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Posted by Sumiki , in Contests, BZPower Mar 04 2012 · 120 views


The forum formerly known as Artwork III.

There are those who love the forum and there are those who don't. I don't get the impression that there are very many active members on here who are apathetic on it - it seems like everyone has an opinion, whether or not they express it, and independent of whether or not they are an active comic maker or are entering a work in the comics contest.

I respect comic makers and I sincerely believe that comics are a form of art. But comparing sprite comics to hand drawn comics is just like the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges, or comparing MOCs with epics. Simply put: it's not possible.

"But Sumiki, they're both comics! Why can't we compare?"

Compare all you like, but in the end of the day, it's different. Sprites are, by and large, made by select few members, be they comic makers or otherwise. I can compare pixel art to hand-drawn art all day, because there has to be innate artistic skill to do both. Yes, some comic makers who use other member's sprites have artistic skill, but I'm not going to go as far as to generalize all sprite comics and their makers.

"It takes a lot more time to make a sprite comic than to draw one by hand!"

This right here is a common defense, and on the surface, it seems to make some sense. It is, however, an ignoratio elenchi - an argument wherein one proves or disproves a point which is not at issue. The time it takes to make a sprite comic as compared to a hand-drawn one is totally irrelevant to the quality of the comic. There's no set time that one can make a sprite comic in, and there's no set time that it takes to draw one by hand. A ten-page sprite comic might be heinously bad, but the time it takes to assemble the sprites from the kit might take longer than the by-hand artist who makes an awesome four-page comic in half the time.

If the amount of time poured into any piece of art is the sole indication of its quality, the winner of the comics contest would be whichever one took the longest. There would be no need for a poll in the first place.

"How can you know, or compare? You don't even make sprite comics!"

I don't have to know to be able to compare. Do you have to walk on the Moon to know what it looks like? I didn't think so. Plus, I actually made a few sprite comics in the past, and with very limited software, so I have at least touched the surface of the medium.

Is it easy to make sprite comics look good? Not really. But is it easy to make them? Heck yeah. Anyone - even those who have no artistic ability whatsoever - can make a sprite comic.

"Its easier to make a hand-drawn comic than a sprite comic."

Sprite comics, for the most part, have stock backgrounds that are copied and pasted between frames. The characters, or parts of the characters, are already pre-created on another sheet entirely, ready to be copied and pasted into the comic. While professional hand-drawn comics sometimes do similar things, amateur comic makers on BZPower who draw their comics by hand do so because they don't want to copy and paste the same things like sprite comics are known to do.

"But Sumiki, the time and effort that it takes to make a sprite comic far outdoes the work put into hand-drawn comics!"

Ah, but the effort is the combined labor of the pixel artists, who aren't always necessarily the comic makers. Like I said, I respect the pixel artists and the kit makers for their creative skill, but I can't put them in the same category with the people who use their work to construct their own stories - unless, however, the pixel artists use their own handiwork in their comics.

I think a lot of the issues that people have with the comic makers is that they have a stereotype of being easily enraged. Professional debate quickly seems to degenerate into near-flame wars, and they would if the brave folks who make up the staff of that forum didn't respond to problems with great alacrity.

This entry is not intended to kindle anew the fires of a flame war. If anything, it is my response to many of the arguments that I've seen regarding the sprites-vs.-hand-drawn debate. The contest topic was not the place for it, and before you ask, no, I didn't start it. I try to stay out of drama here.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable if I can sincerely expect everyone to be professional about this and not degenerate the debates and discussion into a slurry of insults hurled hither and thither. I believe that the members can live up to those standards, so please, play nice. There's no reason not to.

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Indigo Individual
Mar 04 2012 01:34 PM
Hear, hear!

Truer words have never been spoken.
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Oh my, that was bonesii length.

Very well put.
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Tenebrae Invictus
Mar 04 2012 06:02 PM
Stock backgrounds? While it is true many comic makers use stock backgrounds, it's obvious not everyone does. I am a testament to this, at the very least.

Not only that, but here's a thought for your post. Anyone can also make a hand drawn comic too. You can have no skill at all and make a hand drawn comic just as well. Sprite comics are not exclusive to it at all.

