WA Podcast 126 – Consistency and Continuity

Solving Webcomic Issues We All Face.

Today’s discussion…

Consistency and Continuity.

Christina (Sombulus), Liz (Adrastus), and Robin (LeyLines) are back for another Long-Form Take-Over!  Today we’re answering two listener questions:

  1. ‪Laurie Thomas of Oeclair asks: 
    How much do you or your readers care about consistency of characters over time? I have difficulty keeping my drawing of characters consistent and I hope that eventually I’ll get into a mode of drawing, but wanted to know what kind of experience or thoughts you had about that or if you end up having a sudden change in your drawing style overall?
  2. ‪C.A. Morgan of The Dracko Universe Graphic Novel said:
    I really like the idea of tracking continuity. I have my own methods for doing it, I’d like to hear about others’ techniques.

Some of the things we mention in this podcast include:

  1.  Aaron Diaz’s Article Costumes: the Wearable Dialog 
  2. Children of Eldair 
  3. V.E. Schwab 

Warning: Podcast may contain some language not suitable for all-ages

Posted in Drawing, Featured News, Helpful Hints, Podcast, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. I’ll have been doing the same long form comic for 8 years this may, and at the beginning, my continuity notes were just a google doc with mountains of word-vomit that was organized in to particular way. Over the years, we’ve moved to a format where we have several spreadsheets that serve different functions.

    The main sheet is an overall timeline that started off as beginning/middle/end plot points, which then is broken down by chapter. Each chapter starts off as a rough summary and bullet point list of plot beats that need to happen to keep with basic continuity, and when we’re laying this out, we refer to a sheet we have that keeps track of open plot points and mysteries and foreshadowing notes and add anything new that readers will definitely speculate about to it, and change the background cell colour for any plot point that is resolved in the new chapter. We like to have at least 3 chapters ahead broken down like this, and any chapters beyond that are a couple of sentences and maybe a location, to be elaborated on at a later date.

    When it’s almost time to start a new chapter, we set aside a weekend and sit down with our secondary timeline spreadsheet which breaks down every single plot point in the chapter in major detail, and then we summarize all that as a straightforward list of events and scenes that NEED to happen at minimum for the chapter to keep with continuity.

    Now, at this point the idea was that Cory would write the actual script before I started drawing. The problem we found with that, though, is that he’s not a visual person and has zero idea how to visually pace an actual comic page or scene, so this led to more problems than it solved. Over the years we’ve settled into a NEW next step and instead of scripting, I thumbnail out the entire chapter based on our detailed notes on a print-out template (i find it easier to thumbnail traditionally and it’s the only traditional part of my process now) that’s just 16 large rectangles in the proper comic dimension aspect ratio that I print out and draw on directly. This gives us a sense of how long the chapter will be and how much space is reasonable for any given scene in a chapter to last, and even if we decide to make changes to it later (happens often, usually only a few pages here or there to add clarity on the fly if a conversation feels unfinished or readers seem confused and another page would help them be less confused, but this latest chapter involved re-thumbnailing a 12 page scene after we made a really big last minute change that set up some future stuff).

    I then take a high res photo of the thumbnails on my phone and transfer them to dropbox, correct the levels so they’re still readable, make them all into individual image files and upload them into a google doc sequentially. I then post a summary of what’s happening on each page and who is doing what, because my thumbnails are all stick figures, and then go through the entire thing with Cory. He starts writing the script based on those thumbnails, and I go off and start drawing pages in small batches and upload the finished art with no text or word balloons to the doc and we do script re-writes a few pages at a time based on the finished art. I letter, and do last minute script changes depending on whether or not the word balloons end up being really terribly shaped or not, and I also end up cutting clutter words that made it through the final script if I can.

    It probably sounds really convoluted, but I never really feel like I need to worry about accidentally stumbling into a gigantic plot hole, especially since we only keep future chapters as loose ideas that can change depending on audience reception and those neat moments where you think of a BETTER direction and can just change things up without anyone being the wiser. I also started out being really uncomfortable with scripting, but I’ve learned so much that I went from zero input to harsh and involved editor and co-writer, and it works for us.

    Sorry that this turned into an essay! Once I start talking about process I find it hard to stop, because everyone has such different and interesting approaches to how to make comics in a way that works for them.

  2. Awesome start to the new year! Loved the solid audio but it was weird not hearing Robin mumble through a mic cord.

    Ps. The world can only handle so much “sad piano”. Use it wisely!

