The webcomics blog about webcomics

Windows Of A Creepy Soul

Neil Gaiman gave a really nice talk a couple weeks ago at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. He’s funny, he’s engaging, the guy from Wired who moderated was good at his job (and brought free copies of the Snakes On A Plane issue for everybody). Neil spoke about lots of things, but what really stuck in my head was his description of being on the set for Beowulf (starring the motion-captures of Angelina Jolie and Crispin Glover). He spoke of what he hopes the film will look like when everything’s rendered in a year or two. Then he paused, and asked:

“How many of you here saw The Polar Express? Or saw a clip of it? Okay, now put your hands down if the eyes didn’t disturb you.”

Every hand in the room stayed up. He used that as an intro to talk about how for Beowulf, the actors essentially have brainwave-recording skullcaps on, which are measuring the muscle impulses that shift their eyes around, so that things won’t be so disturbing in this movie. I bring all this up because there have been a number of attempts to do webcomics with hyper-realistic 3D character models, and so far it’s all an interesting experiment. Each new iteration makes the character models a bit less stiff and more organic … but the eyes … brrrr.

Ben Adams is the latest to take a whack at 3D webcomics; he’s opted for an autobiographical story called Misfit’s Journey, the first chapter of which was recently released. If you don’t take a light hand to the story, autobiographical comics can quickly become an exercise in navel-gazing, but Adams channels enough Harvey Pekar that the writing isn’t the problem. He’s written comics before and contributed to an anthology by Joe Zabel (who’s been responsible for several 3D comics and has worked on several iterations of American Splendor, so there’s a nice circle closed) and knows how to keep a story moving. It’s a bit early to see how fully it will develop, but he seems like a guy willing to explore his flaws without glossing over them, so at the very least you get an honest look inside his head.

Ben has a few photos of himself on the site, so you can compare his actual self to the rendered version and they’re pretty close. But no matter how engaging the story, no matter how well Ben and Joe and other 3D artists create their models … the eyes. Everybody that does 3D comics should buy a beer for the first person to get the eyes to be not-disturbing.

I kept having problems with the navigation when I tried to read this comic.

Really though, the best cartoonists are the ones who manage to make the eyes look alive, whether they are drawing using a computer or drawing by hand.

The problem with these eyes is that they have no expression at all. They look as if they’re staring into the dead space. As if they belonged to mannequin, dolls, or catatonic/dead people.

Besides, the position is wrong. Take page 13, were two people are supposedly looking at the camera/narrator guy. And yet the two caracters are looking different ways.

The highlights are a problem. An eye that has no lubrication and doesn’t look liquid -that is, missing the highlights- look glazed. Only dead or brain dead people have glazed eyes. Check page 24 to see what I’m talking about… compare the lady in the third panel with the guy in the last panel.


You nailed it… the eyes.

Everytime I’m linked to these type of comics, which I think has only been Joe Zabel’s before this one, the art just looks bland to me or like a video game from the late 90s. And I always say it “seems hollow”

It’s a shame, because I know for a fact that a ton of time goes into these efforts– at least the writing has a bit of soul to it.

I find it hilarious that Ben has clearly rendered his face to be thinner and more angular in the comic than in real life. I mean, it’s only natural, but it takes balls to say “Yeah, that’s what I really look like.”, and then put a picture of your real face right next to it :)

Hey everyone! —

Thanks for the compliments and the honest feedback! There’s been a lot of interest in this story!

Many people have said very kind things about the art, but I’m still in the process of finessing my style. I’ve saved a copy of this thread and will look into improving the eyes on my characters.

The eyes in Joe Zabel’s comics have never really bothered me. I’m somewhat critical of some of his earlier 3d art, but I thought he did a fantastic job with The Ice Queen.

I’m going to be interacting more with various online 3d art communities in the months to come to get more feedback from other 3d artists who have been “down in the trenches” working with these programs.

For those who are interested, has quite a bit of information on 3d comics that have been done over the years.

Anyone having problems reading with the navigation should email me at ben (at) benadamsarts (dot) com. I’m guessing that upgrading to the newest Macromedia Flash Player will solve most problems.

In case anyone isn’t clear on this, the story took place in 1989, and I looked different then than I do now. Perhaps I’ll create a photo gallery with pictures of me throughout the years at some point. (More pictures of me are at and

One of these days, someone will make 3D webcomics without using Poser. Characters will have skin that doesn’t look lacquered and cancerous. They’ll stand in natural poses. The lighting will be natural and soft, and objects will have a TEXTURE to them, as opposed to glossy magazine finishes.

I can’t wait. Until then, the medium largely fails.

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