layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Layla ([personal profile] layla) wrote2012-07-21 05:15 pm

Annotated Raven's Children - Issue #1: Page 17

Since I know a few new people have started reading me lately, a very quick orientation/explanation: Raven's Children is a self-published comic that I did from approximately 2000-2004. Most of it has never been online, so I'm posting a page a week, with commentary, delving into my own creative process and analyzing some of the mistakes I made along the way, as well as some of the things I'm still proud of.

Anyway, on to this week's page.

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One of the biggest problems with the first issue or two of RC (aside from the fact that most of the characters are hard to tell apart) is that there's a ton of unspoken backstory, family history and cultural stuff that isn't adequately explained.

One of the lessons that I learned from those early issues is that, while I dislike infodumps and prefer an immersive reader experience, you can definitely go overboard in the anti-infodump direction, to the point of sheer incomprehensibility. You can throw some unexplained references at the reader without disorienting them; you can have some aspects of the characters' relationships go unexplained because the characters take it for granted. But you can't do everything like that -- you have to give the reader at least a few explicit cues to orient them.

There's a big difference between dropping in a few unexplained words or cultural elements (little Easter eggs that readers might only notice or understand on a re-read) and not giving the reader enough information to comprehend the basic gist of what's going on. I think RC in general would've been a lot less confusing if I'd started out with a few pages EXPLAINING things. And possibly, had I chosen to begin somewhere other than in the middle of a complicated political transaction involving a dozen characters.

What is actually happening here: as explained in the commentary for some of the past pages, the invading Tolshay Kahn (Ronin's people) have been buying slaves from the Raven Tribe, and in the process, encouraging them to raid their neighbors as part of the TK's "destabilize, then swoop in and conquer" cunning plan (which Ronin, newly in charge, plans to put a stop to).

So what we have here is Deneko (panel 6 and 7, with the scar), his sons, and a couple of their friends bringing a small group of slaves to a prearranged meeting with the Tolshay Kahn to sell them. In the third panel, that's Deneko's eldest son Coren (center) and younger son Kafal (right). Kafal is the one who was the conscientious objector to the rape of the slave girls a few pages ago. The speaker in the last panel is Kai-Shon, Deneko's best friend and right-hand man, who is a sort of stabilizing influence on him -- calm, reasonable, and a kind of den mother to the rest of the all-male hunting/raiding party.

Jained (the sarcastic blond in the last few pages) will be acting as translator, since Ronin, newly arrived to the north, doesn't speak their language, but ex-slave Jained does.