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Today marks the end of a very long and exciting journey. We've actually achieved EVERYTHING we set out to do. I can barely believe it. :D

MADEFIRE is now available on Android, iOS, Windows and the web!

The tool we built is open for ANYBODY to use - free! wreckling.deviantart.com/journ…

And you can publish your own books in whatever digital form you choose directly to the world's biggest creator community - namely, right here on dA. (create.madefire.com)

We have also launched our new interface today, which features a whole new library of classic print-type material, because we have ALWAYS loved comics, and always wanted to support them. All our material you can purchase in-app.

I'm also excited because my Vertigo series Testament, written by the great Douglas Rushkoff, is available as one humongous omnibus edition, or as four smaller collections, and I digitally remastered and reworked most of my art for the launch. You'll find new cover art and a fantastic new logo designed by Tom Muller too. 

It feels like we've hit critical mass, and it's VERY exciting! 

Go download Madefire on the device of your choice, and happy reading everybody!!!

Meanwhile:

1. What more could we do to make Madefire and the motion book tool even better for you?
2. As it's a special day it's time for some treats! What is YOUR fav food and drink?
I'm sitting 18 floors upon the balcony of a condominium in San Diego. It's night, 10.41pm to be precise. Over to my left is the Hyatt, and the bay. The lights twinkle. There are a few low clouds illuminated by light pollution - just for added effect. You can feel the presence of the sea on your skin, taste it on your lips.

It's all very Bladerunner - except for the sea bit.

I remember the first time I flew to San Diego, and tonight I'm reminded that I should not forget; should never take it for granted. We get used to everything, given time. And too often we fail to take stock. To contextualise.

When I first came here I was a very young man just starting a career in comics - though at the time it felt like I was already a veteran! I was a working class boy of meagre means transported through circumstances, luck and a little talent to places of which youthful dreams are made. (My heart forever belonged to California, even before that became a conscious acceptance.) 

This circus, this flash-mob of geeks and freaks and artists and writers, of cosplay heroes, and heartbroken martyrs, misfits, maestros, millionaires and masturbators, playboy bunnies, perverts, voyeurs and visionaries, the victors and the vanquished of a myriad of media and mediums make this something we all have a collective propensity to belittle. We are the hunter-gatherers - short-sighted and hungry, too hungry in fact to take in the enormity of this mythic world we inhabit. The stars become a backdrop, a setting, a means of navigation.

Yes. Our feet will be sore, and our cheeks will ache through the act of a thousand disingenuous smiles, and yet another thousand more genuine ones. Our midrifts will swell, and our faculties will dim, and yet we'll all feel the post-con blues - the feeling that something happened that was important, and that we didn't have the awareness or senses to fully capture.

It was too big, and somehow we missed that.  

We'll be lost in hopes and dreams, the business of business, the betrayals and bastardisation, the bitterness and backstabbing, the curt and the terse and the politic.
But let's not miss out on the wonder, eh? Let's be bloody thankful for once!

Here we are, we one-hundred-and-fifty-odd-thousand lovers of what makes us human - our propensity to dream, and from that, grow. Our need to create what does not exist and to make it exist in thousands of fibreglass storm trouper costumes; cardboard swords; elf ears; paintings; words; films; apps; pamphlets and passion projects.

There's literally NOWHERE on earth I would rather be right now.

So fuck you, the bug that has bit my head, both arms and caused a large itchy bump to appear on my lower back while I wrote this. You'll not steel this moment from me! I'm here, in full appreciation of the curious, and delightful twists fate apportioned me. I was a midland boy who never thought to see such things, yet here I was, and here I am.

Here's to an amazing week at SDCC!
I've been working towards this for almost five years.

After struggling to make print work at Ma
m Tor (great reviews, lots of love, but prohibitive costs, too few sales) my big questions were: 

How can I publish the stories I want to tell in a direct way, online?

How can I build a platform that lets OTHER people tell their stories too - because this needed to be about much more than just me.

It needed to be a grass-roots revolution.
It needed to be something that creators wanted, that served them.
In short it had to be a need.


The questions after that are many:

If you're in a digital space, what are the possibilities?
Can you build a digital audience first that can determine the need/want for print versions, and then facilitate that?
Can the creators keep their copyright?
How do you rethink the marketplace - and actually, CAN you?


And now here we are, and the tool has been built.
Creators of all skill levels ARE publishing their work, sharing it, selling it.
One week in since the tool became openly available to everyone and we're starting to see that dream come to life - and it's AMAZING! :D

Some of the artists on dA routinely get 200K views of any new story they upload. It's changing the way things are done in publishing, and it's a NEW, different audience to the one that print people are typically used to.
These creators have built their own followings on here, and produced their own material. They sell prints, and all kinds of merchandise associated with their work, and they are considered superstars at conventions - though they are not the stars comics audiences typically know about! yuumei.deviantart.com/ is a classic example, though there are many more. People have fainted in her presence I'm told! And yet typically comic people have never heard of her!

And so we come back to this:

I'm going to be banging on about all of this more than usual because NOW is the time that everything is in line to really take a big step up with regard to creator-awareness, and awareness in general.
It's actually REALLY IMPORTANT that creators and lovers of comic KNOW about this!
We've had wonderful support along the way. Our app has remained a solid 5 stars in the app store in the UK and US for two years now, but we have been flying just below the radar while we gathered momentum, lined everything up, and made sure the tool was ready.

We're good to go!

We need you to check it out and support it.
Share it.
Try it out.

Publish your stories, your art books, your comics or your motion books - it doesn't matter which. The tool lets you build whatever you like!

Go here for details: wreckling.deviantart.com/journ…

Here for a basic video tutorial of the classic comic build (you can upload and publish a comic to dA in under 6 minutes!!!): vimeo.com/100164819

And go here to see what people are creating RIGHT NOW:www.deviantart.com/motionbooks…

But most of all - keep an open mind, and have fun!!!! :-)

________________________________________________________
For your reading pleasure - I give you Cap Stone! Completely free!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudios
Sometimes things are just MEANT to happen. 

I don't personally believe in any higher forces, angels or household gods looking out for us. But I do concede that sometimes something will happen that has all the hallmarks of an event that was MEANT to happen!

David Miller was the linch-pin of one such encounter that ended up changing the fate of myself, Madefire, AND deviantART forever.

Angelo Sotira - the CEO and founder of dA, as well as a massive patron or the arts and artists in general. He really IS that passionate about this stuff! - was at comic con two years ago. It was the last day and he was feeling miserable and despondent. He had been looking for a comic company to team up with, a company that had enough vision to try something new, and break away from the norms by partnering with dA. Over the course of the show he had had various meetings with many publishers, but none of them 'got' his ideal, and none were prepared to make the leap into futures unknown and unknowable, but potentially full of dreams.

In this frame of mind he decided to do one last round of artist's alley, because it always lifted his spirits to be surrounded by such creativity. On that round he passed David Miller's table.

And that's when it happened:

David said "Hey, did you check out Madefire? They're just over there. You really should..."

Angelo was tired, not really in the right frame of mind, but he wandered over incognito - hood up, pretending he was part of dA's merchandising team, or a warehouse worker. 

Skip back to a year earlier:

Madefire had just been funded, and us four original members sat in our tiny office in San Francisco. There was one big, blank white wall, and the first thing that I pinned up on it was a piece of white paper with the words 'deviantART' written on it. I have been a fan of dA since I joined eight years ago, and I felt we really SHOULD try and find a way of talking to them...

Back to comic con, and I was looking at this guy in his dA hoody thinking 'I know that face!' :-)

Within minutes Angelo realized that he had found what he hoped to find after all, and we were likewise thrilled having made the contact that we had always intended to make!
Soon we were taking photos and smiling, and Angelo had come clean about his identity. It was amazing!

The rest, as they say, is written in the unchanging annals of time!

And so, with no further ado, I give you David Miller, and his first book created using the Madefire tool and published on dA! The circle is complete!!! :D 

Enjoy!

WOW!!!!

Seriously, what an incredible few days!!!

I wanted to capture a bit of the excitement and share my favorite digital comics and books, from pros and amateurs alike, because something really special is happening! I'll be sharing more in the coming weeks and months, but to kick you off and without further ado:

NEW USER GENERATED CONTENT

These books show a range of styles and approach, from classic static manga, to innovative use of sound and motion:

Background - Char Ref by Danesippi

This parallax by Danesippi is deceptively simple, but works beautifully. So much depth!

 Masked by Grozyll   

The most basic use of the tool, but so amazingly designed and executed by Grozyll that it begs to be checked out.

BlackEyed 1 (English) - by zursoif by zursoif

East and west are fused in this book by zursoif which takes Manga trappings and throws Travis Charest's amazing artistic sensibilities into the mix - to great effect! Another comic style read, but well worth a look!

Steel Raining - Laquelaq by PencilInPain

This Motion Book by PencilInPain has about the best parallax cover I've seen! VERY profession work all round. Great art, great build!

THE ATTACK OF THE MOTION BOOKS by krukof2

This highly entertaining Motion Book by krukof2 skews close to more tradition animation, but really gives a sense of what's possible!

FREE PROFESSIONAL CONTENT FROM MADEFIRE



Still standing tall as one of the most AMAZING digital reads, after almost two years, Kinman Chan's interpretation of Dave Gibbons' 'Treatment' universe is astonishing!

Mono - Episode 5 by MadefireStudios

The latest - arguable best - installment of MONO, drawn by Ben Wolstenholme and written by myself, is an intense, beautifully-crafted experience. Go read the whole series so far! The books are all free in the Motion Book category.

Houses of the Holy - Episode 7 by MadefireStudios

If you like to be scared, this is for you! XMen writer Mike Carey teams up with the Magik the Gathering artist Dave Kendall to bring you Houses of the Holy. If any book demonstrates how timing and animation can add to the horror, this is it!

Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest by MadefireStudios

Dave Lupton has produced numerous amazing books for Madefire. This latest Dracula story is one of his best!

PAID



This extraordinary, epic book is unlike anything I've ever seen. Critically acclaimed, controversial novelist Ricardo Pinto teams with legendary fantasy illustrator Adrian Smith to bring you an experience far beyond anything achievable in print comics. I urge you to buy the complete story and read it in one mesmerizing sitting...

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Episode 1 by MadefireStudios

It wouldn't be right not to feature one of the heavy hitters here, and they don't come bigger than Injustice! Amazing sound and animated elements elevate this far beyond all other digital versions of the same series. It was a smash hit in it's still, silent form. As a Motion Book it's exceptional!


________________________________________________________
For your reading pleasure - I give you Cap Stone! Completely free!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios
Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudios
Amazing.

I know, it's name-dropping, sure, but it's also a chance in a bazillion...

I spotted Guillermo Del Toro at Oakland airport yesterday.

For whatever reason I felt compelled just to say hello, or forever kick myself. So…

"Mr Del Toro?"

"Yes?"

"I just wanted to say hello. I believe we have some mutual friends…" and so it went for about three minutes.
I didn't want to push my luck, and everybody deserves their privacy. He was gracious, charming, and interested in who I was - which I believe says a lot about anybody. (My wife once put it very clearly - "it's as important to be interested as it is to be interesting…")
I was thrilled. 
Soon we parted ways.
I emailed some friends like the big kid I am, grinning ear to ear.
Then I queued up for boarding.
By chance I had A1 - the first in line - and when I boarded...
there he was!
I asked if he minded if I sat next to him and he very warmly said no, not at all!

Long story short, we chatted like old friends for the next hour and a half. He's a huge comics aficionado, and he really knows great art and artists. We share very mutual tastes, I'm delighted to say! Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Gibbons,  Michael Wm Kaluta, Brian Bolland, Richard Corben, Moebius, and of course the exceptional Mike Mignola. He owns some incredible work, and also know the great's that have influenced much later generations like Franklin Booth, and Clement Coll.

We also talked about movies, and he said what a terrible shame it was that Sam Rami's original Spiderman - a perfect film in his opinion - was now almost forgotten to a large extent. That everything was becoming more and more disposable. I had to concur. And we discussed more elegiac movie-making like 'The Assasination of Billy the Kid by the Coward Robert Ford', and 'The Master' - great, slow-burn stylistic movies that both lost money, even though they were (relatively) cheep to make by blockbuster standards.
There was much more, but you get the idea. I could have talked to him all day!

Finally I gave him a copy of my novel, 'God Killers', which I've been recently re-reading (it came out in 2008 so I was curious what I might think of it now.) And he was very taken by the Madefire app, and the concept of the tool we just released. He's going to download it onto his iPad. You could see his mind working! He said "Oh, you're working with all the good guys!"

Absolutely wonderful chance meeting. Normally if I'm ever lucky enough to meet people I admire it's at an event where they are being mobbed, and you rarely get chance to do more than shake their hand.

I'm just glad I bothered to say hello.
I'm still thrilled about it.
You can never be too old to be inspired, or delighted by talented people - most especially if they turn out to be warm human beings too. :D


________________________________________________________
For your reading pleasure - I give you Cap Stone! Completely free!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudios
It's ALIVE!!!!

OK, all, here she is!

Login. Upload. Publish direct to dA! HERE!

The Madefire Motion Book Tool by LiamSharp

Remember - this tool was made for ALL creators!

You can publish text only, or illustrated books, comics, or go the whole hog and add depth, sound and motion. It really is up to you, and only limited by your imagination!!!

Checkout this quick-start video - how to upload and publish a book in minutes:

 

Great demo by codygarciaart.deviantart.com

www.deviantart.com/art/CG-MOBO…
 

Motion Books on dA

Motion Book Tool Support

Video Tutorials


The revolution is here!!!!


Check out My Recent Journals:

I got angry!Anger.
Anger and frustration.
That's what started it all!
I'm not somebody that feels entitled. I don't expect anything from the world, or anybody in it. That said, I did feel I had earned a fair hearing. I'd put in the years, drawn the BIG books, and the cool ones! I thought I should, by rights, be able to get at least one pitch for a creator-owned comic written and drawn by me off the ground. But though I must have pitched upwards of 30 titles across the board over a period of TEN YEARS, nothing landed.
So yes. I was angry and frustrated!
I was asked, by the very excellent Joseph Michael Linsner, what Madefire was all about a couple of weeks ago, following the Big Wow Comic Fest. It was a good question, as it pointed out a gap in our message, something people were perhaps not getting:
Why?
Why do it?
What was the need?
The need was to create a platform for the digital age on which creat
  I got angry! Pt.2As I said - I got angry. Frustrated. And I see it a lot. How DO you get your work out there? How do you get seen?
Getting into comics is something a lot of people want to know how to do, but there's a lot of questions you want to ask yourself first. There is such a vast array of genre and sub-genre, technique, approach, and so on, that it's important to be clear where you want to go with your work at the outset – and you have to be REALLY honest and tough on yourself.
Do you want to draw:
Superheroes?
Manga?
Romance?
Antho?
Horror?
Sci-fi?
Erotic?
Intellectual?
Historical?
Low-brow?
If you're into the capes and tights and you want to go mainstream you're going to have to want it incredibly badly, as the competition is the most extreme I've ever known it right now. There seems to be more titles than ever - and with the digital revolution more people are capable of producing sleek, mainstream quality art - but right across the
I Got Angry! Pt.3I'm not an angry guy. I'm very mild-mannered. But there's SO MUCH I wish I had known up front, before I got into comics. There are rudimentaries that I'm kind of angry nobody clearly pointed out before I got in too deep.
Nobody tells you that in the mainstream, as an artist, you'll almost certainly be drawing stuff you're NOT prepared for, and don't really have any desire to do or passion for.
Are you hearing this? It's REALLY a big one:
You'll almost certainly be drawing stuff you're NOT prepared for, and don't really have any desire to do or passion for.
What does that mean? What are you saying Sharpie? How can that be right?
Well - and this is from experience - you won't generally get to draw or write the book you're most suited to.
Classic example: I've been trying to get a Conan gig my whole career - a book I'm so clearly suited to it's unreal, and pretty much every artist I know has said as much! - and yet, even after all this time (27 years

I Got Angry! Pt.4 (Furious Interlude!)I was wondering to myself if I was STILL angry about things, even after all these years - and honestly? I really am!
Actually - I'm f**king pissed-off!!!
You'll be hard-pressed to find an artist that isn't!
We're over a barrel. We're art monkeys. We're work-for-hire engines that spit out the creations of others as best we can, striving to gain enough prominence to sustain an ongoing living, dreaming of a legacy.
We face hatred, the bitter barbs of trolls, the cruel dismissal of subjectivity, unfair comparisons with our peers.
We have to navigate taste, culture, the need for relevance.
We have to beat our way past the legions of others after the same job.
We have to remain immune to the jealous mutterings of those that fall along the way.
It SUCKS being a part of the machine, the self-serving circle of an industry consuming itself because it doesn't know any better. It's stuck in an ancient cycle, a rotating dance that is literally going nowhere!
So yes. I'm f**k
I Got Angry Pt.5Something else to get a bit angry about...

