin's Creed books.  His side project is drawing the adorable web comic The Abominable Charles Christopher.

A few web comic artists have become bestselling authors working with conventional publishers. Canadian artist Kate Beaton is an example, with her book of Hark, A Vagrant becoming a New York Times bestseller.  

Some have made use of the crowd-sourcing Kickstarter to raise money to pay the cost of publishing paper versions of their books or to buy enough time off from a day job to get work done on a project.  One person who has been doing this successfully is Gordon McAlpin with his movie-theater themed comic Multiplex.

Keep in mind that people trying to do this need to have an established following to begin with.
Finally, some very talented web comic artists continue to work full time while producing their comics and doing a limited number of convention.  One example of this would be Angela Melick, a Canadian engineer who draws the comic Wasted Talent (often done in watercolors).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I have vague memories of being a ‘Candy striper’ for a few moments in high school..or rather of the unflattering shirtdress-styled uniform. But I’m not really sure. Maybe it was my sister who was? A career in the healthcare field was never in the cards for me.

What I do have are vivid memories of my first volunteer experience at a nursing home when I was in junior high in the early 1970s. They weren’t called assisted living facilities then, and what those elderly people were doing there could hardly be called living.

In high school, I volunteered in a classroom of special needs children. Never had I considered being a teacher a career choice, either. I knew I would never have the patience to teach students with any needs, although I enjoyed my time volunteering with Special Olympics.

(Note to all my former college students: I did gain more patience by the time y’all and I were in the classroom together!)

Fast forward a few years, and my volunteer ‘career’ started in earnest: my eldest son went off to kindergarten. Oh the marvelous opportunities for mommies and daddies to be a part of the classroom experience. My first foray was to the pumpkin patch one sunny fall day to ride herd on a bunch of five and six year-olds as they selected their future Jack ‘o Lanterns with other parents.

And for the most part, for the last 17 years I feel I did contribute as a volunteer and did have my own life enriched. My favorite ‘job’ ever, paid or unpaid, was working in the North Elementary School library in Morgantown, West Virginia. My boys are nearly five years apart so I had plenty of time to spread my volunteer wings. Then-librarian Vicki Wilson remains one of my favorite people ever and that’s where I developed my adult love of young adult and middle grade books. Not to mention the joy (usually) of helping kids in a book CENTRIC environment.

Numerous highs, and the occasional lows, have occurred over the years. All the Read Aloud time in the classroom (which my husband participated in also), the homeroom parties (wrapping kids in toilet paper at Halloween to turn them into silent mummies remains one of my favorites), the middle school trip to New York City where one mom abandoned her group to go off on her own, which resulted in my group gaining one of my older son’s best friends still to this day, the list seems, well endless.

Until today.

Tonight is a sports picnic, which I’m marking as my final act ever of mom volunteerism. This year, along with a super awesome group of moms and dads, I was a ‘spirit’ mom for two sports.

Recently I finished three years of being involved with our church’s middle schoolers, two as a confirmation small group leader. I wanted to ‘pay it forward’ because we moved here when our youngest was in 8th grade, and he received a warm welcome at this church. I had a wonderful group of girls, and the class as a whole was lively and engaging.

But it’s time to ‘retire.’ My youngest graduates from high school next year and heads to college.

I wouldn’t change anything about the experiences of the last 17 years, except maybe the accidental-crashing-glass shelves-laden-with-snow globes debacle that involved 5th graders at a museum in Pittsburgh years ago….

Being a volunteer is not about ‘you’ (me), but I do cherish one memory above all else….

I’m in the middle of a crowded CROWDED ballroom at the student union at a university for a ‘don’t do bad things’ field trip with middle schoolers. All the schools in the county have sent their kids for this fun educational activity. The snow globes shattering woulda been preferable to this….

Somebody tells the kids to sit down for the ‘fun’ lecture so I sit down with them and look around. I’m the only adult sitting on the hard floor. So I say to no one in particular:  “Why am I the only parent sitting on the floor”?

To which one of my older son’s classmates replied “Because you care.”

I did care.

Of course there was the time as PTO co-president, I left a meeting rather than take a swing at the principal – verbally – and the counselor had to talk me off the ledge…but for the most part it’s been a great ride.

And I never lost any kids on any field trips…permanently.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are Going

Image from Maruice Sendak's
Unreleased Drawings and prints
The inscription on our battered copy of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is dated Dec. 21st, 1991 and reads:

Happy 1st Birthday!
May you always be the king of your dreams.
Lots of love,
Andrea Prior

 Andrea or “An-N-INA” – as our older son called her – was Erik’s first babysitter. Years ago her dad (a chancellor at an Eastern school who died unexpectedly this year) and her mom took my husband and me under their wing at Northern Arizona University. Andrea’s mother, Merry Lu, and I had both grown up in Michigan and shared a love of reading and a mutual disdain for

A. returning things (she always made my returns)

and B. making phone calls (I always made hotel reservations, etc. for her). 

With Merry Lu, I attended my first book group meeting and went on my first ‘faculty wives’ hike. From her I learned how to identify Indian Paintbrush and how to gently remove spiders from one’s house and take them outside instead of squashing. Sadly only the former took.

When Erik was born, Andrea became his beloved babysitter. The night my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary we came home at midnight to find Andrea pushing our earache-plagued toddler outside in his stroller. She was a natural.  Erik has grown into a globetrotter, and both Andrea and her mom loved travel. Following in her parents footsteps,  Andrea chose teaching as a profession – one that took her from a reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Japan.
Last fall, Erik spent a weekend in Japan while on study abroad in Seoul, South Korea.  He enjoyed Seoul so much he returned for a second term and is due home the end of June. One more semester of college here in Nebraska, then he graduates and no doubt heads off to the world again.

 How you gonna keep ‘em down on the prairie after they’ve seen Asia and Europe?

Meanwhile, ‘little brother’ Andrew is approximately five days away from officially being a senior in high school.  We’ve yet to have a senior in high school since Erik bypassed all that, leaving home at 16 to become a foreign exchange student in Germany and then going to college early.

As chronicled before, Erik’s been going since he was a toddler…literally trying to head for the Mexican border (five hours away) during a moms and tots playgroups in Flagstaff while other children happily played in the sandboxes or swing sets.  I’m used to Erik going, to relishing the moments when he’s around, and knowing he’ll no doubt always live in some far-flung place.

So it’s taken me by enormous surprise to feel so discombobulated by the thought of Andrew going off to college in a year. At the closest he’ll go two minutes away, at the longest two hours.

But it’s not really about that is it?

The appointment for senior pictures is already made and on the calendar for this summer. Graduation party venues have already been discussed. A year is a very long time and yet, in this week that saw the death of Maurice Sendak, the beloved author of “Where the Wild Things Are,” I have two sons on the cusp of starting amazing new journeys and many friends in similar situations.

It seems like only yesterday the wild rumpus started….