Webcomic Workshop #46

Solving Webcomic Issues We All Face.

This podcast we discuss:

Byron: When should you, if at all, use colloquial terms or expressions? Or even cultural references?  For example I’ve used the term “Free Clinic” and I had to explain it to my readers.  They say if you have to explain it, then don’t use it.  Is that really true?  I know MST3K used a ton of movie references and it became hip to try and figure them out.

Dawn: Eventually, I will have to end my comic and move on to something else. With gag-strips it’s more like the sappy end of a sitcom, you bid farewell to the characters more than the storyline. Do you think it’s better to give fair warning, to prepare readers, or “surprise” them with the final comic? Obviously, hyping up “the end” could get more hits, but it seems inappropriate for some reason.

Drezz: Getting rid of the ads, getting rid of the clutter and delivering just the comic – making it a fully online reading experience without the distractions (Wormworld Saga, His Face all Red, Sarah and the Seed, etc) since ads don’t do much more than take up real estate, and I want the GN to be something to read and enjoy (and eventually integrate into a ‘studio’ site).

Chris: After Heroes Con, I’m going to try and launch a Kickstarter Campaign because I now have three books and it’s getting harder to print enough copies of all three books for all the conventions I go to. A Kickstarter campaign will go a LONG way to remedy that situation. Some of the Kickstarter money would go towards having a bigger advertising presence on the web as well.  My Problem: The campaign goal was going to be between $1,500 – $2,000. I don’t know if I have a big enough fan base that would be able to make this campaign a success. I know a lot of it is not just relying on your fan base. You also have to promote, promote and promote. Still though, I still have that “What if I can’t reach my Kickstarter” goal feeling that’s making me have a little bit too much paralysis by analysis. What should I do?

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14 Comments

  1. Drezz, I’m really glad you brought up Daniel’s work over at The Wormworld Saga. I have received never-ending crap for my vehement belief that the current webcomic format for longform comics (not strips so much, just longform) is TERRIBLE. To be brutally honest, I don’t read many longform comics online. First, one update a week is too slow. Second, if I’m going to read 50 or more pages of something, loading EVERY SINGLE PAGE ONE AT A TIME takes forever. It generally takes me 30-40 seconds to read a page and then I spend 5 or more seconds just waiting for the next page to load. That is waaaayy too much downtime when you’re sitting down to read bunches of pages for something. It leaves too much time to lose interest and move on.

    So what do we do? Stop this ridiculous fascination with pageviews. Pageviews shouldn’t matter. Delivering the best online experience possible, that should be our primary goal. I’ve constantly pushed different ideas on how I deliver Variables and when I started the comic, I was called almost every name in the book by other creators because I wasn’t using ComicPress and I wasn’t doing it like everybody else. In their eyes, if it’s different, it’s wrong… a really short-sighted way of looking at things, particularly when the current experience generally hovers between mediocre and terrible.

    There are so many better ways of doing things. Wormworld is one way. Another is the system you’ll find over at Hominids Comic by Jordan Kotzebue, which is pretty much the same system I use for Variables. Another way of doing it is something I’m experimenting now, which is this:

    http://variables.selfcentent.com/webcomic/variables-2002-chapter-1-2/

    As webcomic artists, why aren’t we trying harder to push different methods of delivering content? Why are we slavishly stuck to a quasi-print format and not playing up the strengths of the medium? And why is the community at large so resistant to change when the current system is so obviously flawed? It baffles me. I may sound a little harsh here but given the response I’ve received on creator forums around the web every time I try something new, it’s a warranted harshness.

    Anyway, great podcast, everyone.

    • There’s always going to be that feeling that you should always try and make your work as profitable as it can possibly be, so you can quit your day job and make comics full time.

      Thing is, the ‘proven’ model that is out there primarily exists for those who create daily strips – similar to a newspaper format. Longform comics have always had a tougher grind and require a different approach. There have been very few successful longform comic creators out there who have been able to create a ‘model’ that can be used as an example. Each one differs a bit, and I think it has more to do with the genre that the comic falls into that drives it.

      Generally speaking, strips tend to be comedic. Good for a chuckle – pass it along to a friend and its ability to spread virally is far greater. But if you do something dramatic, you need to have certain things going for you:

      1) The art needs to be professional quality.
      2) The writing needs to be professional quality.
      3) You need to get it in front of the eyeballs of someone who is a prominent figure in comics and have them vouch for its professional quality.

      That’s why I’ve decided to put comics out when I feel they’re done and NOT dictated by a schedule. Why make your work suffer? You’ll only water down its effectiveness as a whole story.

  2. Brock, I absolutely love the way your comics are presented… I’d love to find out more about that process and how the site is set up to accommodate it.

