Finding The Emotional Tone Of Your Webcomic – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Emotional tone in webcomics article

One of the many important parts of making a webcomic is working out what it’s emotional tone will be. This is the general emotional impression that the average reader will get after reading several of your webcomic updates and it’s one of the central parts of what can make your webcomic so distinctive.

Occasionally, this will probably be something that you won’t think about too consciously. After all, if you’re genuinely a optimistic happy-go-lucky kind of person, then it’s pretty obvious that your webcomic may well be more on the light-hearted side of things.

Still, although webcomics are about self-expression, they’re also designed to be read by other people. As such, it can sometimes be worth thinking more consciously about what kind of emotional tone you want your webcomic to have.

The first thing to remember is that it can take a while to work out what the emotional tone of your webcomic will be. It will probably change over time as you get to know your comic and your characters. Still, it’s worth choosing an emotional tone to start with, even though it will inevitably change.

One of the best ways to work out what the emotional tone of your comic is to look at lots of other webcomics (and traditional comics). This will help you to define the emotional tone of your webcomics in both positive and negative ways.

In other words, look at what emotional qualities appear in the webcomics that you love and try to include them in your own comics. You might have to alter or adapt these qualities slightly in order to turn them into something that feels “right” to use in your webcomic (eg: find your own “version” of this emotional quality), but looking at lots of other comics will help you to define the emotional tone of your own webcomic.

For example, one of the many inspirations for my occasional webcomics are “rebellious” comics. I love punk comics like “Tank Girl“, satirical cyberpunk comics like “Transmetropolitan“, subtly subversive webcomics like “Subnormality” and rebelliously gothic newspaper cartoons like “Nemi“.

However, I often seem to be something of a coward when it comes to including actual rebelliousness in my comics. So, a lot of the exaggerated horror movie marathons, controversial pyromania, chain-smoking, drug use, political rants, nudity, “anti-social behaviour”, four-letter words, punkish contempt for authority, “binge drinking” etc… that I want to include in the comics usually tends to either happen “off screen”, or in a toned-down form. I could go on, but I guess that even wimpy “PG-13” rebelliousness is a step in the right direction:

"Damania Reappears - Punk Night (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reappears – Punk Night (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Regrown - Burlesques" By C, A. Brown

“Damania Regrown – Burlesques” By C, A. Brown

"Damania Reappears - Logical World" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reappears – Logical World” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, if you like an emotional quality from another comic or webcomic, then be sure to find your own “version” of it rather than just trying to make a second-rate imitation of another comic.

You can also look at lots of other webcomics and to find qualities that you don’t want to include in your webcomic.

For example, although I like some webcomics that could be considered “depressing”, I certainly don’t want this quality appearing in my own webcomics. So, if I include something gloomy in my comics, I usually try to temper it with some humour. Or, failing this, some cool-looking artwork:

"Damania Revived - The More Things Change..." By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revived – The More Things Change…” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, although I like a few comics that try to be “realistic” and which discuss everyday life and everyday thoughts, I’m firmly of the opinion that comics should be an escape from reality, rather than a dreary reflection of it.

As such, my comics tend to have more of a “cartoonish” kind of tone to them, where strange and unusual things are more likely to happen and where the main characters are a bit more like sitcom characters than real people.

"Damania Resurgence - Debunked (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Debunked (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

As I said earlier, the emotional tone of your webcomic can change over time. For example, my long-running occasional webcomics have become mildly more opinionated and cynical over time, but are hopefully still humourous. My aim is to make the comics cynical, but without being depressing.

This mostly happened because I’d prepared a short series of cynical comics about Christmas which will appear here shortly before Christmas and – at the time of writing – I’d just got started on the New Year’s mini series and naturally had a lot to be cynical about (eg: resolutions, the adverts that appear on TV at new year etc…). So, yes, webcomics can change their emotional tone organically over time. That reminds me, I must make a cynical comic about “organic” food sometime…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful šŸ™‚

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