Thursday, December 12, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #12: Leise Hook, Ross Wood Studlar, Beth Hetland

Beth Hetland just can't stop creating things. Even when she and her writing partner Kyle O'Connell took a break after finishing their epic Half-Asleep, they crafted a super-fun project called Who's Counting? Hetland has often enjoyed formal experimentation by the way of making the actual delivery system of the comics unusual. From folding comics to color-coded narratives and much more, Hetland often seems to like to clear her creative palate by working on more craft-related projects. This "Collection of Tallies" has a single image on a page depicting something happening at a comics show or elsewhere, and a rotating series of images in a clearly divergent wheel that the reader turns by hand. It's a clever and fun twist, but there are subtle critiques as well. There's a funny page depicting a snooty artist using a number of different words to say very little, as well as Hetland's series of reactions to answering the question "What's it like to be a woman in comics?" This comic is just a bunch of these tiny illustrations and observations, with Hetland's self-caricature doing a lot of the work on each page in terms of leading the eye. There's also a sense of glee on some of these pages, as Hetland is clearly relieved to be doing funny work for a change.

Ross Wood Studlar has been quietly publishing interesting nature-related work for years, and his latest, Follow The Moon, fits nicely in that category. Studlar has also always been interested in local myths and legends regarding nature, especially those of Native American origin. This story follows a mother sea turtle telling her daughters about the first turtles and how they came to give birth on land. The story involved a turtle trying to hitch a ride with a heron and the whole experience going horribly astray, with one exception: the turtle learned how the heron followed the full moon as a guide. Studlar's art is both naturalistic and expressive, with gritty stippling grounding the details of the turtles laughing and showing other emotions. Studlar has a solid grip on how animals relate to their environments, and it shows in his drawing.

Leise Hook is a second-year student, and her comic The Moonbug Caper shows that she has a solid career in young adult and kids' comics if she wants to go down that path. She tells the story of an anthropomorphic rabbit family in a series of charming vignettes, grounding the story in the essential conflict between a younger girl named Jam and her teen sister Amma. Jam is pretending to be "Supercat," a masked superhero, while Amma is trying to summon magic using old radio equipment. Unbeknownst to them, an alien worm creature named "Secretary Moonbug" pops up and demands their help. The story is a wonderful mix of believing in the fantastic, as the rabbits help Moonbug on his mission, in part because he reveals that the stories in the book Amma loved so much were real. Hook's understanding of sibling dynamics gives the book the tension it needs to drive the rest of the plot, and the resolution of the story points to how their relationship is actually quite close. Hook's character design is irresistible, and her use of negative space, in particular, gives each character plenty of room to breathe in individual panels. She adds just enough grayscale shading to give each page enough weight. The book does seem designed for full color, and the line weights she uses would seem to support this nicely.   

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