Sunday, January 22, 2017


Hurry one and all! Come and see the fantastic sights of a mysterious alternate world full of curious creatures and magical mystery. Watch your step as you slip through the portal into the realm of Otherworldly.
This fantasy webcomic follows five young adults who have recently discovered that they are changelings, magical beings stolen from their families and raised to believe they were human. New to magic and the stranger truths of the world, they seek out their true families and identities while also butting heads with shady characters and dangerous plots.

The Rating

The comic is good, but it doesn’t have any single category where it really stands out. A little polish and some minor adjustments could give some real shine to this rough gem.

The Raves

I do love a good dose of creativity and imagination in a comic. Most fantasy worlds are vaguely medieval, at best with a bit of steampunk. In this comic, the fantasy world metropolis, Alfheim, looks like an idyllic New York City with lush plant-life alongside futuristic technology.
Now there's a place I wouldn't mind being welcomed to!

I can’t begin to tell you what a breath of fresh air that is, and I applaud the creator for taking the setting in a new direction. My only criticism is that we simply don’t get to see enough of it! More, I say, more!

The mythos of changelings is also an interesting inversion. Ordinarily, the story goes that a fay creature steals a human child and leaves one of its own in the human’s place. Here, the roles are reversed and story centers mainly around five changelings, Erin, Barry, Nicole, Jerome, and Lacey, figuring out what and who they are.

In general, the main characters are sympathetic and interesting. The (arguable) protagonist, Erin, is the first one we meet, and her motivation is to find her family after drifting through the foster system all her life. The other characters have their own unique situations and motivations, but the thing they share is the desire to find out the truth about themselves.

The theme of seeking one's personal identity isn't limited to the fantastic, either; all of the characters have some kind of mirroring issue in the human world that ties into their search for their real families. These issues range from enduring an inhospitable work environment to being actively pursued by an evil version of Agent Mulder. Personally, I found Lacey to be the most interesting character. The writing surrounding this seemingly chipper girl is subtle and poignant. It's heavily implied that she feels like a black sheep in her family and it's very heartwarming to see her meeting her real family, with whom she fits in perfectly. However, even after finding them, she seems to realize her human family matters to her too, and she's clearly at a loss for what to do next.

Of course, that's just one of the five. All of the changelings are interesting in their own ways--her story is just the most complete so far.

The Razzes

Unfortunately, not all of the characters are written well. The villains are especially a problem in this comic. They’re meant to be comically stupid, but their smug attitudes and cluelessness make them terribly annoying. The evil Agent Mulder is particularly grating. I like the concept of her character as a threat to the secrecy of the Otherworld, but listening to her is worse than the sound of grinding teeth.
Oh, just shut up.
I would find her a lot her tolerable if she acted more seriously. In fact, her more serious moments tend to be her best. She really fails as a comedic character, but as a legitimate and even malicious threat, she’s a lot more interesting.

The Sidhe twins and their hired hands don't share this redeeming caveat, unfortunately. They’re incredibly incompetent and have zero intriguing menace. That’s not my opinion; the comic outright says they should be dangerous, if only they had a drop of competence. As they are, they're little more than a nuisance And that’s how I see them too. Nuisance.

There's comically inept and there's just plain inept. This is the latter.
I don’t like them. Nope.

The pacing of the comic is a bit awkward as well. The first chapter moves at what seems lightning speed, throwing a lot of ideas at the reader at once without taking the time to explore the wonders of the setting. However, since then, things have slowed down a little to give some breathing room to the characters’ individual arcs. The writing is stronger when it takes a vignette approach, but it still has some weak points. For one thing, the comic seems to set up Erin as the protagonist, but her character development lags behind most of the others'. I believe this is largely because the story has such a focus on family issues, and therefore focuses on the characters who have those issues. She's also a little bland. The other four characters are very expressive; Nicole is bitter, sarcastic, and aggressive, Lacey is quirky and enthusiastic, Barry is a playful gadfly, and poor Jerome is a lovable nervous wreck and adorkable geek. Erin's reserved, deadpan personality sort of fades into the background by comparison.

These don't look like movements so much as still poses with speed lines.
The art, as well, lacks that certain sparkle. The biggest issue is the dynamics. The movements of the characters are stiff and unresponsive. Not even speed lines seem to help bring the motion to life, as the example to the right demonstrates.

