5 Tips For Starting Your Own Web Comic

This weeks topic comes from Marty Basto, who suggested I do a write up for beginners who are looking to start drawing their own web comics. This doesn’t cover things such as hosting or where to post your content, just advice on how to start putting together your series. So where do you start? What do you do then? I’m sure if you’ve read a lot of journals and update logs for some web comics you have a basic idea. Lets take a deeper look.

5. Choose an idea you can be happy with for a long time.

One of the trickiest things about starting a web comic is you never know where it will go. The best case scenario is that you get a group of fans who love your comic and keep cheering you on! However, this can be a terrible thing if you become bored to tears with your comic idea. You want to take time at the beginning and really think of characters you enjoy writing/drawing, and a time period you like working with. Once you get locked in there, it’s difficult to just let everyone down and say, “Well, this comic is actually kind of boring to me now. So I’m giving it up. Sorry everyone!” I’m sure it’s probably happened before, but especially when you’re just starting off, it’s not a good idea.

4. Keep things simple to start with.

You don’t need to unload a ton of information on your audience all at once. That isn’t to say that a prologue or intro comic is a bad idea if you’re writing an epic. It’s good to have a back story and fill people in on the world like in Demon Archives for example. Alternatively comics like Unsounded just drop you into the world and let you experience some adventure for yourself. Both work to their own credit. Demon Archives didn’t get bogged down in detail. It let you know what you needed to know before the outset of the main story. Unsounded on the other hand takes place in a fantasy world with lots of mystery. Keeping the veil up to leave the fans to discover the world for themselves works better there. So consider what your story needs.

Keeping things simple also means just avoiding too much all at once. Both of the above comics are great examples of that. Yes, you do want to establish your cast, but taking introductions slow can be a wonderful experience. Sometimes it’s even good to ask yourself what an average day in your world would be like. Perhaps have the characters wandering about and just living. Look at Age of Mortality which combines all these concepts. We started with some back story and then a brief history that lead to the web comic’s current everyday life moments.

Take it easy. There is something to be said for a big dramatic start to get the reader interested, but for more relaxed slice of life web comics you’ll want to get everyone used to your characters. Naturally there are many ways to approach this topic, but I personally prefer those down times when you get the know the cast. Remember, no one knows your own characters. You may love them, but you need to give your readers reason to.

3. Feel free to surprise yourself with an open world.

This is really if you’re just wanting to make a web comic for fun, but it can apply to many topics. It helps to assume even you don’t know everything about your world and to leave some space for unheard of groups, places, whatever. Yes, I understand that there are some of us who prefer having the entire world designed, and that’s cool too. But with web comics, it can be useful to have that wiggle room. Maybe you’re going on a vacation and you don’t have the time you want to dedicate to some important scenes. That’s where we can enter the magical world of filler!

Of course that isn’t to say all additional content has to be filler, but it can help too. Think of it in terms of World of Warcraft, or many MMO’s really. You have your main story, you log in, and suddenly there is an event going on. It can involve characters that aren’t usually seen any other time. Consider these sorts of concepts if you’re either getting bored and need a break from your main story, or even if you do want to be festive with a certain holiday. Maybe in your world they have their own holidays!

2. Dedicate yourself to your work if you love it.

Yes, it can be incredibly annoying to some to hear the words, “Draw your comic for yourself,” but it is actually true. At the start you may not have many readers. It may be difficult updating week after week for just this handful of views when you’re daydreaming of being a huge web comic name. Everyone has to start somewhere.

So why am I saying all this? It sounds like wishful thinking. Some kind of metaphorical story to teach kids the value of patience. Actually, there are situations where comic artists have toiled for a long time, and then become very popular. Naturally these situations aren’t limited to our field of art either. You’re creating something. Put it together, keep releasing it to the world, and know that it’s something that you love. Yes, there always is the chance things may not pick up, but there are artists who work for years with so little and then end up being huge names too. These are real world situations, not stories to encourage you to keep your chin up.

