Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

need help for a basic decision
benjin at 7:17AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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Hello,

I'm working on the first storyboards of FU (my second webcomic ever) I came to the point that I don't like the style the starting pages are taking.
The comic will show the life of several individuals living in a future world at different places. These story lines will be told in a series of comic strips. Those lines will cross from time to time.

It's a science fiction setting and therefore my first attempt was to explain why things are how they are. After writing down the third strip storyboard this seemed to become a boring beginning. Too much text, too few pictures.

My second attempt (the current one) is to go directly to the story. From time to time (let's say every 10th page or so) there will be an encyclopedia page with mostly text that's explaining a few things.


Please community, give me some advice how to solve this problem.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
Hyena H_ll at 7:36AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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I'd avoid the ubiquitous fantasy/sci-fi world “wall of text” if at all possible.

If elements of the world that these characters inhabit are important enough, they'll come up throughout the story in an organic way. Most readers hate nothing more than to start off with a big block of expository text, or be confronted with it after getting into a story. It's better to be patient and let details come out bit by bit than infodump.

If you wanted to put those pages between chapters, I think that would be fine; or have a few splash pages with a paragraph or two of text (broken up into easily readable bits, that is- not one huge block). But keep in mind that it's the kind of stuff that scares off casual readers.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
BlkKnight at 7:37AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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While your alternate method would prevent starting off with wordy blocks, you're going to continuously break the flow instead. You're better off having the characters explain the pertinent information when the time comes. I also hope “FU” stands for something other than the swear.
That's “Dr. BlkKnight” to all of you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:26AM
BffSatan at 7:53AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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Hyena H_ll
I'd avoid the ubiquitous fantasy/sci-fi world “wall of text” if at all possible.
I second this statement.
Walls of text are webcomic suicide.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:21AM
benjin at 8:06AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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Thank you for your quick answers.

FU does not stand for the swear. It's just a shortcut.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
Aurora Borealis at 2:12PM, Sept. 16, 2009
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you know these lenghty posts on forums with no formatting where someone rambles on for 50-80 lines with barely anything more than a period at the end of a sentence? The ones that always result in someone going “I'm not going to read that block of text”?

THIS is what a of text is in a webcomic.

A wall of text COULD work in print, especially if we're talking a hybrid of an ilustrated novel/graphic novel (for example the Jaka's Story volume of Cerebus), but the same amount of text would NEVER work on the screen.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:08AM
kaitoukage at 10:08AM, Sept. 18, 2009
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If you have to spend a lot of time explaining something, my suggestion is to use dialog. Have one character explain in short, succinct sentences while the other pipes in with questions. People come to webcomics to look at pretty pictures, but breaking up long essays with back-and-forth conversation goes a long way to making a comic page enjoyable and getting your point across.

Generally, though, you should do like Hyena said and weave your world-building in with the story.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
Hyena H_ll at 10:28AM, Sept. 18, 2009
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kaitoukage
If you have to spend a lot of time explaining something, my suggestion is to use dialog. Have one character explain in short, succinct sentences while the other pipes in with questions. People come to webcomics to look at pretty pictures, but breaking up long essays with back-and-forth conversation goes a long way to making a comic page enjoyable and getting your point across.
Sometimes having dialogue where characters explain the nature of their world can come off as stiff and contrived, though. Especially if it's all at once, or in the very beginning of the story.

The easiest way to do this is introduce a “newcomer” into the story fairly early- someone to which these things would have to be explained. The characters that inhabit the world would naturally take for granted details about their universe/culture/whatever.

But if you have the character mention things in passing, or have things in the background (radio or television newscasts, newspaper headlines, etc.) it might work. I think a comic that does a great job of subtly giving the reader this kind of information is http://www.drunkduck.com/Anatta]Annatta. Another one is Warren Ellis' “Transmetropolitan”. In literature, George Orwell's “1984” (where information is matter-of-factly narrated in bits and pieces, a few of Anthony Burgess' books (“The Wanting Seed” and “A Clockwork Orange”), and Margret Atwood's “A Handmaid's Tale”.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
usedbooks at 8:15AM, Sept. 19, 2009
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I've read books that do that too (start with history or exposition), and it turns me away nearly every time.

Exposition itself can be fine if presented properly – but any way you do it, I'd rather not see it in the first page or two. Personally, I'm a fan of the “cold open” – begin in the middle of the action. Even if the reader feels plunged into a world they don't understand and a strange plot, it works great. In fact, if it does seem unfamiliar, it will do even more to grab readers. Have the characters doing something. Don't have any explanation. Then when the scene is past (or even in the middle of the scene), you can cut to the exposition. You have to give readers a reason to want to read all that text, peak their curiosity. The best way to do that is show them the characters, the world, the types of interesting things going on. After they see the “fun stuff,” readers will have enough interest to fuel them through the text.

I think the most classic example of a “cold open” is James Bond. All Bond movies begin with a chase or a fight scene. Then they cut to title credits. After the title, you get the “talky parts” with mission objectives and MI6 and all that stuff. They never put that stuff in the beginning. They don't even give you the title in the beginning. It's action first, talk later.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:38PM
kaitoukage at 6:55AM, Sept. 21, 2009
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Hyena H_ll
The easiest way to do this is introduce a “newcomer” into the story fairly early- someone to which these things would have to be explained. The characters that inhabit the world would naturally take for granted details about their universe/culture/whatever.

