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Good idea but can't draw
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Count Otto Black



Joined: 12 Mar 2014
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:19 pm    Post subject: Good idea but can't draw Reply with quote

Hi everybody - first post and all that! Anyway...

I've got a webcomic in pre-production right now. I won't go public with it just yet because I want to have a decent backlog of pages before I start posting, so that I can update regularly without constantly chasing a deadline. My problem is that my drawing is adequate but nothing special, and I'd always struggle to make it look halfway good.

Personally, I lose interest in a webcomic within one second of seeing the first page if the art is terrible, because apart from being painful to look at, it's probably drawn by either a little kid or somebody who doesn't give a hoot, so there's no point in struggling through the nasty art for the brilliant jokes that may be hiding in there but almost certainly aren't. Assuming other people feel similarly, what should I do to get around this?

Well, one thing I can do is to improve my artistic skills, but that comes slowly, and the way I'm doing it at the moment - painting with acrylics - it's becoming apparent to me that while I may be able to eventually produce something pretty good once in a while, I'll never be fluent enough to casually dash off a weekly page of full-blown Art to keep my webcomic going unless it's my full-time job. And let's face it, most of these things are read by 300 people, 297 of whom mysteriously want to talk about this really good Asian dating agency they belong to.

If I was employed by a comic-book company (which I'm not) I'd be the writer, not the artist. But since it's just a hobby and I have to be both, I've had to find a way around my poor drawing skills. My solution is to use the vast database of public domain Golden Age comics as clip-art. I know some people here are sniffy about using software cheats rather than actually drawing, but hey, if at the end of the day you've created a comic, that's really all that matters - right?

Also, as far as I know, very few webcomics - certainly very few well-known ones - use this method. Seanbaby over on Cracked sometimes does scurrilous things with old comics, but he never changes the images in any way other than to add new speech-bubbles, and he has no real point other than getting a cheap laugh by making characters like Robin and Aquaman look useless and/or gay. I've only seen a handful of webcomics that tried to do this properly, and none of them lasted very long, for reasons that had nothing to do with their visual style.

So what do people think? Given the number of webcomic artists who really can draw, but slavishly copy a few clichéd styles used by thousands of others, it might, if done properly, look surprisingly original. My basic idea is to use the images, though not the names or personalities, of really obscure characters who appeared in a lot of Golden Age comics, meaning that thousands of different drawings of them are available, as my main cast, and put them in bizarre situations created from collages of other Golden Age art. By the way, it's comedy. Under the circumstances, how could it not be?
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Ronin Glen



Joined: 25 Mar 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm one who doesn't much care for sprite style comics but personal preference aside I'd be leery of using "Golden Age" comics. There is very little that is actually in the public domain and anything from DC for example (no matter how minor a character) is going to be an infringement. Even the companies that went out of business sometimes sold off the rights to their characters e.g. the Watchmen. I seriously doubt you would ever get into any trouble but why take the chance?
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JFD



Joined: 25 Jan 2014
Posts: 61

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You would probably not get into trouble at first but you cannot make any kind of money from the comic otherwise you are exposing yourself to lawsuits.
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Count Otto Black



Joined: 12 Mar 2014
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't all the comics on this website:

http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php

public domain just like the people who've been running it for quite some time think they are? They seem to be trying very hard to avoid infringing the copyright laws in any way, so who am I to disbelieve them?

Yes, I'm well aware that Charlton Comics, who created the characters Watchmen was based on (though not those actual characters) is owned by DC, as are quite a few other defunct Golden Age companies. I'm also well aware that DC and Marvel can get nasty if anyone infringes their copyrights. So I won't be using the names or images of the likes of Superman, Batman, or even the Blue Beetle.

In fact, I won't be using anyone who belongs to anybody else, just artwork of very obscure characters indeed which I'm sure is in the public domain. I won't even be implying that they're the same people they were originally drawn as, since I just want protagonists I can easily find multiple images of; I don't care who they were supposed to be in the first place.

So is there any legal reason why I should run into difficulties using this material? I really don't see why there should be.
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Casual Notice
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Joined: 18 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have two reasons: one legal, the other less so.

1) This is the internet. Even if you hadn't announced your plan on a forum that gets a surprisingly high number of daily hits (considering the low message count), there are still a bunch of people out there who make it their business (I mean that literally) to cash in on infringements, no matter how small or spurious. Whole corporations exist around the strategy of holding a few vaguely-worded concept patents purely for the purpose of suing anyone who actually develops an idea that comes close. These people have no value, but what they do have is a very special set of skills. they will hunt you. They WILL find you. And they will sue you. (With apologies to Liam Neeson)

2) Even if you can legally escape, it's still plagiarism. Think about this: Seigel and Shuster, Kirby, Kane, even Stan Lee spent years in court trying to get some kind of compensation and recognition for their work, and these guys built an industry! Guess what the poor schlub who spent five years knocking out Lieutenant Nazi-Puncher for pennies a page got? Lunch money for his kids and bus fare to his real job, if he was lucky. Now you want to heap new insults onto his lap by presenting his work as your own? You'd probably degrade his spirit less if you just dug up his corpse and violated it.
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Count Otto Black



Joined: 12 Mar 2014
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know what? I think I'll come back when I've got something to shamelessly plug, whether people who ironically(?) give their profession as "Douchebag" like it or not. Thanks for the welcome, guys, gals, and DB-man! Incidentally, I can see why this site gets a huge number of views but hardly any posts.
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MindChimera



Joined: 03 Feb 2013
Posts: 313

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I was going to make a post about improving artwork and setting realistic goals, but if you're going to throw a hissy fit when people disagree with your idea, maybe you should reconsider making a webcomic at all.
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Casual Notice
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, the little "hissy fit" makes me like him more. Basically (from what I can tell), he saw my harsh rundown on the ethical unacceptability of his idea as the final nail in that idea's coffin.

Lord knows we've seen enough people pop in here who would have gone on for weeks explaining how stealing art was in some way honoring the artist by exposing their works fifty years after the fact.

That his disappointment in finding that doing so was morally repugnant resulted in his lashing out at my less-than-gentle methods is to be expected.

Count Otto: If you're lurking, I strongly recommend that you work up a plot summary and a sample page, and see if you can entice an artist to work with you over on the Dogpile subforum. As long as you deal with them honestly, and explain that this is a hobby for you (at the moment), and offer some eventual method of pay and rights sharing, you should get a positive response.
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Lindemannade



Joined: 18 Feb 2014
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I was also going to chime in about trying to improve, realistic goals, etc etc, and point out that particularly with a comedy webcomic, as long as there's a strong style the actual quality of the artwork in the traditional sense isn't the be all and end all (xkcd and Cyanide and Happiness immediately come to mind).

But I get the feeling Count Otto Black might not be back to see this... if you are, I'd recommend checking out the last thing Casual Notice wrote above me^
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Lavenderbard
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 837
Location: Ohio

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Good idea but can't draw Reply with quote

Count Otto Black wrote:
I know some people here are sniffy about using software cheats rather than actually drawing


I'm sniffy about cheating. Software I'm totally okay with.
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Ronin Glen



Joined: 25 Mar 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice. Haven't seen a good flounce in awhile Smile
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MindChimera



Joined: 03 Feb 2013
Posts: 313

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
he saw my harsh rundown on the ethical unacceptability of his idea as the final nail in that idea's coffin.

I'm not so sure, since he said he'd be back once he has content whether we like it or not. So I think he can see the unethicality of it, but doesn't care.

But yeah, finding an artist to work with would be one solution. You could also just go ahead and post the artwork you make that you consider bad. Unless you're a professional artist, or a hobbiest who's had a LOT of practice, your first webcomic pages are most likely going to look shitty. That doesn't stop a lot of webcomics from becoming popular.

Lavenderbard wrote:
Count Otto Black wrote:
I know some people here are sniffy about using software cheats rather than actually drawing

I'm sniffy about cheating. Software I'm totally okay with.

Agreed. And I think that sentence illustrates the attitude of the OP, which seems to be he/she has some sort of high standard to meet here.

