"Y’know what?" I said to the fourth wall, as if I had an audience, "I’ve been thinking to myself: how do you make a successful fantasy webcomic?"
"Gee, I don’t know," the fourth wall said back, "how do you make a successful fantasy webcomic?"
"Well, fourth wall, let’s look at this little number I’ve found called Wafer’s man."
"You mean Wayfarer’s Moon?"
"It’s in the sky." I paused, waiting for the rimshot that was supposed to follow that joke, but it never came. Instead, the drummer behind me took out a large matchbox and slid it open. Inside the matchbox was a cricket that proceeded to chirp at me. I couldn’t help but groan at that sentiment. "Everyone’s a critic."
"No, I’m pretty sure that’s a cricket."
"Shut it. You’re just the fourth wall, I’m the reviewer-guy." Turning my attention back to the subject at hand, I continued, "So here’s the important things you need to know when making your own fantasy webcomic: first, you need a highly skilled main character… in fact, make him or her a Mary Sue for the first 50 or so pages to ensure that same character is incapable of dying except when you need to pull a Heroic Sacrifice out of nowhere. Also, give this Mary Sue some whiny kid to train, one who sucks at fighting except when forced to fight actual bad guys. If the mentor has to die, the whiny kid will take over."
"Can’t we make the kid not whiny?"
"No we can’t, because then you’d have to think of some actual character development that doesn’t include someone with an ambiguous troubled past, and that takes some more time and effort than some readers are willing to sit through."
"Woah!" The fourth wall jumped back. "You’re scarying me with your writing of big words!"
"Hey, I guess the pen is mightier than the sword." I paused for a rimshot, but the drummer just took out his damn chirping cricket again. "I am so writing a bad comment on your MySpace page when this is over. Drummer-for-hire my ass."
"But Dr. Haus," the fourth wall asked, "shouldn’t an awesome fantasy webcomic have an evil villain?"
"Oh yes, and when you are writing the perfect fantasy webcomic, it is imperative that you make it obvious who the villain is right away. Also, give him a generic name, like Doctor Evil-Bad, or maybe Mister Hydra."
"How about Baron Ill-Mark?"
I thought about this for a moment, and after drawing a blank I proceeded to down an entire can of Full Throttle before crushing it against my head. "Hey, fourth wall, mind if I write this down on you?" Ignoring the screams of protest emanating from the wall, I wrote the name on it with a pen from my shirt pocket. "Baron Ill-Mark… that’s close enough. Just remember that you don’t want your readers to think to much — it’s a webcomic, not a work of art."
"But Scout McCloud says…"
"Look over there, it’s nonconformist panel design!"
With the fourth wall distracted, I took that moment to bury my pen in one of its cracks. Ignoring the ensuing cries of pain, I continued, "So we have major protagonists, and we have a major antagonist, but there’s only so long you can have a training montage go on for. So throw in some random highway bandits to attack the heroes. It doesn’t matter how they get there, or why they would be wandering through a deep forest, just have him look threatening… actually, I take that back. It doesn’t matter how you set them up. Just throw them at the hero and have them get slaughtered."
"Ow, that pen really hurts!"
"Okay, fine, you don’t have to be such a big baby about it." I yanked the pen out and asked aloud, "Huh, is pen ink poisonous when accidentally thrust into the bloodstream?"
"I think I need an ambulance…"
"Now, looking at Wayfarer’s Moon, what has the comic done right?" The fourth wall continued to groan about the injury I had supposedly inflicted on it. I decided to answer for him, "It has a ninja woman who uses magic and might be in a ‘Ho Yay’ relationship, playing the wise mentor role and skimming Mary Sue territory. The main protagonist is a big-breasted lumberjack woman on who plays the ‘whiny kid’ role. And it has an evil overlord with an obvious name. Also, bonus points for the race of not-orcs that looks like the love child of a yeti and Michael Dorn."
"You mean, Worf? Worf, the character from Star Trek: TNG?"
"No, I meant Bark Bark." Finally, the "ba-dum-tishhh" sounded off as the drummer decided to do a rimshot out of pity for me before he threw his drumsticks at me and walked outside for a smoke.
"I really need an ambulance now, if it’s not too much trouble," the fourth wall groaned.
"So you see, this comic definitely has potential. But there’s something that bugs me about it — it actually steers away from some tropes we usually see in character design. Wouldn’t you agree?"
The fourth wall simply writhed in pain again.
"I mean, the protagonists are not feminine-looking men, they’re actually women! And these women aren’t scantily-clad for easy fan-service, but they’re wearing actual clothing! Can you believe it? Next thing you know, someone will write a fantasy comic where women have voting rights!"
"And what’s with this crazy Western art style?" I continued, "Doesn’t the artist have a How To Draw Manga book he can rip-off from somewhere? I mean, this partial tentacle rape might be a good first step, but the audience needs a little more deliberate pandering than that."
By that point, the fourth wall ceased to groan in pain as I decided to follow the route of the drummer and leave the stage for the night. You think it would’ve said something about being allergic to a James Bond-style poisonous pen.