FREE COMIC Death By Service

Well it’s been far too long since I’ve updated my website… I guess that means it’s time for you all to enjoy a FREE COMIC!

Well it’s been far too long since I’ve updated my website… I guess that means it’s time for you all to enjoy a FREE COMIC!

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook you already know that I’ve not been idle all this time, rather I’ve been doing a lot of writing and there will be more on that soon, but not today. Today is all about Death by Service. I’d love to say that Death by Service started life as an ambitious thought experiment on the disposability of human life, the hazards of war, and the prison industrial complex. I’d love to say all that, but while it might have become that after many hours staring at a computer screen and a scribble-filled A4 pad DbS was really born out of my own frustration with another short comic script that wasn’t working. At all.

I wanted to deal with war, yes, and the disposability of human life, but I couldn’t reconcile those themes with my story, my vehicle was broken and I needed a lot of new parts to make it go. Rather than continuing to work on a script that wasn’t going the right way I shelved the project and cannibalised some of the more enticing ideas and used an interesting frame to bring the whole thing together in DbS. What resulted was one of my tightest scripts to date, and a story I feel is up there with anything I’ve put out so far. Saying more would spoil the comic, so I’ll just shut up but in the mean time I’d just like to take a moment to praise Ahmed Rafaat for not only his excellent artwork, but his incredible, infectious enthusiasm for this project. He approached the script with a energy that translated on to the page and brought a great liveliness in the art and storytelling to an otherwise morbid story. I can honestly say he gave it his all and was never shy to suggest a way to improve the pacing of a scene.

OK that’s more than enough from my head.

Art by: Ahmed Rafaat

Letters by: Kerrie Smith

Script by: Some guy



It was around this time last year that Eoin Marron and I began to put together an outline for what was to become the Hero. I’ve spoken about the Hero already, so I’ll keep this short so you can get right to the comic. At the time all we really knew was that we wanted to do a short action piece with a twist ending. We’re both readers of 2000AD and both fans of the Future Shock so it seemed like a perfect fit.

Somewhere between our deciding to work together and my starting the script, Eoin got a pretty cool internship, and darnit all if that didn’t push the man to overhaul the layouts and designs and put together a excellent comic! See that last panel, that very last panel right there at the end? All Eoin.

We were lucky enough to have approached Triona Farrell at the exact right time, with a reasonable enough deadline that she was able to take on the project, and really turn her colours to the storytelling. I believe her first comment on the inks was “this is going to be pinker than you’d expect”, before proceeding to explain a whack of colour theory that pretty much resolved any issues I could have with her pallet choice and storytelling. I think she did a brilliant job, and it broke my heart that this short first saw publication in greyscale.

I’d be remiss to not mention Kerrie Smith who not only lettered the comic and designed the logo but also prepared the final files for both print and digital distribution. I work with Kerrie on quite a few projects and I’m always impressed at how she changes up her lettering from project to project to suit the line-work and colours.

Right so, that’s enough from me. Enjoy the Hero!

Thought Bubble 2016!

WOW this year tore in at breakneck speed and here we are already staring down the barrel of another Thought Bubble… I am exhausted!

To provide just a pinch of context here, Thought Bubble is one of the big ones for anyone making comics in the UK and Ireland. It’s a huge show with incredible guests, great exhibitors and some of the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun fans around! It’s the convention that I use to bookend my year and I always like to try and do something a little special for it!

If you’re on the fence about attending Thought Bubble, jump off that fence, book a hotel in Leeds and fly, drive, bus, train, sail, ferry or swim over! It’ll be well worth your time. It’s brilliant! thoughtbubbletable

This year I’ll be returning to the TB Marquee with my long time partner in crime Kerrie Smith! You should come over and say hi, and maybe even buy some comics… please buy some comics.

I’ve already spoken about BLACK, WHITE AND GREY, and you can see a full preview of it here, but that’s not all that’s coming to the big tepee this year! MALEVOLENCE has been receiving some exciting critical buzz since we launched it back in August, and we figured for our second printing, we’d make a few small changes. Mostly on the writing and lettering end, but we have made one exciting addition that I think you’ll want to get your hands on ASAP!

MALEVOLENCE Variant Cover by Cian Tormey (art) and Dearbhla Kelly (colours)

This excellent variant cover by Cian Tormey, with colours by Dearbhla Kelly will be available for the first time at Thought Bubble from Table 101 in the Marquee! Be sure to get there early if you fancy a copy, as we’re only bringing a limited stock to the show!

If you miss your chance to pick up the Tormey/Kelly variant cover, we’re also going to be bringing copies of the first printing with the original cover, so don’t worry, you’ll still have your chance to get your hands on this horrific short crime story!

Making their return to the Marquee this year are limited copies of SUPERHERO HELP DESK SEASON 1: BIJILICKERS! and Kerrie’s award winning GIRLS LIKE YOU! Again, we’re bringing a limited stock, so if you’re dying to have a little more Super Office Action or Feminist Short Stories in your life, be sure to get to us early and we’ll hook you up!

