academic Art Assay Comics and Graphic Novels

My Exploratory Journey or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Ph.D. (Part Eight)

This is the eight log entry of my ‘exploratory journey’. I’m developing a practice-based Ph.D. thesis in Media Arts titled “Transmedia Storytelling and Speculative Worldbuilding: Graphic Literature and Cinematographic Strategies in the Construction of a Transmedial Franchise”. The practical component of my thesis relies on the publication of a graphic narrative, first in webcomic format and then a print graphic novel version. The practical component is not just the webcomic and the comic book but also the writing of the script, a ‘making of’ book of the process, a transmedia marketing strategy to promote the story, and the compilation of a transmedia production bible to sell the idea to an animation studio. The transmedia production bible should present an adequate transmedia model of my project and its ultimate goal: to launch a Portuguese transmedial sci-fi franchise. Hopefully, the trilogy “Uluru” and the other two narratives of the chronicles – “Vidalia” and “Dragon Head” – will be able to launch a transmedial franchise named “Chronicles of Time and Space”. 

In this article, I will delve deeper into the strategy I’m thinking of implementing in producing and promoting the “Chronicles of Time and Space – Uluru”: designing a website and creating a Facebook page; ballooning and lettering the pages of the comic; thinking about the publishing online phase and creating a fan-base; crowdfunding; and doing a list of Portuguese comic stores where the print version of the story could be purchased in the future. But first I must address some changes in the production of the story: the inclusion of color and the change in the procedural strategy that Mathieu and I implemented.

After some consideration, I decided to invite a colorist to paint Matthieu’s drawings. The Portuguese artist Sofia Pereira [01] accepted the invitation and will be coloring the 160 pages of “Uluru”. Her work is very good and the colors she uses accentuate the quality of Matthieu’s line art. This change from a black and white comic to a colored one will influence the crowdfunding and the print version production of the story but the increase in the quality of the pages is notorious and more than worth it. Matthieu and I are now using a slightly different creative process: I’m adapting the cinema script into a comic strip (I’m getting better at choosing the number of shots per page); I send him the script and he thumbnails the pages; we then discuss the layout of each page and reach an agreement on how the page will look like; he then draws, with a pencil, the panels on an A3 page; he uses A4 pages to draw the individual panels on a light table; with the light table he then inks the A3 page on top of the A4 penciled pages by using brush and pen; he scans the A3 pages and then he cleans them digitally and sometimes inserts textures. Matthieu Pereira’s style is mainly analogic, semirealistic, and his key artistic references are Tommy Lee Edward, Tom Coker, and Jerome Opeña.

I designed a simple website on Wix [02] that will serve as a hub for all things regarding the project. A user-friendly and appealing interface was my main focus. The website is divided into seven areas: the ‘Home’ area, where you can read the logline of the story in four languages and where you can access the teaser trailer, the timeline of the chronicles, and information about two other stories in the same storyworld: “Vidalia” and “Dragon Head”; the ‘About’ area has information about the project, the team, and the links for the webcomics platforms (Tapas [03], Webtoon [04], and Flowfo [05]); the ‘Making Of’ area has access to the articles I’m writing to The Portuguese Portal of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the cover and two finished pages of the book, and three previous comics about the Uluru character; there are also four areas dedicated to the languages the webcomic will be available for reading (Portuguese, English, French, and Mandarin). At the bottom of the website, there are several links for social media. According to my latest calendar, I will start publishing several pages per week in December 2021 and finish publishing the story in 2022 (around 5 months in total).

I’m focused on the first narrative arch of the “Uluru” trilogy, but last year I had the opportunity of writing a one-page story for a Portuguese Art Cred project [06], and I decided to use the storyworld of “Chronicles of Time and Space”. Nine artists illustrated the script titled “Vidalia”. This is just a very short sneak peek of a much larger story that will be produced after I finish “Uluru”. Below, drawn by Patrícia Costa, one example of the one-page short about the eponymous female protagonist.

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I’m ballooning and lettering the “Uluru” pages Mathieu Pereira is sending me. This is a difficult and meticulous task and I needed good references, therefore, and because ‘everybody’ says one should imitate the great masters, I decided to keep a close eye on how Rus Wooton [07] does his job on “East of West”. For the typographic font, I chose Ames, a freeware comic book lettering font for independent comics creations and non-profit use only. Because I’m thinking of self-publishing online this is a good font for now. If I decide to purchase the commercial version the cost is around 20 euros (adding bold and italic to the fold). A good advantage of using this lettering font is that it has European characters and diacritical marks, or accents [08]

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The pages of the webcomic “Uluru” will be available on the official website in four languages and on the Facebook page but, because there are several webcomic publishing platforms, with huge built-in audiences, I decided to publish outside the website and Facebook page. Webtoon and Tapas are user-friendly platforms with a large community of readers and they have mobile apps. Recently, I’ve discovered a French webcomics platform called Flowfo. They are still in the beta phase but it looks promising. By using these three platforms I’m trying to get as much exposure as possible. Creating a fan-base will be very important during the phase of weekly publishing online in several languages. Building a mailing list and contacting people over social media will be a way of reaching out. Sharing the story in specialized Facebook pages and groups will be an important part of the strategy of creating a readership for “Uluru”, although, I’ve read creators are not very happy with Facebook when it comes to publishing webcomics, and prefer Instagram. I guess I’ll find out in the process. According to some, Twitter is good for publishing and promoting the work if you gather enough followers.

