Friday, June 09, 2006

Influences, Part II

Well, my train of thought kind of derailed on that last blog, so I figured I would try again to organize my thoughts.

Influences... How much are we shaped by our early environments, and how much is us to begin with, and how does this apply to our creative lives?

Lots of times we see the same ideas expressed over and over again, and sometimes it seems like obvious plagiarism or outright theft. I'm thinking of comic strips, and sitcoms, and other creative outlets. (As for sitcoms, we're stretching the 'creative' definition, a bit, and giving the writers the benefit of the doubt)

Anyway, read the funnies long enough, and you will see the same ideas crop up again and again, and sometimes nearly word for word. Now, sometimes this is outright theft. I don't post everything I do on the web because there are some people out there who see nothing wrong with stealing ideas, as long as they can benefit from it. Other times, though, it may be coincidence, tribute, or influence. Maybe that Cartoonist read a strip, thought it was funny, and it was filed into his subconscious. Later, the idea pops up again, and seems original to the Cartoonist.

Not outright theft, but definitely an 'influence'. At other times, we may come up with the same ideas completely independent of others. Sheer coincidence, and bound to happen. After all, if 5 people are creating family strips, they will invariably cover the same topics, and revisit those topics. In a comic strip of 4 small panels, with only a certain amount of space for the writing, and with good jokes sharing a similar sense of timing, it is no surprise that the same ideas can arise independently.

Now let's explore this topic deeper. As a child, I read the Hardy Boys, but really enjoyed The Three Investigators. They were three kids who liked to solve mysteries, and had a cool secret headquarters hidden in a junkyard. Today, I have a comic strip called The Inquiring Minds, about three kids looking for adventure.

Coincidence? Was I influenced by those early stories? Probably. So if I never read the Three Investigators, would I not be now creating The Inquiring Minds?

Hard to say, but I doubt it. I have a lot more influences than just The Three Investigators. Besides, in a comic strip, a certain dynamic can be created by having three characters. Two characters can team up against the third, or all three can head off into different directions. And all three can have different strengths and weaknesses that play off of each other. Chances are the Three Investigators were created for the same reasons that The Inquiring Minds were, just for that special dynamic of three characters playing off of each other.

My characters love the outdoors, and are interested in sci-fi. My favorite all time author is Clifford D. Simak, whose stories all took place in nature, and of course were all sci-fi stories. His novel Shakespeare's Planet was about a group of Space Explorers stranded on a planet that has a 'gateway' that connects different worlds together. My very first comic strip was about a group of space explorers who find a 'gateway to the stars' on a planet, and get lost inthis network of star 'gates'. And now one of my favorite shows ( and movie) is Stargate Sg-1. Was I originally influenced by Shakespeare's Planet in creating my first comic strip?


And perhaps Stargate was also influenced by that story, directly or indirectly.

And now, my interest is further reinforced by Stargate SG-1, so that my original influence is reinforced by a current influence that may have been influenced by my initial influences!

An endless cycle of reinforced influences!

Have a nice day :0)

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