So, I haven't drawn a comic series for a while, but lately I've gotten an idea for a fantasy comic I'm thinking of giving a shot. I've drawn a few test pages, which I'd like some feedback on the artwork of, and possibly some feedback on ideas for the story if possible.
These are the test pages I've drawn:
(suggestive, fairly large images)
With the story…
Basically, the premise is… the comic would take place in a fantasy world where all life is intelligent, but not all can communicate. A lot of it would focus on a cat girl who is a carnivore, and became a healer not necessarily to help people, but to ogle and encourage violence. Despite this, though, she's a good doctor who's helped many people.
My main problem with this is… I'm a bit undecided on whether the comic should be a fairly lighthearted slice of life comic playing most of this for comedy (like the test pages), or a slower, darker comic with more continuity that goes deeper into her struggles with morality.
One plotline I've thought of for the latter is… an evil army trying to recruit her as a torturer once they find out her secret, her turning them down largely because she finds them too weak for her tastes, and exploring the fact that she's chosen to align herself with the forces of good despite her bloodlust exceeding the villains'.
I've got other ideas as well, but for the sake of brevity I'll keep it to that for now.
I'm not quite sure I'm going to go for this comic, but any feedback on exactly how bad of an idea it is would be appreciated :p
Ideally, I would like this project to elevate my Patreon page to getting at least double digits of money a month, but I'm not sure that's practical, ha ha ha…
I think you're going to have a hard time exploring her morality very far if your world has 'good guys' and 'villains' to any significant extent, in a non-ironic fashion. People may have morality, but what constitutes moral behavior is not something people even in a single culture can really agree upon, let alone across the arc of human development. People do have interests, though, and so do cat people. In this framework, they can have conflicting interests, and may feel that the 'other' is immoral or evil, but the reality can be seen to be more complex and nuanced.
Of course, people do believe in good and evil, so your characters can perceive this situation any way at all, and in all kinds of conflicting ways; that makes for a good story. I'd be careful about accepting any of their views yourself, though.
I like the tone those two pages hit. It hinted at some cool setting components, a good premise to use as a foundation for plot, and hit a tone that was not too dark or self-absorbed, while not feeling deliberately lighthearted.
If that's what you're aiming for, some suggestions:
1) Redesign the cat-people characters a bit. They're way less detailed and more cartoonish than the humans, it just looks weird. Compare Prequel, which has cat-people of about that level but stylizes the humans just as much, or Out-of-Placers, which has humans at about your level of detail, and keeps the weird animal people at that level.
1b) Maybe just give them clothes? The whole body is just a single shape right now, that needs to be broken up somehow, and just a belt and pouch doesn't cut it. And it would make them seem more sapient - "people" wear clothes, "animals" don't, and you're clearly putting them into the "people" category.
2) I'm not liking that plotline idea. Mostly because it doesn't seem like a setup you can wring a lot of plot from. The ethical conundrum won't last long without becoming melodrama - once the team has accepted that aiming a bad person at other bad people is a net good, the only way to keep the issue going would be to keep escalating how bad the shit she does is. And it definitely doesn't sound like *she* would be the one struggling with morality - you're describing more a straight-up sociopath, just one who realizes that they can have more fun fighting for the good guys. It would be the rest of the team that might have a problem with that.
3) I'm also concerned about that general characterization, because it seems like it would keep dragging the tone down, and personally I've had more than my fill of "edgy", dark-and-gritty fantasy. Maybe if you had other characters with significant plots, ones that didn't require on-panel gratuitous bloodshed, that could balance it out.
Eaton Pye:I think you're going to have a hard time exploring her morality very far if your world has 'good guys' and 'villains' to any significant extent, in a non-ironic fashion. People may have morality, but what constitutes moral behavior is not something people even in a single culture can really agree upon, let alone across the arc of human development.
…yeah, how to handle morality and moral grayness is going to be a big problem here.
I was thinking, one way to do handle "good" and "evil" is that the "evil" people are mainly evil by virtue of effectively saying they are themselves. Like, when the "evil" people try to recruit her, they'd go on about how morality is holding her back and making her weak, how she'll never be happy around "good" people, who'll never be able to truly understand her, etc—but with them, she can, like, have her own dungeon where she can give in to all of her deepest darkest desires, be with other people that understand her, and help make a world a better place for people like her, where the strong rule over the weak, etc.
And she's sort of tempted by this, but when she tries actually opening up to these "evil" people who claim to understand her, they're so freaked out they realize they're in over their head. So she ends up staying on side of "good," because while many people there distrust her, many others support her redirecting her urges into helping people, and this gives her a place in the world.
Or, there could be a character that's evil by virtue of being very similar to the healer (possibly an old friend of hers) that became a heinous and depraved criminal instead of a doctor, and that the healer is very disturbed by, since she sees so much of herself in them.
