Sunday, December 07, 2008


The book Tricked by Alex Robinson is an exquisitely crafted piece of drama. Each character is crafted with a unique and interesting background and set to proceed down the tracks laid for them as they make their way inevitably to the final crash when they all meet. This little world is built with such detail that the tracks become quite clear. By the end, the only question in this reader's mind was would he take the "easy way" out when the final crash came.

It's taken me a while after reading it to figure out why exactly I didn't care for such a well crafted book. The characters do seem to be drawn each with specific differences to set them apart visually, but can you really fault the author for that? Was it the fact of a secondary target for the final "act of violence"? Perhaps a little, but this was certainly not all of it.

The trouble for me was that no one seems to change and grow. There is personal growth happening. As we meet her, one character has decided to find out who her father really is, but we meet her after she finds that he's not really dead and has traveled to the city to meet him. That's background to the character, the story does not follow this growth since it has already happened.

Perhaps the rock star who sees every woman as someone to hit on is growing. It could be, I suppose, but a whirlwind marriage doesn't really seem like much of a change. Seems more like a fling with legal consequences to me. Wait another three weeks, see if he's not cooling to his new wife and looking for another hot flash of fresh love. Nothing about it really seems lasting.

It's possible Robinson's just set it up too well. Everyone was simply too well motivated so that every turn seemed natural and each decision essentially already made. This left for me the sense that each path was simply being followed. The figures played out a disaster. Maybe some of them will learn and grow as a result, but that's in the future.

I want some sort of progress or learning, a challenge that is overcome. None of that happened, so at the end the story felt empty to me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Some 92 years ago

The poor newspaper reader of old, trained to read single stories in long columns probably didn't know what to think of the comics pages of the time. Still nicely aligned in columns with a picture above a paragraph, but the reader was expected to read across the page instead of down. No wonder they needed to put in numbers to tell the reader the order of the panels. It's interesting how little thought many cartoonists today put into how their layout is communicating the order of the panels when they get creative about layouts.

It was certainly a different medium around the turn of the last century, as seen in this (London) example. Still really an illustrated story rather than a comic. One can certainly be glad that the need to verbosely explain what is clearly drawn already has passed. However, I was particularly delighted by one of the strips in the linked post which seems to particularly work with the form of the even by today's sensibilities.

The comic that's caught my attention is Burglar Bertie (direct link to one of the two examples from above) which occupied the back of this sheet. Instead of stating what's in the picture, this one has been done in the form of a letter to the editor. It is a nice touch that gets in all the key words that make the images unambivalent to the reader of the day yet does not seem to insult the intelligence outright for the reader of today who thinks the picture didn't need so much explaining.