WordPress and Comics

I’ve been using wordpress for … well, as long as there’s been a wordpress. At various times, I’ve attempted to make it work for me to do comics online, and I’ve never really managed it. This time though, it was time to give it the old college try.

Over at channelhex.com – the generic website I set up for doing comics stuff with people, which has been underutilised for some time, I’ve made it the new home of the webcomic Monster Macs by me and John Reppion. Monster Macs will be on patreon, and twitter, but over at channelhex.com it’ll be displayed as a simple webcomic. At some point I’ll look into adopting it to fit the webtoons format, but that’s a fair bit more work, I think.

One of the problems with WordPress is that I like NICE BIG CHUNKY IMAGES – get me to the source of an image as quick as possible, this especially useful on webcomics, but wordpress just absolutely refuses to do so – for reasons best known to itself.

With wordpress though, there’s usually a plugin – and because this website is hosted at Stratgem.host (highly recommended, and fairly cheap) rather than wordpress.com it’s a fairly simple matter to install one (wordpress.com wants you to pay extra for adding plugins)

So I added two plugins, firstly: simple lightbox. This makes any linked artwork display on screen in a maximum resolution on a layer on top, a nice classy way to view art. (And adds navigation when you need it)

Secondly I added the plugin Manga+Press for WordPress. This simple plugin lets you create a comic that you can update and it will archive it for you.

A neat solution, but it still wasn’t displaying the strip large enough and for that, I’m afraid, I had to dig deep deep into the archives of my brain for how wordpress worked.

(And you can nope out of this now – unless it’s relevant to you!)

Essentially manga+press gets you to create new pages in wordpress for the current comic, and it uses two template documents stored deep in the bowels of the plugin directory in order to display that. AND you need to edit these files if you want the thumbnailed image to have a clickable link to the larger image.

The first file you edit is wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/single-comic.php – this php page simply the comic one page at a time along with a bit of navigation, but I wanted a link to larger image.

Normally this very simple file contains not-much and so I simply added a bit of code to do what I wanted…

 * MangaPress
 * @package Manga_Press
 * @subpackage Manga_Press_Templates\Single_Comic
 * @version $Id$
 * @author Jess Green <jgreen@psy-dreamer.com>
<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

<div class="mangapress-media-img">
    // Grab the url for the full sized image... / PJH Added
     $img_atts = wp_get_attachment_image_src(get_post_thumbnail_id(), 'full'); ?>

    <a href="<?php echo $img_atts[0]; ?>">
    <?php echo wp_get_attachment_image( get_post_thumbnail_id(), $thumbnail_size, false );?>

<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

All my little addition does is grabs the url of the full file for the post and creates a link to that.

This is sufficient to give each archived comic page a link to the full image. But, weirdly, not the current page which, oddly, has a slightly different template and as a little harder to figure out (because it’s been years since I’ve dabbled in html, php or wordpress)

You also need to edit the file in the wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/content/latest-comic.php

And changed it to

<h2 class="mangapress-comic-title">
    <?php the_title(); ?>

<div class="mangapress-media-img">
      <a href="<?php  the_post_thumbnail_url(get_the_ID());?>">
          <?php the_post_thumbnail(get_the_ID(), $thumbnail_size);?>
<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

<div class="mangapres-entry-content">
    <?php the_content(); ?>

And that’s it – not a lot changed (but by crikey it was hard to hunt down exactly what I needed in wordpress tags to get it to do what I wanted, and I’m not convinced there isn’t a better way)

Anyway, that might be of use to some!

All the things

Next week finally sees the Battle Special from 2000ad/Rebellion released, including the 8 page destroyer strip I drew written by Rob Williams. Here’s what it looks like! (Lettering here by Simon Bowland)

Plus it’s filled with even more gorgeous stuff.

Also coming shortly, True War Stories, the anthology on kickstarter which I have a 14 page strip in. Here’s some pages of that, coloured by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Alex DeCampi

Also soon … Grimmfest – an online horror movie festival that comes with a free comic if you buy a ticket.

And lastly, and I’m super excited about this – I make my DC comics debut in DC’s the Doomed and the Damned… can’t show any art, can’t even tell you what I’m drawing (nor who with, though a bit of google searching might shake that out of the internet) but I can show you this fab cover by Kyle Holtz.

