Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bad Luck Inc. – the annotations and expose pt 2


Okay, back to the slow unraveling of Bad Luck Inc. It's been nice to hear people tell me they didn’t realise so much was within the story, which I guess is the point, as I try to pack as much subtext and multiple meanings within the narrative as possible. Naturally not everything will be picked up, but given that I'm not usually a 'straight' storyteller it will probably be more obvious in following stories that come up. Or it may just bore you to death.

In any case, here's part two. Again, well caught if you managed to see most of these…


PAGE FOUR

Some of the most telling clues to Neon's fate are on this page, in case the last few opening pages didn’t initially give you enough. The big and most obvious one is through numbers. I've already noted how important numbers are to the story on a whole, here they're more open and telling than anywhere else in the 13 pages -yes, 13- of Bad Luck Inc.

As Neon goes down in the lift, he's on floor 13; the floor his department is on. Nice obvious clue there, coupled with the fact most buildings try to avoid having a 13th floor. Here's a company that clearly revels in superstition.

Then the next panel, Neon passes by floor 7; or 'lucky number 7'. This is where ironic misdirection starts to take place a little. I'm telling you that as Neon is going down, his chances of escape increase because we're focusing on 'luckier numbers'. Although the reality is totally different, in the narrative of the story it scans – on first reading we're thinking Neon is simply getting closer to his goal. This is emphasized further when he passes by floor 3 in the next panel (although my dialogue covers this up slightly) – 3 being "the magic number", again with positive connotations. It's a subliminal drip feed of positivity, of sorts that play in parallel to the genre's conventions; the protagonist's chances of escape only get better as the story progresses towards its end.

What clouds this, however, are a couple things. Firstly, the dialogue itself, which expresses doubt (Trimurti joking with Neon that this is her first extraction), forcing Neon to visibly sweat. It's also a handy tension builder, allowing the story to give you an element of doubt to Neon's success, a doubt which is quickly drawn away again by Trimurti's reassertion that she's a pro.

The second thing is that scary insignia/logo again, which is ever-present, especially in panel two where Neon stands directly between the eyes of the Bad Luck Inc. cat. While Trimurti expresses an "angel" on Neon's shoulder, we see it's the devil-like Bad Luck cat that sits almost literally on his shoulder there. Notice the framing of the words "Bad Luck" hovering over Neon in that panel, too. The poor guy never stood a chance.

Within the dialogue, we get a brief skirmish with the concepts of determinism and the bare concept of what 'luck' actually is – which is quickly dismissed by Neon who's trying "not to think about the semantics". Had he thought about them more when he started employment he probably wouldn’t have found himself in this position.

Again, a few more nuggets are on this page, but I'll leave it there for now.



PAGE FIVE

Yui did a great job on the robots here, which are a mixture of Sony's real life robots and the ones seen in the movie version of 'I Robot'.

Lots of important dialogue on this page, but you can work out what that all is easily. Aside from that, there's three big moments on this page.

1) Neon gets his 'costume'. Security padding and such it may be, but that's effectively what it is; a costume. Again, sticking with The Matrix comparisons and switching genres from sci-fi to superhero, this is meant to be a massive and significant moment in the story… yet it's just a small panel. Huh? Comic book convention notes that when you have a moment like this, you make it VERY BIG. Usually with a splash (full) page. Yet here's our hero, all suited up and ready to go in this relatively small panel. Why? Because it's not real. And because it's a totally fake reality, a full page would be crossing the line of misleading the audience. It's a big moment put in small framing to tell you something isn't right – his grand entrance reduced in size. It's a storytelling format trick, but it's very effective in telling you something extremely subtly… and I'm a sucker for format tricks.

2) The 'good luck pills' (complete with another lucky number, '49'). A loving plot device created directly from the dream I had which inspired the story. I had good luck pills during my escape from the devil, which made escape a lot easier for a short while and thought they'd be a perfect antithesis to the story's 'evil'. We'll come back to them in the next page, though.

3) Neon's eyes. As noted before, eye symbolism is rife in Bad Luck Inc. Neon starts with his eyes closed, and 'wakes up', expressing false awakening. The Bad Luck Inc cat's eyes are never shut, following us and Neon around, expressing omnipresent bad luck and oppressive supervision. Yui made the child's eyes bleed on Page 3, which was a very perceptive addition – a bleeding of innocence from the 'mirrors of the soul' (which ties in perfectly to the fact Neon's daughter doesn’t exist). And here, Neon has his eyes closed while he swallows the pill, telling us he hopes it's the last time his eyes are closed to anything. Which of course couldn’t be further from the truth – his eyes are closed permanently for most of the story, both in a literal and symbolic sense. The eye imagery continues later on, but we'll move on for now.


PAGE SIX

Loved the montage Yui did, lots of different angles and perspectives as Neon does his 'hero/spy' bit. Now you know the truth of the Neon's reality, it's left to you to decide whether the good luck pills are actually working or not, but let's face it, on second reading it's a moot point really, given the circumstances.

The main punch of the story comes from the final panel, where Neon is shot and we get the caption "A future of the abyss"; exactly what awaits Neon.

And he doesn’t even get the chance to use his gun. To be honest, this is a very loose skirting of Chekhov's Gun (I don’t mean to show disrespect, but I get away with it all the same… if only just). The 'rule' of Chekhov's Gun (named after the writer/playwright Anton Chekhov), is that if you introduce something of ominous intent early on in the story, you better have used it by the time you get to Act 3. In his example, if the writer shows a gun on a mantelpiece at the start of the story, it must be fired by the end - "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." It's literary device.

At the start of Bad Luck Inc., we see Neon pocketing his gun, but he never uses it. While the gun is not really important, I show it at a few stages and so a typical reader will expect that he uses it at some point. But he doesn’t. Uh oh.

My nice and easy out is pretty simple, really. IT'S NOT A REAL GUN. Nor, in fact, is anything but Neon's state of mind truly 'real' (which is stated as such on the next page, but I digress). I can get away with showing a gun and not firing it because the reality of the story's narrative becomes quickly apparent and the protagonist is essentially helpless. Again, it's another trick to subvert expectations of the story's reality and tell you, as from the first page, that things are not right. That's the nice thing about playing in an 'unreality' – you can afford to bend the rules a little because it plays directly towards that fact. So much, that I have Neon himself get shot instead of him shooting – a kinda inverted metaphorical play on Chekhov's Gun. I'm not a total maverick. Honest.


Next week I'll go into the final pages of the story and probably break a few more storytelling rules in the process, too. I like breaking stuff.



This week's teaser: Look at the other 'victim employee's' names. Can you see a pattern emerging?

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