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Fair is Fair

At the end of his 200th episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara said one thing that stuck with me in regards to the old phrase “Everyone’s a Critic.” Basically, even though it’s used to dismiss criticism, it’s quite true, everyone has their own opinion. It’s why I keep the comments open on my sites, because I like to hear the opinions of everyone because that’s how I improve.

I would be the ultimate hypocrite if I told people my work was un-reviewable. I review comics here, I comment on specific areas of them, I criticise and I praise others. However, many other review sites tend to stay away from my stuff because their archives are too large. That’s a shame, but I can understand, they have their own lives and there are only so many hours in the day.

So, I’ve decided to write up this column as one part self-promotion and the other part as a way for anyone who felt I was too harsh on something to get their vengeance. I want you guys to review my new comic, St Nathan’s.

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The comic only recently started so there are six pages, easy enough to get through and it updates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also, it’s in the horror genre with some foul language but aside from that, it’s not that NSFW.

A couple of points I should make before I explain the premise. First, I am quite aware of the facial and body inconsistencies. It’s one of my biggest failings as an artist and I am trying to work on it, but I’ve been trying for years so it’ll take a while before I finally perfect it. Second are the personality inconsistencies. You may notice some characters are frightened and then start acting calm and joking around. Yes, that does seem odd, doesn’t it?

Okay, enough explaining, here’s the idea behind it. Inspired by the game Harvester (Very NSFW), our hero Kevin wakes up to discover he is now friends with a cryptic slime monster who gives vague warnings. He goes downstairs to discover his neglectful, selfish mother has been transformed into a Stepford Wife and his lazy, alcoholic father is clean and hard working. However, if Kevin or his sister, Cassie, step a toe out of line, they are threatened with bodily harm.

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At school, they start to discover that there are many who have been affected, but at first they cannot discern a pattern to who has been affected and who hasn’t. As the series goes on, Kevin and Cassie start to piece together just what is going on and how to stop it. However, those who have been affected do not want things to change back and are willing to stop our heroes at any cost.

The comic is being published through Thunder Frog Studios, who are friends of Harrison Wood, the artist on my other comic, Gemini Storm. You can also see a preview of that comic on the site if you want.

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But I hope that you like St Nathans and if not, that you can give me some constructive feedback on what works and what doesn’t. But just to warn you, the first chapter is finished and the second chapter is half-done so it may take a while for your points to show up.

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Posted on January 5, 2014, in webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Horror is a difficult concept to grasp in fiction. The first instinct for any cheap slasher movie, game, or comic is to go for mountains of gore and a few determined survivors wading knee-deep through them. One need only look at the popularity of everything zombie for a testament ot this simple formula. However, there is a general opinion that to have real horror, an artist must adress the mind of the reader, rather than play to shock value.

    The latter seems to be what Dave Herbert is trying to approach with his comic, St. Nathan’s. The main character awakens to find his parents transformed in bright-eyed stereotypes of 1950’s suburbanites. Such decency is quite shocking, as his father hasn’t been a day “sobre” in the last ten years. All the more when his mother threatens him with a knife over coarse language. More than enough to figure out something is wrong. Well, if the slime monster hadn’t told him already.
    You see, the monster ambushes him as he wakes up and gives a load of exposition while also suffering from amnesia. It magically knows something is going on, and that our protagonist (Kevin) is special. The thing’s design is a bit more towards that other side of horror, with its red eyes, sharp teeth, and unsettling grin. Well, sort of unsettling. St. Nathan’s isn’t the prettiest comic by a long shot. I might as well get the nastyness out of the way with, here: The artist has only the most basic skills, and seems not to be used to working in three dimensions yet.
    Kevin meekly accepts what the monster says, and shrugs the encounter off with a Whedon-esque quip before moving on to the REAL story. And this is my problem with the slime monster: Why did we need almost three pages to have this guy tell us that what we’re about to see is going to happen? St. Nathan’s seems to be falling into the webcomic trap of using too many pages on issues that slow the plot down.
    The remainder of the comic has Kevin discovering his sister is normal, and the slime monster uselessly telling him to check out if other people are still normal, ending on the cliffhanger that they are not.

