The Fountain Pentel, and Why I Love Wet Paint

I’ve been using the Fountain Pentel as my pen of choice for many years, and I love them… The Fountain Pentel has a unique plastic nib which bends to draw a different thickness of line depending on how much pressure you apply. They are fun to use, and like no other pen I’ve ever experienced.

I actually bought a gross of them in the 90’s as I was afraid they would stop making them, as they were always a hard to find pen. My supply of this unique pen is dwindling.

Looking recently for replacements, I discovered that, horror of horrors, my premonition was accurate and they are no longer sold in the US… in fact, I couldn’t even find an image of the Fountain Pentels I use online, they are so out of date. Here’s one for you I just scanned:

Fortunately, in St. Paul we have Wet Paint, the world’s greatest art supply store. I contacted Tim Jennen, the marketing manager and buyer for Wet Paint (who also happens to be a member of the Conspiracy) and let him know about my dilemma.

Tim has a passion for hunting down obscure art materials, and he just emailed me some good news shortly after my inquiry:

Hi, Steve—

I’m still hoping to bring in the regular Fountain Pentel at some point, but I have brought in a different version of this pen that I found—the Tradio Fountain Pentel, which is refillable. Here’s some info on it:

Tradio Fountain Pentel TRJ50

Tradio Fountain Pentel

A fountain pen with the perfect combination of style and performance. A flexible plastic nib creates a variety of line widths, from thick to thin, depending on the angle and pressure applied. The innovative, see-thru free-flowing system delivers a consistent ink flow for smooth, effortless writing from the first stroke to the last. The ergonomic barrel design provides added comfort and writing control. Black ink. Uses Pentel’s MLJ20 refill in black.


The pen is $10.00, but on sale during our Make Your Mark sale through the end of April at $8.50. The MLJ20 refill is $3.95.

The next time you’re in the store, check it out!


Tim Jennen, Marketing Manager/Buyer
Wet Paint: Artists’ Materials & Framing

Refillable! This is very exciting news to me, as my major gripe with the (disposable) Fountain Pentels I’ve used is that they fade with age… hopefully the ink in the cartridges is non-fading, or I can figure out a non-fading ink solution for this. I can’t wait to try one… I’m gonna try and make it over to Wet Paint this weekend, and I’ll give you a comparison to the disposable models once I try this out.

So now Wet Paint is apparently the only US supplier for two of the greatest cartooning tools ever created… the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Fountain Pentel. I believe they are also the last place left that you can buy supplies for gocco screen printing machines, which are quite wonderful.

If you’re looking for a specific art supply and can’t find it anywhere, contacting Wet Paint is a good bet… they have an online store with their wares as well, so you don’t have to live in the Twin Cities to get a hold of these wonderful tools. Their prices are great too… we’re very lucky to have them in the Twin Cities.

More About RSS Feeds From Popular Webcomics Hosting Sites

In the comments to my second installment of my How to Get Your Comics Online series of articles, there have been some responses about the rss options for some of the popular webcomics hosting providers, so I thought I would note them here:

1) In addition to, DrunkDuck and Comic Genesis both offer rss feeds.

2) Joey Manley of comics hosting provider (and the excellent Talk About Comics blog) notes that does indeed offer the ability for cartoonists to publish their full rss feeds, it just has to be turned on (partial feeds are the default option). He encourages folks to let cartoonists who don’t offer full feeds know that you want them. Sam Henderson and Roger Langridge, I hope you are reading!

The ProBlogger blog just did a survey of their readers to see what reasons people had for unsubscribing from blogs, which you can see here. Note that the third highest reason is incomplete or partial feeds. If you are a web cartoonist who is not offering your comics in your feeds, you are really shooting yourself in the foot… if you aren’t making it easy for your users to view the content in the way they want to view it, they more than likely will not bother to see your content at all.

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART THREE: Getting your Images Ready For the Web

You see a lot of poor quality images on various comics sites (including some of the ones on this one!) Here are some things to think about when getting your art ready to present on the web.


A lot of people don’t know the difference between bitmap and vector image files.

Bitmap files contain color information about every single pixel in an image. Popular bitmap formats are .jpg, .gif, and .png. Adobe Photoshop is a program that primarily works with bitmap art (although they are combining it more with vector art in the newer versions). These images can be scaled downwards.

Vector files contain mathematical coordinates for the points and lines and other information that an image is made out of. The only really popular vector format I know of is .swf (shockwave flash). Adobe Illustrator is a program that works primarily in vector art. Vector art can be scaled upwards or downwards without losing quality.



These are bitmap files… they have all of the information about every pixel of your image uncompressed. These make good, high quality source files, but you will never want to publish them to the web, as they are large files, and will take too long to download.


Probably the most widely used format is the .jpg (it is the format most digital cameras take pictures in). It is good for some things, but not for others. It is a lossy format, and most bitmap editing programs will ask you how high of quality you want to save it as when you save it.

Being a lossy format, the lower the setting you choose on this, the more information you lose… you sacrifice image quality for small image sizes. You lose information in an image even saving a jpg at 100 quality, so never use jpgs for your source files.

Why would you want a lower quality image? File size. If you want an image to download quickly, the .jpg does a nice job of compressing the information. At low settings, though, your images will look muddier and muddier.

The .jpg file tends to work well for gradiated color, photographic, and greyscale images.


.Gif files are also a lossy format, so again, never use these for your source files. However rather than controlling the range of quality from 1-100 to compress, with gif files you manipulate the color palette embedded in an image. The more you limit the number of colors used in a gif image, the smaller the file gets.

The .gif format works well for black and white and flat color images with a limited color range. Also, gif files can handle alpha transparencies, which jpg files can not.

