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Q&A: what makes a comic a favorite?

I was thinking - being the curious and over-analyzing type - what makes a webcomic your favorite?

Look at your favorite webcomic - or your top five or your top ten - and think about which elements put it at the top of your list.

Is it good art? Good storylines? Humor? Memorable characters? In-jokes? A detailed universe that you want to explore? An approach that's fresh and intriguing? An example of a genre for which you have some strange attraction? Consistency in updates (or perhaps a failure to dissapoint)? Quotability? Shock value? Topical issue coverage? The mockery of things you like to mock as well? The exploration of stuff you enjoy (gaming, programming, talking to pets) or hate (working in a cube-farm, paying bills, living with strangers)? Other stuff I haven't thought of here?

For myself, I love story-telling and humor above most all else. I will blindly follow a webcomic that only updates once a month if I'm truly engaged in its story. Humor, mainly as part of a solid characterization, is my second requirement (gag-a-day comics are ok, but there aren't any in my top 10). After that, the art should be passable, although it need not be detailed. Good characterization in general follows. (Why art before characterization? Because if I can't tell the difference between the characters, I won't be able to keep track of their personalities.)

Your thoughts?

Steve Ince's picture

It's important for me that the artwork is good enough that the characters are distinguishable from one-another and that they are consistent from strip to strip. This doesn't mean that the art can't be simple and sometimes works better that way.
Once that's out of the way, you can then appreciate the comic for it's real value and that's the way it's written - the character development and story development; or in a humour related strip, the way the characters are used and if they are used in a consistent manner.

Re: Q&A: what makes a comic a favorite?

[quote:086473d65b="kjc"]I was thinking - being the curious and over-analyzing type - what makes a webcomic your favorite?

A consistent high-level of craft in all elements is a must for me.

Is the story engaging? Does the pacing bring me back for each and every installment? Are the characters interesting? Is the setting interesting? Is the artwork at a professional level? Does the artist vary his/her POV and really work to tell the story? Is the artist giving us some insights into the world with visual cues (setting, backgrounds, etc)?

Obviously, I'm refering more to episodic stories rather than gag strips, but the above pretty much sums up my criteria.

--Steve

For me, it's story and humor, art plays a role. But only the part that as long as art fits story. After all it would be dumb to see someone sky diving and they playing video games at same time. LOL just my thought to get the idea across

Skydiving and playing video games... hmm...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Playing video games while skydiving!! Now there's a premise...

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

I think if you look at ANY medium...TV, Movies, Books, Cartoons... good writing, stories & Characters always win. (The Simpsons, Star Wars, The Muppets, Kurt Vonneuget, etc.)

Good art is just a nice supplement to a great story.

For me writing is the brain racking part....drawing is just fun.

[quote:f543b62227="ThePines"]I think if you look at ANY medium...TV, Movies, Books, Cartoons... good writing, stories & Characters always win. (The Simpsons, Star Wars, The Muppets, Kurt Vonneuget, etc.)

Good art is just a nice supplement to a great story.

For me writing is the brain racking part....drawing is just fun.

I respectfully disagree. Comics without good art are not good comics.

Art should contribute to the telling of the story. For me, both the artwork and the writing must serve the story and must necessarily be of good quality for it to be a successful comic.

Without strong visuals, I'd rather read a great prose story than waste my time with bad comics.

From your examples:
• The Simpsons: The voice talent certainly plays a part, as does the contribution of producer (esteemed director) James L. Brooks
• Star Wars: Would not have had as much of an impact if it's visuals were not as breathtaking (I remember the release of the first movie...the jump to hyperspace was the only time I've seen a movie get a standing ovation in the middle of the film)...performances from legends Alec Guiness, Peter Cushing and legend-in-the-making Harrison Ford certainly helped as well.
• The Muppets: Voice talent (again) and the perfect character designs cannot be underestimated when looking at Henson's success.
• Kurt Vonneuget: Since we're talking about a prose author, I certainly hope that the writing is responsible for his success!

--Steve

Well of course someone who is a good artist would think good art is important. :)

My readers don't read Help Desk because they like the pretty pictures. Ahem. If they did, *then* I would be worried.

