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Slam Desiderata: Making a Stand for Criticism
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Max Leibman
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Location: Springfield, Nebraska (USA)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 8:28 am    Post subject: Slam Desiderata: Making a Stand for Criticism Reply with quote

I want you to hit me as hard as you can.

No, seriously. Go to http://desiderata.keenspace.com, read a sampling of the strips available, then come back here and rip the living shit out of me for every little thing that's wrong with them.

This may sound like something for the "Hype" forum, but I'm putting it in "Reinventing: Art" because this isn't just about me. I'm making a stand for honest criticism, both constructive and emotional. Too many web comics artists react too negatively to critiques, and the recent firestorm around Scott Kurtz's "alternative comics" storyline has inspired me to encourage honest and brutal critics to speak up. Also, it's an exercise for all of you to analyze and report on flaws you find (which will be many, I'm sure), thus giving everybody a chance to practice their critical appraisal skills.

[Greg, if you think I'm wrong about posting this here, I won't be at all offended if it gets moved to "Hype!"]

So, again, go to http://desiderata.keenspace.com, then hit me. Hit hard. No problem is too small for mention. All criticism will be accepted, general or specific, constructive or downright mean. I'll take it all, and take like a man.

There can be no evolution without honest critique, and I want the most honest, biting, blistering critique possible.

Go.
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Tailsteak
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 11:47 am    Post subject: Fine line between criticism and insults Reply with quote

Okay, I'm going to check everything out, and comment in this box as I do so, you'll be getting my reactions as they happen.

Hmm, the site is full of ovals. That's an okay thing, but they aren't anti-aliased, it looks like you did them in Paint. Which you probably did. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but I'm just noticing it.

The art's a little.... sophomoric. Can't exactly pin down how, but it is. Small, too. Everything and everyone seems small.

Hosted on Keenspace. I can't complain, mine is too, but Keenspace has been slow and buggy for the past week or so, and I can't help but notice it.

I like the text stuff at the bottom of each comic. I should do something similar, but I'm far too lazy.

Putting Greg's comment at the top of the index page and at the top of the archive page is just sad. I'm sorry. It is.

The shades of grey are nice, and I like this first strip.

Yep, sophomoric. Still not sure why. Something about the limbs. It's too accurate, that's what it is. You know what it looks like in your head, and you're not drawing anything real. You have to turn off that part of yourself that knows what things look like, or all your art is going to look primitive.

I sorta like the previous/next/first/last buttons... but again, they're not antialiased, it looks like you made them in Paint, which you probably did. I keep thinking of them as text, which they aren't, so it's disconcerting.

I like strip #4.

Your daily pages are uncluttered, I really like that. No clutter. I'd get rid of that quote, though, it's kinda annoying. I keep reading it again, even though I know it hasn't changed.

Wait... why's he talking to us now? Can he see us?

The speech bubbles are a little weird. They look British for some reason. British speech bubbles.

Your hands aren't that great either.

Doc's glasses suck.

I like the "Fiction About Nothing" strip. Too many book stores are like that.

I like the format of "Theatre Stories".

Oop, Keenspace is acting up. Wonderful. C'mon, give me the page.

There we go.

He's talking to us again. What the heck? Is this in the same time as the rest of the pre-break-up flashback? Why's he so cheerful, if he knows all this is leading to a relationship that will ultimately fail?

Truman-Show-esque, the bathroom mirror dialogue.

Is it just me, or is that guy in the last panel of "Office Space" Warren Wright?

Hmm, I could have sworn this strip was older than this, and hosted elsewhere.

Okay, he's seeing stuff now. Lovely. Sort of a "Beautiful Mind" scenario, only more pathetic because he's not a genius. I don't think he's a genius, anyway.

Aaand we're done.

Okay, I know I've seen this before and I know there's more of it. Damn you.

That quote really bugs me now, put it somewhere else!

Hmm... shouldn't Thinking in Comics be somehow in comic form?
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, there was more of it, and it was hosted somewhere else.

That was great. Good material. Plenty to work with.

