Thursday, February 02, 2006

Review: 8 1/2 by Eleven

(All pictures from 8 1/2 by Eleven by Lucas Teodoro da Silva. Click on the pictures to see them within the context of the website.)

Since the author himself requested this review, I'm going to write it as if I'm adressing him rather than a reader that may or may not be interested in the comic. Hopefully everyone else will come out with something too.

Now, I know you want to make your comic as good as it can be, or at least better than it is now. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked for a review, so be warned. I'm going to be focusing more on what needs improving than what's good. I ask that you not take offense and view it as the constructive criticism I'm trying to make it. Thank you.

There's quite a bit of potential in the strip, or at least there's potential for you to become a good writer. You seem to know how to set up a good arc. Personally I think you could afford to go a little slower, but there could very well be people who will argue the other way. The premise, while not being the best premise in the world is a workable one, and if used right should give you lots of material. You decided to set the comic in a place you're familiar with, which is a good choice, and you obviously have a good feel of the area (though I haven't been there myself).

The characters need work, though. I don't know what it is, I just don't feel them. You seem to have their basic shell, but not their essense. I can't help you farther than that, but you might want to try to dig with your characters a little bit.

The one thing I would work on fixing the most, however, is the dialogue. The dialogue seems to be the weakest point of the strip. Now, I know the hardest part of writing is writing good dialogue, or making sure the rhythm works. How much you improve on this depends on how much work you're willing to put into it. A few pointers, though.

First, you don't need a joke in every strip when you're writing a story driven webcomic. There were a few times while reading the strip where you set up a mood nicely, but ruined it by trying to force humor in. If the moment is fighting against the joke, don't put it in. I mean, Randy Milholland of Something Positive is known for having a dark sense of humor, but when the moment is intense or heartfelt, he suppresses the humor, or ditches it altogether. He knows when it will or won't work. You have to decide that for yourself.

When I was reading through your strip, I was constantly reminded of Scary Go-Round. You have the same sort of non-sequitur/free association style of writing dialogue as well as a penchant for inventing English. I don't know if that was on purpose or not, but if you're going to imitate the style of another person in a public setting, make sure you can do it better than they can. If you in any way invite comparisons, people will compare. However, you can look at someone else's style, pick what you like and make your own. That has been done successfully by many artists.

So what can you do to improve? Read. A lot. And read critically. Go through the archives and write down what you like and dislike about the strips you are reading (focusing on dialogue of course). Read those two strips I suggested up there. Also read Dominic Deegan for ideas on how to use bad puns in your work. Read Queen of Wands or Questionable Content for silly dialogue based in reality. Read Mixed Myth. Robin Meyer also has a humor driven story strip that every once in a while sacrifices humor so the story can be told. Read strips that you don't like as much and try to figure out why you don't like them. Like any movies? Read their scripts. Find out what you like and don't like about them. Movies and comics are closely related. Above all, keep writing and don't stop assessing your work critically. Hope that helps. Good luck.


Blogger tedzsee said...

What's weird is reading how much viewpoints differ on certain things. My comic has received very modest attention recently, warranting a mention in a few folks' blogs (in one case, I asked, in another it was unsolicited)... the weird thing is how much people's views differ.

Some folks seem to have less problems than you seem to have had with my characterization and storyline movement, and while William G felt that the comic was moving too slow, you recommend slowing it down even more.

Also, while some people find the dialogue works, others seem to try to hard to click it in as a "humour" strip when I'm not really going for that at all.

I guess I'll have to live with the fact that comics (and artistic works in general) either "work" or "don't work" for some people, and that's that.

Obviously, it didn't endear itself to you. ;)

As for my reading list... thanks for the suggestions! I doubt I will add them to my list of reading, however, simply because I already read WAY to many comics.

But I did check a few of them out on a casual basis.

I dig what you're doing here blogwise in general. Keep it up.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

I disagree with many points here, I think the sort of inter-character banter is the strongest point of 8 1/2, and if anything think it needs MORE jokes!

Incidentally, do you just do reviews on demand? If so, me next please!

4:53 AM  
Blogger Andrew Araki said...

Alright, I'll review Built for Comfort next.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Malach the Merciless said...

I also strongly disagree with your assesment. Character development is EXTREMELY strong in this stip, the comedy is top class, and is the story arc development and writing. Is it perfect of course not, nothing is, but to me 8 1/2 is one of the best undiscovered webcomics on the web. It hearkens more to the Peanuts than Scary Go Round(BTW which Scary owes alot for it's comedic slant).

Compared to the rest of the 6 panel, slice of life, joke a day shlock that makes up the majority of the webcomic genre, this one is easily in the top 5.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Andrew Araki said...

Hmm, seems I get more readers when I have an opinion people disagree with. I wonder if this is what happened to William G.

Really, I think it's a difference in humor styles. I noticed while looking at tedzsee's userlist on Comic Nation that we have very few comics in common. See?

I'd like to thank everyone for remaining respectful even if they did disagree with me.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

Oh no, I saw no need to get angry! After all, it was a very well intentioned article, and you were just giving your opinion.

The only question is, will I retain this relaxed attitude when you come down like a ton of bricks on my work?

2:23 PM  

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