Comic Non-Sans: From Joke-a-Day to Metaplot

A friend and I were having a conversation — and by “conversation” I here mean me going off on an English major diatribe — concerning a rather brainscrewy show of which we are both rather fond.  There was a discussion on a forum relating to said show, where viewers complained that the ending wasn’t “right” because the writers admitted that in the first two or three seasons, they hadn’t decided on it or plotted it out.  Thus, things we’d noticed in hindsight that seemed like utterly brilliant foreshadowing suddenly “didn’t count” because they weren’t intentional.

Course, we both came to the agreement (myself more violently than my friend — like I said, English major) that intent and pre-planning don’t really make a damn bit, provided the story is good and the whole thing comes together in the end.  Even neglecting the whole Dark Tower/“Princess Tutu” mentality of the writer as being some poor sod along for the ride while the characters do their own thing, a good story is a good story and a clever ending is a clever ending. And the ability to go back over one’s own work and find loose ends that need tying up is just as admirable as having had a flow chart from Day One.

It’s an interesting point, in a fandom used to ongoing comics rather than daily strips.  At several panels, and in several online discussions, I’ve seen/heard the topic raised concerning the popularity of one versus the other. But I’ve never heard anyone talk about one jumping to the other.

In my own experience, it was a matter of it just wanting to happen and having no one there to stop me.  Yes, there are serialized newspaper comics, but there you’re required to keep to a certain number of panels for the sake of formatting. In webcomics, at least for the most part, you’re your own boss (both a positive and a negative depending on what day it is and what sort of mood you’re in).  If you wake up one morning and decide that you’re tired of a four-panel horizontal do and want to go to a vertical 4koma style, you don’t have to run it past anyone — at the absolute most, you might have to adjust your site layout.  Similarly, if you suddenly decide that next Monday you’re going to upload a full-page eight-panel whatsit launching into an epic storyline, you won’t enrage any editors.  Worst-case scenario, you rattle any fans who can’t handle change.

So webcomics really do lend themselves to the format change, and thus in their own way encourage it — because if your mind goes off in that direction, the ability (and thus the temptation) is there.  Yes, I know, it’s one of the oldest statements in the book, the “freedom” webcomickers have as compared to newspaper comickers, but it’s a freedom that goes beyond F-bombs and content.  You’ve got the ability to muck about when you’re just starting (be it in general or on a new project) and make your mind up on things while still being visible.  And assuming your fanbase isn’t absolutely silent, you can get some practical feedback.

Of course, a lot of that feedback may well be that you’ve gotten too serious and webcomics are meant to be funny.  But something tells me that’s another article for another day.

Posted on October 12, 2010 at 00:04 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: