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The Art of Sprite Comics - Part 1: Annoying Semantics and Other Formalities

If you've gone back to read this article series from the beginning - assuming some hypothetical future scenario in which not only have I finished this series of long, rambling anecdotes - but you also plan on reading all of them, then I pity you. Not because I believe you'd be wasting your time, but because I tend to write things out of sequence. Not that you'd know from the timestamps on the article list on the Blogodome, but long stretches of this article were written concurrently with Part 4. The original version of this article was a little anemic, you see. I considered writing a separate article - "Part Zero: Excruciating Semantics and Associated Formalities," with a publication date of September 6th, 1998... But as I figure it, at best most people would just be confused, and at worst it would hurt my SEO. A lot of people probably wouldn't even click the article and get proper context re: why it would have an eccentric date, so it'd be a bit of a moot point. But since I'm here and I'm merging the contents of Part Zero with Part One, I may as well tell you: 9/6/98 was the day the internet was changed forever. It was the day Jay Resop, the enigmatic author of Neglected Mario Characters, published the first installment of "The EVIL-Luigi Story", a four part comic that would launch an entirely new medium of expression - a medium that would, over the course of the coming decade, become stretched to its breaking point. As the internet became utterly saturated with it, the practitioners of the medium cringed away from it out of fear of mockery, and it fell into obscurity as an art form before it could realize its full potential.

I am, of course, talking about Sprite Comics - and while the title of this article series should make this self-evident, it should also be somewhat telling that the first article in this series is dedicated almost entirely to semantics and formalities. I've found that in the last 10 some-odd years since Sprite Comics fell out of prominence, fewer and fewer people I've talked to actually know what sprite comics are. At least one person who asked me for advice knew what a sprite comic was, but had no idea how to make a comic. So before I start throwing advanced ideas at you, I want to go back to the beginning. Back to zero - back to 9/6/98. I want to make this article series accessible to everybody, even people who have no idea what a comic is. It's my hope that you can walk away from this series of articles better equipped to write and illustrate a sprite comic than before you started reading them.

You see, I've often assumed that most frequent users of the Internet know what a Sprite Comic is. At the very least, I've assumed most are familiar with the basic idea of dumb pixelly characters doing things on a terrible MS-Paint background - the most common stereotype. But Sprite Comics were always a very niche medium; even in their heyday, they were most common in the dark corners of message boards, where few simple wayfarers of the web dared to tread. Many of these forums have come and gone, but the few that persist still play host to Sprite Comics on occasion. Would that I could track down these places and the stories they've told - it's already a monumental task to find the sprite comics that existed outside the scope of web forums - be they on personal sites, blogs, comic hosting services or other such mediums.

Before we really get into the thick of things, I'd like to clarify that for the majority of this article and this article alone, I'm going to try as hard as possible to ignore how other people define the words I use here. If there's anything that will become clear to you as you read this article series from here on out, it's that the ever-changing nature of the English language has not been kind to comics, and it especially hasn't been kind to sprite comics or even sprites as a visual medium in general. I'll try to define the terms of the trade for you, but you have to bear in mind that when you discuss these terms with people, almost everyone will have heard at least one alternative definition, or a different way of saying the same thing. I can't categorize all of them in one place, but I'll try.

What is a comic?

Well said, Scott.

This might seem like a very silly question - the front page of this website is a comic, comics are plastered all over this website - But I could feasibly see somebody asking me this question. Granted, I don't realistically see somebody asking this question if they're over the age of, say... four, but let's be generous and give the hypothetical reader the benefit of the doubt.

Look, I won't pretend to be an expert on comics in general. I'd personally recommend you read Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud for a detailed rundown of what the medium actually is. Either buy his book or find a copy at your local illicit digital library - whatever works for you. Find it, read it, enjoy it. It's a good book, albeit a little behind the times. Seriously, go read it. I'll wait for you.

