Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Genre Minicomics: Katie Skelly, Rob Jackson, Tyler Stafford

Rob reviews three minicomics that fall very roughly within the realm of genre. Included are NURSE NURSE #4, by Katie Skelly; FOLK #2, by Tyler Stafford; and BOG WIZARDS 2 by Rob Jackson.

NURSE NURSE #4, by Katie Skelly. This was the best issue yet of this odd little psychedelic sci-fi comic. It was a meatier 22 pages, allowing the story to flow a bit more naturally. Beyond that, Skelly's line, design, and ideas have all started to converge, making this the best-looking issue of the series. Skelly simplified her designs across the board at the same time she became a more confident draftsman, and the convergence of these two events is not a coincidence. NURSE NURSE has proven to be a sink-or-swim project for her in this regard, given the crazy visuals she's starting to unleash on readers. The masked space pirate, her panda henchman, the mod pirate doctor with a mysterious hidden eye scratch the surface of the non-stop array of delightful weirdness that Skelly throws at the reader. The way Skelly tosses in throwback psychedelia such as the traditonal black & white pulsating checkerboard design adds to the series' overall style. In a sense, style and substance are pretty much interchangeable in this comic--both directly inform the other. That said, the overall master plot of the series is slowly starting to take shape, as Nurse Gemma arrives on Mars and discovers her overall destiny is a bit more dramatic than what she was expecting. There's really no other comic out there quite like NURSE NURSE, and it's exciting to see the way that Skelly has grown as an artist in the course of making it.

FOLK #2, by Tyler Stafford. This is a wandering through a cluttered environment type strip that might have been published by Highwater Books a few years back. One can identify elements from Brian Ralph, PShaw, Jim Woodring and especially Mat Brinkman here as Stafford tells very simple stories about a hunt gone horribly awry and the way a spaceship refuels after making an emergency landing. Stafford takes the route of Ralph and tells his stories directly and with no pretense; it's a strip meant to be read, not decoded. Stafford's greatest achievement with these stories is creating an incredibly natural environment, one that he's obviously in total command of. His use of gesture in his odd character design sells them as sentient, emotional beings. From the moment we're introduced to these characters and their environments, we want to see what they're going to do. That's the hallmark of an artist comfortable with their own ability as a draftsman. The only thing I found distracting in this issue was Stafford's use of different colored stocks of paper on several of the pages. It didn't add anything to the stories at hand, and felt more like a low-tech way of jazzing up the issue's presentation. Stafford should either keep it simple (which would highlight his character and environment design all the more), or else spring to get these stories printed properly.

BOG WIZARDS 2, by Rob Jackson. I reviewed some of Jackson's earlier efforts back at Sequart a couple of years ago, and it's nice to see that his line and composition have vastly improved but that his warped sense of humor remains entirely intact. This is a fantasy adventure comic in the vein of Trondheim & Sfar's DUNGEON or Jesse Reklaw's BLUEFUZZ--written for comedic effect, yet containing a perfectly strong and straightforward fantasy story as well. Like DUNGEON, there are frequent plot-altering twists and turns that are absurd yet impossible for the characters to ignore. Like BLUEFUZZ, the characters speak with a bluntly modern tone that leads to other comedic situations. The hero of the story is forced to go on a quest by a horrific mountain creature that keeps a psychic rapport with him, and throws rocks in his general direction when he starts to go off course. The hero is funny because he spends very little time thinking about the potential ramifications of his actions, until it serves his purposes because it might get him laid. The character is a bit thick and more than a little brutal, both of which lead to some casual but hilarious scenese of violence. Jackson even threw in a hand-made Bog Wizards game in with his comics, which gives the reader a real sense that he has this particular world firmly set in his mind and can't wait to get it all out. Jackson's line is still very crude, but he makes it work for him with his strikingly simple character design. Fantasy is actually an area he could regularly do quite well in, given the potential for developing all sorts of weird characters and situations with less regard to naturalism.

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