There is perhaps no other artistic medium that provides as direct a connection between the storyteller and the reader as comics. Whether you’re doing a daily strip, a graphic novel or a monthly series, comics have a unique ability to paint a scene in an immediate, visceral kind of way. The medium has barely evolved since way back when cavemen were painting on walls, since Egyptians were detailing their mythos along the Pyramid tunnels, because it hasn’t had to. This accessibility to the reader is a big part of why they’ll always be popular throughout the years as we’ve shifted from wall scrolls to print to web-comics and into whatever the future holds. Here are ten tips to keep in mind while creating your own stories.
(1.) Write Whatever You Want
As a comics writer, you’ll soon find that the medium is just as accessible to the storyteller as it is to the reader. Anything you can imagine, as long as you or your artist can draw it well enough that the reader will know what it is, it can be included in your story. In a film, you can’t have a helicopter battle, an alien planet or even a big crowd shot if you don’t have the money to build it, but in comics, you really have limitless resources to tell any story you can possibly imagine. The main thing to remember when developing a comics story is to simply not limit yourself. Any story you want to tell, tell it, even if it’s a daily strip that’s not comedic or a monthly thing with no superheroes. Just do what you want.
(2.) Know Your Artist
If you’re not the one drawing it, you’ll want to develop the visual language of your comic alongside your artist. Know their strengths and weaknesses and let the scripts play to that. Most likely, you’re already partnered with an artist that shares your interests, so developing a story based on that common ground is the best way to start.
(3.) Draw, Draw, Draw
If you’re drawing it yourself, the most important thing is to draw, draw, draw. Not just people, not just spaceships or cool cars, but everything. Buildings, trees, sidewalks. Learn to draw the world around you and give it all a personality of its own so that you don’t feel limited by your own abilities.
(4.) Stay With It
If you’re just doing it for your own satisfaction and you don’t have deadlines, you can afford to relax a bit, but know that readers can be fickle and will generally lose interest in a “daily” comic that’s only updated once every few weeks.
(5.) Get Ahead of Yourself
If you’re drawing a daily strip, it’s a good idea to draw a whole month’s worth of strips before you post anything. This way, you have a backlog of strips to post if you miss a day. If you’re doing a monthly series, well, comics publishers used to keep an emergency story ready to print if someone missed a deadline. You may have your own methods, but keeping some kind of backup couldn’t hurt.
(6.) Plan to Make Some Money
Artists don’t have to be starving. There are a lot of options today for a comic artist or writer who wants to make some money on their work. From self publishing to banner ads and merchandising, the internet has given everyone a voice, a foothold in the media, so to speak. However you intend to share, publish or distribute your comic is up to you and really should be determined by the material. If you’re doing a daily strip, for instance, getting a website and selling merchandise and ad space is your best bet. If you’re doing a graphic novel, you may want to actually print it and see about getting it distributed in comic shops.
(7.) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help in Publishing
Look up the Xeric Foundation Grants for comic book self-publishers. This foundation, founded by Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, is a no strings attached grant to pay for publishing and advertising costs who have the inspiration but perhaps not the money to get their work out there.
(8.) Get a Creative Partner
They don’t need to be a co-writer or an artist or anything. A creative partner can be just anyone with the same sort of likes and interests as yourself. Bouncing ideas off of someone with your sense of humour can be incredibly rewarding for a creative person.
(9.) Take Feedback
Offer your readers some way to give you feedback through comments threads or a forum or something. You’ll get some people who will gush over your work, some people who will hate it and, best of all, people who can actually give you helpful, constructive criticism. Take their feedback into consideration as it can really help you improve your storytelling abilities over time.
(10.) Have Fun
Keep with your comic for as long as it remains fun. It will be difficult to keep up with, it’ll be frustrating to figure out how to resolve your stories from time to time, it will be a lot of things, but if it ever gets boring, if you ever find yourself not laughing at the jokes anymore, then it may be time to develop some new ideas. You could introduce new characters to give the comic fresh material or develop a new comic altogether, but make sure that you’re enjoying yourself because if you can’t be your own biggest fan, then what’s the point?
This post was contributed by James Adams at Cartridge Save, one of several writers who analyse and review consumables for Canon printers.