Part II: "Earthsong"
(As seen at
What happens when you combine anime with Dungeons and
Dragons, girl the fuck out of it, throw in a dash of Gargoyles,
and add in the same style of "originality" seen in every other
webmanga out there? Well, you get Crystal Yates' Earthsong! And
it'll have you singing, alright! Singing that song Adam Sandler
sang in the Wedding Singer (second time I referenced that movie,
folks)! You know the one...
"I WANT TO DIII~IIIE! PUT A BULLET IN MY HEEE~EEE~EEE~EEEAD!"
Fantasy webmanga can arguably be the worst of the lot. There's
always an extra spark of the geeky in the fantasy ones that even
other geeks can't stand. Like D&D fanatics at an anime
convention. While the comic does show glimmers of originality,
it's the kind of glimmer that doesn't really increase the value
of the comic. Kinda like seeing chunks of food you don't
remember eating in your vomit; it's different, but it's still
Okay, so there's this gray chick who ends up in a magical world and
doesn't know how she got there. Normally I'd attribute this to
alcohol, but this is magical, so that's out. She ends up
meeting a variety of obvious good guys, fighting against obvious
bad guys. Oh yeah, the characters in this comic are some of the
most aesthetically one-sided designs I've ever seen. See,
there's Earthsong (whose name is ridiculously nonsensical
considering the context of the comic's story), the good planet
spirit chick, and Beluosus (who's name apparently means "full of
monsters" in some probably-made-up language. Coincidentally, I'd
call most of this comic "Belushit". Infer from that what you
will), the evil planet spirit guy. Their respective designs are
so one-dimensional you'd think that you've been sucked back into
the days of He-Man and Skeletor.
Which one do YOU think is the
Even the character traits of the two are so transparent it's almost
insulting. There's nothing more to Earthsong other than her
being a good, benevolent force, and there's nothing to Beluosus
other than being dark and evil. If Cowboy Bebop taught us
anything about good guys, it's that you should never be able to
describe a character in one sentence, and if One Piece taught us
anything about bad guys, it's that you can put some subtlety to
their cruelty, and make them 100x cooler and more evil
than any graduate of the Snidely Whiplash School of Blatant
So anyway, the gray chick joins this group called Haven's Guard
(the good guys, in case the name throws you off), and they give
her the name Willow, just to up the comic's "fruity fantasy"
quota. The group contains a token Japanese samurai chick with a
Japanese name, plus a cast of characters that seemed like they
were either named by a drunk J.R.R. Tolkien or a drunker H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, yeah,
and two gargoyle-ish characters who look so much like they were
pulled from the Gargoyles cartoon show, it's borderline
plagiarism. I can't recall, but I'm willing to bet money that
they do the wing-cape thing from that show, or that they will do it
at some point.
So, as expected, this cliché group of heroes fights against Belusuos' group of anti-heroes, the Mandragoras, which makes no
fucking sense as a name if you know what a Mandragora is, or
what it means (they're either plants that're kinda shaped like
people, or they hurt cattle... Except there isn't any cattle
involved in this comic... Maybe they all scream when you yank
their heads...). If this merry band shows us anything, it's that
Yates is completely content with writing off her villains,
putting about as much effort into their conception as a man does
holding in a fart in the car when he's got a courtesy sniff
handy. And just in case we were forgetting that Earthsong is a
webmanga, Yates also threw in an angsty, waif-boy vampire
to sulk up the joint.
Oh, and some characters have the tendency to be
backwards-androgynous. Seriously, unless you can see her tits,
you can't tell Tengu is a chick.
The story is basic at best, trite on average. Now that I've
given you the characters, I'm willing to bet you can accurately
predict the majority of the comic's storyline. Oh, and there's
also some plot device in the form of these things called
soulstones, which is so mind-numbingly convoluted that it's best
I didn't go over that, since it took the comic MULTIPLE PAGES OF
PURE, DIALOG-FREE EXPOSITION TO EXPLAIN THAT SHIT! And that
brings us to another major problem with the comic: Yates has
absolutely no concept whatsoever of subtle exposition. The comic
dumps every bit of information regarding a certain subject on
the reader in the form of many, many paragraphs. Earthsong
shifts from comic to essay on the fly and without warning. It
got to the point where I had to skip chunks of the comic because
I just couldn't take the shit—and I've read entire X-Men comics,
for god's sake! There really is no excusing this; it's poor
storytelling any way you slice it.
