Dec 01 2009

Ideas for future articles…

Published by at 4:39 pm under Webcomic

I think I’ll do some articles on webcomics. That’d be neat for a change of pace. Can you think of anything else that might be interesting? (Ideally related to writing and/or superheroes).

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Ideas for future articles…”

  1. Scott Storyon 01 Dec 2009 at 5:18 pm

    There aren’t many serious superhero webcomics, but there are a few, such as Union of Heroes, Heroes Inc., and Johnny Saturn. I’m the co-writer and artist on Johnny Saturn, which is approaching it’s fifth year online, so if I can be of any assistance feel free to email me. We’ve made decent inroads in print media as well.

  2. B. Macon 01 Dec 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Yeah, I had thought it strange that I hadn’t found any superhero action webcomics. Or, if there is action, it’s only a vehicle for comedy (Dr. McNinja, Evil Inc., etc). Perhaps it’s because most webcomic artists don’t have the time or inclination to put 10+ hours into a page that they’re giving out. (Your webcomic looks much better than most of the ones I’ve seen). Comedy usually relies less on visuals than action does, I think. Hmm. I’ll think more about what I can ask you and I’ll get back to you in a day or two. Thanks for the offer.

  3. Lighting Manon 01 Dec 2009 at 9:17 pm

    I think the primary problem with serious superhero webcomics gaining popularity, that doesn’t really affect comedic webcomics, is the fact that the reader has no personal investment in it, so the delayed payoff that comes from drama causes greatly reduced retention, and even reduces the number of people willing to give it a try.

    With a comic strip format like the majority of comedic strips, if it comes up with a dud, you can just go to the next strip and you’ve got another chance at enjoying it, if it sucks sufficiently, you can leave the page, having lost nothing, but the reader has to invest in a serious webcomic and devote enough time to get to a pay-off before they receive any reason to continue reading, and that is asking a lot of a person, especially one that hasn’t already been sold to the extent that they would give currency in order to gain access to your work. On top of all of that, you have to build a trust in your readership that some random Sunday they won’t go to find your weekly update and learn that “life is really hard, and I won’t be updating any more” without a proper resolution, which is just the way it goes with comedy webcomics, but could be quite frustrating, like a television show that ends on a plot hanger then gets cancelled, for a serious work.

    Of course, just my random opinions.

  4. B. Macon 02 Dec 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Also, I think that action and drama (rather than comedy) require more setup. Webcomics, even more so than comic books, have problems with setup because readers rarely read from start to finish and almost never from start to finish at the same time. In most cases, even a sequential comedy like 8-Bit Theatre can be enjoyed out of order, because the comedy of each page is more or less self-contained. In contrast, if you had missed a month or two of an action webcomic and then came back to find the most recent page of the protagonist fighting some guy you don’t recognize, it probably wouldn’t be too interesting. Also, it may be easier to introduce prospective online readers to a comedy for similar reasons. You might well enjoy a funny scene featuring Agent Black and Agent Orange even if you haven’t been introduced to either character, but it’d be much harder for you to enjoy the noncomedic elements (like the case they’re trying to solve).

    Stat of the day: around 60% of our readers on any given day are first-timers.

  5. Scott Storyon 02 Dec 2009 at 7:16 pm

    The problem with superhero comics, as mentioned above, is the same problem that all long-form webcomics have. Good art can get people to read for a bit, but only a good and engaging story will keep them coming back.

    My answer to this, at least nowadays, is to have a cliffhanger or hook at the end of every strip. No, I don’t always do this, but for a big majority of the comics I do. Really, this is just a web-based variation on the page-turn panels. In other words, you need to make the reader interested or intrigued, and make him want to come back.

    Another thing that doesn’t work as well for webcomics is tall, vertical panels that require the reader to scroll up and down to figure out what’s going on. Consequently, “stacked” panels work especially well on web browsers.