...You back? You done? Cool. Now allow me to give you several visual examples of a comic, flying entirely in defiance of the 200-someodd pages of lovingly written analysis of the meaning of "comic" you just consumed.

These are comics. Specifically, these are the first things that probably spring to mind when you think of comics, assuming you are not four years old and have a passing familiarity with them already beyond what Scott McCloud just told you in his excellent book. It's sequential art that conveys an idea, be it a dramatic story or a comedy or something else entirely, drawn using conventional methods. All of these comics are drawn, either on paper or through an image editing program, using centuries-old standards and practices. On this website, however, the pencil is evil. Forget every bias you presumably have about "hand-drawn" magically equating to "normal" or even "better," because Sprites are here to (hopefully) help you expand the boundaries you had previously set as the limit of Comics as a language. Oh, and speaking of...

What are Sprites?

This is a far less preposterous question. Most people think "sprite" and associate it with the soft drink distributed by the Coca-Cola company. Others might associate it with an obscure sub-form of fairies, or pixies - "sprites," which in and of itself is derived from the Latin spiritus ("spirit") via the French esprit. In the context of this article series and this website, very broadly speaking, sprites are 2D graphics. Specifically, they're 2D graphics that look quite a lot like the kind of mid-quality graphics you'd get on console and arcade video game systems between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s - sometimes alternatively referred to as "pixel art," and occasionally called "assets" when discussing the process of extracting them from their source games. As to why anybody thought it was a good idea to name these graphics after fairies, Gingerbread Man on the Through the Looking Glass Forums offers this explanation (Circa 2003):

Sprites are probably called sprites because of the fact that code monkeys are trippy little beasts who name things arcanely. A sprite is a graphic that can move within a larger graphic, and has its own set of rules and definitions that govern how it behaves and moves and what happens when it bumps into another sprite. Because of this sort of "little creature within the larger image" vibe, I'm sure they got called sprites due to some code monkey likening them to little pixies or elves or fairies or whatnot.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it until a better one comes along.

There's really no telling if this explanation is correct, and I don't presently have a better explanation for you. It's worth noting that this idea tracks nicely in a world where every installer on Windows is a "setup wizard" solely because the ARPANET-era programming environment was filled with computer experts who were referred to colloquially as "wizards," every thrice-cursed Linux API is a recursive backronym ("WINE Is Not an Emulator," etc.) and Steve Wilhite - the leader of the team behind the GIF file format - intentionally named it as a reference to JIF peanut butter even though most people I know don't pronounce it the way he intended.

In brief, then, these are sprites:

These are not sprites, though several websites will try to convince you otherwise. Do not believe their lies.

What is a sprite comic?

If you're one of the (seemingly) increasingly large number of people who have no idea what the hell a Sprite Comic is, I'd first like to know why you're here. Seriously, why? Did you think this was a site about video games? Because this isn't a site about video games. It's just... Adjacent to them. In any case, a Sprite Comic (putting it *very* simply) is a comic strip that uses 2D assets from old video games as the art. Too many people thought this was a great way to replace talent, and the whole concept got a bad rep.

If you'll permit me, I have a bit of a rant about stupid semantics. I told you, I would only ignore how other people define things for most of the article.

As a consequence of however many factors, Sprite Comics aren't as popular as they once were. An increasing hostility towards them combined with a general shift in attitude (and copyright laws) across the English-speaking web made for a rather difficult publishing environment. They still exist, but in nowhere near the same pervasive quantity. (Alternatively, the web just got bigger, and the number of people who actually made sprite comics didn't increase.) I can count the number of people who have written sprite comics that I have read, and who are still verifiably alive and active on the internet, on both hands. Of those people, only two or three of them are still actively making Sprite Comics. It's a dying art, if you could even call it an art.

It should be noted that this isn't purely a result of any sort of pessimism or cynicism on my behalf. If you look up "sprite comics" on a search engine of your choice today, the first few results will be encyclopedia articles followed by a swath of stale clickbait with such zinger titles as Actually Good Sprite Comics - A short List, Worthy Sprite Comics, The Long Gone Age of Sprite Comics, Will there ever be another great sprite comic? and my personal (least) favorite, Homestuck is My Favorite Sprite Comic.

