Tag Archives: blackguard

Choosing a Tagline Part 2

21 Jun 13
Jerrod Smith
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I’m going to pick up where I left off Wednesday, looking at different possibilities for a tagline for BOSC Comics. I know this isn’t the most interesting or exciting topic, but I think it’s important to actually put some thought into. If you missed part 1, you can read it here. Here’s the list of tagine ideas again:

  • 1. Comics for the rest of us.
  • 2. Ill comics for the ill-represented
  • 3. Making dope comics and making no apologies
  • 4. Dope artwork. Chaotic Stories. Unapologetic Humor.
  • 5. Dope artwork. Classic characters. ?????
  • 6. Comics for people like us
  • 7. We make the comics WE like

In Part 1, I went over the first three. I’m going to try to keep this short for the next four.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably seen number 4 before. “Dope artwork. Chaotic Stories. Unapologetic humor.” has been on our Twitter profile, ads, and various other places for at least a year now. I like it because it gets straight to the point, giving simple yet engaging descriptions of three aspects of BlackGuard: Art, story, and humor. Still, there are two problems I see with this. First, it describes BlackGuard, not BOSC Comics. Though Will and I enjoy working with the chaos caused by our premiere dysfunctional superhero team, we do have plans for more slower-paced storylines, both in BlackGuard and other projects. Also, not every comic we put out will be comedic. This tagline is descriptive but is also potentially limiting.

Tagline 5 is an attempt to modify no. 4 so that it is broader and more accurate. “Dope artwork” stays at the beginning of the tagline because we put a lot of emphasis on the look of our comics. BlackGuard’s unique style is often what causes people to pick it up and give it a look in the first place. We, personally, will often to decide whether or not to buy a book just on artwork alone. To us, good storytelling just isn’t enough. I decided to follow that up with “Classic characters”, because, regardless of what type of story we’re telling, we populate it with compelling characters. Pretty much all of our stories are character-driven. I’m not exactly committed to using the adjective “classic”. I feel like there’s probably a more interesting adjective we could use to describe our characters, one that stands out a little more. I’m not even sure what to put at the end of the tagline.

Numbers 6 and 7 sort of follow the same idea, which is that we are fans of our own comics. That seems like it should be obvious, but I don’t honestly believe that all the artists and writers in the comic book industry (especially among those working on monthly books) look back on every issue they complete with the sense of pride and accomplishment we do. Maybe that’s because we’re still fairly new and only have a few issues under a our belts, but I hope that no matter how long we do this, it never becomes routine. I never want to put out a comic just for the sake of having something to sell. These last two taglines express that we like our comics, so, hopefully, people with similar tastes will also. Number 7 probably does this better than no. 6. Option 6 is similar to 1 and 2 in that it appeals to readers that identify themselves as part of a group separate from the typical comic readers.

Even if these past two blogs have bored you all to death, I’m glad I wrote them because I’ve already begun to narrow down the choices in the process. At the moment, I’m leaning towards options 2 and 7, with 5 as a close third.

Next week I might try to post a blog about the topic everyone really cares about, the next upcoming chapter of BlackGuard aka “The Hero Plot Trial”. Until then, peace.

-Jerrod

Not Much to Say

05 Jun 13
Jerrod Smith
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Well, I have bad news and good news. The bad news: I don’t have much of a blog prepared for today. The good news: I decided to skip out on today’s blog to wrap up the script for BlackGuard’s “The Hero Plot Trial”, which is nearly finished. I really didn’t expect this script to take this long. I started when we were still only about halfway through “BlackGuard vs. The Goonz”, and I was only put behind about a week and a half when my old laptop died since I was still able to recover my files.

I was a little stressed at first about how slowly progress on this storyline was going, but looking over it now, I think this is the best one I’ve written so far. I feel more confident in both the pacing and the comedy. On an average day, I would take three or four hours just to write 2-3 pages. Considering, this story arc consists of the next six months of updates, I think I can live with spending the amount of time I did on it.

