I dropped by Vericon, a sci-fi/fantasy/gaming/anime con at Harvard this weekend, to check out their awesome webcomics panel: R Stevens (Diesel Sweeties), Shaenon Garrity (Smithson,Narbonic), Jeff Rowland (Wigu, Overcompensating), and Paul Southworth (Ugly Hill).
The mood was informal, and the panelists spent most of their time parrying questions from the audience, ranging from queries about specific characters to general questions about the creative process. This last question led to an interesting comparison among the four. “I write a lot of stuff down on receipts as I walk around,” said Stevens. “I doodle it all out in rough stick figures and play this weird thing on the computer. I keep getting faster computers and I keep getting faster at Photoshop.”
“I caght him once with headphones on and it was like he was playing piano,” said Rowland. “It was like Tori Amos.”
“I got a bouncy ball—a yoga ball—to sit on so, now I bounce up and down,” Stevens added.
“For Narbonic, I would draw a week's worth of strips at a time,” said Garrity. “I'd get three sheets and pencil out six sets of panel borders, do six sets of pencils, and then do the inking.”
Garrity and Southworth both said they had the story planned out before they started drawing, but Rowland said “I doubt myself too much.” If he thinks too far ahead, he said, it starts to seem stupid. But, he added, “I have an overabundance of ideas.”
With no worries about sales or editors, one audience member wondered, what constitutes “failure” for a webcomic? “It’s a failure if you give up and think you did a bad job,” said Stevens.
“The reason I end my comics so frequently is it's just not there and I'm not feeling it the same way I did before,” said Rowland. “You don't want to just keep drawing something out of habit.”
Southworth said he worked on his first webcomic for years and then decided it was a failure. “I kind of knew if I kept drawing I would be drawing and drawning and never getting anywhere,” he said.
But, Stevens pointed out, “Failure for us is completely different than in other media. It doesn’t have to be sales based, it doesn't have to be audience based, you don't have to crush other people. Years from now I may have 20 readers and I would still consider myself a success.”