Two Ways To Know Which Comic Update Ideas To Use

Well, I originally wrote this article a while after I’d finished preparing the final comic update in a webcomic mini series that I’ll be posting here in mid-late January. I’m mentioning this because it’s relevant to the topic of this article, namely knowing which comic ideas to use.

Although it’s common to feel uninspired when making a webcomic, sometimes you can find yourself having the opposite problem – you’ve got too many ideas. Normally, this isn’t a problem (in fact, it’s a good thing). But, it can cause problems if you limit yourself to a certain number of comic updates and/or if the many ideas you’ve got aren’t that good.

I mostly had the latter problem with the final update of this mini series. Although I’d vaguely planned the whole thing, when it came to making the final update, I realised that my original plan for it wasn’t very good. It was more of a placeholder plan, a plan that was there if I couldn’t come up with a better idea by the time that I’d made the first five comic updates. And on the night before I made the final comic, I realised that I couldn’t come up with a better idea.

So, what did I do? Well, here are two of the things I considered when making my decision about the comic:

1) Themes: One of the best ways to come up with comic ideas is to have a common theme that you can use for a group of comics. If your comics revolve around a particular theme, then at least you’ve got something to start with when it comes to thinking of comic ideas.

Although I don’t always remember to come up with a theme, this upcoming mini series had the theme of “introspection and philosophy”. As soon as I remembered this, I realised why both my placeholder idea and another idea I’d come up with wouldn’t work.

They were basically political cartoons. The rest of the mini series had been fairly apolitical, so the ideas weren’t a good fit. Yes, it was easy to make cynical comics about politics and, yes, I had two pre-made ideas. But, this wasn’t what this mini series was about. So, even though I was still feeling uninspired, I realised that I had to find a new idea. And it had to be about “introspection and philosophy”.

Yes, it took me a while to find a good enough comic idea, but remembering the theme of the comic that I was making helped me to focus on making a better comic that actually fit in with the rest of the comics that I was making.

So, if you’re unsure of which comic idea to use, then look at the general themes etc.. of your webcomic and go with the idea that fits into those things the most.

2) Fun: This one is fairly self-explanatory. Go with the comic idea that seems like it will be the most fun to make. Generally, this will make you feel more motivated and will probably result in a better comic update.

For example, one of the things that I’d focused on with this upcoming mini series was paying more attention to the artwork. Since I had a bit more time to make comics, I wanted them to look good. I wanted to be able to do something a bit more creative with the art.

So, I knew that whatever idea I used had to be one that allowed me to show off artistically- because it’s fun to do this. And, as you can see from this preview, the art is a little bit more sophisticated than usual:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 25th January.

So, ask yourself “which part of my webcomic do I enjoy the most? Art? Writing? Humour? Characterisation?”. When you’ve got your answer, go with the idea that allows you to do that the most.

——————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Two Random Tips That Might Help You Plan Your Webcomic

2017-artwork-two-things-that-can-help-webcomic-planning

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy preparing this year’s Christmas webcomic mini series. But, unlike one or two of my previous mini series, I actually planned this one a day or two before I started making it. This has made the whole process of making the webcomic run a lot more smoothly, as well as increasing the quality of the writing too(compared to slightly more unplanned mini series, like one that will appear here at the end of the month).

But, surprisingly, the planning process for this webcomic went surprisingly quickly. I literally planned the entire thing out within less than an hour (not only that, I was also fairly tired at the time).

Although I won’t be talking about the practical details of planning a webcomic here (since it’s different for everyone – I like making ultra-rough sketches of the comics, but some people prefer to do things like writing scripts etc..) I’ll be talking briefly about two things that can help the planning process go more smoothly:

1) Music: Unless you need absolute silence in order to think creatively, a good choice of background music is essential when you are planning a comic. Whilst only you know how your imagination works, it’s usually a good idea to go for music that sums up the theme and/or the emotional tone of your comic.

