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A Few Words About Brian Ralph And His New Book, Daybreak
posted October 22, 2006
 

I hope Brian Ralph and his publisher Bodega Distribution won't mind if I take the opportunity to preview a few pages of the just-released Daybreak and say a few words on its behalf. Most of what's between the covers on the new volume, which enjoyed a release party just this weekend, was initially published for all to see through the group art blog New Bodega in the first six months of this year. The fact that the work functions equally well placed onto standard comics pages as it did as a panel by panel progression is just one of the things I like about Ralph's work -- its moment to moment strength that allows for each panel to stand alone. Here are some others:
* it's enormously fun watching the first page below open up in Photoshop, because you can see the painterly layerings that give the art its texture, and you realize how strong a line Brian's developed in that the texture doesn't overwhelm the final image.

image* Ralph may have the most cynical outlook towards making art of any cartoonist that regularly publishes, although it tends to surface in the work at strange times and in odd ways. If the reader is the character off-camera that's being spoken to and welcomed, the protagonist becomes an obvious stand-in for the artist -- an artist with his drawing arm lopped off.

* look at the second panel on the second page and the second to last on the final page presented here; those figures have weight in a way that's really rare for a comic, period, let alone one that's been done in a cartoony style. You can feel the force of the lean, or the awkward step-making, pressed into the surface with which the character comes into contact.

* Ralph executes his story's implied off-panel threat pretty well from the start, but what's more interesting to me is how he'll insert moments of off-kilter but emotionally resonant real-life interrelationships into these broad fantasies. The final three pages below depict every art kid that doesn't have much in the way of physical possessions hosting you overnight on his couch.

* because of his unique visual chops and tendency to do comics at least partly about movement, I always thought Ralph's dialogued comics had a tougher time than most finding the balance between word and picture. What's interesting here is that the words aren't only functional but they act as a pacing mechanism, holding us in each panel for as long as Ralph wants us there.

Brian Ralph's comics present more than meets the eye, but they're eye candy, too, and work well as fantasy stories that cover a specific landscape over a period of time roughly equivalent to the experience of seeing how they unfold. I find them immensely pleasurable.

I have a sense Daybreak will be off the beaten path for a great deal of the comic market -- and hope that you'll seek it out from those few places that carry it. If I haven't convinced you, I hope the few pages reprinted below might.

*****

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*****

An interview I did with Brian Ralph a few years back can be found here. In addition to New Bodega, Ralph is listed as having blogged here.