Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby IVstudios on Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:18 pm

Thanks Djracodex!

And if you think your review was long, you should see my response:

djracodex wrote:Banners for the different chapters are great, though maybe some page numbers, or links to specific pages would be nice. That being said, each chapter is easily digestible, so it’s not a big deal.

If you click on the banners they should take you to a page with a list of the comics from that chapter. Or were you referring to something else?

djracodex wrote:Artwork and style evolves in all comics, but Inhumation suffered a bout of style-puberty to become the clean-looking comic it is today... For 30+ pages there was some serious stylization soul-searching going on, but after that it’s pretty smooth sailing (bonus alliteration, booya), and I believe to be unique to the comic.

Oh yes. I started Inhumation back in college, and for a long time I used it as a way to practice whatever style I was learning at the time. On the one hand it was a great way to learn, but looking back I would prefer to have a more... "homogeneous" archive.

djracodex wrote:As for the art in general, there was some anatomical offness (pg 64) at the beginning

Oh god, that page. That fuckin' page. I was perusing my site-stats the other day and I happened to notice that that page in particular received a few page views and my first thought was "Oh, no she noticed. Djracodex is reviewing my comic right now and she is looking at that horrible page. Image" In my defense, that happened during the Lazy Grind, a contest where a bunch of us CGers competed to see who could go the longest doing 3 pages a week with no missed updates and that was a sort of "I know this looks like crap but I need to finish this comic in a half hour or I lose!" deal. I am generally opposed to artist going back and redrawing their old pages, but I think I really need to fix just that one panel some day.

djracodex wrote:When rooms are drawn they are very bleak and simple (a couch here, a shelf there, walls are pretty plain). Though, the market scene is filled with details.

That is probably my biggest shortcomings in art: my lazy sucky backgrounds (and why I felt so guilty criticizing Cuddly for the same). Glad to hear the flea market stands out as an exception though. That was pretty much my main goal with this chapter was to force myself to draw more interesting and detailed backgrounds.

djracodex wrote:As far as her ‘goth’ persona, behind the face tattoos and dark clothing she’s not very angsty (considering what she’s going through, she could be a lot worse, but she is literally going through hell). She seems to love meeting new people, tolerates her work, and get excited about cute things. She hasn’t really grieved about dying, she just sort of rolled with it.

This is partly because that's is how a lot of goths are, at least the ones I knew in my high-school. One girl I hung out with in particular (on whom Kame is loosely based) was very bubbly and outgoing despite always dressing in all black and being obsessed with monsters gloomy poetry.

Though I think part of it may also be me hating how when men wright women, they often portray them as balls of "omgEMOTIONS" who will cry at the drop of a hat. So I'm always hesitant to portray her as being overly emotional. I may have taken it too far in the other direction.

djracodex wrote:Let’s start with Kame and Claire arguing over what Kame should spend her hard-earned money on. I appreciated that even though this was clearly a parent-child sort of fight, it wasn’t handled like a bad episode of Seventh Heaven. Never once did I get the feeling that Kame was going to scream “You’re not my real mom!” and sob as she runs out crying. She does walk out on Claire, but how else to you leave an argument when you’re a teenager? This interaction not only reminds us that Kame is still an immature teenager, but that Claire has changed drastically from her former self.

Thanks, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out just how that interaction should play out. It's a relief to hear that it came off well.

djracodex wrote:When Kame sits down with Marcus and Theo (and eventually Claire, after some glaring from the Warden) and discuss what exactly the Wardens are, I got really excited. I wanted to know what the hell they were and what kind of system runs hell, and what exactly is the point of this anyway? Instead the crew just sort of muses on the subject and everyone had to go back to work. We’re on chapter 6 now, and I still am not really sure what else there is to hell besides working a greasy job. I’m not saying there needs to be a sit down session with the Rules of Hell, but I would think by now there would have been some more opportunities to show what’s going on. And where do the cigarettes come from?

This is mostly a matter of personal preference. I try to keep things ambiguous deliberately. Mainly I do it because 1) One of the things that turns me off the most in writing, and especially in comics, is when a creator hits you with a bunch of exposition showing off the Cool intricate expansive world they came up with. I get that there are people tho like that stuff, but I'm just not one of them. I sort of like not knowing exactly what's happening all the time. If I were going to make a really nerdy comparison, I'd say it's what makes MegaMan Legends 1 a much more interesting game than MegaMan Legends 2.

And 2) the characters don't really know the answers to these questions either. I like to have the audience limited to the same amount of information the characters have. That said I do plan to explain more stuff as the comic progresses, but only as it becomes relevant to the plot. So...

djracodex wrote:Along those lines, I hope the current altercation between the Warden and the creepy-shop-dude leads to some more world-explanation. What sort of shifty junk is this dude up to?

Don't worry, it will. :wink:


djracodex wrote:Point of View- Most of the time we are in the POV of Kame (or main characters around her), but there are 2 instances where it breaks and we get to hear what other no-name people are thinking. Once is when the Warder first shlorps Kame into the level of hell at the beginning, with the dude walking by, and the other time we hear from the disgruntled clerk. I'm pretty sure these weren't supposed to be read into, but Hell would be the kind of place where you would have to hear what everyone was thinking, and you had no privacy, but I'm probably thinking too much into it, lol

Yeah, nothing really much to them other than I felt like they should be there. Though the fact that you found them distracting/confusing is worth noting for future writing consideration.

djracodex wrote:Seventh Circle Flea Market- "Flea Market in Hell" Good band name. At first sight I was like, "I only remember the first level of hell in Inferno, I wonder if the 7th is Greed? That would make sense I guess," so I wiki'd it, and all I got was the seventh circle is violence. Maybe I just don't get the reference?

I really didn't put any thought into what I named the flea market, I just pulled a roughly hell-sounding thing out of my ass. I never in a million years would have thought that anyone would pay any attention to it. But the fact that you brought this up is kind of interesting, because it just goes to show you never know what readers are going to pick up on. It's not the first time it's happened to me either. I was showing an early drawing from the restaurant chapter to someone a few years ago and they assumed that "Satan Burger" was some dig at massive fast food chains, when really it was just, again, me pulling a name out of my ass.

djracodex wrote:The boys, Marcus and Theo. We don’t really know much about these guys, but Marcus appears to be the guy that adjusted all-too-well to hell, and Theo kind of keeps him in line. I would definitely like to see more of them.

Being that this is Hell, I would really like to see more scenery and imagination. I know it’s supposed to be sort of normal, and boring, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some sinister/odd theme to it. The first glimpse of hell we get is Chapter 3, where there are just people chilling in a land of flames like it’s the mall. Pg 88 has a frame of buildings that look a little wonky (in a good kind of wonky way), I think more of that sort of feel would help define the world a little more.

You can get more of both of these things in the Mini-comic I did for the Boston Comic Con [/shameless plug]. The final version only exists in print, but you can check out an almost-finished version here.

LibertyCabbage wrote:
djracodex wrote:And what the hell is this guy behind the counter, and why does he look like that? (pg 78) (I really hope the answer is that he's some sort of lesser clerk demon)
That right there's Pom from the webcomic Reckless Youth. IV probably should've left a comment about it beneath the page so that it's slightly less bizarre.


Yeah, that was back from the days when CG was Keenspace and giving other people's characters cameos was all the rage.

So, thanks for the review! You pointed out a few things I never would have noticed myself. But I guess that's sort of the point, so cheers! :D
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby djracodex on Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:59 am

IVstudios wrote:In my defense, that happened during the Lazy Grind, a contest where a bunch of us CGers competed to see who could go the longest doing 3 pages a week with no missed updates and that was a sort of "I know this looks like crap but I need to finish this comic in a half hour or I lose!" deal. I am generally opposed to artist going back and redrawing their old pages, but I think I really need to fix just that one panel some day.

That contest sounds like...sounds like I would just cry on the floor after the 1st page. I wouldn't worry about re-doing the frame, though.

IVstudios wrote:This is partly because that's is how a lot of goths are, at least the ones I knew in my high-school. One girl I hung out with in particular (on whom Kame is loosely based) was very bubbly and outgoing despite always dressing in all black and being obsessed with monsters gloomy poetry.

Though I think part of it may also be me hating how when men wright women, they often portray them as balls of "omgEMOTIONS" who will cry at the drop of a hat. So I'm always hesitant to portray her as being overly emotional. I may have taken it too far in the other direction.

I get it (I am going to embarrassingly admit that I was a self-proclaimed 'glitter-goth' in high school), and I find the way you wrote her emotions to be pretty appropriate all things considered. I was relieved to actually see her cry when Claire shot her down, and throw a small tantrum over socks, she should be a little upset.

