20 TIPS for Webcomic Beginners!
So you’re a big fan of webcomics, and you’re thinking about starting your own. Great! As Scott McCloud says, “there are no rules,” but here are 20 AMAZING TIPS that I’ve discovered and collected over the years that are sure to help any budding webcomic creator out of a bind or two.
1. IT’S THE INTERNET- it’s not like it’s professional or anything! Let’s face it, you’re publishing online because (and solely because) you couldn’t get published in any real and respectable medium, like the funny pages of a local newspaper. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Nobody else is going to anyway!
2. In the same vein, DON’T WORRY ABOUT QUALITY. Nobody expects good free things on the internet, and who are you to try and start a crazy, doomed-from-day-one tactic like that? It’s already well established that comics on the internet are fourth- or fifth-string players in a medium that’s really only for children anyway. Put out whatever quality work you can do in a short enough amount of time and the internet won’t mind one bit.
3. When choosing your art style, FEEL FREE TO COPY OTHERS. Do you really like what, let’s say, popular webcomic XKCD by Randall Munroe is doing? Why, there’s no reason you can’t do it too! Just doodle some stick figures on graph paper talking about love and computers and scan it in. Mr. Munroe, a smart man, knows that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and might even give you some of his money if you’re really lucky. But remember, you can copy ANYONE’s style. Everybody knows that nobody owns things on the internet anyway.
4. So you spent a good ten minutes on that first panel- wow! Now here comes the second panel and you have to start all over again. But wait! Since this is a digital medium, YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE ALL YOU WANT. It’s okay! People do it all the time, and who can blame them? Your readers, if they’re even smart enough to notice, will recognize that the valuable time you saved by using this handy shortcut probably served you for far better things! Just don’t forget to change at least some of the dialog!
5. Since you’ve got a comic, you’re automatically pretty hot shit, instantly in the leagues of Watterson and Eisner (don’t worry if you don’t know the names!). You probably keep a blog of rants about how the world keeps dragging you down, well, MAKE THE COMIC DEPENDENT ON THE BLOG! This will encourage readers to seek it out and read it! As an extra bonus, you can let the blog disappear after a few weeks and the comic won’t make as much sense by itself, which will encourage readers to check back every day just in case they miss something! Now that’s “drawing power” (pun intended!!)!
6. Speaking of blogs and drawing power, one thing you want to avoid at all costs is WARNING YOUR READERS OF DOWNTIME. If you’re going on vacation for two weeks, don’t make an announcement about it! Just stop updating those two weeks without a word and drop out of contact as much as you can. This will bring readers back for the first few days out of continual curiosity, giving you hits, and as an added bonus, will make you seem much more mysterious and cool in their eyes too. And when you start up again, they’ll be all the more glad to see you back! Triple yay!
7. You might have heard about the new fad in webcomics, known as RSS, which stands for “Random Subscription System.” RSS is a lot like the moon landing- celebrated, widely respected, but actually just a big hoax! DON’T USE RSS! Let’s face it, only hippies and dinosaurs actually use RSS, and it’s on its way out. Update your comic on your own terms and don’t let some soulless system take away all your rsspect.
8. Time to design a website. One of the most important things: DON’T HAVE THE COMIC ON THE FRONT PAGE. (And in fact, don’t make the link to the comic obvious at all!) This will elevate the suspense of the reader tenfold, as he tries to find where the link is! Throw in some red herrings in the form of graphics that say “New Comic: Click Here!” but don’t actually link anywhere! Your readers will go crazy for this added layer of interactivity!
9. Use a free comic host, such as DrunkDuck or SmackJeeves, and besides any changes I mention, STAY WITH THE DEFAULT LAYOUT THEY GIVE YOU AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. It’s default for a reason, people! People like it, it’s standard, it fits in the mold. You don’t want to stand out with something crazy that people aren’t used to and don’t understand! The default layouts are how webcomics SHOULD look and you should make yours look exactly like it as best you can.
