Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ledger Judging - part 2

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

SMALL PRESS TITLE OF THE YEAR

• Happy Birthday Anyway, Matt Huynh
• Pirates, Tonia Walden ed.
• Dreams of Tomorrow, Liz Argall ed.

I’m in 2 of those so i can’t say 'cause I’ll either be biased or accused of bias.


INDEPENDENT PRESS TITLE OF THE YEAR

• Eldritch Kid by Christian Read (story) & Christopher Burns (Art), Phosphorescent Comics/Creatorline
• Platinum Grit by Trudy Cooper, Doug Bayne and Danny Murphy
• The Crumpleton Experiments by Daniel Reed, Nautilus Illustrations

  1. Platinum Grit – Having just reread the whole series, I think books 12-14 are some of the strongest issues of the series so far. Book 2, while not completely indecipherable did take me some time to comprehend because of some of the narrative techniques used caught me offguard. The later issues though are strong and have a good narrative flow featuring well rounded characters. The art is incredibly good. The issues released last year are very tight, entertaining and well done.

  2. Crumpleton Experiments – the art really shines in this; its imaginative and well detailed. The story is intelligent but still approachable for a wider audience.

  3. Eldritch Kid – The art in some spots is very good, even excellent, especially in the earlier issues, but then later it looks a bit rushed and lacks a range of line weight, making it seem a tad flat. The story has some good ideas behind it and at times there are some cool little bits but at other times it tries very hard and ends up kind of garbled.

WRITER OF THE YEAR

Another toughie; especially for the top 2 positions
  1. Trudy Cooper – she’s an extremely consistent and mature writer. In Platinum Grit she’s created a world where the bizarre CAN happen but the people are still real emotional beings. She creates characters that you hate, like, loath, love, sympathise, pity – all at different times; in a panel you can loathe Nils and the next pity her. Whilst sometimes Trudy’s stuff, especially in Book 2, is a bit hard to follow, by the end it all makes sense. She has a good and broad sense of humour and uses interesting storytelling techniques. The supporting cast are highly imaginative and add to the atmosphere. If there is any weakness it would be that its all surface, there is no subtext, nothing to think about, its just a weird soap opera. There is nothing wrong with being a weird soap opera especially when it’s a good weird soap opera like Platinum Grit. (oh and I don’t like the use of accents - as a non-native English speaker its hard for me to figure out what they are saying half the time)

  2. Matt Huynh – The imagination of young Matt is his greatest gift, coupled with a sense of empathy and sensitivity makes him an expressive and exceptional writer of social dramas. The dialogue of his characters ring true, his capturing of daily life is well considered and effectual and the bigger questions he poses of his characters is very contemplative and allows the reader to reflect. I would have easily put Matt in the top spot if it wasn’t for Sarcasm Lass, a project which left me cold – as an MTV inspired web comic it moved too slowly (I think me being on dial up at the time probably affected the narrative flow of the piece but then again when a fair chunk of web users are on dial up –its an issue) and it didn’t have the laughs I would expect from the concept. All in all, I’d love to see Matt develop other voices and stories and expand from the teen angsty stuff because he has that down solid.

  3. Christian Read – The three pieces applicable for 2005; the Record, the Deevee story and Eldritch kid show a wide range of genres and themes though very little of it is truly deeply satisfying. Outside the Witch king (a 2006 release) Eldritch Kid is probably Christian’s interwesting work, sad thing is that its really a bit of mess. At times there are glimmers of good, even excellent comic writing but when contrasted with tonnes of fantasy speak and weird inconsistent storytelling and pacing it losses all impact and becomes a frustrating read. Eldritch Kid is set in an interesting environment and has an interesting message but its made a bit too explicit (having a character spell it all out) that makes it all feel unnatural. I’m pretty sure I’m not the intended audience, but even so I should be able to appreciate the technical aspects of good writing. I liked the concept of the Record and the story telling but it feels like it was a longer story that got shoehorned into a lesser number of pages; diluting the twist at the end. And the deevee story was well constructed and told though a bit long; 5 or 6 pages for 2.5 jokes, it was a lot of set up for not much payoff. I agree with others, Christian has really really good ideas but has trouble translating those ideas into a comic. A good editor would be able to shape Read’s work into good stuff – especially work for hire stuff.


ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Bloody hell, its like picking your favourite organ, they’re all different but I NEED them all. Its always hard for my to critique art because I don’t have the language or the learned skills behind me – all I can do is figure out what I like and don’t like about a particular artist and try to string some comprehensible words together and hope it makes sense.
  1. Matt Huynh – That scene in the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Willie opens up the tiny door into the huge chocolate room; that scene epitomizes Matt’s artistic ability. Almost excessively imaginative (that means its weird without being unsettling), structurally sound but delicate and detailed, colourful but slightly dangerous and all in all exceptionally yummy, and a delight to behold. His style probably isn’t commercial in a Marvel/DC sense but Matt’s talents would be wasted there. He has a good sense of anatomy (which he excitedly stylizes), extremely strong sense of design (though he falters sometimes) and a wonderful sense of colour. His panel to panel storytelling is good, especially in Happy Birthday Anyway and The Seed. Matt’s inking stands out and has un-mistakable style (which can be a fault too) that adds atmosphere and depth. And his colouring is phenomenal. Lastly, his expert use of a large range of techniques and tools also puts him in front of the pack.

  2. Doug Holgate – In terms of output Doug was a bit quiet in the comic scene this year but what he did produce was remarkably good. Starting with his weakness, the cutesy wootsey style he has developed I think creates a boundary to his range. Whilst Matt and Trudy’s art styles could do a crime, fantasy or slice of life story, Doug’s would probably not fit as well. The style overtakes the content, it always looks cute (though the recent Tall Stories stuff he did this year is a fair departure from this style so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about). It, again, is a small weakness – that I doubt very much will affect his career, Doug won’t be crying that he’ll never have a go at “Batman” or do “From Hell 2; Ripper Returns - pip pip”. But what Doug lacks in range he more than amply makes up in skill. His use of traditional artistic techniques and tools is as strong and as amazing as his use of the digital artistic resources. His painting, colouring, inking are all gold. His story telling and page designs are dynamic, eye catching and a joy to read. His character designs are interesting and their anatomical structures fit in coherently with his general style.

  3. Trudy Cooper – If she wanted to do, Trudy has the skills to work for any comic company she wanted; whilst she world smirk at the idea of working for Marvel or DC, her style would be well suited to a pop culture slice of life books like Strangers in Paradise or a Vertigo book like Deadenders, Y the last Man or a Preacher spin-off or even, and get ready to scoff, a licensed books like Star Wars (I don’t know why I just see her style being a good fit). She’s Australia’s answer to Kyle Baker – which is a very high compliment. Out of the three nominees, hers is the most commercial, in a classic sense, comic book style. Her characters are nuanced and expressive, drawn well and correct but still with enough personal style to make them stand out. If anything, sometimes I wished her panel design was a bit less restricted; her style, whilst formed technically perfect, lacks the in your face dynamism of many current crop artists – by breaking out of the rigid grid paneled page (ie more splash pages, more breaking the border) she can add some zip to her page. But all be told this is a small quibble because I’m trying hard to separate the three artists. Its really hard to compare Trudy with Matt and Doug, since all I’ve seen from her is what’s in Platinum Grit, where with the other two nominees I’ve seen paintings and sketches and illustrations showing a wide range of techniques and styles. Consequently, I can’t comment on her colouring or her overall art technique which is quite limiting in the judging.

In a perfect world I’d rank them 1.000001, 1.000002, 1.000003. Sigh.

2 comments:

stikman said...

Hey Mark, that was pretty neat to read! I'm sure curious readers appreciate the transparency of the judging too.

Appreciate the thought you've put into it,
m.

Mark Selan said...

no problems Matt

I kind of enjoyed the reviewing