The Webcomicker

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Character Development! Woohoo!

Faye finally opens up to her friends in Questionable Content

I've gotta say, I'm pretty psyched about Questionable Content after Friday's strip. It's been a long time since we've really seen character development from Jeph Jaques' crew, and I'm glad to see that Jaques has decided to stop sidequesting and advance the story somewhat.

Oooooh, I get to explain a lexical term! Yay! I've been waiting so long to add some lexicon to my site, just like Eric Burns has over at Websnark, but I always felt like anything I tried to do would be just a ripoff of Burn's work, and if there's something I can't stand, it's lowering myself to the level of "hack" by ripping off someone else. However, in this case I'm actually using a term that I use on a regular basis, and commonly apply to webcomics, which I haven't really seen used around much of anywhere else. So I'm adding it as the first entry of the official Webcomicker lexicon.

Sidequesting: When a comic that is primarily storyline driven (although it might be a humor comic, the humor is derived from, and dependent on, the storyline) has the characters become involved in plotlines which are unrelated to, or secondary to, the primary storyline. Of course, I've borrowed this term from RPG video games, in which a very frequent device used to lengthen the amount of time you can play the game is to offer some other quests aside from the primary quest your characters are undertaking. These "side quests" often have some incentive such as a special item or increased powers attached to them, and are in many cases more fun and satisfying than the main quest because you can complete them in a relatively short period of time and therefore get quick rewards on your efforts.

When a comic has a storyline driving it, and the characters are distracted by some other set of events which cause them to put aside their primary concerns and engage in somewhat different activities, I say that the comic is "sidequesting". This is different from a comic in which the characters undergo a series of unrelated quests that don't have any real driving storyline behind them. That's more of an episodic structure. But I'm talking about the comics where you can tell that they are definitely going somewhere, but they take some diversions along the way. Some comics are famous for their sidequesting. In fact, for some comics the sidequests are the favorite strips of the fans. RPG World was the master of sidequesting not only because the side plots were executed so masterfully but also because the characters KNEW that they were sidequesting because they were literally GOING ON SIDEQUESTS in the world of the strip, which was an RPG game.

But sidequesting can be taken too far. Some comics become embroiled in their sidequests and end up losing the original plot, and can never quite seem to pick it up again. Megatokyo is infamous for sidequesting, in fact, Eric Burns mentions it (in a roundabout way) as his main reason for not reading the strip anymore. So, as fun as it might be to throw your characters into bizarre and fun situations, if you're actually trying to develop a storyline and have your characters grow and mature along it, you've got to be careful not to sidequest too much.

Which brings me back around to the point of this post. Questionable Content has been side-questing for a few months now. We've seen Faye and Marten get a new apartment. We've seen a lot of development in the Raven character. We've met Marten's Mom (in some of Jeph's funniest work to date, actually. If you thought your family was odd, you've got nothing on poor Marten). And now, it looks like Jeph is ready to get back to the main storyline, at least for awhile, and progress things a bit. So we get Friday's strip, in which we see the first real advancement in Faye's character in quite awhile.

Sure, we all know Faye has a troubled past. It's been alluded to before and discussed on a very surface level. But we've never learned why Faye is so afraid to let people get close to her, why she can't just admit her feelings for Marten and enter into a serious relationship with him. And now, we're starting to see some illumination. She's still dodging around what actually happened -only revealing that it was "bad stuff"-, but she's willing to admit that she had a nervous breakdown, almost killed herself, and then went through hospital and therapy time. She's been running from her past, and it's worked out ok for her so far, but now she's starting to realize that if she ever wants to move forward into the future, she's going to have to actually deal with these issues. You can't settle down when you're on the run, and now that she's actually got the urge to settle down (she even bought herself a bed! Furniture is a major step toward settling into someplace), she's got to stop running a face her past. This is going to be a major cathartic moment for Faye coming up, and we can only hope that she'll be strong enough to get through it with the help of her friends. The upcoming dinner date with Marten and his Mom is going to have some serious emotional tensions swaying back and forth, and we'll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

And don't count out Marten's Mom as a potential major player in the healing process. Veronica Vance has skills beyond merely whipping people into submission, methinks.


At 2:07 AM, Blogger Andrew Araki said...

I agree that Marten's mom is great. Considering how she is, it's amazing Marten is as well adjusted as he is.

I'm more for Marten and Dora than Marten and Faye, though. It'll probably never go farther than it's already gone, but I'm holding hope.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger E. Burns said...

Dude, if that's the kind of term you come up with when you're "ripping Websnark off," rip us off more often. That's a perfect lexical term.


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