    Formatting for both web and print can be a challenge, but I’ve got an approach that has worked pretty well for me.

  6. B. Macon 02 Dec 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I’m not sure if it’s possible to do a cliffhanger at the end of every page, but I think that it’s pretty much required to do a cliffhanger/hook at the end of every comic book issue.

    I agree that formatting your webcomic to be printable as a regular book is quite tricky– the viewing area available to most people on a computer is neither shaped nor sized similarly to a comic book. (If you wanted to be daring, I suppose you could have the comic book printed as landscape rather than portrait, but I think that would feel weird and it’d be hard to put on a shelf).

    Scott, what are some of the things you wish you had known about webcomics when you started out?

  7. Scott Storyon 03 Dec 2009 at 10:43 am

    Wow, things I wish I’d known? This is kind of hard to answer, because the first three years of the comic were hosted on other sites (Graphic Smash, Komikwerks), and getting actual numbers of visitors/page views was difficult to get.

    The Half-Pixel model of webcomics was around, but I didn’t know anything about it until I read their book. Still, I’d already made every mistake known to webcartoonists prior to that.

    In June 2008, I got serious about it and launched my own site and began promoting in earnest. That’s when readership picked way up, and we began selling more hard copies.

    To put it into relation, Komikwerks only made about 300 uniques a day when we were there, and that was for the whole website and all the comics hosted there. By last november, we were getting about 300-400 uniques a day on our own site. Over the year, that’s risen to about 1,500 to 1,600 uniques a day, and that’s currently where we are. For 90% percent of the webcomics out there, that would be great numbers, because most average comics about 100-300 uniques a day. For hugely popular sites, 45,000 uniques a day is the average, and there are webcomics that get 100K to 130K a day. These popular sites have names you’ve probably heard of, such as Schlock Mercenary, Evil Inc., Sheldon, PVP, XKCD, and many others. I once heard there are 8,000 actively updated webcomics out there, but I have no idea if that is true.

    Looking back, I know there are ways I could have raised the success bar: Do fantasy, not superheroes. And, make the main character a cute teenaged girl with lots of conflicted love interests for her. Of course, that’s not the story I wanted to write, and Johnny Saturn was.

    Sorry for such a long-winded explanation.

    PS: Cliffhangers as mentioned above is with a small “c.” I try to end each episode on a questioning note (“No, it can’t be you!”), leaving the readers to ponder what’s coming in the next strip. In print comics, Chuck Dixon is good for this, but Mark Millar is really good at it.

  8. B. Macon 03 Dec 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Yeah, promotion is critical. Search engine optimization is a low-cost, passive strategy, but active promotion has so much more potential. We only get 100-200 searchers a day, even though we place well on most of the searches that we compete for (SN places in the top 50 on generic superhero queries, but it’s usually #1 if the query includes writing, novels or advice). In contrast, depending on who has linked to us recently, we might have a few hundred or as many as 10,000 unique visitors that day (thanks, Fark).

    What are some of the ways you’ve promoted yourself?

    I suspect that I will attract substantially more readers and improve my long-term retention rate after I get published. The experience will almost certainly improve my writing advice and my credibility. In addition, readers that are introduced to my comic book series in a store might become fans of the website after they Google the author. So each comic book in a store is like a billboard ad. Also, having a comic book would give people another reason to link to me (reviews and the like).

  9. Scott Storyon 03 Dec 2009 at 6:47 pm

    As far as getting published and getting your name out there, nothing beats self-publication these days. With print-on-demand it’s never been less expensive, and it establishes that you can produce a project, tell a story, and do all the things a writer does.

    Before webcomics, I was in the indy print comic arena for about ten years. I was published at Image, Amp, Digital Webbing, Arrow, and many, many more. I did not get a big name, and most people didn’t know who I was. Then, self-publishing: Things immediately took an upturn for my career, the freelance work started coming in, and at least within the indy community people began to remember who I was.

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