Friday, May 27, 2011

Touching Base #7

I really need to sit down and do some comic reading/reviewing for this blog, I'm running out of topics.  In the meantime, let's touch some bases.

Looks like the Wotch is finally ready to start updating normally again.  Maybe, possibly.  They're starting with cleaning up the archives a bit, moving the filler and guest comics out of the main stream.  I personally have no problem with those being in the archives, but I can understand the desire to move it out.  At least this is showing some activity, so hopefully the comic will be coming back soon.

Shadowgirls has switched to a short, side story while they prep the next few chapters of the main storyline.  It looks like my fear of a pay site may not materialize, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

City of Reality updated as well, I guess he's going back to the chapter by chapter updates rather than the 3 times a week thing.  I think I prefer this model, at least for this comic.  Not sure it would work out too well for other strips, but for City of Reality, it just works.

Emergency Exit is undergoing another art/style facelift.  I mentioned in my review how jarring it was when this comic changed styles, but I don't think the change will be as extreme this time.  I think it'll be very noticeable though as he's pushing for a layout that more easily allows a print version of the comic.  I think I'm reading the news right that the older archives will still be available, but then he talks about offering them for a pay download, which confuses me.  We'll see how it goes.

Totally Crossover's domain name ( expired, and it took a bit of searching to find it again.  The comic is essentially dead as the focus has shifted to Special Level, but not even a redirect page?  That's annoying.  At least the comic is still findable (even if smackjeeves is giving me fits loading it).  Remember kids, keep your comic easy to find, don't just abandon domain names without a redirect or something.

I often complain about comics that just stop updating, and Road Waffles has, in the past, done that on more than one occasion.  So I'm glad to say at least Eight's keeping us in the loop that yes, he does plan on returning, it's just that things are happening to prevent it.

Sea of Insanity, on the other hand, hasn't had an update since February.   This is also the same comic that didn't update for over 2 years, so a few months is nothing, but I'd like some notes on what's going on, please?

Contemplating Reiko restarted after a short stint of being down. There were some issues with Google ads, I believe, and in the meantime, they redesigned the website.  It looks much better than it did, and the archives are easy to browse now.  Better yet, the comic is updating again, which I really am glad about.

Roza feels like it's repeating itself, but only because it is.  Chapter 4 was done, originally, in rough draft form, and wrapped up a couple months ago.  Now the finished draft of the chapter is being posted, this one in full color. It's an odd way to do it, even odder than City of Reality's method, and I don't think I like it.  It was always an experiment, and while it didn't drive me away from the comic, I didn't feel as invested in it as I once did because of this odd trend.  I'm hoping the completed Chapter 4 will bring me back.

Well, that's enough for today.  Might hit this up again next week.  Oh, and I know there are two Touching Base #5's.  Not sure how I managed that, but this should put us back on track.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Twists and Revelations

Keeping a plotline fresh and exciting is hard to do.  There is no "right" way to do it so authors and artists go looking for new ways to tell old stories.  This often results in creating a "twist," a surprise change in the plot that shifts how everything ends.  These are fun to do sometimes, and creates a new story out of an old plot.

That said, they've kind of been over done.  In a sense, twists are now kind of cliche in their own right.  The reason isn't because twists are bad, they aren't, but because they can be done poorly.  It's so easy to poorly do them, I think I'll take some time to go over HOW to do it right, and how to play out the revelation angle.

The first thing to keep in mind when doing a twist is to plan for it.  Simply tacking on a twist for the sake of having a twist is a big, BIG mistake.  Twists need some amount of planning, how much will depend on goals of the twist.  Just throwing a twist in without any forethought as to how it will effect the story will be obvious and apparent very quickly.

Once the plan is in place, a nice trick is to start leaving clues.  The best twists usually have hints laying throughout the piece that indicated the twist is coming. This is a lot harder than it might sound at first.  Planning to add a twist is one thing, planning out the hints and clues that lead to that twist is something else.  They must be subtle, just under the point that most people would notice something off, but not quite grasp the significance.  Too obvious and the twist is utterly spoiled.  Too subtle, and it'll be missed entirely and the pay off won't work.

The nice thing about webcomics is that they are a visual medium where the artist can focus the reader's attention on a particular visual.  This can come very handy when highlighting clues.  That said, clues aren't strictly necessary, but it depends on the situation and the twist itself.  Think carefully before trying to build them into the story.

