New on SG today:

Danger Country! Vampires and wizards are gettin’ frisky in the spiral city.

Yesterday both my overlong troll-bashing serial Secret Voice and the underground-tinged stylings of Peepers posted.


(put you on) Linkblast:

Last time out we linked to Dan Nadel’s SP7/Kickstarter takedown on TCJ, and the comments brushfire keeps on ragin’.  There’s plenty to chew on, and also of interest is Study Group contributor Sean T. Collins’ post with thoughts about the whole thing over on his blog. It’s pretty good, measured, etc. I expect the comments will get lively on that one, if not quite as vehement.

Keeping with the theme, some friends of ours have launched what I think is a very worthwhile Kickstarter:

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Hey guys so it’s come to my attention that the people who follow along via RSS feeds don’t always know when their favorite strips have updated, due to the way WP works with the way we basically just keep updating the same posts, blah blah blah. So: I’m going to try and post every day or so to let you know what strips have new content (though generally speaking, they tend to update once a week on a specific day as noted on the comic post).

Here’s a handy cheat-sheet for your reading pleasure:

Danger Country by Levon Jihanian

Titan by Francois Vigneault (updates every two weeks)
Haunter by Sam Alden
Peepers by Patrick Keck
 Barring acts of god or laziness, those strips should update on those days every week. Today being Saturday, we have a new update of Sam Alden’s beautiful HAUNTER.

The last couple weeks have also seen some radical short pieces posted on the site:

Virginia – by Sam Humphries and Pete Toms

The Smog Emperor vs. The TV Guy – by Zack Soto

SPICY STORIES – Sally the Slut – by Ian Sundahl

Barfight – by Simon Roy

No Way Out For A Family of Five – by Sean T. Collins and Jonny Negron

Illustrious Reputikus and Rat – by Tim Root

So go get caught up, why don’t ya!


Linky tidbits:

  • Did I post my interview with Tom Spurgeon over on ComicsReporter yet? Because he was nice enough to interview me. What a guy!
  • Dan Nadel slams both the new Secret Prison solicitation text and the very act of using Kickstarter to crowd-source funding for comics publications. I have yet to use KS (though I have been pondering it), but it seems to me that there’s not a whole lot of difference between using the KS site to get pre-orders for your book, and using your own site to get pre-orders for your books, which Dan himself has done.. I don’t know, there’s a lot of rant-and-response going on there and in the comments, from people I respect even if I’m not in agreement with them. Worth a read, if you have 20-30 minutes to spare.


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A lot of webcomic talk in the world the last couple weeks; that NY Times article on Waid’s thing or Ellis’s interesting thing.  Ellis’s thing was decent— obviously, having made Freakangels, anything he’d say on webcomics is worth some thought.  But I feel like all the talk has been premised on scrolling being somehow defective… which … I guess I just don’t understand. Seems like talk for the olds, really— some teenager on tumblr who’s scrolling constantly going to have those same problems?  Doubtful.

— Abhay Kholsa

The Warren Ellis thing he talks about is here. It’s interesting to me that people are taking an “anti-scrolling” party line w/regards to webcomics, because we obviously doubled down on scrolling for the Study Group site.. But also because it just seems weird to me, I guess? The scrolling was one thing I took away from both Body World and What Things Do as being a strength of webcomics, or how those sites presented webcomics, at least. Scrolling comics also look great (to me) on an iPad or Kindle Fire..

I guess I also don’t have a lot of interest in “guided view” modes of reading comics or tapping a screen a billion times, but that doesn’t mean those ways of reading comics can’t be engaging and enjoyable in their own way. I would probably be into experimenting with that mode at some point, and I have a project boiling on the back-burner that’s very likely going to be a click-through, page at a time experience, so the 4-tier mode is worth noting on that level.

Still, the idea that scrolling doesn’t work on the web is refuted pretty deftly by Abhay’s citation of the Tumblr dashboard, as well as sites that utilize it to great effect, like BW, WTD, and perhaps SG itself (your mileage and all that).


