Sunday, August 9, 2015

Augustagram: Shaping Up a Daily Webcomic

I love Instagram.  I love that the format demands the viewer's attention to the single image,  hyper-focused in the confines of a single, unmovable square.  You can't zoom in, and you needn't rotate your phone to see the whole thing.  It's just a perfectly proportioned picture, and while Instagram seems to allow an endless amount of caption text, "insta" really implies an immediacy . . . that less is more.

This economic, harmonious combination of picture and words is so what I love about comics.  Indeed, Instagram dares us to capture real life as a comic book panel, in the same square shape Jack Kirby used in his six-panel page grids.  With this in mind, I've decided to utilize Instagram to attempt a daily webcomic all August long, hence the term Augustagram.  

Day 1: A woman found a dead frog in her Safeway sauerkraut, so Speed Cameron did, too.  The panels are posted on Instagram in black and white, and my brother colors them afterward.

The story, starring the characters from Amazing Arizona Comics of course, is told in daily panels that take place on their respective day.  This isn't a new idea: Erik Larsen drew an each-panel-is-a-new-day story in Savage Dragon #144, and while you'd think the pace of the plot would be choppy, the consistency of the characters maintains a through-line that makes the real time pace even more fulfilling.  This is their life, from the raucous to the routine -- which is exactly how we real people use Instagram.

As the storyteller, I find the creative experience especially fun and challenging, because I'm thinking about characters I've drawn now for over five years in a totally different way.  The existence of Speed Cameron and company so depends on current events, locally and nationwide, but how does that look when the news doesn't take the shape of a super-villain?  How do stories about Cecil the Lion come up in their lives?  What of news that takes a tragic turn, like a movie theater shooting?  Some headlines are too fleeting to satirize in a comic I hope to reprint for years to come, and others are tragic to explore in stories I hope offer some respite from reality.  Yet, when the focus is in the moment, the story becomes both theater and therapy.  The only thing insistent and unavoidable is the present.

Day 2: Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away on July 31.  The news cycle moves so quickly, it's hard to remember what headlines moved us just one week ago.

Thus, presently, August was my month of choice because it's really the only one void of holidays, so I wouldn't have that as a crutch.  These are the dog days of summer, for sure, and I'm testing if my comic has bark and bite.

So, I hope you're following, or will now start to follow, this Amazing Arizona Comics Instagram webcomic all month long.  Who knows what news stories will shape our heroes' lives?  No doubt, the same news stories that shape ours.  

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