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 Mar 12, 2012 11:32 am

Webcomic: Kokiro
URL: http://kokiro.comicgenesis.com/
Creator/s: Star Glover
Run: 12/05 - current
Schedule: "Usually updates once a week, most likely on Thursday"
Section: Pp. 382 - 399

For some reason, the Comic Genesis home page always displays multiple "pogs" for Kokiro. Weird.

Website: The website comes across as cheerful and cutesy, with cute rainbow buttons, a smiley and heart in the title, and chibi navigation buttons.

The main unique aspect is that most of the comic's bonus content's in its own Wiki page. This includes character info, world info, and an archives section. There seems to be a lot of material here for the more interested readers to browse through. Although, I noticed the archives are a bit out of date, and don't include any comics from 2012.

The cast page uses a cool trick called an <area> tag to make image links in all sorts of weird shapes. It's a neat way to do a cast page, and since the main characters are drawn the largest, I knew to get their information first.

Lastly, I noticed that the footer on all the subpages is in black text, which can't be seen on the black background. This can easily be fixed by adding text=white or text=#FFFFFF to the <body> tag of the subpage document.

Writing: I thought this was gonna be a cutesy gag comic, so I got caught off-guard when it turned out to be really dark and serious -- probably even moreso than some of the "dark and serious" webcomics I've reviewed, like Bee Police and Demon of the Underground. The section I read is all about murder, abduction, and torture, and the setting seems dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

That said, I get the impression that these dark elements are handled by the creator in a sort of "accidental" way. It reminds me of those gag commercials where the producers of a snack food or cereal have a "disaster" at a factory that explains the origin of their product. I'm a bit perplexed at what the creator's thought process behind this creative direction is. It's almost as if she read a Frank Miller comic one day, and then gave guns and bad attitudes to the characters in a Tastes Like Diabetes webcomic http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... keDiabetes . I'm reminded a little of Jhonen Vasquez's Squee, where there's a cute, innocent, scared little kid enduring just about the most horrible childhood Vasquez can imagine, but that comic's intended as dark humor -- Kokiro, on the other hand, is played pretty straight.

As for the quality of the writing, the noir aspects come across as very anemic, as if the creator doesn't have much interest in writing a noir story. More attention seems to be given to portraying the cute but distraught childish characters, who look like they're in sore need of a blanket, a warm glass of milk, and a hug. But while showing cute children struggling to survive can be a touching subject, I feel like it's a subject handled in a much more mature way in movies like Grave of the Fireflies and Oliver, which are more focused on how the children overcome their hardships than on how pitiful they are.

Art: The art seems "doodly" and rushed to me, and I'm disappointed because I get the impression the creator's more capable than she shows in the comic. The faces are consistently oversimplified, arms and hands are lumpy or pointy (the characters switch between having three, four, or five fingers, for instance), and details like clavicles seem to be hastily scribbled as an afterthought or left out altogether. Backgrounds are rushed as well, with all interiors being completely empty, all buildings being generic rectangles, and the exteriors being empty wasteland. It's feasible that this fictional setting is really that devoid of detail, but it's still visually unattractive for the reader.

Another thing I noticed is that Kokiro never goes out of the way to show something in a particularly interesting or impressive way. It seems like every good comic will have an elaborate wide shot, or a splash page, or an action pose, or a cool perspective, or an unusual panel layout, or just something sort of special like that to catch the reader's attention, mix things up, and slow down the pacing.

Also, the coloring's bright and cheerful, which is completely out of place for the comic's dark story. Noir's associated with black-and-white art or grayscale, so any coloring in a noir comic should be handled very delicately. Shading is also generally much more intense in noir.

Overall: "Sugar rush" and noir are two fundamentally opposed styles, so it's not a surprise that they don't mesh well together. A master cartoonist could maybe pull it off somehow, but the creator of Kokiro isn't that cartoonist. If I wanted to read a "sugar rush" comic, I'd read a real "sugar rush" comic, and if I wanted to read a noir comic, I'd read a real noir comic. It doesn't help either that the artwork's over-the-top cutesy and colorful, which sends a weird mixed signal when trying to process the violent and serious parts of the story. My recommendation's for this creator to re-evaluate her creative direction and determine which style she's most comfortable working in. I think the comic would also benefit if she tried to challenge herself more with the artwork.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:00 am

peterabnny wrote:Thank you! With everything I have going on, such a thing is unlikely, but it's still a nobel goal to acheive.

Just sayin', I think it'd go a long way towards increasing your readership, maybe more than improving your art or writing would.
peterabnny wrote:Mine will probably be one of those, then. I was always kinda under the impression that there wasn't a right or wrong way when it came to blogging. I guess there is. Those things that you said should go into a blog I actually do write, but not on the website. I save those for those on my mailing list. I guess I never really thought about sharing such things with site visitors, but sometimes I guess it's the most obvious things that are overlooked.

It's just something a little extra for the readers. You could also make a Facebook or Twitter page for your comic, and those have a built-in mechanism for readers to respond.

peterabnny wrote:That might get back to my contention that I'm too exacting when it comes to my lines. It used to take me five to ten minutes to turn out a comic; you can see what that results in. More recently it takes me six to eight hours on average to do a B&W strip for publication. Inking takes half if not less the time than pencilling. I tend to work a line over and over and over again until it's just the way I want it. I've often wondered what I would come up with if I adopted a more looser, freer style like VinnieD's AntiBunny. It'd certainly cut down on my production time!

Yeah, if you could cut your time down to three to four hours a strip, you could ostensibly double your updates. I think it'd be worth losing some quality to do that.

peterabnny wrote:I don't know about that. I guess it depends on how passionate they are about their work and the extent to which they're willing to defend it. I know of a few very popular webcartoonists who would have reacted far worse than I did if they were in my place.

I wrote "good cartoonist," though, not popular cartoonist. There are certainly some popular cartoonists out there who not only aren't good at what they do, but are notoriously hostile to criticism.
peterabnny wrote:If my comic is more fit for newspapers in general, wouldn't it also be fit for those more specialized papers as well?

Not necessarily. If 20- to 30-somethings read specialized papers and the 65+ crowd reads general newspapers, there's a significant culture gap between those two demographics.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:54 pm

Webcomic: Ten Ways Bendy Straws Saved My Life
URL: http://bendystraws.smackjeeves.com/
Creator/s: Bridget Ellen
Run: 1/11 - current
Schedule: About three pages a week
Section/s: Pts. 6 - 8

Yeah, I dunno what the hell the title's supposed to mean either.

Website: It's the same exact template and colors as the blah website from Pixelated Toaster. This comic could use some TLC here. At least the extras are nice.

Also, the straight-up URL goes to the archive page, and the "latest comic" and "news" links go to a mini-comic from October. Both the home page and "latest comic" page should show the real latest comic.

Lastly, I'm a little confused at the update schedule. The creator seems to routinely post multiple pages in the same day, which is very unconventional, with the weirdest case being when she posted five pages in one day immediately following a two-month hiatus. Regardless, the creator's currently updating quite a lot, posting an average of about three pages a week since Jan. 21.

Writing: It's the same kinda "awkward realistic moments" thing Loud Era does, and like that comic, Ten Ways Ben--... uh, TWBSSML... is really good. Probably the standout aspect of the writing to me's that, even in this little section I read, every character projects a very clear and distinguished personality, and to me that's one of the hallmarks of quality writing. Even with a minor throwaway character like the grumpy receptionist, the readers get her shtick immediately. And these aren't just generic characters, either -- Jimmy, for instance, is fairly complex, as he's trying to help everyone but at the same time's quite clumsy about it, and so his encounters are as abrasive as they are good-natured. Andy's great, too, and I got a kick outta how she manages to simultaneously assert and degrade herself http://bendystraws.smackjeeves.com/comi ... -6-page-6/ .

And then for the other part of the writing: This comic's pretty funny. This page http://bendystraws.smackjeeves.com/comi ... -7-page-1/ stands out not just as a great way of utilizing page layout to make a joke work, but also as an effective way to introduce Lisa as an annoying and clueless character. I like this one, too http://bendystraws.smackjeeves.com/comi ... 6-page-16/ , as an example of a mundane event being portrayed in a funny way mainly just through good timing, strong page layout, and the goofiness of the characters. And here's another funny one http://bendystraws.smackjeeves.com/comi ... 6-page-13/ , this time stretching the dialogue over many bubbles for dramatic effect. The writing in general seems very natural, sort of like the creator's merely filming several interesting people interacting with each other.

Aaaaaaaaand... there's a bad part. The spelling really sucks. As good of a writer as this creator is, she consistently manages to screw up the simplest words. "Nicley" instead of nicely; "meen" instead of mean; "enouph" instead of enough; and the more difficult words don't fare any better. And check out this doozy of a sentence: "You're here for you're girlfriend?" All these mistakes aside from the last one I mentioned would be prevented by running the dialogue through a spellchecking program.

Art: The art's particularly animated, confident, and playful, and I feel like the characters always have an amusing pose or expression, or both. The excellent caricatures are a highlight of the comic, and I was constantly entertained at how goofy Jimmy looks, with his huge glasses and hands, and scrawny neck and limbs, and at how blatantly unattractive Andy looks. The grayscale coloring and shading also looks fine.

Another feature's that the creator likes to use silhouettes a lot. In this comic, they look good and flow naturally as part of the page layouts, and I feel a little surprised that other webcomics aren't using silhouettes more often.

Overall: If the creator gets a real website layout and fixes her spelling woes, I think she'll have an outstanding webcomic.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:46 am

Webcomic: DOUBLE K
URL: http://doublek.thewebcomic.com/
Creator/s: Nate Maurer
Run: 04/08 - current
Schedule: Two or three pages a week
Section: Ch. 5

So, yeah, I wasn't expecting to run into a comic like this on Smack Jeeves, and as you can see, my format's already been thrown out the window. DOUBLE K's not only one of the best webcomics I've ever seen, but I'd say it's exceptional even for print standards. Reading this webcomic, I felt sort of guilty, like I'd stumbled upon a pirating site that had ripped off work from an established pro. If I'd spent 20 bucks on a DOUBLE K TPB at a convention, I don't think my opinion of the comic would be any less.

And it's not just me. Take a look at the Kickstarter page for the webcomic's first print version -- http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cap ... and-beyond . The creator already has nearly 700 "pledges" for orders totaling almost $27,000, and about 500 of those orders are just for a signed print copy. And this is for a webcomic that's completely free to read in its entirety online. DOUBLE K's the real deal, folks.

Click this link. Now. -------> http://doublek.thewebcomic.com/ <-------
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:07 pm

Webcomic: Without Moonlight
URL: http://www.drunkduck.com/Without_Moonlight/
Creator/s: Tantz Aerine
Run: 6/10 - current
Schedule: Once or twice a month
Section/s: Ch. 2

Website: Hey, a Drunk Duck comic with a decent website!

Without Moonlight has a few historical subpages, like "Nazi Culture" and "Understanding Greeks," which elaborate on some of the ideas behind the comic. I didn't have time to actually read any of them, but they look fairly interesting and informative. The cast page is pretty good, too.

The creator, who's Greek, occasionally posts about the crisis currently going on over there, and it's neat to see a personal perspective on the situation as opposed to the news stories I'm more familiar with.

Writing: This comic has a lot of dialogue. Like, A LOT of dialogue. Like, on every page. And these aren't regular pages, either -- no, they're more like "super pages," by which I mean several pages worth of dialogue crammed into one really long page. I feel like the mere 14 pages I read could've easily been 50 or more "regular" pages if the creator had a better sense of structure. I can suggest two explanations for this unusual and unappealing style: Either the creator only has a vague understanding of comics as a medium, or she's so ashamed of her artwork that she's deliberately presenting her webcomic as merely a form of illustrated prose. But since she's a pretty good artist, I'll assume it's the former. As such, I suggest she give a look at some of the webcomics I've reviewed particularly favorably so far, such as Demon of the Underground, DOUBLE K, Four Tales, June, and Loud Era, and study the structure of these comics. And not only do these comics present dialogue better, but I think they write higher quality dialogue as well.

As for the concept, it's a pretty generic good guys vs. bad guys war story, except without the action. It's cool that the creator, via her comments, ties the Greeks' role in World War II to the modern Greek opposition movement, but in the comic she doesn't try to convey the Greek resistance in a meaningful or insightful way. It's always handled in a purely emotional way, portraying the Greeks as the suffering, heroic victims of Nazi brutality. But fascist propaganda's based on manipulating emotions, so is anti-fascist propaganda based on emotions really all that different? I think using left-brain, rational discourse to refute statist ideology's a more effective method. And I assume the comic's largely motivated by promoting a certain ideology, as the historical and dramatic elements are notably lacking. Well, there are historical elements, but they're in the supplemental pages of the comic's website, and not in the actual comic.

Art: The main impression I got from the art's that I was really relieved whenever the characters went outside. The creator puts a noticeable amount of effort into conveying the architecture of World War II-era Athens, and she cuts down on the dialogue in these scenes in order to avoid obscuring her detailed backgrounds. The exterior panels in pages 2, 6, and 14, for instance, are some of my favorite panels in the comic, and it's not a coincidence that these panels are relatively dialogue-light.

I was also distracted by the constant shifts in character detail. The panels in any given page can range from "fairly cartoony" to "very realistic." I get the impression sometimes the creator loosely "wings it" for many shots, but carefully uses photo references for close-ups, creating weird discrepancies. Pages 4 and 9 are some of the worst offenders. The creator does both cartoony and realistic styles pretty well, but she needs to make a clear choice and be consistent about it, and certainly not mix styles within the same page.

Lastly, what's up with the red gradients in the page borders? Black borders work fine.

Overall: After I read Without Moonlight but before I wrote this review, I discovered the webcomic's gotten some accolades from fellow Drunk Duck members. I actually think the comic's probably worse than mediocre, as not only is it uninteresting, but it's tedious to get through since there's so much dialogue. I expect the creator does better when she writes prose, but she clearly still has some work to do in figuring out how to write for comics.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:06 pm

Webcomic: Puck
URL: http://puck.smackjeeves.com/
Creator/s: "ElectricGecko"
Run: 7/11 - current
Schedule: Mondays
Section/s: Strips 107-126

Website: The design looks pretty good for a Smack Jeeves comic, and the cast page is done rather professionally.

The creator seems to regularly offer fan-service voting incentives, such as "Puck's sexy holiday pic," a "champagne-soaked bikini party," and a "hot and steamy Valentine's pic."

Writing: I get the impression that most creators of fan-service comics would balk at the idea of their work being considered as less than serious, but the creator of Puck doesn't seem to treat his webcomic as anything pretentious. My reaction to this is mixed: It's good because the creator has a clear and honest understanding of what he's doing, but it's bad because I feel like the creator's largely abandoned the pursuit of quality.

Like I'd expect from any fan-service comic, the artist's ability to draw women is exceptional but the writing has no appealing aspect. In the 20 strips I read, none of the "jokes" demonstrated any skill or creativity. I feel like the creator often tries to tell a joke more out of an implied obligation than because he thinks he has a good idea for a gag. And it's not like he cares enough to come up with an actual story -- or does he really think giving his sexy female characters jobs at Hooters is a clever idea for a story arc?

Unsurprisingly, the creator offers three distinct flavors of sexy women for his reads to ogle over, making sure no one's left out. We have Puck, the nice, responsible chick; Daphne, the snarky, nerdy chick; and Phoebe, the hot, hedonistic chick. They're also various fantasy races (elf, furry, and demon, respectively), but their nonhuman status doesn't make any difference, and for some unexplained reason, no one ever seems to notice that they look unusual. A good deal of the comic's attempted humor concerns these characters' idiotic boyfriends, who the women often complain about but never show any affection or attraction towards. The comic doesn't try to explain why these beautiful women are with losers instead of someone more appealing, but as long as the creator feels like he can continue to get cheap gags out of this situation, I don't expect the relationships in the comic to get more realistic.

Art: The creator's quite a capable artist, especially when it comes to drawing attractive women, and it's a shame he isn't making better use of his talents.

Overall: There's an alternate dimension somewhere in which this creator cares about writing well and Puck's a good webcomic. This path is certainly more challenging than continuing to draw sexy women and attracting certain readers drawn to webcomics with lots of fan-service, but I think every creator owes it to themself to always strive to make improvements in some area. And it's certainly possible for a webcomic to have sexy women and quality writing at the same time.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:53 pm

Webcomic: DeSTRESS
URL: http://destress.smackjeeves.com/
Creator/s: "blankd"
Run: 6/10-current
Schedule: Once or twice a week
Section/s: Ch. 4, pp. 58-77

I've been meaning to read DeSTRESS at some point anyways, so when the creator posted today asking for a review, now seemed as good a time as any.

Website: DeSTRESS has an abundance of bonus content, including extra artwork and comics, a detailed character page, voting incentives, and world and language information. I'd say it's pretty exemplary in terms of bonus content in webcomics.

It'd be nice if the site had a more interesting layout. It quickly gets underwhelming seeing the same exact boring layout and color scheme in almost every Smack Jeeves comic I read.

Interestingly, the creator recently redid the entire first chapter of DeSTRESS. I've read arguments for and against redoing old chapters, but regardless, I'm impressed the creator was able to do it without her update schedule getting affected too much.

Writing: I'll start by noting that despite my sampling being a mere 20 pages, I had no problem getting the gist of what was going on, which is a credit to writing that does seem a little convoluted at first. The subjects of Martae, the Blue Archive, the Chiranobles, summoning, and other things are still very vague to me, but this didn't diminish my sense of enjoyment from the reading; actually, it's more of the opposite, since now I'm intrigued enough to consider reading past and future material for more information.

The main feature of the writing I noticed, which is a positive one, is the creator's ability to balance the expository and dramatic elements of the narrative. I've read several webcomics lately where the creator loads up on plot-heavy dialogue but forgets to make the comic entertaining and visually interesting, but that's not a problem in DeSTRESS. There are several violent scenes in the section I read, but the creator keeps them simple and brief, returning to progressing the plot and avoiding letting the comic get overdramatic.

Another strength is the pacing, in which the creator mixes it up between dialogue-heavy and dialogue-light pages. Some pages have no dialogue at all. This dynamic structure forces the reader to slow down and refocus, enhancing the reader's keenness and their level of enjoyment.

As for the general content, having Amvisile attack the person advocating use of force is an amusing and ironic twist. I appreciate the mature and realistic wrap-up to the episode, too, which correctly assigns blame to both parties; this is an example of what I noted above about the comic avoiding getting overdramatic. And the bits at the end of the chapter with the appearance of the red skeleton and the mysterious Cervi are certainly strong cliffhangers that would keep a reader looking forward to the next chapter.

Lastly, the dialogue in this comic's very good, and I was able to get a sense of the distinct personality of each character, even just from reading this one page.

Art: The art's quite good as well, with the creator clearly having put a notable amount of effort into practicing anatomy. I'm particularly pleased to see the characters rendered so carefully -- in this page, for instance, I can clearly make out Amvisile's deltoid, bicep, and tricep muscles. I think all artists should have a solid grasp of muscle and bone structure, even if they're just drawing cartoonish figures. The creator also uses a wide variety of poses and perspectives, and I didn't notice any particular fault with the human characters. Amvisile's monster could've been portrayed better, but the creator's already noted this mistake in her comments.

The character designs are also strong, and I had no problem telling the characters apart from one another. As clearly shown on this page, each character has a distinct outfit, facial structure, and hair style. And the monster designs are really cool -- they remind me of the creepy Phyrexians from Magic: the Gathering.

If any area could use work, it'd be the backgrounds. They're always lightly colored and sort of sketchy, as if the creator's deliberately trying to draw attention away from them. It's a reasonable time-saving technique, but I never felt entirely satisfied with the interior and exterior scenes.

Lastly, aside from white, gray, and black, the only colors DeSTRESS uses are dark red for blood and sound effects, and dark blue for magical energy. I think this approach is well-executed, with the color representing an abrasive, destabilizing effect upon the grayscale world.

Overall: DeSTRESS is a manifestation of discipline, diligence, and a precise understanding of how comics work as a medium. I was prepared to not hold back in my review since the creator's a harsh reviewer herself, but I really couldn't find much I didn't like in this webcomic. The creator has every right to be proud of her webcomic, and if any recipients of her reviews feel compelled to challenge her integrity (as I've already seen happen on several occasions), I'll back her up by saying that she definitely has a good idea of what she's writing about.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:15 pm

Webcomic: Chaos
URL: http://chaos.smackjeeves.com/
Creator/s: T. Fabert
Run: 7/11-current
Schedule: Saturdays
Section: Ch. 2

Website: The website's extremely plain, and it doesn't go well with the comic's colorful, emotive style.

The comic's banner's also very simple and vague, which is surprising considering how easy it'd be to show off the comic's outstanding artwork. The creator could probably double the comic's readership just by spending a few minutes in Photoshop putting together a better banner.

Lastly, the pages are rather small, and I don't see why they shouldn't be at least 50% larger.

Writing: Here are the clichés in this chapter:

-- The chapter starts with the protagonist waking up;
-- The "buddy cop" shtick;
-- There's a "mole" at the police station;
-- Dr. Claw-esque villain alone in a dark room;
-- A masculine female superior;
-- Just being a cop story in the first place.

The creator makes no attempt at being creative or making the comic interesting, even settling for the webcomic's very generic title. This is a terrible approach to writing, essentially compiling various elements that have already been done to death by more competent writers. Even throwing in a gimmick like setting the story in space or in the past would've helped somewhat. Writers should be extra careful about working in an oversaturated genre.

Aside from that, the dialogue and pacing's pretty good, showing the creator has some legitimate writing ability. One notable display of skill's when Duane displays different personalities when dealing with the tough criminal and the squeamish criminal.

Art: This creator obviously has some stellar drawing skills, and is able to handle comic composition very well. The design of pages like these help the story come across as busy and believable.

The character designs are exceptional as well, with both the major and minor characters having great designs and being rendered skillfully. Expressions and gestures are consistently superb, as seen in these pages, and the coloring and shading's top-notch.

One particularly cool page I'd like to point out is this one. I never see animation in webcomics, but in this instance it's fun, and it's something impossible to do in print comics. I could see this technique starting to get annoying if it's overdone, but I give a thumbs-up to throwing in some animation once in a while.

Lastly, my only criticism with the art's that Duane's bruise suddenly goes away on page 14 onwards. The creator commented on fixing an earlier page to include the bruise, so it's inexcusable to make the same mistake right afterwards.

Overall: Chaos will get some fans and recognition just 'cause the art's so good, but I don't see the comic being a worthwhile read until the creator starts working to make the story more out-of-the-ordinary. I see glimpses of writing talent here and there, but without a more coherent strategy, that talent's largely wasted.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:00 pm

Webcomic: Asylum Heights
URL: http://www.asylum-heights.com/
Creator/s: David Janzen
Run: 9/10-current
Schedule: M/Th
Section/s: Chs. 2-3

Website: The website's simple but attractive, with the large, colorful banner at the top giving the impression that the comic's artsy and weird.

As far as extras, there's a good amount of content about the story and characters, as well as other miscellaneous information. The creator also consistently updates twice a week, which seems pretty good for a comic with great artwork and coloring, and frequently updates a blog about comics and other things.

I have two nitpicky complaints: Two navigation buttons at the top say "Last," and Chapter 3's title's spelled wrong in the archive page.

Writing: In my last review I wrote about clichés, and this comic's in a similar situation, although it's a bit different since it's a parody. Here's the thing -- superhero comics are obviously a cliché, but superhero parodies are also overdone enough to be a cliché. So, I'm underwhelmed with superheroes as a subject, and I suggest creators avoid doing superhero comics unless they're able to bring a tremendous amount of quality to the table. Chances are, though, that anyone that blatantly good's already at the pro level, so the idea of a superhero (or superhero parody) webcomic's inherently problematic.

That said, the writing's not that great. AnarchyMan's too goofy and Michelle's too pretentious, and their interaction seems forced and unnatural. The pacing's especially weak -- Chapter 3 starts off with four consecutive splash pages, then somehow zips through an elaborate chase scene in just two pages. The creator has a bad habit of making some pages overcrowded and confusing, taking what could've been a series of decent pages and mashing them together. This page is particularly a mess, taking the characters from hopping over a car to dangling off a rooftop in the span of two 100-by-100 mini-panels.

