What Did I Learn?
weekly webcomic reviews by Delos Woodruff
Marooned – A Space Opera in the Wrong Key
by Tom Dell’Aringa
Marooned begins in a somewhat unusual way. Instead of starting the action with the ship crash landing or a scene showing equipment failure, we see Captain John asking his robot (Asimov) why they crashed on Mars. The robot gives as answer (no spoilers here) but you aren’t sure if he’s telling the truth. All you know for sure is that the first manned mission to Mars is likely doomed to failure and the Captain is stranded.
Right away, you recognize the robot as being a character of ‘his’ own, not a servant to be ordered about. Actually, he later calls the Captain his partners and allows the little green Martian (named Ugo) to call the Captain his servant. Nice touch.
There are a lot of amusing punchlines like that. However, the overall story is really brewing and it’s got a fairly serious tone. Not only is the Captain stranded, but the local authorities have accused him of trespassing and are wondering if he is a threat. He’s got about three days of food and Asimov is just explaining to him the real goal of the mission. The Captain begins to suspect that he might be the expendable one on the mission.
Don’t be confused. Marooned is a humor strip and the serious storyline is starting to provide a background beat. It’s an interesting combination that offers more than a simple gag strip or a light humor story. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough comics yet done to see where Marooned is exactly heading.
I get the sense that the artist has some good ideas and a love for the genre. He’s still kind of getting his feet wet. This is something left unstated in most how-to-be-a-cartoonist books and how-to pages on the internet. The artists not only has to create but also create on a schedule. The first could produce one kind, or tone, of work but the second usually produces another. It gets harder to produce similar yet different work on a deadline. It becomes far easier and more seductive to rely on the same character traits or situations to make the funny. You begin to rely on the dark side because you’reoutoftimeandyouwanttopostthenextcomicontimebutyouhavenogoodinspiration…
The artist, in this case, has good sense about that and stops himself from carrying on with the pickle jokes (for example.) Still, where he goes from here is open ended.
Marooned has the makings of a good Dirk the Fumbling Space Captain. It also could be a good sci-fi serial spoof comic. It could be some combination of those or something else entirely. I prefer the latter since I like the unexpected. The artist has everything he needs to figure out, through experience, what he wants to do and where the comic takes him. And that’s where Marooned should go.
Another (short) review called Marooned a “hapless misadventure” which seems to accurately portray the sense of ever possible tragedy I’m sensing.
What Did I Learn?
Sometimes I won’t have a solid idea where my comic is going and that’s okay. It doesn’t all have to be planned out in exquisite detail and it’s okay to fly by the seat of your pants. That’s a freedom. I think we get stuck in all the advice out there to have your story solidly plotted out and we forget to let it be fun.
Of course, if we go that route – some sort of theme will, no matter what, manifest itself and we ought to keep an eye on it as it progresses and reveals itself. That will help us avoid painting ourselves into a corner or contradicting the earlier work.
In any case, let’s follow Marooned and see what happens.