Several years ago I collaborated on a comic book project with an artist and well-known comic book editor. The aim was to run the end product on one of my websites; supposedly this should have been simple, but in actual fact was littered with problems.
Using WordPress to host an online comic is a great idea, but you need to place the reader front and centre of your plans. The reason for this is simple – you want your readers to experience the comic strip in the best way possible.
While many blogs offer comic strips as downloads, it is quite obvious that hosting them in the pages of the blog offers the most seamless presentation. Whatever your preference, there are several ways in which you can ensure that the comic or serialised graphic novel is given the best treatment.
The sensible option with online comic strips is to offer it for download. This might be in PDF format or in CBR/CBZ. All of these are easy to create. PDF creation tools are available free online (they might be downloadable or browser based) while CBR and CBZ files are simply image files named in sequence and zipped up using WinZip or WinRAR (hence CBZ and CBR).
By offering a downloadable option, your readers can enjoy your comic strip as and when they please, and they’ll let friends know!
Remember, however, to have your website URL embedded in the downloadable file. This way, should the comic end up on file-sharing websites, people will find their way back to your blog.
Several comic book plugins are available for WordPress.
Manga+Press Comic Manager – this plugin offers the ability to manage any posts and pages that are running comic book images which can be added to your blog in place of standard post content.
Meanwhile Comic Easel brings all of that and much more to the job of managing comic elements of your blog, with additional taxonomies, translation plugins and various shortcodes.
There is also a WordPress theme, ComicPress which is designed and optimised for you to host comics in your blog. Unlike the other solutions, however, a ComicPress blog will be focussed almost completely as a comic site rather than include sequential art as one of many single aspects.
Embed the Comic as an Interactive Experience
Finally, there is the embedded option. This is available if you choose to create an electronic copy of your comic strip in PDF format and then use a converter service to create an interactive “flippable” version of the comic.
I’ve been looking around for several months for a suitable service that will host a comic in this format and recently discovered www.issuu.com. Using their upload tool you can convert a PDF document into an interactive magazine, ideal for reading on desktop computers, phones and tablets. The potential here is considerable, and as Issuu offer a free option you can take away the strain of hosting the comic on your own server!
Conclusion: Choose the Right Option for Your Readers
As slick as the presentation of the Issuu option might be, your readers might resent being forced to view the comic book in a particular browser on a particular computer.
Instead, you should consider offering downloads no matter which other solution you choose. Modern comic book fans love being able to read on tablets and smartphones, and as it is so easy to create a CBR/CBZ or PDF file these days, you would be foolish to miss out on this option.
Have you run a comic strip on your website? Did you use custom code to host it, offer download links, utilize a plugin or embed a HTML5 or Flash version of the book? Do you have any plans to run a comic on your blog?
Let us know!