Art: The artwork's obviously very sharp, and the comic has its moments where it's composed really well, like in this page and this page. The splash pages also look terrific, although, as I stated in the writing section, this comic overuses them.

Some of the comic's other artistic merits are its outstanding coloring and its superb character designs. AnarchyMan in particular's quite distinct, looking very cartoonish because of his giant nose and awkward clothing. The creator's quite comfortable drawing a variety of strange characters, and puts a special amount of effort into drawing stylized women.

Overall: This creator obviously has some skill and experience with making comics, but the writing of Asylum Heights seems poorly thought-out. More planning would be beneficial, and I wonder if some of the comic's problems would be self-evident to the creator if he'd spent more time scripting the whole chapter out in advance. On the bright side, the comic has some notable illustrations, and at times can be rather fun to look at. The plot page suggests the creator has a fairly elaborate vision for his story, so hopefully he'll figure out at some point how to do a better job of presenting that vision.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:17 pm

Webcomic: A Loonatic's Tale
URL: http://zibaricon.org/comics/loonaticstale.php
Creator/s: Rick Fortner, Rebecca Burg
Run: ?-current
Schedule: Two or three pages a month
Section: Ch. 5

It turns out this isn't a webcomic about these guys. I know, I'm disappointed too.

Website: This comic has a somewhat unusual setup, in that it shares a site with several other webcomics. It seems like a pretty good idea to me, and I expect a reader who likes A Loonatic's Tale would be curious to check out the other webcomics, and visa versa.

The site in general has an attractive layout and an impressive amount of bonus content. As for A Loonatic's Tale's extras, its cast page is extremely detailed and well-designed. The "Starting a Webcomic" guide and the video of the webcomic both look really cool, although I didn't have time to check them out. The comic also presents its archives in the form of a wall of 100-by-40 images, and I see this as an original and convenient way to browse the comic.

One thing I noticed is there's a lot of white space beneath the pages. This can easily be fixed by modifying the values in the #iFrameComicPage and/or #divBelowComicPage parts of the <style> section.

Writing: Everyone's a total wacko in this comic. The mental patient's a wacko, the doctors are wackos, the police are wackos, the king's a wacko, and everyone else I haven't mentioned's a wacko as well. The only one who's not obviously a wacko's the menial asylum guard, who doesn't do or say much. As such, the comic's very dystopian, portraying reality as a terrible place both inside and outside of the asylum.

Despite the dismal setting, A Loonatic's Tale manages to always be goofy, as is a fairly funny webcomic. Scenes like this, this, and this were pretty amusing to me, although I expect some readers will be turned off by the comic's dark, depraved humor. In any case, I think the creators display some skill in managing to portray disturbing subjects in a way that isn't merely using shock humor for cheap gags.

The characters are notably interesting as well, and many of the characters, including Flint, Tesla, Zinc, Van, and all the doctors, are rather exceptional, and I'd like to see more of them. The creators have clearly put a lot of effort into fleshing out the character concepts, and the dialogue feels like natural interaction between these eccentric personalities.

Lastly, I initially thought the Grease scene was superfluous, but I read it again a few times, and now I like it a lot. The bright and cheesy scene contrasts starkly with the rest of the chapter, and the sequence as a whole's a great way to elaborate on Dr. Chester's character (and the other doctors, to an extent) without allowing the story to get too pretentious.

Art: The character designs in this comic are outstanding, with every character looking distinct and bizarre. The characters' wild appearances add an extra level of amusement to the artwork, from Zinc's skeletal figure and crazy hair to Flint's crescent face and wings to the doctors' anachronistic clothing.

One of A Loonatics's Tale's signature stylistic elements is the silly-looking mouths that are regularly on a character's cheek or partly off their face. Normally this sort of thing comes up when an immature artist tries to emulate low-budget anime, but in this case, it's done deliberately and skillfully. The characters already look and act completely deranged, so this style seems to me like a further expression of how unhinged the characters and situations are.

The illustrations and coloring are very good in general, and the creators show a lot of variety in poses and perspectives. One thing the creators do well is that they never let the artwork get monotonous, and the parts inside the asylum almost look like a different comic than the parts outside the asylum. As such, the bland interior of the asylum never really gets to be a problem. I also particularly like some of the more noirish parts, like the fifth and seventh panels in this page, and these pages.

Lastly, the creators frequently play with lighting. These effects are always handled in a clever way, and the creators factor the lighting changes into the comic's composition.

Overall: The collaboration between these two creators is very promising so far. The comic has a unique place in the webcomics world by featuring the unusual subject of insane asylums, and it should appeal to pretty much anyone who's into dark humor. I expect the comic to get more popular as more readers get attached to the outlandish characters and twisted setting.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:14 pm

Blog: Narrative Investigations
URL: http://narrativeinvestigations.blogspot.com/
Creator/s: Helen
Run: 12/10-current
Schedule: Four or five posts a week
Section/s: 3/12/12-3/21/12

So, I was gonna review The Becoming today, and I might review it later (short version: it's good), but something unexpected came up. I found out towards the end of my reading that The Becoming had just been reviewed a few weeks ago, and since I didn't feel like writing a lot today (hey, it's Friday), I figured I'd read the review and post a quick follow-up on its points.

It turns out, this is no ordinary review blog, and I decided I'd have more fun reviewing this blog than reviewing the comic. Here goes.

Review of Outsider: It takes Helen 300 words to write this: "It's a kinda-manga sci-fi comic with moral ambiguity."

Review of Namesakes: Most confusing review ever. I feel like I need a "review-to-English" translator to get through this one. All I got out of it's that the main character gets more page-time than the other characters (really?!), and that good writing and art's "not necessarily [sic] for a good webcomic, [but] definitely helps." I'd love to hear, Helen, how a webcomic can be good without having good writing or artwork.

Review of Mahou Shonen Fight: In the pre-review, Helen states, "I've honestly run out of witty things to say about webcomics," yet she proceeds to post four new reviews, and then continues to keep posting reviews in the days afterwards. Thanks for keepin' it real, Helen. So, does her review of this shonen comic live up to her lofty expectations? She calls the story "cheesy," but admits she likes it because she "starts giggling whenever she finds magical boys." Cool.

Review of Modest Medusa: According to Helen, it's a comedy, and it involves something called "chocodiles." She even goes out of her way to post a link to the Wikipedia entry for chocodiles. Thanks, Helen, for your insightful commentary.

Review of Monster Pulse: Helen summons the full extent of her literary might in describing "kids suddenly having their body parts come to life" as "creepy." She also notes she'd give the webcomic "a very solid recommendation" solely because it "updates regularly," going out of her way to point out how extremely low her standards are.

Review of My Finn: The art's "adorable," the plot's "interesting," the chick in the comic has amnesia (how original), and Helen's "really curious where everything is going to go next." At least we know Helen's keyboard's still in working condition.

Review of Lintier: Basically: "This comic's a sequel to Lint, so if you liked Lint, you'll probably like this comic." Really, Helen? I don't even know what Lint is, and I could tell someone the same thing. She also somehow manages to break 200 words without even mentioning the comic's artwork.

Review of Loldwell!: This 120-word review's so short, Helen felt compelled to double-space it into order to make it look less pathetic. But trimming the fat (yes, there's fat to trim in a four-sentence review), here's the actual review: "It's a 'comedy comic that doesn't focus on anything in particular,' and 'the humor is just so spot on.'" 19 words.

Review of Knite: Helen's blown away by this webcomic's "deep message" that "real life problems [sic] are rarely simply and easily solved," which suggests this is the first piece of creative writing she's ever experienced. Helen also uses 146 words to show the comic uses flash animation instead of conventional pages, but her critique of the artwork is calling it "quite lovely" and writing she likes "how the lighting is used."

Review of Hark! A Vagrant: Here's another double-spaced beauty, this one weighing in at 200 words. I'll trim a little fat here, a little more there, and let's see what we wind up with: "I don't enjoy this comic." Wow, Hark! totally just got burned.