DISTRIBUTION.

If you GET a distribution deal, you'll be in the long shadow cast by the big companies, buried in a dark corner of a vast monthly catalogue.

If you have no marketing budget, then your only option is to hit message boards, FaceBook, indie-driven comic sites, and by getting hold of a list of the internet comics news sites – they're easy enough to find, you just have to Google them.
If you have created your own book, and your dream is to see it printed, but you have literally no funds and nobody is willing to publish it, there are other great options, such as http://www.lulu.com/blog/tag/print-on-demand/. Here you can upload your entire book having placed it into one of the templates they provide, and you can then order a printed, bound copy direct from them for the price you set for it. Print on demand is an incredible innovation, and like Amazon, they will list your book for anybody to buy, they'll eve
I Got Angry Pt.6Something else that get's me angry...
Why can't artist's be EXPECTED to experiment? To try new things? To be innovative?
Why is it that drawing in the same style forever is viewed as THE BEST approach?
How do we unlearn this?
How do we encourage creators to be daring, and our readers to be more open and daring too?
I admit it.
I chop and I change, and if you're looking for a book that is consistent then you'd better not invest any time in me! As a result I've lost many fans over the years. People at cons sometimes say 'where did you go after The Hulk? I thought you must have left the industry...'
They never knew I was always here, but always changing.
Case in point - 'Captain Stone is Missing...' (FREE on dA here: www.deviantart.com/art/Captain…) may be, in my opinion, the best work of my career, but consistent it is not!!!
For me there are artists tha


And here's the complete first series of my Captain Stone motion books! All free!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudios

Look, let's just get this out of the way once and for all...

WE ALL LOVE PRINT!

I mean - we REALLY REALLY REALLY love print!

Nobody - NO-BO-DY! - wants to kill print. Not Madefire, not deviantART, not any other digital art, comic or literature provider. That isn't the point of digital at all! That conversation should be forced to stand in a corner with a dunce hat on, because it really is THAT dumb and isn't worth our time. Don't look at it. Don't talk to it. And definitely don't feel sorry for it! It's a trolling meme and doesn't have a worthy or generous thought in it's very small brainpan. It's an evil little turd with a mean spirit and no imagination.

And don't feed it either!

Now then...

Let's rip open our skulls and publish directly into our brains shall we? Let's stream story-forms to our liminal cortex and mainline creativity! Let's unlearn everything we thought we knew about words, pictures, motion, sound, and the mediums we know so well, because the more we can forget the more open we can be - open to styles, innovation, invention, magic, and poetry carved out of light and pumped at our eye-receptacles as wave/particles.

I'm actually not joking!

Revolutions require us to wake up. We KNOW we are consumers. We KNOW that we are only very SLIGHTLY free. We KNOW that every little liberty is being stripped bit by bit from us by a constructed media narrative intent on making us paranoid and afraid to speak up. We know that we are watched, and studied, and judged, and that we are mostly revenue-generating engines for creatures that look, sound and seem just like us, but long ago stopped giving any kind of a damn.

I don't care if you are right-wing, left-wing, liberal, socialist, conservative, religious or a non-believer - you conform to the above. And it's NOT good.

The artistic revolution I refer to is about progress in a changing world, and we CAN make a difference.

These are your weapons:

Imagination.

Your imagination is entirely your own. It's like a muscle. You can grow it, exercise it, and make it more powerful. 
Just as you may buy an album for one song, but after a few months your favorite song is the one you least liked - probably because it is the most difficult, most challenging track. The one with a tricky structure, complex rhythm changes, deep lyrical content - great art and great stories can take time to appreciate. You have to work hard to attain the rewards. This is also true of literature. The books I loved and enjoyed the most have generally not been the books that made me a better writer or reader. I love a by-the-numbers fantasy or sci-fi romp, but it's reading James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Herman Melville that pushed me towards new ways of thinking. They helped me grow.
Read smart, view and review smart, and don't carve your opinions in stone.

History

You do NOT need to be any kind of intellectual to grow as an artist or writer. I was a very average achiever academically, but I've chosen to spend a good portion of my life learning whatever I can. Indeed I have discovered a love of knowledge, a need to be as widely informed as I can be.
When I refer to history I mean it in the sense that people too readily seal themselves in a point in time. Generally some point between their early teens and mid-twenties I believe, a point during which most beliefs are set in stone - if you LET them be! (And I strongly advocate that you don't!) Allowing yourself to remain trapped in a point in time, a perceived 'perfect' spot, where nothing can be improved upon is a guaranteed way to kill creativity. 'If it ain't broke, yadda yadda...'
I cry bullshit. 
History, and the knowledge of it, allows you to see progress, the steps that led to all the things you love - and maybe also hate. To some comic readers, artists and writers there was no time before print comics. There was no time before comics! They are perceived as perfection, and should be left alone - even if they were better in the 70s/80s/90s/etc. before the modern creators "raped my childhood"... Change, ever the villain!
Learn about ART, the birth of literature, drama, comedy, sequential storytelling, the strength of the political cartoon, the incredible, devastating power of a few well constructed words.
Don't believe anybody in assumed authority is automatically RIGHT. Grow your own mind.
And BE STRONG ENOUGH TO CHANGE YOUR VIEWS - and I mean that about EVERYTHING.

Patronage

We need to look out for each other.
That sounds so simple, but it really isn't! It require dedication!
An example - some ten years ago myself and a few of my fellow creators realized that there was a meme perpetuated on comic journals, forums, news sites, etc. that meant that the same ten or twenty creators appeared on all the lists of top creators, almost without exception. They still do. We KNEW that many of the best of our peers NEVER MADE IT ONTO THOSE LISTS, even successful ones. We looked about, mutually appreciating the fact that for whatever reason we did not circulate in these hallowed groups. Some of us had come close, but our moment in the sun had quickly passed. Others had NEVER been truly appreciated, no matter how brilliant. It seemed wrong to us!
So we made a loose pact - that we would each mention the other, start NEW lists. Subvert the corporate system, the mainstream narrative, and inspire people to look at artists that truly deserved the respect of fandom, the critics, and the medium at large.
I have to say, almost to a man they never followed through. But I can hand on heart say that I did, and I can also say I've seen it make a real difference. I've made it part of my routine to plug those underdogs, to share their art, to sing the praises of those that have shared my journey and inspired me.
It is IMPERATIVE that we all do this, otherwise there is no shout. There is no new discovery of greatness outside of the monied and well-trodden systems already so long in place. We fail before we even begin.
Plug the artists you love! Share their work. Be a patron! :-)

(Note: re. Patronage - I am happy to say I see some fantastic patronage on dA. It's one of the things I love about it.)


This week there will be a HUGE opportunity for all creators, if we play it right. I'm very excited to see what happens next... 
So, having gotten all riled up about publishing, I wanted to do a recap, and see what ground we covered:

My first angry post was all about 'why' - why do it? What was the motivation? Why was I so bloody angry? And what was I doing about it?

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Part 2 was about identity - who are you? What should you know about yourself and the industry if you really want to get serious about it?
techgnotic.deviantart.com/ wrote as part of his amazing response: 'But I think there comes a time when the whole system becomes so exhausted from mindless repetition that a certain cynicism becomes the only form of true enlightenment and what we loved about our artistic obsessions gets forgotten.'
deevelliott.deviantart.com/ also had some strong thoughts, including 'you have to bite your lip when f**ked up the arse and treated like you don't matter, better still smile and say thank you very much.'
It was a very exciting thread that threw up some strong feelings - the revolution gained a little steam here!

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Part 3 was more on expectations, with a little genius coaching from the late great Wally Wood - one of the finest comic strip artists there has ever been.
Take outs - if you are lucky enough to work with the big boys, don't expect to get to draw your favorite. Character. Ever. And if you DO, don't expect it to be easy. Be prepared!

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Part 4 was my furious interlude - how do I feel now?
How has being a pro ACTUALLY effected me over the years?
What are the scars and the war stories?
Alan Moore's daughter Leah actually sent me a message saying how much she agreed, and how shocked she was that even somebody with my history in the biz should feel that way.
Lots of pros have had this journey:

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Part 5 was back to practical stuff:

Distribution
Avatars
How to behave as a creator

I got into a great discussion about avatars with mojoliazon.deviantart.com/ (The jury is still out. What do you think? See the conversation in the link!)