All of these articles advance a shared narrative that Sprite Comics are a "thing of the past," and that there have only ever really been "between two and four sprite comics that were worth anyone's time." But that last article is indicative of a different issue that lies adjacent to the decline of Sprite Comics as a popular medium: that over time, people stopped agreeing on what a sprite comic actually is. The author tries to stretch the definition to its breaking point by assuring us that because Andrew Hussie was lazy and used a template for all of his characters, the comic is, in fact, a sprite comic and not a mixed-media pseudocomic that is primarily hand drawn.

Let's dissect this line of thinking. This is the absolute basest form of a Sprite Comic. It's the example image on Wikipedia's article, which means a dense bureaucracy of Wikimedia boffins had to look at this and agree that it is, in fact, the ur example of all sprite comics across the world. It is the closest we'll ever get to an international standard, so it's what I'll use as the basis. The characters are ripped directly from a video game or intentionally drawn in the style of a video game, meaning they're copywritten assets. Either a game company holds claim to whatever 30 year old abandonware they came from, or a litigious artist on the internet somewhere holds claim to whatever custom sprite sheet they came from. Most importantly, they're drawn in the emblematic pixellated style of late 20th century graphics processing, and their range of motion and emotion is limited due to their resolution. This is what "sprite" really is.

Now to maybe better emphasize the point I'm getting at, this is a snippet from a randomly sampled "sprite sheet" from a Wii game hosted at the Spriter's Resource... Except there are none of the aforementioned emblematic visual markers of what makes "true sprite." These are all just small drawings, approximately as clear as if you scanned them into your computer. These aren't sprites, they're 2D assets. Yes, this is the exact same sort of comparison I made earlier, sue me. You get the point - that same French Excellence is not there. This is not a wine I would endorse.

Now here's a random sampling from Homestuck. The comic's wiki classifies panels like this as "Hero Mode," or "action panels." These contrast with the simpler, more deformed style used by most panels in the earlier run of the comic. The majority of the strip from act 3 onwards uses this style, which is very definitively focused on unique, dynamic drawings. To say the comic is a sprite comic because it frequently rehashed assets is to call CTRL+ALT+DEL or VGCats or Dinosaur Comics or Dragon Tails sprite comics. It is lunacy.

I'll grant you, of course, that the Homestuck article is an extreme example, cited and mocked here to emphasize my point. Hussie's lack of aliasing on his art is what fooled Between Genesis Frogs into thinking it was worth applying the lofty label of "sprite comic" to, methinks, because if it were any other strip, the shoe wouldn't fit (not that it fits at all as it stands.) The central problem, I think, is that "sprite" in the context of 2D art has lost all meaning. While in the past it referred almost exclusively to late-20th century abandonware game assets and any art based heavily on the style thereof, now it's a catch-all umbrella term for any 2D asset that is mass-produced for the purpose of mass-reuse. Fucking 3D model textures are being lumped in with sprites now. People can't even agree on when a true Sprite Comic ends and a Pixel Art comic begins. Yes, there is a difference... Albeit a mild one. Pixel art comics rely on next to no pre-fabbed media and are drawn almost entirely by the author, typically in the style of a true sprite comic, but with far more visual dynamism. I'd almost be willing to concede Homestuck as a Pixel Art comic at minimum if it weren't for the fact that the most pixelated the strip gets 95% of the time is with its terrible MS-Paint outlines.

I propose, then, a new name for True Sprite Comics - one that embodies its stylistic roots in the limitations of mid/late 20th century graphics processing. As early as 1972, authorities in the image processing industry referred to pixels as "pels." This terminology has somewhat fallen out of popular use, but I say we bring it back. Now is the age of the "Pel Comic." The term fell out of popular use in the late 90s at best, and so shall it be used to refer to the exact stylistic time period we generally intend on evoking with True Sprite.

