When you hear the word “webcomic”, it can be easy to think of gigantic long-running webcomics with literally thousands of comic updates featuring the same characters. It can be easy to think that all webcomics should ideally look like this. After all, the most famous webcomics tend to follow this pattern – and there are certainly advantages to it.
However, it’s certainly not the only way to make webcomics. There are, of course, webcomics where virtually every update is a self-contained thing containing new characters (although this requires a lot more imagination and it can limit the stories you tell).
But, in this article, I’ll be talking about webcomics that consist of lots of short stories and/or separate groups of self-contained updates which all contain the same characters. After all, with several variations , this is the main type of webcomic that I make these days and it’s somewhere in the middle of the two approaches to making webcomics that I’ve mentioned so far.
So, why is this short story/ segmented longer story approach to making webcomics so awesome?
1) It’s a GOOD way to make occasional webcomics: If you only have the time, energy or enthusiasm to make 7-21 webcomic updates per month, then one cool way to deal with this is to make your 7-21 updates and then release them as one or more short “mini series” containing several daily updates ( but which only last for 1-3 weeks).
Although this lacks the constant regularity of, say, releasing 1-3 updates per week, it also means that you don’t have to worry about having to produce a new update every 3-7 days (which can be great if, like me, you like to make comics in short, intense “bursts”. Or, if you want more flexibility in the number of comic updates you make each month).
As long as you actually tell your audience that you are only posting a short daily series, it is considerably better than releasing individual updates sporadically or whenever you feel like it.
After all, updating to a regular schedule (even if you’re only posting comic updates for 7-21 days at a time) is one of the things that helps a webcomic keep it’s audience. Unless your webcomic is as excellent as Winston Rowntree’s Subnormality, your audience probably isn’t going to like checking back regularly with only a vague chance that new content might be waiting for them.
So, it’s a good way to make an occasional “whenever I feel like it” webcomic without the risk of your audience fearing that your webcomic could never be updated again. One thing that can help with this is if you release regular non-webcomic content (eg: art, writing, small sketches, photos etc..) when you aren’t posting webcomics – this helps to reassure your audience that you are still making new content and haven’t abandoned them.
2) It keeps things fresh: If, like me, you have a short creative attention span then the idea of working on a traditional long-running webcomic will probably seem virtually impossible. After all, you’d run out of enthusiasm for the characters and settings after a while.
But, splitting your webcomic up into small groups of self-contained daily updates or short stories (containing 6-14 daily updates) featuring the same characters means that you finish each “comic” before you run out of creative energy.
Not only that, since you’ll have to come up with a new story or theme for each segment of your webcomic, it means that you’ll always have something excitingly new to write and it means that your audience is less likely to get bored.
If the premise of your webcomic is “open” enough – then you can also include stories from several different genres within the same webcomic series too.
3) It’s traditional: Traditionally, this was what a lot of comics looked like. Whether it was weekly 1-2 page stories featuring the same characters in The Beano or totally new and self-contained 6-10 page stories in old American horror comics, this format goes back a long way.
Yes, the superhero genre – with it’s giant story arcs and confusingly dense mythology- may be the dominant type of print comics in popular culture these days but, before that, comics on both sides of the pond often tended to prefer shorter stories that sometimes featured a common cast of characters.
At the time, comics were a mass medium which was intended to entertain. Since the internet didn’t exist, the people making the comics couldn’t rely on their readers having found and read every previous comic in order to keep up with the story – so, shorter stories were preferred for the simple reason that they were more “accessible” to new and infrequent members of the audience.
So, if you want to give your webcomic a slightly “old-school print comic” atmosphere, then using this format can be a good way to do it.
4) It gives your comic structure: One of the problems with traditional long-running webcomics is the feeling that they’re never finished. If you’re making one, then it can be easy to feel like you’re that character from Greek mythology who is condemned to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. You’ll never really get the satisfaction of actually completing something.
However, if you make small groups of webcomic updates, then each one is a separate project with a beginning, middle and end. Once you’ve finished posting a short webcomic, you can copy all of the daily updates into a single post like this one and put it online for your audience’s convenience.
Even if you’re using the same characters in each of your small webcomics, then this still gives your comic series a sense of structure. It turns into something like a TV show, which has lots of different “episodes” or “seasons”. As well as allowing you to feel the satisfaction of making something like a TV show, it also means that it’s a lot easier for your audience to find and reference specific comics too – especially if you make an index page like this one that contains links to your comics.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