Prequel is an excellent story. Some adult content, but so much cuteness and amusement and subtle parody goodness that it’s absolutely worth a look – especially if you have played Oblivion, but probably even if you haven’t.
I bring it up because the most recent update (and yes, I am late talking about this, though I wanted to write something as soon as I saw it) is a landmark one, and one which has made me and many others realise just how invested we are in the character of Katia Managan, the wayward Khajit. Kazerad, the author/artist, deserves an awful lot of credit for his work here.
In the early phases of Prequel, the suggestions of the audience (which are incorporated, selectively, into the story) were often rather sadistic. People wanted Katia to do what they knew would have terrible, but hilarious, consequences. The point of the story was largely that everything Katia tried to do screwed up, and the sheer ridiculous misfortune she encountered was funny.
A key point here is that Katia is an alcoholic. For most of her life she drank to avoid her problems, and her life was so pathetic (in her eyes) that alcohol’s effect of compounding her problems was hardly noticeable. From the beginning of this story, however, she has ambitions to turn her life around.
When Katia resorted to alcohol, bizzare things happened. It was funny. It put her in unbelievable situations without ever needing to explain how we got there (most outstanding example: realising she had a threesome with a necromancer and an animated skeleton). But somewhere along the line we started to feel bad for Katia. More, we started to root for her. We wanted her to succeed in turning her life around. At some point, the ‘voices in her head’ started urging her to keep trying, not give up, and avoid temptations.
As this happened, some readers started to complain about the way that despite the audience’s best efforts, Katia’s actions always backfired. When she made the right decisions, things outside her control got in the way. When she tried her best, everything went wrong anyway. Accusations of ‘railroading’ were made, and people said that Kazerad shouldn’t claim to work off audience feedback if he was always going to pull the story back to square one and undo all of Katia’s progress regardless of what the fans wanted. For a lot of people, the gags weren’t funny anymore. They cared too much.
So when our feline heroine, who seemed to be doing so well, once again lost everything in a sudden and unpredictable upset that the audience could do little to avoid, some people were angry. When Katia was provided with a bottle of mead and the option to give it all up and take the easy way out, again, a lot of commenters assumed that’s what would happen. The author would return to the ‘classic’ gag and undo everything Katia had achieved. All our effort was for naught, and our investment in his character would cause us nothing but distress.
But I knew that wasn’t what would happen.
The recent scene (in the chapel) was not the setup to a gag. It was a serious, tense, highly emotional scene in which Katia struggled with herself, her own demons, and the fact that her world was painfully, constantly, hopelessly unfair. She struggled with the knowledge that she had an easy way out, but it would undo all the progress she had been so proud of. It would send her back to being a good-for-nothing outcast, but it would ease the pain. And Kazerad told us that this time, Katia would make her own choice.
For Kazerad to move from this incredible update to a gag about Katia’s crazy alcoholic adventures would have been much more than railroading – it would have been truly heartless. The emotional response I felt to that comic was remarkable, and surprised me. It’s a masterful portrayal of the character and inspired a perfect tension, leaving open the option that she might fail herself, and give into temptation, and we can understand why. Her life is hard and she really hates herself right now.
Judging from the comments, I am not alone in the fact that I felt extremely happy, uplifted and indeed proud at how Katia handled her conflict in the next comic. To see her make this decision, not because one of us suggested it but because she really has made progress and gained strength in the last few story arcs, is truly great. I can’t praise the storytelling here enough. At the same time, I really don’t understand readers who were convinced that Katia would be back to square one this week. The setup was far too elaborate and emotional for that.
It is truly impressive for an author/artist (the art style also plays a major part) to get people to care about a character as deeply as I care about Katia Managan. I’m not sure when it happened, but I feel her triumphs and disappointments keenly. Good work, Kazerad.
And fight on, Katia F***ing Managan!