Webcomics

The rules and conventions of the comic page have evolved into a complex grammar that owes much of its syntax to the materials used to record and convey it. Likewise, the Web offers a new platform for exploring a new set of affordances. Working in elective teams, students will experiment with these new comics media by creating and publish a graphic narrative in webcomic format. This page provides an overview of the various components of this assignment and some instructions for completing those components effectively.

Process

The process of working on a webcomic, like another group project, will work best with clear, open lines of communication between group members, a common sense of what each team member is responsible for, and a mutual trust that each teammate will complete his or her tasks in a timely manner. Your first goal, therefore, should be to get to know one another. I recommend a meeting in the first few weeks of the semester to introduce yourselves and to discuss possible ideas and divisions of labor.

Timeline

  • October 1. Begin planning your comic and prepare your proposal.
  • October 7. Submit your proposal, establish your website, and begin producing content.
  • October 16. Create (to completion) your first weeks-worth of comic posts.
  • October 19. Publish your first comic.
  • November 6. Publishing ends. Presentations happen. Individual reflections are due.

Division of Labor

Teams must decide how to divide the work of the project evenly so that each member spends a roughly similar amount of time working. That time may be different depending on your experience with various tools involved in the process, or it may vary with the type of comic you’re producing. But generally speaking, teams of 5 should find it useful to delegate at least one member to each of these tasks for their primary responsibility. Of course, each individual may contribute to other individual’s tasks, and duties may shift or combine as the work progresses.

Team Leader(s)
Makes decisions, delegates tasks, and takes responsibility for meeting the comic’s deadlines
Writer(s)
Creates the characters and situation for the comic, and produces the basic script for each update.
Artist(s)
Actually draws the comic. To be more efficient, this may be further subdivided into more focused tasks: penciling, inking, coloring, and digital proofing.
Web Manager(s)
Customizes the site design, manages the updates, helps engage and draw in an audience.

Proposal

Before beginning production, each team should discuss their relevant talents and interests with regard to publishing this comic and how each member can contribute to the process given the division of labor listed. By October 7, each team must submit a proposal, a report that includes the following sections:

  1. A basic overview of the story including characters, setting, and key plot elements.
  2. A division of labor.
  3. A flow chart outlining all the steps a comic goes through before it can be published.
  4. A series of deadlines for each planned comic post.
  5. A logo, sample image, or some graphic element that can be used in promoting your comic.

Evaluation

This comic will be yours to design and produce, so the topic and content are up to you. However, a few basic rules will help ensure your project’s success, as well as enforcing a comparative scope across the entire class. Therefore, your comic should be:

Published online.
I will introduce you to Comic Easel, which we already have installed here on UMWBlogs.
Serial.
Published sequentially and consistently; at least three weeks total. Post your first comic no later than October 21, and continue publishing at least twice a week until November 6.
Coherent.
Create at least one story arc and bring it to a satisfactory narrative conclusion.
Collaborative.
Each member of the group should participate in the process in some meaningful way.

The grade you receive on this project is divided among four distinct areas: the comic, your group’s presentation, and your group’s website will all be collective grades that you share as a group. Your “webcomic participation” grade is a reflection of what you individually contributed to each of those three collective elements.

The Comic

The comic you produce should be a continuous narrative of some sort, of whatever genre or style you decide upon as a team. This work should be produced collaboratively; no single person should do every step of the comic’s production. The grade for the comic itself is shared, so also should the work be shared. The comic will be graded on the following rubric:

Narrative Cohesion

Does the story make sense? Does it introduce conflict and move toward a reasonable conclusion? Do the characters seem appropriately complex and fitting for their role in the story at hand?
50

Artistic Consistency

Does the art have a distinct and consistent look? Are the characters recognizable from one panel to the next? Does the panel structure and gutter make good use of established conventions?
25

Digital Specificity

Does the comic take advantage of its being on the web to accomplish something interesting and relevant? In other words, is this distinctly a “webcomic”, as opposed to a “trade paperback”?
25

Website

Hosting your comic on a website means that it will have significant formal differences from a print comic, but it also means that your comic will exist in a different context. That context, whether it’s UMWBlogs or some other site, is important for reaching, keeping, and growing an audience, even over the relatively short period of your comics’ publication. Your website should incorporate a few basic elements, spelled out below.

Design

Use the customization tools to make your site’s design into something appropriate for your comic’s genre or tone. Structure the navigation links in logical ways, and include as much information as needed to convey your comics’ character, ideas, and content.

Audience

Use your blog’s comments section to interact with your audience, and use Google Analytics to learn more about how that audience found you.

Publicity

Share your comic with a wider world of the web using Twitter, Facebook, or other means — including an ad banner that we can put on the course blog.

Presentation

All presentations will be given on November 6, following a version of the “Pecha Kucha” philosophy. In this case, the rules are simple: create a power point presentation consisting of 9 content slides and 1 title slide. Then, set the presentation to advance automatically after 20 seconds. The result is a presentation lasting exactly 3:20. Plan it so that each team member speaks at least once, and cover topics like: your comic’s theme and content, your creative working process, your division of labor as a team, your approach to publicizing the comic, and your design choices in setting up the website. Your presentation will be evaluated on the following rubric:

Flow

The presentation should flow smoothly and logically, stick to the time requirement, and involve every team member.
10

Visual Material

The slides should be informative and engaging but not distracting or overloaded with text.
10

Website

Among other things, the presentation should discuss the team’s approach to putting the comic online, including hosting and design choices.
10

Creative Process

The presentation should also discuss the creative process that led to the final version of the comic.
10

Audience

Describe the comic’s intended audience, and discuss what your analytics revealed about your actual audience.
10

Individual Participation

By November 6, submit a brief reflection in Canvas (a few sentences is fine) summarizing how your project went, what you contributed to the project, and what each of your teammates contributed. You may wish to assign each teammate a letter grade evaluating their performance. This report will, of course, remain confidential. Your participation grade will be based on my impression of your participation, which will be based on

  1. Your reflection
  2. Your teammate’s reflections
  3. My own observations

You will not receive a webcomic participation grade if you do not submit a reflection.

[Image credit: “Webcomics” from Toothpaste For Dinner.com, by Drew. 7/3/06]

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