Well, I thought that I’d talk about historical comics today because, at the time of writing, I’m busy making another time travel-themed webcomic mini series. It will appear here in mid-May and it will be set in a stylised version of 1990s America (mostly inspired by Hollywood movies, old TV shows etc..). Here’s a preview:
The thing that surprised me when I was making this comic was that I haven’t actually specified the precise year or location (California in 1993/4 if anyone is curious) within the comic itself.
In fact, I hadn’t even thought of a specific year (other than “early-mid 1990s”) when I started making the comic – but, from some of the inspirations I’d had and the cultural references I’d included in the comics, I was able to work out where and when it was set fairly quickly. And, yet, I still decided not to actually include this specific information within the comic itself. Why?
Well, it probably has to do with the style of the comic itself. Although it’s technically a historical comic, it’s a silly sci-fi comedy comic that was mostly inspired by my nostalgia about various films, TV shows, computer games etc… that I first encountered when I was younger. It’s also set in a country that I’ve never actually visited. As such, I realised that historical accuracy would be neither possible or desirable within the time I’d allotted to make this comic.
So, by keeping things slightly vague within the comic, it basically tells the reader “this isn’t a serious historical drama“. Not only that, it also allows me to include the occasional anachronism (eg: something from after the time period in question) and quite a bit of artistic licence too, without breaking the immersion.
I guess that the general rule with historical information in comics that are set in the past is that, the more “serious” your comic is, the more detailed information you should give about it’s time and location. After all, more serious historical stories (whether biographical or fictional) gain part of their seriousness by being grounded in fact.
However, if your story is slightly sillier, somewhat stylised or more fantastical, then it can often be best to only give the readers a vague idea about where and when it is set. By reducing the setting to a more vague category (eg: “Victorian England”, “The Roaring Twenties” etc…), this allows you to draw on a much wider range of inspirations and to tell a greater variety of stories.
Not only that, by reducing the setting of the comic to a general category, this also allows you to tell a more stylised story – since you can draw on the general popular impression of that particular era without having to go into specifics. In other words, a vague setting allows you to include more nostalgia etc… in your comic.
So, yes, the more serious your historical comic is, the more specific historical details should be included.
Sorry for the ridiculously short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