Tag: Gabrielle Bell
This episode we begin by discussing a few great new resources like The Tiny Report, a new source for information about micro-presses by Robyn Chapman; Radiator Comics, a new publisher and distributor headed up by Neil Brideau; Nick Bertozzi’s fundraiser for the new Rubber Necker, and let’s add in Festival Season, a new self-publishing review platform from Kenan Rubenstein. (We didn’t know about that last one yet at the time we recorded.)
We also review some great new comics, specifically:
Announcing a new podcasting venture with me and Alex Rothman, who does comics poetry at Versequential.com, called Comics for Grownups. The RSS feed is here.
It’s still too early for it to show up in iTunes search results yet, so copy and paste that feed URL into the box that comes up under “Advanced—>Subscribe to Podcast…” in iTunes. Now with iTunes direct link here.
In this first episode we review Gabrielle Bell’s The Voyeurs, Brecht Evens’ The Making Of, Jeff Parker and Erika Moen’s Bucko, Frank Santoro’s Pompeii #1, Louis Trondheim’s Ralph Azham vol 1.: Why Would You Lie to Someone You Love?, Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT, Grant Morrison’s Happy, L. Nichols, and Tom Motley.
Direct download for the first episode here.
Both Bell and Mutch primarily published their stuff online, in Mutch’s case later collecting it into a print volume, Fantastic Life. I got a chance to ask all three of them how they thought the changing distribution channels of comics (originally newspapers for Bechdel, experimental print books for Mutch, and always Web-first for Bell) had influenced the way they tell stories.
The answers were not at all what I expected. Bell said she started publishing online because newspapers are dying and it’s impossible to get a newspaper strip. But a newspaper strip is what she really wanted and for quite a while she conceived of her Web comics in a newspaper-strip-like vein, where there had to be a concluding beat for each page she published. Mutch said that he always imagined Fantastic Life as a printed work, with the aspect ratio of a traditional book, and serialized it a page at a time with that in mind, though he said that working directly in digital makes it much easier to achieve certain effects with color.
He pointed out that despite Scott McCloud’s prediction a decade ago of “the infinite canvas“—of online comic writer/artists making ever-greater use of the Web’s infinitely scrollable page, interactive graphics, simple animation—in fact the comics published online have remained for the most part faithful to traditional, print-derived formats. Probably (and this is my interpretation) that’s because there’s no money in online comics, so smart authors always have an eye toward the print collection. Mutch noted that the rise of tablet readers as a viable endpoint for publication might change that, though there, too, the aspect ratio is that of a traditional book. (Alison Bechdel mentioned Chris Ware’s new iPad-only comic Touch Sensitive for McSweeney’s as an example of an author exploring these new boundaries, but then Ware has always been about testing formal boundaries.)
Certainly, when I look at Bell and Mutch’s work in Best American Comics, there’s nothing about it to suggest a Web origin.
I had all this in mind when I picked up the sixth and final volume of Warren Ellis’s FreakAngels. FreakAngels was the first foray into Web-first publishing I know of by an author who’d built a major reputation for himself first in print. I assume he was the first because, alone of the famous comic book authors of his era, Ellis was a blogging pioneer. I’d bet that at one time at least as many people knew him through his regular collection of disturbing and disgusting stories and pictures at warrenellis.com as knew his comics.
Here’s the product description, because it’s easier than recreating it myself:
Twenty-three years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. Six years ago, they used their psychic powers in unison and accidentally flooded the world. Today, they live in and defend Whitechapel, perhaps the last real settlement in soggy London.
Now, FreakAngels does show that it was written with the plan of being collected into trade paperback–sized print books. There’s no crazy formal experimentation with layout or design, though it could be argued that the limitations of computer display led artist Paul Duffield to select bold colors and fairly simply compositions with lots of angles and attention to perspective, almost reminiscent of architectural drafting.
I have noticed a lack of act breaks. A lot of authors writing for issues nowadays have one eye on the trade paperback, where I think most of the money is made, and so structure their stories in four- to six-issue arcs. Every so many issues you come to a stopping place that resolves some conflicts and perhaps sets up ones to come, and as a result the trade paperbacks have a natural structure, with each volume telling a more or less self-contained piece of the story.
FreakAngels, which was serialized steadily in six-page episodes biweekly, doesn’t work like that. The story has dips and turns, but there’s no natural rest at the end of each volume, the new one just picks up at the same place it left off. That’s a style that works very well for a continuous story on the Web but doesn’t work so well in books. Every time I’ve bought a new volume of FreakAngels I’ve had to go back and review where we are.
On the other hand, I tried reading it on the Web, too, and a six-page episode every other week is no better way to maintain a continuous sense of story. A lot of that probably can be put down to Warren Ellis simply trying to service too many characters at once—a dozen is simply too many to give distinct voices and interesting development, especially in the serial format, and by never breaking into discrete chunks Ellis never gave himself the opportunity to focus on one or two for an extended time.
As a result, in the end we get a plot climax without much accompanying character resolution, and the whole exercise feels a bit unsatisfying. That’s too bad, because as usual for Ellis the books were packed full of ideas and inventiveness, and had a great setup. I just wish it had had a chance to deepen more before the end.