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What makes a succesful & popular webcomic

The succes of WITCH prompts me to ask this: What makes comics like WITCH popular, as in global wide? Is it compelling characters, complex stories, or just some good advertising?
What is about popular comics that appeal a lot of their readers?

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I don't know who Rebelsun is, but s/he isn't a flack - Rebelsun has posted on a number of topics--all others not-DISNEY related.

Still if any Disney flacks do want to flog projects, our ad rates are entirely reasonable :)

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I don't even know where to reply to this thread - it's brilliant! Like the sun I tell you.

From my own past experience I can only say that if you are starting in webcomics (or comics I guess) you should just hunker down and do something you love - that story you just have to tell. Do the little things to help let a few folks here and there know about it but hunker down and work on the tale. If you make it through six months and you're still in love with your story I'll bet that quite a few other folks are too. And if not at that point if you're still working on the story you'll have something you'll be more positive is worth promoting to the world.

If you can't even make it to six months on the story I don't know why you'd want to hype it to anyone - the worse thing in the world is to bring the world see something bad - people won't stick around.

my 2 cents.

And of course - advertise on Comixpedia! :)

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

RE: BuzzComix et al

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Tim

Maybe this is off-topic a bit but I saw some good essays on your site - if you'd have any interest in writing about webcomics give me an email - xerexes AT comixpedia DOT com.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

RE: BuzzComix et al

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

And as for art preventing getting into a comic. It absolutely can, depending on the type of story to be told. The art has to match the story in subject, tone and style. If the writing is of a type that requires realistic or more polished artwork and it's matched with cartoonish or simplistic work than that's going to be an issue for a reader.

It's the same thing with a mismatch between art and writing though. If the writing can't keep up with the art that's also going to keep the reader from completely buying into the world and story of the comic.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Chris Crosby's picture

Ohhhh, no. I've fallen for that "European comics do it, you should too!" trick far too many times.

Can't get fooled again.

Chris Cantrell's picture

[quote:28d9bdcbae="Ghastly"]I experienced the best part of celebrity-hood this weekend at CNX convention. I cute girl came up to my table and requested a drawing and autograph on her chest.

That was probably the longest autograph in history. 8)

Haunted Pixel Studios www.hauntedpixelstudios.com

Chris Crosby's picture

[quote:eaf1cf3a7f="KrazyKrow"]Advertising is the key for a new comic starting up. Take Chris Crosby's new comic, Sore Thumbs. Pretty much every review I've seen of it (including one on Comixpedia) has been scathing. But thanks to the awesome advertising muscle of Keenspot, he's managed to find 10,000 regular readers.
As much as I'd like to say that Keenspot can make any comic popular no matter how bad (or SCATHINGLY bad), I can't. While Keenspot can introduce a large number of readers to new comics, it's nigh impossible to get any of those readers to CONTINUE reading a comic regularly if they are not at least somewhat entertained by said comic.

A lot of movies get scathing reviews but make big box office, because the masses think they're A-OK in spite of the critics. Look at GARFIELD: THE MOVIE. Only 13% of critics had anything good to say about it, and it made $195 million at the box office.

Look for SORE THUMBS: THE MOTION PICTURE at a theater near you Summer 2006.

Chris Crosby's picture

[quote:a5383d53fe="BoLindbergh"][quote:a5383d53fe="Anonymous"]Comixpedia has the worst log-in remembering machine in HISTORY.
Untrue. TypeKey is worse.

I stand corrected. I have to switch over to Netscape just to post anything with TypeKey.

Your Pal (but not TypeKey's),
Chris Crosby

Joey Manley's picture

You know your site is popular, Xavier, when Disney marketing flaks start flogging their projects on your board.

Congratulations

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

One overlooked item here: luck.

Luck is probably the single most important element -- because assuming you have everything else in play (quality, reliabibility, consistency, a winning attitude, etc., etc.) you are still more likely to fail than succeed (this is true of every creative endeavor, not just webcomics). Luck makes all the difference in the world.

How to create luck, though -- well, that's the secret, isn't it?

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

Sounds to me like you're offering a recipe for creating what I'm calling "luck," Dee. Good advice, for sure.

I read a quote in an old Esquire Magazine at my brother-in-law's house yesterday, which is apropos. It was about commodities trading, but it could apply to anything.

"It is impossible for a loser to transform himself into a winner. Because that's the kind of thing that a winner would do."

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

[quote:77d1f83ad3="Anonymous"]
how do you think you were able to quote field of dreams? they built it, and people saw it, and it grew into a legend.

