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Featured Comic: Blade

Mon Sep 16, 2013, 5:29 PM
Blade comic cover updated by MQSdwz35
Blade page 2 by MQSdwz35 Blade page 14 by MQSdwz35 Blade page 20 by MQSdwz35

Overview

A story of a black, blue-eyed wolf pup with a knack for surviving where other wolves cannot is adopted into a new wolf pack after she is separated from her mother, the original blue-eyed wolf.

Critique & Review

Songdog-StrayFang
Blade is the story of a random wolf pup that was found in a snow storm, randomly adopted, and that’s about it. A comic that has taken 4 years to produce 23 pages, and that is as much as can be said about the story as far as an overview. So let’s get into the nitty gritty.

The character Blade is a blue eyed wolf pup. Everyone makes a big deal over the fact that she has blue eyes because it’s unnatural, and apparently something something ancient story something something. Ignoring the cliché of the super-special-rare-blue-eyes nonsense, the fact that it’s being called attention to as ‘unnatural’ at all is kind of baffling. Yes, blue eyes on an adult wolf is unnatural. So are puppies being born in autumn/winter instead of spring, so are wolves having red eyes, so are wolves have visible sclera, so are wolves adopting orphans, so are wolves knowing what a blade is, and so are wolves having an alpha hierarchy that is portrayed more as a monarchy with inherited heirs. But the comic never calls attention to any of that being unnatural.

There really isn’t anything to discuss for the story, because it doesn’t exist. Nor do characters. I cannot tell any of the characters apart, and none of them have personalities anyway. The mysterious orphan/possibly chosen one plot is so ridiculously overdone to death I don’t think I even need to bother complaining about it.

Art wise, the comic is lacking. I’m a little suspect by the subtle variation of the artistic style. Some of the artwork on the older pages are better than artwork on newer pages.

Ignoring all of that, the comic has some major issues on a technical standpoint. The text is awful. Early on they use illegible default MS paint red and blue for font, and by illegible I mean that I could not read some of the words. The sentences are rarely capitalized, punctuation is a mess, and overall it looks sloppy. The panels zoom in on faces way too much, and characters seem to jump around the panels do to a poor direction of panel orientation. The whole thing is rather disorientating for the reader, and makes the comic itself difficult to follow.

On a final note, the characters suffer from the ‘Dull Surprise Syndrome’, meaning in short that they often lack emotional expressions. The expressions are muted and dulled to the point where sometimes I don’t know if the facial expression is meant to match the mood or not. The eyes are almost always wide and full, and not enough is portrayed through facial distortion or body language (which is big with animals).The only time the characters do express facial emotion is when the style jarringly switches to a deformed ‘cartoony’ style, which looks horrifically out of place and clashes with the story.

PaintedCricket
Blade is the story of a wolf pup, as far as I can tell, also the titular character. The story begins with the introduction of the pup and its being found by a wolf of its new adoptive pack. The pacing at the start is slower than it needs to be, but it's not beating around the bush as most other comics do. At some point that seems not too long into it, if you've begun reading right now, the problem is introduced; something that's been killing off whole wolf packs and has claimed the life of the alpha of Blade's adoptive pack after he'd gone to investigate the strange occurrence. The story does pick up a decent pace in the later pages; soon after the introduction of the problem, there begins to drop hints that are not painfully vague nor absurdly in-your-face drops.

There is a severe problem within the panels where more than one character is speaking and it is not the lack of speech bubbles in the first half of the comic, nor is it the font choice (thankfully); it is that much of the dialogue is backwards in a top-to-bottom manner. It isn't terribly confusing, as there aren't walls of text in any but one panel, but as they are large pages, you will scroll a bit before realizing there was another piece of dialogue. It is not confusing as to who has said what, however, since you can usually match the gesture to the dialogue, although it would rely of being familiar with certain lines and uses of them.

Some things are biologically right, some are wrong. The carry of the wolf pup is the most accurate thing you'll see. The wolves are mostly dog colored, with masks, white, ticking, minimal color on white, and socks. The new alpha is probably the most infused with dog blood of all of them. It gives me the impression that the strangest eye color to find in this pack is green, not blue, but I am probably the only person who would notice.

There's an obvious use of tropes here with the "stories of the blue-eyed-whatever" (at least they didn't call it a prophecy); an adoptive pack; and an external, possibly intangible, menace. It does have me worried because, despite the plot being a rather standard one for canine comics, it is the sort of plot that never seems to get finished and I am not quite confident in it. If there were a way to resolve this plot, I'd love to see it done

There is a notable typos and lack of punctuation, but the dialogue is understandable, if a bit standard or generic. The humor is alright and not terribly out of place where it is inserted. There is a considerable change in the art style more than once, as there has been large expanses of time between scenes. There's a small plus in that it affects the pacing, by forcing the artist to introduce the plot sooner rather than padding and filling the pages with nonsense, but there's the con that it's been years. If the artist had taken years to create the comic and published all at once at the end, it would be alright. I do recommend a use of character redesign; not in the colors, which I have already grown used to the use of, but in allowing for there to be a use of more varied features as pure lineart.

