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Open Soapbox: How Not to Make a Webcomic

Making webcomics is a tricky process. There are lots of articles, discussions and advisors that offer information about the theories, processes and sheer practicalities involved in taking the phrase "I'm going to make a webcomic" all the way to fully-realized, charming cartoon characters galavanting within panels and trading clever quips on the glowing computer monitors of every internet-wired home on the globe. What doesn't get noted is that quitting a webcomic is also as nuanced and involved a business as starting one. Most people stumble backwards into it without a plan. It doesn't have to be that way. Before following in the footsteps of many excellent and popular webcomics, you really should know the best ways to stop comicking.How NOT To Make a Webcomic

Making webcomics is a tricky process. There are lots of articles, discussions and advisors that offer information about the theories, processes and sheer practicalities involved in taking the phrase "I'm going to make a webcomic" all the way to fully-realized, charming cartoon characters galavanting within panels and trading clever quips on the glowing computer monitors of every internet-wired home on the globe. What doesn't get noted is that quitting a webcomic is also as nuanced and involved a business as starting one. Most people stumble backwards into it without a plan. It doesn't have to be that way. Before following in the footsteps of many excellent and popular webcomics, you really should know the best ways to stop comicking.

First, it is important to be sure that you want to do a webcomic. If you aren't sure of that, then the rest of this advice simply isn't for you. You have to want to do it.

Of course, wanting isn't enough. After the want settles in, you study web design, study webcomics, find out what works and what doesn't. You fill your head with more than enough knowledge to form intelligent opinions. You know what you want to accomplish and how you will do so. You get to work, make your site, make your comics, worry that they're not good enough and burst with pride when they are. You get visitors to the site - friends, family and finally strangers - and you're pretty much where you wanted to be.

You're making a webcomic.

So what comes next? Many webcomic authors lose interest and eventually stop. Not you, though. Remember? You still want to make comics. Other authors lose interest in one idea and scrap it for another, completely different (yet somehow similar) webcomic idea – you can't help but notice that the apples all seem to fall on the same earth where the roots live – but you're sure that your concept is strong enough to withstand any genre, style or subject matter you care to run through it. No, if the core concept is too strong, you'll be tethered to it for life, or possibly longer.

The stylish way to go is to declare "burn-out" and let your site slip into a deep coma while you recharge your creative batteries. Well, only a few people will really sympathize with that one. The rest, being smarter (or, as you like to think, not so much) will see through your little charade and move on to greener pastures. You won't have done the quitting, but it amounts to the same thing and that's far from your goal.

If you want to really give yourself a good jolt, change your surroundings. If you can, make a move that involves several time-zones, culture shock, climate changes, currency conversion, and anything else that you think will break you out of your comfort-zone. When a webcomic has its claws into you, there's no better way to shake it than sheer distance.

The web is global, however, and this isn't always a sure thing. Also, you're going to remember that you really do want to do a webcomic. You've still got the domain and you still occasionally post random stuff to the site and... well, it's a slippery slope back to doing the damn thing again.

It is possible to simply quit. But that would feel too much like quitting. Anyway, you have to make sure that the comic doesn't get the better of you. So forget quitting.

A clever ploy is to redesign your website. It keeps the appearance of activity but allows a change of focus from the comic itself to the site as a whole, which is what you want it you're going to make it out of this conundrum with your sanity in tact. Ever rearrange your sock drawer? Ever keep doing it over and over for a month solid? That's the kind of site redesign that's required. No half-measures will do. It has to be a complete redesign at the most fundamental levels. This shouldn't be a problem, since you know so much more about your comic and how to design a website than you did at the very beginning. But the site still has a purpose and there's probably a comic or two still on it, and you're nagged by the fact that you want to do a comic. You'll just have to distract yourself.

Non-comicking alternatives are often either high-tech or very low-tech in nature. On the high-tech side, watching endless movies on DVD will consume countless hours of time and the good news is that, these days, studios are releasing tons of old TV shows whole seasons at a time, so there should be no excuse to ever get off the couch again. If that's too mind-numbing, you can get almost the same amount of time sucked from you by deciding to learn a new operating system and tell yourself that it's for the good of your comic. If you're an Apple user, then just try to learn Windows. A Windows user? Install Linux. Happy with Linux? Buy a new iMac. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Low-tech means getting out. Exercise is great for keeping the drawing pad at bay, because not only do you have to make the prime hours of the day available for hiking up and down mountains, but you're also then too tired to even think about drawing anything (and the site's not completely redesigned anyhow, so that's OK, then).

Because you still (foolishly) want to do a webcomic, you'll need to deal with the guilt of not doing one. There's only one sure-fire way to do that and that's to wallow in self-pity and there's only one guaranteed way to get to that town- You need an ex-girl- or boyfriend or an ex-spouse if you can get one. The weeks and months of abject misery and hopelessness that you can get out of this are priceless. You won't feel like picking up a pencil again for ages, but, when you do, you know that you'll have at least gotten several good comics out of it. Or so you tell yourself.

There are other simple ways in which you can avoid doing a webcomic that you clearly want to do. Reading other webcomics, for example, is a classic. It even tricks your mind into thinking that you're doing more "research" even though you've read the Sluggy archive twice already- once online and then again in book form. Hell, if you find all those "pun-demon" things that Pete hides in the comics, you'll probably ascend straight to Heaven and then you can avoid doing your own webcomic indefinitely!

There's just one sticky wicket, though, and that's the thing you agreed to way back at the beginning: you want to do a webcomic, and really, there's no good reason not to.

There just isn't.

Well, being hit on the head with a ball-peen hammer and spending a few years with the mind of a seal-point Siamese will get you off the hook, but not much else.

Greg Stephens is a guest columnist. You can find his own attempts at not making a webcomic here.