Friday, July 6, 2012
Odd Genre Minis: Cardini, Baddeley, Burggraf, Harder
Let's take a look at a few odd genre minis, each with their own unique take on sci-fi/fantasy/adventure.
Vortex #2, by William Cardini. Cardini is headed in an interesting direction by continuing to work big and using an amorphous figure-drawing style that continues to drift away from his biggest influence, Mat Brinkman. This issue also establishes a real narrative outside of the "two powerful figures meet and fight" nature of the first issue. His protagonist The Miizzard, after seemingly defeating his sword-wielding opponent in the first issue by biting its head off, finds his opponent bursting out of his stomach. To his surprise, the creature asks for his help, and Cardini takes the reader on a journey underground as he explores an environment with page after page of eye-grabbing images. Cardini's characters are frequently amorphous, something he represents with limited use of line and a heavy use of effects like zip-a-tone and grey-scaling.Only The Miizzard himself is depicted with a continuously thick line, befitting the solidity and quiet resolve of his presence. Working big and using so many decorative patterns gives this issue a psychedelic feel, yet one that's grounded in rock-solid and simple layouts. It's enjoyable seeing Cardini move his characters around, with or without a larger narrative, but he seems to be building up to something interesting here.
Silent V #5, by Kyle Baddeley. Baddeley starts to connect some dots in this crazy, loopy sci-fi/time-travel/occult/horror comic. For a comic that features an ancient god brought forth by blood sacrifice traveling to the future to confront his enemy, there sure are a lot of weird quips and funny situations. At the same time, Baddeley treats his narrative with deadly seriousness, even if all of his characters are silly-looking (the ancient god looks like a dog-like Muppet) and do odd things (the god happens to have a glass-cutter in his shorts, a minute after his acolyte thinks the god is about to masturbate while standing on top of his shoulders looking through a window). Baddeley's line is growing more confident and he has a much better sense of how do design and balance individual panels and pages. The back-up story, the silent "Flotsam and Jetsam" is a truly disgusting bit of oneupsmanship as two men devour a meal, devour the bones, devour their feces after the meal, and then look to devour each other. The bulbous noses and shading that Baddeley employs reminds me a little of Skip Williamson in places as he goes into lovingly gross detail of the things the two men are eating. It's probably the single best set of drawings and most coherent narrative I've seen from Baddeley to date; he mentioned possibly adding a short story in every issue, and I think this is something that would anchor the comic a bit more for new readers as well as allow him to complete full but simple narratives. Slowly but surely, Baddeley is becoming a talent to watch.
Furlqump, by Brett Harder. This lovely little hand-made object falls into the genre of children's lit, with a clear line of inspiration from the surreal storytelling style of Dr. Seuss. This is more of a heavily illustrated story than a "pure" comic, though there are pages with a panel or two and word balloons. The key to this book's success is the clear and attractive lettering of Harder and the eye-popping use of watercolors. The story involves a peek into a nearby floating world whose entrance from earth is elusive and one particular inhabitant of this world, an outcast Qumpod named Tedlow. The book is about the ways in which the other members of his race communicate and shun his new mode of communication, until he's able to solve an intractable problem. There's a marvelous fluidity to Harder's storytelling in this book, effortlessly introducing new concepts into the story and quickly integrating them with what the reader knows up til that point. Like Seuss, there's an additive quality to the story as new concepts keep stacking up until they come into conflict with each other until they finally resolve. The other thing I enjoyed about Harder's artwork is the way he adds solidity to his figures with delicately feathered cross-hatching, making his characters feel real in a way that most children's characters don't. Despite the craziness of his figures, Harder is actually quite restrained in his storytelling, providing a number of quiet and contemplative moments for his characters. This is a delightful and genuinely touching book, lovingly produced by its publisher.
Mongoloid Revenge and Kid Space Heater, by Josh Burggraf. These comics are broad, cartoony, violent and silly. Mongoloid features a moose bent on revenge getting a gang of underwater ghost pirates to make his mongoloid enemy's life hell. Kid features a young boy stumbling upon a sentient superweapon with a dark sense of humor. The former comic finds the title character's life ruined in an unexpected gag in an ending that's bleakly funny. The latter comic is big (about 8 x 10") and agreeably bombastic, as there's some kind of explosion, bizarre tech or chase on nearly every page. Burggraf mixes his simple design figures with what look like computer-drawn backgrounds, allowing the figures to pop on every page without isolating them too much against bland backgrounds. The mix works, as the eye always has something to follow on every page without getting confused or bored. His anthropomorphic figures are funny and slightly disturbing, rendered with thick, rubbery lines. There's not much nuance in these comics as Burggraf goes over the top on every page and in every panel, but there's a light touch to his storytelling that makes these comics a breezy read. There's not much in the way of substance in Burggraf's work, but that's not to say that they're not impeccably planned and designed. In his case, style is substance.