In the end, while it is a comic that hasn't been terrible to read, it is not one I would follow, mostly because of lack of material, the update pace, and that I will usually take interest at the point of divergence between the standard and what makes a familiar story unique. However, it is salvable and the quality has been on a slow but steady climb upwards in quality, but it would need to get further or faster before saying for sure.

Extras

Blade page 6 comparison by MQSdwz35 Legend of the Blue eyed wolf by MQSdwz35 cry to the moon by MQSdwz35 Blade animation by MQSdwz35

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Writing Good Characters - Part One

Journal Entry: Tue Aug 20, 2013, 8:59 AM
Written by Songdog-StrayFang
Originally I was asked to write an article on characters; what makes them good, bad, and what makes them balanced. However the more I thought about it, the more I realized that doing an article on “characters” was flat impossible. The reason for this is like writing a complete article on fiction. Fiction contains many genres, each with their own personality, purpose, and tropes. Characters are of the same merit. Usually when you hear people talk about characters, their focus is on the main character. But that’s not where the character cast ends. So instead, I’ve decided to write three articles on the main ‘types’ of characters: Protagonists, Antagonists, and Supporting Cast.

Since most of what people care and talk about is the protagonist, that’s where we’ll begin. Usually when people discuss whether a character is well done or not, the word that gets tossed around is “Mary Sue”. But there’s little talk on what defines a “Mary Sue”, what makes them bad, and why people create them. However, because the definition for what a “Mary Sue” is varies from person to person, I feel it’s a little bit of a cop-out to point to a single concept when you want to call something bad. Let’s be clear, there’s  a dozen variations of how to write a character poorly. Calling all of them one thing is just lazy. Therefore, the term will not be used any further in this article.

One of the things that everyone can agree on as far as what makes a good protagonist is that they must have flaws. We, as human beings, are imperfect creatures. Therefore our characters should reflect this, regardless of their species. We want to see our characters struggle and make mistakes. There is often some misunderstanding of what qualifies for a flaw. Physical flaws are physical ailments that affect the character and how they interact with the world. For example, being asthmatic or having a broken leg. These sort of flaws hinder the character and make their daily life more difficult. Physical flaws are necessary limitations, otherwise our protagonist would be able to accomplish their goal without trouble.

However, even more important than physical flaws are personality flaws. These are what build a character, and should be integrated into their personality. Some characters may be liars, have an arrogant personality, or be complete jerks. It’s important to balance these characteristics without falling back on archetypes and clichés. Avoid using character types that you are familiar with, such as the arrogant but good hearted protagonist, or the stoic and brooding loner. Generally, the more unfamiliar you are with your initial protagonist prototype, the more successful you are in building them. The reason for this is if you use familiar models you generally shortcut your way through the development process. But having to build a character from scratch forces you to understand all of their individual complexities. Plus you’re more likely to stay invested in writing for a character that is unlike any of your existing ones.

Personality flaws can be tricky. They are generally what drives the story and its interactions. A good writer should know how their character will react to any situation given their personality. It would be boring if your character always knew the right answer to get the optimum outcome for every situation. Therefore in order for conflict to exist (and therein story progression/conflict) your character’s personality flaws must inhibit them. Perhaps they are too stubborn to listen to reason, or too cowardly to meet their challenges. Negative personality traits are necessary and required for making believable, engaging characters. Be cautious, however, as sometimes writers overload their protagonist with too many flaws, making them unrelatable and unlikeable. But it should be worth saying that the exact opposite is possible; by not giving them enough personality flaws the same outcome awaits you.

One of the most difficult and common problems that writers face is the self-insert dilemma. This is quite common with new writers. Although saying so comes with a bit of a sting, in short self-insert characters are the mark of poor writers without creativity. If anything, these are the true bane of stories above all else. A self-insert character is a shortcut that cheats out character building all together, and results in essentially an ego trip for the writer. Furthermore, it also makes the writer incredibly sensitive to feedback and criticism, stunting the writer’s own growth. It is not only bad for their story, but bad for themselves.

The problems with self-inserts are numerous. For starters, these characters are not realistic interpretations of the writer’s own self, but instead glorified, romanticized versions of what they either see themselves as, or wish to be. These characters generally are flawless, always know the right answer, and anything bad that happens to them is the work of a two-dimensional antagonist. These characters generally face no real struggles, and what struggles they do face are entirely external (meaning that outside forces inflict themselves on the character). Therefore, it goes without saying that these characters are bland to say the least.