A bankable star, an influential studio's blessing, and a multi-million-dollar marketing budget didn't hurt, either!

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Scotty Arsenault's picture

Damned if I know. Maybe I should beg for money, insult everyone, start drawing with my feet, and say f*** every other word.

Townie's picture

But we all know you're not really famous until they throw underwear at you. Those are the times it's nice to have a mostly female fanbase, I'm sure

- Ben

[quote:099290c9cf="JohnPorter_316"]I would hope that if I keep going for long enough and keep refining what I'm doing, then I can move beyond mediocre and become good... but I doubt I ever will, much less become great. (I'm talking more about the visual side of my work here). I just don't think I have it in me.

Remove that thought from your head immediately. You can ALWAYS do better. Looking at your art, it's obvious you've come far enough to get it where it is, and there's no way you couldn't make it better if you tried.

That's all I have to say about that. Persist!

Joey Manley's picture

I worked hard -- and I was lucky.

I'm just saying: others have worked just as hard as me. Harder. And haven't been as lucky.

I agree that you have to work hard to succeed. Working your ass off is the bare minimum. Let's just assume we all work our asses off. I just wish that that's all it took. But there's an unpredictable element to success that can't be accounted for, especially in the entertainment business, even one as small as ours.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

As Ghastly said above, the best way to promote your webcomic on public forums is to participate meaningfully, over time, to interesting conversations. If you seem like somebody who is smart, informed, funny, whatever, people who read the forum will click the link to your comic in your .sig file, even if the post itself was about something completely different.

Shameless hype, on boards that allow it (like this one), where you know you're not going to piss off the locals, can be useful too. Traffic generated by hype threads tends to be less "sticky" than traffic generated the other way. Same is true of advertising.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: What makes a succesful & popular webcomic

[quote:71f27fff91="Rebelsun"]WITCH

What the crap? Did Up With People make a webcomic?

I'd say it's the luck thing, and the ability to tap into what readers want.
You can't bullshit the readers. If you're not into what you've got going on, or don't know what the hell you're doing, everybody will know. Webcomics readers are smart, they're brilliant -- they'll see through the pixels into your goddamn soul.

Townie's picture

[quote:15abca36b2="Ghastly"]Well I had to be extra careful and take my time since I clearly couldn't pencil the drawing first. Working directly with ink on flesh I had to lick my thumb and use it to erase mistakes.

It may not have been the best I've drawn in 2 hours but it sure was the most enjoyable.

You'll probably still see it on eBay later

- Ben

I still agree that quality is of greater priority than luck. Luck, after all, can't really be planned. it's good to know the right people, but nothing helps to prepare for your "big" break like doing the best work you can. That's how people notice. So instead of wondering why comics are more popular than yours, why not have fun and challenge yourself? (Once again, directed at nobody in particular.)

Amy, I just followed your link (well, now it was a while ago ^^) and read through the comic. Wonderful stuff. And I'm 2nd year animation at SVA - represent!

[quote:d74235207a="Anonymous"]Comixpedia has the worst log-in remembering machine in HISTORY.
Untrue. TypeKey is worse.

Al Schroeder's picture

[quote:d6f189ed25="Justin-Pie"]ALSO, it is useful to sign in before posting so people know what your comic is.
Details, details.---Al

 Al Schroeder III of MINDMISTRESS---think the superhero genre is mined out? Think there are no new superhero ideas? Think again.

RE: A web comic should be...

ALL OF THE UNFUNNY ONES ARE DOOMED TO FAIL.

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

no frailty is my third attempt at a webcomic. I've been doing it almost a year and is starting to build audience at a quicker pace lately. It's a story comic that updates once a week on Thursdays. And it has updated every thursday since June 1st, 2004. Even though I'm embarassed at the early attempts at art and story it's still fun to go back and reread the whole thing just to watch the progress. I don't expect this comic to go too far, because I have such a long way to go working on my abilities, but you never know. I'm giving it a push just to see.

One promotional avenue I haven't seen mentioned - conventions. I'm promoting a bit by getting in the Artist Alley at anime and comic conventions. And I try very hard to get on webcomic panels. You get promoted on the cons website and in person. Plus other artists there will sometimes link to you. Plus you can learn a ton of stuff from the people there. I sell mini-comic collections of the strip, plus magnets, t-shirts, etc that I make myself. It's not much compared to the mass that is the internet, but when you have a small audience like mine you can see the bumps after a con. And you can see how many stay. I'm not breaking even at the cons with merchandise but I'm happy with the audience returns I've been getting. And I've learned so much about comics and art in general that it's worth it.

