Before we begin, I need to address two things. This was first posted to my Tumblr in order to hopefully reach out to VivziePop. You can find it here. I commented on her Twitter poll, of whether she should rewrite the webcomic, some minor criticism to why she should do exactly that. This was an extension of that, as noted in the post below. The second thing is that I’m going to rename this series of posts from Literature Talk to Media Talk in order to comment on more than just books and literature. I may still use the Literature Talk title to comment on books and poems, but this title will be for everything else including tips for making a good story.
This one is addressed directly to Viv. I want to start this off by saying that I like the concept of Zoophobia as well as the art style. However, I’m not much of an artist, I’m more of a writer. So that is how I’m criticizing this. Also, Viv, this is a longer version of the tweets that I replied to you with here, here, and here. Please know that this is because I believe in your characters and world. I know you’ve been told everything in terms of criticism as well, and are probably sick to death of this, so please understand and read the entire post before launching criticism at my criticism. So rather than go and tell you about all the things that aren’t working for the comic, I’ll give you two models to use to inspire your creativity.
These two models are meant to address the main points where the comic doesn’t work from a story standpoint, these points being the characters and world. By characters, I mean the juggling of them, and by the world, I meant the consistency of it. The model for the characters is Boku No Hero Academia (or My Hero Academia), and for the world, it is Adventure Time. Please hear me out on this.
My Hero Academia has a lot of characters to juggle, and if you’re reading the manga, it’s still adding more. Yet, despite having to juggle all these characters, it still works. The reason behind this is because there is an overarching storyline to follow. The plot in My Hero Academia feels like it is going somewhere with all these characters, with stakes, risks, feelings, and an overarching sense of dread. It also shows enough of these characters to allow one to gain interest in them, but not enough that it feels like the creators are doting on them, which is what it feels like in Zoophobia. There also isn’t really much of anything plot wise happening to keep my interest. It has been stated that there is no main character in this comic and that Cameron, the first character introduced, is meant to be an audience surrogate. Well, the thing about audience surrogates are, they’re usually around to see and be a part of the main plot points. The thing about Cameron is, she hardly gets any screen time in later chapters to be that. So, with this being said, I think Zoophobia might benefit from having a main character, as it would add more structure and cohesiveness. Back to My Hero Academia, the main character is Deku, and his purpose is to provide a motivation, not just for the other characters, but for a plot. With him in the equation, we have an end goal, a reason for sticking around. Sure you could try to make a webcomic with a “slice of life” setting that relies solely on character interaction for the entertainment value, but we don’t get that kind of set up. In the beginning, you set it up so that we expect to follow Cameron. To make something like a slice of life character interactions, we may possibly have to start already in the Safe Haven with a good chunk of these characters introduced in the first chapter. I would also recommend switching between characters more, as when you focus on one group of characters within a single story arch, it almost seems as if you forget about the other characters as well.
Adventure Time, whether you love it or think it’s the most annoying thing, has changed how cartoons look and are within the past decade for, what I would like to think, the better. Many of the best cartoons you have seen in the last decade have had its creators either be bred from the staff of the show (*cough* *cough* Rebecca Sugar and Natasha Allegri *cough*) or had previous interactions with the creator (*cough* *cough* Alex Hirsch and J. G. Quintel *cough*). One of the best parts of the show is the world it gives. While it remains the animator’s wet dream due to how weird it can get, it still knows what it’s doing, as well as what it has done. One of the many strengths that AT’s world has is the ability to throw anything at you because that is how it set itself up. In the beginning, we are thrown into a world of candy people, zombies and science(ish), along with many other things that I don’t feel like typing out. This sets the precedent for the show that the world’s complete nonsense from the outside looking in, and anything can happen in it. However, while they throw a lot at you, they never forget what has already been thrown. This gives structure to the show’s world and makes what they throw at you come off more as world building rather than world breaking. Now, the reason I’m telling you this is because, while it is fine not to specify the rules of the world, it’s not okay to break the ones you have specified. For instance, how do Damian and the other demons manage to travel back and forth into the Safe Haven? How does this not weaken the “powerful magic” if Cameron can’t do the exact same thing? Is Hell within the Safe Haven? If not, why doesn’t it protect against demons? Why would Zachariah let Damian travel in and out of the Safe Haven if it would weaken the magic? It can’t be because he can allow the magic to give them a pass because many demons we see can go into it without a noticeable problem. These are some of the few questions that I find building up with this. I’m sure you have an explanation but we have yet to hear it. Also, is that woman going to be coming back into the story? You know the one I’m talking about. The one with, what I like to call, “evil eyes.” What was her purpose of sending Cameron to the Safe Haven? Back to AT, when it came to the Lich (the original “main villain”), after his original episodes, he was always in the background, usually as an easter egg. This shows us the writers haven’t yet forgotten about this character and that he is waiting and always watching. The woman, in the beginning, looked like she had a plan, so I’m thinking we should see a little of it. At least tell us if it’s failing or not. Remember the pieces you put on the board.
In the end, please don’t take this as an attack on you or your work personally. I’m just a firm believer of harsh criticism. I always think of criticism like cold medicine. You have Tylenol® and you have Robitussin® and while one doesn’t go down easy, it’s a lot more effective than the other. I’m talking about the Robitussin® of course. Either way, this was my silly opinion on this. Take this however which way you will. I can take your criticism. I would like you to do the same.