Create Your Own Web Comic
Syndicated comic authors have been complaining about newspaper size restrictions,
content censoring and similar issues for a long time. Comic enthusiasts have been
increasingly irritated by the treatment their entertainment medium receives as
well. Then along came the Internet, providing unlimited and unrestricted
distribution possibilities. Thus the webcomic was born.
There are millions of webcomics out there, dealing with such vast topics as video
games, college life, samurai, Lego men, identity and self esteem, depression,
suicide, children and joy. People write them either for a living, for fun, as
stress relief, for artistic expression, or often just for the hell of it. Then
they stick their creations on the web and hope that just one more person will
find and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
There seem to be several hundred new comics created each and every day. These
often dwindle and fade after only a few months. Occasionally, however, a comic
rises above the rest and gains such popularity that the creator is able to
forgo all other work and scrape a living solely off the proceeds generated by
their websites. Some examples of such are Penny-Arcade, PvP, CtrlAltDel and Squidi.net.
Many people, when introduced to the world of webcomics, think to themselves
"Wouldn't it be cool to have my own comic?" and a few go beyond this and create
their own. So how can a newcomer ensure that their comic continues beyond the
first few weeks of enthusiasm?
Now before I go into some useful tips it is probably worth noting that I am the
proud owner of a failed webcomic. It went for a few months before hitting a few
snags and then grinding into the ground. I have plans to return to creating the
comics, but as of yet have not. So I'm not really drawing from a foundation of
success, more of failure and an understanding of some of the main factors
contributing to my failure.
For starters, you're going to need to plan a little. It's unfortunate, unfair and
certainly not fun, but it is necessary. Sit down and think about your comic.
Come up with a location setting, some characters and maybe even a few plots to
test them in. Run the characters through some adventures and see how they react
and how you react to them. Your characters will grow and change throughout this
process, and continue to do so throughout the life of your comic but you need
to get a handle on their basic character traits.
For some reason the majority of comics revolve around a group of people (usually
guys) that are somewhat geeky and live together. Usually in a university dorm.
I would imagine that this is because that's the general life of the majority of
webcomic authors. The premise itself also makes an awful lot of sense for the
basis of a comic. When designing my own webcomic the process went a little
something like this: I designed the main characters, most of which were drawings
that I had been playing with since high school. Then I needed a reason for them
to constantly see each other and interact, so I got them living together. They
needed character traits that I could relate to, so they become university-aged
students that had at least a passing interest in the geeky side of life.
I drew my first few strips and showed them to some friends, who liked them, so
started looking into putting them online. The initial line up included two guys
who lived together, a female love interest for one of the characters and a
talking animal (in my case a frog, because I had this frog that I'd been drawing
for years and had become quite attached to him).
At this point I wasn't very experienced with webcomics, having only really read
the syndicated newspaper comics that the syndicated press companies post online.
So I started looking through some of the major comics, only to find that Sluggy
Freelance had the talking animals, geeky guys that lived together and female
love interest already covered. A bit more research revealed that the
"university students living together" was covered in the large majority of
comics. Furthermore, having a kind of wacky (and just a little stupid) character,
and a more sensible and reserved one was practically a given. Then, to rub salt
in the wound, I found that another comic had its main character design very
similar to my own. So I got rid of the frog, removed the focus on gaming and
university and otherwise left the comic as it was. Not entirely original.