“Movies With Robots!”
I read this comic called Movies With Robots! by Robert Sifuentez because the author linked me to it on a forum! I admit that I had looked at it prior to this and decided not to even read it, but after said linkage, I did for this review. It ended up being a pretty good read.
That suggests a problem. The product (the comic) is good, but something else is unappealing. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out what it is: the layout. Think of it like a product on the shelf on a store. A camera, for example. You’ve got Brand X cameras, which are shitty and fall apart after 12 pictures, and Brand Y cameras, which are extremely excellent. They cost the same and you have no prior knowledge of the brands, just that the two boxes are next to each other. The Brand X box is flashy and exciting and aesthetically pleasing with tons of positive comments and descriptions of features. The Brand Y box is completely plain without any real pictures or descriptions or extras or anything. Like I said, you have no prior knowledge of the quality of the product, you’re just comparing boxes. Which one do you choose?
Most people will probably be attracted to the exciting looking one. Boring layouts and bare minimums just do not fly on the internet (with the occasional notable exception, which only works for certain reasons). The fact that this is a non-narrative comic also boosts the need for extras. There’s no storyline for readers to get hooked onto, there will not be dramatic character changes or shocking revelations, so there is no suspense or anxiety to check back when it updates. This is why everything else has to be smooth and appealing, to not give the reader any barriers to coming back. Having a graphic title and then smaller buttons, or a sidebar, or something, to get the comic a little further up on the screen, would also be nice.
An explanatory page would also be extremely helpful. Why is Robert doing a photo comic? It’s probably either because he can’t draw or he just likes taking photos better, and the fact that it’s the same photos points to the “can’t draw” line of thought–not that there is anything wrong with this! But his motivation, explained, would be nice to hear. Since, as previously mentioned, none of the characters will likely undergo any development since it’s not that type of comic (nothing wrong with this either!), character bios would also be pretty nice. They’re kind of taboo in narratives because revealing information should be done in-story for them, but for this kind of comic, it is totally super. I’m not sure if we need the twitter and the facebook boxes on every page in the archive- the homepage and the about page is fine for that, but you want the archive pages to load as fast as possible (of course, the ad is acceptable, but that’s expected).
So I have a few problems with the layout and the lack of additional substance beyond the comic, yeah. I think even if it means skipping the comic for a couple days, making the site a nice thing to look at is a good idea. Newspaper cartoonists never have to worry about “webpages” and “layouts” in terms of their careers, they have a limited space and they fill it up with their comic and that’s all they have to do. The internet, however, is not a newspaper, and there are a million more things to concern yourself with that will break your otherwise quality comic if you don’t.
Onto the actual comic.
I like it! It’s about Robert, a clueless but imaginative nerdy type; his friend Jason, who appreciates the same types of things Robert does but also has social skills, and occasionally Miss Kittin, their other friend, who is an attractive female “just-a-friend”. The comic normally progresses with… well, this one sums it up.
…there you go.
Let’s start with the weaknesses. First, this formula is pretty funny! Usually! But when used for every other comic five days a week, it can start to get a little old. Reading through the archives, it seemed to get close to being worn out but never really quite got there, so I hope that Rob (can I call you Rob? I’m calling you Rob) can keep it up and introduce more variety. Sometimes the frames feel a little cramped, but I’m not recommending expanding the size of the comic or making the text any smaller; instead, just watch out for the layout of some of the more text-heavy strips I guess. The comic in general bears a lot of resemblence to Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North, which in some ways isn’t a bad thing–Dinosaur Comics rocks. But at times it gets a little too close; Robert at times sounds almost interchangable with T-Rex. Again, I’m not sure if this is innately bad, but at times, being a re-used art comic as well, it just feels a little too close.
That being said, I’m now imagining some kind of cross-over where Robert stomps around and Miss Kittin and Jason take the places of Dromiceiomimus and Utahraptor respectively. Hee hee!
Let’s get on to the good stuff, shall we? There’s certainly plenty good about this comic. It is fun and entertaining to read, and Robert’s personality is somewhat clear; Jason and Miss Kittin are very defined. This is probably because we project ourselves onto Robert, and see our friends in Jason and Miss Kittin. I’ve got a friend Dan who’s pretty much the same person as Jason, and another friend Becky who’s pretty similar to Miss Kittin. So whether or not it’s in the comic, I feel like I’ve got a good handle on them. (Did that make any sense? I might be crazy.)
The writing is what obviously holds this comic together, and I like it. The points come across very well.
The photographs are nice, though I must say I really wonder about what the full ones look like. And what city is behind Jason. And if Miss Kittin is actually someone the author knows or just a photo from the internet. I did want to mention that varying up the framing, as in, getting closer to the characters, REALLY helps. Adding a split-frame to squeeze more in there is also fun on occasion. And the rare times when other pictures are used, such as girls or an emo picture, I always laugh.
Movies With Robots! is a good webcomic. I may not read it every day, but I’ll enjoy coming back every week or two and reading through it. I hope the rest of the site will someday match the quality of the comic itself!