Monday, September 04, 2006

People are quick to complain about Sprite comics, but when's the last time anyone's given them much thought?

Sprite comics come in two flavors: humor, or story. Humor, in the sense that they’re mainly dick and fart jokes, and story, as in they try to tell a serious narrative. Neither work because sprites don’t have a great range of artistic variability.

People that make sprite comics are most likely individuals that have an idea, something that they have their hearts truly set on; they want to tell a story or tell jokes, but they feel they don’t have the artistic ability to achieve it. Therefore, they’re willing to resort to one of the lowest common denominators of web cartooning.

Just listen to this comic’s description:

Legacy of Light: “No one was left who could remember how it had happened... how the world had fallen into darkness. At least no one who could do anything about it... no one who would oppose the robots, none who would challenge their power. ...or so Dr. Wily believed.”

This is not a bad pitch for a comic. It sounds like the author is really trying to tell a story, something that’s gripping and real.

But, then you read the comic and the typical panel looks like this:

Are you serious? That’s the character “drinking himself into a stupor”? It looks more like he’s drinking ash out of a burlap sack.

Now, if Legacy of Light was actually drawn it could separate itself from MegaMan just by a few degrees… something that would allow readers to gain something of an appreciation for the world the author’s trying to write in. However, because they’re using sprites from the game itself, the most the author can hope to bring to the readers is the slight nostalgic feeling of remembering how they beat Bubble Man with only 3 health left back in 2nd grade.

I was going to write a detailed paragraph on the “humor” side of sprite comics, but then…

I realized there was no humor to speak of.

As a side note, no sprite comic should ever move for a close up.


Sprite comics are not bad because of their stories or jokes. Well, not the former, anyway. It’s that the medium Sprite authors are working in isn’t suited for their aspirations. They need to move on, and find something better. They need something where they have a greater control over their characters, environments, and angles… all the sorts of variables that allow for a freedom that making comics with sprites deny. They need to upgrade.

Of course, the best way to do that is pick up a pencil and learn to draw, but failing that the next step up is to start using Garry's Mod. Comics made using the Half-Life 2 engine are in the exact same camp as those made using Sonic or MegaMan sprites. Both use a game as their “art,” and both are made by those who want to tell a story or craft jokes. There’s considerably less comics made using Garry’s Mod than Sprite comics, but they do exist. Apostasy (link goes to Yahoo download site... comic only available as a .zip) utilizes Gary’s Mod to tell a story in a manner akin to a graphic novel.

For humor, there’s the always-referenced (and personal favorite of mine) Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman.

However, that’s not to say that making a comic by manipulating a next-gen game is a surefire way to make a good comic… it all depends on the person behind the controls. If you have a terrible sense of humor, you make a terrible comic. Simple as that.


Blogger Mr Myth said...

I don't think Sprite comics are inherently poor works of art. They do, definitely, have a tendency to be so, and even with highly regarded ones it can be difficult to always recognize what the art is trying to convey.

However, there are definitely quality sprite comics out there - Kid Radd would be one of the best examples, and though sadly retired, is an intensely quality strip (both visually and in story).

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Benabus said...

Kid Radd is not a sprite comic. It's a common misconception. Sprite comics are created using sprites that are stripped straight from games. Sonic, Final Fantasy, Mario, etc. The guy, that made Kid Radd, created his own sprites, therefore, it is a pixel comic, not unlike A Modest Destiny. Kid Radd is very confusing in that it is a pixel comic about sprites in a video game world. Very complicated. Bottom Line: Kid Radd is not a sprite comic.

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Tropylium said...

What they said. Also, altho this kinda raises the old question where sprites end and pixel art begins, for an example of sprite art done right, there's always MS Paint Masterpieces and the like...

And while I've too yet to see a Grandly Funny spritecomic, it doesn't stop a few still from being LOL funny at least. To thro' up another Bob and George subcomic: The Karnak Hates Everything Show? It's so far into the realm of not making sense that it actually works. Well, IMO anyway. It's got a BTC-ish flavor to it...

3:18 PM  

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