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Before the Beginning

Banes at 12:00AM, Sept. 14, 2017

One of the great things about the original Star Wars movies was the strong sense of a grand, adventurous, and terrible history before the movie started. So much is hinted at through Obi Wan Kenobi about the Jedi Knights, Anakin Skywalker, great friendships, laser swords, and terrible war and loss.

That stuff captured my imagination so much, back in the day. And one of my favorite parts of the original movie is how much stuff is going on with Alec Guiness' face in all of his scenes. The guy was an incredible actor. I don't know how much of the history was given to him other than what he says in the script…I suspect not much.

The small smile he gives to Darth Vader during their duel as Luke and friends make their escape and Kenobi allows himself to be cut down is so compelling. There's so much going on there. Again, an amazing actor. When the actual history was eventually revealed in the prequels, well…it was…

okay, Banes, we get it! You didn't like the prequels! Move ON! Live your life!!

Okay, okay. Sorry.

The point is supposed to be the power of history in a story. Stuff we never see, but is hinted at.

Breaking Bad had it, too. We are eventually given a couple flashbacks of a younger, happier Walter White, but how he left his promising career and lost his way is either only hinted at or told from Walt's bitter point of view (and that show was sophisticated enough that one character's memory/pov on their own past is not objective - just like in real life).

I really, really love stories that begin with a history behind them. A history that doesn't have to be spelled out completely.

In my own comic, Typical Strange, I took pains to create a bit of history. Nothing too elaborate, but enough to make me feel good about it. I knew the store had a previous manager who left the store and hated the place, and that Penelope had had some unusual adventures before returning to her brother and friends.

When the story begins, there was stuff we didn't see. And those elements have come back to effect the characters in ways that were quite satisfying (to me, at least). I have dropped some subtle hints about the characters' families and stuff here and there, too, and am excited to see those things come to fruition, too.

What do you think? Is establishing a reality “before the beginning” important in your comics? Do you appreciate that sort of thing and miss it when it's not there?




bravo1102 at 5:59PM, Sept. 14, 2017

Watch out because fiddling with your pre history (Well there is a hole here and I can fit this in--) can lead to monster retcons. Allow yourself the space or do a relatively firm outline. You need never tell anyone about it, but it is there for you.

AmeliaP at 4:29PM, Sept. 14, 2017

quote on ozoneocean said! I like to see hints in the story, but if there are many explanations turning into something "constipated", it breaks the immersion for me. (it's the same old story: "say less, show more", etc ^^)

cdmalcolm1 at 4:24PM, Sept. 14, 2017

Yup. My comic starts this way too. Although, it does not help my characters in the early tales. Due to her not remembering how she once was in the thousands of years of nurturing human kind vices, one of my other characters get their memories back, and tells everyone SolarCell's true nature of ending the world. Unless, a story starts with the character being a baby, the story can have endless historical turnouts by the creator(s). Wolverine is one of these characters that has crazy untold histories. It can also be "secrets" that gets out and changes everything.

ozoneocean at 3:50PM, Sept. 14, 2017

This was hinted at in Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, just a little... And much more so in the Lord of the Rings books. It was enough to be intriguing, but not too much... Then he vommited ALL the details forth in one huge mass call The Silmarillion! And we find it was way more interesting as hints 😄

KimLuster at 11:20AM, Sept. 14, 2017

Yes, sometimes leaving them wanting is better than giving it to them...!! A hinted-at pre-History really can do this well...! The Dark Tower series does this well (what was Mid-World like before 'the World moved on...?') I'd considered doing a sort of prologue for the Godstrain, to reveal more of what Kimber Lee's life was like prior to the 'Synprovision Experiments', before she got sick, but decided that having it be a bit nebulous worked better!

usedbooks at 9:25AM, Sept. 14, 2017

My concept for Used Books was that the whole story is set five years after the fall of a pervasive crime syndicate. Its main players are a previous member of the syndicate, a victim of the syndicate, and a hero who helped bring it down. I was worried such a setting would be boring and readers (and me) would rather hear the story of the past -- but it turns out to be a good framework. Characters with preexisting relationships are fun to work with. There's a wonderful bit of intrigue and a reserve of backstories and flashbacks to add my own interest in otherwise linear writing.

ozoneocean at 7:03AM, Sept. 14, 2017

I think it's very cool to do, but you have to be careful not to be too elaborate- what I mean is that you couldn't make it so that the audience thinks they're missing out, that there was a previous chapter they missed and they can't enjoy the full story properly till they read about what went before so they can catch up with the current action without feeling like they're missing out on half the references. I've had that happen in some books and movies.

bravo1102 at 12:20AM, Sept. 14, 2017

It's very important to me and all my comics have it. They're set in one timeline. I created Searsha as an ex-thief with one hand. It wasn't until I created her mother and the circumstances of her birth and early life that I understood her. I was able to integrate Robofemoids into a pre-existing universe and that gave everything a background. If you don't have that prehistory better lesrn hoe to retcon. Even the original Star Trek was intentionally set in a universe that already had a defined history. Roddenberry insisted that the Enterprise be a "ship with a history" before Pike, let alone Kirk.

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