Friday, February 27, 2009

Special Effects Makeup Course

We had a flutter of personal emails and FaceBook posts from friends and colleagues intrigued with our previous posts on our friends Nick and Paul's movie make-up effects company so we thought we'd spread the word. After constant requests to start up a make-up course, Nick and Paul have added another string to their business bow in the form of the Make-up Effects Group Master Classes, now considered to be the best professional makeup school in Sydney, Australia. The place is fantastic – very inspiring. We can see their commitment to quality and perfection throughout the facility (and we're both coveting the make-up kit that students get as part of their tuition!) The full-time course includes make-up, sculpting, air-brushing and SPFX make-up. Check it out at MEG or on the MEG blog.  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Celebration Black Mermaid Easter Design Unveiled

We've just launched the latest Black Mermaid™ design "Easter Pearl" in our CafePress shop. She's the second release in our Celebration series and will only be available this year until Sunday 12 April (11.59pm US EST). Check out her range of gifts and collectibles, or any or all of the six designs in the Undersea range.

Success is All in the Mind

We recently read a great article by Shelley Gare in The Weekend Australian (24-25 January 2009), which questions whether success is based on natural talent or hard work. It cites the work of Swedish Professor of Psychology Anders Ericsson who champions the notion of "deliberate practice". The article tells us that:
For him, deliberate practice is the magic bullet that takes someone into the stratosphere of brilliance, whether they're golfers or ballet stars, business tycoons or doctors. Not innate talent, which he's not sure even exists, but practice, albeit practice of a particular, concentrated, gruelling kind...

The only thing he will allow is that very occasionally certain physical gifts, such as height in a basketballer, will help. But in every other case, what's at work in such massive successes as golfer [Tiger] Woods is a complex cognitive process that pushes the body and mind to extraordinary heights.

And almost anyone can do it... Deliberate practice, whether it's applied to sport or business or the arts, begins in the brain... what makes someone spectacular in their field – and keeps them there – is training via a kind of focused, repetitive practice in which the subject is always monitoring his or her performance, correcting, experimenting, listening to immediate and constant feedback, and always pushing beyond what has already been achieved.
This brings to mind Australian batsman and cricketing legend Sir Donald Bradman who reminisces in his 1948 autobiography Farewell to Cricket about his early training:
At the back of our home was an 800 gallon water tank set on a round brick stand. From the tank to the laundry door was a distance of about eight feet. The area underfoot was cemented and, with all doors shut, this portion was enclosed on three sides and roofed over so that I could play there on wet days. Armed with a small cricket sump which I used as a bat, I would throw a golf ball at this brick stand and try to hit the ball on the rebound... The golf ball came back at great speed and to hit it at all with the round stump was no easy task. 
It is now part of Australian folklore that Bradman would spend hours and hours each day honing and perfecting his batting technique in this manner. He went on to be recognised as the greatest batsman in cricketing history.

This got us thinking about who has earned the moniker of the greatest comics writers and artists of all time and who had learned their craft through their own specific brand of  "deliberate practice". As a starting point we would suggest the person who had coined the term "graphic novel" – the great Will Eisner. We'd be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

Check out the article on The Australian website. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Graphic Novel Distribution & Top 10 Comics Talents

Naysayers, the accuracy of BookScan, graphic novel distribution, sale-or-return – read "Return to the Big Nothing" on Journalista! The Comics Journal Weblog. It's a long article but it does get into the nitty gritty. Here's a taste:
In The Comics Journal #276, Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore, who does business with the market through Diamond Book Distributors, noted that returns make the act of placing books in this market less a science than an art:

'Returns have not been a big problem for us. I think it's a big problem if, when you first sign with a book distributor, and if you're fortunate, you get this really big order from some of the chains and, if you're truly stupid, you fill that order. [Laughter.] Because they'll order, you know, a ton of copies. "We need on million copies of your number one book, whatsitsname."

'And you go, "Yay! We made the big time," and you send a million books out, and then six months later, they send 950,000 copies back and you're ruined...'
Thanks to Colleen Doran for the heads up on this. Go read her blog and pages of A Distant Soil, which she has kindly uploaded for everyone.

