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!

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)

Saturday Live Sketch Show

So, I reckon I can do about 7 sketches in an hour, and this weeks show will feature the following sketches:

  1. JPMorbius The Living Vampire
  2. RogerPops (from my graphic novel with Garth Ennis, The Stringbags)
  3. MikeDredd
  4. Declan -my choice-
  5. DerekDomino
  6. JoeDredd
  7. NeilJohnny Alpha

I could probably sneak one or two more into the show, making it run over the hour, so if you’re interested, you should email me pjholden@gmail.com subject line “Live Sketch”

If you’d rather just pop along and here me ramble while drawing these things, the please do so – this Saturday, 9pm on twitch.tv/pjholden

Folklore Thursday: The Sphinx

Folklore Thursday posts regularly appear early for subscribers to our patreon, you can can see this post here.

Phew, can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to get around to doing a pastiche of Frank Miller’s style for Folklore Thursday. I’ve done similar b&w and one colour, but Ancient Greece story surely calls for it.

Fun fact: according to wikipedia (look, I don’t have long to research each of these, so a quick wikipedia search is it) Thebes was a fierce rival to Ancient Athens and sided with the Persians during the 480BC invasion by the Persians. So … er.. that’s why the Spartans are trying to get in (probably)

Can you believe we’re now 11 strips away from finishing our first year of this! Crikey.

Suppose, pandemic willing, we should start thinking about what’s next…

March Madness

Trying to count up the work I did in march, but, as you know, it’s been a crazy month.

So let’s start with stuff I know I did:

10 pages pencils and inks for a new 2000ad series. Hurrah.

Four folklore Thursday (pencils, inks, colours and letters)

Sundry drawings for a TV show thing (which I’ll be unlikely to talk about for a couple of years, given how TV works)

Completed a 14 page thing for a charity comic, (Though I came into the month with 2 pages done already) so let’s call it 12 pages.

Pencilled a WWI story, it’s 8 pages, but have only done 6 so far (getting the last two done today, but that’s gonna be an April finish)

So, my total for March is… 26 pages finished, and 32 pencilled. Actually that’s not bad.

So, here’s how April stands:

Gonna finish this WWI story, pencils have to be finished (two pages), then approved (probably next week) for inking next month.

I’ve got a new Dredd to do, it’s a four parter, though only the first script for it. Starting that next week and, hopefully rest of script will arrive (hoping the writer remains able to work in this, the not-quite-end-times-but-it-doesn’t-half-feel-like-it) and I can plough through at least two parts of it.

Then, May, finish the remainder of Dredd and… that’s it. I have a 20 page project which will pop up at some point, waiting on script (but it’s an unusual comics/not comics publisher gig)

Gotta keep on, keeping on.

Socially Distant Diary Day 5

(oops, you know, I’m gonna stop numbering these diary days, five days in and I’ve already confused myself)

Didn’t go out – well, not true, nipped to the shops for Mother’s day. Felt odd, realised it’s because I’m not buying for my mum (who passed nearly 16 years ago now, I suppose) but buying for my wife. Nathan and Thomas have such different personalities it’s kind of fun picking cards for them to give to Annette (how different? Well, Thomas would happily pick or even draw his own card, Nathan will just about sign a card and give it to Annette and not really think about it).

I haven’t had a stomach ache in a couple of weeks, but it feels like there’s one bubbling under right now. I’ve been trying to keep a food diary, but the further it gets from the last attack the less reliable I am at keeping it.

I think if there’s a culprit – based on my notes – it’s either the stack of buns and chocolate I ate, the burger (which had barley in it, which contains gluten though I’ve been told it’s more likely IBS with a wheat trigger than a gluten trigger) or it’s just something my stomach does every so often and there’s almost nothing I can do to prevent it.

That’s why I’ve been keeping the food diary, what did I do today that I’ve done before, what did I do today that I didn’t do last week.

Maybe I’ll be lucky, but if not, I’ll be curling up around a hot water bottle (which is about the only thing that seems to make any sort of difference, pain killers don’t help)

Normally I feel pretty lucky if I’ve been left alone to work all day, but it usually comes with the price of either knowing I could’ve been out with the family somewhere or I’ve accidentally ignored them all as they wanted to go out and I didn’t.

Today, and I think the next who-knows-how-many days, it’ll be knowing everyone wants to go out and feeling like I should too.

One thousand people diagnosed in the UK over the last 24 hours. I set up my spreadsheet 10 days ago, when there was 83. Simply multiplcation (previous days numbers * 1.23) would tell you right now to expect 1k. The fact it’s tracked so closely shows you why the government are trying to put this genii back in the bottle. At this rate, in another 10 days you could see 9-10k Diagnosed PER day but that figure would rise daily, and 10 days after that you could be looking at closer to 100k per day.

Unless we do something. And the measures of shutting everything down is one of only tools we’ve got, right now, but we’ll not see results from that for at least a week (possibly longer).

No legal obligation to lockdown in the UK yet. But it’s pretty clear there’s a very large amount of the population see the governments “social distancing” advice as notional. Kids out congregating together, a clump of 8 people walking from the park (packed tightly, chatting away).

Lockdown is coming. I can’t see how we can do this without enforcement. But Northern Ireland, famously, tends to react badly to police enforcement.

Folklore Thursday: Dragoni

When I get one of John’s tweets, I try and let them perculate around my head a little.. What does this conjure up? Is there a story in this, can i make it a story, and, sometimes… does this make me laugh?

This one I think I hit, very quickly on the idea that the Island of Dragons could be a wonderful little Richard Scarry city where everything is a dragon. I don’t know if it worked (initially I was going to trace a Scarry piece and just change all the characters to Dragons, I think the joke would’ve worked better, but it was a little too close to death by copyright infringement, so I went my own way). And I’m proud of the little “Scarry Movie 2” film showing in the Dragoplex (2 seemed funnier than just a plain old Scarry Movie)

On panel 3 I hunted and hunted for the exact outline of the Island of Dragons and just couldn’t find it on the map, defeated, and time running low, I traced around a couple of interesting shapes to give me my island (and the sea here was created by making a ‘rake’ brush in clip studio, which let me stroke a couple of lines to get those many many lines)

Hope you like it! (If nothing else, enjoy the little dragon lady feeding the little dragons scraps from her sandwich)

Addendum: As a kid, visiting the library was my first exposure to illustrated books – Asterix the Gaul, Lucky Luke, Tintin, and the books of Richard Scarry (which I loved even as I grew well out of their age range). I will always find those works charming, and I think my one regret as a parent is that we don’t visit the library enough (now, in my defence, that’s largely because we now have a massive kids book library in our home – our kids room had a small walk in wardrobe built into the room and we ended up gutting it and putting shelves in there so they’ve got an extensive library of books, but you don’t get exposure to things that will surprise you when you own your own library). Anyway, Librarys are good, and if you’re in the UK you should join one and then sign up for their digital stuff so you can access audio books, ebooks and magazines.