    There are a few points where Herbert uses the medium to his advantage, mainly with flashbacks acting as panel backgrounds. But the art itself is at the early beginner level. Basic anatomy and perspective do not exist in this comic, and it would be my advice to get some practice in and become a more accomplished artist before tackling a comic.
    The characters and plot seem a little stilted. The cursing, the change from stereotypical broken home to stereotypical family values home, the non-plussed main character, and the monster add up to a level of cheesy edginess that detracts from any possible horror. Kevin accepts a monster more readily than most people would a puppy, and responds to his parents’ sudden change by going to school like nothing happened.

    My advice is that the artist needs to rewrite the script and study some basic anatomy and perspective. At present, I wouldn’t see this as a fullblown comic, but as practice.

  2. Hi, here are a few brief thoughts:

    -i think you have the ability to draw consistently within a particular style, but you don’t have the anatomical grounding to do it in the style you’re currently working with– the more realistic you try for with the art, the more it falls apart. What you ought to do right now is adopt a cartoonier style, more so than it even is, until you’re better at proportions etc. Call it cheating, but if you simplify the art a bit, newspaper comix-style, it’ll look a lot more cohesive/professional. DON’T change the color palette you’re using though, its’ working really well as it is! The lettering is fine too, just take a bit more time with it and watch for typos (“sober” instead of “sobre”).

    The key to having a “look” to your comic that works is consistency across elements, ie: the art is as good/polished as the coloring is as good as the lettering, making everything look cohesive. Right now you’re 2/3rds of the way there, you just need to simplify the art so you can draw more consistently at the ability level that you’re at.

    -“The comic is being published through Thunder Frog Studios.” This is the internet, there’s no sense using the language of print. Don’t “publish” through some third party site, just get your own site and go from there. “Collective” sites like that are generally associated with amateurishness, whether that’s deserved or not, and web hosting is so cheap these days that there’s honestly no excuse to not go it alone.

    -In terms of the writing, just remember that writing is communicating. What are you trying to communicate? Are you trying to communicate anything? If not then this is just practice (which is fine– everyone’s first forays into comix are just practice).

    -and, lastly, the coda of all artistic advice, ie: if you didn’t have potential, nobody would bother to give you any feedback. So take heart, and keep practicing, and remember that quality only comes from sacrifice so you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of time if you want to get good. Just like every artist ever, so you’ll be in good company.

  3. Just read through your comic, David, and… well, I’m afraid it’s just not really grabbing me right now.

    Part of it is the length – at only eight pages, there just isn’t enough material for me to get truly invested in the story.

    Another part of it is the art style. Now, I know you discussed this in your post, and it’s good to see that you recognize your flaws and are working to improve them. But as it is right now, I think the art is significantly detracting from the overall experience. My advice would be to look at other webcomics in the horror genre – The Abaddon, False Positive, Broodhollow, the nightmare sections of Prequel – and really examine how they use visuals to effectively convey mood and atmosphere.

    As for the writing… well, that’s not doing it for me, either. The biggest problem would have to be the gray slime thingy’s overly exposition-heavy dialogue, which sort of kills the suspense of the opening scenes. Just as a random thought experiment, imagine how those first pages would go if the slime thingy was removed entirely. How would you convey the whole process of the main character slowly realizing that something wrong is going on in his house?

    Now, I’m not saying that this comic is entirely unsalvageable; there are plenty of webcomics with rather inauspicious beginnings that have gone on to achieve better things. And I think that, with a bit more time, learning, and effort, this comic could in fact become a genuinely good one. And I look forward to hopefully seeing that happen.

  4. I agree with most of the above points, although the long exposition didn’t really bother me. The flow from panel-to-panel was generally good, except that one place in the middle of the 6th page with that tiny panel with two fingers hanging out in it that I skipped over at first. I also had no idea what the last panel on the 4th page meant, but later orange pages do make the “flashback” stuff obvious.

    I’m not invested in St. Nathan’s thus far either, least in part because, like they’ve said, it’s too soon. A lot of stories get a neat feel when they develop a cast, after all. I can only see myself getting into the story if things get veEeEery over-the-top, and not necessarily in an incredibly horrific way at that. Maybe that’s because my mind has become inundated with high-octane anime and manga. Good luck on both your comics…!…!! !!!!!

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