Three Quick Tips For Making Webcomics In Adverse Conditions

At the time of preparing this article, I was busy making a webcomic mini series that will appear here in mid-late April. Despite the fact that there had been a heatwave for several days beforehand, and I’d been having a rather uninspired month, I was determined that there would be comics posted here in April. Here’s a panel from one of the upcoming comics:

The full finished comic update will be posted here on the 20th April.

So, how do you make webcomics in adverse conditions? Here are a few quick tips:

1) Downsize: Simply put, make smaller webcomics and/or fewer webcomics. For example, despite switching to 6-8 panel A4-size rectangular comics for most of the comic updates that have been posted here since last autumn, I decided to go back to my old four-panel square comic format for this mini series.

Although the comic updates are a bit smaller, shaving a couple of panels off of each comic update was a way to ensure that I actually made some comics. Best of all, since each update was smaller, this increased my feelings of confidence about actually being able to complete the project.

So, if the weather conditions etc… mean that it’s harder to work up the motivation to make webcomics, then don’t be afraid to downsize your comic a bit. Remember, a shorter comic update that is actually finished and posted online is a billion times better than a longer update that isn’t finished or posted online.

2) Shortcuts: When faced with adverse conditions, don’t be afraid to use every kind of sneaky shortcut that you can think of in order to actually get your comics finished.

For example, the preview I showed you earlier actually involved a lot more digital image editing than usual. What this meant was that the actual painting time for the comic update was a lot shorter and more manageable.

Here’s what a panel from the comic update looks like without any digital editing. As you can see, it looks a lot more “unfinished” than my comic updates usually do once I’ve finished the painting stage (but haven’t started the digital editing stage)….

Yes, this is what a panel from the comic looked like after I’d finished painting. This time, I decided to finish the comic update on the computer for time/effort reasons.

Since the image editing program I uses has a fairly decent “fill” tool, I could just fill in all of these areas digitally after scanning the comic update (and making all of my usual adjustments to the brightness,contrast, hue and saturation levels). Yes, this means that the physical copy of the comic update looks unfinished – but it also means that I actually had a finished comic update!

3) Inspirations: A couple of days ago, I talked about animated sitcoms. Surprisingly, these were also a key part of why I eventually worked up the motivation to actually start making a webcomic mini series for next month (despite the hot weather, the lack of enthusiasm etc…).

In essence, animated sitcoms were one of the many things that originally got me interested in the idea of making comics. So, watching some of them again reminded me of just how awesome cartoons can be. It reminded me of why cartoons are one of my favourite storytelling mediums. Likewise, it reminded me of how awesome it is that a few drawings can quite literally elicit laughter from the audience.

So, yes, if you are faced with adverse conditions, then go back to one or more of the things that originally got you interested in webcomics. With any luck, these things will remind you why you make webcomics and give you the motivation to make some more 🙂

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Short Story: “Blank” By C.A.Brown

Note: This will be the last short story in the series. Stay tuned for a series retrospective tomorrow evening 🙂

The snow outside the window looked as pristine as the computer screen sitting in front of Phoebe. She let out a deep sigh and reached for the crumpled tube of biscuits on the edge of the desk. There were only three left. No, forget that, there were only two left.

Phoebe sighed again. She had to write something. Her publisher had said as much in their e-mail. But, putting words on the screen seemed almost as sacrilegious as leaving a trail of dark footsteps across the perfectly iced ground outside the window.

A smile crossed her face. Hadn’t there been an art gallery somewhere that had shown off canvases that were just covered with white paint? Hadn’t people paid millions for them?

Phoebe remembered a comedy book that one of her uncles had bought during the 1990s. It had been titled “Everything Politicians Know About Real People” and it consisted of two hundred empty pages.

For a second, she wondered whether she could get away with changing the title and adding a few extra pages. But, she remembered that her uncle’s old book had already been re-badged as a four hundred page tome called “Good Pop Music 2010-18: A Definitive Guide” that she’d seen on the internet a few nights ago.

Phoebe opened up her document folder and looked at the titles of her previous books. “Beneath Dark Spires”,”Post-Mortem” and “Spectral Signs“‘. She ate another biscuit. Why was this kind of horror fiction so popular these days? She ate the final biscuit. When did horror become so… sophisticated?

Of course, she knew that horror fiction had always been like this. Whether it was that copy of “Dracula” she’d never got round to finishing, or those hilariously formal Dennis Wheatley books that she’d found in a charity shop when she was a teenager, the natural state of horror fiction was one of sophistication. The horror fiction that she really loved had been an anomaly, a mutation, an aberration.

