New Zine

Princess Tee Vee

August 2, 2021

Throwback Thursday! The Layoff

July 29, 2021
The cartoonist gets laid off from his day job.

I hesitated reposting The Layoff. Old wounds, and all that. If you’ve ever been let go from a job, you know it sucks. It sucks for years after.

I tried to deal with the experience by making a comic about it. I made two of them, actually – there’s a follow up to this one called The Job Hunt. Then I decided I had enough with journal comics. I don’t like talking about myself.

Of course, here I am talking about myself. Not to mention Pity Party, which is also talking about myself. If I’m going to write journal comics about me, I should write about when I’m feeling happy. It does happen.

Kurt Vonnegut had this great quote about acknowledging when we are happy.

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Between Kurt Vonnegut’s “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is”, and Ted Lasso’s “be a goldfish”, I could be a whole new man!

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In all seriousness, if you are going through some kind of job loss, do get the help you need to take care of yourself. Do it sooner than later. If you wait, by the time you realise you need help, you could have already done lasting damage to yourself. And that’s no good.

You deserve to be happy. Onward!

Father Time

July 25, 2021

Throwback Thursday! Crows Be Prepared

July 22, 2021
Crows Be Prepared, where our avian friends prepare for the end of the world.

Happy Throwback Thursday! This weeks art from the archives is Crows Be Prepared, an evergreen story I feel is just as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Mostly I just wanted to draw a crow in an army helmet. Mission accomplished!

Time for a Back Pat

July 20, 2021
Illustration of a man wearing glasses, with a brightly coloured something blasting through his head. There is a large smile painted on his face.

Let’s talk about that thing you’re working on.

I know it’s been hard finding time to work on it. Time of any meaningful length is a unicorn. Family, responsibilities, work, chores, everything. But you found time.

Between tasks at work, on the bus commute, before bed, or before breakfast.

Instead of spending an hour endlessly scrolling through social media.

Here and there.

You penny-jarred the hell out of your thing. And now it’s done.

Sure, there were challenges. The kids took your thing-space for home schooling. Finicky tools. The internet is a fun-house mirror.

But they are all in the past.

You took what was a passing electrical spark in your brain, and turned it into something tangible. That’s amazing. Good work.

And now, it’s time for the next thing. It will be even better than your last thing.

I can’t wait to see it.

Throwback Thursday! Crows and the Zika Virus

July 15, 2021
Crows discuss the Zika Virus.

It’s Throwback Thursday at Survival Anxiety Comics! Remember the Zika Virus? The Crows remember in this week’s archive gem Crows and the Zika Virus.

The Zika epidemic was a hot news item in 2016, and mosquitoes got most of the (deserved) flak for spreading it. The Zika virus was a big concern for pregnant women, who could pass it on to their fetus, potentially causing brain anomalies. Adults could suffer rapid muscle weakness. There was also concern for the athletes participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Simpler times, am I right? Mosquitoes ruin every party.

When working on the character design for the crows, I had envisioned one crow to be kind of dumb, while the other was smart. It’s a common setup. I got bored with it. The smart one became kind of condescending, at least in my mind. I wondered why they would even be hanging out together if that was their dynamic. The crows are supposed to be friends, with differing points of view and experiences. So I eventually eased off on dumb vs smart characteristics, and in more recent comics especially, they compliment each other better. I feel like they’re becoming a bit more like an avian Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. Judgemental about human behaviour, but certainly not without their own flaws.

I used Clip Studio Paint for this comic, although I think it was called Manga Studio 2016. I’m going to stop saying that every time I mention Clip Studio Paint. A comic lettering process I used at the time was to lay out all the dialog text with the Text Tool, then I traced the letter characters with a lettering brush. Something akin to a tech pen. I still use this process for digital illustrations. It feels a bit mechanical here, because I was just figuring it out. The goal was to have comic lettering that visually fit with the cartoon art, and was more unique than a comic lettering font. And tidy. Very tidy lettering.

Of course, today I hand letter all my comics, and it’s a glorious mess, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Thanks for reading!

Best Pencils for Drawing Comics

July 13, 2021

Wherein I interview myself, with much unnecessary snark, about the analog wood and mechanical graphite pencils I use to draw my comics. Let’s begin!

Pencils for Pity Party Page 4.
Pity Party – Page 4 Pencils. They’re a mess, but they’re my mess.

First of all, do you still draw comics with pencils? That’s weird.

You’re weird for thinking it’s weird. I use a variety of pencils, both mechanical and wood, with graphite, and non-photo blue drawing leads.

Non-photo blue? What’s that?

Non-photo blue, also called non-repo blue, is a shade of blue that is not picked up by most black and white copiers, scanners, and cameras. Lines sketched using non-photo blue do not need to be erased after inking, and that is awesome for black and white line art.

I use it primarily for comic lettering, for no other reason than that’s just what I do.

No erasing? That sounds terrifying. Is this dark magic?

That’s a strange thing to say, and no, it’s just a very light blue.

Although, if copying, scanning or photographing an image in colour, the non-photo blue will show up. 

I knew there’d be a trick! LIAR!

Relax, it’s not complicated.

If you scan as a black and white bitmap, where the scanner detects black and white pixels only, non-photo blue is too light to be detected.

If you scan in greyscale, non-photo blue will appear as a light grey line. Adjust the brightness and contrast of the image (either on the scanner itself, or in your favourite photo editor) until the light grey lines disappear.

If you scan in colour, non-photo blue can be separated out using your favourite photo editor. One method involves replacing the blue channel with the red channel. Another method is to apply a black and white threshold filter to the line art (this is what I do). This is a lot like scanning in black and white, but with more flexibility.

I nodded off. Are we still talking about pencils for comics?

