My next comic convention will be Megacon in Orlando, Florida, on May 17, 18 & 19. You can pick up copies of my self-published books Shanghai and Extraterrestrial. I’ll also sign any Tick or Ultraverse books you bring – signatures are always free!
Here’s a new sample piece I inked for Ben Dunn at Antarctic Press. He put out a call for inkers last week, and I put my name in the hat. It’s a little more outside my usual style for inking, so it got me out of my comfort zone, which was fine. I approached it with kind of a Gil Kane vibe. This was done entirely in Procreate on the iPad Pro. Let me know what you think!
Walking through a graveyard with a 360 camera on the end of a long stick can be a strange experience. I had a caretaker chase me down in a golf cart. He asked, “How are you doing?” “Fine,” I replied. “What are you doing?” was his next question. It was expected. After explaining to him that it was a camera on the end of a long monopod pole, and that I was just taking pictures, he was fine with it. I got some neat shots, and added a bunch to Google Maps for other folks to be able to take a virtual tour of the place their ancestors are laid to rest.
Having grown up in Daytona Beach, I saw a lot of family names that I’m sure are connected to people I know, went to school with, or own prominent businesses here in town. I have family there, so I paid my respects and had a quiet morning.
Here’s an inverted tiny-planet view of the same shot –
I’ve been experimenting with 360 photography lately, and really enjoying the medium. I love the idea of sharing a place or an experience in a unique way, beyond just a flat, two-dimensional image. It can be presented as a panorama, or morphed into what’s affectionately known as a “tiny planet”.
My home town of Daytona Beach, Florida, provides many opportunities for great 360 photographs. Palm trees, water, and blue skies are everywhere. I’m still learning to set up shots and figure out what my gear can do, so there will be a lot more 360 photography to come!
This image was taken near the City Island library in Daytona, using a Samsung Gear 360 camera on a selfie-stick.
I’ve been reading about all the “comicsgate” stuff in the comics business. It seems so stupid that people go so far out of their way to spread animosity and hate toward other comics creatives. One of the things I always liked about the comics industry was that we never seemed in competition with each other as artists and writers. If I liked what someone had made, I would buy it. I didn’t have to choose one thing over another. If I don’t like an artists style, it’s just not my personal cup of tea. It doesn’t mean I think they’re a bad artist. I still respect that they’re making comics and love what they’re doing. There was always room for more good comics, though.
I also can appreciate diversity in the comics industry – both in creators and characters. I try and be mindful of this when creating my new books. I want the cast in my comics to look like my community (with aliens, monsters and robots added in). At the end of the day, I’ll buy comics I like, and won’t buy books that don’t appeal to me. If a creator engages in abusive or disrespectful behavior, I’ll probably avoid them. There are people I’ve encountered over the course of my career that were pricks to me or someone I liked. I probably would not work with those folks again, given the chance.
When I was buying comics in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t know what race, ethnicity, or sometimes, even what gender a creator was. They were just names on the title page, and I enjoyed their work. I wanted to be one of them. If sales of comic books are declining, maybe we should stop being assholes to each other and just make good comics.
I’ve seen some comics creators trying to start new companies to publish their work free from the constraints of the “social justice warriors.” What a crock of shit. I’ve been doing this for years. Nothing is stopping any of these people from publishing their own work themselves. I’ve been self-publishing since the 90s. It’s not hard to do. I don’t sell many books, but I tell my own stories and put out exactly what I want to publish. I can’t be black-listed from publishing comics. Nobody knows who I am. I’m probably more on the side of the “SJW” label.
If you want to put your own work out there, and push your own agenda and ideas, then have the stones to take that leap and do it yourself. Self-publish your own comics. I would love to sell more books and have more people know who I am. The only way that’s going to happen is if I tell good stories and draw nice art, and I promote it. I would love to do more work for Marvel and DC, but they don’t owe me anything. I’m happy putting out my own books, with the hope that someday I’ll find a bigger audience. I love what I do, and I love that some people get enjoyment out of reading my stuff. Life is too short to spend time whining about other creators are doing. Make your own comics.