IVstudios wrote:This is mostly a matter of personal preference. I try to keep things ambiguous deliberately. Mainly I do it because 1) One of the things that turns me off the most in writing, and especially in comics, is when a creator hits you with a bunch of exposition showing off the Cool intricate expansive world they came up with. I get that there are people tho like that stuff, but I'm just not one of them. I sort of like not knowing exactly what's happening all the time. If I were going to make a really nerdy comparison, I'd say it's what makes MegaMan Legends 1 a much more interesting game than MegaMan Legends 2.

And 2) the characters don't really know the answers to these questions either. I like to have the audience limited to the same amount of information the characters have. That said I do plan to explain more stuff as the comic progresses, but only as it becomes relevant to the plot. So...

I guess I didn't convey that thought properly. Having your characters in the dark is fine, and no one likes exposition. I enjoyed the crew's conversation, but it left me with way more questions than I had in the first place (which is sometimes a good thing, it builds suspense).
The page showing the Satan Burger was a good example of showing the world, as was the little frame with the wonky buildings, and the market. The way the Warden moves in and out of this Hell is another good way of showing the workings, but not really telling. I guess I'm not asking for an explanation, so much as examples? The environment can still be 'normal' but look like Hell.

IVstudios wrote:I never in a million years would have thought that anyone would pay any attention to it. But the fact that you brought this up is kind of interesting, because it just goes to show you never know what readers are going to pick up on. It's not the first time it's happened to me either. I was showing an early drawing from the restaurant chapter to someone a few years ago and they assumed that "Satan Burger" was some dig at massive fast food chains, when really it was just, again, me pulling a name out of my ass.

I forgot to properly introduce myself, Djracodex: Queen of Meaningless Symbolism.

IVstudios wrote:You can get more of both of these things in the Mini-comic I did for the Boston Comic Con [/shameless plug]. The final version only exists in print, but you can check out an almost-finished version here.

Lol, this is great! I hope you incorporate this, or some of this somehow into the comic. It was a pretty fun little read!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby IVstudios on Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:55 am

djracodex wrote:That contest sounds like...sounds like I would just cry on the floor after the 1st page. I wouldn't worry about re-doing the frame, though.

That's nothing compared to the contest it was a knockoff of, which was 5 pages a week.

djracodex wrote:I guess I didn't convey that thought properly. Having your characters in the dark is fine, and no one likes exposition. I enjoyed the crew's conversation, but it left me with way more questions than I had in the first place (which is sometimes a good thing, it builds suspense).
The page showing the Satan Burger was a good example of showing the world, as was the little frame with the wonky buildings, and the market. The way the Warden moves in and out of this Hell is another good way of showing the workings, but not really telling. I guess I'm not asking for an explanation, so much as examples? The environment can still be 'normal' but look like Hell.

I think I get what you mean. I'll certainly try to play it up more in future chapters.

When Inhumation was still in it's conceptual stages I was planning to have a lot of creepy shit, but once I actually started working on it I decided against it because I didn't want to go too dark. So I shifted the idea to never having any and doing a sort of reversal-of-expectations thing. But then I decided that would be boring, so I started adding more weird to the story. The trouble was by that point I'd already established the general lack of crazy shit so I couldn't just throw it all in without having a drastic tonal shift, so I've been trying to gradually ramp it up.

djracodex wrote:I forgot to properly introduce myself, Djracodex: Queen of Meaningless Symbolism.

Well, don't worry, I do actually put in the occasional obscure symbolism. That just wasn't one of them. Image Also, no one get's my Rob Zombie references.

djracodex wrote:Lol, this is great! I hope you incorporate this, or some of this somehow into the comic. It was a pretty fun little read!

Thanks. :D I'm thinking of making it a gift for people who donate to the comic or something.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:48 pm

~~mah reponce~~

Sortelli wrote:Slice of life comics succeed and fail based on the strength of their casts, and Loud Era clears the bar in this regard. Each of the main characters is unique, relatable and interesting -- especially Joseph, the kid brother with bad legs who stars prominently in the banner and the excellent opening... or Clarabelle, a tall and broad shouldered girl who is never referred to as tall or broad shouldered. You'll know her for her fear of disappointing her parents, or how her concerns over social class steer her into some ugly conflicts. Or Marie, the little spritely one who overreacts to everything and can't pull the curtain on the terrible school play and spends her whole night waiting for her friends to come over after the prom and still smiles almost constantly, or Eddie, who has to hide almost every facet of his thoroughly decent life from his parents... and yeah I'd probably end up describing them all here so there you go. I like these guys.

I am so, so glad that so many of these character traits are coming across properly. That's been a consistent concern for me over the years, whether my characters are being conveyed and perceived correctly through my work. *wipes a tear away*
And, happy to hear that the new opening is working well. I felt it was definitely a step up from the original "WAKES UP AND GOES TO SCHOOL" opening.

It's a mature story that touches on topics like drugs and sex and racism without obsessing over them, and entirely from a 1920's perspective. When Clarabelle refuses to go steady with a Jewish boy (I hope we get more of Leon in the future btw) her friend calls her on it but doesn't go so far as to agree that she'd ever marry a Jew herself. This is not a modern voice forcing modern mores into the past, this is a conversation that could have happened at the time.

I was a bit afraid to write this storyline. Even though it's nowhere near, like, KKK level racism, I wanted to touch on the more social aspects of race and ethnicity without smashing a Morality Sledgehammer onto the reader but also without the detachment that's possible when you're a 2o-something year old white girl who grew up in an almost entirely white town in Safe Suburb, USA. It's kind of a fun challenge, actually, to write characters who are sympathetic even though they're bigoted by a modern P.O.V.

Joseph takes a bunch of pills on prom night so that he won't need to use his cane and it wrecks him. He and Cecilia spend a night in bed without being able to do what most folks would like to do after the prom and it's very sweet without being sappy or preachy. And the fact that these two also keep breaking up because Joesph keeps cheating on her only adds depth to this moment. The conflicts are very human and easy to relate to even though it is still very easy to remember that the story is taking place nearly a century in the past.

:) Whew! Tone goal achieved!

There are a lot of comics that try to incorprate some of these subjects and fail miserably by turning everything into a grotesque puppet show. When Clarabelle dumps Leon its sad to watch from both sides, but even though she's wrong she isn't The Worst Person In The World For Commiting The Ultimate Sin of Bigotry. Likewise Cecilia and Joseph don't get their chance to sleep together but it never comes across as any kind of cartoonish WAIT UNTIL MARRIAGE DON'T DO DRUGS OKAY kind of thing. It's just real.

This gave me a good laugh, thanks :P Again, I'm glad Loud Era isn't coming across like some kind of hamfisted Aesop's fable. As I've gotten older, there's so many people I've looked up to and admired who I then find out have done, said, or believed some sad or messed up things. Those things don't erase the positive feelings I had as a kid being around these people, I just think it's fascinating how people have so many facets, like diamonds, like life.

The characters are drawn in a distinct style and have clearly identifiable characteristics even though it might take a bit of time to see them behind their enormous eyes -- I don't mind this though. These aren't animu eyes, and they come in different shapes and sizes. So do the people for that matter, even the oldest pages have obvious distinctions in height and body shape. It seems like a simple thing but most artists just completely miss on important things like that.

Heh, yeah, the big eyes have been a thing I've tried to rein back on over the years. If you could believe it, they used to be even MORE unproportional. And I'm glad the body differences are coming across well to you (which means it must be so for other readers as well). I'm still keeping IV's advice from his review in my mental pocket about making those differences more apparent, but it's comforting to know I'm off to a good start.

Although the strips are edited digitally everything from the linework to the coloring to the lettering is done on paper. It looks fantastic, but at the same time I can't help but wonder if it might look better colored and inked on the PC. I think some of the early strips suffered in composition because of that, but the recent strips are clearly composed with the entire page in mind:

Definitely something I'm trying to work on lately. Composition is honestly something I never thought about or really consciously knew *existed* until very, very recently. I'm trying to be more professional about that now that I'm aware of it. As for my stubborn insistence on using traditional media, well, I mean, it's mostly just that, a stubborn insistence. But I think that if I keep working hard on it, within about a year or two I'll be where I want to be at least with regard to coloring and inking. Kind of exciting to think about :P

Even back in the early pages there is some straight up brilliance, look at how these faces look from, like, all of chapter 2:
http://loudera.smackjeeves.com/comics/1 ... -dallying/
http://loudera.smackjeeves.com/comics/1 ... but-where/
http://loudera.smackjeeves.com/comics/1 ... e-finally/
I can't imagine any better way to capture the grimacing awkwardness of highschool theather than those rictus, toothy mouths. Especially in contrast with all the normal looking people in the audience who are not trying to act at the moment. agalglalgalgl I love this comic.

