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For those of you who are new to Cast, this issue picks up right where the previous issue, number 9, left off.  Issue 9 had Will (one of the series’ main protagonists) finally asking Ces (the girl of his dreams) out on a date… or rather it had Ces asking Will to go with her to a restaurant she had reserved for a dinner with her and Manny (Will’s mentor and the guy Ces is dating).  They have a great time as she and Will connect and learn more about each other.  But then Ces discovers Will’s feelings for her when she manages to read a poem he had secretly written about her for a contest.  Worried that she’s leading him on, she asks him to go to a fast food place, and after awkwardly trying to let him down gently, she gives him the dreaded “let’s just be friends” speech.

And we’re all caught up. 🙂

The End and the Beginning

One thing that readers will notice with this first splash page is that it’s pretty much the exact same scene as the last splash page of issue 9.  The spoken dialogue is exactly the same, though I cut off the first two word balloons.  Arnold even tried to copy the color scheme that colorist Joel Chua did for issue 9’s ending.  The thing that I really wanted to retain was the final caption that said “The end…” in issue 9.  I usually end Cast’s issues with “To be continued…” since it’s an ongoing series.  I wanted readers to wonder if this really was the end of the series.  I wanted the sharper readers to also wonder about the strange use of quotation marks and the “…” at the end of it.  It was a hint that this really wasn’t saying it’s the end, but it’s really Will’s first thought after listening to Ces.  Even while writing issue 9, I knew I wanted to start issue 10 with Will thinking something along the lines of, “This is the end of life…” and I thought this was a nice way to link the two issues while acting as a bit of a red herring.

Narrative Dialogue

I think this is the first time I had to use two colors for caption boxes, since I usually only use caption boxes in Cast for one character at a time, and even then usually just as a transition device between scenes (except in issue 1).  The general rule I follow is that if it’s internal dialogue or a character’s thoughts, the caption boxes have no quotation marks.  If there are quotation marks, it’s most likely dialogue trailing from another scene, often to give some kind of ironic juxtaposition.  But this was the first time I decided to use dialogue between two characters as a framing element for the whole story that would thread all the scenes together.  So to save myself from typing all those quotation marks, and because I also started the first caption with Will quoting himself, I decided to break my rule and just let the dialogue run in captions without the marks.  I also needed a visual shorthand to show that the caption boxes had dialogue from two different people and to clearly differentiate between them.  So I opted to use two colors for the caption boxes; one per character. Blue caption boxes were for Will. That last yellow box was for Lel (whom I made sure Will mentioned by name in his dialogue, again for clarity sake).  For the newbies, Lel is probably my most popular character.  She’s the sweet and shy girl who has an unrequited crush on another cast member, Joe.

What makes this issue interesting for me from a character standpoint is that Cast up to this point has really been the story of Will and Lel, going through very similar experiences with their unrequited crushes.  Yet for nine issues, the two rarely interacted or even did much together.  These two characters often were the “A” plots of most issues with the others usually taking the lesser “B” or “C” subplots.  It was really all about building to this moment, where the two would come to realize how much they had in common and come to a major realization about relationships by basically swapping notes.  But to pull it off convincingly, I had to create a believable bond and chemistry between the two in the span of one issue; and even in this issue they are really only seen together near the end of the story!  Having them talk to each other and recount their own sob stories and easily relating to the other’s problems made writing their caption dialogue a joy, and I think managed to quickly create a bond between them that new readers would see instantly and old readers would marvel at and wonder why it hadn’t been there all along.  The way this issue is structured, with their two stories constantly going back and forth while intersecting in subtle ways, then coming together at the end, pretty much encapsulates how the series had been structured until then.  The issues would tend to switch back and forth between Will and Lel main stories, yet only intersecting at certain points (though not in obvious ways), then only coming together at this issue. I think it makes this issue mean a whole lot more to the regular readers of Cast, while the structure still manages to set things up quickly for new readers.

The Real Story

My editor Elbert (who by issue 9 had really left me to do my own thing with very minimal interference.  I guess he trusted me more already.) often calls Cast my “thinly-veiled autobiographical series.”  While it did start out that way (as issue 1 is very much how I got into the school play in high school), I soon learned what many authors often discover: It’s a bad idea to write yourself as a main character because you aren’t as interesting as you think you are.  So as the series progressed, I started to deviate from my experiences more and more, relying more on imagination than on real life.  I feel it made the series actually more interesting since Will could do things I never dared do.  This issue, which I consider to be my best one of the series, actually only has two scenes from real life. This is the first one.

Back in 2000, my wife-to-be Iyay (who was my officemate at the time at People Asia magazine) had just discovered my secret crush on her due to a dumb stunt I pulled (it involved leaving an anonymous note and rose at her doorstep that turned out to be not-as-anonymous-as-I-had-hoped since I had stupidly given my name at the guard house of her village when leaving the note… maybe one day I’ll write a full comic about that).  The next day at the office, she didn’t tell me she had known it was me who had left the note and she let me drive her home from work as I often did.  Then, right before getting out of my car, she dropped the bombshell that she knew and said we’d talk about it the next day.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.

The next day, she suggested we go out to eat at McDonald’s after work to talk.  Guys, if a girl is going to give you the final say about her feelings for you, and she picks the most unromantic restaurant she can think of… you can kinda guess what her answer’s going to be.

I think Arnold pretty much captured the look on my face when she gave me “the speech.”  The way “Mickey’s” was drawn by both Jhomar Soriano in issue 9 and Arnold here even evokes the feeling of McDonald’s Greenbelt from that fateful night. (A special note: one of Will’s captions covers the peso price of the burger in the background banner.  This was deliberate on my part as one of my rules is to never give explicit hints that Cast is happening in the Philippines, even though it does).

It was a pretty crushing night. And she would give me that speech two times more over the next few months.  Of course we all know it ends well almost a year later, but at that time it was probably the single most devastating moment of my life.  That’s why I knew exactly what Will would be thinking. “The end…”

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Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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