On another note, the Den of Geeks website has identified "10 Comicbook Creators to Watch Out For: A guide to the newest and most promising forces in the comics world (and, later, the movie world...?)". Dwight L MacPherson of Edgar Allan Poo fame who has been a major commentator on comics distribution (and whom we've referenced in a previous blog post) gets the nod at number 2. Onward and upward. Get those movie deals happenin'!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Corpse Bride Mermaid

We accidentally stumbled upon this quirky image on the Internet and then traced it back to the artist's – SilverTallest – Deviant Art page. Love the idea and the execution, and in particular the tail and unravelling fin. Thought you might like a look too. The image has been reproduced here with the artist's permission. Check out the entire portfolio at Deviant Art

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – the Movie

Can't wait! No need to say anything else.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Bride is a Mermaid Anime Series

We've just stumbled on a 2007 anime series called My Bride is a Mermaid. Apparently the home entertainment, limited  broadcast and digital rights to this 26-part series have just been snatched up Funimation. The series is based on the manga Seto no Hanayome. meaning "the inland sea bride" written by Tahiko Kimura. The plot summary on Anime News Network tells us that: 
A young boy gets saved from drowning by a mermaid, but according to mermaid law, if a human sees a mermaid's true form, both have to be killed. The only solution to the problem is for him to marry her. 
You can read more about the acquisition on another ANN page and more on the characters and story on Wikipedia. We'll certainly be getting a copy of it for our respective collections. In the meantime, despite the fact that we can't read or understand Japanese we think this is a promo from the first episode of the television series. Our minor frustration – NOT ENOUGH MERMAID TAIL! – which is why we promise you nothing but tails in Elf~Fin.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Makeup Effects Madness

Couldn't resist putting up some more pics – there are too many to choose from and it's difficult to make the decision. I personally can't handle horror movies – I am far too suggestible and emotional. However, the child in the coffin comes from the movie Silk. He is so beautiful that he moves me to tears whenever I look at him in the MEG studios.

Makeup Effects Madness

I had the good fortune to catch up the other evening with my talented friends Nick Nicolaou and Paul Katte who run Makeup Effects Group (MEG) in Sydney. I LOVE going to their studio, which is filled to the rafters with larger than life samples from their film and television credits. There's a treasure of prosthetic makeup around every corner. Both Nick and Paul love zombies, vampires, monsters, you name it. They've worked on movies such as The Island of Dr Moreau (there aren't many people who can claim they've worked with Brando!); Babe; The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe; and The Matrix Trilogy. Nick is also an emerging script writer, graphic novelist and director in his own right. Paul in turn is fabulous designer and artist. Anyway, they gave me permission to post some pics of their work so be impressed .... be VERY impressed. Many of you may recognise the first pic as the baby from The Matrix.

Borders Bush Fire Appeal

Help Borders raise $200,000 for the Red Cross Victorian Bush Fire Appeal. Bring in your second hand good quality books or purchase a new book to donate. Borders will match the full retail price of all donated books, with all books and funds used to re-stock schools and libraries in affected areas. For more information go to the Borders website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Business of Writing – A Course for Emerging Authors

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) is starting their 2009 Professional Development Seminar series with a bang and is offering this four day course in March. The information presented is transferable to comics creators so sit up, read the course outline and make a booking if you are considering comics or authorship as a career.

These are the questions you can expect to be answered -

How can you ensure your publishers' contracts give you a fair deal?
What can you expect from the publisher once the contract has been signed?
How can you keep your book [or comic book/graphic novel] selling after the post launch hype settles?
What can you do to promote your work, especially if you aren't a really outgoing person?
How do you manage your finances?

The course will provide you with the skills and confidence needed to develop your potential as an author or a comics creator. Moreover, industry professionals will discuss working with publishers, networking, effective marketing tools, designing a self-promotion plan, effective use of the internet, handling the media, taxation, accounting and record-keeping, rights and writing, what your agent can do for you, applying for grants and voice skills.

Date: Monday 16 to Thursday 19 March 2009
Location: Sydney Youth Hostel, Hyde Park, 5-11 Wentworth Ave (cnr Oxford St) Sydney, Australia
Cost: $330 ASA members; $462 non-members.

Applications close Friday 27 February 2009.

For full details of the program go to the ASA website or email Kris Clarke at or phone (02) 9318 0877.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Psychic Scam Alert

I've done previous blog posts on some mail scams that are working their way into our post box at home. A hapless relative of mine appears to be on some central mailing list that is either revolving its way through a whole bunch of different scam groups, or, is being used continually by the same bunch of frauds who are inventing new ways to fleece the innocent with every letter they post.

