I was thrilled to find out that The Middle Age has been named a finalist in the annual National Cartoonists Society awards.
I apologize for my tongue-tied rambling in the video! 😀
A new TMA book is now available!
Just this week, the new book, The Middle Age – Sword Troubles, became available from Amazon! This large 7.5×9.25-inch, full-color edition collects the first 101 episodes of The Middle Age. It’s essentially a paperback version of the Kickstarted hardcover. I’m really excited to be able to reach a whole new audience with this edition. You can pick up a copy (or leave a review if you already have the hardcover), here: https://amzn.to/2GUEado
The last Kickstarter packages are on their way!
It took me eight months to ship out all those packages! I can’t thank you enough for the kind reactions to the book! And look for the Kickstarter for Volume 2 in the fall! If you want to be reminded when the new Kickstarter goes live, and maybe grab some of the limited, early-bird offers, you can sign up for my e-mail updates here: https://steveconley.com/email/
And… an upcoming appearance!
A week from today, I’ll be a guest at the ACME SUPERSTORE in Longwood, Florida. They’re calling the event the ACME Comic Creator Con and I’ll be signing and sketching all day alongside some great cartoonists, writers, and artists. The event will run from 10am-4pm on Saturday, August 17, 2019. You can get directions and learn more here: http://www.acme-superstore.com/ I hope to see you there!
BTW: The Amazon links on this page are affiliate links.
Today, The Middle Age turns two years old. So much has happened…
- Ninety-eight episodes – even through two hurricanes!
- An Eisner Award nomination for “Best Webcomic”!
- Three Ringo Awards nominations – two for “Best Webcomic” and one for “Best Cartoonist”!
- The Middle Age was picked up by GoComics, showing our hero’s adventures alongside my favorite comic strips including Calvin and Hobbes, Cul de Sac, Peanuts, and Garfield.
- There are now three small, softcover collections of the individual chapters!
- The Middle Age now has more than 3,000 subscribers across GoComics, Webtoon and Tapas.
- There are now sixty supporters on Patreon – and we’re getting ever closer to increasing the strip’s frequency to two days a week!
Not bad for a silly comic strip about an older knight, a sarcastic sword, and two baby dragons.
So what’s the plan for year three?
100 Supporters on Patreon!
This is my current obsession! If I can reach 100 supporters on Patreon, The Middle Age will double to two episodes per week. This is the next big step for the strip and if we can reach this goal, it will mean twice as much story, twice as many opportunities to find new readers, and much more frequent print collections! To that end…
New stories set in the world of The Middle Age!
Starting today, to give readers even more reason to become Patreon supporters, I’m uploading exclusive-to-Patreon comic features – most of which will be set in the world of The Middle Age. These stories aren’t part of the main Sir Quimp storyline but will help flesh out the universe and give me a way to play in the world without slowing our hero down. The first one, “The Fumblesmith of Gaffe” starts today. Upcoming features will look at the cultures of dragons, the 12th War, the magic of sandwiches (nibblemancy), and Fadoodle and Fleak, Agents of the Department of Cosmological Chicanery and Metaphysical What-Have-You.
A hardcover collection of the first three chapters!
Next week, I’ll be launching a Kickstarter to collect the first three chapters in a single hardback volume! I’m super-excited for the new format because it will show the work at a much larger size than the individual, single-chapter softcover editions! And there will be t-shirts, a new enamel pin, and other cool loot. Stay tuned.
Thanks to everyone who liked, shared, retweeted, commented, backed, shopped and/or became patrons of The Middle Age during the first two years. I’ll keep working to make silly comics worthy of your kind support.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of my webcomic and comic series Astounding Space Thrills. To celebrate, I’m prepping and re-releasing the original comics with a 20th anniversary Omnibus Kickstarter planned for later this year (please sign up for my email list if you want to be alerted when the Kickstarter goes live).
Here’s a look at the cover for the new collection of Astounding Space Thrills: The Codex Reckoning and Aspects of Iron. The figure and textures were painted in Procreate with vector-drawn elements imported from Photoshop. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
This collection reprints the first three black-and-white issues of Astounding Space Thrills.
The remastered web series can be read here (with updated installments on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
You can read about the original 1998 cover collaboration with Jim Steranko here.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of my comic book and webcomic series Astounding Space Thrills. This year, I’ll be producing an omnibus edition collecting all the AST stories into a single volume. The omnibus will be available through a Kickstarter campaign, so be sure to follow me on social media or, better yet, sign up for my mailing list to be informed when the Kickstarter launches and snap up the limited awards and early-bird discounts.
Twenty Years ago today, on January 5, 1998, I sent out a Press Release announcing the upcoming first issue of the Astounding Space Thrills comic book. The big news was that the cover featured work by legendary artist Steranko.
Here’s a look at the announcement:
As I wrote then:
“STERANKO continues to amaze fans and the creative community,” said Conley. “I can think of no artist to better capture the energy of this new series! It was a total blast working with him!”
It’s still all true! Here’s a look at that cover.
