I’ve had a few rather interesting conversations with other comic creators on twitter, and a few things seem to keep coming up in regards to starting a printed or webcomic.
So if you’re interested in starting a webcomic, or know someone who is, take a look at this checklist to ensure the easiest-possible way to begin a webcomic.
1. What kind of story do you want to tell?
It’s a good idea to have a general outline of your story before you put your pen to paper, or stylus to wacom. Many webcomics start out strong but lose their way in terms of story and character development, and any webcomic artist who has been creating work for long periods of time will tell you that a story outline, character descriptions and general goal of chapters is the best way to start.
I’ve always waited to start a webcomic until I have the entire story, because I never wanted to end up running out of ideas or going the completely opposite direction of the way I originally intended. I ran a printed comic in a newspaper for two years, and I didn’t start until I had a general sense of the story I wanted to tell.
Now, don’t read what I just wrote and think that you can’t do a thing until you get every story and character detail down and solid. That way guarantees that you may never start, unless you are of the personality that can do that.
2. Who are the characters are of the story?
With the general outline, and most importantly, you want to make sure that you have your main characters fleshed out. To ignore this can lead to major problems of contradiction unless you write everything down as you go. Make sure that your characters’ core motivations are written down, as well as their conflicts, and interactions and relations with other characters. Remember that the more characters you have, the rate of interaction must increase exponentially with the addition of each character. This is why many stories have only 4 or so characters.
If your story is an ensemble piece, it is of the UTMOST importance that you have papers or grids explaining everyone’s relation to each other, so no one falls through the cracks.
A good place to start is to take your favorite fictional character and breaking them down, listing their likes, dislikes, paradoxes, motivation, vocabulary and more. Figure out why they appealed to you, and that’s a good step and making characters that can appeal to others.
Here are some good, free resources on building characters:
14 Tips for Building a Character
3. What is the style of the art?
I cannot express this enough. You should really have a style down before you start a comic. One of the tried and true ways of ruining a webcomic is to dramatically change styles of prose and art abruptly, in the middle of the story. It jars the readers and some of them will simply walk away, because they fell in love with your style.
I’ve said this before, but if you change styles, do it slowly so the readers can adjust with you. Kindness towards the readers will always pay off.
4. How big is the scope of my story?
This can go hand in hand with the other points, but make sure that if you have a large, universal scope, that you plan accordingly.
For instance, if your story revolves around the world of mice, then the backyard, field, or meadow they inhabit will be the world to them. You can create a sense of epicness without having to have the story take place in outer space or a fantasy land.
Whether your scope is the meadow, or the universe, you can use it as a framework by which the other points are decided. If you have a time-travelling doctor who whizzes around in a TARDIS, your focus will be on specific dates and times, with the appropriate people. Less time will be spent world building a specific place as it will be in writing and dialogue, versus a stationary or recurring setting. Those will need more time and care in building and attention to detail.
5. How much time do I have to keep this up?
Some webcomic creators will tell you that you should never stop and never miss a deadline. I disagree. I’ve gone through periods of inactivity while working on major projects and haven’t lost readers. However, I also remained accessible to them during that period. I notice that the veracity and loyalty of a fanbase is directly related to the amount of interaction the creator of the comic gives to them.
If you go through periods of inactivity, create sketches and short comics or drawings for your fan base. This tells them you still care and appreciate them, and haven’t forgotten them.
I am not going to tell you to always keep it up no matter what, because you live in the real world. Most of us have full-time jobs, spouses, families, bills and more. We do what we can when we can, and your readers know this. They just want something to take them away from the world, even for a few minutes. They want to invest in your story and receive a reward.
6. What kind of software do I need?
Any graphics software will do. Most people use Photoshop and Illustrator, but there are other options like Manga Studio if you can’t afford it. Also, Adobe does license out their software for a low monthly fee. (Note: Many professional comic book artists use Manga Studio as well as Photoshop)
Here are some links:
7. What kind of platform do I want to use?
Most people use Comicpress and Comic Easel, both of which are great platforms for webcomics (Comic Press is a WordPress theme, and Comic Easel is a WordPress plugin.). Some people use Tumblr, or wordpress with comic plugins.
I would honestly recommend that whatever you use should allow for interaction with the audience. Facebook may be a bad idea for the sole spreading of your webcomic, because at any time Facebook only shares your content with 20% of your total following audience. This is very bad for that kind of business.
Here are some helpful links:
8. How do I get the word out?
I’ve found that twitter has been the best way to connect with other webcomic artists, and others have found Tumblr to be a great way as well. Get your comic onto every social media platform you can, or pick two, and plug away.
9. Where can I list my comics?
There are some great websites that allow you to list your webcomic on their site:
So now that you’re armed with the basics, good luck!