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

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Well, since my “Damania Resized” webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do the usual thing of showing off the ‘work in progress’ line art from when I made it.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t really any major dialogue/art changes between the line art and the finished comics in this mini series. Plus, due to the larger comic size, the line art for this mini series looks a lot more detailed than usual.

Anyway, here’s the line art – you can click on each comic to see a larger version of it, since they’re probably too small to read here.

"Damania Resized - Nostalgia Cycle (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Nostalgia Cycle (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resized - Virtually Banned (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Virtually Banned (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resized - Cafe Writers (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Cafe Writers (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resized - Progressive (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Progressive (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resized - Fighting The Loudness War (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Fighting The Loudness War (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resized - Market (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resized – Market (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

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How I Wrote This Short Story (From Earlier This Year)

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Well, for today, I thought that I’d do something slightly different and talk about the “making of” a short story which appeared here earlier in the year. This is mostly because the creative processes that went into this story ended up being slightly different to what I had expected, and an explanation could possibly be interesting.

As a bit of background, this story was the third story in a series of stories that I’d been writing about the 1990s. Unlike the previous two short story series I’d written (eg: horror stories for Halloween 2016 and Sci-Fi stories for Christmas that year), coming up with story ideas about the 1990s was proving to be more challenging than I had expected.

So, when it came to writing the third story in the series, I had very few ideas. My first thought was to write a story about how horror fiction changed in the 1990s, which would have involved a journalist meeting a 1980s splatterpunk author in a pub and talking about how the genre had changed during the 1990s. I actually wrote part of this story. Here’s a “never seen before” extract from it:

As the piercing opening riff of Iron Maiden’s self-titled song sliced it’s way through the gloom of the pub, I spotted John Morte. He wasn’t easy to miss. It isn’t everyday that you get to interview a horror legend, let alone one who has set a shot of vodka on fire just to light his roll-up. It was good to see that he hadn’t lost his flair for the dramatic.

But, something just felt off about the story. Not only was the “John Morte” character a bit too much of a cliché, but there wasn’t really anything distinctly “90s” about the story. If anything, it seemed more like a story that was set in the 1980s than anything else. So, after a few paragraphs, I abandoned it.

But, I couldn’t think of any better ideas. So, I distracted myself with other things until I realised what had drawn me to the idea of writing about a horror author. I wanted to write about a larger-than-life “rockstar” character, but wasn’t sure how to do this. Much later, I was feeling tired and I still didn’t have a clue about what I’d write. Then I suddenly remembered watching a DVD of an old Bill Hicks show from the 1990s a few years ago.

Stand-up comedy, especially American stand-up comedy, was a big thing during the 1990s. This was the decade when stand-up comedy was the closest thing to being a rockstar that someone could be without learning an instrument. In retrospect, the idea seemed obvious, but I had to take a step back and wait for my mind to make the connections.

When I came up with this idea, I was elated. Since I could just write about a comedian performing, the whole story would be dialogue. It seemed like a quick and easy way to write a medium-high quality story. Of course, the reality was somewhat more difficult.

A few words into the opening sentence, I suddenly realised that I actually had to write a stand-up comedy routine. Not only that, I also had to write it in the style of an American comedian. But, despite this, the idea seemed too interesting to abandon, so I kept at it.

Although it might look easy, writing even vaguely passable stand-up comedy is anything but easy! I wrote and then deleted more jokes (or more versions of the same jokes) than I can remember. Not only did I have to come up with something that was funny and sounded vaguely “authentic”, but I also had another problem.

Most of the best American stand-up comics from the 1990s (eg: Bill Hicks, George Carlin etc..) were brilliantly outspoken. From what I gather, you didn’t go to one of their shows if you were narrow-minded or easily shocked. Many of their DVDs still have an “18” certificate over here. This blog, on the other hand, tends to be more “PG-13” (to use an American phrase).

So, I had to come up with comedic dialogue that was funny, sounded like it could have been said by a 1990s-era American comedian and which wasn’t too shocking. Whilst some elements of this were fairly easy, some were a bit more challenging.

The first thing to do was simply to use the word “fricking” for emphasis instead of the more obvious word choice. This also had the advantage of making the comedian sound more American, because this euphemism tends to be used a lot more in American TV shows etc…

But, for the most part, I had to carefully choose the content of the jokes. In other words, I had to look at the edgy, irreverent and outspoken attitudes of 1990s American stand-up comedians and apply these attitudes to slightly less controversial or risqué subject matter. In the end, I went for a joke about pop music and a joke about the tabloid press here in Britain.

The second joke was chosen because it was a subject that I could write about a lot. One of the funny things about American stand-up comedians from the 1990s is that they’d usually make amusing comments about Britain in recordings of their performances over here. Since I’m British, it wasn’t too hard to come up with some slightly more observational humour about this country.

Ideally, I thought that the story would be best with three jokes. But, when it came to thinking of the third joke, I found that I was extremely tired and uninspired. I’d spent longer writing a mere 500 words of comedic dialogue than I’d spent writing stories twice that length. So, after a lot of thought and a few failed attempts at writing a third joke, I bodged it.

Basically, instead of telling an actual joke – I just wrote a description of a few parts of the joke and left the rest to the imagination. Yes, this was ridiculously lazy, but – more importantly – it allowed me to actually finish the story without falling behind schedule. Never underestimate the importance of actually finishing a story.

Likewise, the final sentence “The curtain fell.” was originally going to be the beginning of a much longer description, but I cut it short for energy/enthusiasm reasons. I suppose it mirrors the abrupt ending of an actual comedy show or something.

So, that’s how I got over writer’s block and wrote a very short story that looked a lot easier to write than it actually was.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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 🙂

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