Three Lazy Ways To Include Fight Scenes In Your Webcomic (If You Don’t Usually Include Them)

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As regular readers probably know, I’m busy with making this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. As such, I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again. Today, I’ll be looking at lazy ways to include elements from the action genre in your (web)comics, if you haven’t had much practice at this.

Although action scenes in comics are designed to be read quickly, they are probably one of the most difficult things to draw well. After all, you’ve got to work out how to draw your characters standing in all sorts of dramatic-looking poses and you also have to clearly show a complex series of events using just a few panels.

Yes, technically, you should probably practice drawing anatomy. You should learn how to draw every type of perspective. You should probably carefully study lots of action scenes in other comics and learn techniques from them. But, you’re making a webcomic and you’re on a schedule. So, you could always, you know, cheat.

But, a word of warning, these “lazy” techniques will only work if you include action scenes infrequently in your comics. A small number of “lazy” action scenes, coupled with lots of funny dialogue, interesting artwork etc.. can be overlooked by readers. But, if you’re including lots of action in your comic, then you should probably study how to draw these scenes properly.

But, that said, here are some lazy ways to include action scenes in your comic:

1) Gunfights: If you are inexperienced with the action genre in comics, then you should probably try to stick to including gun-based combat in your comics if the story allows it.

Not only is it easier to learn how to draw someone holding or firing a gun (eg: a few poses, as opposed to the hundreds of possible poses needed to draw a realistic fist-fight, sword-fight etc..) but, due to the especially deadly nature of guns, it can mean that the fight scenes in your comics can plausibly be over within the space of a couple of panels at the most. In other words, there are fewer complicated combat-based panels to draw.

Of course, you shouldn’t include guns in comics where they would look somewhat out of context. So, this technique isn’t a cure-all for being inexperienced with drawing action scenes. But, if you have to include other weapons in your comic, then….

2) Posing: If you need a lazy way to give the impression that your comic contains lots of action, without actually including that much action, then one way to do this is to include as many (or more) scenes of characters holding or brandishing weapons than scenes where they actually use them. Just make sure that you only include this in contexts where your characters would realistically be expected to be brandishing weapons.

For example, my Halloween comic from last year is set during a zombie apocalypse (eg: a context where the characters should probably be armed) and it contains something like eleven or twelve panels where characters are holding or brandishing a variety of unusual weapons, but not using them. On the other hand, there are only something like five or six panels in the entire comic where the characters actually use those weapons.

In other words, although the characters are visibly armed for large parts of the comic, there are about twice as many panels showing the characters not using their weapons.

Doing this sort of thing gives the impression that the characters are in a dramatic and dangerous situation (why would they be armed if they weren’t?) whilst also allowing you to include a minimum of complex action scenes in your comic.

3) Implication: As ironic as it sounds, self-censorship can actually be your friend when it comes to drawing action scenes when you have little experience. Whilst a well-drawn action scene in a comic should show both an act of violence and it’s direct consequences (eg: someone swinging a punch and the punch connecting with whoever they are hitting), this requires a bit more planning and artistic knowledge to do well.

So, one lazy way to get around this is to use implication. For example, one panel of my upcoming Halloween comic shows the main characters being theatened. The next panel consists of nothing more than a melodramatic illustration of one of the main characters firing a machine gun (whilst saying a witty line of dialogue).

The “action” in the scene is conveyed entirely through “sound effects”, dialogue, dramatic lighting etc… But, it’s basically just a picture of the character standing still and firing a machine gun.

But, most critically, the panel after this one is just a dialogue-based panel. The “fight” is implied to be over through the more relaxed demeanour of the characters, and the more puzzling aspects of this scene (eg: where did the machine gun come from?) are addressed through dialogue.

Yes, it’s a lazy way to handle a scene like this but – because there won’t be that much violence in the comic (well, there will be more than usual, but less than in many more action-based comics) and because the comic is meant to be more of a comedy horror comic than a “serious” horror or thriller comic, then hopefully it won’t have too much of an adverse effect on the quality of the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Adding “Rest Pages” To Your Comic

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Well, since I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk briefly about something that can make longer comics projects slightly easier.