This new one claims that, "Several million dollars are waiting for you ..." and there is a black and white photo of a long haired Madame Soleil with her chin resting on her hand, who claims that "[her] gifts of clairvoyance have enabled [her] to see that you will soon win at the lottery! Before 03.31.2009."

This sales letter has been compiled according to all the current marketing and copywriting principles – second person appeal "how much money do you need to pay off all your debts and be able to live with no financial worries until the end of your days?"; the use of the word "FREE" dropped in at strategic moments; a little bit of mystery and supernatural mystique "your black moon" and "your design is radiant, even royal"; supposed credibility in the form of testimonials from people who have won lots of moolah as a result of using the numbers she gave them; and a quick cut off date prompting action before you lose all your opportunities. 

Apparently, despite the fact that there are billions of people on this planet, Madame Soleil has had a unique vision that identifies seven lottery numbers that my relative must play. Gosh, if I had her abilities I'd be playing them all myself, winning millions of dollars and not working another day in my life. The numbers by the way have been sealed in an envelope and placed in my relative's  file.

I'm actually sick of talking about this. The only reason I post these on the Black Mermaid Productions blog is to make sure all our readers are informed. Go to the WA Scam Net website for an exposé.

Google Class Action Settlement

Don't know how many Australians or people of other nationalities caught these display ads peppering their metropolitan newspapers (we spotted it in at least two locally, plus one in the Times magazine!) but all authors, publishers or holders of copyright material should be aware of the upcoming class action settlement regarding Google's scanning and use of books and other writings.

The ad in question was directed to "Persons Outside the United States" and says the following:
This settlement may affect you because it covers U.S. copyright interests in books published outside the United States. If you hold such an interest in a book or other material in a book, this settlement could bind you unless you timely opt out...
Authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit, claiming Google violated the copyrights of authors, publishers and other copyright holders ("Rightsholders") by scanning in-copyright Books and Inserts, and displaying excerpts, without permission. Google denies the claims. The parties have agreed to a settlement. 
The ad also covers: What Does the Settlement Provides?, Who is Included?, What Material is Covered? (ie. in-copyright written works such as novels, textbooks, dissertations and other writings that were published or distributed in hard copy format on or before 5 January 2009) and What Should I Do? The closing date for objections or commentary on the settlement is 5 May 2009.

For complete information, including the Full Notice visit: You can also call: 1 800 669 201 or write to: Google Book Search Settlement Administrator, c/o Rust Consulting, PO Box 9364, Minneapolis, MN 55440-9364 USA.

Creating Comics Workshop

Throughout 2009, US based graphic novel publisher SLG Publishing will be holding workshops, panels, classes and seminars in its warehouse with the hope of helping aspiring comic book creators of all ages and experience levels to learn more about their chosen craft and to get perspectives from working professionals. The first of these is a day long seminar on "Creating Comics". Here are the details:

Date: Saturday 7 March 2009
Time: 10.00am to 5.00pm
Location: SLG PUblishing Art Boutiki & Gallery
577 S. Market St, San Jose, California USA
Enquiries: 1+40897 18929 or

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PW Comics Beat 2009 New York ComicCon Report

Heidi McDonald, intrepid Comics Beat reporter, has been more than earning her keep at Publishers' Weekly with the first installment of her "New York ComicCon Report" which includes a discussion on whether the state of the economy has impacted on the convention. She says the barometer is such that, ".... Inside these walls the 'fantasy' economy is perfect. Outside the doors of the convention the economy sucks!" 

The rest of the report mentions  amongst other things the importance of a good backlist, the impact of Twitter, and the next best thing in webcomics. Check it out here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 7

And finally we have Hyfus (in the foreground) – he's with Fillayne and Lyban. We know what they're all thinking and it's a little heart breaking.

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 6

Jayshu and Razbi at a special event. Some of you have speculated that it's a wedding, but the Elf~Fin don't have weddings per se. We guess you'll have to find out what this ceremony is about. Different cultures have different traditions ... we're such teasers!

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 5

Enjoy, everyone, enjoy. And by the way – you're seeing Barrha, the Elder, and Jayshu. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Twittering on Twitter

Black Mermaid Productions™ is now on Twitter. Follow us to get updates and breaking news as it happens.

Monday, February 9, 2009

ICv2 Graphic Novels Stats Released

We keep watch at this time every year for the release of the ICv2 graphic novels sales stats. We're pleased to report that sales are up from $375 million in 2007 to $395 million in 2008 – an increase of 4% in comic book stores and of 6% in book stores.

