How to Create a Successful Web Comic

For the artist, the sad part about doing web comics is that it’s not just about art. Cartoonists tend to be solitary creatures who just want to draw, however, in order to get their work seen they have to stumble from out of their poorly constructed home offices (or parents’ basement) and knock on doors. For online work, in order to create a successful web comic post, it means knocking on social networking sites saying, “Hey, look at what I drew.”

At ComicsGoneBad.com we decided to time a comic strip to the launching date of the Ipad on April 3rd and see what would happen. It’s not guaranteed someone will take notice but with web users all over the world hungry for Ipad information there was a good chance someone  somewhere might say, “Hey, look at what this guy drew.”

If you’re not familiar with my work, my name is Jeff Swenson and I’m the cartoonist for the Joovia comic strips, among other features you will see on CGB and across the net in general. The series was started last year as a comic strip digitally inked and painted in Flash and then this year we decided to switch to a handdrawn version. Attila Jancsina is the creator and writer for the series and has created a cast of characters which you will be soon seeing if they haven’t already appeared in the strips that have been posted.

For this product launch experiment we decided on Joovia, the feature about a lovable fashion model, because she  has to have all the new toys. Jeremy, who fawns over her, is the sidekick and, while not intentionally cruel, can be the butt of her jokes. He certainly is in this one, but I think he can take it. He’s still hoping for the day when Joovia says, “Take me, I’m yours!”

My partner in crime on this, Attila, came up with the Ipad comic strip script and sent it off to me. With very little time to create, I skipped the sketch approval process that we normally do for CGB on Joovia strips (you’ll see what I mean on my next Behind the Scenes post) and inked the idea straight from the script with some minor wording modifications:

A sample of an inked comic strip discussing The Ipad

Here's what the Ipad comic strip looked like inked

Then with approval from Attila we took the art and finalized it. Because it was a rush job I’m not completely satisfied with the results. Usually with a coffee shop I like to give more details in the background and after looking at it for awhile I think I would draw it differently if given the chance. But that’s part of the issue with getting attention with a web comic hinging on a new product release. You don’t have time to fuss about.

Here’s how the final came out:

Ipad comic funny finalized in color

Ipad comic strip colored

The webmaster for Comics Gone Bad posted the strip and then did a variety of posts on social networking sites including Digg. Attila and I also plugged the strip where possible as we both have our networks of friends and contacts.  That drew some attention but what brought visitors in to take a look was that Gizmodo.com took notice and plugged the strip on their site. Bam! In 2 days, 10,000 visitors. Gizmodo is a large tech portal so it was the perfect target audience that could appreciate what I call some gentle “geek humor.” Plus I’m sure a lot of the guys liked to look at Joovia, that red hair sets your heart afire.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on the drawing aspects of making a web comic here. I have plans for another article for that. Suffice to say, this image was all done by hand up until adding color. As much as I love hand painting it’s not efficient–God, I miss oils! Photoshop is king and using the airbrush tool is the simplest way to add some shading to the flat colors. For a strip like this I do not go into full blown comic book coloring–that literally can take as much time as painting by hand.

Again, you have to get the web comic online before or on the launch date of the product, in this case The Ipad. If you miss the date, you’ve missed the opportunity. Not that the comic strip isn’t still worth interest, but news blogs, webmasters and the media in general are hunting around for something new to say or comment on the day of the launch–there is a ton of competition amongst writers. If you provide them with some entertainment, a quick laugh or observation, they’ll run with it. They get a post done for their readers and you get some well deserved attention. After all, it can take up to 3 hours to finish a full color web comic, and it only takes about 20 seconds for the average reader to peruse and chuckle at your work.

Next time on Behind the Scenes at CGB, will be going over the full creation of a Joovia comic strip.