The general anatomy of the characters could use some work as well. Hands and limbs seem to be the major weak points in most of the poses. I suggest practicing with gesture drawings to help conquer this issue. This video does a good job explaining gestures.
Other than that, maybe work on the color choices. Most of the colors seem a little dull. Even when the comic uses bright, vivid hues, they just don’t pop. A lot of the pages have a weirdly washed-out quality to them. I suggest using complimentary colors to bring more variety into the page. Blend different colors on the same object, too. Here’s an example of the difference just a little bit of palette-mixing can make.
Notice how monochromatic Troll Dad and the forest look. Also, the lighting on the forearms is inconsistent with his shirt.
Here, the lighting has been corrected and more hues have been added to break up the monochrome, making the colors richer.

The Revue

The devil is in the details with this one. There are plenty of good ideas and possibilities to really pull this thing together. For the time being, though, it has plenty to offer for readers who are big fantasy lovers.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

NO-Earth Comics

Welcome to the webcomics sampler.

Today we’ve got not a double, or even triple-feature, but a quadruple-feature of no less than four interconnected comics…

The Rating


…but can you even count four comics as being connected when half of them have under five pages? When the pitch writes checks the project can’t cash, you’re not gonna put a lot of behinds in the seats.

The Raves

The idea of a connected universe of comics by multiple creators is neat and the two comics that actually have a noteworthy amount of updates have decent storylines. Those comics are The Law of the Jungle and Warmage, with The Law of the Jungle being the better of the two.
Pretty good storyline, though the word balloons aren't in the right order. Try to work on that.

Law of the Jungle largely follows a family that adopted a werewolf girl during a time when people are just starting to discover the presence of magical and anthropomorphic beings living among them. The relations between humans and the werewolves are strained, with humans actively culling them in the name of security. Of course, the werewolves themselves, while persecuted, are no idle threat either.

Now on to Warmage:
Attempted boyfriend-mancy is honestly not even in the top 5 weirdest things you'll see in this comic.

Warmage is a fantasy comic that takes place between two different times and dimensions. In one timeline, a warmage deals with a dire threat that is causing all magic to wane. In another, a college student with an interest in magic and lost civilizations laments her disappointing love-life and wishes she lived in another time. This comic comes the closest to delivering on the cross-continuity pitch of the project, since the warmage, as you might expect, ends up on Earth, meeting the other protagonist.

Sadly, the comic hasn’t updated since that point. Law of the Jungle has likewise been leaving the audience off on a cliffhanger since September. And just when things were getting good!

The Razzes

Since then, not a single one of these comics has updated. The closest thing to an update was this blog post about scoping out conventions to get NO-Earth Comics out there. There's ambition, and then there's putting the car before the clowns. How about you actually finish a few chapters of these comics before you start selling tickets to your show?

I said this was a quadruple-feature, but there are actually other comics not even listed in the archives because they never got off the ground. A multiverse of connected comics is a great idea, but aside from one cameo that the creators had to explain in the comments, there hasn’t been a single sign of that concept in action. The genres and art styles are wildly different and there’s no connection between the storylines. No crossovers, no shared characters, not even a hint of an overarching theme. The only commonality is all four comics feature anthropomorphic animals co-existing alongside ordinary humans. If you’re relying on that to be your calling card to make the connection obvious, well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but
Sequential Art
Super Dinosaur
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Whisper of the Heart
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Muppets
I've seen some slow webcomics in my time, but with this many people collaborating, I would expect at least one comic to have just one finished chapter. Most of the content on the site is just written lore, reference material, and guides for prospective collaborators. So much, and yet so little. I could go on about the art in Warmage being deep in the uncanny valley and the font being hard to read, the website lacking an archives page, or any number of small technical flaws, but that’s the equivalent of critiquing a poster and a two-minute trailer.
A visual representation of this project so far.

To put it bluntly, NO-Earth Comics is not ready to be critiqued. It's too incomplete to generate anything but mild interest in the concept and its glacial rate of progress really doesn't sell me.

Consider this a wake-up call to your troupe. Get a move on, or else stop promising something you can’t deliver. With so many people involved, and the website being active since 2015 (and the concept itself apparently dating back to 1985, according to the About page), there should be a lot more material than this. Until this collaboration starts to follow through on its premise, it’s going to continue to be an unfulfilled vanity project that disappoints readers interested in the draw of a large-scale crossover universe.