You can have animated .gif files, but these are very limited. If these are not kept very brief they can get very large very fast.


There are three major web compatible formats for presenting bitmap graphics, .gif, .jpg and .png. Of those, .png is rarely used.

Why is this? I believe mostly because the format was developed later than the other two formats. PNG’s actually use most of the advantages of both .jpgs and .gifs, and improve and expand on them vastly.

I think they are compatible with all browsers too.

That said, I almost never use them except for source files (they are a lossless format)… this is probably more a force of habit on my part than anything else. Since they are a lossless format, they don’t “approximate information” of the source for the sake of compression, as jpgs and gifs do.

You can read more about the advantages of png files here, if you’re interested.

Note that the .png format was adopted as the source file format for Adobe Fireworks, which is an excellent program for preparing bitmap images for the web. It also does a very nice job of integrating vector art, bitmap art and fonts… I’m not sure if it is a default of the file format to handle vector as well as bitmap art or not, but you can do so very well with Fireworks. However, Fireworks is not the robust image editing solution something like Photoshop is (and it isn’t intended to be), but a lot of web-related stuff it handles much better than Photoshop does.


The .swf is the format popularized by the Adobe Flash Player. Swf files can do a lot of things, including complex full animation and multimedia. It is the only popular vector format used on the web that I’m aware of, although there may be others. There is a little more involved in posting these files online than there is with the other formats. However, since it is vector, you can have totally clean artwork at any dimensions, usually at very small file sizes.


I’m not going to say too much about scanning or image editing in this post… you can read some good information about scanning, among other things, here:

RE: A Guide to Reproduction: A Primer on Xeorgraphy, Silkscreening

I generally scan stuff at 800 DPI as a black and white bitmap for my source copy of a black and white image (if I color, it is generally done on the computer). Save this initial scan as a source file, and make alterations to it as a different file… that way you can always go back to the source if you need to.

Before altering a black and white image in scale or dimension, you’ll want to switch it to greyscale, or you’ll get some ugly, chunky pixels you don’t want.


Put copyright information, your name and your website url in all of your images (again, this is something I have neglected on my own website, although I’ve done it a lot in my Soapy the Chicken strip… I should always do this, though!). If you put a circle c © with a date and your name, you should be somewhat legally protected from copyright infringement. Obviously, you want copyright information on your website in general, but you should have it on each individual image you want to own the copyright of as well, because your images may not be viewed only on your website.

Anyone can grab your images for free on the web, and put the images on their website. While ideally they should at least give you credit for an image, frequently they won’t. If this makes you uncomfortable, you should very carefully in considering what you make available on the web. Having your copyright on all of your images will make it so anyone using the image will have to take the significant extra step of editing the image if they want to display your image without you getting copyright credit for it.

While I’m mentioning copyright, you may also want to consider offering some of your work under a creative commons license. These give you more flexibility in defining what can be done with your copyrighted images. The Cartoonist Conspiracy publishes all of the jam comics we produce online using a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license that allows people to reuse the content from them in certain situations. Read more about creative commons licenses on the creative commons site.


When deciding what size and dimensions to make your images for the web, consider the nature of the computer monitor. Some people still view the web on computers that only display 800×600 pixels. I tend to think anyone viewing the web at this size is pretty used to scrolling around to find the information they want. However, you may want to generally try to keep your web-posted images under 750 or so pixels wide anyhow to be accommodating… it will keep your file sizes down as well.

If you are making artwork specifically for the web, you may want to consider formatting it horizontally (like a comic strip) rather than vertically (like the traditional vertical comic book page). That way people will be more likely to be able to see the whole strip on their computer monitor at once.

That said, you do have an “infinite canvas,” if you want it… just keep in mind some users may not have patience for a lot of scrolling, if you care. I tend to think most people prefer the traditional & more passive “clicking to the next page” rather than “scrolling to the next part” (which can also take a lot longer to download, since you are loading more images on to a single page).

If you aren’t one of the majority of web users cursed with short attention spans, there have been some wonderful comics done exploring the infinite canvas concept, and it is definitely an area ripe for more exploration.


I mention above how some of the formats do a good job of compressing images down to a reasonable file size. File size of your images and all of your files online is an important consideration when you consider both how long it will take your users to download an image and how much of your bandwidth allowance you are going to use up.

That said, small files are somewhat less relevant than they used to be… more and more people have fast connections, and most cartoonists won’t dent their bandwidth allowance if they have a good hosting provider like Dreamhost (although really popular cartoonists might if they have heavily trafficked websites).

I believe having high quality images is more important than having small file sizes… although you don’t want enormous file sizes either. I wouldn’t generally go much below 80% on a jpg you’re publishing, and you probably won’t be happy with most .gif without at least 32 colors in your palette… the amounts on these things will vary with different images depending on how much information they contain, though. Try exporting versions of a graphic at different sizes and compare them… gradually you’ll get a feeling for the quality levels you want to shoot for.

If you’re posting a really large image, just save a small preview “thumbnail” version that links to your main image, or state the file size on the link that leads to the image.


Consider how you name your files carefully before uploading them. First of all, NEVER use uppercase characters, spaces or special characters… these will give you all sorts of headaches. If you feel like you need a space, use an underline _ instead.

I’d recommend trying to use a consistent naming structure for your files so they will be easy to find and know what they are… don’t be afraid of long names! Here’s an example of a good naming structure…


This structure breaks down four different components of an image in the name. Comics can be the main subject, funnycomics could be the name of a project, episode01 could indicate that it is the first episode of the comic, and p001 indicates the page number of the image.

