Lars Martinson's Blog
November 27, 2015
As the “99%” on the progress bar above indicates, there is still a tiny teeny bit of work left before I can call Tonoharu: Part Three unequivocally, 100% complete. I should be able to complete what remains over the course of an afternoon. The only reason I haven’t done so already is because it involves details I need from my book printer, and I won’t have that information until right before I go to press.
But basically, Tonoharu: Part Three (and by extension, the entire Tonoharu story) is now DONE.
As you might imagine, reaching this milestone has put me in a contemplative mood.
I can’t remember exactly when I started Tonoharu (which is telling in and of itself), but I believe it was late 2003. This means I’ve been working on it for like TWELVE YEARS. I took breaks here and there due to illness, injury, and burnout, but those breaks were few and far between. Even accounting for those hiatuses, I think it’d be conservative to estimate that I put a good decade of almost daily work into Tonoharu.
So after all that, how does it feel to be done with it? In a word, weird.
It’d be like if someone came up to you and said, “Okay, you’ve been brushing your teeth for years and years now… congratulations! You have now completed the task of toothbrushing. You don’t have to do it anymore.”
Brushing your teeth is just something you do everyday, forever. It’s not a task that you complete. I’ve been working on Tonoharu for so long, it’s started to feel like that. A part of the daily routine. To think that I’ve completed this thing that I’ve devoted more than half of my adult life to is hard to wrap my brain around.
As such, I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ll write a more detailed postmortem about Tonoharu in a few months, after I have a bit more perspective.
But for now, I’ll reaffirm that we’re still totally on track to meet the previously announced October 2016 release date for Tonoharu: Part Three. (I wrote about why I set the release date so far out in this blog entry, if you’re curious.)
With the release of the book now less than a year away, I’m hoping to start ramping up my marketing efforts again. So expect more frequent* blog updates in the future as well.
*(Admittedly, it’d be hard to update less frequently, but…)
May 29, 2015
Just today I passed a significant milestone: I finished the artwork for the last page of Tonoharu: Part Three! The whole book (and by extension, the whole series) now exists in a complete, readable state. Hurray!
Only two main things remain before the book is 100%, unequivocally done:
1) The Dust Jacket
This includes the front and back cover, the spine, and the inside front and back flaps. It will follow the same basic template as the first two Tonoharu hardcovers, so there won’t be much design work to worry about, but the front cover artwork will be as intricate as ever, so I expect will take a few weeks (a couple months?) to finish.
2) Post-Production Work
At the bare minimum, I need to go through all the panels and fix any spelling mistakes, tweak the text layout and word balloons, and confirm that all the files are set up correctly to go to press. Completing these minimal edits shouldn’t take too long on a per-panel basis: I’d estimate less than two minutes per panel. But since the book contains over 700 panels, (and since I can only work on it on evenings and weekends since I have a day job) it’ll probably take a few weeks to finish.
2b) Artwork Edits
What’s more of a wild card is the artwork edits. The entire book now exists in an acceptable state, but I’d still like to go back and fix some of the artwork that I’m not happy with. Most of these edits should be minor, like redrawing a character’s face and using Photoshop to Frankenstein it into the preexisting art. In rare cases, I might redraw panels from scratch, or add a couple of pages here or there to help with the flow of the story.
For Tonoharu: Part One, I did artwork edits to pretty much 100% of the panels (in some cases, even editing them two or three times). For Tonoharu: Part Two, I only did it for about half of the panels. I’d like to continue the downward trend with the third book, and only do art edits to 25% of the book (or less; we’ll see how much I can keep my perfectionism in check).
Between the housekeeping stuff and the artwork edits, I expect the post-production work to take a few months to complete.
So to sum up: I estimate the remaining work on Tonoharu: Part Three should take about half a year to complete. This means I should be totally done with it right around the end of the year.
This still puts me on track for my planned October 2016 release. (For details as to why I plan to release it ten months after my anticipated completion date, see this entry.)
I’ll probably also unveil the cover for Tonoharu: Part Three sometime this summer, and then will put up the final Tonoharu: Part Three progress report a few months after that. So stay tuned!
January 7, 2015
I’m too lazy to create a header image for this blog entry so here’s a barking dog from Sazae-san
Just this week, I finished the last page of the appendices for Tonoharu: Part Three, leaving only the epilogue left to draw. Needless to say, I’m excited to pass this milestone. As I do whenever I finish a page, I tweeted about it. The standard format for these update tweets looks like this:
Tonoharu Part 3, page 159 is done!
