Almost Pets [Comic] - Potential Disaster

JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
edited December 2010 in Artist's Corner
My buddy and I, after several years of discussing and dreaming of making our own comic, decided to finally hunker down and actually make one. It's been quite the undertaking, and we've put more thought and time into it than I'd like to admit, but it has been an extremely gratifying experience. I'm a techie in both my personal and career life, so having an artistic outlet like this is something I haven't had since I played drums back in high school.

I've been itching to post it here, since I know that I'll get some honest-to-goodness critiques from you guys. I wanted to wait a bit until we had a decent amount of comics up...and now that we're at #15, I think you guys can get an idea of who we are and what our comic is about. We have about a dozen more back-logged, and you'll obviously see those in the coming days if you stick around. We update on Mondays and Thursdays. My buddy Chris does the art and I write. If you have any particular advice or critiques for the art, I'll definitely let him know what you think. Thanks guys! I hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think! http://www.almostpets.com

We're in the middle of a small arc at the moment, so I'll start you off a few comics back from the current:

Strip11700rez.jpg

JLM-AWP on
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Posts

  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2010
    You know, the actual drawing doesn't look that bad, but that background is absolutely killing the comic. The saturation and high contrast is overpowering everything in the foreground, and - I can't tell if it's a painting or a heavily filtered photo - but the style compared to the clean character images is very jarring.

    I'd also work on your layout and guttering. There's only four panels here but it feels overwhelmingly cluttered, and part of that is the background but it's also the crammed layout.

    tynic on
  • PROXPROX Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Yes I agree with tynic. The messy edged gutters ain't working. Smooth shapes. It helps them settle in the realm of abstraction.

    PROX on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I've sent the link to this thread to Chris, so he's taking your comments into consideration as you post them. We often end up with too much text, which we have a hard time parting with and sometimes requires more panels and obviously too many words in the panels. We're working on that as we go forward. Keep in mind that these were done literally months ago, so we have really tried to up our standards and overall practices with the layout of each strip since then. Here's one that I think he feels displays some of his better art in the series so far, though it is a fairly early one:

    Strip%5B6%5D700Rez-3db47af.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Writings not bad and the drawings aren't either, but your kinda running them both into the ground with the backdrops, panel borders, and text.

    The backgrounds look awful. I say this because improving those would probably make this comic 10 times more visually pleasing. I really hate photo-backgrounds in a hand-drawn comic personally, and these look like that, only ran through like 5 photoshop filters. Yuck! As mentioned, everything is so saturated that nothing stands out. The backgrounds seem like they should be waaay less saturated, everything is really mushing together.

    It always OK to break from conventions, but you may want to consider word bubbles. Throwing text ontop of everything with a drop shadow just looks kinda ugly and it's harder to flow through the comic. It's good you guys are trying to pare down your text to only what you need. The problem for me is that without word bubbles it's really hard to tell what I'm supposed to read after what. Like in the first panel of the first comic you could argue that the the top right text or the bottom left text could be read first. So it's really more of a problem of layout.

    Also the semi-random coloring of the characters seems kinda weird especially the snake in the first panel, not so much on the rest.

    It's cool how you worked the paper into the structure of the last comic, is any of that rendered in 3D cause it kinda looks like that?

    It's kinda odd to initial every comic, I'm assuming thats what it is, when you already have a "created by" thing stamped on each comic. All in all it's not bad, and you seem like a few alterations away from a pretty competent comic. First one was actually kinda funny.

    earthwormadam on
  • AMKAMK Registered User
    edited March 2010
    How long did these TAKE?

    What software are you using?

    Also, what font are you using? It LOOKS like Comic Sans but I don't THINK it's Comic Sans... is it? Where did you get said font? Have you looked at Blambot?

    The first two are out of curiosity, the second one is me trying to be slightly helpful.

    AMK on
    Find out what it feels like to have head eaten? Y/N?
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I think with the consistency of comments about the overbearing background, we'll be addressing that in the future for sure. I'm not a super artistically-inclined individual, but I can definitely see where that would be an issue. Lots of contrast, no doubt.