Each take their own skills to be developed, and the two can cross over as well.
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I think a lot of the issues that people have with the comic makers is that they have a stereotype of being easily enraged. Professional debate quickly seems to degenerate into near-flame wars, and they would if the brave folks who make up the staff of that forum didn't respond to problems with great alacrity.

A likely scenario, if it was true. Both debates I've seen of this issue (and other similar ones) have remained civil, despite slight irritation at the insulting of a popular genre of artwork. I've yet to see an insult hurled back and forth regarding this subject, despite the staff closing down discussion based on fears of this happening.

I'll withhold from discussing this and leave it to others that know more about the subject matter than myself.

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Alright, then. Here's to some actual decent debate, no?

My main "problem" with this argument is that it seems to take on this one approach: that sprite comic makers seem to think themselves "better" than hand-drawn comic artists. This not only isn't true, its actually quite the opposite. I often see that this debate is started and argued not by proving their superiority, but on their equality. In fact, if you switched the words "sprite comics" and "draw one by hand" in most of the arguments you gave below, you basically have all of the basic made against sprite comics, not for them.

"It takes a lot more time to make a sprite comic than to draw one by hand!"

In fact, I actually totally agree with you on this point. The time spent making a comic does not automatically guarentee an actual good piece of work. The problem is, it is never a sprite comic maker that pulls up this argument. In fact, they usually bring up this one to counter it. There is this sort of assumption made here that the more time something takes, the better it is, and that simply isn't true. But this is a common defense taken up by many hand drawn artists, in which it is assumed that since they took more time (or at least, they think they took more time; how long it actually takes varies on what they're comparing it to) they have put in much more effort and their final product is much better.

"How can you know, or compare? You don't even make sprite comics!"

No, you don't need to walk the moon to know what it looks like. But you do if you're going to say that nothing's special about walking on the moon to astronauts, they'll likely put this argument up to you. There are some things that people often overlook when thinking about making a sprite comic that actually take a lot more time than people think.

For instance, in my own (former) contest entry, it seems pretty simple to do. Just take a picture, slap on a sprite, and you have that comic, right? But there is a lot of detail that went into it that made it longer to make. For instance, the lighting on the sprites had to be altered to match the light sources, the shadows had to line up with the directional light/distance, the sprites' colors had to be evenly saturated so as to not contrast too much with the backgrounds, the eyes all had to had some sort of outer glow, many of the backgrounds all had to be altered in terms of color balance to have a blue tint in order to fit in with the others or just to be leveled, several of them had to be turned from day scenes into night, several of them had to be blurred to give the illusion of perspective for a close-up shot, etc., etc.

Alright, so its not the most strenuous activity in the world, but what I'm basically trying to say is that many people still have this old "MSPaint" era view of comic work, in which you just copy and paste the sprite onto a poorly made background and called it done. The work does pile up, and its not just a simple cut-and-paste job. Now, that's not to say that no one in the forum still does that, but in terms of argument and from the perspective of a more experienced comic maker, I have to say that this point of view that its just a simple thing to do kind of irks me to a point. I don't mind if people don't like the style or even the comic itself, but don't knock down or demean the amount of effort that went into it by saying I just Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V.

"It takes a lot more time to make a sprite comic than to draw one by hand!"

This is another one of those arguments that are actually flipped around most if not all of the time. I've seen this argument used countless times by hand-drawn artists. Quite honestly, it goes back to the point that time doesn't mean that its a good work, and that some comics take more work than meets the eye. It depends on the comics you are comparing, really. Not only that, but just because something is simpler doesn't also mean that its worse off. For instance, Jim Lee's work probably takes more time to do than, say, Sean Galloway's work, but that doesn't mean that one is a lesser style than the other.

"Its easier to make a hand-drawn comic than a sprite comic."
"But Sumiki, the time and effort that it takes to make a sprite comic far outdoes the work put into hand-drawn comics!"

These two really bother me because I've never heard these used against hand-drawn comics. Against sprite comics, yes, but never against hand-drawn comics. Simply put, sprite comic artists, as opposed to maybe a popular opinion, don't think that they're better than hand drawn artists. They don't. They think that they can contend with hand-drawn artists and that they actually do more work than everyone thinks, but at no point did this mentality that they're better than hand-drawn artists ever come into the general populace.

In fact, that's again mostly my biggest problem with this post. These arguments are usually never used by sprite comics artists, but in fact against them. Its almost as if you took all of the arguments that are generally made against them, switched the words "hand drawn" and "sprite comics", and then based this post off that. In fact, this argument is only brought up when others say look down on them and that sprite comics are either have no effort at all put into them or not actually "true" comics and cannot come close to what hand-drawn comics can do.

Which brings me back to this point:

"But Sumiki, they're both comics! Why can't we compare?"

I disagree on this point on the basis on what I believe comics are. Comics as I see them are, in the infamous words of Scott McCloud, "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer". I do not believe the styles of a comic to being factors as to whether they can be compared or not in the same way I think you can compare a 2D animated film to a 3D animated, or pop music in the '60s as compared to pop music in the '90s. This isn't a matter of apples and oranges, but instead of apple pie and apple cobbler. They both use the same base ingredient and end up looking up very similar to each other, but each one has both its own strengths and weaknesses.

Honestly, the best analogy I can give to these as opposed to something on BZPower is a MOC. Think about it: all the pieces are already premade by another artist (in this case, the artists/designers at the LEGO Group), but MOCists take those pieces and make them into something that is their own work. This argument here is sort of like saying that if I modeled a Kanohi out of clay, because it is handmade out of scratch, it outclasses any MOC because the MOCs are "unoriginal".

That's basically what I have to say. If you tl;dr'ed, well, can't say I really blame you, but yeah. As an artist, I guess I'm pretty quick to be on the defense about my work, so sorry if this is just too long-winded for anyone to pay attention to.
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Takuma Nuva
Mar 05 2012 11:18 AM
Kahinuva just saved me a whole lot of time. As the only person who ever made a series of MNOLG-style "sprite" comics (aside from those couple attempts that ended after 2-3 comics), I agree with every single thing he said.
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Mesonak, we must have much different definitions of the word "insult."

I found all of my arguments in sprite comic maker's posts. Sure, a lot of them could be flipped, but I didn't make them up or flip anything around to insult comic makers.

Most of your arguments in response to the second question you responded to can be pretty much summed up in this paragraph in my original entry:

Is it easy to make sprite comics look good? Not really. But is it easy to make them? Heck yeah. Anyone - even those who have no artistic ability whatsoever - can make a sprite comic.

I have never said that I lumped all comic makers in the same boat, or even that I wished to. Obviously, it'll take more time to finish off a sprite comic in the manner that you mentioned. It's easy to make one, but truly making it one's own requires some time and effort involved.

Anent your argument that comic making is like MOCing ... I find pretty much nothing in common. MOCing is a form of sculpting, but with the added restrictions of the LEGO system built in to make it a challenge, not only in sculpting but figuring out where parts will go so you can build unseen parts in the right form ahead of time. Sculpture critics don't say "well, you just used regular old marble that you didn't make yourself". For that medium, it's simply not a valid critique.

Kanohi masks modeled out of clay are not inherently better or worse than ones that have come in sets. It depends on the quality of them.
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Being a comic maker myself, I have to agree with Sumiki, even though I have had thoughts of seeing the bashing the opposite direction. (artists to pixelers).

And I also agree that you can't compare a MOC to a sprite comic. And it matters more for the quality, like again Sumiki mentioned.

It also seems like the comic section is like a load of people that are in a competition to be better or have the most post. Can create comics fast enough. Get more people to like and talk about them. Pixel comics seem to be for the ones that don't know much about drawing but can move other peoples work and have they say something funny or serious. And then hand drawn is for the professionals or something.
I guess I've more recently discovered that it really is all about artwork. Hence Artwork III. I had always thought that it was specifically pixeled work.

I take your criticism fully, Sumiki. I like what you had to say. :)
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle

so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra

You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.

It's a long story.


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