I dunno if there’ll be more DC work in my future, if this ends up being it for me, look, you can see it when it comes, but I’ll have hit everything you’d want in a bucketlist of DC comics… TTFN!

PJ’s Live Sketch Show is Coming Back!

Hey! Hope you’ve had a decent old summer, and now it’s coming to an end, it’s time to start Season 2 of PJ’s live Sketch Show. If you’ve never seen it, it’s just me drawing sketches for an hour. I try and get a list of commissioned sketches up front (and it’s fairly cheap: £30 for an A5 pencil sketch) and get through about 5 or 6 on the day.

The show starts again on SUNDAY 30th of August at 8pm. This is a live show, but kid friendly, so if you’ve kids who wanna watch a comic artist draw bring ’em along!

You’ll be able to watch the show on twitter, facebook or youtube.

I did about five of these before July, and you can watch them on my youtube feed, had an enormous amount of fun and people got inexpensive sketches!

If you’d like to get a sketch, simply email me pjholden@gmail.com subject line “Live Sketch” and I’ll add you to the list. Right now that list is empty (and I’ll happily take payment after the sketch is done)

I’ve a faq here where you can find some frequently asked questions…

Go walking… that’s what to do…

Very old NI specific advert telling you to … go walking

I’ve been getting up early and going for long walks, about two/three times a week. The terrible truth is if I don’t do this, my step count (which is about the only way I have to measure activity) hits around 1.4k steps per day otherwise. In fact, yesterday, according to my phone, I walked a staggering 240 steps all day. Christ alive. And most of those could’ve been me accidentally nudging the table and it miscalculating a step.

When I go walking, I take the same route every time (when I worked in an office, I’d walk exactly the same route – I spend most of it in my own head so it’s not like the scenery matters much)

The walk is about 3.5 miles and takes just over an hour and I tend to hit around 9.5k steps.

I’ve been figuring out the best way to keep myself entertained over the walk, initially I was listening to music (And Spotify is great on that front) I’ve listened to some audiobooks (I dunno what it is though, I find audio books hard going) I’ve even read – holding my kindle in front of me and walking and reading and making sure my old “don’t walk into a telephone pole” radar still works (when I was in my teens, I was notorious in my family for reading and walking into things on the street while I read)

This morning I started mulling over story ideas. Again.

Anyway, that’s it, that’s the post. Look, I realise it’s dull, but it’s all I’ve got going on at the moment (well, that and a top secret job I can’t talk about, but if you’ve been someone whose followed me for a while, you’ll probably be as excited as I am – though it’s short, but it’s fun!)

Mac Woe-SX

Ah man, I love my mac. But, my mac has decided it no longer loves me. It’s doing some weird weird stuff.

So this blog post is an aid memoir, so if I need to come back and figure out what I was doing/when then this will have it.

I’m running a mac mini 2018, 8Gb RAM, 256 GB SSD hard drive. Connected to a Cintiq 27″ and a USB-C 1Tb external hardrive (formatted as exFat)

I tend to upgrade to every version of OS X as it hits, every version of Clip Studio and I upgrade the cintiq with caution (primarily since the cintiq updates are rarely useful to me, and they can bring new problems).

Anyway, the most recent update of OS X bought some new horrifying problems. My mac would crash frequently (I’d get a few hours use) something in the system would start rebooting the dock, when the doc rebooted I’d often have multiple icons of the same active app open (10-15 copies of mail, each with a little dot to indicate they’re running). It would no longer have access to passwords (I’d get asked to log into google mail, etc).

And Clip Studio would crash.

The computer has had my buddy Ron (from Mac-Sys) do a hardware check, and it’s passing all hardware checks. So it looks like software.

I’ve rolled backed to the previous version of the cintiq driver (6.3.39-1) and using os x 10.15.6 the problem has persisted (oh yes, problem happens whether I’m logged into icloud, or – as I have done with my mac – if I’ve wiped it out and done an entirely clean install)

So today, Monday 3 August, 13:45 I’m currently downloading the previous version of OS X that I know worked – 10.15.5 (from here)

Anyway, will let you know how I get on (as if you’re interested!)

