Sprite comics are webcomics that use computer sprites, often taken from video games, for significant portions of their artwork. There are also Animated sprite comics (called sprite cartoons) where each "strip" is a separate mini-movie, animated using technologies such as Flash.
The first sprite comic to gain widespread popularity was Bob and George, which played a substantial role in the sudden popularity of sprite comics. It is often mistakenly identified as the first sprite comic. The strip utilizes sprites from the Mega Man series of games, with most of the characters being taken directly from the games. Due to the popularity of the comic, many of its features have been frequently emulated by other sprite comics, and thus are often labeled as cliché. Such features include having extremely stupid characters, a character representing the author, and making fun of the strip itself.
Sprite comics frequently use characters from well-known games such as Sonic, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Mega Man, and Dragon Ball. Some sprite comics use sprites from several different games. In addition to or instead of video game sprites, some comics use original sprites created specifically for the comic.
Sprite comics have become very popular in large part due to the ease of creating a sprite comic, since minimal artistic skill is required. Sprites can easily be ripped from game ROMs using an emulator, or by using sprites from websites that collect sprites for public use. Comics can then be created using a simple image editor. Video game sprites are often designed to be animated, and thus often provide a wide variety of character poses, as well as being easily editable due to their simple design. Sprite comics also give the author the opportunity to parody the game from which the sprites are derived using the game's actual characters.
Quality Problems & Criticisms
Sprite comics enjoy popularity as an alternative comic style, because of the relative ease of creating a simple sprite comic. However this coupled with the low bar for aesthetics set by early and successful comics, many fans of this medium created their own spin offs. While some evolved beyond the framework that had been set by their predecessors a lot of comics were unsuccessful due to the stagnation of the gimmick.
A lot of the problems sprite comics have are shared with other amateur webcomics, but are exacerbated by the added problem of sprites requiring extra care to look good, due to their precise nature. Such problems, such as JPG artifacts, speech bubble placement and a lack of palette forethought can ruin a sprite comic far easier than a hand drawn webcomic. However, it is also true that there are a lot of source images dumped from video games that people use without editing which can also be grating due to the audience already being familiar with the sprites in question. It also damages suspension of belief when all the characters look the same bar a recolour.
There are also potential legal issues involved in using graphics from games which would be protected under copyright. However, the proprietary companies rarely, if ever, pursue legal actions against amateur cartoonists that use sprites taken from their games. Webcomic hosting services may have varying policies concerning sprite comics taken from existing games.
However some original sprite comics exist and make little if any use of copyrighted material.
Examples of popular existing sprite comics
- Will Strip for Games, 1UP.com
- Now you too can be a comics whiz (Wired Magazine) Article on the history of sprite comics