Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A hit! A very palpable hit!

"There's a lot of fencing in the last two issues," Joe said.

Most of me did a quick version of the dance of joy. One of the things I have always loved about Locke & Key is the fact that Dodge is a fencer. My sport, it's a weird little sport, and I'm always happy when it gets some attention. But part of my brain said, "Oh, shit. Something is going to go wrong, and you're going to have to pick between your favorite sport and your favorite comic."

I mean, I trusted Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Locke & Key has been consistently brilliant. I think it is the best comic being written right now, one of the bests ever. But writing fencing is hard. When I did it, I blocked all the scenes myself (leading to a delightful moment when the local gaggle of little girls decided I must be a pirate, because who else has a sword), and then I gave the MS to my coach to tech read for me. Then we fenced all the fight scenes, just to make sure they were possible. And I've been fencing for a very long time. 

But, you guys, they did it. (I pretty much knew we were going to be okay at the middle panel on page 10, when Dodge's body language is exactly like someone whose blade is an extension of his will, and poor Manugian stands there like someone who is about to get bageled. Which he does.)

And the thing is, the best thing, is the fencing isn't stunt writing, or stunt drawing. The issue itself has the beats of a bout. Let me explain.

Foil, unlike epee, does not allow for simultaneous scoring. If both fencers hit at the same time, the judge reads the phrase: she describes the action between "allez" and "halt" to determine who was in control, whether the actions were in time with each other. The fencer controlling the action is awarded the touch. Strategy matters.

Throughout the issue, things like timing and strategy matter. At key moments, the panels, and the characters in them, are arranged in a way that echoes the profile of opponents on a fencing strip. Characters feint, pull distance, parry and riposte, and not just with blades. This was my sport, put on the page. I loved it.


  1. This made me want to quote the Princess Bride so badly. Not entirely on topic, but still. (Also, mad love for the Buffy reference in your tags.)

    I don't know much about fencing, except that it's beautiful to watch. A friend in high school (already out of high school, and dating my friend's sister) used to fence. Until he maimed his shoulder in a non-fencing Oops. Every time he talked about it, though, there was such adoration and passion in his voice. That's what I've seen from the people I know who have, or who, fence: passion. There's no in between.

    Anyway, it's always awesome when people get it right. Having horseback rode for years, I always worry that someone's going to get it wrong (don't even get me started on calling a baby horse a PONY).

    I have to check out that comic, but I'm planning on it. And I am giving you total credit for that, since I hadn't heard about it prior to you. ~Ali

  2. Quoting The Princess Bride is always appropriate. It's a great movie, and it also gets the fencing right. The amount of times I heard quotes from it during training...

    You should absolutely check out Locke & Key. The first three arcs are collected in trade volumes already. It is so, so good.