UPDATE 14:45

turns out justdownloading the older version of mac os x isn’t enough. Not sure how to proceed with a reversion to the previous one (a simple install stops because, well the hard drive I want it on is in use with the version of t he os currently running. Suspect I need to clean boot it somehow). Plan right now is to disable the cintq altogether and use the ipad as the main drawing tool.

UPDATE Sat 15 AUG 2020

So, I managed to roll back to 10.15.5 and boy things sure do look at lot more stable now. So, it’s an OS problem. There’s been a subsequent upgrade (10.15.6 was supposed to be the last mac os x 10.15 upgrade, before the new version of Mac OS X) so clearly I wasn’t the only one having problems. But they’ve lost me, I won’t be touching another mac os x until the newest Mac OS X version (‘Big Sur’ – because they’ve not lost me THAT much)

The Portable Studio

Away from home for a couple of days, and so I had a chance to build up a portable studio. There are, obviously, major constraints but that’s ok, I like limits.

Everything fit in a single big bag.

Digital elements on the studio:

iPad Pro 12.9 512Gb, the latest model, with a nice case for it and the Apple Pencil. This case has a fixed cover (I much prefer these kind of things)

I’ve also got a usb-c dongle, which I can plug a mouse in to (for the purposes of this I borrowed my son’s gaming mouse, though it’s a little ostentatious for my tastes – with it’s vegas lighting and stealth fighter looking buttons)

I’ve a neat little Bluetooth keyboard, a separate keyboard with a hardware on/off switch on the bottom. It’s got a nice feel. I like it because it can be placed anywhere – in front of the iPad, or off to the side, so I can use it while digital drawing.

The mouse and keyboard combo means the iPad can act like a normal computer. And, of course, I can just grab it and start drawing, I’ve procreate for colour painting and clip studio.

Big important point with clip studio is remember to pre-download all the files you’re working with. I’ve pre-downloaded the 52 pages of the folklore stories, because trying to do that over a 3G connection is a bit murderous (and would eat up data).

That’s all topped off with my iPhone, and it’s 30Gb three connection which I can easily tether to the iPad (oh, I also have some earphones that plug into the usb-c dongle, bog standard headphones since the iPad Pro no longer has earphone connections)

So that’s the digital stuff, but I still like drawing on paper.

So the traditional tools are a canson 180 notepad – these are great because.- as you can see in the picture, they can be fully opened up they’ve cleverly got a stitched spine that a separate front and back cover, so they can open up without the spine getting in the way. It’s really very clever. Plus I like the paper. This is A4 (my eyesight being rubbish, I used to use the A5 but everything has got to be bigger)

I’ve paired that up with a zebra brush pen (small) – though I should have bought a few more inking tools.

A graphgear 1000 pental pencils – filled with .5 leads (I bought a bunch of .5 HB leads but it turns out not all HB leads are created equal, so I reverse fed a stadler .5 lead into the nib of it, which is a bit darker. We’ll see if we run out of leads)

A Mono Zero eraser pencil. These are great if you’re doing pencil textural drawings and you can use this to pick out highlights.

A Boxy carbon eraser, I like black erasers, they seem to smear less.

And that’s it.

All of that fits in to a fairly sturdy man bag I picked up a few years ago.

Basically I can now do roughs and inks some things, the folklore tales are largely all digital so I can probably do that entirely.

BUT I am supposed to be on a holiday for a few days. So maybe I’ll just sleep. Who knows…

June 2020 Catchup (I KNOW I KNOW!)

Eight days into July and I’ve only just realised I didn’t log my page count for June. So let’s try that now.

Ok, Chimpsky Captain Cookies ep 3 finished (I can mention the title as it’s been announced in the letter’s page of 2000ad, you wont get to see this until the new year!) That’s Six pages. Pencils and inks.

Finished the entirety of the thing I’ve been doing for The Finish Institute (their annual report in comic form!) I think I did pages 5 to 18, that’s 13 pages. Pencils and inks.

And did four folklore thursdays, pencils inks and colours.

Did a silly little one pager with Umar Ditta, and working on a thing with him.

