Friday, July 20, 2007

Satisfactory Comics #7 (May 2007)

The newest issue of Satisfactory Comics contains sixteen stories, most of which are two pages long. (There's a lot in this issue, so this post is going to have to be kind of long. Please bear with me, or just skip to the bottom for the Paypal button.)

Each of the stories we drew for this issue begins with a "seed sentence" provided by one of our friends and readers, and Mike and I used a different collaborative method for each of the stories in turn. For some of them, Mike pencilled my script; for others, vice versa. Sometimes we alternated panels without discussing the direction of the story; sometimes we hardly passed the page back and forth at all. Clearly, this is the most various issue of Satisfactory Comics yet.

Since each of the stories was being built differently, we aimed for a variety of tones and artistic styles, as well as a variety of subject matter. (Some of the people who picked the comic up at MoCCA this year seemed surprised that it was the work of only two artists.) This issue runs the gamut from bleak tragedy to loony parody, from eerie surreality to sci-fi epiphany, and from gnomic allegory to straightforward anger.

Here are a few clips from the stories that our readers seem to be liking the best:

It's not only our academic friends who appreciate the gags in "Commuted Sentences," in which Mike caricatures eleven famous authors (Emily Dickinson is not pictured) under twisted versions of their famous first sentences.

Several readers have told us that "Sinister City" is their favorite piece in the book -- the story of a foreboding dream, which I wrote with single-syllable words,* and which right-handed Mike illustrated and lettered with his left hand. (That challenge was one of three offered to us for this issue by our friend Tom Motley.) I can see why people find it interesting: something about the combination of details gets under your skin a little bit.

*(If you want to nitpick, it also contains the word "brother," which was in the seed sentence.)

A few other people have told me that they really like my rant about popular misconceptions about evolutionary theory, which begins with me complaining about how many people don't seem to distinguish (correctly or at all) between monkeys and apes. (I then ramble on to Bishop Wilberforce, Darwin's pigeons, the Guillermo del Toro movie Mimic and the nonsense that justified the sequels to Jurassic Park. Clearly I'd been stewing about some of this stuff for a while.) For this strip, I pencilled after Mike's thumbnails, then Mike inked and lettered the piece.

The issue also includes a choose-your-own / multiple-path strip set in a graveyard, a poem about necrotizing fasciitis drawn in stylistic tribute to Tony Millionaire, and pieces about an immortality cult, a murderous tattooist, a genetically engineered kelp farmer, a philosophical astronaut, and the end of the world.

The issue also includes a couple of stories we drew solo -- the most tenuous sort of collaboration, in which you're only thinking about the judgment or the editorial presence of the other part of the team while you work. Here's a panel from a story I wrote and drew by myself, about a gang of teenagers improvising a role-playing game in their suburban neighborhood:

Because we were doing so many different things in this issue, we got to try a lot that we hadn't done much before. For example, here are a couple of panels from a story in which we used the method of Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb's Dirty Laundry Comics: each of us drew and wrote one of the characters in the strip, making it up as we went along.

Having a lot of short pieces also let us try out some tones or themes we might not have drawn out in a full-length comic, like the piece about the end of the world and maybe the last man on earth. I don't think we have tried anything quite like this before:

Yes, it's hard to see in that left-hand panel, but the moon is broken into pieces on Henry's world. The first person to identify the source of that shattered moon in the comments for this post will get a free comic (this one, or any back issue).

Some of the stories try to pack a lot of thinking into very little space -- so our storytelling is more compressed here than it sometimes is. How much of the concept of this piece can you get from a single panel?

...because we only had six panels to work with, in that one.

Something I haven't mentioned yet about this issue is that we did it all in one weekend of intense drawing: most of it was done in a single marathon thirty-hour session at Mike's apartment in DC, from the morning of May 17 to the afternoon of May 18. (After taking some time to rest, we finished the cover and the text pieces on the evening of the 19th. Then I went back to New Haven and did some "post-production" work.)

Here we are, at the end of that process, as revealed in the comic's final story:

If you want a copy of Satisfactory Comics #7, you can buy it at our Storenvy store.

There are also people we should thank: first, Jon Lewis, whose excellent minicomic Local Stations inspired the storytelling approach in this issue. And, of course, the friends who contributed those seed sentences: Scott Downes, David Rosen, Sean Singer, David Quammen, Matthew Salomon, Craig Arnold, Anna Chen, Jeremy Dauber, Gerry Canavan and Jaimee Hills, Tom Motley, David Mikics, Ken Chen, Cathy Leamy, Francine Blume, and Mandy Berry.

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