The Revue

This project oozes ambition, but not much else. Take the potential this thing has and start making something of it!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Revue: Super Chibi Girl

Ladies and Gentlemen
It's a Bird...
It's a Plane...

No, it's...

Super Chibi Girl by Allen Steadham. In this story an alien, we'll call him Jeff, teleports into Allison's home while she's eating dinner and flips her entire life upside down. What follows is a rapid fire story about marriage, childbirth, and fighting alien terrorists.

As a disclaimer, I read through the comic portion of Super Chibi Girl. After several comic chapters the story is novelized and I didn't review that part.

The Rating 

There are shades of Superman

The Raves

Early in the story, Allison is killed, and Jeff saves her by taking her to the blue light -- an alien species who are apart of the B'wahii. When he does this, it turns Allison into a half-B'wahii to save her life, and I like this sudden shift. She's thrown out of her old skin and humanity and forced to take on an alien's culture and biology. Her physical capability changes but she's also forced to confront this alien on a more intimate level. It leads to some mix-ups as she tries to bridge her own human behaviors with the B'wahii way of life. It makes for a pretty good conduit to learn about the B'wahii race and to do the extended worldbuilding in the story. There's plenty of action to be had, but we also get to learn about family dynamics in the B'wahii world as well as some of the mythology behind their people.

Another major idea seems to be that love can transcend the environment you grew up in. Both Dawn's birth and her own seemed to be unwanted, but she doesn't want to repeat her father's unwillingness to love her own child. I like that change in her character, because Allison begins the story very self-centered. So much so that she lies and runs away without helping Jeff (as she said she would).

Another aspect I liked about this story was that characters try and reason through their situation. When Allison meets Jeff and before she decides to run away, she's deliberating with herself on what she should do. Later on when Allison saves Slim, he tries to think through what happened and understand it better.

Slim piecing together the clues about the mysterious alien woman.

Art-wise, I liked the pencil drawings at the beginning. As the story goes on, the art changes from the pencil drawings to full on digital color and inked pages -- and they're pretty decent. At times the visual effects didn't seem to mesh well especially with some of the pencil drawings. Some background perspective could use some work too.

The Razzes

As much as I enjoy the story's rapid-pace, I think the way some events were condensed made the story feel too rushed. At times it felt like the story didn't have time to breathe because of it.

I thought Slim's introduction in the present day of the comic was confusing and awkwardly done. Allison saves a person falling from the roof and then as they exchange dialogue that person, who is Slim, realizes that he's talking to Allison. This is juxtaposed with a flashback in the previous page where Slim is asking Allison out years ago. I had to read those pages a few times to get what was happening. Slim looks vastly different as a young person and I didn't put the two together easily. There's a lot being crammed into 2 page of comic and everything is being contorted to bridge these two moments together, but I think to better pace the scene out we needed a scene to establish his investigation of the damaged rooftop and falling or someway to connect the flashback to him. There is a narration link where Slim says that the flashback was trigger because he touched Allison, but a visual connection would be stronger.

The start of chapter 3 is also confusing. At first we're teleported into Allison's mother's home, but then Slim's home, but then Allison's mother is able to overhear their conversation. After the first 10 pages of chapter 3 I didn't know where we were spatially. Don't get me wrong there's some great dialogue and stuff in those ten pages, but trying to sort out where they are takes me out of the story.

There is a lot of suddenness that happens in this story and as much as I enjoy the rapid pace of it I want some space in between the events.

On one hand, I like that Allison is thrown into this situation and forced to adapt and learn because that's one way a character can grow in a story, but on the other hand it feels like she has very little agency in how things happen. When Allison and Jeff hug they inadvertently create a new child (B'wahii reproduce with hugging). This triggers the two being married together, and Allison who hasn't really had time to process the whole thing is pushed even deeper into a relationship with Jeff. She accepts all of this and even wants to love Dawn.

The message for all of this could be a reflection of what marriage and pregnancy is really like: when it happens, it just does and it's life-changing. If that's the case, I'd want to put up a strong parallel between Allison and Jeff and, say, Allison's mom her ex-husband Bruce to illustrate the point otherwise it feels abrupt. There is a parallel like that later, which was a scene I really liked.

