Archive for the ‘how to’ Category

Arduino at a Glance

Monday, September 12th, 2011

For those of you looking for some do-it-yourself work or a new programming challenge, Arduino might be a good place to start. It is an electronics scripting and prototyping platform that can allow programmers and inventors to take their ideas from the design stage to the testing stage. Jody Culkin put together a very descriptive how-to comic giving plenty of information for beginners and experienced programmers alike to understand just how to handle this process.

Everything from microcontrollers to switchers, sensors, voltage, and the ever-important Ohm’s Law are defined and explained. Links to both Windows and Mac Arduino software and user guides are also included once you are ready to learn more about the project. What lends itself nicely to this step-by-step tutorial is the incredibly descriptive art; everything looks the way it does in the real world including shots of MacOS, circuit boards and the solderless breadboard. The comic can be found in PDF format here. You can read it in a browser or download the file and put it on a portable device if you’re looking to program on the go.

(via Boing Boing)

The Recipe For Changing Seasons

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Labor Day has come and gone, meaning that summer is unofficially over. Kids are back in school, most of the beaches have closed or will be closing soon and football season is starting up this Sunday. Still, there are at least a few more warm days left before fall kicks into full gear. Come, let us celebrate with some delicious recipes in the form of comics, shall we?

Throughout the summer, Saveur turned to a bunch of artists to share food stories and the recipes that go along with them under the Recipe Comix banner. The talent involved includes Eli Valley of The Forward and EV Comics who decided to share his mother’s recipe for a simple spaghetti and tuna dish that proved that even though she was a single mother, she could compete with the other Jewish moms in the neighborhood culinary-wise. Other contributors were Nedroid‘s Anthony Clark, Farley Katz of The New Yorker and yes, even Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics. North’s chili recipe not only sounds delicious but it is told to us by dinosaurs. Which immediately increases the deliciousness and credibility of any recipe.

A complete archive of Recipe Comix can be found here. Hopefully there will be more recipes to come in Summer 2012 as I’m sure there are plenty of creators with food to share out there. In the meantime, I think I’m going to try and make Emily Horne’s Black Mischief cocktail once I get me some gin, stout beer and espresso.

Images Do Speak Louder Than Words

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

In a paper titled “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data,” Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer of Stanford University identified the comic strip as one of the seven genres of narrative visualization. Other genres include the flow chart and the partitioned poster. Infographics in general have become very popular on the web and in print, with The New York Times publishing multimedia content on topics such as the US Census, and sites like Information is Beautiful and GOOD specialize in creating graphics that are not only informative, but aesthetically-pleasing.

Perhaps it was only inevitable that people would take the art of creating comics and break it down, infographic-style. Well, that’s what Scott McCloud’s trilogy of nonfiction comics—Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics—were all about, but Damian Niolet has done one better and created a giant cheat sheet with all the things “a finished work of fiction in comic book form should demonstrate careful consideration of.”

Scott McCloud himself has called it “big, beautiful, and kinda terrifying” but for any established or aspiring comic creator, it’s worth a look.

Citation Needed

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I just finished reading Scott Westerfeld‘s novel Extras, the fourth book in the Uglies Trilogy. Putting aside discussion of the proper definition of “trilogy” for now, the book was interesting to me partly because the characters in it operated in a “reputation economy.” A reputation economy is one where a person’s worth is defined not by their material wealth, but by the deeds they do and how well-known they are. Extras is not the first work to explore such a concept, as Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom also runs on a reputation economy, and it has real-world applications on the Internet: Twitter calculates a reputation score for each user, and many sites like Digg allow you to vote on comments left by other users.

In order for a reputation economy to work, people have to receive credit for the things they do. Online, this usually means linking back to the source with proper attribution. Easy enough with articles, but images can be a tricky matter. Cool images often find themselves linked, e-mailed, uploaded to new sites, watermarks added, downloaded and uploaded again, and so on. Many artists don’t receive credit for the cool things they make.

Sick of this misappropriation, H. Caldwell Tanner and Rosscott have prepared a helpful flowchart to assist the average Internet user in crediting things properly. But this is no dry flow chart of text and funny shapes. This flowchart has illustrations. This flowchart is a comic! A very cool comic, indeed, one that you  might actually feel the need to share with others. With proper credit to the original creator, of course.

