Friday, December 17, 2010

On Self-Publishing: Silent Sanctum Manga

The following is the sixth in a series of email interviews with some recently acquired contacts in the komiks community. If you'd like to share your own story, or just be a contact, please email me at

Today's article comes from  the people behind Silent Sanctum Manga.

Silent Sanctum Manga is a bi-monthly independent manga brand from the Philippines, with current issues and back issues available at both Sputnik and Comic Odyssey in Ortigas. We've been doing this for about 3 years now. Originally composed of Chapel, Rodent, Head and Ookami, our current roster now includes king, Frinkster, Green and Hachi.

Our main goal back then was to join Culture Crash's "Make The Page" comic feature and earn some money for our rather expensive art materials and school projects. And since everyone was still involved with school, our first issue came much later than we had planned. We basically waited long enough for everyone to graduate. We all became really serious about it around Komikon 2006. We became really interested in the convention scene, and since then became regulars at similar events. At present, Silent Sanctum Manga has 6 issues; 6.5 if you count our 5.5th issue, which has in it a direct homage to our heroes, Culture Crash.

1 What made you decide to publish your own komiks?

We decided to publish our own work due to the fact that 
    1. We didn't know anyone that would publish our work and 
    2. We did not want any board of directors/ censors /conservative groups to dictate how we should do our stories.
Early on, we understood completely the importance of that freedom and what we must and should do to keep that freedom. Keeping it mature but still classy and maintaining the same goals and principles, these are the things that makes us who we are, today!

2 What did you need to do to get into komiks?

As a beginner artist, you have to have the  passion and drive to continue whatever it is that your doing. Everyone in Silent Sanctum Manga were all artists long before the book had even started. So, with that passion, you should have outlets and ways to share your gift with others.
In the early stages of Silent Sanctum Manga, none of us had any knowledge whatsoever of Photoshop, Corel Draw, etc. And even if you wanted to learn about these things, people knowledgeable in these skills kept their mouths shut. And so, out of necessity, we were forced to learn on our own. And just like any kid our age would do, we did as much research as possible, trying out tutorials, trying to learn from whatever is on the net.Basically, we tried to adapt with the changing times and evolved for the betterment of the book and ourselves.
We never really had any problem with our drawing skills and such, but we were concerned with learning how to use new technologies. But adaptation is the key, and sure enough, after some editing, we were able to finish our first ever indie manga.Change is good, because it keeps us from STAGNATING!

3 What are the main hurdles to overcome in self-publishing, and how should new komiks makers get over these hurdles?

As I've mentioned earlier, one of our problems back then was technology. We wanted to put out an indie that could rival, say, an anime magazine. And with that goal we made plans for how to make that dream a reality.We wanted a book that reflected the OTAKU lifestyle, as we saw it in that time when anime was pretty much new and a big deal, and everyone wouldn't shut up about it. Reminiscing the 90's, a time of innocence and discovery. Our comic book was going to be a fan-based, fan-oriented, fan-centric book that would make everyone feel accepted and loved, regardless of age, gender, preferences, etc. A komik book for everyone!
Another problem would be the dividing factions between manga versus comics. Back when we were just starting out, komiks veterans and newbies alike would share their opinions and debate this topic. We were criticized as being unpatriotic and unoriginal. But we felt these criticisms had no basis, and at the time, PERSONAL. We've noticed that trend of bullying up to this day. But we survived this, in the long run, by taking everything with a grain of salt and accepting both the positives and the negatives. It helped us improve in a way. However, you have to remember that you can't please everyone. As long as you're happy, that's all that really matters!

I can already sense this interview may start quite the comments thread, so let me remind you that this interview does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Komiks Advocate blog, nor me, plsburydoughboy, personally.

Reminder: Join the Katarungan Sa Pilipinas komiks making contest! Just a few hours to go! You can see the details and submit your entry here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Self-Publishing: Gener Pedriña

The following is the eighth in a series of email interviews with some recently acquired contacts in the komiks community. If you'd like to share your own story, or just be a contact, please email me at

Today's article comes from Gener Pedriña, more commonly known online as nerp.

Most people in the "indie" industry know me as nerp, creator of the Sanduguan characters. I started my first indie in '98 with the first appearance of Bato: The Agimat Warrior on Handicrapcomix #1. When Handicrapcomix folded up due to personal time constraints, I entered the world of digital comix. I came back to print form only,  when a lot of readers requested that i do printed stuff.

1998 Handicrap # 1-6
1999 LEGEND OF ZODIAC #1 & 2
2002 Color Assist, Philippine Legends Published by Psicom

Ang Alamat ni Bernardo Karpio
Alamat ng Maynilad
Alamat Ng Mais
Alamat Ni Apobolinayen At Ang Araw
Tigbauan At Lamokon

2003 Colors, Look And Find Series Coloring Published by Psicom

1 - Invasion
2 - The Forest
3 - J Brothers Adventure
4 - Baranggay Anay, cover only
5 - The 12 Huntsmen
6 - The Abduction
8 - Carnival

Philippine Ghost Stories #8 Pin-up Published by Psicom
DARNA Color Assist Published by Mango Comics
SANDUGUAN REVELATIONS Written by Christophe Pacaud Published by Blue Shuffle
WAN: Tatlong Kuwento. Talong Buhay With Tobie Abad

2004 TIKBALANG NATION Written by Jason Banico Published by Dynatica
2005 FANTASYA,"Kasaysayan: Minsan Isang Tag-Ulan" Written by Alex Osias Published by Psicom,

BASTED "Noon At Kailanman" Written by Kate Aton Cover colors Published by Psicom
BASTED: Tagos Hanggang Buto Cover colors Published by Psicom
PROJECT: HERO,  Razor Lolita Written by Jason Banico Published byQuest Ventures
KOMIKS ATBP,  Ang Alamat ni Bato Published by Point Zero
SHINING GOLD: APOCRYPHUS Written by Darrin Hunt under Ronin Studios

2007 SANDUGUAN:Himagsikan 0 
2008 SANDATA 0, BATO, Agimat Warrior 1 Published by Kathang Indio
2009 KALAYAAN #6 Written by Gio Paredes, Kathang Indio Visual Stories. Spot drawings on the Buzz magasin prose story.

Sanduguan and Bato are my ongoing projects.

1 What made you decide to publish your own komiks?

I entered the comix world because I just love to draw and make my own stories, and others told me why not go into "indie" publishing. So, after evaluating my own works and characters, I decided to make Philippine mythology my main focus and published my first indie sampler, Sanduguan 0.

2 What did you need to do to get into komiks?

I entered the comic book community just wanting to share my works to others. This is why I started online, armed only with the knowledge and experience I picked up along the way. I do my comix the "Marvel Style". I draw the pages based on a plot and then fix the continuity of the pages I finished. I fill up the gaps and build my script from the pages I have. (1) I'm not much of a writer, so this process works to my advantage.

3 What are the main hurdles to overcome in self-publishing, and how should new komiks makers get over these hurdles?

The main hurdle I have is finishing my comix on time. Since there are no editors to nag and push you, you do it only when you feel like it or when the next convention is just around the corner. Better to finish those pages early to avoid crunch time which leaves out room for many mistakes.

(1) Ner P. is referring to an editorial style popularized by Stan Lee often referred to as The Marvel Method. Using this method, the writer does not make a full script for a comics story. Instead, he makes a synopsis and allows the artist to fill in the details. This method is intended to increase the level of collaboration between the writer and artist. Read the Wikipedia entry on it here.

You can see Gener/nerp's deviantART here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Self-Publishing: Carlo Jose San Juan

The following is the seventh in a series of email interviews with some recently acquired contacts in the komiks community. If you'd like to share your own story, or just be a contact, please email me at

Today's article comes from Carlo Jose San Juan, who shares his experiences on self-publishing online as well as in print.

Carlo Jose San Juan, MD is a licensed physician and writes and illustrates the Callous comic strip series which has been running since 1996.  He has been producing comics in print and online since 1993.  

My First Year as a Webcomic

There I was, slumped on my desk with a pile of rejected pages.  My inkjet printer, exhausted from printing out page after page of errors, stood silently but beckoned me to call it quits.  So, I did what any other online-junkie in my position would do to vent my frustration.  I took a picture of my pile of faulty pages and posted it on Facebook.  One reply I got from a fellow webcomic artist was, “That’s self-publishing!”

Go back to just over a year prior I was tooling around with the online sitebuilder of a service that provided free website hosting with the intention of transferring my scattered archive of scanned comic strips published in various student newspapers to it.  Since the site was remarkably easy to update, I decided to try doing a daily online comic strip... just to see how long I could do it. 

I set it all up through Yola which was very helpful in helping you register your new site on places like Yahoo!, Google, and Bing and gave basic tips on search engine optimization (SEO).  I then Googled for advice on free website promotion and free online comic promotion and was pleasantly surprised with the wealth of detailed guides which would help you start off your “webcomic” (a new term for me at the time) and bring it to readers around the world.

My comic had been on hiatus for a little more than four years at the time and during my absence from that world other artists had slaved through various processes of establishing themselves as pioneer webcomic artists and figured out feasible business models.  It’s easy to think that had I stayed on I probably would have been one of those pioneers but I’d rather think like that’s one piece of hard work done for me and I now benefit from the trail they blazed.  So just think, it’s all out there.  All the guides, advice, and techniques are online, as varying as they are numerous.  It’s all a matter of figuring out which path suits you best.

