Three Ways To Make Your Webcomic Binge-Readable

Well, although I’m not currently making a webcomic (at the time of writing), I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again. This is mostly because I had a rather interesting lazy Sunday afternoon that made me think about webcomics again.

Basically, due to feeling slightly drowsy after over-eating at lunch, I was in a somewhat lazy and unenthusiastic mood. Suddenly, I really felt like binge-reading a webcomic.
So, naturally, this made me think about how to make webcomics more binge-readable.

Most of the best webcomics often lend themselves well to binge-reading and it’s usually a sign of a good webcomic if you end up spending an hour or more enthusiastically binge-reading it after discovering it, or if you return to it occasionally to binge-read it. So, how can you make your webcomic binge-readable?

1) Make it easy to find and read: Many binge-readable webcomics tend to have their own dedicated website, which will often prominently display the latest comic on the front page, with an easily-accessible archive page and both “previous” and “next” buttons that allow the user to skip between comics quickly.

But, if you only make occasional comics (like I do) and don’t know how to set up a website like that, then there are other things that you can do to make your webcomics easier to find and read. The easiest thing to do is simply to create a page on your site that contains links to all or most of your comics (and/or information about upcoming comics).

If you use a site like DeviantArt to publish your webcomics, then create a dedicated gallery folder for your webcomic. Copy the address of this folder and add it to the description of any webcomic updates you post, so that readers can easily look at more comics if they happen to stumble across one that they like. Just remember to add each new comic update to the folder when you submit it to the site though!

Likewise, if you publish your webcomic updates in groups of daily updates, then create a compilation page (like this one) after you’ve posted each group of comics. Not only does this help readers to look at the comics in the right order (which is especially important in narrative-based comics), but it also means that it’s easier for long-time readers to catch up if they miss several comics. Likewise, adding links to previous comics in the group to the accompanying text of each new comic can also be a good idea too.

Plus, although this isn’t something that I do with my own comics, one good way to make your webcomics binge-readable is simply to include your site address at the bottom of each update (in addition to signing it with your initials). This is so that if anyone happens to discover one of your comics somewhere else on the internet, they know where to look if they want to read more.

2) Self-contained comics: Although I experimented with narrative-based comics (like this one or this one) for large parts of last year, I’ve moved back to mostly making self-contained comics.

This is, amongst other reasons, because self-contained comics tend to lend themselves to binge-reading a lot better. When someone discovers a new webcomic, this will probably happen because they happen to see one interesting-looking or well-written comic update and want to see more. However, and this is the important part, you have no control over which comic update that they will see first.

So, if all or most of your comic updates are self-contained things that can be enjoyed on their own, then this means that your readers will be interested in seeing more. They won’t be confused by reading the middle part of a longer story and – more importantly – they won’t feel like they have to read the whole thing from the beginning.

Yes, if they like your comic, they’re probably going to spend hours reading it anyway. But, self-contained comics give them the feeling that they have more control over the amount of time they spend reading your comics (compared to, say, having to read a longer continuous story). Ironically, this often means that they’ll probably spend more time reading your webcomic.

3) Quality: Simply put, the most important factor in whether a new reader will binge-read your webcomic or not is whether your comic is any good or not. If a webcomic is good enough, then nothing else matters. If a comic is good enough, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to access or even whether it follows the traditional “rules” of webcomics, readers will enthusiastically scour the internet for more comic updates because they want to read more.

Of course, quality is something that you can only learn through experience and practice. Remember, no-one starts out making even vaguely good comics. But, you will improve if you keep practicing and try to put out comics on at least a semi-regular basis.

If you only make comics occasionally, then try to keep up some other kind of regular comic-related practice (for example, I do daily art practice when I’m not making comics). For example, here’s one of the really early comics from my occasional long-running webcomic series. This was made in 2012, less than a year after I started practicing art on a daily basis:

“Damania – Freeview” By C.A.Brown [20th October 2012]

And here’s a comic update from one of my favourite mini series from last year. As you can see, the difference in art quality is immediately noticeable. Even though my comic-making practice was somewhat sporadic, my daily art practice has at least helped the comic to look better:

“Damania Resized – Virtually Banned” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, the best way to make your webcomic binge-readable is to practice (in some way) as often as you can and to try to make good comics. Yes, this takes time and effort. It isn’t an instant way to make your comic more binge-readable. But, over time, it can work wonders!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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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.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Webcomics And Complexity – A Ramble

Well, since I was still busy preparing a webcomic mini series for mid-late January, I thought that I’d ramble briefly about webcomics again. In particular, I’ll be looking at complexity levels in webcomics today.

I can’t remember where I read this, but I remember reading that one reason why political arguments happen all of the time on Twitter is because people are (or were) restricted to using 140 characters for each post. With such a small space to express an opinion, simplistic, sweeping statements tend to be preferred. Because there’s less room for nuance and complexity, arguments tend to happen more often. This, of course, made me think about dialogue in webcomics.