(via Boing Boing)

I’m a Sprocket Man!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Bicycles are the du jour mode of transportation for the “hip” and environmentally-conscious urbanite, with new bike lanes being constructed across the country and workplaces offering “bike friendly” policies as just a couple of examples, which just outline a greater need for bike safety—there were 630 bicycle-related deaths in 2009, and 51,000 injuries.

Perhaps this would be a good time to take a look at Sprocket Man (no connection to Elton John or William Shatner), a bicycling safety comic presented by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The art is rough, and the style and content definitely betray a late ’70s/early ’80s vibe—for one thing, they refer to “bike ramps” on sidewalks—but the safety info is still sensible for the most part. Follow the traffic laws! Always be aware of your surroundings! Wear your helmet properly even though it makes you look like a dork!

Vegetables, Drawn and Stripped

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Food comics are definitely on the rise—between the popularity of Jon Layman’s and Rob Guillory’s Chew and the upcoming Get Jiro! comic from Anthony Bourdain, foodie and comic fandom are starting to come together—but they’re still lacking a crucial element: actual food. Read all  you want, you won’t be any  less hungry.

Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey are looking to change that. Amanda Cohen is no stranger to the food scene, as the chef and owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. And Ryan Dunlavey is no stranger to comics, particularly of a nonfiction bent, as the creator of Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics. Together, they’re preparing to serve up a delicious dish in the form of a comic—a comic book cookbook.

The book isn’t due until 2012, but you can sample a little taste over at Comics Alliance.

(via Robot 6 and Comics Alliance)

How to Make an 8-Bit World

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

deviantART is host to quite the thriving comics community; you’ll find everything from one-panel cartoons to comic strips to pages from full comics, as well as a plethora of fan art and original art. The art includes pencil sketches, paintings in watercolor and acrylic, photography, and even more modern media such as tablet drawings and computer-generated artwork.

Anyone can create an account and anyone can upload artwork (even written materials), but it’s still easy to be intimidated. Which is why Metal Shadow X has posted this handy guide to making sprite comics. Sprite comics are comics that take the character pixel art from various video games and rearrange them into new situations. A popular example is 8-Bit Theater.

The instructions are simple and contain the occasional typo, but he does his best to illustrate every step of his process, and it doesn’t seem too hard. The comic really only covers placing the characters and creating the dialog bubbles, and doesn’t cover creating the actual panel framework or obtaining the sprites in the first place, but I suppose it’s a start.

Metal Shadow X does venture into actual drawn artwork as well, but it’s very rough and beginner-level, and a lot of it is very NSFW.

Out and About: Alternative Press Expo 2010

Friday, October 15th, 2010

This weekend is Alternative Press Expo, and while we won’t be attending due to being on the opposite coast, there are two panels of interest to nonfiction fans:

Saturday, October 16

4:00-5:00 Spotlight on Lynda Barry—One of the most influential cartoonists of the past 30 years, APE special guest Lynda Barry has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator, and teacher and has found they are all very much alike. With her publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, she launches her brand new book, the how-to/memoir/graphic novel Picture This, at APE. This uncategorizable book is the “how-to-draw” companion to the bestselling and Eisner Award–winning “how-to-write” book What It Is. At this panel, Barry will explore Picture This in an engaging slide show that is sure to be standing room only, thanks to Barry’s wildly enigmatic, popular, and hilarious stage presence, which not only commands the attention of every attendee but leaves them crying, laughing, and floored with inspiration. Seeing Barry in person is life changing!

6:00-7:00 Spotlight on Renée French—A conversation between APE special guest Renée French and publisher/comics historian Dan Nadel about Renée’s new book, H Day. How does a cartoonist translate something as abstract as a migraine into the concrete form of a book? And why? Renée will talk about this challenge, her drawing process, and will briefly look back at her extraordinary career.

Other special guests at this year’s APE include Daniel Clowes, Megan Kelso, Rich Koslowski, Tommy Kovac, and Tony Millionaire. Alternative Press Expo 2010 will be held on October 16–17 at  the Concourse Exhibition Center (635 8th Street) in San Francisco, California.

