Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Death in the Comics: Gil Thorp (part 1)

Death in the comics is rare. Humor strips, of course, pretty much avoid it (with the exception of Pearls Before Swine). Adventure and other types of narrative strips also tend to avoid it as well.

But the death of a character can make for an emotionally powerful story -- although strong emotions aren't usually the aim of even the best narrative strips. Particularly well-done was the death of high school student Boo Radley in Gil Thorp.

Throughout April and May of 2016, the creative team of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham developed two concurrent storylines: the blooming romance of Radley and True Standish, and the escalating problem Barry Bader's father had with alcohol. Barry and True were on Milford baseball team, as was Ken Brown, son of the judge who had convicted Mr. Bader of DWI. So there was already dramatic conflict.

Because narrative strips are told in very small increments (two-three panels a day), stories move at a glacial pace. And that makes it challenging to tell a story without having the reader see the end of the arc weeks before it arrives.

In this case, though, Rubin and Whigham managed (I think) to pull it off. And that's because there was very little foreshadowing. Here's the sequence:

It looks like both Bader and Radley survive the crash until...

The sequences that immediately follow are equally well done.

Next week: Aftermath

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