Another issue I had with the story was: are the B'wahii way to super powered?

Jeff can teleport, shoot lasers out of his eyes, fly, telepathically swap minds, and have access to a deity-like blue light that can revive the dead. In a sense he's even more powerful than Superman. Yet, when we meet Jeff on the first page of the story he is being faced down by two terrorists who want to kill him. To avoid them he teleported to Earth and it starts this whole story, but why not just zap them with his eyes? They were standing pretty close to one another. He does that eventually to kill a few of them who come after him.

This always seems like the problem with super-powers (and even I have this issue with my own story). "If my character can do that, then why not this?" Wouldn't he have a better understanding of his powers and pick something in his arsenal that seemed less prone to random disaster such as teleporting light years away into someone's kitchen? Certainly, there's a character who is acting instinctively in a fight-or-flight moment, but if he knew what he was capable of wouldn't he weigh his options better? Or maybe the scenario needed to be setup to show that he was entirely surrounded with no way out.

The Revue

It's an engaging and fast-paced character driven, optimistic story about an alien, Jeff and a human, Allison who try to come to terms with the major changes in their lives by their chance meeting. There is some clumsy storytelling but otherwise still enjoy story.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Backstage Pass January:Tantz Aerine

Psst! Slip Behind The Curtain! Here's Your Backstage Pass!

And Just Look Who's In The Dressing Room! It's Tantz Aerine!

In a time when the world seems a little dark and quite a few people are throwing around the terms 'Hitler' and 'Nazi', here's a creator brave enough to tell the true stories of Nazis, Resistance Fighters, and what it really cost to fight for the soul of your country.

Tantz, will you introduce yourself?

I’m Tantz Aerine (IRL Tanya Geritsidou), a Greek psychopedagogue born in Quebec, Canada. I specialize in educational policy and have a background in psychology and a long experience in teaching methods. My science aside, I’m also a professional author, mostly of high fantasy. I’m most known for my high fantasy trilogy The Art of Veiling,
but I also write short stories and scripts. The past near decade I also am very seriously invested in creating webcomics, mostly graphic novels.

Main Projects 

My main webcomic project is Without Moonlight, which is definitely one for the long road.
WM is basically a tour of the visceral underbelly of Greece’s modern history starting with the occupation by the Nazis (and their Italian and Bulgarian allies) during WWII, and, if I am able and live long enough, reaching up to the 1980s, in successive volumes-units as the story advances and characters come and go. All of it I plan to explore through Fotis, who is one of the main characters.  It’s his life we follow, hopefully until he becomes an old man. I say hopefully, because sometimes the story surprises even me, and Fotis might give the torch to someone else to carry on to the 80s, through all the torrential, extremely dangerous circumstances of Greek modern history.

Other Hobbies, Guilty Pleasures and Obsessions

I love baking cakes, coffee cakes… basically any kind of dessert.
My guilty pleasure has to be binge watching series.
I’m not sure about obsessions actually… unless… well, I want to keep my activism out of this interview, but you could say I’m obsessed with having International Law and Human Rights actually applied to everyone without exception. A simple adherence to these laws would solve immediately an astounding amount of problems. It just wouldn’t help the minority we all know make money as it does anymore.

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

I always loved to draw and expand my drawing skills. I’m self taught, so that entailed me basically doodling everything and at all times. When I was in high school I had a large notebook where I wrote my stories, and a lot of loose papers where I doodled my characters and other things I found interesting.
I used my cartoons and general love of sketching in my classes as a teacher, in various ways to keep the children engaged and motivated. That led to me making short comics of my students as characters in stories that they built over the week, serving as their reward for their hard work.
And well, one thing led to another…

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

Up until recently, I used Photoshop. But then the program got corrupted and wouldn’t run in Windows 10, so I was obliged to transfer to GIMP.
I work 100% digitally: GIMP + Intuos tablet.

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your work process flow from idea to finished page?

The plot for WM is already sketched out and complete for the entire project, as I said barring any unexpected twists or turns the characters might throw my way.
I have the script for the next few scenes already penned down (so that’s about 2-3 months’ worth of updates, assuming I update once per week).
When I feel ready to sit down and make a page, I re-read the scene I’m currently making to get in the mindset and the mood I’m going for. Then I make the layout of the page, by matching lines to panels: that way I know how much of the script is going on the page, and how I’ll illustrate it (i.e. how many panels, angles, etc).
Then I work linearly, going at the first panel of the page and finishing it completely (i.e. colour and lighting) before I go to the next one. So by the time I’m finished with the final panel of the page, the page is also finished and ready for lettering.
The entire process usually takes about 8 hours. I like to be able to make a page in one sitting but usually with my obligations I work in 4 hour sessions over two days.