Finally, if you’re at Thought Bubble and feel like picking up some more Irish comic books, I should recommend PROJECT CROSSROADS by Seán Hogan. I could go on and on about PROJECT CROSSROADS, and the short I wrote for it “Ducksworth’s Last Stand” but for now what I’ll say is, you can find Seán in the Royal Armouries Hall at Table 37, and you should most definitely pick up a copy!


I’m delighted to announce that Rapha Lobosco and I will be collecting our short comics in one shiny collection at Thought Bubble! With letters and book design by Kerrie Smith, BLACK, WHITE AND GREY promises to deliver some strange and thoughtful stories!

BLACK, WHITE AND GREY collects the critically acclaimed MURPHY’S DAY, the award-winning HEAVY BLACK, the action packed DAY JOB, a brand new short story DREAMWEAVER and as a bonus a preview for a new Graphic Novel BLACK NEPTUNE.


One final thank you has to go out to Comic Printing UK for their outstanding customer service, this book may not have come together without them!

The Hero and the IF Anthology

The Hero is a short comic to be published by Alterna Comics in their upcoming IF Anthology.

With art by the excellent Eoin Marron, colours from the always exciting Triona Farrell and letters by the tireless Kerrie Smith, the Hero is a 4 page comic that asks the question, what makes a hero.

When we sat down to discuss our first collaboration Eoin and I had the very loose idea to make a short comic with a twist. Beyond that, Eoin knew he wanted to see the comic in colour and his first choice for colourist was Tree. Somewhere between agreeing to work together and approaching Tree to lend us her pallet, I started obsessing over the role of the “hero” versus the “protagonist” and got an image stuck in my head of a classic superhero being held captive/interrogated by a paramilitary group.

What Makes a Hero?

After bouncing ideas around for a little while, we settled on fast paced action piece that would allow us to examine the idea of the hero while building to a twist we could both really enjoy. I won’t go in to too much detail right now, but you should check out the comic to find out more!

In a strange twist all its own, the Hero was fully illustrated, coloured and lettered before we were made aware that the IF Anthology was looking for submissions for superhero stories. This presented us with a very real problem; the IF Anthology is printed in black and white, while the Hero was always intended to be presented in full colour. This was more than a little heartbreaking. Tree’s colours are excellent and deserve to be highlighted, but the IF Anthology seemed like the perfect home for the Hero. Although we agonised over the decision to pitch to Alterna and risk losing a key part of our story in the end we agreed to use Tree’s grey scale shading to bring the inks to life, and trust me they really do come to life! Still, one day soon we’ll get the full colour edition out there!

The IF Anthology features the work of 96 creators over 40 unique and challenging stories and includes the Irish made stories,”Gravity” by writer and letterer Kerrie Smith and artist Hannah Deacon, “We Can Be Heroes” by writer Darrin O’Toole, artist Barry Keegan and letterer Dee Cunniffe, and of course, “the Hero” which you’ve been reading all about.

You can pre-order your copy through the IF Anthology Kickstarter Campaign today!


Murphy’s Day Script

Scripted in 2015, for issue 7 of Lightning Strike Presents, Murphy’s Day follows the story of a man whose day is falling apart around him.

I wanted to do something a little different with this script. To this point in my comic making my focus had been on using dialogue and captions to tell a story. I’ve always found dialogue to be the part of writing that comes most naturally to me, but in my mind comics can be about so much more than just the dialogue. For Murphy’s Day I stripped all of that away to present a mostly silent script (the exception being the constantly ticking clock and buzzing phone). I wanted to create a short comic that would invite the reader to give it a second or maybe even a third look, and so I played with the space on the page too, counting down from 10 panels on page 1 to 1 panel on page 10. I’ll go in to more detail of why I wrote the script the way I did, and how the artist and letterer on the book managed to make it all flow together and improve on my script in a later blog post. Maybe…


FREE COMIC Murphy’s Day

First Published in Lightning Strike Presents Issue 7, Murphy’s Day tells the story of the day everything went wrong for the titular Murphy.

Murphy’s Day was an exercise in storytelling and using a comic book format in an interesting way. To this day I believe it remains one of my better scripts and it doesn’t hurt that Rapha’s art and storytelling is just really lovely!

I hope you enjoy it!

Art by Rapha Lobosco

Letters by Kerrie Smith

Script by Hugo Boylan


Keep an eye on the site for updates on this one folks, I’m hoping to post the full script later this month.



Heavy Black Script

Heavy Black was originally scripted in early 2014 as a writing exercise.

Titan Comics had put out a call for 6 page stories dealing with a “lost in space theme”, and that struck me as a great opportunity to play with monster horror and to work on rapid tension building.

