Category Archives: webcomics
Quite possibly one of the most important things to watch out for when you make a comic is when you’re initially coming up with it. Inventing characters, settings, plots, it all will set the tone for the whole thing and having even one element in there that doesn’t work will wreck everything. And it can be hard to think objectively while planning and putting things in to action because you can’t really see things with an outsider’s perspective.
How do you know if you are going down the wrong path? Well talking to someone else about your project is always a good sign, and a piece of advice I see as being a good idea since that second set of eyes can lend some valuable insight. Unfortunately it’s not for me because this method requires you to pitch the idea, and I suck at doing that verbally. I cannot tell a joke to save my life and I find it impossible to recommend things to friends because coming from my mouth it sounds stupid. It has cost me a few sales at conventions.
So, how do I measure quality of my own comics? Well I do that by asking myself one very simple question: Would I buy it?
Let’s pretend Domain Tnemrot has nothing to do with me. I have never heard of it or the creators and I know nothing of its premise. I just saw it at my local comic store and picked it up. Can I honestly say I would go to the counter and purchase it? Can I honestly say that, upon getting home, I would read and enjoy it?
And I can honestly say the answer is yes. It may sound narcissistic but I can easily sit down and trawl the archives start to finish, and then I go read my scripts for the pages that haven’t been drawn yet. I still enjoy it. Same with Gemini Storm, I think I have read the trade five times since I got it from the printers.
I got the idea for this method from Penny Arcade. In the 11 ½ year anniversary book, the section on PAX talks about how it succeeded when other shows run by Gamespot and IGN failed. Robert Khoo, who wrote that section, says he realised that PAX worked because the entire idea behind it was to create a convention that they would attend and enjoy. And it’s not just PAX. Child’s Play is the type of charity they would donate to. If you’ve ever seen the Penny Arcade TV Series, you can see how they write the comic, which is entirely them trying to make each other laugh.
It is, to me, one of the best strategies I can think of. If you make something that you would want to read or watch, it’s highly likely that someone else would also like to read or watch that thing as well.
And it is not just webcomics. I’m a fan of The Cinema Snob’s movies. Well, I haven’t seen Freak Out yet and the forced abortion in Cheap means I’ll never re-watch it (That movie is not for those with a weak stomach) but I do love Midnight Heat, Hooker With a Heart of Gold and The Cinema Snob Movie.
In the intros to his pre-Snob movies, Brad Jones talks about how he still likes to sit down and watch these videos because they are the types of movies he enjoys watching. And they do have their fans, even though the budget is incredibly small and the camera quality is quite poor. In fact for some of them it adds to the charm of the movie. I can’t picture Midnight Heat being clean, it wouldn’t be as effective if it lost the gritty look.
Now, you could point out that Demo Reel used this method as well, but was poorly received and Doug Walker ended up quitting and going back to the Nostalgia Critic. I would say that is the perfect example of when doing what you like becomes self-indulgence. And also knowing your limits as a creator, which Walker does not. Make sure you find a nice balance between catering to yourself and making something you would enjoy if you had no association with.
But getting back on topic, the phrase ‘everyone’s a critic’ is usually used to dismiss and discredit criticism but it is true. Everyone has an opinion and individual tastes. By being honest with yourself, you can turn this into an advantage by using your own likes and dislikes to judge whether or not you’re doing the right thing and hopefully that will turn it into something your readers will enjoy.
At the very least, you’ll hopefully avoid any out-of-nowhere dramatic twists.
Some weeks ago, I solicited the readers for links to their comics or recommendations to webcomic that they liked. There were plenty of fantastic entries, some which I mentally bookmarked to slot for a review some time down the line. This is the first one, recommended by reader
Why Piti Yindee’s Wuffle: The Big Nice Wolf? The reason is perhaps quite shallow: it was really, really pretty. I mean, the header shows a big yet cute cartoon wolf with a white volleyball under his arm that turns out to be a chicken. Look, people, there’s no big secret to getting me to pay attention: I’m like a moth to flame when it comes to cute things.
The bane of any creator is when you hit that wall that stops you from going any further with your story, artwork, etc. It can come at any time. When you’ve just started, right in the middle or when you’re so close to the end you can taste it. And it can become aggravating as you struggle to get your brain to try and help you finish but all you can get from it is a headache and frustration.
I’ve seen a lot of pro level people talk about this, and they’ll almost always tell you that it’s a myth or simply something only amateurs deal with because they’re not putting in enough work. I have been writing most of my life, trying to make a career of it since I was sixteen, and I will still sit down with Word open and be unable to make the words come out of my fingers. Every time I saw “Writer’s block doesn’t exist” I would scoff and equate it to some magical fantasy like elves, leprechauns and Doug Walker’s sense of subtlety.
And then last month I finally found writing nirvana.
So yeah… I have some apologies to make.
However I will not entirely recant my position because I still find the idea of dismissing the whole thing as mythical to be unprofessional as well as anyone can hit a creative block. I saw an interview with Joe Quesada, pro artist and former Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, over at Comic Book Resources where he admitted some days he sits down to draw a page and just can’t get it out.
