Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

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Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Sat May 12, 2012 12:10 pm

Hey guys! So after a few months of R&D in the wonderful world of webcomics, I've finally built the platform for my webcomic and am looking for some feedback from some more experienced individuals (my mom thinks it's cool).

I talked with STrRedWolf and gave him the rundown of my project and vision for it and he directed me here with a moderator approval, so hopefully it finds the right kind of people!

About myself:
I have always been a big fan of webcomics (namely humorous comics); however, I am very much NOT an artist. I'm a professional software engineer and system administrator. I've wanted to start a comic for a while and did a lot of research into what would entail a successful comic (in that people enjoy reading and I also continue to enjoy making them). Everything I read said the same thing; make something innovative, make something original. I thought "well hey, that's exactly what my advice would be to someone asking for tips on creating a new great website or application." So I approached this idea the same way I would as a piece of software, by evaluating the integration with new technologies. Enter Real Pseudo.

About the project:
For those of you less familiar with being involved in open source software, the idea is this: Anyone and everyone can contribute code, documentation, core assets, etc. All of these contributions are evaluated by someone (or a group of someones) to determine what ends up in production. Real Pseudo follows this same formula, but with comic assets. Illustrations, paintings, drawings, writing... everything that goes into a comic can be contributed.

The "new tech" implementation is in the form of HTML5/Javascript/CSS3 (not Flash). These comics will not be flat images. They will live and breathe. Check out a proof of concept I did with some images I snagged from the internet: http://realpseudo.com/comic-assets/introspective/

The site itself is http://realpseudo.com and some more information can be found in the Welcoming post here: http://realpseudo.com/news/welcome.

Artists involved and used in comics will usually be contacted by one of the contributing writers for an interview and a spotlight as Featured Artist.

So basically I just wanted to get a feel for what an unbiased opinion on this would be (my professional circles generally involve other developers, so I've gotten good feedback as far as the coding/backend goes, but I'd love to hear some more from a more seasoned and relevant group. Like I said, my mom thinks it's great.).

Check it out and let me know your thoughts! And thank you STrRedWolf for your time and direction :D

- The Pastel Suit (Jake)
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby STrRedWolf on Sat May 12, 2012 12:14 pm

FYI Yes, I approve of this post.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby Terotrous on Sat May 12, 2012 11:25 pm

I was recently contemplating something similar to that test comic you have there, I think there's definitely a lot of potential for "moving image panels" like that. There are certain types of visual gags that simply can't be expressed with a static image, like "pan out" gags for example. There's also the possibility to integrate voice acting with a comic, as there are certain types of jokes that require that as well, though that may require more resources than most of us have access to.


Granted, I would have used flash if I was going to attempt this because I understand flash and not HTML5. But I'm sure either can work and maybe getting away from relying on a proprietary format like Flash is a good thing.



Incidentally, the third panel on the test comic doesn't show up in Firefox. Or maybe there's not supposed to be anything there.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby Bustertheclown on Sat May 12, 2012 11:39 pm

Please further explain this idea of open-sourcing collaboration to make comics, because frankly, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how this concept might be implemented.

The motion thing is (potentially) cool, but from a pure theory side, it does cause me to wonder when something like that ceases to fit the form of "comic," or whether such a thing is truly an innovation or just a gimmick. I'd be given to say that when people say "be innovative," what is generally meant by that is to do it within the realm of narrative. I have the same issue with other technical "innovations" for webcomics that have come about over the years, most specifically, infinite canvas and motion/sound additions. As far as I'm concerned, if it is a change in form that serves only to change the form, and does little to nothing to help make the narrative accessible to the reader, then what is the point? So, I suppose that things like moving pictures in comic panels could have potential, but frankly, whenever I see it, it's jarring to me as a reader. That isn't to say that it can't be done so well that it might actually be called an innovation, but for that to happen, it had better damned well be mind-blowing, and I'm talking "Jurassic Park's computer-generated dinosaurs" mind-blowing, rather than "Avatar in 3D" gimmicky.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Sun May 13, 2012 8:20 am

Terotrous wrote:Incidentally, the third panel on the test comic doesn't show up in Firefox. Or maybe there's not supposed to be anything there.


There is no third panel content. I was just testing the panel clipping for the animations to make sure of a couple things:

- The animations run smooth enough that it's even worth looking at (especially with a few animations happening simultaneously).
- The clipping on the panels prevents anything (unless on purpose) from bleeding into the panel next to it.
- The animations can be done in a way that leads the readers eyes through the strip (needs some more thought, but from those 2 panels it seemed pretty easily do-able).
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Sun May 13, 2012 8:31 am

Bustertheclown wrote:Please further explain this idea of open-sourcing collaboration to make comics, because frankly, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how this concept might be implemented.


Basically, there are a lot of talented artists out there who don't do comic art, but whos work could still make great panels (for example). Likewise there are some writers who I know who have teased the idea for short stories in the form of a motion graphics comic series. In those cases, one of these contributing writers might team up with a contributing artist (ad-hoc) and come up with a story/series with their own resources and possibly another for characters or panel art. You can collaborate however you want and make then open-source idea work for whichever way you feel comfortable. I would just be a facilitator for providing a platform and a little bit of production to put it all together in HTML5/JS to match the site's format.

That's just one example, but it could be as simple as someone wanting to do a single strip with a humorous narrative regarding having children who ride horses.. who knows. Then, with a pool of contributed artwork, there would be a starting point to get production moving, and as a credited artist, you get some exposure to your work in a way that lives in a world, not just in a frame on a wall.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby McDuffies on Sun May 13, 2012 9:31 am

Hi, pastelsuit, welcome to the forums.
Apparently, your site doesn't like me. None of pages you posted load for me.
From my experience, implementing the site is the easier part of the job. The other, harder part is making enough writers and artists enthusiastic about it. Most of artists I run into are most comfortable working on their own stuff, and even if they get enthusiastic about your project, it's no guarantee that they will own up to it, comickers aren't the least lazy people. I'm not saying this to discourage you, on the contrary, I think that the idea has the potential. I just mean to point at what, in my opinion, might be a problem, something you'll have to turn additional attention to (be prepared to nag artists to finish what they promised they'd do).
For starters, I am too deeply involved with some of my projects to make any commitments. (Some of them dabble with internet coding too, but in a different fashion)

The motion thing is (potentially) cool, but from a pure theory side, it does cause me to wonder when something like that ceases to fit the form of "comic," or whether such a thing is truly an innovation or just a gimmick. I'd be given to say that when people say "be innovative," what is generally meant by that is to do it within the realm of narrative. I have the same issue with other technical "innovations" for webcomics that have come about over the years, most specifically, infinite canvas and motion/sound additions.

To me, it's never certain whether something is a gimmick or a genuine advancement of the form until you give it a test run. I mean for instance, there's no particularly obvious reason why widescreen would become a standard for cinema format, while 3D is relegated to status of gimmick that rears it's ugly head every couple of decades. They both started as gimmicks, studio-made high-concepts that had nothing with actual artistic expressions. But with former, many artists succeeded in implementing it, found limitless aesthetic possibilities in it, while with the later, that just hasn't happened yes despite many attempts and vote of confidence from many important authors. And we're not talking about smell-o-rama which was obviously just a gimmick, we're talking about things that genuinely had a chance. So give it a test run, artists might find a way to integrate it or not, I think that preemptive theoretical discussion about whether something is a genuine progress can't tell much.
That being said I was always interested in idea of giving comics limited movement and sound, the kind the Broken Saints did, I thought that this can add a few essential tools into comic's arsenal without sacrificing it's nature. Too bad I never had a time to do such thing, though I always wanted to. I don't see those kind of comics around anymore, not as much as I've seen in, say, 2003. I wonder if it's due to a fact that amateur artists don't have enough time for such projects, or maybe there are such projects but I don't know about them.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby Terotrous on Sun May 13, 2012 12:04 pm

Well of course, we once worked on a collaboration comic, How Not To Run a Comic, which was fairly well-supported by the community. Though, that was at a time when Webcomics in general were much more active.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Sun May 13, 2012 12:15 pm

McDuffies wrote:I just mean to point at what, in my opinion, might be a problem, something you'll have to turn additional attention to (be prepared to nag artists to finish what they promised they'd do).


Thanks for the feedback! This was actually one of my primary concerns with doing a comic with a select few dedicated artists. The idea here is such that artists don't have to do any additional work (obviously that would be fantastic if someone contributed a bunch of characters or something just for Real Pseudo), whatever they've already done and would like to showcase could be used. I've heard more criticism on what would a hodgepodge of different pieces of artwork look like with no defined art direction, which, I suppose, is where a bit of innovation comes in.

So... yes, I've definitely considered your thought (and really glad you brought it up, because whenever I bring up something like that I get written off as being an arrogant software developer who is just taking a dump on artists), I've worked in the web development world for like 8 years or so now, so I'm familiar with the push to get a defined outcome from an artist. Do you think that the community and open contribution aspects of the project takes some of that weight off comic deadlines (assuming there would be comic deadlines)?
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby McDuffies on Sun May 13, 2012 1:49 pm

Eh, I don't know anything, like Tero said, we has a collaboration comic which was well populated... in fact so much so that in the end it lost it's point... we had to fend ourselves from loads of contributions of which most were of very dubious quality and obviously made just for backhanded advertising of their own comics... So that's another possible scenario.
To brainstorm further, I think that important thing is how you'll do the "marketing" side at the beginning, whom you'll get interested to help you get it off the ground and how will you get them interested... later people will probably join themselves, attracted by the material that is on, but in the beginning, it feels like you might want to focus on fewer number of artists who'll form the core, basic shape of it.
Loose deadline will probably help people to procrastinate more and never actually finish what they promised.
There are all half-informed suggestions mind you, I've never managed to get a serious communal project too far myself.

I've heard more criticism on what would a hodgepodge of different pieces of artwork look like with no defined art direction, which, I suppose, is where a bit of innovation comes in.

I wouldn't worry about that beforehand, if the project is loosely defined in can turn into a shapeless mess or something great, or it can even turn into a great shapeless mess... You may end up getting a "Nashville" or you might end up getting an "OC and Stiggs"... on the other hand if you don't try, you won't get anything at all.
Greated reason to worry is, as I said, overall quality of comics. Since you don't plan to have quality control, you might end up being littered by very, very bad contributions, like, childish drawings level contributions, which will hide all the better ones. A sort of rating and voting system comes to my mind, a system that brings better contributions out, on the front page, on top of listings, something like that. Course, you can worry about this when and if the actual problem arises.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Mon May 14, 2012 6:06 am

McDuffies wrote:A sort of rating and voting system comes to my mind, a system that brings better contributions out, on the front page, on top of listings, something like that. Course, you can worry about this when and if the actual problem arises.


That's an interesting idea. I'll think some more on a way I might be able to implement something like that. The initial concern I see with that is people may want to submit discretely and wait until they are contacted for a comic so they can be involved in production. The site doesn't just build comics based on what gets passed into it, everything will still go through me and I will work with the artists/writers directly to come up with a comic that suits their likings.

Basically, people won't be submitting whole comics to me (not necessarily, at least), just some assets which can be used in collaboration with other artists, so not every crayon drawing from a 5 year old is going to be in a comic without approval.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon May 14, 2012 7:21 am

I've run a couple collab comics in the past, and I still like the idea a lot, so I'm a bit excited as well about the project you're proposing. I think my biggest failure with my projects is that I stubbornly tried to take on too much responsibility, and I think I'd try to form some sort of team if I were to do those projects over. A lot of the people I dealt with for Red Slime Magazine actually assumed the project was being run by a team or studio, which was sort of a hint I should've picked up on that doing it by myself wasn't a realistic idea. At one point I was communicating between writers, pencilers, inkers, and colorists, reviewing and copyediting scripts, reviewing art submissions, copyediting articles and reviews, trying to recruit more artists to the project, lettering the pages, getting covers made at the last minute, fixing up the PHP website I already spent months coding, shooing spammers from the forums, and arguing with all the people who were paranoid I was some sort of scammer trying to rip them off. And all of this hassle was for a project that only got a trivial amount of traffic to begin with.

As for quality control, I think it's very important, because one of the draws of a directed project like this is that it offers readers respite from the general disarray of webcomics, where literally anyone can get their work published online. I think it's more complicated than just saying no to stick figures, though. There's a lot of weeaboos out there who think they're awesome 'cause can decently imitate their favorite manga artist's style but can't actually draw or make comics, and then there are plenty of webcartoonists who can kinda draw okay, but still need a few more years of training before they can make comics at a respectable level. Scripts, on the other hand, are a problem because you're inevitably gonna get way more scripts than you have quality artists willing to draw them, so you're forced to be selective and pick only the best ones to get produced. And even some of the notably skilled writers have a weakness for spelling and grammar -- do you fix their scripts, or leave them as-is?

As for the multi-artist and animation aspects, I can't say much about them since I haven't seen them done much, but I'm in favor of experimentation in general, so I'm interested to see where it goes. Animation doesn't overtly seem "living and breathing" to me compared to static comics, though. I tend to think of that more in terms of the creator's relationship with the project. For instance, I'd have a difficult time considering a lame, constraining, corporate-driven animation a cartoonist does so they can pay their rent to be more "living and breathing" than the fun, personal, inspired comic they make in their free time. However, technological advancement's what birthed webcomics in the first place (via the Internet), so it makes sense to embrace new technologies. As for multi-artist pages, I think it can definitely work in the sense that 10 busy artists may each be willing to contribute just a panel or two, whereas maybe none of them would be interested in committing to doing multiple pages. That's how I was able to update Deep three times a week, for instance, whereas I doubt I would've attempted such an aggressive schedule with only one artist working on it. Another upside of doing multi-artist's that it helps make the unique aspects of each artist's style and personality more apparent since they're working on very similar subject material.

I'm hoping your project takes off, as I feel like webcomics still have a lot of room to grow, and I expect even really keen artists would consider contributing a panel or two just to play with the animation, perhaps as a precursor for trying it in their own projects. It'd also help give promising writers a chance to get noticed other than just spamming webcomics forums begging "pretty pretty please with a cherry on a top" for an artist to work on their project for free.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Mon May 14, 2012 8:34 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:Animation doesn't overtly seem "living and breathing" to me compared to static comics, though. I tend to think of that more in terms of the creator's relationship with the project.


Thanks for your feedback! You made some really great points at a couple things I should clarify, one being the above statement. I suppose in the context I was implying that animation makes art "living and breathing," but you're right, there is nothing about the innate nature of motion that means it's alive (technology has taught us all this a long time ago). I think the way I should frame the idea is that one panel can take on the role of 2 panels since an idea might be the moving of an object from point A to point B. The comic has more life because in 3 panels, I could tell the story of 6 panels, cycle through mid-speech character emotions, and create a better "realm" of existence that these illustrations live in. (I hope that makes sense)

The other is something that seems to be a common misconception (understandably given the community here) on the derivation of the art itself. Most of the feedback here has been "here is an issue you will face with comic artists...", but remember, this project is not exclusive at all to just comic artists! Let me do some stuff real quick as an example...

Something like this (sorry for huge pictures):
Image
plus this:
Image
could end up like this:
Image

Neither of these (source google.com) were necessarily done by "comic artists", but they could work in a comic strip all the same. I don't want to discourage anyone from submitting just because they've never done comics before.

So yea, just wanted to clarify that. Not exclusive to comic artists!
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon May 14, 2012 10:03 am

I see. That approach'll certainly result in some interesting-looking comics, at least.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby McDuffies on Mon May 14, 2012 7:31 pm

I approve but that may be just because of topless woman, I dunno.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Tue May 15, 2012 8:01 am

Terotrous wrote:There's also the possibility to integrate voice acting with a comic, as there are certain types of jokes that require that as well, though that may require more resources than most of us have access to.


A couple of you brought up audio being an included asset into comics. I had actually thought about this as well given that HTML5 now includes audio and video elements which can trigger nicely off of javascript events (aka, things happening in the comic). It's funny because for things like that which require more technical resources, I have access to them and the ability to use them effectively... I can even scrounge up some people with good voices.. even musicians for short tracks if I wanted to go that route too. As far as production and the technical aspects go, I could move in any direction very easily. That's the stable side of this project though (I know, "I'M the stable side of this project," I'm such a glamour whore), the tough part is the pieces that hold it all together - the art!

Any thoughts on what strategy or maybe even assurance I should promote to pull artist interest? I'm not even sure that's the right word... most artists have expressed seeing promise in the project... artist "involvement"?

Also, thanks again, everyone. I'm actually feeling a lot more confident in the idea than I was before posting.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby McDuffies on Tue May 15, 2012 4:16 pm

thepastelsuit wrote:Any thoughts on what strategy or maybe even assurance I should promote to pull artist interest? I'm not even sure that's the right word... most artists have expressed seeing promise in the project... artist "involvement"?

Again at the risk of being discouraging, don't expect the same number of people to stick around when it goes from talking to doing. Be prepared for a lot, lot less people to actually get around to doing something.
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Wed May 16, 2012 6:57 am

I definitely agree with you now on that. I was a bit ambitious to assume I could get a steady flow of contributors right at launch. I'll pull some resources to kick things off, then see what kind of involvement is spurred from there. Hopefully I can crank out the first comic by June 1st. I'll be sure to come back for more feedback then :D
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby thepastelsuit on Wed May 16, 2012 9:41 am

McDuffies wrote:Apparently, your site doesn't like me. None of pages you posted load for me.


Did the site ever start working for you?
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Re: Beta Testing a New Webcomic Project

Postby McDuffies on Wed May 16, 2012 11:27 am

No.
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