Review of Gaia: "A younger comic but since it seems to be both moving and updating at a brisk pace, has already established a conflict and has introduced a number of characters I'm going to take the plunge and recommend it anyway." Sorry, Helen, but if your standards are so low you'll recommend anything, your recommendations become irrelevent. And the reality's that people have a limited amount of time and patience, so they're not gonna wanna read every webcomic that meets your highbrow requirements of having "characters" and "conflict." Sort of like how I wouldn't recommend your blog just because "it has words in it."

Overall: Helen might wanna take a look at a Webcomic Above thread, or the Smack Jeeves reviews subforum, to get an idea of what a webcomic review actually is. Other than that, thanks, Helen, for brightening what was otherwise a pretty boring Friday.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:48 pm

Oh wow, reviews being reviewed. I feel like I just got to the tiniest Matryoshka doll. What a beauty!
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:42 am

We call it Babushka.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:53 pm

A bat outta Hell harassed me all night, so y'all are stuck with this review from 2007.

Review of Sharper

Writing:

Sharper is a story about a fictional River Stone City where ruthless mobsters and lawlessness rule the streets. Conceptually, it's a pretty standard gangster story set-up, although the author delivers it with particular skill and refinement. The story centers around Pendegast Scrimm, an "average" and "expendable" mobster with big ambitions who's mixed up in the city's affairs. Right away from the beginning when Scrimm is shown weilding a serpent-headed cane (a symbol of the Devil) he's presented as a repulsive character, and throughout the story he sometimes acknowledges his role as "the bad guy" which he seems fairly comfortable with. Still, he has a loveable loser persona about him and goes about his affairs in a fun and often humorous way, especially in tandem with his friend and bodyguard Simon. I found Simon to be a very likeable and funny character, as his cool and cautious demeanor pits him as the straight man against Scrimm's recklessness, but Simon also has a psychotic sadism and a mysterious past that makes him interesting and also quite dangerous. A lot of the humor in the comic involves Scrimm discouraging Simon from committing some unnecessary act of violence. It's also amusing in that, while Scrimm is presented as this sort of devilish villain, he often acts as Simon's moral superior. All in all, I think they make a great pair and compliment each other's attributes, and the author's skill is demonstrated here with his ability to deal with two well-rounded characters interacting frequently (in contrast, the norm tends to be an eccentric character paired with a flat character.) In regards to the title of the comic, I interpret it to be a reflection of how the protagonist Scrimm sees River Stone City as being dull, worn-down, soft, and that he's going to prevail because he's harder, rougher, and sharper.

The atmosphere of the city adds a lot of tension to the story, as there's always this pretense that the smallest screw-up can lead to death and it's always ambiguous who's a friend or foe. The author does this particularly well with the mob boss Finch, whose "invitations" are quite ominous, especially with his sadomasochistic Australian henchman The Mod being the deadliest guy around. In addition, Scrimm is regarded as such an unimportant guy that it'd be a minor act for someone to get rid of him, and he'd almost certainly be dead if his bodyguard Simon wasn't so good at his job. But, there's never really much feeling of ease, and almost all confrontations in the story could easily become violent, so the author does a good job of constantly keeping the story tense even when there's not anything particularly noteworthy going on.

The supporting characters are well-developed and effectively written. Scrimm's girlfriend, Emily, is a prostitute, and it's sardonically fitting that a whore is the only one that could be attracted to a character as lowly and villainous as Scrimm, and visa versa, and they do seem to relate to and understand each other pretty well. She's even more ruthless than he is at times, as shown when she's ready to do torture that Scrimm is timid about. "Ruby Tuesday" and Agatha round out Scrimm's colorful network of helpers (Ruby's nerdy lack of social skills is portrayed amusingly) and the corrupt and incompetent policemen duo add some flair as well.

Sharper can also be quite funny at times. It isn't a comedic comic, but the jokes and playful attitude help keep the story fun and amusing and prevent it from getting too serious or pretentious.

The main theme of the stories in the comic so far tend to be of a big and powerful foreign organization getting involved in River Stone City's affairs, and Scrimm being called upon to remedy the situation. He stumbles a lot along the way, and his plans don't turn out quite like he hoped, but in the end he's successful and gains something from the affair. Scrimm's amusing in this way, as even though bad things happen to him often, I get a sense that the internal logic of the comic dictates that he always succeeds in the end, so the comic never really gets too serious. It's sort of like if Batman's tied up and dangling over a pit of acid -- you know that, due to the internal logic of Batman's world, Batman will somehow escape and save the day, because, well, he's Batman, and that's what Batman does. So, it's more of a game of wondering how Scrimm will get out of the mess than wondering if he'll get killed or not. I expect that the author has some surprises in store for the future, however.

A consistent motif in Sharper is a lack of emotion and attachment in the characters. Nobody in the comic ever expresses any significant amount of emotion and they all try hard not to care about anyone besides themselves, as in Stone River City emotion equals weakness. There's a moment of guilt and regret in Scrimm's dream sequence, but it doesn't manifest in reality. It's sort of a hypocritical system at work in the comic, as everyone seems aware of how awful the city is and how evil they are, but everyone seems too concerned about gaining power to do anything and ends up only making things worse. It's a primitive system of natural selection -- the strong survive and get on top, and the weak get killed or taken advantage of. Of course, anyone could always leave the city, but everyone's pretty confident that they have what it takes to be #1 and I think also that the characters prefer this ruthless, violent, and lawless society to a "normal" existance. Anyways, this emotional deficiency is pretty notable and startling, and there's never anger, or sadness, or fear, and even when such things seem appropriate the characters are careful not to show or express it. Even the antagonists don't show emotion; for example, Halim Said is just dutifully carrying out his promise of vengeance but he's never openly angry or bitter. Throughout the entire comic, no one ever displays any emotion besides sort of a confident grin, and in place of emotion is only masochism and sadism. While homogenous, I think this attitude is handled well and gives the comic personality and uniqueness. However, the big problem with it is that it's a huge detriment to the comic visually, which is where I'll get to the irredeemably bad part of the comic, the art.

Artwork:

Sharper is a superb example of strong pacing, characterization, and story construction, but due to problems with the artwork it can never be a good comic. First of all, the characters are much like computer-generated Barbie dolls: stiff, blank stare, emotionless, empty. There's barely any deviation in any of the characters from this sort of generic default configuration, and, as such, everyone in the comic always has a calm, confident, empty grin. The faces are usually quite accurate because the characters don't express emotions anyways, but times like the last panel here are well off. In this particular instance, Scrimm communicates through his dialogue that he is quite shocked and repulsed, but this is not shown whatsoever on his face in the previous page.

The main problem with the generic faces, though, is that a comic needs to use both the writing and art in its storytelling to be effective, and Sharper highly disregards its art. In most pages, there just isn't any visual information outside of dialogue source and basic plot progression. I noted some particular examples here,here, here, and here. This is sometimes referred to as "talking heads", where the comic's artwork does nothing besides showing a head to point a speech bubble at, and this is a common problem in "writing-based" comics such as this one. However, the writing in Sharper is far above the norm, so it's pretty disappointing that the comic is so plagued by this aspect. I suspect that, for the majority of the pages, you could remove all the artwork and just write the characters' names in their places and the page would work the same. However, this leads to my next complaint: empty backgrounds.

