Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Comic Ends

Okay, I said I was going to do a Newspaper Comic thing, but something important happened that I felt needed posting.

Parallel Dementia ended this week.  The comic had been on hiatus for a few months now, so the ending doesn't come as a surprise.  However, Ben Fleuter, the artist, was nice enough to write about why he was ending it.

I started reading Parallel Dementia about a year after it started, and I never stopped.  I was engrossed with it to a point, and it will likely remain THE example of comic evolution in future reviews and articles.

So what should I make of this comic in the end?  Was it good?  Yes, I think so.  But I think Ben's own analysis is worth exploring.

Over four years ago I started Parallel Dementia on a whim as a means of self-improvement and, being in my final years of high school and painfully bored, keeping myself occupied. During those years I made significant advancements in my art and writing, as anyone can see by looking back in the archives.

He's right about, the improvement is incredible.  The art especially.  It's rare to see a comic so completely change as PD did over it's short life.  The only one that comes close is College Roomies from Hell, whose early days are so far from it's current look as to be almost unrecognizable.

More than anything, I learned from repetition and a self-imposed deadline, but I also learned from my mistakes, and oh, they were many. Parallel Dementia is meant to be a huge sprawling epic, but when I started out even I had no answers to most of the questions I raised, simply throwing out threads for my future self to tie up later. The story meandered in places because of this, or returned to status quo, as sometimes I simply had no idea what to do next. It's like a big plot hole I can pave over but never actually fix.

This is true, but at the same time, individual story elements actually did pretty well.  Ben was good at specific set pieces throughout the life time of the comic, and some of the small story arcs were incredible. Chapter 10 stands out most for me for being the most compact and well functioning episode of the comic.  It nearly did everything perfect, and the ending, with an animated and voiced video, brought everything together in a spectacular fashion.

But there was no overall arc to the comic.  His plan for a "sprawling epic" was undermined by not actually be a plan, just an idea and it fell through in the end.  One could see the cracks and holes easily, especially whenever he tried to focus on the main cast.  Fall, a potentially tragic character never actually got any traction in the story and while she was still interesting, she wasn't perfect.  I'd actually say the stories that DIDN'T involve Fall did better than the ones that did.
In addition, I look back at old pages and see something I don't like anymore. I can be proud of PD as something that helped me improve and realize my goals as an artist, but I can't be proud of it as something to represent my work.
I strongly disagree with this sentiment. I think it represents him at his best:  Someone who learns.  The early stuff certainly isn't great, but it gave hints at what he was capable of, and eventually he managed to bring all the pieces together and create a great comic.

This is incredibly hard for me, as it's seriously been a huge part of my life for four years. I had fears that if I could not finish this project I'd not trust myself to finish the next, and that readers would be hesitant to transfer to whatever followed thinking I'd eventually abandon it, too. More than anything I felt, strangely, that I had betrayed the fictional characters that make up PD's cast. Likely I just feel I let down the aspects of myself I put into them. However, what pain I feel for ending this comic is overshadowed by optimism for projects in the future, and a comforting realization that I don't need to be shackled to a webcomic as I finish my schooling.
The hardest part about any creative effort is deciding when it's time to stop.  It's easier to keep going, even if you're not happy with it, or if it's not going the way you want because at least you're DOING it.  That's an excuse for not actually looking to explore new things and to change gears.  It's a rut, the easy path, and getting away from it is hard and difficult, but likely to be more worthwhile in the end.

I expect a lot of you saw this coming or won't really mind, but I also expect there to be those that won't understand. If writing me hatemail or emails trying to change my mind make you feel better, go ahead, but my foot is down and I won't lift it so don't expect a response.
I didn't strictly expect it to happen, but the signs were there.  I'm sad it's gone, but I won't force it to continue for my own selfish reasons.  I will remember PD as a comic that showed the great potential of the artist, while not strictly be great in and of itself.  While I would love for it to go on, I get that Ben had to move on and I will wait for his next project which I'm sure will top this attempt.

I wish Ben good luck and encourage you to read Parallel Dementia, it is worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. Ben Fleuter here. Interesting and pretty fun to see someone dissect my words. I actually feel I learned something here - I never really thought about WHAT made the story as a whole meander but I think you helped hit it with the smaller stories trumping the larger ones (chapter 10 was also my favorite). Something to certainly keep in mind for the next webcomic.

    Thanks for the review.