On a different note, we’re trying to do a little research on our current audience. We just recently launched a survey to collect information on our readers. We would appreciate it if you would take a minute or two to fill it out. If you do, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win some free copies of BlackGuard issues as well as a drawing from Will of any character you choose! You can find the survey here.

Back to work. Peace.

– Jerrod

Who We Are. What We Do.

31 May 13
Jerrod Smith
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I’ve been reading up on marketing lately. As we approach getting BlackGuard: Volume 1 printed, I realize just printing the books won’t be enough. Even getting them on shelves won’t be enough. We have to generate an interest in the book. More importantly, we need to generate an interest in us. One book I’ve been reading in my spare time, The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Online Marketing, says pretty early on that you should ask yourself a few questions before marketing yourself or your product, such as “What makes you different?”, “Do you have a story to tell?”, and “Who is your target audience?” I decided a good way to approach this would be to write a blog about it. I’m not going to answer all of the questions exactly, but I do want to try to give a better look into who the Brothers of Spontaneous Combustion are and what kind of comics we make.

I’m not going to go into who Will and I are as individuals, but, moreso, who we are as BOSC. We’re two brothers that grew up loving comics, cartoons, and video games. We read comics, but we were not “comic book geeks”. We watched anime, but we were never “Otaku” or “anime lovers”. We played video games, but were not “gamers”. I’m not trying to say we were too cool to be associated with geek culture. We just always had an ability to step back and enjoy these things for what they were. When one of our favorite comics, cartoons, or video games went through a major change, we didn’t throw a tantrum about it not being “like it used to be”. We adapted. There was always room for change.

Will and I grew up in our own little world. We mostly just played with each other, and even when other kids did play with us, they had to enter our world. If they couldn’t adapt to our world, they probably felt left out. Our world constantly evolved based on what we were into. Ninja Turtles, X-Men, Street Fighter, Dragon Ball Z, Bad Boys and many other things made their mark on its development, but everything we implemented had our own little twist on it. That world is currently the BOSC universe. So far, you’ve only been introduced to BlackGuard, but we have much more in store for the future.

So what does all this have to do with defining who we will potentially be in the comic book industry? Well, first of all, because we were never die-hard fans of any one thing, our comics are never one thing. We don’t box ourselves into any one category. BlackGuard is a comedic comic, taking place in a superhero world, starring a cast of characters influenced by multiple non-superhero genres, executed with a style that blends manga and hip-hop. Try telling someone to write a comic that fits that description and see if it doesn’t make their head explode. We didn’t set out to make BlackGuard that type of comic. We just attempted to make a comic we thought would be fun to work on, and within a year, that’s what it became.

Too many people want to either be a part of the mainstream or above the mainstream. Many comic book creators go into the business saying to themselves, “I love Marvel and DC! I want to make comics just like theirs!” They either want to work on Spider-Man or create the next Spider-Man. Others go in with the thought, “Marvel and DC suck! Those characters are so stupid and played out. I’m going to do something completely different and revolutionize the way people see comics!” These people usually want to make the next Watchmen or Preacher. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do either of these two things, but there’s only room for so many to succeed at them. Marvel and DC can only hire a limited number of writers and artists, and comics can only go through so many revolutionary changes.

BOSC Comics isn’t like the mainstream, but we are not above the mainstream. We are an alternative to all the comics currently out there. Just because our books don’t star typical superheroes or manga characters doesn’t mean we consider ourselves too good for them. We have something for hardcore comic fans. We have something for casual comic readers. We even have something for the non-comic reader. It took me about three years to realize that our target audience resided on the outskirts of the comic community. Our audience is made up of those people who have an interest in comics but no set definition of what they should be.

So, that was the easy part. Defining who we are and who we appeal to in a blog is one thing. Most of the people reading this are already fans or at least have an interest in us. You all are willing to take a few minutes out of your day to read what I have to say, but we all know that in the internet age, where people are used to instant gratification, time is given sparingly. Not many people who don’t already know us are going to give us a few paragraphs to tell them why they should buy our books. We have, at most, a few seconds to draw them in. We have to figure out how to use a couple of images and as few words possible to convey the message above.