Rush has been my favorite band since I was in high school. I’ve seen Rush in concert four or five times since 1982. I own every album they’ve ever put out. I own a Rickenbacker bass guitar because Geddy Lee played one. My latest art piece is a tribute to Rush, done from a photo by the late Andrew MacNaughtan.
Over the past six months, I’ve been working on layouts for the new Static Live magazine. Static focuses on the music and entertainment scene in the Daytona Beach and Volusia County area and beyond. I take all of the edited articles and photos, and arrange them into coherent pages. I’ve done a few illustrations for the cover art of the magazine. They haven’t been of subjects that resonated with me personally, like Rush. I didn’t do the cover art for issue 6. I decided maybe I would do a few pieces of my own. I could possibly make some prints to sell at conventions.
I just finished the comic project I’ve been working on for the last 18 months, and am getting ready to start something new. While I’m between projects, I thought I would try something a little different, and draw some of my favorite musicians, like Rush.
New Rush Artwork
This piece, featuring Rush, is still a work in progress. It is done entirely in ProCreate on the iPad Pro. I used an Apple Pencil with the ink line tool. I’m almost done with the line art on the figures. Soon I’ll add a backdrop and do the colors. Rush has had a lot of different looks over the years. I felt this image captures the mature, confident version of the band. I may do a stage setting for the backdrop with a lot of color. If this Rush piece turns out well and generates some interest, then I may try a few more and make it a series. Every artist tries to find a niche that they can make their own, and this may be mine.
I started reading the adventures of Spider-man in issue #176, back in 1978. I’d fallen way behind on my comic reading lately. Over the past few days I finally caught up with Amazing Spider-man through issue 800. What a jumbled mess. A lot of the run was completely incoherent because it crossed over with other books between issues. I had no idea what was going on. Characters appeared and then were gone. Endless retreads of goblins, clones, Venom varients, and characters coming back from the dead.
I loved the Superior Spider-man run. After that, it seems like everything went sideways. I didn’t enjoy it at all. When Otto took over as Spider-man, I thought it was a very cool twist on an old charcter. Dan Slott told it well. I knew things would not remain that way. I was hoping to see Peter take some of the things Otto had done when he returned as Spider-man and make positives out of them. Otto’s inevitable return should have made him a much more complex and interesting character. What I saw of him just kind of put him back where he was. I have not read the Clone Conspiracy books yet. There may be something I’ve missed.
Amazing Spider-man carries what I think is one of the larger problems Marvel has with storytelling. Forced crossovers. It would direct me to go to an issue Clone Conspiracy as I was reading. Then another book along the way. I read the next sequential issue instead. I had no idea what was going on. I can’t stand that the first page of every book has to be a “the story so far” with a damn flow chart of connected characters. I believe you have failed as a story teller if you need to give readers a flow chart. I want to be able to read a book in sequential order and be able to get an entire story from one issue to the next. Spider-man failed at that. It is a complete and utter dud when read by itself. I don’t blame Slott’s writing for this. The problem is more likely the editorial team, wanting to sell more Spider-man books.
I was digging the art when Humberto Ramos was drawing Spider-man. For Marvel’s top book, I was not impressed with much that I saw after he left Spider-man. I don’t like to slag my fellow artists. There were some great pages and panels in there. The art is not something I would continue to buy this book for. The cover art by Alex Ross was very cool. I’d love to see Spider-man find a new long-term art team that really fits the character well.
Superior Spider-man was my top book back in the day. The current run has fallen flat for me.
I went out to lunch with my wife and one of my sons on Father’s Day, and since we were right around the corner from the new music store in town, we decided to walk around and see what’s new. There were a few interesting bass guitars, but nothing that came close to my prized Rickenbacker, so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to them. The sales rep encouraged me to take any of them down and try them out, but they all seemed like a step down. I went past the guitars and was about to drift out of the section when I noticed a Peavey Grind 6-string bass sitting on a floor stand right at the edge. It had an interesting shape, a beautiful mahogany finish, and a massively wide neck to accommodate the strings. I have a 4-string bass and a 5-string bass, so I’m comfortable with switching between them. I found the prospect of the extra range intrigueing enough to pick it up and plug it in.
