Your Mileage May Vary.

A useful bit of idiom born originally out of the American automotive industry where that disclaimer was added to any estimate of a given vehicle’s gas efficiency. It has since become shorthand for “this was the case for me, but your own experience may be different”. I’ve used it a lot in this very blog, because I do talk a lot about topics that are ultimately subjective matters of opinion. TV Tropes has an entire page category for each of their work entries so as to allow for the quite possible happenstance that one fan’s “Moment of Awesome” is different from another’s.

I bring this up because a fun thing happened a couple of weeks ago. One fan of the comic piped up with the notion that they really were starting to hate our character Lacey. Not long after that, another fan piped up with the notion that they really were starting to like Lacey. Both had read exactly the same pages and come away with two different opinions.

And where a character is concerned, I think that’s great! It’s very, very rare that I intend to present anyone in Zombie Ranch as being “in the right” or “in the wrong”. Instead, I try my best to write them according to their personalities, circumstances, and motivations. It’s fair to say that I would perhaps give some side-eye to anyone who declared they really liked the Huachucas because “human flesh tastes awesome, you guys!”, but I’m not necessarily out there with an agenda of, say, always presenting Suzie’s decisions as the best and wisest. I feel like the author siding explicitly with a character can lead all too easily to a work degenerating into an author tract, or worst of all the specter of the Mary Sue. Then the situation can be compounded by the author feeling personally attacked when even one audience member offers criticism of that character, much less outright hatred. Even if you do largely agree with your protagonist’s perspective, I think it’s more useful and better for the story as a whole to keep a bit of distance for perspective. For instance, because of the author’s known political outlook you might expect Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta to be firmly on the side of its anarchistic, anti-establishment protagonist, and yet the story itself presents a much more nuanced take where V is shown at times to be as much a monster as those he fights. Admittedly, sometimes an author just shows that anyhow by complete accident in the course of trying to show how their hero is the bestest thing to ever best, but that’s a dividing line for me that’s the difference between something that makes me think and something I just laugh at.

No matter how much you try to skew the presentation, if your fanbase is big enough there will always be at least some people who will be rooting for The Empire. But as long as that’s not because the majority are finding your heroes or story unintentionally dull, such should probably be taken as a compliment on how great your antagonists are. Your fans’ mileage will always vary. Your job as a creator is to make it a memorable trip.