Peace be with you,
Jerrod

Do They Have to Be a “Dysfunctional” Black Team?

29 May 13
Jerrod Smith
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I was having trouble thinking of something to write about today. Then I went to our website and noticed the image we currently have on the home page is of four black characters apparently being arrested. I wondered how that image may look to someone unfamiliar with BlackGuard. Will they look at it and be offended that even black superheroes can’t be portrayed in a positive light? Or will they see it as a statement that no matter who you are, society still sees blacks in power as a threat? I guess it all depends on the individual. This did, however, remind me of something Will told me once.

A while ago, Will had a conversation with a woman about BlackGuard. He was describing the comic to her and stated that it was about a “dysfunctional black superhero team”. Her response was, “Do they have to be dysfunctional?” I’m not sure if she asked that question jokingly or really had doubts about our creative choice. I assume the first image that came to her mind was a Soul Plane with capes and super powers. Actually, when put in those words, I can see why she might have had concerns.

I understand why some people have an apprehension to incompetency amongst blacks in the media. There was a time when black characters were only allowed to be played as buffoons by whites in blackface. There’s a legitimate fear that society’s perception of us will never improve as long as we allow ourselves to be portrayed negatively. The problem is that we often allow that fear to limit us creatively. Too many black creations suffer from the over-compensating black character. You know, the one who’s just too good at whatever it is he or she does and has very few flaws. In the attempt to turn around the negative view the media has of us, some have forgotten that, above all else, characters need to be engaging. All interesting characters have flaws. To avoid certain flaws because they fit certain stereotypes only narrows your possibilities.

When Will and I began creating BlackGuard, our goal was to make a comic we would want to read. It just so happens that we prefer our heroes to be a little reckless and chaotic. We love Deadpool, Raphael and Michelangelo, Mugen, Naruto, Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett, etc. So, naturally, that’s the type of team we made for our very first comic. We made the team incompetent because we thought it would be funny. We decided they wouldn’t get along with one another because we thought it would be interesting. The team is not dysfunctional because its members are are black, it’s dysfunctional because its members are a ninja from the hood, a mad scientist, an impulsive mercenary, and a black supremacist with anger issues. It’s a dysfunctional team that happens to be black. If we were any other race, it would be a dysfunctional team of that race.

When it comes down to it, we want all the same rights and opportunities that Caucasians have. If a white writer can tell a story about an idiotic, alcoholic criminal who’s in and out of jail and not be criticized for how that book makes his entire race look, then why can’t I? We often complain about the limited roles blacks have in movies and television, but have we ever stopped to think that maybe we limit ourselves because we’re so quick to call racism on every little thing? “Why did Denzel Washington have to play a crooked cop to win an Oscar?” “Why did Hancock have to be a homeless alcoholic?” Maybe writers are reluctant to come up with truly interesting roles for black characters because they never know if we’ll find some way to call it racist. I’m not saying that’s the sole explanation for the lack of African American roles, but it is something to think about.

So my answer to the question “Do they have to be dysfunctional?” No. They don’t have to be dysfunctional. We choose for them to be. It’s part of our creative freedom.

Until next time,
Jerrod


Read the BlackGuard comic here!

Touching Up Old Pages

24 May 13
Jerrod Smith
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I’ve been wanting to go back and clean up some of our pages for a while now. Originally, I was going to ignore them, but once we started looking towards seriously selling BlackGuard as a comic, I decided it would be a worthwhile investment of time. Some pages are going to require more changes than others, but there are a number of things that have been bothering me.

First of all, the lettering needs the most attention. I knew nothing about comic book lettering when we started out. Even now I consider myself to be far from an expert at it, but a few amateur mistakes I made stand out to me. One example would be improper use of the letter “I”. There are times when the crossbar form of the letter appears in the middle of or at the beginning of some words. The crossbar form should only be used for the word “I” and possibly the beginning of a sentence.

