Creator/s: "Meleeman"
Run: 7/11-12/11

This creator's only 17, so I'll try to be a little nicer this time.

Website: Hey, it's that gray, white, and teal Smack Jeeves template I've probably seen in at least five of the webcomics I've reviewed already. Now might be a good time to start picking up some HTML skills.

It's nice that there's at least a cast page, although it'd better if it wasn't just a sloppy wall of text. It'd look a lot better with even just a basic table layout, and the creator could fix it up with a quick < div style="float:left;" >. I also suggest trimming Tim's description, as 350-plus words is kind of a lot for what should be just a general introduction.

The first page is awkwardly stuck in an "un-chaptered" section of the archive, and the filler page shouldn't be mixed in with the rest of the comic.

Lastly, when the comic gets back from its hiatus, the creator should try to update more frequently than he was doing. One page a week should be a fairly reasonable goal to shoot for.

Writing: Pacing's the main problem of FML and FTW, and the story flies by without making any real attempt to develop the characters or situations. The main character, Tim, is shown in the first panels of the comic as being a socially awkward, unconfident teenager, saying, "I have no one to take to the dance. I'm hopelessly screwed," but the comic dwells and iterates on this trait at the exclusion of anything more interesting. It's adorable and everything how Tim's nervous all the time and makes his silly manga faces, but the creator doesn't present the character holistically enough for the reader to care about what happens to him. The reader should be familiar with and attached to the protagonist before the creator throws him into dramatic, plot-heavy situations.

And that's the main character -- the other characters come across as just generic teenagers. Most offensively portrayed is Terah, who rushes to the bathroom to cut herself when she gets jealous of a more attractive girl, contemplating about Tim, "He was my only chance to not be alone." I can't tell much about Terah's personality at this point, and maybe she's really so emotionally vulnerable that she'll consider mutilating herself over a guy she just met two pages ago, but as a reader I can't say I'm invested in Terah's situation at all at this point, and this scene comes across as being needlessly pretentious. Having despondent and highly emotional scenes is fine, but a creator needs to develop their characters more before putting them in such serious situations.

Lastly, there are too many characters being tossed around for nine pages. So far, there's Tim, Foster, Dee, Terah, Naru, Caitlin, Seth, and a couple other characters whose names aren't mentioned. It'd be better if this opening section elaborated more on the personalities and relationships of just a few key characters.

Art: The style changes a lot over the nine pages, and it's clear the creator's still experimenting quite a bit. There's ink-on-paper, there's full-digital, there's part-ink, part-digital, there's color, there's grayscale, there's giant pages, and there's normal-sized pages. Fortunately the latest page probably looks the best, but it'd be a lot better for the comic if the creator picked one style and stuck with it.

Backgrounds are a big problem for this comic, and the creator consistently demonstrates poor judgment when it comes to details. The perspectives are way off, generally showing the characters as being way higher up than the characters in the background, as if they're looking down from the top of bleachers, and the more accurate perspectives tend to leave lots of open space, presenting an eerily vacant interior. The creator strangely doesn't include other people at or around the protagonists' table, even though every other table shown is packed. It almost seems like the characters have leprosy or something, and the rest of the people in the cafeteria are doing the best they can to stay away from them. And especially poorly done is this page, where the sixth panel shows the girls distanced from everyone else, and then in the eighth panel there's some people sitting right behind them.

The other issue with background detail is the lack of attention paid to objects. Only a couple times in the section is any character shown with an eating utensil, even though the chapter takes place during a meal. The main characters go from having full trays, to suddenly having empty trays, to suddenly having no trays, to suddenly having empty trays again. The bathroom scene doesn't have a roll of toilet paper in the stall. And aside from a couple people in the first panel, none of the characters have any backpacks, bags, or items with them, and the school doesn't show any lockers, so where's their stuff? The creator should be thinking about these details more when they're planning out the pages.

The character anatomy's somewhat decent, although the creator often use oversimplistic features, such as drawing half-circles for mouths and stumps for hands sometimes. His artwork would improve faster if he tried to draw more realistically. He also has a habit of overusing "talking head" panels, which get boring very quickly. The facial expressions need a lot of work as well, which includes not having the characters' eyes be fully open all the time.

Lastly, the creator should practice varying line-widths, use a better font, and switch to doing digital speech bubbles (unless he wants to try to improve his hand-lettering skills significantly).

Overall: FML and FTW obviously isn't a good webcomic, but the creator's young and has a lot of time still to experiment and make mistakes. At the very least he's mature enough to seek criticism and advice at this early stage of his artistic career, and that's certainly a positive sign. Probably the best thing this creator can do for now is just to try to keep a page-a-week schedule going, as that's a great way to get practice, stay motivated, and get feedback from an audience.


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