Friday, November 30, 2012

Not So Wild Review Special: Blade Kitten

NOTE:  Sorry kids, looks like the damn thing didn't publish on time.  Should have checked it yesterday and forgot.  Sorry.

I don't do this.  Normally, when I find a new comic and am set to review it, I'll put it aside and locate at least 4 more comics to review at once.  These five would be the newest addition to the Wild Webcomic Review.  Not So Wild Reviews follow later, typically in the order in which I originally reviewed the comic, assuming I'm still reading it.  This is how I've done this since the beginning.  Today I make an exception for:


Before I begin, I also broke another general rule for reading comics because of how I found it.  I found this comic via the Let's Play Archive, and a Let's Play of the game that's based on the comic.  This game was the final nail in the coffin for a major game development studio.  The comic is done by one of the company's founders and creative director.  Watching the LP, I am stunned at how well the game seems to function from a mechanical perspective.  From everything else, I can see why it bombed.  It also meant I HAD to see the comic, I had to read it.  As such, I started this comic with background information I normally wouldn't have had in a dry archive run.  This may or may not color some of my comments.  Let's get on with this.


This is a manga/anime style comic, but not quite as good as it should be.  It's not awful, but I've seen much better comics using this kind of art style.  The issue, I think, is that it leans far too hard on the anime tropes, including, but not limited to, girls in impractical clothing and cat girls.  Specifically the main character who is very much a cat girl, with pink hair and everything.  There's also a trend that rarely does a panel pass without some kind of dialog block interfering.  To be fair, even Errant Story's early strips suffered from this, too much script going in, so this isn't a stumbling block, but it is a sure sign that he's not confident the art can tell the story.  And we'll get to the story later.  It's at least competent, not god awful, but I don't think the overall style and point of the comic is very good.


Oh these characters.  The main character is a cat girl, named Kit.  Most of the names are awful.  Alamo, Justice, Kaiser, Gattling etc are some of the WORSE "creative" names I've seen.  And these aren't pets, oh no, these are actual people.  If these were nick names, or code names or something, I might stand them, but no, these are their proper names.  Names aside, that's about all these characters have.  Most are one note personalities, even if they have "a dark past" or some other emotional trauma.  Kit is especially bad as she wisecracks unnecessarily, slips into badass mode at the drop of hat, then goes all teary eyed later.  I've seen characters with LESS character become something greater, so I suppose that with time all of them can get better, but at the moment they're just glorified tropes running around with cat ears.  The worse part?  Dialog dumps worth of character backstory.  Yeah, way to make me care.


Disjointed.  Incomplete.  I've read comics before where it felt like it was missing whole strips.  I never felt that in Blade Kitten, instead I felt I was missing entire PLOTLINES.  I don't mind mystery in my comics, and there are a couple moments throughout that actually almost worked.  But the mystery here was how vaugue could the artist be for any given story point.  We aren't given any reference points for things.  Alamo, at one point, turns out to be a robot, but there is never any HINT at what was going on, nothing odd to question her nature.  Why?  Because there's no time to learn anything.  She's maybe in a total of 6 pages before ANYTHING is questioned, and it has to be forced because when the non-robot version is revealed, there's no connection there.  Other times the overly dense strips feel like they could have told so much more if they were stretched to 3 or 4 pages.  In the end little is learned about the world, little is shown about the characters and their backstory (shown, not TOLD), and there's no investment in the story as a whole because the mystery and suspense of the tale is drown out by poor pacing and the fact that it feels more like the Cliff notes version of a comic.


I will forever hold that the worst comic I've ever read is the old EarthBeta (which you can't see any more, praise on to any deity that did that), so no, this isn't the worst comic ever.  It is, however, by no means good.  The art direction is annoying, the characters are one note or so trope filled as to topple over under their own "weight" and it almost feels like the artist is speeding through a story rather than building one.  The sad part?  That game, the one that destroyed the game studio?  It's built the same way.  The story in the game is disjointed and rushed, the characters are one note at best, and the art direction is actually about the same.  It's also canon with the rest of the comic, so there are events that don't make sense without the game, and vice versa.

This is a bad comic.  The only reason to even read it is to complete the understanding of the game and what happened after it.  That said, it is doing something a lot of comics can't do.  Yeah, that's right, it still updates.  Looks like about once a week.  It might get better one day, but I kind of doubt it.

This comic will NOT go on the official list because, well, I broke every rule with it.  Hopefully I'll get another batch of reviews up before the end of the year, or at least for the start of next year.  No promises though.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not So Wild Review: Cat and Girl

Most comics have some sort of theme that unifies the various strips.  Sometimes it's absurdest humor, or action/adventure, or even just really great art.  These themes define the comic and aim it's direction, and at the very least they can be identified by the reader early on.  And then there's:


I think it's meant to be subversive, honestly.  But not quite.  A commentary on the world, without actually saying anything about the world.  Does that make sense?  Probably not, which is kind of how the comic works.  I read this comic thrice a week, but do I LIKE this comic?  Um, yeah, kind of.  In a weird way.  But let's break it down a bit.


They're not really characters.  At best they're designated voice boxes for various things.  They have some personality quirks, I guess, but asking "who is Cat and who is Girl" and I'd be hard pressed to say anything (besides Cat eats paint for some reason).  Some characters are there for the joke, like Bad Decision Dinosaur, who makes and encourages bad decisions.  Saying they have "character" would be wrong.  But then, this isn't a story comic in any sense, so not having character isn't a detriment to the comic at all.  It is about the joke, which I'll get to in a moment.


All comics evolve in their art, but I'm not sure how to really label the evolution here.  From a technical perspective, the art, I suppose, has improved.  The lines are crisper, more defined in the current strips compared to the early strips.  At the same time, the art now feels stiffer, less lifelike and effective.  It's almost as if most of the art is copy and paste, though I'm pretty sure it isn't.  Looking back, the comic feels more alive in the early strips, while it's feels more dead in the later ones.  Though not always.  It's a very confusing comic.


