Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Criticise My Latest Comic Idea
Arc at 1:12PM, Dec. 7, 2010
posts: 5
joined: 6-15-2007
Now as you can gather from my avatar, you'll notice that I'm a sprite comicer. Now don't run away. xD I hope that the very same avatar can demonstrate that I am not one who uses recolours, nor have some fascination with the use of leet speak or anything of the like. I'm just a guy who has a poor talent at drawing and so has invested his time into becoming a good sprite comicer.

I'm hoping to get the attention of those who read comics that are drawn. Paticuarly those who hate sprite comics to reply to this thread. I'd like to see what quirks you may have about this comic I'm about to show to you so I can find ways to improve on it. They're merely dialogue scenes, so it's certainly not my strongest area as I'm stronger at action scenes. But nonetheless, I'd like you to fire every bit of criticism you can fire at me and tell me what you feel could be improved.

Below are the first two strips of a comic I've been working on and I'd like your thoughts on what you get to see. I know 2 strips aren't much to go on, but it should take just 2 strips to at least get the readers attention and keep their eye on it, no? They're also not as polished as they could be. THat's why they haven't been put up as a comic yet. ^^;

I hope the strips can at least give you some entertainment despite the medium they are in, and once again, telling me what you don't and do like of them thus far would be much appreciated.

– Arc
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:01AM
ShadowsMyst at 3:26PM, Dec. 7, 2010
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
You wanted to attract someone who hates sprite comics?

Well I'll oblige you. I hate most sprite comics. I loathe them. And yours suffers from the flaws that makes me hate them. I'll spell it out, and beware, I'm not going to be very nice about it. If you have easily hurt feelings, best to skip this. But if you REALLY mean that you want feedback from a person who hates sprite comics, read on.

a) it is unoriginal. You are ripping off Pokemon sprites and the Pokemon property. Any way you look at it, you are infringing on copyright. I've had my own artwork stole, butchered, recolored and I can tell you its not a cool feeling. Its like being violated. I don't care how you justify it, its copyright infringement and unless you've paid a licensing fee, unfair and illegal usage of the intellectual property. Looking at such obvious and flagrant disregard for someone else's creative works and property is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I can't even see past that fact to ever come to enjoy such a thing. You aren't even taking the sprites as reference, using them to make original sprites, and creating your own world. There's nothing original here. I want novelty. I want something unexpected. I don't want to see the same damn sonic/pokemon/ff3 whatever-video-game-I've-already-played-and-they've-done-better-than-you story. I'm much more willing to spend time looking at bad art and an original story, that someone just stealing something else I already hold dear for its original brilliance and have them ruin it for me.

b) you've obviously got an eye for layout, and if you've spent all this time learning to recolor sprites, can't you make some of your own, original ones? Or work with someone to do so? The only sprite comic I've ever liked, at all, was a Modest Destiny because Squidi was original and not only made his own sprites, but also his own unique world and characters. They weren't rip offs, or derivatives of someone else's ideas. They were pure Squidi. Learn to make original sprites. Stop stealing other people's work.

Clearly you've got a handle on type, and bubbles and I can see layout of the individual panels to some degree coming along, all you need to do is put the same kind of work into an original story/world for gags depending on what you want to do, and some original characters and artwork.

I realize you can't draw, but I honestly would rather see investment into 3D modeling (you can use something like blender for free), or into learning to be a proper comic colorist and see you team up with some one who can draw and you provide the script. I can see you've drawn small portions in the comic, such as eyes or mouth, if you can't draw a strait line, I suggest using a vector program such as Inkscape, or adobe illustrator. They often have tools to help you construct basic characters and you can use a vector drawing as a ‘sprite’.

Generally I don't buy the ‘I can’t draw' excuse for ripping off sprites and other art or intellectual properties. Everyone has to learn, to me its just an excuse to be lazy and not get over the ‘suck’ factor at the beginning when you start learning a new skill. I sucked too when I started drawing. And I worked my ASS off and got better. All artists have to start somewhere. You could learn to draw, even very technically or stylistically. Heck, I know of a few comics that just use basic geometric shapes and still have managed to garner followings. Circle vs Square comes to mind.

