Friday, December 12, 2014

World Building

The last batch of reviews featured 3 comics that are not only quite good, but also have one thing in common:  World building.

Construction of the world/universe that the comic takes place in is a difficult task, which is why most comics set themselves in the modern day.  I went over the rules for building universes a while back, but that's only the starting point.  Actual execution requires a bit more work.  Which is where those three comics come in because they all choose slightly different angles to present the rules of their worlds while not bogging it down with pages of text and dialog.

Stand Still, Stay Silent sets things up using the real world as a basis.  Specifically it uses modern day Scandinavia as the initial set up.  The various nationalities are represented throughout the story, including the fact that their languages don't always line up.  Then comes the maps.  Including maps within the comic itself helps to orient the reader, but it's not presented as "this is a map, the characters are here."  Instead it's presented as a historical document, a map showing the familiar coastlines but with odd markings and shadings that normally wouldn't appear.  Even without directly seeing the chaotic fall of civilization, the map makes all the point that's needed.

Along with the map, SSSS (which is a weird abbreviation when you think about it) presents a series of documents, like what would come out of a school report.  Blindsprings does much the same, though from a different starting point.  Blindsprings is a created fantasy world, so it doesn't have the benefit of the real world to build up from, instead it uses a historical event as a basis for the a story event, namely the Russian Revolution.  While the circumstances are different, the events are shockingly similar to the fall of the Romanovs.  The result are those documents, which take a very anti-royal perspective, and it tries to make the revolution look far more justified than it might actually have been.  Not long after, this is followed up by the opposing viewpoint of the nature of the revolution, but still seems like not the whole truth.

I suppose I should be expected to be annoyed by documents and maps like this, but I don't have problems with things like this for world building, I have issues with it being about characters.  Character description dumps annoy me because these are things we can learn about the characters through their actions in the story.  Background information like the kind provided in SSSS and Blindsprings is necessary because the characters KNOW all these, or a great deal of it, while the reader does NOT.

Which brings me to Rice Boy.  The universe here has no analog in the real world, so instead it must deliver the world via a character, Rice Boy himself.  Rice Boy is much like the reader, unfamiliar with the world as a whole, and it is through his journey that he, and the reader, learn about the world.  He's told stories, show documents, and sees the world itself, taking the reader on the same journey.  This is highly effective as it shows the world directly, allowing the reader to easily become invested.

That's not to say SSSS and Blindsprings don't do this, they do to an extent, but Rice Boy has to use this as the only truly viable means to communicate it's world.  Likewise, Blindsprings has a map, but it's not nearly as effective as the one in SSSS.  All three must work to get you involved, but different circumstances mean each must use a different path to make their respective worlds come to life.

I became very invested in all three because of this, and I feel it is the strongest element of all three comics, making them completely worth reading.

Next time, I'm building up to something.  Until then kiddies.

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