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Starting a webcomic, 1.5 years in!

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Matt, Kaga, and a couple of cute cats

It’s been about 1.5 years since I started Starfallen, and it’s been a learning experience the whole way. Webcomics are something I’ve been interested in since back when RPG World was the new hotness, but back when I first discovered them, I didn’t really understand… well. Anything about how to make or maintain them. 

These days, there are resources like ComicLab that cover industry info, as well as the business side of online comics. However, since more data points are always a positive, IMO, here’s some of my experience starting my own comic as a total newbie.

My main hosting site up till now has been Tapas.io, and I started off with about 6 weeks (~12) pages’ worth of comics built up. This is because I heard that having a comics buffer was a smart way to avoid interruptions when life happened. From that point up till the present, I’ve maintained about the same amount of buffer, and it’s been incredibly useful when I had to move house and could afford to skip a week of work.

I started out doing black and white comics in manga style, in the BL (boys’ love) category. Here’s my thought process, which you can reproduce if you’re thinking about starting a comic yourself!

What art style should I use?

Manga is, frankly, the primary style I’m interested in drawing in. The vast majority of the comics I consume are in this format, which means I’m also way familiar with the tropes, pacing, and expectations of the audience coming in to read these types of comics.

It’s popular, it’s the most popular style on Tapas, and frankly, I love it, which means it wouldn’t be burdensome to draw my comics week after week.

Black and white? Or color?

As a beginner, there were some areas I knew I was deficient in, such as how to choose and use my own colors. Others, such as how to mesh together an art style, were things I had only a vague conception of.

Either way, starting in black and white allowed me to focus on improving my drawing and composition, as well as a million other artistic problems I didn’t even realize I’d need to solve. Though I think most artists would agree that color makes art more distinctive, manga is traditionally created in black and white, so I reasoned that my audience wouldn’t object too much :).

There was other other choice I made that was specific to manga, and that was the decision to avoid using screentones (basically, the dot-patterning used to shade greys in most manga). You can get amazing effects using screentones, but I had heard of unpredictable moire problems that can crop up during the printing process, which is something that I did not understand how to avoid. Especially since it was possible I could end up with 100 pages of comics I might need to fix when I was finally ready to print a compilation book. That would be a nightmare.

I chose to work with a limited palette of flat-color greys for Starfallen instead.

Picking a genre

This is a popular category, though my comic is also other categories, such as romance and fantasy. Frankly, I am still not sure if there is a better genre choice for Starfallen, but the relationship between the two main characters is a major theme, and perhaps it’s better to state this up front than to have readers angry about content they weren’t expecting.

How to make your own decisions

I would say that the most important factor to take into account when making your own decisions about your work is to ask yourself what you love. Or perhaps more practically, what you can stand to produce day after day, year after year, until you’ve improved enough to create something of real value. A hot genre now may not be so popular five or ten years from now, and even completely unpopular or unknown subject matter can be appealing in the right hands, so I don’t think it’s worth trying to fool your readers by following that sort of trend.

Besides, if you’re an artist creating art that you hate… what are you doing? That’s my philosophical take on the matter.

Statistics

My first month, I had a grand total of 43 views. You can find my likes and subscriber data below, but basically I started picking up after the first month, as I got more comics under my belt. 

Though I’ve been working on iterative improvement the entire time, I’d like to do a deeper dive on stats and milestones in… Part 2!

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