Plus, the wishy-washy dialogue REALLY doesn't make that crap any easier
to read. Not only that, the comic is chock full of Deus
ex Machina (just look at how Beluosus is beaten in the 'Genesis'
chapter), and stiff dialogue being exchanged by characters with
stock personalities. It's not a pretty sight, and it really is
painful to read.
What's worse, characters overreact like a sunnuva bitch. Willow
throws a hissy fit because Token Japanese Girl and Earthsong are
talking about her, screaming "IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME",
except that what they were talking about was hardly negative
enough for that kind of reaction, making Willow's tirade seem
like the result of a bad PMS episode. And Earthsong and Token's
overly somber, funeral-esque responses make the viewer feel like
they're reading some shitty soap-opera script, and that any
minute, one of them will huff, quickly turn away, and launch
into some violin-accompanied monologue. And don't get me started
on her "I don't belong" scene, with the crying and the looking
away crap. I laughed, she cried, it was like some twisted movie
review. Tristam, the emo vampire, emotes like someone imitating
Calculon from Futurama, and the chapter that primarily has him
and Willow chatting it out (chapter 4: Lament), is so
melodramatic it's, literally and absolutely, hysterical. I
laughed my ass off!
Yates does have a concept of personally stylizing her art, as well as
rudimentary knowledge of proportioning, which is good. However,
she has serious issues with perspectives. You won't find any
dynamic angles here, and action shots are awkward at best. While
some of the more recent standalone pictures are well done, the
pages look rushed, all in all. I'm sure someone will try and
justify this with excuses of deadlines, but try and remember
that professional artists have deadlines, too. Kentarou Miura
has deadlines, and have you seen Berserk?! Holy shit son, that's no
As for Earthsong, little effort seems to have gone
into details such as clothing, and backgrounds. The art really
takes a hit during close-ups; something anime copycats always
seem to fail at. They get so focused in their formula for style
that when the time comes to blow up an image, they have nothing
to add (and any half-decent artist knows that you need to add
more detail than usual on a close-up). This is evident, for
example, in one of the newest redrawn pages, which features a
close-up of the medusa-with-cornrows girl. She's drawn with the
same level of detail as she would be were she half that size.
That's a big no-no.
Really, the best art you'll see on that site is Yates'
self-portrait (which I suspect of being prettied-up, as is the
style of most anime artists who draw themselves). It's evident
that Yates does have potential to develop an anime-influenced
style all her own, with practice, and I could really see her
fine-tuning these problems with a bit of work, but as long as
she clings to the copycat-anime stigma, her work is only going
to stagnate. Really, I must give the devil his due; Yates has
the potential to be a professional-quality artist.
Brooding male jailbait? Check.
Dialogue that looks like it came
from a daytime soap opera script? Check.
Self-inflicted head wound?
If only someone would stop her from using those fucking mock-anime
reactions! It's enough to make a man go on a murderous rampage,
carving giant sweat drops into people's heads. And if you hear
about someone doing that on the news, KEEP QUIET, ASSHOLE! The
cops ain't yo' friends, I'S YOUR FRIEND!
Of course, all compliments go strictly to character design.
Yates seems to have forgotten that you can DRAW backgrounds!
That's right, just like characters! It's an amazing practice
that's been around longer than most people think! Even the
amazing Japanese, with their anime and their actual
genuine manga, do this! It gets very annoying to see
every backdrop in the comic done with an airbrush. And it looks
damn awkward to have characters drawn in lineart on backgrounds
made in Photoshop. A backdrop is one thing, but when they're
standing on, or interacting with, backgrounds that weren't drawn
with them, it looks awful.
...And the cover to episode 4 looks like SHIT!
Yates, herself, doesn't have much wrong with her to speak of. She hasn't pulled any
major stunts, and the most there is to speak of her is her work.
However, like TwoKinds, the fact that something this amateurish
was picked up to be published professionally bugs the
ever-loving shit out of me. The fact that this thing may sit on
the same shelf as great artists such as Jim Lee, Pat Spaziante,
Todd MacFarlane, Akira Toriyama, Kentarou Miura, Eiichiro Oda,
etc, just doesn't seem right. Simply because there are people
numb-minded enough to lap up this lukewarm shit, Yates gets a
shortcut to share a shelf with those greats?!
Don't get me
wrong, I'm not bashing the system of published-when-popular. Far
from it, I think it's a great way for GOOD artists to get out
there. What I'm pissed about is the people; anime-whoring masses
retarded enough to give unfunny pet names to arbitrary objects
that last three pages that somehow buy this shit as quality, AND
the fuckheads at Seven Seas, who couldn't find a good property
to put money behind if they were spoon-fed it! These people have
signed on so many terrible, terrible "manga" I cannot comprehend
how they stay in business! Are people buying these pieces of
shit?! Are people putting out actual legal tender that they
acquired one way or another so that they can waste it on these
moronic franchises?! So they can OWN printed copies of them!?
This blows my fucking mind! First these people lap up shit like
Fullmetal Alchemist, and try to tell me it's anything other than
horse-piss, now THIS!?
G'ah, I'm getting worked up. But hell, can you blame me?!
It's a pretty bad sign when you
can picture a comic's dialogue being overacted
by Jon Lovitz, and working as a
Aside from her god-awful taste in everything (see the "Me,
Myself, & I" section), I really don't have anything against
Yates personally. She's just your typical run-of-the-mill
fangirl with her own comic. I do, however, think she should
really sit down, forget any of the ego masturbation her fans are
giving her, and work on her art style. Oh, and maybe DRAW MORE
THAN JUST PEOPLE! If Berserk taught me anything, it's that a
person can draw a background a million times better than
Photoshop ever could.
Also, knock off the fucking super-deformed bullshit.
Earthsong isn't really outstandingly bad, but rather an archetype of a
base, fantasy webmanga sorely lacking in any real creativity. It
FEELS amateur. It reeks of fanmade. There's so much lukewarm
content that it averages out to frozen bullshit. Nothing
here is interesting; there isn't a single good idea or fresh
concept; this is the truest definition of trite. You see,
Dictionary.com defines trite as "Lacking power to evoke interest
through overuse or repetition; hackneyed". This describes
Earthsong to a ridiculous level of detail. The only real drop of
originality, the soulstone crap, was better left unused, and
most of the character designs are so uninteresting and
derivative they practically insult the intelligence of the
All in all, Earthsong is a template for everything you shouldn't
do when making a webmanga/webcomic, plain and simple. Although
I'd like to see what Yates can do with some major improvement, I
hope it's in something other than Earthsong.
Alex's AFTER Thoughts
Earthsong!? It should be Earth Song! God, why the hell do
webcomic authors do that!? You can't think of a decent title, so
you just pick two words randomly and combo them into one new
word? "Hey everybody, come read my awesome new webcomic, uh...
Lampdesk! No, wait, Treewindow! Err, Speakerphone! Oops, hold
on, that last one already exists..."
Its lame-ass title aside, I really don't see what this comic
has going for it. Cody seems to think that 'Lady Yates' there
has potential as a professional artist if she changes her
approach a bit, but to be honest, I think the closest she'll
ever get to pro status in the real world is painting unicorns
and marijuana leaves on the side of neo-hippie vans. Or maybe
she'll become one of those people you always see with stands at
the county fair who airbrushes abstract pictures of wolves and
planets onto t-shirts, and makes a living solely by appealing to
the sympathies of middle-class families who buy her stuff out of
pity and then throw it away as soon as they get home.
No, I think she's probably better off continuing to pander to
people on the internet who have no taste. Preteen girls and
people who think FernGully is the greatest cinematic achievement
in history might not be the most glamorous fanbase to have, but
at least it's an unfailingly loyal one. After all, if your
audience can call themselves fans of a poorly-drawn melodrama
depicting an anorexic goth chick and an overemotional clone of
Leonardo DiCaprio as they battle against an effeminate Protoss
look-alike, then it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be able to
pull whatever inane shit you want with your comic and the
simpletons that fell in love with your work to begin with will
eat it up like starving dogs.
I can only dream of what it must be like to have such an easily
delighted fanbase... If this site appealed to the same kind of
people who adore Earthsong, these last four paragraphs I've
written would probably be enough to cause my inbox to be filled
with so much elated fanmail that my computer would explode from
a massive memory overload. And if Earthsong's zero-detail art
style is indicative of the fans' collective "less is more"
mentality, then it's a safe bet people would be kicking down
Cody's front door at all hours in hopes of getting his autograph
in exchange for blowjobs had he summarized his entire review in
one line that read: "Earthsong sucks."
'Till next time!