Four Things To Do If Your Comic Is Dying

2015 Artwork Dying comic resurrection article sketch

Well, since I seem to be back into making comics again, I thought that it might be a good idea to talk briefly about one problem that can sometimes strike when you’re making comics. I am, of course, talking about the times when your comic starts out well – but then starts to falter.

You know, the times when you suddenly can’t think of good ideas for it, the times when it goes from being something really cool to being an annoying chore and the times when you’ve just finished a page of it and your first thought is “oh god, this is terrible!“.

And, don’t worry, I’m not talking about the “so bad that it’s good” short comic that I’m currently posting here (seriously, that comic was amazingly fun to work on 🙂 ).

Thanks to the fact that I seem to be much further ahead with my art than I am with these articles, I’m actually talking about the melodramatic alternate history sci-fi comic that will probably follow it a few days afterwards.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a preview of part of it:

Ronald Reagan on Trial! British spellings! Historical inaccuracies! Yes, this is one of the better parts of the comic so far....

Ronald Reagan on Trial! British spellings! Historical inaccuracies! Yes, this is one of the better parts of the comic so far….

At the time of writing this article, I don’t think that this new comic is quite as good as “Dead Sector”. Of course, you will probably get to be the judge of that for yourself. But, I digress – this is supposed to be an article to help you out if you end up in a similar situation.

So, without any further ado, here are a few things you can do if you feel that your comic is dying…

1) Know thyself! : One of the best ways to prevent yourself from even starting a dying comic in the first place is to pay very close attention to your emotions before you start making your comic.

When you’re about to work on a comic that will probably turn out well, you’ll probably mostly feel confident, eager, excited, inspired and/or calm. The excitement of working on a project that you really love will probably outweigh any worries that you might feel.

When you’re about to work on a comic that might not turn out so well, there’s a good chance that you’ll be feeling something a little bit different from this. You’ll feel uncertain, you’ll feel nervous, you’ll feel slightly overwhelmed and you might feel worried. The feeling that you “should” make a comic and anxieties about making a comic will probably outweigh any good emotions you are feeling about your comic.

In other words, starting a good comic will make you feel like you’re doing something really cool and starting a not-so-good comic will feel more like you’re uncertainly launching yourself into something slightly frightening.

These emotional differences are fairly subtle, but if you’ve been making comics for quite a while, then you’ll probably know what each of them feels like. Of course, remembering to actually pay attention to them is a different subject altogether.

2) Focus on the art or writing: A general rule with comics is that the writing is always more important than the art. But, if you’re in the middle of a dying comic that you need to resurrect, then look at which part of the comic you are doing best at – and focus on this.

In other words, if you’ve got terrible writer’s block, then pour your energy into making more art-based pages. If you don’t have enough time or energy to make good art, then just make bad art and make sure that the writing is even better than usual to compensate for this.

Not only does this help you to keep up enthusiasm for your own comic, but it also benefits your audience too. Why? Because good writing can distract from bad art and good art can distract from bad writing, but if you end up with both your art and writing being kind of crappy (like in one or two pages of my next comic), then your audience probably won’t really like this.

3) Put it out of it’s misery: Ending a comic abruptly, prematurely and/or in a contrived way is one of the worst ways to end a comic. But it is still a hundred times better than leaving a comic unfinished. It is still a hundred times better than leaving your readers in the lurch and not letting them see a conclusion to your comic.

In other words, a badly-written ending or a bad ending is better than no ending at all. And, yes, some people might claim that it’s best to leave a great comic unfinished – so that the readers can come to their own conclusions. And, there might be merit to this argument. But, well, although unfinished things can be intriguing – they can also be incredibly frustrating too.

Plus, although this is mainly for the benefit of your audience, it can be useful to you too. Why? Because leaving a comic unfinished – especially one that you’ve poured a lot of time and energy into – can be a rather terrible experience emotionally. In fact, it can seriously shake your confidence in your comic-making abilities if you aren’t careful.

Hell, one of the main reasons that I didn’t post any comics here in 2014 was because, in spring that year, I was working on a comic that I ended up leaving unfinished (and unpublished) for various reasons after about 20-22 pages.

I poured a lot of time and energy into making it and it failed. This, of course, made me quite wary about making comics again until relatively recently. If you don’t believe me, here’s a page from my unfinished comic:

Alas, it was never meant to be...

Alas, it was never meant to be…

4) Don’t take a break: When you’re in the middle of a dying comic, your natural instinct might be to take a break from it. Don’t do this! Why? Because, unless you have a superhuman strength of will, you’re probably not going to want to pick it back up again. You’re probably going to quietly find ways not to return to it.

So, if you can, just keep going. It might be annoying, it might be miserable, it might be stressful – but it’s pretty much your only real shot at actually finishing your comic.

There are plenty of ways to steel yourself for the task ahead and you’re going to have to find whatever works for you personally, but one of the things that works for me is to listen to some suitably badass and melodramatic music – like this cover version of the “Doom” theme or this viking-themed song by Ensiferum.

But, whatever you do, keep going! Don’t stop! You may never start again.

———-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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