8-Bit Theater is a sprite comic created and launched by Brian Clevinger which was published in 1225 episodes from March 2, 2001 to June 1, 2010. One of the most popular web comic, it won the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for best fantasy comic in 2002. In its feature on gaming webcomics, 1UP.com described 8-Bit Theater as the sprite comic "that took the style to its fullest expression and greatest popularity." The comic is also part of the Create a Comic Project.
The plot of 8-Bit Theater is loosely based on that of the video game Final Fantasy, in which four adventurers, the Light Warriors, must save the world by defeating four powerful demons that represent the four elements, thus relighting four magical orbs tied to the same elements, and, finally, defeating the personification of evil, Chaos. However, while many of the original plot points and characters are present, the way they come about is often radically different. The Light Warriors themselves tend to cause far more harm than good on their travels and mostly have to be blackmailed, bribed, or threatened into accepting quests.
The comic is also not a serious epic; the protagonists and many of the supporting characters are based on and a parody of exaggerated role-playing game stereotypes to the point where many characters are actually named after their character classes, and much of the humor displayed in 8-Bit Theater is derived from the ineptitude of characters as well as from the interactions between four protagonists who are travelling together but don't actually like each other very much. The range of comedic devices 8-Bit Theater employs includes droll humor, running gag, word play, and slapstick, and another significant portion of the humor results from creating reader anticipation for dramatic moments which fail to come. Clevinger has stated that "[his] favorite comics are the ones where the joke is on the reader."
8-Bit Theater was originally intended to parody a variety of classic 8-bit video games, like Metroid or River City Ransom. The popularity of the Final Fantasy comic convinced Clevinger to abandon this idea, although 8-Bit Theater does contain occasional references to other video games as well as comic books, television shows and movies, such as thinly veiled superhero parodies Arachna-Dude and The Sulk.
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Official Site: Brian Cleaver
Links: 8 bit Theater Wiki Black Mage's Wiki 8 bit Theater