Well, I felt like writing about webcomics (yet again), although I’ll be looking at webcomic characters today. One of the things that defines many long-running webcomics is the fact that they feature a consistent main cast of characters.
For example, even though my own webcomic series is released sporadically these days (in mini series of 6- 17 daily updates – many of which can be found in the “2016” section of this page), the character line-up has been pretty much the same since late 2012:
In fact, when I was briefly thinking about starting a totally different comic a few days before I wrote this article, I abandoned the idea fairly quickly for the simple reason that I knew these four characters better than any other characters (so, expect another mini series featuring these characters later this month).
But, how do you find an awesome main cast for your webcomic? How do you find a main cast that means that you’ll never have to think of another new character again?
The simple answer to this question is probably “trial and error”. Although two of these characters (Roz and Derek) appeared as early as 2011, I’d created other characters before them and – even during the early days of what would eventually become my long-running webcomic – I still made other comic series with different characters. By late 2012, I’d come up with the other two main characters (Rox and Harvey) – even if I was still making other comics too. By late 2013, I considered this series to be my “best” webcomic.
When I got back into making comics in 2015 after a one-year comic hiatus, I tried to start totally “new” comics but, after two of these, I returned to the familiar group of four characters once again and haven’t looked back since.
The simplest way to find a good main cast for your webcomic is to just make lots of characters and then see which ones pretty much insist on following you around for years.
It can take a while to learn which characters these are, since some characters can hang around for a couple of years and then just fade away (like Jadzia Strange). But, your main characters will be the ones who – even if you haven’t seen them for years – will still pop into your mind when you think about making a new comic. They find you, rather than the other way round.
However, if you want your character design to involve more than random chance, then a good way to think of character designs is to look at what you want your character’s personalities to be like. Yes, these will change as your characters develop – but if you can sum up each character in a few words, then this can be a good starting point.
Once you’ve thought of several of these, then look at how these character types will interact with each other. There should be enough differences to provoke humourous situations, but you want at least a few similarities between some of the characters (so that they don’t end up arguing with each other all of the time). I’d also suggest that they have a wide variety of different interests, so that you can easily make comics about different topics.
For example, when Harvey first appeared in my webcomic, I just wanted to create a “supernatural detective” character who would be a ‘serious’ foil to the ‘silliness’ of the other characters. Of course, his character has changed and grown a bit since then, but this is still mostly the core of who he is.
However, although he mostly started off as purely a dramatic foil, I later realised that one of the other characters (Rox) also liked old things and also had a slightly gothic sensibility too – so, the two of them ended up getting along some of the time and this led to more character development. This can be seen in these three comic strips:
As a general rule, it’s probably a good idea to ensure that each character has something in common with at least one other character.
So, yes, those are a few basic tips about how to find a great group of main characters for your long-running webcomic. Since I mostly used the “trial and error” approach, I can’t really think of too much more advice at the moment, but if it works – then it works.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