As regular readers probably know, I tend to have something of a short creative attention span. It is, for example, why I release my occasional webcomics in mini series of 6-17 daily comic updates (well, more like 6-12 updates these days).

So, making a full-colour A4-size Halloween comic that will be 12 pages in length (including the cover) is something of a stretch for me. But, as I’m learning, it’s certainly possible. So, I thought that I’d talk about one of the techniques that I’m using to reduce the amount of effort that this project requires, in case it’s useful to you.

This technique is simply to include the occasional low-effort page within my comic. If this is done well, then it can be barely noticeable to the audience, whilst still giving you a chance to rest slightly at the same time.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of page three of my Halloween comic (which I made the day before writing this article):

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 23rd October.

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 23rd October.

This is an example of a low-effort comic page. One of the first things that you might notice is that it only contains six panels (page one contains seven panels and page two contains eight).

Likewise, as I discussed in yesterday’s article, many of the backgrounds are simple interior locations that contain a minimum of detail. There’s just enough detail to make the backgrounds look like convincing locations but, the overall detail level is still fairly low.

In addition to this, the dramatic-looking lighting in the third panel helps to distract from the low levels of detail in most of the artwork. This is further disguised by the fact that the comic features multiple background locations, which adds some visual variety to the page without using too much effort in the process.

Finally, there’s also the fact that it is – for the most part – a “talking head” comic. This is a comic update where the characters just stand around and talk to each other. If this isn’t done right, then it can look lazy or boring. But, I’ve disguised it somewhat by adding a couple of simple action-based panels to the comic (eg: the two panels showing the television screen) and by showing a close-up of a video player in the third panel.

So, although it might not look like it at first glance, this page was a lazy “rest page” that I created in order to conserve effort for other parts of the comic. If you’re making a longer comic and you tend to have a fairly short creative attention span, then learning how to do this kind of thing can be extremely useful.

There are lots of other ways to do something like this, and I don’t currently have time to list them all here, but hopefully this article will have at least pointed you in the right direction.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Two Sneaky Tips For Making Longer Comics Look More Detailed

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As regular readers of this site probably know, I’m busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. So, I thought that I’d talk briefly about detail levels in webcomics today.

This was mostly because, when I tried to make the failed mini series that was posted here recently , I went for more of a ‘back to basics’ approach with the art. In other words, I tried to reduce the level of visual detail to the minimum that I could get away with. This was an interesting experiment, but it sucked some of the “life” out of my comics.

On the other hand, in the mini series that will appear here in early October, I did the exact opposite. I made larger comics that contained slightly more visual detail than many of the ‘detailed’ comics I’d posted earlier this year. This was a lot of fun, but it also meant that the comic-making process was a lot slower. Of course, whilst this was perfect for a short six-comic mini series, it wouldn’t be practical for the longer narrative comic I’d planned for Halloween. So, what did I do?

1) Mix high and low detail backgrounds: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book (I’ve mentioned it before, but recently learnt how to use it in a slightly better way) and it can be barely noticeable if done well.

For example, the pages of my upcoming Halloween comic contain a few detailed interior and exterior locations. But, these often appear for only one or two panels. Most of the time, the backgrounds are slightly less detailed – but this is disguised in a few clever ways.

For example, here’s a preview of one of the less detailed backgrounds in page one of my Halloween comic:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

If this had been a scene from my failed “back to basics” comic project, then I’d have just used a plain purple background. However, although most of the background is solid purple, I’ve also added the corner of an old computer monitor and an undetailed poster to it.

Although both of these small details were fairly quick to draw, they give the impression that the scene is taking place within an actual room. So, a couple of tiny and quick details can make an undetailed background look like a detailed one.

Another good trick to use is to draw a few detailed “establishing shots” of a new location and then to add less precision and less detail to most of the other drawings of this location. Since your audience will have seen the more detailed drawings first, they’re probably just going to “fill in the gaps” when they see the less detailed drawings of the same location a little while later.

