Before I begin, I should probably explain what a “talking head” webcomic update is. These are webcomic updates which feature literally nothing more than two of three people standing next to each other and talking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of webcomic update if the dialogue is well-written, but they can look a bit monotonous.
There are lots of reasons why webcomic creators might make “talking head” webcomics. Sometimes it can be due to artistic inexperience, sometimes it can be due to time constraints and sometimes it can be a conscious decision (eg: if you want the emphasis to be firmly on the dialogue)
Not only that, the basic format of traditional-style webcomics often lends itself well to “talking head”-style comics. If you’ve only got a few panels to work with in each comic update, then filling them with amusing and/or interesting dialogue can often be a way to get the most out of each update.
But, again, these types of webcomic updates can look very monotonous after a while, so how can you disguise them? Here are a few of the sneaky tricks that I’ve used since I got back into making traditional-style webcomics this year.
1) Close-ups: One of the easiest, and laziest, ways to make “talking head” webcomics look more interesting is to occasionally switch to a close-up of one of the characters (when they’re speaking) for a single panel.
You can also make dialogue look more dramatic by alternating between close-ups of each character. However, make sure to include at least one panel that shows both characters, so that your readers can work out where they are standing in relation to each other.
Here’s an example of this technique from my “Damania Returns” webcomic mini series. Notice how both characters are only seen together in the final panel:
Not only does this allow you to fit more dialogue into a panel, but it also provides a short break from the same picture of both characters standing next to each other.
2) Cutaways: Another way to make a “talking head” webcomic look more interesting is to occasionally include a picture of what the characters are talking about (kind of like a “cutaway” shot in a film). This works best when the characters are describing past events or strange objects.
Although this technique can’t be used in all webcomic updates, it’s a good way to disguise the fact that your latest webcomic update is a “talking head” comic. In addition to this, it also gives you the chance to draw something a bit more interesting than yet another picture of the same two characters.
Here’s another example from “Damania Returns”. This particular cartoon is a fairly standard “talking head” comic, although it features a cutaway in the second panel. The second panel also uses a slightly different colour scheme to the rest of the comic, in order to make it stand out more.
Likewise, if a character is delivering a particularly large amount of dialogue (that is spread over multiple panels), then this can often be made to look a lot more interesting by including illustrations of whatever the character is talking about, instead of just drawing a picture of the character talking.
Here’s an example of this technique from my “Damania Restricted” mini series. Notice how only the last panel contains a drawing of the character who has been narrating the first three panels:
3) Actions and gestures: This technique takes a bit of practice, but one of the easiest ways to liven up a “talking head” webcomic is to show the characters actually moving, rather than just standing there like statues.
Even if it’s something as simple as showing the characters pointing at each other, stroking their chins, facepalming etc.. then this can still add a lot more visual interest and drama to your webcomic update. Yes, it’s more difficult and time-consuming to draw, but it’s a very good way to add some visual drama to your webcomic.
Here’s an example from my “Damania Resurgence” webcomic mini series. Although this comic also features a cutaway panel, notice how the characters use a wide variety of gestures (eg: crossed arms, facepalming, extended arms etc…) in the first, third and fourth panels.
4) Backgrounds: This is an extremely lazy way to make a “talking head” webcomic look more interesting, but it works. Basically, if both of your characters are outdoors, then you can give the impression that they’re walking somewhere by showing them standing still in front of a variety of slightly different backgrounds.
Likewise, in certain contexts, changing the backgrounds can also be a quick way to show what a character is thinking about or feeling. Here’s an example of this technique from “Damania Restricted”.
The first three panels of this comic (which also uses gestures extensively) just show one of the characters (Derek) standing in front of a computer and listening to music, but I was able to make these panels more visually interesting by showing what is going through his mind as he’s listening through the use of different backgrounds (eg: by using a fiery background when he’s listening to “Feuer Frei” by Rammstein etc…).
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