Trying to describe the humor of this comic is difficult.  Let me try by quoting from the about page referring to the artist:
Dorothy Gambrell was born in Illinois, and educated at Illinois College and Union College of Law. She was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895, during which time she became the leader of the free silver movement. Her later years were devoted to the advocacy of fundamentalism, most notably as a prosecutor during the Scopes monkey trial.
Yeah, it's that kind of humor.  Is any of that actually funny?  To some it is, because it's silly, but it's not "ha ha" funny.  It's more "huh" funny.  And that's a lot of this comic, it just kind of makes you go "huh."   Oh, it does have some "ha ha" moments, enough that I do consider it a humor comic, but a lot of it isn't that way.  It's like a weird mix between a daily comic and an editorial comic but without necessarily being topical or timely.


I like this comic, but being able to say why has given me issues.  It's not strictly funny, but it is entertaining.  It offers commentary on life, the universe and everything, but doesn't really say much about them.  The art isn't great, but it's not awful.  It's subversive, but not really.  I somehow manage to enjoy it, and while it's not one of those comics I'm looking forward to reading, I'm not dreading it either.  Decent comic, and if you like the odd humor, you'll love it too.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wants and Needs

So the last time I had an article, I talked about characters and how, despite being the creators, most artists and authors really aren't good enough authorities the human mind to really discuss what's going on in the minds of said characters.

With that in mind, I figure I should walk through how I create a character for my various projects.  I'm not talking about the bits where the character is out to save the world or what hair style they have, I mean how I make the character's character.  As I said, I'm not a therapist, but I do need some kind of guide to tell me WHY a character does something.  Yes, characters need a reason to do things, and often they have plenty through the course of a story, but what matters to me is how they justify it to themselves.

Thus for each character where it's appropriate, I give them a simple, two column list.  One says "WANTS" and the other says "NEEDS."  And that's about it.  In my experience, simple is more effective than building a complex series of relationships or what not, as it is easier to remember, and easier to build on as the story continues.

Wants represent the desires of the character.  Typically they're physical in nature (wants this thing, for example) and often are declared by the character in some way.  It's the motivative force, it pushes the character forward and drives them along.  It also acts as a way to redirect the plot, taking what was initially a foregone conclusion and sending it off on a different path.  Wants are powerful, conscious, and often more than a touch irrational.  It's one thing to want to be ruler of the Earth, it's another to want to be King of the Universe.  One is doable, the other not so much.

Needs are different, but not exclusively.  They're usually not physical in nature, more mental or spiritual, and often even the character doesn't know that it's there.  It's more a completion force, when achieved it completes a character arc, and possibly set up a new one.  It doesn't mean it's the end of the story, of course, but it could be essential to the climax and lead to the end of the story.  Needs also tend to be reasonable and rational, and are almost always actually achievable.

Wants and needs relate to each other in various ways.  Sometimes, they're the same thing, or closely related.  Nothing says they HAVE to be different, after all.  At the same time, the want will often be bigger than need, so achieving the need won't achieve the want.  Other times, wants and needs are opposed to each other.  The want runs counter to the need, meaning getting that need often won't be accomplished via direction action of the character.

Here's the last comment on this:  as the author or artist, the wants and needs of the character should NEVER be given out.  It's a guide for developing the story and character and that's all it's for.  Revealing it would lead to potential spoilers, and remove the ability to change them as the story goes on.  Plus, it's fun to guess.

Well, that's enough for this week.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blame it on laziness

Yeah, another nothing post.  Mostly due to laziness on my part.  I have an article planned, but I never got much past the title.  I'll work on having it up next week.  Until then.

Friday, November 2, 2012

You Are Not A Therapist

Exploring a character's personality is one of the most desired, and most difficult, task an author of any sort faces.  Getting it right, making it natural, and not dropping it on a readers head is the hard, but can be very rewarding in the long run.

But there is an issue.  Most artists and authors don't actually know how the mind works.  They're not therapists or psychologists.  This means, as the author starts to dig into what makes their own characters tick, they're not doing it from an educated position.  Which brings me to Schlock Mercenary and it's current "B" plot.

While Captian Kaff Tagon and his Toughs are busy trying to contain a nanite infested army of Gavs (or run away as the case may be), General (Retired) Karl Tagon is relating the story of the beginning of the Teraforming Wars (none of which is needed to actually know to understand this article).  The point:  Nearly his entire family died there, with only father and son (so far) getting out alive.  The fact that it was caused by nanites here as well has relevance on the "A" plot.

The most recent comic on this part of the plot tries to dissect what's going on in Karl's head with respect to this incident.  It ends with "You're not a good therapist."  The question is, however, is she right?  As far as Howard Taylor is concerned, I suspect he believes she is, but from a psychological one, I'm not so sure.  Mostly because, like Taylor, I'm not a therapist.

I've developed several characters for stories and I have the same problems, armchair psychiatry.  I THINK I know why characters do what they do, but is true?  I can only guess.  Intuition works to a point, but people who are more educated can probably see through it.  It's dangerous territory, and going beyond the most simple, broad strokes might likely get an author into trouble.

I really can't wait for the next comic on this plot for Schlock.  I'm curious to see what Karl believes happened in that moment, or how he deals with the fact that she might be right.  If anything, I find this "B" plot more interesting than the "A" plot, but only until the two start colliding.  After all, Kaff is dealing, once again, with nanites threating his life (and employeers), and there's a survivor as well.  What will HE do and how will it relate to what happened in the past?  Even if it's not psychologically accurate, the story is still damn good.

Until next time kiddies.