Wednesday, December 20, 2023

45 Days of CCS, #20: Quinn Thomson and Alexander Washburn

Quinn Thomson is just a natural at slice-of-life sci-fi adventure stories. His Zero Point comics have been uniformly polished, funny, and engaging. They've actually looked better in black and white than in the color I've seen him use in some webcomics; the color on the cover, for example, is a bit on the garish side and detracts from his linework. Thomson's linework and use of grayscale shading balances naturalism and a strong line with quirky character design. Thomson also understands character-driven narrative, and Zero Point features a ship full of vivid personalities, with the new crew member of a space cargo ship being the most interesting. Shannon Kent is an anthropomorphic dog who, as it turns out, is a genetically-engineered construct: a "smart pet." This issue follows her disastrous first day on the job meeting the human and alien crew members who aren't there to make her life easy. It's a smooth, relatable story with a plot that hinges entirely on character interaction. 

Thomson's Unlikely Hero On Patrol is a short story about a young hero wannabe who inherits a suit she doesn't quite know how to operate. Her buttinsky roommate keeps telling her not to use the suit since she doesn't know what she's doing, but the hero Arlene has her head in the clouds. Predictably, things go horribly wrong in this light-hearted adventure that's an appetizer for more stories. 

Alex Washburn's two entries are a collection of his funny Clan Zargs stories originally published in the Fantology anthology and a diary comic. The diary comic (titled Almost-Daily Diary Comics For A Month) is excellent, and he uses it for its originally conceived purpose: as an exercise to work out creative issues and blockages. Some days Washburn goes for quotidian details, like the daily routine, road trips, or being reluctant to get out of a warm bed. On many of the days, he's much more reflective. thinking about his influences, his personal and cultural connections to Japan through his family, his relationship to his body and how this has moved him to draw fat characters, and in general what sort of artist he wants to be. This was so effective in giving me a sense of the artist that I'd recommend it for any cartoonist to tackle the specific questions that Washburn engages with. 

Washburn's biggest accomplishment to date has been the first three chapters of his Clan Zargs serial, originally published in the Fantology anthology, all of which I've reviewed elsewhere. He's printed each of the three chapters separately, but he collected them into a single mini titled Clan Zargs: A Fantology Story. Washburn pretty uniformly uses a thick, bold line that sometimes obscures certain facial features, but he makes up for that by giving his creations distinguishing scars and fantastical forms. The action sequences are a bit stiff and sometimes confusing, but that's much less important than the character interaction for the five principle leads. There are flashbacks, asides, and other moments that establish each of their personalities in a distinct and often tender way, which is unusual for typical fantasy characters. You can also see his progression as an artist: the third chapter is conceptually different, more ambitious in terms of backgrounds and layouts, and takes a darker tone without leaving humor out of it altogether. This series is very much Wasburn getting better in public, and I'm excited to see where the story will go next. 

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