Friday, May 8, 2015

Cast Pages

My rule with every review is that I read the comic, the whole comic and nothing but the comic.  Cast pages, about pages and the like are something I actively avoid during my first read through of a comic.  I do this on the grounds that if it's not in the comic, it's not in the comic.

After the inital read through is done, though, I might flip through the cast and about pages.  For larger, more involved comics it's more refresher, for smaller ones it's just to see if it matched up with what I found in the comic.  At the same time, I don't always go the page, as I have better things to do.  It's a resource to me, nothing more.  Which is why when I was writing the Not-So-Wild Review of Wapsi Square, I went to it right away.  Wapsi is a fairly large comic and complex and remembering everything was going to be hard, so I loaded up the cast page as my first resource.  And found a monster.

Most cast pages are pretty simple affairs.  Girls with Slingshots represents what I think of as a cast page.  A single picture, a name, a brief description that may or may not actually say anything, and that's it.  It's nothing glamorous or flashy, there's no large amounts of information, and nothing more detailed.

Stand Still, Stay Silent has a bit more information on the cast page itself, but not much more.  To add to it are a series of supplemental pages.  These are actually in the comic, typically near the end of a chapter and share world information that can't be easily presented otherwise.  This turns the cast and about pages into resources for the comic and almost essential to the comic's future.

Of course, these comics are both not super story intensive or very old, both of which do define Wapsi Square.  But there are other, much larger, older comics, that have to deal with similar issues.  Sluggy Freelance and Schlock Mercenary have at least as many characters as Wapsi, if not more, and they're both at least as long, if not longer.  Their solution was simple:  Wikipedia.  Sluggy has it's Niftypedia and Schlock has the Ovalkwiki.  Both are expansive, but well organized, and are what I used when writing The Standard and Best Overall for much of my outside of the comic research.

That monster that lurks on Wapsi Square, however, is something else entirely.  81 pdf pages, and most of it is packed from end to end.  The first three pages are basically empty, the rest is written like an encyclopedia.  Densely packed, bullet points being the only division between characters in the list, and only a handful of pictures.  The character section of the pdf is about 9 pages long, and includes incidental characters (Volleyball guy?  Really?) and Wapsi Square itself, which is a suburb.  I love the idea of locations having "character" but in this comic, where the background really doesn't get much love, it really doesn't have one.

The next 4 pages are "locals" which isn't a bad thing and the text is quite large (compared to the rest of the file).  Still, few pictures, and those that are there are small cast shots, and basically don't relate to the content at all.  As pointless as the locals section is, there isn't any easier way to describe these things, so I don't mind.  What I do mind is the sheer amount of text for each entry.  Saying "this shop is co-owned by Monica and Georgette" should be enough, maybe what it sells, but it just keeps going.  The same can be said for each character description which relates far more information than strictly necessary.

The remaining pages, 17 - 81, are ALL storylines.  Initially the descriptions are very brief, but by the end one story line has more text than this entire article.  It's mind boggling, and almost impossible to follow.  Wapsi is already difficult to follow and being presented with a literal wall of text makes it all the more difficult.

So why does this exist at all?  Not sure, I suspect though it was put together by a fan and only made official after the fact.  Now the wikis for Sluggy and Schlock are fan maintained, but organizationally they're so much better and easier to navigate.  Wapsi just has a block of text crammed into a pdf file.

The good news?  There's a wikia and TVtropes pages for Wapsi Square that are a decent enough filter that information can be found, but it's sad that the only official link through the comic is, well, unusable.  It doesn't provide any information, or even a brief overview, it's a block of text that's has no art for character descriptions and the storyline area makes an already confusing comic even worse.  It's by far the worst cast page I've ever seen.

Next time, um, we'll see.  Until then kiddies.

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