Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

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Ninja Skunk
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Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

Post by Ninja Skunk » 04 Mar 2009, 08:51

Did you notice how none of the activity in the Sandra and Woo forum involved actually discussing the Sandra and Woo comic? That's a little weird; so I decided I'd start up this little series to set and attempt to get some blood moving in the forums. Let's start with
Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

A Sly Raccoon is Sandra and Woo's first comic; so before we go in-depth on the strip itself, let's look at what first attracted us to Sandra and Woo.

Personally, the big draw was (and, to an extent, still is) the style that Powree lends to Sandra and Woo. Artistically, that's just me: I work with pencils and pens a lot, and have come to love the simple, clean look of line art over flamboyant colored illustrations. On the other hand, though, there's Sandra herself. Powree's character design for Sandra is so simple and casual that it's beautiful; especially when compared to the fancy and overtly-girly designs that the other artist went for, what with the skirts, dress shoes and ribbons. In fact, a simple long-sleeve shirt and jeans (no "princess" or "cute" or "sweet" on the shirt either! I hate those shirts!) is so rare in the webcomics I read that Sandra and Woo was pretty much an instant investigation.

As for A Sly Raccoon itself, It's the first strip of the comic, so there's plenty of extra criteria and pressure on it. After all, if your pilot episode doesn't appeal to your audience, you won't be having any repeat viewers. So how does Sandra and Woo start?

Definitely a superb start, but not without flaws. A Sly Raccoon, as you would probably expect from the title, really focuses on Woo, and firmly establishes who he is: a sneaky, devious little pet raccoon who has run away. Also, Woo's stealing gag also gives Sandra and Woo away as a humorous comic, not an (entirely) serious one. I also give bonus points to the fact that, although Woo is the focus of the comic, he is never actually shown, save for his tail. It creates a little bit of curiosity and suspense about Woo that can only be satisfied by further browsing the comic. It's definitely one of the better hooks I've seen, and one of the best for small, four panel comics like this one. Well done on that.

However, for all the focus on Woo, Sandra doesn't get much attention. All I could have really learned about Sandra from A Sly Raccoon is that she likes her sweets. So the focus of the comic (at this point) is clearly Woo. Not necessarily a bad thing, or even false, but as I said, the selling point for me was Sandra. It was a bit confusing at first, but didn't hurt that much in the end.

Another small problem is in the last frame: Woo is attempting to steal Sandra's with a cane as an obvious reference to Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Again, this isn't so much an gaping error as it is a simple misdirection. It could incorrectly label Sandra and Woo as a strip based entirely around video game parodies and references; although there are some parts based on video game references in Sandra and Woo (you guessed it, Cloud), the entire comic is not.

Down to the line, A Sly Raccoon is a terrific strip and a spectacular start for such a modest little comic.

Okay, it's your turn. What did you think about A Sly Raccoon? Do you agree with what I, or someone else says? Let's hear it--that's what this topic is here for.
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urthdigger
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Re: Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

Post by urthdigger » 04 Mar 2009, 13:35

Well, it was not the first comic for me, thanks to the ad redirecting me to the latest strip at the time, the christmas strip. However, I do have to agree with what you said: The art style does a very good job of making a first impression. It's simple and cute, and different from a lot of other comic styles out there.

I really didn't mind it focusing on Woo... really what drew me into reading the comic in the first place was Woo himself. Not to say I don't like Sandra, I just like Woo more. Again, I can't really say how it flavored my first perceptions of the comic due to coming in later, plus I never judge a comic by it's first strip. In most webcomics, the first couple strips are there to set up the environment, and have a tendency to include a lot of exposition and dialogue, and are also often of poor quality. So, over the years I've just learned to take first strips with a grain of salt and not consider them an indicator of the comic's quality. Nomenclature was perhaps the first strip that gave me a good chuckle, and Beginner's Mistakes is where I became a fan.

Finally, about the video game references. I don't mind them at all, and in fact I've enjoyed plenty of gamer comics. However, I draw the line at gratuitous game references. For instance, the Sly Cooper reference in the first comic was something I enjoyed, since it fit in very well with the comic and made a joke about him being a "sly" raccoon. Cloud, on the other hand, has seemed to only be there as a video game reference. Aside from being Sandra's friend and mentioned on occasion by her, he doesn't seem to have too much impact on the rest of the comic: If he wasn't there, it wouldn't affect anything. Of course, seeing as the comic hasn't been out that long and he's not the only character to only get a few strips, it's too soon to judge.

Anyway, the first strip did do a good job of making one ask "Ok, let's see where this is going." at the very least.
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Re: Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

Post by powree » 04 Mar 2009, 15:03

uh oh. Bashing time, I guess. :lol:
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Re: Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

Post by Novil » 04 Mar 2009, 16:36

Cloud will play a leading role in several future story arcs which will have nothing to do with video games at all.
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Explaining the Critique

Post by Ninja Skunk » 06 Mar 2009, 07:33

Hmm...

Now, nobody take my summary wrong; I love Sandra and Woo, have absolutely no problem with the focus being on Woo, and very much like video game referencing. However, I try to keep all of my criticism as global and impersonal as possible. You know, looking at the big picture. Things that I mention in these critiques are not necessarily problems that I have with the comic, but problems that I could see someone having. Considering that the ultimate goal of publishing comic strips like this is to gather a fan base -- the larger, the better -- some of my points could be important issues.

Not myself, but some people hate comics based around video games -- either they hate video games completely, or they hate seeing their favorite games parodied. Possibly, they've just seen too many poor-quality sprite-comics and have developed a prejudice against all game comics. Sandra and Woo may not be a video game-based comic, but if you give the impression that Sandra and Woo is, you could turn away readers who would otherwise bookmark your comic.

It's a similar case for the "Focused on Woo" case. Some readers may not be too happy it if seems like Sandra and Woo should have been titled Woo the Raccoon: featuring Sandra. As I said, it was a small issue for me when I first started.

All together, you wouldn't lose too many readers to these issues, but they seem like silly, trivial issues to lose patronage to. That is why I brought them to the front.

Urthdigger:

You may not consider the first comics a good indicator of a comic's quality; but to me, the first strips or pages of a comic are probably the best example of what kind of quality we're dealing with. Is the story already written, or is it made up on the fly? Are the character designs and personalities all developed? Can the illustrator keep everything in proportion? Does the writer rely on exposition strips to explain things, or can he work all the information into the action?

The exposition and dialogue strips you mentioned tend to be signs of a weaker comic. That's not to say we can't still like the comic; it's still good, but definitely not as strong as it could be.

Aside, though, it's all just a critic's point. I'm sorry if I'm pushing it too hard; if it doesn't bother you, don't pay it another thought.

Powree:

"Sticks and Stones
may Break my Bones;
But you Have to Catch me First." :P
Last edited by Ninja Skunk on 07 Mar 2009, 03:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Critique Compendium #1: A Sly Raccoon

Post by Novil » 06 Mar 2009, 12:17

I am not particularly happy that part of the joke of the first strip is a reference to a not really well-known video game. But I wanted to tell the story how Sandra met Woo and to show the rascally part of Woo’s character. It was also the first or second idea for a Sandra and Woo strip I ever had, so I didn’t want to change it later.
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