But yeah, in general the comic may be more suited to a slice-of-life series with dark comedy, because that's probably better suited to the level of moral grayness the premise invites.
I'll respond by bullet point.
1) Since I wasn't actually trying to make the humans more detailed, I'm not really sure what to do about this. I think it's mainly that the humans' hair and clothes obscures the fact that I'm drawing their faces and bodies about the same way. I may try doing a test page in a more cartoony style to see how that works, though. (For a more comedic mood, that might work better anyway.)
1b) This isn't entirely clear from the test pages, but… the comic's supposed to take place in a world that has more open attitudes about nudity and sexuality, with the cat girl's nudity largely being a personal choice, and one the human characters could make just as well. I'm not quite sure how far I want to take this, but I am considering at least adding nipples to the art style, which might help a bit with the detail problem and her body looking like a "single shape." (This is one reason simplifying the art style might not work, but I might still try it :p )
2) I'm not sure it's a setup I can wring a lot of plot from. But about her characterization in general…
I kind of imagine that part of her backstory would be that, at some point, she realized that if she didn't start becoming more realistic with her desires, she would need to "keep escalating how bad the shit she does is" to keep getting thrills, and this could lead to her life spiraling out of control. So when we see her in the comic, she's kind of mellowed out, can joke around about it, and comes across to most people as an eccentric doctor—an angle I think the test comics capture. But those that are closer to her would realize this doesn't always come naturally to her, and there's a lot of times where she wonders if she did the right thing.
I'm not exactly sure how much of a sociopath she should be—and I do consider it an option to take that seriously. Although, I think she would be self-aware enough to realize she has trouble connecting with other people, moral boundaries don't come is instinctually to her as the people around her, and she's a bit scared by this, and that would be her moral struggle. I'd want to play it less as "aiming a bad person at other bad people is a net good," and more as "this is a sociopath trying to integrate into normal society… and that's good, because that's what we want sociopaths to be doing, isn't it?"
Not to mention, I want to kind of leave it open how much of this is a result of her not being human, and how much being understanding of things like this would be necessary for different species to cooperate in a fantasy world.
3) I am thinking of ideas to expand the cast, and agree that making the healer a main character instead of the main character seems like a good way to handle things. In addition, the world has some unusual qualities that the plot could focus on as well. That's a huge wall of text I have yet to finish enough to post yet, though, which is the only reason I haven't talked about that :|
TanteiSakana:1) Since I wasn't actually trying to make the humans more detailed, I'm not really sure what to do about this. I think it's mainly that the humans' hair and clothes obscures the fact that I'm drawing their faces and bodies about the same way. I may try doing a test page in a more cartoony style to see how that works, though. (For a more comedic mood, that might work better anyway.)
The core issue is that the nudist cat-person looks like a gray humanoid blob on the page. I don't think simplifying the details on the other characters will fix that. Nor, really, would being more accurate with her anatomy, while still keeping the flat fur tone and minimal accessories.
If you don't want to give her clothes, there are other options. Jewelry - give her some jangly bracelets, maybe a magic amulet. Tattoos or body paint, or even just some fur coloration, tabby stripes or the like. Just something to break her up visually.
I wouldn't add nipples unless you're planning to go down the erotica/smut route. Which, to be fair, would be a really good way to boost your patreon - h. If you're not trying to make her sexy, showing sexy-bits will just get you flagged as NSFW without drawing anyone new in - and I'm not sure they'd add enough visually to avoid blob syndrome.
Honestly, though, it seems your concept of her as a nudist conflicts with your concept of leaving it ambiguous whether her sadism is personal or just a result of being a cat-person. The latter requires you to keep cat-person culture somewhat shrouded - the ethical question gets answered too easily if you show a cat-people city and they're all violent sociopaths or they're all peaceful and normal. But then her nudism has no frame of reference - is she naked because she's a cat, or is she naked because she's kind of odd? Without showing a lot of others of her species, the reader won't really know.
GMan003:The core issue is that the nudist cat-person looks like a gray humanoid blob on the page. I don't think simplifying the details on the other characters will fix that. Nor, really, would being more accurate with her anatomy, while still keeping the flat fur tone and minimal accessories.
Some of the ideas I had were…
A style that focused more on pen and ink effects could let me emphasize the texture of her fur more:
And a style involving flat colored areas could make everything look more equally flat:
(Sorry if those mockups look bad, I drew them fairly quickly.)
The thing about this is, though… I can basically see what you're talking about with the "humanoid blob" problem, but I'm not sure how major of an issue it actually is. I'd likely have other characters that are visually "broken up" as you describe, but I simply prefer her looking more plain, and I think it suits her character's intensity to pretty much need literally nothing to get by, and not really think to accessorize.
If someone else could weigh in on this, though, that would help me out.
GMan003:Honestly, though, it seems your concept of her as a nudist conflicts with your concept of leaving it ambiguous whether her sadism is personal or just a result of being a cat-person. The latter requires you to keep cat-person culture somewhat shrouded - the ethical question gets answered too easily if you show a cat-people city and they're all violent sociopaths or they're all peaceful and normal. But then her nudism has no frame of reference - is she naked because she's a cat, or is she naked because she's kind of odd? Without showing a lot of others of her species, the reader won't really know.
I'm… not really sure I agree that this follows. On the contrary, if in this world, it's perfectly normal for humans to walk around naked as well, and she's interacting with humans a lot… why wouldn't she do the same thing? That would just make her choice to be naked fundamentally meaningless in-universe, right? In fact, I was kind of thinking of implying that in this world, nudity is considered the default unless one has a reason to wear clothes, and other species consider people wearing clothes all the time to be kind of unusual.
About everything else… I haven't really decided the details of what cat people's personalities tend to be like yet, and how this relates to the healer. But one of the reasons I think it would always be a bit ambiguous is that… well, the way I understand it, one of the defining characteristics of someone that's a sociopath is the ability and compulsion to hide that they're a sociopath. So I can't help but think… the more sociopathic cat people tended to be, the more peaceful and normal they'd tend to act around other people. And I'm not really sure how I'd go about establishing that this is usually a façade even if I wanted to, since establishing that even for one person seems like something that would require a decent amount of screentime and character development :|
Regardless, though, I think that kind of manipulativeness is one quality this healer character does not have. One thing I'd likely keep from these test pages is that she doesn't really try very hard to make herself look more normal to the humans around her—instead, she's brutally honest to the point of comedy. And if other cat people tend to be very good at hiding the unpleasant parts of their nature from others, people may actually find her straightforwardness preferable :p
Reminds me, in the Red Dwarf episode "Cured", the Boys from the Dwarf deal with a clinic that is supposed to cure Evil/Sociopathy, only to be targeted by a sociopath themselves. They, alongside cured clones of some of History's worst people, use a machine to find Sociopaths, and it becomes clear that The Cat is a Sociopath - he only cares for himself, and basically uses everyone around him to his personal gain, even if that personal gain is merely amusement and food. (He's one of the last few living creatures in his part of the galaxy, so money and power are worthless.)
Despite this, he has value to the team - not as a healer, but a pilot, due to his feline sense of smell. He also refused to betray the team to the antagonistic sociopath of "Cured", didn't hit the crew while smiting his polymorph babies (While the others were in an elevator, surrounded by at least two polymorph doubles each), and gave Rimmer enough of a peptalk to get the smeghead to come up with a plan to save their collective rears.
I'm not saying the idea of a sociopathic feline aiding her "good" crew is unoriginal, I'm just saying that it's doable, as previously shown. Making her a naturalist healer without qualms of getting blood in her fur should be enough to distance her from the appearance-obsessed, medically-incompetent moron that is The Cat.
Jeremy7:I'm not saying the idea of a sociopathic feline aiding her "good" crew is unoriginal, I'm just saying that it's doable, as previously shown. Making her a naturalist healer without qualms of getting blood in her fur should be enough to distance her from the appearance-obsessed, medically-incompetent moron that is The Cat.
Since I've never seen an episode of Red Dwarf in my life, that's a pretty improbable coincidence, but I'll take it :p
Although to be fair, I have a feeling many people have thought of portraying cats/cat people as sociopaths.
I'm beginning to wonder if that's actually the direction I want to take this healer's character, though, since when I look at lists of personality traits of sociopaths, I'm not sure how well they actually describe my vision of her character. While I imagine her having the audacity to become a doctor to be near violence, I also imagine her not having the audacity to lie without guilt to hide this, and having some morally gray reasons for going down this road—like thinking of healing people partly as a way to make up for fetishizing violence. And I think I could reasonably leave it unclear how much she's right about this.
She'd creep a lot of people out, including herself at times—but not everyone would mind having a naked cat girl fawning over their every move as they fight, healing their wounds, and wanting to have sex with them afterwards, and realistically that'd be most of what she's after.
But regardless, the impression I'm getting here is… the ideas of this comic are generally more weird than innovative, and it's probably doomed to some level of obscurity no matter how well I execute everything. The artwork, likewise, seems to be passable but right on the edge of being actually aesthetically pleasing—and while this problem could solve itself as I draw more pages and become more skilled, it could also not, and the art's not everything.
And I'm not sure talking about my other ideas for the comic, such as that all the monsters are "reincarnated nerds from other dimensions," would make things better or worse :p