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Before the Beginning

Banes at 12:00AM, Nov. 3, 2016

One of the great things about the original Star Wars movies was the strong sense of a grand, adventurous, and terrible history before the movie started. So much is hinted at through Obi Wan Kenobi about the Jedi Knights, Anakin Skywalker, great friendships, laser swords, and terrible war and loss.

That stuff captured my imagination so much, back in the day. And one of my favorite parts of the original movie is how much stuff is going on with Alec Guiness' face in all of his scenes. The guy was an incredible actor. I don't know how much of the history was given to him other than what he says in the script…I suspect not much.

The small smile he gives to Darth Vader during their duel as Luke and friends make their escape and Kenobi allows himself to be cut down is so compelling. There's so much going on there. Again, an amazing actor. When the actual history was eventually revealed in the prequels, well…it was…

okay, Banes, we get it! You didn't like the prequels! Move ON! Live your life!!

Okay, okay. Sorry.

The point is supposed to be the power of history in a story. Stuff we never see, but is hinted at.

Breaking Bad had it, too. We are eventually given a couple flashbacks of a younger, happier Walter White, but how he left his promising career and lost his way is either only hinted at or told from Walt's bitter point of view (and that show was sophisticated enough that one character's memory/pov on their own past is not objective - just like in real life).

I really, really love stories that begin with a history behind them. A history that doesn't have to be spelled out completely.

In my own comic, Typical Strange, I took pains to create a bit of history. Nothing too elaborate, but enough to make me feel good about it. I knew the store had a previous manager who left the store and hated the place, and that Penelope had had some unusual adventures before returning to her brother and friends.

When the story begins, there was stuff we didn't see. And those elements have come back to effect the characters in ways that were quite satisfying (to me, at least). I have dropped some subtle hints about the characters' families and stuff here and there, too, and am excited to see those things come to fruition, too.

What do you think? Is establishing a reality “before the beginning” important in your comics? Do you appreciate that sort of thing and miss it when it's not there?




KimLuster at 6:42AM, Nov. 4, 2016

Well thank you, Bravo! I'd pondered doing a sort of 'prologue' at the stories completion, but I likely won't now :D

bravo1102 at 11:35AM, Nov. 3, 2016

And not a lot of extraneous trivia. The Godstrain is a good example of how you should handle backstory.

bravo1102 at 11:34AM, Nov. 3, 2016

@Kimluster: the thing is you have really given the audience alot of backstory and shown all the personal history that has been pertinent to the story.

KimLuster at 7:46AM, Nov. 3, 2016

Even more amazing considering Alec Guinness allegedly hated the part...! As for the concept, I agree, fully! An implied grand history can make a current story that much more compelling!! Stephen King's Dark Tower was like that. The first three books anyway... Hints at Roland's past, his lost friends, victories, betrayals and falls... The 4th book (Wizard and Glass), while a great story, filled in TOO MUCH history and backstory (to me, anyway), and the series lost much of the cloudy wonder... With my story, the Godstrain, I've sometimes wondered if I should show more aspects of Kimber Lee's life before the 'The Experiments', but I've hesitated... for all the reasons delineated here!

Ozoneocean at 5:17AM, Nov. 3, 2016

We've said before but I'll reiterate it here: The original Star Wars worked well because there WAS no earlier story and there wasn't supposed to be. The text crawl wasn't a wordy intro to some thought out earlier story, rather it was just a retro fun technique to drop you right into the MIDDLE of an ongoing story. ALL the later things influenced by starwars including clones of the stories, comics, or anything that used a text crawl all pretty much misunderstood the use of it and instead used them to give you a laborious, unnecessary intro into the world of the story. NEVER EVER fucking do that unless your story IS actual history and you NEED to give the reader real historical background on what is taking place, because NO ONE cares about your made up world history!!! Not till they have become invested in it, which they are not in the beginning.

Ozoneocean at 5:09AM, Nov. 3, 2016

Unspoken or hinted history is an excellent technique because you let the audience connect the dots themselves and it will be so much greater, more interesting, and make way more sense to them than any detailed crap you can come up with. If you've designed that history yourself pretty well then you can hint at it in a realistic way that seems sensible and fits together well (and NEVER spell it out!!!).

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