I switched entirely to trades a little over a year ago. This was a difficult transition for me. I had almost thirty years of “floppy” reading under my belt, so switching over to trades just seemed unnatural. I got over it pretty quickly (It didn’t hurt that damn near everything today is written for the trade format then broken down into 6 parts and published monthly). I still have a fondness for the format. There is something special about the 22 page story. It requires discipline, pacing, and more than a little bit of creativity to craft a complete story within those confines.
It is a rare feat.
Recently I came across not one, but two examples of well-crafted single issues. They are wildly different in their subject matter, but both are fine examples of a dying form of the medium.
The Example, by Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson, is just eleven pages of story. However, in those elven pages are some of the best dialogue I have ever read in a comic. Considering I have almost thirty years of comic reading under my belt, that is saying something.
The entire story takes place on a Sydney train platform. Two people strike up a conversation while waiting for a delayed train. What follows is a revealing conversation about how much fear guides our lives. We want to be polite and politically correct, but in a post 9/11 world, something as unassuming as a suitcase can bring buried fears to the surface.
As the two characters talk, a dropped suitcase takes symbolic and literal center stage. The suitcase and its missing owner begin to loom larger in their collective paranoia, while it remains artistically anchored to the center panel of each page. The effect on the reader is astonishing. The page literally revolves around the suitcase. (Side Note: There is a fantastic article about the effect of the page layout here!)
As I mentioned above, the real star of The Example is the dialogue. The Example is adapted from an award-winning short play of the same name. Since plays rely on characterization and dialogue more than visuals, this seems like the perfect genesis for a character driven comic. Whereas most comics these days go for “wide-screen” or “infinite budget special effects”, The Example sticks to the basics of good storytelling: believable characters in a compelling situation making decisions that make the audience believe in them. It is well worth the extra effort it may take to find this comic! (Note: Gestalt Publishing is offering free shipping worldwide through Oct. 31st!)
The good folks at Gestalt Publishing were kind enough to create this promo!
Kodiak by Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella and art by Nat Jones, is something I picked up out of curiosity. I have been enjoying Hill’s other comic, Locke & Key, so I wanted to see what else he could do. I was impressed.
Kodiak tells the story of a young circus performer who is in love with a woman above his rank. When their love is discovered by her brother, the young man is cast in to a dungeon to rot for eternity. Even when it appears salvation is at hand, an even greater horror is unleashed upon him.
That is a lot to pack into a slim, 22 pages. However, Hill’s pacing and Jone’s art make for a compelling story. Kodiak does not attempt to blaze any new directions. Nor does it attempt to tell a new story. However that is part of its success. It is a folk tale – a familiar story that grows in the telling and retelling. It is comfort food. And, as comfort food, it is completely satisfying. The characters and the situation are believable, not just in the context of a fable, but also in their own right.. The love and fear are evident not only in the words the characters speak, but in their every expression and movement on the page. It is a complete and immersing experience.
Hill has shown that he is capable of creating something beyond the horror stories his fans have come to expect. Like his father’s Eyes of the Dragon, Hill has shown he is capable of creating a fantasy story suitable for all ages. Hopefully, he will continue to create stories that branch into new genres. As for Jones, I will be on the lookout for more of his work!
(Side, Side Note: There is another bloggerwho takes a different approach to Kodiak. It is defintely worth a read!)