Or perhaps not. I'm the last holdout of a dying era - the only one left who still cares - so maybe changing the term itself won't ultimately matter. Maybe setting a timeframe for the definition of "true sprite" was a mistake. Because it's not just that they're evocative of art used by systems from 30 years ago at the minimum, that's somewhat beside the point. It's that they're at a low enough resolution threshold that you can't plainly look at them and say to yourself, "this is a drawing, it has outlines that were very clearly made with an actual pen."

Now, yes, there's obviously a lot of true spritework you can look at and compare with drawings because most of the time, that's just how sprites were made back in the day. They're low resolution replicas of drawings and animatics, and when they aren't that, they're a low resolution replica of a photo (a-la Mortal Kombat or any of its ripoffs) or a pre-rendered model (a-la Donkey Kong Country or Bionicle: Quest for the Toa.) The key here is that most of the time, the sprite outlines are so jagged with pixels, the human eye can typically see that a computer is rendering it. A proper drawing, on the other hand, is so smooth that you'd need to either squint or digitally enhance it to start seeing pixels. Modern 2D vector rendering takes this smoothness to an even higher level, but that's beyond the scope of this tirade.

While putting this article through the review process, a friend pointed out that actually setting a clear definition for true sprite is next to impossible. What we half-assedly understand as Sprite Art today is largely the collective result of decades of effort on behalf of the emulation and sprite ripping community to preserve the original ROMs of these early generation games and rip their visual assets, and as such we often overlook that the systems themselves would distort the art at the rendering level, so what was actually rendered by the console wasn't actually what was ultimately ripped. Generally speaking, this isn't an issue for sprite ripping purposes as the differences are next to none, but this distortion combined with the fact that most early consoles were built with CRT televisions and monitors in mind means that most early gamers likely didn't even notice the jagged pixelation half of the time, especially if their couch was, say, parked relatively far from the TV.

You might be able to see the pixels, you might not. It's likely you wouldn't see them from the other side of the room.

As a result, we're left with an entire generation of people who might not even agree with the "correct" definition of "True Sprite" on the basis of memory alone. This kind of gets into the matter of personal human perception being subjective, though I wasn't quite as willing to get into that can of worms with my friend because there's just no way to gauge any of it. Generally speaking it's probably a safe assumption that most people can tell when a sprite magnified to 200% has jagged outlines.

This is the curse of working with a medium so rooted in the video game subculture, I think. Video games are too new, and as such there's just no clear, organized consortium of standards for terminology and boundaries. Everything in the medium is constantly shifting, changing, innovating, leaping forwards and backwards. There's no consensus on whether or not it can truly be considered "art," and the concepts and ideas that orbit gaming all get tossed around the wind tunnel with reckless abandon. Ideas like "sprite" get pushed aside and rewritten as the hardware advances and the industry expands, but the smaller artistic movements that sprung up around the idea get left in the dust and languish in a haze of linguistic confusion because nobody cares.

Where do Sprites come from?

Well, in a crudely literal sense, sprites are drawn. They're a kind of crossroads between pointilism and abstract art - generally speaking, they inform the idea or shape of something in a limited space, using pixels that have either been individually placed or drawn in broad strokes and modified in post. In the context of this site and this article series, however, most sprites typically come from video games - the largest population of sprite graphics on the internet comes from screengrabs and ROM data rips of "retro" console games that have been emulated on a PC, but many other samples are ripped from "throwback" titles released in the current century on modern platforms or are drawn/edited by hand. There are a thousand and one tutorials that can tell you how to rip sprites better than I can, but if you're paying attention, you've probably picked up by now that many people have done this work for you.

