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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Dreamer by Lora Innes

Web comics don't come much more 'pro' than The Dreamer. What Lora Innes has set-up is really something quite special, and it's the sort of, in today-speak, 'brand identity' that cynical companies might try to create, but get hopelessly wrong. That's because the ingredient that such a company would lack, and which Innes provides in abundance, is passion; and that passion really shows not just in the work and the attention to detail, but also in the way the world of Beatrice (Bea) Whalley is presented and promoted by her creator.

One of the things I really like about The Dreamer is that it could easily be a story from an old classic British comic like Judy or Bunty, which of course means that it would fit comfortably into any current manga collection. What maybe looks at first glance as simply a period piece, is on closer inspection a much more complex and interesting premise that is mirrored, in many ways, in the current US TV version of the BBC hit show, Life on Mars:

Beatrice “Bea” Whaley seems to have it all; the seventeen year old high school senior is beautiful, wealthy and the star performer of the drama club. And with her uncle’s connections to Broadway theater, the future looks bright ahead of her. Little does she know that her future might actually be brighter behind her.

Bea begins having vivid dreams about a brave and handsome soldier named Alan Warren–a member of an elite group known as Knowlton’s Rangers that served during the Revolutionary War. Prone to keeping her head in the clouds, Bea welcomes her nightly adventures in 1776; filled with danger and romance they give her much to muse about the next day. But it is not long before Beatrice questions whether her dreams are simply dreams or something more. Each night they pick up exactly where the last one ended. And the senses–the smell of musket shots and cannons, the screams of soldiers in agony, and that kiss–are all far more real than any dream she can remember.

I have to admit that The Dreamer is what I think a web comic should be. It's not that my ideal online strip has to be a serial, or that it shouldn't be funny, it's just that the web is an ideal medium for experimentation. It is also the ideal medium for telling a long story over time that can, as new technologies become available, take advantage of those elements and perhaps incorporate them into its delivery. Yet for some reason, a lot of the stuff on the web is in the same restricted and restricting format that we find in newspapers. Why? For some reason, a lot of online comics appear not just as faux-newspaper strips, but they also appear as tiny little graphics as though their creators are blissfully unaware that quite a lot of surfers now have broadband.

Honestly, I think quite a few of us could learn a lesson or two by just looking at Lora Innes's site, but you'll be missing out if you don't stop off at The Dreamer archive and catch up with volumes one, two, three and the current volume, volume 4.

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