When I first started reading Dominic Deegan, I soon found myself developing favorites among its diverse base of secondary characters. I also found myself growing to detest certain characters (at times I had a love/hate relationship with Dominic and Luna as they danced back and forth on the border of Suedom); of them, the one who I inevitably despised was Dominic’s younger brother Scrappy – sorry, I mean Gregory.
While Gregory’s first couple of appearances worked fairly well, he soon had the more tragic elements of his life ripped out of him, resulting in a fairly flat and uninteresting character who often detracted from the storylines focusing on him. While Gregory was not the only reason I stopped reading Dominic Deegan for a while, the roots were laid in storylines focusing on him. It was only the recently-ended epic storyline on the Orcish nation-region of Maltak that regained my interest in the comic.
Before I go further, I want to mention that Michael Terracciano’s decision to focus on secondary characters rather than Dominic has been a welcome change. One of the problems with Dominic is that he’s become entirely too powerful a character; indeed, one of the reasons the epic storyline focusing on Maltak was so enjoyable was that Luna rather than Dominic was the story’s primary protagonist. These secondary characters are (for the most part) what has made Dominic Deegan a good comic, and by looking at their stories, it also lessens the importance of Dominic himself. The world doesn’t revolve around Dominic Deegan, and the stories focusing on secondary characters help drive that point home. Naturally, I don’t count Gregory among these useful secondary characters.
When Terracciano decided to focus on Gregory for his newest storyline, I must admit I was tempted to go on a sabbatical from the comic. Inertia kept me reading. Initially it seemed my concerns were well-founded. The start of the new Gregory-centric storyline felt lackluster and uninspired, despite the fact that Gregory not only was still stripped of his magic (which happened at the end of a previous Gregory-centric storyline) but was now starting to suffer nightmares on what had happened to him (both in the previous storyline and when he was a child and infected by the Blight of Undeath).
Being stripped of his magic and without anything to give him value, Gregory decided to commit suicide (by the convoluted process of creating a pretty boy band). Naturally, it didn’t go well, with Gregory ultimately kicked out of the band he created after they received a truly scathing review. And it was at this point that something odd happened. I don’t know if my heart grew three sizes or Gregory outgrew his Scrappydom, but I actually started liking the storyline (and while I still don’t particularly like Gregory, I’m detesting him far less).
And Gregory? He went from “pretty boy band” to writing hard rock… and recruited a new band who (while initially skeptical) became partners in crafting an “honest and ugly” band. He started using his nightmares as a source of inspiration, and the events in his life the fodder for his music. The story became less about Gregory (which is a good thing) and more of a commentary on rock music, and of music bands.
The cynic in me suspects the review was partly to blame. In crafting a devastating yet constructive review in the comic, Terracciano also called out to his own critics. He stated that “you don’t have to like this. But if you hate it, say something other than ‘it sucks,’ okay?” I am probably seeing further into this than there is, but let’s face it: Dominic Deegan has gotten its share of naysayers and shock-jock faux-critics who think tossing out a few vulgarities, saying “this sucks,” and making personal attacks on cartoonists is the highest form of entertainment out there. I prefer reviews to have some actual substance to them, and the faux-critics often fail in that regard. While Tangents (and most of the decent review sites) has avoided descending to that level, I’ve not been always kind to DD either (and even now I’m not going to pull punches).
I have to admit, I still am looking forward to the end of this storyline. Some people (such as Terry Pratchett) can meld contemporary cultural phenomena and fantasy literature with little problem. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Dominic Deegan works better when its stories focus on more traditional fantasy tropes, rather than dragging modern music, superhero comics, and other contemporary venues into play.