Tuesday, 31 December 2013


The guys from NO LONGER THE HERO are making some great music! Check out this cool animated music video they produced!

It's for their song "On My Way."


Monday, 30 December 2013

What's going on in the world of NO LONGER THE HERO?

I gave Demetrius "Whodini Blak" from NO LONGER THE HERO a shout to see what he's got going on these days. Here's what he had to say:

Hi Brandon & Higher Universe family, friends and fans. It's the kid, Whodini Blak, of the duo No Longer the Hero with an update about what's going on in my neck of the business.

The thing that has been keeping me very busy lately is my new radio show called the SHOWGRAM on BlogTalkRadio.com. You can find my show under “Only One Media Group”. I've been interviewing artists, groups, conspiracy theorist and more while playing some of today's jams as well as underground gems!

We have a few new songs being finalized and worked on called "Again", "Chromatic" and "45 Revolutions" featuring a 16-year-old guitarist and singer by the name of Mia LJ (@mia_LJ) from New York.

In the past, we've collaborated with artists and different people all over the globe and I find it very entertaining to network this way. You never know whom you may meet and what kind of ventures that you can get into, like partnerships and life-long friendships.

That's about it for me except for also juggling the idea of turning one of our crews called REB7RTH NationWide into a recording label...which is definitely a major step and is what every artist that we are dealing with are asking me to do.  


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Check out this guy! He's called The Christmas Bug.

Somebody posted a picture of this little critter on Twitter and it caught my eye. He was created by Boriana Giormova. 

I thought this character looked so cool that I contacted Boriana and asked if she wanted to do an interview with me. She was happy to oblige and the interview will appear in an issue of STARGIRL coming out in the new year.

It turns out Boriana has an online store where she sells merchandise featuring the Christmas Bug as well as other cool characters. I recommend everyone go to her online store and buy anything that grabs your attention. There's a lot of cool stuff to find!

Here is what Boriana had to say when I spoke with her.

Brandon: Hi, Boriana. Thanks for talking to me today. Why don't you start out by telling our readers a little bit about yourself.

Boriana: I live in Bulgaria. I love to read, draw, listen to music and I play a lot of video games. I have two lovely kids who inspire me. I have a master's degree in Pharmacy and I currently study graphic design. Actually, only my graduation thesis remains and it will be in this state 'till I don't know when. :)

Brandon: Tell us about your online store. How did it all come about and what kind of stuff can people find on there?

Boriana: I have a couple of online stores which I have inhabited with the creatures that I love to create. It all started back in 2007 when I discovered Zazzle, put some of my bugs on products and some of them started to sell. My creatures are different, cartoony - some of them cute, some of them evil, and people say that even the evil ones are cute. The creatures are funny, too, and they have frequently an evil grin on their faces - I love this expression. There are all kinds of products in my stores - art prints, cards, T-Shirts, phone and tablet cases, even home decor.

Brandon: I really like the little critter guy we're showing on the page here. He's what drew my attention to your Twitter post when I first saw him. Tell us about him and what he's all about.

Boriana: He's the evil Christmas bug. He likes to sing and dance around the Christmas tree and to do some nasty, but most of the time harmless stuff. He really loves the Christmas holidays. I've drawn this evil bug in different variations and he's a notorious figure in the my creatures' universe where he's also known as the Evil Flower Bug.

Brandon: So where can people find your online store? Where can people contact you?

Boriana: My main stores are Cute And Strange Creatures (http://cutestrangecreatures.com), which features the products at Zazzle, and my page at Society6 (http://society6.com/BorianaGiormova). 

I have also a blog where I present my new art and designs, as well as things that I love created by other artists. The blog is My Grinning Mind (http://bgiormova.blogspot.com/).

Brandon: Our readers will probably want to know if you're into comic books? Do you read any comics, and who are your favourite superheroes or comic book characters?

Boriana: I love comics! My favorite characters are Wolverine, Gambit and Rogue from X-Men. I like Batman, too. I also like manga and my favorite up to now is Hellsing with its lead character - the fiendish vampire owned by the Hellsing family. 

