November West
April 15, 2014 6:30 PM   Subscribe

November West
This is the story of a girl. And her two sons, Demon Child and Dark Warrior. She works for The Borganization...

This is my webcomic. I began kicking around the idea in December 2007. I began publishing last year, which resulted in much more intensive kicking around of ideas and not much publishing. Earlier this year, I began publishing semi-regularly.

I am still wrestling with how often to post and things like that. Ideally, I would like to post 5 to 7 days a week. But, for now, I really would like some additional feedback from actual human beings. Or demons. Or vampires. Or anyone with two eyes and a keyboard.

I have a second (related) comic that started as filler (when I was super stuck last year) which is set in November's childhood: Lil November
Role: author, artist
posted by Michele in California (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

What sort of feedback are you looking for?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:00 AM on April 16, 2014

Whatever kind anyone wishes to give.

I have gotten some feedback and support in MeFi chat.* I am curious what people think of it. I am curious what people like or do not like. I am hoping to make it a commercial success, so I am open to critique of what I am doing right or wrong or where there is room for improvement with that eventual goal in mind.


Oneswellfoop has been especially swell. But thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read it and talk to me a bit. Or share links to things.
posted by Michele in California at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2014

Okay. First, I'm gonna give a general sense of where I'm speaking from: I write and draw comics and I've been doing that for years now. Here's an example of something I did a year or so ago, not currently lettered. My art has changed and improved since then, a bit, but you get the idea. And, of course, reading comics of all kinds since I was quite wee. In general I do a lot of writing (I also write prose) and editing and whatnot. I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a story work, and the art of storytelling both visual and non. So those are my bonafides.

On to the comic.

What tools are you using to make this? I see in one of them it says you're using Paint for Windows 8. Are you doing this with a mouse? What do your pen and paper drawings looks like?

The writing: There's a tradition in comics of having some kind of word balloon and/or tail going from the dialogue to a character to indicate who is speaking. As is, I have no idea who's saying what. Characters appear in-panel with blocks of words floating around them. Sometimes the art is completely drowned out by the words.

I don't know. I guess "too wordy" is the phrase I'm looking for here. A whole lot of it is kind of incomprehensible, and it would be even if I knew who was speaking, which is not easy to determine. This conversation, for example, is probably quite engaging if you have a total sense of its context and know the characters well, but to someone reading the comic for the first time it makes no sense at all.

The thing about having a dense mythology is that you're going to lose the reader if you don't give them a reason to get interested. Since they're not going to understand the dialogue in the linked comic, it would need to at least be laid out in a way that's easier to read, that isn't cramped. It would also help if both speaking characters were written in different voices. I don't mean different fonts or anything like that, I mean the words they're speaking. As is, I get no sense of their personalities.

One of the considerations of making a daily (or every couple days) comic is that each strip needs to stand on its own, to some degree, since it's the only strip the reader will see for a while. The story gets parceled out. So if someone's into your comic and they're waiting for the next strip, the next strip needs to reward that wait to some degree. On some level, you need to deliver. So if I were waiting between strips and then suddenly it's Update Day and I go to your site and this is the strip, I would be disappointed. It doesn't tell a joke or move the plot along or add anything to the story at all.

In fact, there's a good way to think about it: Try to make every strip either tell a joke or move the plot along or both.

One thing that might help is to make the strips a bit larger if you're going to have so much dialogue. As is, they're too small and cramped.

Now that we've covered the writing, on to the art.

You say you're hoping to make this a commercial success, so I'm going to be honest. I'm not saying any of this to be mean at all and I do not intend this to cause any hurt feelings. I'm saying this because you have a goal in mind and it's information that may help move you towards that goal.

The art is very bad.

The thing is, there's a visible difference between "I'm choosing to do this in a minimalist or deliberately lo-fi visual style because that will contribute to what I'm trying to say with this work" and "I am taking shortcuts in my visual presentation."

For example, this. This is awful. This is a strip of two characters (I guess?) and a cat (probably?) arriving at a restaurant. That's all that happens in this strip (see above re: update schedule and rewarding the wait). You used the flood fill tool to create the sign and didn't go back to fill gaps in the letters.

At this point, you may be feeling an urge to explain that this was because of a limitation of the software or whatever, but the thing is, it doesn't matter. Either you put your best foot forward with your work or you keep working on it until you can. The reader is not going to see your limitations, technical or otherwise, and they're not going to see whatever your reasons were for delivering suboptimal work - they are only going to see what's on the page. What's on the page is the only thing that matters.

You need to hook your reader and then draw them in. Sloppy work accomplishes neither.