Furthermore, it also cuts out any actual effort on the part of the writer. When a character faces a situation, the writer only asks themselves “what would I do in this situation?” Or more accurately,  “what would I believe that I would do in this situation”? Most people like to believe that in any bad situation they would ultimately remain calm and choose the noble answer; ie making a sacrifice in the heat of the moment for the benefit of someone else. Realistically, our actions are probably more selfish. Either way, the writer gives no true identity to the character. Each character should react to a situation differently, as all characters should be treated as individuals with their own will and motivation. Not as idealized glorifications of our egos.

On a related note, another common problem writers face is that their protagonists inevitably end up, in short, without a real personality. When describing their characters, they use vague words you could use on any person. For example, saying a character is cheerful but gets angry when betrayed and is protective of friends, says absolutely nothing about the character. These are common characteristics for any individual. Readers want characters that have tangible personalities, traits that stick out. You do not want your protagonist to be made of cardboard. If you could switch out your character for any other random stand-in, without it affecting your story, than you have a serious problem.

Equally as important is character development. A character should not be the same at the beginning and end of the story. An often mistake is having all character development happen in the character’s past. We want to see the events that lead to them being the individual they currently are. Characters that do not change are static, and these do not work as protagonists in almost all situations. Conflicts should affect your character, make them question who they are, and change their decisions. We want to see the cheerful, positive guy get smashed and broken and turned into a jaded, cynical brooder. We want to see them struggle and suffer, and then emerge as something new. Don’t hide it from us by explaining that all of that happened before the story started and giving us a quick word-wall summary.

If you do have to make events important in the past, then be cautious of your use of backstory. Backstories are useful tools when you consider building your character, but they are often abused tools. Too many people want to tell you their character’s life story right in the beginning, which ruins the surprise. Don’t give it all away. Backstories should be revealed gradually as it becomes relevant. Depending on when you reveal parts of a character’s backstory impacts what kind of effect it has. Telling us that your character is infertile from page one means nothing to us, but telling us fifty pages in once their love interest mentions wanting children, does.

However, doing so requires incorporating foreshadowing into your work. If you reveal something about your character suddenly, it will feel as if you made it up on the fly. You need to drop subtle hints as you go, sometimes hints that only become obvious once the hidden secret is revealed. Subtlety is a refined art that takes much practice, but first and foremost it takes planning. In order to foreshadow something, you need to know what your reveal is in advance.

But really, that’s the common theme. The true secret to creating a good protagonist is planning. You need to build your character from scratch, understand their personality, know what challenges you intend for them to face, know what their backstory is, and know when to foreshadow. Character creation is not an instantaneous event.  You may get a sudden spark of inspiration or an idea, but unless you thoroughly plan them out, you’ll end up with a character that either you don’t enjoy writing for, or your audience won’t enjoy reading about. Both of which are important things when writing your story, if you intend to actually finish it.

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THE THREE MAIN RULES:
:bulletorange:Contribute NEW* comic pages to the Featured gallery.
There is NO page number minimum to submit to group.
Submit mascot art, comic art tutorials, and contest entries to the proper gallery folders.
* no more than 1 month old

:bulletpurple:Submit your cover or first page of your comic (if you have no cover) to the ★Favourites section of the club for cataloging.
:onfire:DO NOT SUBMIT COVERS TO THE GALLERY!:onfire:

:bulletorange:Only submit comic pages, useful tutorials for a canine comic maker, contest entries for this group's contest, or fan art of our mascot. No character sheets, WIPs, photos, non canine, or other off topic work.
The group name sums it up: comics with canines in them.
* Canines is a board term here including:anthros/weres of canine type, fox, dingo, African painted dog, maned wolf, jackal, coyote, dog, wolf, mix breed, fantasy/mythological canines, and created species with canine traits. Hyenas are also accepted.

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Comments


Add a Comment:
 
:iconwalagu:
Hellaaaaa, I dont have a canine comic just yet, but me and a friend are getting there! I really like this group so far, and the critique! Just wanted to tell you all  appreciate this group haha
Reply
:iconfaolanwolfstar:
FaolanWolfStar Mar 25, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconpaintedcricket:
PaintedCricket Mar 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice to know someone does ='3
Reply
:iconj-dove:
J-Dove Mar 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
glad you think so.
Reply
:iconsongdog-strayfang:
Songdog-StrayFang Mar 9, 2014  Student Writer
Why thank you kindly :tea:
Reply
:iconayior:
Ayior Feb 15, 2014  Student Digital Artist
So I had submitted the first pages of my comic and then forgot to submit them for a while and now some older than a month are not submitted...
(about two months old)
how can I get them into the group for completeness?
Or is there just no way?
It's....  5 pages I think
Reply
:iconpaintedcricket:
PaintedCricket Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Five pages is fine, but try not to send in more than four a day ^^
Reply
:iconayior:
Ayior Feb 19, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Ok, I'll try two a day or something :D thanks!
Reply
:iconpaintedcricket:
PaintedCricket Feb 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okie ^^
Reply
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