2) Clever recycling: First of all, I’m not talking about directly re-using backgrounds. Although, if you’re making your comic entirely digitally (and are skilled with using layers), then you can obviously do this. But, I’ll be talking about something far more subtle and much less noticeable than that.

This technique works best if you also do regular art practice, have a good visual memory and/or have made lots of comics before. But, all you have to do is to use something that you are familiar with drawing for your background. Not only does this save you thinking/planning time, but it means that you’ll be able to add a lot of detail more quickly for the simple reason that you already know what to do.

For example, the first page of my upcoming Halloween comic features a detailed outdoor location. Since the comic’s location is loosely-based on Aberystwyth, I already had plenty of pre-made ideas for outdoor locations. On top of this, I’d previously made a sci-fi painting (which will be posted here on the 10th October) which was based on this old photo of Aberystwyth high street that I took in 2009.

One interesting feature of the photo was that the bank in the background had been undergoing renovations at the time and was covered in scaffolding. Likewise, the top of the building next to it looked a little bit like something from “Blade Runner“.

Needless to say, both things were a part of my sci-fi painting. But, since I’d already worked out how to draw them when making that painting, they were surprisingly quick to re-draw when I wanted to add a detailed outdoor location to my Halloween comic:

 Again, the full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

Again, the full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

This outdoor location isn’t exactly the same as either the photo or my sci-fi painting but, since I was drawing buildings that I’d practiced drawing recently, I was able to add a lot more detail to that panel a lot more quickly.

So, if you find some way to draw what you know, then it’ll be easier to add detailed backgrounds far more quickly.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Things To Do When You Abandon A Comic Plan

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The day before I wrote this article, I finished planning this year’s Halloween comic. The interesting thing was that it actually took me two attempts to plan out the whole thing.

My first Halloween comic plan seemed interesting, and it was vaguely based on an idea I’d had earlier last year (eg: a parody of “Silent Hill), but it went in more of a Bangsian fantasy direction, with all of the characters dying in hilariously weird ways within the first two pages, and spending the rest of the comic in the afterlife.

This seemed like a brilliant idea – since I could include gruesome slapstick comedy, cameos from historical figures (eg: Herod, Edgar Allen Poe etc.. ) and some gleefully irreverent jokes about heaven and hell. It was all going so well…

But, after planning about four pages, I realised that I’d have to abandon this plan. There was very little conflict or direction in the story and, worst of all, the whole “comedy horror story set in the afterlife” thing has been pretty much done to death (eg: “Beetlejuice” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” spring to mind for starters). So, I started planning another comic, which turned out slightly better.

But, how did I do this and what should you do when you abandon a comic plan?

1) Look for the best parts: One of the reasons why I was able to come up with another comic idea so quickly was because I looked over my abandoned plan and noticed that one scene in particular seemed especially amusing. Whilst the rest of the comic plan was filled with rather clichéd and predictable humour, one scene stood out:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This was the best part of the rough plan for my first Halloween comic idea.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This was the best part of the rough plan for my first Halloween comic idea.

Needless to say, the finished plan that I made later ended up revolving around the “video nasties” moral panic from the 1980s (well, sort of…). But, I’d have never come up with that idea if I hadn’t made a failed comic plan beforehand. So, failure isn’t an entirely bad thing.

Generally, if a failed comic plan lasts for more than a couple of pages or so, there’s usually the beginnings of a good idea hidden somewhere in there. After all, you wouldn’t have kept planning a comic for that long if there wasn’t something in there that appealed to you.

So, look over your failed comic plan and see if you can find the best parts of it. Then use those parts as the basis for a new and improved comic idea.

2) Take a break: Surprisingly, I spent about a day not planning comics between my first abandoned plan and my finished second plan. Although I hadn’t planned to do this, it probably improved the final comic plan.

One of the reasons why it’s a good idea to take a short break after abandoning a comic plan is that it prevents you falling into the trap of trying to repeat the same idea straight away. Giving yourself a bit of time to think about how and why the plan went wrong will allow you to come up with a different and better idea for a comic plan.

