Short and Curious By The Numbers

A couple of days ago I decided to finally collect a whole bunch of my little silly one / two page strips together into a single collection. Bundling some one page future shock style stories, the holiday strips and a couple of autobio comics (incl the one about my mum) and sticking it up in gumroad.com It’s called PJ Holden’s Short and Curious (a title I was very pleased to have come up with).

It’s priced at free or pay what you like (owing to my inexperience with gumroad I’d initially set the price as $2+). Anyway I have some numbers, firstly my plan wasn’t to make money (making money in comics is hard, and I’ve seen smart publishers lose money on comics, so no way would this comic hit any where near what I’d make if I were paid to do it)

But I was curious to see how much I’d make and how many people would download it.

First of all, lots of people paid way over the odds – thank you, you crazy fools! I think I averaged around $4 per sale (many were more generous than that!)

So there two sets of numbers – one is from twitter. How many people see a tweet and click a link.

So the initial tweet has these figures:

Impressions: 22,067
Engagements: 480
Detail expands: 135
New followers: 0
Profile visits: 24

I have a following of about 15k followers on twitter, and in order to get these numbers I had to push QTs of the original tweet every few hours for a day or two.

Slightly depressing. 22k impressions for 480 engagements is 2.1% rate!

So … is it not hitting the right people? I dunno. I could risk some promotion on twitter, and that be worth playing. When it comes to gumroad and the comic the figures look like this:

Twitter2033014.8%$135
Direct, email, IM44818.2%$28.17
pauljholden.gumroad.com6116.7%$5
bing.com200%$0
com.google.android.gm100%$0
forums.2000ad.com1100%$0
lm.facebook.com600%$0
m.facebook.com900%$0

I’ve been told by a few people that a 14.8% conversion from looking to buying is pretty damn impressive. So thats great! (and is even higher when people are emailed the link)

The country breakdown is pretty interesting too:

🇺🇸 United States353$8
🇬🇧 United Kingdom19225$123.17
🇫🇷 France21$3
🇮🇪 Ireland103$11
🇬🇷 Greece21$3
🇦🇺 Australia51$5
🇳🇿 New Zealand63$15
🇿🇦 South Africa11$0
🇩🇪 Germany41

Somehow the United States, where I’d assume the majority of people might have come from, only had 35 visitors and only 3 purchases – THE SAME NUMBER OF PURCHASES AS NEW ZEALAND. That’s peculiar – surely? (I mean not that they’re the same, but rather, that the US is so low…) I’m not sure whether that’s just because I have a lot less US followers than I realised or the comic wasn’t being seen during US awake hours

So I’ve made a grand total of $168 (I think that’s after fees) but by the time that gets to me, maybe £120? at any rate, that’s actually enough pocket change to print the thing up and drop it off to my local comic shops or other venues that MIGHT be able to sell it, and really, that’s the fun of self publishing, isn’t it?

Holiday comics day 7

Holibobs comics day 7 “The Tall Story”

This was a silly little idea that I had simply from the notion of a hard boiled detective describing some really long legs (you know the sort “she was the kind of dame whose legs had their own zip code” sort of nonsense) believe it nor, page 2, the punchline, didn’t occur until I was describing the story to my son, Thomas (even at age 14 a prolific maker of comics) and then I realised that oh my god, I could make that joke – it was all there! And he literally said “oh my god dad, you can’t do that joke  that’s terrible” (but he was laughing and aghast, the perfect reaction). My describing it as “and that’s how the dream ended” is a bit of a fib, it wasn’t a dream, obviously, just a silly idea – but that sort of justified all of it.