In case you missed it in the first sentence or in my sig: no frailty

Thank you. ;)

You most definitely need to enjoy it. This is most important of all. If you start a comic with images of grandeur, then you're bound to be disappointed.

That said, building up a popular webcomic takes time. Time, persistence, and frankly, failed efforts. Mistakes, even.

I'm on my second webcomic now, and though it's not something I value over fun, the readership has more than doubled lately. And it's easy to see why. When I started drawing webcomics in late 2000, I was 16 years old, drawing in a clumsy anime-furry style, with very little conception of proper storytelling. And while I know I still have a long way to go, it's safe to say my current projects are of a much higher quality than they were.

Not to say everyone's first webcomic is bad. No way! But, live and learn. (This is a VERY GENERAL blanket statement, BTW.) I'm not attempting to criticize anybody's work in the least, but I do know that the quality of webcomics as related to popularity is not often discussed among community, for fear of hurt feelings.

I am in NO way claiming that my webcomic is "the ish". I love drawing it, and I'm glad that people read it. But I have every intention of making it even better as I continue to learn. So this is my advice for making a successful and popular webcomic:

Look at other people's art and comics. Listen to criticism when it's offered. Go through the archives and find mistakes you've made, and think of ways to correct them. Ways to grow as an artist and a storyteller.

Anyhow, these are just my thoughts. I don't mean to be cynical. But I am tired of people upsetting themselves over their comic's popularity, when they could instead be thinking of ways to improve it, advertise it, or just plain have fun with it. =)

Update often and exchange links with people who are already popular. All it takes is one person to link to you. For me it was kung fool. After he heavily plugged my comic (why he did it exactly, I hope it's because he thought it was good, but I always have him to thank for giving my site a healthy booster shot of traffic in the early stages of its inception) my site's traffic doubled and it's slowly been on the rise since then (I have roughly 2000 visitors. Nothing fantastic, but not bad I guess considering the comic's been up for about 6 months). If your comic is good, it will only grow. If you exchanged links with lots of people and updated often and nothing happened, it means you still have some improving to do. If you know you're good and nothing happened, maybe it means you're looking in the wrong places to reach your audience. I'm kind of lucky because the thing I happen to enjoy drawing, fantasy manga-inspired comics, already has an established fanbase online so my comic fit a certain niche. I just figure if I keep putting myself out there and pumping out work, I'll eventually hit something and be successful. I don't know if there's a secret formula for success, if there were wouldn't everyone be successful? Hard work, persistance, luck, and drive? I'm lucky to be surrounded by comic artist friends, I've seen them work hard and consistantly for two years before they even got any kind of publishing deal or money from their work, but they did it. So I understand it takes time and patience. I duno. I'm not "successful" yet, I'm just happy that I'm still drawing my comic. It's the best part of having an online comic hehe. So really, I dunno why I'm spewing advice when I haven't made it yet.

[quote:ad6d604d6f="guest"]Here is another question. How much does it cost being famous (or popluar)
Your soul. And very possibly your mind and sanity as well.

You think I joke. *wry smile*

Quote:
You also have to work like hell to promote your comic without being obnoxious in your promotion

Any suggestions regarding that? I recently started a webcomic that I'm somewhat happy with but I've been hestitant to start pluging it everywhere until I actually have a few comics in the archive. Does doing fan art or guest comics for the more well known comics help?

[quote:6122de096e="JohnPorter_316"]FWIW, I've always preferred taking out banner ads to posting 'read my comic!' threads on forums. That just makes me feel dirty.
But getting dirty can be so damned sexy. Anyone who agrees with me, let me hear you say, "Hell Yeah!"

[quote:6ef5d812ae="joeymanley"]somebody who is smart, informed, funny,
My ears are burning~

:wink:

Another aspect (once you've directed people to your site) is having something different enough that stands out (and is interesting) but not so different that no one gets it.
There is a common complaint I hear about web-comics in general, "they all look the same". That statement is no better than other stereotypes or generalizations, but should give the potential comic creator pause. If their goal is to create the next PA or another magna, they need to do something to seperate it from the (insanely large) crowd.

Reading through this quickly (with damonk here, too) had to comment that working hard, luck, whatever isn't going to help you if your comic isn't any good. Damonk says "you gotta be honest with yourself", but that's just a nice way of saying it. ^_~ Seriously, with hard work you CAN hone your skills until you are capable of creating something good, but it doesn't happen overnight, or over a month, or even over a year. I'll always keep Eat The Roses online, despite my abhorrence of the early archives if only because I keep getting fanmail from people who note my improvement throughout the comic and call it inspiration that they too can improve and learn how to comic pretty well.
It's the rare person that pops up with their first webncomic and can draw well (and layout well) AND write well for a comic. You need to practice at it. And your practice comic may not get popular, but your NEXT thing has much better chances.