  3. Earth, Wind and Fire was a group in the ’70s. You just didn’t know you were channeling a ’70s soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop group.

  4. I guess I’m a tad biased, but the “Long-form Takeover” episodes have pretty much become my favorites at this point. ^_^

    Really enjoyed the continuity tracking discussion in this one. Luckily for me I’ve always typed out my dialogue in text files–for easy spell-checking and then copy-pasting into actual comic subtitles in Photoshop–so checking on names or references is usually just a “Find in Files” operation away. It’s definitely saved me some headaches!

    The audio balance was quite good in this episode. Yay new software! : D

    • So glad you enjoy them! I’m especially pleased to be doing episodes with a long-form focus, because as a long-form creator I always felt that there were a ton of resources out there for strip style comics, but very little for folks making stories. I’m happy to be creating the kinds of discussions I always wanted to listen to when I was starting out.

  5. Absolutely 100% of my continuity is stored in my brain! I really should write everything down.

    For stuff where you just need a noteboard to reference I do really like Trello, which is a website that IT peeps use for that sort of thing. I sometimes do the initial drafts of scripts in Trello because it’s really easy to drag stuff around, make notes and organise.

  6. The new audio stuff sounds good.

    This podcast hit close to home. I cannot emphasise how little I thought this stuff through before I started making the comic. Now, I’m doing all of this retroactively.

    It could be worse because I guess I’m a glorified gag comic but I do have the same five characters. I wish I’d thought through their clothing a bit more. To begin with, one of the characters had a beanie with ribbing around the band. I got so annoyed with drawing that every time he turned up in a strip, I just stopped with no warning and explained to my readers that I had talked to him and told him that he had “outgrown” it. I’m also dying to get rid of the glasses on another character but that feels somewhat, I don’t know, mean because kids are supposed to read my comics. I don’t want to put out that glasses = bad.

    It’s interesting hearing about these kinds of changes from other creators. I kind of like finding this kind of thing in the things I read and watch, even a small ret-con. It’s like a little nerdy badge of honour because I liked something so much I noticed that so-and-so’s shirt turned blue halfway through chapter four.

    • My first comic, I started with a 2 am sketch and…that’s it. That was the entirety of my planning. So I very much relate to the retroactive world-buidling! I think I over-compensated by doing perhaps too much planning with my current project, but even then, I also wish I’d thought through their costumes more. Still, they can always change clothes! I mean, even Batman and Spider-man have mixed up their iconic looks over the years. I think we can give ourselves permission.

  7. I wish I could say I had a Great Method of tracking my continuity and worldbuilding, but the truth is my process almost exactly resembles Robin’s– physical notebooks everywhere, plot outlines and structures and potential designs scribbled onto loose-leaf and then lost immediately (needing to be redrawn from hazy memory)… I do think that in a way letting go of plans and designs that I came up with in 2010 is likely for the better, because the plots that I’m coming up with NOW will always be more exciting to me than the ones I came up with years ago, but sometimes it definitely bugs me to be unable to find these things XD;;

    When I started using Google Documents to write down the bulk of my notes, things got significantly better– so long as I can remember WHICH document I wrote something in, I can usually dig it up quickly and do a ctrl + F to find it again. The trouble is that I still often prefer to write things physically by hand, so I have to transcribe the parts I’m serious about keeping– the nice part is that the act of transcribing it acts as a kind of additional filtering process, letting me turn the idea over again in my mind anew and consider what parts of it need to be molded or massaged a little more before they’ll fit perfectly into the existing story.

    Sometimes I have to just sit down with as many of my notes as I can and a big sheet of paper, and just make a visual chart showing the progression of my story’s timeline; it takes hours of digging and writing and erasing, but it’s usually worth it to have a document that at least tracks the important bits in one place, even if I have to scrap it and make a new one a year or two later.

  8. I’m probably biased since my webcomic is a long-form webcomic, but I have to say that I am loving the long-form take overs!

    Consistency was probably the biggest factor in holding me back from starting (and eventually uploading) my comic. Fortunately, after drawing the same character for 50-100 times, I feel like it becomes a little easier.

    If I had to go back and change anything, I probably would have just drawn the same characters from multiple angles a LOT before starting on drawing the pages. Something about the repetition helps get it stuck in my brain.

    The audio was great btw – I’m glad the software is working out! =)

    • I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the long-form take overs. I know I love recording them and want to do more in the future.

      I agree with you that consistency does start to happen pretty naturally if we stick with our comics, just because drawing the same character so many times in so many ways does slowly cement them in our minds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *