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 Shucking Oysters on Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:09 pm

Actually, burn-out's the reason I was sticking to a M-F schedule to begin with -- specifically, I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't. Fortunately, now that results are in, I will be going to a MWF schedule for precisely those reasons. In addition, six weeks should have given me enough time to feel out what was working/not working for pacing/storytelling. I'm a lot more comfortable writing straight narratives, and this medium presents its own set of challenges. Again, fortunately, it has given me a pretty good feel for how I want to approach this now to tell the story properly.

So again, thanks for your help, and I look forward to further insight.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:57 pm

I'll add that, at this stage, I think it's really important to be able to identify what things you're comfortable drawing, and what thing you aren't comfortable drawing, and to work on those things that you aren't comfortable drawing. The first time it's really tough, and the first few times it's still tough, but eventually, if you keep doing it over and over, it gets easier and enters your comfort zone, in which case you can pursue a new challenge. And that's basically how people get good at drawing over time.

The relevant part, here, is that artists can feel intimidated about leaving their comfort zone, and instead choose to draw things the way they're already comfortable with. There are some valid reasons for this -- it's easier, it takes less time, and it has a higher probability of turning out not looking like a mess. But this leads to repetition and stagnancy, as the artist gains confidence drawing specific things, which can even add to that sense of intimidation to attempt things they're "bad at." A good example of this, which I've mentioned in my reviews, is when artists who aren't comfortable drawing hands (probably the hardest part of anatomy to draw well) always draw characters with their hands in their pockets, or behind their backs, or off-panel, and they never really learn how to draw hands. And since they don't know how to draw hands, they feel intimidated and hide the characters' hands again, which goes on and on in a loop.

And if it isn't obvious, while I often commend having a frequent update schedule (or deride infrequent updates), there's definitely a sense of balancing quantity and quality involved. An artist who draws a great-looking page once a week may very well impress me more than the artist who rushes out underwhelming pages daily. A drastic example of this is the awful Nuzlocke comic I reviewed a little while ago, where the creator commented that he intended to make seven strips a day. I think every webcartoonist with even a little experience would realize how terrible of an idea this is, but when you're just starting out, it can sometimes be really difficult to form a proper perspective of what you're doing.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:33 pm

Here's my take on some of the Internet's most prominent webcomic review blogs. The following are listed in alphabetical order.


Blog: Tangents Reviews
URL: http://www.tangents.us/
Reviewer: Robert A. Howard
Section/s: 7/12
Average Word Count: 413

I found this blog to be somewhat misleading, as while it has the word "reviews" in its title, and clearly promotes having webcomic reviews, none of its posts gave me the impression of resembling anything close to an actual review. Instead, what Howard does is provide brief commentary about a specific aspect of a webcomic he feels like writing about, effectively "going off on a tangent." These commentaries are fresh and interesting, and Howard has a comfortable and confident writing style that I find appealing, but I'd prefer it if the blog was presented in a more honest and straightforward way. This narrow approach does have some merits, though, in that it provides an in-depth analysis of a particular part of the comic that a review, approaching the comic in a more general manner, would probably only touch on briefly. However, because the subjects are so acute, the commentaries seem targeted at fans of the comics being discussed, rather than to a general webcomic-reading audience. Because of its esoteric nature, Tangents Reviews isn't as enjoyable to read or informative as other review sites, even though its writing's of a relatively high quality.


Blog: The Webcomic Overlook
URL: http://webcomicoverlook.com/
Reviewer: "El Santo"
Section/s: 5/12-7/12
Average Word Count: 629 (short)/1338 (long)

This is the No. 1 webcomic reviewer by far. Witty writing, a knack for comics, and a solid variety of scoring make this a particularly fun and engaging blog to read, and the "Ridiculously Long Webcomic Reviews" are significantly more elaborate and insightful than what other blogs offer. The blog also features "Small, Bite-Sized Reviews," which are often longer than the other sites' normal reviews. And while other review blogs tend to give every webcomic an "A" rating or equivalent, The Webcomic Overlook's average rating for this period is 3.3 stars out of five, which includes a couple one-star reviews. I'd like it if the reviews had a greater focus on the webcomics' artwork, as that aspect gets brushed aside to an extent in favor of the excellent writing analysis, but The Webcomic Overlook definitely sets the standard that other review blogs should look up to.

Note that the 1338-word average for the "Ridiculously Long Webcomic Reviews" excludes the massive, 3373-word review of The Least I Could Do that El Santo wrote to celebrate his 200th long review.


