Sunday, December 31, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #31: Taylor Hunt, Sofia Martin, Sydney Austin

It's always interesting to evaluate the work of first-year students at CCS. When I get to review them, their first semester has not quite yet wrapped up. For students relatively new to cartooning, their minicomics output can be quite limited. For some, this is the first time they've ever published anything, thanks to the resources of the CCS lab. Sometimes, it can be obvious that even working through familiar assignments like the Aesop adaptation or the Ed Emberley comic, an artist has a lot to say. (Natalie Norris comes to mind.) There are other times when it's less obvious what kind of leap an artist is capable of making, so long as they are careful to run their own race. Some of the earlier classes at CCS were highly competitive in terms of output, but that seems to be less prevalent these days. 

Sofia Martin's Off The Path is the one comic every CCS student starts with: the application comic. It's a story that must have the following elements in a story: the cartoonist, a robot, a snowman, and a piece of fruit. Here, using a delicate line that also makes great use of black-and-white contrasts, Martin spins a funny story about walking through a snowy forest and encountering a delivery robot that is distressed at the "frown" of a snowman. You can see how Martin's understanding of pacing, transitions, and gesture all contribute to the very gentle gag that is central to this story. Martin's storytelling is understated and subtle, and it will be ideal for sensitive character work. Their lettering is rough; I liked their using different font styles for their character and the robot, but the lettering is too small and cramped. The good news is that the word balloon placement is sensible, so the other issues are simply technique-related and easily correctable. 

Taylor Hunt's attempt at the same assignment is as big and loud as Martin's was quiet and sensitive. The Big JS is a ridiculous noir detective story where the detective is a rotting banana, the femme fatale is a snow-woman (the initial reveal is hilarious), and the victim is a robot. Printed on a series of unfolding & connected cards, the reader keeps flipping down to reveal more story. It's a clever formal trick that adds to the general sense of ridiculousness surrounding the story. Hunt plays up the black-and-white contrast beautifully to create atmosphere, and there are a lot of bold drawings that push out of the panel that add some drama and excitement. Hunt is definitely funny, and I hope he continues to explore humor in his work. The envelope provided with the comic, acting as a case file holder, was another nice formal, decorative touch. 

Finally, Sydney Austin tackles the Aesop assignment with a bigger-sized mini featuring characters from her own Phoenix Of The South graphic novels, titled Break Your Heart. Based on "The Man And The Woods," the story is about a man named Jeremy secretly in love with another man named Will. That love leaves him vulnerable to Will's ill intentions that deliberately play on the attraction he knows that Jeremy feels. Austin smartly plays up the seemingly innocent but very intimate physical contact they share to lead the reader in one direction but also make Will seem unbelievably creepy. The problem with this comic is that it rests too much of its information on previously-written characters; as a result, we have no clue why Will acts as he does, or what Jeremy wants until nearly the end of the comic. The reference to Aesop is shoehorned in and isn't exactly a one-to-one correspondence. In the fable, the trees in the wood give a man with an axe handle a branch each, and then he makes an axe handle with the branches and chops them down. Some of the individual character poses are also a bit stiff and feel overly posed. That said, Austin has a clearly-defined style and themes she's working with, and this is simply a matter of drawing more. 

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