It's Not Rocket Science by George Peter Gatsis – Going Digital For Less Than $200

It's Not Rocket Science by George Peter Gatsis – Going Digital For Less Than $200Getting my comic onto the AppStore.

I have been producing/publishing Canada's first computer generated comic book ( The Black Diamond Effect ) since 1990. It is also the first comic book to be produced with nearly 100% vector based graphics! Unlike everyone else at the time who was generating bitmapped graphics of various quality… vector was and still is clean and non-destructive.

For the years following I would continue to step ahead with technology. Drawing, writing, building layouts and testing new methods. HECK, I even taped a pencil to the mouse controller and tried to do tracings of artwork I drew on paper into the computer… That only lasted for one day. It was very difficult to maintain a perfect "north" position on the mouse as you trace artwork into the computer. It's fun. It's exciting. I relish stepping into undiscovered territory when it comes to art… until a couple of years ago… when I got an iPhone.

I wanted to put all my comics on the AppStore for sale or free download. I looked around and got pricing that ranged from $2,000 to $12,000!!

HOLY MOLY! That's insane I thought. There is no way I am going to dish out that kind of money. Especially when, even after they build my comic app, they will control the deployment and want a revenue sharing cut.

So, I got to thinking… I "THUNK" how did an app get to the AppStore for distribution?

Well that was easy to find out… You become an APP DEVELOPER with Apple. Cost: $99 US.

One year later… progress has been made… but slow. My day job and family ( for some reason, just when I thought I was out… they drag me back ) did take up a lot of my time.

Then I decided to add a new element into the mix of creating my comic book app. Reach out into the internet and buy code to include in my app. Yep, it's done all the time. I searched and searched. Nobody came up as a credible option for me… not until I hit :


The codestore was offering $29.00 for the source code to building your own comic book app! For that cost, I could take a chance on a Paypal purchase. BUT WAIT… for $59.00 you could get ALL the different Apps source code they offered! Heck, why not.

Made the Paypal purchase, got the download links, followed the instructions and my first working Comic Book App was done!

But that wasn't enough for me. I am a very lazy guy and wanted my comic book app to work for both left hand and right handed people. I wanted my app to work with as little interaction as possible. I wanted my app to be able to browse through the entirety of my content by any hand-held configuration. If I was on the public transit system or if I was on the couch, I wanted to go forward and backwards with my comfort zone fully engaged! ( think of someone drunk and passed out on the couch ) Except I wasn't drunk. Really.

So I got my lazy self to designing the interface for my comic app.

No pinching or swiping… Just a single tap and a double tap. That is as simple as it gets to navigate my comic app.

Once the design was done, I hired the Codestore to make my design a reality… and WAMMO! My comic book app is done and ready. A few tweeks later, it becomes a universal app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch… and a unique vertical and horizontal version to boot!

Now all I have to do now is make a copy of the source directory and:

1) change a few lines of code, like the name of the app, the version number, the number of pages

2) change the thumbnail menu configuration by modifying an html page and re-sizing the thumbnail jpgs

3) modify the resolution of the pages to fit the iPad and the iPhone exactly

4) make sure the external links to my website's and other apps work in the menu

5) final review of what I would sell it for

6) submit to Apple

7) wait for about a week to be approved or a few days for an update

All this could be done with the basic source material you get from the codestore… I just like my interface better.

To become an APP DEVELOPER with Apple:

1) Get a credit card.

2) Get a Paypal account.

3) Get a tax number.

4) Get an ISBN numnber.

5) Sign a contract with Apple.

6) Attach a bank account with Apple (recommend to have a separate bank account for this.)

Yep, by this point… you have to take it more seriously than just a hobby.

7) Download Apples developer tools to your computer

8) Watch the video overviews and beginner lessons… There are lots of them!

9) Review the Apple developer forums for pitfalls, for first time developers… Ask your question… You'll get the answer from anyone of the thousands of developers from all over the world.

10) Download and inject the Apple Provisional, Developer and Distribution Certificates onto your Apple Computer

11) Start building your App.

Get an ISBN number:


What is an ePUB?

Here are quick google links I've used to help out many (non-comic book) clients. And when I mean help out… I literally said to everyone of them… "save your money and do a little reading.",or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=19685ac6f57d8940

AND the DROPDEAD simple way to go… if you are on a Mac or iPad…

Basically an ePub is a ZIP document that has images placed into simple mulitple letter sized html documents with hyperlinks. ONCE you zip compress the directory, change the ".ZIP" extension to ".ePub" it then becomes an ePub document which can be read on any device that reads the ePub format… which I think is all of them.

WAIT WHAT!!? HOLY SMOKES! That's batshit insane. It can't be that easy!

Yes it can… but take your time, do a little reading and play a little with all the wonderful options available to you through the starter links… Including this link:

BUT do you need the AppStore?

If you want to venture on your own, you can try:

1) Create your digital comic book… show some samples and offer to email the PDF, CBR, CBZ or ePUB formatted comic by email… once you receive the Paypal payment.
CBR and CBZ file formats are just ZIP compressed folders that hold a numbered JPG sequence of pages… for which you change the ".ZIP" extension to CBR or CBZ.

2) Offer your book for free online and offer a soft cover or hardcover signed printed copy mailed to the customer… once you receive the Paypal payment.

3) Make a physical copy of your book ( example Apple's Book Service: ) and show it off, get orders for print and digital… you know the rest.

4) Set up a store on eBay to offer your comic books.