C'mon, who's next? Keep it coming!
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Jack Masters
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It loads too slow and the comic is all dinky and the people's eyes are too small and you can't click on the comic to advance to the next one and it's boring!

Except for the stairs part. Ho ho!
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InkAddict
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the story, and I like most of the views you use. I'm viewing this in 1600x1200 so I'm not going to say it's small.

You wanted negative criticism? Here it comes !

Follow art classes! Especially nude models! You draw accurately, if your people were robots. (Their weight shifts, and their feet touch the ground!) Only when drawing models repeatedly will you get a sense of "realness" not limited by what you know is there. You'll see once you start drawing "live" things Meanwhile exercise drawing fast, cause you seem to draw as if every little line was carefully planned. You should plan every line but it shouldn't show !

Draw HANDS ... A LOT!!! Don't "skip" them because approximation will do. You have started to draw realistically, now keep up with it.

Draw your backgrounds by HAND, not using polygones, the computer, or even a rule,... draw them from your loose hand! Your rectangles aren't so big you have to draw long lines.

Use shading, at least a little. Your lines have a sceptic feel, and using greytones like you do isn't going to help, unless you start using shadows. Not much, just a few under your characters to start with. (this may convey the illusion they touch the ground, while of course in a 2d picture there is no ground to touch)

Stay with the greytones, but don't be afraid to use stronger tints of grey. It seems too much a washed out comic.

Do your speech bubbles in Illustrator, and your text too. It's really unprofessional when the lines dance like that, unless it's what you wanted.

Invent ways to dress up rooms. Base yourself upon existing rooms. Same goes with clothes. Put logo's and labels on them.


....oh yeah, dump the quote. Unless you're trying to be funny, that is. But it's annoying when the story gets serious.


That's about it

Hope it helps! Keep drawing though cause I like your story too much!
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 12:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Fine line between criticism and insults Reply with quote

Tailsteak wrote:
It's too accurate, that's what it is. You know what it looks like in your head, and you're not drawing anything real. You have to turn off that part of yourself that knows what things look like, or all your art is going to look primitive.


I agree that this is some of the best advice any artist can receive- even established artists need to keep this in mind. Drawing (in any style!) is all about seeing. Back in the tutorials thread, I said much the same thing.
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chrisSturhann
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Max,

I didn't really have a problem with the quote since it only shows up on the first page, but I'm thinking that if a couple of people find it annoying, it's probably best to get rid of it. I didn't have a problem with the lettering, but do think the balloons are off.

I'm not the best person to comment on the art. I think I agree with most of the above. The main thing I noticed is that the figures seem stiff. Also, you sometimes cheat and leave out backgrounds. That's fine if you doing it for a reason, like emphasizing a reaction, but I'm not sure that's what going on here.

The writing is a bit hit or miss, but the hits are good enough that I'll put up with some misses. The ones that hit are ones like Pedantry, Theatre Stories, and Seriously Concussed. The ones that miss tend to be ones that are only part of a longer story, i.e., they don't stand on their own very well, transitions where you set up new story lines and introduce characters.

Here's the deal. I don't read many strip format online comics. I don't read any that are ongoing stories in four panels. If I wanted that, I'd read Mary Worth. When I'm looking a web comic for the first time, I usually only give it one or two strips. In some respects, this is a matter of necessity. If you look at the keen space list, there are hundreds of comics. If I look at the first one and the I don't know what's going on because it's the middle of a story, I usually won't take the time to look at a second one. For something like this to work for me, I need to be able to come in blind, not knowing anything about the characters or what's happened before, and be able to read those four panels and say, "that's funny," or interesting or whatever. Then I'll want to read more. In some cases on your stuff, I would continue reading. Other cases, I would not. I know that sounds pretty cutthroat, but that's the way it is when you have so many choices. Think about it this way, if you were coming in blind to your comic, and in most cases this would be whichever one is your current strip, is that one comic good enough to make you want to read another. If it's not, you might have just lost a reader.

Finally, I'm wondering why so many web cartoonists do their strips in newspaper format. Of course I know the reason, they're hoping to someday print it or get it syndicated. The thing is you limit yourself to four panels. I know that's kind of the point, but it doesn't have to be. In #17, you use 7 panels, but you force them into that same four panel space. I just can't understand why so many web cartoonists force their work into the tiny space and proportions that newspaper editors determined decades ago, when the could be using all of the space they need.

