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User Submission: The choices we make: Webcomic vs. Comicpress

Started by Rob, June 13, 2010, 10:21:16 PM

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Todays Article was submitted by Cary Kelley, writer/creator of the webcomic Dynagirl.

Understand right up front, I'm about as new to making webcomics as someone is likely to get. I've read webcomics, but never paid much attention to how they were done or got to where I could read them. It was PFM and I was fine with that. Till I decided to do one myself. That's when it got a little dicey.

My first foray was more or less a complete failure. I wanted to toy with a webcomic type thing and at the time I had no inclination of doing anything for myself web wise, so I asked the web chick that designed my main site to set me up something on the same server. I'd heard about this Comicpress thing and I wanted to check it out. She obliged, set up something VERY generic, and off I went. It was alright and it worked for me when I was using a pretty standard 3 panel strip. The ease of upload was cool, there wasn't a lot to figure out in terms of the controls, and it had some cool features. I did make a couple of goofs on the blog section but I got it figured out without too much hassle.

So, several months later I decided to shift my entire paradigm to a webcomic model. I was about to scrap full time print publishing of single issues and send it all to the web, then print in trade. Twas a fine plan, but I hit an early snag. First, when I sent out for quotes to design my site I got back some neck punches in the form of those very same quotes! The lowest quote I got was $1000 and that wasn't happening, especially when I'd heard guys like DJ Coffman say I could do this myself, it wasn't that hard! Hrmph! Alright fine! So I sat down one night, bought the domain, bought the hosting, and got after it. The first thing I did was install Comicpress, mostly because it worked in the other configuration, why wouldn't it work here? Plus DJ said it rocks and that dude makes hella money at this whole webcomic thing, so it's gotta be good right?

Now keep in mind, I'm not a web designer. The last time I even messed with web design was the year Geocities opened their doors, so it's been a while. I got Comicpress up, and I almost immediately hated it. I couldn't get it to do what I wanted it to, and I couldn't find much in the way of documentation on how to customize it to my needs. Honestly, what I wanted to change shouldn't have been that hard. I wanted to change the basic look, get the colors right, upload my main banner and then start with the comic part. But it simply wasn't doing what I told it to. In fairness, I later discovered this was a glitch common to the version I happened to be using, but there was nothing there to tell me this at the time, which pretty much left me out in the cold without a coat unless I wanted to accept the issues it was having, which I didn't.

In the search for more helpful documentation I literally stumbled upon the Webcomic plug-in. Now to this day I really can't much tell the difference between the usage of "plug-in" and "theme" but boy those developers get all riled up when you don't use the right term! Anyway, while I was tooling around the Webcomic site looking at the features and such I also found the video tutorials, which were incredibly helpful even with the slow connection I was operating on at the time. I watched one video and it was a snap to not only install the thing but change the theme around, upload comics, store the buffer, everything. Before the videos I had no clue I'd even use a buffer, let alone be this in love with one, but trust me I'm a big fan of my buffer!

Other cool features I discovered include the easy multi-comic support, retention of your theme changes during updates, and simple ease of navigation. You don't have to be a web geek to make your way through Webcomic, you just have to have basic navigation skills and be able to read and you can do it. It may sound like it's a dumber version of Comicpress, and navigation wise it may well be, but I don't consider that a bad thing! I think at times we lose sight of how helpful things can be when they're simple and intuitive, and Webcomic is definitely that.

I haven't tried the multi-comic feature yet because I just have the one comic, and the multi-chapter support will come as I get further along in my book, but one crazy cool feature I do use all the time is the bulk uploader! You get all your pages ready and then tell it to upload! POW! There they are, ordered alphabetically. Next, you want to schedule them? Not a problem. There's a handy box where you select the days of the week you want to update, the date you want to start these updates, and click schedule and your buffer comes alive! That's it! Now you can go back and add blog posts in advance, whatever you want to do with it. You can also replace individual pages simply and easily if you find mistakes or want to make changes. See why I love my buffer so much? Within a couple of hours of loading the Webcomic plug-in I could have walked away from the site and not done another thing for four months and it would update for me like clockwork. For someone like me that has trouble at times getting to a solid connection or often has limited bandwidth, this thing is incredible.

Three months down the road I still wouldn't trade my Webcomic plug-in for Comicpress. I have installed a number of other helpful plug-ins to handle SEO, hit tracking and the like, and tossed in a number of widgets for the inclusion of ads, but beyond that what I've got is a pretty standard out of the box installation of Webcomic. When I say it's simple enough anyone can do it, trust me, because if I can do it... just about anyone can. I'm not sure how many other people there are out there who ran into what I did getting everything up and running, and I know there are literally a ton of people using Comicpress to great results. I think that's great! It just wasn't something that worked for me, so I found something I liked better, and I think works infinitely better for me.

From what I've read since making this fairly pivotal decision the nightmare I had with version conflict between Wordpress and Comicpress was only the tip of the iceberg compared to what some people have gone through. With the forthcoming update to Wordpress I feel very confident I'll be able to quickly install the update without any functionality loss or drastic alteration of my site, and to me that's like money in the bank. The less time I have to deal with the inner guts of the whole thing the more time I have to actually work on the comic itself, which is what I wanted it all for in the first place.

Webcomic main site.

Official Webcomic support forums.