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Lessons learned from making webcomics
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ttallan
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Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 1128
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JohnK wrote:
Never overload a page with dialogue.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. (Meaning, I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I'd love to open up a discussion on the subject!)

The trend nowadays does indeed seem towards giving the images in a comic more weight over the words. I particularly felt this when I was reading lots of manga volumes, where an entire 200-pg collection would only take me about 20 minutes to read because the majority of it was images rather than words. The comics that I read as a kid, however, had much more to, well, read. I could often spend 20 minutes on a single 24-pg issue. There was a lot more dialogue per page, not to mention narrative boxes (a style that has all but disappeared). I felt like these stories were a lot more satisfying partly because they took longer to consume.

Of course, I'm a comic artist-- I know better than the average reader that just because a page reads quickly because it has fewer word balloons on it doesn't mean it took any less time to produce, or any less thought was given to how it advances the story. I also recognize comics on the web appeal to a different market than comics on paper. Quick humorous strips tend to do better than wordy long-form stories. And yet... one of the pieces of advice we all get hit over the head with is, each update has to be satisfying. Are pages that take 20 seconds to read-- because the words are pared down to a bare minimum-- all that satisfying? Sometimes I think I try to squeeze in too much into a page, to ensure that there's enough in it to tide readers over until the next one.

In case it wasn't obvious, my comic, Galaxion, is pretty wordy. I do occasionally wonder if I ought to fall back to a slower pace in which I spend more time with dialogue-free moments and let the pictures do the talking. I can't decide.

Any thoughts?
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wendyw
The Bomb-diggity


Joined: 10 Jul 2008
Posts: 4126
Location: North-East England

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
JohnK wrote:
Never overload a page with dialogue.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. (Meaning, I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I'd love to open up a discussion on the subject!)


Same here. Whilst I know I shouldn't overload a page with dialogue sometimes the characters just have a lot to say and surely it would be a bit unrealistic if nobody ever babbled or ranted?

My own comics vary from completely silent to full on blabbermouth mode and whilst big blocks of text might be hard to read I do think they have their place.
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JohnK



Joined: 02 May 2006
Posts: 466
Location: Glendale, California

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there is a balance and it is something I am grappling with as a writer. I like good writing and that entails advancing the story with images as well as words. I just think making a comic too thick with dialogue can be a bit tedious and confusing at times. My focus is finding the balance these days, but as each page is written I try to keep in mind that a lot can be said with the expression on the characters face or symbolic imagery.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's all fairly subjective I suppose. Looking back at older stuff of my own some of it seems too wordy and cluttered but I remember being happy with it at the time, and if I look at it again in five years I'll probably change my mind again. There was only one page I ever drew that I thought at the time was way too jammed with words. I went with it anyway but it easily sticks in my memory even after six or seven years.

(warning- it's...hmmm..."religiously insensitive?" "religiously offensive?")http://www.mcmasterscomics.com/meet-the-gods-2-pages-1-4/ (third drawing of the four posted) The page can barely breathe. I would write out all the dialogue, break it roughly into pages in my mind, then draw the whole thing, guesstimating where I thought the word bubbles would eventually go. So I couldn't easily go back and re-adjust the art if it turned out later the word bubbles didn't quite fit. I guess I'm still using more or less the same method, but "Pete" is pretty basic and it's easy to estimate space needs for dialogue.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
The trend nowadays does indeed seem towards giving the images in a comic more weight over the words. I particularly felt this when I was reading lots of manga volumes, where an entire 200-pg collection would only take me about 20 minutes to read because the majority of it was images rather than words. The comics that I read as a kid, however, had much more to, well, read. I could often spend 20 minutes on a single 24-pg issue. There was a lot more dialogue per page, not to mention narrative boxes (a style that has all but disappeared). I felt like these stories were a lot more satisfying partly because they took longer to consume.


Yeah that was my experience many moons ago. I remember the good Xmen run where it was very satisfying, like reading a book. Now you can skim through some stuff and see nothing but pages and pages of beautiful but mindless "action!"

Quote:
Of course, I'm a comic artist-- I know better than the average reader that just because a page reads quickly because it has fewer word balloons on it doesn't mean it took any less time to produce, or any less thought was given to how it advances the story.


I think sometimes there's an assumption that if it's not too word-heavy a good story is still being advanced...just building up slower but eventually to be just as satisfying story-wise. But it doesn't mean there's necessarily a strong story undergirding it- often there isn't. It just takes you longer to find out. The emphasis on art and action hides the non-story or weak-story. I would rather find out sooner that despite great art and action, there is more style than substance and not much original or interesting is going on.

Quote:
I also recognize comics on the web appeal to a different market than comics on paper. Quick humorous strips tend to do better than wordy long-form stories. And yet... one of the pieces of advice we all get hit over the head with is, each update has to be satisfying. Are pages that take 20 seconds to read-- because the words are pared down to a bare minimum-- all that satisfying? Sometimes I think I try to squeeze in too much into a page, to ensure that there's enough in it to tide readers over until the next one.

In case it wasn't obvious, my comic, Galaxion, is pretty wordy. I do occasionally wonder if I ought to fall back to a slower pace in which I spend more time with dialogue-free moments and let the pictures do the talking. I can't decide.

Any thoughts?


I haven't read yours all the way through but have read sections (with an intention to start at the beginning eventually!) and I think you have a great grasp of balance between overloading and shorting on verbiage. And the art is fantastic.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JohnK wrote:
I think there is a balance and it is something I am grappling with as a writer. I like good writing and that entails advancing the story with images as well as words. I just think making a comic too thick with dialogue can be a bit tedious and confusing at times. My focus is finding the balance these days, but as each page is written I try to keep in mind that a lot can be said with the expression on the characters face or symbolic imagery.


