This ‘N That From CCS

Posted by on December 28th, 2009 at 5:54 AM

Rob reviews a variety of different minis from current students at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS).  Included are looks at works by Jose-Luis Olivares, Melissa Mendes,and G.P. Bonesteel.

FREDDY and BIRTHDAY, by Melissa Mendes.  FREDDY is a well-designed series of vignettes about a slightly fractious young boy and his unusual family.  Mendes seems to pull her subject matter as much from children’s books as she does comics, with Crockett Johnson (Barnaby, Harold and the Purple Crayon) as a particular influence.  The Freddy character is a triumph of simple character design: hair flowing down from a head covered by a hoodie, shorts and a sneaker.  Freddy is the sort of boy who is most comfortable being around older people, who have a certain affection for his monkeyshines.  There’s one strip where he’s singing nonsense words around three older men smoking cigars, who ignore his presence entirely.  Another great design is that of Freddy’s dog Frank, who is drawn as a series of curvy black lines.  BIRTHDAY is a nice encapsulation of Freddy’s nature as a loner, as he barely tolerates his own birthday party, counting the seconds until he can leave and jump on his bicycle.  Mendes is an artist whose work I’d love to see in books with better production values, along the lines of what’s being done with the Toon Book line.  I’d also like to see her work more with color, since that’s a crucial element for most children’s books.

MANS WALKIN’, MANS WALKIN’: STARS and PUPLOVE #2, by Jose-Luis Olivares.  Olivares is experimenting with a sort of Lewis Trondheim-meets-Keith-Haring style of comic with his MANS WALKIN’ comics.  With ultra-simplistic figures and brightly-colored backgrounds, what impresses me most about these minis is the way Olivares gives his characters a surprising amount of solidity.  They occupy the spaces they’re in rather than lie flat with the backgrounds, giving each panel a lively sense of animation.  The strips range from poignant to grotesque to witty to silly, with Olivares’ impeccable sense of color clarifying his storytelling.  PUPLOVE is a sketchbook comic, written as he was waiting in an airport waiting to get back home to a lover.  Olivares displays a nimbleness of language that he rarely displays in his more visually-oriented comics, with a recurring trope of using the game Hangman as a way of partially disguising his observations.

ALIENS: FIRST ENCOUNTERS, by G.P. Bonesteel.  Bonesteel is unusual for a CCS artist in that he mostly operates in the gag tradition.  This comic is a take on “widescreen” movies done on an elongated, landscaped page.  The story is a take on War Of The Worlds done in Bonsteel’s cartoony but matter-of-fact style.  With no narrative and little dialogue, Bonesteel has the viewer’s eye follow a marauding but otherwise silent flying saucer ravage the countryside.  This comic is little more than witty mayhem, but Bonesteel’s simple line heightens the humor with its overall lack of fussiness.  That’s what sells the humor in this comic: the deadpan and simple depiction of houses being blown up, running people being set on fire, someone trying to make peace with the aliens who gets disintegrated, etc.  I’ll be curious to see how he ups the ante in the next episode.

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