Artist Feature: Alex Norris AKA Webcomic Name
by Yuliya Veligurskaya·
Alex Norris is the creative mind behind the Webcomic Name, the internet's favorite meta comic strip. Featuring a pink blob, the comic speaks to relatable subjects with a tongue-in-cheek tone and a predictable punchline.
What's your name and where are you from?
My name is Alex Norris and I’m from the UK! I am from Swansea in South Wales but now live in Wales.
How did Webcomic Name come about?
I started making Webcomic Name in 2016 and it began as a parody of relatable webcomics and repetitive culture in general. I came up with the three-panel “oh no” format when trying to make the most cliched relatable jokes in the worst way. Since then the series has become more of a parody of itself, and I’ve also experimented with using the “oh no” format to comment on topical issues, and parody other things like Disney movies.
What are your greatest artistic influences? Would you tells us a little more about them?
I studied English Literature so my biggest influences for my comics are poems - they are tightly structured and try to use every element of the medium to its fullest. My favourite poet is William Blake, because he uses the mixture of words and images so perfectly and strangely, and all of his work builds on his own unique mythology and philosophy! When it came to making Webcomic Name I was influenced by amazing webcomic artists like Shen, Sarah Andersen, Reza Farazmand and Ruby Elliot. There is also a lot of Kate Beaton in there - she often makes a series of comics on the same theme with a 3/4 panel format and you never know where the punchlines will land, and I absolutely love them. But while I was developing Webcomic Name I was also reading a lot of Peanuts, and I love how Schultz manages to make the repetition of the same jokes and scenarios say something about the pointlessness of life, and the hope found in little uplifting moments.
I think about every element of Webcomic Name and what it says about the world of Webcomic Name as a whole! Which comes from the influence of Blake in a way. Usually I just think about the simplest or most symbolic way to draw things, but when it comes to things like animals I like the character design to be a joke in itself. The way I draw cats came from a single joke about a cat “looking at us weirdly” and then the cat's face is on its body. That design seemed to capture the essence of a cat perfectly and make sense as a weird visual gag even when seen out of context. I spent around a year working on how to draw dogs in the series in a way that was as bad and as iconic as the cat. Eventually I just drew a rectangle with the word “dog” in it, which I think also captures the nature of dogs in a perfect way! I also love the idea that I spent a year frustrated while designing it, and then just ended up doing the most basic thing in the world - that is Webcomic Name in a nutshell really. A long process to get to a ridiculously simple end.
What programs do you use to make your art?
I use Clip Studio Paint with a drawing tablet.
How did you start accumulating your Instagram following? What advice do you have for other artists trying to get their work exposed online?
I had been making my other webcomic “Dorris McComics” for three years before I made Webcomic Name, so by the time it got to starting Webcomic Name I knew what I was doing and already had a bit of an audience. I’ve always said if you make good comics that are funny, people will find them - people are desperate for something good thy haven’t seen before. My other advice is to get in touch with other creators - there’s an amazing online creators community who are really lovely!
Webcomic Name often self-references the medium of comics, and your previous work under Dorris McComics was even more consistently meta. How do you generate so many clever ideas playing with format?
I love making comics about the comic format itself because that’s just how my brain works. I never want to take anything for granted, so I would look at every single feature of comics that I was using (speech bubbles, panels, titles, character design) and analyse all the weird things it was doing that we don't usually think about! Most of Dorris McComics is me playing with that.
At the time I saw a lot of meta comics that would just play with the format and that would be the joke, whereas I would always find an emotional arc in the comic - I would think about how the characters would feel if their world wasn’t working properly and explore that.
Do you have a favorite comic you've made?
I love Webcomic Name as a series more then individual comics! But if I were to choose I would say that I loved the reception when I brought out the comic “Different”. Webcomic Name had only been going for a few months at that point, and it made a big splash! Originally The idea was about how whenever I want change in my life I end up destroying the things that make me feel content, but it also got used by many to comment on political issues, where people vote for political change at any cost. I love seeing my comics interpreted in different ways and meaning different thing to different people.
What challenges do you experience when creating art?
It is definitely tricky to make a series with the same punchline every time, but I’ve learned to keep changing other elements of the series so both the readers and I don’t get bored! I add new characters, do a miniseries, apply the format to new topics - things like that.
What does the future hold for you? Are there any cool projects you're currently working on?
I have lots of plans for Webcomic Name! The one am most excited about is the Webcomic Name Erotica, which will be a sex-postitive erotic love story framed as a book of smut featuring silly blobs. I am also working on some other non-webcomic projects such as a live art show, a book of love advice comics, and a book of literary graphic short stories. We will see whether any of those see the light of day!
EDIT: Since the time of this interview, Webcomic Name Erotica has launched as a Patreon exclusive!
What's your favorite meme right now?
This is kind of the opposite of a meme but I love the instagram account Digital Drift - it is just a series of similar photos that drift from balloons to tents to windows etc and its an amazing way to look at images, in a way that links them aesthetically rather than grouping solely by subject or meme format.