Blog: WebcomicZ
URL: http://www.webcomicz.com/
Reviewer: Caitlin Hart
Section/s: 2012
Average Word Count: 648

Hart's reviews are reasonably detailed, but, unfortunately, almost all of this detail's put into summarizing the webcomic's concept and plot, which results in a series of tedious and uninspired posts. One notable example of this disconnect between summary and analysis is Hart's review of The Super Fogeys, in which she begins the last paragraph with "We’ll start the critique with [...]" -- that line comes after she's already written 70 percent of the review. Hart's anemic criticism seriously undermines the worth of her blog. She's able to clearly demonstrate that she read the webcomic she's reviewing, but who cares about that if the reader doesn't get anything out of it? I think a reviewer should try to approach a webcomic from the perspective of an expert, and that means presenting a keen and insightful understanding of the comic's strengths and weaknesses. And while not every reviewer will consider themselves to be an expert in writing or illustration, I think everyone's capable of demonstrating an intimate familiarity with the webcomic they're reviewing. So, while they might not be an expert of comics in general, they can be an expert of the particular webcomic they're reviewing, and provide the perspective of someone who's carefully read and considered that webcomic. In Hart's case, merely giving a plot summary isn't expert-level commentary; rather, it's something that even the most casual reader would observe. She also gives the webcomics she reviews an average rating of "A-," which suggests to me she's reluctant to discuss webcomics' more negative aspects.

The blog also has a review written by Sergio Ragno (misspelled as "Sergio Rango"), a.k.a. Comic Genesis' SergeXIII. This review's much better than any of Hart's, as it's primarily focused on analysis. However, at only 383 words, the review's very short, and it suffers because Ragno doesn't elaborate as much as he could've.


Blog: Webcomic Reviews Every Monday!
URL: http://webcomicsweekly.tumblr.com/
Reviewer: ?
Section/s: 4/12-7/12
Average Word Count: 1053

This anonymous reviewer might be the most highly skilled writer featured in this article, but I can't stand his or her reviews because they're all so over-the-top in praise for the webcomics being reviewed. Employing flowery prose and punchy lines, this reviewer seems more concerned with flexing his or her literary muscle than discussing anything of substance, and the endless depictions of jaw-dropping awe at every aspect of every webcomic being reviewed quickly gets redundant. It's almost as if this reviewer's central motivation is trying to one-up their previous efforts in extravagance. It's unclear whether the overly positive nature of the reviews is due to the selection of webcomics, or whether it's related to the reviewer's inability (or unwillingness) to discern faults, but either way, the drastic lack of variety is this blog's major downfall. If there was even one review here that evaluated a webcomic as being merely "good," I would have a higher opinion of this blog, but, unfortunately, that isn't the case. The blog also has a strange habit of including an elaborate "Warnings" section, which catalogs the violent, sexual, drug-related, or potentially offensive material in the comics being reviewed. I don't inherently object to this method of cautioning sensitive readers, but I'd prefer if it was presented in a way that was more relevant to the rest of the review. These "mature" subjects could also potentially be the most interesting part of the webcomic being reviewed, so I think the reviewer may be missing opportunities by treating these elements as "unwholesome" topics that readers could be averted by.


Blog: Your Webcomics!
URL: http://www.yourwebcomics.com/
Reviewer: "Jack"
Section/s: 4/12-7/12
Average Word Count: 378

Jack has a keen and intuitive perception of comics, which allows him to provide some insightful analysis of the art and writing in the comics he reviews. On top of that, he's also a pretty good writer. This blog has some decent potential, but, unfortunately, it's perpetually hampered by the extremely brief nature of the reviews, which prevents them from providing any substantial amount of commentary. Jack identifies highlights and deficiencies in the comics he reviews, as well as indicating their notable stylistic aspects, but without taking the time to elaborate on these subjects, I don't consider reading these underdeveloped reviews to be particular worthwhile. Jack also has a meek and almost reluctant tone when bringing up comics' faults, and I'd prefer to see him take a bolder approach. As a result of his overly amiable attitude, it's unclear if the comics he reviews are great based on their own merits, or if it's because Jack's uncomfortable with being negative about their work. I think this gray area compromises Jack's credibility as a reviewer.


Overall: I'm pretty disappointed in the current state of webcomic review blogs, as out of the five I listed here, Tangents Reviews and The Webcomic Overlook are the only ones I have high regards for, and The Webcomic Overlook's the only one I'd continue to visit. I'm also somewhat surprised that there's such a limited selection of webcomic reviewers, considering that the number of actual webcomics around seem to number in the thousands. The Bad Webcomics Wiki has gained some clout, but I consider it to be more of a bad joke than a legitimate effort, which is why I didn't bother making an entry for it here. Ideally, I'd like to see an increase in the number of competent reviewers, as quality reviews legitimately recognize artistic accomplishments, encourage the perception of webcomics as a serious endeavor, provide creators with useful feedback, and help instruct novice creators.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:40 pm

Sorry 'bout disappearing 'n' all. I'm kinda pissed about not posting anything for a while, but I got buried in work for a couple weeks, and I don't like to complain about that kinda stuff. I guess doing these reviewer reviews might've taken a little extra time, as well.

Anyways, things've settled down some, and should be a li'l more normal. Next on my plate's a webcomic called Facebrooks, by a guy named Brooks (ha ha, get it), and after that, it'll be Shucking Oysters, by a guy named Shucking Oysters.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:14 pm

You brought up a lot of good points in that analysis I think.

