Featuring the Webcomics and Graphic Novels, Fantasy and Sci-Fi by Mark Oakley!
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What is, Thieves & Kings?

“Thoroughly engrossing self-published black-and white fantasy saga. [. . .] This is a story for fans of Bone, Elfquest, Nausicaa, or Harry Potter to fall in love with; highly recommended for teen and adult fantasy readers everywhere.”

   -The Library Journal

Learn about Mark Oakley and his work!

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Read a 25 page
sample chapter!





Mark’s sci-fi Web Comic!

Stardrop! Featuring the space Princess Ashelle living on Earth.
Bi-weekly webcomic!

Email Me!


or write to. . .

I Box Publishing
#1 - 614 Main St.
Wolfville, NS  B4P 1E8
Canada



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RETAILERS:
Stardrop Book 3 Order Links for Retailers


Articles of Note:

The New Fascism


Tribes and Reality


What's up with all the Anti-Russian sentiment?


How to Stay Sane in an Insane World - Top 3 diet changes (not what you think!)


MadMax and Tomorrowland - Reality Splitting Decisions...


Star Wars the Force Awakens - JJ Abrams is a Lightweight


The Mysterious meta-Jenny


I Will Not Hate Because You Want Me To


Response to Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing


Art Software Review - OpenCanvas 6


Why Facebook is an unreliable tool for the Self Publisher


Three Questions from a Beginner Cartoonist


Comics in the New Media ~ How to Publish Comics on Tablets and eReaders Without Getting Ripped Off


Mark at the Movies:Superman, Man of Steel. Propaganda to dim the spirit and fan your fears.


Mark at the Movies: What do, Mirror Mirror, Hunger Games and Cabin in the Woods all have in common? More than you think!


Drawing Democracy


365 Days of Digital Cartooning - Drawing Comics on a Tablet PC


UPDATED!
Tablet button bar Button for Photoshop / PaintTool Sai / MangaStudio5


Photoshop CS4 vs CS5 Speed Comparison for Tablet PC


Photoshop Speed-Up Trick for Digital Art


Portable Drafting Board - Drawing Comics Outdoors

 

 
   Stardrop. . .

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STARDROP



Please become my Patron! It's super-easy; see Patreon to find out how. -Now, don't worry; everything will remain free to read here, (many of my readers do not have credit cards, after all). But I'm a full-time cartoonist and I need to pay the bills. There are hundreds of folks reading, so those who are able, please consider chipping in with as much or as little as you choose. Even a buck a month would be a blessing! Those of you who have already extended your support, oh my goodness, Thank-You! It literally means the world to me!

Also.., Jenny Mysterious is now LIVE and will have regular weekly updates! Yessss! Been a long time coming. Jump to her section below. Thanks everybody!

New Episode #280 - Next Episode, Thursday April 6th
webcomic Stardrop by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com

                        

 


Digital Editions Now Available


"High Resolution For Tablets!"
$8.25 CAD
Download Stardrop Volume 1    Download Stardrop Volume 2

-No DRM -No Hassles -Super High Quality -Whole Books with all the extras!

Technical note: I'm using a new sales system for this which doesn't require all kinds of complicated filling out of forms and such. The back-end magic is worked by Gumroad, an awesome new on-line system designed just for digital content; easy payment, reliable delivery, no mucking around. -And holy smokes! They play fair, taking 5% + 25 cents per transaction. Are you paying attention Apple and Amazon? This is how it's done.


NEW! Stardrop eBook
Now Available!

(See the Studio News (below) for the scoop on this!)



Tip StarDrop's cartoonist!

Visit the Australian StarDrop Mirror.
(Thanks to Andrew and Katherine for their wonderful support over the years!)

 
 
   Jenny Mysterious. . .
Read the latest stuff before everybody else. Become a Patron!

June 24th, 2017
New Pages posted - 185 to 187
I've decided to publish the long-talked about Jenny Mysterious free on-line, with new pages every week, starting right now! BUT I am asking folks to become Patrons. Please support my comics with as little or as much as you choose with a monthly subscription, (even just a dollar would be fine!). It's really easy. See my Patreon page for details.

-Check out the cool perks!

Thanks everybody!


webcomic Jenny Mysterious by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com
    

Please Vote! (You can vote for both Jenny and Stardrop without conflict.) Thank-you!
    New: Reader's Art!


 
 
   Thieves & Kings. . .