Numbering with zeroes at the start of your numbering, as with 001, 002, 003 makes it so you have a consistent number of characters in your names up to page 999. I’ve found this useful in some situations where I know how many digits are going to be in the highest number page or item. It works for me, anyhow.

Use whatever structure works for you and makes sense for the image.


I use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Flash for various image editing tasks. These all cost money, unfortunately, and cartoonists don’t generally work with a big budget.

Fortunately, you can probably find free software out there if you look for it. One well-known, widely used free image editing program is GIMP. I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard good things about it.


OK… you have your images ready to post. What now?

There are a huge number of free image hosting solutions, as I mentioned in the previous chapters of this article… Flickr is a well-known and flexible one, although they require you to have more “photographic” images than drawings or other art (don’t ask me why they have this brain-dead policy, I have no idea). Posting a question about this on the Cartoonist Conspiracy or Comics Journal message boards will probably get you a lot of advice. If you are going to use an image hosting site, MAKE SURE TO READ THEIR LEGALESE before posting anything to confirm that you will retain all rights to your artwork.

Ideally, you have your own web space somewhere you can upload (FTP) files to (FTP stands for “file transfer protocol”). If you have a modern version of windows, you can type the name of the ftp site (like into the “address” box of any window and it should bring up a login for the ftp site for you to put your user name and password in. This is nice, because you can then treat the folders on your site pretty much like any other folders on your machine.

If this doesn’t work for you, there are a lot of free FTP programs out there. Filezilla is an excellent one.

Put all of the images on your site in a folder called images. You can add sub-folders with images by project or subject in your images folder as well (which I also recommend). Putting all images in your images folder will go a long way towards keeping your website files neat and orderly.


HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART TWO: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions

Next: Presenting Yourself Online

Cartoonist Parlour Games: Character Battling

Another Cartoonist Parlour Game I forgot to mention in my earlier post on the subject is Character Battling. In this, two or more cartoonists create characters, and then they take turns drawing comics with the characters. Usually fighting.

I don’t know what the history of this one would be… it is probably an instinctual activity of young cartoonists to collaborate with comics where each cartoonist draws their own character and they have them interact. In published comics, a notable example would be Robert and Aline Crumb’s ongoing semi-autobiographical Dirty Laundry Comics (previously to these, Bob Crumb had done a lot this activity with his brother Charles, as well).

Recently, the cartooning innovators at Big Time Attic have been doing comics in this fashion where they are very battle focused. Their innovation in this case is to have the conclusion of the battle determined by a coin-flip, rock-paper-scissors, or some other semi-random determining game (they go as far as to videotape the determining event and put it on you-tube, so you can experience the tension first hand). Here is the most recent example.

How to Make Mini-Comics Box Sets

Above: Tim Sievert and Brett VonSchlosser work on collating mini-comics into Lutefisk Sushi Volume B boxes in a photo by Shad Petosky from the Big Time Attic blog.

In my post on Cartoonist Parlour Games yesterday, Tim Maloney commented that the collaborative mini-comics box set is another cartoonist parlour game (he recently was involved in making the The Bog Box Golden Treasury of Minicomics, which looks quite wonderful). I hadn’t been thinking about box sets in those terms previously, but it definitely makes sense.

We’ve had great success with mini-comic box sets in the Minneapolis cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy, so I thought I’d talk a bit about how to organize your own box sets (maybe this will turn into notes for another volume of the Cartoonist Conspiracy Li’l Library eventually).

We’ve produced four box sets in Minneapolis. Two were collections of mini-comics by Minnesota cartoonists called Lutefisk Sushi Volume A (circa 2004, numbered edition of 100) and Volume B (circa 2006, numbered edition of 150). These were tied into some spectacular gallery shows of the same at Creative Electric Studios. We also used box sets to collect mini-comics from the last two 24 Hour Comic events we had in Minneapolis in 2005 and 2006 (in 2004 we collected 24 hour comics from our event as a book, which is a considerably more complex and expensive thing to pull off).


  • It is very economical. As opposed to printing an anthology, you only need to supply a box rather than paying for an entire print job. Contributors can print their own books to put in the box.
  • Again, unlike a book anthology, a box can hold a wide variety of formats. In our boxes, we’ve had all kinds of sizes and shapes… one that was in a plastic bag with glitter, one that included a magnifying glass, and one that was a scroll hand-silkscreened in invisible ink. Obviously, you can’t do this with a book.
  • The anthology format of most box sets makes it so people can try work by a wide variety of artists, which is a great way to turn people on to a lot of exciting work.
  • It’s a fantastic way to collect the work of cartoonists from a 24 hour comic event… if event hosts organize a box set in conjunction with their event, they can really step the whole thing up a notch.
  • If you’ve produced a lot of mini-comics on your own, packaging them as a box set can help you sell more of them to package a bunch of them together at a lower price than the cover price of the individual minis.
  • They can be amazing for fund-raisers. With our two Lutefisk Sushi shows the Minneapolis Cartoonist Conspiracy made around $2000 that we sent to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. With Volume B the money we donated we gave in the form of memberships to the CBLDF for participants in the box set.


The major limitation of the box set collection is that it would be very difficult to pull off without a pretty limited print run. These are all put together by hand, and it gets harder to pull off the more of them that you make. 100 seems to be the sweet spot, but we did 150 for the Lutefisk Sushi Volume B show. If people are contributing comics to your box set, you want to keep their print runs affordable too, and printing mini-comics can get expensive (and time consuming if they are elaborate mini-comics, of course). 100 copies won’t break most people’s banks.

Obviously, for the same reasons, you can’t really go back to press on one of these sets generally.

