Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Thirty One Days Of CCS #11: TS Moss, Gaurav Patil, Sage Persing

The Sun And The Frogs, by TS Moss. This is an elegantly designed mini featuring a die-cut cover and a beautiful sense of design throughout, meant to mimic stained glass storytelling. This feels like a retelling of a fable, only it's one directly related to climate change. The swirling blue of water throughout the story appears placid but holds menace as it rises day after day. On one set of pages, as the story within the story is told, the frogs beg the sun not to give birth to another sun, because they would boil. The narrative continues on the next two pages, only the visuals are of a protest against climate change that is ultimately fruitless. The final image is truly the final image, and the end of the story: “The frogs boiled alive”. This is a beautiful, pointed and straightforward story that makes its point quickly and doesn't overstay its welcome. Moss' aesthetic is sleek and stylish without being overly slick; I believe this story was drawn on a computer but it doesn't have that slightly stilted feel that such comics can have.

Confidential and B.B. By Gaurav Patil. B.B. looks like it was drawn as an Ed Emberley exercise, like several other of the first-year students' assignments. Patil took the opportunity to make the story a children's story of sorts in the Emberley tradition of stripped-down, geometric drawing with basic shapes. Patil uses the format as a sort of shaggy dog joke that doesn't pay off until the final panel. The titular B.B. stands for “big bad”, who comes from a tribe of badasses and seeks out other badasses to confront in the world. Every creature he encounters simply tells him their name, and a dinosaur points out to him that he hasn't made it clear what he is the biggest and baddest of. He realizes he's a wolf at last and can finally make sense of what the other animals are doing, but things go awry when he meets three little pigs. Patil shows nice comedic chops here, as well as a solid sense of how to use negative space effectively.

Confidential [Top Secret] is a variation on a world with mutants and how they affected the world. Someone would experience an “awakening”, which would unlock “their true potential.” Some were recruited by a sinister organization called The Agency, and this comic explores a mission featuring agents code-named XI (super-hearing) and XII (super-strength), as they went on a mission. It's an amiable enough comic, rolling on with a distinct sense of humor without resorting to outright spoof. The characterizations are exaggerated slightly to the point of silliness, but there's a darker core here. Patil's drawing here is serviceable as it's clear he understands his limits as a draftsman. He's careful to make clarity a priority in his storytelling and drawing, even if his actual drawing is wobbly at times.

Sage Persing submitted a whole bunch of comics that fell roughly into comics about family, comics about queer and trans issues, and other stuff. I'll start with the latter. Dead End was done using an unusual twelve panel grid, shoving a lot of story into each page. That pushes the reader through what is otherwise a relatively placid slice of story featuring two teenage girls who are wandering around. Persing's draftsmanship is shaky here, but their storytelling is confident and clear. Moreover, their sense of verisimilitude regarding the dialogue is spot-on, as this feels like a real anecdote that sums up a brief but crucial point in the lives of the two girls. Be Well is a portrait comic featuring various people saying things to them, often related to wellness—and mental health in particular. It's a comic of gratitude—thanking people for being there for them when Persing reached out and needed them. The portrait work is raw and expressive, and it captures something lively about each subject.

Visiting Dad is an excellent series of anecdotal memories of visiting their father in the hospital. The things that Persing remembered and chose to record are precisely the kind of fragments that stick with you during a traumatic and transitional time. In this case, it was hospital socks that Persing drew in great detail, recalling that they were supposed to have finished reading Kafka's The Metamorphosis before the grade started, and details of the restaurant they went to afterward. There's no other narration or information given, because the point of the comic was memory, not narrative. Good Friday sees Persing using watercolors to detail a particularly volatile argument between a daughter and her father; while it's not explicitly autobiographical, there are certainly family dynamics at work here. The argument is with regard to the existence of god, and it upsets him so much, that he stops the car and gets out. The comic is not so much about the substance of the argument as it is about the memory of the event itself. The moodiness of the color scheme is key to the success of the story, as Persing's character design is wobbly.

Things I Know About Nanny is Persing's Emberley assignment, and they made it a doozy. It's a family history of their grandfather (Nanny), including the bizarre events surrounding their great-grandfather (Cactus) and how his wife ran off with another man and took the children with them—until they dumped them. Persing not only expertly uses Emberley-style shapes in an efficient and clear manner, they also add a color scheme that makes the story pop. The narrative goes until the death of their grandfather, who at a certain point was paralyzed after an accident but lived long after that. The story concludes with Persing's birth, which was the anniversary of the day of Nanny's paralysis.

The Beasts, The Birds and the Bat is Persing's take on the Aesop assignment. The story is about the bat refusing to take a side in the war between birds and beasts, claiming to be a beast when asked by the birds to join and vice-versa. When peace arrives, they shun the bat. Persing turns this into a metaphor for being trans, with Aesop's admonition to “be one thing or another” especially brutal here. On Queerness is a single-page comic done in the form of a quilt to honor the work of David Wojnarowicz, who often used “stitches and thread”. It's symbolic of the patchwork but beautiful “chosen and created” families of queer folk, and there's a similar kind of beauty to be found in this representation of Persing's own chosen family. The metaphor of wounds being stitched-up by one's chosen family like a quilt is stitched is a powerful one. Finally, Tranny Joke is a brutal, personal account of the way trans people have long been used as a punchline in comedy—dehumanized, reduced, slurred. Persing relates how especially hard this is because comedy is so important to them, and shows that are otherwise incredibly important to them are instead attacks on people they love. Persing's potential bursts off of each and every page: as a memoirist, as a political cartoonist, as a slice-of-life storyteller and more. Persing's got the goods, and at this point it's just going to be a matter of refinement for them.

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