Likewise, if you try to start another comic plan immediately after abandoning a failed one, then there’s a good chance that you might not be in the right mood for it. Since you’ll probably feel disappointed about abandoning a plan that you’ve put time and effort into, you’re likely to be in a slightly dispirited and dejected mood. Needless to say, this kind of mood isn’t the best mood to be in when planning a comic.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Relaxation” Webcomic Mini Series

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Well, since my “Damania Relaxation” webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing of all of the ‘work in progress’ line art that I scanned whilst making it.

Unlike some of my previous mini series, there weren’t really that many (if any) significant dialogue or art changes between the line art and the finished comics. The most noticeable is probably the extra speech bubble that was added to the final panel of the third comic (but is missing in the line art).

Likewise, thanks to a foolish decision to go ‘back to basics’ with this mini series, the line art sometimes looks a lot more… spartan …than usual.

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

"Damania Relaxation - Peak Performance (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – Peak Performance (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relaxation - Timeline (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – Timeline (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relaxation - Word (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – Word (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relaxation - 1990s Survival Horror Games (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – 1990s Survival Horror Games (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relaxation - Reactions (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – Reactions (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Relaxation - Bloatware (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Relaxation – Bloatware (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

How Much Difference Does Digital Image Editing Make? – A Ramble

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[NOTE: I prepare these articles quite far in advance of publication. And, in the gap between writing this article and it appearing on this blog, I’ve learnt a few new image editing techniques (although they probably won’t appear here regularly until some of next year’s daily art posts). As such, I don’t really consider this article to be accurate any more. Still, I’ll include it for the sake of posterity.]

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Well, after reading about “remastered” albums online, I was curious if it was possible to do the same thing with art.

If, like me, you use a mixture of traditional and digital materials when making art – then it could theoretically be possible to go back, re-scan an old picture and then use all of the extra image editing knowledge that you’ve learnt since you first edited the original to make an improved “remastered” version of the original.

Since I’d just finished making a new webcomic mini series (that will appear here in October), I decided to try this with one of my old webcomic updates that was originally posted here in 2016 (but made in late 2015). Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, re-scan of the original comic.

This scan has been cropped, but there's no further editing. This is exactly as the comic update would have appeared before I edited it in late 2015.

This scan has been cropped, but there’s no further editing. This is exactly as the comic update would have appeared before I edited it in late 2015.

And here is what the comic update looked like after my original digital editing in late 2015:

"Damania Resurgence - Smart Phones" By C. A. Brown [Originally posted 12th April 2016, made in late 2015]

“Damania Resurgence – Smart Phones” By C. A. Brown [Originally posted 12th April 2016, made in late 2015]

The programs I used were MS Paint 5.1 and a late 1990s image editing program called “JASC Paint Shop Pro 6”. If I remember rightly, my original editing mostly consisted of replacing a line of dialogue in the final panel, altering the brightness/contrast levels (eg: lowering the brightness slightly and heavily increasing the contrast), maybe making a small “hue map” adjustment (I’d just discovered this technique back then) and making lots of small corrections using MS Paint.

So, with somewhere between one and two years more experience, I was curious to see whether I could create a better re-edited version of this comic update. After about 30-45 minutes of digital editing (using the same two programs I used in 2015), here’s the result:

Here's the new re-edited version of my old comic update.

Here’s the new re-edited version of my old comic update.

At first glance, the main changes are changes to the content. I’ve changed the colour of the old mobile phone (so it fits in with the colour scheme of the rest of the comic), I haven’t altered the dialogue from the original and I’ve altered the characters’ noses (and the width of their necks) to make them look more like my current style. I’ve also been a little bit more thorough with correcting small mistakes too.

However, most of the extra digital editing is the kind of subtle stuff that is only noticeable upon close inspection. For example, I’ve digitally added more realistic skin tones to both characters (by altering the RGB levels to +11% red/ -4% green/ -18% blue).

Likewise, I’ve darkened some of the backgrounds slightly to make them look more consistent. I’ve also made small changes to the colour saturation in the image too. I’ve also made the green areas of the image look slightly bolder and more consistent too.

Still, the two comics still look reasonably similar. Yes, the new one looks slightly better – but they both look somewhat “old”. After all, they’re both based on the same old comic from late 2015.

I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that you can only do so much with digital image editing. Yes, you can make your old art look slightly better by re-editing it. But, the best way to create an “improved” version of an old painting, comic update etc… is probably to re-draw or re-paint the whole thing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Random Sources Of Inspiration For (Self-Contained) Webcomic Updates

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Well, since I was busy making the final update for a webcomic mini series (that will appear here in October) at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about some of the ways that you can find ideas for self-contained webcomic updates.

Apologies in advance if I’ve mentioned any of this stuff before in previous articles. I was kind of in a rush when I wrote this one, so there’s a chance that I might end up repeating myself.

So, how can you find ideas for self-contained webcomic updates?

1) Procrastination: When you’re looking for webcomic ideas, random internet surfing, DVD watching etc… is more than just procrastination. It’s also research! No, I’m serious. You’d be surprised at how many interesting ideas you can find when supposedly “wasting time”.

For example, one morning, I made the otherwise foolish decision to read a few pages on TV Tropes. This is a fascinating website that can literally gobble hours of your time if you aren’t careful. Anyway, an article on that site led me to learn about something called the “Loudness War“. This is something that was a lot more prominent in the ’00s and it’s where record companies use all sorts of clever audio editing techniques to make CDs sound louder, even when played at low volumes.

It’s the reason why, for example, Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” album sounds about twice as furious and energetic than you might expect. It’s one possible reason why Iron Maiden’s albums from the early – late ’00s have a suitably epic sound to them that is instantly recognisable as “modern Iron Maiden”. It’s one reason why the Distillers’ “Coral Fang” album is so wonderfully, breathlessly intense. Plus, as a bonus, it also annoys pretentious people who care more about barely noticeable audio quality differences than about how good the actual music is too.

So, after forming my own opinion about it (namely that anyone who complains about audio quality in metal or punk music is missing the whole point of these two genres), it gave me the idea for the next webcomic update that I made. Here’s a preview of two panels from it:

 The full comic update will be posted here on the 8th October.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 8th October.

So, yes, one easy way to find webcomic ideas is simply to do a random internet search on somewhere like Wikipedia or TV Tropes and see if you can find an interesting subject that makes you think “I want to make a webcomic update about this!“.

2) Random situations: Another easy way to come up with webcomic ideas is just to show two or more of your characters doing something “ordinary”. Yes, this requires you to know your characters fairly well, but it can be a very easy way to find an idea for a comic. This is because you can show your characters’ reactions or interactions during everyday life.

For example, I had writer’s block whilst making the comic update that I was making at the time of writing this article. So, in the end, I just thought “what would happen if Harvey and Rox went into town on market day?“. Needless to say, the comic update pretty much planned itself after that.

Making these types of “everyday life” comic updates can also help you to learn more about your characters too. For example, although Harvey and Rox get along really well normally – lots of hilarious bickering and sarcasm occurs whenever they go shopping together.

3) An image: Another way to come up with an idea for a webcomic update is just to think of a suitably interesting image of one of your characters and work backwards from there. Yes, this technique doesn’t always work (so, do it during the planning stage rather than when actually making your comic!) but it can add some interesting artistic variety to your webcomic when it does work.

For example, I’d been going through a dystopian sci-fi phase before planning one of the updates in my upcoming mini series. So, I wanted to include some kind of dystopian sci-fi scene in one of my comics. I wanted to draw Derek as some kind of futuristic hyper-authoritarian “Judge Dredd”/”Robocop”-style character. The image was surprisingly vivid in my mind and I quickly sketched it.

So, from that, I had to work backwards and ask myself “how, in a mini series that is set in the present day, would Derek be in that situation?“. The answer was, of course, virtual reality. Once I’d found that idea, I was then able to come up with lots of other ideas for the comic too (eg: controversies about violent videogames etc…).

So, find a cool idea for a picture of one of your characters and then work backwards from that.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