Hahahaha XD This is my current favorite compliment, thanks.
AND HGLHLGLUGLUGH IT LOVES YOU TOO

Thank you for taking the time to read and write glowing terms about my comic, Sortelli! Critical fine-tooth-comb reviews are wonderful, but positive reviews are of course always welcome as well :lol: Seriously tho, it's reassuring to see that so many nuances are coming through, and that the 'heavy' stuff I was worried about isn't coming across all after-school-special like. I do not wish for my comic to be the next Hathor the Cow Goddess.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby Sortelli on Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:21 pm

You know what, do not ditch the traditional media. Or at least if you do, don't do it at my suggestion.

I'm only finally making the switch and while I am personally really happy about it, I always feel pretty good when I find a comic that still shows the texture of being colored by hand.

As for the heavy stuff, I am just so worn out on authors who only include serious topics not to explore an issue or provoke thought but to instead just show off how "good" they are for following prevailing social mores. Pandering to your readers is the opposite of taking a stand or raising awareness of a topic. So... thank you for not doing that.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby McDuffies on Thu Jun 13, 2013 5:54 am

*Steals Cuddly's review*
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:01 pm

Webcomic: Murder on the 95th/Dan Ryan
URL: http://www.yeahduff.com/comics.html
Creator/s: Brian Duffy
Run: Published in March 2013
Schedule: Completed

Website: The simple, gray layout's accented by a neat pop-up feature that has both on-click and traditional navigation. The large cover illustration and "READ COMIC" button make it as quick and easy as possible for the reader to get to the beginning of the six-page story. However, despite the minimal amount of text on the site, the creator misspelled "Available Now" on the home page.

Writing: This existential short story presents an intimate monologue told to the reader by a young, urban protagonist. Doubting his judgment several times at the beginning, he initially appears to be apologetic about his troubled psyche. However, in a drastic change of tone, he sardonically compares the reader to Sigmund Freud and offers the possibility that his philosophy's more legitimate than it seems.

Central to the protagonist's argument are several imaginative scenarios where the cute girl on the train causes terrible things to happen to him. In one, she refuses to save him from a giant buzzsaw; in another, he's falsely arrested when the girl murders a stranger. Finally, he's shown stabbed in the back with a knife with the girl standing over him. The problem with this strategy's that the protagonist doesn't make an attempt to support these possibilities with real-life examples, which makes them seem more like creative exaggerations than anything substantial. As if aware of his failure to communicate coherently to reader, the protagonist overcorrects himself at the end, suddenly changing his assessment of the girl as a serial killer to someone who merely has "an annoying sneeze or an affinity for prog rock or something." At that point, there's a brief moment where it seems like the protagonist might realize how flawed his rationale is, but the story ends with him reassuring himself of the girl's guilt, reflecting a paralyzed mental state. It seems implied that the tragic scenes allude to failed relationships, but the protagonist's inability to convey his insecurities more directly to the reader emphasizes how serious his predicament is.

While the protagonist comes across as a miserable jerk, his glimpses of humility help make him a likable and sympathetic character. This is most apparent in the panels involving alcohol, such as the scribbly black cloud around a bottle marked "Booze" on Page 4 that has a caption starting with "I live my life in a haze." The subject then comes up twice on the next page, with the protagonist referring to himself as a "borderline alcoholic," and then being shown depressed at home next to a bottle of liquor. A self-destructive cycle's suggested by these pages, in which the protagonist's drunkenness inhibits his ability to process his psychological issues, which contributes to his "miserable existence" that he relies on alcohol to rescue him from. At one point, he suggests "just taking a sober analysis of the situation," with sober having a double meaning, but he rejects this idea in favor of "the path of least resistance," which is continuing to use alcohol to help him ignore his problems.

Another way that the protagonist's made more likable is the way that he oscillates between casual and sophisticated dialogue, putting the reader in a position where they can be caught off-guard. The story's set up in a way that the pages alternate in tone, with Pages 1, 3, and 5 showing the most conviction while Pages 2, 4, and 6 display a more uncertain protagonist. In the former, he's more focused, coherent, and eloquent, while in the latter, he speaks in a disjointed, informal style while making hipster-esque pop culture references to Downton Abbey, J Mascis, and "prog rock." The best example of this is on Page 3, where right after confessing to "misogynistic bullshit," the protagonist confidently states that "it's also a pathological aversion to succumbing to superficiality combined with a complete mistrust in my own instincts," suggesting to the reader that the situation may be more complicated than it seems. This level of inconsistency would be problematic in a more normal webcomic, but it works well here because the character's presented as being heavily flawed from the start.

A symbolic panel on Page 4 showing the protagonist with guns, dynamite, and a sword represents the excessiveness of his defensive mindset, and I think the story ultimately condemns his behavior. While the focus is on exploring the potential for him to encounter a serial killer (or, perhaps more directly, get his heart crushed by a failed relationship), the protagonist perpetually downplays his emotional, psychological, and physical suffering (the last one being due to his alcoholism). While these effects aren't as dramatic as literally being stabbed in the back, the overwhelming pessimism has robbed the protagonist of any chance to enjoy life, which is just as dismal a fate as any of the tragic scenarios he contemplates. And while he's quick to blame cute women for his problems, the scene on Page 5 showing him searching for "darkness" in innocent news stories demonstrates that his issues are more pervasive than that.

Art: A cover might not seem necessary for a six-page story, but this one's very effective because of its simplistic approach. An image of a cute girl next to the word "Murder" on a red background makes it clear to the reader that she's being conveyed as a victim, which illustrates the point the protagonist tries to make later in the story. Based on his seedy appearance, it's initially plausible that he might be the one who kills her, making his suspicion of her a clever and unexpected twist. For a story largely about evaluating people based on how they look, it's fitting that the first page barely has any text.

The comic's gritty, detail-rich, "indie" style is perfect for this kind of story. The pervasive hatching, sketchy lines, and abundant negative space establish a moody, abstract feel, which combines with the simplistic faces to reinforce that the characters and situations are largely symbolic. After all, the protagonist breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the reader, and there are several panels meant as pure imagination, so a more realistic style wouldn't be as appropriate. Still, the figures are drawn very carefully and anatomically correct, with the curvy girl effectively representing the kind of "cute urban women" that the protagonist's both attracted to and terrified of. The cartoony aspect of the style comes into play with her eyes, which are shown distorted on Pages 2, 3, and 6 to make her look sinister.

Overall: This comic makes the argument as well as any other I've seen that a creator doesn't need a significant amount of pages to tell a compelling and complex story. Its distinctly urban setting supplies an artistic flair while also making its subject matter highly relatable. Murder on the 95th/Dan Ryan's an expertly illustrated short story that will present a pleasant challenge for anyone looking for something on the heavier side to read.

5/5
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby JSConner800 on Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:41 pm

Well, I am nothing if not a slave to peer pressure, so since everybody's putting their reviews right on the forum now, I'll do so as well. Without further ado, here's my review for LibertyCabbage's Freakboy Did a Bad Thing.

LibertyCabbage's Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is a difficult comic to classify. It's stark, surreal, disturbing, and unrelentingly grim. It's a dreamlike trip through a world of depraved clones and as near as I can sum it up, it's about the punishment and degradation of a mass murderer named Freakboy, who is identical to everyone else aside from, of course, the letter “F” attached to his shirt. At the moment, it's more of an exercise in building atmosphere than a proper story, which makes it hard to pigeonhole on the one hand, but it lacks the momentum of a more conventional plot-driven comic or even a gag-a-day comic on the other. It's still quite a young comic (only 24 pages at present), so there's plenty of room to grow, but I was hoping that, by the end of the first chapter, I would at least learn something new about Freakboy's situation or his world, but I felt that this chapter was more focused on finding ways to disturb its audience than on developing the plot, such as it is. But it is exceedingly effective at being disturbing, and if a comic can strike such psychological pressure points as sociopathy, alienation, public humiliation, and murder as painfully as Freakboy regularly does, that's an accomplishment in itself. Plus, a work that focuses purely on atmosphere and imagery lends itself well to abstract interpretation, whether intentionally or not, and I'll get to that later in the story segment. But first, the website.

Website

The website is sparse, and it fits the theme nicely. The buttons are scrawled on in jagged text that complements the equally jagged comic panels. It doesn't distract from the comic at all. There are already a few extras on there, like concept art, wallpaper, and even a “How to Draw Freakboy” tutorial. The About page is pretty important for new readers, as it provides some helpful background information for people who are unfamiliar with LibertyCabbage's other work, which is all vaguely connected to FDaBT, and while it doesn't totally redefine the comic if you do read it, you do get a tiny bit of context for the characters and setting that you wouldn't get from reading the comic itself. The Archive page is a little barebones, but there's a nice little thumbnail of the comic that pops up as you mouse over a page link. I always appreciate user-friendly navigation, especially when I'm doing a review and I need to easily jump around the comic, and the thumbnails helped quite a bit. My only complaint with the website is the main set of navigation buttons (like I said, I'm pretty picky about these). They're a nice size, and I like the placement, but the nav buttons are only on the bottom of the comic, so flipping quickly through pages will require readers to scroll down every time they want to move to another comic. Having two sets of buttons at the top and bottom of the comic, or making the comic itself a link to the next page, or having nav buttons fixed on the side of the screen like in Steel Salvation would fix this issue for me.

Obviously, this wasn't a huge deal, as I was still able to navigate around just fine, but improving our craft also means improving our website design to make it more accessible to readers, and this seems to me like an easy way to do that. And since the rest of the site is perfectly functional, I wanted at least one serious talking point, so there you have it.

Art

The art in FDaBT does an excellent job of conveying just how nightmarish Freakboy's world is, with extremely rough lines and dingy, disgusting details everywhere. Everything from the dialogue font down to the panel borders has an unsettling quality, and it is this omnipresent sense of discomfort that gives the comic its surreal, dreamy quality, and suggests that there is more to it than it seems. The characters have near-featureless faces, besides their sunken eyes and gigantic mouths, and every single person comes off as sinister, even the “normal” ones watching Freakboy at home on their TV. This may come as a surprise, but Freakboy is often the least freakish looking character in a given page, as his expressions are usually more reserved, while the others cruelly gawk and cackle endlessly at him. It's an interesting dynamic, and it actually makes the remorseless killer the most sympathetic character in the comic by default.

The dismal atmosphere is aided by the comic's stark black and white presentation, with no color or even shades of gray to soften the contrast between light and darkness. Backgrounds alternate between Freakboy's vividly detailed prison cell and the TV show set where he is publicly degraded, and while the show set is pitch black all around, it comes off as stylized rather than lazy. In fact, the comic's entire visual style, which looks sloppy and rough at first glance, ends up working in its favor, as LC plays to the strengths of this style with an equally gritty and nasty setting, cast, and plot.

Story

Speaking of the plot, I've already explained just about everything that happens in the first chapter, so I'll just get right into my abstract reading of the story, and explain why I think the comic works in spite of the fact that it doesn't really go anywhere. Of course, this could be way, way off from what LC intended, but I'm an English Lit major, and misinterpreting artists' intentions is what I do, so here goes. I think FDaBT is a literal representation of the hype surrounding serial killers in America – their desire for attention, even negative attention, and more importantly the attention they receive as murderers in captivity. On Freakboy's TV show, he is constantly abused by the audience, who all claim to hate him but admit that they love his show. As a killer, he is both repulsive and attractive to them, and this comic seems to show how bizarre and disgusting this paradox really is.

Hell, this is where Marilyn Manson got his name from. We mix up our serial killers with our celebrities all the time in America. The results aren't far removed from Freakboy's situation. People devour serial killer trials, interviews in prison, even History Channel documentaries when they're not talking about aliens (except for that one special about how John Wayne Gacy was secretly a killer klown from outer space). I'm guilty of it myself, and I think it's safe to say that everyone is, to an extent. It's a morbidly fascinating subject, and this comic turns the morbidity back on the audience, making them out to be the freaks and portraying Freakboy as their victim. When this interpretation clicked for me, I got a whole new perspective on the comic, and whether it was intended or not, I think it's a really interesting angle to pursue, and with a comic as heavy on subtext as FDaBT, I believe it's open to other interpretations, and the author himself could have something up his sleeve that will totally invalidate this reading in future chapters, but for now, this is what I got out of it, and I think that's quite an accomplishment in 24 pages.

Conclusion

Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is by no means a comic for everybody. If taken at face value, it really is, as LC states in the About page, “a horrible webcomic about horrible people who do horrible things.” I think there's more to it than that, and if you're looking for a comic that forces you to dig for meaning, this is the comic for you. If you're extremely twisted and you just want to see horrible people doing horrible things, then this is also the comic for you. It remains to be seen if a proper story will develop out of this first chapter, but one thing is clear: Freakboy stands apart and pulls no punches. It's edgy, surreal, and bleak, offering no reprieve from its dismal atmosphere and sinister characters, except for whatever meaning you can forge from this onslaught of depravity. Personally, I think it's worth the effort.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:52 pm

Wow, thanks so much! I'm pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly you covered the webcomic's, uh, eccentricities.

JSConner800 wrote:At the moment, it's more of an exercise in building atmosphere than a proper story, which makes it hard to pigeonhole on the one hand, but it lacks the momentum of a more conventional plot-driven comic or even a gag-a-day comic on the other. It's still quite a young comic (only 24 pages at present), so there's plenty of room to grow, but I was hoping that, by the end of the first chapter, I would at least learn something new about Freakboy's situation or his world, but I felt that this chapter was more focused on finding ways to disturb its audience than on developing the plot, such as it is. But it is exceedingly effective at being disturbing, and if a comic can strike such psychological pressure points as sociopathy, alienation, public humiliation, and murder as painfully as Freakboy regularly does, that's an accomplishment in itself.
I'm glad that the plot-light approach seems to at least be tolerable. I figure it's pretty rare for a webcomic to qualify as "disturbing" in a positive way, so that's really cool.

JSConner800 wrote:Having two sets of buttons at the top and bottom of the comic, or making the comic itself a link to the next page, or having nav buttons fixed on the side of the screen like in Steel Salvation would fix this issue for me.
I'm a little confused by this since the comic image should be clickable (all Smack Jeeves comics have that by default, actually), but I agree with your point, and it's easy to implement.

JSConner800 wrote:In fact, the comic's entire visual style, which looks sloppy and rough at first glance, ends up working in its favor, as LC plays to the strengths of this style with an equally gritty and nasty setting, cast, and plot.
I'm relieved that the artwork got so much praise, as, unlike the writing, it hasn't been something I've felt comfortable doing. I'm still not entirely confident about my style, but it seems that I've developed somewhat of a foundation that I can build upon.

JSConner800 wrote:Of course, this could be way, way off from what LC intended, but I'm an English Lit major, and misinterpreting artists' intentions is what I do, so here goes.
You're spot-on with the part about serial killers as pseudo-celebrities. There's definitely some psychosocial subtext in the story, in any case, and I thought it was really neat to see it analyzed in the review.

JSConner800 wrote:I think there's more to it than that, and if you're looking for a comic that forces you to dig for meaning, this is the comic for you. If you're extremely twisted and you just want to see horrible people doing horrible things, then this is also the comic for you.
...
It's edgy, surreal, and bleak, offering no reprieve from its dismal atmosphere and sinister characters, except for whatever meaning you can forge from this onslaught of depravity.
That a comic like this at least appeals to a limited audience is all I think I could really ask for, and the penultimate sentence describes exactly what I was aiming at with the project. So, based on the review, I get the impression that I've been relatively successful so far, which is a nice feeling to have.

Thanks again!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Sun Jun 23, 2013 1:21 pm

Pi-joom! Here comes another Freakboy review. I tried not to focus on too much of the same things that JSC had in his review, which I read before I wrote mine because I'm a loooooser. Anyway, here ya go.





Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is not a comic for everyone. I wouldn’t call it a horror, it’s not exactly a comedy. It’s a surrealist exploration of modern culture. When you “catch on,” everything makes sense, and you want to know more. But not every reader will “catch on,” and for that reason Freakboy is not a comic for everyone.

My favorite thing about reading Freakboy is that every part of the comic and the site itself contributes to the creepy, cold, disconcerting atmosphere of the story. There is no color in Freakboy. I picture that Freakboy exists in a world devoid of color, where blood is an inky black. Panel borders have gotten increasingly wild as the comic progresses, as if each panel was torn off of another sheet of paper. Characters are indistinguishable save for their clothing, all lines seem to be done freehand with no help from other tools, and spot blacks and expressive hatching convey a dark, dirty world. All of these elements create an unnerving and claustrophobic look and feel.

