The Nolans webcomic review

What Did I Learn?

Webcomic Reviews by Delos Woodruff

Today’s review is on The Nolans.

First things first – let’s give out some props. Some things are not as easy to draw as they appear. Say you wanted to draw a marshmellow on a stick in your comic. Sounds easy, right?


Try it.

Go ahead.

Find a piece of scrap paper and a pen and draw it. Just use lines like you would see in a comic strip.

Now go show it to someone else and ask them what you’ve drawn. I’ll wait.

Very likely, (if they were older than five) they made a guess only after being pestered. And the guess was wrong, wasn’t it?

Don’t fret. That doesn’t mean you can’t draw. There’s a trick to it. Read on and see what else the Nolans can teach us besides how to convicingly draw marshmellows.

The Nolans is about the funny stuff in family life, mostly those things kids do. Loopholing out of doing chores. Replacing the toilet paper when you’ve used the last sheet. Dealing with bullies. These are the things we all like about newspaper comics and we can’t help but want to do something like that. They were fun to read and we all want to make comics just like them. So much so that it’s hard to break out and do something a little different. There are moments where The Nolans decidedly take a different tack than the typical family comic topics. I bookmarked one example for you right here.

The cast has a typical base and don’t let that fool you. There is the typical father-mother-son-daughter but one feature of The Nolans is that they all have side-roles. The parents sometimes behave like kids when they play with toys or get engrossed in video games. The daughter does all kinds of off-the-wall sorts of things because she’s just not your typical kid. At school, for example – she finds out that play-doh is flammable and is annoyed that she had to deliver the parent-teacher meeting request. I chuckled at almost every comic.

Now let’s talk about The Nolan’s art. The strip is mostly done in black and white but there are occasional ‘Sundays’ with color. Sometimes I prefer one over the other, but I happen to like Nolan both colored and uncolored. There isn’t a lot of detail or background – and that’s okay because it isn’t needed for this strip. The art communicates what it needs to communicate, so it’s perfectly suitable.

Speaking of communicating, we have the drawing of marshmellows to cover. You can see Mr. Nickerson’s marshmellow on a stick in this comic.

You might be taken aback. It probably looks very similar to your drawing. So what’s the trick? His marshmellow is rounded on the edges, long on the sides and squat on the ends. That shape is pretty marshmellow distinctive but, as you may be thinking, that’s only part of what makes it work. The text of the comic associates that shape with fire. That’s the rest of the trick that seals the deal.

Without that text (or a fire drawn somewhere) almost no one would recognize what it was. That’s why, very likely, your drawing was not recognized.

What Did I Learn?
Part of the advantage communicating with words and pictures is using each element to leverage the meaning that you get from the other. Don’t be afraid to make the comic you want to make. You can always find something new to add, whether it is showing different sides of your characters or clever drawing.

The Nolans updates M-W-F at

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