Approx. 22 pages left to go!
I always feel a little sheepish tweeting these countdown micro-updates, because I’m afraid they’re a bit misleading. At the rate I’m going, all of the pages should be “done” by this summer. One could (reasonably) assume that the book would come out soon after that. But unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case.
So when do I expect the book to come out? We’ll see if my hubris bites me in the ass, but I feel confident projecting that Tonoharu: Part Three will be released in October…2016.
So why, if I expect to be “done” with all the pages by Summer 2015, do I project a release more than a year after that?
There are a couple of reasons.
First off, my micro-update tweets aren’t entirely accurate. Twitter’s 140 character limit doesn’t allow for disclaimers, but if it did, I might note that I’m defining a page as being “done” when it exists in an acceptable, readable state. The text and artwork are in place, and nothing strictly essential is missing.
What I’m not including when I call a page “done” are the inevitable post-production edits. Most of these edits will be small, like fixing spelling mistakes and tweaking dialogue. Less often I’ll edit the actual artwork, or maybe even redraw entire panels. But even though most of these edits will be small, I’ll have more 700 panels to go through, and that will take time. I expect this stage to take a few months to complete.
In addition to that, I have the front and back covers left to draw. That probably seems like a weird thing to single out as a time sink, but as with previous installments, the cover will be extremely intricate, so I expect that to take a few weeks to complete.
Taking all that into consideration, I expect to be completely, unequivocally done with Tonoharu: Part Three by late 2015 / early 2016.
In spite of that, I’m still planning for a late 2016 release. The main reason for this is strategic.
I’m currently working a full-time day job. My contract will wrap up late-July 2016. After that, I intend to live off my savings and devote myself to comics exclusively for at least a year.
By delaying Tonoharu: Part Three’s release a few months, I’ll push its release into this “no day job” period. This will allow me to devote much more time to marketing it during the critical release period.
I’m invested in the success of every book I put out of course, but it seems especially important at this stage in my artistic career. I don’t want to be melodramatic here, but I’d say there’s at least a fair chance that Tonoharu: Part Three could be the last book I ever put out if things go particularly poorly.
In any event, the more money Tonoharu brings in, the better position I’ll be in for future artistic projects.
I could write more, but this entry is already pretty long so I think I’ll save further ramblings for another time. But for now, I’ll say it again, with an uncharacteristic lack of equivocation: Tonoharu: Part Three will come out in October 2016. Get hyped!
November 30, 2014
Pictured: The Fast Track to Bankruptcy
On November 23rd, I had a table at the Kaigai Manga Festival in Tokyo. How it went depends on how you look at it. On one hand, I had the best sales I’ve ever had. On the other hand, it was my least profitable show ever.
To understand why, I should explain how comic book conventions have gone for me historically. Over time, there’s been a trend towards higher sales. I attribute this to better table presentation and sales technique, and to being more selective about which shows I go to.
That said, it’s important to put this “upward trend” into perspective. My work hardly has universal appeal, I only have three different things to sell, and I haven’t put out anything new since 2008. For even my best show, I’ve never made more than a few hundred dollars in sales.
That’s fine, but only if expenses are low as well. Up until now, I’ve only done shows in Minnesota, my home state. With no plane tickets or hotels to pay for, my expenses have just been for the table rental itself, which is negligible in the scheme of things.
Which leads me back to the Kaigai Manga Festival, the first show I’ve ever actually had expenses for.
I currently live in Kyoto, so I didn’t have international plane tickets to pay for or anything. But getting from Kyoto to Tokyo and back is actually pretty expensive, especially if you’re unwilling to take an excruciating, eight hour night bus. In order to get there and back comfortably in a single day, I had to buy two full price Shinkansen tickets. (You can get discounted Shinkansen tickets, but not for early in the morning or late at night, which is what I needed.) These travel expenses ate into my record sales to the extent that financially, the show was basically a wash.
But before you think I’m down on the experience or regret doing it, I’d like to briefly talk about what was, previously, my least profitable show ever. That being the first show I ever did, SpringCon, back in 2010.
The show is very super hero-centric, so not exactly my crowd. I only had two things to sell. My table looked awful. My “sales technique” amounted to sitting hunched over my drawing pad, ignoring anyone who walked by unless they addressed me first. I honestly can’t remember how many books I sold, but I do remember figuring out I couldn’t even pay myself minimum wage for the time I spent there. At the time, I was disheartened.