We're all grappling with it, that's for sure! If I'm not mistaken you have an additional level of difficulty because you're writing and someone else is penciling. For those of us doing both, we can instantly imagine shapes and sizes of both art and word and a "finished" page appears in our head as soon as we start. You've got to run your thoughts through another filter. That said, I'm jealous of your "problem." I want an artist!!!

---

www.mcmasterscomics.com
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Lo (Aquapunk)



Joined: 09 Oct 2009
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
JohnK wrote:
Never overload a page with dialogue.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. (Meaning, I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I'd love to open up a discussion on the subject!)

The trend nowadays does indeed seem towards giving the images in a comic more weight over the words. I particularly felt this when I was reading lots of manga volumes, where an entire 200-pg collection would only take me about 20 minutes to read because the majority of it was images rather than words. The comics that I read as a kid, however, had much more to, well, read. I could often spend 20 minutes on a single 24-pg issue. There was a lot more dialogue per page, not to mention narrative boxes (a style that has all but disappeared). I felt like these stories were a lot more satisfying partly because they took longer to consume.


I think this is partly to do with western comic conventions and manga conventions. Western comics (of the Marvel/DC school) seem to place more emphasis on cinematic quality, while manga tends to value other things, like white space and decompressed storytelling.

What a lot of amateurs forget (and a lot of professional letterers too, I'll admit) is that dialogue and word balloons should be treated as another artistic element that should abide by the rules of composition like everything else on the page, but unfortunately they're usually slapped on with all the forethought and subtlety of a labelmaker.

Personally, I prefer decompressed stories that aren't wordy (if I wanted to read prose, I'd pick up a damn book), but that's neither here nor there.

-

As for something I learned from making comics, is that I've had to get used to being my own slave.
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ttallan
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Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 1128
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wendyw wrote:
My own comics vary from completely silent to full on blabbermouth mode and whilst big blocks of text might be hard to read I do think they have their place

That second page definitely sells the "blabbermouth" idea. If the character were speaking about important plot points the block of text would need to be rearranged, but as a means to show a character rambling on and on while the other characters tune out, it's exactly right.

mcmasters wrote:
The emphasis on art and action hides the non-story or weak-story.

Yeah, and here's me thinking I've achieved some kind of lucky break when I don't have to draw as much because I have lots of word balloons taking up the page! Illustration takes a lot longer to fill the page with than dialogue, even if you're an idiot like me and still hand-letter. I do my best not to shy away (too often) from challenging backgrounds, but if I can fudge it by creatively covering it up with word balloons, I'm doing a happy dance. (Also, thanks for the compliments!)

Lo (Aquapunk) wrote:
Western comics (of the Marvel/DC school) seem to place more emphasis on cinematic quality, while manga tends to value other things, like white space and decompressed storytelling.

I certainly appreciate the dramatic feel that decompressed storytelling can create, but I'm reluctant to go there in my comic. If there's one thing more likely to guarantee you a lack of online readers than long-form storytelling, it's decompressed long-form storytelling. Unless you can post multiple pages for each update, the internet has no patience for stories that move that slowly.
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Lo (Aquapunk)



Joined: 09 Oct 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
Unless you can post multiple pages for each update, the internet has no patience for stories that move that slowly.


I wish more comics would do this, honestly. The majority of long-forms, and most webcomics in general imo, can't hold themselves up with that kind of update schedule, and I wind up dropping most of what I read because of that.
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hipopotamo



Joined: 27 Nov 2011
Posts: 192

PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a writer turned web comic writer, so I am painfully conscious when I feel the urge to write long dialog. And then I write a super-hero story, where the universal standard is to have the hero do inner monologue-ing to advance the drama while he beats the bad guys...

So I am very self-aware on limiting my dialog, specially when it is exposition (here I think I failed miserably), and every now and then I try silent pages; I even encourage my artist to come up with the better ideas to advance the plot with only images. This, for example, conveys about 1 full page of prose of my original writing.


One thing for sure, you learn a lot while trying to balance both!

Cheers from the Hippo



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JohnK



Joined: 02 May 2006
Posts: 466
Location: Glendale, California

PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya know it's interesting watching my comic unravel at one page per week. I may have went a little too wordless within the first story. It's sort of a solitary episode though. I'm sure I'll learn from this as much as I have from overdoing it in the past.
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Wasteland_Auto



Joined: 05 Mar 2013
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1, Make Copies of your work.

2, The 'Pathfinder' tool in Illustrator is totally your friend and will make you not kill yourself when trying to get Art Deco lines right.
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The Letter J



Joined: 17 Feb 2010
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Listen to and carefully consider all feedback that comes your way, but in the end trust your gut.

2. Real life is going to happen and there will be unavoidable set backs. Just do the best you can with the hand you are dealt. Your readers will understand.

3. Inevitably, you will lose readers who will feel the need to tell you why and what you did "wrong". 9 out of 10 times that reason is failing to live up to their own expectations that they, themselves, set for you based on what they want out of your work. Just remember, you can't please all the people all of the time and a new reader is always just right around the corner.

4. Learning some CSS will save a lot of headaches (and possibly some money) down the line.
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Hanzou



Joined: 30 Oct 2007
Posts: 224
Location: Ohio

PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've learned to have a huge buffer of updates handy before you start posting your comic. I also learned the importance of nurturing your fan base.
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