Saturday, February 7, 2009

Here's to you, Mr. Background Character

As mentioned before, the upcoming bake sale storyline was initially slated to appear farther down the road. Inspiration striking when it did meant I suddenly introducing parents without first showing their kids. The result was a surprisingly early entry and starring role for Kaitlyn. Ahh, but Kaitlyn's good about these things. Once the storyline is over, she gracefully shows herself out and the comic is allowed to continue with the classroom turf war the same as always.

Kaitlyn's classy exit does open up the door for ANOTHER classmate from the other side to get a debut. To lighten the sudden new character onslaught, I could have had her talking to Roddy. To be accurate to Kaitlyn's relationships, I could have had her talking to Quincy. Instead, little Vincent will get his time to shine... and promptly disappear from the strip for a long time. I believe his debut shall end something like this:

Kaitlyn: Back to obscurity with you, Vincent!
Vincent: Aww, shucks!

So why Vincent? He's the most innocent on the other side; if hopes are to be crushed, he's the fitting victim. Also: Kaitlyn syndrome. It's just weird to use a parent without giving the kid, the far more important character, some face time.

You might notice there's some schlub in the sketch above. It's hard not to notice the guy, seeing as he's the subject of the post title. This dude is Vincent's dad, who doesn't even get a name. He is there to add some dude into scenes where no other dudes are willing to step up. He's a token. He's a background character.

Continuing my horrible blight of hetero-normative behavior, the PTA meeting is dominated by the mommies. Look, I am not Mr. Wonder Artist who is willing or capable to draw a full PTA meeting with a bunch of background characters. The only strip I've done so far WITH any background characters is the Black Friday bonus strip that isn't even on the main Precocious site. The parental speaking roles in the bake sale plot are all moms. In steps... some dude! See, some fathers do care about the PTA! Sky's talking to him! He looks totally out of place, but he is there because FATHERS ARE DEDICATED!

While he doesn't have a name, he does have some background information. Daddy Iddenstein is a single father who is trying his best to be a good parents. Life is hard, man! Not only is he the sole breadwinner, but he's also tasked with parenting a little genius who likely has undiagnosed ADD. (Vincent's more the scrambled-brain type than hyperactive troublemaker, so his crippling mental problem is charmingly benign!) Anyway, that's still not enough to buy him more than one or two panels without dialog. Back to obscurity with you! SOCIETY DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BROKEN HOME/CHILD!

I had fairly loose goals when designing this dude. He needed to be canine to sire Vincent, COMPATIBLE SPECIES and all, and he shouldn't look too much like Vincent. The first sketch featured the backwards baseball cap, but was too obviously Vincent's dad. I decided to try again. The next sketch turned into a fox by accident, which would explain Vincent's look - but I wanted to go for canine variety. Then I decided to see if I could draw a droopy-eared doggie and still make it look male. (There's a reason I have only one character with such ears, and she's the militant girl power chick.) The result was the above sketch, which I think is quite nifty for a background dude. Only problem, he now looks NOTHING like his son. This is not important if he's just a background character, but it does eliminate the chance for readers to make the connection. It would have been a neat touch. "There was this strange fluffy canine father in the background of one strip, and now there's a similar-looking fluffy canine child talking to Kaitlyn. I get it!" Now... Vincent's dead mommy bust have been one fluffy, stripy bitch. See, it's one thing for the Et family to be varied - such fur pattern variations are common with domestic shorthairs. After doing 15 minutes of Googling, I have decided Vincent is a Keeshond, yet his dad looks like an English Setter/less fluffy breed mix. CANINE GENETICS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOODNIGHT!

Oh, and those who have been reading this blog since post three or four (which is just me) is wondering if I'm going to follow up with my "rich lives of background characters" indicator that Dionne's mom was going to make an appearances. At the moment, she's been cut. Adding Kaitlyn in meant backgrounds will be omitted to accomodate dialog and the placement of small children. Heck, if I take a chainsaw to the arc and cut out a week - a strip with Sky pulling a "wall of text" to allow me to tie up logistical and conceptual loose ends is only interesting to me - there's a good chance my token dude's strip(s) get axed. I'm not looking into a play-by-play rundown of the story here. I want to get in, make funny jokes, gloss over the plot points and jump to the highly-amusing finish. I SEEM TO BE ENDING EVERY PARAGRAPH IN ALL CAPS!

The potentially-deleted strips also make jokes based on everyone understanding a character's personality. I've been dealing with these folks for years, so I know them. People who only read the comic (which is every reader but me) will only know these folks from the handful of strips in which they appeared. Good cartoonists know not to make these jokes until their strip is well-established. *I* made a joke based on Jacob's dad in the third friggin' strip. Jacob's dad makes his first appearance OVER A HUNDRED STRIPS LATER. Way to go, me! I mean, WAY TO GO, ME!

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