Clawdragons
Privileged
3 days ago

A pointless rant about comics.

In category: Art Talk

There's something that has been bothering me for a while, and I wanted to get my thoughts out publicly on it.

Drawing a comic requires additional skills over drawing standard art. And I'm not talking about writing skills - though those are important, I'm referring to the actual art here, not the story.

I'm going to use a few comics as examples here. Not trying to pick on any artists, but it will help me make my points.

Also going to make this a bit more disjointed than I would normally write it... Apologies for that, but it helps me section things better.

▼ "Back the camera off, buddy!"

This issue is exemplified by the comic Oversexed Eeveelutions... If you are drawing a comic that focuses on characters, you need to focus on those characters, fairly often. That's obvious enough. However, you don't always need to have those characters in the center of the screen.

This comic's biggest flaw is that almost every single panel is a closeup on some character, or the characters' bodies fill most of the panel. Some of the panels (ex) have almost no negative space at all.

Good comics can have close-ups. But they also know when to pull the camera back. They know when to show things which aren't the characters.

Establishing shots are part of this. You want the reader to have a sense of space - to know where things are happening. But even when a panel isn't an establishing shot, even when the panel has characters in it, if you pull the camera back you can give a sense of space and dimension.

Take a look at No Harm No Fowl for an example of this done right. This page in particular is a great example, because the two panels in the upper right show a similar focus on characters' faces that you see in Oversexed Eeveelutions, and the entire page has each panel with characters in it, but because of the backgrounds, the use of negative space, the different angels, and so on, you get a clear picture of the sort of space they are in.

▼ "Panels, panels, panels! (and pacing!)"

Another major issue I see with comics is with panel variation.

An example of a comic where this is a big issue is Te's comic Study Partners. Overall, the panel-structure in this comic is incredibly predictable - each image is divided into thirds along the vertical axis, and in half along the horizontal. Most often each of these sections gets their own panel, but sometimes two panels are combined. Sometimes there is more variation, but overall the structure is pretty static.

This gives a comic a very stilted, artificial feel. Comic panels aren't just scenes. Each comic panel is a moment of focus, and as such, each one should be weighted differently. If you want your readers to see a quick transition - between facial expressions, perhaps, narrow panels assist with that. Larger panels leave more of an impact, let the reader really take in what's going on.

The amount of detail in each panel is likewise important - more detail makes the reader linger on a panel, less makes them pass over it quickly.

I could cite No Harm No Fowl again, because that comic is masterfully done in so many ways, but I'll go with a different one this time: Playing with Fire by Tom Smith.

This doesn't have as much variation in panels as some other comics, but it does know how to use them for pacing.

This page shows a few such things: similar, simple panels, narrowed, layered above each other, allow for a smoother indication of a "movement" going on. Larger panels keep the eye for longer. The climax scene is a single page, filled with detail, drawing out that moment significantly (fitting with the mental significance that such a moment has in a porn comic).

It's not flashy, but it gets the job done well.

Compare: This page from Study Partners. The panels where the teacher is calling out names aren't really very significant, and yet they take up a good portion of the page, and there's not a quick flow between them. The panel where you see the missing desk probably ought to have been given more significance above the others, but it's not - it's almost easy to miss that the teacher called out Jennifer's name twice. The panel that is enlarged lacks the detail to keep the reader lingering there on the emotion.

▼ "A cute angle"

One last bit to my rant here, and it's on angles and focus. First point discussed the importance of pulling the camera out, this one is about the importance of bringing it in.

Bringing the camera out is useful for giving context into a scene, but bringing it in brings focus. Let's take a look at All's Well that Ends Well by Karasu. An old comic, but one that does this well.

The important thing that this comic does well is that it focuses the camera on various subjects - not just on faces, expressions, or genitalia. Each of those are important, in moderation, but... Take a look at this page.

First of all, they're talking about food, so the camera focuses on the food. It's a really simple premise, but its something that a lot of comics miss - instead focusing on the talking heads. Often a comic will only focus on something if it is important to understand what's going on - for instance, the empty seat in the Study Partners page linked in the previous section.

Here, it is in some sense unnecessary to focus on the food - we've seen it, we know it's there, but focusing on it keeps the visuals and the dialogue in sync. When we're talking to someone, our eyes flit around, focusing on small details at time, particularly if relevant to the conversation.

