• Holly Chisholm

On Oreos and Being a Successful Comic Artist

Here's the thing about Oreos; they are kind of gross if you take them apart.

Think about it.

You wouldn't say that the chocolate cookie is all that great by itself, and the filling could be good by itself, but it is missing something.

This is just wrong.

The magic is when a decent cookie and some overly sweet filling come together to make a delicious, perfect cookie experience.

Now we can take the concept of the Oreo and apply it to making webcomics:

I'm an ok artist, and an ok writer, but when I combine the two...

BOOM! Something much better has emerged!

Here's how to be an Oreo in the land of mediocre cookies.

  1. Drawing- The chocolate cookie.

You don't need to be able to draw that well to have an incredibly successful webcomic. Seriously. Being able to draw well could hinder you in your progress. Why?

Disclaimer: I am not saying that the below artists aren't talented or able to draw well (they are actually some of my favorite artists)... just that they don't have to!

The beauty of comics is that they are SUPPOSED to be simple. Unless you are a manga-ka or working for Marvel, you don't need an illustration degree to get started. The point is to help someone understand clearly the main idea of the comic, and in a way, the drawings are often secondary to the writing.

If you struggle to draw hands; Don't draw hands!

If you can't draw people well, draw animals or blobs!

If you hate drawing backgrounds; don't draw the background!

There are no rules for what a "proper" webcomic looks like, and your characters and settings can reflect your drawing abilities.

What I will suggest is that you plan your characters from the start.

Having a cast of recurring characters is usually what interests people about comics and keeps them coming back. You want to think about the design of your characters before starting and plan on how to make them stand out from other characters.

Think juxtaposition. If you have a big tall character, pair them with a teeny one. If you have a dark and brooding character, maybe throw in a happy-go-lucky character. They should visually be different in some way.

This is a great example of character Justoposition.

A note about consistency: don't worry about it too much, especially in the beginning!

Your characters, colors, and drawing style will often change over time, and there will be some variation. Especially if you are drawing traditionally, variation can be exciting and doesn't make it look like you copy/paste everything in each panel (although that is also acceptable and is done by famous webcomic artists all the time.)

One tip that has really helped me: Pick a color palette and stick with it for a while.

I chose a simple white, pink, and black color palette and try to include a little pink in each comic I make. The reason for this is you want to make sure that your audience KNOWS that it's your work when they stumble across it in their Instagram feed. Think of it as your brand color. I found that having a brand color helps tie everything together, and makes whatever I make feel more professional. Of course, color is also optional; black and white will do just fine (Oreo got this one down).

2. Writing - The creamy filling

Now that you know you don't need to be an excellent artist to do webcomics, here's another relief:

You don't have to be that great a writer either!

As proof, the most writing I ever did was taking a poetry class in high school, and those poems are buried in a deep dark place never to be seen again.

Remember, the magic of the Oreo is that we are combining our mediocre writing and our mediocre drawings to create something you've never seen before!

For those who really can't write jokes, here's a tip:

Don't write jokes!

Write what you're good at writing. Not every webcomic has to be visual gags or bad puns.

My comics are usually thoughts I have after reading, walking, or meditating. Sometimes they just come to me when I'm laying down to sleep, or other times they will mull around in my brain for a while before I sit down to draw them.

Whenever you have an idea, write it down! I have a whole list of ideas scribbled on various pieces of paper and in notes documents on my phone. Unless you are planning a long series or arc for your characters, you don't necessarily need to give them a lot of thought. Often my most simple ideas are the ones that most people like.

If you are afraid of being cliche: don't!

Every single thought or idea under the sun has been done already somewhere, but you are making it unique by sharing the idea your way. I don't mean to plagiarize, but don't worry about someone already doing something similar to what you are doing; there are roughly 7 Billion people in the world, and it won't kill anyone to hear the same idea twice. Most people need to hear something several times before it sticks!

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, read and get inspired by other people's work! Nothing gets me out of a writing rut faster than reading about something new I've never heard of before.

3.Consistancy & A Little Milk

One thing about Oreos that makes them so successful is how consistent they are. Think about every Oreo you've ever eaten: unless you get the crazy birthday cake flavored ones, all Oreos taste the same. And guess what, no one gets sick of that Oreo flavor, that's why they have kept it the same all these years.

A big part of webcomics is keeping people coming back to read them. Putting out work consistently is what will help you grow your audience and keep them following you for a long time.

Now obviously, your comics will probably not have a consistent writing or drawing style at first, and that's totally ok! The important thing to be consistent about is to keep putting them out into the world!

Think about if Mr. Oreo had stopped after trying out one cookie recipe; of course, it would have been a disaster! (I cannot confirm that he didn't only try one, or that there even is a Mr. Oreo, but that's not important.)

The more you draw, the better and more consistent you will get, and the more you write, the easier ideas will come to you for more! Not every cookie will be perfect and that's ok.

Finally, what would an Oreo be without a glass of milk? I mean, it's still a pretty good cookie on its own, but a dunk of milk (or milk alternative!) makes it all that more delicious.

That glass of milk is whatever thing you find magical or special to you, that makes you unique.When you share that something special with the rest of the world, they see your passion and love it too.

If that means making comics about your pet ferrets, do it!

If that means making comics about being a mom, do it!

If that means making comics about cute blobs of goo... why the hell not!

For me, helping others feel less alone is the magical thing that keeps me making my comics, and I hope this article helped you feel like you have another webcomic friend!

Now go out there and be an Oreo.

Note: I believe I first heard the basic concept about being an Oreo by Scott Adams the writer or the comic strip Dilbert, but I honestly can't find his direct quote anywhere. If someone can find it please help a girl out.

I am (sadly) not sponsored by Oreo but if they wanna sponsor me, again, help a girl out.

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