Sunday, October 12, 2008

Postcards #1: Washed Ashore

A quick introduction to Postcards:

Ever since I've been writing Webcomic Finds I've often received requests from people to have a look at their comics and review them. But due to the format and methodology of Webcomic Finds' selection process I've been unable to accommodate them until I came up with the idea of Postcards.

I like to think of Postcards as less of a review, more of a critique, as compared to my usual reviews. So I will focus less on describing the comic and more on critique. 

To start it off I am going with David from Kristy VS the Zombie Army. As you recall, I wasn't exactly flattering in my review of his comic previously. In addition, in my previous Hotspot I had wondered if I should let him know about my review, and eventually I did drop him a mail.

Considering I tore his comic into shreds (figuratively of course), he was quite civil and very gracious about it, and provided some insight on why Kristy is the way it is. I hope he doesn't mind my quoting a few lines from his email:

When I started zombie army I had never done much more than a one or two page 

sequential comic, so the entire thing has been a learning experience and one 

that I feel has benefited me greatly.

I'll say you come off a bit haughty in the review, but overall I think it's a reasonable piece and there is definitely stuff in it I agree with.

Having done (and am still doing an experimental comic) I can totally understand that. That doesn't mean what I said about it doesn't apply of course, but I see where he is coming from. 

However, the point of experimental comics is that you learn how to make better comics later. 

Also, do me a favor and check out when you have a 

second, heck do a review of it if you want to and let me know what you 


So, when he even invited me to review his other comic project, how could I say no?

Comic: Washed Ashore

By: David "kidnemo" Tekiela

To start with there aren't very many pages of Washed Ashore. In fact there are only 6, which limits how much I can analyze somewhat. However, I'll do what I can.

Washed Ashore follows the adventures of the protagonist who seems to have been well... washed ashore on some strange land. The concept, while not stellar, does have promise, and the character design is something I like very much. 

The art is done in black and white line art over a sandpaperish background. The overall effect is very quaint and eye-catching. Its distinctiveness is a definite plus, but after a while I couldn't help but feel something was off.

(Keep in mind, Postcards is all about critique, so while I will definitely give praise where it is due I focus more on ways a comic can be improved) 

I took me a while to figure out what was wrong with the art, and finally it hit me. The comic art  isn't making proper use of contrast. 

Now in normal black and white art, the artwork stands out very clearly, because you have the black lineart contrasting against the white paper. However, if you start your artwork on a midtone background and use black lineart without another lighter colour over it, the eye of the viewer is scattered all over the page. This is because black does not constrast as well and as a result, there is no clear contrasting point to for the eye to focus on. 

This is bad, because it makes it harder for the reader to see what the artist wants them to see, and you really don't want your reader squinting just to make sense of things.

The best way to illustrate this is that I stop prattling and use a couple of pictures instead:

This is the original panel taken from Washed Ashore. As I mentioned before, something about the art nagged at me as being... well... unfinished...


This is the same panel after I added some white for contrast:

Forgive my sloppy effort with the paint bucket tool, I had to write this review between flights so I really wasn't up to plugging my tablet in. (Image editing with a trackpad is no joke, let me tell you.)

But as you can see, the proper use of white "pops" the objects we want the reader to notice the most (the protagonist and the clouds) out from the background and into the foreground, making it so much easier on the eyes. It also provides some balance to the overall image and creates an illusion of depth.

Mind you, I'm not saying David's current style is bad or anything. The line art is impeccable and the colour scheme charming in its own way.  And there are some situations where it might be better suited to leave the white out (for example if you were depicting cave paintings or graffiti on the wall), but in this case, I really do think the white is what was missing.

As this is a postcard and not a dissertation I'm planning to keep this short, but I'd just like to take some time to mention that I really like the narration for this comic. There are no words or dialogue. At all.  All communication is done through the art.

There have been a few occasions where I have read a comic done by one person and absolutely hated it, then read another by the same person and was absolutely astonished that it was done by the same person. This is one of those cases, as my biggest complaint about Kristy VS The Zombie Army was that there was too much unnecessary narration, and here we have a comic that is different narration wise as the other spectrum of the rainbow.

Personally I think it's a vast improvement, and David does seem to have a talent for the subtlety sequential art once the words got out of the way.

So yes David, you really surprised me, and in a good way. I liked what I saw of Washed Ashore so far and hope you do continue it. Hopefully the suggestions in this postcard come in handy in making it better.

To those other people to whom I owe Postcards, hang on in there, your turn is coming, I'm just a bit busy in RL right now. Five weddings in a month is kind of crazy when you have to travel for a few of em. *groan*


  1. the "postcard" is an interesting format, should allow you to produce more content without the huge input of time your other reviews must take. Just a thought... in keeping with postcard format I reckon you could make these even shorter still.
    (On a side note: Five weddings?? To quote a very old Australian song by 1970s rockers Skyhooks... "All my friends are getting married"...!! I take it that one of the five isn't your own wedding... or is it?)

  2. You are more than welcome to review simoncowelly our new comic strip

  3. The gentleman is entitled to his opinion, but being haughty is not your problem. In fact, if you have a problem, I don't know what it is. I greatly enjoy the high quality of your reviews and wish I could do as well.

    Maybe writing less often than I'd prefer, but you already explained that.


  4. I am curious as to your opinions on , as it is one of the comics that started in your sabbatical.

  5. Haha Xmung, I'm not getting married anytime soon. At least, as far as I plan...

  6. I like the Postcards, and definitely like how it allows me to do quick reviews with no particular order. I plan to have another up this weekend if I can squeeze in some time between another flight this week.

    I am really racking up the frequent flyer miles, that's for sure.