It took a few minutes for my fingers to know which string they were on, but it came pretty quickly. I love having the B-string for that deep bass sound, and then the higher C-string for doing little show-off fills. The neck has 24 frets, with two complete octaves, so there’s not much you can’t hit on this bass. It had a nice, crisp sound on the highs and yet a very clean low end for the deeper bass notes. I’m not the most accomplished player with the slap & pop technique, but what I could do sounded pretty good to me. I must have looked like I was enjoying myself, because after a few minutes of watching me, my wife & son both asked of I wanted them to buy it for me. The price tag was pretty modest for an instrument like this, which was used. I was surprised, because I was not expecting it, so I finished and put it back on the stand. They were both still looking at me like I was crazy for passing it up. I certinaly don’t need another bass. It was fun to play, and I really like that it’s somewhat unique, so I ended up bringing it home.
Years ago, I owned a Peavey Dyna-bass, which was my main performance bass. I loved them tone and the feel of it, so I’m more than okay with the brand.I have a double-sided soft case, which just barely fits it, so I can tranasport it without banging it up, no problem. I have a Steinberger 5-string bass, which is a great sounding instrument, and fantasic for when you’re traveling light, but it’s almost impossible to find strings for. This one should be much easier.
I used it to play bass for a small performance that evening. Standing for a bit, there’s no question that it’s a substantial piece of wood. I think it weighs in at about ten pounds. It was a comfortable bass, though, and no more of a load on my shoulder than my Rickenbacker. It’s got a sound, feel, and look that I’m really happy with, so I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this.
You’ve got a great website, and now you need to build your traffic. One of the best ways to do that is with blogging. By writing about your industry, you’ll create relevant content that will give you and your site more credence with your clients. If you have a WordPress site, you already have the functionality built in. Every article you publish can refresh your site with the search engines. Over time, your site can be considered a credible authority for a subject, and be more associated with it in a web search. There are several practices to keep in mind when blogging to be successful.
Pick a single focus word and write your article around that. Put it in your title. Put it in the first paragraph. Put it in your concluding paragraph. Use it several more times throughout your writing. Identify several other keywords that define what you’re blogging about and use them several times each. You can be detailed, but never lose sight of the focus or your article.
You’ll want to write a minimum of 300 words. If you really know your topic, this shouldn’t be a challenge. In fact, you may have to stop yourself from going on for too long. 750 words is a pretty good length for an article. Any longer than that, and you may want to consider breaking it up into individual pieces. There’s nothing wrong with doing a series over a few days.
One formula for writing is to ask a question, answer it, and then explain your answer. Put some thought into the question. Look at it from the point of view of your customers. What problem are they trying to solve? What’s the most cost-effective way to do something that you’re familiar with? How do you solve the problems that your client has? Why is your service valuable? Think of the questions your clients ask you when you talk to them. The answers you give are what you’ll write about. Don’t make it a fluff-piece about yourself. You want your posts to go viral and be shared. An article about how you or your company are the greatest thing since sliced bread won’t be something that will get much traction.
Use numbers. 10 reasons why this thing will save you money. 15 sites that you should be visiting every day. 20 practices in your industry to avoid. These are very popular and easy to generate titles for blogging that will practically write themselves. They are the type of article names that people will click on. The information they promise to deliver sounds intriguing to them.
Check your blogging for errors. Not just with spelling, but also grammar and punctuation. There are plenty of free tools to help you with this.The editor in WordPress will show you your word count as you type. Use the Grammerly plugin to check your punctuation and for other grammatical errors. You can run your article through the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test to see how it scores. Keep your sentences short and your words easy to understand. The tools are out there. They’re free to use. If your blogging has errors, there is really no excuse for it.
Add a few images to your article. Make sure they’re your own, or that you get them from a source that makes it clear you have the rights to use them. There are several free image sites out there, such as Pixabay. Don’t just swipe images from Google, or you could be creating a very large legal situation for yourself down the road. Just because an image is on the Internet and you don’t see a copyright does not mean you have permission to use it. Take your own pictures if you can. Nothing beats original content.