In the YouTube video “How to Build Your Audience (From 0 to 10,000 Followers)” [09], Dan Ekis interviewed other creators for advice and he says people should choose the right platforms (where there are a ‘lot of eye-balls’). For a YouTube channel, he says it’s important the title of the video and the thumbnail you choose. I will have a YouTube channel for the project where I’m thinking of having several audiovisual contents (booktrailer, interviews, timelapse videos of the artwork, making of excerpts, etc.). YouTube is a very important search engine for so many people, therefore, this makes it an essential tool. 

Writing articles and making interviews during the online publishing phase will be important as well. The ‘Conversas H-alt’ podcast [10] and other national podcasts will be contacted, as well as international comics and webcomics podcasts, and YouTube channels dedicated to pop culture and comics. I’ll have to create a list of people I enjoy listening to and watching their videos and video-essays.

The digital footprint of my doctoral project across multiple platforms on the Internet is symptomatic of how projects and digital natives roam the virtual world nowadays. My aspiring sci-fi transmedial franchise needs this prolific multiplication of platforms to disseminate content and divulge my team’s work. The official website functions as a hub but the importance of the Facebook page, other social media, and the webcomics platforms (Webtoon, Tapas, and Flowfo) are very important in the process of sharing “Chronicles of Time and Space – Uluru”. The articles written for The Portuguese Portal of Fantasy and Science Fiction are not just a way to share my journey but also a way of understanding how I will present the project for the thesis. The interviews with Portuguese and international comic authors are my way of understanding how other people go about doing their projects and it’s also a way of sharing the amazing projects I’m reading. The infographic I present below shows (to a certain degree) my online presence. The webcomic “Uluru” only debuts in December but I’m already promoting the project in several places.

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The crowdfunding phase will take around 30 days. Kickstarter allows a 60-day period but they recommend 30 days or less (short and sweet). They also allow the campaign to be seen before it’s launched: the project will be available in the Upcoming Projects section. Promoting the crowdfunding campaign in the prelaunch phase is very important because it allows people to know more about the project and fund it in the 30-day timeframe. The article “Your Kickstarter Campaign – Three Prelaunch Stages to Never Overlook” [11], published on Floship, shares a few tips for a successful prelaunch crowdfunding campaign: 1) Crowdfunding Research; 2) Crowdfunding Outreach; 3) Community Building; 4) Logistic Planning for Success.

In the first stage – Crowdfunding Research – it’s important to research similar campaigns and understand what worked and what failed. In the second stage, it’s important to network and contact influencers (recommended tools: JustReachOut, NinjaOutreach, Buzzsumo, BuzzStream, Upfluence, Pitchbox, Famebit). In stage three it’s important to create a fan-base or a group of people who are interested in the project (app for prelaunch attention: Pitchfuse). In stage four it’s important to think about the delivery of the product because many backers could live outside the country of the campaigners (Floship offers a custom fulfillment evaluation plan).

The article “Hacking Indiegogo’s GogoFactor” [12] gives us good tips for the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform (they can be used on other funding websites): 1) customized project’s URL; 2) campaign updates every five days (minimum); 3) the campaigners’ social network, friends, and family should contribute with around 25% of the fundraising goal; 4) constant outreach through emails, tweets, posts, interviews, and articles (every day); 5) encourage people to leave comments on the campaign page. I guess that if a campaigner maintains an effort to reach as many people as possible the chances of being funded grow exponentially.

If my campaign is successful (fingers crossed), the English version of the story will be printed and sent to the crowdfunding participants. The excess printed books will be made available for purchase in comics festivals, and in some specific stores in Portugal. The funds from the eventual sales will be invested in the second narrative arch of “Uluru”, a more complex story, and the second book of a planned trilogy.

Before finishing this article I find it pertinent to share a few specialized Portuguese comic stores where it’s possible to find national and international authors: BD Mania [13]; Casa da BD [14]; Dr. Kartoon [15]; Gateway City Comics [16]; Kingpin Books [17]; Kult Games [18]; Livraria Sétima Dimensão [19]; Mundo Fantasma [20]; Tinta Nos Nervos [21]. The online store Convergência [22] is a very interesting project because most comics’ editors are represented here. If you want to help Portuguese artists and editors visit the page and purchased Portuguese graphic literature.
























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