10. Some other RANDOM WEB-DESIGN TIPS: Use a blaring, ugly background, so your reader’s eyes get diverted to and stay on the comic! If your comic is taller than the screen, only have the navigation buttons above it OR below it, but not both! Use an intentionally confusing drop-down archive system so readers will be forced to look at a bunch of your comics before they find the one they’re looking for! If you can, use complex, “page turn simulation” animation between pages to give the feel of a real book- don’t worry if it compresses your image a bit small or makes the page slow to load, the effect is SO WORTH IT!
11. I see a lot of comics with “About” pages for explanations, and I always shake my head and sigh. DON’T INCLUDE AN ABOUT PAGE. Your comic should speak for itself! If your comic needs some extra page of description, you’re doing something wrong. You don’t need an “About” page for Garfield, do you? Of course not!
12. Here’s a fun little trick I’ve found. After number 11, you may surprised that I say that “Cast” pages are a good thing! But here’s the thing… HAVE A CAST PAGE BUT DON’T UPDATE IT! Write “coming soon” under each character description and use the oldest art for them that you can find. Potential readers will be drawn in by the mystery of who these people may be and be extra motivated to read your comic to find out!
13. Now, I’m not going to give you tips on what to draw, since your story is your own thing. But if you’re looking for a winning premise, there are a few you can’t go wrong with. Try FOUR COLLEGE AGE KIDS WHO LIVE TOGETHER, or perhaps A GROUP OF FRIENDS WHO EAT PIZZA AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES. If you want to really amp it up, make the college age kids play video games! There are a lot of these out there and can be very successful. If you want to add a little spice to your own, though, try adding a TALKING ANIMAL!
14. You might be wondering about what font to use in the dialog, too. There are a bunch of great free fonts out there, but the thing is, you don’t need them. USE COMIC SANS. It has “comic” right in the name! This is what it’s meant for!
15. You might have heard that people make money off of webcomics, enough to make a living, and want to pursue that kind of thing yourself. No problem! With a webcomic, YOU ARE BASICALLY GUARANTEED TO MAKE MONEY, especially with the tips I’ve given you! Include a “Donations” link on your site, that’s all there is to it! Just put your comic up and sit back and watch it flow in. It’s like magic, and you will truly be amazed!
16. Another excellent way to make money is by selling advertising space on your website. On the internet, space is still limited, which means that space is money–so CRAM IN ALL THE ADS YOU CAN GET! X-rated ads pay especially well, and sometimes they’ll pay you extra if you let them use complicated scripts for crazy animations and videos! Don’t worry if it slows down the site a few fractions of a second, this money is WORTH it. Feel free to include pop-ups, too, especially in your archive! Your readers will understand that it’s vital to support your comics!
18. Here’s more of a warning about making money, that I see so many of my favorite comics doing anyway. Don’t make t-shirts! YOU ARE NOT A T-SHIRT SALESMAN, you are a wannabe cartoonist! If you start making t-shirts (or any product) off of your work, soon you’ll be making comics based specifically around the merchandise, and that’s when you’ve really sold out. Keep your integrity, in this case, it’s better than tainted funds.
19. Speaking of what you shouldn’t do, DON’T LINK TO/ACKNOWLEDGE OTHER WEBCOMICS! You are not advertising for them, at least not for free! Let them buy space on your site like everyone else, if they must. But remember, readers can only read so many comics on the internet. You don’t want to link them to one that they replace you with, do you? Of course not!
20. Finally, some closing words. DON’T TRY ANYTHING TOO CRAZY. There are times and places to experiment with new things, and let’s face it, the internet is not on that list. The internet is some serious business, not your personal playground for silly little comics experiments. Stick to what you know for webcomics, and don’t be afraid to stay with the good old basic black and white three panel gag a day format, just like in newspapers. It’s worked for them for over a hundred years, it can work for you too. Comics are meant to entertain, as well as make money for their creators, and it’s extremely important that you remember one thing: comics are not art. Pretend all you want, but that’s the happy fact that has kept us going so far. Don’t try and change it now!
Well, that’s about all I’ve got to say on webcomics, though maybe if I collect more tips I’ll have enough to make another one of these! I hope it really helped. Good luck on your endeavors, and remember to keep your day job!