However, the limited print runs and hand-made factor also make these very collectible objects. Number them like you would with a limited edition print to emphasize the limited nature.


Unless you are planning a collection of your own work, you’ll want a lot of people to work with on this project. With box set anthologies, “the more the merrier” is definitely true. Additional collaborators add MUCH more to the value of the box than the negligible costs involved by including them.

Besides your cartoonist friends, the internet is definitely the best way to find cartoonists to participate. I like to think that The International Cartoonist Conspiracy website is the best place to look.

The Cartoonist Conspiracy is open to all cartoonists, and includes professional and amateur cartoonists in its ranks… anyone with any interest in making comics can join. Additionally, anyone can start a cell in their community… contact me if you want to start one and I’ll get you set up (I’m the Cartoonist Conspiracy webmaster). You can organize your group utilizing our message board.

We currently have cells in Minneapolis MN, San Francisco CA, Calgary/Edmonton, Chicago IL, Lancaster PA, Milwaukee WI, Montreal, Rice MN, Sacramento CA, Sioux Falls SD, Springfield IL, Kansas City MO, Santa Fe/Albuquerque NM, and North Carolina.

If you don’t want to go through us, there are plenty of other places to find collaborators as well… posting on the Comics Journal message board will also probably get you some good results.


Do you want your box set to have a theme? While I would advise against making a theme that is too narrow, like “Comics About French Poodles” or something, because you will have less people contribute than if you have a broad theme. The theme of “mini-comics by cartoonists living in Minnesota” worked very well for our Lutefisk Sushi anthologies (we had over 30 cartoonists participating in volume A and had 50 cartoonists participating in volume B). If you let people use mini-comics that they have already produced in the box, you will probably get more submissions… although it is always good to encourage new work! Some other questions to consider:

  • Do you want to organize it around a gallery show?
  • How many copies do you want to make?
  • How are you going to put the boxes together and print them?
  • How will you promote and distribute them?
  • How many copies will collaborators get?
  • How many boxes do you want to make?
  • If you make a profit, what will you do with the money? You may want to consider organizing this for a charity.

You’ll want to discuss these and other logistics with your collaborators before getting started.


Put the word out about what you are looking for and when you want it by. Things to note:

  • If you have a theme, let people know it.
  • Are there any format guidelines or restrictions they should know about.
  • Do you want people to sign their mini-comics?
  • Give people a size limit… so far we’ve used boxes that will fit comics up to 5.5″x8″, but you may want to go for a smaller or bigger box.
  • How many copies do they need to contribute?
  • How many copies of the box set will they get for participating?
  • Will you want their help with collating, printing, or anything else? You should! Let them know.
  • Make a hard deadline date. I recommend making this date earlier than you actually need it. That way, when people email you enmasse the day of the deadline asking for more time, as they inevitably will, you can afford to give them an extension to secondary deadline.
  • If you recruit people who have never before made a comic in their life (which I also recommend pursuing… every artist should try their hands at a mini-comic), refer them to this online “How To Make Mini-Comics” mini-comic.


There are probably any number of places online to get boxes. We’ve used this site… note that they have some sweet spots in some of their pricing on certain types of boxes and quantities that you may want to look for if you use them.

Other than for the first Sushi show, we used this box. Here are a couple other good, inexpensive ones.


We’ve used two methods for covering the boxes. For the Lutefisk Sushi shows we silkscreened wraparound covers, for the 24 hour boxes we printed stickers that we adhered on the covers. You could do a number of other things as well. A printed band around the box could look really cool, you could draw the covers by hand with crayon, you could use a rubber stamp… if you have a gocco machine, that would work great (unfortunately these wonderful devices are no longer being manufactured, although you can still find some supplies for them at Wet Paint Art). The sky is the limit.

You can see a video of Lutefisk Sushi Volume B boxes being hand silkscreened by Lonny Unitus and Shad Petosky here.


You’ll want to get a bunch of your collaborators to help with this. It will probably go something like this:

  • Number all the boxes.
  • Fold all the boxes into box form.
  • Put all of your mini-comics in stacks by comic around a big table or two.
  • Have people grab a box, and walk around the tables putting one of each comic into the box, one comic at a time. Take it slow, you REALLY don’t want to have to do this twice.
  • When all the comics are in a box, close the box and add it to the box pile.


Every participant should get at least one box, depending on the number of participants and the print run.

Beyond that, the best way to sell them, in my view, is in conjunction with a gallery show featuring work from the box on walls. Putting together a comics gallery show is a whole separate beast that I’ll probably post another how-to about sooner or later.

The other major ways to sell them would be to take them to your local comic shops and comic conventions. You can also offer them for sale to some of the fine mini-comics distributors that can be found around the web. Here are some of them:

USS Catastrophe

Bodega Distribution

Global Hobo

Poopsheet Foundation

Cold Cut


Just kidding about that one…

Besides the coolness of the finished mini-comics box, this project is a really great way to get to know cartoonists in your area and build relationships for fruitful collaborations. Good luck!

Have you ever made a mini-comics box? Are you planning to make one? Let us hear about your experiences in the comments!

How to Make Mini-Comics: The Mini-Comic

I recently created a How to Make Mini-Comics Mini-Comic with my collaborators in the Minneapolis cell of The International Cartoonist Conspiracy. It is intended to serve as a downloadable textbook for those seeking to learn how to make a mini-comic. You can read more about it, and download the comic, by clicking the image below.

Cartoonist Parlour Games

In recent years the number of Cartoonist Parlour Games (i.e. drawing projects & challenges with guidelines) has been exploding. And I’m not even counting Pictionary.

