Friday, June 4, 2010

8-Bit Theater Ends

Officially, 8-Bit Theater ended this week.  The epilogue, which took a couple months to produce, was not done in the comic's traditional sprite graphics, instead running a hand drawn version.  I guess it's just a sign of the times.

Honestly, 8-Bit was the best of the sprite comics, definitely of the few I've read and possibly of all time.  Why?  Well, probably because it was both limited and free in it's creative direction.

The sprite format meant the number of positions available to create the strip was VERY limited indeed, especially early on.  Each character had a limited set of positions they could have their body parts and thus a limited number of expressions they could give that weren't text.  Eventually, more complex sprites were created, ones that could do any number of things, but even then, the rule set for the main characters remained limited.  They were also completely distinctive, you ALWAYS knew which characters were which, there was no confusion, you could even tie the dialog to them without the bubbles actually being attached.

And yet, the game these sprites originally came from, the original Final Fantasy, had so little character, story or much of anything else you would expect to see in a Final Fantasy game, that Brian Clevinger could, and did, do anything he wanted with the comic.  The characters never really went beyond their 2 (or sometimes even 1) dimensional basics, but the rest of the world could do anything.  Great dragons would appear, Hell was conquered, dinosaurs were driven extinction and cities were laid to waste.  The backgrounds went from simple to ultra complex, up until the point that the characters no longer looked natural to the setting, and yet remained so because of the insanity.

The rest of the sprite comic kingdom never got that break.  Either the sprites themselves were too complex, or they already had deep stories tied to them and the authors never got a chance to break free.  Or they made Diesel Sweeties, which I think is worse.  The limitations of the format broke them, but Clevinger managed to find a sweet spot that allowed him to use the limitations to his advantage and create one of the classic webcomics, one that won't be forgotten for a long time.

In the end, though, I think that closing it with a hand drawn strip shows that sprite comics aren't really going to be a major force on the webcomic world again.  These comics were done by people who didn't have art skills, but want to make a comic, and with so few comics out there, they had their moment in the sun.  Now, the door is closing, rapidly.  More comics are coming online everyday, and while many will fail, few will be sprite comics again.  8-Bit Theater was the zenith of the genre, and unless someone manages to hit that sweet spot again, it will likely never be exceeded.

I will miss 8-Bit.  I have read the comic for years (short of it's full life span, I'm afraid) and it has been one of the few strips I rely on to be there.  Now that it is done, there will be a hole that I will need to fill.  I wonder if I'll ever find a strip to do it.

Well, at the very least, I can now sit down and read the OTHER strips on Nuklear Power.  Been kind of staying away from them because I wanted to see 8-Bit to the end.  The end is here, and it's time to go on.

Until next time kiddies.

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