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

A big part of my comic is dialogue- characters talk and argue and fight. The action is intense but in short bursts, just like in real life. Things happen very fast and with absolute effects, but they don’t happen all the time. In between, characters run around and ruminate to be able to set up the circumstances so that they will win next time, in the next action burst.
So the hardest part of my work is to avoid talking head syndrome. I want the talking to be just as intense as the action and engage the reader, and that has to happen through body language and the nuances to be discovered as the characters talk.

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

I prefer to have my script ready by the time I put pen to tablet, and that’s because my story is basically a historical graphic novel. I can’t afford to fly by the seat of my pants, because I have to be certain everything is as accurate as possible in terms of the story fitting the history.
I had made a comic, Wolf, 100% flying by the seat of my pants, and it was super fun! It also helped me learn how to make webcomics and for that I’ll always have affection for it, even though it’s ghastly art wise.
But Wolf was a bio-science thriller story in a fictional contemporary city, and I felt I had free hand to do what I wanted without anyone fact checking on it. WM on the other hand, isn’t nearly as forgiving.

 I have to make everything just right, fit it just right so the story would plausibly be one that could have happened in 1942 Athens, time it just right to hit the dates I have to hit, so I feel I have to have good control of the story. Hence, script is necessary

How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

Ah… I would like to keep 2 weeks’ worth of buffer (i.e. about 3-4 pages). I have never managed it. I work with no buffer, and my readers understand that I make a page as quickly as I can, and upload it immediately.

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

No, but that is probably because by the time I started making comics and being an artist (including my author side) I already also had my degree and worked a ‘real job’. So I did used to get a bit of shade or side looks, but nobody felt they had the right to tell me anything. I think though that the times are different than the 90s and the 00s. Especially since ‘real jobs’ don’t pay as much lately either, what with the global recession craze, and a successful freelance artist might be in a position to make the minimum wage at least.

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

“There’s so much more to history than what I’m taught in school, and it might give me new insights about the world!”
“There’s more to Greece than her ancient history and her contributions to the world continued beyond Alexander the Great.”
“War isn’t just the battle theaters of the fronts, but also the occupations, the devastations, the silent annihilations that don’t make the news.”
“Fascism rhetoric is uncannily current and way too modern to feel at ease that it is dead. There was a time where the swastika was just another flag among the rest.”

So much of your story is historical in nature: how do you go about researching it? What's the research to art-making  ratio in your work?

I prefer direct sources to secondary ones. Those aren’t very easy to find if you don’t know where to look.
Greek boys who were part of the Athens Resistance

For that reason, I did most of my research (and bibliography compilation) before I even started creating the plot, let alone the script or any page.
Accounts of what took place in Greece during WWII (and especially during the occupation which is when WM begins) are abundant but relatively superficial if you try to research the daily life of the people in the cities and in the country, the smaller events that took place, etc. History, when packaged for international audiences, tends to record only big hallmarks, such as the first ever sabotage in Europe that took place by the newly formed resistance in Greece, but neglects to document the daily smaller events of resistance, such as demonstrations of unarmed people against fully armed Nazis, the food-supplement network to battle famine, and a lot of other things.
So what I did was go right for the direct accounts and records of the events as recent to them as possible. I began with state archives of the impact of the occupation in Greece, compiled by the ministry responsible in 1947. Then I researched all the documentation printed and issued by resistance movements of the time. I have books and newspapers that used to be illegal at the time (on pain of death) documenting stuff about daily living and other issues that I wouldn’t otherwise know.
I also have big collections of photographic evidence of the era, ranging from photos of atrocities to photos of daily living (e.g. a picket of Nazis at a tavern having lunch, with some other Athenians sitting around in other tables numbly, and so on).

