Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tales of Diversity

This is a slickly produced (full colour! Glossy paper!) comics anthology created by Eastside Educational Trust and funded by the UK government. Or the last government at least, I doubt the new one would ever give money to something like this.

It features contributions from about twenty teenagers living in London (or at least I assume it's London), and it's neat that they actually are pretty damn diverse. The photo on the inside front cover features more diversity than seemingly the entire town I grew up in Canada (not that that would be that hard really).

The comics that these kids have created are pretty varied in a number of ways, namely quality and content. Some of them are quite accomplished, while others are kind of terrible. Since there are so many different strips in here I'm just going to comment on a few of them.

The opening piece (The Dollhouse by Leke Adekanbi and Shantel Cherebin) is about acceptance of people with different sexual and gender identities to the norm. It's a good message (though an old one for me), but is more notable for the use of colours (each page uses only one colour, giving the comic an interesting look), and the kind of bizarre way some of the characters speak. I guess this second thing is probably more due to the fact that I don't hang out with many East London teenagers.

The second piece is by Charley Hayter and is kind of a strange thing to be created by a teenager as it starts in 1980 and features some school kids discussing what they want to be when they grow up. Cut to the present day and they meet up again, where one has achieved her dreams and the other hasn't. It's, uh, kind of depressing (the person who hasn't works in retail). I do like the art style (sort of amerimanga influenced, and no, I never thought I'd use that word either), and someone's job is a beekeeper. Awesome!

After this strong start many of the other pieces in here aren't so good. Some don't seem to make any real sense, some aren't really comics but are really more just pin ups, some don't seem to have any connection to the theme at all, and one (the longest in the comic!) seems to miss the entire point of the project and features people going on holiday somewhere, complaining about the food served, and then getting sick after eating it.

That's not to say they're all terrible, several of them have some merit (either in theme or art), and one by Nickita Patterson is pretty awesome. Matching high contrast black and white photos with text the piece (it really isn't a comic) talks about the African diamond industry and the brutal rebel groups, child labour, and general exploitation involved in its running. It's nicely laid out, and has a powerful message, even if it might not "properly" match the theme of the book.

One interesting thing I saw through these pieces was how terrible the lettering generally was. Only a few of the pieces used digital lettering, most preferring to do it by hand, but either way it frequently looked bad and was hard to read. So I guess aspiring comics creators should take note, spend time working on your lettering as well as the other parts of your comic. It doesn't matter how amazing your story is if nobody can read it.

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