One Way To Improve The Filler Comics In Your Webcomic

Well, I thought that I’d talk quickly about filler comics today. This is mostly because, due to being busy with various things, this month’s webcomic mini series will very much fall into the category of “filler comics”.

In other words, like last August’s mini series, they will be single-panel monochrome comics. Here’s a preview of part of one of the upcoming filler comics:

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

Anyway, one way to improve any filler comics that you make is to turn them into a running joke and/or a semi-regular feature. Not only does this make coming up with ideas for filler comics considerably easier, but it also adds another “tradition” for long-term fans of your comics too.

For example, as I mentioned earlier, the mini series I’ll be posting here later this month uses a fairly similar minimalist art style to one that I posted last August. Not only are these comics quicker to plan and make, but the stylistic similarities with last August’s comics are very deliberate. By making the new mini series a “sequel” to the older filler comics, I’m able to provide a fun call-back for long-term fans of the series too. It’s also a way of poking fun at the concept of sequels too.

So, turning filler comics into a regular feature can be a way to add something extra to them. But, of course, you can be a lot more creative than this.

For example, a more creative way to come up with semi-regular filler comics would be to make short parody comics and/or parody illustrations of other things (eg: historical paintings, pop culture etc..) featuring the characters from your webcomic. Not only would these be quicker to plan and make make than larger multi-panel comics, they would also provide an extra source of humour for your audience whilst also making them wonder what you are going to parody next.

Although this isn’t something that I haven’t really done that much, it was something that I experimented with back in 2013, when I made a group of comics in the style of old syndicated newspaper comics (like “Garfield”, “Dilbert” etc..) which allowed me to parody this format of comics.

These old comics were also something of a precursor to the single-panel monochrome filler comics I’ve made in more recent years too. Here’s an example of one of the comics from 2013:

“Damania Lite – Novelty” By C. A. Brown [2013]

So, yes, if you want to make your filler comics more interesting, then don’t be afraid to turn them into a running joke or a semi-regular feature. Not only does this allow you to re-use ideas that you’ve already had (giving you more time to focus on art/writing), but it also adds a little bit of a “tradition” to your webcomic too.

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

The Complete “Damania Retracted” – All Four ‘Episodes’ Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

Well, in case you missed any of it, here are all four comics from my “Damania Retracted” webcomic mini series in one easy to read post. You can also find lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page.

And, yes, due to being somewhat busy when I was preparing these comics, this mini series ended up being a bit rushed and I didn’t really have that much planning time. This probably explains why some of the comics are “topical” comics based on stuff that happened last year (eg: Eurovision 2018 and this thing).

Likewise, due to scheduling reasons, the “making of” line art post for this mini series probably won’t appear here until the 25th April (rather than the 24th).


Note: The first comic update in this mini series (“Eurovision 2018”) is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence. However, the other three comics (“Pretty Tedious”, “Internet” and “Shibboleth”) ARE released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Damania Retracted – Eurovision 2018” By C. A. Brown [Note: this comic update is not released under any kind of Creative Commons licence].

“Damania Retracted – Pretty Tedious” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retracted – Internet” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retracted – Shibboleth” By C. A. Brown

Three Random Tips For Creating Satirical Comics

Well, I thought that I’d talk briefly about the subject of satirical comics today, since they can be a bit of a challenge to make if you haven’t had that much practice making them. So, here are a few very basic tips:

1) Emotional distance and introspection: If something annoys you enough to make you want to make a satirical comic, it can be easy to let your emotions take control and produce a rather imprecise, angry, badly-written or impulsive piece of satire. Needless to say, this isn’t a good idea.

To make your satirical comics really work, you have to take a step back and work out exactly what annoyed you and, more importantly, why. Once you’ve worked out why something annoyed you, then take that reason and apply it to a sillier situation and/or take it to an amusingly absurd logical extreme. This is how good satire is made.

2) Err on the side of comedy: Yes, satire doesn’t always have to be funny to be effective. But, if (like me) you’re relatively new to making satirical comics, then it is always best to err on the side of comedy whenever possible. Simply put, if you can make yourself laugh, then you’ll probably be able to make other people laugh. And, well, comedic satire is usually more well-received than serious satire.

Plus, pushing yourself into including comedy in your satirical comic means that you can avoid the risk of turning your comic into an earnest political tract that will make people roll their eyes or just stop reading out of frustration. If you can make your audience laugh, then they’re less likely to ignore or furiously disagree with your comic.

The best satire often isn’t earnest and preachy. It deflates pompousness, ideological rigidity, self-righteousness etc.. When satire is at it’s best, it is irreverent, subversive and merciless. The key word here is “irreverent”. So, it’s often a good idea to include some comedy in your satire.

3) Look at satire: Simply put, one of the best ways to learn how to make good satirical comics is to look at examples of them. See what techniques they use and see what does and doesn’t work. So, be sure to look at newspaper cartoons, webcomics etc..

Likewise, make sure that you look at satire in other mediums too. Watch stand-up comedy videos, animated sitcoms and Youtube videos. Read satirical fiction. Look at parodies (eg: since the best parodies will often include satirical elements too).