One thing that bothers me about a lot of webcomic review sites is that so many of them only want to talk about the same couple comics everyone's already trod and trashed or praised. I've seen so many reviews for Penny Arcade, XKCD, CAD, Dominic Deegan, and a small handful of other "big name" comics, and it's just the same tired things every time, generally. I like that El Santo writes often about comics I've never heard of, because to me, one important thing a reviewer does is bring comics that might get overlooked into the public eye (for better or worse). I understand that for some critics who are in it for the "fame", it's easier to get readers to your blog if you talk about those oft-mentioned big names that everyone wants go go look at and read right away. I also understand that it can be a lot of effort for little reward to review a small-time comic in a situation where the comic isn't good or bad, but just uncomfortably mediocre, as if the creator isn't really trying (I find those are the hardest reviews to write, myself). Or creepy uncomfortable fetish/torture/political and religious propaganda and other unsavory items. As a reviewer you have the option to avoid certain works if you would prefer, but keeping oneself to just those comics everyone's already heard of is pretty limiting from a creative standpoint.


Though perhaps this has changed in recent years, but a few years ago I went on a review-site binge and that was the consensus I saw.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:11 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:An artist who draws a great-looking page once a week may very well impress me more than the artist who rushes out underwhelming pages daily. A drastic example of this is the awful Nuzlocke comic I reviewed a little while ago...

...or mcDuffies

I liked your reviewiews, seems like you hate the same thing about reviews as I do. I would have liked to see what you thought of review's grading. If a reviewer gave The Least I could Do five stars, I wouldn't care how skilled writer he was.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:08 am

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:One thing that bothers me about a lot of webcomic review sites is that so many of them only want to talk about the same couple comics everyone's already trod and trashed or praised. I've seen so many reviews for Penny Arcade, XKCD, CAD, Dominic Deegan, and a small handful of other "big name" comics, and it's just the same tired things every time, generally.

Things must've changed since your review binge, since, aside from Tangents Reviews, I didn't notice this problem while reading these blogs. Tangents is a big offender, though, commenting on big-names like Girl Genius, Deegan, XKCD, Questionable Content, Megatokyo, and El Goonish Shive just in the last month.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I like that El Santo writes often about comics I've never heard of, because to me, one important thing a reviewer does is bring comics that might get overlooked into the public eye (for better or worse).

I agree, and I'm very pleased, for example, that he brought up Derelict, as it seems like almost a crime that such a terrific webcomic isn't more well-known.

The flip-side of this, as I mentioned a few times in my post, is that, for some blogs, it's hard to give much weight to their recommendations since they give so much praise to every webcomic they review. In the case of El Santo, if a webcomic's bad, you can be confident that he'll actually tell you it's bad.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I understand that for some critics who are in it for the "fame", it's easier to get readers to your blog if you talk about those oft-mentioned big names that everyone wants go go look at and read right away.

It's certainly tempting. The No. 1 factor of reviews is quality, though, and I don't think reviewing PA and such is gonna give anyone instant fame if their reviews are poorly written.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I also understand that it can be a lot of effort for little reward to review a small-time comic in a situation where the comic isn't good or bad, but just uncomfortably mediocre, as if the creator isn't really trying (I find those are the hardest reviews to write, myself). Or creepy uncomfortable fetish/torture/political and religious propaganda and other unsavory items. As a reviewer you have the option to avoid certain works if you would prefer, but keeping oneself to just those comics everyone's already heard of is pretty limiting from a creative standpoint.

The selection should have a good variety because webcomics have a good variety. That's why El Santo's 3.3 average stands out to me as being commendable. Reviewers who give 4/5 or 5/5 to everything need to be less picky about what they choose to review.

McDuffies wrote:...or mcDuffies

I get the impression that a lot of inexperienced creators make that mistake, though. There's a certain degree of refinement involved in having the patience to make high-quality pages.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby Shucking Oysters on Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:27 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:Ideally, I'd like to see an increase in the number of competent reviewers, as quality reviews legitimately recognize artistic accomplishments, encourage the perception of webcomics as a serious endeavor, provide creators with useful feedback, and help instruct novice creators.


...Says our resident reviewer....


Anyways, things've settled down some, and should be a li'l more normal. Next on my plate's a webcomic called Facebrooks, by a guy named Brooks (ha ha, get it), and after that, it'll be Shucking Oysters, by a guy named Shucking Oysters.


No worries, take your time. 8-)
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:14 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:Things must've changed since your review binge, since, aside from Tangents Reviews, I didn't notice this problem while reading these blogs. Tangents is a big offender, though, commenting on big-names like Girl Genius, Deegan, XKCD, Questionable Content, Megatokyo, and El Goonish Shive just in the last month.

He seems to be copying Websnark big time. Except that as I remember, Websnark guy was always insisting that he's not a reviewer so much as just blogging about his favourite comics.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:21 am

Shucking Oysters wrote:...Says our resident reviewer....

