Webcomics in Print: My Poorly Drawn Life and Templar, Arizona

Earlier this year, I was given the chance to check out two webcomic adaptations. Although their creators are talented, I found myself thinking that these two webcomics are better online, for very different reasons. (In neither case did it involve color vs. black-and-white, the usual stumbling block in bringing webcomics to print. Complimentary copies for this review were provided by the publishers.)

My Poorly Drawn Life

My Poorly Drawn Life is a diary/sketchbook comic by Tania del Rio. It’s the visual equivalent of a blog, with typical topics including taking care of pets, interacting with husband Will, fan interests, and the daily life of a freelancer working from home.

Volume 1 is over 400 pages, two years’ worth, for $25 (which includes an original cover sketch). That’s an awfully big chunk of random events to have in print. Read weekly, or whenever a new installment goes up, it feels like sharing with a friend to hear “oh, the dog got sick in the middle of the night and I had to clean it up.” But all in one chunk, it seems like a testament to trivia. I found myself wondering whether all this really needed to be on paper.

Of course, you don’t have to read it all at once. If you have the self-discipline, you can just read a few at a time, and it wouldn’t seem so redundantly fixated on small things. The art is sketchy, as suits the intent of the strip to quickly capture everyday events, and the lettering is quirky. It takes some practice to read it easily.

Templar, Arizona

Templar, Arizona

Templar, Arizona is by Spike. The first volume, The Great Outdoors, is 112 pages (including sketches and notes) for $15 (although there are slightly imperfect copies available at a significant discount).

It’s described as “slice-of-life drama and comedy in a semi-alternate Arizona.” I’m lifting the tagline because, while the art is lovely and the characters intriguing (as established mostly through dialogue), I have almost no idea what’s going on with them or the rules of the world they live in. This is very much a character-driven project, with very little plot. In this volume, two characters go to a bar and talk about what they want in life. Then they go meet someone else.

This slim book is only a first chapter. When world-building is so important, instead of buying the print editions, it makes more sense to explore the archives online, especially since that’s where the About the Comic information is posted. In that section, Spike talks about how she’s been working on this since she was a child and how she works without a script. She’s lived with the characters a long time, and so she knows a lot more about them than we do. I don’t feel like she’s sharing enough of that on the page for me to feel entirely comfortable joining in. I’d guess that fans of Finder would enjoy it, although I find Carla Speed McNeill’s work more understandable, due to its stronger plotlines.


5 Responses to “Webcomics in Print: My Poorly Drawn Life and Templar, Arizona”

  1. Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast Says:

    [...] Draper Carlson reviews two print versions of popular webcomics, My Poorly Drawn Life and Templar, Arizona, at Comics Worth Reading, and concludes that both work better as [...]

  2. Paul Sizer Says:

    I’ve come to the same conclusion as you with TEMPLAR, ARIZONA; I love the dialogue, and having talked with Spike, I love the concepts and the world-building that she’s doing, but I do feel like I have a hard time with the pacing, given that things are unfolding plotwise REALLY slowly, and it’s been hard for me to attach myself to the storylines with the pace I’ve been given events in the strip.

    If the content wasn’t so good, I’d dismiss the strip in a heartbeat, but I do wonder whether less dedicated readers might lose the train of storytelling on the strip given how it moves. As I said elsewhere, my main gripe with most webcomics is pacing issues in the storytelling, and as so much of what Spike does is genius, I hate seeing the storytelling mechanics get in the way of what she’s creating.

  3. Hsifeng Says:

    Paul Sizer Says: “If the content wasn’t so good, I’d dismiss the strip in a heartbeat, but I do wonder whether less dedicated readers might lose the train of storytelling on the strip given how it moves.”

    Personally, I did lose the train of storytelling despite the good content and take it out of my webcomics-to-check-regularly list, literally (the Opera 9.6 browser lets one open a whole folder of bookmarks at once :) ).

  4. Johanna Says:

    Paul, that’s reassuring to hear, that I’m not the only one having this issue. I was afraid you were going to tell me I was missing something! :)

  5. Paul Sizer Says:

    Make no mistake; I think Spike is one of the most gifted creators working in comics today. As with any highly placed work, the small details become nagging as something approaches greatness. TEMPLAR kicks ass, but it IS a challenging read.

    Because of the “open-end” format of webcomics, I’ve seen many creators fall into the trap of not feeling they needed to pace their strips at a rate that would keep readers interest.

    Just because you don’t have the “32 pages of story” requirement attached to a comic book doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep action beats that the comic medium works best with. Looking at how manga paces itself is the first step, given that manga reads at a different pace than most American comics. Webcomics SHOULD push the boundaries of how we interpret storytelling, but they need to be entertaining first and give the reader rewards for sticking with a complex concept build session.

    Your comparison to Carla’s work was a good point; Carla is shifting CONTINENTS of content in her stories, with arcs that would make Chris Claremont shiver in his X-boots. But Carla still knows how to keep you at the camp-fire, listening to her tales for a really long time. She knows when to wrap it up, and she knows when it needs to be stretched out and gone over with a fine tooth comb. With the story she’s telling, lack of such a strong storytelling discipline would crush FINDER under its own weight. More testament to Carla’s skill as a storyteller.

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