I'll review your webcomic.

Think your comic can improve? Whether it's art or writing, composition or colouring, feel free to ask here! Critique and commentary welcome.

Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Feb 16, 2015 2:45 pm

Entities and Nonentities

I recently read an old article by Eric Burns-White that separates critics into three groups: negative critics, reviewers, and scholarly critics. I wrote an article a couple years ago with a similar premise that labels the three groups as audience-oriented, creator-oriented, and reviewer-oriented. Since then, the field of webcomic reviews has taken some major hits, with El Santo ditching The Webcomic Overlook to write summaries for Robot 6, Shitty Webcomics transforming into a cocktail of gender theory, politics, random hentai illustrations, and sometimes webcomics, and even the prolific Your Webcomics! calling it quits. It feels like webcomic criticism's pretty much dead, and Burns-White's paradigm doesn't seem relevant anymore.

The decline of webcomic reviewing seems to be related to social media. The point of this post isn't to bash Twitter, but it should be self-evident that social media and reviewing are inherently separate modes of communication. However, the social media mindset has been creeping into and corrupting reviewing, warping it to fit the mold of bite-sized socializing. An example of what I mean is this review by newcomer Tailsteak (the guy who does Leftover Soup), where he briefly summarizes a webcomic "done by someone who is not only giving me ten dollars a month, but who is also a close personal friend." Then there are other newcomers, including Altermentality, The Definitive Webcomic Review, Robert McGuigan, and webcomically, who wrote low-quality summaries of well-known webcomics like Ava's Demon, Gunnerkrigg Court, Oglaf, and xkcd. To me, these "reviews" are basically glorified tweets.

Summaries are appealing to write because they're objective and uncontroversial. They strip the messy human element from criticism, allowing reviewers to present the unremarkable perspective of the average Joe. In other words, reviewers have a choice between being an entity or a nonentity, and they often pick the latter. This is an unfortunate decision that condemns individuality and diminishes the reviewer's identity, and it's a bizarre approach in a medium that's based on unrestrained creative expression. Further, it's considered brash to acknowledge the existence of unpopular webcomics, with the "polite" approach being to echo the other nonentities and compliment the storytelling skills of a top-tier creator. Nonentities don't show much confidence in their writing abilities, and it puts them in an awkward position when they appear to be critiquing others' work.

Shitty Webcomics isn't mainly about webcomics, but it's the most important review blog since it loudly endorses being an entity. It could be described as "hateful," "misogynistic," and "stupid," especially by one of the feminists or "social justice warriors" the blog often criticizes, but it's significant that it has an identity people can form opinions about. In comparison, the clearest descriptions you could come up with for a nonentity are "irrelevant," "lazy," and "uninteresting," and this makes their posts entirely redundant. Shitty Webcomics is also commendable for attacking people who base their identities on the groups they belong to, which is another form of being a nonentity. I respect anyone who expresses a bold opinion and can firmly back up what they have to say, and I agree with Shitty Webcomics that the Internet should be regarded as a haven for free speech and open discussion. What nonentities are doing is practicing a form of self-censorship, and it reflects a pessimistic attitude about reviewers' abilities to express negativity in a responsible way.

Entities sometimes get criticized for aggravating people, and the discussions they inspire are mainly unanimous complaints about low-quality writing. The Bad Webcomics Wiki and John Solomon are notorious examples of unpopular entities. However, since webcomics are a relatively new thing, examining these entities is an important part of the medium's development. I think one of the reasons nonentities are prevalent is that it's ambiguous what an acceptable review blog would look like, and while The Webcomic Overlook served as a good model, El Santo's style didn't catch on for whatever reason. Reviewing's not considered to be a conventional hobby in the way making comics is, and it's understandable that people are reluctant to take a pioneering role. Just look at the previous decade, for instance, where it seemed like almost everyone was copying Penny Arcade rather than trying to do their own thing. Still, without a defined context, it's problematic to make statements like "This comic is good," since these statements derive meaning from the reviewer's identity. In this way, a review isn't a standalone object, but is rather part of a larger pattern, sort of like how a page is part of a novel.

Everyone who judges webcomics is a negative critic, a reviewer, or a scholar, and it's irritating when someone thinks they can write reviews without falling into one of those groups. Approval's overrated, and it's unfortunate when someone restrains themselves too much because they treat their online presence as something sacred. And even then, if someone's concerned about backlash, they can always just post their opinions anonymously. People upload all kinds of dumb webcomics without making everybody freak out, and being an amateur reviewer isn't really that different from being an amateur webcartoonist. The best and worst thing about the Internet's that anyone can post anything, and people should be cool with that and look at blogging as the sandbox environment it is.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Thu Feb 19, 2015 5:37 am

I dunno, it'd be hard for me to find a site with less of a point of view than Bad Webcomic Wiki. i mean by definition that site is edited by various people, so any point of view is basically a consensus, a compromise. Bad Webcomics Wiki largely attacks regular targets, be they webcomics with small fanbase or popular webcomics that also have a large base of haters, like DD or Waqsi square. Aren't they, then, just following the line of internet's hate-speak, criticizing safely what everyone's already been criticizing. When you criticize DD, are you offering something new, or are you just tapping in Solomon's fanbase?

I don't think you should mistake internet bashing for having a point of view or participating in a discussion. Critics on internet are too often going along the lines of opinions that are pre-approved for criticism - that is more analogous to abstaining from speaking in real life - you have anonymity, you have lack of fear of consequences and, most importantly, you have approval of your peer group. If you thread on grounds such as bad webcomics wiki, criticism is the easier way to earn badge of coolness than expressing positively about something.

You say it yourself:
with the "polite" approach being to echo the other nonentities

but it depends on non-entities you're surrounded with, what kind of response is going to be considered the "eccho", right? From your own quote we may conclude that expressing negatively about a comic is the "polite approach" in a place such as Bad Webcomic wiki. So it's contributors are actual non-entities in this case.

Internet often feels like a reverse mirror of real world, never more than in the kind of manners that can bring you approval of peer group. Bad Webcomics Wiki is a conclusive proof that hate talk can be just as unimpressive and white-washed as excessive politeness can. Comments on any message board (let's say, for the same of discussion, comments above roughly 30% of youtube clips) are another proof. Easiness with which freedom of expression comes means that expression itself loses value in the eves of the one who has that freedom, so people end up thinking very poorly through what they're about to express.

I'm definitely not big on folks who just want shock me. If they have something to say after they've got my attention, ok, right? If they don't, then it amounts to them trying to raise attention to themselves. Without ever actually putting any effort or creativity. Do they raise a dialogue? May be, but very often that's not the kind of dialogue they intended. Very often it's the dialogue along the lines of "what good is the freedom of expression if you don't have anything to say?" Yeah, shitty webcomics has successfully rose a conversation about whether it should be allowed for sheltered fratboys to be mysogynist assholes in public... but do we need such conversation? Isn't it something that we should all answer right now with a resounding "no"?

On the other hand, reviewers who do outlines of plot as encyclopedists, I don't think they are as much non-entities as you think. For one, they are indeed expressing their view through the choice of comics that they decide to feature. They are championing comics that they choose to, albeit not as agressively as a full-on praise would. Their social service (or the nearest to social service that you can have in webcomics) is evident - they allow you to asses how interesting a comic is for you without needing to read it first; they have their place is a process of webcomic selection. That they are not making a critical assessment of comics is even less important in environment where every critical assesment is of a hobbyist, dubious, very often even semi-literate kind. I'd consider them simply a different kind of reviewers from you. Maybe not even reviewers, more like encyclopedists, but not something that's neccessarily bad.

They may not have much to say... but I find that often your "entity" reviewers don't either. Rather, they choose to bullshit through ten paragraphs of text, making only a few of the most obvious points they could make... the thing that puts me off opinionated reviewers is, often they turn out to be sadly underqualified for writing a limeric, let alone assessment of quality of a work of art. I am not sure I don't prefere a silence.

Basically you have two different formats there. You obviously prefere one format over the other, but it seems that, as is often the case with issue of formats, it matters more how thoughtfully they're used. Why I could express a consistent point of view just by listing a selection of webcomics, in much the same way how audiophiles in 80ies were able to express themselves solely through making a mixtape. Whether someone would be able to interpret that point of view, that's up to them.

My opinion, truly, is, that when it comes to webcomics, positive reinforcement values much, much more than negative. Webcomics should be filtered through championing good comics rather than stomping the bad ones. I have a feeling that many reviewers choose the negative approach (besides obvious psychological reasons) because they feel that way they can have more impact. One vitriolic review can make a comic a really bad rep, or discourage the creator, or whatever. Good reviews - you need an accumulation of them to have an impact. Choosing the negative approach therefore seems like kind of cheating, rather oposite from the cummulative process of selection that I prefere.

Incidentally, Tailsteak was a creator of one of the best, most intelectual, quietly philosophical webcomics I've ever read, way back when webcomics were not expected to be good, let alone deep. ;)
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:59 pm

Thanks for responding. You have a lot of really great points. We just seem to have very different perspectives on the issue.

I dunno, it'd be hard for me to find a site with less of a point of view than Bad Webcomic Wiki. i mean by definition that site is edited by various people, so any point of view is basically a consensus, a compromise. Bad Webcomics Wiki largely attacks regular targets, be they webcomics with small fanbase or popular webcomics that also have a large base of haters, like DD or Waqsi square. Aren't they, then, just following the line of internet's hate-speak, criticizing safely what everyone's already been criticizing. When you criticize DD, are you offering something new, or are you just tapping in Solomon's fanbase?
Their point of view is that bad webcomics should be ridiculed, and while they're a bad review site, they're at least willing to criticize the comics they read. I'd much rather read the BWW than read any nonentity.

I don't think you should mistake internet bashing for having a point of view or participating in a discussion. Critics on internet are too often going along the lines of opinions that are pre-approved for criticism - that is more analogous to abstaining from speaking in real life - you have anonymity, you have lack of fear of consequences and, most importantly, you have approval of your peer group. If you thread on grounds such as bad webcomics wiki, criticism is the easier way to earn badge of coolness than expressing positively about something.
I know this is probably spinning your words in a way you didn't intend, but this seems to go with my conclusion a lot. Yes, it's easy to express opinions online, and that's my point: self-conscious people are treating reviewing as being more difficult than it really is. And I'm not particularly bashing positive reviewers in this instance, since they're just bad entities. I'm criticizing so-called "reviewers" who try to hide their opinions and point of view as much as possible.

but it depends on non-entities you're surrounded with, what kind of response is going to be considered the "eccho", right? From your own quote we may conclude that expressing negatively about a comic is the "polite approach" in a place such as Bad Webcomic wiki. So it's contributors are actual non-entities in this case.
The difference is objectivity vs. subjectivity. People hate the BWW because of the way they present their subjective perspectives. If the BWW trashes a comic that isn't really that bad, or is even kinda good, then they'll aggravate people. And if they make personal attacks against creators that are considered inappropriate, then they'll aggravate people as well. You're right, though, that some group-think's inevitable within the entity subcultures. For example, if someone's a scholar (per Burns-White's definition), then they'll probably think that scholarly writing is more intellectual and interesting than reviews. It'd actually be great if these subcultures were more developed. It kinda sucks that we're stuck with analyzing the BWW, since it's so banal.

Internet often feels like a reverse mirror of real world, never more than in the kind of manners that can bring you approval of peer group. Bad Webcomics Wiki is a conclusive proof that hate talk can be just as unimpressive and white-washed as excessive politeness can. Comments on any message board (let's say, for the same of discussion, comments above roughly 30% of youtube clips) are another proof. Easiness with which freedom of expression comes means that expression itself loses value in the eves of the one who has that freedom, so people end up thinking very poorly through what they're about to express.
The thing is, I'm looking ahead past all this. If webcomic criticism's going to go anywhere, it's going to be due to the efforts of a handful of talented individuals. My focus is on what would attract those people to this field. El Santo's a good example, as while he wasn't a great reviewer, he definitely started to help push the field in the right direction.

I'm definitely not big on folks who just want shock me. If they have something to say after they've got my attention, ok, right? If they don't, then it amounts to them trying to raise attention to themselves. Without ever actually putting any effort or creativity. Do they raise a dialogue? May be, but very often that's not the kind of dialogue they intended. Very often it's the dialogue along the lines of "what good is the freedom of expression if you don't have anything to say?" Yeah, shitty webcomics has successfully rose a conversation about whether it should be allowed for sheltered fratboys to be mysogynist assholes in public... but do we need such conversation? Isn't it something that we should all answer right now with a resounding "no"?
You're right that another round of "We hate BWW/Solomon/SWC" probably isn't going to help anything. But webcomic criticism needs a catalyst, and I figure it could come from the webcomics community. I think there's potential to plant the seeds for something, even if that something is, realistically, a long ways off.

On the other hand, reviewers who do outlines of plot as encyclopedists, I don't think they are as much non-entities as you think. For one, they are indeed expressing their view through the choice of comics that they decide to feature. They are championing comics that they choose to, albeit not as agressively as a full-on praise would. Their social service (or the nearest to social service that you can have in webcomics) is evident - they allow you to asses how interesting a comic is for you without needing to read it first; they have their place is a process of webcomic selection. That they are not making a critical assessment of comics is even less important in environment where every critical assesment is of a hobbyist, dubious, very often even semi-literate kind. I'd consider them simply a different kind of reviewers from you. Maybe not even reviewers, more like encyclopedists, but not something that's neccessarily bad.
I can go to Piperka.net and get a list of the most popular webcomics. xkcd is No. 1, so that's enough of a reason to check it out. A nonentity telling me that it's a stick figure comic isn't providing me a "social service." This isn't like print comics or movies, where people have to spend money (or pirate it) to see what's in it. It costs time, sure, but a review shouldn't just be pointing out things that are super-obvious. It's like the medium's used as an excuse to not try at all.

They may not have much to say... but I find that often your "entity" reviewers don't either. Rather, they choose to bullshit through ten paragraphs of text, making only a few of the most obvious points they could make... the thing that puts me off opinionated reviewers is, often they turn out to be sadly underqualified for writing a limeric, let alone assessment of quality of a work of art. I am not sure I don't prefere a silence.
Solomon made a big impression, and the bad entities often write like bad Solomon impersonators. If a star scholar or reviewer emerges and makes a big impression like that, it could help a lot. However, we're not going to get any stars unless everybody has a voice. It's the same philosophy behind free sites like Comic Genesis and Smack Jeeves, which have so many awful webcomics but are also a place for actually good cartoonists to get their start.

Basically you have two different formats there. You obviously prefere one format over the other, but it seems that, as is often the case with issue of formats, it matters more how thoughtfully they're used. Why I could express a consistent point of view just by listing a selection of webcomics, in much the same way how audiophiles in 80ies were able to express themselves solely through making a mixtape. Whether someone would be able to interpret that point of view, that's up to them.
If a list contains obscure webcomics, then it might be kinda interesting. But if a list is "xkcd, Oglaf, Gunnerkrigg Court, Questionable Content, and Order of the Stick," then what's your point of view? That you like things that a lot of people like? It seems like some kind of ironic joke. Also, I don't get a sense that readers are gravitating towards nonentities. They're all very obscure compared to entities. The only exception might be Lauren Davis, but that's just because she's part of io9, which is a fairly popular site.