-Meaghan

Al Schroeder's picture

[quote:878eaa7260="Ghastly"]A weekly gag strip can hold an audience, but if your strip is a continuing story it's almost impossible to hold an audience if you update less than 3 times a week. Even story strips that update three times a week I find myself not checking them out more than once a month or so unless they're really very good (like Errant Story).

If your comic only updates once a week you're going to find that it is truly an uphill struggle to make your readership grow. I only update once a week and I had to fight tooth and claw for each and every reader.

I know that a good chunk of my readership only reads my strip once a month simply because they like to read a bunch of the strips together at once.

What Ghastly said. That's why I try to keep to a three-times-a-week schedule on my story strip, which as often as I feel I can do it and maintain the color, which is one of the things I enjoy most about the strip.---Al

 Al Schroeder III of MINDMISTRESS---think the superhero genre is mined out? Think there are no new superhero ideas? Think again.

RE: What makes a successful &amp; popular webcomic

Quote:
Or else you'd draw it in a scrapbook at home and not show it to anyone. Ever.

Or you could put it online because it's convenient storage that lets you check it out and add to it from any location!

Quote:
Also, am I wrong in assuming that comics with a readership less than this make zilch in the way of money? Who is living off their webcomics earnings? Hopefully the point isn't to get a higer readership so as to start living off the comic as this seems nearly impossible.

Yeah, not the easiest way to go, but artists aren't known for their practicality. Some people can do it, and that's reason enough to anyone that wants to try.

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

I agree with quality and regular updates.

When GAAK first started at Drunkduck last November we updated five days a week and held that schedule until february when we switched to a three days a week. When folks started to complain that GAAK was ONLY three days a week, I knew we were getting somewhere. :)

Honestly? I don't know how comics that update a page a week can hold an audience. Especially since there's so much out there to choose from that may be updating more frequently. If your lucky enough to find an audience you've got to give them what they want--Your comic on a regular basis. If not, someone else will.

Dee

G.A.A.K Online
www.drunkduck.com/GAAK

G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

I don't know, Joey. I think persistence is more important than luck.

You bust your ass to make a high quality comic, you bust your ass to get the word out about your comic with the use of banner ads, sig tags, or by any other means necessary to interest a potential audience, you get your comic out to the people on a regular enough basis to hold the audience you've built, those readers become regular readers of your comic and tell others about it, those others check it out for themselves and they become regular readers who themselves tell folks about your comic, and slowly but surely a popular webcomic is born. Won't happen overnight. You'll have to bust your ass without missing a step. But luck? I have my doubts.

Problem is most folks think "if they build it they will come". Bullshit! That only works in Kevin Costner movies. Once you've built it you have to go out and get your potential audience, bring them back to what you've built, and say, "SEE!!!".

Making the comic is just the beginning. The real work starts when the comic is finished. There are a buh-zillion and one webcomics out there. To get yours recognized you have to be ad man, pitch man, marketing genius, pimp, and PT Barnum all rolled into one to stand out, be seen, and get your comic read. Why? Because if your not willing to do the work someone like me, who wants people to read and enjoy their comics and is willing to do whatever needs doing to get people to come read them by any means necessary, are more than willing to put in the work, the time, the energy, and the effort it takes to do the work for the benefit of my comic. Luck not withstanding.

So, IMHO if you've got a quality webcomic you want folks to read? Your audience is out there--GO GET 'EM!!!! Because chances are, with a buh-zillion and one other webcomics to choose from--They ain't gonna find you. Put in the work and the rest will take care of itself.

My two cents and about all its worth. :)

Dee

G.A.A.K Online
www.drunkduck.com/GAAK

G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

(Honestly not trying to sound like a self help book) You need to enjoy doing your comic :D If it's too much of a headache than the comic is being done for the wrong reasons.
There are days that drive me nuts working on my comic but for the most part, I enjoy working with the characters and story lines.

I like the quote, Joey, just not the use of the word "luck" in this instance. Luck is something that happens to you without your having to do much of anything for it. Success is something you make happen. As crowded as the webcomic world is out there with so many webcomics to choose from, if a creator is sitting back, doing nothing, and hoping for success to come to him/her--Then luck and a good bitchslap by reality is indeed what they need. Success takes effort. Success you earn.