Two other trends highlighted in the ICv2 white paper were (1) manga sales dropped from $210 million in 2007 to $175 million in 2008; and that comic books (periodicals) decreased slightly from $330 million in 2007 to $320 million in 2008. It is heartening to know there's still life in the traditional print format yet, despite the digital revolution.

Check out the ICv2 website for more info.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mermaid Treasures 13

She's called "Treasures of the Deep AM 3409" – or at least that's what it says on the box she came in. That's really all I know about her – couldn't find anything from trowelling around on the Internet. But she's quite lovely. And there's some lovely detailing  – you can't see it on the pics but ever scale in her tail and every bead on her hair ornament is defined.  Even the coral, shells and starfish below her have the same look and feel as the real thing.

Comics Digital Distribution through iVerse

Comics distribution has been very topical in the comics print and online press lately. The Newsarama website and blog has now weighed in on the matter with an interesting article "Brainstorming: Digital Content", which focuses on iVerse Media releasing digital comics through iPhones and iPod Touch. The article tells us that:
The opportunity to pave a new market for digital comics has never been greater. Some have said that all it will take is an iTunes for comics before digital comics will take off, well now comics are on iTunes... most go for 99c which isn't bad for full length comic book content.

The method of viewing is simple, the panels and word balloons are cropped and placed into 480 x 320 segments that you scroll through with your finger.
The article further explains some of the formatting disadvantages for comics created prior to the iPhone but that creators can now begin to keep the iVerse specs in mind when developing new content. Check out the article here, and specifically look for three examples of panel layout (located at the bottom) to give you an idea of how these digital comics will be read/viewed via the technology

Black Mermaid™ Marketing Tips 2 – 1001 Ways to Market Your Books

We say it again – 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. 

This is one hell of a book and despite the "your books" oriented title, is completely compatible with the comics world, especially if you are a self-publisher or published through an indy publisher that doesn't have the marketing budget to do extensive publicity for you. 

I bought my copy the States two years ago and had it signed by the author at an event I attended. It became my travelling companion on on several plane trips from thereon. I usually don't like defacing a book but this one is the exception – it has yellow highlighter marks all over it. John Kremer actually encourages it and thinks there is no greater honour than for a reader to use it in this manner.

So why is this book important for comics creatives?

In publishing, the key period for the promotion of a title is six weeks after its release. Beyond that you have about three months tops to get noticed and to make an impact on retailers' sales figures. To become a strong backlist title (that is, to remain in print with your publisher and to have permanent presence and shelf space in a book or comics store thereby ensuring you a consistent passive income stream via your royalty payments) the general consensus is that you need to do at least one marketing activity a day – this can mean anything from getting interviewed by your local newspaper to a big online push to effectively utilising your business card or getting on television. All these strategies and more (remember there are 1001 in all!) are covered in this book. We are not only writers and artists; we need to think like entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs have a belief and a saying – the marketing is more important than the master.

Go buy it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MUST READ: ComicsMonkey Launch – Print on Demand Comics Distribution for Direct Market Comic Shops

This is an important initiative for the comics community. Ka-Blam – the company that also runs IndyPlanet, the comic book print on demand service, has just launched ComicsMonkey, a "No Benchmarks, No Thresholds, No Minimums and No Fees" digital printing direct market comics distribution system. 

According to its blog, Ka-Blam has been working on and testing this model since 2005, and has now launched Comics Monkey nine months ahead of schedule in response to the recent Diamond Distributors announcement, which we covered in a previous post.
... you'll find a lot of similarities between the way IndyPlanet operates and the way ComicsMonkey will operate. The primary difference of course being that IndyPlanet is a retail site that will accept orders from anyone and ComicsMonkey will accept orders only from registered, verified comics retailers.
The products will be sold to retailers on a firm sale basis and with a beginning 35% discount off the cover price. Publishers should get 10% off retail price for every unit sold, although this figure has not been confirmed yet.

You can check out the Retailer policy here.
You can check out the Supplier (Publisher) policy here.

You Voted: Your Results!

Well it's official – 55 votes were registered in the poll for your favourite Elf~Fin comic book cover and 92% (51) of you resoundingly chose Hyfus with the dolphins and sharks as your preferred option. Thanks to the people who posted comments on the blog and on Jozef's Deviant Art page – we appreciate your interest and your observations. Jozef's going to start painting the cover in the next couple of weeks and we're looking into getting a webcam onto his drawing desk so you can witness the process for yourselves.