There are MANY other options before you steal something and somehow think you have the right to use it however you see fit without paying for it. If xkcd can become huge with poorly drawn stick men, it should be clear that with good writing and a clever concept, art level isn't a huge issue. And if you look at almost ANY webcomic, the artists often start very bad, and as they practice regularly get much better. There is also the option of working with someone, or having someone draw you some original sprites and giving you permission to use them.

If you are determined to do a sprite comic, please consider at least making original, non rip sprites (or getting a sprite artist to make them for you) and doing an original storyline with original characters. Its better for everyone in the long run.

I did warn you I would be harsh. I do hope you take this as more of a challenge to rise to rather than a sort of eternal damning smack down. You can obviously do better, and you'll never reach your true potential if you simply rely on the hardwork of others.

I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
Genejoke at 4:20PM, Dec. 7, 2010
posts: 3,488
joined: 4-9-2010
@Shadowmyst. That wasn't harsh.

You gave some genuinely good advice there and encouragement too.

Picking up on the 3D art thing, also free is Daz3D if you want to take the poser style route, I use it and blender. Blender is not an easy program to pick up but there are decent tutorials out there which will speed you on your way.

Sprite comics in general, I have no interest in them at all so I won't comment beyond that. Your dialogue seems pretty good and Shadowmyst also pointed out some positives so please take those to heart as much as the negative.

I would say that if you want attention from people that don't read sprite comics I would suggest (much like shadowmyst) doing something wholly original.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Arc at 4:24PM, Dec. 7, 2010
posts: 5
joined: 6-15-2007
Haha, a reply! And here I thought I wouldn't get any. ^^;

And I've taken much hasher criticism than this, so I'm not gonna whine and moan about it. As a matter of fact, I'm a big fan of harsh critics. Why else would I make this topic and specifically ask for people who hate sprite comics to reply? ;)

A) Hmm, no matter what I say, your point is very valid here. There's nothing I can do but agree you are right on the matter that I do indeed use copyrighted matterial. But the reason as to why I believe I am allowed to make sprite comics are the following:

- I never have and never will claim to have made the sprites I've used that I haven't made from scratch.
- All the comics I make are non-profitable and are for entertainment purposes only.
- I collect my sprites from public domain websites that are free to all to use and are likely to have been noticed by companies who have made the sprites they have made.
- Sprite comics are essentially fan-comics which consequantly plug video games by drawing attention to them. I see no difference between a Pokemon sprite comic to say, a Harry Potter fan-fiction. Both are there merely to entertain those who have also enjoyed the series they focus on.

On the topic of spriting… I'm quite poor at spriting myself, but I do take the time to learn that trade. I'm sure you can imagine that doing everything pixel by pixel is something difficult to do and will take some time to learn. I'm currently trying to learn from others who are better at making custom sprites than me (I couldn't make one to save my life at the moment) so I can take that path. At the moment, I'm trying to at least improve in the areas that I can and those are writing and graphics.

B ) I see no recolours in the comics I produce. What you see is entirely made the game creatord themselves. I understand how frowned upon recolours are and so I've decided I will either make use of the sprites that are currently available to me or make fully customised one. The latter could hopefully be possible in a year or so when I've learned what I need to learn to become an effective spriter.

Regarding your point on becoming a colourist, I'd rather work on my own when making my comics. There can always be disagreements in partnerships, one may not be able to work on the comic or no longer wishes to continue and quite frankly, most comics can do just fine without a colourist. And as for using shapes, sadly, I do not think the stories I come up with can be well represented by circles and squares. I may however, try to dabble in 3D comics. Nonetheless, they too do not seem to receive as much appraisal as a drawn comic would

And believe or not, a lot of spriters DO try to learn how to draw and I'm one of them and have been trying to learn how to for the past 4/5 years. I've read several books on how to do so, but then I struggle to get a grasp on what I need to do. The most I seem to be able to draw is manga expressions and even then I need a reference beside me. You can't imagine how horrible some drawings I try to make of bodies are. ^^; I have a great desire to learn how to draw, but sadly I can't seem to get my artistic side of the brain working hard enough to figure out exactly.

