Comic Panel Slow Read #35

From Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge

As a (mostly) daily exercise for 2017, I’m trying to slow down my reading and look deeply at one particular panel of a comic for about 15 minutes in order to really study its construction.

There’s a children’s nature program-on-acid aspect in a lot of DeForge’s work that you can see here. He often finds a line between gross horror, uncomfortable sexualization, dry humor and exquisite line drawings. The hyper-stylized foliage and the starry sky makes the landscape seem almost alien. I’m not even sure if the shapes in the background are meant to be trees or mountains. The anemone-like blades of grass make the whole ground seem alive and squirming. I really like the spiral patterns in the mushrooms.

The moose’s fur has some pretty complex line work that is maybe purposely overdone to give a kind of insanity to its natural state of being (the clothing adds to that insanity). That bird-like eye is unnerving amidst those varying currents of lines and the very human-like shape and positioning of its body. I didn’t notice the splotch of red (lipstick, blood, juice?) on its mouth at first. Nor the stray bits of thread pulling off its sweater.

Whereas the moose is anthropomorphic, the dog is much further from the human scale even though it, too, talks. It’s pretty far off the dog scale too, to be honest, yet is still recognizable as one. DeForge gives it the same, dead, bird-like eye. The red edge around its black spots are kind of unusual because they’re so subtle.

DeForge draws with a thin pen line and all his shapes are very evenly constructed with a steady, confident hand. His use of red and black goes a long way to create a lot of variety of tone, especially with the line shading creating an extra medium gray to work with.

Of course, the dialogue between the dog and the moose is hilarious and deeply weird. DeForge uses cloud-like word ballons that you’d think would be more appropriate for thought balloons. Here, it makes it seem like maybe the animals are speaking telepathically, but even the human characters in this book speak with the same shapes.

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