I’ve long felt that character development is one of the key components to good storytelling. Without characters and their evolution through the story’s life, readers have little to connect with (no matter how pretty the words look on paper). But one of the more difficult aspects of storytelling is to take an unsympathetic (and even unlikeable) character and transform that character into someone readers sympathize with and root for. Randy Milholland has managed this unenviable task in his slice-of-life comic Something Positive. Okay, given that most of Milholland’s characters are unlikeable, this is par for the course… but what I find fascinating is that he’s done it with a character I’d written off and pretty much didn’t want to see again, Kharisma.
In many ways, Kharisma is no more. While I’ve groused in the past about how Mike’s been Milholland’s chewtoy (and waiting for the other shoe to drop on him), Mike at least hasn’t been disfigured, convicted wrongly of murder, and forced on the run like an unlikeable version of The Fugitive. The weird thing is, these horrible events have helped mold her into someone I can almost respect, especially considering what she’s gone through with the current storyline… being paid to watch druggies poison themselves and make sure they don’t drop dead. What’s more, she’s developed a keen sense of paranoia that came in handy in avoiding a police raid.
The thing that truly impressed me is that she snagged the teenager user she was watching and brought him with her. The cynic in me would say it’s because he could identify her, or how Kharisma would lose her job if she’d just abandoned the druggie in the middle of his high. But whatever her motivation, she showed a glimpse of responsibility. And if there’s one thing that I enjoy seeing in a character, it’s responsibility. (Well, that and actual consequences for actions.) The fact she’s still hallucinating Fluffmodeus, a talking blue squirrel that has a delightfully bloodthirsty turn of mind, is just icing on the cake. After all, while Kharisma may be pulling herself out of her pit, there’s no need for her not to suffer for what she’s done.