So I received an email from a reader and soon-to-be comic maker recently, which got me thinking about how I got into making comics and if I had any advice for would-be comickers, what would it be? It was interesting to think about while I put together a response, so I thought it might be useful to add some of that information here, too. I’m hardly an expert at anything involved here, but I find it interesting sometimes to read about how others work, and if someone can get some use out of what I have to say, all the better.
I originally got into comics because my friends were doing it (PEER PRESSURE!) and kind of got hooked on the process. I’ve gone through a zillion different changes in the way I do things over the past eight years (!) I’ve been making Messenger. There are a few areas that stand out as major “learning points” for me as I’ve gone along:
Everyone’s a critic: This is something I learned early on – when you’re posting art to the internet, everyone has an opinion, and some people are better at voicing it constructively than others. You have to learn pretty quickly how to filter out what’s a valid critique versus someone just making noise. Once you’ve done that, you have to decide if the commentary is worth applying to your work and if so, how.
Persistence pays off: In relation to the first point, being persistent and keeping at it will pay off in a number of ways. First off, even when it seems like no one is reading, people usually are. And while you’re working away producing pages, you’re building a backlog of pages for new readers to enjoy when they stumble onto your comic. Secondly, the more you continue to work on your story, the more your own skills will build, and the better your final product will be. Don’t be discouraged! Keep going!
Don’t wait for the “right” moment: Sometimes it feels like you shouldn’t be working on your own comic because you aren’t “ready.” You aren’t “skilled” enough. But in reality, you’re only setting yourself back. The more you begin to actually work on something, the better you’ll become at doing it – and it’ll actually get done. If you ever find yourself completely 100% satisfied with your artwork, you’re probably doing something wrong. Art is about change and growth and learning something new; making comics can easily be part of this process. If you’ve dreamed about telling a story, just go and do it. There isn’t a “right” time.
It’s the internet – use it! One of the best things about making a webcomic is how easy and inexpensive it is to get your work out there. There are tons of free hosting options these days, and you can generate a built-in audience simply by starting to post your work on galleries like Deviantart or its many equivalents, or adding your site to a directory/topsite like Topwebcomics, or even by (politely) asking other artists for a link exchange. Many (myself included!) would be happy to do so. There’s a wealth of resources out there to help you create, share, and market your own work – all you have to do is take a little time to find them.
Do your homework: This step might be as simple as reading my little outline here, but you can quickly and easily expand your search from here, to the internet, to books. Although I didn’t read it until a year or so ago, I really recommend Making Comics by Scott McCloud. It’s an interesting read, and will help you to step back and take a look at your work in a slightly different way.
Experiment! Whether it’s using new materials, trying advertising in a new place, or learning a bit of CSS to get your site looking extra shiny, making a comic is a great way to learn a couple of new skills. Especially when you’re just starting out, trying new tricks will help you to find what works best for you and your comic.
Above all else, don’t give up! I said that once up above, but it’s worth repeating. Making pages and making mistakes and listening to feedback are the only way to progress. Don’t be intimidated by your favorite artists – ask questions on their forums or Formsprings or Twitter or whatever. There’s a wealth of information out there waiting to be had, and everything in your favor for starting a comic of your own. The only thing holding you back is you.