Hey there, everybody! I’m Frank Inglese and welcome to the first CC Comic Zone! Obviously you have no idea what CC Comic Zone is yet so here we go: Basically each week I will be talking about different aspects of Comics, Mangas, Graphic Novels and pretty much everything that is drawn. I’ll go through what I feel works in a Comic and also what I feel does NOT work. This week I’ll be talking about the “Relatable Protagonist” and why I think that it’s one of the most well-used element in illustrated media.
A “relatable Protagonist” is an odd one to define because relatable has such a large spectrum; the main character could be smart, he/she could be an idiot, he/she could be rich, he/she could be poor and no matter what he or she IS there’s always a guarantee that they will relate to someone who is reading the Comic. We’ve had so many protagonists over time that are just lovable dorks that remind us of ourselves, the number 1 example is Peter Parker/Spiderman, he’s a bookworm and science geek turned superhero yet he retains his teenage angst, smart-arse attitude and lightning-fast quips. He’s like one of us and that’s why we love him.
Western Comics are full of characters who were once normal people and it’s what gets us hooked in. I think that if there were to be a main character who was already great, who already had the power, the money, the ladies/men, and the attitude we really wouldn’t like them as much, we definitely wouldn’t be able to relate to them so it makes for a bad first impression and they always say that first impressions last. I feel like that’s why Spiderman is loved by a vast majority of Pop Culture lovers, even if he’s not your favourite he’s still very much up there on the list.
Even a lot of these more violent Comics, Graphic Novels and Manga have characters that are, or were once, just normal people turned evil or at least turned bad. One such Comic that comes to mind is The Strange Talents of Luther Strode which, if you don’t know what that is, is about a young boy who just constantly gets bullied, he’s lived a fairly hard life, he pretty much has just the one friend and he spent a lot of his childhood watching his Father beat his Mother yet when he’s introduced in the first chapter he is a well-spoken, kind, young man. That right there is a good start.
He then orders a book through a magazine that is said to make anyone substantially stronger both mentally and physically, well, Luther buys this book and after a couple days of reading and meditation he becomes this incredible human being who is agile, strong, smart, the whole deal BUT that is where the trouble starts. I’m not going to give too much away but the coming events force Luther to use his new “talents” to become a monster like no other. By the end of the series audiences would have seen Luther rip apart many, many people in the most brutal way but I guarantee nobody who had read the Comic would have hated Mr. Strode and I believe that is because of his initial introduction as an all around nice guy and the type of person we could see ourselves being.
Scott Pilgrim is another great example of a killer main character. He’s so naive and so lazy and is just all round…US. He has his friends, he has his annoying family, he has his gay room-mate, his story is fairly mundane until he falls in love with a girl that he THINKS he saw in his dreams but it turns out she’s a little more than just his “dream girl”. That’s where the story gets weird and wacky but every reaction, every decision, every choice is one that, had we been in that situation, we would have done the same.
A perfect example in Scott Pilgrim is, now if you havn’t read all the books just be warned this is a very slight spoiler, during one of the last Volumes it turns out that one of Scott’s friends, Steven, is gay. Now although scott as just fought 6 evil ex boyfriends (and one girlfriend) for the sake of his love Ramona he is still utterly shocked by this because although he’s going on these wild adventures into the world of fight-dating he is still a normal guy living in a normal world that, yes, would be taken back by something like finding out one of your friends is gay. It’s so simple but it just works.
In end I think we all read Comics because we want to escape into the world of the Comics, it’s the same reason people who are lost in love watch romantic movies it’s to escape into a world that you will enjoy and it’s through the relatable main characters that you can easily do that. It’s this element that also makes games where you can make your own character so popular, it’s because it almost forces you to be that character, it’s also the same element that drives you to tell your friends about the Comic your reading because you know they’re like you and if the character is like you and you are like them it’s only natural to want to connect. It’s that simple, it’s that easy,and it works.