Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gags From CCS: Bonesteel & Life Is Good

Let's take a look at a couple of minis from two grads of the Center for Cartoon Studies that have specialized in humor.

Bonesteel, by GP Bonesteel. This is a collection of fanciful diary comics from Bonesteel, a cartoonist with a limited range in terms of his line but an expansive imagination. He's a fine storyteller who isn't afraid to push the envelope in many of his comics, but the humor here is surprisingly tame and typically geek-friendly. Bonesteel seems to be going for a highly simplified, cute character design style not unlike a typical syndicated cartoonist. While his own self-caricature is perfectly rendered, he seems to have a lot more trouble drawing women (including his fiance'). The best jokes in the comic are those that aren't so heavily dependent on pop culture references and that push the bounds of good taste (like a hilarious strip about showing his love for mini-wheats cereral by depicting himself masturbating to them). There's the kernel of a good strip here, but Bonesteel needs to work on figuring out a direction that works best, making it different enough from standard webcomics to stand out, and honing the designs of his other characters to make them more interesting to look at. (Fixing the strip's many spelling errors certainly wouldn't hurt.) Like many webcartoonists, this feels like Bonesteel trying to get better in public by working steadily, emphasizing production and discipline above all else.

Life Is Good #7, by Steve Seck. Seven issues into this anthropomorphic social satire, Seck has really tightened up his art, focused his narrative and resolved the storyline in a funny and satisfying manner. Seck made the wise decision of giving his funniest characters the most screen time without overusing them, as slimy vegan poser Dr Peace Rock conspires against Charles the Gator and awful crusty-wannabe Sewer Gator annoys lead character Brownie on virtually every page. This comic is all about losing one's job, living on the margins of society, dealing with the weird characters one finds on those aforementioned margins, and the hypocrisy that can result by conflating principles with ego. Seck's lettering is still a little hard to read at times (especially when he mixes upper and lower case letters), but there's a much greater clarity to his work now, even on pages when he jams in as many as a dozen panels. I'll be curious to see if there's another storyline featuring these characters or if Seck goes in a completely different direction.

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