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More Webcomic Clichés I’m Sick Of Seeing

October 6th, 2007

( Read up on the previous list… )

Ok so as you might already be aware of, I’m not a real big fan of cliches. For me, using and relying on clicheic elements is the mark of a terrible writer. My whole writing career is rooted in gathering a list of what I believe to be cliches and do NOT use them in my work. I’m always adding new entires to the list… here are some new ones.

* Bad taglines. Hell, taglines in general. Some taglines can be functional; for Moose River I use “A dramedy about real life” and “A story about life, love, drugs, friendship and failure.” However, these are more of a description than a tagline. I consider an out-and-out “tagline” to be something that is not so much descriptive as much as the writer’s failed attempt to be witty. For example:
—- A ____ comic about ordinary ____ in a not so ordinary _____.
—- A story about ______, and their quest to SAVE THE WORLD!
—- _____ insanity ______
—- All _____ must come to an end.
—- In a world where ______, one [person] stands to _______.
—- _____ is hard. [Some supernatural/amazing feat] is harder.

I don’t even like seeing taglines in movies. I wasn’t a real big fan of Office Space‘s “Work Sucks” (neither was Mike Judge for that matter). The Royal Tenenbaums had “Family isn’t a word. It’s a sentence”, but at least it wasn’t anywhere on the front of the DVD cover. I don’t understand what everyone’s infatuation is with taglines.

* Narration. For the most part, I really hate narration in a visual medium, like comics and movies. Why? I just think it’s the mark of a bad writer/artist if they have to write out what I’m seeing instead of actually using visual cues. I mean, telling a story through pictures what’s going on is kind of the point of visual mediums. Does your character feel angry? Don’t draw a narration box with the words “He made Tom angry,” show that anger using a visual cue. Exceptions to this are:
—- If a character within the story is narrating a flashback. I use these a lot, but even then, the narration doesn’t always match what you see; I like doing that because you can take either what is being said or what you see as fact, however I try not to explain what can be shown.
—- If the visual medium is a documentary. Narration really is the only way to explain what is going on within a documentary.
—- If you manage to involve narration in a unique or very poetic manner, one that actually complements the visual medium as opposed to competing with it (ie Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware)

* Stories that revolve around being specifically NOT something else. By this I mean… suppose you’re aware of a lot of cliches, enough to know that you don’t like a lot of them. In fact, you dislike them so much, your next webcomic project involves NOT being like the comics you dislike. So say if you hate sprite comics, then your next comic is an anti-sprite comic. Or if you hate manga comics, you would make an anti-manga comic. The thing is though, your work is still revolving around that cliche, even if it’s criticizing it. You’re dedicating your time and energy to a cause that still draws attention to what you dislike. If you really want to break away from cliches and other overused concepts, keep learning and being aware of what you don’t like… but this time just don’t use them in any way. Simply pretend they don’t exist. From there you can start writing something that truly is unique.

* Quests to discover something have been played out. I’m not interested any more with some knight trying to discover the Dildo of Awakening. Unless you have some new quest concept that is still pretty fresh or new to people, don’t bother. This also includes stories that involve a quest to SAVE THE WORLD or some other kind of bullshit like that. Exceptions to this include, say, a Holocaust survivor trying to find his/her family.

* Anyone who uses “insanity,” “wackiness,” “craziness,” or any other such word anywhere in their comic, either in the title, tagline or description, needs to be shot. Seriously, your pre-college conception of “insanity” is just you acting like dork as a result of your caffeine addiction. Caffeine. Oh boy, man, you are so wacky you just blew my mind!!!!! … If you really want to pen a story about insanity, write a book about Charles Manson.

* Pirates, ninjas, samurai, cowboys, robots, monkeys, pEnGuInS oF dOoOoOoOoMmM… please don’t use them. If you REALLY need to use a period character, try one that hasn’t been overused in modern works. May I suggest:
—- a Fop
—- Joseon Dynasty Korean Royal Court Guard
—- Somalian Warlord
—- Doctors

These are all pretty cool characters, don’t you think? I mean, I’m sure “Who will win, Pirate or Somalian Warlord” debates will soon be all the rage on message boards. Give it some time…

* Extremely abnormal creatures in commonplace settings. For example:
—- Sentient robots built out of spare console/computer parts
—- Demonic/magical beings as pets/friends
—- Computer AI who takes the form of a beautiful girl who follows the main character to school and other various WACKY adventures
—- The same as above, except that it involves an alien girl, and she wants to learn more about this Earth thing called “kissing”

Frankly I just described the plots about 90% of all fantasy-based comic series.

* Comic reliefs. Does you know anyone in their own life whose raison d’etre is to be your (or your friend’s) personal comic relief? I mean, like, they have no other goals and ambition in life apart from being a comedic spoil? I didn’t think so. … OK yeah sure, not EVERY story has to be 100% realistic, so just because a comic relief doesn’t exist in real life, it doesn’t mean it should also not exist in a story. Still, just as much as the “hero,” “damsel in distress,” and “evil villain” character cliches have been WELL overused, the “comic relief” archetype have become completely one dimensional. Here’s an idea: spread out the comic reliefing among everyone in the story, or just avoid using it all together.

* I’m almost tired of seeing pregnancy as being THE single big deal in a story.

* Stories of a skeptic being proven wrong through the course of the story is also pretty worn out. And it almost seems to be slightly presumptuous on the part of the writer to believe that a die-in-the-wool believer-of-something is gonna switch their views at a drop of a hat. These following stories should not be written, if only because they’ve been written about a million times over:
—- Ghosts don’t exist! …or do they? Tom doesn’t believe in ghosts, but after something big happens to change his mind.
—- Bigfoot doesn’t exist! …or do they? Tom doesn’t believe in Bigfoot, but something big happens to change his mind.
—- Aliens don’t exist! …or do they? Tom doesn’t believe in aliens, but something big happens to change his mind.
—- God doesn’t exist! …or does He? Tom doesn’t believe in God, but something big happens to change his mind.

If you want to write one of these stories, just take someone else’s story, type up a copy of it and slap your name on the cover. No one will notice.

* Dark Side? Light Side? No. OK seriously, invent something new, ’cause the whole Light/Dark Side thing has been burned out by Star Wars.


This is all I got so far.

2 Responses to “More Webcomic Clichés I’m Sick Of Seeing”

  1. savagesparrow sezzzzz:

    I pretty much agree with you–Narration is ONLY useful in Noir comics (like Sin CIty!) and it really aggravates me in comics. “It was a dark and stormy night in the city of New York!”–if you’re a really good story-teller, all you have to show is some fucking rain on the empire state building!

    As far as the taglines goes….we live in an ADD influenced society. People don’t want to read the fine print, so unfortunately, taglines are a necessary evil. Personally, I’m getting sick of the new one I’m seeing on the TWC lists which is “OUR COMIC HAS LESBIANS! and/or LESBIAN NINJAS/PIRATES/NYMPHOS” and other such gimmicks. It’s one thing if you do a comic like Brion’s where dealing with sexuality is an integral part of the story (or if you’re doing an all-out pr0n comic), but otherwise, it’s the same as the ninjas thing (though Zombies seems to be the new hip thing–at Connecticon, there were SOOOOO many comics that were offering bit parts as random zombies in their comics at the Webcomic Auction).

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Moose River
by Philippe Van Lieu
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