I’ve learned over the years that an amazing amount of subtext can be crammed into each frame of a movie, TV show, novel, painting, etc. Making comics is no exception. Below is the comic Complexity, written by Wes Locher and drawn by me. Wes Locher gave me a lot of freedom to create the environment for this story. The resulting six page comic is layered with subtext, which the reader can use to draw speculative conclusions about the story. But first, here are the finalized pages of Complexity:
Each page of Complexity is an homage to MC Escher. As I put the MC Escher art beside my own, I was so humbled (again) by his ingeniousness and expertise. On each page, I did not stray from MC Escher’s original concepts. MC Escher’s work will live in Complexity for fans to enjoy and for newcomers to discover.
Another layer of Complexity has to do with whether or not Sondra, the android, is actually in control of her actions. The graphic below shows how on pages 1, 2 and 3, Sondra may be walking on a predictable path that is etched on the ground. The door she enters on page 4 has an arrow pointing to it and in the script, the “apple” even tells her to go in. When she arrives at Mr. Kircher’s office on page 5, Sondra is again on a path, but this time the path is a rug with a maze motif. The maze only allows her to either turn back or interact with Mr. Kircher.
Mr. Kircher is the head of the company that created Sondra, so the assumption is that he is in control. I inserted a shadow face on page 3 and 5 to hint at the presence of an entity watching over them. The face could be a personification of the “seeing eye” that hounds Sondra in this episode. The face could also be interpreted as a presence that controls even Mr. Kircher.
Let me backtrack a bit. Remember when I said that the maze would allow Sondra to turn back? Look again at page 3 below. The path that led her up the staircase at the beginning of page 3 has transformed into a balcony at the end of page 3. I wanted to create the feeling that the landscape around her is morphing as she is moving through it.
The changing environment is also shown between page 5 and 6. On page 5, the items on the table are: (1) a model of the building they are in, (2) a stack of playing cards with the 5 of Spades on top, and (3) four books. When Sondra falls backward onto the table on page 6, instead of the playing cards flying about, a single “King of Swords” Tarot card (selected by writer Wes Locher) jumps up from the table. The Tarot card cannot have been in the stack of playing cards because Tarot cards are much larger than playing cards. I leave it up to the reader to decide where the Tarot card came from.
The analysis can stop there or continue. If we assume the 5 of Spades card changed to a King of Swords card due to the morphing environment, we can ask the question: what are the occult meanings of these cards, and how does this serve to explain the subtext of what is going on in pages 5 and 6? According to Sylvia Abraham’s “How to Read the Tarot”, the 5 of Spades (5 of Swords) can mean: “Problems and troubles. A desire to overcome others due to ego needs. Desires cloud good sense in relations”. The King of Swords can mean: “A professional man, a lawyer or [man] in the military. He has mental dexterity, is a good counselor, and has lots of nervous energy. The King is discriminating and has many friends. Little sentimentality.” Again, I leave it up to you to determine the meaning of this.
I could go on analyzing these 6 pages, but I hope I have piqued your interest regarding background details that are used in comics to add subtext. In summary, I enjoy using background details to either support the surface story, add subtext, or tell a contrasting story.
In closing, I will share my initial blueline sketch layouts for Complexity below, which show Sondra traveling through architecture that resembles a human skull. Who’s skull? Draw your own speculative conclusions.