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Part 6 was all about experimentation, pushing the boundaries, being a unique voice, and the pros and cons of that.
Views on both sides were discussed in the thread that followed!

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Just Fucking Do It!
This was about boiling down the reality into one bold post.
You want to do it? Then just fucking do it!!!

liamsharp.deviantart.com/journ…

Thanks all for amazing feedback, thoughts, etc. I've really enjoyed browsing your galleries, and hearing about how you would change things given half the chance.

Feel free to share, and revisit the discussions! :-)


________________________________________________________
For your reading pleasure - I give you Cap Stone! Completely free!

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Episode 2: Ada by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 3: Charlie by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone is Missing... - Ep. 4: Captain Stone by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone is Missing... E5: The Craven Panther by MadefireStudiosCaptain Stone Is Missing... - Episode 6: The Pet by MadefireStudios

Captain Stone Is Missing - Episode 7: Brother Sun  by MadefireStudios


Here's another old post relevant to our current thread:

When I was putting together my art book 'Dead Apes in the Snow', which is pretty much a retrospective and features a lot of my work that's up here on DA (and there's a free digital copy here: - www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/… ) I wanted to write something for aspiring artists that was honest, to the point, and not anodyne, with regard to how you get into the industry.
But the harder I tried the less true it seemed.
The reality is that there is no secret way in, you just - well - you just have to fucking do it!
This was the text that made it into the book. I know it sounds simple, and nothing is that easy (as the text says, it's a long, harsh and difficult road!) but there really is no easy answer, no fast-track into the trade. It's hard work, a bit of talent and a lot of luck.
Everything else anybody will tell you is just advice.

This is the only true answer:

JUST FUCKING DO IT.

Nobody gives you a hand up.
There are no easy answers, and there is no back stage pass.
If you can't see that your art needs work – and it always needs work – then you may as well stop right now.
You want to know how to get into the industry?

Just fucking do it.

Along the way you'll be told about light and dark.
Don't forget to draw the damn feet.
Ink like this, with a brush.
No, that's old-school.
Nobody draws like that now.
Look at this guy!
Read this stuff!
That's a bunch of sell-out crap.
You want to be honest, or a real artist?
You want to know what you really aught to do?
There'll be detractors and pimps, users, abusers, and the you'll walk the long walk before peer and competitor, friend and fan – and, oh, the scorn of the fan if you don't serve them the goods that they demand!
You'll be alone, and you'll be searching for wood in the forest.
How do we do it?

We just fucking do it.

Don't pretend. Don't kid yourself.
You're up against the most amazingly versatile creators alive today – the guarded old pros eyeing the hungry young.
You have to draw whatever the hell you are asked to draw, and right now. There's no time to think about it. You have to act.
And you had better love drawing more than you love drawing what you love drawing.
And remember:

Just fucking do it.

There's no state holiday at the end of every long-haul gig.
Promises will be made and broken.
Sure bets will stumble over hastily painted finishing lines.
There will never be enough time.
But if you want to sing in picture form;
play in realms it is ours and ours alone to play in;
meld the twin languages of image and word into two dimensional sequences that can be more than the sum of their parts.
If you want to try and make your mark;
break out;
reinvent yourself and the whole damn medium
– and hell! Why not?
Well, you know what I'm going to say:

Just fucking do it.
Something else that get's me angry...

Why can't artist's be EXPECTED to experiment? To try new things? To be innovative?
Why is it that drawing in the same style forever is viewed as THE BEST approach?
How do we unlearn this?
How do we encourage creators to be daring, and our readers to be more open and daring too?

I admit it.
I chop and I change, and if you're looking for a book that is consistent then you'd better not invest any time in me! As a result I've lost many fans over the years. People at cons sometimes say 'where did you go after The Hulk? I thought you must have left the industry...'
They never knew I was always here, but always changing.

Case in point - 'Captain Stone is Missing...' (FREE on dA here: www.deviantart.com/art/Captain…) may be, in my opinion, the best work of my career, but consistent it is not!!!

For me there are artists that are able to produce work that spans decades in a style that remains consistent, professional and inspired. I envy these guys enormously! Page one of 'Watchmen' drawn by my friend and personal hero Dave Gibbons looks to my eyes as if it was drawn the day before the last page of issue 12. It's an incredible achievement! (He begs to differ by the way!) But then there are artists like the equally brilliant Moebius who would change styles page to page, even panel to panel, depending on his mood, aspects of his life, or a suddenly flash of inspiration.

I definitely fall into the second category!

I'm a jack of many trades, and can pencil, ink, paint in several mediums, and work digitally - even utilizing 3D aspects at one point in my career.
My drawing style is all over the bloody place.
I have no system, no fall-back stylistically, and no attack plan.
I dive in to any project with ebullience and naivety, full-steam ahead and cavalier in a take-no-prisoners way.
I have no idea what I'm doing, but I will give it my all, or die trying, and sometimes these efforts will fail. Sometimes royally!

Is it wrong to do this?


Well - some might say "yes", and others "no".

No - in that it has resulted in a strong regard from fellow creators who get the scope and the inherent daring of what I attempt in my work.
They know how hard it is, and they see a creator that is constantly reaching for something, attempting to evolve; to grow; to learn.
I appreciate this enormously from these people, and it is certainly humbling. It makes me what I would categorize as 'an artist's artist', not a fan fav.

Yes - in that it's a perilous route, as it means editors can be a little wary as they have no way of knowing what to expect.
They have to trust my vision, and naturally they have the eyes of the corporations peering over their shoulders.
Also - as mentioned - it is hard for fans to follow, to get their teeth into. They have no way of knowing if they will even like the next 'Liam Sharp' project, because it could be so far removed from the one before it, the one they really loved.

In practice I veer between the mainstream - like Jim Lee - and the great stylists - like Bill Sienkiewicz.
I'm between a pillar and a post.

So - would I choose to have it any other way?

The truth is I don't have a choice in the matter.
I am the artist I am.
I've loved the opportunity to work such varied material, and have responded to it in the only way I've known how: always looking for a way for my art to best reflect the content.

Slicker artists are more popular.
More consistent artists are more popular.

I accept that.

And I have, on occasion, walked that road and enjoyed the fruits of it. 'Death's Head II', and 'Gears of War' were the most consistent jobs I ever did, and they easily sold the most.

But would I, could I be happy maintaining those styles indefinitely?

No.
Absolutely, unequivocally not.
I, as an artist, care more about my personal growth than I do about fame.
Life is too short, and serving corporations until I burn out and am no longer in vogue - that has no appeal.
So I'll trade mass-appeal for integrity and continue to follow the root my heart has dictated.

It might not be the clever way to go, but - as the cliche goes - it's my way. :-) (Smile)

It is my view that this growing revolution of creators doing their own thing will change the face of storytelling in visual mediums forever. It will become a global boutique of personal projects - projects that embolden writers and artists, that reinvent the norms, and free us of expectations. They will be honest in way they can not be through the old corporate paths.

They will be YOU stories, and MY stories, and collectively OUR stories.

Meanwhile: This time ask me a question. I'll do my best to give you a straight-up answer!



Note: This was adapted from an earlier journal that seemed relevant to this current thread of journals, so don't hate me for a bit of copy and paste! There will be more as I find relevance in old posts! :D
Something else to get a bit angry about...

DISTRIBUTION.


If you GET a distribution deal, you'll be in the long shadow cast by the big companies, buried in a dark corner of a vast monthly catalogue.

If you have no marketing budget, then your only option is to hit message boards, FaceBook, indie-driven comic sites, and by getting hold of a list of the internet comics news sites – they're easy enough to find, you just have to Google them.

If you have created your own book, and your dream is to see it printed, but you have literally no funds and nobody is willing to publish it, there are other great options, such as www.lulu.com/blog/tag/print-on…. Here you can upload your entire book having placed it into one of the templates they provide, and you can then order a printed, bound copy direct from them for the price you set for it. Print on demand is an incredible innovation, and like Amazon, they will list your book for anybody to buy, they'll even generate an isbn number and barcode, and provide editorial services if you wish. For this they will take a small percentage of any book sold - all very reasonable. The downside is you have no stock you can sell and show at cons, (unless you order a bunch as samples, but they will cost you the full price,) and you have to find a way to market them online – which is bloody hard if nobody has heard of you, and not easy even when they have!

If you accept all of this, I can promise you – there's nothing more rewarding than seeing it through. It's amazingly satisfying and cathartic.

