Where Do I Draw The Line?

posted March 10, 2003 by Jer


SplurdLink has shown me that there are a lot of webcomics out there that I've never heard of. Some of them are very cool, some of them are well drawn, some of them are well written.

A ridiculous number of them are sprite comics.

I mean downright ludicrous.

For those who don't know, a Sprite is any graphic from a computer game. When you play a video game, the computer program is basically deciding what sprites to put on your screen and what sounds to send to your speakers. Without the sprites and sounds, a computer game is just an elaborate number-crunching program.

For webcomics, however, "sprite" refers to any image borrowed or stolen from a video game. The most commonly used sprites in sprite webcomics come from SquareSoft's "Final Fantasy" series, and CapCom's "Megaman" series, though absolutely no video game is safe.

Now, I do not intend to restrict sprite comics from SplurdLink. The genre has created some entertaining and occasionally intelligent results. (Brian Clevinger's 8-Bit Theater, David Anez' Bob and George) For writers who are uncertain of their artistic abilities, sprite comics allow them the chance to tell a comic-style story without the pressure of producing artwork to match their writing. Sprite comic creation, however, may be a bit too easy. Sprite comics are so easy to create, that often a sprite comic will be created simply to parody another sprite comic, which is itself a parody of the video game in which the sprites were originally taken. When this happens, do we truly have a parody of a parody? Or is it simply one artist mimicking another?

I am a firm believer that crayons are the most artistic drawing tool ever invented. When you hold a crayon, there is a total understanding between you and the crayon that whatever image you attempt to create will not look anything like what you see in the real world. Once that is established, the crayon-holder is totally uninhibited, and thus draws whatever he or she FEELS like. There are no realistic depictions rendered in crayon. Crayon can only capture how the artist feels about a subject—what that artist feels are the core elements of the subject. A face becomes a circle with eyes, a nose and a mouth. The exact shape or exact position of the nose or the eyes does not matter; all that matters is that they are there—that they are represented. The picture of a face drawn by the crayon artist is what they feel a face is.

Perhaps the sprite comic genre are the crayons of comics? The writer does not care that the characters are unique, just that they are represented in his story. The artist wants to tell a tail of adventure, why should he or she bother creating a detailed description of the adventurers when such well-established icons can be used to represent the core concept of adventurer. Two curved lines and a dot drawn in crayon can create an eye, and now a grouping of red, white, and black dots on a computer screen can universally create a hero.

Or perhaps I'm being overly optimistic in a futile attempt to cheer myself up.

Oh look, 5 new comics on SplurdLink and 4 of them are sprite comics.