I should mention the character Dawn created by Josef Linsner, though I've not managed to read the actual comic. I've seen images on the internet and the art is fantastic.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Here is a sneak preview of our new series "The Boy with a Balloon for a Head". We just started production on this series. The first issue should be out in the spring.

Trevis Martinez is doing the pencils and inks. Here's a look at a rough-pencilled page he just turned in today.

This story was written by Brandon Rhiness. It's going to be great! We'll keep you posted on its progress.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Hey guys,

The Higher Universe has begun publishing its first webcomic! It's called Alley Cats. It was written and created by Brandon Rhiness (me). We have 3 pages up so far with more on the way. The artwork is by Ember Cescon.

Give it a read and let us know what you think. Also, be sure to subscribe to it on Comic Fury so you can get the new pages as the arrive!

 Click this link:  www.alleycats.cfw.me

Here is the tagline for Alley Cats:

 Alley Cats is about 4 down-on-their-luck, stray cats who call a dirty back alley their home. Fishbreath, Cheeseball, Scaredy, and Dermot do what any self-respecting stray cats do - smoke cigarettes, look for food, hang out, and get into trouble.

"Love it! These anthropomorphic cats behave quite a bit like actual cats see themselves."
Neil Kapit
Writer/Artist of The Ruby Nation

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Read this interview I did with Robin Jones from InterComics. We talk about The Higher Universe and my experiences making indie comic books.

Read the interview with Brandon Rhiness here!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The "Breaking Into the Comic Book Industry" Myth

I recently wrote an article called “10 Do’s and Don’ts for submitting to comic book publishers”.  I frequently do talent searches where I’ll post ads to Craigslist and Kijiji in cities all over the world looking for artists and writers.

I’ll usually get hundreds of responses and I’ve found that every time I do one of these searches there will be about 1 person out of every 75 that I end up hiring. Out of those only a couple will end up sticking around. There are so many people I have to filter out. And a lot of people were making the same mistakes. 

So I wrote this article about the main things people should or should not do. At first I wasn’t sure if anybody else in the comic book industry would agree with me.  These were just the things that I would consider to be the do’s and don’ts.  Maybe I was the only one having these problems. But the response I got to the article was amazing! It seemed like a lot of other publishers, and even artists felt the same way. 

After writing the article, I was contacted by a comic book artist named Kav, whom I had never met before. We had an interesting conversation. I’ve included our email conversation below. I’m not sure if other comic book artists share Kav’s feelings. What do you think?

KAV:      Hey Brandon, great article.  My experience has been 100% exactly the same as yours.  There seems to be a huge percentage of people who say they want to draw comics, but after putting together a portfolio, never pick up a pencil again.  This blows me away.  I draw a page a day even if I’m not currently on an assignment.  I’ll come up with pages to draw.  I've heard stories of people hired by Marvel then disappearing off the face of the earth.  You must train yourself to draw a page a day or you will simply not be able to do it.

Another thing I've witnessed is artists going off-script.  Like an old person was scripted and the artist drew a teenager instead.  He said it looked “cooler”.  The truth was he can’t draw old people.  Then he said “well, let's do it Marvel Method” -code words for “I'll draw whatever I want or am capable of and the hell with your script, now pay me”.

                Nowadays when I need an artist I ask how many pages a week they draw.  Most will lie, but I also give a deadline of their choosing.  If they can't meet a deadline they picked, they go in the poser bin.  And that bin is pretty darn full.

BRANDON:         Thanks, Kav, I feel your pain. It is frustrating. But at the same time I've met some good people. But you really have to sift through a lot of people to find the good ones. 

It always frustrates me now when I hear people ask how to "break into the comic industry".  It's like someone asking "how do you break into the NFL?” You have to play football a lot and you have to be good.  Someone isn't just going to come along and give you a chance. You can’t wait until you get drafted into the NFL before you start playing football. Writing or drawing comics is the same way. You have to do the leg-work yourself.

                    I hear nowadays Marvel doesn't even take open submissions. I've read that their modo is "don't come to us, we'll find you." or something like that. Basically, if you're good enough to work for them they will already know about you. They're not going to hire a newbie.

It's kind of harder for us little guys though!       
KAV:      When people ask me how to break into the comics industry I tell them “you don't.”  I point out that there are millions of people who want to, and like one job opening a year. I also point out that people currently working in the field still have to fight for work. I say shoot for something easier like becoming a famous movie star.

BRANDON:         Yes, exactly. But I hate being negative to people who have a dream. The whole "break into comics" thing is kind of a myth anyways. I've broken into comics technically, by making my own comics! Now all the aspiring people are coming to me. Funny how that works.

 KAV:     I myself like to slap people awake with reality. I've experienced so many time-wasting posers. They don’t have a dream, they have a daydream. Very different.  If they REALLY had a dream they would have been drawing comics every day for the last 30 years, without being hired by any publisher. Like I have.

BRANDON:         Exactly. It's basic self-motivation. It's funny how some people can't figure that out.
KAV:      I blame Hollywood for this crap. In movies and TV someone wants a new career and a week later they got it.

BRANDON:         Well, you can't totally blame movies and TV, but I see your point. They never show all the hard work that goes into it behind the scenes.

KAV:      How much hard work can be accomplished in one week?  Like I used to watch Melrose Place and some chick said she loves fashion so why not start her own fashion business? She started sketching and ONE WEEK LATER had a thriving fashion business with 100 employees!  WTF???????  I see a lot of this.  “Follow your dream and it'll come true”.  NO, IT WON’T.  SORRY.  OK my dream is to win the lotto-so.....follow that?????   Arggh!  There is one caveat- if you become so good that no one can ignore you, you WILL succeed.  Like Tim Lane- there is no way he couldn’t succeed, he's just too damn good of an artist.

BRANDON:         I feel your pain. Dreams can come true. But only if you make it happen. You can't sit around waiting for it to happen.

I’m not sure if Kav’s opinions represent the opinions of all artists out there but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of people in agreement with him.  

I’ve only been making comic books for a couple of years now.  It’s been an uphill battle every step of the way.  And it continues to be.  But, wow, have I ever learned a lot. There are lots of people making comics that are way further along than I am. I can’t do much to help them. But there are people who are just starting out that can benefit from my experience.

It was not quite two years ago that Adam Storoschuk and I decided to start making comics. We’d been talking about it for years. Misfits and Stargirl were created seven or eight years before they actually went into production. I originally wanted to do them as an animated series. But when that didn’t work out I decided to just grab the bull by the horns and make them both as a comic book.
It was really hard since I had no idea how to even make comics. Reading them was one thing, but making them was quite another.  I was also completely broke at the time.  And so was Adam.  But we jumped in head-first and decided to learn as we went.  

One of my Facebook friends, Chris Johnson, was into making comics. I asked him if he knew any artists I could hire to draw Misfits. He put me in touch with Luca Cicchitti, an artist from Italy.
I contacted Luca and he told me how much he charged per page. I almost had a heart attack. I could barely afford to take care of myself. How was I going to pay an artist? But there was almost a voice in my head telling me that this was the right thing to do.  Adam and I both agreed that it was now or never.

So we hired Luca and began paying him out of our own paychecks from our jobs. I also hired Brittni Bromley to begin the artwork on Stargirl.

Those were some scary times, let me tell you. It seems like it was ages ago, but it was really only a couple of years.

There were many problems to deal with along the way. We began adding artists to pencil, ink, color, and letter our two main books. We also hired people to do character designs, and we even hired some writers to write other projects for us. Keep in mind, everybody was paid. Adam and I paid them all out of our paychecks. And we weren’t rich guys either.  We sank every penny we had into our comics. That’s how much dedication we had (and have) to our comics. 