Here's just a small baffler meal of sites that carry large archives of spritesheets:

The Spriter's Resource


And last but not least, proud site affiliate The SGXP

The primary caveat to using other people's ripped spritework instead of ripping your own is that there are minor licensing issues. It's generally expected that you'll be giving credit to these people somewhere - this can become problematic if the number of people you need to credit exceeds the single digits, though it isn't so problematic that you shouldn't use sprites, it just means you're going to need a dedicated space outside of your comic to list off names. You'll never have enough space to credit them all on the actual image.

Perhaps more pertinently, there will always be a set cap on what you can use. Until you learn to edit sprites or draw custom sprites, you'll be limited by what has already been ripped - and, while what's out there is quite enough to illustrate more than you'd think, you may find yourself writing a script and left wanting for more. Again, this doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue sprite comics - just understand: this is a limitation you'll eventually have to overcome if you want to illustrate better things.

Using custom spritework is also a giant effing mess. Since it's assumed you're just starting out, my personal advice is to avoid it until your stuff looks good enough that people will just ignore your transgressions against the sacred pact of artistic permissions because your own interpretation of the art is bangin'. Alternatively, you could hermetically seal yourself away from the sprite community for 15 years and work with as much custom shit as you want until you reach the same result, but this is less ideal.

...What? Actually ask for permission? Do you have any fucking clue how many people you'd need to track down and email? Are you out of your mind? Half of them are dead! Or in prison! Or imprisoned by the responsibilities of parenthood! Or dead in prison! It cannot be done! You're a madman! I - What? Oh, right, you're just starting out, you'd only be working with one sheet at a time, yeah true, but...

Wait, why am I arguing with you about this? Don't you have better questions to be asking me? Like...

How do I make a sprite comic?

This is a question with a many-fold answer, but since this article is solely about the basics, I'll try to keep things as simple as possible. First and foremost, you can't really do anything without a dedicated image editor. Most computers come packaged with a basic one - nearly all versions of Windows as of the time of this writing come bundled with Microsoft Paint, for example. Paint is extremely limited, however, so for the sake of this example we'll use GIMP, a free photoshop-esque program that comes packaged with many Linux distros and is available for download on Windows and Mac as well. It's free, it's universal to every modern platform, and it's fairly simple to use.

First and foremost, you should head on over to gimp.org and download the right version of the program for your system. This example uses OS X, but the user interface should be fairly universal.

After you've installed GIMP, turned it on and patiently waited for it to verify all of your fonts, you should see something vaguely like this. It can be overwhelming at a glance, but I can assure you - the added bells and whistles are worth it. You're offered much more creative control this way.

Go to the "file" drop down menu and click "New..." - in Mac and some versions of Linux, this menu is located at the top of the screen. In Windows, it's inside the GIMP window.

Specify the size of your new image. For the sake of the example, we'll go with 771x207 - there's no standard rule for comic image sizes, but you don't want them to be too wide. FTLFW tries to stay at a constant width of 1186 pixels, give or take, with unlimited room for vertical expansion.

Your workspace should now look something like this. The white space is the background layer. GIMP operates on a similar principle to Photoshop - any change made to the background layer is permanently bound to the default color. It's more annoying than it is helpful, so let's fix that.

Click the little file icon with the plus sign in the corner - this opens the "new layer" dialogue window. Do not confuse this with the folder with the plus sign in the middle, which is right next to this button. This creates a layer group, and layer groups are basically useless.

The new layer dialogue window is filled with bells and whistles designed to confuse you. Don't worry about them, you can dick with them when you know what they are. Just click "OK" in the lower right corner.

This will create a layer exactly the same size as your background layer. Unlike your background layer, however, this one is transparent - in other words, empty. By default, this is now your active layer - active layers are indicated by a dark gray highlight and a white outline surrounding the layer preview. You can click between these layers to switch which one is active - click between the eye and the layer preview, but not in the space where the lock will activate.

Switch to the background layer. As you can see, it's now set as your active layer.

<- Click this icon - it'll delete the active layer, in this case the background layer.

You should now have a workspace that looks something like this. This is where the magic happens.