These are some ideas… You could possibly come up with more interesting ways on your own.

Thoughts behind this passing of knowledge.


1) Why don't I use all the fancy gizmo's in my digital comic books… like touch an area and something pops up or video, or sounds?

The answer is simple. Am I creating a book or a game? I am creating a book… and the book translates into the printed format easily if you don't have all these gizmo's incorporated into the digital book. Print is still important. Print is the cherry on top with PRINT ON DEMAND orders for stores and direct customers.

2) Wait a minute, why the heck are you telling everyone this?

Most of my life and especially for the last 20 years while doing my own comic books (TBDE), I have helped people whenever and wherever I can… FOR FREE! I even created a learning site – to help people understand that creativity and technology go hand and hand. All you need is the passion to learn and the drive to seek out the knowledge that is available to you… most of the time FREE!


a) Want to learn how to animate? Thinking of going to school for it? Thinking about the 20k to 30k cost? HECK… for the cost of a computer, the software and the wide-ranging tutor lessons on the internet… both free and available for purchase… You can learn animation at the fraction of the cost. b) Want to learn how to draw? Thinking of going to school for it? Thinking about the dollar amount? There are wide-ranging tutor lessons on the internet… both free and available for purchase… You can learn to draw at the fraction of the cost. c) Want to learn how to make a comic book? Go to the internet. Google or YouTube the question "How to (fill in this area) ?"

You see what's going on? Technology has leveled the playing field. There are people in their basements creating Hollywood level animation ( see ROSA: ) There are people in their basement creating comic books of all size and shapes ( see a small fraction of what's out there at: or my personal favorite: for which I helped these guys out in the mid 90s with their printed collection. )

3) There was a Kickstarter fund that an artist raised 12k to make an App for his book. HOLY SMOKES! 12k!!?? Need I say more? Out of curiosity, I bought the App… and I still don't see what the 12k was spent on.

4) Yeah, that's fine-in-all… but this is all for "the little guy."

Nope. Not true. If I can do what I just did, with the cash flow of less than $200.00… Think what the big boys can do… Build your comic App and sell it to the customer directly, with as little "middlemen" as possible other than Apple.

5) At a recent comic book convention here in Toronto ( FANEXPO 2011 in August ) I was approached by a few people who asked me the same question… "Will I raise my price from 99¢?" I told them, "no, I don't see any reason to do that." Surprisingly they couldn't hide the upset look on their face after my answer.

6) Angrybirds sells for 99¢ and all the levels have been free updates. I love this. It's exciting and fun! So I thought of the buy once update forever comic book app idea and incorporated it into one of my digital comic books… which sells for 99¢ and all the issues after that are free updates!

7) How to add to your storytelling and panel compositions, but also make it easy to translate into a printed book.

One simple solution is to do a HUGE multiple page single panel… It's been done before. I think Dark Horse did something like that in print the mid 90s. Artists are doing this now on their web comics. Well I did something similar for my second issue. A single panel broken down into 25 pages!

8) What about 3D in all it's beautiful forms?

Yep, you can Google to find tutorials on how to create your own 3D digital comic by separating the red and blues… AND now that 3D animation software has gotten so much more AWESOME… You can download a FREE high end software like GOOGLE SKETCHUP or BLENDER, for which you can start learning right away! And eventually, you can add cityscapes or spaceships or other complicated backgrounds and props into your comic book.

9) I really don't like it when people try to ( fleece/gouge ) take advantage of comic book artists who are afraid of the technology or just don't understand what or how it's done.

If all this is still rocket science to you… how about this to get the New Year started off:

The premise:

A free service to package creators comics for the AppStore.

The requirements:

1) the story and art must be completely owned by the writer(s)/artist(s) in the credits page.

2) it would be free on the AppStore.

3) a link in the menu to the creators website where the reader can see more of the work. This is a must!

4) in the menu a "Book App Designed and Packaged by George Peter Gatsis" button.

5) only 3 books a week will be selected. Packaged on the weekend, plus a week for the AppStore approval process.

6) the books will be available on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

7) one book per artist, no multiple books per artist.

8) artist must provide a complete PDF or JPGs ( cover to cover ).

9) no porn or anything that will not get through Apple's approval process.

10) must have an ISBN number, which will be confirmed.

11) the design, the code and architecture of the book app are owned by George Peter Gatsis and no ownership will be given or transferred.

12) the book will be removed from the AppStore by the creators request or by George Peter Gatsis without notice.

13) the writer(s)/artist(s) must know and understand Apple's TERMS & CONDITIONS prior to committing to the project.

Wait a minute… Who the heck is George Peter Gatsis?

George is a Branding, Marketing & Advertising Strategy Visual Creative. (WOW, try saying that a few times). George has been hands on producing a wide range of Advertising & Marketing content for the past 20 years. Graduated from George Brown College's Graphic Arts Programs and the Executive Marketing Training Program through Nelvana-Corus Entertainment ( one of Canada's biggest media companies ), George has worked on such high profile clients as Philips Electronics, Coca Cola, Burger King, Cott, Health Canada, Dave Ross's: Thrax, William Shanter's: The Captain's, Michael Elliot Productions, City of Mississauga, Wilco Electronic Systems Inc. & Intelligent Creatures Inc. Additional to the core disciplines, George has also produced Feature Film Storyboards, TV Animation, High Level City Council Presentations and Application Videos for Patent Ready Products. You can see George's wide ranging resume and goodies at

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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