In 2015 comic artist Rapha Lobosco approached me for script samples to practice on. He took to Heavy Black  and asked if we could produce the short comic for that year’s Comic City Festival. The final edition of Heavy Black deviates from the script in a few ways. For example, we felt that a seventh page would allow for the gravity of Charlie’s decision to stick with the reader. There are several other small differences between the finished product and the script (revealing Charlie’s face immediately and ditching her plasma torch early on being two of the most prominent), I find this is a normal teething process for any collaboration. A script should inspire an artist, not dictate to them.

Script by Hugo Boylan 

Cover art by Manny Clark

Letters by Kerrie Smith


Malevolence Preview


Cover Preview


Art by John Quigley 

Colours by Dearbhla Kelly

Letters by Kerrie Smith

Script by Hugo Boylan (hey that’s me!)

Launched at Dublin Comic Con 2016, Malevolence has been receiving some pretty positive reviews so far with Irish Comic News calling it “an excellent book”, Geek Ireland praising it as a “creepy tale of murder and anger steeped in Irish mythology”, Comix Ireland simply naming it “twisted”, Comicsverse scoring it a 4.9 of a possible 5 stars and Other Worlds Than These generously identifying it as a “a creepy little triumph of a book”!

Malevolence is a short story focusing on crime, wrath and folklore. If you’re in to weird horrors, historical settings and a spot of violence in your comics, this one might be for you.

Please enjoy this 4 Page Preview!


Copies of Malevolence will be available at Thought Bubble 2016!

Hi There!

After a few disastrous years using, neglecting and forgetting about Tumblr, I’ve decided to put together a website to share my work, news and some sample scripts with all of you.
I’m Hugo and I make comics.

Rather than doing a typical “intro post” which I’m truly terrible at I’m going to cannibalise one of my old Tumblr posts where I spoke about small press comics in Ireland. I figure, hey why not start off on the right foot?

The following was originally written and posted after DICE 2014, and while a lot of the analysis and advice stands up, some of the information has changed. “Collateral” as a company no longer exists, Tree Farrell has moved on from Superhero Help Desk and is now colouring comics professionally (go Tree!), I’ve since written more books, learned more about the industry and have a lot more to say, but this is a pretty good starting point.


Originally Published September 30, 2014 — Yikes this is old. I’m going to need to do a new one soon! 

A War on the Ground: Taking my First Steps in Self-Publishing and the Lessons I’ve Learned (so far)

I’m going to endeavour to keep this as light and un-academic as possible, but due to the nature of the material I’m going to deal with this will get heavy, it should get intense and it’s going to be long if I start rambling, I apologise in advance.

For the “TLDR” crowd:

  • Self-publishing is hard, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do and I hate it.
  •  … but I kind of love it.
  •  Comics are an amazing medium and you need to study them to get anywhere.
  • The industry professionals are generous, kind and pretty wonderful all around.
  • Hard work does not equal success, but it helps.
  • Conventions are your best friend, even if they nearly kill you.
  • Sell your book. Really sell it. Never just sit idly by and wait for customers to come to you.
  • Work harder and aim higher.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • More; but you need to read the rest to pick it all up.

This year at DICE I was involved in exhibiting five products over two tables. The five different products each required a different kind of customer interaction and were each received in vastly different ways. I learned a lot about my market this weekend and what follows will be a close examination of working at your first conventions, making a small press comic book, marketing a small press comic book and team-building.

Getting Started

The very first lesson I want to share with you is this: know your limits. It’s incredibly easy to forget that we all have our limits; it’s far too easy to take on a vast amount of work when you’re feeling fresh and full of energy only to be crushed under the weight of deadlines and promoting your own material. For me pushing out three comic books, a webcomic and trying to promote a new distribution service over the course of one weekend was that limit. Once I hit that limit I was completely spent. I had pushed myself as hard as I could and then I burned out. As a direct result of not knowing my own limits I missed a very important tech. convention on Monday where I was supposed to promote that digital distribution service again. Though my team would never say it to me and though I know they’re more than capable of pulling off an amazing event without me, I feel like I let them down and that’s a terrible feeling.

Conversely you must push yourself if you want to improve. It is too often at these conventions that I see the same books repeating themselves and hoping for new sales. In many instances, even if a creator has brought out a new book or issue in the same series, it suffers from many, if not all of of the same problems as their predecessors. Others have spoken on the need for the Irish small press and indy scene to improve and grow, so I won’t dwell on that point, but what I will tell you is this: hard work is its own reward. As long as you (not me or anyone else, just you) can look at your product and know, unequivocally that you have worked as hard as you can and that you’ve made all of the improvements possible between the last product you put out there and this one; between the last con you exhibited at and this one, then you’re walking on the right road.

