Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Revue April 10th: O.S.F. Galatea

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Put Your Hands Together! There’s Someone New Onstage!

Hello! My name is Glenn Song. I’m the author and illustrator of the comic This Mortal Coil, which Olivia has reviewed here. This Mortal Coil is about a Gothic Lolita deity, Kamiko, and her adventures helping mortals who become entangled with spirits, demons, and gods from the Eternal Realm. The first story “The Rabbit and the Moon” ends in May and I go on hiatus for a while.

Olivia asked for contributors to the Revue a few months ago, and today I’m answering that call (okay, well, I answered it last week). My reviews will show up Sundays. I look forward to sharing what I know about making comics after self-publishing mine online for the last 3 years, and maybe I’ll learn a thing or two as well -- I am an amateur after all.

At least I’ll get to read all of your lovely comics.

And Now, Without Further Ado, We Bring You...


The moe frontier.

These are the voyages of...

Otaku Space Force Galatea is a comic by David Swanson and Willis Stone. Otaku are “normal people -- as normal as people can get. They live normal lives and have normal interests.” In this story, a fanboy is an otaku gone bad, pulled to the darker side of fandom. They literally become gremlins that attack other humans (or otaku). Each issue of this comic chronicles the exploits of the O.S.F. Galatea and their mission to boldly go where no otaku has gone before and fight fanboys and girls everywhere, presumably so that we may be free to pronounce “Evangelion” and “Gundam” anyway we please.

The Rating

A sci-fi anime romp!

The Raves

As I read through the first issue of O.S.F. Galatea, the thing that struck me about this comic, was that it felt like a very lighthearted tabletop game being presented as a story. My friends and I are casual D&D players and these characters feel like archetypes and personalities that we would come up with for our gaming session. They’re good enough to get the game rolling and to have a few good laughs for a few hours (while harassing the DM and ruining all of his best laid plans). I really got a sense of that when each character turned down their own corridor of the ship and each one had a different encounter. In that sense, Galatea is fun to read.

The writing is chalk full of references to nerd culture -- Simpsons and DBZ come to mind, but there’s much more. The strips “Galatea Gaiden” rely more on Internet memes, video games, and anime tropes for their gags.

The art style evolves over the four and a half issues presented. It starts out like a manga -- grayscale and screentones -- but later becomes full color. I liked a lot of the graphic design in the comic for the O.S.F. and the Galatea symbol. Oh, and this mock-up of Akane's giant fan was really cool too:

Example of some of the great graphic/prop design in O.S.F. Galatea

A lot of the pages contain animation from simple flairs like the gleam on metal or gunfire across a wall to complex animation like Joan the AI making chibi faces as she zips around the bridge or speedlines as characters get into a fight. The animation is a nice touch and brings in some of the anime aesthetic that define its characters, big moments, and world building. It also gives the pages a bit of dynamism, and it’s cool to see “Galatea” embrace that. Why not, right? We’re in a digital medium and we shouldn’t be constrained by paper. So, if you're looking to add some animated effects for your comic, definitely check this one out.

O.S.F. Galatea - Otakarian Ship Animated GIF
One of the many animated frames in the comic

Having done some animation for my comic, I know it’s additional time consuming work on top of penciling, inking, and rendering a page, but it does add an extra umph to the presentation.

Storywise, I think that they’re trying to create self contained episodes and throw us tiny morsels for the larger overarching plot, which I think is a good way to go about writing stories in high-concept, expansive worlds like this one. You can finish writing/drawing an episode and lead readers onto the next big thing. We can have intimate stories with a few characters, and also, get to the bigger aspects of the world presented in “Galatea”.

The website is clean and simple, and it’s responsively designed to handle desktop, tablet, and smartphone screens so you can pick up and read this work anywhere (I read it on an iPad). Some of the images are fairly large and load slowly on my tablet. I assume because they are animated GIFs. There are some tools like EZGIF's online optimizer and GIMP, which you can use to optimize color palettes and do other things to compress your GIF image.