It'd be nice if I'm able to set a positive example for someone. I see webcomic reviews as being in a very primitive state, sort of like how webcomics were in the '90s. I don't know if reviewing will develop past this point or not, but it clearly has a lot of room to grow.

mcDuffies wrote:He seems to be copying Websnark big time. Except that as I remember, Websnark guy was always insisting that he's not a reviewer so much as just blogging about his favourite comics.

That's exactly what Howard does -- he blogs about the webcomics he regularly reads. And that's fine -- webcomics are as legitimate a topic to blog about as any -- but there's something schizophrenic about how insistent he is in presenting his blogging as reviewing. Looking at his blog's "About" page, he uses the words "review," "reviews," or "reviewer" a total of seven times, not to mention that the title of the blog also has the word "reviews" in it.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby McDuffies on Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:25 am

Yeah, that's totally not what that word means.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:27 am

He just means it like "to view again."
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:14 pm

Webcomic: Facebrooks
URL: http://powpowcomics.com/
Creator/s: Brooks M. Williams
Run: 1/10-current
Schedule: Daily
Section/s: Strips 388-417; "Status Updates" 30-34

Website: For a story-based webcomic with hundreds of strips, the archive's surprisingly disorganized. With no clear indication of where to jump in, I just went back 30 strips, which ended up being right in the middle of a scene. The latest chapter actually starts with Strip No. 401, but there's no way to know that just by looking at the site.

The site presents itself as a webcomics hub, under the banner of "Pow Pow! Comics," but this strategy seems premature to me. One of the webcomics, titled MindCrush, is billed as a "weekly" comic, but has only posted one page since it started in June, and another, titled Some Webcomic, is more of a doodle comic than anything serious. That leaves Facebrooks: Status Updates, which seems more like comic-related "extras" to me than a separate webcomic.

The resulting comic-style banner at the top's also a little busy, considering it's less than 100 pixels above the actual comic. It'd be nice if it was mapped so that each comic image featured on the banner was its own link, but I guess that isn't possible with the WordPress framework.

It's great that the comic updates daily, and also has a lot of commentary from the creator. It's always nice for readers to be able to learn about the creator's thought process behind the comics. The creator also does a good job of utilizing social media to help promote the comic. (This is a relief to me, as for a comic called Facebrooks, I'd be kinda shocked if it didn't have a Facebook page.)

While the site's black, white, and gray colors go with the comic's black-and-white artwork, it seems too plain to me, and could probably stand to be prettied up a bit. There also isn't any bonus content aside from the "hub" webcomics, so adding something like wallpapers or concept art would help to make the website be a little more substantial.

Writing: Autobiography's tricky because it's difficult to see one's personal experiences through the lens of a a reader. Even fictional concepts can pose problems for less skilled writers, as the elaborate settings and backstories can be vibrant in their imaginations, yet never properly make the transition onto the actual pages. However, with fiction, huge portions of the characters' lives are deliberately left blank, whereas when writing about yourself, you have an entire lifetime of memories to deal with.

The creator describes his webcomic as "definitely not new reader friendly in the least bit," explaining that it "has two different threads rolling along in it, plus a whole bunch of extra history in the margins as well." Then, after stating he doesn't blame new readers for not being able to understand the strips, he politely reminds them, with a smiley face, that "you can definitely start from the beginning and work your way up" -- "the beginning" being, in this case, more than 400 strips into the archive.

The reason these comments stand out to me's that, while reading through the section, I had the pervasive impression that this was an esoteric work meant not for my own pleasure, but rather for the enjoyment of others -- the established readership. Characters abruptly enter and exit scenes with no real explanation of who they are or why they're treated with such importance; sexual themes are brought to the forefront with no clear connection between their occurrences; and the author's self-insertion's portrayed with a heavy weight of history in a way that seems to assume the reader's already intimately familiar with his persona. Chapter Three begins to show promise with its grounded and compelling depictions of Schaumburg, Ill., but that cohesion's quickly lost in the tangled web of the the title character's personal relationships.

This creator's writing ability's clearly well above average, as demonstrated by his strong dialogue, keen pacing, and humble portrayal of himself. Because of this, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and presume that if Facebrooks was read in the intended manner -- that is, from the beginning -- that it'd be an engaging and worthwhile experience. However, it's just not realistic to expect more than a fringe minority of potential readers to invest the time needed in order to go through hundreds of strips. Instead, readers tend to approach webcomics in a much more casual fashion. Many online commentators have lamented the demise of attention spans in the era of Twitter and YouTube, but nevertheless, this is the environment that webcomic creators must work within and master.

