The webcomics blog about webcomics

Lessons Learned

Although it’s only August (and therefore only half over), the one thing that I think it’s safe to say I regret this summer is that I didn’t get a chance to attend a certain class at CCNY and get to see Aaron Diaz¹ teach a class full of college students about webcomics. I’ve long admired Diaz’s art process blog, and I was eager (as a practitioner of the instructive arts myself) to see how he would do in front of an audience (if nothing else, he was sure to have the regulation sport coat with leather elbow patches).

While our schedules never meshed, the results of Diaz’s efforts are available to me (and to you) in the form of the webcomics created by his students:

At the end of the course, everyone was given the option to actually publish a webcomic of their as their final, and I’m going to share them here (because, after all, they won’t get the full experience unless someone’s reading their work online)! I highly encourage you guys to contact these artists and provide constructive feedback. Note: these are beginners, most of which have never drawn any comics before this course.

Keeping that in mind, I want to call out the work of Sharon Stokes, who produced a gag-panel comic called ‘Tis Race, for not only having an easy-on-the-eyes style (that is, she didn’t try for art beyond her abilities, and instead polished what she was capable of — I’d expect to see much more elaborate work from her in a year or so), but also for having multiple updates. Most of her fellow students managed a page or two (sometimes much more elaborate), but in only providing the beginnings of a story, it’s tough to see how they might follow through. Stokes put up five different gags with five different directions, which shows a certain flexibility. Plus, this is a legitimately funny joke, one that I’m surprised I’ve never seen before.

As for the rest — since a lot of creators send me links, I see a lot of beginner-level work, and none of what got posted by the class is on the low end of the beginner talent spectrum. As far as being interesting enough to make me check back without a reminder, Leon McKoy’s Desert Raine caught my eye; if none of the others did, well, I can count on one hand the number of single-update beginner-level webcomics that have over the past ten years, so no real failing there. Art will be refined, story beats will get more subtle, lettering, coloring, and spelling will all improve. With any luck, there will be more classes like this at CCNY, and we’ll be able to see the progression of these students and those in the future.

Also on the theme of lessons: Daniel Davis, maker of comics, prints, postcards, and the like, has shared some lessons learned over a half-decade of exhibiting at San Diego Comic Con, and he’s willing to share them with you. Key points you might want to pay attention to:

  • Davis has run a profit each year at SDCC
  • He’s also improved gross sales each year at SDCC
  • He has a keen eye for things that could be done better (booth layout, payment solutions, visual appeal)
  • He’s got the number of everybody that’s ever wondered, Should this be a shirt?:

    If you want to make a whole lot of money at the con, make prints/t-shirts based on a famous property that you don’t own, or mashup two hot properties. You’ll get some quick sales for sure.

    But I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s a short-term gain with no brand-building. You’re competing with tons of other folks doing exactly the same thing, it’s not memorable, I predict that eventually the big studios will shut down this sort of activity, and then you’ll have to start from zero all over again.

    It lacks story. “Why did you make X?” Oh, well I’m a fan of X.” That’s a boring story compared to being inspired, excited about your creation.

Read the whole thing, even if showing at a convention isn’t on your immediate list of things to do. There’s a lot of very astute self-analysis there.

¹ The Latin Art-Throb, naturally.

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