Can Art And Webcomics Have Secondary Fandoms?

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Well, I thought that I’d talk about “secondary fandoms” today. This is the best term I can come up with to describe that bizarre experience where you find something really cool, that is a tiny part of something else (that you may or may not interested in).

For example, I’m not really a huge fan of the modern role-playing genre of computer games and my computer is probably considered “vintage” these days. So, I’m probably not going to play “Skyrim” and yet, thanks to numerous cover versions that I’ve heard on Youtube, I think that it’s theme tune is one of the most epic pieces of music ever invented. Even though I absolutely love the theme tune, I can’t exactly call myself a “Skyrim” fan. Hence, “secondary fandom”.

Although secondary fandoms don’t always lead to people joining the “main” fandom for something, they can certainly be a useful tool for building a fandom.

For example, I initially got vaguely interested in “Game Of Thrones” after I saw a really cool Youtube video of someone playing the show’s epic theme song using eight modified floppy disk drives as an instrument. When a relative later recommended the books to me and lent me one of them, I was curious enough to read the first hundred pages. Then I ended up watching some of the TV show, which got me interested in the books again, which got me interested in the TV show again etc… But, this may or may not have happened if I hadn’t heard a version of the show’s impressive theme tune on Youtube first.

But, it’s probably quite telling that the two examples that I’ve given have been computer games and TV shows. After all, due to the complex nature of these mediums, they’re going to contain many additional elements that can draw in a secondary fandom. After all, they also contain music, art (even if it’s just cover/ poster art), architecture/set design, costume design, catchphrases etc…

However, art and webcomics contain far fewer different elements. With comics, you’ve just got text and art. With art, you just have art. So, can these things actually have secondary fandoms?

In a word, yes. Although it’s probably more difficult than it is with things like TV shows and computer games.

With webcomics, you can probably gain a secondary fandom by producing interesting-looking stand-alone drawings or paintings of your characters. If this art looks like the kind of thing that people would want to use as a desktop background, the kind of thing that people would want to use as an online avatar etc… then there’s a good chance that you’ll gain a secondary fandom.

With art, the only real way to gain a secondary fandom is if your art appears in other contexts, or if one or two pieces of your art become more famous than the rest.

For example, I’ve been a massive fan of a band called Iron Maiden for at least a decade (after hearing one of their songs in a slightly old computer game when I was a teenager). Anyway, one thing that I loved about the band when I first discovered it was how cool all of the cover artwork for their old albums looked.

In fact, I even ended up accumulating quite a few Iron Maiden T-shirts purely because of the coolness of both the art and the band. However, it was only relatively recently that I learnt that all of the “classic” Iron Maiden artwork was made by an artist called Derek Riggs. I’d spent years being a fan of an artist whose name I didn’t even know!

Likewise, literally everyone knows what the Mona Lisa looks like. It’s widely considered to be one of the best and most valuable paintings ever made. And, yet, very few people can probably name or remember too many more of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings or drawings (except possibly The Last Supper and/or the Vitruvian Man). Although the Mona Lisa is just one of many pieces of art that Da Vinci made, it has a level of appeal and popularity which means that it’s audience consists of more than just Renaissance art experts.

So, yes, art and webcomics can gain a secondary fandom – even if it is more difficult than it probably is for TV shows, games, films etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (24th May 2017)

Well, I was feeling more uninspired than I expected before I made today’s digitally-edited painting. After several failed pencil sketches, I eventually decided to go for something a bit easier and make a painting of some Brutalist-style buildings.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Concrete City Confidential" By C. A. Brown

“Concrete City Confidential” By C. A. Brown

Using Fake Subcultures To Make Your Comic Or Story More Interesting

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Although this is an article about a really interesting storytelling technique that can help you to make your audience more interested in your comics and/or fiction, I’m going to have to spend pretty much all of this article discussing and dissecting a single TV show because it contains the best example of this one technique that I’ve ever seen.

During the week or two before I originally wrote this article, I’d started rewatching some DVDs of the first few series of a TV show called “Hustle“. If you’ve never heard of this show before, it’s a BBC comedy/drama show that focuses on a group of con artists who live in London.

In every episode of “Hustle”, the main characters pull off some kind of large con, heist and/or scam which usually involves an almost Sherlock Holmes-like level of complex thought, a large number of magic trick-like plot twists and a lot of comedy.