The biggest issue of all concerning new publishers, indie publishers, and publishers of niche material in general, is promotion, distribution, and printing.

Securing a distributor in the first place can prove extremely difficult. Many book buyers simply won't take you seriously. Some require you to have published 10 books before they will even take a look at your material.

But lets say you get a deal with a distributor; immediately you'll be losing 62% of your revenue – and that's excluding advertising and printing costs. To get seen in the catalog will cost you an arm and a leg if it's going to compete, and there will be no concessions in the price. Big companies receive huge discounts for advertising space because they buy so much of it. You, on the other hand, will have to pay the going rate.

You will also have to pay the full amount for your printing, as – unlike the big companies who get good deals for huge print runs – you'll most likely be involved in one generally tiny print run.

Promotion is an endless cycle of head-scratching and frustration, and it often doesn't seem to be reflected in sales. You can win awards, receive great reviews and endorsements, even get yourself in national – or even international – papers and magazines, and you still won't be able to get decent orders, the trust and faith of the retailer, and the full backing of the distributor. It's the most talked about subject of any indie comic publisher, and it can break hearts and bank accounts. Be warned!

If you really want to hear it as it is, you have to network within the industry – and be prepared to listen to people! It's a tiny business, so you really DON'T want to make enemies!!!

THAT MEANS - BE CIVIL!!!


Do not, on any account, force yourself into conversations, or make demands on pros.
DO NOT BE RUDE OR SUGGEST YOU KNOW BETTER.


A bad rep, once it gets hold, is near impossible to shake, and in such a navel-gazing industry it can be remembered for a very long time indeed.

Look long and hard before asking a question, but if you do, you'll find there are a lot of people willing to give you answers and fill you in on how things work. Again, civility is the key-word!

If you think you know it all you'll be laughed out of the industry…


If you can build up a good rapport online, you'll find that pros are more open to you at cons, once they've established who you are - don't hide behind online pseudonyms, they don't help you. People want to know they're talking to real people, not "Frag Gor the Battle Rat"!
There's a lot of vitriol being spawned because people hiding behind their avatars feel they can say what they please - and creators feelings and emotions are seldom spared!


Having said all this, something inside me drives me to continue. I love what we do, and I love art and the written word, comics and illustration related material in all it's forms. Few art-forms are so labor intensive - if any - but few can transport us so readily to the places we imagine. Comics have the potential to be pretty much anything, as a fusion of words and pictures, and the more people who see and understand this the better.

It's important we learn to be broad-minded in the things we're interested in, both as creators and readers, so that this evolution in the art-form can take place.

Which leads me to the latest evolution in publishing, and a genuine revolution that is happening RIGHT NOW ON dA!

Madefire have created a set of tools that will allow deviants to make Motion Books and publish them right here on dA.
They don't have to be as complex as the ones that have been showcased so far, but that's up to you, the creator. They can be simple, they can be complex. All that matters is how YOU want to tell your stories.
The tool is in the cloud, so writers and artists can talk to each other real-time as the pages are built - even if they are on opposite sides of the world.

It's being opened up to the creative community here in increments, but will soon be available TO EVERYBODY. Keep your eyes open for THAT bit of news!

There's already a creative revolution going on here on dA, with all of us becoming patrons of the arts, patrons of each other. With the tool going live very soon this could literally change the face of publishing with whole new mediums evolving, and incredible new ways of telling stories being pioneered by deviants.

It's INCREDIBLY exciting, and I'm personally putting all my new, and some of my old work up here because I believe it's in this digital first world that the new myths of the 21st Century will be written.

www.deviantart.com/motionbooks…

deevelliott.deviantart.com/ has had years of experience in publishing and you should check out what he's doing on dA and elsewhere too, as he's one of the visionaries!

We're in a time where the whole medium could really explode, but only if we let it - and that's something we're all a part of and responsible for.

THERE ARE CREATORS ON dA RIGHT NOW WHO GET MORE READERS EVERY TIME THEY POST UP A NEW STORY THAN ANY OF THE BEST-SELLING PRINT BOOKS!!!
This is actually pretty bloody amazing, and the industry itself hasn't really cottoned on to this yet. It simply doesn't know. It's oblivious!!!

Here on dA WE decide what is cool, and WE back the creators WE choose to love. It's democratic. dA is a city and we make our own heroes here.

But we can't rest on our laurels. We have to give back. We have to join in, vote with our finger-tips. We have to show up.

It's, of course, this last bit that excites me most! It's why I'm here, doing what I do - so I can tell MY stories.

A friend of mine said recently 'You're Liam F**king Sharp!!! You should just get on with it. People will come. Just let them know where you are..."

So that's what I'm doing! You're welcome to join me! :-)

Meanwhile:

What would you like to hear more about in these threads?
How would you transform publishing if you could?
I was wondering to myself if I was STILL angry about things, even after all these years - and honestly? I really am!

Actually - I'm f**king pissed-off!!!

You'll be hard-pressed to find an artist that isn't!
We're over a barrel. We're art monkeys. We're work-for-hire engines that spit out the creations of others as best we can, striving to gain enough prominence to sustain an ongoing living, dreaming of a legacy.
We face hatred, the bitter barbs of trolls, the cruel dismissal of subjectivity, unfair comparisons with our peers.
We have to navigate taste, culture, the need for relevance.
We have to beat our way past the legions of others after the same job.
We have to remain immune to the jealous mutterings of those that fall along the way.

It SUCKS being a part of the machine, the self-serving circle of an industry consuming itself because it doesn't know any better. It's stuck in an ancient cycle, a rotating dance that is literally going nowhere!

So yes. I'm f**king angry!

THAT'S why I'm in California, half a world away from family and friends.
THAT'S why I'm building books that conform to NOTHING I've ever seen before.
THAT'S why Madefire exists.


It's no accident!

I've been battered my whole career - we're a bunch of self-flagellating pawns. I've literally doffed my cap in earnest to the industry, like a serf, near enough begging for work at times. I've belittled myself, and blamed myself, and believed - at times - I must have no skill at all, because the industry had again turned its massive, impassive back in my direction.

I'VE BELIEVED THAT!

It's made me ill, and sad, and self-hating, tired. I've nearly given up so many more times than I can say.

Nearly.

Sound mellow-dramatic? Believe it or not, it's not an unusual story! I've heard it again and again and again...

So what do we do about it?

We come together.

And that's what these 'Angry' posts are all about - coming together.

There's A LOT more to come! :-)

Onwards!

Meanwhile - what makes YOU really mad about the comics industry right now?
How would you change it?
I'm not an angry guy. I'm very mild-mannered. But there's SO MUCH I wish I had known up front, before I got into comics. There are rudimentaries that I'm kind of angry nobody clearly pointed out before I got in too deep.

Nobody tells you that in the mainstream, as an artist, you'll almost certainly be drawing stuff you're NOT prepared for, and don't really have any desire to do or passion for.

Are you hearing this? It's REALLY a big one:

You'll almost certainly be drawing stuff you're NOT prepared for, and don't really have any desire to do or passion for.

What does that mean? What are you saying Sharpie? How can that be right?

Well - and this is from experience - you won't generally get to draw or write the book you're most suited to.

Classic example: I've been trying to get a Conan gig my whole career - a book I'm so clearly suited to it's unreal, and pretty much every artist I know has said as much! - and yet, even after all this time (27 years no less, man and boy) I've still not drawn Conan for a comic, at least not officially. Not a cover, not a strip. Even when I drew the Hulk, which you'd expect to be a perfect fit, there was key elements that didn't suit me: I hated, at the time, drawing cars and suburban-type scenes - but my Hulk was a Mechanic in small-town Florida (a place I'd never been, and this was pre-Google. Getting ref wasn't as easy. I really had no sense of the place at all!) Also - I'm pretty good at monsters, barbarians, trees, natural landscapes, organic alien technology, and yet early on in my career I found myself struggling to draw stories packed full of things I'm NOT very good at - house interiors, buildings... all things I found uninspiring and tough to work out.

And it was not fun for me doing that work - even when it's on a classic title like Spiderman!


So bear this in mind:

Your portfolio – which should be mostly pencil art, half as big again as regular comic pages on high quality paper, and not inked with ball-point pens or felt tips – will almost certainly be stuffed with things you LIKE drawing. Because nobody practices the stuff they don't like!
It will typically, for mainstream hopefuls, be a hero-shot, or a character study. You need to include a really intense conversation between Peter Parker and, say, J.Jonah Jameson, or Mary Jane. Something that shows you know how to make your characters act, show emotion, anger, fear, love. How they will slouch, or gesticulate. And you need to make it look great!
You need to include backgrounds - and not just backgrounds featuring cool shit you're into. You need to draw the boring stuff, but make it LOOK cool.

