Monday, September 25, 2006

Makeshift Miracle and a visit to Toronto

I forgot to mention here that I did a guest column over at Comics Should Be Good, mostly because I was in Toronto when I wrote it and only got back late Wednesday. And then immediately got sick. It was a pretty "pass the sick around" weekend, but mostly it was all about comics. My husband was there for work (which is how we got the free rental car, because we are car-less bums), but I was there for the comics. Pretty much our first stop was the Beguiling and from there through the course of the visit I pretty much hit every single comic book store in the Toronto area. Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley missed their flight out for their original signing on Saturday, but I lucked into meeting them very quickly the day after and bought two of Hope's books, Salamander Dream and Gray Horses, both of which I now love and am really glad I finally got. We were mostly there, though, to hang with Jim Zubkavich, who we met through webcomics and is a very awesome friend. He was incredibly helpful in helping me move up to Canada, for one. I have a blog post brewing around my head about why I associate webcomics with drinking and he's a big part of that, wink wink.

At one point I was talking to Jim about this blog and what things I want to cover about stupid things webcomics do, like one where characters keep changing gender "because... it's a webcomic" I say. It's funny, but it's true, in both the damning and uplifting senses. Webcomics are a chance to do whatever you like for absolutely no reason. This is not necessarily a good thing, as horrors are daily unleashed because of this freedom, but it's still freedom and it's fun. For maybe the person drawing it. Hopefully. (Kids, don't write in gender swapping rays just because. This is your brain on just because.)

When I was a kid, I didn't read any comics. I knew about them, because I'd wander down to Oxford Comics when it was located in the creaky old house beneath Oxford Used Books, where I made pilgramage as often as I had a few dollars to buy cheap sci-fi. I'd pretty much only read some Elf Quest, which was fun, but I never really got into. And I wondered why that seemed to be all the fantasy I ever saw in comics. The rest seemed to be about fighting with some sci-fi gobbelty gook used to make it more "awesome". It seemed to me, even as a pre-teen, like a big waste of the medium. This is back when it was hard to make convincing effects for movies, but comics, I reasoned, had no limit. It was as cheap to draw a dragon as a tank. As cheap to set the story in ancient cities of gold as a wooden shack. Why wasn't there more imagination? Granted, I wanted fantasy personally. I wanted desperately to see a comic with a freaking unicorn on the cover and please let it be a one shot, because even then I was scared of "issue 4 of 6"! But where was the fantasy? Where was something that really took advantage of the visual medium like those illustrated kids' books that never had the same style as the next? Why was everything a bunch of white guys hitting each other?

This gets us back to Jim Zubkavich. Jim did so many things oh so right when he started his webcomic, The Makeshift Miracle. It helps he already knew plenty about how to make a comic and storytelling, but he also had a good number of comics queued up so he wouldn't run late for a while. His comic is my favorite example of a comic that hit the ground running, as it seemed to get noticed and linked to right off the bat. Mostly, I think, because even to the already weird and imaginative mini-world of webcomics, this was something amazing and new.

The art got a lot of the initial kudos, but very soon it seemed like the art and the initial pages were merely sucking the readers into something much more vivid. Words freaking fail, look at the pretty pictures.

And the story and art work together perfectly. The art shows you what kind of story this is more than I could describe.

Inbetween his busy schedule being awesome, Jim's remastered this puppy and it's coming out as a book. Which is great, because despite my great love of webcomics and high speed connection, I really honestly prefer reading books. Especially when they're something so interconnected in terms of plot as this. And re-readable. Reading it again now, I'm surprised at how fresh it is and how much I really love it, despite having read it all as it was coming out. Good stuff don't get old, y'all.

But the main point is, I would have picked up this book at any point in my reading career when I was old enough to pick out books for myself. No unicorns on the cover, but I think I might have outgrown my need for a certain amount of unicorns in my diet. Makeshift Miracle is fantastical and inventive in its own way and really uses the fact it's a comic for all its worth. Historically, it may even prove to be a big shift in all of webcomics, where after this I know I personally saw a bunch more people creating more lavish and less newspaper strip like comics. I personally signed up for Modern Tales mainly because Makeshift was moving to it, and I know I'm not alone.

Buy the book already! I'd like to talk about the ending here (as it's got a male/female element to it that's really interesting), but I don't want to spoil it for anyone!


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