In short, just like learning how to do anything creative, look at how other people do it and see if you can draw any general principles and lessons from this. Look at what successful things have in common with each other, and learn from this.

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

The Complete “Damania Reconstituted” – All Four “Episodes” Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

Well, in case you missed any of it, here are all four comics from my “Damania Reconstituted” webcomic mini series in one easy-to-read post 🙂 You can also find lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page too.

Although I’d originally just planned to post a single-panel comic titled “Wot? No comics?” this month because of worries about time (and, yes, ironically, realistic landscape paintings are quicker/easier to make than comics), I was determined that there would be a mini series posted here this month.

However, it ended up being another four-comic mini series – although it turned out better than the previous one 🙂 Seriously, the second comic in this current mini series still makes me laugh.

Plus, in a moment of either genius and/or pure laziness, I also worked out how to add photographic backgrounds to two of the comics in this mini series – which speeded up the comic-making process slightly (and provided some relief from the monotony of plain red and purple backgrounds too LOL!).

Anyway, here are the comics 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

You can click on each comic to see a larger version of it. All four comic updates are also released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Damania Reconstituted – 2017” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reconstituted – Woods” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reconstituted – Replay” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reconstituted – Seaside” By C. A. Brown

Three Sneaky Tricks For Making Rushed Webcomic Updates Look Good

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy making this month’s webcomic mini series. But, since I’m busy with other stuff too, I haven’t got quite as much time for it as I had last year (so, it’ll be another four-comic mini series).

But, so far, it seems to be turning out better than the four-comic mini series I posted in January. So, I thought that I’d offer a few sneaky tips for making rushed webcomic updates look good.

And, yes, one of the classic rules of webcomics is that the writing is more important than the art. Still, if you want to improve the art without too much of a time cost, then these tips might come in handy.

1) Digital backgrounds: Although this can look terrible if not done correctly (and I’ll explain one possible way to reduce visual consistency problems a bit later), one way to make a good-looking webcomic update relatively quickly is to use a digital background.

If you’ve got any spare digital photos of scenery etc.. that you’ve taken (and own the copyright to), then this is the time to put them to good use. It’ll allow you to make comic updates that look like this panel from one of my upcoming comics:

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

Although the specifics of how to do this will vary depending on the image editing program that you are using, it basically just involves drawing the characters (and writing the dialogue) and then copying them onto the background image. Most image editing programs include a “copy” function and, if you mess around with the options a bit, you’ll probably be able to get your art to copy properly.

However, as I hinted at earlier, the contrast between cartoonish art and realistic photography can look a little bit jarring. So, it’s usually a good idea to choose photos that don’t contain people (since your cartoon characters will look even more cartoonish in contrast to them).

Basically, the more “generic” your digital photo looks, the less obvious the contrast between cartoons and photos will be. So, go for natural scenes, generic buildings etc.. And try to avoid using photos that include people, posters etc..

2) Vary the backgrounds: I’ve mentioned this technique before, but it is worth mentioning again. Basically, one of the quickest and easiest types of comic updates to make are “talking head” comics where two characters stand next to each other and talk. However, these can be quite boring to look at. So, how can you make them more visually interesting?

Simply put, vary the backgrounds. One classic technique is to include a detailed background and/or detailed artwork in one panel, whilst keeping the other panels relatively undetailed. This makes the detailed panel the focal point of the comic whilst also meaning that you only have to make one detailed panel (which saves time). It looks a little bit like this:

“Damania Reduced – Book” By C. A. Brown

Notice how the third panel of this comic contains dramatic, detailed art with more realistic shading etc… Whereas the other three panels feature two characters standing in front of a plain purple background. Yet, the three boring panels are slightly less noticeable because the detailed panel is more attention-grabbing.

Another way to disguise talking head comics is to either use “close up” pictures of one of the characters during some of the panels and/or to use a solid black background in panels that contain dramatic dialogue.

For example, the angry dialogue in the third panel of this comic update uses this technique to break up the monotony of the red backgrounds in the first and fourth panels.:

“Damania Reduced – Trance Metal” By C. A. Brown

3) Expressions: This is a little bit of a sneaky one, but one way that you can add some more drama and visual interest to a rushed comic update is simply to focus on your character’s facial expressions.

Showing your characters’ reactions to things might not look like an obvious improvement at first glance, but it can really help to add extra humour and/or drama to your comic, which can distract your readers from the more rushed elements of your art.

Not to mention that if you’re in such a rush that you have to re-use the same art for several panels (this, in itself, is another good technique for making good-looking comics quickly. If you can re-use one good piece of art four times or whatever, then your comic will look better), then using digital tools to change your characters’ expressions in each re-used panel can be a good way to make the recycling very slightly less obvious too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Building A “Buffer” Of Stories, Comics, Articles etc.. To Post Online (If You’ve Already Started Posting Stuff)

When I went through a phase of writing daily short stories last February-March, I foolishly didn’t bother to prepare a “buffer” of stories in advance. What this meant was that I’d have to write and post each story on the same day.