Sample Chapter from, Thieves & Kings, Volume 3, "The Blue Book"

Thieves & Kings, page from the graphic novel series by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com

Thieves & Kings is not a webcomic. It's an all-ages fantasy/adventure graphic novel series which I've been working on since 1994. It is nearly done; I hope to wrap up the story in the 7th volume, (currently in production). The chapter featured here offers a good example of what it's like to read Thieves & Kings. --It's a peppy sequence, and it contains both regular comic pages, and some text pages. It doesn't show much of the title character, (Rubel) and none of the Shadow Lady, but Heath and Varkias carry the show quite nicely. I do hope you enjoy this sample of my work!

 
 
   The Walking Mage. . .

The Walking Mage webcomic #2 - Fired

The Walking Mage is a complete story. Originally it was done in black & white, (which you can check out here, if you like). I wanted to experiment with color and so began by using a computer to color the Walking Mage for its print release. After a few panels I decided that it would be a lot more fun to paint it by hand, and so switched to water-color around episode six.

The story itself is quite a good little yarn; funny and pointed in many places, as political satire ought to be. I was actually quite surprised to learn this! I found myself laughing out loud in several places. --I don't know why this story in particular was so hard for me to accept, but it was. I avoided reading it for several years after it first went to press. The ending is rather abrupt, but it was a serial strip, after all.

So anyway, after having let this web-comic languish in the digital attic, I've decided to pull it out and post it again for all the world in its full-color glory. This is the first time the Walking Mage has been available in full color on the web. I hope you enjoy the adventures of Quinton and Varkias. Cheers!

 
 
   News From the Studio. . .

Art Software Review ~ OpenCanvas 6
 

Portal Graphics has recently released version 6 of their "Open Canvas" drawing/painting program.

120 day, unlimited, full-feature trial here:

OpenCanvas 6

OpenCanvas 6 is not Photoshop or MangaStudio5, but it's actually quite a savvy little program as art software goes.

One of the things I really like about Portal Graphics is their economic use of memory. Open Canvas 6 is only 6 Mb! In these days of cheap RAM in the gigabytes, even vast pieces of software like Photoshop don't present any actual technical concerns due to their size, (which I half wonder isn't partly due to marketing, convincing people that their $1000 program must really be worth $1000; just look at it! It's really huge! It MUST be important if it's really huge!). Nonetheless, I have a lot of respect for compact and efficient computing.

With regard to efficiency, PGN has finally upgraded their basic 2D engine. You can now draw on large canvases with minimal-to-zero stylus lag, (it's lickety split even on my test machine running WinXP, which isn't even included on their supported OS list). OpenCanvas' poor response time in the past was the reason I never gave it more than 30 seconds of attention before un-installing the trial. But version 6 is speedy; drawing is silky smooth. This makes OpenCanvas 6 a 'Player'.

-It offers the same wide range of tools, brushes and doodads we have come to expect from today's advanced drawing programs. The user interface is clean, modern and easy to understand. But the thing about OpenCanvas which has always made it noteworthy among an ever-growing list of tablet art software packages is a clever function which is practically unique in the digital art world: OpenCanvas offers the ability to record all your pen touches, finger inputs and commands from the first sketches on a blank canvas to the last finishing touch of a master work painting, all saved in a small file. Then, like one of those old player pianos, OpenCanvas can play back the creation of the entire painting line by line, right before your eyes.

It's sort of like the 'history' feature in Photoshop expanded upon far beyond simple undo/redo functionality. And it's not (entirely) just a gee-whiz curiosity; it's a powerful feature with a number of practical uses. Immediately obvious is the ability to create movies of yourself drawing, (which can be captured with third party software and uploaded to YouTube, for instance). The play-back feature saves otherwise enormous images as small instruction files, (called "Event Files"), basically offering a type of dense and lossless compression for raster images. -You can pause the playback of your drawing as it re-creates itself on the page and then, with stylus in hand, jump back into the middle of this full-resolution replica of your work and take it in a different artistic direction from its mid point (should inspiration strike you thusly). While I can't see myself ever wanting to re-draw something which is already done, (as Carla Speed McNeil wisely notes: "Done is Beautiful!"), you have to admit.., time-travel for painters is kind of cool.

The small Event File also allows you to share your creation with other users in a format where they can see not just the finished work but your entire process from start to finish -and to jump in themselves if they wish to add their own hand to your work, (though the "Event" save feature can be locked so that other artists cannot alter the image). But imagine; if you wanted to learn inking, being able to pause the playback of a drawing created by one of your favorite artists and try your own hand at the stylus! -And indeed PGN has a well-populated forum where hundreds of such event files are regularly uploaded and shared in this manner.