Captain Free Enterprise, How Do I Make A Comic?

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The 1970s were a simpler time for comic books; before digital coloring, Internet message boards and digital/print simultaneous release, there was just writing, drawing, printing, and distribution. This allowed independent comic creators to put their content out into the marketplace, even before comic shops were the normal place to stop to pick up your weeklies. Still, you needed the money, concept and creators to get your book out the door. Luckily in 1978, there was a comic to tell you all about the process!

How To Start A Comic Book Empire by Don Rico presents us with an entrepreneur who comes across a newsstand selling comics to customers of all ages; looking to jump into the action, he receives tips on comic book production from “real life superhero” Captain Free Enterprise. They then go on a Scrooge-esque tour to different parts of the comic book fandom, hovering over San Diego Comic-Con, an art studio, and finally the print room. As for the comic itself, the art is serviceable and in line with most seventies comics; the writing, while somewhat corny, gets its point across well enough for everyone to understand what’s going on and why.

Comic books cost about $8,000 to make in 1978. While it was recommended to go with a monster book to draw in new readers, I don’t know if the same advice would apply today, but if it did I would do vampires.  With a comic book priced at $2 an issue (which would probably be $3.99 today), after advertising income ($200 per page), printing costs, and editorial, you’d theoretically make about $14,000 on one issue. Does this still apply today? Probably not, but it might be somewhat compatible if sales are decent. Sadly, Captain Free Enterprise does not come with the profits, unless you get somebody to dress up as him.

(via CO2 Comics Blog)

Silkscreen Stalkings

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Small press comics (or “comix”) are all about the DIY philosophy and aesthetic; so is the process of screen printing, which people use to make their own posters, postcards, and t-shirts. So a comic about screen printing? It was only a matter of time.

Do -It-Yourself Screenprinting is a collection of mini-comics and other ephemera by John Issacson, advertising itself on the cover as “How to turn your home into a t-shirt factory.” That tagline is mildly misleading as it only applies to the first chapter of the book, which was originally the first issue in a series of three. The other installments include an autobiographical tale of John selling his wares on Telegraph Avenue (Berkeley, CA), John getting a job at a professional screen printer so he can print his own t-shirts on better equipment (this section does explain the equipment and the process), and a bonus chapter about printing on paper. Each chapter is separated by a one-page interview with a fellow screen printer, though sometimes these feel like filler, especially if you’re not too familiar with the process of screen printing—a very likely outcome if you’ve picked up this book in the first place.

The book is a bit confused in that manner; what audience is it really intended for anyway? Usually, a comic instruction manual would be something intended for a beginner, walking them through the process and making it as simple as possible so they don’t get confused. While the book does take you through the process, it glosses over bits that a beginner might need to know (like, what exactly is a silkscreen and where do you buy the equipment to make one) and probably could explain other bits better (how to create a design for screen printing). Issacson does say that “this comic is not intended as a single source of information about silkscreening.” He refers readers to the instruction booklets included with the photo emulsion kit (and other equipment), as well as including a “recommended reading” section, but then how exactly does Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting work with those texts? Do we even need this book?

While it might be lacking as an instruction manual at times, as a casual read it’s not bad. The second and third chapters are more story-based than instructional, though the third chapter, “Do-It-Together Screenprinting: Dream Job or Nightmare Job?” does explain the process of printing on professional equipment. It too can be confusing, probably bearing out that it’s easier to learn by doing than just reading about it.

I enjoyed the second chapter for what it was, an inside look at the difficulties of being a street vendor in San Francisco, especially when selling your own wares. Now I’ll feel guilty next time I tell someone, “I’ll come back later.” Because the book is entirely is accurate about shoppers in this aspect: we usually don’t.

Screen printing is something I’ve been interested in trying for some time, but while I was hoping to learn something from this book and get started on my new hobby, I now feel a bit intimidated.

Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting: An Instructional Graphic Novel
by John Isaacson
published by Microcosm Publishing (Bloomington, 2007)
ISBN 978-0-9770557-4-6