Shut up and kiss me already?

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Questionable Content. Click on image to see it full-sized.)

It should come as no surprise that I enjoy comics with ongoing storylines. I think of all of the comic strips I’ve reviewed, the number of strips that could be considered gag-a-day strips can likely be counted on one hand. Indeed, even the more humorous strips I read (such as Ctrl+Alt+Del, or the classic Ozy and Millie) tend to have storylines mixed in with the humor.

Still, sometimes you’ll be reading a book and suddenly realize where it’s going. Depending on the book, you either put it down or continue reading. However, the realization of where the story is going does leech some of the fun out of that story. Unless you have something big happen, or some twist, you’re left wondering if you’ve just been wasting your time.

Questionable Content is such a story. Jeph Jacques has stated that there is a set storyline here. Further, the relationship between Faye and Marten is central to the meta-story of the comic as a whole. When we’ve a final culmination between Faye and Marten, that’s it. If they hook up, then the story ends. We won’t continue down the path of watching Faye and Marten struggle with their relationship, trying to make things work, or dealing with problems between them that would arise.

This suggests, then, that if Marten and Faye were to come to a final decision, on not being together, that the comic likewise would come to an end. After all, we’ve closure either way. Thus I look upon the “sudden” decision of Dora to bitch-kiss (sort of like a bitch-slap, only done with lips and being decidedly more pleasant) Marten into realizing that there’s a perfectly gorgeous girl interested in him sitting next to him with a degree of skepticism.

Sure, Faye probably won’t be too happy with Marten dating Dora, even though she’s stated she’s not ready for a relationship and probably won’t be for quite some time. But even getting around the possible jealousy that will arise, and these three working through that… there’s still an obvious path in front of us.

Sometime in the future, perhaps after having sought counseling (or even just after seeing Marten and Dora happy together), Faye is going to realize that she does love Marten, and that she wants to be in a romantic relationship with him. What’s more, it’s almost a certainty that the relationship between Dora and Marten is going to fail, though how that will come about (Dora realizing she doesn’t feel that way about Marten after all, Marten realizing he’s only “using” Dora to fill the void in his heart left by Faye, or Faye making a move on Marten and making him choose between his heart and his fantasies) remains to be seen.

I mean, think of that. It sucks, when you get down to it. Dora is a nice fun vivacious young lady, and we’ve watched her for a while now, harboring a crush on Marten. And I don’t want her to get hurt here. But literary convention pretty much assures us that Marten is going to have to choose between Faye and Dora here. And we’ve had 500 comics in which Marten and Faye have pussyfooted around each other, and for fans to grow adjusted to the idea that these two will end up together, that they deserve to be together.

Maybe I’m worried for nothing. Maybe the Marten/Faye romance has ended, and that arc has moved on to something else. But I doubt it.

And as I’m writing this, the Late Monday Night Update slams into the side of my review, causing several thousand dollars of damage, forcing my airbag to deploy, and the cops to suggest I let them tow it because it’s not drivable under these conditions. But… is it?

I’m more interested in Jacques’s comments in that update than the update itself. The update moves the venue from Dora and Marten to Faye and Marten (and makes me wonder if those two did have sex, as Dora was strongly hinting toward, or if Marten just went straight home to Faye to talk to her, so they’d not be doing this behind Faye’s back)… and Faye isn’t angry. Instead, she’s resigned.

This surprised Jacques. Faye was supposed to be shocked, angry, and upset over her best friend going after Marten, especially this quickly after Faye laid down the law. Faye did something unexpected, and this throws a wrench into the works. Faye wasn’t supposed to just take it in stride. She was supposed to be upset. This would create strains in the relationship between Dora and Marten early on, and allow for the eventual breakup of those two. Or something like that.

And Jacques admits that the path this comic was taking used to be clear to him. Now he’s not sure. The characters have taken a life of their own, and the comic is starting to write itself.

This is something gifted writers experience from time to time. Sometimes the story starts to write itself, and goes on paths you don’t expect. I’ve gone through this, both in fanficcing and in writing novels. I’ve seen other people go through this as well, and the smart writers go with the flow, even though this disrupts long term plans and what was supposed to happen.

If Jacques trusts his characters and lets the story take this new path, then it may be that QC won’t end the way he expected. Marten and Dora may realize they want to stay together. Faye might be happier just as a friend, knowing that Marten has found happiness, a happiness that she couldn’t provide.

If he doesn’t… if he tries to fit this round peg into a square hole… then the story, the characters themselves will lose some of that luster, and QC’s ending will likely be dull and unsatisfying, the characters listless and disinterested. Hell, for once, getting “friended” may be the best thing for a guy.

Robert A. Howard

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