Well, due to being extremely tired at the time, I ended up making a filler episode for a webcomic mini series that will appear here in late July. Since this mini series will have an over-arching plot, I thought that I’d look at making filler updates for story-based webcomics today.
Like all good filler episodes, the one I made hopefully won’t obviously look too much like a filler episode, but it allowed me to plan and make a comic episode with relatively little effort. Here’s a preview of one panel from it:
Anyway, how do you make interesting (and easy) filler updates for story-based webcomics?
1) Focus on the secondary cast: One of the easiest ways to make a filler comic is to focus on a background character (or background characters) who hasn’t had much “screen time” in your webcomic. Even if you use a fairly generic joke or if you just show the background characters discussing what the main characters are doing, then this can be a good way to make an interesting filler comic.
Why? Because these characters haven’t appeared too much in the rest of your webcomic, they’re probably slightly mysterious. So, even if they don’t actually do much in your filler comic, these characters will be interesting because your audience will probably want to learn more about them.
Likewise, even if you just show them discussing what your main characters have done earlier in the comic then this will add some depth to your comic by showing that the “world” of your comic is larger than just the characters who appear in most of your comic updates. Likewise, you can use these character discussions to either add some background details, move the story along slightly and/or foreshadow something that will happen later in the comic.
2) Recaps and flashbacks: Another sneaky way to make a quick filler comic to make a recap update. Not only will this help new readers to catch up on the story but, if you know a little bit about digital editing, you can also create one of these updates fairly quickly by directly copying important panels from your previous comics and collecting them together in a new comic update.
A good way to learn which types of panels you should include is to watch movie trailers and/or the short “previously on…” recaps that often appear before episodes of long-running American TV shows.
If you want some of the speed that making a recap update offers, but you still actually want to include some new stuff in your comic update too, then just include a flashback scene. This is where you show one of your characters remembering something from earlier in the comic. Like with a recap, you can just digitally copy the scene in question from one of your previous updates.
However, to make it obvious that it’s a flashback, it’s usually a good idea to use some kind of image effect on the copied panel. The classic way to do this is to digitally desaturate the panel until it looks like something from an old movie. But, you could also alter the hue of the panel too – for example, the flashback scene in my filler comic has a blue tint to it (which also went well with the colour scheme of the rest of the update).
3) Backgrounds: Another way to make your filler update quickly is to keep the backgrounds as simplistic as possible. So, set your filler update in part of your comic’s setting which is (relatively) quick and easy to draw.
For example, in the mini series I’m making at the moment, many of the comics are set in a rainy, neon-lit futuristic city. This usually involves time-consuming things like digitally adding rain to the comic in MS after scanning it etc… Sometimes, I can cut down on this by just showing the cityscape through a window in the background, but it still involves extra editing.
So, if you take another look at the preview at the beginning of this article, you’ll probably notice that whilst there’s still a window in the background, the blinds happen to be drawn. The rest of the background still looks a bit like the backgrounds in other comic updates from the mini series, so it’s still clear that it is taking place in the same city – even though it doesn’t actually include a detailed cityscape in the background.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