Thursday, August 27, 2009

From The Infernal Pits of - Part 1

This week, I departed from my ordinary list of comics I need to review so that I could check out The idea is that anybody can post their website there and check it to see when the webcomics they read update. Instead of you know, the website itself. The site has no quality control and it apparently does not check for broken links. Through random exploration though, I found two comics to review and in the process, I died a little inside.

HyperComboFinish by Chris Maguire

I honestly don't get the point of pixel art comics. They fall somewhere between copypasta art and sprite comics themselves. For those unfamiliar with the differences between the three, the following is a short guide to understanding them.

Pixel Art Comics - Uses user created art, commonly made of original characters.

Sprite Comics - Uses pre-created sprites, usually from video games. Often recolored.

Copy Pasta Comics - Comics where art is drawn and then repeated every single panel with barely any changes.

With Pixel Art, you gain the benefits of doing a job well most of the time because you just created your own pixels and characters and as most people who have tried can tell you, it is a hard task to do. On the other hand though, you just end up using these over and over and most of the time you might as well have saved the time and just gone into Photoshop and recolored some video game characters if all you want to do is make a basic comic. Basically you just pour more time into what is an overly complex Copy Pasta Comic.

This rant brings me to the comic, HyperComboFinish. Hosted on a blog site, it is yet another gaming webcomic. Now, I have been rereading Penny Arcade in the past week and one thing I noticed in the comic is that the humor stays up to pace with the webcomic humor of the time. It evolves. Looking at HyperComboFinish (which has taken several long breaks in its 5 year run) there is little to no humor growth. It occupies that dim and dark valley with the entirely all too large and deadly horde of other game comics that are bad. Very, very bad.

HyperComboFinish is a pixel art comic that might as well give up. Yes they are making their own sprites. Yes they are taking a decent amount of time making them. The problem with the comic is the fact that they pour so much time into making the sprites (it seems) and then they just kill them. They poorly use them, they overuse the same faces and it is just depressing. My other problem for once is the layout. The tower layout can work sometimes. It often works best if you have several panels in each row. This comic does not grant you that grace. You are forced to scroll down, seemingly descending into the hell created by these artists. As for sprites themselves, they seem to be a stylistic rip off of Diesel Sweeties with the large heads and all (though it is the best way to show expressions - if you are not trying to be original.)

The writing is generic gamer comic writing. Translated for you, this means unoriginal and poorly written gamer/nerd humor. The characters are blank cutouts. Mindless pods with no depth. Video gamer characters appear often and with no point other than making a catchphrase or some horrible attempt at humor. These people write a gaming blog. I have no idea what the reader base is. After reading the comics though, I have no desire to see their attempts at writing about the news though. I'd probably find it more unintentionally hilarious though.

The comic can be saved though. For one thing, change the art style and the layout. If you want to make a gaming comic with pixel art you might as well just use all pre-made sprites. Its like you are going to a baking contest for amateurs and you are using a recipe off a box of cake mix but not the ingredients included in the box. Or you can create a fully hand-drawn webcomic. Either way though, you need to decide if you want to cook from scratch or just use the box cake. As for the writing, this is always the hardest thing to suggest ways to improve. For one thing, have you characters actually develop personas if you are going to reuse them (especially if you are going to make your own art). Otherwise, just use NPCs from the games that you are parodying.

The comic needs a lot of work and made me rather depressed. I can't fully hate the comic because you are attempting to make pixel art but there is so much you need to improve. D.

My second attempt resulted in my finding a Japanese hardware dealer.

After a few attempts I invoked a rule, if it had not updated in three years, I was free from reading it. It among other things helped me avoid a Lord of the Rings fan fiction pixel art comic among a few other things. Eventually though I landed in the seas of Lee and the Boys.

Lee and the Boys by Dave Crews

When I started reading, I was under the impression that this comic had been running for a while based upon its strange page numbering system. I had written an entire paragraph about how eventually enough people find a horrible comic to start to support it, which was the only way a weekly comic could logically have a store. I was wrong, which was good and bad. It meant that I would not be subjected to 400 plus pages of this comic. It was still painful to read those 40-plus pages though.

Lee and the Boys is a comic about an old guy who owns a grocery story and his workers. Judging from the character design they all live near Riverdale and mainly serve the nearby residents. Or they would if Bob Montana was learning how to draw. And by learning, I mean he drew characters one way and refused to ever update his designs. Basically what Tim Buckley did and continues to do.

Chances are, the author started drawing from one of those books about drawing like a certain artist and only learned based on that. The characters have about the same creativity in design as you'd expect to see. The old cranky boss has a gut and an unclean shave and all the teen workers essentially look the same....except for the stereotypical punk character. He has a rat tail and a nose ring.

