What Did I Learn?
Our Last Gasp, by Stephen Burks and David Hindelang, is a comic about struggling independent filmmakers who are decent folks despite being kind of incompetent and having strong quirks. Jim runs the show along with his wife Relee, Sebastion, Cecil, Tam and Rankle (who was trans-speceal and is soon to return.) Everyone’s ‘position’ in the film company is detailed here for you purists who need to know the formal details. In practice, they all seem to pitch a hand in where needed – along with some snark and good natured ribbing.
What’s scary is that these other characters really seem very very unique. Almost unrelatable. The scary part comes when you realize that the regular cast is just as strange but they get enough screen time for you to understand their motivations. The occasional characters make the regulars seem normal in comparison. You can ignore me if you want but you’ll find yourself accepting that a between-species talking raccoon who wears a mask is somehow more normal and relatable than a Hollywood producer named Schiller.
The Our Last Gasp film company is, after one year, making progress on creating their first film. As of Nov 20th, 2009 the movie cast finally seems to be in place. This seems surprisingly true to life about real movies, by the way. I’m not sure what the final movie’s plot will be other than vaguely sci-fi but it will likely be entertaining.
There is also a superhero comic produced by the company president called Copper Captain which provides a nice switch up every once in a while. Webcomic creators may enjoy some of the rare behind the scenes action related to the production of Copper Captain.
Given the wide range of elements in Our Last Gasp, it is difficult to say what the overriding direction of the comic is. The theme seems to be that no matter how ill suited for a given task you might be, it all comes down to persistence. More or less, I have to agree with that.
One other thing I want to touch on with this comic is my seemingly untestable theory that most comics need a special regular cast member. Specifically, something that isn’t human which acts human. That is usually an animal or object(s) that let the reader easily make the mental leap of suspended disbelief. It’s not just limited to comics, either. Star Trek had Spock (who wasn’t supposed to act human) and Data (who wanted to understand humans) while Lost In Space had a talking robot who was quite human on the inside. I’m sure you can recall dozens more examples.
In an effort to understand the function of such things in entertainment, a search turned up this link which gave reasons for using aliens such as the personification of situations, fears, ideas or specific persons. They can also help to illustrate human qualities or the human condition. The key is that talking animals like Rankle in Our Last Gasp help us to look objectively at ourselves in a way that lessens the sting of doing so.
What Did I Learn?
A typical recommendation given to comic creators is to have things scripted out but there is some freshness in being willing to throw in the unplanned and unexpected every so often. There is also the tendency to over analyze and try to always maximize an effect but that can sometimes feel a little hollow. Some things we can take from Our Last Gasp is that variety and unpredictability have value.