This past weekend my entire family (all 5 of us) checked out the new comic book store in town that opened in June. The big surprise was that the boys and myself didn’t buy anything, and my wife walked out with a couple of titles including the first 2 issues of IDW’s Long Distance.
She fell in love with the series. I was told to pick up the 3rd installment this week and add it to the pull list so we don’t miss an issue. Done!
Long Distance is about a romance that has a few 100 miles between the lovebirds. Something my wife and I experienced when we started dating.
From my perspective there are 2 types of long distance relationships: Those that start as long distance and those that do not. Both are hard. Both have drama. This romance starts in an airport so that makes the relationship in this story 100% long distance. Thom Zahler’s story nails the seriousness and intensity of starting the relationship apart.
There are plenty of goofy parts too. From the anxiety over when to call (the precise minute or 5 minutes later), or wishing a line would move slower because you’re standing next to the one you love. There were moments where I thought, “Ohh, I remember saying that exact same thing.” or “I totally said something similar in the same situation.”
Ugh.. And the time zone thing. We started suffixing our names with “Standard Time” partially as a joke and partially because it was more effective than Eastern and Central when scheduling our next call.
Getting back to the story, Zahler adds in the dimension of social media and modern connectivity. Something that didn’t exist when my wife and I were dating. I shared a phone with 6 guys and didn’t have call waiting. I was able to stay current with my email using my laptop’s dial up modem (assuming 1 of the 6 roommates wasn’t using the phone).
Whoops. I’m off topic again. Guess I really did identify with the story.
Here are a few of the more technical writer-ish things I noticed:
- The series is 99% dialogue. It’s hard to make a visually engaging story when it’s saturated with people talking.
- A lot of writers will change scenes every 3 – 5 pages to keep the story moving. The two settings in the story work well with this pace.
- The art is a little cartoon-ish, and that’s to be expected. For some reason realistic plots
sell better drawn with a little surrealistic art, and surrealistic plots sell better with realistic art. (This is a completely unsubstantiated claim. I may have even made it up).
- I’m generally not a fan of flashbacks (they should be used sparingly not repetitively or predictably)(not like parenthesis)(they should be used always!). Thankfully the first two issues have not over used the technique.
- I read somewhere in a writerly writing book on comic book writing that narration boxes should be avoided because some readers will skip over them. I don’t think that claim was backed up with any data, and the industry clearly ignores it. But for some reason I’ve worked to all but eliminate narration from my script writing. It appears that Zahler is on the same page (high-five!). I noticed only a handful of narration boxes, and those technically may have been off panel dialogue.
- The art has limited color, and I kind of prefer it that way. I’ve generally found that comic books printed in glorious black & white generally have to compensate with a superior plot. Which is great for me since that is the driving force for me to read the book.
One final note. If this doesn’t sound like it’s for you, but you want to see more comic books produced like this. Please buy it (and ask the person behind the register where you can find more like it). If you want more non-superhero titles then also, please buy this book.
I’m guessing that IDW took a sizable risk on publishing this. That risk needs to be rewarded, otherwise they will be less likely to take that same risk again. (or even something that is less risky but feels close enough to that time they lost a bundle of money).
Will I read it to my Children?
Nope. Not enough robots. Wouldn’t capture their attention.