I thought I’d provide an overview of the ones I’ve heard of or participated in (I’m the webmaster and one of the founding members of The International Cartoonist Conspiracy). Some of these games, particularly the extended jam and the 24 hour comic I feel I’ve learned a whole lot from as a cartoonist… I highly recommend trying some of these games out if you have any desire at all to draw comics. It will make you a better cartoonist.

Jam Comics

Started in the late 60’s by the Zap cartoonists. One cartoonist draws a panel or space on a page, another cartoonist continues, and then another until it’s done. Note that you can see a lot more examples of jams and many of the other parlour games (many very NSFW) here. Conspirator Zander Cannon of Big Time Attic recently wrote an excellent summary of how to have a successful comics jam here, and there is good general summary of comic jamming by The Monthly Montreal Comix Jam here.

Here is a jam comic example from the Minneapolis cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy.

Extended Jam Comics

A variation of the traditional jam comic that we’ve been pioneering in the Minneapolis Cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy. Rather than doing one page of randomness, we usually do 16 in an evening (a nice convenient number for reprinting as a mini-comic). We number all the pages at the outset. Everyone takes a random page. When you get to the end of a page, you look at the first panel of the next page and try to thematically tie your panel into the previous panel and the next panel. To help make things slightly cohesive, we choose 2 or 3 themes at the outset… for a while we were picking from a bag full of suggested themes, but lately we’ve just been choosing themes from a random page of a magazine or just having people suggest what they want to draw. One other thing we have tried (which I want to try more) is having a character or two designed at the outset that can run through the comic (some structure to jam comics seems to make them a lot more fun to read later). Zander Cannon also discusses how to make a successful extended jam in his previously mentioned post.

Here’s an extended jam example from the Minneapolis cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy.

Endless Jam Comics

This was created by the Iowa City Phooey cartoonist collective in the 1980’s, which I went to some meetings of when I was a kid. They had a roll of paper like register tape attached to a wooden device where you would draw a panel and then roll it forward for the next cartoonist to continue. At the end you could just attach another strip, if you were inclined. I don’t have an example of this one, unfortunately.

The Narrative Corpse

The Narrative Corpse is another variation on the jam comic. This one was popularized by Art Spiegelman, who did a widely distributed narrative corpse with 69 other artists. The concept is based on the “exquisite corpse” game of the surrealists. A cartoonist draws a panel based only on knowledge of what occurred in the previous panel… and then passes their panel on to the next cartoonist.

I have no examples of this, but there was one recently organized by Aeron Alfrey on this site, which I believe is going to be published sometime soon.

Jam War

Jam War is a project pioneered by Nat Gertler (who also founded 24 Hour Comics Day). It was a collaborative comics competition where groups of creators were given a theme, and 12 hours to draw 8 pages. Basically, this is not different than a conventional comics jam, except it is competitive… the resulting work is judged for which one is best, so there is a winner.

The Minneapolis and Rice, MN Cartoonist Conspiracy cells participated in this, but the results have thus far only been published as a minicomic called “Mission Accomplished” which is not online, so I have no example of a Jam War to share, unfortunately.

The Comic Blitz Tournament

This one was introduced to our cell by conspirator Andrey Feldysteyn, and he wrote up a summary of it here. He had done it previously with his cartoonist friends in Russia, where he hails from. Someone chooses a random topic, and the participating cartoonists draw as many gag cartoons on that topic as they can in 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, the cartoonists pass the cartoons around for voting… judges (which can include participants) mark on the back of the drawings. They write nothing if they don’t think it works, 1 cross if they like it, 2 crosses if they love it. The cartoonist with the most points wins. Gambling and drinking should be involved.

24 Hour Comics

Each cartoonist draws 24 pages in 24 hours… extreme sports for cartoonists. This wonderful exercise was conceived by Scott McCloud (author of Understanding Comics and Making Comics among other things). You can find the rules aka The Dare here. Nat Gertler took the challenge and made it into a national holiday for cartoonists… 24 Hour Comics Day. As far as I know Nat hasn’t announced the date for this year’s 24 Hour Comics Day, but you can subscribe to the 24 Hour Comics Day blog to stay posted on it.

Here is an example of a 24 hour comic I made.

288 hour comics and Gross Comics

This is a new project being pioneered by the Cartoonist Conspiracy. These are both variations on McCloud’s 24 Hour Comic. In the 288 hour comic, you draw 24 pages in 24 hours once every month for a year, and end up with a 288 page graphic novel at the end of the year. In a Gross comic, you draw 12 pages in 12 hours once every month for a year, and end up with a 144 page graphic novel at the end of the year (144 makes a gross… corny, I know, but catchy!).

Beyond that, though, the goals of these projects are completely different. These are intended as motivational tools for producing good comics, rather than just an exercise in making comics quickly (as with the 24 hour comic). To that end, “cheating” is encouraged. You may work ALL YOU WANT on any part of the project outside of the defined time… however, at the end of the defined 12 or 24 hours every month you should have your 12 or 24 pages done, or you should work like heck to get them finished up as quickly as possible after that. If you reach the next month and have not finished your pages from the previous month, you have failed. We started the Gross Comics Project last weekend, and we’re looking for hearty cartoonists from around the globe to join us in this project… we’ll post links to all participants on the cartoonist conspiracy blog.

You can see examples of Gross Projects in progress here.

You can see the only example of the 288 Hour Comic in progress here… Kevin Cannon is a cartooning madman.

5-Card Nancy

Another Scott McCloud invention. Cut out some Ernie Bushmiller Nancy comic strip panels to make a deck of cards, and then get a group of people together to play. Deal out the panels and take turns placing them next to each other to continue the story. Read the rules here to learn how to play here.