So for people out there who don’t want to pay their artists, because they say the artist will get “exposure” or a cut of the profits or whatever their excuse is – it’s absolute bullshit. You have to make sacrifices to make this dream of yours a reality. There’s no other way.

Every part of the process was a struggle for me since I had to learn everything from scratch. We had artists from all over the world and sometimes there were language barrier issues that made it hard for me to explain what I needed done. There were also arguments with artists and writers over creative issues.

Even once we had our first comic book completed there were still problems and lots of stuff to learn. Just getting everything formatted to send to the printers, or to get it on Amazon, or Drive-thru comics or whatever was a lot of work. It took a lot of time to figure it all out.

Even when that was done there was the problem of promoting and selling the comics. This takes as much, if not more, work than actually making the comic! But Adam and I learned fast. There’s so much “advice” out there on the internet about how to sell and market comic books. It seems like everybody is trying to figure it out and chase the next big lead.

I just try to ignore all that, for the most part, and do things the way I feel is best. We’ve learned so much since we started and we’re still learning more.

But there was a huge learning curve to overcome. I can see why so many people quit early on. They say that it’s their dream to make comics but they soon realize how much work it is so they quit. Don’t even get started unless you have a real passion for it because there will be roadblocks every step of the way that will make you want to quit.

I talk to people on Facebook and even out on the street all the time about how they can start making comics. A lot of people say they’re thinking about it, but they just don’t know how to start. I always give people the same advice: “Just start doing it!”

There’s no other way around it. You can’t wait until you have the money, or until your life sorts itself out, or until the planets align. Those things will never happen.  Just do what I did and jump in and start doing it. Deal with problems as they come up. In a couple of years you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

We’re all in this together so I think it’s worth helping out other people that are doing cool projects. But that doesn’t mean I’ll pay for your project or do the work for you. 

And believe me, if a couple of regular guys like Adam and I can do it, you can do it!

Feel free to contact me. I like meeting new people with big dreams and big ideas.

Brandon Rhiness
The Higher Universe

Sunday, 10 November 2013

10 Do's and Dont's when submitting to comic book publishers

I have been self-publishing comics for a couple of years now. Even though I’m relatively new to the game I do have some hints to help artists and writers looking for work in the comic book industry.

When I post ads and go looking for artists and writers I’m amazed at how many otherwise talented people screw up their chances by doing things to get themselves rejected.

I’m not sure if the big publishers would agree with me on all these points, but I’d bet they would.

When I look for talent I get hundreds of responses. Follow these rules to make sure your name stays at the top of my list. Also use these rules when approaching other companies.

1.       Make sure you send sequential pages. When I’m looking to hire an artist I need to see their panel-to-panel storytelling abilities. No matter how much I stress this point more than half of the art submissions I get do not have any sequential samples. I’m not going to hire you if all you send me are a bunch of pictures of Wolverine and Deadpool.

2.       Give your page rate when asked for it. Don’t sell yourself short. You should know what your skills are worth, so don’t be afraid to ask for what worth.

When I’m looking to hire a new artist I always ask them for their page rate. I’d say less than half of people who respond give it to me. Also, don’t give an estimate and say you’re willing to negotiate.  I don’t have time to be negotiating over such things and the person you, as an artist, are dealing with is only going to negotiate down. So again, you’d be selling yourself short.

Don’t be afraid of asking for a rate higher than you’re comfortable with.  You never know what the other party is willing to pay. Obviously, don’t ask for something ridiculous, but I’ve dealt with a lot of artists that I’d be willing to pay more than they’re asking for. Don’t sell yourself short!

3.       Make it easy for the person hiring you. When I have hundreds of submissions to go through the last thing I want is for someone to make my life difficult. A lot of people frustrate me in their very first contact with me.

If you have links to your work in the email, make sure they work.  Also, make sure the link goes directly to the work you want me to see (the sequential work). Don’t send me to your homepage and expect me to search around your site for it.