And finally – FINALLY – finished the strip Jericho – 5 for the 77. Rescued, to be honest, by Dan Whitehead, who stepped into to dialogue and script my story that was just out of my grasp. Dan did a great job, really elevated it, so it’s like a proper story now. That’s four pages. No wait, I finished that last week. SO DOESN’T COUNT FOR JUNE. DAMMIT.

So, total in June (and ignoring some other tv story boarding stuff) that brings me to 20 pages. Couple of invoices out, and that’s it. Not a bad total, not a great total.

And I suppose, since we’re halfway through the year, that means, roughly speaking, I’ve finished 100 pages so far.

Back in my pre-pro days (let’s call that the dark time) I’d’ve been amazed to get anywhere near a hundred pages in a year (I’m pretty sure some years I managed 20)

Now, sadly, it’s a pretty slow average for me.

This month I’ve already put four pages to bed, and started the final episode of this Chimpsky Strip. And, unless something else happens, that’s it! Four more pages of the folklore thursday to do too, but as we all know, no payday for that!

Things usually turn up and I’ve been saving little a little squirrel for the inevitable draw down of work, with the plan of turning my attention back to a kickstarter project (one I’m drawing all of) and so, worst case scenario I start that sooner than anticipated.

Anyway, onward!

Folklore Thursday: Stone

In a slightly unusual move, I’ve done two versions of this, the first didn’t sit well with me so I recoloured it. So I present the recoloured version first:

If you’ve come all this way down to read my thinking on here, I’m afraid I’ve got nothing. This is the 51st page of comics I’ve drawn for folklore thursday and I think four more strips and boom! a whole year done!

2020 Week 25


How’s your week. It’s been a complex, difficult week for everyone I think (and for many it’s doubtless been painful too).

I’ve been slowly slowly working my way through part three of a four part Dredd. Got it finished, eventually, three weeks it’s taken – for six pages. Crazy. (Granted I was planning on taking two weeks and I don’t have a deadline so it’s not late, but it is a rubbish way to earn an income)

That done, I’ve been doing corrections for a WWI story (never much fun, but necessary for this because it’s based on a true story). Drew a one page strip written by Umar Ditta, for an anthology thing and I’ve been thinking about the Channel Hex thing again.

To recap: last year I started working around the idea of a kickstarter format, one that would be both sustainable for me to do, and sustainable for a book for people to buy.

(And sustainability was important, because if I could make one book work then I could turn it into recurring format)

Ultimately I figured drawing a 64 page book in the “Commando” or “Starlord” format (roughly A5 size, typically 1 or 2 panels per page) would be the best. It would be quick to do, cheap to make and feel substantial – 64 pages would feel like something, even if, based on the page size it’s close to being about 16-20 pages of normal sized comics.

Anyway, instead of just barrelling ahead I did a lot of thinking on it. Roped a friend in for a script, and just started chipping away at it.

But, of course, feature creep meant it slipped to being bigger than commando size (a calculation I thought wouldn’t make any difference, but OF COURSE IT DID) it sort of upended everything. The Covid-19 hit and all plans went out the window.

Now, I’ve seen others take a similair approach to kickstarter and do well out of it, so it’s time to think about this again. (Notably the guys doing Hell in Stalingrad, who I did a cover for)

Going back to square one, the original format idea, it’s time to start building out spreadsheets and seeing how I can make it work. And, as soon as I get a script in hand, I’m gonna take an unpaid month and just draw the hell out of it. And move to kickstart with it as soon as I can.

So, next week, I’ll be thinking about that, waiting on a Dredd script and doing a four pager for the 77 kickstarter comic. Oh, and doing some work on this thing for the Finnish Insititute, which is a bunch of interviews I’m adding some goofy humour too (all done as comics).

That’s a lot of stuff for next week, but I just need to find my groove. Tomorrow I’ll fire the Dredd off to the editor. Look at what needs done on the 77. (Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday) and get that out of the way.

Closing off stuff to allow new stuff in.

Anyway, here’s to a calmer week ahead (as if)

OH and as soon as movement starts again on Channel Hex – you’ll see it behind the scenes on my newsletter SIGN UP NOW channelhex.com