What Did I Learn?

weekly webcomic reviews by Delos

(this is a repost)

Stardrop by Mark Oakley is the story of a galactic princess named Ashelle who is self-exiled to the Earth. She must find out how to live here among us Earthlings and yet her past continues to chase her. Ashelle cannot escape herself or her responsibilities no matter how hard she tries. That sounds like a pretty weighty story, and it is, but Stardrop is not a standard, run of the mill science fiction action story.

The art consists of black and white linework (as you can see on the left) along with judicious use of screen tones. One thing about screen tones on the computer screen is that they don’t remain the same when the images are resized. They get moire effects which produce other tones OR they get garbled by the pixel combining resizing process. Stardrop is the one case I’ve ever seen where does not detract but actually adds something special to the work.

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for black and white screen toned comics from way back to the original TMNT comics. In Stardrop, it’s very subtle and you might not ever notice it unless you’ve had to try to fix screentone work. It gives the impression of both texture and the essence of color. There are many instances where a few pixels of white insinuate that there are background details just out of focus. One of my favorite things about art in general is those little “happy accidents,” as the late Bob Ross always crooned about when he painted. When Stardrop finally sees print, as I’m sure it will someday, I’ll be able to enjoy the actual art with proper screentones as well.

I am also a big fan of experiencing a story for myself, so I don’t talk about details that would ruin the story for you. One neat thing about Stardrop is that all the characters say what they are thinking. Right now, I can hear you saying “What?” to yourself – probably out loud. I know, I know. “That’s what people do. They say what they are thinking. That’s what they do in comics. THEY HAVE THOUGHT BALLOONS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”

Okay, okay, I know. You don’t have to yell. Let me explain why I’m stressing this aspect of the comic. Stardrop’s characters all say what they are thinking with both an emotional and language component. You know not only what they are thinking but also how they feel – without using thought balloons. The characters are talkative without being heavy handed or intruding. You get to experience the things they talk about with them as they talk about it. That’s some great dialogue work – it lets you wander through the world of the story.

With that, Stardrop makes you forget that you’re reading a constructed story. There are times when a new person shows up or characters start talking about something that happened off camera. It might give a slight pause the first time you notice it but after that you just follow along because you know that Stardrop will explain itself in a page or two. In the meantime, you’re getting other explanations or little hints of later things to come. I especially hope to see the ‘shopping’ thing come to fruition, if I can use a veiled reference to not give it too much overt attention.

As of this writing, Stardrop is on episode forty nine and there’s a lot of story left to go. It has moments of drama and lightheartedness but it is satisfyingly deep. And don’t let that scare you off – it just makes you want to see how things are going to work out for Ashelle and the rest of the cast. That depth makes it a solid piece of science fiction work, in my book.

Extra info: The first two comics are done in color and comics two through four break the fourth wall and includes another project by the artist. By comic five, the comic proceeds normally and -sadly- I’m not sure how often it updates.

What did I learn?

Good art is only improved by texture and color. It can be further improved on by emotional, information packed dialogue. This lets you show depth of your little world while offering foreshadowing and expository information. Let’s hope Stardrop updates again soon.


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