When I read or hear advice on getting past the wall, it seems to miss the point, in my opinion anyway. Over at webcomics.com, when it was still a free site, someone did an article about the subject that implied block were only the fear of continuing and that creators always have alternate routes that they just aren’t taking because of stubbornness or whatever. I tried to explain that this wasn’t a block, to me at least, but no one seemed to see where I was coming from and would just repeat what the article said, even though I would point out it wasn’t related to what I was asking.
My personal definition of writer’s block is when you reach a point in the story where you run out of ideas and cannot see where to go next. You can’t go back one or two pages, you would have to throw out most of the work you’ve done in order to push in another direction because the beginning is the only place you can see a new starting point. Hell, you might still be at the beginning. You strain and think but what happens next just refuses to come to you. That was the problem I always had and no one could give me an answer for it.
So how did I finally overcome my nemesis? Well a month ago my job had a training program and the instructors handed out pens and writing pads to take notes. And by writing pads, I mean A4 paper with about 70 pages. I used at most two, so on the train ride home I decided to kill time by writing a short story. That turned into a novel that I write every day to and from work on the train, which takes about an hour. This morning I finished my 120th page. Let me make it clear, I’ve tried writing novels before but I’m lucky if I can do forty in a month, which is why I usually give up since most of the time I just sit there straining. The train is also where I write articles for Webcomic Overlook, this one included.
It’s so simple it sounds stupid but I think that’s why pro creators tend to dismiss the idea as false. It’s all about finding a method that works best for you, and then easing yourself out of it so that you can write and draw whenever and wherever you have time to.
Before, I always wrote everything on my computer, typing up everything and focusing on it being perfect. But on paper, I don’t worry as much because I know it’s just a rough draft and that I’m going to rewrite it when I type it up as my second draft. I mean I still do my best to make it good but it’s more about getting everything down than making it into a masterpiece.
Really, getting past the block is about who you are as a creator and as I have found out, it’s not always something you can do by imitating what the pros do. I know creators who will say never write while listening to music as it will only serve as a distraction. I’ve never had that problem and in fact I write better with a little background noise. Others will say to just sit down, write, and stop complaining. No, it’s not always that simple, sometimes it’s about your environment.
Now some people may point out that a lot of pros would say the advice that I’m giving here would just breed bad habits as you’d have people who can only write at a certain coffee shop in a certain chair. It would not be beneficial in the long run. And they would be right, if you make that setting into your habit. But you can ease yourself in. I’ve started writing with pen and paper at my desk and it’s going well. Every body needs a starting point and some won’t find it unless they put themselves in a place where they can be their most creative. You just need to find that place. I did and I’ve gotten more work done than i could have hoped for.
If only I could get my art up to scratch.
The Eisner nominees for Best Digital Comic often include some absolutely bizarre entries that look like they were done under some sort of chemical influence. I think Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld may have been one of them, but the geometry-based digressions, while challenging from the standpoint of linear storytelling, were so lucid it makes me doubt my assessment. Still, the webcomic itself was about smoking drugs, so I think it fits in some way. The thing about these sorts of comics is that the writer can wave away inconsistencies, plot holes, and artistic decisions under the catch-all excuse of “Just not getting it.” Which isn’t entirely untrue. But still!
Here’s what you need to know about Michael DeForge’s Ant Comic: the first sequence shows a depiction of two homosexual ants having sex. The second shows some ants marching into a giant ant vagina.
I was tempted to put up an NSFW tag, but I think most curious co-workers looking over your shoulder would have an impossible time figuring out what was going on. Still, probably not something you’d want to recommend for your kids.
Gather ’round children, and let me tell you a tale of webcomics past. Webcomics of yore! You see, there used to be a time when young men and women made webcomics based on unlikely prompts. Spam email! Palindromes! Ah, but the world is a more sophisticated place now, with no time for such primitive..,.
What’s that you say? There’s a Twitter: The Comic?
Yessiree, my friends, Mike Rosenthal (or, as he’s known on Twitter, “@vectorbelly“) has been moderating a posse of webcomic artists on Tumblr to create comics based on Tweets. They’re often quite funny. It helps that most of the Tweets selected tell a sort of minifiction in under 140 characters. Do you know anyone who actually tweets:
WELCOME TO APPLEBEES MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER. DID U SAY “A PLATE OF SPIDERS” TOO LATE HERE IT COMES. U HAVE TO EAT IT ALL OR WE CALL THE COPS
Me neither. But apparently it got 1,000 retweets… and this rad webcomic.
I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. The skies were clear this morning, but the temperatures were below zero. I had a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose because it almost felt like ice crystals were forming. I was walking from my the parking lot to the building I work at. It was about a quarter mile walk since city restrictions prevented a parking garage from being built, so the company compensated by making the parking lot very, very large.
Fortunately the walkway was covered. However, as I walked down the path, I noticed something weird. There were lumps on the ground covered in frost. At first, I thought they were leaves. As I looked a little closer though, I discovered to my horror that they were birds. About a hundred birds, all littering the ground, dead and frosted. They’d taken shelter under the roof in an attempt to escape the cold snap. It was in vain. The frost had killed them.
Ryan Andrews, the writer of the Eisner-nominated Our Bloodstained Roof, taps into the same chilling realization that death is senseless, and how guilt has an unforgiving way of making our lives miserable for the rest of our lives.