Building a Rap Sheet

So you've assembled your story, your setting, your cast of characters. You start putting out comics and now you want to do some bonus material for your website. One common feature is a cast page, showing a picture of all the main characters and information about them. Cast pages can benefit new readers by bringing them up to speed with the comic, though they can also become a self-indulgent mess of details that amount to nothing. Here are a few dos and don'ts for creating a good cast page:

Don't: Make a cast page to fix bigger problems.
So you've started with your comic and you start receiving comments from people who can't tell your characters apart or think they lack personality. So you think, “I'll create a cast page to fix that!” include their picture next to their name and a backstory with their Meyers-Briggs Type, their zodiac sign, and their blood type so you can know what their personality is. That's not a solution, that's slapping a bandage on a gaping wound. If your readers can't tell the difference between two characters, you may need to redesign them. Change their height, weight, build, head shape, or other major features. A different hairstyle won't cut it. If your characters come off as bland and interchangeable, then maybe you need to find ways to make their personality come off more, using both verbal and nonverbal cues like body language.

Do: Make a cast page to ease people in.
If you're doing a comic with an already sizable archive or plan on doing some sweeping epic with tons of important characters, it may be a hard sell to new readers, who have to either jump in cold or binge through the archive if they want to know what's going on. In that case, a cast page could help bring them up to speed enough to jump in midway, then become invested enough to binge.

Don't: Include “What's in their pocket.”
When it comes to fleshing out your character, there are so many resources online such as questionnaires and articles, giving advice to come up with details or roleplay the character as you fill out a dating profile or take a personality test. But don't post this information on the cast page. Again, it's best to keep it short, and more than likely, none of the information you come up with will have any relevance to the story. And even worse, if the really interesting details never show up in the story, you end up making the reader expect something that never happens.

Do: Keep the pocket lint.
That's not to say that the dating profiles, MBTI results, D&D alignment, interests, and pages of backstory are useless. It's a great way of getting an idea of what the character is like beyond archetypes. It's a great exercise and you can always refer back to the resulting pages of information if you ever get stuck on what they would do in a given situation. And if you decide to throw in some new skill or detail to the character later, you can play off fully intending to do it if you don't have their entire history written out on the site for everyone to see.

Don't: Include really obvious information.
Don't mention character traits like “He would do anything for his friends and family,” which could really describe just about anyone or contradictory information like “She's nice, but could be mean if people are mean to her.” In the former case, you could safely leave off that information, and in the latter, it doesn't help people really understand the character. If you're including personality, describe what their baseline personality is and show in the comic what it would take to make them break from that default.

Do: Keep it short
Keep in mind that this page is supposed to be a summary for new readers, not a work in itself. Include information like their name, age, personality, and story specific details in a description of the character. If you want to do something themed, like the sheet is part of some government documents, then include information that would be in such files like height, weight, rank, etc.


  1. These are some great insights! Thanks for collecting them. I think/hope that I succeeded at these dos and don'ts on my cast page :)

    1. Haven't read through the comic so I don't know how well the characters match with their profile. But from a quick glance I'd say you're doing it right.

  2. I have a pet peeve about character pages, when people put physical information like eye colour, weight, hair colour, or in the case of Skullgirls, put girls' 3 sizes in the profile. Just creepy. My dig with it is that I'm asking 'why do I need to know this information?' I can see the characters already. I don't care about their weight or how big their tits are. It is just worthless info that I am being provided. I roll my eyes when I see this kind of thing on DeviantArt.

    Instead, I'd rather have information like a one- or two-sentence general description of the character. If there's alien species, what species/race they are, maybe some likes/dislikes. But, I don't want to be spoonfed stuff where I'm being told -everything- about the character. That's why you read the comic! To discover more about them.

    1. Exactly. The only reason you might need that information is if you were doing fanart and you needed easy reference information. Except for the cup size thing. Ew.

    2. I read on the Buso Renkin Wiki that the author specified the three sizes (bust, waist, hips) of his female characters, including 15-year old (10th grade) student Mahiro Muto, the little sister of the main character. Buso Renkin is a mainstream shonen manga series by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the author of the very popular Rurouni Kenshin. Now I haven't seen the evidence (page scan) that Watsuki did this, but if he did, that would show that the three sizes is something even mainstream authors of non-pornographic works (but ones with fan service) do.

      Now, I think the three sizes would be relevant if it's a dating visual novel (Katawa Shoujo) or something based on a dating visual novel, or a harem series. But the three sizes in a serious drama where the women are teammates on an anti-terrorist campaign stretching the globe? Hell no.

    3. You can assume that professionals have at least decent storytelling skills. Amateur creators are usually not at that level, and cast pages can be an essential tool for them to help readers understand what's going on. A creator should be more concerned about the reader's general experience than about whether miscellaneous details, like measurements, are appropriate or not.