The backgrounds and settings are blatantly devoid and unrealistic, regardless of location. Whether it's indoors, outdoors, on the streets, or in a restaurant, there are never any miscellaneous people around and there are never enough objects or detail to make the scene look believable. In the earlier pages, the textures are quite simple and unrealistic, and while they get somewhat better as the comic progresses, the comic relies more and more on empty black backgrounds. Sometimes the darkness is used to good effect, or in the Said death sequence, but in most cases I feel like it's more just laziness than anything. For the death pages, the blackness conveys an exaggerated sense of isolation and a surrealistic experience -- most black panels strewn throughout the comic have no such context. It's essential to realize that, since the Barbie doll characters are so stiff and unexpressive that the backgrounds and environment design are much more important than in a regular comic where the characters are more vivid and dynamic. A big problem I noticed is the lack of people, objects, or even dirtiness in social environments. Look at these examples. I noticed that whenever a character is in the streets or is driving, there are never other people or cars out there, and there's no context for this emptiness. The most plausible explanation is that it'd take too much effort to create background people and cars so they're left out. This not only hurts the immersion of the story (restricting it due to artist's limitations) but also betrays the atmosphere of the environment. This is supposed to be a dirty, run-down, lawless mob city, yet there's no litter or dirtiness. Again, I don't think this is in context with the plot, but rather that the author decided it isn't worth the effort to add these background elements, and to that I disagree. While the author has created interesting characters and tense plotlines and pacing, the emptiness pervading the comic takes away from it and makes the characters seem less like people that are part of a fictional world and more like just computer-generated pictures with speech bubbles pointing to them. It's simply an issue of believability, that these characters exist somewhere, and that even if they don't really exist their feelings and goals do, as these things can manifest in abstract. Consider the restaurant scenes. Not only is there not any food, drinks, cutlery, etc, anything to make it seem like a restaurant, but there are no waiters or other patrons or anything. Do these things matter to the plot or have valuable interactions with the characters? No, but it helps foster a setting, an environment, a world for the characters to live in. It's the same with any visual medium. If there's a restaurant scene in a film, the director didn't hire actors and actresses and dress them up nice and arrange all the nice scenery because it's cheap or easy to do so, and even in a traditional comic it isn't easy to draw. But, like I mentioned above, what else is there to look at? The characters are emotionless and are identical to the other 200 times they've appeared in the comic, so if the visual interest isn't in the characters then you have to place it on the environment and the arrangement and composition of characters and clothing.

Another major concern in the comic is the concept of Show vs Tell. Sharper has a very bad habit of explaining what the characters are doing or looking at instead of showing it. This is another failure to use the visual nature of the medium and present the artwork as a contributing presence to the story. Notable examples:

1, saying what the bodies look like instead of showing it

2, Emily mentions she was at a "popular shopping district", yet it was completely empty when she was there

3, a dramatic scene is described, none of it is shown. Girl dying in his arms would've been a great visual.

4, describing Said's emotions instead of showing his face

5, Scrimm says the place is a dump but all we see is its lousy lettering. It's something, but inadequate.

6, Scrimm saying he's been thrown out and "SLAM" isn't visually adequate. It's an action! It's interesting! It should be shown!

Not only are the characters stiff and unemotional, but the technology of the artwork looks quite dated. I realize that the author is only an amateur, but it reminds me of the computer graphics from the early-to-mid 90's so it's a bit lacking in the visual flair. While I'm not expecting anything on the level of the Dreamland Chronicles, something more basic, like Corridor Z, can have an aesthetic appeal to it with some effort. One problem with the art in Sharper is that the way the clothes look on the bodies consistently seems off. This problem is shown well here and here, as it seems most noticable regarding breasts and genitals. Someone with more knowledge in computer art could probably elaborate on the specifics. The action sequences are also rather stiff, clumsy, and generally not that appealing, like here, for example. Also, there's some noticable copy-pasting going on in the bookshelf here, here, and here, although I'd be a lot more forgiving about this if there was more visual information in the comic. Since the characters always look the same, the background becomes more visually interesting. I also felt that other digital techniques in the comic, such as aging, are done poorly.

Overall:

The author is clearly competent in writing thoughtful and amusing dialogue and coming up with interesting and well-paced plots, but he has a lot to learn about writing for the comic medium and how to use visual information. I feel like he isn't putting as much time or effort into the comic as is required to make it appealing, and it's quite disappointing since I feel Sharper could've been an excellent comic had the artwork been done and used better. I wouldn't have been so harsh about the artwork if the writing wasn't so much better by comparison, and I believe that the author is a talented individual who could really make something noteworthy if he applies himself more. Some comics can get by with bad artwork, and Sharper isn't one of them. So, the author should either get some training in digital arts, or cut back on updates, or get someone else to draw the comic, but he shouldn't let his abilities go to waste by working on a project without giving it his full effort.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:58 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:A bat outta Hell harassed me all night,


Hm yeah, that meat loaf can be annoying.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 am

McDuffies wrote:
LibertyCabbage wrote:A bat outta Hell harassed me all night,


Hm yeah, that meat loaf can be annoying.

Yay, you got my reference! A bat actually got into my apartment somehow and started causing a ruckus around 4 a.m when I heard a scratching noise coming from the hallway closet...

>_>
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:25 pm

Here's another oldie for y'all, again from 2007. This one looks kinda douchey, especially towards the end, but it is what it is. And the creator deleted her webcomic sometime after I wrote this review, sooooo... I guess you don't get to see the actual comic. Oh well.

Antics

First impression: simple and attractive site design. The background color (light gray) seems a bit too bright, and you'd probably be better off making it a dark gray or even black (with of course changes to the black designs.) The site clearly presents the comic page first and foremost, and as this seems to be the primary goal of webcomic website design I can say it's a successful design. I suggest removing or moving the white Antics logo as that would make another inch or so of the comic page visible before scrolling down.

The archive page is simple, direct, and attractive, although the white pixels around the transparent images hurts the aesthetics a little bit. I would look into refining the images if possible, but it's not a big deal.

All of the navigation seems functional, although you should add something to the extras section because it's disappointing clicking the link and having nothing there to see.

Unfortunately, when I got to the actual comic, things weren't quite as agreeable.

Comic: By the time I finished the 25-page archive, I could barely stand to read it anymore. I'll say plainly that I strongly dislike this comic. First off, I'll start with consistent things I saw in the comic that you should stop doing immediately.

- visual notes. There are way, way, way too many notes all over the comic describing what's going on to let the comic be remotely enjoyable. I feel like the whole comic is a bunch of sticky notes saying what the panels are supposed to show. There's a very simple solution to this: if a panel doesn't convey what you want it to, erase it and do it over until it's right. DO NOT leave it flawed and write some words next to it saying what's happening. If you're unsure whether a panel or clear or not, just show it to a few people and ask them what they think about it. You could probably show a drawing in Keenchat whenever you want for instant feedback. But, just way too many things that should be shown in the artwork are expressed in notes or unnecessary thought bubbles.

- NEVER use aimspeak/chatspeak or emoticons in speech bubbles. The reason emoticons even exist is because facial expressions make it easier to direct the tone of conversation. Well, fortunately, since this is a comic you actually do have facial expressions! So, use them! And, no, not even the most retarded 8-year-old has "double-yew tee eff" or "rawr!" as part of their normal vocabularly. especially if they're falling to their death or being captured by strange shirtless men. If you want us to care about what happens to the characters, you might want to have them react more strongly to life-and-death situations than two girls giggling at a funny shirt at the mall. Similarly, "Eeeeeeekers!!" is a cute expression that has nothing to do with the context. It's just really hard to get into the story and care about what's happening to the characters when the actual characters don't give a rat's ass and are just trying to be cute and funny about whatever happens.

- don't rely on the idea of a catgirl meowing and goofy facial expressions as being 100% of a comic's entertainment value.

- you started off signing your name once per page, then you started doing it twice per page, and now you're signing your name three times per page!! Please stop doing this, as it's distracting from the work!! It's very distracting to see these signatures all over the pages, especially since there are already so many little notes around competing for attention. One signature at the bottom of the page is plenty, and it already says your name at the bottom of the page anyways so why even bother? It reminds me of one comic where the guy put so many watermarks on his pages to establish credit for them that the pages were barely readable.

Looking over my notes, besides these recurring elements I have a gripe with just about every little thing in the comic. However, I don't care nearly enough to write an elaborate 10,000 word post explaining everything. So, I'll have to be to brief.

- The prologue is way too long and wordy, and the pictures contribute nothing besides showing that you can use a digital art program. Your attempt at establishing a creation myth fails because it isn't interesting or original at all, and the whole thing is written really clumsily. I can tell from your comic and your forum posts that you're a much more artistic person than a writerly person, so why did you think that doing 7 pages of straight prose would work out well? If it's truly necessary to have this sort of exposition (and I'll bet most of it isn't necessary) then at least try to keep it brief. Personally, I would've definitely given up on the comic while reading the prologue if I wasn't doing a review, and a potential reader has no such attatchment.

- starting a story with an alarm clock going off and then the protagonist showing up late for class is about the most cliche way you could possibly start off a comic. You really need to be more original if you're going to interest anyone.