You'll need sprite graphics, of course. If you're following along, your options are limitless. You could always get some sheets from the websites I've already linked to you, but the options are maybe a little overwhelming. For your sake, I'll narrow them down.

For the sake of the tutorial, download these images. If you feel confident in your creativity, you can substitute them for your own stuff - don't let me stop you. Hopefully you know how to download images off the internet - there was a whole meme about it just a few years ago.

Once you have your stuff downloaded, click "file" in GIMP and hit "Open." Navigate the Open File dialogue to wherever you saved your stuff.

Every file you open will be its own workspace. You can navigate between them via the panel at the top, which arranges your opened files into a sort of "deck." The active file is indicated by a lighter gray square and an "X" button, which will close the file when pressed. Navigate back to your new, blank file.

Select the Marquee tool - it's the rectangle surrounded by a dotted line.

Clicking and dragging within an empty space creates a selection - this is your bread and butter when working with GIMP. Get used to this tool and how it works. The squares in the corners help you adjust the boundaries of the selection.

Select the paint bucket tool. This will let you color in anything within the boundaries of a marquee selection.

The paint bucket tool will only fill in using the active color, which is indicated by the color in the upper left - in this case, black. Click the black square to change the active color.

You should be met with a screen similar to the image on the left. Clicking anywhere on the colored gradients should adjust the active color to what you'd like it to be. The color bar in "current" is what the active color will be when you click "OK," and the lines and arrows over the colors indicate the colors you're pointing to.

Make a few square-shaped marquee selections and fill them in with light blue. In this case, the aim is to make a three panel comic. Don't worry too much about the width between panels - the rule of thumb is to keep the width consistent between each panel, but this is just a quick tutorial - we can iron out these kinds of things later.

Make a few additional rectangular marquee selections on top of your light blue squares and fill them with a kind of dark green, as shown...

This is where the fun begins. Head over into the other files in your workspace, and begin the process of extracting poses for this rudimentary comic you're making.

Select the "Magic Wand" tool, shown here. This is a tetchy tool, but a powerful one - it'll try to automatically select all nearby similar colors when you click on them in an active layer.

So for example, in a sheet like this, you would remove the blue background - spritesheet designers usually put a vibrant background on sheets to ensure transparent sheets don't automatically get white backgrounds when being converted to a different file format.

After removing the background, make a marquee around the sprite you're attempting to select, ensuring no adjacent sprites in the sheet are selected by your marquee. Copy this part of the image "Ctrl+C" or by selecting Copy from the "Edit" dropdown menu, then return to the in-progress comic.

When you paste in anything in GIMP ("CTRL+V" or Paste with the "Edit" dropdown menu,) it'll create a "Floating Selection." I don't entirely understand what the point of this is, but you can turn it into a regular layer by pressing the new layer button - now highlighted in bright green, not to be confused with the anchor, also highlighted in bright green for seemingly no reason. Do not be confused by the anchor.

Now, you may have noticed both of the sprite sheets I've provided to you are only facing one direction. If you want both characters in the same scene, you'll probably want them to make eye contact.

Under the Layer menu, select "Transform>Flip Horizontally," as shown. As you can see, there are other directions you can flip a layer in - experiment with them if you're unfamiliar.

Flipping the example character horizontally should get you something similar to this.

Distribute each character equally across every panel, as shown.

Now we should get to drawing some dialogue. Change the active color to Black and activate the Pencil Tool, as seen on the left. Doing so will bring up the Pencil Preferences Menu below the tools on the left of your workspace - as seen in the middle. As seen on the right, click the white square next to the word "brush" to alter the type of brush you're using - for the purposes of this tutorial, use Block 03.

Click near the heads of your characters, then hold the SHIFT key. While holding down SHIFT, the pencil tool should highlight the cursor like this. Move your mouse in a diagonal line kinda like this, then click again.

If you've followed my haphazard directions correctly, you should get something kinda like this.

Last but certainly not least - adding text. Click the Capital "A" below the Pencil Tool, as shown here.