I definitely enjoy cartooning and feel liberated to do so when I’m the central character, almost like it’s a license to be silly – or at least be less precious. Once I’m writing another character I tend to clamp up and over think, but when it’s me its] just flows out (even when it’s super ridiculous).

over The course of the week doing these has been pretty valuable, I think, I went from “i dunno if I can write something bup it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit crap looking” to “actually I think I could write any stupid story I can think of and draw it quickly as a comic and it’ll look decent”. Certainly it’s not something I’d expect to send to 2000ad, but actually if it turned up in the right venue I’d not be offended by it (Laurence Campbell has suggested some of them wouldn’t have looked out of place in deadline)

I know I’m gonna lose momentum though, holidays coming to a close (three days at home) and then Iol be on holiday again in Paris, but I won’t have any opportunity to work then, though I might still bring my sketch pad and some pens in the off chance.

anyway, hope you liked them!

Holiday Comics Day 6

Decided to pare back and try and just enjoy doing something silly again. I don’t think it’s terribly clear in this strip that I’ve been drawing all of the comics in a large A4 sketchbook, so there’s always a sketchy quality to them (I don’t even have a ruler with me, for goodness sake!) and I dunno if it’s obvious that that the big joke here is I’ve shifted perfection away from quality and on to quantity, which is just as unhealthy really. 

Still they’ve been fun to do, and this is the first one that I’ve really liked how I’ve lettered it…

Last day of holidays tomorrow, I have an idea for a strip, it’s a bit silly, and hopefully I’ll have time to do it. But even so, six pages of free comics so far. That’s not bad!

Holden Holibobs day 4 and 5

Holiday Comics Day 4

Yes, I’m as surprised as anyone I did more.

So, this comic clearly follows yesterdays, I was thinking “what would I do if someone did come back in time and shout “Buy Apple Shares!” at me, and the reality is… not much really.

Time travel element aside, this is entirely autobiographical – in 2006 I did legitimately think “I should buy apple stock” and then … didn’t. I literally had no idea how to proceed. This unnerring sense of not buying stuff that will go up in value has also stopped me buying shares in Google when it did its IPO (I was using google from university around 95?/96? so had come to really much prefer it over things like Yahoo, and thought “Well, everyone will eventually use google…” oh how little I could know) I did not buy shares in google either.

Somehow, I think I got distracted while writing it “Buy apple shares” became “Buy apple stock” and I’m two minds – do I go back and add in panel three “I should say “BUY APPLE STOCK” – which introduces the idea that I DID go back in time and I’ve got another chance and I think changing the word to “STOCK” will work where “SHARES” didn’t – or do I just replace any errant use of the word “SHARES” with “STOCK” – not sure, a decision for the inevitable non-collection!

Anyway, hope you’re enjoying these. I’m getting a little too caught up in how to make them look good instead of just goofing around. My son (Thomas, now 14 and maker of his own comics) quite likes ’em, and said they remind him of some art I have on the wall – that art, dear reader, is from my first published work – Holy Cross, published by Fantagraphics, that was drawn in a not disimilair style, which makes me wonder have I been lying to myself about how I draw all these decades? 

Holiday Comics Day 5

Script, written in notepad , looked like this:

Panel 1: soldier hacking through jungle

Caption alone

Panel 2: close up of arm. Bubbles around a festering bite mark.

Caption I think I’ve been bitten.

Panel 3: standing in jungle. Being him statues of ancient Burmese gods.

Caption totally alone.

Panel 4 his face as he looks up skyward. Night.

Caption you can see the star s from here.

Panel 5 amazing sit from the web space telescope.

Caption it’s glorious.

-ENDS-

I wrote this at 5am, It’s only notable because I don’t normally script them at all. Mulling over a few things I wanted to do, one was do something with all the Chindit stuff still floating around my head – I learnt how to draw those bloody hats, so I’m doing more of it, dammit.

Wanted to draw abandoned Burmese statues in the jungle (something I didn’t draw for Lion and the Eagle) and I wanted something to marry that up with all the space Web telescope doing the rounds and … well, that was it.