The writing is generic to the extreme. It is as if the writer later opened the book on drawing like a certain artist for storyline ideas. He has already done the camping storyline. Next would be the mother-in-law except all of the characters are too young or too unlikable to be married. The comic can't get much more generic and hackneyed.

My suggestions for the comic are simple. Learn how to draw in your own style and find a writer. You have potential as an artist. You are a decent inker and the lines are not bad. The coloring is simple but most comics start out that way. You really need a new style, though. It looks too much like a comic you'd find in the Sunday comics section and that is not what internet readers want to see. The whole grocery store idea also has very little appeal to the average webcomic reader. If you really want to continue this, pitch it to a newspaper but not on the Internet.

Bad writing, bad character design and overall generic-ness leave Lee and the Boys with a lot of room to improve. D.

I could find worse comics on the website. I found worse than these two. Next week though, I will do my best to find something you can actually enjoy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shrub Monkeys Review

Normally I'd feel obligated to apologize for the lack of updates but I think I have a decent reason - video games. The foul and addicting snake wormed itself around me again, constricting me and wrapping me. The more I struggled to escape, the harder it became especially as it was famished. I welcomed the beast eventually though as an old friend. For those unfamiliar with my life and such, my own Wii had been stolen last October and I was mostly disinterested in gaming since then. Previous attempts to enthrall me had been made unsuccessfully.

My personal demons of these weeks though have been varied and all in all, very good. Persona 3, Jet Set Radio Future and Fallout 3. Sadly my roommates PS3 crashed allowing me to not finish Persona 3. Curses. Then again, the Wikis did a good job of helping me deal with the loss by looking up the story online. Jet Set Radio Future, the old Xbox game was as enjoyable as ever which means I'd end up playing till 2 am, realize I was tired and then stay up another 2 hours. Luckily that is winding down as I embark on my quest to unlock all of the characters. Finally was the strongest of the addictions, Fallout 3. The art, the feel, the gameplay. I must confess that I had never played one of the original games so I cannot be a judge comparing it to the others in the series. I did play Morrowind (which I loved) and Oblivion (which I loathed) though and I can say that Fallout 3 was better than both. The inclusion of downloadable content is keeping my interest though I need to actually download it. Enough about video games though.

Now finally though after the weeks that you have waited, my Shrub Monkeys review.

But first, Amazingly Average is back up after a long hiatus. Go and give Ant some love. It is easily one of the most original webcomics out there on the internet. I owe the guy a large favor since he originally linked to my blog so this is payback along with a few forums posts.

And now...

Shrub Monkeys by Katie Shanahan

I've talked to Allan of Allan and Ryan from the 600 on the topic of journal comics. The fact is that thanks to one of the big webcomic powerhouses linking to Allan, almost every recently created blog/journal comic has been a stylistic rip off of Allan's comic. Heck, I even did it with most of my 40 Day Web Comic Challenge Art. It was nice finding a different artistically styled comic. Now before you go on to complain that Shrub Monkeys started before Allan (by several years) I am just pointing this fact out because YOU CAN COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL IDEA AND STYLE FOR JOURNAL WEBCOMICS.

The art is high class stuff, the quality and caliber that you can come to expect from actual animators. Katie's art is amazing, energetic and you realize what one can learn in a college for cartooning. Long story short, the art is great. Not much more to say about it except that it can be minimalistic at times. No backgrounds, etc.

The jokes (where art students may fail at this point) are also great. Technically I should say "writing" but more or less, I am out of it (the review writing groove). The jokes mostly focus on real life humor but you don't feel alienated by inside jokes. The fact is that the main character is about as un-embellished as you can get, the non-Mary Sue factor comes off on occasionally almost Charlie Brown levels. The jokes do require a decent amount of prior knowledge though.

Overall, the comic is great. Great art, great writing. Not much more to say. Then again, I am rusty right now so what the heck do I know. A

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big News

I finally got my own webcomic started. Super Feudal Communist Russia Team Squad Now! will be updating every Friday (till I get some more cash flowing).

Along with this I hope to continue with a review a week. I'll put up the review in a few hours of Shrub Monkeys. I need to sleep, shower and shower again.

To tide you over, Hiimdaisy has a pretty awesome Persona 4 comic up. Check out the comic. TRIAL OF THE DRAGONNNNNNNN! ( I post this as 60% of my free time has been spent on this game.)

Sleep time!

Edit: Busy editing html, installing a forum and such to write a review. Page is better now though.