An Athenian being harassed for the amusement of Nazi soldiers
I also have collections of propaganda and anti-propaganda, newspaper clippings and front pages, posters, you name it.
I keep researching though, and every new source or document that falls in my hands, I collect and keep. Sometimes I even adjust my story’s plot to incorporate it, or just make sure to illustrate it in the background.
Methods of research to amass all of that include of course intense internet research but also a lot of diving in old bookstores that specialize in old authentic books and newspapers (there are a lot of those here in Athens), attending events presenting such evidence, interviewing survivors (some are still alive today), going out at the actual places where WM takes place and taking photos (the city center hasn’t changed since 1930), and then looking for the changes in the areas of Athens that HAVE changed, so that I may depict Athens during the 40s as faithfully as possible.
How do you go about doing your research? What are some of your favorite sources?
Favourite sources (newspapers and clippings aside) include:
(in Greek)
    A Greek soldier holding his daughter

  • The Greek Resistance, as revealed by the secret archives of Wehrmacht in Greece by P.K. Enepekides (1964) (also available in German)
  • Greece under the Swastika, documents from the German archives, edited by Martin Seckendorf (also available in German) (1991)
  • Testimonials Regarding the Greek Resistance, by D. Gyftopoulos (1984)
  • Light in the Darkness of the Occupation, National Resistance 1941-1944, Heroism & Sacrifice, Decadence & Treasons, by N. Antonakeas (1947)
  • White Bible, May 1944 to March 1945, by E.A.M. (National Liberating Front) (1945)
  • Photos of the Occupation, photo evidence from the German archives about the heroic resistance of the Greek people, by V. Mathiopoulos (1980)
  • (in English)
  • Hitler, a biography, by V. Ulrich, (2013)
  • Report of the FAO Mission for Greece, by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1947)

Partisan fighters lauded in their home town in the mountains
One thing I really want to mention is that the older the sources, the more emotionally charged they are, and the more politically skewed they are. I have sources written by royalists, by communists and by democrats, all giving accounts of the same events. All of them try to support their take on those events by documents and other evidence. It is fascinating to see not only what happened at the time, but how much and how viciously political parties vied for power over the interests of the Greeks or Greece herself- and just as heartbreaking and touching to see that all the people in all those groups were shedding their blood for the very same cause, unaware of the political machinations of the few in every political party’s top tier.
I strive to demonstrate that in my comic. It’s too early yet to see more than hints, but I will touch on that directly soon.

You deal with very difficult source material; are there things that you get nervous about discussing? Is there anything you've ever decided not to depict?

A partisan girl strutting her stuff
Right at the beginning of WM I was attacked for being unfair to the Nazis and ‘depicting them in a negative light’ (I kid you not). Very vehemently might I add. After that, I have no nervousness depicting anything, simply because the subject matter is such that some toes will be stepped on, no matter how careful I am. So I’ve decided to just depict things are they were and not beat around the bush.
As for anything I’ve decided not to depict- yes. I have decided to sanitize the atrocities some. You can’t believe the stuff I have read and seen in the photos. It’s so grotesque and insane, so extremely sadistic and evil that I’m positive no person would believe me if I depicted such things in the story. So I have toned down the manners of punishment and manners of reparations where I felt it would come across as too fantastical and a fabrication rather than historical fact. I also don’t think I have it in me to draw such things. They hurt too much.

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

My love of my own people, and a need to showcase as much as possible their acts of immense heroism in the face of unthinkable odds and stakes- it’s time they stopped being unsung, at least as much as I can help it.
But aside that, I also wish to show to the world what happened not too long ago, and get across the feel of day to day living in such circumstances, the rhetoric of those circumstances and how easily, how silently, how suddenly we may wake up to find ourselves in the same or similar situations. It’s my bid to warn, to plead for these things not to happen again, as unfortunately they’ve already begun being applied.
Finally, WM is a story that I intend to end with the optimism that these people had through all the adversities, and that I still have about humanity. No matter what, we will prevail over the darkness of the world.
Nike, Winged Spirit Of Victory: A Statue Honoring The Resistance

Thank you and μπράβο Tantz. We need your story more than ever today, and we are lucky to have you telling it! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Revue January 7: Tangled River

Blast Off Into The Future With 

Worlds away and millennia hence, a young girl is trying to become a woman. It isn't easy for Tanya either. Technology brought from Earth is breaking down. School is boring, boyfriends on the settlement are rare, and her best friend may be dating AN ALIEN. And to top it all off, this settlement's last link with Earth has just been cut off. What a way to grow up!
Tangled River is the creation of the entity known as Snowshadow, and can be found at this link. 

The Rating

Looks like the educator gave you a B minus, Tanya. Not bad, but we've got some work to do.

The Raves

It was the writing that first captured my attention in Tangled River. This is one of those comics that truly captures the voice and thought processes of a young teen. Too many writers write either college students passed off as teens or impossible dolts, but Snowshadow has written young characters that are both relatable and believable. Tanya, the dutiful girl trying to be brave, is well balanced by her best friend Licorice, the wild girl who needs to learn some introspection. 
and they live in a well built and immersive landscape that is described through the actions of the characters. Pulling off a truly immersive world experience isn't easy, but Snowshadow gets very close to achieving it.

Both art and writing riff on the Golden Age Comics, with simple, classic storylines and an almost clinical approach to anatomy and color. Everything is direct, supremely clear and distinctive, with an interesting use of color. If the creator was going for nostalgia they've nailed it; you can practically feel the foolscap paper between your fingers.

 The Razzes

Unfortunately, if it hadn't been for excellent writing, I might well have gotten bored and wandered off. Why? Because the art had very little visual draw. It was well done, it was accurate...and that's all it was.

The Comic Color Is As Flat As The Paper

To a degree, color is a stylistic and subjective choice. But there are things to consider, and one of them is whether your color draws the eye.
There was a time when all comic color was flat, back in the Golden Age, but this wasn't intentional. According to Scott Beatty, "Printing before the advent of computers used two processes for separating colors into CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). One process was to shoot separations from the photograph or artwork with a stat camera, ending up with four pieces of film that could be stripped together onto a larger project. The other process, used by comic book companies to color their black line drawings, was to use overlays.
The technique was to use three pieces of acetate lined up on top of each other over the artwork page, each representing C, M or Y. Usually this acetate was rubylith, a product still used in screen printing today (to print on material and other substrates). Where the reddish film was cut away from the acetate ink would not print. Where the film was left ON the acetate, the camera negative would leave a blank spot, and ink would print."
This created good solid color, but it wasn't all that good at shadows. So, you ended up with work like this classic Batman (mis?)print. Hence the 'classic' look. Now, it's all well and good to go for the nostalgia of the style, but we're digital these days. We can do more than our forbears could, and if we want to catch a reader's eye, we have to. Right now the color palette of Tangled River is so muted and the shadows so pale that the eye wanders.
For example, this firelight scene.
It's fine. That's all you can really say; not anatomically incorrect, right angles, everything is...fine.
But let's do better than fine. Here's what can be done by simply upping the contrast a bit.

already, the eye is more attracted to the image. Now try adding some shadow. Shadow is how the human brain understands something is 'there' in the world, and shadows in art add weight and reality to objects. Without it, a deep part of your brain whispers 'that isn't really there, is it?' and this unspoken instinct colors your ability to be interested.
I timed myself for 5 minutes adding some very quick and dirty shadows with the Dodge/Burn tool to this image in Gimp, and got these results:

Five minutes shading and upping contrast to go from visually fine to visually fascinating. It's time worth spending.

The Reader Is An Observer, Not A Participant. Camera Angles And Focused Eyes Can Help! 

I had the same problem reading this comic that I used to have reading superhero works: the camera angles left me cold. Now, establishing shots are important, don't get me wrong. A good artist makes sure there are establishing shots to ground the reader in the world. 

But when every shot seems to be taken at one remove, a sense of distance grows up in the reader like a weed. We don't feel involved in even the most interesting scenes. This isn't helped by the fact that even the characters seem disinterested; often, their eyes aren't really focused on one another.  When drawing eyes, focus on focus! NImportant gives us a good example: the eye really should focus on the object it's viewing.

2)Less Perfection, More Emotion. Nobody Wants To Read About Mannequins

Thanks to Melaredblu for help on this infographic
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Try this.

These are issues that crop up again and again, and are behind the sense that the art is good but not great. The characters seem more like posed mannequins than people. For more help in this area:
Anybody know who did this lovely tutorial?
  • read up on lines of action in animation
  • do some life drawing. It can be as simple as sketching in a coffee house
  • push your poses. Exaggerate things! 

The Revue

Not a bad first try at all. I look forward to seeing where it goes!