One of the most challenging things to learn about making webcomics, especially if you come from any kind of writing background, is the dialogue.

With a few exceptions (and, yes, I’m going to mention Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” yet again because it regularly breaks this rule and it still “works”), webcomic dialogue has to be short and concise. In many ways, it’s a lot more like the dialogue in a film than in a novel.

As such, there isn’t always room for too much complexity. Sometimes, especially with shorter webcomics, this isn’t too much of an issue. After all, if your comic just tells one joke within the space of three or four panels, then it doesn’t always need that much complexity. You just need to set up the joke and then deliver a punchline.

But, of course, if you want to do more than just tell jokes, then you have to think carefully about complexity. Since, although complex dialogue is difficult to do well in webcomics, there are plenty of other ways to add more complexity to your comic.

The first one of these is to use more visual complexity. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. So, one way to compensate for the lower levels of complexity in webcomic dialogue is to rely more on visual storytelling. For example, here’s a panel from the webcomic mini series I’m making at the moment:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 24th January.

Although this panel contains a slightly dense block of narration above it, I’ve tried to cram the events of an entire dream into just one panel. As such, the panel is a strange montage-like thing that is “unrealistic”, but which gives a general impression of what the character is talking about (eg: games consoles, cool people, highly-graded essays etc..). But, in addition to this, I’ve also clearly separated the foreground and background by using different colours, to add an extra layer of depth to the picture.

So, yes, one way to compensate for the lack of written complexity in webcomics is to use slightly more complex art sometimes.

The other main way to add more complexity to your comic is to increase the length of it. You can do this by including a continuous storyline in your comics (like I did with this comic, then this comic, then this comic), but one problem with this approach is that it can confuse new readers who discover your comic halfway through a story arc. Likewise, continuous storylines require a lot more planning – lest they turn into endless, rambling things that end up exhausting you.

Another simpler way to increase the length of your comic is to keep making self-contained comics, but to make each comic a couple of panels longer. This is something that I ended up doing earlier this year, when I switched to making A4-sized comics. Of course, since your comic is longer, each update will take longer to plan and produce. So, your update schedule might have to be reduced. But, it’s a simple way to add a bit more complexity to your comics.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two More Ways To Disguise “Talking Head” Webcomic Updates

Although I’ve written about this before, I thought that I’d return very briefly to the subject of making “talking head” webcomic updates more interesting since I’m busy preparing a webcomic mini series (for mid-late January) with lots of these updates at the time of writing (although it features the characters who appear in most of my webcomics, it’s an introspection-themed mini series, so there’s more dialogue).

If you don’t know what a “talking head” webcomic update is, it’s pretty much what the name suggests. It’s a dialogue-heavy comic that mostly consists of two characters standing next to each other and talking.

Although these types of comic updates can be quicker and easier to make (especially if you are inexperienced with webcomics), they can be boring to read. Whilst they’re pretty much mandatory for more dialogue-heavy (and space-limited) comics, too many of them can get monotonous fairly quickly.

So, here are a two more ways to disguise “talking head” comics.

1) Other locations: Since I’ve had a bit more time to focus on the art in my upcoming mini series, one of the decisions I made between planning the mini series and making it was to avoid using stock locations as much as possible.

Stock locations are common locations within your comic that often contain very little background details (eg: they can just include a solid-colour background or even a plain background). They’re quick and easy to draw, but they’re boring.

So, in my upcoming dialogue-heavy mini series, some of the comics now take place in locations such as streets, nightclubs, bookshops etc.. rather than just in the same boring old flat that appears quite often in more rushed comic updates.

Introducing new locations and spending a bit more time on the background details can be a subtle way to distract the audience from the fact that your comic update mostly consists of two people just standing around and talking. So, if you’ve got a bit of a chance to focus on the art, then set your “talking head” comic somewhere slightly different to the usual locations in your webcomic.

2) Emotions and expressions: This is a fairly obvious one, but if you’re inexperienced at making webcomics, it can be easy to forget to include expressions.

But, depending on how realistic your art style is, adding expressions can be a relatively quick and easy way to liven up a “talking head” webcomic.

Using either realistic or exaggerated facial expressions during your comic’s dialogue adds a sense of drama to the conversation and helps to distract the audience from the fact that they’re just looking at two people standing next to each other and talking.

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

Three Things To Do When You See A Better Webcomic (Than Yours)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about something that happens to everyone who makes webcomics (even occasionally) – what to do when you see a better webcomic than your own webcomics.

This is mostly because I noticed that in both of the previous two articles, I’ve referenced my favourite webcomic (“Subnormality” By Winston Rowntree). And re-reading this amazing, mind-blowingly brilliant webcomic made me think about what you should do if you see a webcomic that is better than your own webcomics.

