Longform — putting my money where my mouth is
I’ve been sharing my philosophy on longform comics for a while now. There have been a few consistent thoughts. The first is that I’ve always rejected the notion that longform comics somehow had a more difficult time attracting readers. Rather, I’ve argued, longform creators have been going about it all wrong. Take this piece from way back in 2010:
And as I heard the words come out of my mouth, it struck me: Maybe that’s the problem with some longform comics. They’re trying to do a comic book on the Web instead of doing a graphic-novel-based Web site.
In other words, maybe it’s time to stop thinking about putting pages up on your site, and rather think about it in terms of updates.
Today’s update might very well be a full page. But the next one might be three panels. And the update after that might be a page-and-a-half.
What’s important is how each of those updates end.
I’m going to argue that each of those updates should end on a plot point of the story. Telling a story is kinda like building a wall. You introduce the concept, brick by brick, then you start unfolding the plot — in the order that will best allow your readers to follow and enjoy the narrative. If you don’t establish a good foundation (or if you do it in the wrong order), the wall is going to fall down.
It always irks me to see a longform webcomic posted in “pages.” Pages are the individual units of a book. Updates are the units of a webcomic. So why use the units of one format in a completely different format?
When I switched Evil Inc over from a comic strip to a graphic novel at the beginning of the year, I had a chance to put that into action. Here’s what I found.