Four Ways To Start A Long-Running Webcomic

2016 Artwork Long Running Webcomics Article Sketch

Well, I’m still in the mood for talking about webcomics at the moment, and I thought that I’d look at what makes the difference between a long-running webcomic series and one that doesn’t run for very long.

Although I have a long-running series called “Damania”, it’s been a fairly intermittent one (which is currently split up into several mini series, one of which finishes tonight) and, since I’ve had some experience with this entire series, I’ll be using it as an example (again).

Surprisingly, this article also ended up turning into an updated version of this old article from 2013 called “How ‘Damania’ Began...”. So, if you just want to read the advice and aren’t interested in reading about the history of this webcomic, then just read the section titles and the first and/or last paragraphs of each section.

Anyway, let’s get started.

1) Trial and error: This is the best way to learn whether a webcomic has potential as a long-running webcomic or not. I mean, “Damania” was hardly my first attempt at making a webcomic series.

I’d made several short unpublished attempts at webcomics during 2007-10 and then in 2010, I made a narrative-based sci-fi/comedy webcomic called “Yametry Run” that ran for 104 updates. Although I consider some parts of this comic to be extremely badly-written in retrospect, it was my first “real” experience with making webcomics. At the time, I thought that I was best at making narrative webcomics that told a continuous story.

Technically speaking, “Damania” began the following year when I made an intriguing-looking drawing of Roz and Derek called “The Magician’s Room” (it’s original misspelt title was “something wired room”) and a few webcomic-style “concept art” drawings for a planned “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”-inspired narrative comedy/fantasy comic.

 This is the very first "Damania" comic from March 2011, and one of the relatively few pieces of art that I made in 2011.

This is the very first “Damania” comic from March 2011, and one of the relatively few pieces of art that I made in 2011.

 I made this two days later, as an experiment to see whether the characters would work in a narrative comic. Yet, it never occurred to me to turn this idea into a "newspaper comic"-style webcomic ("Concept Art - Bootleg" By C.A.Brown [2011])

I made this two days later, as an experiment to see whether the characters would work in a narrative comic. Yet, it never occurred to me to turn this idea into a “newspaper comic”-style webcomic
(“Concept Art – Bootleg” By C.A.Brown [2011])

I made a couple more of these webcomic-style “concept art” drawings in mid 2012, but it wasn’t until autumn 2012 that I saw the potential for a traditional-style webcomic series. So, I made quite a few “Damania” comics and posted them on DeviantART, whilst also expanding the main cast to four characters:

 This is Harvey's first appearance, in October 2012. ("Damania - Bordering On Paranoia" By C.A.Brown [2012])

This is Harvey’s first appearance, in October 2012.
(“Damania – Bordering On Paranoia” By C.A.Brown [2012])

Yes, Rox's first appearance was (technically) in December 2012. ("Damania - Poorly Disguised Pilot Episode" By C.A.Brown [2012])

Yes, Rox’s first appearance was (technically) in December 2012.
(“Damania – Poorly Disguised Pilot Episode” By C.A.Brown [2012])

However, I eventually moved back to making a few different narrative comics. Then I picked up my “Damania” series again and it ran on and off, between several other narrative comic projects, throughout 2013.

Back then, I was a lot more prolific when I made “Damania” comics and it wasn’t exactly unheard of for me to make five of them in a single day.

2) A good long-running webcomic idea sticks around (whether you want it to or not):
A good long-running webcomic idea will insist on being made, even if you try not to make it – or if you abandon it for long periods of time.

During 2014, I was thoroughly exhausted with comics and the only “Damania” comic I made that entire year was purely as an experiment to see what the characters would look like in my then-current art style (I also did this with one page of “Anachrony“- an old spin-off comic series featuring Derek and Rox- too):

 Technically speaking, this is my entire output of "Damania" comics for 2014. ("Damania - Horror Elitism" By C. A. Brown [2014])

Technically speaking, this is my entire output of “Damania” comics for 2014.
(“Damania – Horror Elitism” By C. A. Brown [2014])

By 2015, I’d gradually got back into making comics again by making a couple of short sci-fi/comedy/horror comics (that can be read here and here). For my third comic, I wanted to make a more horror-based comic.

When I was trying to work out what would happen and who the characters would be, it suddenly occurred to me that I had already four pre-made characters that I could use to save time. And, without planning to, I’d made another “Damania” comic, albeit a narrative comic:

"Diabolical Sigil - Page 5" By C. A. Brown

“Diabolical Sigil – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

This was so much fun to make that I made another similar comic for Halloween 2015. And, earlier this year, I got back into making webcomic-style “Damania” comics after I initially thought of the time-saving idea of remaking some of my old comics from 2012/13, before eventually deciding that it would be more fun to make some totally new comics.

What I’m trying to say here is that one way of telling whether you have a good idea for a long-running webcomic is if it keeps turning up again and again, even after you thought that you’d forgotten about it or abandoned it.

3) Versatility: One of the hallmarks of a good long-running webcomic is that it can include comics about a wide variety of topics. This means that you have more sources of inspiration to draw on, and it reduces the chances of either you or your readers getting bored with the comic.

For example, the “Damania” comics that I’ve made this year have included subjects like old horror novels, demolished buildings and Disney movies:

"Damania Redux - Splatterpunk" By C.A. Brown

“Damania Redux – Splatterpunk” By C.A. Brown

"Damania Returns - Cool Buildings" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Returns – Cool Buildings” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Film Night" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Film Night” By C. A. Brown

Even with comics that are supposedly about just one subject, there are usually a lot of different, but related, subjects covered in these comics. For example, many gaming-based webcomics will include parodies of different games, sarcastic commentary about different games, jokes about gaming culture, jokes about the gaming press, occasional jokes about unrelated subjects etc….

In other words, you need to build a certain amount of variety into your idea. If your webcomic is about one very specific subject, then it probably won’t last that long. But, if it can either include pretty much any subject, or it can include a lot of things related to one subject, then it’s got a better chance of lasting a long time.

4) Characters: This one goes without saying, but a good cast of characters (but no more than 2-4 main characters, otherwise it can get confusing) is essential to a long-running webcomic.

Not only will this keep your readers interested during your webcomic’s inevitable occasional dips in quality (no-one can produce perfect webcomic updates 100% of the time), but wanting to spend more time with your characters and/or to see how they react to various things can also be a powerful source of motivation for you too.

——————–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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