There wasn’t much history to go on, of course. But, when she was growing up, she would always see these books on market stalls, in charity shops and in the kind of second-hand bookshops where you can still smell the dust. They would have midnight black covers with wonderfully realistic paintings of skeletons, zombies and creatures. They read like music. Great crashing crescendos of blood and guts, counterpointed with gentle bucolic descriptions and functional dialogue between functional characters.

It took Phoebe a surprisingly long time to work out that if lots of these crumpled, dog-eared paperbacks were being sold second-hand, they must have been new once. Sure enough, on the internet, she had seen mention of a “horror boom” during the 1980s and 1990s. Apparently, lots of shiny new copies of these books used to festoon newsagents, motorway service station book racks and other quality literary venues.

It just wasn’t fair, dammit! By the time Phoebe had read enough of these books to want to write a horror novel of her own, the only new horror novels were sophisticated ghost stories, clinical police procedurals, gothic vampire stories and Stephen King. Lots of Stephen King. Well, at least some things remained the same.

So, with a heavy heart, she had written a tragic vampiric tale of lost love and eternal mourning. Then she’d written a clinical police procedural. Then a sophisticated ghost story. Everyone loved them. She’d even got good reviews from the critics in the broadsheet papers. She still felt guilty about that. Good horror, she thought, should disgust and appall pompous critics.

And now, with the three popular commercial genres used up, she found herself staring at a blank computer screen. Her eyes drifted to the perfect snow outside once again.

Then, without even thinking about it, her fingers flew across the keyboard “Crimson splashed the unholy altar. Gary’s agonised screams tore the sepulchral air. Above the splashing and screaming, the robed men kept chanting. Like an amateur production of Julius Caesar, they raised their dripping daggers in unison..

She stopped. She blinked. It was the best thing she’d written in three years. She kept writing. A smile crossed her face. She finished the prologue in less than an hour. Her computer pinged at her. Another e-mail from her publisher. With a heavy sigh, she started the first chapter: “In the pristine laboratory at New Scotland Yard, D.I. Stevenson carefully examined the body for forensic evidence..

Today’s Art (24th March 2018)

Well, after finishing this art-intensive webcomic mini series, I worried that I’d feel somewhat uninspired when I returned to making daily paintings. And, although the background of this digitally edited painting ended up being simpler and different to my original idea, I still quite like how it turned out.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Pool Hall” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Wordless Comics” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, as usual, I thought that I’d provide the “work in progress” line art for my latest webcomic mini series. This one was a bit different to most of my comics, since I decided to try making a series with new characters that didn’t include any dialogue.

This series was surprisingly art-intensive, although the line art for it isn’t technically wordless (since I left notes on the line art for myself about what to do when finishing the comics).

Two major differences between the line art and the finished comics are that the line art for the first comic is missing two panels (since I was able to repurpose the first two panels using image editing software to save time). In the first comic, the “daydream” panel also has more background detail in the line art too.

Likewise, the “right-wing monster” in the second panel of the second comic has a rather evil-looking toothbrush moustache in the line art than he doesn’t have in the final comic (I altered this in the final comic because I thought that it was too obvious and/or too cynical). Likewise, the line art also contains a lot of extra background detail in two panels that I removed in the final comic (to give it more of a “horror movie” type atmosphere). There are probably at least a few other small changes that I can’t remember too.

You can click on each piece of line art in order to see a larger version of it.

“Wordless Comics – Red Dress (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – Look Both Ways (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – L’Enfer C’est Les Autres (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – The Whole Town To Myself (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – Just Add Imagination (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

All Five ‘Episodes’ Of The “Wordless Comics” Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown :)

Well, in case you missed any of it, I thought that I’d collect all five of my recent “Wordless Comics” in one easy-to-read post. These comics are somewhat different to most of my occasional webcomics though.

After the previous webcomic mini series, I found that I was running low on enthusiasm for webcomics and – not wanting to take a 1-2 month webcomic hiatus – I decided to try something a bit different.

Originally, I’d planned to make a series of comics inspired by Winston Rowntree’s excellent “Subnormality” webcomic but, when planning these, they either ended up being third-rate imitations of “Subnormality” or they ended up being basically the same as my ‘uninspired’ comic updates from February, but with different characters. So, remembering that Subnormality’s tagline is ‘Comix with too many words‘, I decided to do the absolute opposite.

Like with the “Wordless novels” of the early 20th century, there are no words in these comics. Surprisingly, this was actually quite liberating and I found that I was even making “serious” comics for the first time in ages. These comic updates contain more artistic detail and self-expression than I’d even dreamed of. However, the level of artistic detail is why there are only five comics in this mini series.

