Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.
There are an awful lot of tools available for creating web comics and an amazing amount of experimentation. The world is truly at your fingertips as a creator but with great power comes great responsibility. Words not often used in the self publishing world are editing and restraint.
Splashy innovation can get you a lot of attention but for building and keeping an audience it’s best to follow the basics of good design. Predictability and intuitiveness don’t get in the way of story. Innovate sparingly for impact. Use creative techniques to move the story organically. Don’t let your coding become the story. Keep the narrative always first and foremost.
Traditional comic design and simple, basic navigation that doesn’t get in the way of story or the punchline is the common denominator in these Eisner Award nominated comics.
But I want to base jump into the medium…
There are a lot of new tools and innovations available to push the envelope and I am a big proponent of experimentation in finding ways to take advantage of the web’s possibilities to tell your story but comics as a medium have their own pace and rhythm. A lot of attempts fail because they don’t allow for this. Techniques available through HTML5 are powerful but only when used wisely and intentionally.
FLASH is clean, crisp, and fast but not as compatible and forces some design choices when working toward a dynamic screen for multiple devices. It seems increasingly less necessary and desirable as the web gets faster and faster.
HTML5 allows for an immense amount of freedom and innovation but can seem to trap your comic at times in it’s potential. It is powerful when used to tell a story that can be covered in a single narrative arc but if you plan on a longer form episodic narrative less is more. Hold back and use more for effect.
The amount of possibilities available to your story are endless with HTML5 but it doesn’t replace good storytelling. If the comic isn’t good on paper it won’t be good on the web. What the web does is give you options make it more immersive, more impactful, and more discoverable.
The “text” of comics obeys a rhythm that is imposed on it by the succession of frames— a basic heartbeat that, as is seen in music, can be developed, nuanced, and recovered by more elaborate rhythmic effects stressed by other “instruments” (parameters), like those of the distribution of word balloons, the opposition of colors, or even the play of the graphic forms. (Groensteen, The System of Comics 45)
If your comic is going to be “web only” remember the screen is not the same as a piece of paper. Reading it on a phone is a fundamentally different experience than reading on a laptop. Pan and scan comic books are by their very nature compromises of their original paper based format they were created for. Web only comics should be designed to be read on the web. The web is not a single 2D page on a screen, it is an infinite canvas in all directions. A click on a word balloon can launch a video, expose a footnote, or launch an alternate storyline. The whole universe of your story exists available to be revealed at any moment. Time itself is irrelevant as you can call up back story or jump forward in the plot at any point the reader wants. Parallel stories can be read concurrently. The tools available to you provide new rhythms to discover and learn and new music to play.
If you haven’t (Seriously you haven’t? Shame on you.) read Scott McCloud’s 2009 piece on The Infinite Canvas.
The bottom line
There is no right answer for how to create and distribute your web comic. You can program a custom CSS/HTML5 multimedia experience or just as effectively scan a piece of copy paper and allow people to download a pdf or jpg every Thursday. Create with what you have. Don’t let what you don’t know how to do get in the way of doing. If your story is compelling or your humor truly funny you will find an audience no matter what you tell it in or on.