— Steve @theSteveConley
I draw my Eisner- and Ringo-nominated webcomic The Middle Age using the Procreate app on an iPad Pro. I’ve worked this way for nearly two years and during that time, I’ve stumbled on to some pretty good tips and tricks. Here are a few I use all the time. (Updated January 21, 2019, with two bonus tips!)
General warning: These tips are geared to professional and aspiring professional cartoonists and these tips assume you’re at least a little familiar with the Procreate app basics like copying and pasting, sharing files via Dropbox, and exporting a video of your file. No matter what your skill level, I recommend going to the App Store and downloading the Procreate manual to your iPad. That ebook does an amazing job of guiding you step-by-step through the basics and all the latest features.
TIP 1: Don’t start in Procreate!
When you start your comic strip, create your template on your desktop computer. I usually use Illustrator and Photoshop – and import the template into Procreate (via Dropbox). This offers a lot of opportunities to mark off crops, and bleeds and the live area. You can also create perfectly geometric panel borders (something Procreate isn’t good at). I also use this opportunity to import a graph-paper-like grid which comes in real handy. Since you’ll likely be lettering in Photoshop and bouncing back and forth with your desktop, having a properly sized template helps a lot.
TIP 2: Instant bluelines!
Back in ye olden times of pencil and paper, we cartoonists used blue pencil for sketching and roughing out our drawings. This helped with photographing and later scanning original art. While those reasons don’t apply when working digitally, the approach is still still amazingly handy. To do this, create two Procreate layers: One layer should be filled with blue and have a layer effect of ‘COLOR” and the second layer should be filled with white with an opacity of ~80%. Drag these layers above any art to instantly turn everything below them to bluelines.
TIP 3: You have a surprise backup!
If you accidentally delete a sketch, pencil or reference layer, simply export a video of your project and scrub through the video until you find the lost image. This has saved my butt more than a few times. And knowing I have this safety net makes me feel a little better when working quickly.
TIP 4: For transformations, take baby steps, or better yet, use Photoshop!
Procreate is really good at flipping and flopping art horizontally and vertically. Pretty much every other transformation (rotation, scaling, skewing) is rough compared to Photoshop. A 90-degree rotation in Photoshop is pixel-perfect, the same rotation in Procreate turns your perfect pixels to mush. If you must transform something in Procreate – such as scaling and rotating, do them as separate, baby steps. Don’t combine two transformations. Scale then deselect. Rotate then deselect. BTW: Procreate is constantly improving and the next software update may make this tip obsolete. Fingers crossed!
TIP 5: Don’t copy art directly from Dropbox – save it to Photos first!
If you copy a perfectly-sized PNG or JPG in Dropbox and paste it into Procreate, some slight transformation happens – it’s usually a little too small. To avoid the distortion, save the PNG or JPG to the Photos app. Then open the Photos app and copy the file from there. Every pixel will line up perfectly.
TIP 6: Clear off your iPad from time to time!
Procreate files are big and having too many of them on your iPad can slow down the app and make the pen laggy. I recommend copying files to your desktop computer with Airdrop – it’s much faster than Dropbox. From the gallery view, you can select multiple files (with the right-swipe) at the same time and Airdrop a bunch at a time.
BONUS TIP 7: Steve’s Procreate brush!
I’ve customized my own Procreate brush and made it available for download for free here on my Patreon page. 🙂
BONUS TIP 8: Get a drawing glove!
I use the Huion Artist drawing glove – which is less than $10 at Amazon. It lets your drawing hand glide across the glass. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a link if you want to get one… Huion Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet (1 Unit of Free Size, Good for Right Hand or Left Hand) – Cura CR-01
I hope you find one or two of these tips useful.
— Steve @theSteveConley
If I want to reach the widest possible audience, I can’t let technology or format stand in the way of a new reader.
The past decade of online publishing has shown that…
- Screen sizes will change (it seems that every larger device is getting smaller and every smaller device is getting larger.)
- Screen proportions will change and are flexible (there’s a multitude of desktop, tablet, and mobile screens sizes and many operate in both landscape and portrait orientations)
- Resolutions will increase (I want to support those resolutions yet I don’t want to give away print-resolution files)
- File formats may change and some may become obsolete (less applicable but still worth noting – I’m thinking of Flash webcomics and also some panel-by-panel presentations now appearing on Instagram)
What I’m doing to address this: I work at a high resolution in a flexible format. I design my comics with rather big lettering to work in three basic shapes – horizontal, squarish, and vertical.
Nowadays, I reformat The Middle Age webcomics in five different sizes in three configurations:
- Full-resolution stacked format for print
- High-resolution stacked format (~900-pixels wide) for my Patreon site
- Standard-resolution stacked format (~600-pixels wide) for this site and for social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
- Horizontal format for GoComics – this was the starting place for my design. It’s the exact same shape as a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.
- Scrolling vertical format for Webtoons and Tapas
I recently added the vertical, scrolling format and the response from the mobile-centric Webtoons audience was overwhelmingly positive.
(BTW: This thinking isn’t really new. The format of the classic Peanuts comics was even more rigid in that it was four equal-sized boxes which were sold to newspapers as a ‘Space Saver’ meaning it could be run horizontally, vertically or stacked as a square.)