My opinion, truly, is, that when it comes to webcomics, positive reinforcement values much, much more than negative. Webcomics should be filtered through championing good comics rather than stomping the bad ones. I have a feeling that many reviewers choose the negative approach (besides obvious psychological reasons) because they feel that way they can have more impact. One vitriolic review can make a comic a really bad rep, or discourage the creator, or whatever. Good reviews - you need an accumulation of them to have an impact. Choosing the negative approach therefore seems like kind of cheating, rather oposite from the cummulative process of selection that I prefere.
Sure, but we also don't need a fifteenth review saying that Oglaf's funny, or a twentieth review saying that Ava's Demon has good artwork. That's what I meant by my remark about "polite" reviewers. Instead, they could look at good webcomics that aren't known that well and could really use the publicity. I mean, like, Homestuck's getting over a million page views a day, so is it going to matter if someone says it's a good comic? I'm guessing that people think reviewing popular webcomics will get them more traffic, which is largely what I was referring to in my post about having a social media mentality.

Incidentally, Tailsteak was a creator of one of the best, most intelectual, quietly philosophical webcomics I've ever read, way back when webcomics were not expected to be good, let alone deep. ;)
I know he did 1/0, which is partly why his reviews are disappointing. Actually, I just re-read the beginning of his review, and it's pretty similar to some of the stuff I was just saying. He criticizes people "that bill themselves as reviewers, but who are actually recappers," and I think "recappers" means the same thing as what I mean by nonentities. And this is a good way of saying what I was just writing: "I also think, however, that a review needs to be more than two sentences and a rating out of five stars. Different people have different tastes and different priorities, and '4.5 out of 5, mature audiences only' doesn't really give me enough information to determine whether or not I'd like something." So, it starts off good, but he screws everything up by choosing to review his friend's comic. And even though he just complained about "recappers" and "objectivity," his review has too much summarizing.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:45 pm

Webcomic: The Element of Surprise
URL: http://misterkitty.org/comics/element/elementintro.html
Creator/s: Shaindle Minuk
Run: 10/09(?)-current
Schedule: Fridays
Section/s: Volume 3

Website: It's super-easy to use a ComicPress or Smack Jeeves template, so I don't know why the creator went with a half-assed, ugly HTML layout. The color choices are terrible, the sections aren't aligned properly, and there's not really even a design. For example, the creator could've at least wrapped the introduction text around the title image so that there isn't a bunch of blank space at the top of the page. It's important to keep in mind that a website is a reader's first impression of a webcomic, and what they should take from this site is that the creator's okay with just doing the bare minimum. On the bright side, though, there are at least some bonus stories and a cast page, which is more extra content than some webcomics have.

Speaking of the title image, it looks really dumb, and the creator explains on her DeviantArt page that it's supposed to be like a "shitty 80s action movie VHS cover" with "terrible graphic design." I get now that it's a parody, but as someone who was unfamiliar with the webcomic, I really just had to assume that this was the creator's idea of what a good title image looks like. It can be really funny to do stuff that's intentionally bad, but it should never be a reader's introduction to your work.

There's also an animated music video that's almost five minutes long, and I have a mixed reaction to it. On one hand, the animation's pretty good, especially for the action scenes, and the coloring's also pretty good considering that it's a grayscale webcomic. However, I also feel confused as to why the creator put so much effort into a video rather than improving the website or spending more time working on the comic. I mean, I'm a fan of unique bonus content, and this one's certainly memorable, but it's not exactly a priority.

Writing: Some webcomics are doomed from the beginning due to having a dumb concept, and others have a solid premise but screw it up by taking it in a weird direction. The Element of Surprise is an example of the latter, as the creator gets to a great start by adding an element of surprise to her gay romance story in the form of a mysterious kidnapping. This would've probably turned out pretty well even if the creator had just taken a conventional approach with it, as a coherent plot with some dramatic tension would be more entertaining than most of the ridiculous yaoi webcomics out there. Unfortunately, the creator had to get "creative" and ruin her comic as quickly as possible.

So, one of the main characters gets kidnapped, and general knowledge of storytelling would indicate that the other main character tries a few different things to try to find him, eventually finds him, and has a dramatic encounter with the kidnapper. This is based on the standard storytelling structure, where tension continuously rises and falls, gradually building up to the eventual climax and resolution. Instead, what happens here is that the character accidentally gets discovered and rescued just five pages after he goes missing, and the story just kinda peters out after that. And not only is the potential for a cool plot wasted, but there's two pages of other characters complaining about how unrealistic the discovery is. The creator seems to be making it clear that she's aware of how dumb the story is, but then, you know, why not just make the story better rather than include this lame scene? Serendipity could be an interesting concept to play with, but it's meant for random things, not a major plot point. For example, if Character A's depressed and Character B coincidentally bumps into him and cheers him up, you could roll with an idea of supernatural magnetism since it's just a cool little thing that got worked into the story. But if you drastically alter the plot because of a character having vague psychic powers or just being super-duper-lucky, it makes an otherwise realistic story seem magical and unbelievable. And if the characters get in a tough situation again, I'd have no confidence that the creator won't just conveniently reveal a superpower that resolves the problem.

The other weird thing is that there's a notorious group of cultists who have been going around kidnapping people. While I guess this is something that could happen in real life once in a while, it sounds more like the plot of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It'd make more sense for it to just be something realistic, like the mafia or something. I mean, aside from the fantasy stuff that randomly pops up, the story's pretty boring and generic, and it's like the creator chooses to whip out some crazy idea rather than try to actually make the comic dramatic or interesting. And while it might seem like it doesn't matter who the villains are, it's actually pretty distracting because the reader's busy thinking about how farfetched it is rather than feeling engaged with what's going on. It's like when a guy in a movie gets shot five times and is fine, and while it could mean that he's a badass, you're really just thinking that it's goofy because he'd be dead or in the hospital if it happened in real life. I know that I'm focusing a lot on what's basically a minor detail, but there's just nothing else really going on in this comic that's worth mentioning. Shaenon Garrity's description of the comic is, "Both guys are super nice and respectful, providing an illustration of why most BL is about horrible screwed-up relationships: they have the unfortunate tendency to be more exciting." And I agree that this comic is basically just two gay guys being nice to each other, along with a boring scene where one of the guys is shown to be a good employee, and this really isn't enough for a section that's already the length of a comic book.

Art: It's PG-rated gay romance, as there are a few panels where the characters have their shirts off (1, 2, 3), but there isn't any nudity or implied sex. It might be just enough to keep yaoi fans somewhat interested, but on the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if they gravitated towards more explicit webcomics. Still, I see how the creator's way of drawing gay characters could be appealing, as they have a mixture of feminine traits (cutesy faces and long legs) and masculine traits (being muscular and tall), and the anatomy's pretty solid.

As for the majority of the comic, it's functional but underwhelming. The creator can draw pretty well, but since the plot's slow and the characters are boring, the art mostly feels like filler placed between the shirtless scenes. The poses are stiff, the angles are repetitive, and while the background details and establishing shots are decent, they're minimalistic and lack personality. One thing I particularly didn't like about the meeting scene is that instead of using techniques like body language, composition, and lighting to make the boss seem sketchy, the creator just gave him Western-style eyes, which is basically like drawing an arrow pointing to the guy with a caption that says, "This guy's sketchy as hell and is probably the real kidnapper." It's not easy to make dialogue scenes look appealing, but it's also really important since a comic gets boring quickly when there's not enough going on visually.