You can play a solitaire version of 5-Card Nancy online here.

9-Panel Shuffle

This is a game I invented where you create nine panels that can be randomly shuffled and read in any order for different effects. It was originally intended to be viewed in an open source flash movie that I built, although you could just do it on cards and rearrange them by hand… you can see it in action here. Clicking the shuffle button rearranges the panels. You can download the source here if you want to make a online version. Please let me know if you do so I can link to it.


We haven’t tried this one in Minneapolis but our comrades in the San Francisco cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy really enjoyed it. Shuffleupagus is a jam technique invented by Jesse Reklaw. It involves having participating artists draw a character and a setting on blank index cards… and, well, the rules are a little convoluted to explain after that (although they look like fun)… read more about it here.

22 Panels That Always Work Project

I just heard about this the other day, and I think I’ll probably give it a try at some point soon. The 22 Panels That Always Work Project is pretty simple… just look at the famous Wally Wood 22 Panels That Always Work comic, and draw your own version of it. After that you may want to draw your own version of Ivan Brunetti’s 22 Panels That Always Work too!

I’m going to start introducing a new cartoonist parlour game every month or so on this blog, so check back to participate and/or enjoy the results!

Have you heard about other Cartoonist Parlour Games? If so, please let us hear about them in the comments!

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART TWO: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions

This is the second part of a series on publishing your comics online… the first part can be found here.

The first thing you most likely will want to consider once you’ve decided to put some of your work online is how you want to get it there. There are a number of options for doing so, which I will discuss in this installment.


Some of the options cost money, some of them don’t. There are five major free comics hosting sites that I have heard of:

Webcomics Nation
Comic Genesis
Drunk Duck
Smack Jeeves

(Comicspace also serves as a “social networking” site for cartoonists, and is very widely used, and possibly worth having an account at for reasons other than just posting your comics … you can see my page on it here. I don’t host comics there, or really update it, however… I’m just using it to attempt to drive traffic here).

Other options will certainly appear, so if you’re interested in doing this, you may want to try putting “free comic hosting” into your search engine of choice as well.

I have no experience with any of these free hosting options… I guess I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Some of them offer expanded options for paid accounts as well, and I’m not sure what additional control that would get you. Thus, I am not qualified to discuss the nuances of each option here… if you are interested in them, you will have to explore them yourself. However, I will list briefly here some advantages and disadvantages that I see of using the free comics hosting services.


1) They’re free.

2) I believe all of the options above add you in their comics listings and promotions, which is most likely quite advantageous for building an audience.

3) I would guess they are all pretty easy for a beginner to use… presumably you just start an account and start posting.

4) It is a lot easier and quicker to use a templated site like these all provide than to build a unique site yourself.

5) You will have an automated archive of your previous strips, so people can easily start at the beginning.


1) “You get what you pay for.” Your options are limited to what your host provides.

2) You won’t get a particularly intuitive URL for your site for free (like or

3) You are most likely limited to the design, functionality, and the template or templates provided. A templated site may not be particularly attractive, and the limitations in functionality may frustrate you. A templated site is unlikely to present your unique character and creativity as well as one you have designed yourself.

4) I don’t believe most of the free options offer rss feeds, which are key to building your audience (Web Comics Nation does offer them). All free blog systems will offer this, however, which is a good reason to use a blog for posting your comics.

The advantages and disadvantages are pretty equally weighted on this one… it really depends on what you want to pursue. Free comic hosting is probably the easiest option for getting your work online, though.


One thing I would consider carefully in choosing your free host, if you decide to use one, is whether or not they offer RSS feeds. The only one I know of that does this currently is Webcomics Nation, although some of the others may as well. I would strongly advise you not to use any service that does not provide an rss feed of what you post.

Unfortunately, in the rss feeds I have subscribed to from Webcomics Nation, the rss feeds do not display the comics, but rather just let you know when a comic has been updated and lets you know to visit the site. I don’t know if it is optional or a requirement to not include the comics in the feeds, but I see this as a serious tactical error.

You want your readers to be able to access your work wherever they want to access it… forcing people to visit your site to see your content defeats the point of having an rss feed. That point is making your content easily available to anyone who wants to see it, however they want to see it… rss separates the content of a site from the presentation of the site, so that content can be viewed anywhere. If subscribers have to visit your site every time you post something rather than just viewing it in their newsreader of choice, I guarantee you will only have a fraction of the readers you would otherwise.

RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” It is the standard for syndicating your content around the web… you can read more about it here.

The concept of syndicating on the web is much different than the traditional concepts you may have with syndication. As with the traditional syndication of newspaper comics, for example, offering your content for syndication does indeed make it so others can repurpose all or part of your feed on their websites. Unlike newspaper syndication, if someone did use your feed, you would not get paid for it. Indeed, if you have a feed of your comics, someone can easily display your feed on their website without your permission, so if this loss of control bugs you, you may not want to offer a feed. It is a VERY good idea (and one that I have widely neglected myself) to put your domain name and copyright information inside of all images you publish, so wherever someone sees the image they will know where it came from.

The primary use of an rss feed, at least for a cartoonist, is to build a subscriber base. Your feed makes it so anyone using a newsreader on the web can subscribe to your comics and other postings in your rss feed and receive it automatically every time you post. Before feeds, if a user wanted to find the latest work by a cartoonist, they had to check their website regularly and dig around for any new material. With feeds, the subscriber recieves the information directly in his newsreader when it is updated without having to visit your website at all.

