Saturday, December 30, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #30: E.B. Sciales and Michael Albrecht

E.B. Sciales draws in a pleasing style, both for gags and a comics cookbook in these entries. Working with Sophie Castner, she drew a number of entries in their The Illustrated Kastner-Mednick Family Cookbook. This is certainly one of the more eclectic approaches to a cookbook I've seen, but Sciales was up to the task of bringing the ingredients and how to use them to vivid life. Kastner added watercolors to further deliver that homespun feel for dishes like latkes, gumbo, and lamb chops. More pertinent to this review is Speed Trap Ahead, where Sciales displays her comedic chops. Done in the style of a Dell or Harvey comic from the 1950s, Sciales sets the stage by informing the reader about her grandfather, Dr. William Sciales, an eccentric practical joker and tale-spinner. 

Sciales' attention to detail adds so much to the story. The slightly faded four-color scheme, the exaggerated use of expressions, over-the-top lettering, and airtight plot are worthy of John Stanley or Warren Kremer. Effects like zip-a-tone shading add to the period feel of this comic, and I could have read another dozen stories about Doc Sciales with great pleasure. The only note I'd add is that some of the more conventional lettering is uneven, especially in terms of the size of the font. At this point, I don't know enough about Sciales as a cartoonist to figure out what their major projects might be, but their wide interesting bode well for some interesting future choices. 

Michael Albrecht is a first-year CCS student (class of 2025) who shows a great deal of promise as a horror and science-fiction cartoonist. Above all else, he's just a sharp writer who has an ear for dialogue who brings grit and authenticity to genre comics. He reminds me a bit of Ivy Allie in terms of the tone of their stories and art as well as the cerebral quality of their storytelling. It's a shame that Albrecht came to CCS after Steve Bissette retired, because Bissette would have appreciated Albrecht's work in You Are Alone, a throwback horror comic. It's in the "I'm camping in the woods, lost my friend, and I am totally fucked" genre of stories ala Blair Witch Project, but it's in the execution of these tropes where Albrecht truly shines. The use of a sickly spot yellow, the attention to detail regarding eyes, and the ominous angles help the truly horrifying ending to land with a great deal of impact. 

Lancelot From Memory is a hilarious recounting of Lancelot: Knight Of The Cart done for the Ed Emberley assignment. That's the one where the cartoonists must draw a story in the hyper-simplified style of Emberley, using just shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. It's such a great exercise for any cartoonist, because it strips away the concept of "drawing ability" and forces them to focus on the true principles of cartooning and storytelling. Even in a story like this Albrecht creates tension and mood with his use of blacks and leaves the reader with an ambiguous but ominous ending after playing much of the comic for laughs. 

These comics were fun exercises for Albrecht. The main event was Deus, an exceptionally well-written and told story about a post-apocalyptic setting wherein a former killer robot has been reprogrammed to act as a childcare aid and friend for a young girl named Beanie. The drawing is so sharp and expressive, especially the way that Albrecht draws the child. Albrecht adds an air of menace when the robot, whose name is Bobby, is revealed to have full awareness of their past, but no connection to it. Albrecht swerves the reader by making this less of a horror sci-fi story and more of an existential inquiry into being. 

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