Once the time for the twist arrives, the revelation of it takes center stage, and this is also how things can get broken.  Revelations of this nature often fall back on words, lots and lots of words.  Explaining how the twist came to be and what led to it can take a lot of time and words, which can break the action of a story, especially at that climactic moment.  Breaking the action can hurt even a well crafted story, and wordy revelations can do it.

A good way to help alleviate that is to again, take advantage of the visual aspect of comics.  Let the pictures tell the revelation, and with enough planning and set up can help a lot.  Especially if clues are set into the story, flashing back to those moments can also do the trick.

Another option is the flashback.  Again, break in the action, but there are ways around it.  Spreading out the flashback throughout the story can act as both a set of twist clues and a set up for the revelation at the end very easily.

The big thing here is don't over explain things.  Keep it short and sweet, odds are most people will get it quickly enough not to need panels of dialog to explain things.  If there are extra things that must be explained, save them for after the climax and it should do alright.

Twists are fairly common, so don't be surprised if someone calls out the twist well before it shows up.  This brings me to another important element:  Leave room to change the twist.  If it becomes TOO obvious what the twist is, change it, or even use it as bait to set up the real twist to the story.  Leave just enough wiggle room that there is more than one answer to the puzzle and changing things to fit the new situation or simply to bluff the readers can keep even the most cliche of twists from becoming boring.

Well, that's enough for today.  Next time kiddies. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wild Webcomic Reviews 141 - 144

God damn it, the wrong date got put in the scheduler, this should have been up Friday.  Blah.

Ah, spring, time for doing things outside, and not writing something new for the blog.  Heh.  Anyway, today is a shorter batch than normal because I'm tired of putting the extra dates in.  It'll switch back later as I get back to 200 and the start of this blog, but for this week, I've just got 4 comics.

May 21, 2007

141. REVVelations - Dystopias are always so dramatic and cliche. At least this one has lots of cars and a humpback. Starts with a car chase, a pirate television news program and something about meatloaf. Something HORRIBLE about meatloaf (apparently it's worse than being made from people). I can't really say I like it, the style just rubs me wrong for some reason. I don't hate it, now, it's not an abomination, it's just not my thing.

TODAY - Apparently it still updates.  I don't follow it, so I can't tell you if it's any good or not, but it's still alive, so that's positive.

142. Hockey Zombie - What's more funny than a comic about zombies? How about one about a hockey playing zombie, who is sentient (sort of). This comic is sort of, kind of dead (but not really) but the archieves are certianly worth a laugh. The riffs on the Zombie Survival Guide are great fun.

TODAY - Dead and gone.  The link leads no where.  Kind of a shame as it was a fun little comic.

143. Hazard Pay - It reminds me of something I would write. Seriously, it reads like I wrote the damn thing, which just tickles me pink. I could like it for that reason alone, but it's also well drawn, has an interesting storyline that's really only just started going and is just well written. Like something I would write. It's good, trust me on this.

TODAY - The last news post promises they're coming back.  It was written in February of 2010.  I wish it had kept going, but it was not to be.

144. Bunny - The Bunny doesn't understand why you aren't already reading this comic. This makes the Orange Bunny very angry. You don't want to make the Orange Bunny angry. Just don't do it.

TODAY - It managed to keep up being odd for sometime, then it slowed to a crawl and at the end of February it froze solid.  Is it dead forever?  I have no idea. I keep checking and hoping it comes back, but I'm not crossing my fingers on it.

The most active comic in this batch is one I don't read.  Weird.  Maybe I'll have something for you next week, until then kiddies.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I still can't get this one to gel

Seriously, I've been trying to write a thing about heroes and villains as part of the character series of articles and it just isn't coming together the way I want.

And I've been distracted by Civ 4, again.

I wanted to cover the idea of conflict between the two, as well as their opposites (the honorable villain and anti-hero) and how they function.  It shouldn't be this hard, these are classic interactions, but finding my voice for it is proving hard.  And distractions haven't helped either.

Perhaps the reason is that the idea of a hero and villain doesn't actually fit with everything I've talked about up to now.  In a way, being labeled a hero or villain is one of the biggest sterotypes there is, restricting them to a kind of script that everyone expects them to follow.  They aren't their own characters any more once they are given that title.  Not to say it can't work if they simply take the title and run with it, even if it doesn't completely fit who they are.

Fact is, the hero/villain dynamic shouldn't be the main thing that defines a group of characters.  Letting the characters define themselves is more important, and if some take to thinking of them as heroes or villains, well, at least the reader made that judgment, not the author/artist.

I could probably go on, but I don't think I can make it any more plain than that.  Next time, probably an old review.  Later kids.