Here is a page that really sums up the above. Look how big Freakboy’s cell is, he’s got some decent moving around room in there, but the splatters, shadows, and scratches on the walls and floor make it seem much more restricting.

Storywise, Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is an allegory for the American media’s crime fetish. On one of the first pages, the audience screams about how much they love Freakboy, and then for the rest of the chapter everyone says how much they hate him and wish him ill.

The symolic choices really make this part interesting. Freakboy is a criminal, but he looks exactly like everyone else. The only way anyone knows it’s Freakboy is because of the giant “F” stitched onto his shirt. Is the concept here that everyone has the potential to be a “Freakboy?” Or is it more like everyone that gets caught up in the frenzy is already pretty freakish in their own right? Everyone’s so occupied pointing out how horrible Freakboy is that it distracts them from their own sins and shortcomings. It’s almost like, through ranting about Freakboy, people are absolving themselves. It’s as if they’re shouting at a reflection in a mirror, or an old self photograph. It makes me wonder whether we will ever at any point see someone who doesn’t look like Freakboy, and what other personal differences that individual would possess that sets them apart.

Even Freakboy’s new cellmate (who I hope we learn more about)clearly has some issues. These interactions are the only time we see someone genuinely interacting one-on-one with Freakboy in a non-publicized setting. Freakboy himself is mostly devoid of his own personality thus far. He follows orders,responds to questions with the answers he knows people want to hear, and generally is unenthusiastic about anything. Did he even commit the crimes as people have alleged? In his universe, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway. Consider how mad people get in our own real world when a highly-publicized case has a suspect who gets acquitted. Folks are so banking on Ol So-and-So being guilty that they build up a fictitious So-and-So in their minds, one they know personally, one they don’t just belive, but KNOW committed the crime, someone who truly deserves the strictest punishment allowed by law and then some. Consider the eagerness with which people respond to the news that someone is going to prison, gleefully proclaiming that the person will surely be raped there, “like they deserve.” So often, once a case goes to trial and gets broadcast, it doesn’t matter what the jury decides in the end, because in the eyes of the public, the suspect is cemented in guilt.

The pages featuring Freakboy’s show are especially interesting because in the first few pages, Freakboy is free to stand and move around at will, but by the end of the chapter he is bolted to a chair. Has he tried to escape or are the show runners just being extra cautious? Has there been another Freakboy-esque show in the past, and they’ve kind of “learned from their mistakes” from that time around? Either way, the meaning is clear- Freakboy is locked into the public eye; his fate has been determined and set, and he has lost whatever free will he may have originally had.

Another nice touch is that the show host asks the same damn questions over and over. Anyone who’s watched a 24 hour news station for any length of time in recent years knows that when there’s breaking news, the “story” really only takes five minutes to tell; the rest of the allotted time is just rehashing, speculation, and more rehashing. A story can spin for as long as the media wants it to- which is, however long it can last and still make money. Look at the faces in the audiencein the last page of the chapter. They’re eating this shit up, they can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t look like they’ll ever tire of Freakboy getting asked the same questions and playing the same role. They aren’t looking for a character who develops over time, they’re looking for a straight up, black-and-white, scapegoat villain they never have to feel bad about hating.

Freakboy’s art isn’t glamorous to look at, but it suits the purposes of the story. Because of the unhinged nature of the writing, I’m not sure whether anatomical and perspective errors need to be corrected, or whether this is one of those comics where those things don’t matter. I’m leaning toward the latter. I kind of like that the unpolished art makes it look like the whole thing is something Freakboy himself could have scrounged up in his cell. I mentioned earlier that Freakboy contains only black and white- not only is this a nice parallel for the way good and evil seems to be perceived in this world, it also gives the comic a stark look that calls to mind the aesthetic of famous old crime scene or courtroom photos.

Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is overall a thoroughly interesting comic, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the second chapter holds. It’s rare to see social commentary in this medium that isn’t done in a ham-fisted manner at the expense of making a good comic. I think as long as LC continues to adhere to his so far well kept schedule, and maintains the integrity of his theme, Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is the sort of comic that could amass a small cult following as it goes forth.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby JSConner800 on Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:14 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:I'm a little confused by this since the comic image should be clickable (all Smack Jeeves comics have that by default, actually), but I agree with your point, and it's easy to implement.


After going back again, I can confirm that the image is clickable. I'm not sure why I didn't think it was before. I actually had a few instances of the comic image not loading at all, and I would have to refresh a few times for it to appear. I went back through about half the archives just now, and it's not happening anymore, so I'm not sure what the deal was, but it seems to have fixed itself. I love it when that happens :lol:

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Did he even commit the crimes as people have alleged? In his universe, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway. Consider how mad people get in our own real world when a highly-publicized case has a suspect who gets acquitted. Folks are so banking on Ol So-and-So being guilty that they build up a fictitious So-and-So in their minds, one they know personally, one they don’t just belive, but KNOW committed the crime, someone who truly deserves the strictest punishment allowed by law and then some. Consider the eagerness with which people respond to the news that someone is going to prison, gleefully proclaiming that the person will surely be raped there, “like they deserve.” So often, once a case goes to trial and gets broadcast, it doesn’t matter what the jury decides in the end, because in the eyes of the public, the suspect is cemented in guilt.


I wondered that myself. The only indication we have that Freakboy actually Did a Bad Thing comes from the people around him, and I think we can all agree they aren't the most trustworthy sources. Like you said, he tells them what they want to hear, but people typically don't want to hear the truth, so Freakboy himself isn't all that trustworthy on the subject either.

I appreciated the chance to dive into some good, strong subtext, so thanks for making such an interesting comic, LC!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:16 pm

JSConner800 wrote:I appreciated the chance to dive into some good, strong subtext, so thanks for making such an interesting comic, LC!

Agreed! It's ben an enjoyable read.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:11 am

Sweet, thanks! This review seems fairly similar to the last one, and I'm glad that a lot of the stylistic decisions are coming across coherently.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:When you “catch on,” everything makes sense, and you want to know more. But not every reader will “catch on,” and for that reason Freakboy is not a comic for everyone.
I feel like I've progressed with my surrealistic writing, as Deep was impenetrable and Orange Revolution, as an overreaction to Deep, was too simplistic. So, hopefully Freakboy represents a better sense of balance between the two extremes.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Everyone’s so occupied pointing out how horrible Freakboy is that it distracts them from their own sins and shortcomings. It’s almost like, through ranting about Freakboy, people are absolving themselves. It’s as if they’re shouting at a reflection in a mirror, or an old self photograph.
I'm glad you brought this up, since it kinda strikes at the core of the story and is something that will be developed more as the story progresses.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Did he even commit the crimes as people have alleged? In his universe, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway. Consider how mad people get in our own real world when a highly-publicized case has a suspect who gets acquitted. Folks are so banking on Ol So-and-So being guilty that they build up a fictitious So-and-So in their minds, one they know personally, one they don’t just belive, but KNOW committed the crime, someone who truly deserves the strictest punishment allowed by law and then some. Consider the eagerness with which people respond to the news that someone is going to prison, gleefully proclaiming that the person will surely be raped there, “like they deserve.” So often, once a case goes to trial and gets broadcast, it doesn’t matter what the jury decides in the end, because in the eyes of the public, the suspect is cemented in guilt.

JSConner800 wrote:I wondered that myself. The only indication we have that Freakboy actually Did a Bad Thing comes from the people around him, and I think we can all agree they aren't the most trustworthy sources. Like you said, he tells them what they want to hear, but people typically don't want to hear the truth, so Freakboy himself isn't all that trustworthy on the subject either.
It's cool that you brought this up since, as you both pointed out, the evidence presented in the story that Freakboy actually killed anybody is flimsy at best. That's largely what the title's intended to refer to: the idea that Freakboy's guilt is an obvious "fact." And you're right that, if Freakboy were innocent, he can't really say "I didn't do it" because, to the angry public, that would just make him both a murderer and a liar. And in their defense, it's not exactly like he can prove that the entire world is wrong about him.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:They aren’t looking for a character who develops over time, they’re looking for a straight up, black-and-white, scapegoat villain they never have to feel bad about hating.
Yeah, that's a really good way of putting it.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Freakboy’s art isn’t glamorous to look at, but it suits the purposes of the story. Because of the unhinged nature of the writing, I’m not sure whether anatomical and perspective errors need to be corrected, or whether this is one of those comics where those things don’t matter. I’m leaning toward the latter.
That's relieving to hear. Freakboy's a lot more complicated to draw than anything I've done before (look at Freedom Fries as a good comparison), so it's nice not feeling pressured to get everything looking particularly neat.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Freakboy Did a Bad Thing is the sort of comic that could amass a small cult following as it goes forth.
That'd be pretty cool!