Also, I’m thinking of changing our primary font altogether. I’ve always been confused about what the exact rules are for using fonts found around the internet. The majority of the fonts I’ve used come from Blambot Fonts. I’ve been fairly comfortable using them up to this point because the most exposure we had was online, which doesn’t seem to be a problem. Even when we were selling printed issues to friends and at conventions, I didn’t worry much about it. Now that we are trying to distribute on a larger scale, I wonder whether I should look into paying to use fonts or just create a custom one. If we were to go the custom route, I wonder whether we should use Will’s handwriting or mine. My handwriting is neater, but Will’s is more artistic.

Another thing I want to change is the way the early pages were narrated. Starting with “Psycho Therapy”, we found ways of minimizing use of the generic anonymous narrator voice. At some points, it’s unavoidable, but we really over-used it in the first few pages. I even feel like it hurts the flow and pacing of the start of issue 1. I think we could replace some narration with internal monologue from Sequoia.

The last change I want to make addresses a problem that isn’t noticeable unless looking at the pages in printed form. In the past few months alone, I’ve learned more about using photo editing programs to bring the most out of colors in an image. I used to darken the blacks on our pages using a method that created tiny black specs on the pages. They look fine on a computer screen. It just gives the comic more of a gritty look, but in print, the pages look just a little too dark. Sometimes, I find myself looking through issue 1, having to try just a little too hard to distinguish where certain things begin, and others end.

Making all these changes will cause things to move slower, but in the long run, I think it’s worth the effort. Peace.

-Jerrod


Read the BlackGuard comic here!

BlackGuard Coming to Shelves

22 May 13
Jerrod Smith
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Like I said in the last blog, we’re currently looking to make BlackGuard available in more forms than just our website. We’re hoping to reach new fans this way. The website has been growing steadily, but the more channels through which we can make ourselves known, the better.

First of all, we want to get BlackGuard hardcopies into a few stores. We’re going to start with a couple of local comic shops in the Savannah area and then try to expand to other comic retailers. Luckily, Savannah is the home of SCAD, an art school that attracts a lot of sequential artists. So there’s definitely a market for comics, especially independent books, in our area. I’m not sure if we’ll try to sell the individual issues in stores, but we are looking towards having the Volume 1 collection on a couple shelves. Individual issues may just be sold at conventions for now.

If any of you are familiar with Comixology, you may have heard that they now allow independent creators to submit their comics. Comixology is basically the largest distributor of digital comics. They offer comics for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, etc. The advantage to selling comics in this format is there’s no printing or shipping costs. That benefits both us and our readers. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Comixology will accept your work, as they want to keep their site looking professional, only offering quality products. I respect that and wouldn’t want it any other way.

I think we’ll offer both Volume 1 and the individual issues on Comixology (or any other digital comic distributors) so that people can have a variety of options. I do want to go back and touch up a lot of the pages before submitting them, though. There are actually a ton of changes I want to make, so it will be a few months before you see everything made available. I’ll start with issue 1 and submit each one-by-one as I finish them. I think I’ll go into more detail on the changes I’ll be making in Friday’s blog.

Until next time, go with God.

-Jerrod


Read the BlackGuard comic here!

The Hero Plot Trial and BlackGuard: Volume 1

17 May 13
Jerrod Smith
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We haven’t kept up with this blog much in the past. From now on, Will and I are going to try to post on here at least weekly. Overall, we’re trying to be more communicative with our audience. That includes Facebook and Twitter also.

So we wrapped up “BlackGuard vs. The Goonz” about two months ago. Since then, we’ve posted a few promotional images for the next chapter of BlackGuard, currently titled “The Hero Plot Trial”. The ORIGINAL plan was to start that chapter this month. Unfortunately, my laptop died about two weeks ago. I did buy a new one, but I didn’t recover the files from my old hard drive until about two days ago, so we’re now a few weeks behind schedule. I’ll try to get the script finished as soon as possible, but you probably shouldn’t expect The Hero Plot Trial to begin until June. Sorry.