Finally, the faces just don't look quite right. I think it's probably because the eyes are too wide open, which makes it look like everybody's shocked all the time. Garrity describes the characters as looking "like a Polly Pocket doll," and that's a pretty good way of describing how they seem unnatural.

Overall: The music video made to show off The Element of Surprise is full of action, conflict, and drama, and my experience actually reading the webcomic couldn't be more different. There's barely anything about it that isn't underwhelming and uninspired, and the fan service seems to really be the only thing that's keeping the comic going. In addition, the creator's a freelance writer who's been making comics since the '90s, so there's really no excuse for why she can't come up with a better story. This is the kind of webcomic that might only appeal to easily amused 15-year-old girls, and while there's probably a demand for that sort of thing, catering to low expectations isn't much of an accomplishment.

Website: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:03 am

Webcomic: Team Stryker
URL: http://www.teamstrykercomic.com
Creator/s: Andrew Grieve
Run: 2/12-current
Schedule: Mondays
Section/s: "Space Commies from Outer Space"

Website: The explosion design's awesome, and it manages to make the comic seem exciting even though it's a fairly simple graphic. The large, detailed title also helps to make the comic look bold and impressive, and the oranges and reds match the coloring in the artwork and layout. ComicPress sites are usually pretty plain, so this is a great example of how they don't have to be just a generic template. It's too bad the creator's name isn't centered, though, as it's unclear what he was going for by putting it off to the left.

There's enough bonus content that the site would be impressive all-around if it wasn't for an extremely annoying "feature," which is that every comic page is followed by its penciled and inked versions. This means that the reader has to click the "Next" button three times just to keep reading the story, and it's annoying enough that I don't know if I would've kept going if I wasn't doing a review. I guess it's a way to get more ad revenue, or to encourage readers to buy the print versions, but it mainly just seems like a dumb gimmick that's probably preventing this webcomic from being more popular.

Writing: Most of the superhero webcomics that have been reviewed on this blog are parodies, and the idea seems to be to present an alternative to mainstream American publishing. However, there isn't actually a competition between print comics and webcomics, as webcomics are just so much better. So, I'll go ahead and make it official: webcomics won, print comics lost. From now on, the latter only belongs in museums and in the hands of antique collectors.

The death of print comics was caused by the medium becoming a circlejerk. It's messed up that you have its creators and fans giving its characters cutesy nicknames and taking its stuff so seriously when the Internet's the place for modern, high-quality comics. Yeah, the print stuff has amazing artwork, but the concepts and the way they're executed are unambitious and plagued by low expectations. With webcomics, though, there are so many of them and they cost nothing to read, so something has to be really special and competently done in order to get noticed at all. In addition, since it's so difficult, time-consuming, and unrewarding to be a webcartoonist, these individuals have to be super-passionate and force themselves to push their limits. Obviously, there are a lot of duds, as well as webcomics that are popular despite sucking and/or relying on fan-service, but the Internet's the main publisher now. And while I've seen articles that are, like, "Comics... on the Internet?!" it's clear that those writers are hopelessly out of touch. Webcomics have only really been around for about fifteen years, but it shows just how pathetic the print industry is that they were able to be dominated so quickly. Also, superhero movies are as big as ever, so the genre's still appealing, and it's just a matter of movie studios reacting to higher expectations.

Team Stryker's another webcomic that parodies superhero comics, and particularly their nationalistic aspect. In "Space Commies from Outer Space," it's making fun of the idea of some dumb meatheads promoting American values, and it doesn't work because it's tied to outdated contexts. The Cold War and superhero comics are both historical subjects, and they hold this webcomic back from being modern enough to be noteworthy. The jokes about drinking vodka and stuff are quirky enough to be a little entertaining, but they're not substantial enough to do an entire issue about them, and especially not multiple issues. It's also problematic that each of the four team members goes through their own communist transformation, making the gag quickly become repetitive. I get that it's anachronistic and all, but there's room for contemporary social commentary that could've made this a way better comic.

Another big problem with the writing is that it's just super-lazy. None of the meathead protagonists are memorable, and the only ones with a bit of personality are Casanova, who quips about being a ladies' man despite there being no women in the comic, and the "random" character, V-Scope, who appears to be mentally handicapped. And the villains are generic, nameless Martians, so there's no characterization there either. The webcomic might be trying to make fun of bland superheroes, but in that case there should really be more exaggeration so that it's actually goofy rather than just dumb. The other lazy part is that the grammar and spelling get a lot worse as the story progresses, which suggests that the creator hasn't been bothering to read his own webcomic. There's "comminism" instead of "communism," "Regan" instead of "Reagan," and "Uranius" instead of "Uranus," but lately, common words have started being misspelled too. For example, in the second issue, there's "gret" instead of "great," "lizzard" instead of "lizard," and "rile" instead of "rifle," in addition to other mistakes. Also, on the page where "great" is misspelled, there's an obvious screw-up where some of the dialogue's missing the speech bubble.

Art: Action's handled really well, with dynamic poses, detailed armor and muscles, and slick coloring, and it's impressive that the creator's been able to post high-quality action sequences week after week. The scenes are also pretty complex, as there are always multiple characters interacting, and there are plenty of busy panels with Martians everywhere. The pages get sort of tedious after a while, though, as all of the characters have a permanent "angry badass" expression, and the backgrounds are almost all just empty moon terrain. I mean, the creator does the best he can with the setting, but there are too many pages spent in such a boring location. Another problem is perspectives, as the creator struggles to draw characters properly when viewed from above(1, 2, 3).

Splash pages and double splash pages are generally ineffective since they waste opportunities for character and plot development. The first chapter uses double splash pages twice (1, 2), and while the artwork looks great, the dialogue's so tiny that it's barely readable. Fortunately, the creator provides links to larger versions in the comments sections, but it's an awkward setup just to add something that doesn't really benefit the comic anyways.

Finally, Comic Sans is just an ugly font, and while it has the word "comic" in its name, it doesn't belong in comics (or anywhere, really). The font used for the Martians' dialogue is better, though, and the special fonts used to introduce characters are a nice touch.

Overall: Team Stryker has some pretty good action scenes and shows some solid design skills, but all aspects of the writing are handled in a really apathetic way. It's like the comic's supposed to just be cool drawings of meatheads punching each other, and while it's only a parody, it's a dumb parody of dumb, old print comics. A much better idea would be to do a parody of webcomics, as that's something that hasn't been done as much before, and it would work better since it'd be more targeted towards webcomics readers. And while it might seem unfair to amateurs that they have to deal with higher expectations than the pros, it's ultimately helpful since it pushes them to make better comics.

Infractions:
- Assaulting a deceased horse
- Stockpiling illegal filler
- Terrorizing readers with Comic Sans

Scores (out of 5):
- Website: 3
- Writing: 2
- Art: 4
- Overall: 3

Recommended sentence:
- Forced to spend 40 hours a week getting paid to draw Puncho Punches Dudes for Marvel, causing him to spend every morning crying into a bowl of Cheerios while tweeting "#nolife" and "#killme"
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:52 pm

Webcomic: Shattered with Curve of Horn
URL: http://www.artagem.com/shattered-with-curve-of-horn
Creator/s: Max Miller Dowdle
Run: 11/12-5/14

Website: The last webcomic I reviewed had a really cool ComicPress design, and this one's pretty mediocre by comparison. There are just a lot of ComicPress sites out there that look very similar, and a little bit of time spent on customization goes a long way. Even something as simple as using a different font for the navigation menu would help. I like how the pink-and-purple color scheme goes with the comic's dreamy visuals, though.

