Monday, September 5, 2016

REX MORGAN 8-29-16 to 9-4-16

More REX. Milton slips deeper into dementia and Rex loses a patient.

The Comics Kingdom comment section was full of complaints (surprise!) and questions regarding the daily sequence, so I wrote and posted the following there in response:

"Dropping in to answer some questions and concerns from those who are treating the strip's subject matter seriously today.
I do have sources for medical advice -- one in my family -- and I do a good amount of research before touching on medical matters. That said, please don't expect too much detail here as regards medications and treatments. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the limited amount of word space in a daily comic, I'm having to paint with broad brush strokes here. What you're getting are snapshots in the lives of these characters -- not every moment.
One must also take into consideration the fact that writing a daily and Sunday comic strip is as much like doing a puzzle, as it is writing a story. There has to be a certain amount of repetition and recap, and things need to be presented as simply as possible to get the point across in two or three panels a day -- for readers who are often spending less than a minute reading the strip.
I do take the subject of dementia quite seriously -- my mother suffered from it in her later years. We're not going to linger over Milton's illness in great detail. Let's face it, it's not exactly a picnic -- and what reader wants to see such tragedy here every day? That said, the next week or so is about the balance between tragedy and triumph in a doctor's life -- and you'll just have to read it to see what that's about. There is a follow-up to this Milton/Heather/Jordan situation coming in about two months. I won't say more, because the whole idea here is for you to come back and keep reading. No story spoilers from me!
You can assume that Rex and Heather have had a far more detailed discussion of Milton's condition than we see in the strip. We present the highlights here, so we can move the story along. To play out the full conversation that would have happened would have eaten up weeks of strip time -- and that's not good comic strip storytelling.
I have more in mind with Jordan, as you'll see in coming weeks -- and the reveal of the prosthetic leg was not something Woody had planned -- but something of a "retcon" of the character from me. In some ways it was, admittedly, a bit of a stretch -- but I felt the character needed more of a story, and this is part of it.
As for Rex doing more doctor duty -- he will -- but remember, this is essentially a "soap opera" strip and not a medical lecture series. Rex's medical practice will tie into plots regarding friends and family -- think "Days of Our Lives," not "House."
And with TWO kids in the Morgan household now, we'll be seeing a certain amount of family oriented strips that aren't necessarily plot heavy, but character based, as I'm trying to make all the characters -- yes, even the dreaded Sarah -- more relatable and likable. Yeah, I know -- big job there. Stick around."

More complaints -- and to be fair, many compliments -- came with the Sunday page, but it seems trying to explain my motivations to the CK snarker crowd is fighting a losing battle. No matter what I say or do -- and I think I just did my best Sunday page ever -- there will always be those who show up only to ridicule and complain. Those folks don't want to give any strip creator a break, and frankly, prefer the strips to be bad, so they can play the bully and poke fun. No thanks.

That said, I'll gladly explain myself here, on my own turf. It's not standard operating procedure for a hospital to call a doctor in the middle of the night with the sort of update Rex gets in the Sunday page -- UNLESS said doctor has requested a staff member to keep him updated -- which is what I had in mind here. Because of the "snapshot" nature of comics storytelling, I wasn't able to spell out that background detail -- but I didn't think I needed to. 

The snarkers want to jump on anything they perceive as an error -- so they were all over the phone call -- and Rex's reaction to his patient's passing. When confronted with something that's "not how that is done," they don't bother to ask the simple question, "But is it possible?" And as far as I'm concerned, if it's possible -- even if it's not probable -- it's a valid story choice. 

As for Rex's response, I don't think it makes him unprofessional -- I think it makes him human. Yes, this is a long-time medical professional -- but Rex, my Rex, is a guy with a big heart -- and once in a while -- as he says in the Monday strip that follows these "It all gets to you." What the snarkers also fail to consider is that I might be setting up something that will pay off later -- stick around for the next week of strips and you'll see that. 

Now I keep reminding myself that the full readership of the strip far outnumbers the CK comment board snarkers who seem to live to gripe about it. Most folks read it, enjoy it, and go on about their lives -- as they should. Those of you who drop by here to see the B&W/toned version, seem to do so because you enjoy it -- and my Facebook followers certainly have been positive in their response. We have also not lost any newspapers with the switchover in writers -- and papers often take a shift in creators as an excuse to drop a feature. So I think I have a good perspective on the more typical response to my work on REX. The snarkers are an exception, and not representative of the average reader. I just find it unfortunate that they've so strongly taken over the comments section on CK -- keeping a real conversation about the strip from happening in favor of the eight-thousandth unfunny complaint that "Sarah has a big head" or "June is sore." 


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