Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

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Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon May 20, 2013 7:22 am

This is the thread for all reviews and discussion related to Webcomic Above You 2013. If you'd like to participate, please read the guidelines in the Placeholders thread and make a post there.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby IVstudios on Tue May 21, 2013 1:30 pm

Was there a specific deadline for these? Well, either way mines done. I did it in Google docs, so rather than transferring my links and recreating the formatting in the forum I'll just link it here. (Also, that let's me go back and edit it if I spot anything that needs fixing).
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby robotthepirate on Tue May 21, 2013 1:42 pm

IVstudios wrote: I did it in Google docs,.


Show off. ICTS (Internal chuckle to self).

I hearby challenge this even to last till 19th July whereupon the first episode of S-C will be finished and I can take part. Good luck with that.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue May 21, 2013 2:09 pm

IVstudios wrote:Was there a specific deadline for these?
Nope.
da rulez wrote:3) There's no specific deadline for writing reviews, but they should be written reasonably soon after making the placeholder.
That was really quick, though, and at 1177 words, which is way above the minimum. (Yay!)

IVstudios wrote:so rather than transferring my links and recreating the formatting in the forum
I've been using this site for a while, which lets you convert HTML to BBCode, and visa versa. I write all my reviews in BBCode, and the site lets me easily copy-paste them to my blog in HTML.

robotthepirate wrote:I hearby challenge this even to last till 19th July whereupon the first episode of S-C will be finished and I can take part. Good luck with that.
The thread never technically ends (well, until next year's thread starts, I suppose), so all that really matters in that case is that someone feels like posting after you do. Unfortunately, the way the thread works, there has to be someone who makes the last post and doesn't get a review unless someone's feeling charitable. Although, Robot the Pirate's eligible to be reviewed, if you want, even though it isn't active -- that could probably be a sixth guideline I forgot to include.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 21, 2013 2:10 pm

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh i didn't expect it this soon blheububul

Thanks IV, I'll respond once my brain stops bouncing off of shit.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Sat May 25, 2013 11:30 am

I FEEL LIKE IT'S TOO EARLY TO DOUBLE DIP BUT I KIND OF WANT TO PUT ANOTHER PLACEHOLDER DOWN
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue May 28, 2013 7:25 am

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I FEEL LIKE IT'S TOO EARLY TO DOUBLE DIP BUT I KIND OF WANT TO PUT ANOTHER PLACEHOLDER DOWN
Maybe not, since it's been a week since the last placeholder. There's definitely less initial interest this time around, as W.A.Y. 2012 had eight placeholders in its first week, while W.A.Y. 2013 only has three. I'd like to assume that people are just being shy, or they forgot that W.A.Y. starts in May. Or maybe people just really don't wanna review Masadjra. (Just kidding... I hope.)

I'd pencil myself in for one, but, so far, I've been content to just hover 'round and see what everyone else is doing. I'll probably have to get involved soon, though, to try to get something going.

As for the Loud Era review, I have some comments to make about it, but I figured I'd wait to see VCC's response before I brought anything up. It's been a week, now, so maybe I'll post something sooner than later anyways. Ain't no rush, though.

Anyways, if anyone out there's having trouble keeping track, here's where W.A.Y. 2013's at right now.

Freakboy Did a Bad Thing -- reviewed by VeryCuddlyCornpone -- incomplete
Loud Era -- reviewed by IVstudios -- complete
Inhumation -- reviewed by djracodex -- incomplete
Masadjra -- reviewed by ????
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 28, 2013 8:19 am

Alright, my response to IV: (and since the links were wiped when I copy/pasted, here's the full review again.


The first thing I noticed is that there is some stuff missing from the first time around. For example, I remember there being a halloween party storyline that is absent on the new site. Which I guess is totally within an artist's right to remove something if they don’t think it’s working for some reason, though I don’t recall anything about it being egregious enough to be worth removing, but whatever.

You’re right, I took out the first chapter of the comic. I was really unsatisfied with it as it seemed like a weak way to open a comic, and I didn’t care for the way it established the characters. It meandered a lot and did little to tell us about the characters and for the most part it just wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t so much that it was terrible, really just that it was weak, especially for a comic’s opening chapter, you know what I mean? I didn’t think those pages were strong enough to be the first step someone takes when they decide whether or not they want to keep reading Loud Era.

I’ve always liked Cuddly’s art over all. She’s got a nice, unique style that is very recognizable. There are times when it looks a bit awkward, with slightly off poses or weak backgrounds, but these are things that should easily disappear over time with more experience. I’d love to see what she’ll be drawing 5 years down the road.

Aww, thanks!

The most noticeable issue is the frequently weak or underdeveloped backgrounds. Though this has been steadily improving and there are some much nicer backgrounds in the newer comics. They’re still a bit infrequent though. Usually Cuddly’ll do one larger establishing shot with a background and then switch to a solid color for a series of smaller, closer shots. I would recommend using those blank backgrounds sparingly, saving them for times when she wants to really highlight an action or object in the foreground. Using it too often looks lazy.

Thanks for pointing this out. I’m trying to teach myself to get over my hatred of backgrounds, and it’s slow going, but I know it will be worth it in the long run. I think I just need to get better at identifying which panels *would be better with* a background, and which ones *would be better without* one. I need to get out of the mindset of which panels *could use* a background and which *could go without* one, and look at it in the sense of “What will make my comic better to look at?” instead of “What corners can I cut to make this page take an hour less to finish?”

There is also an occasional issue with some of the expressions. Most of the time she does nice, subtly expressive faces, but sometime she overdoes it and they start to look more extreme than the context seems to warrant. Character’s will often cross the line from excited into “mannic.” On one page in particular Marie (who, granted, is always a little bit “off”) is preparing to host a party, and while the dialog seems to suggest “I’ll prove that I’m cool by throwing a kickass party” her expression says “I am going to poison these people and display their corpses in my living room.”

Heh :P The second page you linked there is a glowing example of the phase I went thorugh where I felt the need to draw all the details of everyone’s teeth, which I think contributed to the weird/manic look. Your comment for that third link made me laugh, because I do intend for Marie to toe (or cross over) that line between “childlike excitement” and “the type of person other people are kind of uncomfortable around” because that’s more or less how I envision her. She’s the closest thing i have to a “RANDOM LOLWACKY” character, which I find to be an overused archetype, so I try to make sure the consequences of her weirdness are apparent in the way that other people interact with her, if that makes any sense.

Either way, I’m glad you picked that first link as an example of a good expression page, I felt really pleased with the way that one turned out.


My last issue would be that while the female characters all have pretty unique character designs, the core men tend to be less distinct. The side characters all have pretty distinct designs, but the main guys have much less diverse builds and seem to have the same basic body type (square jaw, medium weight, kind of angular) with the only real difference being their height and hair color. I don’t think they’d pass the silhouette test.

Thanks especially for pointing this out. People have said before that they had trouble telling some of my characters apart, but I didn’t really understand why, because to me they all look really different. Your second link there in particular was a good example to choose. I sat down for a while the other day to really think about what makes each character “himself.” Eddie is supposed to be all about awkward lankiness and almost a gothic appearance, everything long and thin and kind of spider-leg-ish. Joseph’s supposed to be more lantern-jawed, kind of bull-like, strong macho features, the type of guy who would have been the captain of the football team if it hadn’t been for his injury. And Tony’s nose should be the focal point of his face, perhaps even his entire head, but somewhere along the line I started trying to draw him with a Joseph jaw not realizing that that takes away from his nose’s prominence. Good things to keep in mind as I go into my next chapter, thanks!

I have to laugh about the female characters pretty much being okay, though. I think it was an overcompensation sort of a thing where I was so worried I wasn’t putting enough effort into caring about what the girls looked like that I ended up knocking it out of the park. I suppose it’s the same thing a lot of male artists do, all of the men look varied and different but all of the women kind of look the same out of some fear of accidentally making one of them ugly.

I’ve playfully mocked Cuddly in the past for her under use of her setting. The story takes place in the late 1910’s (19-teens?) and early 1920’s, but for the most part the storylines are your typical teenage drama that could take place at any time. “Who’ll get the lead in the school play?” “Will Pearl go with me to the prom?” “I hope the party I’m throwing goes well.” Nothing that is really unique to the time period. You could make the argument that that is the point; that people are mostly the same whenever and wherever they live, but it doesn’t really play that up much either.

It’s gotten a little better in the more recent comics, with Uly serving in WWI and addressing some of the racial tensions of the day. But Swap WWI for Iraq and Jews for... well the Jews (there are still plenty of racist hanging around) and you’ve got pretty much the same story. Again, maybe that’s the point, but if so it needs to play it up a bit more.

Fair enough. That same-things-happen-all-the-time theme is something I’m definitely going for, but I don’t want to do it in a ham-fisted way, because even though Loud Era is set in the past, I don’t want it to be a comic *about* the past, if that makes any sense?


The story is also bogged down, in my opinion, by having so many characters. We bounce around between so many people’s stories that we never really learn much about anyone. Now it’s not uncommon for a story to have multiple narratives going on. A main “A” storyline and then a secondary “B” storyline that gets less focus but helps break up the A line into more digestible bits. Maybe throw in a tiny “C” line for some comic relief. But Loud Era has A, B, C, D & E storylines that all get roughly the same amount of attention, which makes it hard to get invested in any one of them. This type of story telling isn’t impossible to do, but it needs to be done very skillfully to keep the audience from getting bored or confused.

This is part of the reason I got rid of the first chapter. I know this has been a problem so what I’ve been trying to do lately is to spend more time on each storyline instead of each vignette being only a page or so long. I think I’m getting better at it. Now that the cast isn’t in school all together anymore, it’ll be easier to say “This chapter is only going to focus on [fewer people].”

That said, the writing is still enjoyable. The characters are all nicely engaging and have defined personalities. In the early comics it was a little hard to get invested in what any of the characters were doing because of the aforementioned lack of focus. But that seems to be improving too as the story goes on.

Cool, glad to hear.

I am getting rather invested in the Cal/Leon thing. They’re the only couple that had any real chemistry in my opinion. (Wait, did I just express concern about the outcome of a fictional relationship? I think I need to go watch some youtube videos of people falling off skateboards.)

If this had been the only positive thing you had to say in a review that otherwise panned my comic completely, that would still balance out everything else :P

The site is functional, if a bit drab. It all works and is easy to navigate. (The image loading issue notwithstanding. SmackJeeves seems to have cleared that up.) The layout is a bit dull and haphazard. The “About” and “Cast” pages could use some tightening up, they are a bit on the wide side and the text is... well it’s ugly. Those columns should be about half as wide as they are. Or at least line up the text and get rid of the indents. The paragraphs aren't long enough to justify them. The “News” page looks pretty nice, make them look more like that. (Sorry, my Graphic Designer training snuck out there for a second.)

Huh, I had no idea the text looked that bad. And I like indents :( but if they’re not working, they’re not working. I might ask you for some tips in the future if I get stuck during my next redesign.

There seem to be some missing images on the “Links” page, though that might just be the SmackJeeves image issue. It’s always the same images though, so I don’t think so. The “Archive” page is nice. The hover previews are very convenient.

I’ll fix that, thanks!

Overall I really like Loud Era. The characters are engaging, the writing is generally interesting and the art is very unique and has a nice style to it. None of the problems I mentioned above are deal breakers, and none of them are going to ruin the comic. I don’t even have any real advice on how to improve other than to “just keep doing what you’re doing.” What Cuddly needs most at this point is practice and I think in a few years most of the above stuff will have worked itself out naturally.

Swell! Glad to hear that I’ve mostly gotten to a point where it’s little tweaking things that need to be taken care of as opposed to huge issues like “Cuddly should try drawing necks on the characters” or “The writing is on par with a homeless person’s ballad.” You’ve helped to clarify some issues that I can now work on improving as I go forward. Thanks so much for taking your time to read my comic and give such a comprehensive review!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 28, 2013 8:20 am

And I'm gonna do it. i'm gonna jump in again.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby IVstudios on Tue May 28, 2013 11:56 am

Glad you liked the review. :D I was afraid it would come off a little aloof or something, especially since I'm guilty myself of some of the things I criticized you for. For example I felt a little bad bringing up the background thing since skimping on backgrounds is something I do all the time. :oops:

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:
The site is functional, if a bit drab. It all works and is easy to navigate. (The image loading issue notwithstanding. SmackJeeves seems to have cleared that up.) The layout is a bit dull and haphazard. The “About” and “Cast” pages could use some tightening up, they are a bit on the wide side and the text is... well it’s ugly. Those columns should be about half as wide as they are. Or at least line up the text and get rid of the indents. The paragraphs aren't long enough to justify them. The “News” page looks pretty nice, make them look more like that. (Sorry, my Graphic Designer training snuck out there for a second.)

Huh, I had no idea the text looked that bad. And I like indents :( but if they’re not working, they’re not working. I might ask you for some tips in the future if I get stuck during my next redesign.


Indents aren't bad in and of themselves, it's just that on that particular page none of the paragraphs are more than three lines long, and most are either one or two. That, plus all of the character pictures are different widths, so having indents makes the text look misaligned and messy. If you reduced the column with by about half then each paragraph would be taller and you could probably get away with it.

Another things is just the nature of the internet makes organizing text very tricky. Everyone's browser and computer setup is going to display the text in a slightly different way. The way the text wraps and what font is displayed and how they align with images is all dictated by the viewers setup, so using the plainest possible formatting generally insures maximum readability.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue May 28, 2013 12:00 pm

That was quick.

IVstudios wrote:I am getting rather invested in the Cal/Leon thing. They’re the only couple that had any real chemistry in my opinion. (Wait, did I just express concern about the outcome of a fictional relationship? I think I need to go watch some youtube videos of people falling off skateboards.)
Yeah, Loud Era's special in that actually managed to get me interested in a romance/drama story. Normally, I'm quick to dismiss that sorta thing as "chick stuff."

IVstudios wrote:The story is also bogged down, in my opinion, by having so many characters. We bounce around between so many people’s stories that we never really learn much about anyone. Now it’s not uncommon for a story to have multiple narratives going on. A main “A” storyline and then a secondary “B” storyline that gets less focus but helps break up the A line into more digestible bits. Maybe throw in a tiny “C” line for some comic relief. But Loud Era has A, B, C, D & E storylines that all get roughly the same amount of attention, which makes it hard to get invested in any one of them. This type of story telling isn’t impossible to do, but it needs to be done very skillfully to keep the audience from getting bored or confused.
This part of the review got me thinking, as not only is it similar to the main complaint in my 2012 Loud Era review, but it suggests that there's a specific strategy when handling an ensemble cast. By that, I mean a story with three or more prominent protagonists where nobody's really "the main character." I thought about a bunch of examples in popular media, and the "sweet spot" for such a cast seems to be four or five people, with the low end being three and the high end being six. Loud Era, on the other hand, lists eight main characters in its cast page, although I would probably consider Leon to be a main character as well, with Uly being more of a minor character. So, something to consider might be minimizing the role of two or more characters in order to focus on developing a core group. In addition, ensembles always seem to be weighted towards men or women, so it's really strange that Loud Era's group has exactly four men and four women. Also, each of the four guys is in some level of relationship with one of the four women, which presents an awkward internal logic that main characters can only develop a romance with another main character. There are a few general exceptions to this (the most significant being Eddie's crush on Pearl), but these exceptions are consistently treated as trivial, with no real attempt made to develop the superfluous relationships.

IVstudios wrote:What Cuddly needs most at this point is practice and I think in a few years most of the above stuff will have worked itself out naturally.
I think VCC's a good enough writer to have a sense that an eight- or nine-person ensemble's problematic*. So, I'm concerned that a more immediate problem, beyond just a lack of experience, might be having too much of an emotional attachment to the characters to condense the cast. If that's the case, then it's more of a issue of having a certain mental realignment when it comes to writing the webcomic.

Loud Era's a particularly interesting subject to me because it's a webcomic I really like that has a mainstream appeal, but at the same time, it isn't popular, and while it has some flaws, it's not very clear why it isn't more popular. But I think a really big draw for a webcomic is its characters, and readers tend to really get attached to certain characters and are eager to find out what happens to them. I think Loud Era's main appeal is VCC's style, with the actual characters being secondary, and perhaps a distant second. My current theory is that other webcartoonists will be more engaged and impressed with the style and artistic competence, but that it's less important to the general readership, who more just want to get attached to the characters and story. It's sort of that classic dichotomy between critical and commercial success.

* Yeah, there's The Lord of the Rings, obviously, but that's an entire trilogy of novels. Webcomics are on a different playing field because the output's at a snail's pace compared to a novel or movie.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 28, 2013 12:19 pm

Interesting points. Yes, I am too invested with the characters to really part with/"demote" them, and I'm afraid that doing much to change that would alter the story too much for me to still enjoy writing and working on it. If that is what's holding people back from getting invested in my comic, I'm going to just have to deal with it, I suppose, because unfortunately that's pretty much the one criticism I'm not willing to adjust/change the story for :(

The reason I have so many characters is because I decided on an arbitrary number long ago at the beginning "conception" stage of the comic, and, noting my propensity to write more male characters than female characters, forced myself to include an even number of each so as to break myself out of that "I can't write female characters that aren't the narrator wah wah" bullshit. I had vague ideas about tiny aspects of each character, but over time they've come so far (at least in my mind, obviously I'm having some trouble getting it to translate to the comic itself) that, while some may bow in and out depending on the particular storyline at hand, I "need" all of them in order for me to feel that Loud Era is complete.

LC, you noticed a peculiarity that's come up as a result of the prior paragraph- the Leon/Uly main/side character incongruity. Uly was one of my Original Eight, Leon didn't exist to any degree of importance until relatively quite recently, and the only reason he ever came to exist at all is because I thought of the name "Leon Solomon" one day and really wanted to name someone that.
Do y'all think it would be better in terms of my cast page (and yes this is really specific I guess) to eliminate the separation of "main" and "side" characters so that it flows more from just "really prominent characters" to "less prominent/one-off characters"? Uly will come into play more when he comes home (spoilers oops sorry he doesn't die at war), so I see how including him as a main character now seems strange when he's only appeared on like a dozen or so pages with a mention here or there otherwise.

Your mention of readers coming back to a comic typically due to a parasocial connection to specific characters is kind of a "d'oh" moment for me, because that's why I read most of the comics I read unless it's a gag a day strip. I've gotten frustrated when a comic I like takes a jaunt out to go exploring other characters and what they're doing for a whole plotline while leaving me hanging regarding the characters I actually read the comic for. That makes a lot of sense. But like I said, my attachment to my own characters is so great that I really can't cut any of them aside from general places they don't belong in a given story. One thing I'll just have to do going forward is to make sure I'm writing them all really well, so that there's more of a chance for readers to form an emotional attachment with each of them. I know I can't make everyone care about all of my characters, but it doesn't hurt to try harder :P
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue May 28, 2013 2:02 pm

It's ultimately an issue of pacing, as you have to slow things down to make room for everybody. I suppose you could compensate by updating more often, but, obviously, that isn't a particularly realistic solution.

On the bright side, at least the webcomic's "critically-acclaimed," I guess. That's gotta be better than both being unpopular and having people tell you that your comic sucks.

As for the cast page, I wouldn't worry about the minor characters, because there are so many of them. I mean, there are a bunch of random characters, and then most of the main characters' families are in the story, too. So, I would just focus on what the bare minimum is that a reader would need to know to "get by." You could maybe include a few of the most important minor characters, though, like Uly and Pearl. It's really just a matter of not overwhelming new readers with unnecessary information.

There aren't any hard rules with writing, of course, and I'm not gonna say that it's inherently a bad idea to have a large cast in a webcomic. It's just very unconventional, and there's gotta be a better reason why Loud Era isn't more popular than just "the universe hates you." Probably the best thing you can do right now, besides hope that someone here has more insight on the matter than I do, would be to look for other ensemble stories and see how other writers try to tackle it.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 28, 2013 2:19 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:On the bright side, at least the webcomic's "critically-acclaimed," I guess.

This made me laugh.

I think you're right about pacing for sure. I really need to push myself do update at least twice a week. It seems like there's always something that gets in the way, kind of like every time I'd try getting on an exercise regimen and end up forgetting about/abandoning it after the first three weeks. I think the trick for me is to just get as much done as possible whenever I can, even if it just means taking fifteen minutes to draw one panel. I know rationally that people like comics that update more often, and that there's even some comics I only started reading because I know they update every weekday so even if they're bollocks there's at least something new to read almost every day. I've been working on (writing wise) making sure I'm milking as much content as I can out of each update without making pages cluttered or like, bad, I guess. Right now my biggest problem in terms of production is I wish I either could finish pages faster or at least have a longer attention span to work on pages.

(I should really finish the review I was half done with over at SJ so I can read your comic and add a second review to this W.A.Y. thread, lest this turn into "The Year We All Ruminated on Loud Era")
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Tue May 28, 2013 2:49 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:(I should really finish the review I was half done with over at SJ so I can read your comic and add a second review to this W.A.Y. thread, lest this turn into "The Year We All Ruminated on Loud Era")


See this is what happens when y'all don't have my stuff to tear apart :D

I miss doing comics :(
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 28, 2013 3:29 pm

RobboAKAscooby wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:(I should really finish the review I was half done with over at SJ so I can read your comic and add a second review to this W.A.Y. thread, lest this turn into "The Year We All Ruminated on Loud Era")


See this is what happens when y'all don't have my stuff to tear apart :D

I miss doing comics :(

I just feel bad, like I'm hogging all the juice!!
We miss it too, schoob. You've always been an upstanding citizen.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby Humbug on Tue May 28, 2013 11:44 pm

Would love to join you guys, but I don't think ToP is ready for reviews and I want to wait until the entirety of the tavern scene is up. That's when people will get a feel for the plot and where it's going. But that won't be until early next year. Oh well, maybe I'll join you guys in 2014. :P
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Humbug
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Wed May 29, 2013 7:28 am

Humbug wrote:Would love to join you guys, but I don't think ToP is ready for reviews and I want to wait until the entirety of the tavern scene is up. That's when people will get a feel for the plot and where it's going. But that won't be until early next year. Oh well, maybe I'll join you guys in 2014. :P

w-w-w-we could just critique the art :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

don't leav eme hug bug
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VeryCuddlyCornpone
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby Humbug on Wed May 29, 2013 3:48 pm

Well, I suppose I could put up Crux even though it's currently on hiatus and the website isn't even finished yet. X3
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby JSConner800 on Fri May 31, 2013 11:42 am

Okay, here's my review for Sortelli's No Scrying. If you want the short version: read the comic! If you want the long version: read the review, then read the comic!
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