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Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

September 8th, 2007

( Webcomic Criticisms )

There aren’t enough webcomic critics out there. Despite not agreeing with everything this guy says 100%, it’s a real breath of fresh air. I thought I was the only one sick of webcomic cliches.

I need to throw together a definitive list of my personal do’s and don’ts when to comes to writing. At least, the rules I’ve come to follow for myself. So far I have:

* Don’t use other people’s styles. You spend more time worrying about whether or not you have the style right versus spending it on actually writing a good story. It’s not THAT hard to come up with something original!
* Don’t make a gag comic. I mean, how often do gags happen in real life? Certainly not every five minutes as gag comics make it seem. Even in comedy writing, all the good funny movies aren’t really gag based, like The Big Lebowski.
* Don’t throw in pop-culture references. At least, don’t have the story rely on them. OK fine, I’m guilty of making some pop-culture references (the “Professor Houses” are named after Pokemon Professors), but I think it’s somewhat presumptuous for a writer to throw in Star Wars references left and right and assume that the reader is totally gonna understand what the hell is going on. … Oh, OK fine, if your comic DOES revolve around pop-culture references, you get a pass. I mean, I don’t expect that bushmen from Sudan will understand the twenty-something Californian-American culture of Moose River. …. But seriously, I’d rather write something where OTHER people reference my work than fill my work with other people’s references. I think it just makes my work look like a collage of everything else by my own ideas.
* Don’t use any know-it-all smartass Mary Sue who “wittingly” points out all of the world’s flaws and dispatches them either using mindless violence or extreme sarcasm. In fact, if you’re afraid to have any of your main character be in any way flawed way beyond the usual Mary Sue flaws, don’t use them. Yes, sure, there are smart-asses out there like that which I’ve just described (I know of at least one), but being a smart-ass isn’t their only flaw. I’m just sick and tired of seeing stories where everyone is fucked up EXCEPT for the main character(s), who end up being the SOLE savior(s) of the entire universe. I’m looking at you, Neo of the Matrix.
* This also includes token characters. Don’t add in a black dude just because you want to prove how racially diverse you can be. I honestly find token characters to be demeaning. Add characters if they actually serve a purpose to telling the story.
* You can’t avoid doing something that has always been done. I mean, look at me; how many drama-comedies already exist? On the other hand, you can be aware of what has been overdone, and just avoid being a part of that. Stories that place superheroes in real life situations dealing with transgalactic-homosexuality or AIDS-from-Dimension X are no longer fresh. Nor is the whole “high school is tough, but it’s even tougher when you’re a teenage necromancer!” cliche. Manga/anime, gaming comics, “insanity”, furries, superheroes… they are all things that have been way overdone. Burnt to a crisp. Please, PLEASE… don’t even touch them.
* Throw a punch or sit pretty. But never pull your punches. If you’re not gonna say “fuck”, then don’t even imply it. I’d rather see “go to hell!” versus seeing “feck you” or “f**k you”. Of course, having a character who says “feck” because you’ve written them to be a complete fucking dork is an exception to this rule.
* Inside jokes are to be discouraged. You’re not writing a story about 4chan. Or at least, again, don’t rely on inside jokes. Let the reader understand what the hell is going on.
* Don’t even think about writing the “very special episode.” Yes my comic has drugs and sex and shit, but I’m not interested in devoting an entire chapter to having a heart-to-heart discussion about it.
* I’m actually getting sick of the term “interweb”. And then I saw “Internetiwebitron”. Call me old fashioned, but I’m gonna stick with “internet”.

Simply put, I hate cliches. … Exceptions are to be applied to anyone who are in the middle of learning comic-fu and need to learn the rules in order to break them later own down the road. And yes, I realize I’m guilty of breaking some of these rules. I AM still working on my comic-fu myself…

Anything else I’m missing?

6 Responses to “Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad”

  1. Tom sezzzzz:

    What retard calls it the “interweb”?

    Definitely agree on the “Lee Press-On Diversity” bit (#5). Of course you realize that you’re able to say that because you (ahem) “represent an ethnic minority”. If a white cartoonist said it s/he’d need to bring a bodyguard while attending the next MOCCA or SPX. (But then this is NY, where people WANT to be offended. I don’t know about CA.) The Left in this country nearly crucified Charles M Schulz because he dared to decry the PC producers of a revival of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” because they hired a black Schroeder. (This was just before he died.)

    I’d also add “No cute iconic characters suitable for marketing the hell out of”. See Girls With Slingshots (the cactus), Questionable Content (the robo thing), Apple Geeks (that ripoff of the Marduk chick from “Macross II”) and now, Starslip Crisis (the Jinxlet; hope those dolls weren’t made in China, Chris), among others…

  2. Tom sezzzzz:

    That Retard – Huh. Nice style. Reminds me of Doug Tennapel (“Earthworm Jim”).

    Sex/Cute Sells – Oh, OK, I think I get it now. The blog’s about “What Makes Web Comics INDEFENSIBLY Bad”, not “What Makes Web Comics Kinda-Bad-With-Explanation”. Although in that case I’d say the “no gag comics” bit should be removed; the fact that grown men don’t hit each other with claw hammers every two minutes in real life didn’t prevent “The Three Stooges” from being a frigging riot…

    And yeah, subtly hot rules. Like that chick from “Fanboys”. And Claire from your esteemable strip. (“Sony PSP Squirrels” voice) Iiiii’d hit that! I’d hit that! I’d hit that!

  3. Tom sezzzzz:

    I already know she’s not; from what I’ve gathered about your work so far, happy endings would be grossly out of place — unless it’s Avery tagging “HI. :)” Evelyn from Register 2. Hope the “big-ass Halloween party” pans out. 😀

  4. mayor of moose river sezzzzz:

    Have I gotten predictable? I’ll show yews! Honestly though, I wouldn’t say “happy endings” aren’t my fortay, just more like “not fair endings” are. Of course it could be “not fair” to any one of my characters, or to the reader.

    And yes, the Halloween party thingy is gonna get played out extensively.

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Moose River
by Philippe Van Lieu
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