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 🙂

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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 🙂

Top Ten Articles – February 2019

Well, it’s the end of the month. So, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting links to my ten favourite articles about writing, making art, making comics etc… that I’ve posted here during the past month. Plus, a couple of honourable mentions too.

Although, due to the shortness of the month, being busy writing some of the short stories that appeared here last March (amongst other things) and the fact that reviews (11 book reviews and 2 “Doom II” WAD reviews) appeared here every other day, there weren’t quite as many traditional articles posted here this month. But, I quite like how many of them turned out 🙂

In terms of the book reviews – the best books I reviewed this month are probably: “Snow Crash” By Neal Stephenson,”Turtle Moon” by Alice Hoffman , “Empire Of Salt” by Weston Ochse, “Just One Damned Thing After Another” by Jodi Taylor and “Devil’s Coach-Horse” by Richard Lewis.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – February 2019:

– “Three Sneaky Tricks For Making Rushed Webcomic Updates Look Good
– “Two Quick Tips For Adding Symbolism To Realistic Photo-Based Art
– “Narrative Styles And Emotional Tone – A Ramble
– “Using Connections To Beat Writer’s Block- A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Finding Topics For Short Stories
– “Three Things To Do When You Can’t Write In Your Favourite Genres
– “Two Basic Tips For Making Drawings And/Or Paintings Based On Your Photos
– “Three Tips For Writing 1980s-Style Horror Fiction
– “Three Tips For Choosing Good Photos (That You’ve Taken) To Make Paintings Of
– “Three Random Tips For Writing Comedy Horror

Honourable Mentions:

– “Four Reasons Why 1970s/80s Horror Fiction Is So Cool
– “Three Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Film And TV

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 Making Webcomics When You’ve Got Less Time

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing this year’s Christmas webcomic mini series (which will start appearing here in about 4-5 days time). But, since I also seem to have got back into reading regularly and writing book reviews (and don’t want to fall out of the habit again), I’ve got slightly less time to make each webcomic update.

As such, I thought that I’d offer a few tips for making webcomic updates when you’ve got less time. Most of these are things that I’ve mentioned before, but they’re probably worth mentioning again.

1) Planning: As counter-intuitive as it might sound, setting some time aside beforehand to plan your next few webcomic updates will actually save you time in the long run.

Your plans don’t have to be ultra-complex. For example, here’s the plan for the first comic in my Christmas mini series. It was scribbled in a different notebook with a cheaper pen, and the art planning is kept to a bare minimum (because planning the dialogue and structure matters a lot more than planning the art):

This is the plan for the first comic update in my Christmas mini series. As you can see, the focus is on planning the dialogue and structure, rather than the art.

But, why does taking a bit of time to plan the next few comics save you time? Simple. When you get round to actually making the comic, you can just make the comic. Because you’ve planned everything out in advance, you won’t get slowed down by writer’s block when you’re actually making the comics.

2) Adjustments: Simply put, there are a lot of ways to save time that won’t affect the quality of your comic too much. For example, you can tweak the production or release schedule slightly (I mean, when I’m preparing comics, I usually prepare two per day. This time, I’m only making one per day).

Likewise, you can alter the length of each comic update slightly to save time (this is why, last year, I went back to making 4-5 panel comic updates after making 6-8 panel updates for a while). Plus, don’t feel too bad about adjusting your release schedule if you have to. As long as you are still following some kind of update schedule (and your audience know what it is), then your audience is likely to excuse any changes you have to make in order to keep making comics.

Or you can take the approach that I do, which is simply to release daily comics for a limited time (usually about 6-8 days per month, although this will probably drop to four days per month for future comics), and then do non-comic stuff (in my case, daily art – which is usually quicker/easier to make than comics are) during the rest of the time. This way, you get the advantage of a daily schedule, but it isn’t something that takes up a part of your day every day.

3) The art: I’ve said this many times before and it’s worth repeating again. The art is the least important part of a webcomic update. If you don’t believe me, then just look at a popular webcomic called “XKCD“, which uses stick figure art. This is a webcomic that is popular because of the writing and humour, rather than the art.

