Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

In medias res?
CharleyHorse at 4:32PM, May 5, 2009
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I want to begin my next story series in mid action, or In medias res, and then gradually fill in necessary background through flash backs. I'm not sure how to accomplish this task, however.

Here is the scenario: A sailor goes to sea to be a deckhand on a crabbing boat that is crabbing in the incredibly dangerous Bearing Straits Sea region. During his time at sea he has all the expected adventures that anyone learning such a trade might encounter. I have in mind starting the first page with the protagonist on deck in high state seas during a gale and deliberately flinging himself overboard with a hand line in order to effect the rescue of a fellow seaman who just got swept over the side.

Question: Would it work to split up the ensuing flashback scenarios so that we see how he came to sign on with the Pepper Pot and what he went through while learning to fit in as a crew member and while learning the skill sets involved in being a deckhand on a crabber intermixed with current scenes of him in freezing waters struggling to save the life of a crew member who had up til then been making the protagonist's life a living hell?

It all seems reasonable to me and I believe that it should work without confusing readers if I can update the unfolding story fairly frequently.

So, does it seem plausible or am I getting ready to introduce myself to a world of hurt as a cartoonist and story teller?

Next Question: I perceive framing flash back panels in a different color to help differentiate them from scenes dealing with current activities. Yes? No?
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
Phillby at 4:55PM, May 5, 2009
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This sounds like it would work very well.

As for how hard it would be to follow, the panel borders thing is tried and tested. Don't worry too much about confusing your readers early on, if people still have trouble once you've established a pattern of flashback/present/flasback/present then you'll have a problem.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
CharleyHorse at 4:59PM, May 5, 2009
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Thanks Phillby, I have a correction to make though; since I intend to keep this all black and white I think the flash back panels or page will need to have a wavy shape to them to distinguish them from current events material.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
Phillby at 5:04PM, May 5, 2009
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If I was you I'd use white gutters for the flashbacks and black gutters for the current events.

Then again, if the story's set in space black gutters might not be viable.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
Kristen Gudsnuk at 8:08PM, May 5, 2009
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CharleyHorse
I have in mind starting the first page with the protagonist on deck in high state seas during a gale and deliberately flinging himself overboard with a hand line in order to effect the rescue of a fellow seaman who just got swept over the side.

Question: Would it work to split up the ensuing flashback scenarios so that we see how he came to sign on with the Pepper Pot and what he went through while learning to fit in as a crew member and while learning the skill sets involved in being a deckhand on a crabber intermixed with current scenes of him in freezing waters struggling to save the life of a crew member who had up til then been making the protagonist's life a living hell?

Next Question: I perceive framing flash back panels in a different color to help differentiate them from scenes dealing with current activities. Yes? No?

Well, actually that's kind of a cliche way to start something– it's something we see all the time: the ‘good guy’ selflessly jumps overboard during a storm to save his fellow man (I can even think of an example off the top of my head: Pocahontas. It's like, how they introduce John Smith!) And having the guy he's saving be the mc's rival/bully is also a little cliche. It might seem like you're trying too hard to convince readers that they should root for him. I'm just telling you before you do it, so you can have it in mind.

I personally think that integrated flashbacks *can* work, but in this situation there's a lot more at stake if the readers know off the bat that the guy that the protagonist is saving had been making his life ‘a living hell.’

It would be more interesting if instead of all that, you had the MC save the antagonist, and then once the antagonist was back on board, he gave the MC the cold shoulder– like, “I didn't need your help.” Or it'd be cooler if the MC was like, “screw him, I'm not gonna save that jerk” and lets him drown, or lets another sailor save him : ).

Having flashbacks in the beginning makes it not-so-much in media res, because you're like, overlaying the past WITH the present. I think it sounds like it *could* be cool, but it could be very confusing too (especially if you're just going to differentiate the flashbacks by outline-colors). There's a lot to be said for old-fashioned storytelling.

Sorry, I take creative writing classes and so I do a lot of critiquing… hehhh.

But if you do decide to approach it like this, I think it could still be interesting; oh, regarding flashbacks, I've seen comics where they make the outside of the page black for flashbacks– like the gutter area– maybe that would help? Or drawing the panels' boxes differently?
PS: ‘Bering strait’ not Bearing…
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:22PM
CharleyHorse at 6:51AM, May 6, 2009
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Thanks for the input Kristen Gudsnuk! You definitely gave me items to mull over. I am not, by the way, overly concerned about opening an event with cliches in cartooning since it is a medium of expression that very nearly cries out for that treatment during the set up. It is, as you pointed out, in the resolution to a situation wherein the cartoonist should strive for a fresh approach.

I was thinking, for instance, after the successful rescue in which the protagonist physically suffers far more than the foil, the rescued foil votes NOT to award his rescuer full crew shares in the ship's take out of simple vindictive spite – or rather out of racism since it will be brought home after the rescue that the protagonist very definitely is not remotely human in nature. Something along those lines.

Again, thank you for the very useful input. It's much appreciated.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM

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