That's ridiculous. They're webcomics, there's no entry level. Anyone can make one. You can have high personal standards for your creative projects, but using that as a reason to be unethical isn't cool.

If your feelings are easily bruised and you make posts with a somewhat confrontational attitude, maybe you should pick a different hobby. Because there ARE going to be people who don't like your stuff, even if you have a good, solid idea with great art.

Oh, by the way:
Count Otto Black wrote:
public domain just like the people who've been running it for quite some time think they are? They seem to be trying very hard to avoid infringing the copyright laws in any way, so who am I to disbelieve them?

Let's say that's true. That doesn't mean they're doing it correctly. They could be making mistakes.

"Who am I to disbelieve them?" Someone who doesn't want to get in legal trouble, right? Maybe you should be more skeptical and try your own research, or speak with a lawyer.

Or, better yet, use your own artwork.
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katastrophe



Joined: 19 Aug 2008
Posts: 286

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:57 am    Post subject: Re: Good idea but can't draw Reply with quote

Count Otto Black wrote:
Also, as far as I know, very few webcomics - certainly very few well-known ones - use this method.


You're not too far off Darths and Droids or the various comics that use screencaps from games. D&D is pretty brilliant sometimes so I'm not critiquing the method per se. Nor am I going to comment on the legality, as I'm nowhere near qualified.

Quote:
I know some people here are sniffy about using software cheats rather than actually drawing...


I've received very little flak on TWCL for my art, actually. As far as the internet in general goes: people "get sniffy" about Poser comics, sprite comics, clipart comics, stick figure comics, screencapping, vector art, and just plain old bad drawing, at length and sometimes while foaming. It's the Internet. We all need someone to look down on. You can't let that kind of thing bother you overly.

However....

Quote:
Personally, I lose interest in a webcomic within one second of seeing the first page if the art is terrible, because apart from being painful to look at, it's probably drawn by either a little kid or somebody who doesn't give a hoot, so there's no point in struggling through the nasty art for the brilliant jokes that may be hiding in there but almost certainly aren't.


The group of readers that look at a badly drawn page and lose interest are loosely the same readers that will look at a page made of Golden Age clipart and go batshit psycho.

Look. There are a few basic criticisms that are leveled against "shortcut" art like 3D comics, vector/clipart, and sprites:

1) It's lazy.
2) It's ugly.
3) It feels out of synch -- facial expressions are wrong, poses clash, people aren't looking at each other, the dialogue seems mismatched. The overall effect is, to quote Hitchhiker's, "almost, but not entirely, quite unlike tea." It has, in other words, fallen into the Uncanny Valley -- just wrong enough to throw people off.
4) The comic has other visual problems, like poor layout, lettering, or flow, which improve slowly or not at all (because if the artist were a visual person, they probably wouldn't be using art shortcuts....)

The only criticism you are possibly alleviating is 2), and I think any advancement you make there is going to be offset with 3). Not that it matters, because where most people drop into a frothing rage is 1). To the segment of the Internet which you seem to think you'll be pleasing with this, lazy = evil and you deserve to die or at least be eviscerated on public forums.

Look. The only people who will like the comic you're describing are the people willing to overlook crappy art in the first place (my core readership, bless 'em.) Write (and draw) for them. Everyone else is already lost to you, and using Golden Age clipart is only going to pour oil on the fires of Internet Rage and probably lose you some of the I-am-here-for-the-story types that would otherwise back you up. And possibly get you sued. For, you know. No actual gain.

There are easier walls to bash your head on.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm curious about the "Digital Comic Museum" that Count Otto linked to. What CN says about infringement law sounds reasonable yet there those old comics are, just kind of sitting there for everyone to see. What's the final word on those, public domain or not?

Count Otto, the bind you're in is very common, I for one feel your pain. Having comic ideas but knowing the art won't do them justice is very frustrating.
---

www.mcmasterscomics.com
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Casual Notice
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The ethical difference between those archives (and archiving those comics for research and study could be construed as the same sort of Fair Use exemption that allows the Bartleby archive to exist) and what Count Otto is planning, is that the archives maintain full credit to the authors of those comics. He's talking about just using the art as if they were his private Colorforms.
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