Sunday, April 23, 2017

Intermission For The Month Of May

Looks Like The Creative Gears Have Jammed In The Revue Engine. 

We'll Be Working Backstage To Get Back On Track.

See You In June!

Sunday, April 16, 2017


When monsters are terrorizing your city, there’s only one man for the job! And by man, we mean a girl – a magical girl, to be precise. Welcome to the world of…

The Rating

The main character’s reason for becoming a magical girl is refreshingly original and believable for a comic of this genre. It’s a shame that potential is wasted on some unfortunate writing choices as the story unfolds.

The Raves

IMAGICA=verse is a magical girl comic – quite explicitly so.

Get used to the typos, by the way. They're in for the long haul.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with being explicit in establishing your setting. In fact, the comic starts out on a high note, despite the art being amateurish. The premise is that magical girls exist in hordes, called upon to fight whatever monster threatens the city in a manner reminiscent to Power Rangers. The girls are looked up to as heroes, get ample news coverage of their battles, and have a celebrity status. They’re such a phenomenon that girls who have powers will audition what they can do before a panel of world-weary judges in order to gain some form of sponsorship.

That’s a creative and unique take on magical girls that I for one haven’t seen before. Usually, a magical girl is unique, or, at most, part of a small team of girls conveniently living within the same country and chosen by destiny. Instead, the girls are more like superheroes, and there are more of them lurking about than you can shake a magic wand at. So if not destiny, what compels our protagonist, Valencia, to take up arms?
The art isn't this comic's strength, but that traumatized stare says a lot.
As it turns out, it’s to make money and to protect her mother. Not fame, not power, and certainly not because a cute talking animal told her she has to. She’s doing it for her family, which is a far more personal reason, and one that immediately shows what drives her and where her priorities lie. To sum it up, her mother is constantly assaulted and robbed by loan sharks trying to collect on a debt Valencia's father accrued, and Valencia wants to save her. I question the wisdom of this decision, since it seems like calling the local authorities (surely there are police to deal with non-monster problems), would be smarter. Plus, the guys she works for are kind of shady and keep crucial information from her.

Less-than-wise planning aside, though, I still think it paints her as a noble character. If anything, putting herself in danger to make money and being naïve enough to trust a potential con man just shows more of what kind of person she is. Most importantly, her making the choice to fight as a magical girl, instead of being “destined,” makes all of her deeds as a magical girl meaningful to her character. It’s nice to see a comic of this genre stray from the usual clichés of the establishing plot. Unfortunately, the comic is victim to a different cliché, one from the superhero genre – the training sequence. And that’s where the comic has been spinning its wheels since.

The Razzes

The art looks like the creator learned everything from reading shoujo manga. There’s nothing wrong with that style inherently, but the anatomy is stiff and awkward, and the faces look flat. Sometimes backgrounds show decent perspective, but it has little presence or depth. The shading is applied in a sloppy fashion, with no clear light source.

Even if the art is just copying manga, that’s still a valid starting point for learning about style, character design, and visual effects. But if you really want to get good at drawing, at some point, you have to step away from manga and draw from life. I suggest beginning with some figure drawing and apply what you’ve learned to your art. Impossible you say? How can life drawing apply to cartoon-styled art? Quite well, in fact! Knowing proportions is vital to bringing a drawing to life, even if it’s not “realistic.” Here’s a video that shows the most basic shapes of the head and proportions of the face.
When you understand the shapes and proportions and apply those things to your drawings, they will have more depth to them, even though their features may be manga-like. Even if your art style isn’t realism, you can still benefit from an understanding of real anatomy and structure. For good measure, I’ll also leave you with brief guides on lighting and shadowfacial expressions, and foreshortening. These are all areas you could improve in, but with some practice, you’ll get better at them over time.

The art is, unfortunately, the least of this comic’s problems. The pacing and plot direction need so much improvement. As I said before, the story’s been mired in “training sequence” territory. One of the first major tests of her powers that we see is her trying to use some form of x-ray vision to win a game. The setup seems like the people running the game are plotting something sinister, what with the mysterious masks and a tense build-up over several pages as she hesitates to give the correct answer. The answer must lead to something important, right?

Nope. It’s a penis joke. Not even a funny joke at that, and it makes no sense since she was supposed to find the only correctly-spelled word in a box of misspelled words, and somehow the joke is that she picked the correctly-spelled word, but misread it. And all of that is followed up with more exposition on her abilities, instead of showing her learning to use them in a real confrontation. As a matter of fact, show, don't tell is a prevalent issue with the writing throughout this comic, even at its best. So what is the difference between telling and showing? Here's a tongue-in-cheek example.
Credit to Anthony Clark for this image.
Indeed, some exposition is necessary to tell a story, but readers will be even more engaged if they learn about something by seeing it happen, rather than having it explained. Instead of giving a verbal primer on how a magical girl's power works, how about just showing them do it? It's not always necessary to explain the specifics of how it works, either, as long as it's portrayed consistently. Something to consider the next time you want to have your protagonist try a new type of magic.

The supporting cast isn't written all that well either. I find Valencia to be a likeable, heroic girl, although easily manipulated, but most everyone else seems flat. Her mother, although loving and gentle, acts a little too passive and calm for somebody in her situation, and her siblings don't seem to play much of a role beyond yet another one of the things Valencia takes responsibility for. It does make her look good, but it also makes her mother look like a less capable parent. It would be nice to see these characters fleshed out more, show how the mother raises her children, and perhaps show the siblings' reactions to the situation. How does it affect them seeing their mother's arm broken by loan sharks? Are they afraid? Angry? Worried? Were they really so easily fooled by Valencia's verbal backtracking after she let slip where her money is coming from, or are they hiding their concern or simply overlooking it because they don't understand the risk? What will they do once they do understand? If family is going to be at the heart of her motivation, answering these kinds of questions is important. In order to show how strong the family bond is, you need to show who these people are and how they care for each other. It's not enough to just show Valencia's role in it.