As fun as these comics were to make, most of them took at least twice as long to make as an “ordinary” comic update usually does. Still, as intense as they were to make, they were a lot of fun too 🙂

As usual, all five comic updates are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. Likewise, you can see a larger version of each comic by clicking on it.

“Wordless Comics – Red Dress” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – Look Both Ways” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – L’enfer C’est Les Autres” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – The Whole Town To Myself” By C. A. Brown

“Wordless Comics – Just Add Imagination” By C. A. Brown

Short Story: “Snow Beast” By C. A. Brown

Beneath the thick snow, the creature moved silently. If anyone looked closely at the heavy mounds and snow drifts, they wouldn’t have noticed so much as a flake moving. After all, this ancient beast had millennia upon millennia of practice at creeping beneath the snow.

Above it, the snow beast could feel crunching footsteps from the surface creatures. The movements were fast, the pressure heavy. It wasn’t as bad as the giant beasts that the creature remembered encountering as a hatchling.

It had only seen these once, when it had strayed from the burrows. A pair of vicious teeth had cut through the snow like silver things cut through snow melt. Taking a deep gulp of air, the snow beast had risen from the deep snow and taken a look.

A giant, two-legged feathered creature had towered high above the snow beast. For some reason, the thing that the snow beast remembered the most were the arms. Compared to the giant tail and the huge snapping jaws, the arms were tiny.

Then, there had been a sound like death and something dived from the thin snow high above. It was another creature. The head looked like an elongated bone and the arms were like nothing the snow beast had seen before. Wide things dangled from them.

The snow beast dived. The snow beast stayed below the surface. The snow beast felt scared. It didn’t like this feeling. It got good at staying below the surface.

When the snow beast returned to it’s burrow, it did not tell the other snow beasts of the things that it saw. After all, the elder snow beasts had probably seen such things before. It was, the snow beast now understood, why they kept pulling him away from the top of the deep snow.

Then, after some time, the other snow beasts left. At first, the snow beast noticed that one of them had been gone hunting for longer than usual. Then another one left, then another, then another. Not wishing to be the last one left, the snow beast had gone out hunting. The snow beast had decided that it would be a long hunt. Maybe the other snow beasts had the same idea. After all, hunger roiled in the snow beast’s belly.

The snow beast found food, then more food, then even more food. When the snow beast decided to return to the burrow, it could not remember which direction it was in. So, the snow beast had followed the collapsing trails that it had left. As it traversed the maze, it found more food. It slept sometimes.

Then, after lots of food and sleep, the snow beast found the burrow again. It was completely empty. There were no other tunnels leading away from it. The snow beast pounded the rocks below, but no echoes replied. The snow beast slept. The snow beast felt hungry. The snow beast left again.

Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. The snow beast noticed that these things happened more quickly, like the food was easier to spot and the sleep didn’t last as long. It also realised that it knew exactly how far away from the surface to stay. The snow beast wondered if it had become like one of the elders.

After more sleeping and eating, the snow beast felt another two-legged beast above it. This one was lighter and smaller. As time went on, the snow beast realised that there were lots of these beasts. Perhaps they were the young of the giant feathered beast with the tiny arms. The snow beast stayed deep below the surface.

But, then, the snow beast couldn’t find food. The snow beast felt tired. It had even begun to forget what other snow beasts looked like. So, against all of it’s instincts, it had decided to rise to the surface once again when it heard one of the small two-legged creatures. It was so hungry that it had started to wonder what it must be like to be food.

When the deep snow parted, the snow beast stared out into the thin snow. The two-legged creature had long arms and small teeth. It looked at the snow beast and it didn’t swoop or bite, it ran. The snow beast burrowed and followed the noises. A smile crossed it’s slavering jaws. For the first time in many sleeps, something was scared of it.

Today’s Art (23rd March 2018)

Here’s the fifth, and final, comic in my “Wordless Comics” webcomic mini series. Don’t worry if you missed any of it, I’ll post a full retrospective on here later tonight 🙂

Although this mini series ended up being slightly shorter than I expected (mostly due to the higher level of artistic detail and the time required for the production of each comic), it was certainly a lot of fun to make and has resulted in some of the best comics I’ve made in a while.

Anyway, this comic is loosely based on my experience of how reading/watching certain things can temporarily change the way you think about the world. Kind of like how a really cool gothic novel can make visiting a slightly “alternative” nightclub seem ten times cooler, or how watching an especially good cyberpunk film can change how you view a city at night. Of course, with things like conservative newspapers, the effects can be…. less pleasant.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Wordless Comics – Just Add Imagination” By C. A. Brown