There's an FAQ, a brief About page, a store, and some other comics the creator's worked on, and it's more minimalistic than I'd prefer. There are comments for every page, though, and they're pretty fun to read. All of the bonus content's behind a paywall ($7 for a PDF, or $18 for the print version), and it's a decent incentive for readers who feel like supporting the creator. The free version's apparently supposed to be taken offline at some point, so those who are interested might want to check it out now rather than later.

Writing: Shattered with Curve of Horn should've been really good. It's got an appealing hook, a clever concept, and realistic dialogue. However, to borrow from the Bad Webcomics Wiki's structure, its downfall comes on Page 17, which is when the character Pierce enters the comic. His presence turns the solid introduction into a never-ending conversation that makes the story drag on way too much.

To give the pacing issues some context, the story's 138 pages long, and it probably could've been covered in half that many pages, or possibly even in a fourth of the length with some tight writing. It seems like at least 80 percent of the story is just the characters sitting around chatting, and while I don't necessarily expect action scenes or anything, it's really boring and tedious to read a bunch of text like this without the story actually going anywhere. These kinds of expository scenes are typically positioned as necessary breaks in between the more exciting moments, but there isn't really a sense of that here. It's sort of a cerebral approach, sure, but it's also constraining in the way that storytelling elements are neglected.

Part of it's that the creator gets conversational structure but seems overconfident about it. The dialogue's believable and relevant, but it's also a nonvisual part of a visual medium, and the art unfortunately gets pushed to the side in order to draw attention to the writing. It's great that there's a lot of buildup and foreshadowing, but there's really no way the creator could've done the story that would've made it work to have this much dialogue. The No. 1 priority has to be keeping readers engaged with the story, and the comic lacks the flow and tension needed to make that happen. Instead, it mainly just feels pretentious and self-absorbed, and it's a shame since the creator's probably skilled enough to have made a great webcomic.

On a related note, the comic's at its best when it's being the most surrealistic, like in the opening scene and with the protagonist's artwork. It presents the characters' situations in a more immersive way than having them just talk about it, and it also helps break up the monotony of seeing the characters in cramped interior spaces most of the time. A script should be tailored to the creator's artistic abilities, and in this case, it seems like the creator has enough artistic range that he could be doing some flashier stuff. And if the range isn't there, then that's a good reason for him to get out of his comfort zone more. The really awesome part about doing a comic about dreams and imagination is that it involves drawing all kinds of crazy stuff. I mean, I guess the creator might be apprehensive about alienating readers by being too weird, but it's important to be bold and take risks.

Art: This comic's a perfect example of how dialogue scenes should be drawn, and there's always clearly effort made to give each panel a distinct feel and make them visually complex. There are some more subtle techniques used, like abstract coloring and mirror reflections, and it really helps the fact that there are so many shots of that boring hotel room. The anatomy and coloring are always great, and there are never times when it seems like the creator had to rush and sacrifice quality. Also, it's really neat how the protagonist's artwork's done in a different style. I really don't have anything to complain about here, and I'd even suggest this as a reference for creators who want to be better at drawing dialogue scenes.

Overall: It's hard to find decent surrealism webcomics to read, and Shattered with Curve of Horn's professionalism makes it a notable addition to the genre. However, the story feels more like an uneventful drama most of the time, and readers will get impatient with the slow pacing and tedious dialogue. The concept's awesome and could've been done in a variety of creative ways, but it barely gets explored by the time the comic's over. A better version would've had a lot more "good stuff" rather than having a ton of buildup with a little "good stuff" mixed in. Still, the creator does the best he can with the script's limitations, and the variety of angles and poses helps make the slower scenes more readable.

Website: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Art: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Jun 29, 2015 12:55 pm

Webcomic: Saturday A.M.
URL: http://www.saturday-am.com
Creator/s: Frederick L. Jones, various
Run: 11/13-current

A few months ago, I reviewed The Webcomic Factory, a hub based around comics made by one dude and about a million different artists. I wrote that it was an okay idea, but that it seemed like way too much creativity and work required by that one guy. Saturday A.M. is a webcomic hub that tries a more conventional approach by imitating the popular Shonen Jump magazine, which comes out weekly or monthly, depending on the version, with new chapters of several different manga series. Their press release boasts of them having "four of the world’s most popular webcomic creators" who, until joining Saturday A.M., "have lacked professional support for growing the properties into successful franchises." While it costs money to access the digital magazine, the site has a free, 115-page sampler that intrigued manga fans can check out.

I'm not that interested in covering each of the six comics in the sampler, as the sections are really short, and it'd be lame to do little 100-word impressions of each one. Basically, they're bland, forgettable concepts with decent artwork, and one of the better ones, Comatose, is a webcomic I've already seen on Smack Jeeves. The series that stands out to me the most, which is Race!On!, actually doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere else on the site, and it appears to be hosted on Komic Brew now. Still, while the sampler isn't anything special, it's presented in a fairly professional way, and it has a cooperative spirit to it that's pretty appealing.

I would've probably been more into the comics, though, if I wasn't distracted by the clunky navigation system. The site uses a platform called ISSUU, and clicking on the sampler brings up a full-screen display with the comics and various icons. It might just be my personal preference, but I typically read webcomics in short bursts while doing other stuff, so it's a hassle to be going in and out of full-screen mode a lot. In addition, opening the comic shows the message "Press Esc to exit full screen mode," but this doesn't work as intended. Pressing "Escape" actually takes you to the administrator's login section, and once you hit your browser's "Back" button, you're sent back to Page 1 of the sampler. There's also an option for "Exit Full Screen" when you right-click, but it doesn't do anything. The correct way to get out of the comic is to click the "arrows" icon at the bottom and then click the gray area on the screen, but there isn't any text explaining this. I mean, it's a cool-looking platform, and it's not really overly complicated, but I'm not sure that it's really better than a simpler setup. And yeah, it can switch between single-page mode and spread mode, but that doesn't really matter since the latter often makes the text too small and hard to read without zooming in.

There's an alternative viewer that isn't full-screen, though, which is accessed by clicking on the "magnifying glass" icon. This is the method I used to read the sampler, as it feels more natural and unobtrusive. However, when viewing single-page mode this way, the vertical scrollbar doesn't respond to the scroll wheel, so you're stuck having to hold your finger down on the mouse. As a result, spread mode is the only tolerable way to view the comic, and it requires constantly zooming in and dragging the pages around, as if you were trying to read a tiny book by using a magnifying glass. It also doesn't help that the pages are low-resolution, making the images and text blurry. For example, take a look at the following comparison between a page from the Comatose sample and a page from the Comatose website:

comatose 72 ppi image

comatose 300 ppi image

(Forum note: The images are on the blog, but I didn't feel like putting them here too. If you want, just close your eyes and imagine seeing some blurry images and some clear images.)

Fortunately, Comatose has fairly large text and visuals. The first series in the sampler, though, Eden Black, has smaller panels with tons of dialogue in a small font, and it's the most difficult part of the sampler to read, making a bad first impression of something that itself is intended as a first impression.

edenblack 72 ppi image

edenblack 600 ppi image

The best part of the sampler's actually the two creator interviews that seem randomly stuck in there. The reason they're "random" is because the creators don't have their work in the sampler and aren't involved with Saturday A.M., but they're lengthy and really in-depth interviews that just stood out to me as being unusually high-quality. The second one interested me the most, as it focuses on minorities in nerd culture on a level that I just haven't really seen. Most of Saturday A.M.'s main creators are African-American, so there's certainly an impression of it being a project that helps promote minority creators, even if that's not explicitly expressed on their site. It also helps that the text in the interviews is a lot clearer than it is in the rest of the sampler, which, I guess, is because it was saved in Adobe Illustrator, or something like that.

