Friday, September 23, 2011

Culmination Events

Adventure comics, as I've stated before, are a series of short adventures a cast of comic characters undertake throughout the life span of the comic.  There's no path or goal for these adventures, they are more or less random, though they may be generated by previous adventure.  Epic comics do have a final goal, a final confrontation to look forward to, and an end to the adventure.

But that's not to say there's a moment when things do get tied together in an adventure comic.  These are culmination events, and they can be some of the most memorable stories in a comic.  This comes up as Dr. McNinja is in the middle of one such event, but there are others.  Sluggy Freelance is famous for them, with one of the best being "The Bug, the Witch and the Robot," amongst many others.  These events can often make the smaller stories seem more epic than they really ever were, but also act as a bit of the old fan service.  Giving the comic's fans more of what they enjoyed.

But what goes into making a good culmination event?  There's no real set of rules for it, but here are some rough guidelines.

1.  There should be a clear goal or objective.  Adventure comics can have mysteries in their regular stories, but a culmination event shouldn't have much mystery.  The mysteries of the last few stories are revealed in a culmination event and the characters should have a mission and goal set out before them.  HOW they resolve it is another story entirely, but the goal should be clear.

2.  Something important should be at stake.  Meaning that if the characters don't do something, they will lose something important.  It could be another character, it could be the end of the world as they know it, but it must be important and they don't want to lose it.

3.  Bring in the resources.  Over the course of an adventure comic, many items, powers and people are collected, discovered or befriended and a culmination event should feature as many as reasonable.  Sluggy's repeated culmination events mean resources are usually generated in the intervening period between events and then brought to the current culmination.  Dr. McNinja's current one is only using resources generated during the color phase of the comic.

4.  Don't forget about it.  Culmination events are NOT the end of an adventure comic, just the end of one chapter or book of it.  The comic can, and often does, keep going, but culmination events are so big, they cannot be forgotten by the characters.  It should effect them and their lives in a meaningful way and set up the next story arch.

And that's about it.  Culmination events are more than just another story, they are the peak of the comic artists story telling ability at the moment of the event.  It should stand out and be memorable.  It also can backfire terribly, GPF's Surreptitious Machinations was a culmination event that eventually drove me away from the comic.

At the same time, not every adventure comic needs a culmination event, so artists of such comics should not feel required to do one.  Still, they can be a lot of fun and give the fans something to keep their blood boiling for the strip.

Next time, I'm starting a new article category.  See you then kiddies. 

No comments:

Post a Comment