No, this post isn’t about any drama out in the wild world of webtoonists – this is about the actual use of drama within a comic, if you can fancy that!
Suburban Tribe is a webcomic that, a year ago, I wasn’t always entirely sure why I read. It had a cast of folks trapped in miserable jobs at a marketing agency, who were by and large crude, hateful people who went through many of the same jokes about their circumstances. I read it, and had some laughs, but it didn’t really have much staying power at keeping my interest.
And then John Lee, the creator, decided to have a bit more of an intense plot. He decided it was time for the Big Story, and took a gamble that many folks have – keep some of the humor, but turn the focus towards plot, and character development, and so forth. After over two years of doing a different thing, changing a comic like that can be pretty dangerous.
In this case… it worked. I couldn’t get enough of the comic, with the government conspiracies, love triangles, secret agents and all that jazz. It took a gamble, and it paid off big.
The Big Story wrapped up, and things returned to normal – but the comic seemed a bit stronger for the struggle. The characters had a bit more tangibility. We could see lasting effects from what had happened, and future questions still to be resolved.
Then came along the second round of Big Story. The same elements came back in – conspiracy, romantic tension, spies and action. And… it’s still great. I am glued to my seat waiting for each update.
So sure, sometimes it can be a risky business to try and make that shift from humor to drama. But John Lee did a damn fine job of it, with a comic I never would have expected it from.