It's fairly often that my reviews are criticized for merely analyzing a section of a webcomic as opposed to its entire archive. The argument, in its essence, is that it's unfair to accuse a comic of lacking context when it isn't being read in the way the creator intended. By now, I've managed to refine my rebuttal to two main points. The first is that there's a whole spectrum of ways that readers will approach and evaluate webcomics, many of which lie outside of the creator's primary intention, and an effort should be made to accommodate a variety of preferences. One example of this, which is particularly relevant in this case, is how webcomics can satisfy their current fan base, while also appealing to new readers. The second is that reviews should being aligned with the perspectives of regular readers. It's true that reading a webcomic's full archive gives a more complete understanding of it, but that doesn't seem particularly relevant to me when readers are far more likely to be introduced to a comic by reading a limited portion of it. Mainstream print comics have adapted to this problem by including a flashy cover illustration, a plot synopsis, and an action sequence in every issue, enticing new readers to jump in at any point of the ongoing story.

As "an easy jumping-off point," the site offers a spin-off series called Facebrooks: Status Updates. This is a gag-style strip that features characters from Facebrooks, while not having anything to do with the storyline. These strips don't follow the setup-to-punchline formula of gag comics, though, instead offering a glimpse into the lives of Facebrooks' weird characters. I read a few of these strips, and I didn't find them to be at all funny or interesting, although I suppose they'd be more appealing if I was more familiar with the characters involved. However, this assertion seems counterintuitive to the spin-off's stated purpose of being a "jumping-off point."

Art: The comic's bizarre designs are a major draw, as it continually strings along a series of surreal-looking and highly unique characters. I associate this style of illustration more with cartoons than with comics, and the creator seems to confirm this when he mentions he's pursuing a career in animation. These exaggerated appearances also make it easy to tell the characters apart, which is helpful since this section includes a lot of them.

Facebrooks excels at every technical aspect, including consistent anatomy, varied perspectives, quality hatching, detailed backgrounds, good line-width variation, expressive body postures, solid panel composition, firm line control, and clear and attractive hand-lettering. I think the creator's reached a professional level of illustration, which is very important for the comic, as having high-quality artwork's probably the No. 1 way to draw in new readers. (Whether or not they stick around, of course, is another matter.)

While I definitely consider the characters' strange appearances to be a positive element, I'm still somewhat surprised at just how strange they are. The title character, for example, with his long ears, pointy hat, and disproportionate body looks more like an alien or goblin than a human. Other characters look more like robots or animals than people. It's possible that the creator's using this fantastic imagery to ironically emphasize how mundane the comic's real-life situations are, and if that's the case, then I consider it to be an effective strategy.

Overall: This is a creator who's obviously very talented, but he hasn't yet figured out how to properly utilize that talent for a webcomic format. In his own words, he "can instantly see a whole bunch of newbies faces caving in at trying to comprehend this," and I think this lack of accessibility is as big of a problem as more obvious hurdles, like low-quality art or writing, would be. Once the creator gets better at presenting his ideas, though, and comes up with a more appealing website, I can see Facebrooks becoming a very popular webcomic. I'd actually be pretty surprised if a creator of this caliber doesn't at some point end up working on a professional level, whether it's in comics or animation.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:14 am

Sigourney3 wrote:That would be great. Could you review the live now "Fury of Solace" superhero transmedia webseries that includes comic book pages as part of the overall transmedia experience, with live action videos, ARG's, original songs, character tweetin & blogging, etc.? Go to furyofsolace.com and check out the episodes + @furyofsolace (Twitter).
Sigourey

You've got a cool concept, but I'm more interested in reviewing actual webcomics.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Aug 20, 2012 2:11 pm

Webcomic: Shucking Oysters
URL: http://shuckingoysters.comicgenesis.com/
Creator/s: Gerald Cox
Run: 6/12-current
Schedule: M/W/F

Website: The site's blue, gray, and white layout's plain, but it's also easy on the eyes and doesn't distract from the comic. It'd be nice if it had more personality, though, and reflected the nature of the comic to an extent.

Navigating the site's easy, with buttons at the top and bottom of the pages, and its compact layout has the navigation, information, and e-mail address all centered together at the bottom of the page.

The cast page has short bios containing basic info, which is how I think they should be, and the entries have some charm to them as well. Ideally, the site would have some other extras as well, such as concept art, wallpapers, or miscellaneous information.

Lastly, the creator's been very prolific and consistent so far, first updating daily, and then changing the schedule to three times a week.

Writing: I mentioned in my review of Koji Takahashi Stops the World that a "What if..." question can be a solid premise for a story, and Shucking Oysters presents a compelling question of its own: What if an adult got to experience their childhood all over again? And this leads to other questions: How would they regard their parents differently? How would their interactions with other children be affected? Do they have any decisions they regret, and would reconsider if given a second chance? Would they take advantage of their unnatural intelligence, maturity, and knowledge of the future to give themselves a better life than they original had? And would they consider this drastic change to be a blessing, a curse, or a bit of both?

