Tuesday, December 6, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #6: King Ray

King Ray's Phone Stoned got an Ignatz nomination, and it was well-deserved. It's a clever, innovative, and disturbing comic about a life lived through one's phone. A search for something called a "Mirthstone" leads the unseen narrator on a quest through the city. Along the way, she is frequently mistaken for a look-alike who is famous, and photos come into her phone that seem to be of her out on the town. This starts to affect her in other ways, as she's charged for things that she can't afford, with the assumption that she's rich and famous. 

Things escalate more and more, as her own identity is seemingly erased in favor of the "Lik-Loc" star; she gets food delivered to her, people talk about investing with her, and she gets stopped in the street. She gets hit by a car and pulls herself out of an ambulance in order to track down the stone, with a cracked phone and cracked bones. 

This is a clever comic because the reality dictated by social media and other phone apps takes on a reality of it own, one that can even supersede actual reality. Consensus reality is changed by this addition of not just technology, but technology packaged with a narrative, much like a video game. The plot of this story is driven by the protagonist's desire for a Mirthstone, something she is drawn to because of an app called Glo-Star. Like a video game, she accepts this new mission and has to negotiate distractions, including a relentless series of distractions related to her identity. By the end of the comic, the reader is made to feel unsure of her identity one way or another, with the exception of the most important status bar on her phone: money. Even then, internet fame is frequently an assumption of wealth that can lead to real wealth, but it also be part of a grifter's profile. 

Ray's cartooning and layout are both extremely clever, especially when the story "pauses" as the phone updates. Their line is not quite up to the job in terms of some of the drawings, a few of which feel over-drawn and blurry in a way that does not seem intended. There's a slickness implied in the narrative which just isn't there in the drawing, but it doesn't detract much from the final result. The concept of the mini is so compelling and unusual that Ray could have gone more minimalistic if need be, though it's understandable why they wanted to create as much of the atmosphere of apprehending the world in such a technologically mediated manner as possible. 

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