I’m Pro Robo. Are you?

fierystudiosMy better half, Signal Boost

Last month, Paul designed the front-window installation for a really wonderful charity, 826 Michigan — also known as Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair. As you can see from this nighttime photo, it came out beautifully:


He also did a series of posters and t-shirts based on the window display, and as of yesterday, they’re all available for sale in the Onward Robots store. I may be a bit biased, but I think they turned out beautifully. Have a look:

  • Paul's 826 Michigan Robot Poster Series, #1
  • Paul's 826 Michigan Robot Poster Series, #2
  • Paul's 826 Michigan Robot Poster Series, #3
  • Paul's 826 Michigan Robot Poster Series, #4

If you’re not yet familiar with the organization, here’s a bit of introduction from the Onward Robots website:

All proceeds from the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair directly benefit the free student programs offered at 826michigan, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for students aged 6 to 18. 826michigan serves more than 3,000 school-aged students with programs in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. A volunteer-driven organization with a focus on creativity and fun, 826michigan offers after-school tutoring in two locations four days a week, in-class support to teachers, a dynamic menu of writing workshops, field trip offerings for K-12, and publishing opportunities for our students.

All programs at 826michigan are offered completely free of charge, thanks, in part, to proceeds from the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair.

The Irwin-Sizer household has a few different ties to 826, as Paul’s sister Nancy (seen here, modeling one of the shirts!) was recently appointed to their Board of Directors, as Director of Development, and we also know a couple folks who volunteer their time as tutors, including the ever-fabulous Jim Ottaviani.

It’s a wonderful organization, so go check out the store and help advance local student literacy! In addition to shirts and posters, you can also buy books written by the students in the organization. Nancy got us some of them for Christmas presents this year, and they’re delightful. Onward Robots!

SPX in spirit only

fierystudiosComix, D'oh!

This post brings some sad news for me. Earlier this year, I was invited to show at SPX 2015, which is a huge honor. For those of you who don’t know, SPX is such an important show for indie comics creators, with tables in such high demand, that they have had to move to a lottery system to determine who can display. A lucky few who have exhibited there several times– and who are considered important within the indie comics community — get invited to display ahead of the lottery. I was blessed enough to be included in this group, and it was with great sorrow that I had to postpone my invitation to a later year.

I’m going through some family issues that require a lot of my attention at the moment, and which are preventing me from giving my comics the attention, energy, and focus that they deserve. If I went, I would only be able to bring the same exact items I brought last year, and I felt that was unfair to other up-and-coming creators trying to break into the scene with new, exciting work. I’ll keep making comics when and where I can this summer, and my hope is to attend the show and help out friends at their booths.

It will be amazing to finally be able to walk the floor at a leisurely pace, finding new creators and having conversations, rather than trying to see the entire show during my lightning dashes to the bathroom. I’m also looking forward to attending all sorts of panels — seeing Lynda Barry last year was such a highlight — because I always feel too guilty to go when I’m manning my own table.

Hope to still see you all this year at SPX — though as a fellow attendee, not as an exhibitor.

Adam and Comfort’s Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics

fierystudiosBooks, Comix, Friends

It’s with great excitement that I can finally make a long-awaited announcement: Paul and I each have a small contribution in a new how-to book by our friends, Adam Withers and Comfort Love!

Adam and Comfort are two of the hardest working folks in the business, and if you haven’t yet checked out their self-published comic The Uniques, you should do so without delay. This book, on the other hand is being published by Random House, but since these guys have spent about a decade in the business, building their own award-nominated stories from scratch, you can rest assured that they know what they’re talking about.

They don’t just use their own experience, though: they called on their extensive network of colleagues to provide advice, for a total of 72 separate sidebars. These short lessons bring a wealth of additional knowledge and instruction, and Paul and I are very proud to be included amongst such names as Terry Moore, Bill Willingham, and Aaron Diaz. Paul’s sidebar is about Logo Design, and mine is called “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail!”

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comicsclocks in at 240 full-color pages and over 500 illustrations. I’ve seen the advanced PDF of it, and it’s beautifully done, inside and out. The book will be on sale for $24.99 in May of 2015, but you can pre-order it several different ways:

Thanks again for including us in such a fantastic how-to guide, Adam and Comfort!

Old Ghosts: EB Malloy Print on Demand review

fierystudiosComix, Vogelein

On the scale of things that can happen to self-publishers, having one of your print runs sell out definitely ranks far over to the “good” end. However, the cost of offset printing is on the rise, and it took me seven years to sell through my initial run of Old Ghosts, so I wasn’t enthused at the prospect of spending several thousand dollars just to house another 6-foot cube of books in our basement for a considerable length of time. The alternative was to let Old Ghosts go out of print, but I have over a thousand copies of Clockwork Faerie left, so that didn’t make good economic sense, either.

Instead, I decided to do a test run of a print-on-demand version, to get an idea of cost and quality. I went with Edwards Brothers Malloy because of their excellent job on my last two offset print runs, and the fact that I could save on shipping by driving to Ann Arbor to pick them up.

I used the exact same InDesign files for the POD edition as I did for the 2007 offset run, but I took the time to update the endnotes and a few minor things in the indicia. The minimum run was 20 books, and the price per unit was reasonable, around $7 per book. Unfortunately this didn’t make them profitable for me to sell through a distributor like Diamond, who takes 60% of the cover price ($12.95 X 40% = $5.18) but if I increased the run to 250, the price came down to around $4 per book — just enough to make them saleable.

The books were finished in about six weeks, which is longer than I expected, but still not a bad turnaround time. I was very eager to see the quality of the final product — my previous attempts at POD had been iffy at best — for a long time, even the best POD books were little better than glorified photocopies with sketchy bindings.

I brought the box over to a friend’s house, and the two of us did the unboxing together. The results were very impressive! Here are a few photos to give you an idea (in each of the pictures, the books on the left are from the original offset run, and the ones on the right are the new print on demand versions):

  • Old Ghosts: Second Printing
  • Old Ghosts: Second Printing
  • Old Ghosts: Second Printing
  • Old Ghosts: Second Printing

The color on the cover is a bit different — slightly cooler than the offset printing — but of the same high quality, and the aqueous coating is the same. The inside of the front cover on the POD version has a slicker finish, and the stock feels a hair lighter, but it’s not flimsy or insubstantial. As you can see from the second picture, the POD version is a tiny bit thinner than the offset version, somewhere around 1/16th – 1/32 of an inch. I don’t consider this a huge issue, as the paper is still of a heavy enough weight that the text and images don’t show through from one page to another.

The binding also appears quite strong and durable; I repeatedly flexed the spine on one of the copies and the glue seems solid; I don’t foresee this edition having any trouble standing up to repeated readings.

The interior was what really had me worried — but it also turned out to be the most impressive part of this edition. It’s a shade darker than the offset version, yet it isn’t muddy. The blacks are crisp and the greyscale well-rendered, something quite difficult to do, and not at all what I expected from a print on demand edition. You can see a side-by-side comparison in the fourth picture.

In summary, I’m very, very impressed with the work that Edwards Brothers Malloy did on the new edition of Old Ghosts. It’s exciting to know that I can keep it in print at an affordable price, and still produce an quality product. If you want to make a short run of prose books or black-and-white graphic novels, give EBM a try. I wasn’t paid to make this endorsement — I’m just a satisfied customer.