    We decided against word bubbles because we both felt strongly that they tended to cover up a lot of what an artist was trying to show in a comic. I completely agree that we need to do a better job with text arranging, which will also be somewhat alleviated when text quantity drops. It can be confusing, and in the past, have done what we can to band-aid the issue. We'll work on that.

    Also, yes, that is 3D that you see with the adding machine and paper. Chris is primarily a 3D artist. There are 3D elements in more of the upcoming comics, which hopefully you guys will see.

    This feedback is great, and is really the first critical set of reviews we have received. We don't like to rely solely on friends and family much because, frankly, they will see it through some sort of rosy tint. I'm also looking for some writing critiques (the visuals are very important, but I want to make sure I'm improving on the writing as well), as well as any website critiques. Pretty much the whole thing :P Thanks again.

    EDIT:
    AMK wrote: »
    How long did these TAKE?

    What software are you using?

    Also, what font are you using? It LOOKS like Comic Sans but I don't THINK it's Comic Sans... is it? Where did you get said font? Have you looked at Blambot?

    The first two are out of curiosity, the second one is me trying to be slightly helpful.

    The strips vary in time, but I think it's safe to say between 6 and 8 hours to draw, normally. The time has been decreasing steadily though, as we become more familiar with the process. Chris, as I said, is a 3D animator by trade, so we're really both learning a lot of things for the first time going through this whole 2D comic stuff. Chris uses Photoshop, Illustrator, and Cinema4D for the 3D elements.

    The font is actually my hand-writing turned into a font (we call it "Adam Sans"). It was a terribly long process because I'm just anal as hell about each letter, but we think it was undoubtedly worth it. I hope it's clean enough, but we definitely didn't want to do Comic Sans, cuz ewww.

    JLM-AWP on
  • MrDelishMrDelish Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    the lack of speech bubbles bothers me

    like, a lot

    besides that, this is pretty good stuff

    MrDelish on
  • Tubesteak SamuraiTubesteak Samurai Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I agree the art style is appealing. The writing is spot on as well. I really enjoyed the second comic. But I think you may be trying to do too much artistically. Let your characters and environments carry the brunt of the aesthetic burden. Things like gutters and text, while it's nice when they get in on the act occasionally, can really take away from the comic when they are fighting with actual artistic elements for stage time.

    I can see that you guys put a lot of work into this and the idea of sacrificing any part of it is probably painful. I assume that's why you're going long form instead of strip and why you have so much text with no word balloons to cover up that beautiful art. You don't want to shave even an inch of fat. Problem is you're in danger of reducing your comic to a morbidly obese, bedridden shut in because of it.

    It's perfectly natural to start out throwing everything you've got at your project (because more is better right?) but eventually you be able to hone your comics down to near surgical efficiency not sparing a single word, line or artistic effect and you'll find them to be several times better over all.

    Tubesteak Samurai on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Tube, as always, your advice is extremely helpful and encouraging. Thanks!

    We have already started discussing things we can do to alleviate some of the qualms so far in the thread. The funny thing is, most of these suggestions REMOVE a lot of the work that would need to be done on the comic from day to day...which seems a little off for this forum, but hell, we'll take it. Sometimes less is more. Actually, a lot of the time less is more. We're just stubborn and attached...it's something we'll have to get over in order to reduce the amount of time spent on each strip, as well as make is a little more visually appealing. We've been thinking a lot about the text bubbles, which could kill 2 birds with one stone: reduce the amount of background needing to be filled, and also making our text easier to read (and be pretty!). I think we'll try a couple things with it when we start making new stuff.

    If you guys haven't read the rest of the archives, I wanted to share a couple strips I enjoyed in particular. I'll have a new one for you on Thursday, if anyone is inclined enough to keep the thread alive. Again, I can't stress how helpful this is, even with a handful of posts. We haven't really heard ANY of these criticisms yet, and we're glad to have found out about some (almost unanimously!) before it's too late to refine our comic. Thanks again, guys.
    Strip%5B9%5D700-dbb1b48.jpg

    Strip%5B10%5D700Rez-ae9837b.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • erisian popeerisian pope Registered User
    edited March 2010
    As a non-artist, casual reader I wouldn't read any of these. I made myself read them all because this is a feedback forum and I wanted to be able to offer feedback and because the comics are polished and I like that.