Anyway, the reason why I’m mentioning this show is because of the way that these characters are presented. Whilst the show quickly gets the audience on side by showing that they rigidly follow a rule of “you can’t cheat an honest man” (eg: they only steal large amounts of money from worse criminals, corrupt people, arrogant aristocrats etc..), it also does something much more interesting too.

It presents con artistry as a kind of subculture. The characters all have their own slang (eg: they refer to themselves as “grifters” etc..), there are occasional references to the “traditions” and “superstitions” of being a con artist, they seem to know a network of other “good” criminals who are all fairly similar to them, they have a strong attitude that “it isn’t about the money” and often seem to treat their activities more like a sport than anything else etc..

Of course, even a cursory glance at a newspaper or news site will show you that this is clearly artistic licence. Most real con artists either seem to be located in countries with more lenient internet fraud laws/extradition laws, or they seem to be sneaky and unprincipled opportunists who prey on the vulnerable, or they just seem to be ordinary people who happened to find a dubious way to make some quick cash, or they are members of vicious organised crime gangs, or they are motivated by unglamourous things like poverty rather than by “the sport of it”.

And, yet, if “Hustle” had more ‘realistic’ main characters, it wouldn’t be a very entertaining show. It would be an extremely depressing one. The show works because it creates a fictional subculture surrounding a slightly “mysterious” part of real life.

The show isn’t actually a show about scams, heists and con tricks, it’s actually a show about friendship, teamwork and the power of the intellect. If all of the main characters were stage magicians or private detectives instead of con artists, it would still be just as entertaining to watch.

One of the reasons why obviously fake subcultures work so well in TV shows is because they tap into several basic parts of our minds. For starters, they help us to feel a sense of belonging by showing us an interesting group of people who we’d probably like to join. Since we get to see a lot of their adventures, their conversations and their history, we get to feel a vicarious sense of belonging. In some small way, we temporarily feel like we’re associated with a group of people who have been designed to be likeable.

Likewise, many of these “fake subculture” TV shows (“Supernatural” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” spring to mind too) often hint that the main characters are only a small part of a much larger subculture. This is designed to provoke the audience’s imaginations and to make them wonder what the rest of the “world” of the show is like. This is the sort of thing that prompts people to write fan fiction or, even better, to come up with actual original things inspired by the shows in question.

Plus, by hinting at a larger subculture, it also briefly makes the audience what the real world would be like if such a subculture actually existed. After all, subcultures are a thing that actually exists – and the best ones usually aren’t “mainstream”. So, by showing something similar to the real way that subcultures work, it makes the audience wonder if the fictional subculture could actually ever exist in the real world.

Yes, fake subcultures can be unintentionally hilarious/ laughably stupid when they’re done badly. But, when they’re done well, they can be an extremely useful tool for making your audience more interested in the story that you’re telling.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Nostalgia Itself Can Sometimes Be More Inspirational Than The Things That Provoke It- A Ramble

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Although I’m going to start this article by talking about a time when I revisited a game that I felt nostalgic about, there’s a good reason for this. But, if you’re interested in some ideas about nostalgia and creative inspiration, then it might be worth skipping the next four paragraphs or so.

The afternoon before I originally wrote this article, I was in a vaguely nostalgic mood and decided to take another look at a computer game from 2006 called “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey” that I played for the first time in late 2011 (after playing the original “The Longest Journey” game during summer 2011).

Although I didn’t feel like replaying the whole thing, I wanted to quickly relive some of the good memories that I had of this game. So, I loaded up one of my old save files from near the beginning of the game – ready to jump back into the complex immersive fictional world that I remembered so fondly.

But, it didn’t seem right. Dialogue that seemed significant and emotionally powerful just a few years ago just came across as needlessly melodramatic or “depressing for the sake of depressing”. Likewise, the large explorable futuristic version of Casablanca that I remembered from the beginning of the game actually just seemed to be a few linear streets. Previously interesting characters just seemed to be more annoying than anything else. There were also more loading screens than I remembered.

After a few minutes, I stopped playing. This wasn’t the game that I remembered! Sure, it looked vaguely similar. Sure, the characters looked the same. But, it just seemed less enchanting, immersive and dramatic than it was a few years ago.

This, naturally, made me think about the nature of nostalgia.

