Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Jikan Noon Rides off into the Sunset...

above: Jikan and his Demon-Killing Posse protect a wagon train from the Deminjun Horde (art by Davey Candlish).

‘And just as suddenly as he appeared, the stranger disappeared, riding that hot wind to the next hell he would cleanse...’

After thirty-one weekly episodes spanning over six months, the Old West chapter of Jikan’s life is concluded. We’ve been through airborne fights with harpy gunslingers, an orgy of blood and butchery at the hands of a horde of deminjuns, and a gut-wrenching finale involved a giant planet life force dearth worm…

(right...I've collected all the weekly episodes of Jikan Noon for you to read, but in my normal fashion I’m going to ramble a bit, so click here to ignore me and skip to the comics)

Writing a strip like this has its challenges – action and adventure has to dominate, because that’s what keeps the audience (both of you) returning week after week, and every episode has to end with a cliffhanger of some sort for the exact same reason. Yet somehow, for the sake of “character development”, a quiet moment or two has to find a place between all the violence and bloodshed. The process of writing a three-panel weekly can seem confining and frustrating at first, but really fun once you get the hang of it (and there are those of you who will question whether I’ve gotten the hang of it yet).

Davey Candlish – creator of Jikan and editor of small press comics anthology, Paragon Comic – began the time-traveling samurai’s adventures in this exact format (you can find that strip collected in the Jikan Chronicles) as content for his blogsite. The next few Jikan stories were written (by Mark Howard) for Paragon, and traded in the newspaper strip format for the…um…yeah…the comic book format (I love it when I hit a spot like this, where there’s no better way than the obvious to describe something - but as a so-called writer I first feel obligated to “make it sound better” and then sheepish for being unable to do so).

I’d just finished a pair of stand-alone Jikan scripts for ParagonJikan: Witch Fires and Jikan and the Caves of Death – when Davey asked me to come up with a sequel to the original newspaper strip.

What I like about Jikan is that, because he hops around from time to time, he can really go anywhere or do anything; one strip can find him in feudal Japan, the next can launch him into outer space; he can wade through an episode of violent action or creep through a horror-plot.

For the newspaper strip's relaunch, Davey wanted a gritty Western - but I convinced him to let me write a whimsical fairy tale...and the adventure of Jikan & the Kappa King unfolded over the next six months.

above: a rotten-mean oni steals a bouncing baby in Jikan & the Kappa King (art by Davey Candlish)

When Jikan & the Kappa King concluded, I felt the script an uneven bit of writing; there are several really fine moments scattered throughout, but those moments are cancelled out by unfunny jokes and a very rushed ending. I could have had the story go on ten more episodes, mostly to explain the Oni’s back story, but simply ran out of space; this was mostly the result of me making the story up as I went, and when I blinked the weeks had flown by and I had an ending miles off but only inches with which to tell it. I had to wrap up the Oni’s origin in TWO PANELS

Having learned a few valuable lessons - and having read reams of Prince Valiant and Conan the Barbarian newspaper strips to see how it should be done - I was eager to give the format another go. Davey again asked for a story set in the Old West. This time I sat down with an idea – and wrote every episode in one sitting. As a result the pacing in Jikan Noon is much better than in Kappa King, and the cliffhangers are more natural. I supplied Jikan with a new set of supporting characters, yet managed to give each of those characters a bit of depth...(if you consider THIS NONSENSE depth)!

Look out for Jikan Leviathan, the time-travelling samurai's next small-format weekly adventure, next year!

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