Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thirty Days of CCS, Day 5: Stephanie Zuppo

Stephanie Zuppo (or "S.Zuppo", or "aioazech", as she variously signs her work), is a second-year student at CCS who's already published an interesting variety of work. Let's take a look at her titles.

AIOAZECH: Attempts At Autobio. These short diary comics are told simply, varying the number of panels and even pages depending on subject matter. A long strip about why Zuppo thinks her cat is atypical of the scientific view of cats' callousness uses Zuppo's carefully studied drawings of how her cat moves is a funny example of Zuppo's observations. Even a strip where Zuppo does funny drawings of being depressed creates a sort of dark punchline regarding her life. A strip about falling asleep on the couch with her fiance' and struggling to get him to move is another smartly-observed anecdote that burns the essence of it down to its comedic core. There's an ease present here in the art as it works entirely in concert with her concepts.

Rapture Preppers. Riffing on the "disaster prepper" phenomenon, Zuppo amusingly creates a scenario where those stocking up on food, guns and supplies waiting for the Rapture to come are greatly rewarded. When a scoffing neighbor yells at them when a TV crew comes out to talk to them, he learns that Satan has emerged from the center of the Earth. Zuppo plays the whole thing for laugh, with the line "WE HAD PAMPHLETS" being the highlight of the whole thing--especially in the way she blew up the lettering for that statement. It's also fun to draw Rapture-related events, like demons torturing people and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse running rampant. The drawing is more than a bit rough at times, however, and didn't quite information across as clearly at times as it needed to.

Charlie's Curiosities and Oddities. This one's about a mostly quiet young woman finding an odd shop in her tent village, and coming across a proprieter whose modus operandi was as much the selling and trading of old stories as it was the actual items. He was interested in keeping the concept and practice of magic alive for this unspecified society as he was in making actual trades, and the end of this comic saw him trade a love potion for a promise that the woman he sold it to would come back with a story. This is a cute comic with excellent character design that once again lacks clarity at times; the use of different line weights might have been useful in highlighting certain objects discussed in the story.

Belchville, VT Issue One. This is by far the most interesting and polished of Zuppo's comics. The unstated premise is that a small town in Vermont has an odd way of attracting and then keeping visitors. A vagabond suddenly puts down roots when offered a job at the bed and breakfast. A newlywed couple stays at that same B&B, whose reviews noted "People had a real hard time leaving." A car hits a moose and a family "may need to stay a day or two" while the car is being repaired. A man goes there for vacation, only to find out he's been fired from his job--and is offered a new one in town, on the spot. The second half of the comic concerns the injured moose and a horrible boy named Bryan. When the moose finds Bryan almost setting the forest on fire, a scene totally out of left field occurs, adding a touch of the sinister to the proceedings. This is a story in the tradition of The Prisoner or Strangehaven; like the latter, there are any number of slice-of-life narratives occurring in addition to the overarching weirdness of the series. Zuppo's art took a huge leap in this comic. While she continues to rely on spotting blacks to give her pages some weight and balance, she's now varying her line a bit more and using a finer line for her character design. That's allowed her to give each character more definition and to overwhelm the reader less on each page with black. Her character designs are charming and the expressiveness of her characters has grown even more pronounced. There's a scene where a woman is trying to give her know-it-all friend the brush-off, and the way Zuppo drew her arching her eyebrow spoke volumes beyond the simple "Excuse me a moment" that the character said. The character of Bryan is drawn like a sort of Bizarro Tintin. It's a very attractively packaged and presented comic, one that picks up on the themes of her earlier comics and repackages them in a more coherent and gripping narrative.

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