“On The Spot” Hot Seat: Madame Merunga and Biblenauts
This critique series is called the “On The Spot” Hot Seat. I will visit participants’ sites on a random day and talk about how their comic/site/social media is on that day. No archive-diving and no overview. The point is to try to reinforce the importance of making every update significant.
For those of you who are interested in the craft of comics and cartooning, this is your opportunity to talk about the subject in a Real World setting — “workshopping” one another’s comics, if you will.
But that’s only the beginning of the discussion.
Members (especially members who have asked for critiques in the past or plan on doing so in the future) are encouraged to add their own thoughtful responses.
The point isn’t to elect a new King of Comics (or point out a goat) — rather, this is a chance to talk about the how and why of what it is we do.
These are the only two participants who have signed up for this Hot Seat. I’ll leave the Open Call up for a while longer, and if no one else is interested, we can move on to another Hot Seat series.
About two months ago, I wrote the following about Merunga:
This is a longform comic. It doesn’t stand very well as a strip. In fact, as a strip, it suffers. Instead of each strip reading as small, satisfying bites of story, we have somewhat awkward starts and stops. I wrote about a new approach that I’d like to see longform comics take quite a while ago. But it seems most longform comics creators can’t stop trying to present themselves as comic strips — even though there’s never been a better time for the digital-publishing of graphic novels! Tablets are a huge market.
What if you approached this more like Table Titans — with digital updates of one-half pages that are later assembled into a book? What if you used the approach I talk about in that link? The comic strip approach isn’t working so well. But we’re not living in a work that a webcomic has to be a comic strip any more.
That’s a tremendous opportunity — if you can break out of the old mindset.
This update reinforces my opinion.
OK… that entire sequence was lost on me. I have no introduction to the characters or their relationships to one another. I don’t know the significance of what’s happening from panel to panel.
And even though it’s technically against the rules of this specific critique, I hit the “previous” button to see if that strip gave me a clue, and it doesn’t. This comic seems to be meant to be a standalone. And, unfortunately, it fails to communicate effectively.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever been to a dinner party and someone decides to tell a joke? And midway through the joke, they say something like: “Oh, wait… I forgot to mention… the bartender has a duck on his head.” And then continues a few more lines and says, “Oh! And the genie didn’t offer him three wishes… he only offered two.” And when the punchline is delivered (to blank stares), the person adds, “Oh! Did I mention the bar was on planet Mars?”
A set-up is important to delivering any kind of story — and it’s crucial if the story has a humorous element. The set-up has to tell us who the characters are, what their motivations are, what their relationships to each other are (if any), and anything else that the reader is going to need to understand before coming to the end of the story/joke.
If the set-up fails, you become like that dinner-party joke-teller. The story/joke makes perfect sense in your head, but no one around you seems to appreciate it much.
Now… let’s talk about color — specifically, contrast. All of your colors are the same “strength.” There’s no contrast between them. Put another way, if this were a piece of music played on a piano, you’d only be using the middle of the keyboard — not the upper or lower keys. And as a result, your art is flat — and sometimes (such as Panel One) hard to perceive.
To give you an example of what I’m talking about, I opened today’s comic in Photoshop, and I selected just the backgrounds and muted them. In other words, I made them lighter and less saturated than the foreground colors.
See the difference?
It wasn’t until I lightened the background that I knew there were three people in Panel One. I originally thought the opening word balloon was coming from inside the castle.
And it doesn’t have to be a strong foreground against a lighter background. It could be the other way around. Or you could use this technique to hide a foreground figure and highlight some other element in the scene.
The key is contrast. Your palette needs contrast. Otherwise, your images will seem muddy and hard to read.
If you would like to submit your comic for the “On The Spot” Hot Seat, please click here.