Love Harbor

Comic: Love Harbor
Creator: aqua the hedgie and over thirty other co-authors
Genre: Romance, Sprite
Schedule: irregular
Rating: 1.5

A good webcomic is the product of many different components. Writing, art, characters, and formatting are all important factors and can make or break a comic, but one thing inexperienced authors sometimes overlook is the target audience. Many of them mistakenly create something that doesn't appeal to anyone but the person writing it, most often because of blatant wish-fulfillment or exceedingly narrow interests. With thirty-four different authors and counting, Love Harbor is an extreme case of this.

The only saving grace of this webcomic is the design of the actual site. The blue color scheme, while simplistic, is pleasing to look at and the layout is easy to follow. There's even a link to a chat room right in the main navigation bar. The only thing that seems odd about the website is the URL says shipcentral, while the banner says Love Harbor. All things considered, Ship Central is a more fitting name, because shipping is the central--and only--topic.

What is shipping? Essentially, it's rooting for a fictional couple to have a romantic relationship. A lot of fans do this as they become more attached to the characters, but there's no such appeal here. The only prompt is for authors to ship their own characters and the pages mainly consist of said characters, most of whom are based off the Sonic the Hedgehog series, hugging, kissing, or blushing at each other. Relationships in fiction are a complicated theme that demands finesse and genuineness. Here, everyone is just "together" with no actual writing or romance to back it up. In fact, there is no plot whatsoever. Sometimes, there are references to other couples besides the authors' made-up characters, but these are mostly based on internet memes. On rare occasions, there will be pages with a setup and conclusion, but they're rare and with no basis other than shipping, even these few pages aren't very interesting.

Most of the art is sprite-based. Sprite comics are somewhat contested as a genre, with both fans and haters to spare. A common complaint is the use of recolored sprites, which Love Harbor uses constantly. Changing the color palette and adding minor tweaks to a sprite from an existing video game is, if not outright plagiarism, very close to it. It shows a complete disregard for artistic integrity and in this case, it's doubly odd because these are supposed to be original characters. There are a few authors who make their own sprites or illustrate the pages themselves, but even then, the art is lackluster. Visually, there's just nothing to offer except to the most hopelessly die-hard Sonic the Hedgehog fans. Unsurprisingly, most of the creators are precisely that.

Over thirty authors working on one webcomic is an oddity unto itself, if it can be considered a comic at all. At its root, Love Harbor is more of a gallery/chat room not unlike a number of DeviantArt groups out there. The comic might be more interesting if it featured beautiful original art, but given the weak premise, it would ultimately be a case of style over substance. The fact still remains that everything here exists solely to appeal to the authors and gratify their fixation on shipping characters almost nobody else knows or cares about. Some of the entries may reference couples from existing webcomics with an actual plot, but readers who might be fans of those couples would do better to just read the comic they're featured in.

It is said too many cooks spoil the broth. In this case, Love Harbor isn't so much a broth as it is a shot glass of tepid water. Not one of these authors has put any thought into entertaining an audience. All they've done is make a fun little club for themselves, to the exclusion of everybody else.


  1. I took a class on law and ethics in IT, and I can tell you that being non-profit doesn't constitute Fair Use. While not doing work for a profit helps your case if you get taken to court, Fair Use has to use a portion of the work for educational or commentary on the original. Sprite edits (and fancharacters in general) are considered derivative work, which isn't protected by Fair Use. However, most companies have better things to do than scour the internet to issue DCMA takedowns to thirteen-year olds' fanart.

    1. I agree about the last sentence. Legal issues with sprite comics is a topic that comes up now and then, but, ironically, the only webcomics I know of that have gotten in legal trouble are hand-drawn ones.