Thanks again for the criticism. much appreciated. ^_^
– Arc

EDIT: Genejoke, as I said, I'll give 3D modelling a shot, however, may I ask what is it exactly that makes you avoid sprite comics? I do work pretty hard on them, so knowing what people find most annoying would be tremendously helpful. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:01AM
Steampunkish at 9:51PM, Dec. 7, 2010
posts: 19
joined: 7-17-2009
I skimmed over the previous posts in this thread, and I agree with what they have to say. I think that they're some of the most important issues with sprite comics. There is a couple of things I'd like to add though.

1) Using premade sprites, there are things that are difficult to convey. One of the draws of using a visual story-telling medium, such as comics, over something like a written novel is so that you can show your audience something rather then telling them. Sprite comics often have a difficult time with this. Often they end up relying on symbols to convey emotion or action as opposed to showing it the way that most comics would be able to show it.

In most sprite comics, there are two things done to show emotion in a character, besides dialog. Usually spriters will change the eyebrows and the mouth. Rarely have I seen anything else besides, perhaps, adding some symbol out of manga(Such as the anger vein or a giant teardrop). This is not the best way to show emotion. If you have ever seen an angry person, you probably realize on some level that the eyebrows and mouth are not the only things that convey anger. There's other body language involved.

I noticed in the first page of your comic that you linked to, there are several ‘short hand’ ways that you convey emotion. The teardrop being the most notable. Another thing you can notice on that page is the mouth in the last panel - it doesn't fit with the ‘style’ of the sprites so it stands out and looks kind of ugly.

tl;dr: Making a comic with sprites is kind of like filming a movie with mannequins, the only emotions you can get out of your ‘actors’ are ones that can be quickly added on as an afterthought. Not to mention trying to get various poses out of sprites will be difficult and probably look bad.

2) I know it's already been said in some form or another, but people don't like sprite comics generally because they're just lazy. Things that are done in a lazy fashion are generally not worth viewing. Say what you will about the effort people invest into sprite comics, but usually they produce a work that looks like it could have been created by anyone.

If the author is not willing to even attempt to draw his comic, that says to potential readers that they are also too lazy to come up with a decent plot, etc.

Seriously dude, just try to draw. I know, I know, you may not be the best. I know, I know, you may not even be decent. Neither am I. But if you don't practice you will never improve, and what better way to improve then by doing a comic? If you keep doing sprite comics, there is really no huge amount of improvement available to you.

You mentioned that you were drawing manga I believe. If you're looking at how to improve, that may not be the best place to start. I'd recommend doing life drawing for a bit. You can still draw manga, but it really helps to have a solid grasp of anatomy and reality first.

But yeah. Your layouts are nice, and I see no huge problems with your word bubbles, but most people will not give sprite comics the time of day. With good reason.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:57PM
ShadowsMyst at 5:40PM, Dec. 9, 2010
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
Thanks. I try to be as positive as possible, even if I'm talking about something I feel very strongly (and in this case negatively) about.


A) Hmm, no matter what I say, your point is very valid here. There's nothing I can do but agree you are right on the matter that I do indeed use copyrighted matterial. But the reason as to why I believe I am allowed to make sprite comics are the following:

- I never have and never will claim to have made the sprites I've used that I haven't made from scratch.
- All the comics I make are non-profitable and are for entertainment purposes only.
- I collect my sprites from public domain websites that are free to all to use and are likely to have been noticed by companies who have made the sprites they have made.
- Sprite comics are essentially fan-comics which consequantly plug video games by drawing attention to them. I see no difference between a Pokemon sprite comic to say, a Harry Potter fan-fiction. Both are there merely to entertain those who have also enjoyed the series they focus on.

This is more of a ‘for your information’, because the reasons you've sited above are commonly misconceptions around the ‘fair use’ of copyrighted material, or at least, what people can and can't do legally. The law is actually more restrictive than most people think.