Here's a quick drawing of mine which shows how it works, (right click and save the file to a folder. Your browser might try to change the file extension, so just make sure to save it with the .oe6 appendage)...

jenny_run.oe6

Install the OpenCanvas 6 trial package, and load my little drawing file to check it out. (Part way through, I ran out of space for the sketch and increased the canvas size, so you'll need to zoom out in order to see the whole thing.)

Anyway, while all of this is pretty cool there are some curious limitations to the playback feature; you can pause and change the playback speed, but you cannot for, some reason, go backwards. Also, the playback starts immediately upon loading a given event file, so if you are in mind to capture the movie to something suitable for YouTube, you'd better be quick with your mouse. Also, you cannot re-play from the beginning without closing the file and opening it again. It seems curious to have left out such no-brainer features.

OpenCanvas 6 comes in both 32 and 64 bit versions, and at only $59, it rings in as one of the least expensive art programs on the market. (Though, with MangaStudio 5 only being $79, I'd be tempted to spend the extra $20. MS5 is a much more robust piece of software with a far wider feature set, and presently (July 2014), they are offering their basic package for $47, possibly, one wonders, in an attempt to capture new users who might be swayed towards PGN's new offering.)

With all this good stuff, there are, however, some limitations to be aware of...

-OpenCanvas is unashamedly a raster art program. Like a fixed-blade knife, rather than being one of those fat and often awkward multi-tools, it knows what it is and it does its job well. It makes no attempt to offer vector graphics capabilities. It doesn't even offer the ability to work in black & white/grey scale-only files. It's 32 bit color or nothing, so your file sizes are going to be large even if your spectral requirements are not.

-Like all other art software which isn't Photoshop, OpenCanvas 6 has no ability to toggle between regular lasso selection and polygonal selection on the fly. This is a feature which nobody but me seems to care about, but it is the primary reason Photoshop remains a necessity in my studio regardless of how advanced other software becomes.

-Limited file save/read formats. For instance, while it does allow you to save layers in .psd format, you cannot load or save .tif documents. MangaStudio 5 is only marginally better in this regard. When it comes to diverse and highly user-configurable file format control, Photoshop remains the undisputed king. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the thing is so honkin' big.

-Stability. Photoshop and more recently after patch releases, MangaStudio 5 are very stable programs. I *very* rarely lose work due to software instability in either of those two packages. (Though it should be remarked that in the strictest sense, I don't actually use MangaStudio 5; my license is for the original Japanese Version, Clip Studio Paint. -I was too eager to get my hands on the thing to wait for the English release, but language aside, the core code is the same, and quite stable.)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of OpenCanvas 6. -I decided to try drawing an entire episode of "Stardrop" in the program in order to really give the software a proper road test. I looked forward with some eagerness to being able to play back the entire creation process so that I could see what that would look like, and perhaps upload portions of it to Youtube with some voice-over work. But it was not to be. About four hours into what is generally an 8-10 hour job, the program suddenly and without warning stalled and died, taking my entire 64 bit Windows 7 computer down with it. It was only due to my diligence in backing things up every few minutes that I was saved a large amount of redo work. The playback file, however, was lost, as I'd not thought to back that up.

So, four hours of stability and then a random crash? Not so cool. Maybe that was an isolated event, but I'm not willing to bet on it. I would be very cautious about using OpenCanvas 6 again on a large project, or at the very least, fastidious about making regular back ups. Though, to be fair, we must remember that PGN's new offering is still a very fresh release, having only hit the market a month ago. I would hope to see patches forthcoming.

 

Conclusion:

Despite my one experience with a system failure, OpenCanvas 6 proved itself a tidy and inexpensive digital raster art package designed expressly for use with tablet-enabled computers. In terms of function and speed, it can hold its own alongside other more expensive software. One of the downsides of extremely feature-dense programs like MangaStudio 5 or Photoshop is that it becomes easy to confuse a new user and to frustrate with the click-depths necessary to achieve relatively simple tasks.

If you are not a power-user but you want to jump right into drawing and painting on an advanced and very capable system without first having to learn a cryptic UI, then OpenCanvas 6 is well worth exploring, and the 120 day, full feature trial makes exploring the software easy. At only 6.1 megabytes, it's a fast and easy install, well worth a try.

 

-Mark Oakley
August 1st, 2014

 

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The Walking Mage
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