“So how do I improve my comics?” Great question, I genuinely love everything about this question, I ask it every day of myself, and I know a few of my small press colleagues do the same. There’s no one single answer, but a great place to start is with your local critics. There are plenty of reviewers and critics in Ireland. For my money Leeann Hamilton of The Cool Bean is a critic that every Irish small press creator should get to know. Here’s why: she’s smart, she’s honest and she’s brutal. One of the best ways to improve is to have someone give your book a proper critical reading. That just happens to be something Leeann excels at. You might not like what you hear back, but always remember these two things (1) that review will be representative of a percentage of your market and (2) you lose nothing by hearing harsh criticism.

You’re not limited to critics either. Plenty of the people that you meet at conventions and expos, the people who bought your book, will have a lot of feedback. It never hurts to reach out and ask their opinions. Even the industry pros are able to help you. If you approach a professional at a con and ask for their help, nine times out of ten they’d love to do it. Making comics is a community, and the pros want to pay it forward. Even if they can’t or won’t help you on the day, they’re still rooting for you. Honestly, they want you to improve; they need the next generation of creators to be as good as they are. If we stagnate, we die, that’s just pop culture.

In my case, I pushed out High Fantasy #1 out at Dublin Comic Con last month. We all worked hard on that book. The style was cool, the letters were good the story… well I enjoyed it. The very first thing I did with High Fantasy when I took a break from selling was drop a copy over to PJ Holden and Darrin O’Toole. These are two guys I really respect. I want to be as good as they are. Darrin is brilliant at structuring a story and keeping his readers turning the page he studies it regularly; pacing is a weakness of mine, so it’s a no brainier. PJ is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest storytellers in comics. Numbercruncher is a clinic in drawing the reader’s eye and eliciting great reactions. Darrin was busy on the day and asked that I drop a copy out to him another time. No worries there, I delivered it to him within the week and oh boy did I get some feedback! PJ was another story. His eyes lit up when I handed him the comic as he produced a black Sharpie and he asked if he could mark the pages. What followed was a lesson in page layouts, covers and lettering. Kerrie and I still keep our ‘PJ Copy’ on our work desk. I then asked PJ if I could send Amanda over to him for some advice on the art. PJ broke down the art style and in essence gave Amanda the tools she needed to improve; namely her very own ‘PJ Copy’.

When we showed PJ the new edition of High Fantasy #1 and High Fantasy #2 he was delighted that we had taken his advice to heart, and he paid us the amazing compliment of telling us that it was not only better, but almost to a professional standard. The art was better, the perspective had been fixed the kerning issues in the lettering had been dealt with and the storytelling was all a little sharper. Even the cover “pops of the page now”. As difficult as it is to hear that your work isn’t perfect, if I hadn’t have approached PJ, and Darrin with my cap in hand asking them to take a doctor’s scalpel to my work the book would never have improved. If I had put my back up and got defensive when they pointed out all of our (and there were, are and will forever be many) flaws my pacing would still be a big issue for me (I’ve been told it’s a little better now), and the art wouldn’t have jumped from ‘decent amateur’ to ‘almost professional’. I guess what I’m saying here is (and I’m going to quote Swimming with Sharks): “shut up, listen, learn”. Everyone is here to help, even if they don’t say as much.

Getting Down to Business

Comics are an art form. Creating them is an exercise in teamwork, patience and self-editing. Producing them is a business. Stop for a second and think about that. While I fully agree with the idea of art for art’s sake, once you reach the production stage of making comics it must be treated as a business. The world of comics is insanely competitive; there are thousands of people as good as, if not better than you vying for dozens of ‘dream job’ positions. I for one want Si Spurrier’s Marvel gig, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon (… damn Spurrier with his “quality work” and “good attitude”). When I set out to make a comic, I don’t just sit down a blitz a script, and redraft it… over and over again. The first thing I do is I work out my budget for the project. What can I afford to spend on this book? How much can I pay the artist? If they want to take more, can I afford to pay them a sales percentage in addition to money up front? Can I afford to make this book right now? How many extra shifts at work do I have to take? Do I have to take on some freelance work? Do I have to go back and work security for a few weeks to make up the difference (this is when I hit desperation mode)? Once I work out where I can get the money to pay for the project I have to ask a really disheartening question: is this project worth that much time? That time isn’t the time that I will have to spend writing the comic, or promoting it; rather it’s the time spent doing everything that isn’t making comics, so I can afford to make comics. How head-wrecking is that?

Comics are expensive to make. The artists that I work with offer me an excellent page rate, far less than they could get elsewhere. In exchange for this I have to take on a mountain of work in terms of marketing the comic, paying for printing, offering support and guidance (while I’m not a pro yet, it always helps to be on hand for your artists if they’re going through a rough patch) and just being on hand for creative and strategic meetings. This means that, regardless of how many ideas I have, or scripts I write, or even artists who I’d give my right arm to work with and who would be willing to work with me, I have to be very discerning about what projects I take up. If I can’t commit to doing all of the legwork and marketing that I can for a project, then there’s no point in my hiring an artist for it. It’s wasting my time, and their time and it is wasting money. Time and money are two hugely important resources to you if you’re working in the small press world. You have none of either and that’s not going to change because of the books that you’re putting out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or an artist; you’re probably going to go broke for a few years trying your hand at small press.