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One of the great revelations of the Study Group site for myself and some others I’ve talked to, has been the transformation of DANGER COUNTRY from sparse, wide open black and white line drawings to deceptively simple but insanely lush full color. The addition of color to DC revealed something to me that I should have realized before, from his stand alone illustrations: Levon Jihanian has a badass color sense. I’m not the only one who noticed: I Will Destroy You is set to release a print version of Danger Country sometime this year. I asked Levon if he wouldn’t mind summing up his thoughts on coloring for the SG blog and he kindly obliged with the following insightful essay. (zs)


I’ve been getting some positive feedback on my coloring, and while it is only a relatively minor part of making comics, it’s also something I’m very proud of.

You can get good instructions on the technical aspect of digital coloring on Dustin Harbin’s blog here: . This article is just a series of my own extremely valuable opinions.

I think that most proper cartoonists make color decisions without really thinking about them. Maybe they read up on color theory or took a class on it, but it’s counterintuitive to see color and aesthetics as a “science”. I’m not trying to say there’s only one way to approach color, but to me it’s important to be able to justify to myself my different color choices, so I set some rules for myself. Here they are.

This photo was taken during a big fire just off the highway. Light and color are the prettiest when they show us more than what we expect.)


1. Iconic vs. Real

The first question you want to ask yourself when coloring is do you want your colors to tell the truth, or do you want them to give the illusion of your own subjective reality? Yes this is a loaded question, and yes, the correct answer is you want your colors to tell the truth. By the truth, I mean that your colors should tell the reader about the characters, situation, mood, or whatever. Our brains simplify and compartmentalize certain things into certain colors. I mean…the sky is blue, right? and grass is green? right? right? WRONG. The full spectrum of color is alive in all things. Trees have purples in them. There are really very few limitations you should place on yourself for the sake of making something look “realistic” because your human perception of reality can not be trusted.

You can use color to codify your characters. Spider-man can walk through a rainy forest for a day and even though he’s covered in mud, he’s still bright red and blue. Why? because in a comic you’re responsible for upholding the truth and in Spider-man comics, Spider-man is red, black, and blue*.

Color can be used for more than describing what something looks like. A color can set the mood or simply make the panel look pretty. Realism can really limit all the different tools you have at your disposal.

2. Color the page, not the thing

I decided that each page, or even spread, should be treated as one picture. even though the reader reads one panel at a time, she also sees the whole page at once. It’s important to me that the page looks cohesive most of the time. The exception to the rule is when changing scenes within a page. I think the reason for this is that you want to use the color identity of the page to be a bigger representation of the scene.
The first 2 pages of Danger country has a broader color palette than the rest of the first chapter because it’s a sort of quick overview of the entire world, and I wanted to make it colorful to bring a sense of wonder.

The nighttime scene uses a medium brown in place of the black because I wanted to keep the values sort of close together so that the fire and the night sky end up making it a little harder to see a lot what’s going on in the foreground. Lack of contrast makes it hard for the eye to settle on any one area of the panel, and that makes it look more chaotic. That’s the plan, anyway.

The third scene is actually 2 scenes. Evan’s encounter with the elves and Evan’s encounter with Uncle Rodger. I wanted it to begin as a stark contrast to the previous scene, so the darks are much darker and the light areas are much lighter. I also wanted to use cooler colors (greens and blues). As Evan speaks more and more to Uncle Rodger, I wanted the background sky to shift subtly from grey to pink. This was for a couple of reasons. 1) I wanted to codify the scene as being separate from the encounter with the elves, and 2) I wanted to give the illusion of sunset, and bring a sense of urgency, gravity and intensity to Rodger’s wound situation.

3. Color wheels work, damn it.

When coloring on a computer, easy access to a million colors sometimes makes me feel lost. A lot of colorists decide to extremely limit their palette, but I don’t think that works either. A color wheel is a good compass when I have certain set colors I have to work with (like the colors of a character’s costume), and I’m trying to figure out what color to use next. I can go into a whole art school basic color theory lesson here, but instead I’ll direct you to this page that I found by googling color wheel. Check out the parts about color harmonies and warm vs. cool colors.

