Blind Date 2
Posted by Dash Shaw on September 27
My comic short story Blind Date 2 appears in the forthcoming Mome Vol. 20 anthology. I drew it late last year. It’s the second Blind Date episode I’ve adapted. The first one appeared in an earlier volume of Mome and was later reprinted in The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. collection.
Blind Date episodes are ideal for adaptation because they have fantastic characters in a simple story structure. They’re all about people and relationships. They’re not scripted (I guess, although they exist inside of a fake, manufactured environment) and people say much funnier, interesting, and stranger things than anyone can write. Since the characters know that they have a camera on them and they’re being filmed, they’re performing and are probably not behaving like themselves, although they are coming up with their own lines. For example, in the first Blind Date I adapted, the couple have dinner and then the man suggests they go to the hot tub because “it’s the best thing for the lower back.” Obviously, he knows that he’s on Blind Date and people on Blind Date go into hot tubs. She knows this too. But, he has, himself, improvised his reason for going to the hot tub in the date that he’s performing for us. Of course, she agrees.
I’m told that during the SAG strikes, many actors turned to reality shows for extra cash, so it’s possible many of the episodes feature actors, well, acting.
The camera positions are largely improvised and haphazard. They tend to use the same angles for car scenes and wide establishing shots at the beginning of the dates, but there’s very little thought put into the compositions. This allows strange compositional relationships to occur when you pause the screen. Similar to the dialogue, the improvised camera positions create magical moments that are better than if the entire episode was carefully planned. All of the comics I was doing, like Bottomless and BodyWorld, were without photo reference and I noticed I was favoring the same compositions and body positions over and over and it was frustrating me. By drawing from Blind Date, it helped me see all of the wealth of possibilities available. It freed me up. It also changed how I watched TV, because all of the characters moving in the frame used to disrupt the still images available. If you draw Blind Date episodes a lot, you can start to catch some of the still images along the way and it trains your eyes to see the whole thing at once.
I make the panels tall so that I have room for the words and can, sometimes, crop inside of the TV ratio frame.
Also, I take the commentary out of the episodes. Blind Date has running commentary on the dates where the people are mocked in comic book-like pop ups. I guess they’re put in because the creators thought that they make the show more entertaining. But they don’t need them. All they do is put the viewers at a safe distance from the characters. When they’re in, all of the episodes feel the same. When you take them out, each episode has a very different tone than the next. There’s a startling variety of themes and characters and whatever across the kajillion Blind Date episodes shot. There are enough great, different episodes that you could solely devote yourself to adapting them and, I think, be happy doing so.
It used to be that all of the Blind Date episodes were archived on an AOL website. Starting about two years ago, I would watch one or two episodes every day and sort them into different “favorite” folders ranking them on how much I wanted to adapt them. Really, I should have just started drawing them right then but I always thought there might be a forthcoming one that’d be the best. I got carried away. And then one day, after about four months, they were all removed from the AOL site without warning. It was horrible. I was thrown into a mild depression. I started calling people I knew who might have access to the Blind Date archives so that I could be mailed DVDs of all of the episodes. Strangely, I was told that they are hard to come by, although I don’t know how seriously the person who told me this took my case.
elimiDATE episodes are too confusing—there are too many characters and they’re too complicated to adapt. Also, across many episodes they’re generally all more similar and (obviously) crueler in tone.
Anyway, I came back to Blind Date in 2009 by adapting some of the episodes that were available to me. I hope to do more but the animation and another long comic is distracting me from them, although the longer comic has a lot of Blind Date-type scenes.