Monday, March 15, 2010

Epic Fail Critique

Most people that talk to me know a few fun facts about me:

1: I am easily made nervous.

2: I used to make my own comics and they were crap. Now I am working on my own comic.

3: I have a hard time explaining what art I can critique due to multiple standards. xkcd and Allan are "well drawn" while others that color, do more realistic art and more are "poorly drawn".

4: I hate putting up negative reviews since I'd rather help someone find a good comic than have another bad comic to avoid.

5: I am willing to suggest how to improve webcomics.

As this is the case I was met with a request for a review on the Youtube where, as you may recall, I posted my review of Scary Go Round. In the note was asked to review the webcomic Epic Fail and I blindly responded that I would happily review the webcomic without looking at the comic at all. I figured that if somebody would want to face my mighty judging gauntlet, ho! then they must believe in their comic. The comic must be very good..... There is a reason I am doing poorly in logic.

Epic Fail is a painful comic to read for several reasons.

1. The art is atrocious.

2. The story is confusing.

3. It is poorly interspersed with "bonus" comics.

4. It is called Epic Fail.

5. They are already planning to sell a book.

These notes were written after reading the first ten comics of the series were read and finishing the other pages, which was a long and arduous task. I ended up contacting the author who seemed to want the review for the print up of the book warning of the negative review and was met with the go ahead.

This is going to be less of a review then and more of a comic critique wherein:

A review tells you if you might like a comic while a critique tells the people making the comic what they need to do to improve.

On the topic of the art, I hate criticizing art in general like I said. This is because a good deal of webcomics improve their art after continuing for a long period of time. Questionable Content for example had some atrocious art to start with but due to large amounts of practice and dedication, it has improved to a standard level that is well respected. This improvement took time though. About 7 years in Jeph Jacques is just now preparing to release the comic in printed form and guess what! He is redoing the art to show how much he improved. Ditto on Reiley from Dead Winter for redoing the early pages for the print of his webcomic (though he waited a much shorter period of time). My point is that the art is bad and will unlikely improve tomorrow morning. This is not saying, "Hey stop drawing comics," but simply "Hey, you have a large amount of work to do, try to improve a lot." It can be done quickly. For example, if you look at Fanboys where Scott DeWitt changed quickly from a low class artist to one able to render several comic styles. This was done by listening to critics. On this note, don't sell your comic right now in print form. It is not only a big dedication financially but you also are making a statement that can be read many ways. In this case it is seeming to say "Hey fans, give me money now while the comic is new and while I am learning how to make the comic and hopefully it will be around for a few years." This is overconfidence and greed permeating in the simple sale of a book. I honestly suggest not selling anything for the first year more than a button or something small unless you are working with high caliber artists and by this I mean people doing professional quality stuff and even then, only in moderation.

As for the story being confusing, the problem is mainly stemming from the setup of the story. I personally love starting a comic with a cold open and not introducing every character formulaically. It is rarely done well and even rarer to be done originally. The problem with the cold open in this comic is that there is not much of a focus. The comic comes off as like it believes that the readers can all easily grasp this information from reading only the comics themselves which is not the case at least for me. There is definitely a large amount of content in the comic along with inspiration from D&D. This is a fine thing for an early writer to use as inspiration. I used to write horrible stories about my characters from the D&D campaigns and even did a similar comic. With Epic Fail though, the characters are all smashed together and not given time to grow. What might have worked better for a start, would be the characters doing the mission that got them to where the comic starts with the awards and ceremony. The characters are also pretty much cookie cutter characters that have been done before while adding nothing new and the annoying thief is a blatant stand in Mary Sue type for the author. The characters need to be more real, more thought out. The story needs to be clean.

The bonus comics also come across poorly because you can not easily tell that they are not in the main continuity. It is fine to do holiday comics but you may want to move them off the main archive. I say this because there is very little difference between normal and bonus pages. To reference a good way to do the bonus comics, look at these Hanna Is Not A Boy's Name comics (story nonstory story ). There is no confusing what is going on in the main continuity or that they might carry over. They also don't distract from the main storyline and actually add a slight bit of a preview for future comics.

The title Epic Fail is a gamer reference to rolling two 1's on a d20 in row or something similar depending on the game and rules. This basically means whatever will happen will be really bad. So the comic is going to be really bad then? Why the hell do I want to read it? It is not a self mocking comic. From what I can tell it has nothing to do with actual gaming besides the loosely based D&D setting. Change it to something that inspires confidence, not a two word summary of the comic as it currently stands.

Lastly I mentioned it a bit already but don't sell the comic now. Work on it. Improve it. Find people who hate it more than I do and learn from them and the comments they have. Work on art more and more. Try to follow other peoples styles to understand how to make things. Hunter S. Thompson copied The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms to learn how the authors wrote. Look at body structures and more. Just don't ask for money yet, it is a big statement and commitment.

I don't want to say anything more on the comic right now. There is a lot of work to do and it has nothing to do with merchandise.

See you Wednesday, hopefully with a video or more on Socialfist (coming April 1st!)

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