JSConner800 wrote:After going back again, I can confirm that the image is clickable. I'm not sure why I didn't think it was before.
Smack Jeeves had some major server issues a few weeks ago, and it had some more issues recently. So, it might be related to that. I'll consider hosting my images on Photobucket or something if the server doesn't get more reliable.

JSConner800 wrote:I appreciated the chance to dive into some good, strong subtext, so thanks for making such an interesting comic, LC!

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Agreed! It's ben an enjoyable read.

That's great to hear. :) I liked the script too much not to follow through with it, even if it's something that's only going to appeal to a specific kind of audience.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:51 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:When you “catch on,” everything makes sense, and you want to know more. But not every reader will “catch on,” and for that reason Freakboy is not a comic for everyone.
I feel like I've progressed with my surrealistic writing, as Deep was impenetrable and Orange Revolution, as an overreaction to Deep, was too simplistic. So, hopefully Freakboy represents a better sense of balance between the two extremes.

Awesome. Yeah, Freakboy is good because a casual reader (understanding the theme) will enjoy it, but someone looking for something more complex will enjoy it too.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Everyone’s so occupied pointing out how horrible Freakboy is that it distracts them from their own sins and shortcomings. It’s almost like, through ranting about Freakboy, people are absolving themselves. It’s as if they’re shouting at a reflection in a mirror, or an old self photograph.
I'm glad you brought this up, since it kinda strikes at the core of the story and is something that will be developed more as the story progresses.

Excellent! I have a few theories about what's "really going on" but I'd rather keep reading than just keep speculating about it, and see whether or not I'm right. About how long do you think the comic is going to be in its entirety?

It's cool that you brought this up since, as you both pointed out, the evidence presented in the story that Freakboy actually killed anybody is flimsy at best. That's largely what the title's intended to refer to: the idea that Freakboy's guilt is an obvious "fact." And you're right that, if Freakboy were innocent, he can't really say "I didn't do it" because, to the angry public, that would just make him both a murderer and a liar. And in their defense, it's not exactly like he can prove that the entire world is wrong about him.

Kind of a "guilty until proven guilty" thing.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Freakboy’s art isn’t glamorous to look at, but it suits the purposes of the story. Because of the unhinged nature of the writing, I’m not sure whether anatomical and perspective errors need to be corrected, or whether this is one of those comics where those things don’t matter. I’m leaning toward the latter.
That's relieving to hear. Freakboy's a lot more complicated to draw than anything I've done before (look at Freedom Fries as a good comparison), so it's nice not feeling pressured to get everything looking particularly neat.

Yeah, surreal sstories in general can get away with some weird art. I think sometimes bad artists use surrealism as an excuse to cover up their bad art (when the story itself isn't surreal), so I'm glad that in your case the art at least fits the writing. You see people using really wacky over-the-top styles because they think it means they don't need to understand how anything actually looks, but then they try to tell a straight up mundane story while using that art and it collapses upon itself.

On a related note I thought of a good fan art idea for Freakboy. I think you'll like it.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Mon Jun 24, 2013 1:36 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Excellent! I have a few theories about what's "really going on" but I'd rather keep reading than just keep speculating about it, and see whether or not I'm right. About how long do you think the comic is going to be in its entirety?
It's four 24-page chapters, each with covers, for a total of exactly 100 pages.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Yeah, surreal sstories in general can get away with some weird art. I think sometimes bad artists use surrealism as an excuse to cover up their bad art (when the story itself isn't surreal), so I'm glad that in your case the art at least fits the writing. You see people using really wacky over-the-top styles because they think it means they don't need to understand how anything actually looks, but then they try to tell a straight up mundane story while using that art and it collapses upon itself.
Yeah. I wrote the story with my limited artistic abilities in mind, which is one reason why a lot of the scenes are simple and repetitive. On the other hand, though, the comic was originally supposed to be pretty much 100 percent hand-drawn, and I ended up using Photoshop a lot to make abstract and out-of-focus backgrounds.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:On a related note I thought of a good fan art idea for Freakboy. I think you'll like it.
That'd be awesome!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Jun 25, 2013 6:24 am

Here's the current status of the thread... now with hyperlinks!

Freakboy Did a Bad Thing -- reviewed by VeryCuddlyCornpone -- review
Loud Era -- reviewed by IVstudios -- review
Inhumation -- reviewed by djracodex -- review
Masadjra -- reviewed by VeryCuddlyCornpone -- incomplete
Loud Era -- reviewed by Sortelli -- review
No Scrying -- reviewed by JSConner800 -- review
Steel Salvation -- reviewed by Humbug -- review
Crux -- reviewed by Yeahduff -- incomplete
Murder on the 95th/Dan Ryan -- reviewed by LibertyCabbage -- review
Freakboy Did a Bad Thing -- reviewed by JSConner800 -- review
Steel Salvation -- reviewed by VeryCuddlyCornpone -- incomplete
Loud Era -- reviewed by LibertyCabbage -- incomplete
Freakboy Did a Bad Thing -- reviewed by LadySol -- incomplete
Quest -- reviewed by Sortelli -- incomplete
No Scrying -- reviewed by ????
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:43 am

NiCeEe

I'll probably get Masadjra done either today or tomorrow, I have all my notes I just need to shape them into a proper review.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:40 pm

My eternal schlong unravels.



Masadjraby djracodex



Masadjra is a relatively young comic having just passed its first year on the web, dancing around a pretty reliable once-a-week schedule over the course of its run. In terms of the site layout, the design is immediately captivating, with an ancient ruin-looking tablet drifting as the reader scrolls over what looks to be some igneous formations with mountain ranges in the distance. Immediately this places us in our ancient-society setting. The archive is simply the ComicGenesis calendar style archive, which is basically functional but could use some punching up. I know updating the archive page each update is kind of annoying to do on CG, but it’d be neat to see some creativity with the archive to match the setting and theme of the site. Like the cast page, which I thought was a nice unique way of laying out a cast page that fit the story well. The cast bios themselves contain statistics like height, weight, likes, dislikes, and so forth, which are neat but they don’t really do much in the way of helping a reader. I wouldn't say to get rid of them, just maybe include a little info about how the character fits in the story. Also the last image is coming up a broken link. One quibble I have is with the Extras page- it should read “terminology,” not “termanology” ;)

My only real issue with the layout of the comic pages themselves are I wish that the clickable navigation buttons were *juuust* a little bit darker. I can see them okay now, but they’re about at the limit of visibility, and it wouldn’t hurt to make them just a little more pronounced for the sake of people with poorer vision than mine.

Stylistically I’m not sure I care for the font the comic uses- it seems a little too tidy and book-ish. I personally think that this is a comic that would benefit from hand-drawn lettering, but I understand that’s not something every artist wants to do. Minding that, I think a sans-serif font would fit the feel a bit better, perhaps one with all-caps. Right now the serif, book-like font contributes to a stylistic conflict I’ll discuss more in a little bit.

The details of this comic are superb! I really like the way backgrounds are done with care, in a way that helps solidify the setting without taking attention away from the characters and their actions.

The comic is done in a tinted monochrome. I don’t have a problem with the monochrome itself, but most of the comic is a soup of midtones. The range of values is pretty limited, and I think it would make the comic more visually interesting to really push that range further, and include darker and lighter shades. As it is, the shading seems timid, which leads to a blander page- it almost looks like the comic was originally done in color, then desaturated and tinted. When you have a comic that doesn’t rely on color at all, it’s important to be bold about contrast. This page is a bit closer to what i am envisioning, but like I said, don’t be shy about pushing things further.

To just hit on a few little things- one comic is doubled in the archive. Should be a simple fix! :)

On this page, I’m sure it was just an experimental thing, but the compound dialogue bubble in the first panel that has the text just sliding right through where the “mitosis” is happening looks weird. I think it would be better to either squeeze the bubbles apart a little bit more or split the sentence at the comma into two clauses and keep the text further apart.

Whini’s arms-crossed pose looks wrong in the second panel of this page. It looks better in the next page from a different angle, but still just a little bit off.

