Monday, December 12, 2016

Thirty-One Days of CCS #12: Alexis Frederick-Frost

Alexis Frederick-Frost continues to produce beautiful, off-beat comics. He's a great stylist and storyteller, and though he's from the first graduating class of CCS, he remains one of its most distinctive artists. Hugh is a great example of Frederick-Frost's abilities working without text, as he alternates between a highly stylized, smudged pencil approach (almost a charcoal approach, not unlike Peter Kuper) and a vibrant, more naturalistic use of color. This is a simple story of a beleaguered accountant who accidentally stumbles upon a plant exposition at a local museum. He also stumbles upon a beautiful woman, as his perception of the world switches from the dreary black & white and numbers into a world of colorful flowers and beauty. Once he crosses over into that world, there's no going back. Frederick-Frost's storytelling is simple and elegant, while his character design is both rounded and angular, making the main characters especially interesting to look at. Frederick-Frost clearly works from life quite a bit, but he bends what he sees to his lively sense of design, where very few panels have a static feel to them.

Missiles Of Montgomery County reflects Frederick-Frost's interest in history. The comic is about the various missile bases that used to dot the country but are now long-abandoned after various treaties. Using a brush to draw buildings and figures, Frederick-Frost here turns to greyscale to add weight to his panels. Here, the images are in service to the central concept of the comic: that these missile bases were once in remote locations but are now surrounded by suburban sprawl. He details how the bases worked, what sort of missiles they housed, and the threats they were meant to counter, displaying his thorough research in a way that was easy to absorb and understand. Presenting the base as a kind of modern-day archaeological relic of a bygone era was an interesting approach, demonstrating the ways in which even recent history becomes archaic. At the same time, it's a reminder that there was a long period of time when the possibility of nuclear annihilation was an ever-present fear that weighed on the minds of everyone, but especially children who were raised in that era. Frederick-Frost contrasts the old bases with the parks and malls that are now near them for that very reason. This mini reads like a chapter in a longer book about American history that I wish Frederick-Frost would write.

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