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Marie and The Adventurer’s League

Steppe Into The Ring

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76 – A change in norms

Look, this is about 2,000 words, but I’m making a big decision about the comic, and feel like I need to explain it, but I have a TL;Dr at the bottom.

Well, it’s been a year, and I’ve been making a comic. We’ve gone through some really rough patches. A weird Webtoon phase, an even weirder “not Webtoon but still really tiny phase.” We’ve had multi-font, multi-case, I found out I was color blind, and had an astigmatism. We tried about 30 – 40 different fonts, the art has improved massively, and I’ve been ecstatic making. I found a passion for a hobby that I really love in a way I didn’t think was possible.

When I first started Marie and The Adventurer’s League, I would have said it’s about 7 feet of twisted steel and sex appeal killing monsters, kissing girls, and kicking ass. 2 or 3 months later, I would have said it was about coping with grief, and found family. Then I explored the characters more, and I realized it was more about the people we choose to surround ourselves with, and how opening up lets those people in, but if you look at the comic… I dunno, coming up to the 1-year anniversary, I re-read the whole thing. In a single night. (Which feels real bad, by the way, when summing up a year’s worth of work.)

In some ways, I think I really succeeded; I introduced Ben gradually, starting with his hyper competence, (at least as Marie describes it,) moving onto the awkward affectations of someone imitating a fatherly type, then showing why he is an outcast and can’t fit in with society. I let Taylor’s past come through via monologuing, of course (caused by a huge adjustment that needed to made from being a writer, to being a comic writer,) and I wrote one page that was just a fucking short essay on Marie’s thoughts, morality, and what she believes. Marie offering a kid a dirty crack pipe in a back alley goes pretty far to establish her character, though the negatives of this drug use really weren’t ever explored. I made sure to keep the parallels apparent, vis-à-vis Marie showing the best of what she thought of Ben and how she acted with Taylor.

 

The black and white flashback comics are a great idea, because slowly I started to get less tired of making the comics. I got quicker, and I improved, and when I improved, I got quicker. Someone who helps me a lot with my art warns me that I need to make sure I’m learning the right way, or else I just learn how to make the same mistakes, faster. You can kind of see that as my style develops. That there are parts I’m failing hard at. Because I trace all of my art from 3D models, I don’t have what’s called contour lines when drawing cloth, and the internal structure. This makes it look kind of blobby and formless. I get around that a lot of the time with the more painterly art by drawing naked people with grid lines on their bodies, and then when I shade I follow those contour lines. It makes some really great images, as long as no-one is wearing clothes. You may notice everyone in my comic wears lots of clothes, lots of different clothes. I can churn out a four panel comic, in about four hours, maybe a 6 panel in 7ish, but I’m just making the same mistakes, faster.

Then I added Spinnelope to the story, mostly on a whim of being kind of bummed and not wanting to write a story about being kind of bummed. So in a snap decision that took all of 5 minutes, I slapped together a hot spider lady, gave her some mind reading and pushed her immediately at my main character. I was tired of Marie being a loner. It was time for some romance, damn it. Except that’s not really romance, I just kind of skipped over a lot of the fun parts because in that instant I wanted something. It’s because I wasn’t really planning ahead. By going from vote to vote, I had basically agreed that I just needed a timeline, and I’d fill it in as I go. I started using it as a crutch and an excuse for lazier writing. Not having a real thought about what I’m doing now, or a real plan for what I’m doing later, because at any point I can just punt the ball to the audience, “Not my problem, you decide.” I kept running into that. At the umpteenth hour, shrug your shoulders and let someone else make up the story. Same mistakes, only faster.

For a while I’d use 3D models for the clothes as well, purchasing an outfit here, a hairstyle there, until I had an entire wardrobe I could bust out at any time. That said, I do this comic because I love art, and I love drawing, and I love telling stories, so I have to push myself to get better, and that means some shitty in between periods. I also spend so much of my free time making fun of other comics. I’ll tear apart Lore Olympus, or The Legacy of Dominic Deegan, or whatever that comic Diaz makes that comes out with like half a page once every 3 months. I’m twice as critical of my own work, but if someone digs up a bunch of posts of me being a catty bitch, I want to at least be arguing from a point where I can say, “Yeah, but I’m doing it too, and I’m not phoning it in.”

From the very beginning, I thought that fate, and choices were super important, I’d think long and hard about the choices, at least in the beginning, the various effects they’d have, and when I would and more importantly would not, give the audience a say in the matter. The characters are, ultimately, who they are. No amount of internal screaming would stop Marie from lopping off her arm for a chance to achieve her goals, and we made that very clear, twice, each time by literally lopping off an arm, to achieve her goals. Quickly, though, it changed. When I gave a choice in the story, it was, in some part, to get a large chunk of exposition out of the way. I could justify putting huge wads of text in there, and calling it a “weakness of the genre.” Getting lazy. Same mistakes, only faster.

The latest update of Marie and the Adventurer’s League really stuck in my craw, I had these cool characters, I was introducing a mechanic I had set up and explained earlier in the comic, but I felt stressed about not having a vote soon enough, and when I didn’t feel like making a comic, I phoned it in, came up with some bullshit so that I could do a huge text dump and skip what could have been a very interesting conversation. I made the same mistake I had in the beginning of the comic, in the middle of the comic, and now at the latest update. Over and over, using the choose your own adventure part as a cop out of deciding or figuring out what was a complicated piece that needed a little more time in the oven.

The worst thing was, I had all that text, and I wasn’t even using it to its full ability. I could have explored a bit of the internal monologues the characters have, but I really did nothing with the choices, it was always a brief blurb of text that wasn’t very clear on the consequences, and things that seemed to be mostly set dressing for the story. They were just largely excuses to take a break. Hit the plot beats as quickly as possible, throw up a text box and boom done.

The weirdest part of this is that many people were already pointing this stuff out, but I just thought I knew better, or that the gimmick was fun, but in reality I just wanted to keep the crutch.

I wanted to keep Marie and The Adventurer’s League a Quest or a CYOA or whatever you call it on your particular forums, but I’m using that as a crutch to produce sub-par art.

If you scrolled past all that, here’s your too long didn’t read.

I’m killing off the voting aspect of Marie and the Adventurer’s League, I was really using it in a subpar way to tell my story, and I was rushing things to hit a once a month dead line that no-one imposed on me. If the forums hosting this has a place for user fiction, I’m going to have the threads moved there, otherwise you’ll have to find it on my website. For SufficientVeloctiy, that means user fiction and SomethingAwful, uh, I’m going to hope they let me keep this in CYOA, because GBS scares me ever since they scared off that Christmas guy. Or maybe a BYOB thread. The rest will have to catch it on my website, or on SufficientVelocity, or if you have $10 on SomethingAwful.