- Ami is completely a Mary Sue, and it doesn't help that you changed your forum name to Ami. The attributes of the character, such as attending art class and being Canadian, have no relevance to the plot whatsoever and only serve to establish a relationship between you and the character. Using a Mary Sue is very, very bad. What happens to your Mary Sue? She escapes from an alienated school environment (where the teacher is not shown and everyone is a silhoutte and the others hurt her and don't care into a fantasy world (a development that was awkward but I was able to excuse), meets some "gorgeous" hunk who calls her "lovely" and "adorable" and kisses her hand, is shocked by her cat ears and tail (which, imo, are considered by the author to be good features -- the features are presented in a pretty and natural way, and look how attractive these cat-like features are presented in the 6th panel here), and finally the current situation is that Ami is taken hostage by several attractive-looking men some of which don't have shirts on. It's possible that this sequence may be a rape fantasy to some extent. Anyways, from what I can tell in the comic, I'd suggest that you're too timid and self-conscious to have a real relationship so you're doing this comic as a means of wish-fulfillment, and this is pretty understandable. However, if you're going to put her comic online and ask for a review, you needs to try to appeal to other people as well.
---------------------
That's all I got to before I stopped, and I don't feel like continuing it.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:11 pm

Once again I posted a lame review of a review. Don't worry, folks; I'll post a real review tomorrow!
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:30 pm

A'ight, so I started on a new review but I'm not gonna have time to finish it till tomorrow. So, here's yet another old one to tide y'all over till then.

Review of Zoology

"You know, sometimes it's nice to have a friend who doesn't know what you look like..." - Shandy, from Zoology

I'm going off on a jet plane tomorrow (incidentally, for the very first time after seeing Snakes On a Plane) so I figured I might as well knock out this review now. Otherwise, it might seem like I'm the kind of asshole who goes off on a jet plane without writing a review.

The comic has a pretty unique style in the way both animals and humans are rendered. Even though Zoology would be considered a furry comic, Jackhass' drawings outside of the comic have shown me that he's quite capable at drawing people, so it's a credit to his ability as an artist to be able to draw both animals and people well. Also, the animals look somewhat humanish and the humans look somewhat animalish, and this works amusingly to blur the lines between the two. I've noticed that comics which are largely furry-based often have a special way of drawing humans, I suppose since in that context the humans are approached as a strange kind of ape (which we are) as opposed to a separate and higher level of existence which is the usual perception.

In describing Zoology's aesthetics, the best word to use would be minimalistic. The characters are static and not very detailed, the backgrounds are generally non-existent, and there's little variety in perspective. However, Jackhass makes great use of this minimalism which helps him keep the comic clean and simple but also appealing and effective. There's a big difference between Zoology, though, and other comics that are typically associated with minimalism, such as Cyanide & Happiness, White Ninja, and Toothpaste For Dinner. One key element is that Zoology's simple backgrounds are not only subtle but are well-composed to establish mood and contrast without taking attention away from the characters and dialogue. Here's an example of radial gradients, which are very easy to do, being used to effect, and I think that 5th panel works great even though the background looks really easy to do. This one shows mood shift well, as the first white panel reflects the innocuous situation (from the alligator's perspective), then a sudden contrast with a dark gradient showing danger and confrontation, followed by a radial gradient which emphasizes the action of the panel and its significance in terms of plot resolution, and then the soft gradient reflecting the gross and comedic but happy ending. I think that without this background dynamic, the strip wouldn't be dramatic enough for the "REGURGITATE!" substitute to work. Here's another example of minimalism done well; it's surprisingly effective for a strip that has four identical panels and a homogenous gradient background. However, in this case, the distortion of the gradient adds a lot of visual flavor and again show's Jackhass' skill with simple backgrounds. Some simple effects, like screentones, are also used, and Jackhass mixes in simple hand-drawn backgrounds too which helps prevent the comic from being too abstract. The comic is ripe with simple but effective backgrounds like these, and I think that the typical reader probably wouldn't even notice that they're there, which, IMO, is a testament to their quality. This minimalism is also used well in terms of the writing, because while Baker's and Shandy's pens are never shown in the comic, the wall separating them is a prominent aspect of the strip, and this reflects the psyche of the characters and their overwhelming interest with each other, and also adds a sad but amusing quality to the strip that the wall is so simple but also so powerful and antagonistic.

Zoology is mostly a comic about different relationships, those being Baker & Shandy, the octopi, the zookeepers, the gerbil father and son, and Ernest Ape (with himself), each of which I'll write about individually. There are similarities and problems among the different stories, though. For one, the comic is very male-oriented in its perspectives, which I assume is primarily due to the author being male. While the comic has a style of approaching male mentality in a condescending but honest way that's charming and amusing (at least I wasn't bothered by it despite being a male), I think the one-sidedness is limiting the content. Not only does the strip focus too much on the males, but it seems to me like the females are written by a guy and not as natural as they should be. Not that it's a big issue or an uncommon one, but I thought the females in the comic are pretty flat and unlikeable, and the comic is much more based around the desires and actions of the males towards the females rather than anything the female does or says. Then again, it might make the comic more interesting and amusing to have it be male-oriented like this, but I think it would benefit from having the females be written better and being more developed and there being a more neutral perspective.

The comic has a newspaper style in numerous ways, and I'm not sure how well this works in the webcomics environment. One big concern is the overemphasis on holidays as a theme for comics. This is a popular subject for newspaper comics, since A) it's universal, B) it's unoffensive, C) it provides a theme for writers taxed by daily comics. I don't think these reasons apply here. It might just be my own tastes, but I find holiday comics to generally be uninteresting and redundant, and they're not as practical in webcomics because there's a lot more freedom here in subject matter. Same thing with cursing; in the comic, cursing is self-censored and clean, and I don't see any reason you need to be censoring yourself. If you're adverse to cursing yourself then don't worry about it, but I'm just reminding you that even though Zoology is like a newspaper comic that it's still a webcomic and so it has a different audience and environment.

Another concern with the writing is that it tends to be somewhat clumsy in its execution. Particularly, punctuation marks are often not used correctly or are noticably absent, and there are also typos and spelling errors in the comic. This isn't a big deal, although I would pay more attention to it and possibly get someone to proofread the strips before posting them.

Baker & Shandy: I think this relationship is handled particularly well as a concept, even if the characters aren't that interesting or amusing. Their dynamic is basically a criticism of racism and a testament to the negative impact it has on cultures and relationships. Baker & Shandy get along great, and the reason that they're interested in each other is because, due to the wall separating them, they imagine each other as being a member of the same species (or race.) So, it's really sort of ironic because even though the wall is so limiting and oppressive towards them, the wall's concealment is the only reason that their relationship exists. So, it's optimistic that they've overcome their differences (their "racism") because of this and would probably be accepting of each other if they ever get passed the wall, but it's also sort of tragic that a wall separating them was necessary to bring them together (in that they're driven by a fantasy) and that they would've probably rejected each other due to their differences. It's amusing, though, how easily they assume the animal on the other side is their own species and how easily this assumption manifests itself into a powerful force (to the point where Baker is willing to do anything to get passed the wall.)

Octopi: This is a more typical sort of situation, but handled well, amusingly, and interestingly. I think this one's my favorite and sums it up pretty well. Angsty is very easy to relate to, and that helps his appeal a lot. Probably most of the guys on this forum are like him, and I think there's a self-mockery self-contempt thing going on with him. Like, that we enjoy seeing Angsty suffer because we dislike ourselves. The relationship is pretty interesting since both octopi are so anti-social, problematic, inept, and have low self-esteem. Whereas Angsty is bad at relationships because he's so inexperienced, it seems that the female octopus (whose name I don't remember) has been in too many bad relationships so she's cynical and pessimistic but also understanding. The reason that the female octopus keeps Angsty around is partly because she pities him and partly because it helps her self-esteem to have a guy try so hard to win her over. Not that it's any surprise when they keep breaking up and getting back together. So, I guess this depressed loser guy and depressed loser girl relationship is fun to see develop because it's both realistic and problematic.

