Today’s comic ended up hitting a bit close to home–at least, more so than usual. Seeing as how ‘the usual’ is either a group of kids playing some sort of transdimensional video game, a young woman going to a school full of magic, or the intergalactic adventures of two strong, independent women, I guess it makes sense that a relatively realistic graphic novel would affect me as such. That’s not to say that it isn’t without its own sense of fantasy. I just think that we haven’t been able to grasp that part just yet. But before we rush ahead and talk about the story, I should let you guys know that this is yet another one that’s been presented to me by a very helpful twitter pal. And also, I guess I should introduce the comic and give a little blurb about it, yes?
The comic I decided to read tonight is called Family Man, and it was written by Dylan Meconis. Family Man is a weekly webcomic about a young scholar working at a new university in the late 1700s. Also, it should be noted that Dylan wrote another comic called Bite Me, so go check that out if you want–I haven’t yet, but it seems fun. Dylan seems like a pretty busy person, at least from her little about me section, which makes me understand why it’s only a weekly update. However, I would like to see how far along the story would’ve progressed had Dylan had more time to spend on it. So far, it’s been a rather fun little ride, even if historical fiction isn’t my forte.
So the plot of Family Man is rather straight forward in the beginning. There are no tricks played on the audience, which is rather nice. We’re introduced to the focal character, Luther, who I’ll talk about more, and his current predicament. We’re told that he’s a scholar and recently moved back home after not quite finishing his doctoral. We’re not told why things happened, or what the consequences are as of yet, but it works. There’s enough of an air of mystery around these parts that kept me interested. And there’s also a payoff for waiting. As the story continues, Luther meets up with another scholar, Lucien, and is invited to work at the University of Familienwald. Once at the university, Luther begins working as a lecturer, and becomes better acquainted with the rector and his daughter.
And what’s really nice about Family Man is the amount of research put into it. To be fair, I know very little about Europe in the 18th century, but while reading Family Man, I get the feeling that everything written makes sense for the period. Also, upon looking at her ‘About me’ more carefully, I see that he had a combined degree in English, History, and philosophy. That really shines through, with her use of weaving philosophers and theorists alongside the historical accuracy of the writing… and uh, the English.. language of the dialogue..? But seriously, I can also see where the English section comes into play, with the way that the characters use the language and the small references that even I can’t pick up completely.
Along with the main story of Luther getting along as the stranger in town, there’s another, even more interesting plot that centers on Ariana Nolte, the head librarian and daughter of the rector of the university. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in it, but it involves her having to collect sacrifices from the citizens of Familienwald and performing a ritual in the full moon. There are also wolves involved. Lots of wolves. I don’t think Dylan has told us just yet what’s going on with Ariana, but it sure is interesting. And if it’s tied at all to her other work, Bite Me, it might prove to be an interesting deviation from the strictly realistic form of Family Man. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes, and as such, this comic is definitely getting a bookmark.
The art style used for Family Man is similar to a few of the other comics I’ve reviewed–hand drawn and penned, scanned in and then sent through photoshop. Dylan actually has a small post about her process on the site, which is a nice little thing. I always enjoy reading about how the comic illustrators do their magic, so to speak.
Something quite interesting about Family Man’s art is Luther’s nose in comparison to the rest of the world’s. While everybody else is drawn realistically, Luther has a two foot long Cyrano de Bergerac snozz. At the start, it’s a bit distracting to see his nose alongside everybody else’s, but once the story picks up and a few people comment on the size of it, my mind just accepted it as being normal. I guess that’s a bit odd that it took other characters pointing out the ridiculous size in order for my brain to just allow it to be.
I also enjoy the color scheme of the comic. Everything is painted in this sepia-like scheme, and gives the feeling of looking at a set of old photographs. But is sepia even the right term? I guess it’s more of a grayscale? Either way, I rather enjoy the lack of color, and most of the way through, I didn’t even notice that there was a lack of it. I was more focused on finding out what happened next.
Another small thing that I’d like to point out about this is the speech bubbles. I love it when artists do interesting things with the bubbles, instead of just having them sit there awkwardly. And Dylan delivers. The majority of the speech bubbles are translucent, allowing the reader to see the entire scene without having a large white circle blocking their view. Along with that, the speech bubbles sometimes change in shape to reflect the tone of the speaker–in some cases, the speech bubble becomes a small bit of sheet music, depicting the notes being hummed/whistled/sung. There are also points where the speech bubble is fractured, and spreads out onto the page, spiraling or otherwise moving organically.
Dylan Meconis has also gone through the trouble that not many comic creators do–she’s essentially given the reader all of the notes needed for the comic. Not only does it add a whole new element to the comic, but it’s also something that isn’t necessary to understanding it! It just supplements what is already shown, while the comic itself carries on the story. Honestly, this is something that I’d like to have with each comic. I don’t have much to say on this, other than it’s a good idea, and works really well. Give them a look through here.
You know, I try real hard to think about what I don’t enjoy when it comes to comics. It gives me a basis on which to critique a work, and helps with my own work in progress. But shoot, Family Man is so well put together that I find it difficult to locate any gaping flaws. There are rarely any instances of writing out exposition–they’re usually seen in flashbacks. I think one of my biggest problems with it is that the comically large nose of Luther–and his twin–well, stands out. Add that to the Jewish heritage of Luther, and it’s a bit weird at first, due to racial stereotypes. But Luther uses that nose to point out stereotypes in one panel.
Oh, another thing that strikes me as being odd is the constant switch between English and German. Ach, Herr, and Frau thrown into English sentences makes it appear as though they’re speaking English and just saying German here and there, instead of the reality of them speaking German. It makes the whole thing seem even more odd when Czech appears written entirely in Czech.
I also would like to live in a world where comic creators get paid through doing hard work, and as such can update comics every day and not have to worry about being paid. Alas, I cannot live in such a world, and comic creators need to have day jobs. But if I did live in such a world, there’d be more of this comic for me to read.
Family Man proves to be a well thought out, albeit slow moving, work of comic art. I had never really looked much into the world of historical fiction comics, but now that I’ve read this, I would like to see more. If anybody has any historical fiction comics for me to read, feel free to leave a comment on contact via every other internet service we have available.
As a side note, I will start doing a smaller blog post on Mondays, focusing on newly formed webcomics. Those posts should be about 1/4th to 1/3rd as long as my normal posts, since there will be much less to talk about, and even less to complain about.