This is actually how I am doing it. My main protagonist is a newcomer, so the other characters (one in particular) have to help him get the hang of things. I spend a couple pages of Q&A to establish the basics, then move on. In retrospect, I probably spent a little too long with the Q&A but I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Anyway, I'd agree much more of an art to make the subtle inserts, especially when you don't have the newbie, but still need to do world-building.

Thanks for the comic titles, btw. I'll have to check those out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
Hyena H_ll at 7:38AM, Sept. 21, 2009
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kaitoukage
I spend a couple pages of Q&A to establish the basics, then move on. In retrospect, I probably spent a little too long with the Q&A but I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Ha. My first two and a quarter chapters are basically exposition. ;) The current page (68!) is the first “real” foray into plot-land.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
kaitoukage at 10:10AM, Sept. 22, 2009
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Hahaha, wow. Suddenly I don't feel like I overdid it quite so much :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
benjin at 7:17AM, Sept. 29, 2009
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I shortened my script for the introduction to a one page history lesson shown on a holo projector (news feed kind of) and it tells a neat story with a nice gimmick at the end of the page. I think, that's ok now.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
ToniusTobinus at 4:07PM, Sept. 29, 2009
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The first thing I would say is to remember that readers don't need to know nearly as much as you may think. If you've already outlined your story (or interweaving stories in this case), take a step back and figure out exactly what facts the reader need to know to make sense of the story. Boil it down to the basics. Do the readers really, REALLY need to know the specific events that made society, and the protagonists' lives, the way they are? You might even find that mentioning key events without explaining them will excite reader imagination (Think ‘the noodle incident,’ if you were a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, or ‘the Clone Wars,’ before the new Star Wars movies came out).

Of course, if you are posting this on your own website, you have the added advantage of an “About” page. Tell your story in the comic, telling just what readers need to know for it to be an understandable work of fiction, and those that are thirsty enough for more can go read the “In a world…” blurb.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:32PM
benjin at 4:59AM, Sept. 30, 2009
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I think, the opinions about what a comic/manga should “explain” varies a lot. Yesterday, I found a passage in a manga drawing tutorial that says that the questions Who, Where, When, Why should be answered sooner or later in a comic. Of course theres a big difference between a text wall and snipplets of knowledge naturally spread all over the comic.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
Phillby at 11:26AM, Sept. 30, 2009
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There's the old addage that people would rather be confused than bored.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
benjin at 2:02AM, Oct. 4, 2009
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Yesterday I've read Purgatory. You are totally right about the wall of words. I like that comic, but the ‘making of’ and background explanation should have posted elsewhere or made some in-comic content.
I'll do my best to avoid it.
Fortunately I already have a ‘making of’ trash comic :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
mlai at 2:13AM, Oct. 5, 2009
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I shortened my script for the introduction to a one page history lesson shown on a holo projector (news feed kind of) and it tells a neat story with a nice gimmick at the end of the page. I think, that's ok now.
This sounds like the one page that I would skip. I hope it's not the first page.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:06PM
benjin at 5:53AM, Nov. 3, 2009
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mlai
I shortened my script for the introduction to a one page history lesson shown on a holo projector (news feed kind of) and it tells a neat story with a nice gimmick at the end of the page. I think, that's ok now.
This sounds like the one page that I would skip. I hope it's not the first page.
That page contains a hot babe. Still sure to skip that?
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
JustNoPoint at 9:19AM, Nov. 3, 2009
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I've done slightly similar. The key is to attempt to make it interesting.

And don't overload the page either. Try to show everything you are explaining in visual terms as well.

Here are a few examples where I had to explain a lot. I think they turned out pretty decent. I wouldn't add too much more than this though.

http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Devon_Legacy_Prologue/index.php?p=256175
http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Devon_Legacy_Prologue/index.php?p=360600
http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Devon_Legacy_Prologue/index.php?p=362349

And you have no idea how much I have still not revealed from my world's history! The audience really still doesn't know a thing about the way my world works in my comics! That's part of the fun! They didn't have time to learn yet. The issues have not came up much.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:12PM
jaex at 9:19AM, Nov. 3, 2009
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benjin
mlai
I shortened my script for the introduction to a one page history lesson shown on a holo projector (news feed kind of) and it tells a neat story with a nice gimmick at the end of the page. I think, that's ok now.
This sounds like the one page that I would skip. I hope it's not the first page.
That page contains a hot babe. Still sure to skip that?

Oh, maybe we won't skip the page or the hot babe on it, but we'd probably skip the words on the page.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:05PM
benjin at 2:55AM, Nov. 5, 2009
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I have another idea about those ‘textwalls’

In my SciFi world, TV is used to spread knowledge instead of commercials. People tend to turn on TV when they come home and then do housework or whatever while TV spreads it's message. (that's how europeans see common US citizens)
This concept is my explanation for a very good general education, so even hoboes know something about Einstein, Heisenberg or history.
(just SciFi, reality is sooo much away from this…)

So I might use this to place a TV in the background now and then, mumbling something. People interested in it may read the text, others just follow the main plot.
I think this might work well for history lessons like ‘first alien contact’, or basic science and technology knowledge.
I also have some cute ideas to let this bump against the main plot content. For example a character talks to an centipede-like alien while a TV-spot explains why most spacetraveling races are hominides.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
ThePriestess at 11:35PM, Nov. 5, 2009
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Try working the explanation of the world into the early part of the story, that way you kill two birds with one stone, story and world introduced. If you do end up doing it just as descriptions, you could try adding more pictures, or any other little things that would keep people interested (Hopefully the world being described should be interesting in itself) But I would recommend trying to get that done as soon as possible, not making people wait between updated- you can keep it fast paced in that sense.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:25PM

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