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When comics enter development hell

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Dec. 3, 2022

When working on comics, particularly long term, you may encounter a situation where your comic is in…development hell!

Development hell is a form of purgatory for a creative project. We often hear it used in relation to series or movies. The project is bounced from studio to studio, as it’s workshopped, re-written, or just plain frankensteined together till at last it bursts forth into the world, for better or for worse. If they’re lucky.

I have had some projects, some ideas, that are in this state. They get bounced from sketchbook to sketchbook. A few projects have barebones outlines whilst others are more fleshed out. I have had some projects put on hold for a time and some which we have pressed the reset button on.

But is development hell a bad thing?

Yes and no.

There are concepts that need that time to marinate. When you’re hit with a new idea, explore it through concept sketches, writing some dialog or plotting an outline. Feedback from peers is also a good way to determine if the idea is worth pushing it out of this development phase.

But what happens when a project enters the realm of development hell mid production?

Take a look at why. Do you need more resources? What will that involve? Can you potentially find a way around those roadblocks? If not, embrace the development side of things. You can try and upskill yourself or work on another aspect of it. If the development hell is brought by burnout, take that time out to rest and replenish yourself. You can’t create on an empty creative tank.

Has your comic ever entered development hell? Did it make it out? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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PaulEberhardt at 8:15AM, Dec. 4, 2022

This said, I did pull things out of development hell and got them going in the past - I suppose some ideas just need to mature like a good red wine - but it's always very, very hard in terms of motivation to revise something rather than follow the exciting new harebrained idea that is sure to pop up just in time to prevent any work getting done.

PaulEberhardt at 8:10AM, Dec. 4, 2022

I love tinkering with details, and that's both a blessing and a curse that has led to a lot of ideas ending up in development hell over the years. I found that the only way to get anything done is set up a framework or at least a key moment I want to work up to and then get going already. The details usually come by themselves in the process, so not to get going in order to think them through is a waste of time. The main problem with this is however finding a way of making me actually practice what I preach, and I'd be lying if I said I ever had...

J_Scarbrough at 7:45PM, Dec. 3, 2022

This happens to me all the time, however, more often than not, it's because of complications that arise that end up stalling the production process: lack of resources, unreliable collaborators, other uncooperative conditions, among other things. It's actually very rare that a project of mine ends up in Development Hell because of artistic or personal problems, but it does happen . . . as a matter of fact, the current season/chapter of VAMPIRE GIRL was in Development Hell for about a decade because I just didn't feel motivated to continue with the comic, since it saw hardly any traffic or activity during its initial run on Smack Jeeves. Even now, the latest entry in my MORON LEAGUE miniseries of fan films on YouTube has been in and out of Development Hell for both artistic/personal and technical/logistical problems - it's actually over a year late, but I think I may end up pulling the plug on the project altogether if I can't finally get it completed by December 26.

hushicho at 4:59PM, Dec. 3, 2022

A great article, and a subject many don't know about. It's often better to just set something down for a while if you can't develop it into something workable. Just continuing to bash at it usually leads to burnout. Sometimes you'll find random inspiration later, though sometimes you won't, and that's okay too. Something few people seem to say is that it's all right not to develop an idea, or to decide you can't do it justice and that perhaps it's for someone else.

HawkandFloAdventures at 5:16AM, Dec. 3, 2022

I suggested this comic in a previous Quack chat I'm looking forward to it :D

bravo1102 at 3:40AM, Dec. 3, 2022

Diving into a comic with no script and just a bare bones idea of what I wanted to do? Did well, built an audience and then lost it all again and I'm stuck with it like an albatross around my neck. Washing garbage. Doesn't matter how clean you get it, it's still garbage and readers left a long time ago. Doubly damned.

KAM at 2:41AM, Dec. 3, 2022

Oh, yeah. My Drunk Aliens subseries fell victim to that. I had several storylines written. Since about half of them took place at the college they went to I thought I should design that, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. And of course I had to produce comics for The KAMics so I couldn't focus all my attention on it. Then the computer stopped working and I don't have money to waste getting it fixed and/or copying all the info off it. Fun, fun fun.

skyangel at 2:27AM, Dec. 3, 2022

If the planning of a new story is in limbo from the start then I often find it's because it lacks something very important, which is purpose. A story about a couple taking a road trip which leads to self discovery has a purpose, the same as an adventure story about a group of guys looking for gold, or a young man who wants to be a movie star etc. The choice of endings and the journey there are always very relatable to the reader and always generate new ideas. As for running into trouble mid- writing, this is why I always feel it's a good idea to make sure you know where your finishing line is from the start. When you know where you are heading on your journey it's easy to take a side road or detour as long as you know how to get back to the main road you originally planned on following. And even if you get a better idea for the ending, which has happened to me on numerous occasions you never have to turn back or run into a dead end if everything meets the connections along the way.

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