Perhaps it’s a tad cruel of me to be amused by the teen relationship angst currently playing out over at the contemporary fantasy webcomic The Wotch, but I have to admit I’ve enjoyed watching the gradual growth of webcartoonist Anne Onymous’ namesake character. To be honest, it’s been a long time in coming; while much of the primary and secondary cast of The Wotch have grown over time, Anne herself has remained trapped in amber, loved and admired by her friends while causing the storyteller in me to cringe and insist she be allowed to grow up. I hesitate in saying Anne was a Mary Sue character as the term is rife with abuse, but in all honesty she did embody several Sue-like traits. Fortunately Anne appears to be outgrowing this as Onymous has focused more on the storytelling aspects of the comic, and allowed cartoonist Ian Samson focus on the artistic aspects of the comic.
That said, I’ve noticed a couple of areas where I’m unsure as to how integrated the story and art have become. While it can be difficult wearing the cartoonist and the writer’s hats at the same time, doing so does provide the cartoonist with considerable freedom; if the cartoonist possesses the talent to depict what he or she is envisioning, then the art often does a fine job of integrating the details lost in translation from prose to art. Yes, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but well-crafted prose can often present far greater detail than most art, especially when it comes to facial features and determining just what a character is feeling or thinking at a specific moment. Not every artist can pull this off, of course, and I suspect artistic limitations is a major cause for hiatus (it was with me at least).
The reason I’m bringing this up is due to Onymous’ latest plot twist, with Jason asking Anne to a high-school dance. It was unexpected (to me at least); while it’s been a number of years since readers have the djinn Angelique, it’s only been a couple months for Jason and his feelings haven’t appeared to wane. Despite his feelings for Angelique, he does care for Anne as a friend… and he’s watched with concern over Anne’s growing realization that she feels more than friendship for Robin. But in viewing Samson’s depiction of Anne’s response to Jason’s offer to go to the dance (even if she was the one who did the asking), I’m unsure as to what she’s feeling. Is Anne playfully teasing Jason in asking him to the dance? Or is there something else here that my subconscious is drawing my attention to?
And thus I’m left to wonder how Onymous would have depicted this scene (and that second-to-last panel), either in prose or in art. I realize this is inherently unfair to Samson; he’s managed to capture a number of the elements that make The Wotch so enjoyable. And let’s face it, it’s nice to actually have the comic updating once more, rather than stuck in the midst of hiatus. (Another thing to consider is the input that Robin Ericson has in this, seeing he’s the comic’s colorist. No doubt he’d raise any alarms if he felt the scene had failings as well.) Given that The Wotch is not alone in the cartoonist handing off the baton for artistic duties, these are questions that would likely be raised with any new cartoonist for an existing work. Nor are there any easy answers as to how to allay the concerns of fans and critics alike.