If you are unfamiliar with newsreaders, I HIGHLY recommend you acquaint yourself with one. I’ve used a few different ones, and there are a ton of them out there. I currently use Google Reader, which works extremely well. I’m currently subscribing to over 250 different rss feeds with it, and I can view the contents of all of those feeds in one place. If I checked all of the websites whose feeds I subscribe to every day, it would probably take all day. Instead I read them all in one place and can browse them quickly. Additionally, Google Reader makes it easy to organize and share feeds you are subscribing to. You can also access your Google Reader account from any computer with and internet connection… this is not the case with a newsreader that you run off of your desktop.

If you use the web regularly, using a newsreader will save you a tremendous amount of time, and beyond that it changes the usefulness of the web utterly. It makes it so all the content you are interested in comes to you, rather than you having to hunt it down. Some other popular newsreaders include MyYahoo, Newsgator, Bloglines… there are probably hundreds of them out there. I recommend Google Reader. Once you get set up with one, start subscribing to some sites to try it out… here are links to all my current feeds, which I’m sure you’ll want to subscribe to!

Stwallskull Feed
Stwallskull’s Interesting Links
Soapy the Chicken Feed
Conspire! The Cartoonist Conspiracy Group Blog Feed
Conspire! Conspiracy News Feed
Conspire! Conspirators Feed
Conspire! Cartooning Lessons Feed
Conspire! Comic News Feed


One other potentially free option you may want to consider would be posting your comics as a blog. I publish my comic, Soapy the Chicken, as a blog, and it works pretty well for the most part. There are a number of free blogging options out there… Blogger (which is owned by Google and integrates somewhat with Google Reader) and WordPress are probably the best known. I’m currently using blogger for the Soapy site (and the Cartoonist Conspiracy group blog), and it works very well. Recently I started using WordPress for this blog on my stwallskull site, and it works even better than Blogger, it is much more flexible and powerful. However, if you are a beginner, Blogger may be a better option, as it is extremely simple to figure out. This brings us to another of my handy lists of advantages and disadvantages…


1) It will have an easy to use rss feed, so you can easily have people subscribe.

2) The templates tend to be very flexible, and with a little bit of work you can alter them fairly easily to have the features and look that you want for your site.

3) Blogs are pretty intuitive to use, and easy to update.


1) If you are not hosting it yourself, you may want to find a separate place to host your images. Most blog accounts provide some image hosting space, but it may not be enough for your purposes. There are a number of free image hosting places out there on the web… far too many to list. Here are a few… again there are a lot of them out there… (note that while flickr works slick has a lot of advantages, they inanely require you to post more photos than printed stuff or they may freeze your account)

Asking for some good suggestions on the Cartoonist Conspiracy or Comics Journal message boards should get you a number of opinions about the best ones to use.

2) You’ll have to build an archive separately if you want a way for people to go through your comics from the first one to the last, and keep it updated… same deal with a gallery or other additional pages you may want. I’m currently managing the Soapy the Chicken archive with a flash movie that I built. My friend Sean Tenhoff archives his strip, The Bean Men, with a huge page of thumbnails of previous strips. Unfortunately, I don’t have a particularly easy solution to suggest for doing this… the automated archive is one of the big advantages of using the free comic hosting services.

3) There is probably a bit more of a learning curve than the comics hosting solutions… nothing worth getting intimidated about though.


Once you have your feed set up, I also recommend registering it at, which is a useful website for optimizing and adding to your rss feed. Using it, you can make it easier to subscribe and add subscriptions via email, and it generally gives you more control over how your content gets syndicated, along with many other useful things.

You’ll want to make sure that your link to your feed is prominently displayed all over your site. With web design, redundancy of important information is a GOOD THING. You want people to find your subscribe link! Don’t just hide it at the bottom of the page! Make sure people know you are offering a subscription and have some prominent links that lead to your feed.

All links to your feed should lead to the same place… having multiple feed locations linked to can cause you headaches down the road. Again, if you set up your feed with feedburner, this provides a very friendly link that should work in any newsreader.


If you want the maximum amount of control over the presentation of your work and how it is displayed, you’ll probably want to host a site yourself.

There are a ton of web hosting options out there, so you may want to research it more yourself… I think it would be pretty hard to find a better deal out there than Dreamhost, though. Dreamhost offers a vastly better deal than any other hosting provider I’ve ever seen, has a very intuitive backend to manage your website or websites with. Here is an overview of some of the things that make Dreamhost a great deal:

  • You can host as many domains as you want there for no additional cost (other than the cost of domain registration).
  • They offer the ability to easily add a WordPress blog, PHPBB message board, or a number of other complex applications to your website with basically the click of a button. Message boards can be huge community building tools for cartoonists, so that is a big perk.
  • They give you more hosting space all the time, without raising your rates.
  • You can set up email accounts at your domain. You get a free domain registration with membership.
  • The cheapest hosting account is $7.95 a month, and has everything most people would ever need.

Note: One of the nuttier things Dreamhost does is offer an affiliate program where you get generously paid for each person you refer to their service that signs up. I’m not writing this hype for them for the referral, but because I genuinely believe they are offering an great service… however, I’d love to get your referral if you’re inclined to give me one. If so, please use the button below to sign up for their services, which has a link on it to let them know I sent you.



A lot of cartoonists are intimidated by the prospect of making their own websites. Discussing how to make webpages is out of the scope of this article, but I will note that it is no more difficult to make a webpage than it is to use a word processor (in fact, most modern word processors will export html pages if you want… which I do not recommend doing, as they usually do a very poor job of it).

The easiest way to make a html page is to use a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get). I use Dreamweaver, which is excellent, but it isn’t free. There is a free one from the Mozilla (makers of the excellent Firefox web browser), and you can find a list of other ones here. Again, I can’t really recommend a free one since I have no experience with them. I encourage people to suggest some good ones in the comments to this post.

