The Common Pitfalls With Webcomics

Our buddy Ben Honeycut (the badass artist for the Demon Hunters webcomic), recently brought this video to my attention, which takes a satirical look at the joys of creating webcomics while highlighting some of the most common problems of the medium. The video's good and you should watch it.

I thought it'd be interesting to see how many of these webcomic pitfalls SN8X stumbles into, and how many it flips over in a deft display of ninja radness. Of course, a lot of this is subjective and I might be biased as fuck, but what the hell.

Pitfall: Having a stupid webcomic concept that no one would want to draw.

Mega avoided. The concept for SN8X is genius and I'm sure Jessica is honored to help me bring it to life.

Pitfall: Hiring an artist to work for "exposure" until the comic (possibly) starts to make (a pitiful amount of) money.

Avoided. Sorta. I don't pay Jessica (except with my love), but she's a co-creator of SN8X as opposed to just being some hired gun who simply draws what I tell her to. However, she makes more than a few cents, thanks to our most awesome fans who support Jessica's Patreon. She's still only making about 10% of minimum wage to work on the comic, but hopefully that'll change as more people become aware of the comic and realize that it's way too rad not to support.

Pitfall: Not having a real story, script, or basic plot outline.

Definitely avoided. The overarching story for Satan Ninja 198X was established years before we ever launched this website. I script out every issue in advance, and we have a very long comic "bible" that goes into extensive detail about the SN8X-verse and the histories of the core characters and factions of the comic.

Pitfall: Making yet another comic that pokes fun at video games and RPGs (or a comic where the characters simply discuss video games).

Avoided, even though we have the occasional video game reference. Actually, we briefly discussed doing a video game themed webcomic back around 2006. The basic premise was that a trio of teens from the "real world" would find themselves trapped in the video game universe. They'd then use warp pipes to hop between parodies of various games/genres on their quest to return home. So it was sorta like a video game version of Stay Tuned meets Sliders. At the end, it would've revealed that their home world wasn't the "real world" but was in fact another video game world, one that parodies The Sims. Oooo, crazy!

Pitfall: Making a lame gag-a-day strip comic.

Avoided. Uh, mostly. Our comic is long-form, but we do make a monthly gag-strip style comic that shows various asides within the SN8X-verse (exclusive to Jessica's patrons).

Pitfall: Making lame avant-garde poem comics

We avoid this one so hard.

Pitfall: A shitty first page that you (the creator) will hate for years.

Totally avoided. Our first page rules.

Pitfall: The comic's art not growing and improving over time.

I think we're avoiding this one. Jessica's artwork has definitely grown over time, but it might be a bit hard to tell since she's gone back and touched up a lot of the early pages. But the comic is still young. I'm sure it'll be very interesting to go back and look at the start of the comic once the entire thing is complete.

Pitfall: Continuously re-using stock images instead of drawing new ones.

Avoided. Though I'm sure updates would come a lot faster if we didn't.

Pitfall: Focusing solely on art while neglecting panel composition, typesetting, and flow.

Avoided. We absolutely pay attention to that stuff, and in fact there are a couple pages we intend to go back and improve with regards to this.

Pitfall: Making a counter-intuitive comic with single-panel updates (i.e. a Homestuck rip-off)

Mega avoided.

Pitfall: Taking "extended periods of laziness" (AKA a hiatus).

Okay, so this one we've tripped into. After we finished Issue 2, we took a half-year hiatus where we didn't release any new pages. But it was far from a period of laziness. Jessica spent that time sprucing up old pages, preparing issues for print, making SN8X character lineups and turnarounds for reference, drawing commissions, doing art for a top-secret Satan Ninja spin-off series, drawing posters to be featured in-comic, we made our awesome live-action promo videos, Jessica drew the badass Issue 3 cover, and she got a couple page head-start on Issue 3. In fact, I don't think Jessica took even a full week off of drawing during that entire hiatus. But still, it was too long, and we don't intend to do that again.

Pitfall: Posting fan art and guest-comics instead of actual comic page updates.

Avoided. We've never had a guest comic (and I'm not sure if we ever will, since Jessica and I are too picky and protective of our creation), and we do have a fan art section of the website, but I don't think we've ever posted fan art in place of a comic page update. We actually suck at posting fan art, as there are several pieces we've received that we've yet to add to the site. We'll have to fix that.

