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June 21, 2002 BONES Comic Commentary:
There are so many sprite comics out there it's almost laughable. I have mixed feelings about them. I know of one or two that are very enjoyable, but so many of the rest are just crap. Generally I tend to feel that if a sprite comic is to be made, it should generally be for the community around the game whose graphics it uses. For instance, I used to make an Ultima Online comic strip. It was for UO players, by a UO player, and it was about UO. Some of the other sprite-comics out there use Megaman graphics and attempt to appeal (unsuccessfully) to a wider audience.

The issue isn't with the sprites themselves, or the use of them. Rather, the issues are...

  • Does the comic strip successfully connect with the intended audience?
  • Are there any copyright issues pertaining to the images in use, or is it covered by "fair use"?
  • Is the comic series entertaining and/or funny? Or is it just another "megaman and icecream" hack?
  • Are the comics being made with a founding concept or specific goal? Or are they being made just because it's easy to do with sprites, but otherwise is utilizing little or no creativity?
  • Is the comic unique? Does it stand out in some way, standing apart from other comics that use the same graphics?

The problem with sprites is that it makes it so insanely easy to create something with little to no artistic talent, that people without any real creativity or writing ability are suddenly able to make something, and aren't challenged into improving and becoming more creative.

8-Bit Theater is a good example of how a sprite-comic can succeed. Unlike many sprite-comics out there, this one succeeds even though it's using Final Fantasy images, because it's well written, has a nice refined look to it, and it's designed in such a way that it appeals to anyone whose ever played a computer or console RPG (role-playing game). Ancient Civ also works well for similar reasons, and in this case all of the graphics are completely original and not stolen from a game. Red Meat is a very successful cut-n-paste or clip-art sort of comic series, which is really only a step removed from sprites in a way. And Bones is really only another small step further in that the drawings are truly hand-drawn, but then are cut-n-pasted from then on.

The issue of "hand-drawn" vs "sprite" comics is something that has even stirred up trouble amongst game-cartoonists in the past. I have an example on my "Mailbag" page.

This is my first stab at a real sprite comic since my UO days, and it's just here to poke fun at all those other sprite comics that are clogging up the internet. Unlike 99% of the sprite comics out there, this one doesn't steal graphics. Don't get me wrong, they're from an actual game... actually a pair of games. But they're games that I wrote myself nearly ten years ago. They're little DOS games that you can see on my Games Page. The interface for them isn't great, and the gameplay is so-so. But I've received some good responses on them back when they were relatively current in graphics technology, and I've always been tempted to look into doing remakes or sequels, or porting them over to the Palm Pilot. :)

Oh I almost forgot, it's a little known fact that "shrooms" have had a long-standing position with Bones Comics. In the earlier days of the series, a small spin-off was created for them. It didn't pan out. However, it did influence the creation of the mushroom character shown here that appeared years later in the Skull Quest games, and thus ended up in one of the example screenshots. Today's strip was assembled completely from the example screenshots on my Games Page.

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