Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

November 5, 2007

CR Review: Downbeat


Creator: Elliot Cowan
Publishing Information: Self-Published, web comic, single panel, Free.
Ordering Numbers:

Elliot Cowan's Downbeat is still more of an idea getting a workout than a fully-realized creation, but I think a lot of people will find one or two gags worth scanning in the lot provided through the link. The four included here as example and illustration are a pretty fair indication of what you can expect. Cowan's put himself into a tricky position as a cartoonist. The depressing idea embodied by the two brightly-colored blobs must be easy to parse if not outright understood in the two or three seconds a typical reader gives over to such things. The novelty of the statement becomes more important than usual because as a "feel bad" strip there's less of a reward to be garnered from simple recognition, or reflection. That's a difficult sweet spot to hit over and over, and Downbeat doesn't quite get there consistently.

If it ever happens, however, Cowan could have a popular little feature on his hands. The nice thing about these cartoons is that they present several avenues for accessing the humor. Three that leap to mind are humor from the statements themselves, comedy in seeing the statements as one's observations of incidents of over-the-top rudeness from one being to another, and getting a laugh out of seeing the entire thing as some sort of twist on typical greeting card shallowness. Take that suggestion of depth and nascent display of versatility and combine it with a point of view that should only get more specific as more strips are done, and suddenly those limitations become the parameters by which the feature gains its focus. There's always the chance that there's no groove to find, no depths to explore, and that the lack of versatility may simply limit the number of effective jokes as opposed to concentrating them. I also suspect that Cowan would be better off narrowing down the general effect he wishes his visuals to achieve -- an expectation based on how things are drawn might better connect the individual cartoons. I think it's worth checking back in on Downbeat every so often to see what has happened.

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

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