Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SPX Find #5: Laura Terry's Thousand Lies

Here's one of my favorite things from the SPX minicomics stack so far:

Laura Terry is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and based on One Thousand Lies, I'd say I'm looking forward to seeing more comics from her.

One Thousand Lies is a story about a wanderer named Arnold, as he checks in with his godmother, a high-power lawyer named Victoria. Arnold convinced Victoria to take him out to lunch, and in return she asks him to tell stories from his travels.

(Let's hold on to that intersection between stories and lies until tomorrow. I have another post in mind.)

What Arnold comes up with are three odd vignettes, each of which takes place in a town with its own skewed logic: Sunderland, where philosophers congregate on the jungle gym and love waits in the morgue; Buffalo Gap, where half of the population is transient; and Enoch, which has been designed to capture and reflect the harmony of the universe.

There's a bit of The Thousand and One Nights in this premise, even if Arnold is singing for his supper instead of to save his head. (The connection is strong enough that I wondered why the lies in the title fall short by one.) There's also more than a little of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in the imagination of each peculiar geographical vignette. It's not hard to imagine this book being extended into more chapters, each of which would have three or five stories of improbably towns with puzzling problems.

It's also really nice to sense so clearly that the cartoonist reads something other than comics. I mean, I know that comics are the best place to learn to make comics, but to extend the medium, or to stretch a genre, the cartoonist needs to know what's beyond his or her most immediate antecedents. Won't the best stories always come from people who read lots of kinds of stories?

I also feel a lot of influence from Matt Madden behind this book. I might just be imagining that because Victoria looks to me a little bit like Matt's character Lance (from Odds Off—you know, the guy whose writing catches "word lice"). But there's also something about the cheery, intellectual familiarity between Arnold and Victoria that reminds me of some of Matt's other characters. And of course the appeal to Calvino and, behind that, Scheherazade is something that would appeal to Matt.

Anyway, I liked this book a lot, partly for its promise, and partly for what it delivers. There's some nice, solid cartooning here, but the real interest is in the story, and in the process of storytelling.

If I had to mount a bit of conservative criticism, it'd be that the scenes between Arnold and Victoria seem to drag a little bit — I'm not sure whether they could be compacted from two six-panel pages each down to a single eight-panel page, for example, or if the splash-page transition could be turned into a half-page panel with some editing — but that's really a minor misgiving about what's otherwise a fun, interesting, smart, and attractive minicomic.

I'm hoping to see more from Laura Terry.

And lo, sure enough, here is more from her, courtesy of my robot doodle book:

Thanks, Laura! I hope you'll let me know when your next comic is ready!

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