It actually doesn't matter if you do or don't claim or even credit the material, what matters is that you are using it without the consent of the original copyright holders. Its actually a myth that there's any sort of percentage you can use, its completely on a case by case basis. But it boils down to unless you have written permission, or have an contracted agreement with the current rightful owner of the copyright, in this case, Pokemon, you shouldn't be using it. Here's an excerpt from the actual law regarding fair use:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Since your comic is not for educational purposes, even as personal entertainment, you aren't really covered under fair use as soon as you put it on public display (ie: put it on the web). If you were making them at home, and just keeping them to yourself, it probably wouldn't be considered a violation. Even showing them to a few friends is generally cool, but as soon as you distribute it in a public fashion (such as a website), it becomes really sketchy. The more comics you make and the more you exploit it, then the more dangerous this clause becomes.

The ‘free rip’ sites, are not usually licensed, and its a common mistake that copywritten work, freely distributed on other websites, is suddenly free of copyright. It's not. No copywritten work is free, and most of these sites are actually illegal. Artists on DA face this all the time as they fight ‘art theft’ rips of their work ALL the time. Now, granted, most of the companies are going to pick and choose their battles. If you aren't worth enough money, they probably won't sue you, they may never even see what you've done. But that doesn't make it any less wrong if you look at the law. The other dilemma is if you ever DO want to make something more of your comic, like put together a book or make a t-shirt or something, technically that would be profitting from a copywritten work and you open yourself up to all sorts of danger.

Keep in mind that the existence of ‘fan art’ and other derivative works (this includes fan fiction and fan art of any creative work under copyright) is at the complete discretion of the copyright holder. Some are very cool about it, others are really really not. For example, Anne McCaffery, author of the Dragon Riders of Pern series, is absolutely draconian about the forbidding of fan(or derivative) work. Her lawyers are on that like a pack of rabid wolves to a pile of fresh meat to sue sue sue! Whereas, in contrast, most video game companies are alright with fan work, so long as it isn't being used for unjust profit that they aren't getting a cut of, or somehow harming their market or profit margins. But you should be aware, that a copyright holder can, at any time, bring the hammer down on anyone using their material. I personally just can't see why someone would invest all that time and effort into something that could potentially be yanked out from under them at any time, not to mention possibly sued for damages if the company is feeling malicious. It would be an jerkoff move by the company to sue a fan art creator who isn't even making money at all, but its happened before. Even in satire, some comics have received Cease and Desist letters. The more popular you become, the more likely you are to get noticed for good, or bad. It's a risk, and I personally see it as a potential creator being disrespectful to another creator's work.

Copyright applies to anything that has been set down in a solid form. So a book is copyrightable, a sprite is copyrightable, a photo is copyrightable, a character is copyrightable, any artwork set down in a solid form is immediately covered by basic copyright, but an general idea/genre/concept isn't. If you wanted to do a comic about a group of monster hunting duelers, you could, but you can't call them pokemon, because you can copyright (and trademark) a name and that one is. That's why there are so many copycats with different names. You could do a monster hunting dueling teen thing.. but you can't use the name pokemon, or any of their designs, characters, or art. That's basically the rules, like it or not.

I actually have done sprites. I've constructed them square by square in Adobe illustrator. I find it more convenient to build them that way, since its kind of like stacking blocks. Its certainly not easy. I've also done original sprite animation. It is also not easy, and I had to learn a lot of new skills, but in the end, I did it, it was awesome, and I had learned a new skill.

