If I sat down and tried – and I mean, really tried, bent my mind to this one sole task – I could probably come up with a premise for a webcomic that was as convoluted as the premise behind Arthur, King of Time and Space.
But I don’t think I’d have a shot in hell in showing the creator’s skill at realizing that premise in a fashion that avoids overwhelming the reader with sheer complexity.
The concept at hand is that the comic follows the adventures of King Arthur and his merry band, and interprets their story over the course of 25 years.
(As an aside – plotting out a 25 year long comic is innately awesome. Anyway, back to the business at hand.)
The twist on the traditional story is that we flip-flop from one alternate reality to the next, following the story as we go – though each setting has its own variations.
So we have fairy tale Arthur, space Arthur, modern Arthur, cowboy Arthur, superhero Arthur, etc, etc.
(Another aside: I mispelled Arthur as Author every time in that above paragraph before realizing my mistake.)
So, A:KoTaS is obviously filled with a significant number of complex, interweaving storylines, each with its own subtlely different cast and crew. Somehow, Paul Gadzikowski pulls this off without hopelessly losing the reader.
This isn’t to say there is never confusion or turmoil – there is, and the occasional strip will be hard to follow, especially for those not already familiar with the legend of King Arthur. But such confusion is the exception, not the norm.
It helps that Mr. Gadzokowski seems to be a quite organized individual. He color-codes the characters. Arthur is always in yellow, Lancelot red, Guenevere blue. He has a cast and FAQ page that details a lot of these little factors that can help new readers keep things sorted out.
I only just read that FAQ myself. Some of those elements – such as the colors corresponding to each character – I had easily caught onto while reading the archives. Other elements I didn’t catch – the background of each strip is color-coded as well, reflecting whether it takes place in the present, past, or future of its specific continuity. So such understandings aren’t required to read the strip – but getting more insight into the way of things is certainly handy.
And that’s really one of the things I like about the strip. Sure, it has a good story, good characterization, and good jokes. The art… well, the art isn’t my cup of tea. But even if not exceptional in my eyes, it is functional, and that is enough for me.
But what makes the comic so unique is the way it weaves all these realities together. The way those connections are set-up, the order and organization behind it all – that is original and exciting.
It lets one read it plainly if they wish, without paying any heed to the levels of development. And it allows readers who want to go a step further to help understand all the connections, and interpret them as they wish.
I kinda like that.