Whini in general confused me a little bit, because her face and body aresupermasculine except for the fact that she has boobs. I figure her manliness might be a reflection on her admiration of her father, or possibly a cultural difference, but she really truly looks like a dude that happens to have boobs. The Dragonball-esque hair probably contributes to this. She looks way more female in the anniversary filler comic than at any point in the comic proper, so much so that I didn’t even realize it was the same character upon first read through. I’m aware that this could be totally intentional, but part of the problem is that the characters are all pretty similar looking, so she doesn’t look like a mannish lady, just a man. All the human (or humanesque) characters kind of have the same body and face shape. In recent pages, it’s getting a bit better, but it still looks like all characters start out with the same face and then some of the features get tweaked a little bit afterward. As with the shading contrast, be bold with character design contrasts.

Body language is pretty good in general though in terms of differentiating characters, as we see in the first panel here where Whini’s friend is imitating her- it definitely doesn’t fit the friend’s personality and looks wrong when she does it, but we can easily picture Whini in that stance.

I love Tar’s design. He looks so big and cute and loveable, I just want to go play fetch with him in a field for a while.

I’m not a big fan of fantasy comics, so I’m either the best person to talk about the writing here or the worst one. I’ll give it my best shot, nevertheless, but I think my critique of the art is going to be stronger than my critique of the writing, just to give everyone a heads up.

Part of what holds me back from enjoying fantasy comics is usually the dialogue- it tends to read too stiffly to me, and I felt that way as I read through this comic. I didn’t really get a sense of “voice” from the characters, and a lot of the things they’re discussing- although they are explained in the terminology on the “Extras” page- aren’t (or haven’t yet been) naturally explained through the comic. I understand that Whini and Rouk are (half?) brother and sister, that their father the King has died, that Whini appears to be an illegitimate child, based on her grandfather’s unkind words and feelings toward her, and that there’s some kind of unpleasant race relations going on, but I mostly feel confused. The comic is only 30-something pages in at this point in time, so maybe I’m just being impatient. Someone else will be able to give a better analysis of the writing, but I just found myself zoning out even when I was trying to follow the action and put things together. Again, I want to acknowledge the very real possibility that it is my own biases causing this problem, and not an issue with the writing itself.

Here’s my last issue and suggestion I have with the comic. I hinted at this when I was discussing the font. The story of Masadjra gives me a very Native Central/South American vibe, very Aztec or Incan (with some adobe houses in there in some of the backgrounds), but I’m not sure the character art style really suits that story right now. The backgrounds are definitely where they need to be in terms of detail and setting, and I think that even they will naturally continue to improve on their own, but I just don’t see the setting reflected in the character designs themselves. I don’t get the feeling that all these characters belong to the same culture. A lot of the hair and clothes styles look cool and explain a lot intra-characterally, but not inter-characterally (wow look at these crazy words I am making up right now). Like, Whini has this Vegeta hair and Pocahontas-meets-Indiana-Jones outfit, and that tells me she’s kind of a wild one who doesn’t give a shit about authority and is ready to go kick some ass, but since I think this is a story that has a lot to do with culture and upbringing, I want to see more cultural cohesion. As it is, the characters are kind of a Breakfast Club of different styles that don’t look like they originated from the same cultural background, if that makes any sense.

Style in general is a difficult thing to critique, though. It’s not my place to tell anyone “how” to draw their characters. I think what it falls back to is what I said earlier about embracing contrast between different people. It’s not about superficial characteristics like hair and coloring, it’s about the underlying structures that really differentiate people. I got critiqued for the same thing earlier, so I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who’s just starting to understand how important these differentiations are, myself, and how easy it is for us as artists to see differences that Joe Reader can't see. The background image on the site, the backgrounds in the comic itself, the little details on people’s clothing- they all point to a very specific setting that I don’t see reflected in the character designs.

I *do* think that Masadjra is a young comic, and that stylistically it could easily find its way just with the nature of the passage of time. It’s a nice looking comic with an interesting premise that I want to understand more about. Whether it’s just me being dumb or a fault of the writing that’s causing my inability to understand it well enough now, I can’t say- and perhaps it’s even some tender marriage of the two. I think that Masadjra has a lot of potential, and it looks like the creator is having fun with it, which is the most important part of making a good comic. We’re in the middle of a pretty intense scene right now, and it’s neat to see some dynamic action panels that are well-paced and bold. If this boldness gets carried on over into the other aspects of Masadjra that I’ve touched on over the course of this review, I believe the comic will find its own strengths and really be a fun read for a lot of people.
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby djracodex on Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:12 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:My eternal schlong unravels.



Masadjraby djracodex


Yay! First review! Image It's only 30-ish pages, but at least it has plenty of room to improve!

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I know updating the archive page each update is kind of annoying to do on CG, but it’d be neat to see some creativity with the archive to match the setting and theme of the site. Like the cast page, ... Also the last image is coming up a broken link. One quibble I have is with the Extras page- it should read “terminology,” not “termanology” ;)

*tantrum kicks* I can barely remember to update my daily notes for each page >< But it is something I love to see in an archives page, so I am going to suck it up. As far as the character pages, yeah, there should be more meat to them other than the generic profile. Those are boring. And -d'oh- duh, terminology...ugh.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Stylistically I’m not sure I care for the font the comic uses- it seems a little too tidy and book-ish. I personally think that this is a comic that would benefit from hand-drawn lettering, but I understand that’s not something every artist wants to do.

I read this and was like " 'Tidy and book-ish'. That is exactly why I picked it, and that's probably not what I should be going for." There is something I can use to make my own font, right? I've never been a fan of the all caps comics typically have, but I don't mind the small cap fonts I've seen.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:The details of this comic are superb! I really like the way backgrounds are done with care, in a way that helps solidify the setting without taking attention away from the characters and their actions. ... Body language is pretty good in general though in terms of differentiating characters, as we see in the first panel here where Whini’s friend is imitating her- it definitely doesn’t fit the friend’s personality and looks wrong when she does it, but we can easily picture Whini in that stance.

:shucks: :shucks: :shucks: Backgrounds are something that I actually try to take time on and pride in (most of the time anyway). Body language is a nuance that I try to give my characters to set them apart even if their body/face-type can be rather similar at times. I'm not trying to use that as a crutch, I plan on working on it, but being able to tall a character from another just by its skeletal silhouette I think is an important step.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:When you have a comic that doesn’t rely on color at all, it’s important to be bold about contrast. This page is a bit closer to what i am envisioning, but like I said, don’t be shy about pushing things further.

Absolutely! Now that you've said it, I really should be pushing my contrast more. During the 'action' scenes, I amped the color dodge on my texture layer to give it an edge, but I should find a way to carry that through as well as making it more dynamic.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I figure her manliness might be a reflection on her admiration of her father, or possibly a cultural difference, but she really truly looks like a dude that happens to have boobs. The Dragonball-esque hair probably contributes to this. ... I’m aware that this could be totally intentional, but part of the problem is that the characters are all pretty similar looking, so she doesn’t look like a mannish lady, just a man. All the human (or humanesque) characters kind of have the same body and face shape. In recent pages, it’s getting a bit better, but it still looks like all characters start out with the same face and then some of the features get tweaked a little bit afterward. As with the shading contrast, be bold with character design contrasts.

1) Muscles (like MAH-SULS muscles) have been a fun new thing for me to draw, so I kinda went "she...needs...HUGE. MUSCLES. AND. SHOULDERS. BECAUSE THAT'S HOW WARRIORS LOOK. " So, I need to calm down a bit, and go more Korra, less Vageta.
2) Drawing muscles was breaking a little out of my comfort zone, but I have been trying to do more physical shapes. I am super aware that the style I fall under has a weakness for varying body/face shapes, and I want to continue to challenge that.
3) Not going to lie, Whini is supposed to be a little like a man with boobs

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Part of what holds me back from enjoying fantasy comics is usually the dialogue- it tends to read too stiffly to me, and I felt that way as I read through this comic. I didn’t really get a sense of “voice” from the characters ... The comic is only 30-something pages in at this point in time, so maybe I’m just being impatient. Someone else will be able to give a better analysis of the writing, but I just found myself zoning out even when I was trying to follow the action and put things together. Again, I want to acknowledge the very real possibility that it is my own biases causing this problem, and not an issue with the writing itself.

I hate exposition. I know I have to write it and write it well or I will hate it more, but I hate it. I hate writing it, it hardly ever comes out naturally, and it's practically necessary in fantasy plots. I tried integrating it 'naturally' in an argument between Whini and Fetzim (old dude), and in banter with Rat, but it sounds like it did not achieve the "people actually having a conversation"-ness level.

Anybody have any good examples of fantasy-type exposition that's in-conversation and not a narrator?

