From the Files of Doctor Stomper [*]
ANGST: IT'S NOT THAT BAD AFTER ALL
copyright 1995 by Dave Van Domelen
[*] Not actually written by Doc Stomper, we just found it while
digging around in his files for, um, important medical
data. Yeah, that's it.
Abstract: It's been long thought that angst is bad for character
development and causes premature revamping. But recent studies have shown
there to be two distinct types of angst, Low Denisty Angst (LDA) and High
Density Angst (HDA). To be brief, LDA = BAD, HDA = GOOD.
For years readers have turned their noses up at angst, feeling that
too much would be bad for their mental health and cause hardening of the
pocketbook. Of course, many of those same readers would also indulge
guiltily in angst in secret, binging on X-titles when they thought no one
was looking. But thanks to a grant from the DvandOmega-Hardy Foundation, it
has been determined that there are actually two kinds of angst, one of which is
actually good for you.
Graduate students were given X-books and induced to read them until their
brains oozed out their ears, then they were interviewed to find the results.
This was also repeated using RACC posts on another group of graduate students.
A control group was exposed to nothing but Lethargic Comics and issues of What
The?! from when it was still good.
13% of subjects required committal to a for-profit mental hospital by the
end of the experiment, considered an acceptable lossage of graduate students.
Angst was found to be divided into two distinct subsets.
The first is Low Density Angst, or LDA. LDA is light and fluffy and has
very little weight or substance, but can fill enormous world balloons. It
migrates from the story into the reader's brain where it takes up space that
could be better used for other things.
Its counterpart is High Density Angst, HDA. HDA carries a great deal of
weight behind it and can make a major impression on the reader. It actually
helps negate the deleterious effects of LDA by knocking it out of the reader's
brain with the sheer force of its arrival.
LDA and HDA do have many similar characteristics which have been
attributed to generic angst. But it is in how they are generated that
determines the main differences.
LDA is frequently used as filler, a substitute for actual characterization
or plot advancement. It is generated at high speeds with very little
requirement of raw materials or talent. A character filled with LDA will at
first glance seem three dimensional and real, but is really quite hollow. To
use a metaphor, a burrito can be stuffed with cotton balls and look quite big,
but the first bite leaves one with a mouth full of fluff. LDA is this fluff.
HDA, rather than be a substitute for real characterization, IS real
characterization. The angst is generated more slowly and given time to attach
to quantities such as meaning and depth. It is then frequently tied to well-
crafted story elements and further anchored by more subtle and believable
reaction to the angst. By the time a scene with HDA is ready to go out to the
readers, the angst may be dripping off the page but at the same time it gives
the page real impact. It can satisfy the reader's desire for meaty story
elements in a way that LDA cannot. It may not be as filling at first, but it
styas with the reader.
X-Angst, long considered a separate subset of angst, has actually changed
over the years. Originally it was high in HDA and fairly low in LDA, a mixture
that gained the X-books their original following. However, over time the
proportion of LDA has skyrocketed, leaving many newer X-stories filled with
nothing but LDA, the HDA totally gone from the story. Just enough HDA remains
in the occasional issue to retain long-time fans, but this cannot last forever
as such long-time fans discover superior sources of HDA and leave the fold.
Angst can be made healthy for the readers, but it requires more time and
effort to do so. LDA is the unhealthy angst most older readers shun, and as
the easier form to make it infests many mainstream comics. Should mainstream
books wish to lure back older readers (and there is little evidence they do
wish to do so) they would be well advised to raise the HDA content of their
Until such time as mainstream companies see the wisdom of HDA,
discriminating readers are advised to seek out other sources of HDA to
counteract any LDA they may be exposed to.