Chris
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InkAddict
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you should publish several of those "strips" on one page and stop calling it a comic strip, calling it a full-blown comic instead.

You've got talent for writing stories, not for writing comic strip 4-panel shots.

This was a compliment actually. A lot of people can't get the emotional build-up to tell a story. YOU CAN!
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yingo wrote:
You've got talent for writing stories, not for writing comic strip 4-panel shots.


As part of my commitment to taking criticism well, I'm not going to make excuses for most of the criticisms, but this one cried out for an answer -- simply put, I know that I'm no good for writing shorts, which is why I specifically wanted to do a comic strip; I'm facing that weakness day-by-day in the hopes of beating it down and mastering the format.

And I did take it as a compliment, thanks.
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chrisSturhann wrote:
In #17, you use 7 panels, but you force them into that same four panel space. I just can't understand why so many web cartoonists force their work into the tiny space and proportions that newspaper editors determined decades ago, when the could be using all of the space they need.


I'll answer that one, too, since it's more of a question than a critique.

I can't speak for anyone else, but the discipline of using the same space day after day was part of why I chose to go with the strip format. It's the same reason I chose strips instead of longer narrative chunks -- I'm taking on what struck me as the more challenging way to tell the story as a way of honing that skill. Also, I enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to use the same space day after day; I'm always looking for new ways to divide the available "real estate" among panels to tell the story (or that day's random humor content).

Now, back the biting criticism!
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Tailsteak
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 7:19 pm    Post subject: Haiku Reply with quote

I understand that, it's a lot like what I do. I keep to an identical 4-panel layout every day, as a kind of haiku-like limitation. I find it's more of a challenge, but it also helps move the story along.

I wouldn't want to do it forever, though.
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InkAddict
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2002 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Max, I'm in awe!

Not only have you got the guts to take negative criticism, but you're one of the first to go online with something you know is not your forte in order to learn!

I hope one day you'll go pro, cause the comics industry NEEDS guys who keep trying to evolve.
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2002 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yingo wrote:
I hope one day you'll go pro, cause the comics industry NEEDS guys who keep trying to evolve.


Thanks. That's the goal, although I'm open to a variety of "pro" possibilities -- even if art doesn't work out (I've taken plenty of art classes, but slowing down and applying what I've learned practically has been something of a problem), I would be happy writing, or even editing. Hell, if my day job becomes profitable enough, maybe I'll go all Larry Young and just become a publisher.

In any event, keep the good, hard slams flowing. Anybody else care to take a shot at the comic? I can take it! Come on! My ego still has unbruised skin!
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reinx
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2002 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alright, I'll take my shot
I read it last night, but keenspace is soooooo slooooowwww that I only got about halfway through it. Here's the thing, I've skimmed some of the other posts, but I wanted to be objective so if I repeat anything, ignore it.

Frankly, the art is mediocre. And even mediocre art makes it hard for me to sit through what I think is a great story. It's just that sometimes, its hard to see/interpret exactly what the characters are doing. I think one reason is that the lines look so small they can't be more than a few pixels wide, so why not make the images bigger and give some different size lines to do things like differentiate foreground figures from background figures more. I assume that you have a tablet? It can do all sorts of great pressure sensitive stuff!

I'm glad that you took that quote off of every page. I noticed it a few days ago.

I dont know if its the flow the story or the slowness of keenspace, but I would try to combine days onto single pages so that the viewer can get more of the story (which is what the strip is) at one viewing without having to keep clicking. Its not the same 'ol setup-punchline bit, so heck, combine "story arcs."

