As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve been re-reading my modest collection of “The Simpsons” comics trade paperbacks. Anyway, I noticed something really interesting that I thought I’d mention today. I am, of course, talking about something that will help you to give your parodies a more universal appeal.
Although I didn’t really think of them as “comics” until I rediscovered them recently, I got most of these trade paperbacks during the 1990s and early 2000s when I was a kid. Two of these comics were based on the “Treehouse Of Horror” Halloween special episodes that air every year. When I looked at these two comics again, I found them absolutely hilarious.
There was a hilarious parody of “The Exorcist”, a clever reference to “Dream Of The Rarebit Fiend“, a fairly amusing parody of “Carrie”, a perfect parody of the frame narrative from Clive Barker’s “Books Of Blood”, a cynically satirical parody of Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” (which I really must read sometime, I’ve only heard a radio adaptation of the first part of it) etc… These comics were amazing.
Then I noticed a few jokes that I remembered. I noticed artwork that looked familiar. I realised that I’d read all of these comics when I was a kid and, yet, they somehow seemed better now that I was in my twenties. Sure, I enjoyed them for being amusingly dramatic horror stories when I was younger, but I got more of the jokes and references now.
Still, I obviously enjoyed these comics enough to keep them in an easy-to-find place. I enjoyed them enough to remember some of the jokes and the art. And, yet, most of the clever humour and brilliant parodies went completely over my head back then. They were basically like two different comics rolled into one.
There was the fun, zany and anarchically macabre comic that I could enjoy when I had very little knowledge of the horror genre and there was the brilliant series of parody comics that I could enjoy knowingly when I had. And, yet, these two things co-existed within the same comic.
Needless to say, this offers a brilliant lesson in how to write great parodies. Many of the best parodies still work as either comedy stories and/or as dramatic stories even if the audience doesn’t have an understanding of what is being parodied.
Many of the best parodies set out to tell a funny story, which will be even funnier if you know the thing that is being parodied. In other words, you need to write your parodies in a way that they can be enjoyed by anyone. But, don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.
One way to do this is to make sure that the references in your parody aren’t an essential part of the story. In other words, you might need to tell a good stand-alone story that just happens to include a lot of references to other things.
Or, you need to re-tell the story of the thing that you’re parodying in a significantly different way (that will be understandable to new readers, but will also be amusingly similar to something else).
For example, the “Simpsons” parody of “The Exorcist” is a self-contained story about Lisa being obssesed with Madonna, to the point of becoming possessed by her spirit. Although it includes some hilarious parody versions of scenes from the movie, the story itself works well as an amusingly melodramatic story about a character who is obssesed with pop music.
Another, smarter, way of doing this is to parody many similar things within a single sub-genre (eg: the zombie genre, the vampire genre etc…) not only does this ensure that your audience is more likely to get at least some of the references but, by parodying an entire genre, you also ensure that your story or comic will be amusing to people who have only vaguely heard of the genre in question.
But, yes, the best parodies can often still be interesting and/or funny even if someone doesn’t know what they’re supposed to be a parody of.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