Planning A Webcomic Update – From Scribble To Finished Comic

2016 Artwork Webcomic planning article sketch

One of the first things that I’ll say is that everyone who has every made anything even resembling a webcomic has a subtly different approach to planning thier comics. There isn’t really a “one size fits all” way to plan a webcomic update.

Some people like to write out a script, some people like to make a basic sketch in another sketchbook, some people like to plan it out as they go along, some people don’t plan at all and some people like to use a combination of these things. Different things work for different people.

When it comes to the short continuation of an old webcomic of mine that I was making at the time of writing, I use an approach that I also used for the previous instalment of this short series where I’ll often scribble out a very basic (and small) version of the planned comic in another sketchbook, using a ballpoint pen.

The interesting thing is that these planning sketches don’t always resemble the finished comic. Sometimes, I’ll make more than one planning sketch but, usually, I’ll make fairly significant changes to the dialogue, panel layout and/or joke when I’m actually making the pencil sketch for the final comic.

For example, here are two planning sketches of mine for the same comic, made several hours apart from each other:

This is the very first sketch, inspired by the fact that I wanted to show Harvey shouting "Halt! Charlatan!" because it seemed like the kind of melodramatic thing that he'd say.

This is the very first sketch, inspired by the fact that I wanted to show Harvey shouting “Halt! Charlatan!” because it seemed like the kind of melodramatic thing that he’d say.

This is my second sketch, from a few hours (and one comic) later. As you can see, I only bothered to plan the first two panels.

This is my second sketch, from a few hours (and one comic) later. As you can see, I only bothered to plan the first two panels.

And here’s the finished comic that these sketches ended up turning into:

"Damania Resurgence - Debunked (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Debunked (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, I ditched the idea in the first planning sketch – since the joke about Harvey secretly wanting to be a stage magician was kind of predictable and not that funny. Initially, I abandoned this idea altogether and made another cartoon instead.

But, after making that comic, I couldn’t think of what to do for the next comic. Since I’d been playing a computer game (“The Blackwell Deception”) that involved seances, ghosts etc.. a couple of days earlier, I wanted to make a comic involving these two things. I also wanted to include Rox (another character) since she hadn’t been in the previous comic.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like both Harvey and Rox would both enjoy debunking phony seances. Harvey was a detective and Rox was a fairly cynical character. The idea of debunking a phony seance seemed cynical enough to be funny, but not quite mean-spirited enough to be out of character for both of them. So, I sketched out the first two panels.

Still, I wasn’t sure how to finish the comic. So, in the end, I decided to wing it and start making the final pencil sketch. It didn’t take me too long to think of the rest of the comic – although I made at least one major change (at the digital editing stage) after I’d finished inking and painting the comic.

In my original cartoon, there was a very different joke in the third panel. But, due to worries that my original joke might have been too risque, I changed it.

Although the joke was a lot less funny as a result, I’d have felt kind of nervous about keeping the original joke.

Likewise, since the zombie in the fourth panel was a late addition, I’d already drawn out the panel border. So, I had to digitally edit out part of the border (after scanning the original comic and making all of my usual adjustments to the brightness/contrast/ colour saturation levels) once I’d made the decision to show the zombie literally grabbing the edges of the panel.

So, that’s how I planned and made this comic. As you can see, it went through quite a few changes (and a bit of trial and error too). Every artist plans their webcomic updates differently and every webcomic update has it’s own slightly unique planning process too. As long as it works, there isn’t really one “right” way to do it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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