Knowing When To Abandon A Comic- A Ramble

2016 Artwork When To Abandon A Comic

Well, I’d planned to start next year with a seven-page narrative sci-fi/comedy comic. However, by the time I’d drawn the line art for the cover and had begun to add paint, I realised that the project was doomed to failure. So, I abandoned it. However, I thought that I’d look at this failed idea to see if it can teach us anything about when to start a comic and when not to.

The comic was going to be titled “Future 2017” and it was going to be a “Blade Runner”/”The Terminator” parody comic featuring the characters from my long-running occasional “Damania” webcomic series (which can be found in the “2016” segment of this page). This is something that I’d been wanting to make for a while and the beginning of next year seemed to be the perfect time for it.

First of all, I planned the comic out. This is a good precaution to take to see if a comic is worth making. The art in your plans doesn’t have to be very sophisticated, but it should give you a general sense of what will happen in each panel and what the dialogue is. Most of all, it gives you a “trial run” of making the comic in a fraction of the time it would take you to actually make the comic.

 This is my plan for page two - it's been edited slightly for legibility, but although the art didn't have to look great, it was the crappy dialogue and crappy characterisation that was starting to worry me....

This is my plan for page two – it’s been edited slightly for legibility, but although the art didn’t have to look great, it was the crappy dialogue and crappy characterisation that was starting to worry me….

Unlike my Halloween comic, this plan didn’t flow very well. Sure, I could come up with some clever jokes (eg: a laser gun that rewards the user with coupons when fired a certain number of times) and some half-decent parodies of scenes from “Blade Runner” etc… But it all felt slightly forced and convoluted. Some of the jokes in other parts of the comic were also in slightly poor taste, which is often (but not always) a sign that you may be running out of inspiration or good ideas.

Worst of all, the characters started acting wildly out of character during the plans, purely for the sake of the jokes and references I was trying to shoehorn into the plan. I really didn’t get the sense of spontaneity that I got when I planned my Halloween comic. Look out for this sense of spontaneity – if your comic feels like it’s “almost writing itself”, this is usually a good sign. If it doesn’t, then be a bit more cautious.

Paying attention to how you feel when you are planning your comic is incredibly important. If planning your comic feels like a chore or a burden, then this is a sign that you should either change the idea or scrap it entirely.

In addition to this, I was also wrestling with the feeling that I “should” make this comic because I’ve wanted to for quite a while. This is something that is worth being aware of – just because an idea seems cool doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t approach it with caution.

Pay attention to your feelings – there’s a huge difference between “I have to make this comic RIGHT NOW!” and “I guess I should make this comic. It’s a cool idea, it probably shouldn’t go to waste, I guess“. After all, my idea for that abysmal “Let’s Play” comic that I made earlier this year seemed like a cool idea at first, but quickly went downhill. So, just because your idea is cool, it doesn’t always mean that your comic will be. Pay attention to how you feel about the idea.

Then there was the cover itself. Despite my reluctant feelings, I thought that I’d try to see if making the cover would revive my enthusiasm for this idea. Even from the beginning, I found myself putting the minimum amount of detail possible into the cover. Making it felt a bit like a chore, like something I had to get out of the way.

However, with my Halloween comic, I gleefully added as much detail as I could to the cover – not caring how long it took me to make it. Here’s are the covers of both for comparison:

 This cover is unfinished but, as you can see - the level of detail is fairly minimal when compared to the cover below.

This cover is unfinished but, as you can see – the level of detail is fairly minimal when compared to the cover below.

"Zombies Again! - Cover" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Cover” By C. A. Brown

Once again, the message here is to pay attention to how you feel when you are making your comic. Luckily, I managed to do this a while after I started adding paint to the line art. However, I guess that all of this can only really be learnt through hard experience.

The warning signs for when a comic idea is doomed to failure (and best abandoned quickly) are probably different for each artist. You’ll probably have to make at least a few failed comics before you really know what to look out for. But, knowing when to start a comic and when not to is probably one of the most important skills that a comic-maker can learn.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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