1) See it as encouragement: If you see a webcomic that is considerably better than the ones you make at the moment, don’t get jealous and – whatever you do – don’t feel discouraged! Yes, this is much easier said than done, but it’s something that is worth doing.

Why? Because when you don’t feel those emotions, you tend to feel much better ones. You tend to feel a sense of amazement at the comic you’re reading and a sense that, one day, you might make something just as good as it. Instead of feeling defeated, you’ll feel motivated to make better webcomics.

But, how do you do this? Simple. Just remember that no-one started out making good webcomics. Even the best webcomics in the world started out as badly-drawn and badly-written things that embarrassed the people who made them. Even the best webcomic creators started out feeling like they weren’t good at it. And they weren’t. They just got better with practice.

The important word here is “practice”. Not “inspiration”, not “talent”, but boring old practice. For example, although I only make webcomics occasionally these days, I still keep up regular art practice when I’m not making comics. Although I’m neither the best nor the worst at making webcomics, here’s a chart that can show you how 5-6 years of regular art practice can improve a webcomic:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Fun fact: If I keep practicing, then the second panel in this example will eventually end up being a “before” example in one of these “before and after” charts.

So, when you see a webcomic that is better than yours, see it as something to aim towards. Something that you will achieve IF YOU KEEP PRACTICING. I cannot emphasise that part enough!

2) Remember that everyone thinks this: I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s something of a rule that no matter how good or bad you are, there will always be someone better than you and someone worse than you. In the grand scheme of things, everyone is somewhere in the middle.

Yes, even your favourite webcomic makers probably feel like they “aren’t as good as [insert other artist here]“. And they probably aren’t. But, this doesn’t stop them from making webcomics. So, why should something similar stop you?

We’re all somewhere in the middle and this is cool. It means that you already have something in common with your favourite webcomic makers and it also means that even your “crappy” comic update is someone else’s idea of a “great” comic update.

3) Take inspiration, but don’t try to be someone else: If you see a really cool webcomic, it can be tempting to try to make a webcomic that is exactly like that one. Don’t.

It’s perfectly good to take inspiration, but you need to add your own stuff to it too. I mean, if you try to copy one webcomic too much then you’re just going to end up making a second-rate imitation of that comic. To use a musical metaphor – you’ll be a tribute act, rather than an “actual” band.

So, see exactly what makes your favourite webcomics so good and then try to put your own spin on it. For example, the webcomic mini series I’ll be posting here in January was probably partially inspired by Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality”. But, instead of trying to make a “subnormality” comic, I just took the theme of ‘introspective comics’ and put my own spin on it.

And I ended up with better comics as a result! By borrowing a general idea or premise and then doing your own thing with it, you’ll come up with comics that stand out as uniquely yours. After all, the comics that inspired you probably weren’t just derivative knock-offs of other comics. So, why should yours be?

And, for heaven’s sake, find other influences too! If you’re only inspired by other webcomics, then your webcomics will just look like generic webcomics. If you really want to make your webcomic into something distinctive, then take inspiration from things that aren’t other webcomics too! Originality comes from having a suitably unique mixture of influences.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

You Can Still Do Artistic Stuff In Webcomics – A Ramble

At the time of writing, I’m busy making a webcomic mini series that will be posted here in mid-late January. One of the things that has really surprised me with this mini series is how much more artistic it is than some of my other webcomic mini series (particularly those which have been more rushed and/or less inspired).

Usually, when you are making a webcomic, the emphasis is on finishing the comic on schedule. As such, the art in webcomics often tends to be slightly simpler than the art in a painting or drawing. After all, the most important part of a webcomic is the dialogue (and, by extension, the writing and/or humour). If the dialogue works well, then the art can consist of nothing more than stick figures and the comic will still be enjoyable.

I mean, traditional syndicated newspaper cartoons are a great example of how dialogue usually takes priority over art. Because these cartoons are made and published on a daily basis, the art often tends to be fairly minimalist and the background detail can be almost nonexistent. Yet, they’re still widely enjoyed by many.

But, if you have the time and the energy, then it’s worth doing some artistic experimentation in your webcomics. For example, in my upcoming mini series, I’ve started doing slightly more complex things with the colour scheme (such as subtly using a red/blue colour scheme in panels containing emotional turmoil). I’ve also found myself experimenting with things like perspective too:

This is a preview. The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st January.

But, you might ask, why bother? After all, most people only spend a few seconds reading a webcomic update. They pay more attention to the dialogue than the art. Likewise, you’ve also got a schedule to keep too.

Well, it’s worth bothering with when you get the chance for a number of reasons. The first is because of the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a webcomic update that looks good (rather than just acceptable). Seriously, if you get the chance to really focus on the art in a webcomic update, then it can be a really rewarding experience.

