Sunday, 14 January 2007

Some Velvet Morning: Flatwood

I neglected this strip when I first came across it some time ago, even now going through the archives, Flatwood looks too cartoony at first, a weird chibified experiment, but, then, typically the first 30 strips of any webcomic contain dodgy artwise. This sketchy linework later coalesces into something distinctly sinister and smooth. The animation above the strip with the blinking eyes and the black background creates an all-over aesthetic for the strip that is quite welcome. The outlines of the panels are fluid, melding into the ever-present darkness, this is a reading experience with a design in mind.

If the narrative is strictly linear than at least its direction is that of discovery not gag driven cycles that infest the gamer and slice of life strips that make up the majority of webcomics. It resembles adventure more than horror, in fact, the ambiguity present about identity and place put forward something close to a dreamlike state, magical realism or speculative fiction with the addition of horror elements. This sense of disorientation is heightened by as the strip has turns of surrealism and sometimes segues into pure streams of consciousness. Lately this trend has created a webcomic that has increased in both levels of artistic merit and surrealism, resembling a well made rebus puzzle.

The young man who awakens in Flatwood has a number of questions about identity, whether this is a stage of death and the little critter he finds is a goofball version of Virgil in Dante's inferno or a denotion of the evil that is all around him, I like this wayward aspect of the strip, it ignores the usual trends in favour of the narrative. I still don't know what's fully going on but I've accepted the rules implicit in the strip in order to access the spine tingling senseof adventure in this distinctly morose landscape. This strip will take time to process as you go through it but Zac's emphasis is on the lengthy portrayal of how identity is unravelled amidst chaos. This is a solid example of the ignored genre webcomics that deserve your support.

(I did have a post about the Broken Mirror but for some inexplicable reason that website has been hacked - why? Do Islamic terrorists like good story-driven webcomics?)

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Cutmarks are just so passe: So Common, so Cheap

'I wish my lawn was Emo - then it could cut itself': A slurred quote from Jojo Eildelberg, the local drunk

Emo kids have taken over from Goths as being representative of sordid teenage angst and unrequited lust and misery. They usually get a bad rap from the outside world so it's interesting to see a webcomic that deals with the subculture, written by an obsessive Emo kid and funny to boot. So, if Indie gets Questionable Content and Punk gets San Antonio... then Emo's webcomic presence consists of this relatively unknown strip called So Common, So Cheap.

So Common, so Cheap, is an examination of High School through the eyes of Kyle, an Emo kid with a lot of problems. I can't tell you why I like this strip, the artwork certainly helps with its thin lines and mangaesque sweetness and light. Kyle could be any number of Emo kids you see skulking about in the city, however, what this strip does is take the ennui of that existence and stretches it about into something that reaches entertainment value through its high octane tunnel vision. Admittedly, it does rely on a lot of Internet 2.0 Social networking kind of stuff - MySpace and such, but then you carried away by the internal logic of the strip. It takes the piss out of the plethora of identities on offer today.

Certainly, the sole creator, Ziggy, sometimes suffers from the constrictions of the viewpoint of the genre but primarily this is a wider examination of the various youth culture tribes in the western world. Moreover, it's a self-aware strip that plays around with the current fluid uncertainties of pop musical genres and is able to give an honest and informed opinion about a subculture most of us jeer at. Sure, this will date easily but it will also stand as a testament to the tenacity of humanity in its ability to mix self-mutilation and supressed eroticism.

Musical Accompaniment: The Cure: Disintegration. The closest thing I've gotten to really mopey music and angst.