It took me a while to remember that nostalgia is as much about the difference between the person you were in the past and the person you are now as it is about any specific game, movie, book, TV show, song, comic etc…

Generally, we become nostalgic about things for one of two reasons. Something either seems to sum up a particular time period perfectly (eg: floppy disks, audio cassettes and POGs sum up the 1990s quite well), or it has a strong emotional impact on us when we first encountered it. It was exactly the right thing that we needed to play, watch, hear or read at a particular time in our lives. It was something that either fired our imaginations, helped us to understand ourselves and/or provided something good during a gloomy time.

If nostalgia falls into the latter category, then it is often best to avoid revisiting it. After all, even though it was a small- but essential – thing that helped to make you the person you are today, you are almost certainly at least a slightly different person to the one you were in the past.

So, if you try to revisit something that used to have an emotional resonance with you, then it probably won’t have exactly the same resonance any more. You’ll probably end up looking at it in a more dispassionate and disconnected kind of way. Needless to say, it won’t live up to the vital and important memories that you have of it.

However, if you don’t look at it again, it’ll still be the amazing thing that it once was. You’ll remember it as being much better, much more dramatic, much more significant, much more detailed etc… than it actually is. And, if you’re a creative person, then this is exactly the sort of thing that you need in order to get inspired.

After all, inspiration comes from using your imagination to turn pre-existing things into new things. It comes from seeing something and thinking “I want to make my own version of that!” and/or “I wonder what something like that would be like if I added something else to it?

Since nostalgia tends to do some this for you automatically, you’ll be in a much more advantageous position to start coming up with creative ideas if you take inspiration from the nostalgia itself, rather than the thing that actually made you feel nostalgic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Editorial: Manchester

A little earlier this morning, I looked at a news site and found myself face to face with a shocking account of the kind of events that seem like they belong in a much worse part of the past, rather than the present day. The worst terror attack on British soil since 2005. An attack on a concert hall in Manchester. For a while, I was completely lost for words. But then I felt that I had to say something.

Although I’ve only ever been to Manchester maybe once or twice and have never seen a concert there, I’ve been to concerts in other parts of the UK during my mid-late teens and early twenties. Concerts are wonderful things. They’re a space of pure excitement, fun and joy.

They’re somewhere where you can lose yourself in music and daydreams for an hour or two. They’re the kind of intense experience where you sing along until your throat is hoarse and listen until your ears ring. They’re somewhere where the songs that you listen to in the background during everyday life literally come to life in a way that is difficult to describe unless you’ve experienced it.

Concerts are concerts. Most people who have been to concerts by their favourite bands will probably have a similar joyous story to tell. Concerts are the kind of places where, even if you’re normally shy around crowds, it doesn’t matter because everyone around you is enjoying the music too and has something in common with you.

There is nothing else quite like a concert. They’re truly brilliant things. So, the idea that anyone would want to destroy or attack them is almost unimaginably horrific. The idea that anyone’s soul or personality could be so evil and twisted to see a place that exists purely for the purposes of bringing some joy and happiness into this drearily miserable world and then decide that they want to destroy it almost seems impossible to comprehend.

As well as being a disgustingly barbaric attack on innocent people (including children!), this latest atrocity (like the Bataclan attack in France) is also a disturbing attack on everything that concerts represent. Joy. Community. Happiness. Fun. Enthusiasm. Friendship. Imagination. Creativity.

Regardless of who the murderer turns out to be or what ideology he followed, one thing is certain. He hated these things. He saw somewhere where people went to have fun and feel happy and it disgusted him so much that he wanted to replace it with pain, fear, misery and death.

So, the only thing to do in this situation is not to let him win. To defy him. Even if you don’t feel like going to a concert or can’t go to a concert, get your favourite CD or click on your favourite playlist and turn the volume up as loud as you can – and make this vile murderer spin in his grave! Show him the utter contempt and disgust that he deserves!

Because, as shocking and horrific as the events of yesterday evening were, we can either cower in fear or we can stand up against the terrifying idea that there should be no place for joy, fun, happiness or creativity in the world. And, if there’s anything that the world needs at the moment, it is these things!

[Edit: 1:24pm, I’ve just made a very slight change to the phrasing of one part of this article since, in my haste, I got an expression slightly wrong. Still, the sentiment remains the same.]