Also, don’t send me a link to a site where I have to sign up and get an account just to see your samples. I won’t do it.

4.       Don’t ask me to publish your comic book. I realize it’s hard self-publishing comics, but if you are responding to an ad I posted looking for a writer or artist, do not email me asking me to publish your comic.

5.       Use correct spelling. I can’t stress this enough. I’m not expecting you to be Shakespeare, but use appropriate language, grammar and spelling. I don’t mind if there’s a conversational tone to it but it shouldn’t read like a text message.

It amazes me that someone will respond to an ad for a writing gig and their email will be full of spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical errors.

The biggest and most common ones I see are run-on sentences that go on forever and spelling their name (and mine) without a capital letter. Sentences should begin with a  capital letter and end with a period. When referring to yourself, use “I”, not “I”.

6.       Don’t ask me to give you a chance when you have no experience. I have enough work on my plate as it is. I can’t be coaching somebody through the process of making comics. If you want to be hired as a comic book artist you need to have experience drawing comics. There’s no way around it.

I don’t mind hiring people who are just starting out. But if you don’t even have a sample of sequential work to show me, I can’t hire you.

I’ve fallen for this three times now and I won’t do it again. Somebody will contact me saying it is their dream to work in comics. They’ll beg for a chance to prove themselves. Even though they don’t have any samples to show me, they say they can “blow me away” if given a chance. They’ll ask for a sample script to draw from. Of course, given my desire to help people out, I’ll send them a sample script. And I never hear from them again.

You have to make your own breaks. You have to work for it. You can’t expect to sit around wishing you could break into the comic industry and not do the necessary work. Nobody is going to give you a chance if you don’t do your share of the work.

7.       Don’t ask for large sums of money up front. I know you are worried about being ripped off. But so am I. I am not going to send $500 or $1000 via PayPal to somebody I’ve never met. I don’t care how good their work is.  So don’t even ask.

I pay all my artists after every one or two pages. That way I make sure the work gets done and the artist doesn’t have to do a lot of work while wondering if they’ll get paid.

It doesn’t take long before trust is built. I don’t know why more people don’t do it this way. It’s fair.

8.       Do the work! Making comics is hard. I know. Make sure you know what you’re in for before you agree to do a project with someone. I’ve had countless people who have been excited to get started, have signed a contract, and have received the page scripts from me, then disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Of course, a few days later I’ll see them posting on message boards, looking for gigs.

This is another reason I don’t pay anybody in advance.

9.       Do a little bit of research. Make sure you learn about the person or company you are submitting your work to. See what kind of projects they are producing to make sure your work is in line with the kind of stuff they’re interested in.

I always look favourably on people who take a little time to learn about me and the projects we’re doing at the Higher Universe. Buying a digital copy of one of our comics will definitely put you in our good books.

It’s not really about the money. It just shows that you’ve taken the time the learn about us and are familiar with our work.

If I get the impression that you’re just copying and pasting the same thing to every publisher you can find, I won’t be happy. But if you show that you know about us and are contacting us specifically you are more likely to get your foot in the door.

Never use “To whom it may concern. “ Addressing me by name is a sure-fire way to put a smile on my face.

10.   Give it time. I get hundreds of responses and I’m only producing a small handful of comics (at the moment). I try to respond to everyone whose work I like, but I won’t be able to hire everybody at once. But I do keep a list of hopefuls and sometimes contact them to do some work. So keep your hopes up and don’t afraid to drop me a line to keep in touch.

Over-all my experiences since I started making comics a couple of years ago has been positive. It’s a rewarding pursuit and it’s really fun.

There are a lot of great artists and writers out there and more are appearing on the scene every day.

I’ve made a lot of great friends along the way with artist, writers and other comic book creators, and I’m looking forward to meeting even more great people.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic. I’m interested in hearing about other people’s thoughts and experiences.  And be sure to let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you out.

Brandon Rhiness
The Higher Universe

Get a copy of Misfits #1 here: https://payhip.com/b/ocrU