Four Reasons Why Some Webcomics Are “Non-Canonical”

2016 Artwork Non-Canonical webcomic article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about the whole idea of “canon” when it comes to webcomics. If you haven’t really heard this term before, a “canonical” webcomic is a webcomic that is considered an “official” part of a webcomic series by it’s creator.

A “non-canonical” webcomic is one that, whilst it may feature the same characters, is not considered to be an “official” part of the series by it’s creator.

So, why do some webcomics end up being “non-canonical”?

1) By accident: The day before I originally wrote this article, I had a rather interesting experience. Whilst replying to a comment about one of my occasional webcomic series, I suddenly realised that I didn’t really consider some of my comics to be “canonical”.

Basically, back in 2015, I’d brought back the characters from an old webcomic series of mine for two short B&W narrative comics (that can be read here and here). Both of these comics were parodies of the horror and detective genres, and they were an absolute joy to make. They also introduced significant character and plot changes too.

However, when I re-started this old webcomic series again this year – albeit in a more “traditional” daily cartoon format (albeit in several mini series) – I only kept a few of the changes that I’d made during my two comics from 2015 (these new webcomic mini series can be read here, here, here, here and here).

For the most part, the new comics were more similar to my old comics from 2012/13 than my comics from 2015. There were all sorts of reasons for this (most of them due to the format shift), but it meant that the two comics I made in 2015 weren’t really “canonical” any more. I hadn’t intended this, but – in practice -those two comics are now “non-canonical”.

2) Curiosity and inspiration: Sometimes, it can be interesting to wonder what might happen if the characters in your comic found themselves in a different situation. It can be interesting to wonder how they might react to events that couldn’t ordinarily take place within your webcomic.

Since it could cause continuity problems if you just made these changes to your “ordinary” webcomic, making another non-canonical webcomic update (or series of updates) can be a good way to satisfy your own curiosity (and your audience’s curiosity) without affecting your main webcomic.

Non-canonical webcomic updates can also be a good way to get inspired, since they allow you to take a break and try new things.

3) Reboots: Restarting an old webcomic can be kind of tricky, because you’ve been away from the characters for quite a while and/or because you’re probably a slightly different person to the one you were when you made the original comics.

So, in order to get an old webcomic started again, it can sometimes be necessary to make a few changes to the characters, to the premise of the comic and/or to the storyline. And, as I hinted in the first point on this list, this can have the side-effect of making some of your older comics “non-canonical”.

4) Throwaway jokes: Sometimes, you’ve got a really funny idea for a webcomic update but it only really works if you temporarily change a small detail about one of the characters. So, a good way to do this is to just make the comic and let your audience decide whether it’s canonical or not. You shouldn’t do this too often, but it can work well.

For example, during my “Damania Resurgence” webcomic mini series, I wanted to make a parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. This would mean that one of the characters would have to have a pet raven. Said pet raven appears for literally one comic and doesn’t appear in any further comic updates, so the canonicity of this particular comic update is somewhat questionable:

"Damania Resurgence - Raven" By C. A. Brown (And Edgar Allen Poe)

“Damania Resurgence – Raven” By C. A. Brown (And Edgar Allen Poe)

So, yes, sometimes you can play around a bit with canonicity if you want to include a throwaway joke in your comic. However, don’t do this too often, or you’ll confuse your audience.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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