OK this part is going to get kind of disheartening and a little technical, so you can skip on if you like, or stay for some theory work.

In my mind, ‘Time’ and ‘Money’ are the two key resources in small press comics (ok, let me stop there for a second. “Small Press” and “indy” are just two terms to describe what is functionally the same thing, don’t ask me to differentiate them right now).

Time is what you need to make a comic. Time is also what you need to earn Money.

Money is what you need to produce a comic. Money is also what you need to earn to live.

As a writer of comics I have substantially more Time than I have Money.

This is because of two main factors:

(1)  Most of my Money is funnelled in to paying artists and to paying for print runs… and promoting projects.

(2)  While it might take me five days to write (edit, rewrite, reedit… cry into my Captain America T-Shirt, edit again) a twenty page script, it will take an artist at least twenty days to turn that script into a twenty page comic. That’s assuming that artist doesn’t have anything to do besides draw your comic (by the way, they ALWAYS have something to do besides draw your comic, and you damn well know it).

The artists I work with have substantially more Money than they have Time.

This is because of two main factors:

(1)  Most of their Time is dominated by the practice of drawing comics.

(2)  I pay them my Money to spend their Time drawing a script of mine.

I feel it’s important we take a break here so I can explain something: in this instance “substantially more” Time or Money, is still comparable to “sweet fuck all” Time or Money. We’re all broke and none of us have time. “Welcome to comics” (Jeanine Schaefer, #DICE14 in response to my telling her I had no money and hadn’t slept in weeks).

Now that we understand the Time/Money dichotomy we’re going to talk quickly about ‘intrinsic worth’, versus ‘actual worth’ and then I promise we’ll get back to something slightly less boring.

So we’ve looked at what resources we spend to produce a comic right? Time and Money, both precious, both spent on this book. It’s fucking awesome. It’s the best book. It’s your book. It’s something that you’ve poured your heart and soul; your Time and Money; your… your everything in to. It’s worth the world… to you. To me? It’s worth about a buck fiddy. Oh you want more? Well why don’t I just buy some Image titles and an Exclusive Print instead?

There we have the intrinsic worth versus actual worth.

AAAAAND we’re back.

We creators can’t ever expect people to give two flying monkeys and a side of gingerbread about how much our book means to us, what it took out of us to make, how much we begged and pleaded our printer to “please man… please, just… just a little less? Just a couple of euro off… please? I… I just… mercy!”

Once we’ve started producing books, they’re no longer our baby. They’re our product. They are worth less than 4 euro a copy. Sorry. Unless you’re doing a full OGN, your comic book isn’t worth the Money that you think it is (less so if the Time you take to produce the next one is more than, oh… say five months?). This is when we as creators have to start understanding our small press market.

Do I have all the answers? Lord lizard almighty no. I don’t. I’m still learning. What I do know is this: never stop working, no matter how few sales you make on the first day. Your market wants to buy Saga and Batman and the Avengers before they come near you. If you have an amazing book, but take too long to produce a new issue, you run the risk of losing a massive chunk of your market. Look at Big Bastard. Just look. Beautiful isn’t it? I gave up on these guys after #1, because it took them almost a year to get #2 out. Then, out of nowhere, #3 hit the shelves in a couple of months, and I was playing a lot of catchup! All of a sudden, I gave a shit again!

As creators, we need to learn that our small press audience has the attention span of a chihuahua on crack. Get it done well, get it done fast or just… I dunno, try voodoo?

Direct Sales

Now it’s time to take a look at our market. The Irish market is tiny. It doesn’t even register as a real market. Seriously. How many collectors in Ireland shop exclusively for indy titles? How many really care? Those of you who exhibited at DICE; how many of you made your money back? How many turned a profit? How many saw repeat business? How many didn’t?

Ireland is fucking amazing. We have a super set of creative aspirants, we have a pretty high proportion of nerds per capita (#NerdLife) and the local pros pretty much bend over backwards to support us in our comic making, even if it’s really not their style. Hell, Dublin is a Diamond ‘Red Zone’ (I’ll leave the retailers to explain that one). All of these are amazing things, they fill me with warm bubbly feelings and they all count for exactly zero sales.This is where we get in to talking about what I call “the War on the Ground”.

Selling your small press book is a war. It is. You’ve bought space at a con because you think it’s awesome. You believe in your book. You think you might be one of the best books there. Guess what, so did I, so did everyone else in that small press section. Real talk? Those other exhibitors aren’t your enemies. You are. I was working for the majority of the Sunday at the High Fantasy table. To my right Triona ‘Tree’ Farrell was manning her half of the table and pushing the Superhero Help Desk. To my left Ciaran Lucas was exhibiting his new animation project-come-comic Rover. Are you kidding me with this? Ciaran is a fucking professional animator! His stuff is like… GAH! It’s so pretty I could chop off his head and attain his abilities Highlander style. Tree… well everyone who saw Tree’s Pokemon Propaganda Posters fell in love. Tree’s awesome. Oh, hang on, she’s promoting a new up and coming comic too? Oh shit, it’s that wonderful script she had me read? So how in the name of Arya Horseface am I going to sell my prints, comics and anything else? Surely these two amazing, smart, experienced con-going creators are going to just take all of that business? Right?

