Saturday, August 16, 2008

Geometry Girl

This is the official jump-point as far as I'm concerned. When this was published without any sort of "uhh... what are you doing, Helm?" from my publisher I knew I pretty much could get away with anything. If you read it back to back with The Collector below you'll see it's not too much of a change of pace, but it's decidedly not centered on being funny anymore. There are jokes but it doesn't end on a funny punchline like The Collector does and ultimately that sets the tone of the page. Things will only get more morose from here on end. The meta-hilarious thing will be when I'd feel guilty for doing downer comics in a 'DESIGNATED: FUNNY' newspaper space and then rush to do absurd funny comics to make up for it for a couple of weeks and then back to the maudlin. The rest of the material will stand between those two polarities, with a significant bias towards the darker side after a few months, when I slip into a slight case of depression.

This is - perhaps not completely accidentally - the first piece from the backlog that I seriously still like even today. I had and still have my concerns about whether I should allow myself to portray a person with a serious psychopathology with right conscience, and indeed digging for laughs in this respect is not what I'd consider decent in the abstract. What saves this from being exploitationish is that I believe the execution gives it a human quality. The actual effects of Katerina's illness are - as anyone with even a casual interest in psychology would tell you - a hodgepodge mixture of slight ADD a heavy dose of OCD that manifests in anxiety. It is a comic, after all, as ADD and OCD don't go together very much as far as I can tell, but I didn't feel it too much to discuss this issues anyway since most modern people - especially in urban areas - suffer from degrees of them, I certainly do not speak without some personal experience.

There is some heavy experimentation with paneling in this comic, and you'll see me carry this further with every week's new one. For those of you with an active interest in the craft, check 'behind' the panels, see where the borders darken. When the pathology is most acute, there's pitch black behind the panel. This sort of thing one could argue doesn't make much of a conscious impact and I would concur; where it does count is on the subconscious level, and it is there were the 'humanity' of a comic stands to grab the reader. In how a character grabs a coffee mug, in how a panel lacks vertical borders to signify a sort of surreal timelessness, when a panel crops out the eyes of a character uncomfortably... it's there that a comic is telling a story visually, in these sort of choices. Not when you just draw supermodel super-cool, super-blaze anime chicks with guns just being their super-cool selves from panel to panel.

Or maybe I just tell myself this to excuse my inability to draw like one of these amazing deviantart 19-year-old illustrators! "It's the story that matters, it's the story that matters!" heh.

The experimentation isn't without it's toll however. The trick with the pavement falling in the darkness just upsets reader flow from rightwards to downwards. It is not without some merit as it signifies the 'plunge' towards the sad ending of the comic, but at the cost of what, making the reader skip three panels, one of them the most important of the whole comic? Nonsense. Not a good bit of storytelling there. The 'towards a lonely, predetermined path' panel is the focus of the comic for me and whereas the text talks of a sad determinism, it is juxtaposed with a picture of rooftops and sky and with a wide, clear border signifying that perhaps that is not as sad a road that will follow (an expectation I upset with the ending). To make my reader skip that panel by mistake is just self-defeating, heh. Also looking back at it it would be best if that panel simply lacked a border completely, just was bordered by pure white.

Last panel is mirrored, I think the 'photoshop shortcut' here serves a valid artistic end, which is more than what I can say for a lot of strips I did after this where it was mostly a matter of tiredness or boredom!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one, if it's successful or not for you and what could be done to make it better. It might be old but it's one of these comics that I still am happy with so critique would still be timely.

-Helm


Oh! I neglected a bit of Greekness to be explained here. She asks herself "did I enter with the left?". In Greece it's considered bad luck to enter a house with the left leg placing the first step. I have no idea why and I don't know if this occurs in other parts of the world, but there you have it.

8 comments:

Johnny Spade said...

I know little of Greek tradition, but since a good part of European customs is deeply rooted in Christian faith, some explanation can be found in Bible: the left side was the side of Christian god where Satan sits by. Probably that's why it's always perceived as something bad or abnormal --- we, by the same token, have a superstitious habit saying that the day you get out of bed placing the left foot on the ground first is going to be a bad day.

This one is waaay better in Greek. Sorry, then, if my lettering application doesn't match yours, but I found working with the comic extremely difficult --- it's one I truly experienced in an emotional way. It's also probably one of the most depressive comics I have ever read. You know, while having the script in front of you, while playing with fonts, styles and all just like with some kind of a broken mosaic --- you have hours to think about the content-related matter. In this case it's somewhat close and very unpleasant to me.

I really adore the way the page was arranged, though, so it has nothing to do with its aesthetic --- the page is wonderfully done. It fits brilliantly in the story context and helps the meticulous character of the plot a lot.

Prepare next translations! :)

Lackey said...

I always liked the formal considerations in this strip. The collapsing squares in the first frame, the sidewalk falling into a pile in front of her feet on to the next strip, the resemblance of her cell at the end to the apartment in the second frame, the squares...everywhere.

