Saturday, 1 November 2008

John Cei Douglas -- Buffalo Roots

This comic is like falling in and out of love, but retaining just enough perspective to see the other side of the story. It improves on the artist’s previous comic, the subtly affecting Sleeping Beauty, both in terms of structure and delivery. For example, John Cei Douglas’ figures have always had an endearing, “Charlie Brown goes to the indie disco” look to them, but here they blossom into romantic micro-portraits before breaking down into something more scratchy and expressive when the story demands it:

And that story: it's elliptical, but the details are strong enough for you to get a good sense of what these two people saw in each other, what they wanted from each other, and why it went wrong. Except... except that sometimes it's hard to keep track of who is saying what. Don't worry though -- this is all part of an attempt to capture the emotional confusion of our protagonists, and to make sure our sympathies don't stray too wildly to one side or the other.
In Buffalo Roots moments, panels, and feelings don't so much butt into each other as exist all at once, as part of a scheme too complex to fully grasp. Don't let this abstract description put you off though, because Buffalo Roots is at its strongest when it's capturing the specifics of how people behave in these situations. You see, in the end this story's about the smile on a young man's face as he starts a relationship that he just knows is going to go wrong, but it's equally all about how the man eating art chick might see herself somewhat differently than everyone else does.
It's pretty complex stuff, but then, so are most relationships, no matter how brief, worried, stupid or wonderful.

Full disclosure: I know John Cei Douglas from my Barbelith days, and he sent me a copy of Buffalo Roots with a rather tasty Stinger Bar, so my interest in his work is hardly impartial. That said, he's also a shin-kicking reprobate who needs to be stopped, so I wouldn't give him this sort of write-up if he didn't deserve it. If you don't believe me, or if you're just plain curious, both Buffalo Roots and The Masculine Front are available in full online.

Oh, and hey -- here's an interview with John Cei Douglas I conducted way back in 2004, when I was still trying to run a group comics blog.

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