Shucking Oysters, however, avoids the substantial and intriguing aspects of its premise, instead merely focusing on the disoriented victimhood of its protagonist, Elisa. After a brief bout of denial, she ends up as a withdrawn, wisecracking kid, continually bitter about being deprived of her adulthood and the things she associates with it: "A career, a flat, a car... boobs...." With the story 58 pages in, though, that's about the full extent of her character development and introspection, and the comic has barely tried to take advantage of the abundant potential the time-travel premise offers. One particularly poignant instance of this is when Elisa and another time traveler, C.J., realize they have foreknowledge of 24 years of major events that haven't happened yet, which should be a major plot point, yet that conversation quickly dissolves into a weak pot joke and is forgotten. This type of humor wouldn't be as much of a problem if the story had more going on, but at this point, the anemic narrative is already desperate for more meaty subject matter. Her British accent and colloquialisms, despite being born in America, give her dialogue a bit of distinction, although the charm of this is somewhat lost on the reader since it isn't written in dialect.

C.J.'s a more interesting character than Elisa since he approaches their predicament with a degree of ambivalence. Carefree and immature, he feels more comfortable being in a child's role, and I think he recognizes some of the positive aspects of adolescence as well. After all, doesn't everyone harbor a sense of nostalgia for the simpler, more innocent days of their youth? Being a "pharmacist, husband, and father of two girls," C.J. seems, to an extent, to feel relieved of the stress and responsibility inherent in adult life. I would've liked to see these complexities explored more in the story, though, as C.J. still seems largely undeveloped due to his role as the comic relief balancing out Elisa's despondency.

The writing takes the setup-to-punchline formula of gag comics and extends it to fit a long-form comic, and this has the effect of helping each page stand on its own more than they would otherwise. This is a reasonable strategy for making the page-at-a-time approach of webcomics more palatable, but Shucking Oysters has a poor sense of timing with its jokes, leaving much of its humor feeling forced and unnatural. I think the comic's actually at its best when it's being more serious, and the part that impressed me the most is the brief scene where Elisa's mother tries to bond with her depressed daughter. Unfortunately, the creator felt compelled to conclude these emotional pages with more of his lame punchlines, which are probably the weakest gags in the entire comic. This scene probably would've been more effective had it been played straight, and I think it's worth reminding that even the funniest stories often have tender, dramatic moments that help the audience care about what happens to the characters.

Art: After a dismal beginning, the creator has slowed down to updating three times a week, and the artwork's improved dramatically since the earlier pages. Anatomy's grown more consistent, the figures and backgrounds are more detailed, panel composition shows more variety, and the coloring's reasonably shaded.

Despite these improvements, though, Shucking Oysters is still largely a "talking heads" comic. By this, I mean that it's a dialogue-focused comic littered with repetitive neck-up or waist-up shots. "Talking heads" comics, while primitive, are popular with newer creators since they're easier to draw, and many inexperienced creators don't fully appreciate the importance of a comic's visual aspects. This comic's certainly guilty of that, with one of the most notable instances being this page; not only are the characters only shown neck- or shoulder-up, but panels 4-6 are obviously copy-pasted, with only their facial expressions being changed, and the first panel has identical poses. The characters are also shown in the same 3/4 perspective about 90% of the time throughout the comic, and almost always from the same straight-on view (with this top-down view being a significant exception).

Since the characters are almost always drawn in the same pose and perspective, you'd expect the creator would be very capable at drawing them that way by now, but he still struggles at drawing his characters' heads. I think the root of the problem's that he's drawing his characters as two-dimensional objects, not fully taking into consideration the way the various planes of the face change in appearance when tilted away from the viewer. The most blatant effect of this is that the characters' cheeks don't wrap around enough, causing them to stick out way more than they would in real life. While the characters are obviously meant to look cartoony to an extent, I can't accept these huge cheeks as being a deliberate part of the comic's style since in the rare instances where a character's seen front-on, they're fairly properly proportioned. The two-dimensional visuals also cause issues when three-dimensional shading's concerned; take this page for example. In the top panel, the woman's two-dimensional nose somehow blocks the sunlight from her right cheek, and in the second panel, the man's huge nose doesn't cast any shadow at all, despite seeming to stick half-a-foot off his face. The last facet of this two-dimensional problem is the line-width variation, which is used to create the illusion of depth by making some objects seem closer to the viewer than others. The creator's gotten somewhat better at this, but take, for example, the third panel of that page, in which the lines of the hand holding the bottle in the foreground are the same width as the table it's resting on, the body behind it, and the wooden post in the background. This lack of variation creates a disconnect between what the viewer's eyes recognize (the objects being the same distance away) and what makes visual sense (certain objects being closer to the viewer than others).

What's the remedy for these inadequacies, then? Even though Shucking Oysters is a cartoony-looking comic, practice with realistic figure drawing is essential for every artist. Doing this is not only necessary for mastering the fundamentals of human anatomy, but it also helps condition an artist to perceive the world in a more visual way, allowing them to pick up on the subtleties that separate good art from great art. The great cartoonists associated with simpler illustrations are always very capable of drawing in a more realistic manner, and it's very easy (at least for a trained eye) to tell the cartoony illustrations of an inexperienced artist apart from those of a skilled one.