For example, when planning my Christmas mini series, I listened to “Anxiety” by Bad Religion on repeat. This is an ultra-fast, ultra-cynical punk song from the late 1980s, and it might not seem like a “Christmas song” at first. But, since my Christmas comics tend to take a more cynical view of the holiday and since Christmas also tends to fill me with retro nostalgia (usually for the 1990s, but occasionally for things made in the 1980s), this song seemed to encapsulate both things perfectly. Like in this preview of a panel from the upcoming mini series:

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

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

So, choosing music that sums up the emotional tone of your comic is probably more important than music that just fits into the theme of your comic. But, music that fits into the theme of your comic can still be useful when you need to get into the mood for planning a comic.

2) Have a vague idea (before you plan): I know that this might sound obvious but, comic planning tends to go best when you already have a vague idea of what sort of comics you want to make. Many of the times that I’ve gone into making a webcomic mini series without sufficient planning have been when I’ve thought “I should really make some comics, since I haven’t made any in a while. But, about what? Meh. I’ll make it up as I go along.”

Most of the times when I’ve planned a comic properly have been when I’ve at least had some vague idea that I could start with, such as “I want to make cynical comics about Christmas again, like last year“, “I want to make a cyberpunk comic“, “I want to make a comic that’s like something from ‘Sherlock Holmes’ or ‘Poirot’ “, “I want to make another cyberpunk comic“, “I want to make super-detailed large comics“, or ” I want to make yet another cyberpunk comic” etc..

So, although planning will help you to work out the details of your webcomic updates, make sure that you have a vague idea of the general concept of your comic before you start planning. If nothing else, having a basic idea to expand from gives you the confidence to get on with planning straight away (rather than just sitting in front of a blank notebook page uncertainly).

——

Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚

Two Things To Do When You Abandon A Comic Plan

2017-artwork-what-to-do-when-comic-plans-fail

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 clichΓ©d 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.

————

Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚

One Unexpected Benefit Of Not Planning A Webcomic Properly

2017 Artwork Fringe benefits of not planning webcomics

First of all, I should probably point out that it’s always a good idea to plan your webcomics properly before you make them. Proper planning allows you to refine your ideas, to test out parts of the comic that you aren’t sure about, to work out how long your comics will be and to avoid experiencing writer’s block halfway through making your comic.

However, despite the basic wisdom of all of this, I actually ended up making a webcomic series that I didn’t plan fully (I probably only planned 50-60% of it). And, despite some problems, it turned out surprisingly well. Even though it won’t appear here until mid-May, it ended up being fairly different from my usual webcomics as a result of this decision.

One of the most significant differences was that I started using more creative panel layouts and slightly more inventive artwork that I usually do. Whilst most of my webcomic updates have precisely four panels, some of the updates in this mini series ended up having between five and seven panels. Here’s a reduced size preview:

The full-size version of this comic update will appear here on the 14th May.

The full-size version of this comic update will appear here on the 14th May.

The delays caused by having to make things up as I went along meant that there was more incentive for me to cram as much into as small a number of comics as possible, before my enthusiasm for the comic ran out. This resulted in all sorts of interesting new panel arrangements, as I tried to squash what is basically a 10-12 comic mini series into just eight comics.

Likewise, since I was having to find ways to tell one and a half times the story in the same amount of space, this also often resulted in me including more detail and/or action in the artwork – since I had less space for dialogue in each panel of most of the comics.

Although this meant that the average time it took me to make and edit each individual comic update was somewhat longer (close to three hours!), it gives many of the comics more of a “cinematic”/”traditional comic” kind of look to them.

Of course, there were a lot of downsides to not fully planning the mini series – I was racked by indecision about how to end the mini series (and only came up with a way to finish the series an hour or two before I started making the final three comics), I often had to do more post-production dialogue editing than usual, I wasn’t able to include literally everything I wanted to in the time I’d set aside to make the mini series etc….

But, I think that the thing that allowed me to actually finish this mini series was the fact that I’d had so much experience with planning and making other comics. This was one of those mini series that I finished despite a relative lack of planning, not because of it. I’d learnt how to get around writer’s block, I’d learnt how to arrange comic panels, I knew my limits for how long I could work on a mini series for (and was able to adjust the length accordingly) etc… and I had to put that knowledge to full use.

