previously_A trip to the Little Book Fair in Pittsburgh_here
Our editor is dead.
There's a certain annoyance in either being lead or providing a lead, especially in the business of story. Sure, a story's as good as it's telling, but sometimes cutting through the minutia feels right. It sucks to stop and fill the gaps for the dependent reader, and as a reader it's belittling to be held up for. Of course, this could solely exist as my tick to pull, but let's go with it - for the sake of putting words to pixelated paper, months beyond that personally-set deadline.
What I mean to say is that either as a maker or consumer, sometimes we crave running with it, ripping loose all procedure, instead of narrowing a checklist. The freedoms associated with such an act beckon us, and they tie seamlessly, almost, to the liberties and expressions inherent in art and story. We're in it, initially, for the fast thrills, given tears and vacuum-sealed life lessons, and the raw draw of emotion, known to exist in our stories, is the catalyst to buy the ticket and take the ride, or the promise of it.
Point being: I hate the wait. Such a statement alludes to numerous personal miss-matches (left for your ambivalent eyes to sort), but at this moment it's applied to comics. And I say it as someone who's read, over and over, certain works, digging for reaction.
Or maybe it's not necessarily a "wait," but more so a tone of babysitting that unsettles. Digesting a work, mulling it, as long as it's engaging, is welcome. I mean not for works to be clear or spoon fed, but rather the opposite. I want the teller to be invisible, allowing both artist and reader to investigate at their own pace. Give me - give us - the freedom and allowance art should grant, even if clarity be sacrificed.
Mare Odomo's release from Sacred Prism, Internet Comics, is a recent example exemplifying what exactly I mean, for the 12-page work considers not, at least directly, the reader's well being, offering Odomo opportunity to ride out the wave he's caught. And in return, we waft untethered, soaking in the details we choose. The approach backs the comic's title. Odomo's poetry slips between images, phrases and narrators (so it feels) like the thoughts of some ADHD-infected Internet fiend, yet makes not this struggle of attention a dark, cynical observation but instead a thing of wonder. It's a joy to hop around and see everything, even when the sights sting.
Memory grants our narrators a human, if not genuine, connection to what are essentially fake occurrences completely based in the structure of a reality we created. As we know, it's easy, or it was, to poke fun at things we do online and consider monumental - things like reading blogs, participating in an online community or instant messaging. We know, or knew, the false weight of these things, so we could easily step away and laugh, brushing off such activities as slices of our online lives, only. But now, years deep in the Internet, they're tough to split - the online and the tangible - so Odomo, rather than judge, accepts these false occurrences as legit. He intertwines them with the real, and his narrators consider such happenings in the same vein as graduations or birthdays, recognizing the lives they've led.
Or that's the vibe, at least. There's also a bit of a kickback on the final page - a slight hunger for the tangible. The image of a girl floating in a bathtub reading a paper periodical rustles up a wishful regard for life outside the bit rate, and it cannot help but slide in a slight twist ending seeking interpretation.
Though, the comic succeeds by emphasizing mood more so than A to B. Odomo shows concern for your experience - he wants you to feel what he's building - yet he's confident his natural interests will be enough to bring readers along. That confidence, like any situation, breeds attraction, so a sales pitch or given road map isn't necessary to keep the audience alive. Like any situation, confidence breeds attraction, and it allows the emotional pull of the comic to seize control rather than work so hard to catch any passing eyes.
Internet Comics needs its freedom from the reader just as the reader needs his or her freedom from Internet Comics. This work isn't about running a course; it leans on floating, dreamweaving momentum. Because it's about images and smells. You can't explain those.
There's a StudyGroup interview with Odomo in which the cartoonist recognizes his work as "poetry" because of the qualities I've described. More and more, I'm drawn to this type of work, whether comics or prose. The gears and needs of traditional narrative bore me, and it's tough, unless an example of nonfiction, to successfully navigate some type of linear plot. A recent episode of Tucker Stone and Matt Seneca's podcast, Comic Books are Burning in Hell, expresses an interest in having more narrative-driven comics, presenting long form storytelling over abstract, single-thought meditations. And I can understand why. Comics - mainly alternative comics - have been dominated by such work, and for two gentlemen knee-deep in that scene, their hunger for a shift only sounds sane.
Me? I'd rather read anything than a narrative sustained. My appetite lingers for the opposite shift, yet luckily it seems, listening to Stone and Seneca, plenty of work awaits my consumption. If anything, I consider this a rebellion, further, against structure. Sure, some of the greatest art created owes so much to guardrails, and even at some point Odomo's Internet Comics probably adheres to some law. But the magic is in such a law's invisibility (and ease of invisibility when lacking plot). And if it isn't, then the magic is owed to the pure, direct freedom capable through self expression.
Though beyond boyish protest, these types of work serve my rooted interest in moments and tone. I'm not a "plot guy." I read, listen and watch for that split second of emotional response, and while traditional narrative supplies such instances, there's more insulation around the soft, juicy core than I'd prefer to peel back, sometimes.
Like all the corney bros say, "life's a series of moments, bro."
I guess I'm a "bro."
Yeah, I don't know if I even agree, but thanks for humoring me. I'm just glad I fucking wrote something.
Alec Berry is moving to Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Alec_Berry.