What about skills?  You may have noticed I’ve hardly talked about actually drawing the comic.  There’s a good reason but more on that later.  Anyways, here are the minimal artistic skill requirements you need to produce a comic:

1) You need to know how to write in a manner that would reflect on a narrative sequential illustration medium and you need to know how to illustrate that writing in a manner that the message comes across to someone looking at it.  Some people are good at one or the other while some are good at both.  

2) Furthermore, you don’t need to be Leonardo da Vinci to be a comic artist (though I’m sure it helps) but it’s more important that you are able to convey what’s going on in the writing.  I also think of comics as a form of public speaking and one rule in both forms of expression is that you have to cater your work for your target audience and they must understand everything you’re saying.    In the end, it’s all about communication.

Now it is crucial to master your own craft in making the comic itself.  It is, after all, the heart and soul of all this.  But as many artists will tell you, drawing the comic is easy.  If you’ve read this far it’s quite likely that you’re already skilled at it.  It’s marketing and distributing your work that will take up most of your time.  And for webcomics, learning the byzantine language of HTML and CSS code is an additional burden.

The popular software of choice in the webcomic world is the wordpress plugin, ComicPress (and in the near future, Comic Easel).  It requires at least basic knowledge of HTML and CSS.  With it you can design beautiful sites and expand your creativity beyond the comic and it has a great comic management system.  I, however, had no time to learn all that code.  So I went with hosts like Yola and Square Space which have online sitebuilders where you simply drag-and-drop site components (I personally use Yola’s blog interface... and try to make it look like a Comicpress-scripted site).

As for marketing, yes it takes up a lot of time but it’s really not that hard.  I go through various channels to market my comic but the main ones are Twitter and Facebook.  Yup, Web 2.0 is the way to go, at least for me, and being “social” has benefitted me in more ways than just gaining more readers.  I’ve found that readers like to connect with the creators of the comics they read and nowadays it’s easier than ever!  It’s great to communicate with readers and fellow artists and the community is, mostly, a friendly one.  Most give constructive advice as well and you in turn can help other struggling artists out.  But be prepared.  The internet can be a vicious place as well with a myriad of trolls just waiting to pounce on a weak spirit.

Once you have your home on the web set up, it’s time to publish your comic.  The best marketing strategy you can have is to regularly update your site.  Give people reason to keep coming back.  Obviously, for a newspaper-style comic strip series like mine, daily updates are the absolute best thing to do.  However, it’s not unheard of to find similarly-styled comics that update two to five times a week and still be just as successful as long as they maintain their publishing schedule.  Comic book-styled comics can even update once a week or even less often than that and still get good readership.  So, figure out the most frequent update schedule you can realistically accomplish then make sure you stick to it.

After producing around a year’s worth of online daily comic strips and gaining a decent readership, I decided it was time to bring my efforts to print to introduce my work to the non-webcomic reading public (which was, admittedly, a vast majority of the Philippine comic-reading populace).  I had landed a table at an upcoming comic con and began looking around for printing services that would cater to my publishing needs.  After all, I only needed around a hundred comic books for the event, how much could it possibly cost?

WHAT?! P200 – P300 a copy?!  The best prices I got weren’t much better.

Why did it cost so much?  The main reason is that my comic is now primarily in color.  Simply shifting it to grayscale didn’t agree with my eye’s palate.  You might think I’m overreacting but hey, it’s my comic.

After much frustration looking for a printing service I was left with only one feasible option: to print the darn thing myself as an ashcan compilation comic.

I used Paper One’s A4 Presentation paper because it guarantees being able to take back-to-back color printing without having the ink bleed though the pages.  For the cover I used CD-R King’s A4 Photo Paper.  I saddle-stitched each copy myself with a long stapler.

For the layout I used Microsoft Word to arrange my pages in booklet format.  The upside is it makes figuring out the page arrangement for printing quite easy!  The downside is it comes out lousy.  My print turned out pretty small due to one factor or another creating a white border around each page, shrinking it.  I advise using MS Word only to figure out your layout in booklet format then reflecting these arranged pages as images, printing them out as separate photos.

The greatest monetary investment will come in the form of printer ink.  I resorted to using the cheap ink refills you see around which cut costs dramatically.

So I found myself in a comic con selling my comics and reaching a whole new audience.  As nice as it is to see your comic online, there’s still something about seeing it in print that is particularly thrilling!

But I’ve found, after keeping my series in relative obscurity for so long, that it is incredibly rewarding to have someone actually read your hard work and hearing them say they loved it.

P.S. – The above methods were figured out all on my own with little to no help from anyone else, shaped to fit the circumstances of my life.  It may or may not fit yours but I hope it helps you find your own direction. J

You can read Callous here.