Check out this amazing example by the legendary Wally Wood:

http://ifanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/WallyWoods.jpg.jpeg

If you DON'T want to go mainstream your other alternative is the indie route - which is the route for committed auteurs doing comics for the love of it.

This is much more flexible, though you still have to find a company that fits your vision and buys into your work – and you absolutely will not make any money out of it 99.9% of the time, as the rates will be tiny and there will rarely be any royalties. You will need a paying job to support your efforts.

If you can't find a publisher, you might as well just go ahead and publish it yourself:

However, if you really want to go down the self-publishing print or indie route, then again you need to be very honest with yourself, and you need to know how unbelievably hard it is to get your stuff seen and sold. It has never been so easy to create comics and produce printable or digital files, it has never been so cheap, and subsequently neither have there been so many people doing it.

With the advent of platforms like MySpace and reality TV, Andy Warhol's assertion that everybody will be famous for 15 minutes seems to be coming true. We're seeing everybody selling themselves everywhere – often with absolutely nothing to sell BUT themselves.

That's what you're up against – everybody else selling something.


So you have to have a good idea WHO is likely to buy your work, and why, and where you're going to sell it
.

You've also got to know why you're doing it – because if you honestly think it'll be a good business venture you're almost certainly in for a shock.
The only way to succeed as an independent is to do it for nothing else than the love of the medium, and belief in your product.


But then again - you MIGHT just be one of the very few that get lucky!

Probably the hardest thing to really know is - what it is that your work has that makes it worth the effort.

You'll ideally need a pretty accomplished and experienced eye casting over most work to genuinely know if it's pro-quality. There's an awful lot of self-delusion in the indie publishing world! By this I mean:

Lot's of artists explain away bad figure work as their 'personal' style. Style and bad drawing are NOT the same thing.
Others say that structural necessities like 'perspective' are subjective. This isn't true.
Many think that learning to draw by just looking at comics is OK. It isn't.

(Note - OF COURSE there are example that disprove my above statement, but they are exceptions to the rule.)

Anything you can do to draw better you should!
Life drawing, taking photographs, landscape drawing, urban city drawing, trying other mediums, studying anatomy (human and animal) and studying GREAT art by the MASTERS (not just comic artists) is absolutely essential, and I promise you - YOU WILL GROW! YOU WILL GET BETTER!

LEARN ALL YOU CAN, ALWAYS!

I believe now is the best time ever for route 2: the Indie Route - and I'll expand on that soon!

Meanwhile:

What was your first love when it comes to art (Doesn't have to be comics!)
Is there a profound noticeable difference between the comics of your childhood, and those of today? And if so - is it a good thing?
As I said - I got angry. Frustrated. And I see it a lot. How DO you get your work out there? How do you get seen?

Getting into comics is something a lot of people want to know how to do, but there's a lot of questions you want to ask yourself first. There is such a vast array of genre and sub-genre, technique, approach, and so on, that it's important to be clear where you want to go with your work at the outset – and you have to be REALLY honest and tough on yourself.

Do you want to draw:
Superheroes?
Manga?
Romance?
Antho?
Horror?
Sci-fi?
Erotic?
Intellectual?
Historical?
Low-brow?

If you're into the capes and tights and you want to go mainstream you're going to have to want it incredibly badly, as the competition is the most extreme I've ever known it right now. There seems to be more titles than ever - and with the digital revolution more people are capable of producing sleek, mainstream quality art - but right across the industry there's an enormous amount of competition. The world is a much smaller place!

All of the above requires different skills - knowledge of anatomy maybe, skill as a cartoonist, empathy, good acting chops, perspective, choreography, lighting, animal anatomy, etc. (I'll come back to all this artsy stuff on a later post!)

One thing I will say, though, is that I'm NOT seeing any break-the-mould, edgy and accomplished new types of comic art at conventions. Invariably it's by-the-numbers, very average 'superhero'-type fare at a basic level of ability - what I would typify as around three or four years off pro-quality-standard, but showing some promise, if not terribly inspired. A pin-up of Spiderman or Wolverine typically. No storytelling. Very little in the way of backgrounds. I often wonder when we're going to see the next Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, etc. - the next great stylist. Originality is not only becoming rarer, it seems less desired - either by the industry or the fans, who seem want above all else consistency and simplicity. I think we have to fight this! I think it's important that we reach, and stretch ourselves as artists, and that we educate our readers so that they grow with us. Unless comics are prepared to push themselves in a literate and artistic sense then they are not worthy of being considered 'true' art. It deserves it's lowly reputation.

Push yourselves people, and in doing so, lead your audience to higher, broader, more educated expectations. And push yourself as a reader too.

You might be interested to know that very few artists or writers are "discovered", becoming over-night sensations.
I'll actually say that again: very few artists or writers are "discovered", becoming over-night sensations.
It's a shit-fight!
It's very tough to sustain a life as an artist for anybody, and that's the harsh truth. That said, if you keep fighting, keep learning, be open, be bold, be polite, and deliver on time, it can be the most rewarding of lives too. There's no quick fix, no easy answer, no clever techniques. There's no right or wrong, and sometimes the best people go unseen. You simply have to keep doing it, and strive for that lucky break - and luck WILL play a part, along with the sweat and tears. And after all THAT there's a CHANCE to become an over-night sensation!
:-)

Marvel has a full-time talent scout now. Most UK writers will have cut their teeth in 2000ad, and that's certainly the case for many artists too – even though the art in 2000ad isn't necessarily done in a US mainstream technique.
If you can't get in to the industry through a break in 2000ad, or you're US based, then you have to go direct to the US editors at DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and so on. You'll most likely find one of them at a con – at which point you can sign-up for a portfolio review, endure any criticism or advice they might make about your work, and get the details you need to submit work. It's not easy, and it's fraught with disappointment – even as a pro of 27+ years, I never got any of my personal pitches off the ground! It's a lottery.

However - there are some BIG NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN DIGITAL, and right here on dA, and with Madefire.

More news about that very soon!!!

Meanwhile - tell me your experiences.

What is your view of the comic industry at present?
What about illustrated storytelling in general?
What would you like to see that you NEVER see in story-based art?
Anger.

Anger and frustration.

That's what started it all!

I'm not somebody that feels entitled. I don't expect anything from the world, or anybody in it. That said, I did feel I had earned a fair hearing. I'd put in the years, drawn the BIG books, and the cool ones! I thought I should, by rights, be able to get at least one pitch for a creator-owned comic written and drawn by me off the ground. But though I must have pitched upwards of 30 titles across the board over a period of TEN YEARS, nothing landed.

So yes. I was angry and frustrated!

I was asked, by the very excellent Joseph Michael Linsner, what Madefire was all about a couple of weeks ago, following the Big Wow Comic Fest. It was a good question, as it pointed out a gap in our message, something people were perhaps not getting:

Why?

Why do it?

What was the need?

The need was to create a platform for the digital age on which creators, independent or otherwise, could tell their stories.

You see - just because our motion books have sound and motion, it doesn't mean yours have to. In fact they don't even have to be motion books! It's really up to the creator. They can, in fact, be purely digital comics. True to the medium. Authentic and honest. I just put one of my own up in the Motion Book section here on dA, called January Man. It's a comic. No bells, no whistles.

Yes, we have pushed that boundary because - well, as the mountaineer said - it was there. We would have been fools not to test what it COULD do! This is a new space, potential for a new medium. But it doesn't HAVE to be that.

