Comical Musings

Tag: daily

Review: dingBeans

by on Apr.19, 2010, under Review

When I was taking a course on Greco-Roman classics and their effect on English literature,* Dr. Talbot pointed out an interesting Latin word: senex. It translates roughly to “(grumpy) old man,” and from it we get words like senior, seneschal, Senate, and senile. I’m sure a lot of you know at least one senex; with a bit of prompting, you can probably remember his face and hear exactly his tone of voice as he goes off on a tangent about how much of the world has fallen apart since he was a kid.

I think senex is about the right word to describe Roy, the grizzled protagonist of Peter Denike’s dingBeans. Every day, Roy shares his (oft-misspelled) opinion on the most random subjects: compact fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, TV shows, Christmas trees, you name it. His commentary is then analyzed by a handful of clip-art “beans” that represent the contrasting voices and thoughts in his (and most other people’s) heads.

dingBeans is essentially a daily mini-rant, and you can’t entirely tell whether Roy’s thoughts are Denike’s or his own. It’s not like this is an Earth-shattering deal, but it does sort of stand as the difference between Roy being an author avatar and Roy merely being Ziggy. Many of his remarks concern the loss of the good old days and the more simple ways of doing things. There is also a lot of commentary about the environment and how we should be doing a better job to protect it, which only makes sense for a fellow who mostly talks to beans.** And then below each comic is a little “beanTao”: one last comment on the topic of the day, sans punctuation.

The art is relatively homogeneous. That is to say, pretty much every comic consists of a single panel with a bust of Roy making one facial expression or another, plus Beans. It’s a simple set-up for a simple comic—which seems to be Denike’s aim. I do, however, find it amusing that the caricature of Roy is so detailed that his opinions read in a rather gruff and curmudgeonly “voice” in my mind.*** So if you want to sit back and take a few potshots at the way the world is going, I think Roy would enjoy the company.

Comic Rating: One hill of beans.

* Much more entertaining than it sounds.
** Vegetation takes care of its own.
*** On further consideration, I think said voice is based on some of the older men at church.

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Review: Squid Row

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Review

So those of my readers who have tried dabbling in artistic ventures know that it can be a lot of hard work. Sure, some artwork looks effortless (and other works look like no effort was put into them, which is a bigger difference than you’d think), and sure, the average cartoonist will use no more muscles than absolutely necessary to get pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet), but the mental work that goes into crafting a storyline (or a punchline, for that matter) can be monumental. And anyone else who’s striven for verisimilitude knows the agony of sketching and resketching a picture, trying to figure out why that elbow doesn’t look quite right.* The difficulty that arises, though, is that for all that hard work, the pay rate isn’t all that good.

And few people know this as intimately as does Randie Springlemeyer, the main character of Squid Row, a slice-of-life comic by Bridgett Spicer. Hapless artist Randie lives and worries in a fictional variant of Monterey, California, where she works shifts at an art-supply store (an exquisite form of torture, when you think about it). The comic follows her exploits as she deals with rival artists, well-meaning relatives, library fines, and a very well-meaning best friend. Also the occasional disaster.

Yes, the slice of Randie’s life is a rather blue-colored cross-section, cataloguing all the frustrations she faces in work, art, and romantic matters. And perhaps because Randie has so many problems, it makes the little victories and kindnesses so much more enjoyable. (It also makes the moments of whimsy rather more fun, too.)

(I will pause here to note that Spicer has only recently set up the new site, so her archives are the devil to search through. I hope the links continue to work; it was a pain in the neck when, less than a week after the Sandra and Woo review came out, their site changed the archive system and all of the links had to be updated. But I digress.)

Squid Row‘s art style has changed quite a bit from its inception, using more varied linework, visual puns, and knock-off brands. And while the soulful eyes sometimes look a little strange on a twenty-something hipster or a sullen co-worker, it really brings out Randie’s willfully naive nature.

Which is sort of what the comic is all about, when you get down to it: a young woman trying to be a Pollyanna in spite of everything life throws at her. And the sheer fact that she hasn’t given up is enough reason to keep reading.

Comic Rating: Four cups of fancy, fancy coffee.

* Because it’s the left elbow, of course. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

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