1. Don’t launch too early. Make lots of backlogged content.

When you create a web comic, it’s very tempting to post it up on a website and start that clock we all live under known as our schedule. When you launch, that’s it. You’re committed. So really consider your time and daily life as it is. How much content would be a lot to keep you comfortable producing new comics? Chances are you will hit that wall and need to do a bunch of content someday, or even catch up after a delay. However, this is for those who are just starting out. Really take the time consider that every additional comic you make before launch is work you won’t need to worry over down the line. Of course, you’ll still need to keep producing comics at a good pace, but the more of a buffer you create, the better you’ll feel.

Of course you’ll need the patience to not release more than your schedule allows too. It’s really hard to have so much content and keep it hidden away from your eager fans. Trust me, I’ve been working on a comic myself lately and I have my friends around to make sure I don’t advertise the daylights out of the thing before it’s release. People like to be surprised! Take it easy and pace things out.

So there you have it, another Friday Artist Talk. Feel free to comment below about ideas for future topics you’d like me to talk about. I don’t just take suggestions from Marty. Don’t forget too, once you log in on the front page of Top Web Comics, you’re logged in here too! So go log in, come back, and comment away. We want to hear from you!


8 Comments

  1. JFD February 28, 2014 4:38 pm 

    Great article and advices as always :) To that, though, I would add :
    #6 : Leave your pride behind.
    One thing I did when I launched my own comic ( http://www.heroes-or-not-comic.net ) is post on webcomic community forums such as The Webcomic List and hope for feedback. I did get some criticism and that helped me a lot on how to improve my art. Your mom and your friends are usually not good critics because of their relationship with you. Accept that your work isn’t perfect and welcome advice and criticism from other artists and readers, because it’s through criticism that you’re most likely to find areas where you need to improve.

    • Les Major February 28, 2014 9:16 pm 

      Very true too! Thanks for adding this. It can be difficult at times to find constructive criticism, but it’s definitely worthwhile when you do.

  2. DemonDan February 28, 2014 5:31 pm 

    Thanks for the shout out. Good to know we can be a good example of things. ;)

    Also, not just saying this because I like links, but as examples in this article it would probably make sense to link to the things you are saying we and Unfounded did well and were worth emulating. Just saying ;)

    • Les Major February 28, 2014 9:11 pm 

      … I’d actually meant to do that lol. Ugh, lol, I’ll set that up right away.

  3. Coyote March 1, 2014 11:15 am 

    Great article! Choosing something you like, know, and can sustain is so much better than “do what you think is most popular”… but I bet people still fall for that trap…

    I think #4 –start simple– is hard because, of course, we have all this great stuff stored up, waiting to burst out; we’ve thought about our worlds, settings, characters and adventures for so long that we know them inside and out. We think the readers will need this familiarity as well, to get started. They don’t!

    Something I used to kick off BOHICA Blues was the “flash forward”– in the future, a couple old folks reminisce about the adventure they had: http://www.bohicablues.com/comic/let-me-tell-you-about-the-time/

    –Sure, it kinda spoils some of the drama about who survives (obviously, these two ol’ folks did, although they are not identified by name) but a flash forward is one of those times when someone can, specifically, say “it all started on this date, under these circumstances…” and it would be a legitimate part of the story.

  4. Chalcara March 4, 2014 4:53 am 

    The passion for your story thing is so important. It’s a lonely thing, making a webcomic, and if I wouldn’t love that story so much, I couldn’t pull through.

  5. Coyote March 4, 2014 3:26 pm 

    Agreed; Chalcara… although I let passion get in the way of good sense. I was so eager I did my first couple cartoons and posted ‘em without making a backlog first (violation of rule #1! Exterminate!). I just now got about a 1-week buffer made up.

    But then, if it weren’t for deadlines, I’d never get anything done.

  6. DemonArchives March 10, 2014 4:22 pm 

    Perhaps another thing to mention, in the vein of the Unfounded versus Demon etc… is whether you want to make a webcomic, or a graphic novel that happens to post on the web.

    I feel that there is a large difference between the two. Take for example CAD… amazing web comic… would be a horrible graphic novel. Compare with FreakAngels… holy $#!! amazing graphic novel. That can help to define whether you need to lock down your idea/story, or whether an open world (a la Questionable Content) would work for you.

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