Should Your Webcomic Have A Theme?

2016 Artwork Webcomic themes article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about one of the most basic questions that you’ll have to ask yourself when you start a webcomic. That question is, of course, “should I make a webcomic about a single subject?

The classic example of this type of webcomic is probably the whole sub-genre of webcomics about computer and video games (eg: classic examples include “Penny Arcade“, “Ctrl Alt Del” etc..). But there are plenty of other themed webcomics out there – from maths/ science-themed webcomics like “XKCD” and “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal“, to history-themed webcomics like “Hark! A Vagrant“.

However, whenever I’ve made traditional-style webcomics (like this mini series, this one and this one too), I’ve generally tried to avoid making all of my comic updates about a single theme. I’ve made comic updates about games, politics, music, subcultures, movies, old buildings, the 1990s etc…

I couldn’t really settle on a single theme, since I had a wide variety of ideas that I wanted to make comics about. However, not having a single theme for your webcomic is something of a double-edged sword since, although it means that you can be inspired by a wide variety of things and tell a wide variety of jokes, it also means that finding something interesting enough to make a webcomic update about can be slightly more challenging sometimes.

On the plus side, it also means that your comic is easier for new readers to become interested in.

In addition to this, another advantage of not making a themed webcomic is that there’s more emphasis on the characters. Because your webcomic doesn’t revolve around a single theme, you can include a lot of extra character development by showing how your characters react to a wide variety of different events and subjects.

But, if you’re going to make a themed webcomic then, it goes without saying, but your webcomic should be about a subject that you’re absolutely obsessed with. Since most webcomics don’t have a fixed length, it has to be a subject that you’ll still feel totally happy writing about several years after your webcomic starts.

It’s obviously also useful for it to be a subject with a lot of history and/or a subject that constantly generates lots of new news (eg: video games, politics, science etc…). In other words, if people can’t geek out about a particular subject, then don’t make a webcomic about it.

One thing about themed webcomics (that is both an advantage and a disadvantage) is that they are aimed at a very specific audience. This gives them a lot of added appeal to people who are interested in the same subject, but at the cost of being less interesting to people who aren’t. In other words, if your webcomic becomes popular – then you’ll have a smaller, but more dedicated, fanbase.

So, unless you have a real passion for an extremely obscure subject and know how to make it interesting to other people, then it’s usually a good idea to make your themed webcomic about a subject that other people are actually interested in.

On the other hand, just because your webcomic is primarily about a single subject doesn’t mean that you can’t sneakily include other subjects in it too. As long as you find some way to link them to your main subject, then you can still make comics about pretty much anything.

A good example of this would probably be “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”. Although it’s a comic about maths and science, it also includes jokes about all sorts of other subjects including philosophy, relationships, psychology, parenting, history etc… So, choosing a single theme doesn’t mean that you can’t include other subjects too.

In the end, there aren’t really any “right” or “wrong” answers to the question of whether your webcomic should have a theme or not. Just go with whatever feels right for you.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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