Sometimes you do these things and you edit and rewrite as it goes, and somehow there’s a few ways to interpret some it and so you end up trying to ease up on some and lean harder on others. As drawn panel 3 caption said “But civilisation is out there” and that could lead you to conclude that the chindit didn’t consider whatever he found in the jungle as civilisation (it wasn’t my intent, but certainly I could see how that could be read as that). “I think I’ve been bitten” felt tonally wrong, but I dunno, it could all do with a rewrite. Somehow the little me talking to camera strips are a lot easier to write the dialogue for as they are me writing letters to myself, more than anything.

Anyway, a slight depature and somehow a companion piece to this other story (which I eventually retitled ALONE)

Holden On Holibobs

(Holibobs was a word my mum used a lot for holidays, I’d entirely forgotten about it until there now)

So I’m on hols, one week in Rathmullan – this is our regular escape from it all. We book a little holiday house and the kids get their own room, we get a dish washer and a tumble dryer and day trips with me, typically, squeezing work in between it all.

Here’s the first three, with some notes!

Day 1 – an actual conversation I had with my wife, in the car. When she told me we’d be in france for a week I felt sick. Three days in Disney land, three days in Paris. Then I thought – jesus what’s wrong with me. The truth is I love drawing comics, but I’ve spent most of during covid trying to squeeze as much work in as I can. And I’m not sure how to reset that.

Ok, the little one page comic is also work, but it feels like a different thing. An act of defiance. I had fun doing it. I could only lay my hand on one pen and I thought, let’s just use that.

Day 2

It’s early to start getting into toilet stuff, but here we are, eh. Again, another actual thing that happened – I should’ve gone to the loo when I left, and I found walking on dry sand (collapsing, as it did under my feet) was destablising to my tummy and it was a source of constant danger (next time, I bring immodium). We went out of pizza after this (gluten free for me, because cramps and loo visits are the GOOD options …) and it was pretty much the same thing. Basically if I eat, I need the loo 15 minutes later. Regular as clockwork.

Day 3

A prompt from twitter “If you could travel back in time and only tell yourself three words what would they be…” – my initial thought was “Remember don’t ever…” and just leave it hanging there. Saw quite a lot of the “Buy Apple Stock!” messages but surely that would depend on when you see your younger self and how much your younger self is aware of what apple is. (This has sparked a follow up comic, but you’ll see that tomorrow)

Anyway, this has been a fun exercise. I might even keep it up. Day 3 was a pain for the art though, days 1 and 2 I had no really good tools so used the big thick pen I had, day 3 I found a smaller pen and decided to up the quality but that leads to more thinking and more work that needs rescued, so a stupid idea. Stick with simple.

They’re all drawn in an A4 SAKURA sketchbook, pencilled in HB .5 inked with a Winsor and Newton pigment pen 1.0 (except day 3 which was inked with a 0.5) photographed on my phone using a scan app “Scanner Pro” which ups the contrast, and straightens the image up (even if the camera is at a funny angle). Then pumped over to Procreate on the iPad pro where I use the levels to clean it up and export as a decent sized PNG. 

I suspect I’ll keep it up for the hols at least, even if I am now super tempted to keep going and then collect 30 days worth in a small press comic… that’d be stupid though…

MonkeyArms #1

A brand new Monkey Arms secret origin comic! Thomas (now aged 14) has been working on this for yonks, issue 1 is officially launching at the Enniskillen Comic Festival (assuming the prints arrive on time!) Selling for £5 per issue – BUT you can download and read issue 1 right now!

And, if you’re feeling so inclined, you can paypal Thomas whatever money you like here:

[wpedon id=1796]

Back to basics

I’ve lately returned to pencilling pages in a notebook. For the past… I dunno … 300 pages? I’ve pencilled and inked directly on to the computer, and I think it’s some of the best work I’ve done, BUT I feel like I’m missing something from not touching paper. Not sure what exactly, it may well be all that I’m missing is the satisfaction of feeling pencils touch paper.