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I’m not sure the character art style really suits that story right now ... I just don’t see the setting reflected in the character designs themselves. I don’t get the feeling that all these characters belong to the same culture. A lot of the hair and clothes styles look cool and explain a lot intra-characterally, but not inter-characterally (wow look at these crazy words I am making up right now) ... I want to see more cultural cohesion. As it is, the characters are kind of a Breakfast Club of different styles that don’t look like they originated from the same cultural background, if that makes any sense.

I was worried about this. Though I love the architecture and culture of ancient latin america, I wanted to display my own elements of style, but I need to mesh that better so that it makes sense. The only characters that have any real 'style' to them are Rat and Whini. Rat, displays a different culture (more central america, caribbean gypsy-esc) and race so she is supposed to not really 'look like she's from around here', and Whini is basically from a different sort of culture (nomadic aztec warrior type), where her garb is more function, less fashion. I'm planning on having a moment to really illustrate that they are different from the rest of the surrounding population (incan middle-high class). But I should twerk my character designs so that they are a little more cohesive.

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:Style in general is a difficult thing to critique, though. It’s not my place to tell anyone “how” to draw their characters. I think what it falls back to is what I said earlier about embracing contrast between different people. It’s not about superficial characteristics like hair and coloring, it’s about the underlying structures that really differentiate people. I got critiqued for the same thing earlier, so I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who’s just starting to understand how important these differentiations are, myself, and how easy it is for us as artists to see differences that Joe Reader can't see.

I've learned that it's a pretty easy thing to do. I got caught up in making sure that I updated remotely on time with something I'm not embarrassed of, if my site was working, and 1000 other things, but it's great to get reviewed so I can refocus.


VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I *do* think that Masadjra is a young comic, and that stylistically it could easily find its way just with the nature of the passage of time. It’s a nice looking comic with an interesting premise that I want to understand more about. Whether it’s just me being dumb or a fault of the writing that’s causing my inability to understand it well enough now, I can’t say- and perhaps it’s even some tender marriage of the two.

I'm going to chalk it up to be that there's only 30-odd pages, half of those are action-sound effects, and I need to work on my writing more :roll:

Thank you SO much Cuddly!
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This seriously was very helpful!
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Re: Webcomic Above You 2013 - Reviews & Discussion

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:16 pm

djracodex wrote:*tantrum kicks* I can barely remember to update my daily notes for each page >< But it is something I love to see in an archives page, so I am going to suck it up. As far as the character pages, yeah, there should be more meat to them other than the generic profile. Those are boring. And -d'oh- duh, terminology...ugh.

Truthfully, it's okay if you don't focus really hard on your extra pages right now, since people usually just come to a site for the story, not the extras, you know? I just was mentioning it since I like to nitpick things sometimes. Just pointing it out so if you do have a day somewhere down the line hwere you feel like working on something that's comic relevant without being the comic itself, you can play around with those :)

I read this and was like " 'Tidy and book-ish'. That is exactly why I picked it, and that's probably not what I should be going for." There is something I can use to make my own font, right? I've never been a fan of the all caps comics typically have, but I don't mind the small cap fonts I've seen.

Yes, definitely! I think Blambot is one that a lot of artists use to create or find custom fonts. In general, serif fonts tend to look weird in comics, because they're built for large blocks of printed text (as the tails create horizontal parallels making it easier for the eye to follow line after line of text) and even though I'm not a font nerd, it's one ofthose things where if I see a serif font in a comic, it takes me a little bit out of immersion.

:shucks: :shucks: :shucks: Backgrounds are something that I actually try to take time on and pride in (most of the time anyway). Body language is a nuance that I try to give my characters to set them apart even if their body/face-type can be rather similar at times. I'm not trying to use that as a crutch, I plan on working on it, but being able to tall a character from another just by its skeletal silhouette I think is an important step.

Absolutely! It's really good that you're pretty capable with that even if the rest isn't quite there yet, because that's one of those things that a lot of artists forego entirely or don't start to work on until years later. That one panel in particular was a spectacular example where, as I was reading, it actually made me think about how strong the body language is.

Absolutely! Now that you've said it, I really should be pushing my contrast more. During the 'action' scenes, I amped the color dodge on my texture layer to give it an edge, but I should find a way to carry that through as well as making it more dynamic.

I think that would definitely be beneficial. People in general from what I've noticed have a hard time laying down a lot of dark colors because we're used to "white space" being, well, the negative space, so it seems counterintuitive to throw down a lot of dark shades all over the place. If you have some time just to like, goof around with it, you can copy some of your older pages and just really go to town messing around with the levels, just to see how much leeway you actually have.

1) Muscles (like MAH-SULS muscles) have been a fun new thing for me to draw, so I kinda went "she...needs...HUGE. MUSCLES. AND. SHOULDERS. BECAUSE THAT'S HOW WARRIORS LOOK. " So, I need to calm down a bit, and go more Korra, less Vageta.
2) Drawing muscles was breaking a little out of my comfort zone, but I have been trying to do more physical shapes. I am super aware that the style I fall under has a weakness for varying body/face shapes, and I want to continue to challenge that.
3) Not going to lie, Whini is supposed to be a little like a man with boobs

I see! That makes more sense. I feel like the type of warrier Whini is, she's more of a lean muscle than Ahhnold muscle, you know? Stockier builds tend to be reminiscent of Vikings, whereas leaner builds tend to be more in line with Whini's lifestyle and heritage. I'm glad you're looking to challenge your style :lol: and I appreciate that you're forward-thinking about that instead of just digging heels in and saying "NOAP NOAP DIS IS HOW IT LUKS ITS MASTAYLE." Already the inclusion of musculature does give you a pretty good start. Comparing the recent action scenes to some of the beginning scenes, even though they're only about a year apart, you can already see a pretty decent improvement.

I hate exposition. I know I have to write it and write it well or I will hate it more, but I hate it. I hate writing it, it hardly ever comes out naturally, and it's practically necessary in fantasy plots. I tried integrating it 'naturally' in an argument between Whini and Fetzim (old dude), and in banter with Rat, but it sounds like it did not achieve the "people actually having a conversation"-ness level.

Actually, Whini and Fetzim gave me the most information out of all the conversations that were happening, just because Fetzim does talk the way I'd expect a character that looks like that to talk, you know what I mean? Fantasy plots are really tough because you have to lay down so much "this is how the world works," so I don't envy you at all in that regard. I am quite certain there's others on this board though who can point you in a better direction and give you advice that will help with in-canon world building.

I was worried about this. Though I love the architecture and culture of ancient latin america, I wanted to display my own elements of style, but I need to mesh that better so that it makes sense. The only characters that have any real 'style' to them are Rat and Whini. Rat, displays a different culture (more central america, caribbean gypsy-esc) and race so she is supposed to not really 'look like she's from around here', and Whini is basically from a different sort of culture (nomadic aztec warrior type), where her garb is more function, less fashion. I'm planning on having a moment to really illustrate that they are different from the rest of the surrounding population (incan middle-high class). But I should twerk my character designs so that they are a little more cohesive.

It's kind of hard for me to explain what was giving me issues, as even as I typed all of what I said, I kept thinking "all of this is intentional, though, this is the story." Thinking back on it, it's less that they don't all look like they belong to the same culture, just like they don't look like they all belong to the same story. I think it's the animesque style applying to a Latin American cast. Like, just to pick some Disney examples- The Emperor's New Groove has kind of the same setting as Masadjra does- it's blatantly western/Disney style but with an Amerindian flair. The same goes for Hercules, Mulan, Aladdin, etc- they're not done in a (for instance) Greek style entirely, but the style borrows elements from the art of that culture to really make the setting work. Right now, in Masadjra, all the elements of the art seem pretty much culturally "there" except the faces and bodies of the characters themselves.

I've learned that it's a pretty easy thing to do. I got caught up in making sure that I updated remotely on time with something I'm not embarrassed of, if my site was working, and 1000 other things, but it's great to get reviewed so I can refocus.

Those are all good things to keep your mind on, so you're really off to a solid foundational beginning. The kind of work ethic you have is progressive enough withoutbeing something too idealistic/optimistic that wouldn't be maintainable in the long term.

I'm going to chalk it up to be that there's only 30-odd pages, half of those are action-sound effects, and I need to work on my writing more :roll:

Thank you SO much Cuddly!
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This seriously was very helpful!

I'm so glad I was of help to you :) You really are off to a promising start in a lot of ways I wish I had been when I was in your position. You seem to know where you're generally going and are open to suggestions from others, and you don't have hooks for hands, so really the only way you can go is up :)




Also omfg
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