10 Tips For Successful Mature Comics

When we think of mature comics, our trashy minds might immediately go to sex, nudity, and all that fun stuff. These are considered more like adult comics. A mature comic is just that, for mature readers. This means the content isn’t for kids under 13, most acceptably. Which also means that not only does the content not have to be so tame, but the story itself should be attractive to readers of an older type. You won’t have too many children involved, unless they’re surrounded by older people who either compliment or oppose. There’s a good example in a comic we love called Blu Lullaby, and there’s a scene where a child thinks he has an imaginary friend who defends him from an abusive father, and that friend turns out to be part of an underground organization of monsters that help kids in danger. There’s a lot of violence, but it’s trained mostly on the adults.

mature comics

So how do you make mature comics attractive to your audience? Here are several tips you might like to think about while you’re creating.

  1. Know your audience. It’s as simple as that. If you have a target reading market of 18-35-year-old males, for example, then your comic must cater to them. And we’re not saying you should think like an 18-35-year-old male (unless you are one already), we’re saying you should consider what THEY would like to read – and see. A lot of people will argue that you really shouldn’t think of your audience and just do what makes you happy and we’d agree with that too. But if your mindset is for fame and fortune from your creations, then respect the audience too. They’re the only shot you’ve got.
  2. Mature comics need mature characters. We mentioned before kids shouldn’t play too strong a role in your comic. It’s best to make them mostly, if not all, adult in nature. What we’re seeing mostly these days in comics are characters either right out of high school or in college. There’s hardly any middle-aged characters or heroes anymore either. If you’re trying to gain a following, know that your characters are going to be the most important part. People are going to want to connect with them, relate to them, or be reminded of someone they know.
  3. Sex is on the table. But try to keep it sporadic and not germane to the story itself. Sex is just sex. Unless something happens during the act (like in the brilliant “It Follows” story), or an event occurs in the middle or end of it, then it’s probably not needed to be a focal point. Yes, we know you want to titillate your fans with a little skin here and there. But don’t make it so you’re writing more of a porn comic. That’s what nudity is for…and while we’re on the subject…
  4. Nudity is good. You can argue with us until you’re blue in the face, but neither of us are a big fan of censorship of any kind. There’s never a really bad time for nudity, especially if the intent of that nudity is to further shape one of your characters. Let’s say Vanessa has a really great set of breasts and they’re sort of her “secret weapon” with her boyfriend, Jerome. Let’s say you have a scene where they’ve just finished sex and Vanessa is standing by the bed, smiling and topless, while they’re having a conversation about, say, a bank heist they just pulled. The nudity here is nearly lost in the intense dialogue about the heist, how much money, who got killed, etc. And that’s how you should use nudity. It shouldn’t just be there without rhyme or reason, keep it low-key and smart and in the “background” of the story.
  5. Talk like adults. It’s pretty obvious that if you’re going after a mature audience, the dialogue needs to be mature as well. We were given a comic once where the main heroine, a 24-year-old woman with a computer job, seemed to speak more like an eight-year-old, a limited vocabulary of maybe 500 words. So we asked, “How the hell did she get the computer job?!” Whether you have a decent command of the English language or not, It’s always a great idea to have characters that “fit” the way they talk. Unless you’re dealing with a “slow” individual, or in some way hindered from speaking correctly (natives, aliens, etc.), make sure your characters know how to talk to a mature audience.
  6. What do your characters do? If they’re fresh out of high school or in college, they probably don’t have the best job in the world yet. If they’re college students, it’s important to make them relatable to college students. If they’re office workers, you want to relate them to office workers, etc. Your characters are the most important part of the comic. They have to be memorable, enjoyable, and elicit love or hate. Even if they’re aliens on another world altogether, there has to be SOME kind of attempt to relate to someone.
  7. Mature comics need depth. The story, the backstory, the origins, you need to have these all planned out and ready to present. Mature readers want a great story, one that’s not too one-dimensional, or predictable, or cliché. Make sure you’ve mapped out everything beforehand. Have at least 50 pages on top of the 50 pages you already planned for. The best way to be successful with mature comics is to treat the reader with that same maturity. They might not all be rocket scientists and that’s okay. Present the story as if they are and you win their respect.
  8. Give warning. It’s probably a given here but also do your global audience a favor and warn people of impending mature situations. WordPress, for example, has a great plug-in called “Age Gate”, which is designed to make sure people verify their ages before being able to enter your website. If you have a printed comic, and you plan on offering it to stores in the area, notifying the management of recurring nudity, sex and violence is a good idea. They’ll know where to place your comic so it’s safe.
  9. Don’t forget the art! Forget XKCD for a minute and think. If you have a mature comic with a mature setting, characters and story, the art should reflect it somehow, especially in a world where great art is becoming so much more popular and profitable. We have the metaverse now, and NFTs and so many social platforms where one can show off prized art. Make it count in your comic too. Mature readers want mature art created by mature artists. Dazzle them.
  10. Realize there are different opinions. Some people might like nudity, and some may not. It’s up to you to decide what kind of message you want to send. Partial nudity, a little bit of violence, or full on porn and splatter. Whatever you want to do, understand that not everyone is going to like what you’re doing and might even be offended by it. This is the great strength of the true artist – the ability to create without worrying too much about the reprisals or consequences. If you have a specific audience to reach, then do so. Don’t try to please everyone because you won’t.

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