Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Manage Expectations (aka Tone): The Archive

This section got completely cut from the book at one point, then put back in at half its original length, so there’s lots of good stuff here that didn’t make it into the book...


Harvey Jerkwater said...

I just found what I'd consider an amazing example of the importance of tone. As this is the internet, where everyone chimes in, I'm gonna chime in.

The British comic series 2000AD describes its stories as being driven by “THRILL POWER.” Take the the cover of a 1978 issue from a story about time-travelling dinosaur farmers. Three people’s heads bob above churning water while a giant green scorpion dominates the page. One of the heads yells "NO! Please let me drown BEFORE the GIANT SCORPIONS get to me!" That's THRILL POWER, the usual tone of 2000AD

An early Judge Dredd story, “The Cursed Earth,” shows the value of the tone. A riff on Damnation Alley, Judge Dredd and a few other poor bastards drive a tank/RV across post-apocalyptic America to deliver vaccines to the dying Mega-City Two, having adventures along the way. Early in the story, Dredd and company roll into a poor farm town under the control of a lunatic called The Lawgiver. Two of the townsfolk, guilty of stealing food, are tied to posts in the town square, to be executed by “the Devil’s Lapdogs.” Ah, and what are “the Devil’s Lapdogs?” Oh. Oh ho. Oh ho ho ho.

The Atomic War of thirty-some-odd years earlier had created a great wind. That wind threw high into the atmosphere a great many things: houses, trees, animals. That wind formed a belt of debris in the sky that remained to that very day. And within that windy belt...the rats evolved.

“The Devil’s Lapdogs” are large RATS that GLIDE ON THE WINDS! And they HUNGER FOR HUMAN FLESH!

Sure enough, during the story, tens of thousands of FLYING, MAN-EATING RATS descend upon the town. Dredd destroys many of them by luring them into LAVA.

As pants-befoulingly ludicrous as this was, it worked. The tone of the story was overheated and deadpan from start to finish, and as a result “flying belt of debris filled with mutant flying man-eating rats, slain by lava” didn’t break the mood.

There’s a lesson in that. Well, two. First: setting the right tone allows for amazing things. Second: lava is useful against flying rat hordes.

Matt Bird said...

The first 100 issues or so of 2000 AD were pure genius. I ran some MACH 1 panels in the early days of the blog.