So, if you have to rush or downgrade any part of your webcomic in order to save time, then you should do this with the art. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the writing, characters, humour etc.. in your webcomic matter more than the art does. Not only that, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even a slightly “rushed” or “downgraded” version of your art will still look better than (or as good as) the art in your older comics because you’ve had more practice.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a panel from the first slightly “rushed” comic update for my upcoming Christmas mini series:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 19th December.

And here’s a “good” webcomic update that I made in 2015/16 (from this mini series) . As you can see, the modern “rushed” art compares fairly well to it:

“Damania Redux – Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, if you have to save time, then rush the art rather than the writing/planning. Likewise, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even your current rushed art will probably look better than your “good” older webcomic art. So, don’t feel too bad about it. The important thing is to actually make comic updates.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to compile my usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, making comics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this was a bit of a variable month in terms of articles. Not only were there more reviews than I had expected, but I had both highly-inspired days and uninspired days when writing the non-review articles. So, the quality of this month’s articles varied quite a bit. Hopefully, next month’s articles will be better 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – November 2018:

– “Want More Originality? Try Some Emotional Variation – A Ramble
– “What Can Games Teach Writers About Challenging Their Audience? – A Ramble
– “What An Old Novel Taught Me About Writing Thrilling Dialogue
– “What Tribute Bands Can Teach Us About Fan Art- A Ramble
– “Is There An Artistic Equivalent Of A “Live Version” Of A Song? – A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Remaking Your Old Webcomic Updates
– “Three Tips For Bringing Old Genres Up To Date
– “Three Random Tips For Modern 1970s-Style Storytelling
– “Four Tips For Getting Back Into Reading Regularly
– “The Library Of The Imagination – A Ramble

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why You Should Create Your Own Fictional Universe When Making Comics – A Ramble
– “How Subtle Should Dark Comedy Be? – A Ramble

Why You Should Create Your Own Fictional Universe When Making Comics – A Ramble

At the time of writing, I was busy preparing this month’s webcomic mini series. Although it’s a series of writer’s block-induced remakes of some of my older comic updates from 2012/13, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of schadenfreude when I read this online article (reader discretion advised) last year (and, yes, I write these articles quite far in advance).

In short, in late 2017 Marvel Comics announced a “create your own comic” tool that contains a surprisingly onerous list of content restrictions on what could and couldn’t be included in the superhero comics assembled from pre-made parts.

Even though I self-censor far too much when making webcomics these days (eg: even my upcoming mini series is probably “PG-13” at the most), I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking “how is anyone supposed to make an interesting comic with those rules?” But, although I’d planned to write an article about why comics need at least a little bit of rebelliousness, I thought that I’d look at the core issue here – creative control.

Because, the only reason why Marvel was able to get away with imposing ultra-strict comic censorship on aspiring superhero comic makers is because these officially-sanctioned fan comics use their characters and take place in their own fictional universe.

Although fictional universes of your own creation may not be as popular as the mainstream superhero-based comics that depressingly seem to be synonymous with “comics” these days, it does give you creative control and this is important for so many reasons.

Creating your own fictional universe means that you can make a comic that is uniquely yours. It means that you can include your own ideas and humour in the comics that you make. Even if the setting of your comic, like my webcomic, is loosely-based on the real world – it still means that you can include quirky “unrealistic” details from time to time. Like this:

“Damania Regression – Art House” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reconnected – Campfire” By C. A. Brown

What this means is that your comic will be something uniquely, refreshingly different. It also means that you have the freedom to tell the stories and jokes that you want to (within reason). Yes, your comic should still be consistent with itself and should follow some over-arching story rules. But, you get to write those rules.

A brilliant example of why creative control is important can be found in an utterly amazing webcomic called “Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree. The updates for this comic are often long, dialogue-heavy things. The backgrounds are crammed with quirky satirical details. The art style is totally unique. This is a comic that substitutes intelligent drama for mindless super-powered action. This is a comic that is both surprisingly realistic and imaginatively unrealistic. Now, could you imagine a comic like this being made in the old days of traditional print comics?

So, yes, even though you’ll have to do a lot of art practice and your comic might not be as famous as certain types of comics are, there is nothing more important than creating your own fictional universe. It gives you creative control, it allows you to make more unique comics and it reduces the amount of external censorship that you have to deal with.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