The last in this series of my reviews of fantasy-based work carries some editorial commentary. It’s been a hell of a start for the year regarding creator rights and a particular company going word that comic book artists may get in trouble for the long-tolerated practice of drawing company characters. This wouldn’t seem like the biggest deal to me if I hadn’t gone to my first comic convention in Boston last year in Boston and seen how many artists both mainstream and indie were selling prints of Marvel and DC characters.
So maybe, just maybe, rather than mull over the ramifications of wanting a Batman or Morpheus sketch, maybe we as comic readers can do our part to lift worries amongst the creative community by supporting creator owned work that up till present day has to be regulated to side projects unless you have Bone-like levels of fortune to match your skills and/or a Cerebus-like tenacity, both of which being incredibly hard to duplicate.
Comics as an art from have made leaps and bounds in recent years, but in a more ideal world, Basewood, a project by artist, illustrator and Center for Cartoon Studies instructor Alec Longstreth, just might have been finished sooner. Maybe not, since this was an ambitious project he took on at a young age and kept on track partly due to his CCS involvement and refusing to cut his hair until each issue was done. Even so, it was finished this past winter with little fanfare outside of the independent crowd, and Longstreth is currently seeking a grant to publish it. Maybe with enough support, this doesn’t have to be.
My apologies to Mr. Longstreth for wrapping a review of his work in a manifesto. I will get to the work now. Basewood began with a feel similar to the Bone series (which Longstreth lists as an immense influence). What happens in the course of five chapters plotted and drawn over the course of a decade, the story takes solid shape in Longsteth’s own voice as a lost man flees a vicious dragon to the woods where he finds shelter, friendship and starts to piece together his broken memory of how he arrived there in the first place.
Part of the length of time taken to complete this story seems related to the fact that Longstreth wanted it to give the book a consistently strong drawing style throughout. Indeed, there is little difference of quality between his first chapters and Transition, a comic story he completed and published while in the middle of his project.. The story moves along fluidly except for chapter 4, which is more tell than show at times but reads better when you have all five issues at hand, which I now do.
In the end, what we will have in Basewood, once it’s collected, is a solid book I could give to most kids able to read Bone and its monster elements without any problems. It’s a very strong first “serious” book by Longstreth (though I am a fan of all his lighter material as well, all of which you should check out).
I’m confident that this will be published as a collection in one way or another. Still, I want to hand off the issues I have now to someone young soon. We need less sketches of the same old and more attempts at original creation. And it’s good to copy at first, but I like to think that handing off self-published zines like this, or even just copies of black and white work, can lead a young reader to believe more easily that they can produce their own work and have it be admired. I have a feeling creators are going to need more of that kind of encouragement in the future. I thank Longstreth for his contributions. They are appreciated.