Lastly, the borders of the speech bubbles are consistently too thick, and they detract from the artwork somewhat. In general, the speech bubbles shouldn't have thicker lines than those used for objects in the foreground.

Overall: In the introduction to his book Pussey!, Daniel Clowes writes, "Spending years in a room working on stuff that nobody likes in a debased medium for no money can take its toll on your self-esteem." Starting out in webcomics is very daunting, as the time and effort required in order to bring your craft up to a respectable level can be a huge obstacle to overcome. Fame and fortune in this field don't come overnight, if ever, and nobody started out making stellar pages. That said, before Shucking Oysters will be capable of gaining a significant audience, it'll need to move past its weak humor, poor characterization, and lack of a coherent plot, and the creator will need to be able to demonstrate a mastery of the basic elements of drawing. This process could take years of hard work, but judging by the progress made in just the last month, it appears the creator's most likely ready for the challenge.

edit: fixed bad link
Last edited by LibertyCabbage on Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby Shucking Oysters on Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:30 pm

The worst part of having friends, I've found, is that even when they tell you the truth, it's heavily biased with a sense that they want you to continue to like them.

I can honestly say i'm not disappointed in this review at all, but neither is it entirely what I expected (and that's a very good thing). Our opinions largely overlap, and while that's not always a good thing as sometimes a writer/artist is often only looking for validation, I think this has helped me nail down where some of the problems are coming from and which strengths to focus on. The real what-if aspect has always been upcoming, but it's past time to move it closer to the forefront. The mother-daughter bonding scene was cut short (very piss-poorly) by my own skittishness -- if this is going to go forward properly, then this needs to be fleshed out so other issues can be properly addressed. I think the largest problem with the writing has been my own reluctance to move things 'too quickly' and as such I've let certain developments carry on too slowly and have missed opportunities which were present in the original scripts. A writer needs to trust his instincts, and I'm afraid that I've let the publish-as-you-go aspect get in the way of that.

As for the art -- yeah, still no arguments, just a basis for further practice and one question which I'll post elsewhere since it's been bugging the hell out of me since I switched to digital.

Your insight has been invaluable and you have my sincere gratitude!
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:53 pm

Shucking Oysters wrote:The worst part of having friends, I've found, is that even when they tell you the truth, it's heavily biased with a sense that they want you to continue to like them.

Yeah, I'd say one of the biggest rules of webcomics is to not take the opinions of friends and family too seriously. A lot of newer cartoonists get unrealistic expectations 'cause their little brother thinks their comics are "totally awesome." It can be tough to resist affirmation like that when you're starting out, though.

Shucking Oysters wrote:I can honestly say i'm not disappointed in this review at all, but neither is it entirely what I expected (and that's a very good thing). Our opinions largely overlap, and while that's not always a good thing as sometimes a writer/artist is often only looking for validation, I think this has helped me nail down where some of the problems are coming from and which strengths to focus on. The real what-if aspect has always been upcoming, but it's past time to move it closer to the forefront. The mother-daughter bonding scene was cut short (very piss-poorly) by my own skittishness -- if this is going to go forward properly, then this needs to be fleshed out so other issues can be properly addressed. I think the largest problem with the writing has been my own reluctance to move things 'too quickly' and as such I've let certain developments carry on too slowly and have missed opportunities which were present in the original scripts. A writer needs to trust his instincts, and I'm afraid that I've let the publish-as-you-go aspect get in the way of that.

Pacing can be really tricky to get right, and it's one of the reasons why it can take years of practice to get a good grip on writing for (web)comics. Moving too quickly or too slowly with the story, though, can definitely be a big problem.

Shucking Oysters wrote:As for the art -- yeah, still no arguments, just a basis for further practice and one question which I'll post elsewhere since it's been bugging the hell out of me since I switched to digital.

It might be a really good idea, too, to get a book on figure drawing if you don't have one yet. I've personally studied my copy of Christopher Hart's Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy quite a bit, and I've found it to be very useful.

Shucking Oysters wrote:Your insight has been invaluable and you have my sincere gratitude!

You're welcome! I hope I was thorough enough.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:20 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:It might be a really good idea, too, to get a book on figure drawing if you don't have one yet. I've personally studied my copy of Christopher Hart's Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy quite a bit, and I've found it to be very useful.


I've got a few Chris Hart books in my collection - Figure It Out! the Beginner's Guide to Drawing People is a good one - but I'd also recommend getting one decent Anatomy for the Artist book.

It's actually quite surprising the amount of books you can amass learning to draw. Some solely for a single page lesson you didn't find elsewhere.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:38 pm

Webcomic: Scribbles
URL: http://storyspace.smackjeeves.com/
Creator/s: Robert Bracey
Run: 1/10-7/12
Schedule: Once a week

Scribbles features four short stories, which range between six and 18 pages. Each of the stories has its writing, art, and technical aspects evaluated below.