    But as has already been said many times, these are too visual. My eyes immediately slide to the blue forum background to get a rest. The art is GOOD when I make myself look, and the characters are interesting to me. It's the combo of the backgrounds (even in the sci-fi one, where the issue is lessened some by the background being in a different color palette), the jagged-edge gutters, and the text having a black-glow instead of speech-bubbles.

    I think I would love this comic if it were clean. As it is now I would not read it at all.

    I read your response about why you guys chose to not use speech-bubbles, but honestly amidst all the visual competition you have already, the speech is being swallowed by the backgrounds. Technically the strong white on black does separate the text, some. But in your current method, each word mostly has to fight the background on its own. with a speech-bubble you've got a sorta visual force-field around the entire phrase. Really, it's very tough to read now.

    erisian pope on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Here's our new post from today. On Monday I'll be posting another, but we have since modded our old version to accommodate some of the critiques we've received. I'll post both the old and the new versions to see what you guys think of the changes (and yes, we've decided the word bubbles are necessary). On this one, however, we felt the narration worked well in plain white without bubbles. As always, opinions are welcome.

    Strip%5B27%5D700rez-c033e9a.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • mullymully Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    i really love your comic, but i have to chime in amongst everyone else - backgrounds are distracting, needs speech bubbles, aaaand.. i know that font is your handwriting, but it looks too close to comic sans and immediately shuts down the brain. i had to force myself to read your comic (glad that i did) but the comic sans-esque font made me think "this is going to suck".

    mully on
  • Boston House PartyBoston House Party Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    The jagged gutters sort of make everything look like a thought bubble imagining from the last panel, especially in the first comic.

    Boston House Party on
  • AMKAMK Registered User
    edited March 2010
    The word bubbles work out surprisingly well.

    I found the Avatar one pretty amusing.

    Again, this "Adam Sans" while valiant an attempt, still reminds me too much of Comic Sans.

    If you haven't already, I recommend taking a look at these. All the ones with an F box next to them are free, and the ones with a P box are ridiculously expensive. I think you'll find one that suits the comic well, without losing any appearance of originality.

    It's cool that you WERE able to make your own font though, and I was wondering how you went about it?

    AMK on
    Find out what it feels like to have head eaten? Y/N?
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Just so we don't get a bit redundant here, I want to make sure you all know that we are actually addressing a vast majority (if not all) of the gripes you guys have brought forward so far. We will be making an effort to go over any back-logged comics to revamp them per a lot of the suggestions here before we publish them on the site:

    - Toning down the backgrounds a LOT. Removing most of the crazy contrast and saturation, and looking for ways to bring a nice backdrop for our cleaner, crisper character and foreground style. We agree that the characters will shine even more if we reduce the noise behind them.

    - Greatly reducing, if not removing the jagged gutters. We're probably doing away with the white panel border and going with something darker to bring forward what's IN the panels.

    - Word bubbles. We're going to use them, so we're all good there, hopefully.

    - The font. I'm not sure about this one. It took a painfully long time to get this to where we wanted it (keep in mind that we made italic and bold versions too...it takes longer than one would think. The subtleties of font creation are not to be underestimated). Doing this process over again would be a setback to say the least, but we'll consider it. AMK, I appreciate the link to all of those fonts, a lot of them are pretty cool. I think, though, that we would prefer to create our own from scratch, if anything. We want this comic to be entirely OUR creation, and don't want to plug anything in there that wasn't drawn or written by us. EVERYTHING in these comics was made completely from scratch, and that is an element that we aren't willing to give up. That, however, doesn't negate the fact that it looks a lot like Comic Sans, which is unfortunate. We're going to be talking about this one tonight.

    We will try to overhaul a couple comics in the next day or two that we've already posted in the thread. I'd like to know what you guys think of the changes once we do. We are COMPLETELY willing to take all suggestions you guys have, but I don't want to have the backgrounds and panel edges take all of the advice attention. I don't want to assume everything else about the comic is perfect, so are there any other elements that could use a second look or different approach? In other words, besides what has already been discussed, what about our comic would prevent you from reading it on a regular basis?
    AMK wrote: »
    It's cool that you WERE able to make your own font though, and I was wondering how you went about it?

    We used FontForge to make the font. It seems very cryptic and dated at first, but is actually quite robust for open-source software. It does have its bugs and issues, but it worked on the Mac, which seems to be something free font software tends to omit. http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/

    Thanks again dudes.

    JLM-AWP on
  • beavotronbeavotron Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    hey i wanna add that i think the writing is pretty cute, and i love the characters :)
    keep posting your progress!

    beavotron on
  • HeartlashHeartlash Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Just chiming in to say the writing is really pretty stellar and the established characters are fun. I just can't stress enough how much I agree with people about the backgrounds, though.

    Heartlash on
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  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Thanks Heart and Beavo, I appreciate the kind words!

    Since we're trying to do some edits to older stuff at the moment to address the backgrounds (as well as keeping up with our normal creation schedule), as I said, I'll be posting some "before and after" strips so we can get some feedback on how we've applied your suggestions to comics we've posted. We should have one of those for you today.

    Until then, I'm going to regurgitate a comic we've already posted on the site for those that haven't looked through the archives. It's a bit different from the normal jungle background (cleaner for sure), and I think it's a pretty fun one.
    Strip10700rez.jpg


    EDIT:

    Here is a re-done version of the same thing. I know it's not the best nominee for necessary changes, but let us know what you think nonetheless. Thanks!
    Strip11700rez.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Yeah that is a lot better. Whenever you can avoid using dropshadows, it's probably for the best.

    earthwormadam on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Update! Here is the new comic we posted today. I've also included, below it, the OLD version we had made a couple months ago. Keep in mind that the jagged edges are pretty much unavoidable at this point, but Chris did his best to make it more readable. Please let us know what you think. Thanks!
    Strip%5B15%5D700rez-f4e992f.jpg


    OLD version:
    Strip15700rez.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    That looks waaay better.

    NibCrom on
  • McGibsMcGibs TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Agreed, much more readable.

    And I chuckled.

    McGibs on
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  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Here's our post from yesterday. We are currently having Mac video card issues, and have been out of commission here for about 5 days. As soon as we're back up, we'll be fixing a bunch of the comics we've already done, as well as those we've already posted. No sense in keeping difficult-to-read stuff around.

    Not much visual art in here, but it's a strip.


    Strip%5B22%5D700rez-7190c51.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • erisian popeerisian pope Registered User
    edited March 2010
    Totally unrelated to art - I just want to say that I love that there's a frog (lizard?) who is always present but never speaks. I love that.

    EDIT: Also, the changes are excellent. WAY more readable!

    erisian pope on
  • FletcherFletcher Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    i think it might be a horned toad or something?

    anyway i am SO HAPPY that you are taking criticism on board and altering stuff

    now that I can read it without going blind, your comic is actually really funny!

    i will continue to read your comics and laugh at your jokes

    Fletcher on
  • SpawnbrokerSpawnbroker Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    The BSOD on the Chameleon was super funny, by the way.

    Spawnbroker on
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  • McGibsMcGibs TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    amazon-horned-frog.jpg
    duuuurh

    McGibs on
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  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I'm glad the changes are making it a lot easier to read. Readability, it seems, is one of the easier problems to fix. Thanks for the feedback. I'm happy you guys are enjoying it, now that we aren't killing your retinas.

    This is one we created a few months ago, but ended up being pushed back in the time line until today's post for some reason. We scaled back a lot of the brightness in the red borders and made a couple other changes before posting. Once again, it seemed to be taking away from the content. Also, speech bubbles were added.

    Strip%5B9%5D700rez%282%29-c6ec67d.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • SpawnbrokerSpawnbroker Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I like the new look. Definitely less sore on the eyes. I love the writing, most of the strips I've seen are hilarious. You can get a bit wordy though, I'd watch out for that.

    Spawnbroker on
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  • MrDelishMrDelish Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    The chameleon's line makes me cringe. It'd be better if he weren't saying anything

    MrDelish on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    MrDelish wrote: »
    The chameleon's line makes me cringe. It'd be better if he weren't saying anything

    We actually had a debate on that when we made this one a while back, which I won. Now, in retrospect, I believe you (and Chris) are right about his line. Something to remember for the future I guess.

    EDIT:

    Okay, so it started to really bother us, so we went ahead and changed it. Here's the new version:
    Strip%5B9a%5D700rez2-1de2815.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • MustangMustang Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Your comic has my stamp of approval.

    Mustang on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    <3<3<3

    JLM-AWP on
  • LexxyLexxy Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Hahah, oh man that one with the counting and the leopards <3

    Everyone's pretty much already touched on anything I might have wanted to say for now, so here, have an ass-pat.

    Lexxy on
  • EricsErics Chicago, ILRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Just wanted to pop in and say that the BSOD one made me rofl.

    Erics on
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  • EdilithEdilith Registered User
    edited March 2010
    Poor horned frog at the back.. I love the extra details like that! I think it's great that you're taking suggestions on board, it's definitely easier on the eyes and compliments your characters more now.

    I'd still think about altering the font a little though, but other than that keep up the good work!

    Edilith on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Tada!

    Strip%5B16%5D700rez-9e57ce5.jpg


    And for anyone interested, here is the old version (before recommended edits). Not many changes were made...this is one we almost got right the first time around. Main problem was readability. The words didn't flow from one panel to the next, causing even me to read them out of order at times.
    Strip16700rez.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Def much improved. I understand it was an just an edit of an old strip but I feel like your panels are too confining. They really aren't giving the characters enough breathing room, and it gives the comic a more claustrophobic feel, which probably isn't good for a comic that takes place in a jungle. It just seems like the empty dark colored background gets too much space while the panels suffer for it. Something to think about anyways.

    earthwormadam on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Def much improved. I understand it was an just an edit of an old strip but I feel like your panels are too confining. They really aren't giving the characters enough breathing room, and it gives the comic a more claustrophobic feel, which probably isn't good for a comic that takes place in a jungle. It just seems like the empty dark colored background gets too much space while the panels suffer for it. Something to think about anyways.

    I couldn't agree more. We've been really cutting down on the panel "style" and layout that this strip uses with our newer ones, and have been using the space for bigger panels with less odd shapes. The feedback in this thread has really been a catalyst for us. We're seeing things to simplify all the time now, and are keeping the amount of content in the front of our minds with every new strip. We have been trying to cram too much into our standard space for a while now, and its something we will avoid in the future. It also really helps to cut down on the time Chris spends drawing each strip. I wish we were a bit further along in our time-line to be able to show you what I mean, but alas, you must wait!

    We are eating all of these critiques up though, and we actually heavily discuss anything that is said in here. I know a lot of people say they appreciate feedback, but we couldn't stress enough how much we have taken advantage of it (and generally agree with the vast majority of it). So please keep it coming!

    JLM-AWP on
  • JLM-AWPJLM-AWP Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Ok guys, here is our new post for today:

    Strip%5B21%5D700rez-365c0b7.jpg


    And here is the old version we made a couple months ago:
    Strip17700rez.jpg


    Chris and I are in a debate at the moment as to what we should do about the size of our comics. Currently, we are at 700 horizontal rez, but think that shrinking to 600 may make things look a bit cleaner. We also want to keep in mind that we have been working hard towards increase the readability of each strip, and want to see if doing this will actually decrease readability. I've included the two versions below, and I'd really appreciate any opinions on this. Thanks!
    Strip21700rezB.jpg
    Strip%5B21%5D700rez-365c0b7.jpg

    JLM-AWP on
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