Keep your eyes open to our news, here, on our website (www.madefire.com) and elsewhere. Expect some major updates in the coming few weeks...
Fuck. What is left unsaid to us? 
My teeth itch for some reason when I half-dwell on unfulfilled, always urgent ambitions that the flight of days leave improbable at best. 
And I am a lucky man.
What uncle/aunt/mother/father/brother/sister/teacher/grandma/grandpa didn't gift/damn you with subtle, or otherwise, praise that drove a flurry of empty/perfect creation, copied/gleaned from other lives lived in similar futile pursuit?
And I am a lucky man.
And who said it best and when? You are an artist. And did we question it then? Or later - when it grew harder, tireder, and so very far from the light, bright splashes of a sort of erudite visual blooming?
And I mean it - I count myself the luckiest of men.
You must know the feeling - it's like a nagging childhood yearning, dimmed but persistent. And it says:
More
Better
Still better
And more
And it says whatever you do it's not good enough. Never going to be.
And in truth - I really am a lucky man.
You'll never be that fluent, it says. You'll never be that good.
And you'll wake to days that scream for god's sake, man! Why did you not sing, or write, or act, or... 
Or what? Because nothing will ever
Ever
Deliver what those appropriated expectations demand!
Yup.
We'll always fail ourselves.
And we are the lucky ones!
There's a quested soul that lurks in the finest of us, and it burns brightest, often, in the arcing amber gleams at the far end of a pint or six. And if not there, in speed or anger. Or all three. 
When passion gives way to only skill - what then?
You are a lucky man.
When conviction gives way to doubt, and the deadline beats a rhythm that defines your every day, your every hour, what then?
Be glad, they say, for you are a lucky man!
When every shaken hand, and smile, and broad gesture of a life well lived masks doubt, what then?
And your fingers pluck invisible chords unlearned. Your ears strain to grasp fleeting melodies caught on a breath, a clamor of city life, a dance of wind and wing in open spaces. Symphonies in feathers and dust and smoke.
Those classic, forever unmade movies that run through our heads at night?
The novels that will shed new light on the pictorial legacy of the comic - the medium we can neither elevate nor destroy, escape nor fully embrace, because we are not worthy of such greatness that the fusion of word and image might promise, should promise, does promise?
Did I not say? 
I am a lucky lucky man.
To stand in the shoes of those giants so briefly.
To imagine such epics in ink and paper, and tears and soul, but fail - and fail we all do.
To try.
And to fail.
And to try again.
Ah yes.
That's right.
I am 
a lucky 
man.
Did you ever really THINK about what money is? I mean, what it ACTUALLY is?

I never did. It's probably part of the reason I'm not very money-oriented; not, in my heart, a capitalist. But still, as I look around at the news, at the growing divide between the rich and poor - they that truly care about the world and its well-being, and they that do not, and all that comes of globally powerful corporations, and how they absorb and smother all else that tries to grow in their shadow - and it seems increasingly like something I really HAVE to understand.

But where do you start?

There's a lot to know. And it's not cut and dried! There are many human transactions that happen without a like-for-like trade, and sometimes with no trade at all. You'll pass a hammer to somebody banging a nail in the wall to hand your photo. You'll help somebody weaker than you carry their bag across a road, up some stairs. You might furnish a beggars paper cup with a paper dollar. Not all of these are moral trade-offs. They aren't done to get soul points in the game of life. Often they are altruistic in the truest Darwinian sense - we're helping our fellow human animals survive. We're innately compassionate - at least, some of us are - and these moments well from that. Or else they are purely practical acts.

I didn't know, but at the heart of western economic theory (and it IS considered a science, with irrefutable laws) there lies a pseudo-anthropological genesis story that is only logical in the most basic sense. The story goes like this: One man in a village needs a new shoe. He happens to grow potatoes. Another man has a spare shoe but needs potatoes. Because of this 'double accident of need' they are able to trade. In fact all western monetary theory hinges on this - and it's in error. Because it turns out that no 'actual' anthropological evidence exists to suggest we naturally create like for like trading relationships within villages, towns or tribes - early societies if you like. The examples of barter-based periods (the post-empire dark ages) or nations are erroneous.

Many of the so-called 'primitive' societies studied in the 1950 in Africa, for example, had nothing like the kind of monetary system attributed to like-for-like bartering. Value would be seen in a type of hand-made cloth, or a rare wood, and would be used more as a symbol gift between tribes to facilitate marriages, or put right a wrong - such as an accidental killing. Some tribes had life-debts, with women as a kind of empowered currency. Indeed bondmaids have always been a form of currency - even (shockingly) today, where the very wealthiest businessmen might be offered women for the night. This is because these women have parents that have debts, as often as not, and we see this even on mainstream TV, frequently, and almost never really think about what is at the heart of such a transaction. Children become currency.

But still, what does a coin ACTUALLY represent?

Well, it's an IOU, but one that can be passed on in faith. And in order to work it needs debt.

Money can be made like this: A king needs an army. To support his army he needs to be able to feed it. To feed it he needs people who farm to provide his army food. He mints coins for his army, then demands tax from the farmers. To get the money to pay the king the farmers sell their stock to the army, who pay for it with the coins given them by the king. This is, of course, simplistic, but the Bank of England was formed almost exactly so (from wikipedia):

"England's crushing defeat by France, the dominant naval power, in naval engagements culminating in the 1690 Battle of Beachy Head, became the catalyst for England's rebuilding itself as a global power. England had no choice but to build a powerful navy. No public funds were available, and the credit of William III's government was so low in London that it was impossible for it to borrow the £1,200,000 (at 8 per cent) that the government wanted.

In order to induce subscription to the loan, the subscribers were to be incorporated by the name of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England. The Bank was given exclusive possession of the government's balances, and was the only limited-liability corporation allowed to issue bank notes.[14] The lenders would give the government cash (bullion) and issue notes against the government bonds, which can be lent again. The £1.2m was raised in 12 days; half of this was used to rebuild the navy."

So what IS money?

Throughout all history the most reviled have been the banks and the debtors. To be a debtor is almost equivalent to sin. We loath debt, and pity those who find themselves in debt, as we revile those that fall into debt through stupidity, gambling, living beyond their means. The debtors prison was a hellhole - unless you were rich. We hate the money-lenders - the banks - because we are tied to them from birth to the grave, and their whim can make or ruin us, help us achieve our dreams, or cast us out onto the streets. In France the concept of making interest as a money-lender was once a criminal offense. In biblical stories, Shakespeare, fact and fiction, the money lender is evil. But the debtor is fallen also.

There is a concept that we are born in debt - in debt to our parents for giving us life. A debt that can be paid only through our children.

Debt has been given spiritual gravitas - we owe our lives to the gods, to be paid with living sacrifices. (Debts, incidentally, that can never be paid because the gods already have everything.) Only our eventual death somehow clears the debt of life.

But still - what the hell IS money?

We now live in an age where the richest 85 people in the world have as much of this 'money' as the poorest 3.6 billion - that's half the world! And if money really IS just an IOU, what does that actually mean? They are hoarding IOUs? To what end? How can the economy work if those IOUs aren't actually in circulation? In this instance they have created a kind of meta-layer over humanity, where they are beyond debt, and thereby not subject to the same laws as anybody else - but the knock-on to the rest of us is immense, because the truth is their understanding of what money is is actually flawed, and based - as we saw earlier - on the pseudo-anthropological notion of a barter system that never existed.

The more you look, the more you read, the more you see that things we take for granted are built on mythology. Different currencies operated across empires, and certain of them remained a spoken currency long after that civilization had ended - in which case it became a symbolic currency only. A donkey is worth 125 denarii, for example, but the term is reduced to an idea of measurement, rather than the 'actual' Roman coin the concept is based up. There is not a tribal culture surviving in it's natural state that operates under anything remotely like our global economy, or the fictional barter-based system that supposedly spawned it. Mesopotamian money was not used in the ways we might expect - certainly nothing like we see it today. Often money was the domain of the temple, from which the palace pinched the concept - the ruler becoming like a living god who (like the gods) also had everything, and could grant (and often did) freedom of all debts to his or her people. We were indebted to them from birth too.

Numerous accounts exist of lives being saved, and the saved man demanding to be given a gift. The man who saved him might exclaim "but you should give ME a gift! I saved YOU!" Such stories confused many a Victorian evangelist or adventurer. But to be saved is a life debt, and unless you are freed of that debt you are a slave to the man who saved you. It is honourable, therefore, to give the saved man a gift, rather than demand payment. To free him. This is NOT traditional barter! And isolated societies exist by having a central store which belongs to everybody. In such tight societies it would be frowned on to want more than anybody else, and you would be punished if you were caught steeling. Incredibly elaborate systems evolve, but they are built mostly on fair-mindedness and need, and currency tends to evolve around sex and death - and, of course, debt.

I've been trying to understand what I can. I'm reading lots, and learning. But I still have no idea what money really is - other than having a hunch that we have built for ourselves an elaborate trap, a perpetual cycle that keeps us in eternal bondage...