On the other hand, I do dig the greys. I would say to stick with the grays, but make changes. If you want to do greys, maybe more contrast with the greys so that they become utilitarian if you want to (modeling, foreground/background, etc...) OR if you want them for atmosphere, then make it really obvious that they are for that purpose by maybe changing them to look more washed out, or any other ideas (photoshop filters, since I assume the greys are on a seperate layer from the black)

Hope this helps!
-Casey Camp
PS. you could always get an artist (of which there are many on this board) to draw it for you, which would take less time for you drawing and maybe you could write a whole PAGE a day. It seems like you have plenty of ideas/things to say, so if you take out the art, then you can put out so much more information to us, your starving audience
Take that for what its worth, though, if you really want to draw it!
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2002 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All right, the flow seems to have died down, so I'll make some comments now.

First of all, thanks for actually taking me at face value and giving it to me straight-up. I appreciate the positive comments in the mix, but the negative ones have given me plenty to think about, and helped me focus on a setting a few personal goals.

Criticism is truly our Friend, not The Enemy.

A couple more specific responses:
Quote:
Maybe you should publish several of those "strips" on one page and stop calling it a comic strip, calling it a full-blown comic instead.


Y'know, I did something like this for the original version of the comic. I collected the comics in groups of four on seperate pages from the normal daily archive. Maybe I'll bring that idea back, since the consensus here seems to be I'm better with stories than one-off strips.

Quote:
PS. you could always get an artist (of which there are many on this board) to draw it for you, which would take less time for you drawing and maybe you could write a whole PAGE a day. It seems like you have plenty of ideas/things to say, so if you take out the art, then you can put out so much more information to us, your starving audience


I would love to collaborate with someone on an ongoing basis, but I'm dead-set on drawing Desiderata myself. If anybody's interested in collaboration on another project, though, I'd welcome the opportunity.

Quote:
I didn't really have a problem with the quote since it only shows up on the first page,


Late-comers to the thread may be confused by earlier posts that mentioned this -- I took the quote off the daily archive pages as soon as it was first mentioned. I don't know why it was even on the template; I hadn't intended on putting it on all the archive pages. It doesn't appear on every page in the site (it's never been on the Archive index page, for instance).

I'll probably implement a few other technical changes (finally getting around to anti-aliasing the graphics besides the comic {which is already anti-aliased}, maybe resampling the comic to a larger size) in the next couple of weeks.

Anyhow, thanks again to all who participated in Slam Desiderata. If anyone else has any other critiques (or even pure, malevolent hatred) to post, feel free; I'll take it all!
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Kevin Pease
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2002 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was there really a firestorm over Graphamaximo? I sort of assumed it was another case of Scott Kurtz blowing the reaction out of proportion so that he could go "Whoa, look at me, I'm controversial, I'm hated and feared, people are up in arms over me."

Anyway, your Desiderata: Not bad, but I'm not connecting with the characters. I think this is because there's little to no emphasis on the faces; The style gives them a sort of blankness, plus they're usually too small to see any expression. It's like I'm watching everything from a long distance with my glasses off.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2002 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To answer Kevin's Kurtz question (and not to distract too much from Max's topic) I think the latest Kurtz dust-up was more perceived by Skurtz as being one of those "Get Scott!" things than it actually was, but there's been quite a lot of discussion about it, mostly at Comicon.com. I was following it, but dropped out of it this week. Still, the threads are here:

Comicon Topics:
Where the heck is the Scott Kurtz thread?

Alternative Comics vs. Independent Comics

Good and bad art?

Newsarama: PvP vs. ALTERNATIVE COMICS

Comics Journal Topic:
pvponline and the comics urinal
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InkAddict
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2002 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been posting at comicon for a week or so, and have to say that, while most of the guys are quite nice, some of them (even comics artists) can be quite taken by fandom and/or their own work. I almost got into a flame war without really knowing why

I actually prefer this board because I feel it's a little more tolerant of different opinions. (Also people don't take everything litterally and then go nuts about halfread posts)Maybe the fact most of us don't get paid for what they do (and don't go around yelling at everyone they're pro's), and don't mind waiting for the online comics breakthrough, has something to do with it.

Of course it COULD be just me, but I feel that most of the things Scott Kurtz has to say have a point, even if he doesn't always use silk gloves when he hands over his opinions.

I don't think he's really trying to hurt anyone's feelings, he just tries to vent some of his frustrations, and if this raises debate, hey, that's what BBS are for !


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