As someone who's success I admire, Joey, did success fall into your lap without you having to work for it? Or did you bust your ass to get it? I'm figuring you bust your ass. Making your success something to be admired. On the other hand, if someone handed you the MT empire and said "Here. Have it." like some rich kid inheriting a fortune that someone else sweated to earn, then I'd say "that lucky bastard".

I just think "luck" is not the right word in this instance. But I've been wrong before. Ask anybody. LOL!!! :)

Dee

G.A.A.K Online
www.drunkduck.com/GAAK

G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" -- Calvin Coolidge

"...Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent". I agree. Luck be damned.

Dee

G.A.A.K Online
www.drunkduck.com/GAAK

G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

Erik Melander's picture

I suppose it's hard to argue that paid advertising would not be beneficial in any way to most webcomics. I do believe, however, that it wouldn't be worth the price for most. Unless you have the quality and, usually, the stamina too keep a pretty high update schedule it would be difficult to keep many the visitors coming back. And it is also much more beneficial to get a link from an established comic creator than to pay for an advertisement.

[quote:6ef26bd115="Ghastly"]Consistancy is the key. Consistantly update. Consistantly deliver quality work.

Yeah, and the "being there first" thing shouldn't be under rated. Still, it is possible for new comics to rise to become popular, you just have to understand that this isn't going to happen overnight.

I've reached what I guess would be the lower-middle level of popularity and it's taken me almost 3 years to get there. After another three years my popularity will probably be upper-middle or even lower-high.

You also have to work like hell to promote your comic without being obnoxious in your promotion (don't e-mail popular comics asking them to "trade links"). After a point you'll get to a level where your reader base starts promoting your comic for you. Then you'll start seeing some real growth.
Well, let's be honest here Ghastly, tentacle rape monsters puts asses in seats.

Personally speaking, I wouldn't stop to pee on a number of the TOP WEBCOMICS if they were on fire. I think they're unbearably stupid (No names). Buuuuuut~ They're getting thousands of unique hits a day while I'm currently getting barely enough people to fill a Hyundai. And even if I think they're crap, it doen't matter because there are two truths in this world:

People like crap, and they are fickle about it. That's why Celine Dion has sold more records than any legitimate artist you can think of, and why we're subjected to those reality shows every day of the week. And if your brand of crap happens to suit the fickle whims of the public, then your comic will be a top dog.

If this is what Joey means by "luck" then I totally agree with him. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right thing.

Hey Kiwi :D Welcome aboard. Congrats on your Spotdom if I haven't already mentioned it :D
I think enjoying what you do comes through in you work and that can have a big impact on people viewing your comic and staying as loyal readers.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:0459c3f191="William_Beckerson"]
Well, let's be honest here Ghastly, tentacle rape monsters puts asses in seats.

They come for the Jesus, they stay for the tentacled rape.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Yeah even suck can become part of the cultural mainstreme if it's got all that going for it. *cough*waterworld*cough*

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Not only did Chris have the advertising muscle of Keenspot behind Sore Thumbs but he also advertised it on other webcomics too.

Never underestimate the power of advertising on a popular webcomic. :wink:

Junior, I aint speaking from envy. If I were, then I'd have mentioned how much better my stuff was. If it seemed like I did, it wasn't intentional.

To use more diplomatic wording: I simply find the quality of a number of the top comics to be lacking. From the content to the writing to the art. I'd be happy with two out of three of these, but it aint happeneing with most of them.This is pure personal opinion, I agree. And I have no doubt that all of those guys are cool and hanging out with them would be a blast, but I wouldn't read their comics if I was paid to. I feel that a number of them are at the top because they managed to grab the lion's share of the market first. As Joey calls it- "Luck"

Of course, I still believe that there would be a lot more people at the top than there currently are if we'd stop trying to make comics that only web geeks like ourselves enjoy, but that's a different topic.

And I have only have two words to say about the idea that things (webcomics or whatever) get the attention they deserve-

Paris

Hilton.

As the man once exclaimed; "'Nuff Said"

[quote:1e0d45ed43="xerexes"]And of course - advertise on Comixpedia! :)
Good idea!

Please click on my sig for I am serializing It's About Girls #8 in with a mind-blowing three panels per day every Monday and Thursday because I feel I can manage my time better this way as well it insures that I don't post anymore of them silly R3 comics of mine while I'm between chapters. This is a project that will continue as long as I'm still capable of doing so. Aren't you glad you read this important and well written advertisement right here on Comixpedia?

WELL?!

And now, I shall be successful, thanks to xerexes' timely reminder.

... Anyway, I'm still saying that it's the right product at the right time that makes success.