So I bought a couple of Sakura drawing pads (roughly A4 in size) they’ve replaced my previous love Canson 180 because… well, they’re a decent amount cheaper (£11 vs an astonishing £27 on amazon – price correct at time of writing, and honestly I’m shook it’s that much – brexit? supply problems? amazon algorithem going mad? dunno – it was about £18 before and I’m sure you can find it that price still)

The Sakura isn’t bad, the paper is pretty nice, the book lays reasonably flat (the canson lays totally flat, though the paper is rougher).

I’ve used it to pencil the most recent work I’ve done, so far there’s about 35 pages of pencilled comics in there – it’s nice to have and look at too. Pencils are generally a nice medium. Though I use HB leads, I seem to have two grades of HB leads – a cheap and expensive set and they are different on the paper. Very odd.

I’ll generally pencil, scan them in to clip studio and then resize and rejig the panels – so there’s still a bit more work to do with them than simply pencilling directly into the computer, but the bg advantage is I can pencil anywhere.

I would LOVE to return to old fashioned inking, particuarlyl with a brush, but I now lack the studio space to do that, but it’s a dream, innit (Plus everytime I did ink traditionally, it’s not long before I run back to the computer with my tail between my legs). I no longer have the eyesight, the subtly in the hand or the patience to work with traditional inking media. Real pity.

I think time can correct that – I taught myself to ink with a brush with my first pro comics gig for 2000ad, in 2000 – largely by stubbornly refusing to give up (and computer inking wasn’t an option, plus I’d convinced myself brush inking was the way pros worked – it’s not, they use whatever makes a mark)

I’ll post some pencils as the work sees print.

Huion Digital Drawing Tablets

I’ve been drawing digitally for a long time (ask me how long ? well, gee, I’d say my first digital drawings where from about 1984 when I literally had to write my own program to draw digitally)

For decades the only game in town for graphic tablet displays was the Wacom Cintiq, so much so, that Cintiq became shorthand for that very grade of device – a digital screen you could draw on. Unlike a tablet (a relative johnny-come-lately to digital drawing) the Cintiq’s require a computer and even then they can be horrifically expensive.

My first Cintiq was a Wacom Cintiq 12 XW. A 12″ Display. I remember drawing my first tentative lines on it and thinking “I wonder if these will look digital?” what I found was that no-of course they don’t look digital. If anything Cintiqs (and devices like them) did tend to make you a little lazier in how you draw a line, so easy to just scribble, and scribble the wrong size. So you have to learn discipline.

My second Cintiq was a Wacom Cintiq 27″ QHD – a massive beast of a thing, 27″ of display and what seems like 12″ of border around that display. But, it’s been utterly invaluable. As my eyesight deteriorates (in that way that it will to most of us as age takes us away from ourselves little by little) the ability to zoom in on a page, and work at a higher than print quality has been great. The resolution of the 27″ is about 110dpi, for comparison the ipad pro 12″ is 260dpi (approx) and laser printers print at 300dpi(roughly) so good enough, but not as high as print, obviously.

Lately I’ve been staying with my brother as a part time carer (he doesn’t need much care, really, just company) and I needed a mobile studio setup. Having moved my desktop over to an M1 Mac Mini some time ago (it’s both tiny and utterly silent, I love it – it replaced a Mac Mini that made a lot of noise, which in turn that replaced a brute of a desktop computer that sounded like a 747 taking off – never underestimate how much silence is worth) my computer was a simple matter of bringing with me, but the 27″ attached to a legotron arm was just not gonna be lifted and fit where I needed to. So, initially I tried my ipad pro as a mobile studio – but I was having trouble with the sensor (I’ve since had it replaced) and as a stop gap I bought the Huion 16″ HD, it was listed on Amazon as £349 and I thought – well, what do I have to lose.

Let me tell you, I have never been as impressed with a piece of computer equipment as much as this in a long time (really I’d say the only things that impressed me more on first sight have been the various apple first-of-their-kind devices).

This 16″ screen (which does have a 1″ border around all sides, except the left which is about 2.5″ but includes some buttons you can program as you see fit) is about 140dpi – a marked improvement on the Cintiq 27″ and the price! THE PRICE!