    • Which system, Bill? The one currently on my site found here:

      http://variables.selfcentent.com/

      Or the new system I’m testing now (found in the previous post)?

      For now, I’m going to run both systems simultaneously to gauge reader response. I’d be more than happy to tell you how I work each system and benefits/flaws I’ve found with each.

      It’s my belief that there is no right answer here. The problem is that so few people are asking the question.

      • I like the version where clicking on the dots seemed to add things to the pages. It really enhances action sequences and adds a nice pacing element.

        • Ah, okay. For that, I’m using WordPress (naturally). There is a javascript applet called Flexslider that is basically a slideshow function. I’m running a WP plug-in based on that code called Easy Gallery Slider. I’ve tweaked it a little but nothing too major… yet. I plan to do a few things to it down the road.

          At that point, I start creating slides of the comic with different panels blacked out, obscured, or whatever. I just order those slides however I please and then pop them into a WP page gallery. That’s about it.

          One negative to this current system is that if you go above ~20 slides per gallery, it takes too long to load. In the future, I’m going to look into a preloader system for FlexSlider (not currently available yet) or figure out how to code one myself. My current full page system has a preloader built in, meaning that after you load the first page and start reading it, the browser begins downloading the second, third, etc. pages so they appear seamlessly to the reader. They load one page and the rest appear upon demand with no visible load times. That’s a much better system than what FlexSlider currently has in place and I need to figure out how to add that feature to the system.

  3. I don’t say this enough, but thanks for making these episodes. They give me something fun yet topical and even useful to listen to while I work on my comic. 🙂

    • Oh! And about making your comic really “easy” to read–all in one big scrolling thing, for instance–impacting book sales, the Wormworld author himself has said–I think this was in some of the “Making Comics” podcasts–that putting the book out there for free online is what has *helped* him sell physical copies. Or something like that, if memory serves.

      • Glad you enjoyed the podcasts. I started off listening and enjoying then actually ON the show, and I gotta say – they’re as fun to make as they are to listen to.

        In regards to your comments on Wormworld Saga, Daniel has put a serious strategy together and did a lot of planning to get there. Now he’s in the active phase and it appears to be working well for him.

        If memory serves, he didn’t care to do a print version because he wasn’t sure how it would translate from online. But I’m guessing he found a suitable solution since a print book seems to be in the works for the future.

          • No you’re right – he is pursuing a print version. He just didn’t want to do one initially because he wasn’t sure how to make it work. I recall him saying something about trying to get the story formatted for print in a way he was happy with, and he may have found a suitable method.

            So there probably WILL be a Wormworld Saga print book.

  4. Personally, I like my podcasts long. You guys covered a lot of great info! My two-cents on a few topics:

    Dawn: I support the idea of having a transition set up from one work to the next. I made the mistake of taking a year off and I lost SOOOO many readers that way. One year in, and I’m still at 10% of the number of readers I had for my first project. Staring over is not fun!

    Drezz: You’ve got me considering a second archive type for people that like reading a chapter at a time. I do a lot of bonding with my community in the comments for each page, not to mention information on world-building details, so losing the page-by-page archive system means losing that chance to mingle with readers. That’s something I really value, so I don’t want to lose it! That said, I also have several friends that like reading it all in one go. Why not make their experience smooth and seamless? Hmm…definitely something to think about…

    Thank you, as always, for this great (and entertaining) resource!

    • The express-lane version of the graphic novel is a good idea for those who are concerned more with delivering uninterrupted story (like me.) But if you’re more interested in cultivating community, you should probably continue in your current format as to not confuse your readers.

      If community building is big for you and you want to have an express-lane format, perhaps you should consider a small forum for the discussion. Comments are great for discussion, but as new pages pop up, it can be a bit time consuming to have to back-track and continue the discussion especially if there are a lot of comments.

      Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of comments – but people like them because they are the quickest way of leaving feedback for an artist. But – if you give people who are heavily invested in your work a place to carry on in-depth discussions, you can also pry comments out of other lurkers and get them involved as well.

      For me – forums are like a big after-party. The main event is over, but people still want to hang out and do stuff together. Forums provide that space.

  5. Speaking of fun things for comic apps, have you guys seen the Shadowbinders Comic Kickstarter? They’re making a comic app that incorporates games with achievements to unlock additional content, trivia games, all sorts of cool stuff. It’s really neat the way they’re setting it up!

    This podcast gave me some food for thought about my own comic, considering it’s long form. Maybe I should offer an easier reading experience for my finished chapters. Definitely giving my brain something to chew on. (I’d love to make an app, at some point. Going to have to be in the future though, because at the moment I don’t think I have the readership to really support it. Especially since I have no idea how to develop an app.)

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