1. The main character who doesnt appear or isnt defined in the first five pages. And I mean at all. I mean like in the first 20 pages you meet 8 characters and have no idea whose court youre supposed to be in (except that guy with the fire behind him is probably the bad guy.) Seriously, folks, a protagonist is where you should start. Not the world, not the ebul threatening the good guys, not a massive expo-dump about how the world works. A hero. Give us a hero and have him do something interesting and nice in the first five pages, and I swear to cow you will have a stronger beginning to your story than 90% of the comics here on DA.
2. The handful of characters all at once with no distinguishing features. Gah! I just ... I dont even know where to begin with this one. Most of the time, characters have no silhouette, and depend on garish color schemes to differentiate from each other. So this means that even from a design perspective you cant even tell them apart. And then you get a name, but no actions that define that character as the funny guy or the jerk with a heart of gold. Most of the time, comics are populated by a bland cadre of blandly heroic sorts who arent different from each other, but were supposed to care because theyre on the good side. Small wonder villains are so popular; theyre the only ones who ever get actions defining their character!
3. Omniscient characters. Just ... omniscience in general. I really hate knowing what every character is thinking. Not just one character, mind you. EVERYONE. The bad guys, the heroes, the random passerby. Omniscient narration is so freaking hard to pull off even in a novel, and in comics it just becomes grating beyond all measure. I often think its treated as a cop-out; that instead of the art showing what a characters intent is, we just get a thought bubble. Actions speak louder than words, people. Dont use words to make up for something youre not doing artistically when youre working in a VISUAL MEDIUM. A picture is worth a thousand words, remember? Youre already over your word limit!
4. Characters that ask expository questions. By this I mean characters stand around and, say, ask the villain why hes burning shit down, instead of, you know, kicking his ass. Usually so the audience gets spoon-fed the necessary exposition OR the characters can reveal their character through witty dialogue. Odds are, if I see some guy start kicking ass because someone has obviously rained on his parade, Ill stick with you. But man, I hate the dolts who stand around asking Why, obviously evil villain, why?
5. Characters trying to kill each other that fail miserably to kill each other. I dont know why this happens so much, but it does. Wolf who can kill a mook with a look fails to 1-hit KO the bad guy. Dragon grabs man in mouth and throws him instead of snapping spine, yadda yadda. You know exactly what Im talking about! Dont pretend like you dont!
6. Characters who spout unnecessary dialogue. You know, if you draw someone leaping in front of a wounded, defenseless person, you dont HAVE to add dialogue like Leave him alone! or No! Especially since that doesnt characterize, and is therefore a waste of time.
7. Characters with under-reactions or over-reactions that defy logic. I love it when theres a very super obvious evil biding its time, that everybody in the freaking comic knows about, while an extremely obvious villain gets up to something a five-year-old would know was no good, and yet when a bloodstained messenger rushes in, the only reaction is a mild Why, whatever could it be? And then when they break the news, its a WAAAAAAAT!? How could this have ever happened, we never could have possibly seen this coming! If only we hadnt put that one guy with narcolepsy on watch! Remorse, oh, remorse, care about us, reader! The levels on which this can blow your mind just continuously build. Oh, that evil? Psssh. Lets all go be sociopaths, guys! Rape their kids!
8. Characters that suffer from plot induced stupidity. Seeing this is like someone saying Im a really experienced, down to earth warrior, the equivalent of a SWAT-trained assassin. Now watch me fall down these stairs and spaz out about it like a hormonal teen! Villains get this, too, and it never fails to undercut how dangerous the situation is. Oh! Oh! Especially when no one gets hurt, or when no one IMPORTANT gets hurt.
9. Characters who act as narrators that come out of nowhere. I cant tell you the number of comics I see with all this crazy stuff that happens for pages, and then all of a sudden we get an opening line of narration. What the hell? Why? Whos talking? Whose story is this? Why did they wait so long to start talking? Explain, comic! EXPLAIN!
10. Characters who inhabit worlds of moral absolutism. We all get it. Evil wants to rape good and enslave its bastard children. We know, we know, WE KNOW. And if you cant offer anything more than that, dont expect too much. Because I will choose a character-driven story of moral relativism over the squeaky-clean lines of good guys/bad guys every time.
11. Characters with paws that have piercings or other trapping of human intervention. Two words: opposable thumbs. One question: Where the hell are they?
12. Characters without a script. Show me a comic without a script, and Ill show you a comic that will run for 15 pages, peter out, and then get revamped to tell the exact same pointless thing another way.
13. Characters without a doubt. They never second-guess themselves, suffer from low self-esteem, or think that maybe they could have done the wrong thing. Hell no! They are always right, even when theyre waist-deep in baby brains, because everything, the plot included, says theyre right.
14. Characters with an inter-species romance, or the result of one. I wonder if anyone ever considers the genetics of vampires and demons and dragons, considering that what largely defines a species is what it cant have fertile offspring with.
15. Characters within the lone badass archetype. Forgetting for a moment that this archetype is largely defined by operating outside society, and therefore not being dependent on any of its perks like running water, safety, or justice (and therefore would not be predisposed to constantly wangst about them), how many characters inhabit this archetype solely by being complete jerkfaces?
16. Characters who are doing the same thing on page 15 as they are on page 100. Its called growth, people. Character arcs, plot, rising action, call it whatever you like. But I would not sit and read a book about somebody doing nothing but fighting dragons and not learning to be a better person, so why do you expect me to read a comic about it? Because it has pictures? Pffft. Please.
17. Characters who believe in a prophecy. Remember that old guy who predicted the end of the world in May? If he was half as accurate as the prophets in comics, wed all be dead by now. Whether its a hero who believes hes the Chosen One (reluctantly or not) or characters that surround a hero because hes the Chosen One, Ive already slipped in my own vomit, thanks. Im off to find a more original story.
18. Characters whose heroics are their only defining features. Seriously, look at all the good guys out there and tell me one thing about them separate from their Hero status (kind, generous, a badass, etc.). There aint many.
19. Characters with so many accessories theyd get caught on the average bush. Long hair, rings on clothes, straps, buckles, anything that contributes to a porcupine look in shadow. And you're going to redraw this guy for pages and pages and pages? Riiiiiight. Final Fantasy can pull this off. You cant.
20. Young and beautiful instead of quirky and likable. Why is it no one writes grizzled old women ready to hit you with their rice pots? Id really like to know.
Listening to: Community Soundtrack - If I Die Before You
Reading: Mercedes Lackey
Watching: Horseland ... kill me.