Thursday, September 29, 2016

Minis: J.Burggraf/V.Kerlow, A.Stoehr, P.Cline

Pyramid Scheme 2: This Time It's On The Beach, by Josh Burggraf and Victor Kerlow (Birdcage Bottom Books). These two illustrators did a two-man improvisational jam, taking some characters they made up together and alternating writing and drawing each page. The result is entirely unsubstantial, but that's no, but t really the point. The point is two distinctive stylists riffing off each other and having a bit of fun in what they decided to draw. The anthropomorphic dog/young man/robot trio has a picnic at a nude beach, and it's interesting to see what each chose to focus on. Kerlow's comics generally have copious amounts of nudity, but he almost completely avoided the use of nudity outside of the main three characters in the comic. On the other hand, Burggraf's sci-fi comics don't often have much nudity, and he essentially went for it on every one of his pages here, drawing all sorts of idealized body types on the beach. The most interesting thing about the comic is watching the way Burggraf and Kerlow bounce off of each other in terms of illustration choices. In some drawings, Burggraf's interest in drawing the eye to certain parts on the page through the use of black is made really obvious when Kerlow completely eschews such an approach. On the other hand, there are pages were Burggraf matches the scratchy approach of Kerlow, and other pages where Kerlow matches the more angular style of Burggraf. This is a comic made more to be looked at, rather than read.

I Dreamt Of You Touching Me, by Alice Stoehr. Being given a copy of Stoehr's comic at SPX is the essence of what I love about that show: being exposed to new, young talent as they're starting out. That's certainly true of Stoehr's mini, which uses a six panel grid and stick figures to tell its stories about relationships, anxiety, self-consciousness, rage and loneliness. While Stoehr's line is crude, that doesn't stop her from some inventive and clever drawings that have a dramatic impact on each strip's emotional content. Indeed, the drawings aren't there simply to have something to connect to a text-heavy comic (like many other stripped-down comics I've read), they actually shape and define the emotional narrative of these strips more than the text. For example, there's on strip where cruel words come out as a word balloon with teeth that devours the other person, which is a fantastic depiction of when simply saying "I'm sorry" just isn't enough to undo damage that is done. Not all of the strips are quite that raw; indeed, there are many moments of tenderness, warmth and humanity depicted as well. There are moments of regret because of a lost chance at connection as well as moments of gratitude that a connection is maintained against all odds. The one thing I wished I could have seen was Stoehr work a little bigger, giving her figures a little more room to explore the page. Some of the strips felt cramped and overstuffed, in part because the figures at times were so small that it was hard to make out expressions. That wasn't true of every strip, as Stoehr generally did a fine job of balancing the elements of each panel, but there were definitely ideas presented on the page that would have benefited from a different format.

...and the Gatepost, by Peter Cline. Cline uses simple geometric shapes and a jarring use of color in the tradition of Ivan Brunetti, Chris Ware and Jon McNaught. Another touchstone is Seth's recent stripped-down style in books like Wimbledon Green, where characters are literally a triangle attached to a circle in their essence. It's a cold style in terms of function, which is designed to contrast against the actual emotions of the piece. There's a great, weird tension throughout most of it, as two kids haunt an older man for unclear reasons, until the object of interest is finally revealed at the end. It's a comic about mysteries, the exotic and sympathy for both of the former. Visually, Cline goes all out with a color assault that features different colors of paper stock, riso coloring (either as spot coloring or in one or two tone strips), which adds a bit to the overall sense of mystery.

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