It looks like you're using MS Paint in the later strips. It doesn't look better. When I see something like this, it doesn't look like the art was a deliberate stylistic decision. It just looks lazy.

As far as how to improve the art: Sit down with a pen and paper and draw objects around you. Draw household objects. Draw people. Get yourself a sketchbook and some pencils and one of those cool kneaded erasers. Do it until your hands hurt and you're sick of drawing and then keep going. Draw until a sense of visual composition is second nature. I hear good things about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain - maybe your local library has a copy. This will take a while, so you may as well get started now. The harder you work at it, the faster you'll achieve it.

Ultimately, you might want to give some thought to re-doing the current story from the beginning and making it a bit easier to read, and making it so the reader doesn't have to fight with the layout to understand what's going on. Unless there's something immediately and obviously compelling about your comic, the reader isn't going to stick around to try to make sense of it. They're just going to close the tab. If you want the reader to get sucked in, you will need to present as few obstacles as possible.

As it is, this is not a comic that anyone (or, if anyone, very many people at all) will be willing to pay money for. You can get to a place where you're making a comic that someone might be willing to pay money for, and I certainly think you've got the mental tools to get to that place, but it's going to take a fair bit of time and work. You can do it, though! Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:40 AM on April 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thank you for taking the time to comment at length.
posted by Michele in California at 1:24 PM on April 17, 2014

I've read of all the comics (prior to this post) and I am interested in seeing where it goes. I do agree with some of the issues FM brought up. I think you should work on some of the presentation issues (how to demonstrate clearly who is talking, standardize fonts from comic to comic, etc.) and practice your technical skills. I would keep updating and developing the story with an eye towards doing it for several months or a year, and then going back and relaunching it with a tighter storyline and improved presentation. I feel like this is a prototype. I don't feel that it is marketable in its current state. Good luck!
posted by studioaudience at 8:34 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

FM already said much of what I would at length, so I won't touch on most of what he covered.

I'm a professional comics writer, and I draw my own "personal project" comics on the side as well. I have experience in webcomics and print, and have been making comics seriously in one way or another for about fifteen years.

First of all, the current medium of November West isn't really working for what it seems like you're trying to do with this comic. There's something to be said for minimalist webcomics, but your story and setting aren't well-served by such a bare bones approach, and honestly, finding an audience for a new minimalist webcomic is extremely difficult. Unless you're Randall Munroe or Ryan North, people are unlikely to take the time to check out a new comic like this one, even if the writing is very polished and clever. (I have about the same criticisms of the writing as FM, so again, I'm not going to get into it here.)

I realize that resources like scanners and graphics tablets can be expensive and difficult to justify. Honestly, if you have any facility at all with drawing by hand, this story would be better served by any other medium than the one you're currently using, even something as basic as taking cameraphone photos of pen-and-paper artwork and tidying them up in a free image editing app. (You could try getting a tablet to draw digitally, but that's a very steep learning curve -- I have friends who have been drawing comics professionally for a decade who had a rough time adjusting to drawing with a tablet or a cintiq.)

Working on your comic as frequently as possible, updating consistently and on schedule, and finding a way to present your artistic and writing skills in the best possible light are the most important things for you at this stage. If you're disciplined about making comics and are serious about developing your skills, you'll find that you improve much more quickly. If you keep updating long enough, you'll find an audience, even if it's a smaller one than you would like.

Ask yourself what you mean by "commercial success." For many of my (very talented, very well-regarded) webcomics friends, "success" was when they earned enough money from their comics to pay for groceries. The proportion of comics writers and artists who make a living off of their work is very small -- most of us are supplementing a "day job" income or are partially supported by spouses or family members while we find our feet. I have only one comics friend who makes enough money from her work to afford anything like a middle-class lifestyle, and her books have been NYT bestsellers for multiple years in a row.

None of this is to say that you don't have as much of a chance as anyone at putting a great comic together and finding an audience that wants to support it financially -- this is obviously a passion project for you and I believe that you can get it somewhere interesting if you put in the time and the effort. I hate to be an "expectations management" killjoy, but being honest seemed better than the alternative.

If you'd like to send me links to some of your non-digital artwork via memail or email (email's on my website, linked on my profile) I would be more than happy to take a look at it and offer any advice I might have.

Best of luck with this project. Please do keep us updated.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:57 PM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I enjoy this work. I perceive your style as an impressionistic kind of take on the comic panel, a refreshing look among so many literal/realistic approaches. My only suggestion would be to make the panels even more "fuzzy". Kudos for exploring fresh territory.
posted by telstar at 2:00 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

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