I learned the word "mensuration" today! Is "apportune visits" a typo though?

Johnny Spade said...

Oh, I got the text translated beforehand and didn't check that: my fault. Should it be 'opportune', then?

Helm said...

Yeah my bad. I'll fix it after I return from 5 days of vacations.

Johnny actually I think you did a great job with the font-setting and such, this was one of the harder ones to do.

I'm sorry if the subject matter depresses. I mean, it's not supposed to be funny or anything, and I can't really offer any excuse as to why things go to shit towards the end, they just do sometimes in these situations.

Lackey, I appreciate your kind words. The resemblance of the padded cell to the room wasn't an intentional one!

I think tomorrow before I leave I'll just postdump 4 strips (single-strips, not pages) and then go on vacation. I like how I said "I'll update once a week!" and I've put 5 comics up in one of them. It'll slow down a bit I guess, I'm just excited to get these up and finally get good feedback on them!

It's a really strange thing, delayed-feedback. I feel so pumped to sit down and do the next one, you know? The next one, three years ago... it's an unfair thing to do communicative art in a vacuum I guess I mean to say.

RosenRed said...

Me thinks Johnny Spade's right about the left thingy ^^ Generally left side is considered bad and/or unlucky due to the fact that big J is sitting on the right side of God, witch makes us left-handed at least angry, he!

I think your experiments with the paneling and border coloring, gave fruit. I found "the collector" to be more sad (story wise) than this one, but the whole feeling here is augmenting the sadness of the story.

Please don't get me wrong here, I speak in every good intent, but I think your non-funny stories (well from what you've published here) far better.

Helm said...

Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. I think non-funny stories are generally required to be more substantial in terms of characterization so it's not so much that they're better, it's that I HAVE to make them better.

HS said...

What is ADD? I know it stands for Attention Deficit Disorder but your character is far from that.

[i]If you read it back to back with The Collector below you'll see it's not too much of a change of pace, but it's decidedly not centered on being funny anymore.[/i]

Exactly. When I first read this comic, I expected it to end with a punchline, which would underline its entertaining purpose. Although I was smiling during the first pannels -typical helmish tiered jokes-, towards the ending I found myself feeling guilty about my initial reaction. It's indeed a bitter story and suddenly it dawned on me that maybe The Collector was not meant to be funny either (this was my starting point when I made the observations included in my post about that comic). Why did I think The Collector (AND Jacob) was funny while it's quite clear that there's some sort of pathology as well? Also, have you noticed this pattern of yours to define pathology as excessive involvement?

[i]towards a lonely, predetermined path[/i]

This pattern actually dominates a lot of your comics and I can see the progress in gradually expressing it more and more accurately (until you reach The Wheel, which is the absolute expression).

[i]The 'towards a lonely, predetermined path' panel is the focus of the comic for me and whereas the text talks of a sad determinism, it is juxtaposed with a picture of rooftops and sky and with a wide, clear border signifying that perhaps that is not as sad a road that will follow (an expectation I upset with the ending).[/i]

This is a very sophisticated effect. It's as if the character is looking at the sky for a moment, allowing herself to breath freely for a second, just before the plunge -take a look to the sky just before you die to quote a song-

(Lackey)
[i]the resemblance of her cell at the end to the apartment in the second frame[/i]

I hadn't noticed this one! =)

P.S. A typo: [i]were the humanity[/i] - you should have said [i]where[/i] ;)

Helm said...

Yeah you're right I don't know where I pulled ADD from actually since she doesn't seem to have trouble concentrating, in fact quite the opposite. I must have been thinking about the actual persons that inspired her who have that symptom more.

BTW, html tags for italics are not bracketed with []s but with <>s. Same otherwise.

Also, have you noticed this pattern of yours to define pathology as excessive involvement?

Not really. I think a symptom of psychopathology is often compulsive or obsessive behavior. If these people were not ill in the brain they would be able to function in society without exhibiting notable obsessive behavior, but it is not from their behavior that I would classify them as mentally damaged, but from their capacity to appreciate their life and enjoy it. If someone has a compulsion but they seem to be happy with it and like their lives, then far be it for me to call their state pathologic. They might have some issues but hey, we all do. It's when your capacity to enjoy life gets limited that the dreaded term 'psychopathology' rears its head. All in all, this is a pretty textbook definition of it, right?

About predestination, yes a lot of my comics subtly - or not so subtly - reference my observations-cum-beliefs about free will. It will get more acute as my own state of mind deteriorates the further we go! Good times, huh?

This is a very sophisticated effect. It's as if the character is looking at the sky for a moment, allowing herself to breath freely for a second, just before the plunge -take a look to the sky just before you die to quote a song-

These moments are important to me because you step outside yourself for just a second and do a thorough tally of how things have gone and even though you might be heading towards unpleasantry, it was still all very vibrant and interesting and full. Life's very full of stuff!

Then again Metallica aren't going for that with their lyric because the very next line is '...it's the last time you will' which puts a firm aura of despair to the situation.