Thursday, September 29, 2005

The exceedingly large number of manga I ended up buying at the 'Swap yesterday inspired me to finally clean up my manga and new books around the apartment. I organized the manga, moved it into my bedroom, and used the extra shelfspace to shelve the dozens of books I've bought over the last half-year or so that have been occupying every horizontal surface in the apartment that wasn't carpet. Now I'm half-paranoid that the towering stack of manga piled on my dresser drawer is going to shift in the night and block my bedroom door, trapping me in there to die of unemployment and starvation. Or, you know, compel me to actually clean up again. Whichever.

Bought one of those OEL manga that I've been hearing so much about, Rikvah's Steady Beat. It shows some promise - the artist seems to have layout down pat and the artwork and pacing shows improvement throughout the first volume. But lord almighty, is this a rocky start. The first chapter is highly disjointed and staccato, and it took me until half-way through the book to realize that it was set in Texas, and not DC. What is shown and what is told aren't exactly in sync - our protagonist complains about her religious, Republican [state?] senator of a mother, and worries about impropriety, but the mother in question is a single mother, dressed more like a very young congressional aide or intern, and barely mentions religion at all. The angles in the story don't all add up to a proper 180 degrees, although it isn't nearly as distorted as, say, Bizenghast's discount video-game scripting.

The whole situation of these OEL first volumes reminds me a bit of Cerebus and Dave Sim's problems with artistic discontinuity. When an artist piles into an epic, or even an only somewhat long-form story from first principles, said artist's teething problems get stapled onto the front-end of what might otherwise be, eventually, a classic genre work. Thus, Cerebus goes through a dozen and a half chapters of rather crude Conan the Barbarian parody before it turns into the sharp social and political satire of High Society and Church and State. I suppose what I'm getting at is that the manga-inspired tendency to reach for long-form ongoing serial before a series of short works tends to import the OEL artists' apprentice and journeyman-work into immediate attempts at master-work.

I don't think web-comics are the answer, either, because that sort of page-per-day or three-pages-per-week format breeds gag-comicry in its practitioners. A half-dozen pages every other week - such as is practiced by artists like Kittyhawk - strikes me as potentially fruitful, but those artists seem particularly prone to sudden burn-out and disappearance.

I dunno.

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