I ordered this on the Saturday, it was priced at £349, on Tuesday when checking for the delivery I’d spotted the price had changed to £299 and I thought – I’m not having that. Phoned amazon support asking for the price difference, they told me to cancel and reorder, so I did.

Look, if you’re a professional comic artist and you work digitally, you’ll know how important it is to keep file backups, well, let me go one further – if you rely entirely on digital art – it’s important to have system backups. What’s your plan if the cintiq breaks?

I cannot recommend the Huion highly enough, for the price it’s a steal. The build quality is fantastic, the driver, on the mac, is pretty simple (download some software, run it and boom it works)

And if you’re not a professional and you’ve a half decent computer setup, it’s a bargain as a first digital tablet for drawing.

I would say this screen doesn’t feature touch (and frankly, touch is a pain, every device with touch I’ve tried to disable the touch aspect of it.)

The pen is battery less – previously, presumbly due to patents wacom held, Huoin pens used a battery. It lacks the eraser button that is common on the cintiq pen, but it’s largely the same look and feel.

And if you’re plugging into a M1 Mac mini you only need one cable, a USB-C.

Honestly I can’t get over it for the price.

The Huion 16″ on top of the Wacom Cintiq 27″

The quality is such that I’m genuinely thinking of just ditching the 27″ cintiq (which, tbh is so big that I have my keyboard to the left and my mouse to the right and I have to shift my body towards either device if I want to use them)

Either that, or splashing out a bit and buying the 24″ Huion 4k, which looks absolutely the bees knees.

Affiliate links on Amazon:

Huion 16″ (as of this writing the price is £330 LESS a £50 voucher, making it £280)

Huion 24″ 4k (Currently £1299)

Wacom Cintiq 27″ QHD has now been superseded, so I suppose the closest is the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 Touch. Which is priced, on Wacom’s website, as £2,399.

Roots

Last week, 2000ad prog 2268 had my debut as a writer. Roots is a “Terror Tale” – a four page horror story. Partially inspired by Junjo Ito’s deeply disquiting horror comics, it tells a story of what how smothering a mother’s love can be.

I’ve talked a fair bit about it all over the place notably on Down the Tubes with John Freeman and Mathew Badham.

This blog started in 2000, though I’d had a webpresence as far back as about ’97 – the blog began life around 2000, specifically to talk about my breaking in to comics. As it happened my career began pretty much the following week, but there’s a slightly untold story of my posting a future shock idea to the alt.comics.2000ad newsgroup that was picked up by Andy Diggle who offered to buy it from me. I balls it up in the writing and it never went anywhere.

So here we are, at last, I’m a 2000ad script droid. Well, for that one week. I have a bunch of other story ideas (all futureshock/terrortale/time twister type stuff) which I just need to find the time to develop into a full script. Will I ever do that? I want to, but I’m gonna be pretty busy for a long time.

This week will also see issue 1 of the Lion and the Eagle in comic shops, really excited to see the reaction. There are some bits of the art that make me cringe – but, early reaction to the preview suggests everyone has missed those bits and are focussing on all the good bits – so that’s handy.

I’ve also finally totally finished Soul Plumber (had finished it, but then needed to help John out on a couple more pages). All done.

Should be finishing the art on the Lion and the Eagle and then, I feel like I’m facing a new chapter as an artist. Well see if anyone agrees.

February Updates

Hey, been a fab month – finishing off Soul Plumber (all done now!) hopefully you’ll see issue 5 soon (it’s been hit by world wide shipping delays apparently). Then the following month issue 6.

Also this month, issue 1 of The Lion and the Eagle, hope you like it – I’m pretty happy how this turned out and Garth Ennis writes a barnstormer of a comic.

Got some work to do to finish it up, but should get that done soon, after that I’ve a couple of prior commitments (a short 8 pages and a long one 40 pages!) then I’ll be snuffling around like one of those truffle pigs looking for work. Possibly. It’s also possible work will come to me.

Kind of looking forward to seeing what this year brings in terms of work.