Alex Norris’ daily web comic series Webcomic Names sees the adventures of a “badly drawn blob” character play out through cliched, relatable gags, all ending with “oh no”. The series was inspired by another project called Dorris McComics, a webcomic series Alex used to labour over. “For April Fools one year, I posted eight comics as I joked that Dorris McComics was becoming an extremely relatable and share-able, with eight updates every day. I really enjoyed making them and they went down a storm, so a few years later I decided they would be fun as a daily comic series,” he explains.
Alex’s humorous three-scene comics are universally appealing as they tap into experiences we can all understand and poke fun at. “Generally I get ideas from webcomic cliches (studying is hard, cats are weird, summer is hot and winter is cold etc.) and from thinking about day-to-day life, and sometimes meta ideas about making Webcomic Name itself,” says Alex. “I have a notebook full of lists of subjects, and I try and keep the drawing process as spontaneous and fluid as possible. If I get stuck on an idea I just move on to another one, so I can have 20 or so half-made comics at any one time.
“They don’t take long to actually make, but I often sit on an idea for a couple of months until it comes together. My rule is to make myself laugh when I draw it, so I often doodle different ways of representing things until I laugh and then that becomes the final comic.”
The illustrator’s approach to this series is in contrast to how he used to work. “I find the creation process massively liberating! In the past I’ve always been a perfectionist, and it is more fun to try and make the worst comics rather than the best, because you feel a lot more free to make mistakes and explore,” he explains.
Using a pleasing colour palette of pink, blue and green, on first glance the comics feel child-like, but this approach simply reinforces the uncomplicated delivery of Alex’s one liners. Webcomic Name’s simple but brilliant format “invades the way you think about jokes as a gag writer”. Alex explains: “Other artists have said that if they have an idea that is just pointing out a problem in life, they have to work hard to avoid it being a three-panel ‘oh no’ gag. It might seem restricting but actually means that the punchline (and often the joke itself) is already there, and I can focus on telling the joke in the silliest way.”
Working with such a pared back method can come with its challenges though, and for Alex its representing things as purely as possible while keeping it consistent. “For example, I draw cats with a face in the middle of their body after doing it in one comic and now I find it consistently funny. I still haven’t done a comic about dogs because I haven’t decided how to draw them yet, explains the illustrator.
Through this project, Alex hopes to make a “parody of relatable webcomics that also tell relatable jokes” in a refreshing way. “It is both a parody and celebration of cliche, as I often mock the audience for enjoying the catchphrase ‘oh no’,” he says. “I like that Webcomic Name has become a celebration of failure at everything. I think people like recognising their failure as they can then take ownership over them.”