Writer first, Artist later.
Think of a great movie.
Think of a great comic.
What’s common between them? They may or may not have great art, but they all have great writing. Movies on shoe-string budgets can become classics if they have a great script. Comics with shoddy artwork can become popular if they have great dialogues.
So if you’re a budding comic artist, where should you spend your time – art or writing? The answer seems fairly obvious – writing. And yet, most budding comic artists spend zero effort on writing.
In my eyes, I’m a writer first and an artist later.
I obsess over the copy of my comics. All my comics start as a script on a notepad. The dialogues are verbose at first. They take up many lines. I edit them till it soothes my ear. And then the dialogues are pasted into the panels. The position of each dialogue is carefully chosen to make the dialogues flow. They are shifted between panels. They are rewritten to fit into the limited space.
Notice there is no art yet.
Once the dialogues are frozen, then I start drawing. I will skip the drawing process for this article. But once the art is in place, the dialogues are edited again till they seem perfect (to me).
And then you’re done! Just kidding. I send it over to my wife and wait for that laugh or chuckle. But if it’s not working, she says so. I ask for her perception of the comic and then go back to drawing board. This process continues till I get her thumbs up. Your four panels are ready.
But copy is not just limited to your four panels. It extends outside the panel as well. How and where do you add your credits? How does it make your reader feel? Does it help new readers understand what your comic is about? Does it nudge them to find and follow you? Is it too much of self-promotion? I have multiple iterations of my footer “Work Chronicles is a comic about work. Made with love & coffee.” I still don’t know if this is the best copy out there, but I’m learning with each iteration. Self-promotion is a separate article in itself.
If you think you’re done, think again. The caption for Instagram, Twitter, Reddit are as important as the comic – especially for Twitter & Reddit, but not for Instagram. On Twitter & Reddit, the order of reading is that you read the caption (or title) first and then you read the comic. So the title sets the tone for your comic. You don’t want to reveal your punchline in your title. But you want to make the title interesting enough to hook the reader into reading your comic.
It may seem like a lot of work. And it is. But the hard work pays off when your comic resonates with your readers.