When I made a lot more comics back in 2012/2013, I virtually never planned these comics and this would often result in similar problems to the ones I’ve mentioned – but the overall result would often be a lot worse, for the simple reason that I had less experience. I’d spend longer frozen by writer’s block, I’d make parts of the comics needlessly convoluted, I even had to leave comics unfinished on one or two occasions etc…

So, if you’re experienced, then only partially planning your comics can help you to think on your feet and to try things that you don’t usually do in your comic. But, it’s kind of like increasing the difficulty settings on a computer game – it’s a fun challenge if you know what you’re doing, but it’s likely to end in failure if you don’t.

——-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Simple Ways To Improve A Comic/ Webcomic Plan

2017 Artwork Improving Comic Plans Article Sketch

Although this isn’t an article about how to plan comics or webcomics, I thought that I’d talk briefly about what to do after you’ve made your initial plan.

The thing to remember here is that comic plans aren’t set in stone, they’re supposed to be an easy way to try out ideas and as a way to avoid the problem of feeling uninspired halfway through making a comic. They’re a guideline, rather than an order.

As such, here are three very simple things that you can do to improve your comic plans:

1) See what can be condensed and/or added: During the rough planning stage, it can be very easy to make your comic plans slightly bloated.

So, looking over your plans before you make the comic is a perfect opportunity to see if any of the dialogue can be trimmed or if any panels can be merged. Since this will probably free up some extra space, you might also think of some extra stuff that you can add to your comic.

For example, whilst making a short webcomic mini series that will appear here at the beginning of May, I had space to add some extra humour to one of my comic updates because I condensed two panels into one – like this:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is an example of how I condensed two panels of my plans for an upcoming comic into a single panel.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is an example of how I condensed two panels of my plans for an upcoming comic into a single panel.

2) Caption panels: If your planned comic update is just a “talking head” comic (where two characters stand next to each other and talk for the entire comic), then it’s worth seeing if you can replace any of the dialogue panels in your plan with a caption panel.

A caption panel is a panel where one of the characters’ dialogue is placed in a caption, whilst the illustration below is of whatever they are talking about. Although it won’t work in literally every comic, it’s a classic way to break up the monotony of a “talking head” comic. An example can be seen in the second panel of this comic:

"Damania Revived - Memento" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revived – Memento” By C. A. Brown

3) Give it time: Often, the best way to improve a plan is simply to leave it for a while and then return to it again before you make your comic.

If you start making your comic within a couple of hours of making your plan, then it probably won’t be any better than your plan was. In other words, plan out your comic updates a day or two before you actually make them.

If you allow yourself some thinking time (a day or two is best) between finishing your plan and starting your comic, then you’ll often come up with better ways of making your planned comics, alternative ideas for jokes etc…. for the simple reason that you’ve had more time to think about your comic.

————-

Sorry for the ridiculously short article, but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚

Should You Plan More Webcomics Than You Actually Make?

2017 Artwork should you plan more comic updates than you make

One of the interesting things that I noticed when I was making a webcomic mini series that will appear here in mid-late March was the fact that I’d planned several more webcomics than I actually made.

Before I go any further, I should probably warn you that this article may contain some SPOILERS for that series.

In many cases, this was because I wasn’t satisfied with a planned webcomic update and decided to try planning a new one. This, incidentally, is one of the major advantage of planning a comic before you make it – since you can see whether or not a comic works before you actually start putting lots of effort into making it. Even so, this will probably lead to you abandoning the occasional planned comic.

But, in one case, I actually had to cut a comic from the series (thankfully, when it was still in the planning stage) for the simple reason that I’d miscounted – and the series would be longer than I’d expected it to be if I included this comic. Here’s the plan of the cut comic:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] I was able to merge a few elements from this rough plan into another comic, but this comic itself never ended up getting made.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] I was able to merge a few elements from this rough plan into another comic, but this comic itself never ended up getting made.

Since I was making this upcoming mini series during a heatwave last year, I knew that I couldn’t spend too long on it. Although the weather had been fairly good when I started the mini series, the temperatures quickly soared and I suddenly realised that – if I stood a chance of finishing this mini series whilst I had any enthusiasm/energy left- I’d have to be very strict about it’s length.