Well you’re half right.

This is where the direct sales game comes in to play. Now me? I’m a born salesman. I can say without ego that my school guidance councillor told me to go into selling used cars. I love selling things, I love building them up in a prospective customer’s mind, I just really enjoy that. Fast talking, superlatives, a cocky swagger? Yeah I use none of that. Doesn’t work and people know what you’re doing. How I make sales (and I sold really well at DICE, more on that later) is by engaging with prospective customers. “How’s it going?” is a great way to start. Talk to your customer. You’re not the superstar of the show, you’re not a hot-shot writer or artist, you’re a creator with a project; but the customer? Wow, they’re out loving the con, meeting creative people chatting about their day, the books they love, your book, why you thought wearing a green Joker T-Shirt with a grey suit was a good idea. Anything at all. They’re having a good time. Yes they are a walking wallet, but if you treat a wallet well, it’ll last you years. You need to find a headspace where you’re not just a walking talking billboard. You’re their buddy, that cool creator from that table over there who talked to me about Batman and the Demon and, I know right, the Demon needs more exposure! Make a friend, make a sale… just don’t be creepy about it.

Do’s and Don’ts

So let’s talk about how you can sell me your comic.

  1. Engage. Catch my eye. Never spend the entire con weekend looking at your phone, or shoes. If you’re an artist only sketch if you’re being paid to, or if you can sketch and chat, otherwise you’ve lost me.
  2. Find a way to own your headspace, get happy, get enthused, get engaged.
  3. Offer me your book, don’t wait for me to pick it up. “Hey there, want to check out a comic?” Or try “try it out, if you like it you can buy it, if not, hey, no hard feelings”. People like to know what they’re getting into.
  4. Free stuff. I want it. Don’t care what it is.
  5. Useful free stuff. I give away bookmarks. People keep them and later check out your website/book… whatever.
  6. Offer a good deal. I’m never paying 10 euro for a 10 page comic. Three 20 page comics for 10 euro? And my choice of free bookplate? Well now you’ve got me interested.

I could go in to more tips and some more details, but I’d like to quickly talk about what not to do.

  1. Unless you’re an artist and you’re sketching for cash (or are at near critical levels of burnout) NEVER. SIT. DOWN. Just don’t do it. When you sit down it gives the impression that you’re relaxed, maybe even bored. Standing shows that you’re energetic and willing to engage. Look at Anthea West as an example here. She stood, she stood, she conquered.
  2. Just… just don’t look disinterested or bored. You do that, then you’ve made your customer disinterested and bored. I don’t care if you’re exhausted. I don’t care if you’re in a bad mood. As a customer, you’ve made me just not care.
  3. Molcher’s Law: Don’t be a dick.
  4.  Don’t talk down to me.
  5. Don’t look away and scan for another sale if I don’t buy your book right away.
  6. Don’t make a sale and usher me on.

I could teach of class on this don’ts of direct sales, and if you’ve ever left a shop feeling like you’ve been mistreated, you probably could too. Treat your customer the same way you want to be treated. They’re the special one – you’re just an art-and-or-word-monkey

I Just Wanna ‘Break In’

What I hear a lot of is “sales just isn’t my thing” and “I’m only doing this until I ‘Break In’”. Here’s a scoop for you, if you’re trying to ‘Break In’, you should be making small press comics. Hell Breaking In is a series of small steps, and small press comics are often that first step. Here’s where it gets tricky, as soon as you make the decision to make comics… well then my friend sales just became your thing. I’m not going to dwell on this, but I’ll ask you to refer back to the Time/Money dichotomy. If you want to produce comics, you need Money. To get Money you need to work, spending your Time on something that isn’t comics to earn that Money. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could earn some Money back from the comics you produced?

It’s a no brainer folks. You’re in sales, you just don’t know it.

Teaming Up

So I’ve spoken a little bit about sales, promoting, attitude… I’m not going to touch quality in this post, but what I will talk about is teamwork. Teamwork is, for me, the absolute make-or-break of any comic book project. Know your team. Talk to your team. Trust in your team. Believe in your team. I’m not going to go into the Collateral Comics team on this one, because I want to focus more on the making comics aspect of… well comics, but teamwork is crucial to any project. It doesn’t matter if you’re the kind of person who does almost everything yourself, you still use a team. Be it a friend for emotional support, or just the printer you use, you’re all on team ‘My Awesome Comic, Fuck Yeah!”

Warning: Case Study Ahead. Skip if Easily Bored!

