Friday, August 11, 2006

Ledger judging - part 1

I'm not a reviewer, and these weren't written for public consumption but thought people might find it interesting.

PRODUCTION DESIGN OF THE YEAR

  1. Tonia Walden – I’ve already song her glory in my initial blog nomination posting. The quality she gets for the money she spends is unparalleled. Its eye catching and well constructed. Every detailed is considered and there’s a natural flow.

  2. Glen Shearer/Darren Close – this book is 90% perfect but that last 10% imperfection is infuriating. Its hard to tear shreds off a charity book but I don’t want to give it a free pass. The landscape format shits me; its fine for a picture book that pages can be glanced at while its ites on the coffee table, but with the interviews the book flips and flops and it’s a bugger to read. The cover though gives the book a nice feel and it shows a wide range of styles and genres covered within the book and Australian Comic Scene. I’m not sure if the content of interviews really falls in the realm of Production Design but it got boring really fast reading the same questions and essentially same answers. The weird inconsistencies are frustrating – stuff likes why were the names organized by first name, why couldn’t the name of the artist on a particular page be in the footer, why did some artists get front section placement but no question/answers? And why does some of the art look like it was from 72 dpi? The cover, concept and quality are all great just those few niggling aspects really brought the whole thing down.

  3. Troy Kealley – Simon Sherry’s work for this book, is hands down the best cover for an Australian comic this year. I bet no horror fan could walk past that in a comic shop and not want to pick it up and flick through it. It’s just perfect. I think the back cover is sort flawed, its too cute and subsequently it would confuse readers, there’s still the conception that comics are for kids but Troy is trying to offer a horror comic to adults and horror fans but there’s this cartoonish hand clawing from the back – it’s a mixed message. Is it Freddy Kruger or Casper the friendly ghost? The end result is it alienates both crowds – even though both pieces are strong and well done. I think the black pages worked well for a number of stories; it makes the art feel hemmed in and claustrophobic adding to the creepy atmosphere but that backfired when the art wasn’t that great making the ugliness standout like dogs balls. I think the spread of stories was pretty good, the good ones where well distributed so you could forget about the ones that don’t work well, but I’m not sure if this an editorial issues or production design issue. I was disturbed at some dodgy scanning resolutions in one or two stories too.

WEBCOMIC OR COMIC STRIP OF THE YEAR

Very hard category
  1. Raymondo Person – makes me laugh every. Single. time. It’s hardly commercial but its so well constructed. The art is deceptive; it looks like stick figures but the backgrounds and surroundings are detailed and well proportioned (the last two entries the ‘bridge’ and ‘banjo’ ones are positively gorgeous). The humour is quite wide from the easy fart, shit, fuck jokes to the bizarre observation skit.

  2. Maggellan – I’m not one for superhero parody books, its too simple and easy and that’s what I thought Magellan was; thankfully its not. It’s a surprisingly good read. The writing probably couldn’t be described as economical but it does function as a good way of allowing the reader to catch up with what’s going on – which seems to be important in sporadically published/read web comic. The characters are interesting and all have their own voice which is important when there are so many characters flying around in a story. The superhero formula is very bright and colourful but this contrasts with the sex and violence of the work (this contrast can be unsettling to a degree). The art is very workman like and simple – it gets the point across but isn’t structurally or anatomically great or exciting. The writing did have me wanting to know what happened next.

  3. Big Fun Mega Happy Pet Land- its cute and for a kids comic you couldn’t expect more, as an adult its hard to really compare it to the more mature fare of Raymondo or Magellan. In terms of construction, the art is exceptionally good, the colouring quite good both using a cute and approachable style. The writing is lightweight, I’d expect a laugh on every page and this doesn’t always deliver but the mileage of kids would differ to an old man like me. I think that the shoehorning of a concept sometimes hurts the strip because the jokes seem forced but that’s really a tiny criticism of a great kids comic.


INTERNATIONAL TITLE OF THE YEAR
  1. Deevee Flange – probably the best issue of DeeVee, every single story hits its mark and its quite entertaining and meaningful. I wonder if the ‘Different Voices’ genesis of the book is being forgotten though; besides Mandy’s piece (and possible James K’s and the playright) – its hardly alternative. If there was one thing that sours it, for me, is that it has no point – it’s a collection of very good stories but there is nothing underlying the book, no reason for it – leaving me slightly dissatisfied. But in terms of what Australian talent has to offer; there isn’t a better example.

  2. Fell – Both Ellis and Templesmith extend themselves; Ellis forgoes his normal tropes (bitter overcoated smoker with sexy powerful female aid) and Templesmith does some regular panel to panel sequential work, squeezing in 9 panels a page without forgoing detail and mood. It’s a very good book – it’s not really literature, its just very good escapist fiction.