The second reason is because it makes your webcomic more unique and memorable. A great example of this, and an example I use a lot (because it’s one of my favourite webcomics), is Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality“. This is a webcomic where, even if you just skim-read the dialogue, then you’ll probably remember the art. Each comic is filled with highly-detailed and unique artwork that speaks for itself and demands to be looked at closely. So, doing more “artistic” things in your webcomic can be a good way to make it more memorable.

Thirdly, you can use artistic techniques to add emphasis to the story. For example, I mentioned earlier that my upcoming mini series uses a red/blue colour scheme in panels that contain emotional turmoil.

This wasn’t some random thing that I decided to do, it was something that just seemed like a natural thing to do. After all, if you know anything about complementary colours then you’ll know that red/blue is an “incorrect” variation on the (much more harmonious) orange/blue colour scheme that is commonly used in film posters. It’s close enough to orange/blue to still look good, but different enough to be unsettling. So, it’s perfect for more unsettling scenes.

Finally, if (like me) you’re an artist who makes comics occasionally, then doing artistic stuff in your webcomic can feel like a way of putting everything you’ve learnt in your regular art practice into action. It can be a way to put your skills to use with something a little bit different.

So, if you have the chance, then it’s worth putting a bit more thought and time into the art in your webcomic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Tips For Using Introspective Stuff In Webcomics

Well, at the time of writing this article, I’ve started preparing a webcomic mini series (which will feature the four characters who appear in most of my more recent webcomics) that will appear here in mid-late January.

Anyway, one of the things that I want to try to do with this mini series is to make it a slightly more introspection-based one. Here’s a preview from the first comic in the mini series:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 20th January.

So, for today, I thought that I’d take a brief look at several things to remember when including introspective stuff in your webcomics.

1) It doesn’t have to be depressing: Usually, when the word “introspective” is used to describe creative works, it’s often a synonym for “depressing”. But, introspection can be so much more than that. It can include hilarious paradoxes that you’ve noticed, it can include thoughts about a range of philosophical topics, it can include thoughts about all sorts of things, it can include reactions to the surrounding culture, it can include the most joyous of daydreams etc….

Then again, you probably know this anyway. After all, the types of people who tend to instantly characterise “introspective” as “depressing” are usually people who don’t tend to do much introspection. Introspection can be a wonderful and uplifting thing, and it can be a depressing thing. It can be both or either. But I still don’t understand how some people go through their lives without it.

So, don’t just focus on one side of it. Introspection can be happy too.

2) Remember the tone: If you’re going to include introspective stuff in your webcomics, then make sure that you have a good understanding of what the emotional tone of your webcomic is. Once you know this, then try to find a way to fit the introspective stuff into that emotional tone.

For example, if you make a webcomic like Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” which is filled with philosophical, psychological and emotional complexity, then it’s fairly easy to add literally any kind of introspective stuff to it.

But, if your webcomic is usually an eccentric, cheerful thing then this isn’t really the place to include obviously “heavier” and more depressing subject matter. Or, rather, it’s something that has to be handled fairly carefully if you don’t want to alienate your audience. For example, although my webcomics have their fair share of cynicism and dark humour, I usually try to avoid completely “depressing” comics like the plague.

Yet, the comic strip that I previewed earlier in this article is one about ageing (and, by extension, mortality) and alienation from the surrounding culture. These are pretty heavy subjects but the whole comic strip hopefully won’t be depressing. Why? Because these subjects are looked at through the slightly “frivolous” topic of videogames. Yes, one of the characters has a small existential crisis, but it’s about… videogames.. of all things. So, this counterbalances some of the more serious subject matter of the comic.

So, if you know what the emotional tone of your webcomic is, then you can add all sorts of introspective stuff to it without freaking your audience out too much.

3) Don’t make it obviously autobiographical!: Yes, I’m sure that making autobiographical comics can be cathartic or empowering. But, if your webcomic hasn’t started out as an autobiographical comic, then suddenly cramming a lot of autobiographical stuff in there can confuse the audience.

So, if you want to include things from your own life and thoughts in your comic, then try to look for the general theme or idea behind that thing and then see if you can apply that general idea to something that actually fits into your webcomic.

For example, one of the comics I’ve got planned for this mini series is about the weird emotional dynamics that surround highly-inspired creative projects. There’s this weird excited rush to finish them (when you’re actually making them), but then they’re missed the instant that they’re finished. Yet, although some of my webcomic characters have dabbled in things like writing or art, they aren’t really writers or artists. So, when including this theme in my comic, I had to think of some other type of relevant thing that also had these emotional dynamics.

The comic is still introspective, but by stripping down the introspective/autobiographical thought to it’s most basic idea and then fitting that idea into the comic (rather than make the comic fit into the idea), I’ll hopefully be able to avoid shoehorning any distracting autobiographical stuff into the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