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Work / Illustration

Alex Norris’ hilarious three-panelled webcomics are universally appealing

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.”

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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.”

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name

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Alex Norris: Webcomic Name