Any good comic book needs compelling characters. The best stories are just as much about the plot as they are about the characters. Of course, a plot filled with fantastic twists and turns can spark readers’ interest in your comic, but it’s the great character development that truly draws readers in.
When you get an idea for a comic book, characters must play a central part in the creation process. Of course, the main character is the most important protagonist, so you should carefully plan his storyline.
When you start working on your comic book, you should first pick a genre to focus on, be it fantasy, futurism, allegory, or superheroes. Once you decide on the genre, it will be easier for you to determine what your characters should be like.
In this post, we’re going to share information on how to best create comic book characters. Of course, the way you illustrate them also plays an important role in the way the audience perceives your characters. That’s why you should take your time and design them with great attention to detail, from drawing hands in a certain way to dressing them up in a costume that matches their personality and what they do.
For now, we’re going to forego the illustration part and focus on helping you create and develop comic book characters from start to finish.
What is character development?
When you write fiction, a significant emphasis is on character development, i.e. the process of building tridimensional characters, with specific qualities, flaws, unique personalities, and drives.
Of course, as your plot progresses, characters also develop and change as they go through certain experiences.
If a reader can’t understand what a character is like, they won’t be able to appreciate it enough nor understand what the events they’re reading about mean. As a result, your story won’t have much of an impact on them. Therefore, learning proper character development can be considered as important basic skill as, for example, learning to do the hand drawing easy way.
That’s why it’s essential to build your characters and your plot in an interesting way. For example, you can focus on hobbies, history, pets, past experiences, and obsessions. These are the things that inform readers how characters behave and how they react to what happens to them.
Developing different types of characters
Every story has a few types of characters. And comic books aren’t any different.
In every story, there’s the main character, a.k.a. the lead protagonist or a hero. Opposite to him is the bad guy — the antagonist or a villain. There are also some secondary characters that add to the plot.
Here’s what you should focus on when creating and building every type of comic book character.
They’re the main focus of the story. They are heroes, but they don’t have to be perfect. Give them flaws, make them human, and put them through the wringer because believable characters reflect people in real life.
Don’t forget to give them a story arc. Every protagonist needs to embark on a journey that changes them and allows them to evolve and grow. Of course, you can choose to build a character that doesn’t change over the course of the journey, but that has to be intentional.
A villain is an antithesis of your protagonist, so they should have their own motivations and a sense of morality, no matter how warped it may be. You should also include a credible origin story explaining why a villain acts mean and how they got their superpowers if you decide to give them any.
Secondary characters usually assist the protagonist or the villain. So, their skillset should complement one or the other. Aside from helping the main characters with their physical qualities, secondary characters often provide leads with strong emotional support. They also have to get themselves into trouble so that protagonists can come to save them. Such events help advance the plot. You can even choose a secondary character who undermines the protagonist, to increase the complexity of your storyline.
Tips on how to write great characters
Give your story a voice
As you start working on a story for your comic book, it’s important to choose how you’re going to tell it — from a first-person or third-person perspective. If the story is in first-person, the whole story will likely be told from the main character’s perspective, using “I” and “me”. As a result, the story will be more subjective in nature.
A third-person point of view is a voice that doesn’t take part in the action. This type of narration is usually more objective.
Establish motivation and goals for your character
Good characters are driven by goals and motivations. They have to have something to aspire towards and they have to be fueled by something. When a character has an innate desire or motivation, they are determined to reach their goals.
The protagonist’s driving force should be one of the first things to establish because most events in the comic book will be influenced by it.
Introduce the character early
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is introducing your main comic book characters too late in the story. The reader should meet them as soon as possible to learn their names. And you’ll want to use interesting and meaningful names for your characters. Just try not to go for quirky choices unless you’re writing a melodrama or a comedy.
Back to your comic book characters, you should make them as memorable as possible by giving them some interesting qualities that will grab the reader’s attention. Just try to avoid revealing too much about the characters from the get-go. Instead, allow readers to reveal information about protagonists bit by bit as the story develops, just like they would in real life.
Use conflict to build the character
Conflict is a crucial part of almost every plot. It represents the driving power behind opposing forces, one of them being the main character. You can use conflict to influence your character’s decisions. Let’s say your comic book story has powerful superheroes. Test their strength by putting them in a situation that reveals their weaknesses.
Don’t forget — you have a lot of freedom in terms of creating internal and external conflicts. The former push characters to act against their own morals while the latter incite the good guys to fight against villains. Creating conflict is desirable because it helps you add tension to the story and move it forward by having your characters make decisions that have certain consequences.
Give the important characters a backstory
Every fictional character needs a backstory. Comic book characters are no different. Even if you don’t end up using all the history you built for them, it’s important for you to know who your characters are. It’s helpful when you decide how they will react to the story.
And readers can connect better to the story when they get to know the history of their favorite comic book characters. A backstory adds to the character’s complexity and fleshes out protagonists and villains alike.
Describe your character’s personality and looks
Continue to flesh out your characters by creating a believable personality for each of them. Base them on real people, in your life or otherwise, as that will help you make them more relatable.
Plus, you can integrate personality traits with physical ones. By describing the protagonist’s eye color, height, stature, physiognomy, hair, mannerisms, and body language, you make them more realistic and relatable.
Don’t forget to give your characters flaws and vulnerabilities
As important as personality and physical traits are, it’s also imperative to make your comic book characters human. For example, a perfect hero won’t be relatable if a reader wants to see himself as the protagonist because no human being is perfect.
So, your characters need human qualities and flaws that make them appear endearing to audiences. However, you should make sure these vulnerabilities and flaws aren’t dealbreakers for the reader because, after all, you need characters readers can relate to.
To ensure your character is memorable, you can make them heroic. Give them the qualities you feel would compel a reader to continue reading. For example, you can go with an underdog who manages to rise to the occasion or someone who discovers a special power at the beginning or by the end of the story.
Subvert the reader’s expectations in relation to your characters
The most interesting characters are the ones who surprise your readers. Stability isn’t necessarily memorable, but when something unanticipated happens, be sure it’s something people will start talking about.
When something unexpected happens, for example, when all of a sudden a wild creature comes out from the woods, that captures the reader’s attention and incites them to continue enjoying the story.
Creating an interesting story starts with well-rounded characters. Whether you’re just practicing your skills or working on a comic book, character creation and development is critical to good writing. We hope the tips we shared in this post will help you create exciting characters the readers can relate to.
Keep your characters believable and make them reflect the feelings you want to convey through your writing and drawings. Of course, writing a good story with fleshed-out characters takes time. And you should take all the time you need to create the best versions of your comic book characters you’ll be proud of.