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<   No. 4   2003-01-08   >

Comic #4

1 Lambert: Our caravan is passing through lands infested with orcs.
2 Mordekai: I'll stay at the back!
3 GM: So you're doing the rearguard scouting?
4 Mordekai: That's a bit of a noble way of putting it.

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2011-11-03 Rerun commentary: Lambert gets his first line, and we see the first appearance of the GM, a character which I always kept separate from "Me". (I believe the main reason at the time was simply to avoid having every example like this being a crossover between the "Me" theme and the roleplaying game theme.) It becomes clear now that the fantasy characters are actually characters in a roleplaying game. The conceit is that we never get to see their players - everything they say comes out as though it's being said by the fantasy character. This seemed incredibly clever and original to me at the time. There were antecedents in many single-panel gag comics published in the pages of Dragon magazine, but as far as I still know this was the first time anyone did this in an ongoing series. (I'm sure if I'm wrong, someone will correct me and I can update this annotation appropriately.)

I (with some friends) used this conceit again when we started our collective webcomic Darths & Droids. So the foundations of that comic are being laid right here.

This also shows the first time I used a consistent speech bubble colour for the same character across strips. This was an on-again off-again proposal early on, and the speech bubbles evolve in colour over time until they finally settle down a few hundred strips down the line. The coloured speech bubbles have become something of a trademark of Irregular Webcomic!, and caused much comment in the early days of the strip, since it was so unusual.

The reason behind it was purely practical. I was using the cheap graphics editor Paint Shop Pro at the time (version 2 or something), and had very little experience with it. I tried making "normal" speech bubbles as seen in every other comic of the time - white balloons with tails, surrounded by a black line, overlaid on the image (rather than sticking out over the top). I couldn't figure out how to do it. I couldn't figure out how to get a black outline around the balloon. So to make sure they stood out enough, I placed them in the white space above the photos and made the balloons coloured.

The first two strips only had Me talking, so it was strip 3 before I decided to make the bubbles different colours for different characters.

Later on I figured out how to do what I'd originally wanted - "normal" comic speech bubbles - but by that time the style of IWC had been set, and I would never break it, except for a handful of special one-off strips. If I was starting this strip today, I would probably never have used this style of coloured, above-the-photos speech bubbles at all.

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Last Modified: Thursday, 19 January 2012; 00:39:34 PST.
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