Can a story have two main characters (and still be good)?
February 13, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for graphic novels/comics with a narrator and a separate (non-narrator) main character.

I'm working on a project in which I'm trying to incorporate two protagonists into the same story. I want to accomplish this by having one character be the narrator and the other be the one who most of the action revolves around. The narrator is going to be part of the action too, but is playing a supporting role. I'm having some creative trouble with this so I'd like to see some examples of what I'm trying to do.

Bonus points (but not required):
female protagonists
young adult genre
monsters, mutants, any supernatural stuff
high-school drama
unrequited love

I'm also open to suggestions that don't exactly fit the description, like a two-narrator story or a two-protagonist story without a narrator. Anything close will help!

posted by a.steele to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Alison Bechdel's Fun Home might work. The narrator's father is a major character--if not fully a protagonist, very close to one in parts.
posted by sallybrown at 12:13 PM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: Baker Street, by Guy Davis and Gary Reed mixed punk, Sherlock Holmes, and alternate history with female leads. There is a "Watson," who is the ostensible narrator (and also plays the newcomer to whom things must be explained) and a "Holmes," who solves the mysteries and (along with her sometimes lover) handles most of the action that occurs. The whole series is apparently available in one volume now.

You might also read some of the original Sherlock Holmes stories to see how this sort of thing works out narratively (although not graphically). It might give you some ideas for structure (and what works and doesn't);I recall the conceit working better in some stories than others.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:27 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The recently FPP'd webcomic Hanna is Not a Boy's Name fits this description perfectly. The narrator is basically a (zombie) sidekick who chronicles Hanna's -- the main character -- adventures. Come to think of it, this is the exact role that Watson plays in the Sherlock Holmes stories, so you could check those out too.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2010

Logicomix does this, although the narrator and subject exist in different times, and the narrator discusses himself as narrator.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2010

Maybe you could get some inspiration from musicals or plays that have this type of narrator as 2nd protagonist flavor. I recently saw Passing Strange and Candide on PBS and they both had narrators who were either embedded in or influenced the thrust of the story.
posted by surfgator at 1:19 PM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: I'd highly recommend Art Spiegelman's Maus, it's exactly this (except for the bonus points) and is a classic of the genre.
posted by oulipian at 1:33 PM on February 13, 2010

Batman: Year One (Miller/Mazzucchelli) has two protagonists (but both are narrators). Kingdom Come (Waid/Ross) has a narrator who's only tangentially involved with the plot.
posted by martinrebas at 1:43 PM on February 13, 2010

Watchmen sort of fits - to the extent there's a narrator, it's Rorshach. To the extent there's a main character, well, it's hard to say there is one - it's more of an ensemble.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:04 PM on February 13, 2010

Joann Sfar's Le chat du rabbin series is narrated by the cat, but he's not the main character in all of them. They've been translated into English, at least the first three--here's a link to the first one (which is the best, but also the one in which the cat is most central). Again, though, not quite sure about bonus points.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 4:51 PM on February 13, 2010

This won't be out for a few months, but I happen to know that it is told from the point of view of a secondary character. (This applies to the comic adaptation specifically, not the movie it's based on, or the TV series the movie is in turn based on.)
posted by pts at 7:52 PM on February 13, 2010

300, sort of. Like Watchmen there's not that much narration (or, unlike Watchmen, much story) but the narrator is one eyed McGee, and the main character is Leonidas.
posted by tracert at 12:00 AM on February 14, 2010

I guess Marvels, maybe?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:32 AM on February 14, 2010

It's not a comic, but Wuthering Heights is probably the classic literary example here.
posted by painquale at 8:38 AM on February 14, 2010

A writing instructor of mine once said that a story should only be told in first person if (a) the narrator's voice is unique enough to carry the story, or (b) the narrator is telling the main character's story. So you're looking at (b).

I don't have comic examples, but look at any classic first-person novel (A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Great Gatsby, etc.).
posted by booth at 9:56 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! There are some great suggestions here! I knew you all would have some really interesting answers I would have never been able to find otherwise. I do appreciate the non-comic suggestions as well.
posted by a.steele at 5:41 PM on February 14, 2010

Kurt Busiek's Astro City is all-around excellent, but one of the story arcs closely fits your requirements: Confession is centered around The Confessor, a religious-themed, Batman-like superhero/vigilante, told from the viewpoint of his teenage sidekick.

Getting a little bit away from some of your preferences, Seth has done multiple projects detailing someone's life from another person's perspective; It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken showed Seth trying to find out information about a fictional cartoonist named Kalo, and Wimbledon Green and George Sprott (1894–1975) are both Citizen Kane-style investigations of the lives of the title characters from the testimony of different people that knew them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:08 PM on February 15, 2010

booth's comment makes me think of Seymour: an introduction. Which, now I come to think of it is almost certainly one of the inspirations for A prayer for Owen Meany.

I like Seth, but It's a good life, if you don't weaken isn't really 'about' Kalo in the way the OP wants. The search for information about Kalo is just the kind of hook for exploring Seth's character. Or rather, "Seth", his fictionalized self.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:05 PM on February 17, 2010

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