Christopher B. Wright (wrightc@ubersoft.net)
Help Desk (http://ubersoft.net)

David Wright's picture

I respectfully disagree with your disagreement :D Well not a full disagreement, but a partial one. For examples of comics that are good without great drawing, I can point to two examples. One, being Dilbert, which is drawn OK, but is not known for it's artwork by any means. The strip is great, though. Why? The writing. The second one being Boxjam's Doodle. Not saying Boxjam can't draw, because I've seen him draw well, but the strip itself is drawn simply, and is one of the best webcomics out there.

I agree, though, that art is important in most cases. Only the REALLY great writers can overcome bad or average art, but really GREAT writing is a rarity, itself.

Now to respond to the topic question: What makes your favorites your favorites...

1) writing--my favorite comics all share one thing in common, the ability to tell a story, or to tell a joke. I'm not big into the punch line standard gags, I like character driven humor as a rule.

2) characters--characters that are believable or unique in some way are a big part of the comics I enjoy. The character can be a talking can of soup, if written well. Most of the webcomics I don't like have cardboard characters, clones of cool-hip video-game-playing generation x, y, or z, or whatever 'cool' 'edgy' letter of the alphabet is being attributed to today's disenfranchised slacker youth; characters that seem to populate roughly 65 percent of all webcomics.

3) art. Art is a big part of a comic, even if the stuff above seems to contadict what I am saying now. Wether it's Bill Watterson's snow filled backgrounds with barren wisps of tree branches, or Drew Weing's Pup backgrounds, Phil Cho's Skinny Panda Bloom County-esqu inking, or Lee Herold's Chopping Block with it's frantic spongework, there is something inviting about them that lures me in, makes me want to crawl into the worlds on the page/screen.

4) Text. If I see one more webcomic using plain old typewriter looking text as their font, I will scream. It's ugly, and looks unprofessional. Granted, most of us are not pros, but there is no excuse for the lame text that is so rampant. Worse is the people who insist on doing their own lettering, even though their writing looks like it was done by a 4 year old with crayons. I won't read these comics no matter how great people say they are.

[quote:c7fac2376f="SteveBryant"][quote:c7fac2376f="ThePines"]I think if you look at ANY medium...TV, Movies, Books, Cartoons... good writing, stories & Characters always win. (The Simpsons, Star Wars, The Muppets, Kurt Vonneuget, etc.)

Good art is just a nice supplement to a great story.

For me writing is the brain racking part....drawing is just fun.

I respectfully disagree. Comics without good art are not good comics.

Art should contribute to the telling of the story. For me, both the artwork and the writing must serve the story and must necessarily be of good quality for it to be a successful comic.

--Steve

I have to respectfully disagree the disagreement to your disagreement, dave!

Not really, I'm just being contrary for contrary's sake.

I don't think that it is any magical combination of art and writing that can be passed off as a formula. I think there are comics out there that I enjoy that have great art and shitty writing, and vice versa. The very webcomic that got me into webcomics has art that is purely utilitarian: Boxjam's Doodle. I don't know if I would like Boxjam more or less if it had, say, the brilliant art stylings of Athena Voltaire. I think it would almost distract from the charm. I can point out a couple of great strips that I read that have art that might not be that incredibly great:

White Ninja: Consistently cracks me up. Drawn like a doodle on a high schooler's paper, and yet ultimately endearing and surreal in its writing.

Toothpaste for dinner: Not really a webcomic, but still very funny.

And some that have great art and not so great writing:

Mac Hall: I really really really really dislike the writing on this strip. I don't think its funny at all, yet it is one of my favorites. I can't get over how great the art is, it always surprises me.

Fancy Froglin: I don't particularly think most sexual humor is funny, but James Kochalka's absolutely genius art shines through it.

You can even look at my comic strip for an example. I have no freaking idea why people got into The Necronomicon when I first started, the art was horrid. It had to have been the writing (how strange it was).

This has been a long post. I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't think there is a magic formula. I think that what makes a comic a favorite is different for each person, and it mainly rides on what you find funny or interesting personally, depending on whether or not you can relate the art or writing to something in your life.

The End.