  3. Small Gods – this series started well but became really clichéd in the middle – the last story arc though picked up immensely. Issue 11, the last issue released in 2005, was quite the exciting read and it left me hanging for the next chapter. The writing is economic but sometimes a bit lame; the dialogue doesn’t feel right, it can be a bit melodramatic or sometimes just unrealistic. But some of the ideas and concepts presented are quite interesting. I’m not really a fan of the art, the grey toning, I find, takes away from the vibrancy I’d expect from an action comic. Its a mindless entertaining comic that has the odd good and exciting idea but sometimes smothers it with cliché.


SINGLE ISSUE OR STORY OF THE YEAR
  1. The Seed – I’m a massive fan of Liz’s work, she hasn’t made a wrong step yet, she’s faltered (the odd story in Something Wicked) but never fallen in a heap. I’m a massive fan of Matt’s work too. I think this is the second or third time they’ve worked together and its one of their best. It’s so open and expressive and it plays to their obvious strengths; Liz’s simple approach to concept and delivery and Matt’s imagination and design. Its just perfect.

  2. Laika – Wonderfully illustrated, it has the best story telling out of any of the other nominees. It’s wonderfully cute and expressive. The first half is perfect but I feel that it falls down with the appearance of the water kitty and the water sprite television thingy. Ok, falls down is a bit harsh but it does trip a bit over the carpet. However it resolves it self really well. The colouring is outstanding but I would have preferred if it was called Laika: first doggie in space, but that’s just me.

  3. The Record – I think if Christian has a major flaw is that he tries to jam in so many ideas into his stories that the good and interesting ones get drowned out by the crappy distracting ones. Less is more. Tonia’s art is as solid as ever and could have carried the story along without the narration. It was probably the first time I appreciated Tonia’s ink work, its quite lavish and conscientiously detailed without being gaudy. The twist at the end is good but because so much time is spent on creating and explaining the zombies we don’t get a clear enough view of the main character to really fundamentally understand why he would want to be a zombie, therefore the twist is flat.

  4. Star Wars – Not written by an Australian and not self published – well that’s 2 demerit points. I’m not really sure if I should be judging the whole book or just Nicola’s portion of it but I’m assuming since its in the Single Issue category I’ll judge it as a whole (I would have been more comfortable if this was listed in the International Title category). This is the second part of a two part storyline, continuing from issue 26. Its not necessary to read 26 since not much happens in it, and Nicola only did about half the art in 26. In 27 she pencils all 22 pages and it really shines, shot directly from her pencils (bypassing the inking stage) the lush and beautiful colours really round off Nicola’s work. I felt if anything let down Nicola’s work as a whole it was her inking; her anatomy and storytelling are well honed and first-rate but her inking doesn’t have that superhero edge that makes it look dynamic and fast. Nicola’s style is most suited to superheroes and action so its an area, that I, think needs to be looked at. The story is good without being exceptional, the characters do their bit, there’s a nice pace and its all very entertaining but nothing that stands out as a whole.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Mark. Funny you think Flange was the best issue as I think its probably the least balanced of the three annuals. There should be at least one new issue out before the end of the year.

Daren

azahru/liz said...

Thanks Mark, I must confess to a small amount of nervousness when I started reading and prepared to listen thoroughly to whatever crits you threw my way (and Dreams of Tomorrow certainly has a fair chunk of flaws). I am chuffed and delighted at your kind words, you've certainly made my day... I should get back to my script *cough*

killeroo said...

I'd have to agree with all of your criticisms of Operation Funnybone. While the whole "it's our first book" is a bit of a copout, I do feel a lot of lessons were learned and the next book will address all of these issues.

Though I have to say I'm a fan of the landscape format, a bit more money spent on binding to suit said format would be well spent.

Simon Sherry said...

Interesting insight into your choices for the awards Mark, and thanks for the flattering comments re: the SW cover. Sounds like Troy has had some similar concerns with the way the book turned out, and from what I've seen and heard so far, the follow-up's shaping up to address them.

As far as the rest of the awards are concerned, I think that the overall quality of the books nominated speaks not only for the amount of talent out there in the local scene, but also the level of dedication to produce competitive local product. 'Tis a good time to be in Australian comics indeed!

Cheers,
Simon Sherry

Mark Selan said...

Daren - i think Flange was a bit more commercial than the others. And woohoo!

DeeVee: Taint?

Liz - keep writing type monkey! Nah I think you are an awesome writer and I think DOT was a good book, besides that crappy written superhero comic it was pretty good.

Killeroo - I think if you had gone out and looked at landscape vbooks you'd notice they are pretty much art heavy because they are so cumbersome. So first book don't wash - (unless it was the first landscape book ever). Even hardcover would have shit me a bit.

Simon - The books that have come out in the kast year and a bit have been great; from mianstream stuff like Witch King to the cool ziney stuff i grabbed at doujincon it is all good.

And its easy to say - "good enough never is" i can understand the issue of quality of work in big anthologies like Oztaku and Something Wicked and hope people heed that.