Use citations. If you post numbers or facts, let your readers know where they come from. You can also link out to those places. You’ll need at least one link out to related content, so this is a good choice. Checking your sources also keeps you accurate and makes sure you don’t spread misinformation. It also shows that you’ve done your homework.
As you research details for the content you’re writing, you may even find yourself learning a few more things about your industry. It will give you more confidence when talking to your clients as well as your peers. It keeps the concepts of your field fresh in your mind.
You may even consider collecting all of your related blogging posts and publishing them as a book. Now is a great time to self-publish your own book. There are plenty of small press outlets where you can do small mico-runs. It may not be a great money-making venture, but it’s a fantastic promotional tool. Don’t just tell your clients that you know your business – show them you wrote the book on it! They make great gifts to hand out. If you’re invited to speak somewhere, it gives you more credentials. If you’ve already done the work to write all of the material down, why not use it to your fullest advantage?
If you follow these practices while blogging, you’ll build an audience over time. Your website will become more popular and attract more visitors. If you make this a part of your daily marketing plan, and stick with it, it should build results that will last for years.
Keywords are prominent words that will be used to describe what your page or article is about. This will help you to be found by search engines. If you could boil your entire content down to only five important words, what would those be? What would you do with them?
Picking the right keywords
A page or article should have one single focus keyword. You can add an additional two to four keywords that relate to or support the primary choice. You may have to make some hard choices when figuring out what to leave out. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever mention other keywords in your blog postings. Just remember to stay focused and on-target and not drift into a place where your marketing becomes too vague. Keep coming back to your top five words and primary focus again and again.
Don’t approach it from the point of view of your industry. Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. They may not be aware of all the brand names and phrases that you know. Think of the natural terms and names they’ll enter into a search. Google’s search algorithm rewards content that is written in natural sounding language. If you just drop a bunch of keywords onto a page without context, you’ll be downranked.
Where do keywords go?
You’ll need to position your chosen keywords in several places. To start with, your focus word should be in your post or page title. It should even be in the domain name of the website itself if you can swing it. Write the name around your focus word. This will make it very clear what your article is about, not just to readers but to the search engines as well.
Next, put your keywords in the meta-description of the page. Write a sentence or two that’s about 130 characters for this. Sum up the theme of your article using your keywords. If you’ve chosen well, this should be easy.
In years gone by, the “Keywords” tag on web pages was what you used. This is completely ignored by Google now in favor of the actual content on the page. You can put them in this spot only to remind yourself what they are, but this selection is not important.
The text of the article itself is one of the most important places. Google will analyze all of the words around them to make sure it’s a relevant piece of writing, and not just a bunch of random keywords on a page. Links to relevant content, either on your site or elsewhere, will help boost your ranking. Put your keywords in your image descriptions and the names of the files as well! It all works together to show Google that your page or article has value to the people who will be searching for it. Write naturally. Keep your sentences short and your words easy to understand. Run them through writing tools if you can to make sure you’re in the ballpark.
How long will it take me to get noticed?
SEO along without external marketing does not return immediate results. According to a recent article in Forbes, it can take about four to six months before you really start building traffic. Your traffic should keep building over the first year, but six months will be when you begin to see real activity. You have a long road ahead of you before you reach a peak. Keep in mind, this is done with a constant and planned out string of daily blog posts shared on social media.
This will be a large investment of time on your part. All of your articles have to be written with the best SEO practices, putting your keywords in all the right places with the right density. This could be several hours out of your week devoted to creating and sharing this content. If you can’t do it yourself, maybe you should consider hiring someone to do it for you.
Adwords vs unpaid SEO Keywords
Adwords is more of a targeted advertising program, where you’re bidding for keywords. You will see almost instant results from this campaign. The drawback is that it all goes away just as quickly when your ads turn off. If you’ve invested the time to build up your SEO, that will continue to keep working for you, even if you slow down on content creation. Keywords bought with Adwords only benefits you when you’re paying them.
If you’re new to Adwords, you should be careful. It’s easy to spend a lot of money without getting a return on your investment if you don’t know what you’re doing. It can be sort of like playing the stock market. You’ll want to monitor it and make constant tweaks and adjustments.