In the end, if I want to create stories that last, I must create them in a format (or formats) that will last.
In other words, the only acceptable reason for someone not reading my comics is that they just don’t like my comics.
— Steve @theSteveConley
I hope this occasional bit of shop talk will be useful to others working on their own webcomics. If you find it interesting or helpful, let me know!
I am thrilled to learn that I’ve been nominated twice in the inaugural Ringo Awards.
The Middle Age received a nomination in the ‘Best Webcomic’ category and I was nominated in the ‘Best Cartoonist (Writer & Artist)’ category. A lot of comics are created by teams of artists and the ‘Best Cartoonist’ award is for creators who write and draw their own stories.
The Ringos (or The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards) are named after Mike Wieringo, a wonderful artist we lost ten years ago. I had only met Mike a handful of times in person but we often corresponded. He was always more supportive of my work than it deserved. His kindness, professionalism, and the lively spirit of his art remain steady influences.
I’m deeply honored to be nominated and I can’t say enough good things about my fellow nominees.
My sincere thanks to the awards jury as well as everyone who voted in the popular categories.
The awards will be handed out September 23 as part of the Baltimore Comic-Con. You can learn more at RingoAwards.com
Thanks again or your kindness and support!
— Steve @theSteveConley
Today marks the first birthday of The Middle Age.
I started writing a list of things I’ve learned in the past year but then scrapped it as I recalled I don’t have any idea what I’m doing.
Paraphrasing William Goldman, ?Nobody knows anything…? and, as a nobody, I can confirm that.
Well, I know one thing and the past twelve months made it even clearer: my friends are the best.
I’ve started many comic projects. Some of them blew up on the launch pad. Some gained a little altitude only fall apart in the air. Some were announced with great fanfare but never left the drawing board. Objectively, when it comes to comics projects, my track record indicates that I’m anything but a sure bet.
Now, here I was I starting yet another comic – this one starring an oddly named character with a weirdly shaped head and who seemed to die on page one. And it was a fantasy webcomic – like the Internet isn’t already saturated with those.
But what did my friends do? They jumped on board and supported it immediately. Like I said, they are the best.
They made this comic strip possible and I’ll work every single day to be worthy of that friendship.
Heartfelt thanks must go to Dustin, Tracy, James, Robert, Brad, Karen, French, Greg, Shelly, Pookie, Mike, Neil, Robert, Nate, Tyler, Matthew, Vanessa, Simon, Gareth, Rich, Mike, John, Joe, Macthe, Lee and David! They support me on Patreon and they make The Middle Age possible.
Or more specifically… how I draw chain mail in my webcomic The Middle Age.
I get a lot of comments and questions asking how I create the chain mail texture in The Middle Age. The hero of the story, Sir Quimp, wears armor that looks sort of like chain mail or banded mail armor. Artist friends have presumed it’s a special brush or a texture map or something computery.
But it’s all drawn by hand, one link at a time. And it might look complicated but it’s not.
Now, I work on an iPad Pro using the Procreate App but this approach works with any software and even works with traditional pen-and-ink tools.
Step 1: Start by drawing a grid on the form which will act as a guide for your texture. Keep in mind the shape, perspective, folds and bends. It should look 3-D. If it looks like graph-paper, the pattern will look flat. But it doesn’t need to be perfect. We’re just using it as reference and we’ll erase it when we’re done. In the example, you can see mine in light blue. Extra tip: I draw my guides on a separate layer to make them easy to hide and delete.
Step 2: Now let’s start the pattern. Somewhere around the two-thirds point on the side where light is coming from (not down the middle), draw small, single, evenly-spaced tick marks. Again, they don’t need to be perfectly spaced or identical. Do your best and that’ll be fine. Remember that this is armor wrapping a living figure, not a robot, and we expect variations. Those variations make the figure feel more alive. Extra tip: I make the texture extend a little bit beyond the shape – you can see it overlapping the cape – this helps me keep the pattern and spacing consistent. I erase the overlapping bits when I’m done.
Step 3: Between each one of those tick marks, draw two tick marks next to each other. Extra tip: The longer each tick mark, the wider each chain segment will seem later.
Step 4: Between each of the double-tick marks, draw three tick marks next to each other. You can see where I’m going with this.
Step 5: Between each of the triple-tick marks, draw four ticks marks next to each other.
And so on… until you run out of room. Always increase the number of tick marks per row and you’ll get the proper effect. Then do the same thing in the other direction. Extra tip: don’t draw all the way to the shape’s outline on one side to give a hint of really-bright side lighting.
If you want to see how other cartoonists handled drawing armor textures, I recommend checking out the work of Hal Foster, Wally Wood, Russ Manning, and David Petersen.
Here’s a video clip of my approach…
Scroll down to ask any questions or leave a comment. If you’d like to see more tutorials like this one, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon.
Recommended gear: Huion Artist drawing glove
I use the Huion Artist drawing glove – which is less than $10 at Amazon. It lets your drawing hand glide across the iPad. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a link if you want to get one… Huion Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet (1 Unit of Free Size, Good for Right Hand or Left Hand) – Cura CR-01
— Steve @theSteveConley