Pitfall: Not having a consistent update schedule.

Well, fuck. Here's another one we've definitely flopped into. We consistently updated on Saturdays for a long time, but then Jessica's buffer vanished and it became way too stressful for her to try and keep up with that pace. So we switched to a "when it's done" update schedule. But now we're working towards getting back to steady weekly updates.

Pitfall: Stringing readers along with false assurances that an update will be "out soon" instead of admitting that the stress of a constant update schedule is too much to handle.

This is another one we've been somewhat guilty of. There will be times when Jessica has been slowed down due to a certain issue going on in her life, but instead admitting this to our readers, she would rather not acknowledge it, because she doesn't want to come off as if she's making up excuses.

Pitfall: Kickstarting the webcomic so you can quit your day job (and then abandoning the webcomic, essentially taking the money and running).

Avoided. We've yet to turn to Kickstarter. Although Jessica did quit her day job to focus on the comic, with the hope that she'd start to make a livable income through her Patreon before her savings run out. I still think it's possible. It's just a matter of us making more people aware of this comic. So even if you're too broke to throw a buck toward Jessica's Patreon, you could always do us the favor of spreading the word about Satan Ninja 198X.

Pitfall: Ignoring any and all critique.

Well, I think we'd be receptive to criticism, but that's hard to say since we haven't really gotten any. Except for that one guy who told Jessica our comic has an "annoying amount of boobs." Psshh, as if that's even possible.

Pitfall: Wearing the "webcomic artist hat."


Pitfall: Having a cast page that only features the first few characters and then is never updated to include the rest of the cast.

I think we've avoided this one. Our cast page has way more than a few characters, though there might be some characters we introduced in Issue 3 that could be added to it.

Pitfall: Hosting your comic on a free hosting site instead of making your own.

We avoided the fuck outta this pit. We have our own website and it rules.

Pitfall: Abandoning your webcomic before its finished.

Oh, we're definitely going to avoid this one. We're way too in love with our own creation to ever leave it unfinished (unless Jessica dies of stress or something).

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Hiatus Continues - My Thoughts on Kung Fury

Kung Fury

So the short film version of Kung Fury came out a couple days ago. Jessica and I backed it on Kickstarter, so it's something we've been looking forward to for a while now. If you're a fan of this comic, then I'm going to assume you've already seen Kung Fury. If you haven't, you totally should. It's free to watch on YouTube and it's an ultra rad way to spend 30 minutes:

In short, I thought it was awesome. It totally lived up to my expectations.

But it was also bittersweet for me.

I found it hard to simply enjoy it, as I kept thinking about what the mega-success of this movie means for Satan Ninja. Every time Kung Fury did something similar to what we've done, like start out at an arcade, or feature a ninja (they called him a "Kung Fu Master" but he was obviously a ninja), I'd think, "Shit." Because the more we have in common with Kung Fury, the more people will inevitably accuse us of being a copycat that's trying to ride the coattails of Kung Fury's success. After all, we launched this website just a few months after Kung Fury released their debut trailer. Sure, we'd been working on this comic off and on since 2008, but since we weren't public with it, that's not easy to prove. And casual critics aren't the type to really look into something like that before tossing out accusations or simply dismissing us outright.

The similarity of Satan Ninja 198X and Kung Fury is undeniable, but it's mostly superficial, stemming from the fact that they're both inspired by the same cheesy '80s source material. However, once you get past the surface, they're really quite different. Kung Fury is way more over the top and silly. It's more of a genre spoof in the wacky style of Airplane! or Spaceballs, except hyped up on coke and testosterone. Satan Ninja doesn't have such a hyper frantic pace, and although it can be bit over-the-top, we try to keep it somewhat grounded in reality. The story of Satan Ninja is important to us, whereas in Kung Fury, spectacle is paramount. The story exists only to tie one wacky over-the-top gag sequence to the next. Nothing really matters. And that's part of its charm.

All that said, I'm super happy for David Sandberg. He wrote, directed, and starred in a badass short film that's enjoying massive success (also, he looks like a young Johnny Depp, the bastard). And if we are forever compared to Kung Fury, I suppose that's not so bad. After all, Kung Fury was rad as fuck. Besides, anyone who actually reads Satan Ninja will see that once you get past the superficial similarities, Satan Ninja stands on its own.

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