As a writer with the artistic ability of a spastic gnat I can’t function without a team around me. Currently, not including Collateral Comics, I’m working on… (oh this is where all of my money has gone) I’m working on more than five distinctive teams for five vastly different projects that demand my attention in so many different ways. Let me break this down, just for the sake of clarity, with a quick case study of the books I was pushing at DICE.

Superhero Help Desk:

Writer/Editor: Kerrie Smith

Writer/Editor: Hugo Boylan

Artist/Editor: Triona ‘Tree’ Farrell

Lettering: Kerrie Smith

Social Media/Project Manager: Hugo Boylan

This is a webcomic was set up just over a year ago with Kerrie Smith and Triona ‘Tree’ Farrell and I. We’ve had our rough times and we’ve come close to breaking up the project a few times. Now we kept at it, and we have what I think is a pretty darn good webcomic to show for it.
So how did we build the team? Well, it helps that Kerrie is my girlfriend, spiritual guide and all told one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. As soon as she told me she wanted to make comics and she wanted me to work with her, I was on board. I knew Tree from university. I wanted to do a comic with Tree, even before I wanted to make comics my life. I love Tree’s style.

I work as a project manager on this webcomic. I make sure the meetings run on time. I make sure we have enough bookmarks to distribute to all of our prospective readers. I make sure Tree is paid on time and I resolve disputes. The one bump in the road we’ve had in terms of disputes nearly took this whole project down.

While I will not publicly post on the bad times, suffice it to say there were situations that I could have, and should have handled better. It almost ruined this project, a passion project of mine and Kerrie’s. A project that genuinely brings me joy nearly died and it was largely my fault. As soon as we came through that rough time, I made a commitment never to fuck up like that again. Ever.
From then on, communication was key. We have a very strong line of communication. Every week Tree sends Kerries the sketches. Kerrie tells her if she needs more room for lettering, Tree crafts the page, and if there’s too much to fit, Kerrie and I will sit down and edit the scripts until everything slots nicely into the strip.

It took us almost a year to figure out that conveyor system. To all webcomic teams, take heeds, this will make your life easier.

I will caution you now that every project has its fractious moments. Times when the last people you want to hear from are your teammates. Times when everyone you’re working with pisses you off. Once you come through that your team will be a solid one. Right now, there is nobody in the world I’d rather make comics with than Kerrie and Tree. I don’t care that webcomics make no money; I don’t care that I won’t see a return on my investments for this project, these two ARE the Superhero Help Desk, and I’m really lucky they let me come along for the ride. It took time, it took a lot of getting used to each other, it costs a few hundred a month to run, but it’s worth it to really gel with a team.

High Fantasy:

Writer: Hugo Boylan

Artist: Amanda Spitzner

Editor/Lettering: Kerrie Smith

Cartography/Flats/Design: Frank de Paula

Social Media: Amanda Spitzner

Social Media: Hugo Boylan

Where do we start with this team? High Fantasy is a really interesting mix. High Fantasy is the first book I ever tried to put to print. After a couple of years of studying the craft of comics, improving my script writing by using the Superhero Help Desk (SHHD) and looking around at different artists, I thought I’d approach Amanda Spitzner of Exploding Comics about doing a book. At that very same moment, so did Kerrie. We put together a pitch list (I still can’t believe Kerrie’s ‘Jenny Skids’ pitch wasn’t the one picked). Long story short, the High Fantasy pitch was the one that appealed most to Amanda and I pretty much begged Kerrie to edit and letter for it, because her work is great and only getting better.

Unlike the SHHD, High Fantasy requires a lot of specific communication; the conveyor system can’t work. Amanda’s not Irish, so there are occasions when the language I use in the script is too colloquial for her to decipher, and sometimes it’s so scrambled that even Frank can’t make sense of it. To keep these instances to a minimum we have regular meetings where we discuss the scripts, the characters and where we want to take the plot. This works, but only because we’re all willing to put in (ready to refer back to the Time/Money dichotomy?) a disproportionate amount of Time into this project for the relatively small short term returns it can yield. We all believe in this project so we work hard to make it happen.

This however can lead to fractious moments, like what we experienced this week at DICE. Our sale numbers on Saturday weren’t what they should be. For whatever reason that was, it left us all very stressed out and to make matters worse, Amanda wasn’t selling any of her sketches. Financial worries in a project like this are an absolute pain. They can ruin a show and put a lot of pressure on the financier, and just as much on an artist who collects half of her pay from the profits.

While our communication is usually great, this weekend we weren’t on top of it and as a result, Amanda and Frank had do the lion’s share of the work at the show. Usually Kerrie and I could compensate for this by being more active on the table, or elevating the spirits of our teammates, but with the amount of other work we had to do for other projects Amanda and Frank were left alone on the table.This risks fundamentally altering the nature of a relationship within a team. Understand this, when you make comics, you make friends. It’s like playing the most competitive sport ever. You laugh together; you cry together, you pick each other up when you’re down. You work hard and you kick ass. All as a team. Unfortunately when the team falters, we all falter, and stress runs rampant and emotionally razes the team (so I drank way too much at the DICE afters and Mike Norton kicked me right up the arse).

