Part One: The Concept
When I was younger, I’d draw mini-comics on occasion and dream about the possibilities of seeing my own comic released into the public domain, in some form. Anyway, due to my lack of talent in the art department, I dismissed this as an impossibility. Then, a couple of years ago, SupSuper made a comment on a forum that I frequented about a web-comic called Sluggy Freelance.
Now, this is the first web-comic that I’d ever seen and I was incredibly impressed. Needless to say, I set about reading several other such comics and came up with the idea of putting together my own online comic. The first thing to do was think of a theme and after careful deliberation, I decided to set it around students at university. My reason for doing this was that I was to start at university myself, after the summer holidays so I thought that I could start in the summer and then continue from there.
The title of the comic came after a lot of thinking and just seemed to have the right feel to it. The idea of the comic being set around a place, rather than individual characters was one that appealed to me, at the time. The character names took me a while to come up with, but I’ll explain the basic reasoning behind a few of them.
Chex – For the lead character, I wanted to choose a name that was distinctive and completely made up. After a number of alternatives, I finally settled on ‘Chex’, just because it sounded right. I was later to discover that the main character of another web-comic, Checkerboard Nightmare, was also called Chex (or at least that’s the abbreviated form of his name). Needless to say, I was a bit annoyed about this discovery but it was too late to think of another name at that point.
Turnus – In Virgil’s epic, “The Aenead”, Turnus is the name of the rival of the lead character, Aeneas, throughout the second half of the book. I liked the character in that book and thought I’d call Chex’s friend after him, in homage to it.
Reginald’s Elbow – I wanted the parrot’s real name to be something quirky and distinctive but also to sound a bit piratical. Sort of like “Davy Jones Locker”. Anyway, imagining Reginald as a pirate figure, the name “Reginald’s Elbow” just seemed to fit.
Anyway, once I had the basic plan for the comic figured out and the first week or so of strips written, I decided to go on the lookout for an artist who could bring my vision to life. I got a lot of positive feedback with a number of people interested in doing the art, despite the fact that the schedule was supposed to be five days a week at that point (my reason for wanting to do more strips a week was in order to keep the pace of the storylines flowing, as I’ve read comics which only update once or twice a week and they tend to move along quite slowly). The first candidate to be accepted is Ben Paddon (creator of Fried) and he draws the first strip for me before deciding he doesn’t have time to draw a five day a week comic.
Anyway, after this, I decided that ‘inspiration’, an artist from the Sluggy forums was the best of the remaining candidates and signed her up. She drew the first few strips or so and things were looking up… for a while at least.
Part Two: Hole in the Net
The big problem that I faced over the period of that summer was finding a good server for the site. I tried Keenspace but had multiple problems with that and all the other net services I came across either seemed to cost money, not provide enough space or have some other kind of problem. Anyway, by this time, Uni was starting up so I had to put my plans on hold for a while.
Cut forward to the summer of next year and things are looking up. worMatty, a member of the same forum as SupSuper, offers me free no-advertisement webspace for the Rooms site. Also, I manage to make sure the site is professionally coded by bringing in K^2 to work on programming it.
Now, I knew that K^2 had talent when it came to coding so I was really pleased that he was able to put all the elements that I wanted for the site together. These elements included a comic archive that was easy to browse with both a drop-down storyline list, arrow buttons and calendar display (most web-comics that I’ve visited don’t have all these options and many just have the calendar mode or drop down list of strips. For the most part, these methods of navigation on their own are rather annoying and I wanted something that was easy to navigate, in the same way that the Sluggy archives were). Other nifty features that were included revolved around the News section of the site and such like.
Anyway, I contact inspiration and ask if she’s still willing to do the comic. She is, so after sending her some more scripts for upcoming comics, I launch the site with the first of the comics that have already been drawn. Reactions are positive and everything is running smoothly although the forum isn’t as packed as I’d like (possibly in part due to its tacky appearance). Unfortunately, things start going downhill, just as the site’s on its way up.
inspiration is finding it increasingly difficult to meet the work load and multiple problems lead to a few comics being uploaded but never coloured. Eventually inspiration admits that she just hasn’t got the time to be drawing a web-comic and resigns. Of course, this leaves me with a bit of a problem as I now have nobody to draw upcoming Rooms strips.
