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.


Zombie Logic said...

That's some good stuff.

I liked reading it.

Zombie Logic Press

Talekyn said...

I also do not fathom pixel art at all. I find it actually difficult to look at, and cannot get past that far enough to find out if the writing it at all good.

I've not seen "Lee and The Boys," but once again I have to point out -- having an art style similar to the people you learned from is not necessarily a bad thing. So what if the characters look like they hail from Riverdale. The Archie comics continue to thrive, and continue to return to that basic art style (despite occasional forays into "realism") precisely because the style works.

I don't believe that artists need to constantly evolve brand new art styles every so often. George Perez has been drawing basically the same way for 40 years, and his style is still more dynamic, more interesting, more filled with detail, than most of the webcomics you've directed me to.

Koltreg said...

Talekyn: I agree that there is nothing wrong with finding inspiration from your originators. I personally am not a fan of the style in general, this was a review. The problem that struck me though was that this was ersatz. The style the author uses does not embrace energy at all. It is unable to convey anything but the most base emotions. This might be permissible if the story itself was worthwhile but it to lacks much merit.

Talekyn said...

Oh, I'm not arguing your right to dislike the comic at all. Reviews are opinions, after all, no matter how we may couch our thoughts in industry-speak and big words. (And you've read my reviews, you know I'm guilty of the same thing.)

I'm just saying that you often emphasis, here and in our conversations, how much you disdain the "old styles," especially anything that descends from print forms -- your bias was just showing a bit more here than it did in the earlier review in the same post.

Koltreg said...

Ah, well then there is validity in the words. I am not a fan of many of the older styled comics. While they have their place in the world though, I've found them better used as a point to ascend from. They need to try and move forward from where the media had previously been. You do need to recognize the past though so...