The good news is, with a strong team the rough times don’t last forever. A meeting, a heart-to-heart and a fresh focus on the project ahead can bounce you right back to where you want to be.

 (apologies for the real-talk)

The Servant:

Writer:  Hugo Boylan

Artist: Sarah Elliott

Editor/Lettering/Designer: Kerrie Smith

I love the Servant. I love it because it’s exactly what we all agreed it would be. I approached Sarah on the recommendation of a certain gentleman who shall remain Portuguese. We spoke a few times online and I outlined what I wanted the Servant to be. Sarah was very keen on the ideas behind the book and the characters being from diverse backgrounds. After a few meetings we settled on an art style that she was comfortable with and that was going to stand out as really unique and eye catching. Sarah brings a mix of traditional watercolours to the table with a very… I don’t like to say strange style, but it is at that. She brings a unique and strange style to the project that is reminiscent of her own Casket Case book.

Once again I turned to Kerrie, cap in hand (are you starting to see the one reason anything gets done?) and asked her to edit and letter the project and she agreed; telling me in no uncertain terms that I owed her big time when the editing of her own books came around. Kerrie picked a very cool new way of lettering (well new for her, she’s been studying the Todd Klein pretty hard, so who knows what she learned?) that looked like she hand drew the caption boxes… look, it’s pretty and I like it. This complimented the full colour book really well and landed itself to that unique aesthetic. Kerrie also got to try her hand at designing logos for the first time.
What makes this team really work is how much work we all realise is ahead of us. Sarah has just gone back to college, and she works fully traditionally so it’s going to be a slow turn around (flying right in the face of what I said earlier about needing a fast turnaround I know), but that will give me time to refine my storytelling in the script to fit the tone set by her art and colours. My great hope here is that we can get some good feedback and improve and grow as a team and produce a compelling and weird story. I think my colleagues would agree.

Case Study Over

In short, it’s vital to know your team. Your strengths, your weaknesses and the areas where you need to improve. As a coherent team you’re far more likely to push each other forward, meet deadlines and keep each other sane. Trust yourself, trust your teammates and always always always listen to your editor. There will always be rough moments, or times when you feel like you have to quit, but if everyone in your team is willing to work hard and push themselves to improve day in and day out, then you’re looking at a team worth holding on to.

Yeah Yeah, But I’m Just So Awesomely Good

Sweet, glad to hear it! Get out there and kick some ass in the comics game! Why did you even read this far?

Having the right attitude is a game changer. I’m known to my friends as a miserable, misanthropic asshole. I thrive in misery. I read crappy newspapers at work to chuckle at misery. When I’m not being me, I try to present myself as a hard working enthusiastic guy… because… well while misery and misanthropy (and assholery) are a part of me, I’m also hard working and enthusiastic. I try to highlight the positives and hide the negatives. In that way when I approach an industry pro for advice or to show them my books, I can always be sure to give off a good impression. This idea can be reinforced very easily by being respectful to everyone you meet. You should try it. When I look at good attitudes I look at Stephen Mooneyand Ruth Redmond for inspiration. Rarely have I spoken to either of them and left the conversation without a smile on my face.
So I guess what I’m saying here is; if you want to give a book to an editor to look at and maybe get a job if you’re lucky, strike up a dialogue first. Talk to them a little bit, maybe tell a joke? Maybe listen to their stories (they’re usually really awesome)? Do what you’re going to do, but always always be respectful, ask if they’re willing to take a look and smile, it comes across as less desperate. Here’s a handy trick, don’t just do that with editors who can give you jobs either, try it with everyone you meet at a con, pro, customer, exhibitor, just be nice. Be kind.

So To Conclude

DICE was an amazing convention, John, Bruno, JP and all the guys at Big Bang Comics did an incredible job and put on a… superlatives fail me. The show was peerless, and next year you should go and take everyone who loves comics with you.

I’ve learned a lot about small press comics in the last few months, and I could go on and on about it, pretty much forever, but I’m going to leave it there. I might post more of these, I might not. I might just see where the road ahead takes me. We’ll see. Whatever you do, do it well, work harder and reach higher than you are right now. Learn how to sell yourself and your books, learn your audience, ask for feedback and be open and receptive to criticism. Don’t be a dick! Keep working to improve and put out great books, sell them to me next time I see you at a con.

Sorry if I was rambling and I hope someone out there will find this helpful.

Yeah well what the fuck do you know?

Not everything, maybe not as much as you, but I do represent a proportion of your market, so maybe my opinion is worth something, maybe not. Who can say?
All I know is I’m going to go write a script and adapt a whole heap of musicals because that’s how I roll.

Keep reading and writing,