We have been keeping busy in the meantime, though. Will, of course has been doing character designs and promo art. When not working on the script, I’ve spent some time getting us registered as a business. Along with that, I’ve been trying to write up a simple business plan. That process is moving along at a snail’s pace. Trying to switch my mind over from comic script writing to business plan writing isn’t easy.

One of the primary reasons for needing the business plan is because we’re planning on releasing BlackGuard: Volume 1 sometime this year. Volume 1 will include the first three story arcs of BlackGuard, “Monkey See… Monkey Free?!”, “Psycho Therapy”, and “BlackGuard vs. The Goonz”. Basically, everything we’ve done so far. We want to print at least 500 copies of this, preferably hardbound. I’ve been looking into different ways to fund this. Obviously, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are my first two choices, but I think we should also have a backup plan. That’s where the business plan comes in. We could apply for a small business plan or bank loan, but in order to be considered for those, you need to have a written plan for your business.

I’ll try to post another blog on Wednesday with more information on things to come.

Go with God.

– Jerrod

Doome/Staples

Observing The BlackGuard Entry 15: Jonnie Staples and Darius Doome

08 Oct 12
Jerrod Smith
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Finally, we conclude this series of journal entries with what can be considered either the most promising or most disturbing relationship amongst the team: Jonnie Staples and Darius Doome.

Up until this point, the best I have been able to say about any of the team relationships is that two members may have an understanding or some respect for one another. None have come close to resembling a friendship. This is what makes Jonnie and Darius interesting. It’s difficult to say whether these two actually consider each other as a friend. I find it hard to believe either of them has any friends. Even as members of The BlackGuard, both seem to be staunchly focused on their chosen career paths (Darius’s mad scientist career and Jonnie’s mercenary career) and have little time for anything else.

What I can say is that Jonnie and Darius do not mind each other’s company. In battle, they are the two most likely to actually use teamwork. Outside of combat, they may share an occasional laugh or two. Perhaps they have found common ground in their solitary lifestyles. Maybe they have reached out to one another to achieve something that has been missing from both their lives. Possibly, a bond has formed here that will help to rehabilitate these two men into heroes. That would be the inspirational way to look at their semi-friendship, but there is also a more irksome, and more believable, way to see things.

Frankly, Darius and Jonnie are the two least mentally stable members of The BlackGuard. They recognize this in each other and are, dare I say, drawn to one another. In some strange, twisted way, it’s as if crazy attracts crazy. Instead of finding hope in this “friendship”, I’m in fact worried by it. I don’t see the pairing of Jonnie and Darius as being helpful to either of their psyches. It will more likely be harmful as both encourage each other to roam farther and farther to the edges of their sanity. I can only imagine what will happen when both go completely over the edge.

And on that grim note, I conclude my “Observing The BlackGuard” series. This team has a number of interpersonal conflicts, but I, Dr. Hugo Cranium, am here to help them work through their numerous issues. I see nothing but success in our collective futures!

– Dr. Hugo Cranium

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Observing The BlackGuard Entry 14: Afia Melanin and O.D.A.N.

19 Sep 12
Jerrod Smith
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This next pairing begets the most animosity, next to the Jonnie/Odan rivalry. The two most confrontational members of The BlackGuard: Odan and Afia.

I know I said in a previous entry that Jonnie was the most prone towards acts of violence alongside Afia, and I still stand by that, but Odan is still the only team member that matches Afia in confrontational nature. Odan needs not be physical in order to achieve this. As he has shown numerous times, he is verbally aggressive. He and Afia share the traits of tenacity and impudence. In other words, they have no problem telling others (specifically, each other) what’s on their minds.

Afia’s aversion to Odan stems from the fact that he embodies an entire culture which she abhors. Odan’s personality is a product of the influence of gangster rap music. Though most rappers tend to take a great deal of pride in being black MEN, little respect is paid in this culture to the black WOMEN. Odan reflects this attitude as he sees nothing wrong with using the b-word in reference to females. I think that alone has the potential to bring Afia and Odan to fisticuffs. Unfortunately, there are more problems between them.

