Lightning in a Bottle

I’ve spent the day rereading through Squidi’s A Modest Destiny.

Now, Squidi’s has gotten a lot of flak for various things in the past, but the comic itself is, in my opinion, a pretty damn good one. Pixel based art that is quality – expressive and interesting and diverse characters, backgrounds and scenes. That’s not easily done, and a lot of people overlook the quality simply due to the medium alone.

Even more than that, it is a good story with good characters. Sometimes it falls into formula – but one that fits smoothly within the essentially video-game RPG world it has set up for itself. It works, and I was glad to have the comic return, because the story really dig grab me up and leave me eager to see how it all ends.

It’s not a perfect comic, admittedly, but there are no really glaring problems that leap out of the page at me.

…well, ok. Maybe just one.

See, he has trouble writing the crazy.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that madness is a damn hard element to capture in a character. Convincingly showing someone as crazy is never and easy task. Sure, some can pull it off on a regular basis, but that’s usually the product of a powerfully intense and creative mind.

And I am willing to allow him some leeway, because he isn’t just arbitrarily throwing in a crazy dude for shits and giggles. The crazy dude in A Modest Destiny is a combination of victim and plot device – there is both legitimate reason for his insanity in character, and deliberate use of it to further the story.

Ok, um... sure.Unfortunately Squidi has trouble with, well… portraying the madness. The only way he can think of to do so is through the same fail-safe most people fall back upon – random gibberish.

Now it might just be me. I mean, sure, there are crazy people in real life do just say random crap all the time. I am not an expert in that field, but it is not an entirely illegitimate portrayal of some varieties of insanity.

But nonetheless! It doesn’t work for me. It feels forced, it feels arbitrary… it feels lazy. Rather than try for convincing dialogue, the artist just puts in words. Any words, any topics, any concept that pops to mind. Bam! Cheese monsters devour Denver with perplexity! Done.

Now, I mentioned before that our good friend… Pippity Bobo… is occasionally used as a plot device. The old ‘crazy guys hears voices, and some of those voices say important things.’ A time honored tradition, really, and Squidi does a better job with it than the normal randomness. It still isn’t flawless, and often feels a little forced with his ‘cryptic advice’ – but I much prefer having a guy who clearly has something important to say, but is genuinely unable to directly say it. And is more frustrated by that his listeners. When it seems that he isn’t just speaking random words, when he is honestly trying to communicate as best he can, but is limited almost as much as if he was speaking another language entirely…

…well, that has context. That has a grounding in his setting, and his character, and his relationship with other characters. And it is that sort of context that makes madness something interesting.

So I’ve got hope that Squidi’s eccentric little madman will keep developing, and maybe find a bit more of a method in his madness. If not? Well… it’s just one character, and one irritation alone won’t break me out of the story.

And if he does pull it off? Then that’s more than worth the trouble getting to that point.

Madness is difficult to master, but if you can accurately portray that combination of disconnection and genius? Convincingly get into the mind of something that is a half-step to the left of our own mental workings, and then draw out that disruption for us all to see?

Then let me tell you – you’ve got it made.

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