Website: The black-and-white layout's extremely basic, and it appears the creator's put little to no effort into making the site more visually appealing.

The site has a disorganized section for concept art, and the miscellaneous pieces there aren't related to the comics on the site. There are a few "preview" panels there for the site's stories; however, now that time has passed and the stories have been posted, these "preview" panels are clearly redundant.


"Ranting at the Edge of the Apocalypse," January 2010, 6 pages

Writing: Jabbing at Indian call centers, Nigerian phishing scams, and horror movie stereotypes, this extended monologue reads like an uninspired stand-up routine. The concept left me scratching my head, as the narration had no connection with the miscellaneous zombie illustrations, and this story seems poorly suited for the comic form. Perhaps it would've fared better as prose?

Art: The excellent zombie drawings throughout the story showcase the creator's aptitude with the horror genre. He's also able to render the attractive female protagonist fairly well, although her appearances lack consistency, especially in certain panels here and here where she's shown as having a significantly wider face. The abundance of variety in the poses and perspectives help this static story stay fresh.

Technical: The last page is posted twice, and it's baffling to me that the story's been posted for more than two-and-a-half years without this obvious mistake being corrected.


"The Viziers Tower," January 2010, 18 pages

Writing: This exciting story features an Aladdin-esque hero relying on his courage, wit, and athleticism to flee from a powerful genie. At one point in the story, the genie cartoonishly reveals to the hero how it can be defeated, and while this is clearly portrayed as a product of its arrogance, I still have somewhat of a difficult time accepting that the genie could really be that incompetent. The elaborate action sequence involved is well-choreographed, although it gets to be overly tedious, and I would've preferred the story to have been resolved in fewer pages.

Art: The muscular genie has an impressive amount of anatomical detail, while the hero's drawn somewhat less capably. There's also a notable amount of effort put into depicting the interior of the tower, which has been converted into a improvised battlefield.

Technical: Elaborate, colorful mosaics make up the pages' extensive borders, and while this technique gives the story an exotic aesthetic, it's distracting from the artwork and takes up too much space. The layout haphazardly switches between fairly standard pages and extremely horizontal ones, somewhat in the vein on infinite canvas. I'm not a fan of this approach, as the horizontal scrolling feels clunky and unnecessary, and the creator makes the situation worse by awkwardly "stacking" portions of these horizontal pages. Also, I'm not particularly concerned with the comic's typos, but it's less excusable to make a mistake in the story's title, which is missing the apostrophe both on the cover page and in the site's archives.


"Dix's Magical Mystery Hour: The Burghmeister Case," April 2011, 14 pages

Writing: Taking on the familiar Sherlock Holmes concept, the creator adds his own twist by complicating the mystery with elements of magical fantasy. The superfluous pages from "The Viziers Tower" would have been better spent here, as the political intrigue and mental maneuvering are clearly rushed, the characters are all underdeveloped, and the story lacks a proper conclusion.

Art: The comic's designed in an unusual way that resembles medieval artwork to an extent. The backgrounds and period outfits both show a significant amount of detail, with the creator using liberal hatching to convey a gritty, dated feel. The font also has an antiquated look to it, and while obviously digital, it gives the appearance of being methodically inked by hand.

Technical: Color-coding the speech bubbles is a reasonable way to try to make the long-winded dialogue fit into the cramped panels, but the colors used are garish and go poorly with the subdued drawings. In addition, the decision to make the bubbles semi-transparent is highly questionable. The tails are tiny and can be difficult to recognize, and many of the bubbles don't have tails, which fosters somewhat of a disconnected feel. This story might benefit from having larger pages.


"The Question," July 2012, 12 pages, with guest writer W.A.O Draper

Writing: Seeking out a wise man on top of a mountain's a cliché, and this fable doesn't offer an original take on it aside from substituting a dragon for the wise man. The story's moral of "be humble" isn't very coherent, and the focus on the triumph of an Average Joe over the intellectual elite offers little substance besides representing a populist bent.

Art: The stylish watercolors, attractive furries, and Eastern aesthetics combine to make a brilliant presentation. A lot of detail's put into the various locations featured throughout the story, and the snake-like dragon looks notably intimidating and majestic.

Technical: The site's title for the story is "The Question," but the first page prominently displays the title as "The Answer." As I mentioned previously, titles are particularly important, and extra attention should be given towards making sure that titles are consistent.


Overall: Throughout his four stories, the creator's demonstrated creative artistic approaches, strong design skills, and high-quality illustrations; however, the writing continually lags behind, leaving the site as a gallery of attractive artwork with little narrative substance behind it. Some of the areas that particularly need work include pacing, character development, and plot structure. There's also a stark inattention to detail in some parts of the comic, and readers would certainly appreciate it if the creator had a more professional attitude towards his project.
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Re: I'll review your webcomic.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:47 am

I think I'm gonna review mcDuffies' Little White Knight next.
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