Undeterred by this setback, I set about posting in the forums that I’d previously posted in and searching for a new artist. To my horror, nobody seems to have the time or inclination to draw a web-comic that they’re not going to be writing the dialogue for, anymore. After months of searching and several false alarms, I decide that enough is enough and that if I want something done then I’ll have to do it myself.
Part Three: Oh talent, where Art thou?
As I’ve previously outlined, I’m not very talented when it comes to artwork and I wasn’t just going to wade into drawing the comic without a bit of practice first. Thus, I began practicing drawing all the characters, using inspiration’s original strips as a guide. All artwork was done on the computer as I don’t have a scanner and my computer art tends to be better than my hand drawn stuff, for the most part. Anyway, after the basic design sketches, I moved onto drawing a test strip. Receiving mainly positive criticism of this, when I displayed it to people online, I decided to start work on the comic proper after just a couple more test sketches.
The early strips that went up onto the site were heavily influenced by inspiration’s style as I wanted to make the switch as seamless as possible (although this was obviously never going to be simple). However as time went on, I started developing the style in my own way and adding small details to the design. Also, drawing incentives for the bcx list helped me hone my skills. Obviously, the art’s still pretty basic but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and intend to keep making it.
Part Four: Character Development, Plotlines and Radioactive Lemurs
Regarding the writing, most strip scripts are written pretty much on the spot. I think of something which I think has potential to be funny and then write it down. Having said that, I also have to take into account certain things, like how the strip will fit in with the current storyline, whether it develops the plot and such like. Because of this, several changes are often made to the script before I begin drawing the strip and I frequently tweak the dialogue up until the last moment of inserting it into the comic (I’ll probably upload some examples of dialogue that changed from the initial draft later, so you can see what I mean).
When writing the script, I try and limit the action of the comic from becoming too chaotic in order that I can draw it successfully. Having said that, if something’s necessary for the plot, or just for good old fashioned comedy value, I’ll put it in anyway. The three day a week structure that I work within could have, in theory, slowed the flow of storylines down to a snail’s pace. However, I’ve managed to avoid this, so far, by packing as much plot progression as I can into every strip to keep it fast paced and dynamic.
Unlike some comic writers, I don’t like sacrificing the comic’s humour in order to have a dramatic or emotional scene. While I’ve done this once or twice and may do it again in the future, I don’t usually feel it’s necessary. A good writer should be able to balance the varying genres. After all, a funny strip doesn’t always need a punch-line and drama doesn’t always need to be deadly serious.
Character developments and major events have been planned from the beginning. While some of these have changed to some extent, the key elements have stayed constant. Dove, for example was always intended to be introduced into the comic despite the fact that the method of her introduction changed slightly in order to fit in with the Chalice storyline. Turnus’ gambling addiction was also intended to be a major plot point and has been referred to, subtly, in a number of strips prior to his decision to enter Psych Casino.
Part Five: Aiming high
My aims for Rooms have always been to provide comedy, continuity and originality. The writing will always be the most important part of the comic for me, although I also continue to improve artistically as much as possible.
The question of how popular the comic becomes isn’t one that overly concerns me. My main concern is making something that will amuse people, as well as being fun to create. So, yeah, although I’d like a thriving forum community, I’m not really looking to make the most read comic on the net or anything like that.
The Psycheverse is an interesting idea that me and Ben came up with and is likely to get its own website at some point. Basically, the triumvirate of Rooms, Fried and Apathy are all set within the same universe and this allows for crossovers and such like. On a larger scale, it could even lead to a character crossing over from one comic to another or something like that.
The brand new site redesign was done by SupSuper, with me overseeing it. It looks much better and is considerably less embarrassing than the previous one. The redesign also lead me to add sections such as “Links” (which I’ve been wanting to put up for some time) and “Fanart” (which has received an excellent start with philby’s fan-comic), as well as remixing the characters page.
This is just the start of the Rooms story though. We’re aiming high and intend to develop as much as we possibly can. Who knows what the future holds?