comic books

Comic Books: 5 Tips to Make Yours Stand Out

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

July 20, 2023

Comic book aficionados are drawn into the pages of a comic because the storylines are fast-paced, the characters are dynamic, the bright colors and sharp graphics are eye-catching and the exciting heroes and their dynamic worlds appeal to readers of all ages. And now more than ever, comic books, graphic novels and even manga are popular books to read and self-publish.

With a growing number of comic books published every year and plenty of readers clamoring for the next installment of their favorite comic hero, now is a great time for authors to self-publish their own comic books. To help your book stand out from the rest, check out our top five tips that will ensure your comic books look fantastic so you can focus on creating memorable heroes and their exciting adventures.

1. Get Text Content and Placement Right in Comic Books

Content Choices

Comic books are a highly visual medium, but that doesn’t mean authors don’t pay attention to the text they do use. In fact, text content and placement are even more important in comic books than any other type of book. In a traditional novel, text and dialogue are the only way the story moves ahead.

Readers learn about the plot, gain character insight, hear internal dialog and learn about the characters of the story. But comic book text plays a different role.

  • Thought Bubbles: Text is used to show internal character dialog only when a visual depiction of the character, color or word art cannot convey the meaning. Thought bubbles are indicated to the reader with a string of smaller bubbles leading to the larger thought bubble.
  • Narration: When the story’s plot needs explanation, authors use a corner of the panel to tell the reader the information they need to know.
  • Speech Bubbles: When a character needs to move the plot along by informing other characters about his thoughts or actions, a speech bubble is used. Readers know this text is speech, rather than a thought because the speech bubble is drawn with a “tail” pointing to the speaker.

Text Placement and Presentation

1 Remember that text – including bubbles and segmented narration – are part of the art design. Don’t try to overlay them onto panels already full of artwork. Instead, integrate them into the design of each panel from the start.

2 Choose fonts wisely. Impact words are commonly drawn in a different font than bubble or narration text, but the text inside of bubbles can be varied as well to show emotions.

3 The shape and size of bubbles or narrative text boxes can also be adjusted to convey emotions or project specific ideas or feelings. Comic book authors can switch up the text presentation in a way that will impact the reader experience like using narration boxes with jagged edges, shrunken or oversized bubbles, or overlays of multiple bubbles in one panel.

2. Include Something Instantly Recognizable in Comic Books

Another strategy to help your comic books stand out from the rest is to create something within the book that becomes its hallmark. Iconic comic books create something that readers will always connect with their story or characters, like Wonder Woman’s crossed-arm stance, Robin’s exclamation, “Holy Smoke, Batman!” or Captain America’s shield.

Behaviors: Crafting a unique action or personal behavior can help your comic books stand out from others. The stance that Spiderman takes before he shoots off his web and the maniacal laughter spouted by the Joker solidify the unique, memorable characters in these comic books. But any type of movement, repeated action, or personality trait will help to mark your comic books as memorable with readers.

Catchphrases: Main or supporting characters, especially nefarious ones, often repeat a specific saying that identifies them, even when incognito. A famous catchphrase that made their comic books instantly recognizable is the “Avengers Assemble!” call by any of the Avenger characters clued in readers that a good vs. evil fight was just about to occur.

Batman’s “I’m Batman” statement cemented the authority of this iconic character and Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility” set the tone for Spidey’s approach to conquering evil forces.

Clothes or Items: The good and bad guys can be presented with a visual clue to their superhero or villain status. Thor’s hammer, Wolverine’s blades, Batman’s mask and the capes that many heroes and villains wear all are memorable additions to the outward appearance of that character.

3. Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats in Comic Books

Fight scenes willed with who-will-win moments, heroes who find themselves in perilous situations, and series installments that leave the reader (and sometimes the hero) with an unresolved struggle or challenge all have one thing in common: they draw in the reader with adrenaline-fueled excitement. But leaving a beloved hero inches from certain death is not the only way to ensure readers will turn the page to find out if the hero or heroine lives or dies.

Last Page Looks: When something surprising or shocking occurs right at the end of a chapter, a close-up of a character’s face is a great way to end the final panel. This last look given by a character might show their shock, fear, horror, excitement, or even happiness, and this last look can be just as effective in the middle of a story as well as at the end of a chapter or a book.

This last look can even hint at more than one emotion to build anticipation in the reader to learn what really happened or what the character actually discovered.

Last Page Questions: A good way to segue between chapters, episodes, or books is to leave the reader with a question. A thought bubble containing a question can show a character’s introspective thoughts about a problem or hint at their personal revelations while a speech bubble can capture the questioning interaction between two characters that leaves out the intriguing answer for the reader.

Last Page Surprise: Like a true cliffhanger, an author might include a plot point on a final page that leaves the reader wondering how it will be resolved. A character might unknowingly open a door to a room that the reader already knows contains some sort of danger or a character might confess to a critical action or idea without realizing they are within earshot of another character.

Readers love to be on the edge of their seats wondering how their favorite characters will get out of a bind. And authors who place a surprise on the last page can create excitement and tension with this strategy to keep readers coming back for more of the story, whether the resolution is just one page away or in the next book.

4. Let Your Color Choices Speak to the Reader in Comic Books

Comic books use specific hues in combination with artwork, text, and panel layout to appeal to readers. Correctly using the connotations that colors bring to a comic book page is critical to making your comic books stand out, but artists can freely utilize color for any aspect of a comic world.

The art in comics is typically larger than life, and the colors artists use can be bold, bright, muted, or anything in between. Color is used to show, rather than tell, the mood of a scene or the overall story, to help define characters and to demonstrate specific information within a story.

It’s no coincidence that villains are often depicted in black, red, or another dark or rich color, and comics that don’t use these impactful colors are missing an opportunity to add another layer of meaning to their story. But surprising colors are expected in comics, so using a villain with a shocking mop of purple hair or creating a neon cityscape can add character and depth to your story without using any words.

In addition, injecting specific colors into scenes to give the reader information without breaking the flow or pace of the story can be helpful. Colors that appear only when a specific character is nearby or assigning a specific color scheme for each location will help readers take in changes quickly.

Time or time passing can also be presented through the color-washing of a scene. The time of day or even a change of season is easily projected through choices like the warm hues of sunset or the frosty tones common in winter.

5. Plan Well and Adjust Your Comic Books When Needed

One of the easiest ways a comic book author can ensure that readers notice their book is to plan ahead but also be flexible to change course when needed. Using a comic book creation software program can help authors plan and make changes to their storylines and artwork fairly easily, but writers who like to draft by hand can more readily hold on to discarded storyboard versions for future inspiration.

But the planning and creation process of your comic should always include working with a trusted printer like Publishing Xpress. From expert cover design assistance to the convenience of digital printing, Publishing Xpress will bring the WOW! to your next comic book project.

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