Ok, before I list the advantages of detailed art in webcomics, I’ll start by briefly mentioning the disadvantages that I’ve found with using mildly more detailed art in my occasional webcomics.
Most of these disadvantages involve the extra planning, drawing, painting and/or editing time that goes into making more detailed webcomics. This can lead to shorter webcomics and/or it can lead to more infrequent webcomics. For example, the webcomic mini series which is appearing here at the end of the month will only be six daily updates long (rather than the usual 8-12).
Likewise, there will probably only be one mini series posted here in July (and, even then, it’ll appear later in the month). Here’s a preview of the first two panels of episode one:
Ok, that’s the disadvantages out of the way. So, let’s talk about the advantages:
1) They have instant appeal: The night before I wrote this article, I discovered a new webcomic by accident after an update from it grabbed my attention during an image search for pictures of Linux in the 1990s. It was an absolutely hilarious webcomic called “The Joy Of Tech” and it has been running for over a decade and a half, so it had a huge archive.
One of the things that really surprised me about this webcomic was the fact that even the older updates use a realistic, but cartoonish, art style and that the later comics almost look like they were rotoscoped from photographs. Since it’s a satirical webcomic, this added degree of realism makes all of the caricatures about twice as funny (seriously, the comics about Mark Zuckerberg are just too funny!).
Likewise, one of the things that makes my favourite webcomic – “Subnormality” – so fascinating is the sheer amount of stuff hidden in the background. Although the art in it is more stylised than the art in “The Joy Of Tech”, it’s the kind of comic which makes you look closely at almost every panel.
2) It shows the value of practice: If you look at any webcomic with hyper-detailed art, it can be easy to think that the artist has been gifted with some kind of special talent that you could never even hope to replicate. Chances are, they haven’t. They’ve just practiced a lot.
If you look back through the archives of many webcomics, you’ll find that the earlier updates often feature significantly less detailed or realistic art. In other words, the artist gradually got better at making art through regular practice. Yes, improvements can be slow – but they will happen if you practice regularly.
To show you what I mean, here’s an update from my long-running occasional webcomic series from 2012 (eg: before I even started this blog):
And here’s a comic from the same occasional series that appeared here a few days ago:
I didn’t instantly jump from one to the other in real life, there were something like 4-5 years of daily art practice (but not exclusively comic practice – in,fact, most of my practice included “ordinary” drawings and paintings) between these comics. And there’s probably still a lot of room for improvement. But, you’ll never improve if you don’t practice – and comparing the old and new art in “detailed” webcomics can be a good way to remind yourself of this.
3) It can cover up obscure humour and/or weak writing: In the “Joy Of Tech” webcomic I’ve mentioned earlier, there were some updates that I either didn’t find funny or just didn’t understand. Yet, I was more than willing to overlook this and keep reading. Why? Because the art looks awesome.
I mean, I’m not a fan of Apple computers and I don’t know where Cupertino is, but I was still absolutely awestruck by this comic because of the accurate re-creation of the Tyrell Building office from “Blade Runner” in the first panel. Some of the satire went over my head, but the art still made the comic worth reading.
Yes, the writing is the most important part of any webcomic – it’s why XKCD is so popular, despite featuring extremely minimalist artwork. But, highly detailed art can serve as a very good “backup” for the occasions when the writing fails to interest or amuse the audience.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