Again, don’t let realism bog you down. Coming up with a good color harmony outranks color expectations any day. This is why I think of a blue sky as the page killer. Speaking of blue…

4. Blue is not a color.

Blue is not a color. What I mean is, blue is not just 1 color. Blue is like 3 or 4 different colors. Treat blue very carefully. If you don’t want it to print as green, go into the color palette in photoshop and make sure there is no yellow by clicking on the “Y” field and putting it to 0%. Use the color picker or swatch palette at your own risk. I’m not saying “don’t use blue”. I’m just saying to try not to use more than 1 kind of blue (navy/teal/aqua/royal) per page. You can make it work if you’re Kali Ceismier or you want to spend a week on it and pull your hair out. But really, just cool it with the blues.

5. Swatches are dumb

Before I started coloring a page, I used to set up a series of swatches first, and place them together and see if they worked. Or sometimes I would make multiple color versions of the same thing and chase my wife around to get her opinion on which she thought was better. It’s just self-torture. Now I just use the hue adjustment slider, and click the preview on and off until I find something that works. Just trust your instincts and don’t dwell on it.

6. Break it, then fix it. (The 4 color rule)

One thing that I do is I try to keep my color brain tuned by doing a safe color harmony, and then adding a stupid color like purple or teal, and then adjust things to make it work. It’s easy to default to proven color harmonies that have worked for you in the past. I think people really notice and respond to when you change things up so it’s sort of important to do it. Use 4 colors at the very least.

7. Put some yellow on it.

This is sort of an indie comics secret passed down from cartoonist to cartoonist. Jordan Crane taught it to me. If you add 4-8% yellow on top of everything, it just makes everything more cohesive. I personally like to use a multiply layer, but that’s your call. It is like magic. I’ve also begun using other colors as panel overlays, for different effects or just to add variety or shift the mood.

8. Web and print are different.

A note about web vs. print. On the web you lose a little bit of control over colors but it’s sort of forgiving. You can add some black to your colors or some dirty texture, as I do with Danger Country. But for each page, I create separate web and print versions. The print version doesn’t have that dirty paper texture, because paper can get dirty all by itself. It doesn’t need my help.

This is also when you have problems with the blue. Blue is insanely hard to print right. It always comes out darker, and greener than you expect. Then you yell at the printer and the printer gets all pissed at you and hangs a picture up of you in the bathroom with a mustache and goatee. And there are a bunch of darts sticking out of it.

I keep remembering more and more rules. A lot of this stuff comes from doing it for a long time and messing up a lot. Or they are just approaches that worked for me. Obviously there is more than one way to skin a cat. All of these rules can be broken. I think they’re just there so that I don’t stagnate with indecision. The most important thing is to come up with rules for yourself, and form your own opinions, and let the inner essence of your being shine through onto the page.

* Except for when he isn’t. But that’s a whole other thing.


Color Theory 101 -
Kali Ciesmier –
and while we’re at it, Sam Bosma –
Jeff Soto (always pushing his own color palette) –
Dustin Harbin’s Article on coloring -
Jordan Crane (everything has a 8% layer of yellow on it) –
The legendary and a little outdated Re Pro Guide (some still-useful tips on offset printing and setting up your color files among other awesome things) -


- Levon Jihanian

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Study Group Comics reader Nate Marsh sent us an email regarding the site and linked to his own unique effort in the webcomics arena, Alphabet Horror Vacui. I found it quite charming – whimsical, alliterative almost-narratives float in and about lovingly crosshatched drawings. So far, “F” is the only traditional comics page, as Marsh tends to favor jam-packed single images over panels and gutters and so on.

He is apparently averaging a letter a month, up to “M” so far, with prints of each image available for sale. Add Alphabet Horror Vacui to your bookmarks and see what’s next.


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Wow, what a week!


New comics every day from some of the most talented cartoonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I think you’ll agree, everyone came out guns blazing. Let’s recap, shall we?