Clicking anywhere in the image will create a box that looks like this. You should be able to type within. The number next to "px" adjusts the text size - 62 is a little too high, maybe shoot for 12.

Write what you think is appropriate, and bingo presto! You've got a comic, albeit a rudimentary one. We can do better, though - a lot better.

Just with the knowledge I've given you here, you should be able to assemble something that looks vaguely like this - much more visually striking! Of course, visual dynamism is an art unto itself, and there's a great deal we'll have to cover before we've got you up and running and making your own high quality Sprite Comics.

Also, as a brief addendum to the tirade about semantics and clickbait from earlier... That section of the article was wriitten in 2019. Before COVID, before the war in Ukraine, before a lot of crazy stupid things that have happened in the world theater. Point being: it was a different time. Many internal and external factors have changed the way people operate within and without the internet. When merging this article with the draft of "part zero," out of curiosity, I searched for Sprite Comics again - and to my absolute delight, I wasn't met with a trove of stale clickbait!

The wiki articles were still there, of course, but the narrative seems to have shifted. Most results in and outside of Google were about people making and learning to make Sprite Comics actively in the current year, as opposed to dreary blog writers looking for something - anything - to fill a content hole while trawling the bottom of the digital ocean for ad cash. I was even in the results! Page one, result 31... Albeit under the wrong URL. I'm currently consulting the Google Search Console about that one, it's all very technical and frankly I'd bore you with it. Given all this... Is it still accurate for me to call myself "The Last Sprite Comic of the Modern Age?" I suppose not. I've known that for quite some time - but it is how I style myself. I may not be the last in a literal sense, but I feel I represent something that's perhaps hard to find. Else aside, if there's anything I've learned in my travels, it's that search engines love dooming - especially in the context of sprite comics. Style yourself as "the last," and you've all but guaranteed yourself a spot on Page One simply because you're using language similar to the terrible clickbait.

So what changed? I mean, aside from the world. Sure, society collapsed for a little bit - we've been slowly putting the pieces back together, though it's quite a lot like reassembling a house of cards, or a Jenga stack - we're just normalizing back to something that was already fundamentally broken. People went crazy during COVID, but they were already going crazy to begin with. What is it about sprite comics that made them attractive in this societal landscape? Is it that they represent an aesthetic that reminds people of a "simpler time?" Well, maybe, but no. I'd be *lying* if I told you that, and I'm not in the business of lies - chicanery and charlatanism, certainly, but never lies. That's the kind of cold take those Stale Clickbaits would've given you, and there's a reason I've cited them as truly abysmal examples of academic un-thought.

You see, the "sprite industry" as it's understood on the internet never really "went away." People who only see the internet as the first page of Google and whatever gets posted to their social media page will gladly write things off as "dead" because it simply isn't visible to them, but things are active and happening on the Web whether you're aware of it or not - often, whether you like it or not. This new wave of sprite art is a welcome resurgence, but it was made possible because the tools of the trade - sprite sheets, emulators, comic tutorials - have been continually updated and maintained by resources like TSR and SGXP. This is why archival is such an important undertaking; whether or not Sprite Comics continue to "exist as a relevant phenomenon" is irrelevant, it's like being concerned over whether or not people are still painting Frescoes in Italy. Somebody somewhere will always be painting a Fresco if they so desire, but it will be impossible for them to do so in the future if they aren't provided with the paint and the brushes.

You could say, in this sense, Sprite Comics "faked their own death." The best sprite comics are elaborate ruses, after all - designed in ever increasing complexity as to trick the reader, if even for a moment, into thinking what they're seeing isn't from an established and known video game - and what greater ruse is there than faking one's own death? Now, will Sprite Comics fake their own death in the future? Well... That's not my place to speculate, I'm not a shitty clickbait writer. Every art medium comes and goes in waves - I'm sure it will, but I'm equally sure it will come back again after a time.

Now then, if you're ready, head on to


Part 2: The Time/Effort Postulation