Today, Tamar Curry is filling in for me with a fantastic list of basic tips for anyone thinking of starting a webcomic. Tamar has been creating webcomics since 2002 when he and some friends began Blue Zombie, a tale about adorable undead assistants. He then went on to briefly draw Silent Journey, which I wrote, and now works on Lumia’s Kingdom, a story about a girl who suddenly finds out that she is royalty and will be crowned as the first queen of a very dysfunctional country. I promise you that despite the fact we’re dating, I didn’t force Tamar to write this post. (Or even suggest that he should.) He’s just awesome like that.
Take it away, Tamar!
So you say you want to do a webcomic? Been kicking around this awesome story idea in your head for a few months? Okay, a few days… Dare I even ask, more than an hour? Well, regardless, you can easily Google lots of info about what to expect when you start.
But I figure I could give you a bit more advice. Cuz, ya know, maybe it’ll help you out a bit.
So, here are some things to keep in mind when starting a webcomic:
1) Draw as often as you can. Comics are a visual medium and you need to be able to convey that through your art. Your art doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be consistent (and trust me, if you put effort in and draw frequently it WILL get better with time). Also, don’t get overly detailed with your art because you have to be able to draw scenes and characters over and over and over again. Is your lead female wearing a very pretty and ornate dress to a dance? To start, make it look like an actual dress that a girl would want to wear, but don’t need draw evenly spaced patterns on every inch of the fabric.
2) Let people know when you’ve posted an update. Ideally, it should happen on a regular basis, but life doesn’t always go that way. In which case, you have several tools at your disposal for spreading the news when a page does get posted: Facebook, Twitter, email lists, etc. RSS feeds are a godsend.
3) Don’t let bad comments (or lack of comments in general) get to you. Lack of feedback doesn’t mean your work sucks and even if you get an email that says otherwise it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. Also, just let things simmer down a bit before you send a reply to that guy who claims you have no sense of pacing and that your art makes his eyes bleed. The war of words ends fastest when you simply choose not to respond.
4) Have a backup plan. Seriously, shit happens. If your site is hacked or the service goes down, have a way to communicate with your readers to let them know what’s happened. If you are collaborating and one person can’t pull through or leaves, it’s up to you to pick up the pieces (assuming you still want to continue the project).
5) Know the ins and outs of your hosting services. What you may be able to do on Comic Genesis might not be as easy to tackle on Drunk Duck or vice-versa. If you’re just starting out, it may help to first try a service that caters to webcomics and make sure to read the fine print to see if there’s any restrictions. If you’re more experienced in web technology, you may want to purchase professional hosting. In any case, know what your getting into and what you are capable of doing with your website and if you’re allowed to do it.
7) Design your website so that people can find what they want easily. When searching for links to pages becomes a scavenger hunt, you’ve failed. I will dedicate more of my attention to a webcomic with minimal page design than one with an ornate website if the former is easier to navigate.
8) Tools do not make the artist. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need the latest version of Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq tablet to produce a webcomic. You don’t need Dreamweaver to construct a decent website. The things you will definitely need in abundance is patience and persistence.
9) Choose the scale of your comic wisely. Many people start theirs with the intent of telling a grand epic stretching some 500+ pages long only to find themselves quickly bored with it and finding excuses to pursue other projects. If you have a similar problem, it might be better to do short gag-a-day comics or something relatively non-sequitur.
10) Finally, keep in mind that you are making a webcomic for yourself as much as (or even more so) you are making it for others to read. If you find that putting out content is becoming more of a chore than you’d like it to be you need to step back and evaluate the situation. Perhaps you need to change it up a bit or go in a new direction. Perhaps you need to take a break. Either way, remember to have fun with what you’re doing. How you feel about what you do will be reflected in your work.