So, when I discovered that my plans were longer than I thought, I was able to cut this comic without too much trouble. So, planning more comics than you actually make means that you have a lot more room to shorten (or possibly even expand) your webcomic depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Another advantage of planning more comics than you make is that it can help with writer’s block too. If you plan lots of comics when you’re inspired, then you can always either use some of your old plans (if you can’t think of any better ones), or – even if your unused plans are unfinished – you can plunder them for any jokes, story elements etc.. that you can use as the basis for a new comic.

Finally, one cool thing about having unused comic plans is that you’ll get to learn a lot more about your comic than you actually show anyone. By filling in some background details, it’ll help you to feel more immersed in the comic that you’re making. As long as the story in your comic doesn’t rely on something that your audience won’t see (because it’s in an unused plan), then this can actually improve your comic.

Plus, of course, you can also intrigue your audience by giving them a glimpse at some of the parts that never made it into your final comic, like I did earlier in this article.

————–

Sorry for the short article (I also prepared it during said heatwave last summer), but I hope it was useful πŸ™‚

Three Tips For Fine Tuning A Comic Idea

2017 Artwork fine tuning webcomic ideas

Although this is an article about how to improve your own ideas for webcomics, narrative comics etc… I’m going to start by talking about my own webcomics for a couple of paragraphs. Feel free to skip these paragraphs if you aren’t interested.

Even though it won’t appear here for a little over a month, I’m currently making yet another webcomic mini series. The interesting thing was that this upcoming mini series was originally planned to be part of the connected groups of time travel-themed webcomic updates that will finish appearing here in early-mid March. But, I just couldn’t quite get the idea to work back then.

It was only after some careful thought, a few changes and a bit of time that I was finally able to turn this old idea into it’s own distinctive, stand-alone mini series. And, thanks to the changes I made, it will be significantly sillier (and hopefully funnier) than it would have been if I’d gone with my original idea. So, yes, taking the time to fine-tune your comic ideas can pay dividends.

But, how do you do this? Here are a few basic tips:

1) Get to know what works and what doesn’t: It takes a bit of experience to be able to instantly tell whether a comic idea really has potential, or whether it needs major changes. But, it’s totally worth going through several successful and failed comics projects, just so that you have an instinct for what will and won’t work.

If you don’t have the time or energy to gain this experience, then ignore the feeling of “oh wow! I’m going to start a new comic!” and ask yourself honestly about how you might feel about working on this comic project several days or weeks later.

If you start to get the feeling that it may become more difficult or that the novelty value/excitement might wear off, then this is usually a good sign that you need to make changes.

Just remember that fine-tuning is something that is best done before you start actually making your comic.

2) Find the broken parts: Generally, when a comic idea needs fine-tuning, it’s because part of the premise isn’t working properly. Usually, there’s something that really inspires you – but also something else that is holding your comic back. The trick is learning how to separate the two things.

So, strip your comic idea down to the basic thing that inspired you. If you don’t know what this is, just ask yourself “If I had to sum up what excites me about this idea in one or two words, what would those words be?

Once you’ve found the parts that work, then throw away the parts that don’t and see if you can find a replacement that makes you feel even more inspired. Yes, your comic will end up being slightly different as a result – but it’ll still be true to the thing that originally inspired you.

3) Give it time. Good ideas will always come back to you: Sometimes, finding replacements for the malfunctioning parts of your comic idea doesn’t happen instantly. I mean, with the comic that I’ll be posting in mid-late March, I actually abandoned the original idea at the time. I hadn’t planned on returning to it.

But, then, a few days later, I suddenly discovered a better idea for this project that I thought I wouldn’t make. It happened suddenly and I’m genuinely surprised that I didn’t think of this idea earlier. But, more importantly, it happened on it’s own without any real conscious effort on my part.

Generally, if a comic idea has a lot of potential, but you can’t get it to work. Then leave it. Let your subconscious mind work on it in the background, until an improved version of the idea suddenly appears to you. Good comic ideas are like boomerangs – you can throw one away, but it will always find it’s way back to you.

So, if you’re getting really frustrated by a comic idea that almost works, then abandon it. If it’s really that good, an improved version of it will find it’s way back to you after a while.

————–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