But as I eventually discovered, same day book sales aren’t the only reason to do conventions. The show allowed me to reconnect with members of the Minnesota cartooning scene after a long absence. These connections were gratifying in there own right, and also eventually landed me a few paying gigs.
At the Kaigai Manga Festival, I met a representative for a major Japanese book store chain who felt my work might be a good fit for their English book section. Time will tell if that pans out, but if it does, that could result in sales over the next few years that wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t been at the show.
I also met a lot of great members of the cartooning community, like Victor Edison and Deb Aoki among others. For someone who has devoted their life to comics, I’m embarrassingly out of touch with the current comics scene, so it’s good to get a chance to reconnect with it a little bit.
If the travel expenses weren’t an issue, I’d definitely go to Kaigai Manga Festival next year. It’s well run and as I said, resulted in my best sales ever. If you’re a cartoonist who lives in the Tokyo area, I’d recommend it.
As it stands, with the travel expenses being what they are, I’m still deciding if I’m going to participate next year. It might be worth doing if I combined it with a mini-vacation to Tokyo or something. We’ll see.
That said, sales were encouraging enough that I’ve decided to try a similar show in Osaka next May. I can get to Osaka for one-tenth the cost of getting to Tokyo, so if I manage to pull off similar sales, it’d be well worth it. More details on that in the months to come!
November 10, 2014
Mark your calendars! I’ll have a table at the International Manga Festival in Tokyo later this month! This will be the only show I’ll be doing for a long while, so if you’re in the area, stop on by and say hello!
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014, 11am to 4pm
¥1000 per person (This fee also gains you admission to the Comitia Comic Expo.)
Mark your calendars! I’ll have a table at the International Manga Festival in Tokyo later this month! This’ll probably be the only show I’ll be doing until Summer 2015, so if you’re in the area, stop on by and say hello!
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014, 11am to 4pm
¥1000 per person (This fee also gains you admission to the Comitia Comic Expo.)
November 2, 2014
Whoops! I totally dropped the ball on updating this blog for the latter half of October. I’ll try to get back into the swing of updating every week again, even if it’s only a youtube video or a funny photo or something like that (though I’ll try to intersperse those with more significant updates as well).
As I just did a progress report recently, I hadn’t planned to do another until next year sometime. But I’ve been happy with how things have been going recently, so I wanted to toot my own horn a little.
For the past two months, progress on Tonoharu has been spectacular. My “page a week” goal for September and October would have had me finish 8.75 pages. Instead, I managed to complete 15.75 pages; a whole seven extra pages! That’s like a month and a half’s worth of work. So I’m really happy about that. It’s been literally years since I’ve managed to finish more than a page a week for such a sustained period.
And things are looking good for the rest of the year too. The next stretch of Tonoharu has a couple of multi-page conversations that take place in the same location, which will allow me to reuse several backgrounds. So I expect I’ll be able to outperform my “page a week” goal into November and December as well.
In the new year, things will get a bit tougher. I’ll be starting on the epilogue, which, like the prologue, is narrated. In practice, this makes it so almost every panel takes place in a different location, which takes longer to draw. But even so, I think/hope I’ll be able to finish at least a page a week, so I shouldn’t lose any ground at least. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The next progress report will come sometime in 2015 (for real this time). Or if you just can’t wait for that, follow me on Twitter, as I tweet every time I finish a page. Toodles!
October 13, 2014
Leroy Douresseaux review Tonoharu: Part One for The Comic Book Bin, giving it an A-! From the review:
Allowing the readers to grapple with Dan Wells on their own terms is what makes Tonoharu: Part One both interesting and appealing.
You can read the full review here:
October 5, 2014
Daniel Elkin reviews the Tonoharu: Part One paperback, giving it five out of five stars!
From the review:
At its heart, Tonoharu is a book about communication, about connecting, about learning through our shared experiences and defining ourselves through the eyes of others. The story of Dan becomes the story of us. This is the thematic sandbox in which artists build castles and Martinson is building Neuschwanstein.
You can read the full review here (about halfway down the page):
My thanks to Elkin for the coverage and the kind words!
September 28, 2014
Mark your calendars! I’ll have a table at the International Manga Festival in Tokyo this November! This’ll probably be the only show I’ll be doing until Summer 2015, so if you’re in the area, stop on by!
What: International Manga Festival
When: Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
Where: Tokyo Big Sight, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koutou-ku, Tokyo
I’ll be posting more details in the coming weeks, but wanted to get a quick mention up on the blog now. Hope to see you there!