As I mentioned, Odan is heavily influenced by a community that thinks little of the opposite gender. This misogynistic attitude makes it difficult for him to accept that a female is far stronger than him, which Afia clearly is. To counter the feeling of insecurity he has around Afia, Odan resorts to openly questioning her gender. I don’t think he actually believes his own accusations, but that doesn’t stop him from making them.

Also, I notice that when it comes to Jonnie, Odan does not hesitate to issue or accept a challenge. The two have threatened to fight each other twice already today. This is not the case with Afia. I’m not saying Odan is scared of Afia, but I do think he fears the damage a loss to her would do to his pride. In the case of battling Jonnie, Odan is confidant he would be victorious, but I suspect there may be a part of Odan that wonders whether he could defeat Afia. Of course, he’ll never admit that doubt exists.

Odan comes from a dog-eat-dog world, where only the strong survive and compassion is considered a weakness. Naturally, Odan has grown up learning to look out for only himself. In contrast, Afia, though clearly not a team player, considers herself to be a champion of her people. She fights not only for herself, but for an entire race (at least in her eyes). Afia sees Odan as expendable to the black race and an embarrassment to the the term AFRICAN American. Odan sees Afia as self-righteous and delusional.

Excuse me if this is overkill, but I just wanted to throw in one more difference I noticed when it comes to these two: their views on battle. Afia is very straight-forward when it comes to fighting. She prefers to face her opponent directly, look them in the eyes, and fight until there is a victor. Sneak attacks and retreating are not even options for her. Odan, though, is a gangster and a ninja. Those two tactics are his bread and butter. Naturally, Afia and Odan do not agree on battlefield tactics.

– Dr. Hugo Cranium

Next Entry: Staples and Doome

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Observing The BlackGuard Entry 13: Eli Mercer and Sequoia

06 Sep 12
Jerrod Smith
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I guess every “family” must have a mother figure and a father figure. This leads me to Eli Mercer and Sequoia.

Naturally, I see these two as the parents of the team because they are the two most responsible and level-headed. It has nothing to do with their relationship with one another. After all, Eli is old enough to be Sequoia’s father (or grandfather).

I imagine Sequoia, like many people her age, learned about Eli (as The BlackFist) through history books, television, and the stories of her parents. As the case tends to be with iconic figures, these tales probably presented Eli as a symbol instead of an actual person. It’s always difficult to accept one’s idol for the person he or she really is. I’m not saying that Sequoia thinks any less of Eli since working with him, just that she has had to learn to accept the real Mercer, flaws and all. It appears she is not only accepting of his shortcomings, but comfortable enough to address them sarcastically to his face. I’m not usually one to make pop culture references, but she has become the Geoffrey to Eli’s Uncle Phil, if you must.

Eli heavily depends on Sequoia to help keep The BlackGuard running, perhaps more than he realizes. You see, Eli is a “big picture” type. He has vision. He knows where his people are, and where they need to go, but he is not a fine details person like Sequoia. If I can use a nautical analogy, Eli is the ship and its captain. Not only is he capable of carrying those dependent on him through turbulent waters, but he also commands the crew and leads them from one destination to another. Sticking with the same analogy, Sequoia is both his map and compass. One cannot navigate without some sense of direction and a knowledge of possible obstacles in the path to one’s destination. Of course, this dependency works in both directions, as a compass and map without a destination or means of transportation are of little use.

Sequoia is a very intelligent, responsible individual with a keen eye for detail, making her an invaluable tool in Eli’s plans for the BlackGuard. However, she depends on him, just as he depends on her. Where Sequoia sees a path littered with puzzles requiring solutions, Eli sees a destination that must be reached no matter what, and that is someone Sequoia needs to follow.

– Dr. Hugo Cranium

Next Entry: Melanin and O.D.A.N.

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