In addition to the sampler, the "+Read Manga" section has some other free stuff. At the top of the page is an image of Issue #25 along with a button that says "Click Here," but clicking on the button doesn't do anything. You can get to the issue by scrolling to the bottom of the home page, but I'm not sure how many potential readers are going to bother to look for it, and it's incorrectly listed as $1.99 there even though it's free. The section also has early issues from various series, some of which are high-resolution. There's another free section called "Web-X Data" that has some earlier stuff from the main creators, as well as a few webcomics that aren't in the magazine, including SPOON (which I reviewed here).

So, is it worth it? When I reviewed 13 Coins, I wrote that there just wasn't enough value to justify their issues' $2.99 price tag. Saturday A.M. is somewhat better with their $1.99 issues, and there's a decent amount of content since each issue covers multiple series. The site also lets readers save money by bundling issues or by getting a yearly subscription. The prices are screwy, though, as what's on the home page is really different from what stuff actually costs. There's also a "Christmas" sale going on now, in June, that's "Today Only" even though it was definitely going on when I checked the site last week.

The yearly subscription's probably the biggest draw, though, as it's only $5 for what seems like about twenty issues. For that price, I considered getting it just for the interviews; however, I have no idea if they're even still doing interviews or, if so, how frequent they are, since the issue descriptions don't seem to ever mention them. Finally, they have both digital and print versions of Apple Black and Saigami available, but, as another example of the site's lack of functionality, clicking on "Shop" in the dropdown menu and selecting "Books" goes to a blank page. If you want them, you actually have to click on "Saturday AM Titles" and go to where it says "Tanks," because, as the site describes, that's the Japanese term for manga volumes. I guess that's, like, something manga fans are supposed to know, although, in that case, it's weird how they explain what "tanks" are once you've gotten to the Tanks page. It's true that there are a few Tanks links scattered around the home page, but they can be easy to miss if you don't already know what "tanks" means.

Overall: Doing a Shonen Jump-style webcomic is a cool idea, and it's great how there's a ton of content, but Saturday A.M. is just run too incompetently to justify having a paywall. The confusing website, frustrating navigation, and poor functionality combine to make a lousy user experience, and as a business model, the project makes little effort to appeal to potential customers. I mean, if there's a huge sale on issue bundles going on, then it should definitely be mentioned somewhere on the home page, and it doesn't make sense that individual issues are still $1.99 when a five-issue bundle is $2.10. In addition, while the site focuses heavily on promoting its various manga series, their samples failed to catch my attention, and it sucks how the sampler's really low-res even though there are high-res versions of those pages. Basically, the way I feel about it is that if you're going to charge for something that's usually free, like webcomics, then you really need to show that you offer a high-quality, premium alternative, and I just don't get the impression that this project does that.

2.5/5
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:45 pm

As a fan of the fantasy genre and a former Dungeons & Dragons player, I should be the perfect target audience for fantasy webcomics, but I actually kind of dread reading them. A lot of the time, it's like creators use the genre as an excuse to be uncreative. I mean, there are already enough webcomics that are like a D&D campaign or role-playing game and are set in a vaguely medieval setting, so there's not really much of a point in making more of them, especially if you're going to have a flimsy plot and underdeveloped characters. Still, I've reviewed some great fantasy comics, like Goblins, Oglaf, and What Birds Know, that try to stand out from the crowd by putting a unique twist on the genre. For this post, I'll be reviewing three more fantasy webcomics, this time focusing on the ways that they try to do things differently.

Webcomic: Legends of Whoelterran
URL: http://lw.2centstudios.com/
Creator/s: "RG"
Run: 7/14-current
Schedule: Tuesdays and Fridays
Section/s: Book 1, Ch. 3

Twist: Christian elements

It starts out as a standard D&D quest, but it quickly gets weird as the scene transitions to a Santa Claus-looking guy talking to a menorah. The guy's named Zan, which is like Xian, a shortened version of Christian. Throughout the comic, he casts spells and destroys monsters by reciting Bible verses, and while there's a general message of faith being powerful and all that, it doesn't really have much to do with Christianity. I mean, I've reviewed Christian comics before, like Insert Image and Furry Experience, and while they're more silly than spiritual, at least they tried to cover religious stuff like churches and Christian pop culture. But Zan's basically just an overpowered D&D Cleric, and it doesn't make any difference that he isn't worshiping one of D&D's various deities. The comic's way too busy showing off how badass he is to spend time relaying any sort of Christian message to the readers.

The religious aspect also screws up the storytelling by trivializing every situation the characters are in. It really seems like Zan's Bible verses let him effortlessly solve any problem, from opening sealed passageways, to improving characters' items, to dispelling hexes, to defeating high-level enemies. There doesn't seem to be any limit to how often Zan can use his powers, so there really aren't any surprises in store for readers. Also, he's actually part of a group of adventurers, but the other members are just useless low-level characters who compliment Zan and talk a lot. One of the members has the role of the nonbeliever, and his skepticism does kind of touch on the issue of faith, but it just seems pointless since the comic has nothing to do with what Christianity's like in real life. There's also too much exposition showing that the characters value science and don't believe in magic, like in one page where a character gives a scientific explanation for how healing potions work.

As for the art style, it seems like it's targeted at kids, as the characters have huge heads and big, cutesy eyes, kind of like they're Western-style chibis. The idea might be to get kids' attention with the fantasy stuff while promoting a positive image of Christianity. However, the creator's terrible at drawing people, and the characters often look hideous. The women are especially ugly, and their boobs seem to come out of their necks and are unaffected by gravity. Combined with the heavy shading, and with dark backgrounds that are often just black filler, the comic looks more like some kind of horror comic than a kid's story. Finally, the all-caps lettering makes it seem like the characters are always shouting, and I would've liked to see more variety in the enemies besides just skeletons all the time. I mean, sure, kids are probably going to tolerate lower-quality art, but it's bad enough here to make the comic difficult and even uncomfortable to read.

Webcomic: Tales of Hammerfist
URL: http://www.talesofhammerfist.com/
Creator/s: John Kratky, Tobias Gebhardt, Stephen Yan
Run: 1/13-12/14 (on hiatus)
Schedule: Mondays

Twist: superhero elements

This one also features an overpowered character, but here, it's just a guy who's really strong. While Hammerfist doesn't have a secret identity, it feels a lot like a superhero comic, and it would definitely be one if it was set in modern times. I mean, he's got a cool nickname that's part of the comic's title, just like superhero comics, and he's got ridiculously huge muscles that remind me of how superheroes were drawn in the '90s. Like, his biceps are bigger than his torso. And unfortunately, like a lot of superheroes, Hammerfist doesn't have much of a personality. He's a good guy, he can fight well, he likes beer, and... that's really it, and I read, what, six chapters about him? It's like the creators put zero thought into it when they came up with the idea for him. The chapters are also pretty short, as most of them are only around ten pages, so there's not much space given for character development.

Still, it's not like this comic's trying to be serious. When Hammerfist randomly wrestles a bear in the first chapter, it makes it seem like he's supposed to be an exaggerated portrayal of masculinity, like it's a parody of testosterone-fueled aggressiveness. You know, kind of like what Blüdnekk the BaraBarian does, except without the buttsex and the Fred Schneider cameos. And you get some lighthearted moments, like when this one guy's trying to steal chickens from a giant. However, the comic isn't funny at all, and the whole time I just felt confused as to what the creators were trying to do. For example, there's a lot of narration that's done in rhyme, and while I guess it's supposed to be cheesy, it really just seems dumb. And when the narration doesn't rhyme, it's done in this annoyingly pretentious way, like on the first page, where a caption reads, "They end up as dust of the mind because once they come about, the account never transpires between souls thereafter." And the comic goes on and on like this, with a caption reading a few pages later, "Here, devils and men alike know the virtue of the will and the savagery of the knife." Maybe it's a strategy to make Hammerfist seem sillier by comparison, but I hoped to see something funnier and more clever than just an intentionally inconsistent tone.

Like in most superhero comics, the art focuses on action and anatomy, and they're both done really well, especially when Hammerfist's physique isn't being taken too seriously. One of the other main characters is a busty chick with an hourglass figure and a revealing outfit, and while she has more personality than Hammerfist, the way she's sexualized in the comic makes it tough to regard her as more than just eye candy. There should also be more background detail and establishing shots, as there's barely enough to even suggest that it's a generic fantasy setting.

Webcomic: Tales of Pylea
URL: http://talesofpylea.com/top/
Creator/s: Chris Kuok, A. Chow
Run: 1/13-current
Schedule: Mondays

Twist: unconventional heroine

Its female protagonist, Arianhod, has more skin showing than Tales of Hammerfist's female protagonist, but the former's less sexualized for several reasons. The most obvious one's her huge muscles, which make her seem powerful and more like an equal to the male protagonist. But the composition's also a big factor, as the panels focus on Arianhod's facial expressions, muscles, and posture, a lot like how Hammerfist or any typical male superhero is shown. By comparison, in Tales of Hammerfist you get repetitive frontal or rear views that show off the woman's boobs or ass, and while the character's competent and tough, it seems like she's mainly just there for sex appeal. Tales of Pylea's blog explains the artist's attitude about it, saying that "she felt sexuality was frequently the be-all and end-all in a female character’s design, oft leaving said characters little more than cardboard cut-outs whose primary function was that of eye-candy and little else." And finally, another important thing's that Arianhod's a really flawed character. She's kind of brutish and dumb, she screws up and is embarrassed often, and she's done some pretty immoral stuff in the past, and it's really awesome how much the creators manage to humanize her. It also makes the comic kind of humorous at times, and it's actually funnier than Tales of Hammerfist.

The comic's drawn by the same artist who did Crux, so if you've read my review of that, you know that her work's amazing. Tales of Pylea's actually even better since it's digitally painted in a really unusual style, and there's a ton of background detail for its setting, which looks like it's the 1800s. It's a surprisingly urban fantasy story, where the protagonists seem more like detectives than an adventuring party. There are some other fantasy webcomics that do this kind of thing, such as No Scrying and Widdershins, and it works pretty well. Tales of Pylea relies more on action and visuals than those other webcomics, though, and it feels like not a lot has happened for the amount of pages I read. The antagonist is particularly underwhelming, as she's presented as just being an evil sadist, and it's disappointing that she isn't more complex and interesting. I mean, I know she's not the main villain in the comic's universe, but the heroes have been chasing her around for more than 80 pages, so she's treated as being pretty important.

Overall: The twists explained here really have mixed results, as they made Legends of Whoelterran and Tales of Hammerfist a lot worse while making Tales of Pylea a lot better. If there's a lesson to get from this and from my other reviews, it's that a twist is only worthwhile if it makes a fantasy story more relatable and realistic. The bad twists I've written about always involve emphasizing the fantasy aspects too much at the cost of character development and reader engagement. Having magic and stuff going on is cool, but fantasy webcomics still rely on complex characters and visual storytelling just as much as any other comic.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby Humbug on Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:18 am

Awesome! Thanks for the positive review. :D
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Jul 16, 2015 12:41 pm

Humbug wrote:Awesome! Thanks for the positive review. :D
Well, Chris and you deserve all the credit, as I'm just commentating objectively. I kind of regret not writing more, especially about the art, but the post is already pretty long, and anything I'd write would be similar to what's already in my review of Crux. If I have anything to add, it's that it's great that you're still experimenting and continuing to improve despite already making art at such a high level.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby Humbug on Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:16 am

Still, Chris is happy that he's doing things right. :)
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:01 pm

Humbug wrote:Still, Chris is happy that he's doing things right. :)
I'd actually prefer it if he focused on improvement. While the comic's better than Crux, it has the same issue of being carried by the artwork, and it'd be an unremarkable fantasy story if the visuals didn't enhance the writing so much.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:33 pm

Got a new video review for Derelict up: http://www.webcomicpolice.com/2015/08/d ... rsion.html . Trying out some new stuff.

I also reviewed a gag comic called Sad Sacks: http://www.webcomicpolice.com/2015/07/sad-sacks.html
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:29 pm

Webcomic: Story Town
URL: https://www.redrocketfarm.com
Creator/s: Jason Albin Thomas
Run: ?-current
Schedule: ?

Writing: Story Town's what I would consider a mission webcomic, in that its creator's more concerned with promoting a certain agenda than entertaining readers or telling a coherent story. Sinfest, Single Asian Female, and The Easy Breather are some infamous examples of this approach. These mission webcomics are typically really condescending to their readers, presenting overly simplistic viewpoints while Mary-Sue protagonists battle strawman antagonists, and they completely fail at being persuasive. Unfortunately, Story Town follows this trend, and it's an embarrassing mess that shouldn't really even be on the Internet.

The main idea behind Story Town is to promote positive thinking through the use of cute, anthropomorphic characters and colorful visuals. While it's explicitly "not written for children," its content's mostly on about the same level as Barney & Friends. The keyword there is mostly, as the rest of the time, it's probably one of the most macabre and violent comics I've read since Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Every story revolves around characters either dying or getting critically injured, and not only does it seem inappropriate for the context, but it's just redundant to keep using it as theme. And the violence is often excessive, like when Gluebeard gets mauled by a shark and is shown covered in blood, or when one of the characters' deaths is both described and shown when it could've just been implied. There's also a scene where the protagonist is basically responsible for killing an innocent person, and it's an unnecessary inclusion that seems intended as some sort of twisted joke. But it's not the severity of the violence that's a problem as much as the deceptiveness of it. The webcomic goes through dozens of pages at a time of these adorable, cartoony scenes that are about being cheerful and optimistic, so when it ambushes readers with some gruesome moment with barely any context, it seems sneaky and even trollish. So, instead of the webcomic leaving an impression of positivity, it just annoys readers by not properly being presented as what it really is. Also, throwing in random violence like that doesn't automatically make the stories more complex or mature.

Another problem is that the stories are really unfocused and constantly stray from the messages they're trying to promote. If you think of any classic fable, they're all really short and quickly get to the point, but with Story Town, they're these pretty elaborate stories with walls of text about jokes, minor characters, and just all sorts of commentary the creator throws in, and it gets really tedious to read. The longest one's "To Lumber Home," which is ninety-three pages, and it's a really basic story about a bear who becomes friends with a cat that probably could've been done in fifteen pages or less and with a lot less text. And then you get these "interactive" pages where readers are told to leave comments or suggestions in order for the story to progress. These pages are distracting and only serve to make the stories less coherent. Like, "Something in the Woods" stops the story twice so readers can pick what weapons the characters use, and you just get these pointless pages where they're holding a carrot and a gardening fork. A "choose your own adventure" style like in Cup of Olea or Homestuck is better since it lets readers have a real impact on the outcome of the story. There are also a bunch of pages that ask readers to share the webcomic on Facebook, and it's a tacky self-promotion technique that only makes these long and incoherent stories even longer and less coherent.

