Friday, January 28, 2005

22nd Leg: Dinosaur Comics

Comic: Dinosaur Comics
By: Ryan North

Content Type: Satire, Humour, Philosophy
Setting and Elements: The Same Comic Page

Art Medium: Digital
Art Style: Semi-Realistic, Pixellated. Full Colour.

Is About: T-Rex, Dicro... Dichno...gah *looks up* Dromiceiomimus and Utahraptor. Everyday they go through the exact same motions and talk/interact. Every day T-Rex stomps on things and talks to Utahraptor about seemingly everything and anything.

Frequency: Daily (Now do you know why it took me so long to finish this review?!)
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
I'll be straightforward and admit I'm not very enthusiatic about this one.

To be fair, the reason for this is as I mentioned before, dinosaurs freak me out. A little. The prospect of reading an entire webcomic with realistic-looking dinosaurs isn't really my cup of tea. Even if I have heard good things about Dinosaur Comics. Phobias are not rational, I guess.

The website is plain and spartan (or uncluttered, of you prefer). As a matter of fact, it's just slightly more modified than the Keenspace default template. (Sorry, drifting off-topic here) The stark whiteness of the page serves to emphasize the flourescent colours of the dinosaurs, and with most of the page plain text, your attention is focused on the comic itself.

Minor gripe: The lack of a 'first comic' button. Call me lazy, but I like to be able to jump right in from the beginning from the front page without have to start from the archive.

The Concept:
Unlike most webcomics which make use of the unbridled freedom of the web, Dinosaur Comics purposely restricts itself. Imagine one of the "Write you own joke" comic contests. Now imagine pounding out two year's worth of comics using that exact some page. That's what you get in Dinosaur Comics.

The idea for this is more ingenious that you would think, actually. I've always believed that creativity can flourish astonishingly when you limit what you can work with.

The Art:
The art, with the bright colours and pixellation, looks quite passable as something from one of those computer games. One thing the reader will realise after the first few pages is that every single page has the exact same art. Sometimes the comics get flipped or some of the panels are switched around, but other than the occasional Guest strip, the art is always the very same panels:
Panel 1: Panel with Picture of T-Rex.
Panel 2: Close up of T-Rex's face.
Panel 3: T-Rex stomping on a log cabin with a car parked in front and Dromiceiomimus (Bloody hell, how do you spell that?!) in the background.
Panel 4: T-Rex stomping on tiny woman in a pink shirt. Utahraptor comes up from behind.
Panel 5: T-Rex turns around and stands face-to-face with Utahraptor.
Panel 6: T-Rex is standing alone with a comical look on his face

There are no backgrounds whatsoever in the comic, which actually works in its favour in this case as it allows for more freedom for the setting of each strip.

The Writing:
The writing of Dinosaur Comics has been probably been praised to the skies by various people. Personally, I thought the writing for the first year was somewhat hit-and-miss. There were some great strips (The movie synopses ones were great!), but there were also several that just made me go "Eh? or "Meh."

Starting 2004 a lot more of the strips started clicking with me. Though mind you I didn't realise it until I found myself stopping and thinking about one of the more philosophical strips and how it applied to my own life. I also found myself laughing out loud more and more often.

It's terms of story there's very little continuity in the comic... There are some recurring themes, like Utahraptor's sexuality and T-Rex losing a baby, but this a gag comic, not a story comic.

In short, the writing style of Dinosaur Comics is somewhat reminiscent of that of Cat and Girl, but less preachier and easier to understand to the everyday reader. It doesn't take itself as serious as well, and is not afraid to just be plain silly from time to time.

Too much text squashed in a page... the too small text size only prompts me to skip the page.

As aforementioned, the humour is rather hit-and-miss the beginning, but later on it just gets more consistent.

While some of the guest strips were brilliant (See Justin Pierce's 'beat 'em up' guest strip! It had me laughing helplessly), some of them I could have done without.

Surprisingly, I liked Dinosaur Comics. I'll admit it wasn't my cup of tea for the first few hundred pages, but it sort of grew on me after a while.

Once you get used to the concept, you stop seeing it as a normal comic, but more like a giant archive of complex, alternate strips. I must add though... some of this stuff is heavy... It tooke me ages to get through the archive because I couldn't read a lot of pages at one sitting because my brain would get overloaded with information that needed to be digested.

It's also an interesting point to note that Dinosaur Comics is the first comic I've come across that succeeds because of, and not in spite of its use of cut-and-paste in the exact same sequences. The predictablity of the layout is what makes the strip memorable. If you changed the page layout, it's just not Dinosaur Comics anymore.

Oh, but they get bonus points for a very cool strip search feature!

Tip: Hover your mouse pointer over the comic image to read the alternate text for an extra punchline!

The Next Leg:
The links page is interesting as it randomly picks three links and their associated link panels and forms them into a 'sort of' link comic. This changes every time you view the page.

Initially I picked Owly, but much to my chargrin, I couldn't find the comic featuring the adorable owl on the site.

Backtracked and picked Creatures in My Head (which looked interesting). And while I was initially wowed by the awesome web design and cuteness of the drawings, realised it wasn't so much of a comic as a collection of artwork featuring various creatures and monsters. (Very cute though)

Backtracked yet again. I was beginning to get a little frustrated at this point, so I just randomly scrolled and clicked the first thing that I came across:

Whoa! It's a small world after all.

1 comment:

  1. This strip is one of the first ones I came across and stumbled on the same problems you mentioned. I think Dinosaur Comics suffers from too much material, since it posts every day. With using the same 6 scenes over and over they start to blur and after 30 min I can’t remember which of the past 15 episodes was in the previous panel. Despite these problems I fell into reading it just like you did and plan to finish reading it one of these days.