You can find some good articles on web development at

As far as designing your site goes, I do have some advice.

1) While it can be fun to go crazy with the navigation for the site and have it integrated into a drawing of a character with each of his limbs pointing to different sections of your site or something, don’t let this sort of thing be the only way to navigate your website. Be artistic with your site, but keep it intuitive. If you want to go crazy with the navigation, that’s fine… just make sure you provide a more obvious redundant navigation system as well. An unintuitive website will lose you viewers who may love your work if they could only find it. Again, to repeat: REDUNDANCY IS GOOD. Am I being redundant?

2) If you are using a blog on your site, they make excellent home pages. A blog can highlight all your most current content, and updated content is what people keep coming back for.

3) As I mentioned, you will definitely want to offer rss subscriptions. And you will want to make sure people know that you offer rss subscriptions in many places all over your site.

4) Keep the names of your navigation simple. HOME, GALLERY, LINKS, and CONTACT may not be the most exciting words, but they make a hell of a lot more sense to your users than MY PAD, THE HALL OF MYSTIC AMUSEMENTS, THE SPIDER LAIR and BUZZ ME.


If you’re pretty serious about your presence on the web, you’ll definitely want your own domain for people to find you at (like or Registering a domain is easy… as I said, you get one for free with an account at Dreamhost and most other web hosting providers.

I keep my domain registrations separate from my hosting provider to make it easier if I ever decide to change hosting providers… A good place for finding what domains are available and register them is

When choosing your domain, I’d recommend generally staying away from anything that isn’t .com, .net or .org, as it will most likely cut down on your traffic… people will assume you are at .com. Registration for any of these domain extensions runs $14.95 a year on dotster… they often have sales on them too.

Dotster also offers hosting, but I’ve never used it… but like I said, it can be nice to have your domain registration separate from your web hosting, if you ever change hosting providers.

Next: Getting your Images Ready For the Web


HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

A lot of cartoonists are really intimidated by the prospect of what it takes to get their comics online. I thought it would be worthwhile to write up some tutorials on the subject, in an attempt to show what an easy thing getting your work on the internet can be.

I’ve been putting my comics online since 2000, and, frankly, in a lot of ways I’m probably not a great example of how to do things… I’m not particularly successful or well-known, and most of my comics on my main site were put on here years ago, many of them poorly scanned (I’ll get around to fixing this eventually).

Nevertheless, I do have some knowledge about this stuff, and I thought I’d share it. My main comics website can be found at, and I do a regularly updated webcomic (currently on hiatus as I work on a children’s book) at Additionally, I’m the webmaster for The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, a cartooning group with cells all over North America (and soon… the world!) that includes both amateur and professional cartoonists, which all cartoonists are encouraged to join… more information on that can be found here. I actually make a living doing web development and flash animation, so I’m not totally unqualified to write this thing. And just because I may not take my own advice on this stuff doesn’t necessarily make it lousy advice.

There are advantages and disadvantages to putting your work online…


1) People can access your work online for free.
2) At this time, it is very difficult to make money with online comics, although some people do.
3) Any image you put online can easily be used and altered by individuals without your consent. Depending on how they do this, and how you present it, this may or may not be legal… however, it is certainly easy enough for someone to do if they want to.
4) What works for comics on the printed page can be very different from what works for comics on the screen. You may not like some of these differences. You may want to take these differences into consideration when designing comics for online viewing. For example, horizontal comics pages will probably fit better on most screens than traditional vertical pages. Although you have an “infinite canvas,” as Scott McCloud has pointed out, many people will only have the patience for what they see immediately… the internet is the land of the short attention span… this is likely the reason that most webcomics are presented in the traditional strip to strip format.


1) People can access your work online for free.
2) By putting your work online you have increased your potential audience exponentially.
3) Putting your work online is free, if you want it to be. If you can afford to put some money into it, you have more options.
4) Your artistic options are not affected by printing cost limitations… your work can be full color, or even animated, if you’re inclined.
5) The desire to please an audience actively interested in your work can be a good motivator to produce more work on a regular schedule.
6) It is an inexpensive way to display your portfolio, which can save you a lot of money when trying to find cartooning, illustration or animation gigs.
7) There are a lot of opportunities for innovation of the comics form in online comics.
8) It is relatively easy to offer online RSS subscriptions which make it so people who subscribe will see whenever you post something new… unfortunately I don’t think a lot of the free comics services offer this, and this part is really key to building an audience.

Personally, I think the advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages. The internet gives you access to a potentially enormous audience for your work that you can not find anywhere else.

If you’re concerned about putting stuff online because you are giving it away for free, there are a number of things to consider.

First of all, you don’t have to put ALL of your work online. If you are working on a graphic novel, for example, it may be worth considering putting a “first chapter” online for free to generate interest in the larger work. Even a sketchbook could go a long way towards generating interest in the rest of your work… check out Sam Hiti’s great sketchblog for a good example of this.

Most webcomics don’t make any money. There are notable exceptions, like PVP and Penny Arcade. Of the comics that are making money, most are doing so through advertising and merchandising. There are people offering paid subscriptions and exclusive content of their work as well, with greatly varying degrees of success. I suspect that it is pretty hard to establish a large audience for your work using paid subscriptions unless you have a large following going into it. Once you have built a fan base, it may be something to consider, but I doubt it is a beneficial option for the majority of cartoonists.

The bottom line, though, is that there is no more effective way to generate interest in your work, build an audience, and inexpensively distribute your work than the internet.

Next: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions