Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dueling Analogs: Babbling Cintiqs

This is Terrible
You Said It, Man
An artist should never blame his tools for his poor work. Accepting that personal shortcomings lead to a less-than-perfect product is the first step towards improving him or herself. Conversely, an artist should never expect his product to improve simply by acquiring some special tool. The Wacom Cintiq tablet is often lauded as the pinnacle of webcomic artistry. Many webcartoonists will needle their readers for donation money to "make the comic better!" Unfortunately, if your ideas are crap, there is no magical tool anywhere in the world that will make it enjoyable.

Dueling Analogs is, first and foremost, a gaming webcomic. We all know how trite and overused that concept is, but let's humor the creator, Steve Napierski, and review it like a real webcomic, shall we?

Artistically, Dueling Analogs is atrocious. Most characters are traced (or "referenced") from some piece of official art, and photoshopped around into some weird, jerky, awkward pose. Any original character designs look goofy, bizarre, or otherwise disfigured. And did you notice that all his slimmer character designs always wear turtlenecks? I guess Napierski just has no idea how to draw a proper neckline, so he just hides it with someone's fat head or anything else to disguise a character's neck.

Copy/Pasted Images Don't Really Require a Cintiq
You Need a Cintiq For This?
Of course the artist's skills don't really matter much when most of the comics aren't even being drawn. A large portion of Dueling Analogs's archive is comprised of these kinds of comics; pictures of consoles being copy/pasted into the comic and treated as actual characters. This is quite possibly the laziest thing a person could do in order to poke fun at how a console is being managed. Additionally, Napierski seems to have a strong inferiority complex, since he has a massive tendency to post strips where he apes another cartoonist's artistic style (unfortunately he still writes the same terrible jokes). There really is no humor in copying another's art, and it provides a poor substitute for actual skill, so why does Napierski insist on these ripoff strips? My only guess is that he is dissatisfied with his work and uses these strips to fantasize about being any cartoonist with more skill than he has. These two types of comics comprise about half of the Dueling Analogs archive

But the iniquity of Napierski's art is amplified by his audacity to ask for donations so he can purchase the aforementioned Cintiq tablet. Since nearly 75% of his art is traced and/or photoshopped, one wonders why he'd need a tablet at all. The air of desperation reeks around Steve Napierski, since he believes that this magical device will make him a better cartoonist. Sorry Steve, but the truth is, you'll only get better through hard work and practice (and this doesn't mean just making more terrible comics!). Take an art class or three, Steve, and maybe you can be just like your many heroes.

The key to writing a decent gaming comic is to remain unbiased. Poking fun at everyone will make it a lot easier for anyone to enjoy the comic (this goes for political comics too!). Napierski does a poor job of hiding his Sony Fanboyism, which makes him sound rather defensive or desperate in some strips. It also helps to have a unique viewpoint on the subject in order to avoid repeating a joke the reader has already heard before. This joke has been repeated in so many forms that it has officially gotten stale. Please stop rehashing it, guys. If you can't come up with an original joke (or at least one that's not quite so stale) then perhaps you should rethink your choice of hobby.

Ripping Off Other Artists...
Ripping Off Penny-Arcade Just Makes You Look Like a Tool
Other times, it becomes very difficult to identify just what Napierski is trying to convey. His inability to properly write a joke thwarts even the simplest strips, reducing them from "terrible gag" to "incomprehensible mumbling". He also has problems making the dialog concise enough to fit inside the panel. Solution? Just add speech balloons OVER the panel. It's the internet, who's going to know? Well I'm going to tell all of you that this is a crappy, inelegant solution. It is better to trim your script down so that it will fit than to just cram the words in any way you can. Why? People aren't going to want to read a novel just to hear a single terrible joke.

Dueling Analogs has fought tooth and nail to be at the bottom rung of the Ladder of Gaming Webcomics. Napierski has succeeded in this endeavor by placing other Gamer Comics above his own, through the act of giving them special references in his own comic. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but at the end of the day you're still just ripping someone off for easy hits. Besides, copying their work is not going to give you some grand insight into the deepest secrets of art. It's just going to make you look like a sleazy forger. The answer to self-improvement lies not in acquiring better tools, but learning how to use the tools you do have properly. As soon as Steve Napierski learns this basic fact, the his Analogs will finally be able to win a Duel.

1 comment:

  1. A rather optimistic conclusion, my PHIZ brah.

    By the way, I can't believe you didn't mention that turning the graph upside down in that one strip would still result in a graph going down.