Michael Terracciano's Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire
If given psychic powers to predict the future, most of us would pick the winning lottery numbers and retire early. The title character of Dominic Deegan, Oracle for Hire, opens up a fortune telling business in a small town where he pays the bills by answering the annoying and downright inane questions of the local populace. Throw in plenty of bad puns, bungling thieves, arrogant knights, an assistant with an inferiority complex, and a smart aleck cat, and you have the makings of a genuinely funny online comic strip.
Michael Terracciano began posting his black and white strip comic on free-for-all Keenspace back in May of 2002, and was picked up by invitation-only Keenspot in the Fall of 2003. He just recently passed the 500 strip mark. To save you the math, that comes out to just under six comics a week. Having researched them carefully for this review, it can be attested that they're all real, fully inked, comics – no pinups, quick sketches, or guest spots.
An impressive accomplishment, to be sure, but it's not what makes Dominic Deegan interesting.
Terracciano is actually using the individual strips to tell a larger story, one dealing with cruelty, betrayal, and love. Practically, it makes sense: draw in new readers in with gags and jokes, keep them coming back to find out "what happens next."
But it's also a tricky balancing act. If you're serious about each strip having an immediate payoff, like a punch line or major surprise, can you properly build suspense or explore deeper issues of character?
And here you thought you were reading a review about a comic with a talking cat.
In manners of "serious storytelling" Terracciano's greatest strength is his characterization. They aren't deep in the soap opera sense, no intricate histories or dark hidden secrets, but they are true to their nature. Characters personalities don't flip-flop to accommodate plot or increase tension, bad guys don't suddenly reform and good guys don't necessarily get the girl.
As for dramatic tension, this is where the quality of the art comes into play. Many of the techniques (extra large and differently shaped panels) aren't available in strip comics, and others (varying camera angles, extreme close-ups, wide panoramic views) are difficult to implement. With his excellent ink work and strong command of the characters' expressions, Terracciano pulls off some first rate pages. But there are other times where, because of the size of the panel, unnatural body postures or mistakes in anatomy, the panels fall short of their intent.
Still, in the end, Dominic Deegan clearly comes out ahead. Terracciano manages to balance the immediate humor and stand-alone nature of a strip comic with his overall storytelling. And, while there are things that could be done to improve individual panels, the emotion, honesty, and overall enjoyment of the story is evident. As long as he continues to introduce new twists and turns, and can deliver them at his current impressive prolific pace, it's no grand clairvoyant feat to predict that Dominic Deegan will continue to please its daily audience for years to come.