Three Things You Can Learn From Failed Comic Plans

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Well, the afternoon before I originally wrote this article, I’d been planning yet another webcomic mini series for mid-late June. This mini series would have been part of my occasional “Damania” webcomic series (which seems to be the only webcomic series I’m making these days) and it would have been called “Damania Review”.

The idea behind it was that the characters from the series would do humourous “reviews” of various films, games etc… Out of the ten comic updates I’d planned to make, I made the basic plans for about nine of them. The planned comics looked a bit like this rough plan for the sixth or seventh one:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This was the rough plan for a 'Resident Evil' themed update, about how the very first "Resident Evil" game is 'so bad that it's good'

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This was the rough plan for a ‘Resident Evil’ themed update, about how the very first “Resident Evil” game is ‘so bad that it’s good’

Even though I soon realised that this idea wouldn’t “work”, planning this abandoned mini series wasn’t a total waste of time. So, what are some of the things that failed comic plans can teach you?

1) Your humour style: Although the idea of making a mini series that was almost entirely made out of direct parodies of games, films etc.. initially seemed like a good idea, I quickly realised that this is a type of humour that I tend to do best when I only use it occasionally.

In fact, I remembered that I tend to make my best parodies when I try to tell an original story that is a pastiche/parody of an entire genre or sub-genre (probably due to all of the old BBC sitcoms I grew up with, which were forced to do this since UK copyright law didn’t actually contain an American-style exemption for direct parodies until relatively recently – and that was only because the EU told us to make this sensible change).

If your comic plan fails, then there’s a good chance that there was something wrong with the humour (or possibly the narrative, romance and/or horror if you’re making something a bit more serious). In other words, there’s a good chance that the style of humour you’re using in your failed plan is one that isn’t the best one for you.

By looking carefully at the humour in your failed comic plan, you can learn more about which types of humour you are best at writing. Even if you learn which types of jokes don’t work for you, then you’ll at least know a little bit more about your comedy writing style.

2) Comics as a whole: One of the problems with my failed planned mini series was the fact that, although there was a lot of character-based humour in it, the amount of character interaction was fairly low.

In other words, many of the planned comics only contained one of the series’ four main characters – meaning that all of the comedic techniques that can be used with two or more characters couldn’t be used that often in this comic.

By carefully looking at your failed plans as a whole, you can learn a lot of general things about making comics. After all, your plans have failed for a reason. If you can find that reason, then you can learn something new about making comics.

3) Your limits: I had initially thought of this failed mini series as something quick that I could make in a single weekend. After all, I would be making parodies of pre-existing things – what could be easier? That was the theory, at least.

It was only a little while later that I realised that this comic series would mean learning how to draw at least 5-10 celebrities and/or fictional characters. It would mean making numerous practice sketches and looking at numerous reference photos. Not only that, there was a good chance that at least one or two of the celebrities/characters that I would have had to draw would probably be difficult to work out how to draw in my own stylised art style (there’s no rhyme or reason to this, some people are just difficult to draw – I mean, it’s why I barely made any political cartoons when David Cameron was prime minister, because I just couldn’t work out how to draw him).

So, yes, failed comic plans can be a great way to see your own limitations and to either find ways to work around them (by changing your plans) or to find other projects that play to your strengths.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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