Finally, there's barely any sense of consistency in these stories, and that's part of why it's stuck in this awkward gray area between being a kid's story and something for adults. You get these screwy situations where animals are people in some contexts and animals in others, or are treated as people sometimes while treated as animals other times. Some animals can read and speak English, and others can't. One of the weirdest examples of this is when the bear pretends to be a human wearing a bear suit so that he can go to a job interview. Even the goofiest, trippiest kid's stories make more sense. There's also a story with lesbian protagonists that's awkwardly progressive for something that's written like it's a bedtime story for preschoolers. By comparison, TVGuide.com called it "groundbreaking" when the Disney Channel put a lesbian couple in an episode of Good Luck Charlie two years ago, and that's a show aimed at teenagers.

Art: This is a lot like Bittersweet Candy Bowl, where it's technically competent but totally wrong for the subject matter. Everything about the art's kiddy-style, including it being a rare example of a picture-book webcomic, and it needs to reflect some of the writing's seriousness. Jhonen Vasquez wrote a much better picture book titled "Everything Can Be Beaten" that has dark coloring and gritty artwork to go along with its violent story, so you know right away that it's not just a regular kids' book. Readers associate cutesy, simplistic artwork with a specific kind of storytelling style, and that association really needs to be respected, or at least handled delicately.

Overall: Creators have a responsibility to filter themselves and not post garbage, and if they did that, then I wouldn't be writing these really negative reviews. The creator of Story Town might deserve some credit for wanting to inspire people, but if his goal's to be helpful, then he'd probably do more good by volunteering at an animal shelter or something instead of spending his time making messed-up kids' books.

Writing: 1/5
Art: 1/5
Overall: 1/5
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LibertyCabbage
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Nov 03, 2015 9:34 am

Broken Telephone
http://www.broken-telephone.com

Listen up, komrades: Ryan Estrada is a monster. He's the true mastermind behind, among other things, 9/11, the 2007 financial crisis, TwoKinds, the Batman shooting, childhood obesity, Edward Snowden's treasonous leaks, twerking, the McRib's mysterious disappearances from McDonald's menu, red lights that seem to last forever, and Charlie Sheen's unjustified dismissal from the smash-hit TV show Two and a Half Men. We were so, so close to finally nabbing him a few years ago, but he managed to slip away at the last minute and make his way to India. Blending in with the locals by getting a job at a call center, he used his masterful customer-service skills to hack Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll's headset and convince him to throw it on first down when he could have just given the ball to Marshawn Lynch for an easy touchdown. We retaliated by drone-striking Indian call centers, but by then it was too late, as Estrada was already in North Korea. And that's when things really started to escalate.

As a fugitive who only knew a few words in Korean, Estrada used his incredible social skills to climb the ranks of the criminal underworld, and he made more than fifty billion won by tricking Koreans into buying fake iPhones. He was eventually ratted out by one of his underlings, and he spent a while in a grimy maximum-security prison where he was starved and tortured. Estrada escaped, though, and once he acquired a fake identity, he managed to seduce Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and was appointed as North Korea's Minister of Webcomics. After that, it wasn't long before he unveiled his most sinister plot yet: an eighteen-chapter mega-webcomic called Broken Telephone. Going by the alias "KimchiLvr99," Estrada contacted some of America's most talented webcartoonists and persuaded them to shamelessly betray their own country by joining forces with him. The premise he pitched to them was simple enough: he'd make a webcomic about his experiences as a terrorist and post it online for free, causing impressionable Americans to flee to North Korea and pledge themselves to Jong-un's dictatorship.

The complete webcomic hasn't been posted yet, but one of our undercover agents managed to break into Jong-un's headquarters and download the rest of the pages. Unsurprisingly, most of the story revolves around an American who's being detained in another country. However, Estrada uses a variety of characters to show the bizarre things he's done, such as plotting terrorist attacks, working in an Indian call center, and being friends with a demented dictator. This chaotic narrative style is entertaining since it keeps the comic fast-paced and readers never know what to expect. The aspects of character development and plot suffer as a result, but, on the other hand, this makes it easier for new readers to jump in at any point. It's also notable that all the situations in the comic are connected, so it's more sophisticated than something that was just an anthology of short stories would be.

The stories have a few different styles even though they're all written by Estrada. Some of them focus on witty characters giving long, thoughtful monologues, and while the ideas and themes being covered are interesting, these stories seem tedious and unnatural. It's unclear if Estrada is trying too hard to impress readers or if he just has issues with brevity, but it's ridiculous to see characters giving speeches to each other as if they were politicians standing at podiums. Other stories, by contrast, have a minimal amount of dialogue, instead relying on visual storytelling to convey what's going on. These art-heavy stories are appealing since they're more action-oriented and have detailed exterior backgrounds, but they seem to always go on a little too long and emphasize style over substance. The best stories are the funnier ones that have a lot of goofy back-and-forth dialogue, which are mainly the scenes with the ambassador and the dictator. These parts are crude and are the least relevant to the overall story, but they're a loose and playful deviation from a comic that tends to take itself too seriously. And since Estrada chose to illustrate one of these stories himself, it's safe to assume he feels the most comfortable creating within the comedy genre. Lastly, the call center stories essentially combine these three styles in an effective way, and they fully utilize a setting that's both exotic and mundane. It's not surprising that Estrada starts the webcomic off with one.

The webcomic's main theme is a sense of disconnect between people, where self-centered characters focus on their own problems while ignoring others' problems. This dynamic is cleverly conveyed by shifting the perspective around from one protagonist to the next, giving each character a chance to be seen as both villainous and heroic. Social media is frequently abused in the story, as the characters are more interested in promoting themselves than in actually socializing. This leads to some funny moments, although pushback against Twitter seems a little played out these days. But with the story's international nature, Estrada at least manages to present the problems as being universal rather than something specific to American millenials.

A pitfall with having eighteen different artists working on a project is that quality can vary a lot, but Estrada managed to recruit an excellent lineup that never disappoints. Brittney Sabo, KC Green, and Rachel Dukes stand out as being fairly well-known, but, generally, this webcomic will serve as readers' introductions to the work of some very talented webcartoonists. Also, the website lists the contributors' personal sites and social media accounts beneath the comic pages, so it's easy for readers to use Broken Telephone as a way to find more webcomics to read. The stories tend to be colorful, super-cartoony, and indie-style, which may be a little too weird for some readers, but there are also stories that look more mainstream and serious, so everyone should be able to find something here that appeals to them. One thing every story has in common, though, is that they use the horizontal Zuda-style page layouts that seem to be getting more popular, and it gives the webcomic a different visual flow to some extent. Out of all the stories, the one that might look the best is "Hard News," which is actually the story that Estrada illustrated himself. His expressive, energetic figures and fluid linework match his manic comedy style perfectly and show that he's a particularly well-rounded creator.

Overall: With America's top cybersecurity experts starving half to death due to recent cuts to their snacking expenses, it's no surprise that North Korea has gotten bolder in their attempts to take control of the World Wide Web. Their deadliest weapon ever, Broken Telephone, is yet another instance of webcartoonists attempting to divert Americans' attention away from proper entertainment like Cops, Law & Order: SVU, and NCIS. It's easy to see why their plan is so effective, though, as the sheer amount of talent that's gone into this project makes it the most interesting webcomic to debut this year. And the scariest part of all is that Kim Jong-un's webcomic servers are reported to be stored deep underground, so even our most advanced bunker busters might not be able to take them out. When future historians write books about the events that led up to World War III, it's very likely that Ryan Estrada's ugly face will be on the covers.

Writing: 4.5/5
Art: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
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LibertyCabbage
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:55 pm

I posted one yesterday on my blog, but I'm not gonna repost them here since this thread doesn't really have a function anymore. If anyone's concerned about missing my stuff, there's a subscription button on my site you can use to get e-mails.
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