Monday, November 11, 2013

Thirty Days of CCS #11: Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen's two comics that I'm discussing here, Rage Forever and Darcy Cheyne: Werewolf Hunter, are a reflection of the ways in which CCS students effortlessly slip between different storytelling genres and do a credible job in each area. More to the point, they're a reflection of the way CCS cartoonists can use genre tropes as a structure for telling a deeper, more meaningful story while still keeping that genre structure fully intact.

In Darcy Cheyne, Rosen inverts the victim/hero relationship with a classic horror movie twist, as we see a man in a house listening to a radio report about vicious assaults calling for people to stay indoors, and a mysterious hooded figure lurking outside. The pacing and suspense are slow and deliberate, with the muted colors adding to that sensation of dread. However, Rosen pulls the rug out from under the reader by skipping the actual fight between werewolf and traveling werewolf hunter, instead cutting to the hunter calling up her boyfriend. That inverts the story yet again, this time revealing that this isn't really a horror comic; instead, it's the story of a strained romance filtered through horror tropes. The back half of the issue is devoted mostly to her boyfriend Tomas dealing with the loneliness of being left behind at home, fighting off temptation and wishing for a sense of connection. Even the threat at the end conforms to this "things aren't as they appear" approach that Rosen uses, as what appears to be a child is really something else. However, the threat she brings goes to the heart of Darcy's insecurities about having a steady home life. Rosen's rough rendering style is smoothed out by his use of color, giving the simplicity of his figures a sense of solidity.

In Rage Forever, Rosen takes on high school stories. Here, his gritty and slightly grotesque character design well suits the material. This is a comic about outsiders, misfits and those whose rage is bottled up inside. However, these aren't the totally isolated and hopeless teens of a Chuck Forsman comic. Here, we follow a quiet, mumbling student named Wendell as he tries to keep his head down while listening to one outcast friend describe to him in great detail the ways in which he'd like to kill someone tormenting him. Then Rosen perfectly captures the confusion and excitement he feels when two girls from his class befriend him and essentially badger him into coming out with them to a boxing match. The dialogue and character design sell the story above all else, as Wendell's story winds up being a sweet and unlikely romance. Rosen caps the comic off by flipping to two completely new characters, both girls, who are the sort of ragtag females one might see in a Hellen Jo comic. One of those characters rants righteously about being forced to compromise her choices, about the feeling that she's already being prevented from ever trying something "big". These comics reveal that Rosen has slowly begun the process of putting together narratives that have greater complexity and depth than earlier in his career. In that respect, he's very much following the typical trajectory of most CCS students, one in which they are trained to focus on short work at the school rather than try to tackle a longer project. As students, the emphasis is on finishing one's short projects. Rosen abandoned his first project to take on Darcy Cheyne after creating the character for the enjoyable Werewolf! anthology. It's clear that somewhere along the way, he found a way to incorporate complex personal dynamics into a format that not only allowed a reader occasional respite from melodrama, but in fact found ways to heighten those emotions through genre tropes. It's a tactic not unlike what Joss Whedon did in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, only with a much stronger emphasis on the mundane aspects of relationships. I'll be curious to see how far he can take this trope and what Rosen has in mind for the relationship between Darcy and Tomas.

No comments:

Post a Comment