5 bad habits of Indie Comics Creators

Indie Comic creators have a hard time just creating the product. I know. They don't really know who's in their audience, or even have enough fans to make decisions off of on how to shape their comics into something that fits the mold. There isn't any mold yet.

That being said here's 5 basic areas I see time and time again where Indie Comics can fix their work right away. 5 glaring areas of wonkiness that they need to address before going to print (and best of all, the cost of fixing them is FREE!):

1. Have a story to tell.

What is a story? It's where you have characters with clear objectives or goals, the obstacle to their objectives or goals, created in a setting that is clearly mapped out. Ideally the comic would consist of the character's progress in dealing with their obstacles (antagonists, difficult environment, not enough time, etc). Solve the problem. Get to the action. Do it now. Too often the comic gets bogged down by extraneous details that easily could have been removed or held back for later. Other times a comic can have suddenly attackers who appear out of nowhere without any explanation, just to have conflict. That's not story telling.

2. Clarity.

Ah yes, here's a big hurdle I encounter time and time again. Why is it that so many indie comic creators feel that they have to keep their 'big ideas' wrapped up in a hazy, gauzy foggy muddled swirl? Missing information isn't the same as mystery. Don't present your comic as so confusing your reader would need to write down notes to keep things straight. Your 'great idea' or 'secret twist' has been done before, I promise you. Don't rely on the persistence of your reader to get to the bottom of a hazy murky comic book. They just won't do it. They won't come back for Part 2 either.

3. Lean into the genre.

If you have a western, make sure you have a setting on a horse ranch or saloon. If you're doing Cyberpunk then have a character 'hack the mainframe' on his/her keyboard or talk to a hologram. If you're doing Steampunk have a character use a piece of technology that would be common in today but extraordinary in their time frame (a computer in 1850). If you're doing horror make sure it's good and bloody, or scary. Forgetting the genre after establishing it is a problem you that can potentially damage the whole creation.

4. Dial it down.

You have 18-30 pages for your comic's action to happen in. Here's where your reader's going to travel through your tale, live along side its heroes, encounter its villains, access the terrible situation, see obstacles overcome. No need to ramp every page up to eleven. I know, most comic book creators are hiring artists, pencillers, colorists, letterers, etc. It's very expensive. The temptation is to get out the megaphone, to scream every line of dialogue. To throw in every trick your artist can muster on every page. Don't do it. Let your comic be 'just right' in its amount of bombast. Let the reader have room to walk around in your universe, give them some space.

5. General housekeeping.

This is an area that gets overlooked too often. Letting your comic go out with typos, readability issues, misspellings, or just not being visually coherent is a problem. It's a message you're sending to the reader that you don't value their experience. I've sometimes had to re-read a panel that made no sense because the letterer forgot to point the balloon tail to the correct person!

That's all. If you're one of the several comic book creators who read my newsletter then I hope these tips are useful. Notice not one of them costs any money, so there's no excuse based on budgetary restrictions. Have at it! (by the way, one time or another I've committed every single one of these mistakes myself!)

Have a great weekend!

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