Scott Lobdell, RHATO, and Gonzo Scripting
Scott Lobdell’s preference for telling and not showing has been one of the biggest reasons why I’ve had issues with RHATO so far, so it was really (really) nice to see him do the opposite and finally show-not-tell Jason’s thought processes and history in #18. I’m just sad that this had to happen at the end of his run.
This also made me realize why Jason being an unreliable narrator in the series never seemed to really work, narratively. Jason repeatedly telling us he’s fine and confident in himself and totally doesn’t care about the Gotham bats doesn’t really come across as false bravado (which is - perhaps retroactively - what Lobdell now intends us to read it as) because the rest of the more “reliable” narration in the series is written in the exact same told-not-shown way. Instead, it comes off as though Jason’s claims are supposed to be the reality of the situation, or as though the writer is desperately and unsuccessfully trying to convince us that they are.
It especially doesn’t work when said writer’s idea of interesting characterization is just to make everything the exact opposite of what was previously canon. It becomes very difficult to distinguish between Jason being super unreliable and Lobdell just introducing another “unexpected” twist.
Back to my main point: gonzo-style scripting (where the narrator is right there in the story, speaking with no claims of objectivity) will always have issues in comics form, I think, because when the things the narrator says are being illustrated alongside their words, we tend to take them as, well, at least somewhat objective truth. And when you rely so heavily on a telling-not-showing narrative style, as Lobdell does in RHATO, it makes that kind of narrator unreliability even less apparent.
Edit: I forgot to add, this all only applies if you accept the explanation for all the unstable characterization in RHATO as Lobdell trying to write Jason as an “unreliable narrator” — which I actually don’t. I think it’s his attempt to backpedal and explain the absolutely awful writing published earlier in the series - oh, they’re just acting totally OOC and gross because, uh, unreliable! And sarcasm! And lying! - and yet even if you accept that explanation, it still falls apart for the reasons listed above (and more, but that will be for another essay). Thank you seinemajestat for pointing this out.
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- silvanoir said: I like to pretend the earlier issues of RTAHO were all a fever dream of Jason and he;s never hung out with a younger Roy and messed up Starfire at all. It’s how I stay sane as a Jason fan
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- ruein said: Oh thank you! You finally got down to the depth of why reading Lobdell has been painful for me.
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- omegabones said: Telling instead of showing has become the BANE of my creative writing class existence. :I Man, I see enough of it reviewing bad stories, I don’t want it in my comics, too. </3
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