Digital Ash is Comics Bulletin's roundup of non-paper comics — webcomics, online shorts, digital-first releases. Sequential art made of ones and zeroes. Some of it you can read for free, others you gotta to buy.
On May 8th Sloane Leong got me thinking about the further possibilities of comics with a single tweet:
a comic about the first time i learned color mattered. i was 9. sloanesloane.com/color.jpg
— sloane (@sloanesloane) May 8, 2013
Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.
"Color" is an incredibly sad vignette about the process of growing up and realizing how the world works, captured with a restrained but stark elegance. It's the perfect length, too — it'd be hard to get this out as a print comic but it can exist perfectly as an image on the web. I love how she uses this vertical zig-zag method to bring the eye down the page as the big images trickles down into small moments. It's a small sample of the "infinite canvas" — that, with digital works, you're not limited by page size. But that's not the "possibilities" I was thinking of.
Some might describe "Color" as a "short story," which isn't wrong. It's one unit of comics — I'm loath to call it a "page" for a few different reasons — delivering an anecdote with a beginning, middle and end, sure. But I think it's a hint of what more can be done with a single unit.
A self-contained single unit can be a three-panel strip, or a single page that tells an entire story, but I think "Color" is something beyond even the latter. A little bit after reading this comic I noticed that actor Shia LeBeouf has what he calls "comic poems" available online. They're a little too literal and the images tend to exist more as a supplement to the words, but I think "comic poem" is an interesting way to look at Sloane's comic. It may not be the best way, but coming up with single-unit comics that are more akin to poetry than gags or ultra-compressed narratives is a thing I'd like to see some more creators pursue.
– Danny Djeljosevic
You can read "Color" here.
The Private Eye #2
(Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente; Panel Syndicate)
Seems like it's difficult not to write about digital comics without either being an evangelist for the form in the face of the naysayers or sounding like a mildly open-minded skeptic. Personally, there's nothing worse than people who refuse to read digital comics. What, do you only watch movies when they're out in theatres? Thought not. And when masters of the pop comics like Mark Waid, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin — who remember vividly the days before chat rooms and AOL keywords — are embracing the format, maybe it's time to not sound like an Amish person in the year 2013.
Hilariously enough, The Private Eye takes place in a world where there is no internet and people are far more protective of their identities in the decades after a major information disaster destroyed lives, so much that most of the population hides behind masks when in public. It's a high-concept that would have made for a great sci-fi noir flick, but Vaughan chose to generously contribute it to the comics medium. The first issue of The Private Eye laid all that out beautifully, and the second serves to expand on this world and advance the plot, leaving us with a killer cliffhanger by the end of it.
As a guy who wore a pink shirt and orange pants the other day, the world of The Private Eye is less dystopia and more strange future where everyone dresses interesting instead of "exactly the same." This not only fulfills one thing I like (comics where people wear weird costumes), but it forces Martin to constantly design background characters who only appear once or twice. Ain't nobody in comics working as hard as Marcos Martin is right now, who might be my favorite BKV collaborator so far in the bro's career.
While I love his Ditkoesque linework, the greatest strength of his art inThe Private Eye is how he takes advantage of the screen-based format as a medium for his more postery tendencies, as seen in his Spider-Man collabo with Stan Lee. This is a comic that will look best on a computer screen (though it probably ain't too shabby on your tablet). Because each page takes up an entire screen, each page is basically one giant panel with a bunch of sub panels within, and Martin approaches page design as such with great success. Martin primary uses rectangles, but has greater success with his paneling than someone like, say, Mike Deodato, who's kind of known these days for doing clever diagonal tricks with his panels.
Part of the comic looking so great is Muntsa Vicente's (amazing) palette, which creates a different feel in this second issue because so much of it takes place during the day. It's not only bright, it's colorful where a lesser colorist might go for more "realistic" tones. In this week's Singles Going Steady I'm going to do some complaining about coloring that shoots for realism and simply looks ugly and boring, so if you end up reading that take Vicente's work as the opposite.
On the real, though, when the Kickstarter for the print edition of the book inevitably happens, The Private Eye will get funded in minutes.
– Danny Djeljosevic
You can buy issues of The Private Eye (and pay what you want for them) at Panel Syndicate.
Poop Office #1
(Ben Pooped; Naked Grape)
Poop Office is a collection of short gag comics revolving around office politics. The hook to this book, though, is that it's a Poop Office, staffed entirely by poop. Seriously, this is a workplace farce populated by talking turds. That's right, it's a shitty Dilbert, and if I was seven years old, I might think this is THE GREATEST FUCKING THING EVER.
But I'm not seven years old. I am a grown man of serious intent and perhaps not the target market for this crap.
For the rest of this review, I am going to refrain from spreading further fecal puns. Poop Office does enough of this. To whit: The main character, Poopert, works for Mr. Poopson at the Poop Office. They have a Poopluck lunch consisting of Pooritos and Poop Tarts, and hang around the Pee-Pee Cooler when they are not filling out Turdsheets and Poopress Reports. They have Staph Meetings where they discuss the Buttget, and, after work, they go to the bar and drink during Crappy Hour.
SERIOUSLY! This is what you get when you read Poop Office. The book even ends with a Fumetti photo comic featuring real poop. This is not highbrow. It's not even lowbrow. A matter of fact, I don't even know what this is.
I mean I know kids love their poop jokes. I remember watching my son when he was wee go into epic hysterics, red-faced, tears flowing down his eyes, with that noiseless full body convulsion laugh (the kind that, as a parent, make you worry a bit that your child has stopped breathing) when he and his friends would pontificate on matters fecal. I get that kids think this shit is funny. And so there's a niche for this crap.
My question is, though, why did Ben Pooped set his tales of turds in an office environment? I don't know about you, but I don't know very many seven year-olds holding down office jobs. Shouldn't this shit be at a school or a mall or a circus or a soccer game or something? You know, a place where seven year-olds actually are? A place they can relate to?
Or is Ben Pooped doing something subversive here. Is he making a larger social commentary? Is he setting kids up to believe that only shits work in a corporate environment? Or is he telling those adults who are already working in the daily grind of an office that ultimately they are nothing but turds in the bowl, ready to be flushed away in the name of larger profits and shareholder whims? Is Poop Office actually a scathing condemnation of Capitalist doctrine where workers trade their labor for the opportunity to be digested back into the system and shat out only to repeat the process once more?
Is Poop Office a modern take on the absurdity of the bureaucratic system inherent in a top down profit seeking corporate structure where people are stripped of their individuality to the point where they constantly exist in such a perpetual state of self-loathing that they become nothing more than talking turds? Has Ben Pooped written a 21st century update of Kafka's Metamorphosis? Is Poopert the Gregor Samsa of 2013?
Perhaps I've underestimated Poop Office. Perhaps this is social satire writ large, a Gulliver's Travels of our time?
Or maybe it's just a crappy comic full of puerile humor about talking turds working in an office.
Yeah. It's probably just that. Fuck that shit.
– Daniel Elkin
You can buy Poop Office from Comixology.