Stay with me, one more thing. You can buy non-photo blue wood pencils, such as Prismacolor, or Staedtler. You can also buy non-photo blue drawing leads for your favourite mechanical pencil, such as Prismacolor Turquoise.

Technically you could even use a very light blue pen, but this is a post about pencils.

So that’s enough about non-photo blue pencils. What other pencils do you use to draw comics?

This is a list of my drawing and writing pencils.

Pentel 120 A3 / A315 with Pentel Super Hi-Polymer H lead. I use this mechanical pencil for thumbnails and idea sketching.

Staedtler Mars 780 with Prismacolor Turquoise Non Photo Blue drawing leads. This is an old mechanical pencil, used almost exclusively for comic lettering.

Eagle Turquoise 10 S with Turquoise HB drawing leads. Another really old mechanical pencil, used mostly for penciling comics. HB is a nice weight of graphite for comics, primarily because it won’t leave an impression in the paper like harder drawing leads, and it still erases easily enough.

Palomino Blackwing. Beautiful wood pencil. Smells like heaven. I use it for writing, and sometimes sketching. It’s a soft lead, so I don’t thumbnail with it much, because it smudges.

Mitsubishi 9850. Another beautiful wood pencil. I use it for writing, and sometimes sketching.

I’ve had enough. Any last words?

When making comics, use any pencil you want. Or don’t use any pencils. There is no right way, just make something with tools you like. If you don’t have tools you like, use whatever you have on hand. Or experiment with tools you don’t like, it’s all good.

Just make something, and have fun!

Paint, Wallpaper, Website Banners

July 6, 2021

I’ve been working on the website lately, intending to improve the SEO. Ugh. I’ve been trying to improve the load time by optimizing images and code, and organizing the comic art and blog posts better. A secondary effect of this effort is that it’s focusing the website on the important bits, which is honestly just better for everyone concerned.

I use WordPress, and I designed my own basic theme a while ago. It’s dirt simple, no bell, no whistles, but I try to slowly improve it over time. Coding a website to me is like KFC – I really want it until I’m elbow deep in it, then I never want to see it again. Repeat annually.

Anyway, a sudden burst of this website improvement lead me to (finally) design a set of banner illustrations. I had created the Survival Anxiety Comics logo a while ago, but it wasn’t until last week I (finally) incorporated it into a set of banners.

I was going to draw new illustration art for the banner, but that requires time and effort. So I thought a simpler idea would be to reuse existing comic art. I could take close crops of the high resolution versions of the art, then apply a nice colour overlay to force the usually black line art to sit behind the logo. The illustration could become textural.

When I started looking through the Survival Anxiety Comics archive, I had trouble choosing one image. So the internet taught me how to make several images appear randomly when the page loads. And now I have not 1, but 10 banner images! Too many? Shut your mouth.

Here are 5 of them:

Robot and Francis the Sheep floating through space on a rock head.
A storm rages, hurling water and fish through the forest.
A brick wall, with part of a comedy venue poster.
Robot and Francis the Sheep blow up mutant snow zombies with unstable laser weapons.
The city, the suburbs, the country.

If you want to see the rest of the banners, I suggest you peruse the site a bit.

The rotation of unique banner illustrations adds a bit of life to the site. Probably has zero effect on SEO, but definitely improves the visual experience, and that’s not nothing.

New comic on Thursday! See you then!

Throwback Thursday! Crows and the Mosaic-Tailed Rat

July 1, 2021
In this comic, the crows remember their good, and stylish, friend, the Mosaic-Tailed Rat.

Welcome to another Throwback Thursday, here at Survival Anxiety Comics! Today, it’s the first full page crows story, called Crows and the Mosaic-Tailed Rat. I was going for a different look in 2016. I like it, but couldn’t sustain it.

In real life, I had to contend with crows getting into our garbage bags on garbage day. Those birds would rip into my garbage bags, even toss the lid off the garbage can, and make a real mess of the trash. One would show up, then call all their friends to join. They’d drag baby diapers all over the road. What a prize!

I’d run out out of the house to the road, waving my arms like a lunatic, yelling at these feathered bastards to get outta there! They’d just take a hop backward, and indignantly caw back at me. As if to say, the garbage is on the side of the road! We have every right to it! Caw, caw!

And so all that filtered through my brain into this idea – a couple of crabby crows, opining, and judging about people things.

Around the time of this comic, the mosaic-tailed rat had gone extinct due to climate change. A tragic story, to be sure, and also a suitable discussion for these two crows.

Side note – I avoid 9 panel comic pages these days. My panel template allows for it, but if my story is more than 6 or 7 panels, I’ll try to spread them out over two pages. I’ll leave 9 panels for the pros.

Making Comics – Imaginary Creative Spaces are Messy

June 29, 2021
Detail from Pity Party page 3, the cartoonist examines ideas in his Ideas Room, and doesn't think highly of them.

Pity Party Page 3 is nearly finished. A bit of clean up and scanning left to go, as the cartoonist’s characters get into mischief in the cartoonist’s Ideas Room. Read the completed pages of Pity Party in the Survival Anxiety comic archive.

I like to imagine that this Ideas Room space changes all the time. Like if I came back in a year, the door could lead to a desert island. Or an ice cream parlour. Or a black void. Your imaginary creative space is no doubt very different.

It’s unclear at the moment if our imaginary creative work spaces are eligible for work from home tax breaks, but I’d go ahead and claim them anyway. I’m sure it’s fine.

I’m laying off the sponge effects a bit on this page. I got a bit heavy with it on the last page, and tried to dial it back on this one. I realize I need to start creating texture in different, and in more specific ways. For example, the shelf wood grain above, or the book cover. A little sponge goes a long way.

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