You're never supposed to explain your 'art'.
At least, that's what they say. Explanations tend to weaken it and remove the more personal parts of which the art impresses on the audience. I agree with that to a certain degree, but as my first published story I have no qualms in going into a little more detail about Bad Luck Inc., especially as the number of people reading it aren't likely going to reach more than double figures anyway. Such is the life of an independent publication.
So, how to do this. Many ways have crossed my mind, but I've decided the best way is to go through page by page and let you do some of the legwork in working some things out too. Consider it a DVD commentary style sneak peek, but there's a lot here so we'll do this in weeks. Those of you who havent read the story yet, I'd advise you to (buy a copy!) before you venture in, as this obviously contains spoilers.
So grab your copy, and hopefully you'll get another side of Bad Luck Inc you've not considered or noticed.
Okay, kicking things off. The name, Neon. Now, those of you who are attentive to my prior blogs will know part of the story of why I've named him Neon – it sounded futuristic and sci-fi genre styled. He was originally named 'Nuon'. However, long after I wrote the story and started going through it for Yui to draw, I realised something that actually paralyzed me.
"This is actually really close to The Matrix."
I honestly didn’t realise the similarities. As you already know, the story was based off a dream, but also loosely linking to my experiences of when I was unhappy working as an office drone, so that's where the plot emerged, but only when I took a step back did I see how close it initially may have seemed. Argh.
However, I re-read it and realised that the stories are saying two entirely different things. The Matrix is about freedom and liberation from establishment. Opening your eyes to reality. Bad Luck Inc is the polar opposite. It's the lock of establishment from perceived sham freedom. And with that, I realised the story, while not obviously so, is fine to stand alone. To some it may seem like a rip, but the core of it is totally different, and given the inspiration was from myself rather than the film (or the realisation which came far too late for me to change it in any large way), I was happy to take any finger pointing in full knowledge. I didn’t expect everyone to 'get' the thematic and narrative differences straight off, but that's the risk you run.
So, with that in mind, I thought, 'hell, why not play with it?' Why not lead readers into thinking 'this is a bit like The Matrix' and toy with that expectation? Which is why 'Nuon' turned into 'Neon' – which thematically was perfect. In The Matrix, Neo is an anagram of 'One', as to say he is The One. Neon? Ha, well that's an anagram of 'None'. As to say, he is nothing. Barely a number or a blip. And by the end of the story, that's reinforced. He doesn’t escape. He isnt The One. He's merely another blank in a sea of corporate drones. Also, 'Neon' suggests illumination, as the character has woken up and 'seen the light', which in a narrative sense runs an ironic parallel to his actual reality. If I was going to be accused of taking off The Matrix, then hell, I'm going to at least give it some damn depth.
This fear also became the genesis of the numbers scrolling down the page for the first panel of this page. Just like in The Matrix. A set up of expectations, not to mention the fact numbers play an important part of the story, which we'll explore in the next week's expose. It's not like I sat there and went, 'well, no one's going to notice' – which is why I'm so damn blatant about it! It's more a case of: 'Here is the reference, I'm not hiding it, you just hold on to it for me, I'll come back to it later'.
Another big thing about this page is layout. The panels are falling. This is to mimic a 'waking up' effect, that couples with Neon's eyes opening. However, if you look at them closely, the panels go from being the right way up to upside down. It's totally intentional to represent that fact what we're seeing here ISNT REAL. It's skewed. Disoriented. A little clue to what's actually happening in the story; the start of a sham.
Reinforcing this are three other subtle clues; one is the tattoo numbers on Neon's collar, which you can see in panel 3. They say '6:7'. These numbers recur throughout the story, but you don’t need to be a math genius to work out what they mean…
The second clue is the name of Neon's PC hardware: 'Purgatorio'. Seems obvious now, but when it's upside down it's far less noticeable.
Third one – Neon starts with his eyes closed; the only time he's 'seeing' the truth of the sham story per se. Eyes are a constant motif in Bad Luck Inc, so we'll get back to this later.
There's a few other things on Page one, but I'll leave them for you to work out – these are the biggest ones to take note of. If you noticed any of the above though, give yourself a big pat on the back.
The all important splash page. Yui does a great job of giving the office a very typical 'veal fattening pen' (3 points if you get the reference) feel here. The big 'not totally obvious thing' on this page is literally staring at you. Top right hand corner. Look familiar?
A little production hiccup is shown on this page, which really boils down to me having too much dialogue here for the panel's natural 'weight'. The Bad Luck Inc. logo and sign is shown for the first time, but mostly covered up by my words. Thankfully you can still see the logo, which is effectively a creepy ass black cat staring at you with eyes made of 2D dice. Yui really did me a huge favour by making it also look a bit like a devil, which would be the whole point. This logo follows Neon around the story, which should be of no surprise if you know about how it ends.
Underneath the dialogue you may notice that Neon worked for, yes, you guessed it, the Human Resources department. Don’t let it be said that I don’t give you a lot of clues in the narrative of my stories. Also covered up is the company/department motto: "Shit happens, we're here to make sure of it", which is my cheerful way of saying 'this company will destroy you and take and make money off your corpse'. Happy happy joy joy.
Neon's caption dialogue is quite telling here. He's worked at the company for 10 years. Presumably knowing what it does.
Now, think about that. 10 years working for this big evil company.
And he's only NOW wanting to get out?
Sure, it's not easy to escape, hence the extraction requirement, but 10 years is a long time. Again, we reach the crux of the story very early on – it's too late for him. He's already doomed because he's waited too damn long to leave even if he could. He sold his soul a long time ago and now he's paying the price for it. Which, you having read the story, already know. But I try to narrate it as early as possible so you have some foreshadowing and subconscious (at least) warning that things are not going to go well - I've not many pages to play with after all, so I need to get to the point quickly. The very fact the final panel has a mother holding her dead child should also give you an idea of the tone we're dealing with – doesn’t Neon have a wife and child? Hmm.
Also worth noting on this page – we find out the name of Neon's extraction handler, which is Trimurti. Again, a play on 'Trinity' (from The Matrix) but more prominently, Trimurti has real world significance. Look 'her' up and see what you find.
Next update we'll go into the next few pages. But I'll leave you with one more nugget in the meantime, one you may have noticed: how many pages (excluding the title page) does the actual story of Bad Luck Inc. come to?