Text-Man (And Tonal Issues)

Categories Comics, Discussion
Text-Man by Garrett Sneen

Text-Man is a short story about an ironic superhero, drawn in a very dramatic art style (think Sin City). The story was submitted to a comic anthology with a mandatory “superhuman” theme. I personally hate superhero comics, but I’m into the ironic superhero comics like The Watchman and Death Ray. I decided to go this route and wrote what’s essentially the superhero for millennials — A man who can interpret ambiguous texts when it comes to dating.

Overall, I think this is a solid comic. Looks great, has a couple of good gags… but it doesn’t stick with me, personally. It’s difficult to have a traditional narrative structure in 10 pages, so I went with two short vignettes. I think the pacing is what doesn’t feel right. Either that or it’s the art style…

I had assumed that a contrast between a goofy storyline and serious artwork would work well, so I emulated the style featured in “How to Draw Noir Comics.” This was the first time I had ever attempted this solid black and white art style — I’m fucking thrilled with the end result. However, I’m still not satisfied with the tone for some reason. If I can make a comparison to film, I suppose my search for an illustration aesthetic would be akin to a filmmaker finding a soundtrack for a film. The soundtrack drives the tone more than anything else in film (in my opinion).

Returning to comics, Jason is probably the writer/artist I want to rip off the most in terms of tone. I LOVE Jason. Incidentally, his comics employ the opposite approach of mine — He certainly has very dark stories, but the artwork is reminiscent of early disney cartoons (also think ligne claire, like Tintin). These depressed, nihilistic, or otherwise psychopathic anthropomorphic animals just FEEL SO RIGHT. I hope to strike a similar tone using irony in my work, but it’s difficult to really nail it when my art style doesn’t naturally lend itself to humor.

Another great example to think about — Wilson by Daniel Clowes. Every page uses a slightly different art style and therefore every page feels slightly different. I’m still experimenting with art styles for myself, but Wilson is a great reference to see how different aesthetics alter the tone of the comic. What’s interesting is that the movie adaptation of Wilson seems to have a different tone as well. Perhaps it was just the editing of the trailer I watched (or soundtrack), but it didn’t seem dark enough compared to the comic. There’s a sweet spot when balancing the tone of darkly humorous stories and any element can throw it off.

Low Moon comic by Jason
Low Moon by Jason
Wilson by Daniel Clowes
Wilson by Daniel Clowes
Wilson movie comic adaptation
Wilson movie

It’s probably worth noting that I believe comedy is supposed to come from a dark place. Not sure how universal that is (I may have a higher than average threshold for dark humor).

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