However, the real power of this comic is in its angles. If you read through it, you'll notice that almost every panel is a different angle from the others. This keeps the comic visually interesting.

Angles and focus seem like they don't have much to do with each other, but they do - they keep the visuals varied, and they mimic the way our minds tend to work - focusing on different details in sequence. In a literal, visual sense, we might look at the same subject from the same angle constantly, but we think about it from different angles and in different ways... We don't maintain a static concentration, and comics ought not to either.

Like I said, this is mainly just a rant. But seriously, I like comics... I'd like to see more comics that are good as comics, and not just good because of the art they contain. Vary your angles. Vary your focus. Pull the camera back, and give context. Keep the frame layout relevant and interesting. Learn to use negative space effectively. Know where to put detail and where to keep things simple and flowing.

FibS
Member
3 days ago

Lowbrow porn does not, and in general should not, follow the rules of classy general comics, fiction, narrative, or visual framing, because that isn't what most of the target audience wants, appreciates, or even understands.

Despite its gorgeous artwork, one of the biggest complaints about No Harm No Fowl is that it takes too fucking long to get to the ass-addicted ghost-camera shot of characters banging - I think over 20 pages of no porn and no engaging story pass between Addy masturbating and whenever the hell she'll finally have sex with Devon.

To be cynical? Good comics only appeal to people with good taste, and they're in short supply.

Clawdragons
Privileged
3 days ago

FibS said:
Lowbrow porn does not, and in general should not, follow the rules of classy general comics, fiction, narrative, or visual framing, because that isn't what most of the target audience wants, appreciates, or even understands.

Despite its gorgeous artwork, one of the biggest complaints about No Harm No Fowl is that it takes too fucking long to get to the ass-addicted ghost-camera shot of characters banging - I think over 20 pages of no porn and no engaging story pass between Addy masturbating and whenever the hell she'll finally have sex with Devon.

To be cynical? Good comics only appeal to people with good taste, and they're in short supply.

But the thing is you can get to the sex plenty quick if you want. I linked a few other comics that are also pretty darn good in the visual aspects, and which get to porn in a matter of only a few pages.

The length of time it takes for No Harm No Fowl to get to the porn bits is a story writing complaint (one I don't personally agree with, mind you - I like that it's taking its time)... You can have a visually competent comic who's very first panel is porn, if you want.

FibS
Member
3 days ago

Clawdragons said:
But the thing is you can get to the sex plenty quick if you want. I linked a few other comics that are also pretty darn good in the visual aspects, and which get to porn in a matter of only a few pages.

The length of time it takes for No Harm No Fowl to get to the porn bits is a story writing complaint (one I don't personally agree with, mind you - I like that it's taking its time)... You can have a visually competent comic who's very first panel is porn, if you want.

Right - but while varying frame size still facilitates a wide variety of lewd angles for sex, the average porn-focused audience (and artist for that matter) is not likely to be interested in theatric shots of passion or scene, compared to repeated exaggerated perspectives from an inch or two behind someone's ass.

That's why Oversexed Eeveelutions has a butt and genitals in almost every panel, of course.

This also means that moving the camera to focus on what's being talked about is less applicable, since little ought to be talked about that isn't someone's intimate anatomy anyway.

Clawdragons
Privileged
3 days ago

You are ruining my rant with your depressing truths.

Let me believe that there are some artists out there who want to do good work and who might be kicked into improving themselves by my dumb rant that no one's going to read anyway!

FibS
Member
3 days ago

Clawdragons said:
You are ruining my rant with your depressing truths.

Let me believe that there are some artists out there who want to do good work and who might be kicked into improving themselves by my dumb rant that no one's going to read anyway!

I think your best shot is to make comics like that yourself! Maybe you'll start a fad.

I would join in but I draw much too slowly and stupidly to upkeep a comic.


I've found that while the general porn audience might have a lower bar and different focuses than non-porn audiences, having a good sense of composition, flow, and technical skill is appreciated. Varying panel size and focus doesn't inherently mean slowing down a comic. When done correctly it can add interest with strategically drawing focus, creating rhythm, and showing motion.