TL;DR: Jayden and Crusader is moving to a twice a week schedule
Is it better to occasionally update comic strips with the best scripts and the best artwork?
Or is it better to update frequently with adequate scripts and adequate artwork?
Over the last year or so, I’ve been pondering this question more and more. I didn’t update much, as is quite obvious if you look through the archive. It was a very difficult time. If I didn’t do a comic, because I was busy, or stressed out, or asleep, I then felt I had to make the next comic even better in order to make up for the infrequency. It stopped being enough to just make a J&C comic. It had to be the best script, the best artwork, it had to be the best comic I had done thus far, in order to feel like I was living up to expectations.
Do you know how stressful it is to feel you can only produce the best thing ever?
A week’s lull might turn into two weeks, three weeks, a month. Every time I sat down in front of photoshop I thought “Is this script funny enough? Shouldn’t I try and come up with a better one? A bigger one?” or “these sketches are terrible! I am not even going to bother to ink it! Bluargh!” and I’d put the comic to one side and do something else.
That’s not to say I actually made the best thing ever. By a long shot. Because eventually the dams of internal resistance would break and I would just say “Whatever! I don’t care! Just draw something and put it up!” and I would draw something. And put it up. Now, I like these pages, but they’re not of any higher quality than usual. They’re just pages.
But the trouble is worse than just when I miss an update. Updating only once a week means the comic moves at a snail’s pace. 54 pages a year is not enough for the kind of comic I feel comfortable making. That means I have to sit down and work out better scripts, better art. I can’t let the quality drop because then people will have to wait a whole seven days for the next one. Quelle horreur.
So what’s the solution?
I’ll tell you what it is.
A faster update schedule.
When I started Jayden and Crusader I managed an update schedule of 3 pages a week, and many would say I should return to that. After all, most webcomics are three-times-a-week affairs (or better), why not Jayden and Crusader? Well, there’s a couple of reasons that would not be a good idea. Mostly, the principle of burn out.
See, Jayden and Crusader isn’t like other webcomics, not to sound immodest. Jayden and Crusader is not a gag-a-day strip, where 4 panels in black and white is acceptable. Jayden and Crusader has 6 panels, almost every time, in full colour. That’s a lot of work. When I started J&C a comic took an average of 2-3 hours, in 2009 it might take 4, now it takes me about six hours from putting stylus to tablet to posting it online. That’s 18 hours a week, minimum. Some pages can take a lot more than six hours. 18 hours a week for a hobby is asking a lot.
Jayden and Crusader is not a carefully thought out comicbook, with the script planned out weeks or months in advance. It’s not something I can make a production line out of, like other webcartoonists can. Sometimes J&C has storylines that last a few comics, but they’re usually spur of the moment things. The two longest storylines in J&C history, the Ozimaar Arc and the Computer Returns Arc, exemplify why storylines is Jayden and Crusader at its best and worse. When I have a script written out too far in advance I get bored of the lack of room, my creative inspiration dies. After all, ‘I’ve already written it, isn’t that enough?’ my brain seems to ask. In Computer Returns there was a lot more improvisation and twists and turns, and that let it stay fresh, but it was still not something where I could script 20 pages, then sketch them all, then ink them all, then colour them all, then post them all, like a production line. To really be J&C it almost has to stay in the slow production method of one page, from sketch to colour as a single article.
And the last thing Jayden and Crusader is not, is a slice-of-life comic like Questionable Content. Now, they might appear similar on the surface, but they’re very distinct. Without delving into the thematic differences between them I will some it up as this: Only one day in Jayden and Crusader time has lasted more than 10 pages, and that was the Computer Returns storyline which, while I love it, was not an ‘average day’ in the lives of our characters. Jayden and Crusader is not about finding the wit and humour in everyday situations. Each Jayden and Crusader page is carefully designed to attack one aspect of life I find funny, annoying, ugly, beautiful, brilliant, weird or wonderful. They’re not designed to flow together into a seamless narrative. The way each comic stands somewhat apart from the one before it makes it harder to write scripts and re-use backgrounds. It wasn’t intended, it is just how it came about. I wouldn’t change it, but it does mean that each page is more of a challenge to start than it would be if each page followed on directly. That makes J&C more work than your average slice-of-life comic.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Jayden and Crusader is a lot of work.
I have not even covered the concept of running out of ideas, the workload alone is enough to create burn out.
You have to remember that updating three times a week doesn’t actually mean doing three pages a week. At the moment I am operating without a buffer, which means if I am held up by something, no comic goes up. To get a buffer back, I’d have to be drawing J&C pages four or five times a week for several weeks. That’s just too much. That’s more work hours than an actual job.
If I was updating three times a week Jayden and Crusader would stop being fun, would become a job that doesn’t pay me any money, and I would probably burn out, unable to continue working, and sink back into the depths of the internet.
This has happened a few times before.
So, thrice a week is too much, once a week isn’t enough. The solution? The golden sweet spot. Twice a week.
I was always happiest when Jayden and Crusader was updating twice a week. The story moved at a reasonable pace, the workload wasn’t too heavy. It was good times for all. I was limited by my parents during school and university to once a week updating but now I am free, free! And to twice a week I shall return!
But which days? In the past I used to update on a Monday and Friday. This seemed to make sense, as most webcomics updated Mon-Wed-Fri, and I’d just remove Wednesday. However a lot of comics these days update on Mondays and Thursdays (Looking For Group, Khaos Komix, for example).
So what do you think? What days should Jayden and Crusader update? Tell me in the comments!
And hopefully you’ve all made it through this long, long blog post of introspection.