What Did I Learn?
The Crown Prince by JG Brin is about the adventures that having a child brings even to royal parents. The Prince will grow up over time, which is a nice change from most comics. Another notable point is that it recently passed the 200 strips mark last November.
It’s full of good shapes with thick outlines, bright colors, blocky character designs and scroll-lke word balloons. (Nice touch.) Some of the scrolls are in different colors which designate different speakers. Other times they signify special effects like thought scrolls. Here’s example one and two, but I’m slightly confused because I don’t always know when the Prince is actually talking or not. I have to assume that the blue scrolls are the Prince’s thoughts but it isn’t always clear in the context. It’s a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.
That’s because The Crown Prince’s concept is pretty strong. You’ll see fairy tale, medieval and modern humor mix almost interchangably. The comic is based on the trials and tribulations of family, which is timeless. Added to that are some lighthearted character types like the beheading-solves-problems King being constantly over-ruled by his far more intelligent Queen or the Chancellor who is constantly thought to be a sorceror because he looks like one and he performs great feats of power like reading and writing. And never mind the Black Duke who thinks the kingdom is rightfully his or the King competing with his cousin with his excessive number of knights with their funny shaped table.
The characters are not too deep yet still have some guiding character traits which can sometimes be at odds. In this case, it seems to break down to having a Job or Role, a Personality Trait and a Desire. (Being a humor comic, they all have an extra trait of something foolish about them as well.)
Now, McCloud said in Understanding Comics (pages 62-79) that each character needs an inner life, visual distinction and expressive traits associated with them. That inner life begins with backstory to which is added some motive but I get lost at the next part where he discusses creating a themed cast with each character representing different kinds of people. I understand the concept but I’ve never found a categorization or theme scheme that didn’t have some problems in concept. For instance, my own job-trait-desire scheme leaves out the visual variety aspect. It appears that there is more work to be done on my theory too. I tend to come at things from my own angle to really understand them, so don’t mind me.
In any case, the characters meet McCloud’s recommendations quite well. The character dynamics and the complications that come from them being the royal family add some depth to the overall comic concept. That makes for a much stronger comic than it might seem at first blush.
As an extra bonus, there’s a rare occasion with a song and dance number or the fourth wall is broken. While these are uncommon in webcomicland, they both fit very well in The Crown Prince. There is something amusing, if not worth a chuckle in every comic.
You can also play the perfectly appropriate Crown Prince Memory Game in the sidebar. My best time was 54 seconds, which ranked me a prince. It said so.
One other thing. The Crown Prince is (relatively) set up with Oh No Robot and for many of the comics, the text still needs to be input. I wonder, in cases like these, if you want your readers to create the text … perhaps a reward is in order. Scribe (say) twenty comics and you’ll get a custom wallpaper or other goody along with credit.
What Did I Learn?
To make a comic, you need a solid concept and art that fits that concept. Adding other touches that play on your comic’s themes helps as well. It also does not hurt to have good variety of content and other interesting tidbits on the site to play with. You might also want to try your hand at the Memory Game after you read over the Crown Prince.