Monday, July 24, 2006

"One Small Step," by Joe Kandra, tells the story of a man thrust into space via a modified Minivan. After crash-landing on an alien planet and being befriended by its inhabitants, the main character, Doug, is off to explore the galaxy.

The honest and simple art style, reminiscent of "Absurd Notions" with a hint of Peanuts, does a great job executing the absent-minded plotline. There’s not too much thought in the plot as it's more "just for fun" than anything else. OSS is almost the opposite of the similarly-themed "Freefall," which takes great labor in constructing a fully-functioning and logical universe of space-travel and alien worlds, interwoven with a matching sense of humor.

However, OSS's biggest shortcoming is that it builds its founding moments from more homages/references than originality. The minivan blasted into space and time due to a Flux Capacitor, from Back to the Future, in the engine. Doug, once on the alien planet, is outfitted with Nano-Translators, which are essentially the BabelFish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Later, Doug's minvan is modified to include a "Dimensional Portal [...] built into the door," which makes the minivan "bigger on the inside than the outside," ala Doctor Who's TARDIS. Following that, the aliens give Doug a guide to help him, with the cover "Don't Panic"; the book is not "the Hitchhiker's Guide" (as Doug mentions the cover is a "nice touch"), but is simply another reference. In fact, the comic seems to buddy up to Douglas Adams (most likely for whom the main character is named for) altogether, with the aliens expressing their admiration for the man.

Most of these references were accompanied with an admittance of the reference ("Just like Dr. Who"), which is acceptable, but with so much of the story relying on references to other, more famous people's, stories, what can Kandra call his own? Rather than being original and coming up with his own ideas to achieve his own story, Kandra instead relied on plot devices to get the character from point A to B as quickly as possible through more familiar source ideas. An occasional reference isn't anything bad, but the whole beginning is derived from others' work.

For example, was giving the engine specifically a "Flux Capacitor" necessary? Plenty of science fiction franchises include time travel as part of their plot. However, they think of their own ways to achieve the same effect. The Flux Capacitor is there in name only... why not explain it away by saying something like, "The engine transverses the Space/Time membrane as a means of reaching faster-than light travel. Therefore, the vehicle has access to Space and Time travel."

It's all sci-fi throwaway mumbo-jumbo, but at least you'd be able to call it your own.


Blogger Joe said...

My first review! Thanks for the nice words and the critique. I have some responses.
Yes, Doug is named for Adams. I do want to capture some of the flavor from the original “Hitchhikers” but I am very aware of the need to make my own universe. Qwerty, by the way, is named after the keyboard. I called it a hyperspace flux capacitor and Qwerty added the time travel later but yeah, I should have called it something else. Maybe a future upgrade? The nano-translator idea comes from “Farscape” (who maybe got the idea from the babelfish?) And I have been reading “Peanuts” for much longer than I want to admit to you. Going forward, the strip will not be full of references now that D & Q are out in the galaxy and the stage has been set. I guess I used the references as shorthand since they are so much in the popular culture. Have patience. I do have some of my own ideas.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Carzorthade said...

Glad to hear it, Joe! I had a feeling the beginning references were just there to get Doug up and out into space as quickly as possible.

11:06 PM  

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