One thing I've seen some folks do to avoid the ‘3d’ look is pose figures, and then use a painting program (like artrage or opencanvas) to essentially ‘paint’ over the figures, like tracing them sort of. It creates a different look, but it does work to making sure you get the proportions right. There also some filters avaliable to ‘mangasize’ 3d figures. You can also consider learning cartooning and stylized drawing outside of manga. Typically western cartooning is more simplified and often easier to grasp for a beginner, and fits the ‘strip gag’ style well. It would actually be interesting I think to see something that was originally japanese, brought into a highly westernized cartooning style (like, think dilbert), and satired. I personally learned cartooning type drawing first, and them moved on to Marvel style drawing, and then finally learned manga AFTER all of that. I didn't actually do much still life until well after I'd learned cartooning, so while I think its definitely important to study real life, I don't think you have to start with the boring stuff first. People tend to be more encouraged doing something they are both interested in and can grasp easily, cartooning is good for that. My first comic character was actually based off Garfield and my own cat at the time, I didn't start with manga style. Contrary to popular belief, it's not easy to do.

And yes, having collaborated MANY times on projects, professionally and for fun, I know it can be a challenge to work with another person. I personally have wanted to hook up with a colorist for a very long time. I love drawing, but I hate coloring. :P Unfortunately I haven't found one yet that's any good and interested in doing it ‘for fun’. But learning to work with other people on projects is an extremely good skill to have in life, and it really does make workloads so much more manageable to have many hands doing the heavy lifting. You have to learn how to compromise and when to let things go, or when to stand your ground. You also have to learn to be personally responsible to other people and how to make them responsible to you. Working with people is definitely a learned skill, but can be extremely rewarding, even if the whole project falls apart. Which has happened to me more than once. But you learn a lot, every time you do it. But if you never try, you'll never get that opportunity.

If you want to learn more about copyright, they have a pretty good FAQ on the site.

Good luck working with learning the 3D stuff. I think its a better alternative to sprites.

I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
El Cid at 6:46PM, Dec. 9, 2010
posts: 1,047
joined: 5-4-2009
It actually doesn't look bad… except for the sprites. Seriously though, the panels and speech balloons all look very good (the speech balloons bleed over into other panels a bit much though for a comic with such a high blank-space-to-panel ratio).

I'm not going to criticize your artwork. There's no point. With sprite comics, you should just automatically count the artwork as a strike against you. You can still get people to read your comic if there are other things about it that are good enough to compensate for the lame artwork. It's hard to tell from the two examples that you've submitted, but I don't see any of that here. So the question you need to ask yourself is, “What does this comic have to offer? What is so special about this comic that will make it worth people's time to come over and read it?” Sorry I can't give anything more tangible than that, but from what I see, your comic is pretty slick looking in some ways but ultimately still just bland and generic.

My advice: Style is a lost cause with sprite comics, so concentrate on substance.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
JustNoPoint at 1:39PM, Dec. 10, 2010
posts: 1,375
joined: 3-16-2007
As a person that has drawn their own comics and has ripped and made my own sprites for the mugen fighting game engine I don't care as much about copyright in regards to fan art like this.

ShadowsMyst is true on the copyright stuff. If your work started getting a lot of notoriety (free or not) you could be seeing a cease and desist letter from a big company. I've seen it happen on a few occasions. I've also seen people email the companies to ask permission. This normally receives a box cutter answer about fan art and no money being made makes it okay. Though some companies actually asked that their content please NOT be converted. Most notably with the Melty Blood series. (They actually didn't want the voice actor sounds to be used to be technical)

That aside, my view is that it's no big deal if you want to make a sprite comic with original or ripped sprites. To me sprites just pretty much suck for comics =p

What I wonder is… instead of doing typical comic fashion…. Why don't some sprite comicers break the mold and use the sprites more like they are intended a tad.

Making the comics animated gifs instead would be much more unique! Most sprite comics rely on characters just talking all the time. This way it could have action and much more. Maybe done ala Comic Zone. Where the characters have word balloons and jump from panel to panel.

It would take more time but it's still easier than learning to make your own sprites (which you should do anyway regardless if you are making a sprite comic) and still easier than learning to draw, or learn 3d programs.

That's really all I could think of that might get me interested in a sprite comic.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:12PM
kyupol at 5:51AM, Dec. 17, 2010
posts: 3,719
joined: 1-12-2006

Something tells me you are speaking in code using pokemon sprites as a medium. You're not the only one, pal… ^^
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:27PM

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