Daily Archives: May 1, 2009
It’s time to look at the hopefuls for this year’s Eisner Awards. The nominees this year are a motley crew. They’re an interesting group that raises many questions … mainly, “Who in the world has even heard of these comics?” Let’s just say when most people start doing webcomic blogs or podcasts, most won’t check out the comic about the plight of migrant workers. We are far, far more likely to check out that Sonic the Hedgehog pixel comic.
Which, to me, is fine. Hollywood hardly selects box office winners for the Best Motion Picture nominee list, either. Is using awards to boost the profile (or, to put it more crudely, advertise) of little-known creations the correct reason to determine who deserves to get an award? That’s probably another discussion altogether.
And then there’s the delightful content of the webcomics themselves. It looks like the Eisner committee has gone emo this year. Let’s see: one’s about rampant drug abuse, another is about hermaphrodites, a third is about a murdered strumpet, a fourth is about a mutilated migrant worker, and the the fifth switches it up a bit and stars a grouchy shut-in. Wow, webcomics… they’re not for kids anymore! (Or, more accurately, “not for gamers anymore!”) Tip for you aspiring webcomic creators: if you really want to game the Eisners, you gotta create a murder-mystery starring a shut-in hermaphrodite migrant worker who’s high on something other than life.
Remember back in the day when all we had to worry was if the winner was going to be the one about the cuddly sasquatch or the short story about rock stars who do battle in outer space?
The most positive thing I can say is that this year, I feel confident that the award won’t be presented as a second-class “also-ran” prize. Still, my faith in the laziness of the Eisner judges has not been shaken. I have a notion on who’s going to win, and once again it’s not going to boil down to overall quality.
But we’ll save that for last.
I’d originally planned on reviewing all five nominees at once. However, once this piece started crossing the 2000 word mark, I decided that it might be easier for you — and, more specifically, ME — to have this broken up into two sections. The first piece will look at Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld and Carla Speed MacNeil’s Finder. The second will take a tour of The Lady’s Murder, Speak No Evil, and Vs. It actually works out pretty well. The latter three are stand-alone short stories, while the first two are either much longer or part of a continuing series.
Ready to get your Eisner on? Let’s get started.
Bodyworld, by Dash Shaw
So Bodyworld is all like, what if we’re all like part of one global consciousness, dude? And what if, like, you let go of your rigid conformity by mellowing out, man, you would be able to share your consciousness with every other human being who let their guard down? It would be like telepathy, only on a more mind-blowing scale.
Bodyworld stars Professor Panther, a hands-on faculty member who injects himself with so many drugs that he’s got bandages running up and down his arm. The guy’s also seen with a joint in his mouth pretty much 24/7. He blows into Boney Borough, a total squaresville, to check out the properties of some phallic-looking plants. In the process, he trashes the bathroom on a train, hooks some students on to drugs, seduces a girl many times his junior, nearly burns down a hotel room, actually burns down a field, and runs afoul of the police.
He’s also our hero.
Of course, you can’t totally blame the Prof. Smoking joints is part of the work requirements of his job. As a researcher, he chronicles the effects of different plants on the human body. There are, however, some plants that deliver unforeseen consequences.
Meanwhile, a bald, scarred dude in sunglasses hangs in the periphery, popping up from time to time to remind you that is comic is more than just a stoner’s fantasy. His name is Johnny Scarhead, and he gets his own classic-comic inspired origin story. About this time, the story — which contained hints of the typical bizarreness you find in a comic about smoking hallucinogenic drugs — shifts into bizarre overdrive. The science fiction element, which had been window dressing, moves to the forefront as metaphysical concepts become more important than a drug addict’s struggle to fit in with a conservative society.
Without spoiling much, the main theme of the comic is introduced early on in Chapter Two. It’s about “Superorganism.” Basically, it’s how a colony of ants behaves more like a creature than an individual. It’s the sort of theme that’s been covered many times, from the non-fiction The Lives of A Cell by Lewis Thomas to one of the lesser known works of P. K. Dick, Galactic Pot-Healer.
The art is the sort of thing that comes to mind when you think “indie comic”… which is to say it looks like it was drawn by fourth grader. It employs simple symbolic imagery — a tiny Venn Diagram and overlapping faces being two of the recurring styles — and gets downright experimental once the characters start getting bad trips. Images devolve into nearly undecipherable chaos. Now, it’s not the sort of style that I like, necessarily … however, it was probably the only appropriate aesthetic for Bodyfinder. Art and story fit each other like Thai take-out and MSG.