As for her mentor figures, Derek and Isaac, they don't seem to have a role beyond dumping exposition, whether it's to Valencia or between themselves. They have a nasty habit of delivering exposition dumps to the audience about things she really ought to know, but for some reason they don't feel the need to tell her.

With mentors like these, who needs enemies?
Isaac is usually portrayed as the nicer one, but really, their roles in the story is interchangeable. They spend a lot of time talking about how special and unique Valencia is because she apparently wasn't born a magical girl but became one later (which she is unaware of for some reason), and this makes her powers even more extraordinary than usual. For all the kudos I give the beginning of the comic for avoiding the cliché of the magical girl being chosen by destiny, this comic really seems to want to veer right back into that territory the further it goes on. And that's a bit disappointing.

The Revue

The writing has so many problems. The one thing the comic does well is it gives the main character a very solid motivation and personality. Even though her decisions aren’t particularly smart, she’s so well-meaning and self-sacrificing that it’s hard to not want her to succeed. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to carry the comic. The art, the pacing and delivery, and character development really hold it back.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bite Madness

Hungry for some zombie comedy action? Then sink your teeth into…

The Rating

This comic has some good jokes and a unique approach to zombie fiction, but it has a lot of flaws to overcome.

The Raves

Fans of zombie fiction know that blood, gore, and violence are staples of the genre. You just can’t have zombies without those things…or can you?

What immediately stands out about Bite Madness is that it’s really not all that big on the splatter. Not to say there’s no violence at all or that it doesn’t get messy on occasion, but it’s not what Sir Hellsir focuses on. Instead, comedy and the quirky cast take center stage here. The characters are simple enough; you have X and Y, a duo roaming the apocalyptic cityscape in search of, well, zombies. Y is an energetic, fearless marauder, while X is more the voice of reason. The two meet up with a nutty, overly enthusiastic robot named Pi-Omega who was built by the mad scientist Epsilon. Epsilon has seen…er, better days, but don't worry, he’s been patched up.
Sort of.

And jokes like that are part of what makes the comic enjoyable to read. It has loads of self-awareness and manages to crack some pretty smart jokes about the kinds of things you’ll see in most zombie invasion stories. Combined with a fun cast, if most of them lacking a little bit in depth, it’s still got potential. It has the trappings of a zombie story – society falling apart, scattered people banding together, and action – but it stands out by focusing less on the gore and more on the actual story.

If you come to zombie stories looking for a splatterfest, you won’t find it here, but if you want something that takes a different, more comedic and self-aware approach, this is the comic for you. And don’t worry, even though the comic isn’t all that graphic, there’s still plenty of excitement and zombies to blast.
…but first, let's make sure our fortifications stay sound.

The Razzes

The art is certainly not the strong point here, with somewhat boring backgrounds and color choices. Most pages look very grey and white, and it makes the whole image look washed out. The use of texture is nice, and gives the page some grit, but it doesn’t make up for the lethargic palette or the fact that most of the backgrounds look  flat. For example, the forest here looks scribbled-on and featureless.
But with some more detail, even imprecise, sketchy detail, those trees could look more distinct, have more depth, and even look denser:
Notice also the grass texture and lights on the skyscrapers to make it more obvious they're buildings. The smallest extra effort can go a long way.

Obviously, these are just suggestions and not commands. What you see above you was just one approach to making the background on this page more interesting, and make no mistake, backgrounds matter in a story like this. In a post-apocalyptic setting, readers expect to see damage and chaos. The environment is a big part of driving home the feeling of danger and catastrophe. Without that, the audience is merely being told that society has collapsed, instead of seeing it before their very eyes. Instead of ruined cities, the characters look more like they’re running around in a Portal test chamber. Of course being well-written is the most important thing in a comic, and your writing has a lot to like about it, but the art could do a much better job of supporting the writing.

Inconsistent dynamics are also a problem here. The characters look too stiff most of the time. There isn’t a lot of energy to their movements, with one exception. Pi-Omega has some of the best poses and angles in the comic. Just compare how he looks to how X looks on the very same page:
In the post-apocalyptic future, our glorious robot overlords will be more flexible than the meatbags.
Sir Hellsir, I don’t know if you realize this, but you already understand something important about poses and dynamics that you’re not applying to your human characters. Namely, that it’s all about using shapes and lines of action to build the form. Because Pi-Omega is so sectioned, you seem to have a really strong grasp on how to build his form using the shapes his respective parts, and what comes out of it are some darn good shots. If you apply those principles to how you draw humans, you’ll get results. You’ve already got the skill to do it! Just break the human character down into parts and try to use the same approach you’re using with Pi-Omega. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Aside from all that, the comic also suffers from typos and bad grammar. In fact, it seems to actually get worse as the comic goes on. I’m not sure why that is, but it bears considering. Try to spend a little more time double-checking the writing for mistakes.
Bad grammar makes dialog awkward to read. In this case, awkward on a few different levels.

The Revue

I have to admire this comic for taking the zombie apocalypse setting and focusing more on the cast and the comedy, rather than yet another viscera-encrusted romp. Despite its flaws, this comic could be something unique and fun to read. It has its own kind of brilliance already, and with some improvement, that brilliance will get some real crunch to it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Intermission Week of April 8

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade And Sit Down For A Spell!

Lots of exciting changes are going on backstage, curtain back up next week dear readers. Get out in the sun, we'll see you next week!