Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brief Comments On Short CCS Minis

Finding Moby Dick, by Laura Terry. This is "a collection of sketches, drawings and comics"; more half-formed ideas than anything coherent. I don't have any interest in critiquing the content, given that the ideas are half-formed. Instead, I wanted to mention that this little sketchbook mini (in full color, no less) is further evidence of just how far Terry has come as an artist. Her figure work is so much more self-assured, for one thing, as is her general command over line and using different line weights. Most impressive, however, is the highly expressive way she uses color. In one story snippet, she shapes the story of a shipwreck using only midnight blue and blacks for spotting. Another image of three skeletons dancing on the ocean is rendered in aqua blue and sea-foam green. Her figure work in general is lively, full of personality and edged with humor. This is an artist who's ready for a leap forward in terms of the scope of ambition in her projects.

Zee Leetle Prince, by Katie Moody. This mini is an interesting exercise in style, as Moody takes the classic story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery "as filtered through Ed Emberley". Moody turns the book into kind of a goof for kids, rendering the characters in illustration teacher Emberley's trademark simple style (everything is basic geometric figures, lines, and squiggles--things almost anyone can draw) and adding a Pepe' LePew style French patois (The first line of the comic is "Zere wonce was a leetle prince"). The only problem with the comic was that there simply weren't enough images, and most of those images were just too small. An Emberley-style book packs a lot of visual punch into each page, even if the figures themselves are tiny, and this was dominated by text. That's not to say that the mini didn't have its charms, especially since Moody never strayed from the silliness of her text, but it didn't succeed in what she set out to do.

Moose #3 and #4, by Max de Radigues. De Radigues' series takes true narrative form in these two issues. The protagonist of the series, a nervous teen named Joe, is exhibiting all sorts of odd behavior, we learn, because of the way he's harassed by a bully. He has the opportunity to talk to a teacher about it in #3, but with his tormentor standing right outside the door, he has to hold it in. This issue is all about setting up the hopelessness of his situation in conventional terms. The fourth issue is about Joe managing to hide from the bully and his crony (whom he keeps in line with threats of physical violence when he's not gung-ho about torturing Joe). There's a sweetness to this issue as Joe doesn't exactly solve his problem, but he does derive some satisfaction from frustrating his nemesis (whose self-esteem seems to derive entirely from tormenting him). As always, de Radigues uses a fragile, simple line that emphasizes angles and negative space. His characters, though simply-rendered, are lively and bursting with emotion. de Radigues' ability to portray body language is remarkably intuitive, and he seems to thrive doing this short episodes that include eye-catching covers and incidental illustrations by guest artists.

Freeloader #1, by Nomi Kane. This is a typically charming and well-drawn set of short strips about being unemployed and living with one's parents after graduating from college. Her thoughts turn from her preferred job (illustration) to slightly less glamorous pursuits (like waitress, delivery person and stripper). Kane's all about the gag in this story (her bit about being unable to jiggle as a stripper was especially amusing), though the gag covers up real stress. This comic is also about the rare opportunity she has to live with her parents for an extended time as an adult, which is both stressful (because of the limbo she finds herself in) and an unexpected delight. Kane's character design and self-caricature are enormously appealing and have always been her major strength as an artist, and this comic is no exception.

Twelve New Drawings, by DW. DW is a CCS student who is clearly heavily influenced by Fort Thunder and the old Highwater Books comics. His drawings have the raw, hypnotic power of Ron Rege and Marc Bell, without the level of craft and sophistication of those two masters. There's not much narrative at work here, but each page is worth close inspection as DW mixes decorative patterns with hidden messages, surprising images and even small narrative snippets. It feels like sketchbook work, a form of graphomania almost, in that the artist is drawing just to draw, to make marks on paper. His bold sense of design is something that will serve him well as he shapes this vision, especially since CCS emphasizes narrative structure in even its most avant-garde students. He's someone to keep an eye on.
Early, by Joseph Lambert. This is a full-color charmer that involves Lambert's typical subjects: quarrellous little kids and the sun and moon as anthropomorphic beings. This eight pager finds a kid getting mad at the sun for melting his ice cream cone and throwing a spider at him. The sun freaks out and sinks early (a lovely metaphor for the way time can pass for a child), only to reemerge later and ask the moon if she's afraid of spiders. What's interesting about this strip is that Lambert cuts way down on his typical level of detail in favor of letting the color tell the story. The back cover has the unexpected bonus of telling the story from the poor spider's point of view.

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