Zookeepers: I thought this relationship was pretty flat and uninteresting. Whereas the guy is another depressed and clueless loser like Angsty, the woman has no flaws and makes no mistakes, and also mostly puts up with the guy out of pity. Not that they have an actual relationship, but they do interact a lot and the guy is trying to make a relationship so it seems to count. So, I'd like to see more flaws and problems with the female character, and I'd like to see the relationship develop more, even if it's slowly, since even though the guy is an idiot he's still a sympathetic character (especially since he didn't choose to be a zookeeper.)

Gerbils: Heh, this one's pretty cute. The Dad is pretty childish and immature himself, but since he's a parent he's responsible for his son. I'm wondering where the mother is in this, though, since she's never mentioned but there's no explanation given for her absence. Anyways, the kid's problems are pretty relevant to cartoonists of any age, as I'm sure we're all aware of what it's like to have our work criticized and rejected by others. However, since it's a little kid, it's more cute and innocent than sad. Then again, it seems more than likely that the kid will grow up into an Angsty so there is a darker undertone there. Parenting relationships are pretty over-done in comics, though, and the emphasis on comics is what's keeping it going. I'd suggest shaking it up by introducing the mother or developing the kid and making him older, as it's been explained in the comic that gerbils age pretty fast. Generally, it's a cute set-up but it doesn't seem to have much longevity to it.

Ernest Ape: These strips are ten times funnier than anything else in the comic. Every one was done well and cleverly. When I see an Ernest strip, I know I'm probably gonna be laughing by the end of it. His extreme narcissism is great, and when he's not on air he's either checking himself out in the mirror or dressing up in stylish suits. His advice is so retarded that it's funny to try to imagine how bad his previous relationships were (if there even were any.) The ambiguity of the callers is hilarious, especially in the sense that it's usually unclear whether it's an animal calling or if it's a human calling who has no idea that he's getting relationship advice from an ape in the zoo. I wouldn't change anything about the Ernest comics, and even though they're fairly sparse it only makes it funnier because they're usually in the middle of a sequence when they're least expected. Definitely the best part of the comic.

In order of favorite to least favorite, I'd say, Ernest, Octopi, B&S, Gerbils, Zookeepers, in that order.

Overall, I found the comic to be pretty interesting and enjoyable. The art's great and fine as is, whereas the writing's better than average and could use some work. You might wanna consider pitching Zoology to some newspaper syndicates, as I think it's good enough although the content might be too sophisticated and comics with storylines to this extent are uncommon. Still, though, keep it up! You clearly have a knack for this and I think at this point you mostly just need to practice and experiment and refine your skills.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:30 pm

Webcomic: Derelict
URL: http://derelictcomic.com/
Creator/s: Ben Fleuter
Run: 1/11-current
Schedule: Mondays
Section: Pp. 56-83

FYI, Derelict just got reviewed at The Webcomic Overlook. But I've been wanting to give the comic a read anyways, so here's my take on it.

Website: It has a great-looking industrial feel to it that seems devoid of life -- much like the comic itself. The banner at the top looks particularly cool, and it has the update schedule on it as well, which is a smart move.

The extras look awesome, with videos, a playlist, and even a TV Tropes page. I'll definitely hafta check this stuff out later. There's also plenty of random drawings (some as vote or donation incentives) and fan art, and the webcomic has a store with a few items. And if you wanna talk about it with other readers, Derelict has its own subforum, which seems fairly active.

Some minor issues: The archive page doesn't have the latest 10 or so pages, the supplemental pages have "Updates Mondays and Fridays" in their <title> tags, and the bottom of the site still says "2011."

Writing: The creator's writing's improved quite a bit since the days of Parallel Dementia, which is sort of a significant statement since PD's already a well-written webcomic.

Derelict's a starkly "silent" comic, and it's a quality I'm enthralled with, although I'm unconvinced it'll come across particularly well with a general audience. Derelict muscles through a series of tremendous sequences without really elaborating on the situation other than through the comic's many visual clues. Major elements, like the monster invasion, and some minor elements, like the reoccurring pinwheel, aren't given any substantial context. I'm attracted to this style since I don't mind having to interpret the context -- I enjoy doing that, actually -- but it's possible some readers won't quite grasp the comic's subtleties, or will feel neglected for having to invest a certain extent of effort. Sophistication and depth are positive qualities, though, and Derelict's fans surely appreciate the comic's mature approach.

As for the protagonist, I'm surprised how complex the creator's able to make her despite her barely having any dialogue or interaction with anyone. Rather, her character development's entirely conveyed through the visual cues I referenced above. The first quality that stands out's that despite being in a very unfortunate situation, she's not really as moral or heroic as the reader might expect. She displays a glimpse of compassion when she hesitates to finish off the hijacker, and he uses that momentary vulnerability as an opening to try to kill her. This experience seems to result in the protagonist's actions later on in this scene, when she has the opportunity to rescue some hostages, including a child, but chooses not to. She seems more reluctant this time around to jeopardize her own survival in order to help others, instead coming across as notably selfish, and maybe even a bit evil. Compare this protagonist, for example, to Ripley in Aliens, who's heroically portrayed acting as a sort of surrogate mother for the abandoned child she finds.

Another of the protagonist's interesting aspect's that, while she's shown in military gear and often fights monsters, she never comes across as comfortable in a combat role. Instead, she seems to rely more on quick-thinking, technology, and sheer perseverance, in contrast to the archetypal "action hero," who's more oriented around skill and inherent ability. I mean, what kind of combat veteran pukes after winning a fight? I get the impression that, if this world hadn't gone to hell, the protagonist would probably be a regular person.

Art: The creator's only enhanced his superb knack for coloring over the years, and every page in Derelict's a showcase of elaborate detail, intuitive design, and technical know-how. The creator's also continued to show a preference for the color purple, which I think has developed to become somewhat of a signature of his coloring style. But the quality of the coloring's obvious, and I'm more interested in the penciling, which I viewed as the weakest aspect of PD back in the day. The creator's certainly improved a ton in this area, and is clearly pushing himself to the limit of his abilities, constantly featuring challenging and unusual panels that are very well-executed. While this would be admirable in a collaborative comic, it's particularly notable for a solo creator, who's deliberately providing himself with these artistic hurdles. The amount of effort the creator puts into the artwork is outstanding, and I feel like I don't even need to link any particular pages as examples since every page is a highlight.

The comic's nightmarish monsters have excellent designs and look terrific. On top of their anatomy and clothing being very detailed, the creator's clearly comfortable with drawing them in a variety of poses and perspectives, and even goes so far as to inscribe elaborate runic characters on their arms. The foreignness of the monsters is one of the major strengths of the comic, which is fortunate since Derelict's setting seems to mostly be populated by them.

That said, there are a few issues with the character renderings I was consistently bothered with. The main one's that in the rare scenes where the protagonist's head is fully shown, it always seems too filled-out for her relatively small frame, like the head belongs to an overweight person. I sense that making the character less attractive is intended as part of deviating from the action-hero archetype, but it's a bit too unrealistic for the comic's gritty style, and if the character's gonna look abnormal, I'd expect her to look malnourished if anything. I was also distracted by this guy's fluctuating arm structure, and I don't get the impression the creator was particularly comfortable drawing his muscular arms. The characters on this page and this page could've been drawn a little better too, I think. Of course, I understand the artwork's deliberately cartoony to an extent, and that human anatomy's an intentionally minimal element of this particular webcomic's artwork, but I think the creator still has a bit of practicing to do here. Oddly, this deficiency's somewhat of a by-product of the creator's artistic competence, as the professional-level coloring suggests that there's professional-level line art to go with it.

Another standout aspect of the artwork's the eccentric panel shapes. The creator displays an extraordinary intuition for page design, regularly varying panel shapes and sizes, and using color contrast, both in individual pages and between the comic's various scenes.

Lastly, the creator should consider using a different font. There isn't a lot of dialogue, obviously, but when there is, the text always seems cartoony and out of place. It's possible, as well, that the font might work better if the text wasn't all in uppercase. On the plus side, the hand-drawn monster noises, including the invented language, look excellent.

Overall: The creator's gone from being a promising amateur to bordering on professionalism, and as a result of his dedication and cartooning acumen, Derelict's probably one of the best comics on the web today. It's invigorating to see a creator push his creative limits so much and come out with a project that's not only ambitious, but executed properly as well.
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