The Razzies


My first problem was with the presentation of the first few pages when you read the comic in chronological order. It was a story comic first, then an unrelated gag comic as the next page. As someone coming in cold and binge reading the comic, the gag strips “Galatea Gaiden” threw me off. If the pages were reordered so that we got the first 10 pages that elaborate on the back story and characters, then we’d have some better context for the gag strips. 


Another issue I had was with the main characters. 

They felt like a collection of gags and anime stereotypes rather than fleshed out individuals. We get a sense of why these folks have banded together -- fighting Fanboys (i.e. monsters) and doing a Robin Hood-thing, but I never got a sense of who they are individually.

If we go back to the tabletop game analogy, the personalities work if I’m at the table playing the game, but once it stands alone as a story, a lot of the humor that would be funny in the moment is lost. I’m looking to connect with these characters beyond the gags.

I assume the characters are all supposed to be otaku of some kind, as the title suggests. In “Galatea” otaku seems to draw it’s roots from how westerners interpret it: someone who watches anime or plays video games, but otaku means more than that. Someone who’s obsessed with a specific hobby - be it anime, idols, manga, history, sports, trains - is an otaku.

For reference there’s some great anime about otaku: Genshiken and Genshiken Nidaime, which are both slice-of-life shows that depict otaku going from college to the working world and how they relate to one another through their hobbies. Princess Jellyfish is about a group of fujoshi (i.e. "rotten girls" or female otaku) who fight to keep their apartment complex from being torn down. There’s also the j-drama Densha Otoko, or the “Train Man”, which is about an anime otaku who saves a beautiful girl from being groped on the subway and ends up trying to date her with the help of other otaku on 2ch.

Embracing this other aspect of otaku might help give the characters some more depth while thematically fitting with the story. Maybe Nobu is a military otaku, and we can get a sense of how he plans tactics in his head for the carnage he’s about to commit. Maybe he knows every detail about the weapons caches he comes across.


The art definitely improves over time, but the biggest issue seems to be the use of perspective for backgrounds. From one of the latest pages:

Wonky perspective with some correction over it.

It’s 1-point perspective going off to the left, but the grid under the Mechland store appears to be going off to another vanishing point. If it’s meant to be some kind of tiled grid pattern then the lines should be straight. The perspective also seems to be really distorted and stretched, and I noticed that in a lot of panels throughout the comic.

If you're looking for a good book on perspective, there’s Perspective! for Comic Book Artists, which presents the concepts of vanishing points and horizon lines all in the form of a comic. Also, Thomas Romain’s twitter feed (he’s an animator in Tokyo) has some nice tips on dealing with background perspective too.

Example of the wonky perspective. There appears to be 3 independent vanishing points.

This is an earlier page of "Galatea", but the perspective looked really wonky. There appears to be 3 different vanishing points in the image. One for the city blocks, one of Nobu that looks like it could be 2-point perspective, and Yukio with his back to the camera. Maybe what we’d really want here is the 1-point perspective, and Nobu and Yukio would have to be pushed up and overlap with the exploding Fanboy to properly achieve the effect. The horizon line also looks like it’s dividing the large panel into two, but it doesn’t seem like that was the intention.

Another issue I have with the perspective is that it’s mostly just lines making up cubical shapes.

Nice perspective but could use a little more background detail to give the place life.

In this panel, he looks like he’s sitting in a large rectangular box and not a cafeteria. The giant LCD gives it something, but the rest on the right is pretty sparse. There could be a little more detail to ground the place.


Minor quibble with the UX: I’d like to be able to click on the image to advance forward through the story instead of pecking at the ‘next’ button. Sometimes I end up hitting the ‘issue forward’ button instead.


If you’re an otaku, or like internet memes, video game/nerd culture/anime jokes then O.S.F. Galatea might be up your alley.

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