Crossovers, Cameos and Inspiration

No Comic Genesis review this week – instead, I feel the need to talk about Arthur, King of Time and Space, and the author note today on the issue of crossovers, cameos and inspiration.

In it, Paul Gadzikowski discusses how he had previously planned to avoid ever crossing over AKOTAS with the cast of any other webcomic, largely because the premise of AKOTAS involves Arthur and co. bouncing from one version of reality to the next – and while some of these arcs might be based on other works, Arthur and crew end up taking the place of the stars of the show. He might drop his cast into a version of another webcomic, but the nature of AKOTAS made it difficult to borrow characters from other strips, and he was resigned to avoid doing so.

Until Narbonic came along.

Now, I can’t fault the man for being tempted by Narbonic, being as it was one of the most well-developed strips on the web. But it strikes me that Paul’s final decision on how to incorporate elements from the Narbonic cast into AKOTAS was a fine of example of the uniqueness of his strip and the throught process behind it.

See, AKOTAS is a pretty unique concept, and one rendered with painstaking detail. But more than that, it is a strip that really does operate equally fluidly on several different levels at once.

In this case, we’ve got Elaine of Carbonek, this rather quirky lady infatuated with Lancelot. For those who know nothing about the tale of Arthur – or merely little beyond the general story – she appears to be a character that, in a handful of strips, is made both likeable and interesting.

For those familiar with the lore the strip draws on, her situation takes on a new dimension – as nice as she might seem to be, she’s out to seduce Lancelot, which will have inevitable consequences for Lancelot, and Arthur, and the whole shebang.

To find out that this incarnation of her character is also developed as a variation on Helen Narbon makes it all even more surreal. I wouldn’t have pieced together the connection if it wasn’t pointed out, but when Paul explains the steps his mind took to make it work, I can see it all falling into place.

Elaine of Carbonek = Helen Narbonic… yeah, it works, undeniably. Subtly, sure, but it is definitely there.

And that’s the really impressive thing about AKOTAS in general – it works equally well on every given levels. It works as an independent story in its own right. It works as a retelling of the Arthurian legend. It works as an homage to the many different stories and movies and webcomics it touches upon.

It is a fine line to tread – AKOTAS is hands down the most complex comic I know of, and keeping track of the differing storylines can sometimes be a challenging task. But more often than not, the strip manages to make this a strength, rather than a weakness. It would be very easy for this latest storyline to be completely incomprehensible unless you were both a devotee of the Arthurian legend, and a die-hard fan of Narbonic.

Instead, you can be neither, and still appreciate the story – while those who do have the extra knowledge can sit back and take in all thhe different connections. That’s hard to do even once, but this strip has managed to consistently pull it off with almost every single storyline, which must require a staggering amount of skill.

Credit where credit is due – the man writes a damn fine strip, and plans to keep doing so for many, many years to come. That deserves praise in my book, any day of the week.

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