Needless to say, this was ridiculously stressful – especially when I got writer’s block a few times (which led to me churning out stories like this one), with my daily deadline looming just a few hours away.

For a while I felt overwhelmed, until I remembered that I’d been in exactly the same position with these daily blog articles back in 2013 when I’d just started this blog. Of course, these days, I’ve got a large “buffer” of articles prepared in advance (that I add to each day). Or, to put it another way, why do you think that I’m talking about last February-March instead of anything more recent?

And, remembering this, I was able to use a few tricks to create a little 2-3 day buffer for my short stories, which expanded to about 4-5 days during the later parts of the daily story series. But, how do you create a buffer if you’ve already started posting stuff online regularly?

1) Filler: One of the easiest ways to create a stress-reducing “buffer” of stuff to post online is simply to make the occasional filler article, comic etc.. whilst keeping up your usual schedule. This way, you can make two things in one day (eg: one piece of normal content and one piece of quick filler content) and then post them over two days – adding an extra day to your buffer.

But, how do you make filler content? One of the most subtle and unobtrusive ways to do this is simply to collect links to the stuff you’ve already posted and present them in a single online post, as either a handy guide or a retrospective or something like that. You can even turn this into a monthly or weekly feature (like with the “Top Ten Articles” posts at the end of every month on here, monthly “line art” posts like this one, or monthly round-ups of short stories like this one).

But, of course, you can just make something shorter and simpler, with a quick explanation for your audience attached to it. The trick here is to create something that quickly fills up a day’s worth of updates, whilst also allowing you time to make another piece of content on the same day.

2) Inspired days: This trick isn’t worth relying on, but it can come in handy. As the title implies, this just involves waiting (whilst still making stuff every day) for a day when you both have the time and the inspiration to make more than one thing, and then just making as much as possible on that day.

Once you’ve done this, you can spread what you’ve made out over several days’ worth of updates, allowing you to increase the size of your “buffer” slightly.

As I said before, this trick isn’t exactly the most reliable one in the world. But, when the time and conditions are right for it, then it can allow you to easily gain 1-2 days on whatever you are currently posting online.

3) Take a break: If worse comes to worse and you feel totally overwhelmed, then take a break from posting stuff online for a while, whilst still making stuff (at a slightly slower pace).

When you return to posting stuff, you’ll have all of the stuff you made more slowly during your break, which will give you a bit of a “buffer” that you can add to at a slightly less frantic pace in future.

Just be sure to post a quick explanation of what you are doing on your site, with perhaps a few occasional previews of what you’re making – so that your audience know that you haven’t abandoned your project.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

When Should You “Write From Experience”? – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d quickly look at the topic of writing from experience today. This is mostly because I’ve noticed it happening a few times, such as in a couple of the short stories that I posted here last February or in the second comic from the webcomic mini series that I’m making at the moment:

This is a preview. The full comic update will be posted here tomorrow.

So, does this mean that I agree with the idea that writers should “write from experience“?

Yes and no.

In short, experience can be a good source of emergency inspiration and/or a starting point if you’ve got no other ideas, and it can also occasionally come in handy for thinking of small “realistic” details too. But, experience isn’t the be all and end all of creativity. Even if you’ve got the experience, you still need imagination. After all, fiction and autobiography are very different things.

So, even if you use your experience as a starting point, then you’re still going to have to come up with a way to turn it into something different and imaginative. You’re still going to have to find a way to make it more interesting than real life. You’re still going to have to think of fictional characters, intriguing background details, a plot etc.. So, experience is a good starting point, but it isn’t essential.

Likewise, many genres of fiction usually involve things that people can’t experience in real life. Whether it’s science fiction, vampire stories, medieval fantasy or whatever, it is the impossibility of these stories that makes them so interesting. So, the people writing these stories can’t be writing from direct experience.

I think that a better way of looking at this subject is to think about writing what you are knowledgeable about, rather than what you have directly experienced.

For example, this short story of mine wasn’t written from direct experience – because I’ve never explored an abandoned shopping centre. But, I’ve been to a few non-abandoned ones (including when MVC shops still existed), I was fascinated by horror movies when I was younger and I’ve watched lots of fascinating Youtube videos filmed by people who have visited abandoned shopping centres. So, I know a bit about the topic. This then allowed me to come up with an interesting fictional story.

Likewise, this short story about a person who develops a psychic connection to the internet wasn’t based on direct experience. The initial inspiration for this story was having a dream which involved a situation where the internet wasn’t working (which, in that situation, saved the day) and then, upon waking, noticing that the internet was playing up. This bizarre coincidence made me think “what would happen if someone could sense whether the internet was working?“. After that, I relied on both my imagination and my knowledge of the internet to come up with a satirical sci-fi/magic realist story.

So, you’re probably seeing a theme here. Experience and/or knowledge can be useful starting points. But, you still need to use your imagination to tell a story that is more interesting than real life.

In other words, if you write about what you know, then you’re going to feel more inspired. You’re going to be more confident. Your story or comic will probably sound more realistic too. But, imagination matters more than all of this. Knowledge and experience are two tools that your imagination can use. They aren’t a replacement for your imagination.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