As it's world poetry day, and also to show not ALL my posts are deep emotional/creative musings, here is my ode to a fictional version of Derby - which features in my new novel Paradise Rex Press, Inc., coming out in the next few months from PS Publishing:

ARBORETUM RISE

The Magpies
In their shirt and tails
Caw rhapsodies
(the beauty of which they alone can hear)
and gathering like gentlemen tramps in the thorny trees
they spatter the cars that line Arboretum Rise.

The east is outlined in gold
When ‘Frankenstein’ comes home
From nightly work
Whose purpose no one cares or knows
– Though likely it’s in engineering –
And it’s good the streets as yet are bare,
For he drives too fast,
Has little care of neighbours
whose lives and names remain strangers.
He’ll sleep his coughing, retching, twisting sleep this day
troubled by wasted years and loss,
a family long gone away.
His damaged captive dog yet adoring.
And so starts another day
with one ending at 49 Arboretum Rise.

Albert Edmund
Methodist posty
Sets click-clacks from Blakey heels dancing off red-brick walls
All the long way up Darwin’s Walk,
At the end of which
– Like a giant child’s discarded block set –
Squats The Three Peaks College.
By midday he’ll be supping tea
And enjoying the paper.
Annie Edmund
Mother of three
Will by then have a headache.
(For now, though, she dreams of hot tropical forests,
And apes in grass skirts
Their eyes alight with wisdom and passion.
So far, so very far away from 68 Arboretum Rise.)

It’s five thirty a.m. precisely
When Eva Braddock-May
Age 3
Opens eyes sprung like traps
And launches
As if catapulted
From her half-size pink slumber
Into the dim promise of today.
A mound of fur
Cast in forms ursine and obscure
At once bursts and embraces
And finally buries her.
The house shakes.
Rising, reluctant and dream-drunk, her mother
Maria
Finds mechanical passage
To the kitchen
And the kettle.
Three hours yet before she opens the door of number 7
And steps out into Arboretum Rise.

The giant spider
Which adorns the window of number 51
Has beneath it a sign:
‘Please post Harry a letter.’
Three students
– This year’s custodians of Harry –
Sit in a spiral of smoke
And put the world to rights
Having stayed up all night
As have
Every
Resident
Student
Before them.
Such wisdom abides on Arboretum Rise.

The city stirs.
Night-chilled corners warm
As a higher sun
Beats the glass
of fifty thousand homes
Almost as one.

Here
A bath run.
Here
The radio news begun.
And so today
And so on and on.
And here
Also
Spread out beneath uncertain skies
On the rugged red road that’s Arboretum Rise.

Ed Moses
Of number 9
Balled by beer consumption
And bearded
(To lend a prophet’s gravitas to his proclamations)
Wakes to a familiar anger
And with it
Swooping
Dread.
No more his:
A lover’s kiss.
A daughter’s little hand in his.
He’ll tell you, if you let him.
And opening hour is little more than a cup o’ tea away.
He pulls on trousers
An extravagant shirt
(Carefully beer-stained to affect bohemian distain)
And sparks up a hand rolled ciggy.
‘I’ll not forget’
He thinks
‘Not yet.
Not ever.
Oh, I’ll not forget.’
And outside,
Through the picture frame pain of his window,
They
(Who in truth he pushed away)
Walk
– Forgetful –
To school
Down Arboretum Rise.

The school casts wide high gates
And
For half an hour
It waits.

People
Like pin-ball-bearings
Queue
One two three
Deep
And ready to fire themselves into the moment
Anxious at passing seconds.

Alongside the school,
beside the gates,
Runs Darwin’s Way –
Upon which throng:

A clumping of youthful walking tired,
oblivious to the zeitgeist-defining fading of a former generation.

A pigeon flock of mothers,
and prams,
and children,
– Barely attached by invisible straps –
Waiting for their catches to be unlatched to run unleashed at last.
Or huddling
Or clinging,
Fearful,
Like wide-eyed aliens in frenzied foreign lands,
To legs
Or jackets
Or hands.

Seven types of father:
Here,
A governor
Versed in playground law
Picking over the titbits.
Here,
The businessman
Who throws open the passenger door of his Rover
And doesn’t turn his head when he says
‘’ave a nice day duck.’
Today’s unwanted trials already at play in his mind.
Here,
The sensitive unemployed drunk
Trying hard to hide his nerves
And secretly cursing his failure to do so.
Here,
The turbaned Sikh
With proud, penetrating eyes
And gentle hands.
Here,
The flirt,
The watcher,
The thief.

The fat red school
– Dressed in cheers and fears and years,
Resounding with shouts,
The knell and bell of all they that,
For now,
Dwell without –
Welcomes all.
And just so
For half an hour
Every day
Arboretum Rise
Shouts its loudest
Then softly sighs.

Polly Peters hasn’t gone yet.
Neither;
Rachel Grant, Pet Sheppard or June Haigh.
Conspiracy abounds,
And there are sacrifices to be made
Of a host of ready lambs.
Quips to moisten the eyes of once close,
Mostly male,
‘Friends’
Fill the air.
Light ironic laughter bites.
And yet, behind the bitchy swipes,
Unspoken of bonds pepper their eyes with pin-points of light.

Polly
Thin
And strong
Old
Young
A decade lost
And won
All in a day’s good
Or ill
Faring.
A castaway
Born of romantic folly
The deluded epic of art
And it’s worth
And our worth
And your worth.
Sad happy in her love hate world
With number two still clinging
Sometimes battering
Often screaming.

Rachel Grant
Too long alone
Jolly and principled.
Only child of an only child with an only child
And no father at home.

Pet Sheppard
Paying her best lip service.
Laughing her blandest knowing laugh
Knowing nothing.

June Haigh
Whose husband drew many an envious eye
Pining for a stolen kiss
With a gym mistress.

Circling,
Moonlike,
Their planetary mass
Oblivious of the barbs
Flung his way
More or less
(Being,
After all,
Male)
Is Henry Hess.
Self-employed,
Married,
Intelligent,
Informed,
Musical,
Technical,
Bright-eyed.
And bald.

A few cars negotiate,
And subside.
The sounds of the Magpies’ rude blurting,
The sparrow’s brief flurried fluting
Emerge again along Arboretum Rise.

The Sheldon daughters
Of number 76,
Admired by myriad fathers
Trusted by numerous grateful mothers,
Watch over swarming toddlers with ethereal calm.
Jenny,
With monumental dental smile,
Trades flirtatious nothings with Alan Holmes,
Father of Alice,
(Who’s reluctant to go home.)
Samantha,
Softer,
Rounder,
Wiser,
Changes Eric’s soiled pants
And somehow still smiles.
Without any effort,
They of all know best how the land lies
The length and breadth of Arboretum Rise.
My wife said to me "you've got to be kinder about England when you're around the kids. They loved Derby!"

I had no idea I was being so bitter - but when I thought about it I had to concede the point. And that made me start wondering why - Why did I feel so angry about the UK? What was my problem?

But here's the thing - Some 14 years ago I couldn't get any work. We had just had baby no.2, and I had done a run on 'Spawn: the Dark Ages', and had been suddenly replaced, along with the rest of the team on the book, because McFarlane wanted 'a change of direction'. And then there was literally no work. I went to NY to see DC and Marvel, but they had nothing. I pitched company after company, to no avail. I tried to get on illustration agency books, but was refused by all of them. I tried children's book publishers, Core Design, and other computer game companies. Nobody wanted me. Even Frank Frazetta criticized my art in his book 'Icon' - just to add insult to injury!

We ended up having to sell our house to move somewhere much cheaper, and in that whole year I earned less than six thousand pounds. I did not sign on to wellfare - I was stupid and proud. I went into debt, and I lost all sense of worth.

In fact I started to HATE drawing.

It's been a long, hard slog since then. I fought back. I started a publishing company, wrote a novel, built a web presence, and bit by bit I rebuilt myself - no thanks to the local UK papers that would not promote 'comics', the banks that would not support us, the UK VCs that had no vision, the agencies and other companies that passed me over.

And when it came to starting Madefire could we find backing in the UK? Could we bollocks! (That means 'no we couldn't' to my American brethren.)

But here, in the US, the hard work is paying off.

I realize, now, that my anger was understandable, but misplaced. After all, the US comic companies had no work for me either. Everybody hits hard times, and when you're down there's nothing like the faint whiff of desperation to drive opportunity away.

My story is a testament to the fact that you CAN come back. You CAN rebuild, survive, and even thrive. Luck is a very real thing - You can't make it, but you can give it a better chance.

So sorry, kids, for being down on home! And truth be told, I'm missing it too. A lot. Now I'm not (quite) so bloody angry about everything anymore.