Monday was the opening shot across the bow, and brought us the sublimely colored, epic fantasy of Levon’s Danger Country. We also lead with short stories from myself, Tom and Malachi.

Tuesday was the long awaited return of Kaz’ Mourning Star, with 6 color pages of prologue to this new MS side story about the bandit Klive.

On Wednesday, The Yankee by Jason and Ian let people know that they might sometimes find some blowjobs and thoughtcrime lurking around the site here and there.

Thursday was a double barrel of comics, with the New Wave Sci Fi stylings of  Francois’ TITAN, and the dream logic and hazy wanderings of Jen’s The Lone Wolf .

We wrapped up the week on an apocalyptic note with Farel’s It Will All Hurt. If you have been waiting patiently for his magnum opus The Wrenchies, maybe this will tide you over.

What a week! Now it’s all over!

Oh, wait, no it’s not! Today we’ve got a new short story from one of the first people who signed on to be a part of Study Group, Simon Roy! Simon caught my eye as the artist behind the excellent Jan’s Atomic Heart. In the time it took the site to get going, Simon got the sweet gig drawing the all new PROPHET comic from Image, and got too busy to do a weekly serial, but he’s going to be posting short comics every month or so in the meantime. If you haven’t checked out PROPHET by Simon and King City’s Brandon Graham yet, get to your local comic shop and see if they happen to have a copy. If they don’t, I wouldn’t be surprised, as it’s already sold out from the distributor, meaning stores might have copies but they can’t get new ones! Crazy. Check out a preview here, and get excited for real-deal science fiction coming out from Image monthly. Oh yeah, our very own Farel Dalrymple will be drawing some issues down the road, so there’s even more synchronicity.


It’s safe to say, I’m not the only one – people are excited about the site. We were noted on news sites TCJ, Robot 6 & The Beat, as well as blog posts from Sean T. Collins, Panel Patter, and Fleen. We also got a lot of response from various message boards, Tumblr, and crazy tweet action from all our associates. Thank you, friends. There were seriously too many awesome people tweeting about the site this week to list everyone (though the tweets from Warren Ellis made our Google Analytics melt).

Speaking for everyone involved, we are humbled and gratified by your attention. Get ready for week two.

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Welcome to, the mutant offspring of our print publication Study Group Magazine, itself a comics/criticism hybrid of comics’ greatest Missing Link from Parts Unknown, the StudyGroup12 anthologies.

Already being publishers of fine mini-comics and periodicals, Study Group Comic Books is delighted to present our new dual-channel webcomics and blog. We hope to become a part of your life, especially when you’re supposed to be working and need excitement and/or entertainment the most.

Because we love making the Gods laugh, we have made a plan: We’ll be uploading new comics every weekday at noon EST, with the occasional one-shot story mixed in by our wrecking crew:

MONDAY: Danger Country by Levon Jihanian
TUESDAY: The Mourning Star: Klive’s Story by Kazimir Strzepek
WEDNESDAY: The Yankee by Jason Leivian & Ian MacEwan
THURSDAY: The Lone Wolf by Jennifer Parks, and Titan by Francois Vigneault
FRIDAY: It Will All Hurt by Farel Dalrymple

Additionally, Michael Deforge will be contributing complete short stories every 6 weeks or so, Zack Soto’s Secret Voice starts on February 3rd, and there are to-be-announced contributions coming from Malachi Ward, Tom Neely, and more!

The site already has several short stories available for your reading pleasure, including Tom Neely’s thimble theatrical “Doppleganger” and Malachi Ward’s mindbending “Utu,” as well as SG Founding Father Zack Soto’s mystery “Day 34” and art-school confessional “Lost Art.”


Study Group Magazine co-editors Milo George and Zack Soto will provide a variety of daily content on the blog, from image-tumbling, to link-blogging to criticism, with occasional guest posts from our site cartoonists.

If this is too much free entertainment for you to handle, may we recommend sir or madam visit our Publications page to puruse our wares, and perhaps then essay over to the Shop to purchase copies of your own. Especially as this is not a “goddamn library.”



Milo,  Zack & the Study Group crew

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